THE BURNING OF THE 'VOLTURNO' - PAGE 66
THE DEVONIAN PAGE 2 - CREW DATA (1)

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Here is another page of data, that provides extensive data about William H. Baker, SGM, 2nd officer, about William Brown, SGM, Able Seaman aboard the Devonian & also Thomas Burdett Knight, SGM, 1st Officer on that vessel. Hopefully, in the future, data about other Devonian crew members might be added - probably to successive pages.

I was interested to read here that the Devonian's crew agreements for an extensive period including 1913 are held by the Maritime History Archive at the Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada. 'Crew Agreements' are, I read, the documents for each merchant ship's voyage, providing a description of the ship & it's owners, the name of the ship's Master, the particular voyage's ports of commencement, destination & termination, the daily meal provisions for the crew, the rules or laws to be observed during the voyage & particulars of each member of the crew, including name (signature), age, place of birth, previous ship, place & date of signing, capacity (seaman, fireman, engineer, etc), Certificate of Competency number if any, when expected on board, pay for the journey, & crew's addresses. Also, particulars of discharge (end of voyage, desertion, sickness, death, etc.) & ports visited. Sounds like most interesting data indeed. All of that data is thanks to Steve Brew of Bern, Switzerland.

To find data for a particular voyage would mean a few hours searching, & a lot of photocopying, & if you don't do it yourself, it can become rather expensive - so I read. Those costs are set out at the second link above. It is quite possible that the Crew Agreement re the Devonian re its Volturno voyage may not be in St. John's since they would appear to have not all of such agreements but rather 70% of them.

WILLIAM H. BAKER, SGM

This section was added in Sep. 2013, in what to me are most interesting circumstances. Read on!

William H. Baker was the 2nd officer of Devonian. He was placed in charge of the first Devonian lifeboat, lifeboat #5, which reached the burning Volturno through the pounding seas. He successfully took aboard a full cargo of women & children, picking up children who had been thrown down into the sea by their parents & receiving women lowered down from Volturno's deck in baskets. All while the lifeboat was driven dramatically up & down the side of Volturno in the dreadful sea conditions. Baker unloaded his human cargo back at Devonian & returned a second time. In total, he took off from Volturno 42 persons in all, 41 of them women & children but also one man, the father of five of the children that Baker had rescued. Lifeboat #5 was the first lifeboat that successfully rescued passengers from Volturno - earlier attempts had been made but none had been successful.

Baker was much decorated for his actions. He was granted the prestigious 'Sea Gallantry Medal'. Also, both in silver, the Marine Medal of the 'Liverpool Shipwreck and Humane Society', & the medal of 'The Life Saving Benevolent Association of New York'. Also a solid silver tea service from Leyland Line.

Sally Montgomery advises (thanks) that the 'H' stands for Henry. And that he was a keen photographer.

In early Sep. 2013, the webmaster received a kind message from Carolyn Hampson. Who had found the actual certificate granted to William H. Baker by the 'Liverpool Shipwreck and Humane Society'. Carolyn says that she found it on a 'tip', near Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. Now 'tip' is a word that is not in general usage here in Canada or, I believe, in the U.K., but is of a meaning well known to the webmaster - a 'tip' is a rubbish dump!

We thank Carolyn for effecting the certificate's rescue & for providing us with the following images. Which references the 59 passengers in total which were rescued from Volturno by all Devonian lifeboats

WILLIAM BROWN, SGM

I wonder what Able Seaman William Brown, SGM, would have said if he had been told in 1913 that one day, in the unimaginably distant future, data about him & his lifesaving efforts would be available to most people on the surface of the planet via this webpage. It would have been beyond his most wildest imagination. He would not have believed it possible!

Included in the list of SGM medal recipients on page 32 re the Devonian is of course seaman William Brown. That is William at left below, with Elizabeth, his wife, & children William Jr. & Phoebe. Inset is Thomas who was born later. I am advised by Raymond Brown of Kinmel Bay, near Rhyl, North Wales, that Phoebe, the last living child of William Brown, passed away in a Denbighshire nursing home on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2004, at the age of 91. William Brown was Raymond Brown's grandfather, I learn.

Raymond has kindly given me a scan of a certificate which was given to his grandfather by the Liverpool Shipwreck and Humane Society on Nov. 6, 1913 for efforts aboard Devonian lifeboat number 5. The inscription reads

It was resolved unanimously "That the thanks of the Committee be presented to William Brown, S/S Devonian, together with the Society's Bronze Medal, for gallant service in the life boat at the rescue of Fifty nine passengers from the S/S "Volturno" on fire in Mid-Atlantic on 10th October 1913".

You can see a small image of that certificate below (left) & the giant original image is here. But beware! That original image is very large indeed.

We cannot be sure, but there is a good possibility that William Brown is the young crew member in both crew images (see page 65) with the distinctive woolly hat.

