William Alfred Stevens. Ship Purser/ Chief Steward

Discussion in 'Prisoners of War' started by Caroline Harper, Apr 20, 2021.

  1. I’m looking for help researching William Alfred Stevens. According to his wife’s (Rebecca Eva Smyth) probate record, he was a ship purser/ chief steward.
    According to family, She died in 1941 after been told his ship was torpedoed. It was later discovered that he was a POW believed to be Japan. My great grandmother then used to send Red Cross parcels to her sisters husband. I believe his wife was a nurse in England and that’s where they met and got married. Thank you so much

    He was born approx 1895 and may have served in Ww1 and I believe married in 1927 in Hampstead
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  2. JimHerriot

    JimHerriot Ready for Anything

    Hello Caroline and welcome. What nationality was William please?

    Kind regards, always,

  3. English to the best of our knowledge. There is a 1% chance he was Irish but I can not find any birth records in Ireland for him. He died in Ewell, Surrey
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  4. Hugh MacLean

    Hugh MacLean Senior Member

    Hello and welcome Caroline,
    From my records I have William Alfred Stevens b. 14.12.1890 in Windsor as a PoW in Germany he was aboard ss PORT BRISBANE. I will check for further information on him.
  5. Good morning Hugh. Thank you so much for replying to my message. That sounds very interesting and very promising. And a potential date of birth for him if he is the correct William Alfred Stevens.
    Thank you again
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  6. Hugh MacLean

    Hugh MacLean Senior Member

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  7. Hugh MacLean

    Hugh MacLean Senior Member

    During WW1, while serving on the ss CHINA in 1915, he gave his home address as 4 Vine Cottage, Spital Windsor.
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  8. That is wonderful Hugh. How can I be 100% sure that this is my William Alfred Stevens. The medal list seems to reference year 1939 but the ship sank in 1940 and I can’t see any matching numbers or ship names. I also found another record for a William Stevens who was also a chief Steward. No middle name which is like the medal list. Is this the same person or someone different? Would the record in Kew hold more information as I see it has not been digitised and I’m in Ireland?

    This is the other record

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  9. Hugh MacLean

    Hugh MacLean Senior Member

    Hi Caroline,
    At the moment we do not have enough information to clearly link him as your William but given the information you have told us I would offer this.
    The only MN Chief Steward by the name of William Alfred Stevens who was held as a PoW has been liked by me to ss PORT BRISBANE. You will also note his Discharge Book number 564664 is also on the medal file and the PoW record. You also said he served in WW1 and I can link him back to 1913 in the MN but he probably joined in 1909. I also have his signature. See crew agreement for ss CHINA below.

    The other record you show is from Forces War Records and I suspect it is the same man but I wouldn't go joining that site as the information they hold is nothing you cannot get elsewhere.
    The medal file is for 1939-1945 and covers all the medals he was issued or claimed by his next of kin. The record from Kew is a prisoner of war card - it is just one card - I doubt there will be much more personal information in the file but you would not know unless you looked but it already states the fact that he was a PoW from the PORT BRISBANE.

    I have found evidence of him still serving at sea in 1953 so his service record Jan 1941 - to leaving the service could be obtained from TNA Kew but it is not available online. You would need a visit or employ a researcher. The file, his CRS 10, should be held at Kew in piece BT 382/1714
    Service prior to 1941 is not so easy as not much in the way of records for him have survived but I attach what they have. To find out all the ship's he sailed in would require you to go through crew agreements from PORT BRISBANE backwards as those crew agreements usually showed the seaman's previous ship.


    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Apr 21, 2021
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  10. Wow Hugh, you have really come up trumps. I’m really reassured that it is my great grandmothers sisters husband. From the his birth date and address area, I have found him in the 1891 and 1901 census. He appears in the 1915 census but then is crossed out as he either had moved out or went to sea. He is a ‘steward on a ship’ at that stage. In the 1915 census his address matches his service record.
    The description of him on the service record matches My William Alfred Stevens perfectly also
    From there I have been able to track his siblings and their family trees. Unfortunately none of the trees have a marriage or death for him but I have reached out to them and hopefully it will give a result one way or another.
    thank you profoundly with your immense help in locating my ancester.
    • Now I will attempt to find out what ships he worked on. 1909 sounds like a good time to start looking for records. He would he would been 19 then. He more than likely stayed at sea for his entire career.
    • next stop is his marriage and death record also.
    • Is there any particular website that would tell me more about imprisonment in Marlag? Was it normal to end up back in Europe? Did it just depend on which country captured the ship?
    Thank you once again
  11. Hugh MacLean

    Hugh MacLean Senior Member

    You are welcome Caroline.
    I would say he was lucky that Japan had not entered the war at the time he was taken prisoner. He was taken in the Indian Ocean and sometimes the raider would transfer prisoners to Japanese ships and as we know the treatment given to prisoners by the Japanese was absolutely horrific and that was the same whether you were armed forces or merchant seamen. Some seamen were captured in the European theatre but because of circumstance ended up being transferred to Japanese ships but in the main, yes, if you were captured in the Atlantic or European theatre of operations then the seamen were taken to Milag Nord at Westertimke in Germany which was for civilian seamen - Marlag Nord was for Royal Navy personnel or military.

