Pickering, John Harold (Civilian)

John Harold Pickering was born in the December quarter of 1914, (Flintshire Vol. 11b, Page: 377), the son of Herbert Richard & Mary Pickering (nee Moore) who had married on the 15th August 1900 at St. Deniol’s Church, Hawarden.   Herbert Richard Pickering, was 23, a bachelor and Engineer from Hawarden, whose father was of the same name and a Farmer.    His bride was Mary Moore, 25 and a spinster and whose father was George Moore, also a Farmer.   Their witnesses were George MOORE, Thomas JONES, Agnes PICKERING & Rebecca JONES.

I am wondering if Herbert Richard Pickering was on one of his journeys, as he was an Engineer and this occupation does take him abroad, as by the 1901 census, I believe that the family were living at Tudno Villa, Queensferry, Saltney, Flintshire, Herbert Pickering was 24, and a mining Engineer born in Hawarden, as was his wife Mary, now 28. On the census form Herbert is shown as Edward R. Pickering, but I believe this was an Enumerator’s error.

The 1911 census shows Mary Pickering living with two children at Highfield, Hawarden.   Mary Pickering, 36, had been born in Flintshire and states that she is married and had two children, both of whom, were still living.   The children were Linda Pickering, age 9 and George Pickering, age 6, both had been born in Hawarden.

I find the family on the 1921 census, with father Herbert Richard Pickering again missing, they are still at Highfield and Mary Pickering having filled in the census form, with her signature and in brackets – (on behalf of H.R. Pickering).   Mary is now 42 years and 6 months old, doing “Home Duties.”    Her sons were George H. Pickering, 16 years and 7 months old, no occupation and Harold J. Pickering 6 years and 9 months old who was in school – “Whole Time.”

John Harold Pickering’s father Herbert is next seen en route from Bombay to London, on the ship Kaisar-I-Hindi, due to arrive on the 24th June 1927, however tragedy was to strike and Herbert Richard Pickering, described as, Male, 51, an Agriculterist, is recorded in the Ship’s Passenger list as having died  from an Internal Haemorrhage along with another passenger who also died en route, a Samuel SIMPSON, Male, 60 Engineer, British, Cerebral Haemorrhage.  (Neither of these passengers are listed as 1st or 2nd Class Passengers, their names were not on the Manifest, so I don’t know when either of them embarked, and I believe that their occupations were transposed, when the Captain wrote about their deaths in the front of the Manifest.)    According to the Portsmouth Evening News newspaper 24 June 1927 they were both buried at sea.

Herbert Richard’s Probate confirms his demise:-

PICKERING, Herbert Richard of Highfield, Hawarden,Nr. Chester died 12 June 1927 at sea on board the S.S.”Kaisar-i-Hind.   Probate Chester 26th October to Mary PICKERING, widow.

So by 1939 John H. Pickering’s father had been dead 13 years, as the 1939 National Register (Taken on the 29th September 1939) shows that Mary is widowed and living with John Harold at “Highfield”, Hawarden.   Mary’s date of birth is shown as the 25th December 1874 and as all other married women who did not have a specific job was described as doing “Unpaid Domestic Duties.”   John’s date of birth was the 19th September 1914 and he was a “Head Tester in Metallurgical Lab,” and was single.   There was a closed or redacted record which could have been his sibling, but I am not sure that he had any, so if anyone can shed light on this aspect of John Harold’s siblings, the information would be gratefully received.  There was also a Florence M Banver, born the 8th August 1880, a qualified Teacher who was single.

As Elizabeth Elsie’s story tells us she met John Harold Pickering in Messrs . John Summers & Sons Steelmaking plant at  Hawarden Bridge Steelworks, and as her story tell us they married in St. John’s Church, Chester in 1942 a few months before they made that fateful journey to South Africa on the Ceramic (Ticket No. 360).

