Charles Sullivan, a marine on board the HMS Trinidad (not HMS Edinburgh), was killed in the attack

My name is Jon Sharpe and I am from England. My great-uncle, Charles Sullivan [grandmother's brother], was a marine on board the HMS Edinburgh. Sadly, he was one of the ratings killed when she was attacked.  My grandmother, Hannnah, and her eldest son - my father [he was then 7 or 8] - had fled to Melbourne, Australia, to escape the German raids on Exeter in Devon. She had cousins living in Melbourne. Nana, as everyone called her, said she knew the moment Charles had died, as she heard him calling her name.The date and time was later officially confirmed.

I look forward to hearing from you.

see "The Golden Cruiser. HMS Edinburgh sunk in WW2, carrying 5 tons of  Russian gold with her"


Thank you for your letter. I am sorry to learn that your great uncle Charles was a casualty when his ship was sunk in 1942.

By coincidence I live in Melbourne, but when Hannah and your father were here, I was in HMAS Australia  as a young Midshipman, working out of Scapa Flow, then the Clyde and Liverpool.

Of course when Edinburgh was sunk she took with her 5 tons of Russian gold on its way to the United States, and it was many years later that it was finally recovered.

Here is Charles Sullivan's record from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and as you can see he is remembered on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial.

Nice to hear from you.

Best wishes and regards from Melbourne, Australia.

Mackenzie Gregory.

I found from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission certificate for Charles Sullivan, that he was serving as a Royal Marine bandsman, in HMS Trinidad, and not in HMS Edinburgh, as his relatives had believed for many years.

Both ships were in the same group in the Barent's Sea, on the 29th. of March 1942, Trinidad suffered the distinction of torpedoing herself when one of three torpedoes she had fired ran amok and came back to torpedo its own ship. She went off to Murmansk for repairs, and in May was on her way back to UK with another convoy, attacked by JU 88's, she was struck by 4 bombs and eventually had to abandoned and sunk. 


Thank you for getting in touch, Mackenzie, and for finding that record. Which has corrected us all - the HMS Trinidad. Which means he was one of the unlucky 18 or so casualties of the infamous U-turning torpedo strike on 29 March!

I've since contacted websites connected with the ship with the data, one of which wanted info on the crew, another was about the Marine Band on board.

I have become the family historian, it seems, esp for my Dad's side. Mum's uncle, himself a veteran of the North Atlantic Convoys, has done so much on her side.

Incidentally, I have connections to Melbourne on Mum's side too. Her mother's father [Great Grandpa Jack] was killed in the Home Guard on 16/10/1940 while living in Barnes in London. He was a real hero, as he'd been fatally injured rescuing others from a bombed house. He died 9 days before Mum was born, nursed by his wife, Isabella. Like Jack, she'd been born to an Irish Catholic Army family in India.

Mum's parents, Jack's daughter and son-in-law, lived in Nottingham. They'd been married just before War broke out in 1939. Mum & I recently found the last letter ever written to Jack from a Mr G Davies of Melbourne. It seems they'd served together in World War One. Jack was one of the lucky ones to survive the Somme.  I've attached a transcript of the letter in its entirety.
Regards from Nottingham, England. The City of Robin Hood!
Jon Sharpe


 I have kept the idiosyncrasies of the sender’s spelling, punctuation, grammar and syntax.  Yet I have correctly placed the letter’s closing.  The round-bracketed question marks indicate unclear words in the original text. Square brackets enclose my notes.  I have included footnotes to clarify points in the text, especially the contemporary events mentioned.