Also below (right) is a letter written by Leyland Line to William Brown in Jan. 1915. It is a bit hard to read on screen but advises Mr. Brown "We have pleasure in advising that we have now received from New York a bronze medal and 10 dollars in gold which have been awarded to you by the Life Saving Benevolent Association of New York, and we shall be pleased to hand same to you at this office at any time convenient." Raymond Brown advises that with the passage of time the medal is no longer in the family's possession. The 10 dollars in gold surely found a useful purpose the moment it was received! Thank you so much Raymond!

And here is a multiple image which shows William Brown's actual invitation/instruction to attend at Buckingham Palace to receive his Sea Gallantry Medal from the hand of King George V in 1915, the front and back of the actual medal that was that day awarded to him, and some recent data about the Sea Gallantry Medal itself. What a moment that must have been for a young man of 22 years of age ~ to receive the medal from the hand of the King!

The Devonian was later sunk by torpedo ~ on Aug. 21st 1917 by German submarine U-53. She went down 20 miles N.E. of Tory Island which is off the coast of Donegal, Ireland. William Brown was on board & survived that attack. But later he was aboard the S.S. Highland Harris when, on Aug. 6, 1918, that ship was also attacked by a German submarine. And that attack he did not survive - lost at age 27. His son Thomas, Raymond Brown's father, was born 5 months later. A very personal & very sad story.

THOMAS BURDETT KNIGHT, SGM

While we do not have at hand an invitation similar to that given to William Brown as immediately above, it is surely very likely that there was but a single Volturno investiture at Buckingham Palace in 1915 & that Thomas Burdett Knight would have been there to receive his medal from King George V with William Brown & all the other SGM award winners re the incident.

Thomas Knight was 1st Officer aboard the Devonian & you will already have seen him with what is believed to be a group of Volturno survivors on page 65. In the next image, at left, we see him in what is believed to be a contemporary group picture of the officers of the Devonian. That is Thomas at far right in the seated middle row. It is clear, I think, that it is contemporary, because the two officers at top right, including the gentleman with the distinguished moustache, are surely in the survivor image. Alas, we are unable to attribute names to those two officers, nor indeed to all of the others. Thomas is on his own in the image at right. We thank Thomas's grandson Jon Lawton, for these fine & treasured images.

We do have an image of the 'Liverpool Shipwreck and Humane Society' illuminated certificate given to Thomas Knight on Nov. 6, 1913. His certificate is very differently coloured, I see, from William Brown's as above, came with a silver medal in his case & a 'Silver Mounted Barometer'. The certificate appears next along with a splendid testimonial letter which predates the Volturno incident by a great many years but is interesting reading indeed. The barometer is gone with the passage of time but the plate which was fixed on the box does survive.

And here, in contemporary images, is 1st Officer Knight in dress uniform (top right) together with another image of him (second from left) with, it is believed, other Devonian officers.

I understand that Thomas B. Knight was born & died in Liverpool. He was born in 1873 & died on Jun. 13, 1932 at age 58.

Now it would be wonderful to have images of William Brown & Thomas Burdett Knight receiving their SGM medals from the hand of King George V. But those images surely just does not, alas, exist. But to give the feel of such a moment, we have absolutely the next best thing - an image of King George V at an investiture in Hyde Park, London, on Jun. 2, 1917 (below). The scene in Buckingham Palace in 1915 when our two heroes received their SGM medals, must have been similar, though the King may well have been dressed in royal finery rather than in military uniform. You may find the text under the image to be of interest, so I provide it next. The image, incidentally, is a double page picture 'drawn by F. Matania', from 'The Sphere', An Illustrated Newspaper for the Home, of Jun. 9, 1917. I have done my best with the picture which has the principal players so very close to the centre fold.


PRIVATE T. HUGHES, WHO WALKED TO THE ROYAL DAIS ON CRUTCHES, RECEIVING THE V.C. AT THE HANDS OF KING GEORGE IN HYDE PARK

On Sunday of last week there took place in Hyde Park, in full view of a London crowd, a ceremony which was at once very simple and very grand, when the King invested some 350 men with the honours they had won for gallantry and good service during the war. There on the grass and among the trees of Hyde Park the memories of months of selfless devotion walked visibly as in a long procession. The men who had done "great and noble service to their country" received from the King the large and eternal thanks of the Empire. Simple though the investiture was, there was enough to fire the imagination. One by one these men - or, in a more touching moment still, their relatives - came forward, saluted, and went their way again, lost to sight at once in the crowds. One by one, as the slight figures in khaki or blue separated themselves from the small company in front of the dais, ascended the sloping ramp, and stood isolated for a moment before their King and their own people, there was a tense moment which was very keenly felt.

The wounded soldier who is being decorated by the King is Private Thomas Hughes of the Connaught Rangers. Private Hughes won the Victoria Cross at Guillemont on September 3 of last year. He was wounded in an attack but returned to the firing line. Later, seeing a hostile machine-gun, he dashed out in front of his company, shot the gunner, and captured the gun single-handed. Though again wounded, Hughes brought back several prisoners.

If YOU have any new data about the Volturno, or in some way related to the Volturno, I would welcome your dropping me a line.

Other pages related to the Devonian are here: 65, 67, 68 & 69.

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