Friday, March 24, 2023

The Great War in Thurrock: Five Thurrock men die on SS Minneapolis

SINCE March 1914, Your Thurrock has been delving into the archive of the Grays and Tilbury Gazette, to look at life in the area during the Great War.

Sometimes we pick stories that reflect life at home. Sometimes we pick stpries from the battlefields.

It is always painful to report the loss of human life. It is also painful to report the stores that report the loss of Thurrock lives.

The SS Minneapolis was struck on March 23rd, 1916. It sank two days later.

This ship’s government service was tragically brief because she was torpedoed and sunk by U 35 195 (Kptlt. von Arnauld de la Periere) with one torpedo 195 miles from Malta on March 23, 1916, with the loss of 12 of her crew.

She was sailing from Marseilles to Alexandria at the time of her loss carrying 60 tons horse fodder. The destroyer Sheldrake rescued 166 of her crew and 1 passenger. Minneapolis evidently remained afloat for some hours after the attack and was towed in turn by by the destroyer Lydiard, the sloop Nasturtium and finally by the tugs Veteran and Milon, but sank on March 25. She was under the command of Captain Harker at the time of her loss.

The type in the Grays and Tilbury Gazette is difficult to read and so we have limited detail of those who died. We hope to find out more.

Fireman 4 Quebec Road Tilbury,.

Fireman 21 Dock Road Little Thurrock.

Fireman 17 Arthur Street Grays.

J McFarlane? Greaser 30 Melbourne Road Tilbury,

J Barwick? Pantryman Primrose Terrace Gravesend, formerly of Tilbury.

The Editor of the Grays and Tilbury Gazette said: "The German submarine policy has been pursued with much bitterness, and several ships have been reported sunk, including the “Minneapolis” , a well-known Tilbury vessel, and manned extensively from our countryside. Happily the loss of life was relatively small, but there will be general sympathy with the bereaved families of the five local men who have not survived.

"One of the great horrors of this war is that so many non-combatants suffer fatality and injury in addition to the recognised combatants. Not only is the penalty paid in the districts devastated by war, but in passenger ships and in the streets of our towns peaceful citizens are killed. The Germans are indeed lustful of blood, but what a legacy of detestation they create.

A week later


About eighty of the survivors of the Atlantic Transport Company’s liner “Minneapolis”, which was torpedoed in the Mediterranian while on Government service, reached England on Thursday, consisting principally of the engine room departments.

A large number of the men reached Tilbury and Grays during the day, and were accorded a warm reception by their relatives and friends. Describing their experiences, the men explained that some of their lost comrades were drowned through accidents to one or two of the boats, owing to the davits going wrong, the result being that those in them were thrown into the water.

They all spoke most highly of the conduct of the officers and the discipline which prevailed throughout. The vessel floated for some time, but it was impossible to tow her into safety, and she eventually sank.

Meanwhile, in other news.


The Agriculture Committee stated that the Principal having reported as to the viability of having special courses of instruction in agriculture, horticulture and dairying for women to meet the present emergencies. It was resolved to recommend that the Principal be requested to draw up a scheme, and that arrangements be made for such courses to be held if sufficient students are forthcoming. Approval was also given to a scheme submitted by the Principal whereby instruction in milking could be given to school children. It was agreed to refer the matter to the Elementary Education School Management Committee to consider whether arrangements could be made for the school children to receive instruction under this scheme. Mr G. Raby said it was proposed to give instruction to both boys and girls. This would be done by means of artificial cows which did not kick (Laughter).


The coal contractors wrote that the delay over the coal supply arose over the difficulty of transit. It was hoped that this would now be remedied – Mr Jones said they all knew that it was a very trying time for coal merchants and the public. It was difficult to get coal, even in London.-The Chairman said he knew instances where coal had been obtained in ten days and yet other merchants had to wait weeks – Mr Ridgwell pointed out that Orsett schools had to be closed last week owing to the shortage of coal. Eventually he obtained some himself, as apparently all merchants were not affected alike. The Chairman agreed, observing that he did the same for North Ockendon schools.


At Grays Police Court a tramp was charged with stealing a plate, a towel and teacloth, value 1s 6d, the property of the Orsett Guardians. Mrs Elliott, Knowltons Cottages, South Ockendon, stated that that morning the prisoner offered her articles for sale for 6d. She noticed the cloths were soiled in on corner, but he said the mud had got on accidentally. Later on, when her daughter was washing them, she discovered that they bore the Orsett Union mark under the mud. P.c. Vale stated that he received information from the last witness and cycled along the North Ockendon Road where he overtook the prisoner. When asked where he came from the man hesitated and then admitted he had come from Orsett Workhouse. Asked if he had called anywhere on the road he said he had been in a bakers shop, but when the plate and cloths were mentioned he denied all knowledge of them. Witness was not satisfied and detained him. When about a mile down the road prisoner admitted he took the articles from the Workhouse washhouse. Prisoner was remanded until Friday. At the Petty Sessions on Friday, prisoner expressed regret and threw himself on the mercy of the Court. He was sentenced to 21 days hard labour.

ANOTHER “CLAN” LINER SUNK-“CLAN CAMPBELL” FALLS A VICTIM-It was announced that the Clan Lines steamer “Clan Campbell” had been torpedoed and sunk in the Mediterranian by a German submarine. The vessel is stated to have been sunk without warning but the crew were saved. The ship was well known at Tilbury.



With regard to the shortage of farm labour, I am in a position to place farmers in communication with London boys, girls and young women of good character and good health who desire to do farm work. If farmers in this neighbourhood should desire such help on their farms, I shall be very pleased to be of any assistance to them, now that so many of their labourers have been called up to join the Army. Yours faithfully

Rev Carless of Stanford-le-Hope


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