27 Loch St.
St. Kilda
Melbourne. 14.11.40

My dear Jack.
 I was delighted & relieved to get Your letter.  I am replying to the same address; though one wonders  whether it will reach Your abode, & if the abode is still there.  We seem rather far from the war zone & all its horrors, but the Papers, the news reel, & most realistic records, broadcast by the Radio; of the actual noise of the raiders & falling of bombs, brings it nearer, & since a raider has sunk ships in Australian coastal areas; nearer still - however when our planes are cruising over head pursuing their leasurely reconnoitering it does not send panic into our hearts & an urge to seek shelter -  Life goes on much the same, except that the streets & public areas are crowded with khaki, navy & air force blue, where such a thing was unique, except when some of H.M.’s fleet were in Australian waters, or some of ours on leave.  Melbourne Cup day seemed also to synchronise with a necessity for the fleet being in Port!  Then of course all the organisations are working to capacity, & munitions factories & all war production plants are full steam ahead.
 The air force lads have been heroes, ably supported by the silent & less successful navy.  Todays papers are full of the attack on the Italian navy base , coupled with the gallantry of the Jervis Bay , & Neville Chamberlain with his Old World ideas has passed on.   He was no match for the wily Hitler - whatever the criticism may be, he [Chamberlain] was true to what he considered high ideals of political integrity -  
 One is glad to hear that food in England is adequate - that is one of the main considerations.  Wars seem to have become in reality the peoples war, in as much as it is brought to their doors.
 Dick is in the H.I.F. of course, he tried for the air force, but is apparently colour blind, he is a Gunner in the Anti Air Craft Regt, & though soldering wars & killing is not in his line, is embroiled in learning all about guns,  I think they will be in Egypt one of these fine days with the rest of the boys who rallied to Englands cause, & which has since become very much their own.
 Biddy finished her nursing course, in July, & I am glad to(?) say(?) passed all exams with flying colours she was recalled to her nursing school to take up a position in the theatre & she was delighted to have the experience which will be of great value.  She is just twenty one - and though she has a few pals among the doctors, & air force, does not worry much about boys.  Has taken the profession very seriously & is out to gain all the experience she can.
 Poor Madge, she is not as young as she used to be - about Your age probably {Jack was about 57 when he died] - You would not know me if I suddenly walked down the Garden path into Your house.  Old Time is always busy on his rounds taking lives.  Yet I cant complain, I keep well, & very interested in passing events, though I would have preferred not to have lived to see another war.
 You dont mention Betty.   I hope she is well & happy - & Belle [Jack’s wife & Betty’s mother].  She [Belle] must be having a ghastly time with bombs & noises & horrors [Jack & Belle lived in Barnes], its wonderful what the people are standing up to - made of sturdy stock the British.  I am disgusted with the Irish  leaders [their PM was Eamon de Valera of Finna Fail: 1932-48].  I never understood or took much interest in their politics.  They no doubt had grievance, but what I cannot understand they profess to be an essential<y>  Christian Country, & yet they encourage, incite & maintain a vindictiveness & malice, & underlying hatred because of ancient wrongs - I thought <the> Church’s teaching was so utterly opposed to this policy. So what? - 
 Well cheerio dear boy.  I hope some time(?) in the near future to see Your writing again.  In the meantime  the best of luck & may Your Christmas be as peaceful as is possible.

Love from D.

From G. Davies
27 Loch St
St. Kilda


  1. 20 Fairey Swordfish torpedo biplanes of The Fleet Air Arm destroyed 3 and disabled a 4th  battleship at Taranto 11-12  November 1940.  It was the first all-aircraft naval attack in history.
  2.  This was a 14,000 ton Armed Merchant Cruiser originally built in 1922 as a liner.  It was part of Convoy HX.  84, out of Halifax, Canada.  On 5/6 November 1940 HX 84 was attacked by the German Pocket Battleship Admiral  Scheer.  Although the Jervis Bay was fatally damaged by 335 shells, it returned fire, enabling 32 ships in the convoy  to escape.  On the Jervis Bay 189 lost their lives.  Captain Fegen received a posthumous VC for his heroism.
  3. Chamberlain, PM since 1937, resigned in May 1940 to Churchill.  He served as Lord President of the Council in the  new PM’s cabinet till his death on 9 November 1940.
  4. Phyllis Mary Whelan [1914-1986] was Jack’s only surviving daughter by Isabella Wilbey [1889-1962].  In 1939 she had


I have an Australia friend Martin Elliget, currently living in London with his family, he has acccess to the Times Archives, I asked him to search for the Roll of Honour for HMS Trinidad on the 29th. of March 1942.

Attached is the Times entry listing Charles under the Royal Marines killed.

It was usual for the Royal Marines to man the Transmitting Station for a cruiser's main armament, and as the run amok torpedo hit Trinidad in the vicinity of the TS, one can see the dreadful consequence with the death of all the Royals, including Charles.

Hope this is helpful.

I will respond to your last note soon.


Thanks Mac.

You - and now Martin - have been a great help indeed in filling in part of Dad’s family history I knew little about. As I said, Mum’s family research has had a head start thanks to Mum’s Uncle. I have a work colleague who’s very involved with the British Legion, and very interested in WW2 matters, so I give him copies of any data I get. I also sent the transcript of Jack’s letter to a Prof at Harvard who’s writing a book on English and Aussie war letters.

I’ve been corrected on Charles’ birthplace - Moretonhampstead. - same as his sister [Dad and Uncle Colin’s Mother]. To sort out the Hannah Elizabeths I’ve numbered her HE3. Her mother - Denis Sullivan’s wife - is HE2. Her mother - John Hutchings wife - is HE1. I've added more family info under the appropriate headings.

We think that the two sons of hers in Melbourne were:

1) Humphrey
Colin Brown may’ve been his descendant. He and Dad exchanged cuttings of their weddings [I’ve now got Colin’s], as they both married in 1962. At Dad’s wedding the men wore traditional Top Hat & Tails. Colin, newly graduated from Duntroon, was in full uniform.

2) William
Three possible descendants of his are the sisters: Kim [now Mrs Watts], Bronte, and Beverley. Kymm came to my christening with her arm in a sling [I’ve the photo!]