Another Deeside resident, Leonard Pratt, who is remembered on the Hawarden War Memorial, was also going to make that same journey on the Ceramic, please click on his story to read what happened to him and his colleagues, as well as the other couple in this story David George & Joyce Lucy Williams.

So again, as I don’t know if John Harold had siblings, it would seem that his mother Mary was to be left alone after losing two family members to the sea, just as the family of Joyce Lucy Williams (nee Hall) did too.

Any help to tell more of John Harold’s story, so they won’t be forgotten would be gratefully received.   He is also remembered at St. George’s Chapel In Westminster Abbey – Location: England, London:- 

“Of the many civilians of the Commonwealth whose deaths were due to enemy action in the 1939-1945 War, the names of more than 67,000 are commemorated in the Civilian War Dead Roll of Honour, located near St. George’s Chapel in Westminster Abbey, London.”

Chester Chronicle 23rd January 1943 – Presumed lost at sea.

Official notification has been received that Mr. And Mrs. J. PICKERING are presumed lost at sea.   They were the son-in-law and daughter of Mr. And Mrs. T. COPPACK ( of Messrs COPPACK Bros.).   Inspector W. HALL has also received an official letter that his son-in-law and daughter, Mr. and Mrs. David WILLIAMS, are also presumed lost at sea.    Some time ago Inspector Hall lost a son at sea. He was Mr. Arthur C. HALL, an Engineer.   The whole district will offer both families deepest sympathies

Notes on event               

On 26 November 1942 the Ceramic (Master Herbert Charles Elford) left Liverpool in convoy ON-149 with 264 crew members, 14 gunners, 244 military and naval passengers (including 30 nurses of the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service) and 133 fare paying passengers, among them 12 children. On 5 December, she was detached from convoy and began sailing independently as routed.

Just at midnight on 6/7 December, the Ceramic was hit by one torpedo from U-515 about 420 miles west-northwest of the Azores. On action stations were sounded and two or three minutes later two more torpedoes struck the engine room below the waterline. The engines stopped and the vessel was plunged into darkness. There was very little panic among the passengers and the crew launched approximately eight full laden lifeboats, despite of the cold weather, the rough seas and the poor visibility in the darkness. The Ceramic stayed afloat and three hours later U-515 hit the ship with two more torpedoes, which broke her in two and she sank immediately.

By this time, the sea was very rough and it was raining. The lifeboats were becoming swamped and needed continual bailing out. Some lifeboats capsized and threw the occupants into the water, so that many people were floating in the water, supported by their life jackets. Henke reported the sinking to the BdU and was ordered to return to the site to find the master and to find out where she had been bound. At about midday, the surfaced U-515 returned. A lookout first saw a body, then empty life jackets and the broken mast from the ship. A lifeboat whose occupants waved to him was also seen. It was reported later that Henke was very upset at the sight that greeted him. At this time the wind had almost reached Force 10 and a storm started. The sea was almost swamping the conning tower, so Henke ordered his men to take the first survivor that came close enough to his vessel. Two men threw a rope to one of the men in the water, Sapper Eric Munday of the Royal Engineers, took him aboard and U-515 left the area. A distress signal from Ceramic had been heard and HMS Enterprise (D 52) (Capt H.T.W. Grant, RCN) and the Portuguese destroyer Dao were sent to search for survivors on 9 December, but none were found. Other sailors in the area considered later that this storm was one of the worst storms that they had experienced.

Fate of U-515:-

Sunk at 1510hrs on 9 April 1944 in the North Atlantic north-west of Madeira, Portugal, in position 34.35N, 19.18W, by rockets from two Avenger and two Wildcat aircraft (VC-58 USN) of the US escort carrier USS Guadalcanal and depth charges from the US destroyer escorts USS Pope, USS Pillsbury, USS Chatelain and USS Flaherty. 16 dead and 44 survivors.

(Numerous newspaper reports –

One of the largest Ships sunk  by U-boats :-

Please click on all the links for the 5 people who were from Deeside who were sadly caught up in this terrible tragedy and read more of their stories, spread out between their pages.

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