I am starting Frank Alwyn Powell’s story with the newspaper cutting in the Chester Chronicle 11th November 1943 Frank Alwyn POWELL.
KILLED AT SEA. – Mr. & Mrs. A.V. POWELL, 67, Sealand Ave, have received the news that their son Frank Alwyn POWELL, aged 20, has been killed in action while serving with the Merchant Navy. Frank left Hawarden County School to go to sea. His happy temperament endeared him to all.
Also the same Message in the Liverpool Evening Express – Thursday 16 December 1943.
The Commonwealth War Graves Citation gives his parent’s names as Albert Victor & Elsie Powell. Frank Alwyn Powell was born circa 1923 in the Wolverhampton area, according to his Merchant Seamen Deaths card. This makes me believe that they originated in Staffordshire. I do find a birth for a Frank Powell in the Walsall District (Walsall Vol. 6b Page 1164) that might fit. According to that, his mother’s maiden name was Foster, but I cannot find a marriage for an Elsie FOSTER to an Albert Victor POWELL. So is this the right birth for Frank? Any help would be appreciated.
So I have no early information on the family.
I have found a Passenger list of Elsie & Frank Alwyn emigrating to Canada on the SS”Albertic” in 1927 when Frank Alwyn was age 4 years. It appears that Albert Victor Powell had gone to Canada before them probably to get a job and set up a home, and was now sending for them so on the 4th November 1927 they sailed from Liverpool to join him:-
Canadian Passenger Lists – Liverpool to Quebec – 4th November 1927 – Arriving 11th November 1927.
Index No. 223 – POWELL, Elsie, Wife ,27, Married, England, Where born – Darlaston,, By whom Passage Paid :- Husband. (No Address)
Index No. 224 – POWELL, Frank Alwyn, Son ,4, Single, England, Where born – Darlaston,, By whom Passage Paid :- Father. (No Address)
(Scan very bad.) See below.
The all returned back to Liverpool from Montreal on the “Duchess of York,” on the 26th July, 1935. This gives the “Proposed address in the UK” as 69, Mancot Lane, Queensferry, Nr. Chester and also tells us that the “Country of Last Permanent Residence” as Canada and that the “Country of Intended Future Permanent Residence” as the UK.
Passenger No’s 381 – 38
POWELL, Albert Victor age 37, 69 Mancot Lane, Queensferry, Nr. Chester – Steel Moulder – Country of Last Residence – Canada.
POWELL, Elsie Age 34, 69 Mancot Lane, Queensferry, Nr. Chester – Housewife – Country of Last Residence – Canada.
POWELL, Frank Alwyn Age 9, 69 Mancot Lane, Queensferry, Nr. Chester – Scholar – Country of Last Residence – Canada.
So it leads me to think that they had emigrated at some point and was returning to the UK to make a life here.
Then I found Frank attending Hawarden Grammar School in 1936:-
Hawarden Grammar School Admissions Register E/GS/1/10
1883/2768 POWELL, Frank Alwyn, Date of birth – 29th April 1923, 49, Mancot Lane, Mancot Royal ( also 67, Sealand Ave., Garden City), Father – Steel Moulder, date of entry – 15th September 1936, Queensferry Senior, Date of leaving – 27th July 1938 – Seas.
So we know that they were in the district, it is their origins where there is no clarity. Please help by contacting the website if there is anything that you can add.
We next see Albert Victor and Elsie on the 1939 National Register, taken on the 29th September 1939, where they are shown still living at 67, Sealand Avenue, Garden City , Hawarden. This source tells us that Albert Victor was born on the 17th July 1898 and he was a Sheet Moulder, with Elsie’s birth date as the 23rd November 1900, and as most married women without a job on this register, she is doing “Unpaid Domestic Duties.” Both were Air Raid Wardens. There is one redacted or closed record, but I have no knowledge of their identity, I do not know why the 1st person has been redacted on this Register.
As you can see from the Hawarden Grammar record, Frank Alwyn must have joined the Merchant Navy from School, possibly as a Cabin Boy??? He would have been 15 years old. However he was to find himself onboard the M.V. “Delius” on the fateful voyage, a description of which is told below by a survivor of the voyage, and although it doesn’t describe Frank’s injuries leading to his death, it vividly describes the circumstances of his death. It is fascinating reading and so sad. Many thanks to the website below for the story.
“DELIUS” – (Lamport and Holt Line)
The M.V. Delius was christened in 1937; saw service in World War II and was severely damaged in action on Nov. 21, 1943. Information on the WWII service of The Delius (from the MerchantNavyOfficers.com website)
The Delius, homeward bound from India, was attacked by a glider bomb on November 21, 1943, and was badly damaged. As a result she dropped astern of the convoy, and after great efforts by the crew to control the fire aboard, she managed to rejoin the convoy, and subsequently made port. The attack occurred in position 46.46 N. 18.30 W. The following is an account compiled by the carpenter, which was kindly sent me by Mr F. J. Page, who was serving aboard as an A. B. at the time.
