Ships’ Passenger Lists

One of my early talks about the letters was to Malvern Family History Society. Keen to pursue my passion for family history, I had joined the Society in 2003 when I retired from teaching. At that stage, in 2010, I gave my audiences information about the way Jim and Hugh met and described life on board a submarine, according to Hugh. This time, in addition to the usual questions, there were suggestions as to how I could further my research. The desire to return the letters to Hugh’s family was uppermost in my mind.

The following day one of the members, Jean Evans, contacted me. Jean had found Hugh and Jim on the Ships’ Passenger Lists. This gave further confirmation that they were both on the Samaria in September 1940. A page for Third Class Incoming Passengers contains just eighteen names. They arrived on September 6, 1940. The list is in alphabetical order with Evelyn Roy number 14 and Hugh Whyte the last name. 

The first two columns confirm that the voyage was from New York to Liverpool. Then come name, class of travel, age, proposed address in the United Kingdom, occupation, country of last permanent residence and country of intended future permanent residence. Jim, Hugh and sixteen other British passengers on this page were travelling 3rd Class.

Roy Evelyn Third 31 The Withens, Leighton Rd, Park Gate, Teacher, England, England

Whyte Hugh Third 28 11 Walkinshaw Str, Johnstone, Scotl, Machinist, USA, Foreign Countries

The Passenger List shows Hugh’s last place of residence as the USA and his intention to reside in foreign countries, in other words to serve abroad. This final column gives Hugh’s clear ambition to serve in the war but his immediate destination, Walkinshaw Street, Johnstone, Scotland, gives another clue as to his origins.

When viewed alongside Jim’s account of the voyage, I could match up many names on the Passenger List with the diary. All the signatories to the menu card were there, as were the other people Jim had described. Two came from the Wirral so she may have exchanged addresses with them.

More names

Marshall Norman Third 38 24 Bell Rd, Wallasey, Cheshire, Salesman, USA, England

Hart Wilfred Third 29 17 Clovelly Ave, Norbreck, Lancashire, Teacher, England, England

Haskins Sydney Third 21 76 Market Str, Hoylake, Cheshire, Golf Profes., England, England

There is an interesting story behind Sydney who is listed as a Golf Professional. He was returning to his home at the back of a sports shop. This had been set up by his grandfather who manufactured golf clubs and balls. Sydney subsequently ran the shop with his father Joseph. A brother of Joseph’s, Frederick, had emigrated to America in 1919 where he worked his way up to be employed at the Columbus Country Club in Atlanta and was later admitted to the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame. His memory lives on today in the Haskins Trophy set up in 1971 in recognition of his contribution to teaching and promoting Amateur Golf. Jim may well have been familiar with Sydney’s family business being a golf player herself. Sydney had made the journey to the States in April 1939 and could have been visiting his uncle in order to gain experience in the golfing world.

The telegraph engineer was Arthur Soper and the doctor probably Harry Wyse, travelling Tourist Class.

Soper Arthur Third 31 Sands Meadow, Broadway, Worcs, Telegraph Engineer, Brazil, England

Wyse Harry T’st 40 23 Hilgrove Rd, Hampstead,  Physician, England, England

Page two of the list contains fifteen ‘deports’ of whom John Ayrton is one.

Ayrton John Third 33 15 Cardwell Rd, Gourock, Scotland, Painter, USA, Scotland

Wilson Winifred T’st 45 16 Mawstone Rd, London, Hospital Matron, England, England

Green Richard Cabin 22  c/o Westminster Bank, London,  Actor, England, England

Norman Priscilla T’st 57 Ramster, Chiddingford, Surrey, Justice of Peace, England, England

The third page of the Passenger List gives thirty-two people travelling Tourist Class, nine of whom are mentioned by Jim. Lady Norman is one of these. It is unlikely that Hugh and Jim knew that Lady Norman was born Florence Priscilla McLaren. Her two brothers were Liberal politicians as was her husband, MP Sir Henry Norman. Lady Norman upheld their views, being a campaigner for women’s suffrage. She was also involved in many organisations that grew out of the First World War, being an example of the rising voice of women in social affairs. Jim had already come across her at the World’s Fair in New York. One of the exhibits at this was Lincoln Cathedral’s copy of Magna Carta which Churchill had attempted to use as bargaining power to persuade the USA to support the Allies.

There were three journalists on board but Jim later mentions Mackinnon and Richards by name. ‘Mackee’ probably refers to Ian McKay whom she described in her diary as very much a man of the world, keeps his own counsel. Jim’s use of the phrase with which she describes Norman Dick indicates his character – one who was highly respected. She describes Dr Wyse as kind, merry and full of jokes with rather a fascinating turn of speech.

Dick Norman, T’st 43 Thatched House Club, St James St, London, Shipping, China, England

Dick Esther T’st 51                           ditto                                     Housewife ditto ditto

Fraser Ian Third 27 c/o Canada House, Strand, London, Engineer, Canada, Other parts of  British Empire

McKay IanT’st 44 Poste Restante, GPO, Edinburgh Clerk USA, England

MacKinnon John T’st 34 Lowloch, Arran, Journalist, England, England

Richards Raymond T’st 31 Journalist 168 Eastwoodmains Rd, Clarkston, Canada, England

Lawrence George Third 27 Hotel Russell, Russell Square London Statician [sic] Canada, Other parts of the British Empire

Gilbert Gladys Maud Cabin 32 44 Parkway, Seven Kings, Ilford, Vocalist, England, England

Wrigley Isabella D Cabin  45 5 Wardley Avenue  Manchester Vocalist, England, England

Jim also described physical attributes using phrases such as rotund, rather jerky disposition, ruddy face, high forehead. Hugh, though, she never mentions after the explanation of his reason for travelling. He could have been part of the groups that met to chat and literature was almost certainly part of their conversations.

