TWO teenage merchant sailors from Trafford who died during the First World War have finally been commemorated nationally – nearly 100 years after they died.
Schoolmates Cecil Bowland, aged 17, and Sidney (Billy) Cruickshank died when their sailing ship, S V Inveramsay, was sunk by a German U-boat in 1917.
They were among 23 men who died. Three years of campaigning paid off for local historian George Cogswell, when the Commonwealth War Graves Commission(CWGC) agreed recently to commemorate Cecil, of Clapham House, 121 Hale Road, Hale, and Billy, of Sunny Bank, 17 Hale Road, Altrincham.
The names of the friends - who were pupils at Bredbury Central School in Hale - will now be added to the Addenda Panel of the Merchants Seamen’s Memorial to the Missing at Tower Hill, London.
George said: “I believe that the main reason these two lads were consigned to national anonymity was due to a dispute between the British Government’s insurance company and the vessel insurers.
“The Government insisted that it was an ordinary marine loss, whereas the ship’s insurers contested there were no storms reported at any time across the Atlantic during the period of their sailing.
“Also, the ship was only 26-years-old and was in a good state of maintenance. It therefore had to be a war loss.”
The dispute was only settled when the German submarine records could finally be checked.
This revealed the S V Inveramsay was sunk by a U-boat on April 27, 1917. Cecil and Billy went to school together and were both members of 1st Altrincham Scout Group.
They joined the Mercantile Marine Service as apprentice seamen soon after one another. Cecil was on his second voyage when he died, while Billy was on his first.
The SV Inveramsay was sailing from Gulf Point, USA, to Fleetwood, when it was sunk. It was laden with pitch pine.
George, from Sale, added: “They were just two more men out of hundreds of Altrincham and district men that were lost in the conflict.
“Until now, the difference has been that most of the others are commemorated by the CWGC, Cecil and Billy were not.”
Their deaths were reported in the Altrincham Guardian on January 21, 1918 and again on January 25, 1918. They are commemorated on the war memorial at Hale Methodist Church and the Altrincham and District Roll of Honour. Cecil’s name is also recorded on the Altrincham Town War Memorial, while Billy’s is on the Altrincham one.
Further details at www.trafford wardead.com.