Pritchard, Robert John

Robert John Pritchard was born on the 25th August 1924, the son of Edward & Annie Pritchard (nee Williams) who had married in the Parish Church, Bagillt on the 19th April 1919.

Edward & Annie are seen again on the 1939 National Register that was taken on the 29th Septmeber 1939, they were living at 16 Queen’s Avenue , Connah’s Quay, Edward’s birthdate was given as  the 6th December 1890, and was doing and he was a Chemical Labourer.    Annie’s birth date was given as the 13th March 1898 and doing “Unpaid Domestic Duties”, which describes most of the married women’s occupation on the Register.   Eva Pritchard (Grundy)* was b orn the 121th Septmeber 1919 and was a Spinner in the Silk Works.    Norman Pritchard’s birth date was the 22n August 1922 and he was a Laboratory Assistant.   However, Robert John was not in the household, unless he was the “”Closed Record” which I do not believe was him.

*I believe that Eva Pritchard was to marry Donald Grundy in a Civil Ceremony in Holywell in 1940 (Flintshire (Mold) HOL/65/44).

So I have no knowledge of Robert John’s early life, so any information to make sure that he is not forgotten would be gratefully received.

There is nothing to connect Robert John’s death to his ship HMS Diadem as he was in Connah’s Quay, probably on leave, with the war having just ended, but he had gone through so many dangers and then came home and was accidently drowned in his home town.

HMS Diadem (84)

Service history

Royal Navy service

Diadem served on the Arctic convoys and covered carrier raids against the German battleship Tirpitz in the early months of 1944, then became part of Force G off Juno Beach during the invasion of Normandy in June. After the landings she carried out offensive patrols against German shipping around the Brittany coast, sinking, with destroyers, Sperrbrecher 7 off La Rochelle on 12 August. She returned to northern waters in September, where she covered Russian convoys and carrier raids against German shipping routes along the Norwegian coast, as well as making offensive sweeps herself. In the course of one such sweep, accompanied by HMS Mauritius on 28 January 1945, the cruiser engaged three German destroyers, damaging Z31. Diadem remained with the 10th Cruiser Squadron until after the war, and served in the Home Fleet until 1950. She was placed in reserve between 1950 to 1956.

She was sold to the Pakistan Navy 29 February 1956 and refitted at Portsmouth Dockyard before being handed over to the Pakistan Navy as Babur on 5 July 1957.[1]

Robert John must have been on Home leave, as the British armed forces and overseas deaths and burials Transcription tell us that his cause of death was -– 5 – Death from other causes. – Accidental Drowning in River Dee, Connah’s Quay, Flintshire.

I sought permission from the Flintshire Record Office for sight of Robert John’s Inquest and Claire Harrington, the Chief Archivist asked the Coroner permission for me.   He graciously gave me that permission and I have transcribed it the best I could, so if anyone wants to see it, I can send them a copy.   There were 3 witness statements:-

Hilda Round, Maid, age 17 years, 16, King’s Road, Connah’s Quay.  States:- “At about 3.20pm on Saturday 214th July 1945, I was bathing in the River Dee near to the Rock, Connah’s Quay opposite Summer’s Jetty.    I was bathing with Anne GRIFFITHS, Lower Brook Street, Connah’s Quay.    There were quite a number of small children bathing.   I carried one child to the grass verge and on going back to the River I saw Robert Pritchard bathing and appeared to be in difficulties, he went under the water, and came up with his hands on his head.    He did not call for help.   He went down the second time, I now realised he was in difficulties.    The tide was coming in, and it was a strong tide.   I went to try and assist, and got almost to the spot where he went down, but could not find him.

The next time I saw him was near the Jetty, I saw his head just above the water.    By this time I feel sure he had been drowned.    A number of people arrived by this time, I was so upset I went home.”   Signed Hilda ROUND.

Richard Jones THOMAS, aged 61 years, of No. 16, Bryn Road, Connah’s Quay. States:- “I am a cripple minus right leg.    At about 3.20pm on Saturday 14th July 1945, I was sat in my invalid chair on the Rock, Golftyn, Connah’s Quay, which is near to the River Dee.    The weather was fine, and very hot.    There were a large number of people on the shore.    One youth I saw bathing in the River.    I was watching him with my binoculars, he was swimming with the tide, and he appeared to turn as if to swim ashore.   I now saw he was in difficulties and went below the water twice.    The third time he came up he had his hands raised above his head.    I called out to some people who were on the shore that a youth was drowning, but I could not get them to understand.    A man ran down to the shore, but it was too late.    Fishermen and helpers arrived on the scene and immediately commenced to drag the River.    Two youths were with him, but they were not bathing, their names are EVANS and PARKER.    I do not think they were looking in Pritchard’s direction when he was in difficulties.”  Signed Richard Jones THOMAS.

Edward EVANS, aged 18 years, Ironworker, of 11, Hamilton Road, Connah’s Quay. States:-“At about 2.45pm on the 14th July 1945, I was in Church Street, Connah’s Quay, when Robert John PRITCHARD came along and asked me to go along with him to the River Dee, he said he was going bathing.    I went along with him to the River, he took off his clothes, and put on his bathing costume.    He went into the River and commenced to swim, so I lay down on the grass.    I was watching him for a time, he was swimming against the tide and appeared to be alright.   I now turned my head away from the River for a few minutes, and on looking back in his direction, he was out of sight, I thought something had happened so I ran along the River Bank looking for him but failed to see him.    A number of people came on the scene, and Fishermen commenced to drag the River.”   Signed Edward EVANS.

Chester Chronicle    July 1945      Page 8 Col. 2

A CONNAH’S QUAY FATALITY – Sailor Drowned in Dee.

Able Seaman Robert PRITCHARD, R.N. (20), son of Mr. & Mrs. E. PRITCHARD, 16, Queens Avenue, Connah’s Quay, was drowned last Saturday afternoon while bathing opposite Messrs. John Summer’s lower jetty.    Seaman PRITCHARD was the only swimmer in the water at the time and although the beach was crowded no one seemed to realise anything was wrong, as the spot is a reasonably safe place for swimming.    It is assumed that Seaman PRITCHARD got cramp.   Local fishermen started dragging operations soon after and continued throughout the night.    The body was recovered on Tuesday afternoon about a mile higher up the river opposite Messrs. Summer’s top jetty.    Seaman PRICHARD only came home on leave last Thursday week from Norway.    He has been on Convoy work to Russia.

Robert John Pritchard in the England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1966, 1973-1995 – PRITCHARD, Robert  John of 16 Queens Avenue, Connah’s Quay, (Near Chester) Flintshire died 14th July 1945.   Administration Chester 30th November to Annie PRITCHARD (wife of Edward PRITCHARD).

He was well loved and his name was put forward by his family to make sure that he was remembered.

Learn more about the other soldiers on the Connahs Quay and Shotton War Memorial

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