“Just before dawn on a Friday morning, we left a West of England port, bound for India, in convoy, and on our first Sunday at sea a man was lost overboard. Nobody saw him fall, and it was not until the ship astern put up the signal “man overboard” that it was noticed that he was missing. Each ship in line threw life-belts to him as they passed, but by the time the escort reached the spot, he had disappeared.”
“From that time onwards it seemed as though we had a hoodoo on board; nothing seemed to go right, even the food went bad as the refrigeration went wrong; however nothing else happened until we got into the Indian Ocean. It was at the end of the monsoon season and the weather was very hot when the chief steward was taken ill; after three days of lingering with this illness, which we took to be simply the effects of the heat, he appeared on deck at about 5 o’clock in the morning, lay down in a hammock that was stretched on the boat deck, and died. We were all shocked at this, and began to think that it really was an unlucky trip. We buried him at sea, and those readers who have seen a burial at sea, will agree with me when I say, that it was a very solemn occasion. We carried on from there to our port of discharge in India, and there our bad luck showed itself again.
“All hands on board, with very few exceptions, fell ill with malaria or dysentery, or both. We managed to get over it however, and started for home again, wondering what else was in store for us. We were not left waiting long, because we had hardly arrived at the Suez Canal when the chief officer fell ill, and took to his bunk. On arrival at Port Said he was so bad it was decided to put him ashore to hospital. Little did we know that we would not see him again, for four hours after being admitted to hospital he died.”
“So we left Egypt minus three of our original crew, and fully convinced that fate was not on our side. We safely passed through the Mediterranean and out into the Atlantic Ocean. We had barely got clear of Gibraltar however, when a single enemy plane came out, and commenced to circle the convoy, keeping well out of range of our guns. Each night he would go away; but the following morning he was back. The fact that he did not attack us convinced us that he was only acting as a spotter for other planes or submarines. After some days like this, it was noted on one day that the plane was not to be seen, so we decided that this was the day for our final piece of bad luck.
“Sure enough at about 3.15 p.m. the aircraft warnings sounded and we all took up our action stations. Being the ship’s carpenter, I was in the repair party, and so I took up my station with the bosun on the boat deck. About nine planes came out and most of these got through to the convoy. They first attacked a ship that had dropped astern of the convoy a short distance, owing to some engine trouble; they dropped about ten bombs, of which only one scored a hit, but unfortunately that one was enough to sink her.”
“After this, the Delius, became the target, and as a bomber came towards us from the direction of the stern quarter, a strange thing happened. A small plane appeared to drop from the rear of the bomber, and gathering speed all the time, flew over the top of the bombers, circled and came at us. We were taken completely by surprise, and thought it was an R.A.F. fighter that had come to protect us. However, as it appeared to be making straight for us, we decided to take no chances, and our gunners fired at it, and scoring a direct hit, it exploded near the ship.”
“Then it dawned on us that this was Jerry’s secret weapon, that we had heard rumours about, and was called a “shelic bomb*”. The advantage of this new bomb for the enemy, is that the parent plane can keep out of range of our guns, and direct his shelic bomb by radio control to whichever target he wishes. This he did to us, after we exploded the first bomb. He flew past and went towards another ship, launched his bomb, which turned around and came back at us.
(*I think this referred to the Henschel Hs 293, please click on the link https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henschel_Hs_293)
“As I said earlier, I was on the boat deck with the bosun, and with us was an ordinary seaman, and behind us was a gunner. As I saw the bomb coming I shouted to the others to take cover, and dived for a door leading into the funnel, which was the nearest cover available. I had hardly got there with these two seamen when the bomb landed on the foredeck.”
“I could not move forward or back, but just stood swaying from side to side; the blast hit us from one side then the other, and we saw all kinds of sparks, lumps of wood, metal, and a thick cloud of smoke go past us on the deck. I could not quite realise that we had been hit until I saw that the bosun was badly wounded, and the gunner was staggering around holding his stomach.
“The bosun died while I was with him, and after seeing the gunner was being cared for by the first aid party, I went to the fore deck where the lamp trimmer was trying to put out the fire caused by the bomb when it struck No.3 hold. He was throwing burning bags and pieces of tarpaulin over the side, and after a few minutes we thought that everything was out. Then we saw smoke coming from another hole and we went to investigate, having been joined by other men by this time.
“We discovered that it was just smoke coming along the top of the cargo in the shelter deck, so we commenced to cover up again. As we were doing so Jerry came back again and we all tried to find some hole to crawl into for protection, but he was only taking photographs of his handiwork, so we were all right.”
“We got back amidships to find that besides the bosun, our captain, a steward* and an A. B. had been killed while quite a number of others were injured.”
*I believe that Frank was the Steward that died and was buried at sea, with the Captain, Bosun and the A.B. and are remembered on the Tower Hill Memorial, the other fatality was, 2nd Officer Thomas Anthony Mulholland, who died on the 1st December 1943, his body was returned to his family for burial at Thornton Garden of Rest, Lancashire Grave No. Sec. A. Grave 831. https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/2700755/mulholland,-thomas-anthony/
The others who also died with Frank, and buried at sea with him were Master John Henry George O.B.E.; Boatswain Edward Edwards and A.B. Edward Rogerson.
