Leonard James Prestidge was about 13 years old when the Second World War broke out and on the 1939 Register there is a redacted record for someone living at 32, Dodd’s Drive Connah’s Quay with a Louisa Prestidge, (a widow born on the 14th February 1880, a Female Agricultural Worker) who I believe is Leonard, as on his Death Record Card (Merchant Navy) his next of Kin was his Grandmother Mrs. Louisa Prestidge, 32, Dodd’s Drive.
The 1911 census sees Louisa Prestage(sic), 32, living at 167, High Street, with her husband, Alfred Prestage, 31 and a Furnace man at the Iron Works, born in Bristol. They tell us that they had been married 10 years and 4 children had been born to them, and they were all still living. The children were Alfred Prestage, 7, born in Flint, Elisabeth Prestage, 5 and Lily Prestage, 3 born in Connah’s Quay. One child, Maud, was missing according to the 1921 census.
Leonard’s Grandfather Alfred Prestidge, the husband of Louisa, lost his life for his Country in the Great War in 1915, please read his story by clicking on the link, so Louisa, herself had suffered many bereavements in her life and had to deal with the extra loss of Leonard James as well.
We do see Louisa Prestidge on the 1921 census, living at 167, High Street, Connah’s Quay, with her family. Louisa Prestadge (sic) had filled in her family’s details and spelt the surname as shown earlier, there are various ways that the name was written through the years. Louisa tells us that she was now 40 years and 3 months old and a widow. Her son, Alfred was now 17 years and 7 months old, and he was single and an Iron Worker at John Summers & Sons, Hawarden Bridge Steelworks, Shotton. Lily was now 12 years and 10 months old; Maud was 10 years and 8 months old, and Arthur Henry was 8 years and 4 months old, they were at school, born in Connah’s Quay and Louisa tells us that their father was dead. There was another family living there as Boarders as well. James & Emily Tovey and their 2 sons, James & Samuel Tovey.
I believe that Eliz(s)abeth is seen on the 1921 census, in service, living at Newton Cottage, Hoole Village & Hoole, Cheshire, one of four servants, working as a Housemaid and this census tells us that she is 15 years and 6 months old and was born in Shotton, Flintshire. She was in the household of Hugh K. Frost, a Flour Miller and his wife Dorothy Frost and a widow, Edith Annie Owen.
I believe that Leonard James Prestidge was born in the March quarter of 1926 in Liverpool, (Abercromby, Liverpool ABE/75/82) and was the son of Elizabeth Prestidge, Louisa’s daughter before her Civil Marriage to Robert J. Bell in the June quarter of 1927. (Flintshire (Mold) HOL/49/25).
Thanks to the Family Tree of “Harold Griffiths” on Ancestry.co.uk we know that Leonard was to have a half-sister, Louisa H. Bell and a half-brother, Cecil Bell, but perhaps was living with his Grandmother Louisa Prestidge most of his life as she was his next of kin on his Merchant Navy documents.
When Leonard “went to sea,” I do not know, but in his short life he had faced, I would think, heartache, adventure and fear and danger. His was a Cabin boy, age 16 years, on the Merchant Ship M/V “Empire Glade” and on the28th of November 1942 enroute from Alexandria to New York, a U-Boat, U-67, surfaced and hit the unescorted “Empire Glade” with gunfire, the ship was damaged, but the vessel escaped and reached Charleston on the 7th of December. However, it is reported that one of six Gunners had been killed on board. This leads us to the conclusion that it was poor Leonard who died and although he was listed as a Cabin Boy, he must have been on the guns when he was killed.
The fate of the U-boat, U-67, Sunk on 16th of July 1943 in the Sargasso Sea south-west of the Azores, in position 30.05N, 44.17W, by depth charges from an Avenger aircraft (VC-13 USN) of the US escort carrier USS Core. 48 dead and 3 survivors. Courtesy of “Ships hit by U-boats” – https://uboat.net/allies/merchants/crews/ship2477.html
I also presume that Leonard James was buried at sea enroute to Charleston as there is no known grave listed for him and he is named on the Tower Hill Memorial, one name among 36089 men and boys from the Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleets who gave their lives and have no known grave but the sea.
Chester Chronicle 6th February 1943 Page 7 Col 4.
YOUNG SAILOR KILLED AT SEA.
News has been received by his grandmother, Mrs. PRESTIDGE, 32, Dodd’s Drive, Connah’s Quay, that Seaman Leonard James PRESTIDGE, who joined the Merchant Navy last July, has been killed at sea.
He was 17 and joined the crew of a liner in July. Before going to sea he was a scholar of Mold Road Senior School where he gained certificates for good attendance and swimming etc.
The following letter from a British Vice-Consulate in America was received by Mrs. PRESTIDGE: – “Capt. DUFF has spoken to me so highly about your grandson, Leonard, that it brings to me a realisation of the extent of the great loss you have suffered. His Captain has nothing but praise for the lad’s high character, courage and behaviour. The ship came under heavy enemy fire and, during the course of the action, Leonard was killed. He was struck instantaneously by the explosion of one of the shells and never recovered consciousness before passing over. After hearing about Leonard from his Captain, I appreciate what a promising fellow he was and consequently the terrible grief his death will have caused you. But mingled with your sorrow you must also have great pride in the knowledge that your grandson was killed in action performing his duty on one of the most honourable and vital tasks any of us may be called upon to perform. He truly died serving his King and Country in the very highest sense of the term.”
Louisa Prestidge died on the 25th of January 1952, age 71 years, as can be seen by her Probate :-
PRESTIDGE, Louisa of 32, Dodds-drive, Connah’s Quay, Flintshire widow died 25th January 1952. Administration Bangor 3rd of March to Alfred PRESTIDGE Steelworker.
I am not sure if she was still alive to see his name on the WW2 War Memorial, but she probably put his name forward to be included to the list of local men lost in WW2, as it would have taken time to have the plaques made. I do hope so.
Nick Griffiths on Ancestry gave a little story about Leonard, many thanks to him: –
As for Leonard Prestidge, we spoke to my mother-in-law yesterday and talked about it. The old iron that I mentioned I had got that was his, and she remembers going with her gran to take the iron and some food to him as he left and remembers waving him off as he went down Primrose Hill in Connah’s Quay with his friend and that was the last time she saw him. The iron was returned with his belongings, she confirmed his mother was Elizabeth but did not know who the father was.
I have just been corrected by my wife, it was her mother and my wife’s grandmother who gave him the iron, not my mother in law’s grandmother. Her name was Lillian Trickett (nee Prestidge) so perhaps she could be added to the story.
He must not be forgotten as he gave so much at such a young age. He is remembered on the Tower Hill Memorial which includes 36089 Casualties from First & Second World War.