Stoker 1st Class George Morgan

George Morgan was a Stoker with the Royal Navy on board HMS Trinidad. Stokers specialised in Engine-Room duties; the name was acquired from the days when ships were coal-fuelled and Stokers were those who shifted coal. George Morgan was promoted to ‘Stoker 1st Class’ in rank. The HMS Trinidad was to be involved in the ‘Russian Convoys'; operations which were to supply Murmansk in Northern Russia with the necessary military equipment to preserve the Eastern front. The Arctic conditions were often appalling.

George Morgan in Naval Uniform with some members of his family

Whilst in Devonport, Stoker George Morgan, wrote to his sister ‘Hannah’. The content of this letter (shown below) is remarkable, not least because Stoker George Morgan, having weighed up the number of hours that would have been spent in making a return rail journey between Devonport and Tattenhall together with the expense of that rail journey (46 shillings), relative to the very small amount of time that he would have gained with his family, deferred his request for weekend leave. Hannah was never to see her brother again.

George Morgan’s letter to his beloved sister, Hannah, together with ‘one big X’ for ‘Brenda’ (his niece)

The first keel plate of Trinidad was laid in March 1938 by Lady Drax, the wife of the Commander-in-Chief at Devonport, albeit that the completion of the ship was delayed because of the intensity of enemy bombing of both the City of Plymouth and of its adjacent dockyard at Devonport. In fact, this new cruiser took a direct hit when a bomb from an air attack went straight through the quarter deck whilst Trinidad was in the dockyard, thus delaying its completion still further. The ship was finally commissioned on 3 October 1941. Captain Leslie S Saunders took command. The sight of over 600 men marching through Devonport Dockyard and going on board must have been spectacular, not least because the cruiser had taken so long to be completed that it was affectionately known within the dockyard as ‘The Monument’ i.e. an almost permanent feature of the dockyard’s landscape.

HMS Trinidad

The loss of HMS Trinidad was extraordinary. On 29 March 1942, whilst escorting a Convoy, she and other escorts were in combat with German destroyers. She hit and severely damaged the German destroyer Z26 but HMS Trinidad also suffered damage when two shells smashed into her port side aft, creating a hole some five feet square above the waterline. Whilst the repair party set to work, HMS Trinidad then launched a torpedo attack in an attempt to finish off the German destroyer Z26. For whatever reason, possibly a faulty gyro-mechanism (affected by the icy waters) or because of a salvo of shells which had altered its path, the torpedo formed a circular arc, striking HMS Trinidad itself. In effect, therefore, HMS Trinidad torpedoed herself. The port side torpedo damage created a hole measuring 50ft x 20ft. 

HMS Trinidad was towed clear of the action and was able to proceed under her own power towards Kola Inlet and the dry dock at Rosta where she underwent partial repairs. Those men who did not survive were committed to the sea at the mouth of the Kola Inlet.

Whilst Stoker 1st Class George Morgan survived the actions of March 1942, he was to die just 6 weeks later during HMS Trinidad’s attempts to return home (via Philadelphia where it would undergo further repairs and a refit).

HMS Trinidad sailed out of the Kola Inlet on 13 May 1942, escorted by several destroyers (Somali, Matchless, Foresight, Forester). Owing to the previous damage, her speed was reduced to 20 knots. En route, she was attacked by more than twenty Ju-88 bombers. HMS Trinidad was struck by 4 bombs on 14 May and sunk the following day – 63 men were lost as was the German aircraft which had caused the damage (it plunged into the sea on the port beam). The survivors of HMS Trinidad were picked up by the four destroyers who had escorted her out of the Kola Inlet. Ironically, only two of these, ‘Matchless’ and ‘Forester’, would survive the war.
 

In Memory

of

Stoker 1st Class GEORGE MORGAN

D/KX/129184, Royal Navy, HMS Trinidad

Died 14 May 1942 

Remembered with honour

PLYMOUTH NAVAL MEMORIAL 

Royal Naval Memorial, Plymouth

 

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