Death of a Merchant Seaman

J. Shreeve of the SS Avonwood


We had a neighbour on the trawlers, so we were never short of fish. He used to see our dog as a good luck mascot – when he went on a trip he always used to come and stroke it first. When he came back safe he would give our dog a whole pound block of Cadbury’s chocolate. The dog used to bring it home in its mouth, with half the wrapping chewed off; my mother would immediately requisition it. The numbe of times we handed round tooth-marked chocolate at Christmas…
Robert Westall: Children of the Blitz: p126


Copy statement relating to the death of J. Shreeve of the S.S. Avonwood
Archive Reference: TWAS T15/1475

Trawlers and other ships on the east coast had a terrible time. Tyneside was an important area in the war at sea…merchant and naval shipbuiling and ship-repair, coastal convoys, especially those carrying coal. Read this to find out what happened to the S.S. Avonwood.

You can find out more about ships and shipping (and what happened to individual vessels) during World War II on the North East Diary website.

death of a merchant seaman

transcript of full statement
Copy Statement relating to the death of J. Shreeve, of the S/S ‘Avonwood’, survivor x Avonwood, picked up by S/S ‘Ethylene’ on which vessel he died (before landing). Corpse conveyed to Royal Jubilee Infirmary, North Shields where he was certified dead.

I, Lawrence Bruce Anderson, (36 yrs) Master S/S ‘Ethylene’ Braemore, Stockton Road, Seaham, County Durham, do solemnly and sincerely declare that at about 10.30pm on Saturday, 12th December, 1942, while proceeding in convoy with other ships, the convoy having been attacked by E.Boats and certain of the ships sunk, my lifeboats having been manned and taking part in rescue work, were successful in rescuing 13 seamen, 6 of them from a Norwegian vessel (‘Marianne’) and 7 from ‘Avonwood’. I made the rescued men as comfortable as possible and all seemed to be going well when an A.B. ex ‘Avonwood’ named Shreeve suddenly collapsed and fell in the forecastle where he was preparing to go to bed. On being advised of this happening I gave the Second Mate a bottle of rum and asked that artificial respiration be tried. This was not successful as the man had passed away.
I can only assume that he collapsed and died from Heart Failure due to shock and exposure while in the water after his ship had been torpedoed.
Everything that could be done was done but without success. He turned a bluey yellowish colour.
Sgd L.B. Anderson


SS Avonwood (PDF)