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Telling a port's heroic war story.

Byline: Peter Collins

THE crucial role that merchant seamen from Barry played in helping to win World War II has been commemorated as members of the Merchant Navy Association of Wales marched through the town.

The gripping and often tragic story of how thousands of merchant seamen from Barry lost their lives transporting vital iron ore into Britain has never been properly told.

But 83-year-old David Simpson, who was a merchant seaman throughout the war and now lives in Barry, is helping to put that right by continuing detailed research first started by Barry-born merchant seaman, the late Fred Hortop.

Sitting in the book-and-file-filled study of his home in High Street, Barry, Mr Simpson has at his fingertips the detailed stories of the role Barry and the other three South Wales ports played in the war.

Born in Leamington Spa, Mr Simpson can bring an outsider's objectivity to the heartbreaking stories to be told.

Take, for instance, the tale of Ernest Stiff and his wife Elsie from Barry.

They lost three sons, William, 19, Charles, 16, and Joseph, 21, onMerchant Navy ships between September 1940 and March 1942.

"Never mind about Saving Private Ryan," said Mr Simpson.

"Here we have a mother from Barry who lost three of her sons in just over a year."

He said: "If Churchill said that the Battle of the Atlantic was the dominating factor throughout the war and, if in that battle Barrylostagreater proportion of its men than any other port, then in a very real sense this makes Barry's contribution to the war unique."

Mr Simpson continued: "There are no admirals in the Merchant Navy, no marching band, and no smart uniforms, so it doesn't get the same publicity.

"If you were to write a book about it now, only about 100 people in Barry would read it.

"But the contribution these men made needs to be recognised.

They had nothing, but they gave their lives for the rest of us."

peter.collins@mediawales.co.uk

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DEDICATED: Ex-merchant seaman David Simpson
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Apr 21, 2008
Words:340
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