    Merchant Mariners at Milag Nord Prisoner of War Camp in Germany World War II - this is the US Merchant Marine site but worth a look.
    The MILAG Camp Site is a forum with a lot of requests about seamen in Milag.

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  12. timuk

    timuk Well-Known Member

    From: German auxiliary cruiser Pinguin - Wikipedia

    Pinguin headed north-eastwards towards the Sunda Strait to the shipping lanes between India and Australia. On 27 September the sea was calm enough to allow the spare seaplane to be assembled.[5] Captain Krüder and his navigation officer Leutnant Wilhelm Michaelsen conceived and developed a plan to lay mines in six Australian and Tasmanian sea lanes, but it would require two ships. On 7 October off Christmas Island a vessel crossing the raider's path was flagged down and ordered to stop with a 75 mm warning shot. The vessel stopped and surrendered. The vessel was identified as the Norwegian motor-tanker Storstad carrying a cargo of 12,000 tons of diesel oil and 500 tons of heavy fuel oil.[

    Storstad was commissioned into the German navy as the auxiliary minelayer Passat
    On 16 November Passat was de-commissioned and resumed her original name of Storstad.

    From 11 ships sunk by Pinguin she had 405 prisoners aboard. Ernst-Felix Krüder notified the Seekriegsleitung that he was sending them to Europe aboard Storstad. Storstad still had 10,800 tons of diesel oil aboard and 3,000 tons of diesel oil was transferred to Pinguin before she left.

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  13. Thank you so much for all your help. I really appreciate it.
    I just have a few questions regarding the documents you gave me. I’m just trying to structure his life at sea.
    I’m having trouble enlarging the first one titled China.
    •what year is this?
    I think it reads W Stevens, age 23 , Windsor, Vine Cottage, Windsor.
    I can’t decipher the next column.
    Then it reads Arabia. Was this the ship where he was working previously? All subsequent columns I’m unable to read.

    the next document is CR1. It is dated 20 Oct 1913. Is this showing that he moved ship on this date. You indicated he probably started working in 1909

    the third document is also CR1 dated 24 Mar 1925 for the ship China. Is this him commencing or finishing on this ship?
    under the section continuation of discharge for the following reason it quotes numbers and letters. What does this mean?

    the final Document is CR 10. What does number of identity certificate 802805 mean? Does this also show that he commenced working on the Kaisar i- hind on the 11th of March 1921

    Last night I discovered the ships manifest for William Stevens arriving into New York on 21 July 1937. He was Chief Steward on board Port Brisbane. All very exciting.
    I’m indebted to you for all your help Hugh
    Thank you
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  14. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    England & Wales, Civil Registration Marriage Index, 1916-2005
    Name: William A Stevens
    Registration Date: Jul 1927
    [Aug 1927]
    [Sep 1927]
    Registration Quarter: Jul-Aug-Sep
    Registration District: Hampstead
    Inferred County: London
    Spouse: Rebecca E Smythe
    Volume Number: 1a
    Page Number: 1739

    A copy would help to verify a closer date of birth, hopefully would have how many years old each of them was hence deduct that from 1927 to obtain a year of birth

  15. thank you so much TD. That is the first time I’ve seen her first and middle name listed on the marriage. Do you know how I can get a copy of the original? I’m in Ireland
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  16. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

  17. JimHerriot likes this.
  18. Small question: which website did you quote the marriage from. how do you get the first names of both parties to appear on the marriage index. Normally it is only the surname of the second party which is given.
  19. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Its from a search on Ancestry

    You can add the forename and/or surname of the spouse, depends how confident you feel, but often better to start with more 'open' parameters the close in

    Started by searching marriages in 1927
    All Birth, Marriage & Death results for William Stevens

    this gave a total of 97 results - go through them until you see a Rebecca or a Smith/Smyth/Symthe as spouse

  20. travers1940

    travers1940 Well-Known Member

    Here is a little more about the Storstad's journey back to Europe.

    She was renamed Passat and was in the subsequent months used partly as minelayer (laid 70 delayed action mines, Banks Strait and Bass Strait between Oct. 29 and 31), partly as replenishing depot for several of the German auxiliary cruisers in The Indian Ocean, before being sent to Bordeax with 405 of Pinguin's prisoners on board (from Nowshera, Maioma, Port Brisbane and Port Wellington). After a meeting with the raider Atlantis on Dec. 8, when she supplied this raider with fuel and took on board some of her prisoners the total number had been increased to 524, whose voyage became quite an ordeal under terrible conditions. En route to France, in position 27S 12W on Jan 6-8-1941 Storstad met Thor, Admiral Scheer and her prize Duquesa, and Nordmark, and transferred 6500 tons diesel oil to the latter, for use by Scheer, prizes and raiders, and in turn she received some provisions from the captured Duquesa, which had 3539 tons frozen meat and 15 million! eggs on board. Storstad reached the Gironde inlet on Febr. 4-1941.
    Norwegian Victims of Pinguin - Norwegian Merchant Fleet 1939-1945
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