Hugh may have caught a train to Glasgow where friends or relatives may have met him. However, it was only a few weeks before he found himself travelling again. As Jim knew, he went first to Plymouth and thence Gosport. The second letter clarifies his next move.

Hugh’s letter of May 14, 1941

Dear Evelyn,

It is so long since I wrote to you that I can hardly say this is an answer to your last three letters which I have before me now. I have just returned to England after being away for some time so I will use that as an excuse for not writing sooner. You must have wondered why I didn’t write before this but I expected to be here a month ago and it didn’t work out that way.

Hugh writes from Chatham, Kent. The transfer from Dolphin was to this Royal Dockyard on the River Medway. He had been away again, possibly on a submarine. At the bottom of the letter, he gives Jim his address: P.O. H. Whyte, HMS Osiris, c/o GPO, London. He had gained enough qualifications for the non-commissioned rank of Petty Officer. So, why Chatham? The answer to this question was to be found in the monthly log books lodged at The National Archives.

HMs/m Osiris had been serving in the Mediterranean where the ‘O’ type submarines had suffered heavy losses. She came into Chatham Dockyard in January 1941 for a refit. The log books give an idea of how the crew, and also the permanent dockyard workers, spent their time. We can assume that Hugh transferred to Chatham on February 13 under the auspices of HMS Dolphin. Arriving at this time at Chatham, he would have witnessed men chipping and scraping the boat and generally assisting around the dockyard.  There was a bit of excitement on February 21 when a light bomb demolished the Submarine Office.

The vicinity of the dockyard was by no means safe, being a target for the enemy. In the previous five months, nine bombs had killed eight dockyard workers and injured dozens more. While the regular local dockyard workers worked on the boats, crew like Hugh may have had accommodation at nearby HMS Pembroke or perhaps in billets in the town. A quiet wander through the Historic Dockyard in 2013 was a far cry from the clangour reverberating around the dry docks and sheds of 1941. Hugh would have watched the busy men as they desperately tried to meet deadlines in preparing the boats for sea. The Royal Dockyard railway would be ferrying supplies to those ships about to depart. Hugh found time to write his letter.

Returning here to find England in the flush of springtime one can easily forget the wet cold winter so common in this country. One is amazed at the soft greenness of the landscape and it is easy to understand why Englishmen abroad always suffer from nostalgia in the spring. Daffodils, primroses and apple blossoms! Here in Kent there seems to be miles of apple blossoms and the countryside is so quiet and peaceful. Rolling, comparatively flat country covered with prosperous looking farms and oast houses – I’m sure Cheshire isn’t much more beautiful than this.

Hugh gives no clues as to his whereabouts before returning to Chatham but the log books for HMS Osiris continue to provide detail. Since Hugh’s February letter, a lot had happened at the dockyard. On February 24, half the crew were on leave and Hugh may have had some time off after leaving Dolphin for a chance to visit friends and relatives. Chipping and scraping the boat in preparation for painting was a priority towards the end of March. 

Throughout April, refitting was in full swing with replacing of anchors and cable. On April 15, flooding of the dock started at 11:56 with the boat once again waterborne at 14:15. Undocking half an hour later, she proceeded to South Lock, finishing up on Northeast Wall. Painting of the slipside began the following day. By April 19, the tasks were painting saddletanks and replacing No 1 Battery. Painting of compartments began on April 22 and there was work on No 2 Battery a day later.  The boat’s company had various parts of the last weekend of April on leave. At the start of the next week, No 3 Battery was replaced.

Literary discourse

Perhaps you have forgotten the newspaper article about G.B.S., written by Winston Churchill, you sent to me but I thought it rather interesting. I have a very high opinion of Shaw, though he goes off the deep end at times. He is the sort of Englishman (Irishman) who helps to set the pace for the rest of England to follow. He is one of a group of distinguished English authors who help to keep England in the lead in the literary world. Most of the other authors you mentioned I have read. I liked Margaret Rawlings and J. Conrad very much. I bought a copy of Charles Morgan’s ‘The Voyage’ and enjoyed it. I will send it to you. You apparently have read it, but it is no use to me now that I’ve read it, and perhaps you will know of someone who would read it.

By then, Shaw was eighty-four but very much still in the public eye with theatre productions and film adaptations.  He was also a frequent visitor to America where Hugh may have become familiar with his broadcasts and writings. Shaw and Churchill kept up a banter which included serious criticism and they became great friends despite opposing political views. One story goes that Shaw reserved two tickets for the first night of Pygmalion for Churchill, saying, ‘Bring a friend. If you have one.’ The reply declined the first night but said that he would come to the second. ‘If you have one.’ According to Shaw’s People by Stanley Weintraub, newspapers published two articles by Shaw about Churchill: ‘My Advice to Winston Churchill’ in the Sunday Graphic in January 1941 and ‘The Amazing Winston Churchill’ in the Sunday Dispatch in March. Either of these Evelyn could have sent to Hugh.

It is now clear that Jim and Hugh shared an interest in reading. They may have discovered their shared interest in books when they became acquainted on Samaria. The coincidence of both reading Eyeless in Gaza fuelled discussion in their letters. Hugh mentions over forty books and I have managed to source them all. My comments on the Books for May 1941 are merely to emphasise what sustained their correspondence and gave them something to write about.

I’m sorry to hear you didn’t care for A Huxley’s ‘Eyeless in Gaza’. Admitted it was rather depressing, and a bit overdone, but some of his characters are well drawn. If you get a chance read his ‘Ends and Means’. This is not a novel but rather interesting in the light of present events.

This letter continues in the next section, The Submariner’s Life.