“We sent out a call for a doctor, and shortly afterwards one was transferred aboard. I would like to say here how very good and sympathetic the naval escorts were to us. Every so often a corvette would come as close as possible and ask us if there was anything we needed, and they supplied us with hoses, medical stores, and even cigarettes.”
“That night we discovered that a piece of hot shrapnel had gone down a ventilator to the lower hold and the cotton which was stowed there was on fire. So a few of us stood by all night, pumping water down the ventilator in a vain effort to extinguish the fire. Next morning came the job of burying our dead. I mentioned before how solemn it is to witness a burial at sea. Imagine it as we watched four of our shipmates, one after the other, go into the sea; men who just a few hours earlier had been very much alive.” “Later we took on board three officers from the ship that had been sunk previously; they had volunteered to come on board to help us when they heard that we had only one officer left. And were they a help to us? Right here, I thank God for men like them, who although, they themselves had lost everything when their own ship was sunk, volunteered to go to the help of other comrades who needed help. They cheered us up with their wise- cracks and jokes, and at that time we needed their support, because besides the fire we discovered that the water we were pumping into the hold was lodging on the starboard side of the ship and was giving the ship a very bad list.”
“To make matters worse, a heavy sea came up which held the ship further over. It was so bad that none of us on board thought that she would right herself each time she rolled over. We were expecting her to turn right over, and had that happened not one of us would have been saved. The water in the hold had now penetrated into the steward’s stores, entry into which was possible from the main deck.”
“So we started the portable pumps going to try and pump the water away and to right the ship. The trouble was, that the cargo of peanuts in the hold were floating round in the stores kept getting into the sucker of the pump, stopping the water from going out. As a result, at least one of us had to stay down there all the time to keep the suction clear. Some of us were down there at least eight hours at a time. So we carried on for the rest of the voyage, 1,000 miles to go, and the ship on fire with a very serious list to starboard, and with injured men on board.
“At times the ship fell back from the convoy, but eventually managed to catch up and keep her station. The engineers in an effort to save her, drilled holes in the bulkhead between the engine room and No.3 hold, through which they pumped steam to help control the fire.
“In spite of all this we managed to get the ship into a British port. We had no compasses, no degaussing gear, the steering gear was faulty, and two of the six cylinders of the engine were out of action. The ship was steered by the stars at night while making port.”
“I would like to point out that the bringing home of this ship from the point where we were bombed was entirely due to the 28-year-old second mate, who was the only officer we had left. On the death of the chief petty officer, he took over the job; and when the captain died, he took over the captain’s position in command. It was owing to his endurance and good spirits that we were able to carry on. “
“To give an example, owing to the fact that the dining saloon was wrecked the officers and engineers had to take their meals in the P.O.’s mess, and the table was only meant for six men. Imagine the sight of 18 men eating in there. It was a common sight to see the officer in command of the ship, sitting on the deck with his plate on his knees, while apprentices and junior engineers were sitting at the table.”
“We moored at the salvage berth and the salvage and National Fire Service personnel came on board to take over the job from us. It was a relief to us, because for the whole five-and-a-half days we were trying to control the fire, some of us had had no more than five hours sleep per day. We were much amused when the N.F.S. sealed up the stores where we had spent so many hours, because, they said there was a danger of fumes from the peanuts going bad.
“Our injured went to hospital, together with men suffering from shock. Two men died in hospital from their injuries, making a total loss of personnel of nine men including the three prior to the bombing attack.”
“Our three friends, the officers from the ship that had sunk, left for their homes, and sent us a telegram with best wishes, adding, ‘never were so many peanuts eaten by so few’. It took over a week to get the fire aboard the ship under control, and it was 10 days before we finally docked at Glasgow.”
As a result of this ordeal, and for their actions in bringing the Delius home, a number of the crew were decorated and commended.
Delius – This may be of small interest since it’s relates to the DELIUS during wartime.
DELIUS was the first ship my dad sailed on 23-05-1941 after volunteering for service in the Merchant Navy during the war. He was 7th engineer on this trip, but became 6th engineer on his following trip, which began in Glasgow and finished in Liverpool 11-10-1943.
I notice from records of the DELIUS that on its next trip, just after my dad had left the ship, it was bombed and strafed by German aircraft off Ireland 21-11-1943. Apparently, their convoy of 20 ships was attacked by 60 aircraft, but DELIUS was the only ship to receive damage bad enough to cause it to drop out of the convoy.
DELIUS was one of the “D” boats built for Lamport & Holt, and had an innovative design in which the funnel was incorporated into the superstructure. When I was quite young my dad showed me a photo of DELIUS in a book, and this feature struck me as curious.
His father, I believe died in 1990 as the England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1995:-
POWELL, Albert Victor of 69, Sealand Av., Garden City, Deeside, Clwyd, died 25th February 1990, Probate, Liverpool 30th March . Not exceeding £100,000 9080501043N (Death Cert. – Register number 290, County – Flintshire, Volume 24, Page 349).
Frank Alwyn was so badly missed and he was so young, but his family made sure his name was added to the WW2 War Memorial at Hawarden. He is also remembered on the Hawarden Grammar School Roll of Honour, please click on the link.