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David Henry Flett (1881-1917)

Chief Engineer on the SS Warnow, sunk by a U-boat

Information on David Henry Flett provided mainly by Tyne and Wear Archives:
Born 1881 in North Shields, Northumberland
Apprentice at Middle Dock and Mercantile Dock (shipbuilding & repair yards on the River Tyne)
Admitted to South Shields Marine & Technical College 20th September 1904, entry number 4471

He was studying for his Chief Engineer Certificate while living at 140 Robinson Street, South Shields in County Durham. When I note the ages of Warnow’s more junior ranking engineers, I wonder if David was ambitious and keen to progress in life. There is also an entry in the college archives for an Edmund Flett who registered for the evening technical department when he was 18. He worked at Tyne Dock Engineering and studied from 1904 until 1907

David Henry Flett married Sarah Starker on 9th May 1905 at St Michael’s church, South Shields.
They had four children Harold, John, David and my mother Sarah who was usually known as Sadie, and lived at 34 Milton Street, South Shields.

In 1917, David Henry Flett was serving as Chief Engineer aboard the SS Warnow, a mercantile marine ship. It was sunk by U-boat UC48, commanded by Kurt Ramien, approximately 6 miles west of Trevose Head off Cornwall.

I discovered that three other Marine Engineers living in the same small street in South Shields as my grandfather also died at sea in the conflict.

F W Walker was the 1st Engineer of SS Combe. He was the 50 years old husband of Mrs Walker of 42 Milton Street. His son Robert served on the same ship and died with him on 14th October 1915. .

24 years old Robert Walker, of the same address and ship, sailed as Third Engineer.
SS Combe had sailed from Liverpool on 12th October bound for Archangel with a cargo of munitions and went missing. The National Archives at Kew record that she was in the service of the Russian government. While her loss is a mystery, the 14th was the day she lost her escort and was presumed lost.

George Jessop serving on SS Rio Colorado died on 22nd March 1917. He was the son of Mrs Jessop of 47 Milton Street and 32 years old.
Both are commemorated on the Tower Hill Memorial in London. The ship sank after striking a mine laid by UC50 approximately .75 miles east of the mouth of the Tyne.

Birth date: 1881
Death date: 2-May-1917

Robinson Street, South Shields
Milton Street, South Shields

South Shields Marine & Technical College 20th September 1904

Parents: John and Henrietta Flett
Sister: Euphemia Sinclair Flett
Wife: Sarah Starker, married 9-May-1905
Children: Harold, John, David, Sarah

Military Service:
Merchant Marines

Plaque 1914-1918 Marine Engineers Association, original location Marine Engineers Association Club Room, South Shields, now missing
Memorial Wall 1914-1918 Memorial Garden, Linskill Community Centre, North Shields

Civil Parish: South Shields

Gender: Male

Contributed by Jim M