Her dates are 1872-ca 1953; Denis’ are 1853-ca 1948. He adhered to the Victorian “children should be seen and not heard” , literally. Whenever the infant Colin bawled, Denis threw things at him! My father was always getting his brother out of trouble!

She married twice. Firstly, Dad’s Father, a Scottish farmer called Alex. After the divorce [I mentioned the reason in my last e-mail], she married Frank Stevens. He died the year I was born.
Dad and his mother sailed to OZ aboard the SS Largs Bay. This 14,000 ton White Star liner had been purchased from the Australian Commonwealth Line in 1933. I found a photo of it on the Picture Australia website.
The Melbourne house had a veranda all round it, a marble-lined cellar, and aviaries.
They sailed back [via Belfast, he thinks] on the ‘Taiyuka’ [spelling?], a Norwegian cargo ship commanded by Captain Frederickson [spelling?] It carried 12 passengers, including HE3 and Dad. And a monkey. This caused so much havoc the crew threw it overboard! Dad managed to fall down some stairs and land on the ship’s dog, breaking his arm. Uncle, I’m told has a photo of Dad with sling. It seems to be a family habit!

Thanks again for all you’ve and Martin have done.

Regards and Best Wishes,


Thank you for that history.

Here is a note of an earlier convoy with SS Largs Bay a ship in that Convoy. in fact the first homeward bound convoy from Gibraltar of WW2.

It  may be of interest.


Convoy HG1 — Gibraltar to Southampton

Dilwara had been patched up after the collision and became part of Convoy HG1 that had been formed at Gibraltar. The convoy sailed at 1500hrs. on 26th September 1939. It was the first homeward bound convoy of the war from Gibraltar. There were 28 merchant ships in the convoy; the only other large and fast passenger ship was the S.S. Largs Bay, owned by the Aberdeen and Commonwealth line and managed by Shaw Saville and Albion. 18 of the ships had been in Convoy Blue 1, another 10 had joined at Gibraltar.

The “Ocean Escort” and S.O.E of the convoy was H.M.S. Colombo, she was a light cruiser of the “Carlisle” class, from the 11th Cruiser Squadron. The Commodore of which was in command of H.M.S. Colombo.
“Ceres” Class Cruiser
The “Ceres” class was identical to “Carlisle” Class except that the “Carlisles” had a raised bow.

The remainder of the escort was the Polish destroyer Blyskawica.

Prior to sailing on 26th September, a convoy conference was held ashore at 1030hrs. The convoy was due to sail at 1400, but it was 1500hrs before all ships were underway.
On sailing, the Straits of Gibraltar were swept by an anti submarine destroyer screen ahead of the convoy. This was maintained until 2200hrs on the day of sailing. At the same time, aircraft from Gibraltar maintained air cover over the convoy until dark on the 27th September. At this time North Front airfield at Gibraltar had not been constructed. So the aircraft would have been from the six Saunders Roe London II seaplanes of 202 Squadron, 200 Group, based at Gibraltar.

On clearing the protected area at Gibraltar, the convoy was assembled in four rows, each of seven ships. Convoy speed was eight knots and during daylight hours maintained a zigzag. The spacing of the rows and columns was as in Convoy Blue 1.

By day Colombo was stationed in position 5,1 with the commodore ship Dilwara in 4,2. Blyskawica took up station about three miles ahead, zigzagging independently across the front of the convoy. By night Colombo patrolled ahead zigzagging independently, but within visual signalling distance of the convoy. This released Blyskawica who then dropped to a position astern of the convoy. The reasons for this were to keep off shadowers and to keep down any U-boats ahead of the convoy. There was the subsidiary role of keeping neutral ships away from the convoy.

During the first full day at sea, emergency turns were exercised. This exercise was repeated after dark.

The next day the weather started to worsen. In view of this, at 2000hrs 28th September, Blyskawica detached, as she was low on fuel

On 1st October the ships exchanged convoy stations to conform to their revised Ports of Destination. The weather had deteriorated further, convoy speed was reduced to less than four knots and the zigzag was abandoned. This delayed arrival at the rendezvous point where the local escort was to join.

At 1400hrs on 3rd October, four destroyers of 5th Destroyer Division rendezvoused with the convoy. They were H.M.S. Ilex, H.M.S. Imogen, H.M.S. Imperial, and H.M.S. Isis. At 1200hrs on 4th October, the convoy split. Eight ships escorted by Ilex and Imogen, proceeded to Irish Sea Ports as convoy H.G.1.A. At 1400hrs on 5th October, H.M.S. Echo and H.M.S. Intrepid took over as escort for convoy HG1. H.M.S. Colombo, H.M.S. Imperial and H.M.S. Isis, plus R.F.A. Abbeydale proceeded to Devonport.

On the 5th October 1939 Dilwara arrived safely at Southampton.

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