A Survivor's Tale

(Page 2 of 5... A story by Trevor Reeve, HMS Jervis Bay Association.)

1939Randolph William Urquhart

HMS Jervis Bay crew survivor Randolph William Urquhart has always mystified me. Randolph survived the tragedy, only to die on 13th August, 1942. How he died, I was unable to identify. Had Pollock mistaken "some weeks later" as actually being "some years later" ? Yet, Urquhart was not listed as an engineer, so it appeared to rule the man out. At fifty-one years of age, would he be classed as middle-aged anyway ? Even so, had any injuries sustained on HMS Jervis Bay attributed to his death, or had he died of other means? This man had been stuck in my mind for a number of years. Was Urquhart, the man that Pollock indicated that had "collapsed and died as a result of the delayed effects of the action" ?

The CWGC had Urquhart listed on their website. He had died in 1942 (cause not identified) and his grave could be located in a cemetery in Tynemouth, County Durham, England. Tynemouth is located near to North Shields, which Randolph had listed as his home town abode. The CWGC had no actual picture of Randolph's grave, only the following information listed on his certificate:

In Memory of
Sub-Lieutenant RANDOLPH WILLIAM URQUHART H.M.S. Jervis Bay., Royal Naval Reserve
who died age 53
on 13 August 1942
Son of George Stedsman Urquhart and Elizabeth Urquhart; husband of Ann Carr Urquhart, of North Shields.
Remembered with honour


Tynemouth (Preston) Cemetery

Other than the above information, we had nothing further on the illusive Randolph Urquhart.

I had tried to trace living relatives of Randolph or information about the man himself, by asking local newspapers in and around the North Shields area between 2003 and 2005, but nothing had ever come to fruition. Nothing more appeared forthcoming and I wondered if we might ever get the full picture about Randolph.

Then in 2010 I decided to have another go at locating information about Urquhart. My good friend Tom Rainsbury offered assistance in trying to assemble some sort of family tree for Randolph using the many websites now available on the internet, which were not available back in 2003.

Tom 'sub-contracted' his wife Joyce to look into Urquhart, and it is Joyce Rainsbury that I will always be indebted to, for finally shining a light onto the mysterious life of Randolph Urquhart. All Joyce really had to start with were the parents names and the area in which they lived. No one would know if Joyce's delving into the past would lead to a successful or disappointing ending.

So, what did Joyce manage to ascertain ?

Birth certificate for Randolph William UrquhartRandolph William Urquhart was born in 1888 (at 77 Alma Street) in Hartlepool, County Durham, England. his father George S. Urquhart's occupation was a marine engineer, his mother being Elizabeth Urquhart. His parents were originally from Forfar in Scotland. The fourth of six children, Randolph had two older brothers Allan (b.1883) & George(b.1885), a younger brother Stanley (b.1892), and two sisters Jeannie (b.1885) & Lizzie(b.1890.), who both died in 1891, one aged 6 years and one aged 1 year. All of the family lived in Hartlepool.

Randolph's eldest sibling Allan McPherson Urquhart married Mary Ann McBeath in 1911, later moving to Cardiff in Wales. They had four children; Mary (b.1911 in Hartlepool); Alan (b.1915 in Hartlepool); Margaret (b.1917 in Cardiff); James (b.1920 in Cardiff.)

Joyce then passed information to me about Victoria McLean (who again I'm indebted to) - whose husband was Randolph's Great-Nephew, and who gave a further insight in to the life of Randolph W.Urquhart.

Randolph joined the Merchant Navy at the age of 18 years. As he spent the majority of his time at sea, he had no real fixed abode. Randolph tended to spend whatever shore leave he had with either his brother Allan and his young family in Cardiff, or with his other elder brother George Junior. Randolph was pretty much footloose and fancy free.

Brother George had been indentured to be a pharmacist (a type of apprenticeship) before WW1(19th Battalion - 2nd Tyneside Pioneers), but after the war, he came back to England shell-shocked, so much so that he shook all of the time. He worked for a grocer's (working his way up to Manager) based in North Shields. George had married Ann Carr McWhinnie in 1927, and Randolph often stayed with them when on leave in the North Shields area. Brother Stanley moved to the USA (Philadelphia), where it is believed he became a golf professional. George and Ann's address in 1927 being listed as 122 Howdon Road, North Shields.

SS VaubanIn the same year that brother George married, on 2nd December, 1927, Randolph W.Urquart signed on the S.S. Vauban as a Chief Refrigeration Engineer. This ship, one of a number of ships that Randolph had sailed on as part of the engineering department , in some capacity or another.

Following in his father's footsteps, he took an engineering path of employment.

S.S. Vauban

So, the question remains, was he actually the 2nd Radio Officer on HMS Jervis Bay, or actually a member of the engineering staff on the ship ?

That would make the photograph and description of the officers printed in the Canadian newspaper (Telegraph-Journal) as wrong, and we could be putting right a piece of Jervis Bay history. But, Urquhart was not on the photograph, so how did he get listed as a radio officer in the first place ? Was this a British Admiralty mistake ?

Urquharts gravestone in Tynemouth states 'Sub. Lieutenant', but not an engineering one. Yet on ships like the 'S.S. Vauban', Urquhart had worked only in the engineering part of the ship, never as a radio officer.

The British Admiralty or whoever must have got it wrong, surely.

Even the officers Unithistories website had Urquhart as '2nd Radio Officer ?'

The '?' leads one to believe that there had to be a question as to Urquhart having this role on the Jervis Bay !

Continue reading Page 3 (of 5) "A Survivor's Tale"...

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