Plea from Australia over 1916 ship tragedy

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SHE’S one of those shipping losses that faded into the fog of war, yet she haunts the family of one of the crewmen still.

She was the Thornaby, which went down off the Suffolk coast in 1916, with the loss of 19 lives.

There were only two survivors, I believe.

Is it possible that someone kept original cuttings of her story?

This follows a query from a reader across in Brisbane, in Australia, whose grandfather, George McHugh, was chief engineer on the vessel when, it’s thought, she struck a mine. He was among those lost.

His daughter Elizabeth, my reader’s mother, was only a child at the time, but she kept newspaper reports of the tragedy.

He recalls her taking them out to look out over the years, until they grew old and brittle. Sadly, as so often happens, they were eventually lost.

He would love it if someone had copies.

I’ve managed to find one cutting to send off to Australia. It’s a long shot, but if there were other local casualties, did another family keep clippings, or can anyone add anything to the ship’s story?

The 1,782-ton Thornaby was far already a bit of a veteran when she sank.

She had been built in 1889 by Ropner and Sons, Stockton, and was owned and operated by R Ropner and Co of West Hartlepool.

On February 28, 1916, she was on a voyage from Marbella to West Hartlepool when it’s thought she struck a mine.

A contemporary report notes that the crew of a Newcastle steamer, the Devereux, saw a Norwegian steamer stopped, with a boat out and taking people out of the water. There were other men clinging to wreckage.

Two men were taken aboard another steamer, the Highgate, belonging to South Shields.

One of the survivors was the steward whose surname was given as Carlberg, and who lived in Eldon Street in Shields. He had survived by clinging to one of the bunker hatches, and was landed at Blyth.