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.
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.
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.
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).
Stoker 1st Class GEORGE MORGAN
D/KX/129184, Royal Navy, HMS Trinidad
Died 14 May 1942
Remembered with honour
PLYMOUTH NAVAL MEMORIAL