The CEO of a Hampshire-based maritime welfare charity has just uncovered his own personal link to tragedy at sea – with his grandfather’s death at the hands of a German warship 75 years ago on Sunday (November 19).
Stuart Rivers is CEO of Sailors’ Society, which cares for seafarers when they suffer trauma at sea and offers counselling to bereaved families when the worst happens and their loved ones do not return.
But he did not realise his own family’s trauma until earlier this year, when his cousin in Canada sent him details of the tragedy.
Stuart’s grandfather, William Ross, a fisherman from Aberdeen, was one of 34 men lost when the trawler he was on board, HMS Ullswater, was torpedoed in the English Channel. He was 43 years old.
The Ullswater was sunk near Eddystone Lighthouse by heavily armed German S-boats while defending a convoy of merchant ships.
As the vessel sank, the German boats torpedoed Norwegian steamer SS Lab and British vessels SS Yewforest and SS Birgitte, all of which sank in minutes.
Yewforest had attempted to save the crew of the Ullswater when it was hit, with only four of its crew surviving.
Stuart said: “While it is very sad to have never met my grandfather in person, I feel that I am now starting to understand what a great man he was through his service to King and country.
“Because my work involves supporting those affected by trauma at sea, it has given me greater insight into how devastating my grandfather’s loss must have been for my grandmother and mother as a child.”
Stuart’s grandfather is commemorated at the Royal Naval Patrol Service War Memorial at Sparrow's Nest in Lowestoft.