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I was born and brought up about as far away from the sea as is possible in England. However, my family is well represented by maritime connections, and here I explain and illustrate some of them.

There are more examples that I could give. Thus, my great, great grandfather William Springall was a shipwright in London all his working life, as was his father, also William Springall, and I have numerous relatives that have emigrated - by ship - to New Zealand, Canada, and elsewhere.

The photograph (left), is of myself and my four cousins at Sheerness on the Isle of Sheppey when we were very young. Bill lived in a house in the background of this photo until his death in 2008. There is even a small boat behind us, as well as the beach, so this photo too continues the maritime theme.

Five cousins on the pebble beach at Sheerness, Isle of Sheppey, Kent. 1954. Rear: Tony.
Front, left to right: Roger, me, Marilyn and Billy.
 ENLARGING A PICTURE        Hover the mouse pointer over any thumbnail below and when the magnifying glass appears, a single left click will bring forward an enlarged view.
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My grandfather Robert John Brown (1886-1956) and my father's brother Leslie John Brown (1925-2007) both worked at Sheerness Docks. The family had moved to Sheerness on the Isle of Sheppey in the mid-1930s and lived in the High Street.

Grandad first entered the Royal Navy as a boy in 1902, was discharged in 1922 and re-engaged from 1939 to 1945. He worked at the docks after the War. Les went through Naval School but then was not accepted for active service due to medical reasons. He worked as an engineer at the docks during and after the War.

The Docks closed as a naval establishment in 1960, 269 years after the first ship of any size was built at Sheerness (in 1691). The first ever secretary of the Admiralty, the diarist Samuel Pepys, established the dockyard in the 17th century as an extension to the Royal Navy headquarters in nearby Chatham.

BAYNES, Thomas Mann, 1794-1854 : SHEERNESS, WITH THE FOUNTAIN INN & C. KENT. [London : George Virtue, 1830.] An antique print - a view of the busy quay, engraved by John Rogers (ca.1808-1888) from an original study by the landscape painter Thomas Mann Baynes. Originally produced for the "England's Topographer" series of Kent views (London 1828-1831). Steel line engraving on paper. Engraved surface 104 x 148mm (approx. 4-1/8" x 5-7/8").

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On 15 October 1830 my great, great, great grandfather John Brown (1789-?) entered the service of the St. Katherine Dock Company, London as Assistant Foreman, only two years after the dock opened for business. He was aged 41 years and was paid 25/- per week. After 21 years he was superannuated on 1 July 1860 at the age of 70/71, at a pension of £28 per annum.

John's son Thomas, my great, great grandfather also worked at SKDC, starting on 1 January 1846. He was promoted successively from Extra Labourer to Permanent Labourer to Foreman Shipworker 2nd class and finally Foreman Shipworker 1st class. He worked there for at least 45 years.

SHEPHERD, Thomas Hosmer, 1793-1864 : ST. KATHARINE'S DOCKS, FROM THE BASIN. [London : Jones & Co., 1832]. An antique print - a view of the dock with tall ships and lighters in the foreground. Engraved by Henry Jorden (fl.1828-1836) from an original study by Thomas Hosmer Shepherd, the master recorder of 19th century London. From Shepherd's series "London and its Environs in the Nineteenth Century" (London 1829-1832). Steel line engraving on india paper. Later hand colour. Engraved surface 109 x 153mm (approx. 4-1/4" x 6").

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In December 1849 my first cousin 4 times removed Richard Bennett was sentenced to 10 years transportation to Van Dieman's Land (now Tasmania) for stealing a sheep.

It was three years before Richard reached the other side of the world, during which time he endured prison regimes that were perhaps worse than the transportation itself. He spent 9 months in 1851 incarcerated on the Warrior, a hulk moored up in the River Thames.

Warrior was a former 74-gun, naval man-of-war, built in 1781. It had taken part in the battle of the Saintes in 1782 with Admiral Rodney's Fleet, the battle of Copenhagen in 1801 with Admiral Parker's Fleet, and also in events leading up to the Battle of Trafalgar. Warrior was withdrawn from sea-going service in 1816, commissioned as a hulk at Woolwich in 1840, and served as a hulk until 1851 when a mutiny broke out on board. The disturbance was put down by a detachment of Royal Marines and the prisoners, including Richard, were sent to Millbank Prison. Warrior was sold off soon after and was broken up in 1857.

The use of the hulks was first authorized by Parliament as a temporary measure, for only two years. But despite its inhumanity, the 1776 Act lasted for 80 years. It was regularly renewed and extended in scope 'for the more severe and effectual punishment of atrocious and daring offenders'.

The 'Warrior'. Illustrated London News, 21 February 1846. The Warrior, shown anchored off Woolwich, was one of the prison hulks placed on the River Thames in the aftermath of the American Revolution when transportation across the Atlantic was suspended by war.

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My great grandfather John Raybould (1867-1937) spent all his working life in the hand made iron chain industry in the Black Country. He worked as a chain striker, including some years at Noah Hingley's iron works in Netherton, the world's premier manufacturer of ship's anchors and cables. For a time he was engaged in making the anchor chains (each 2 feet 6 inches long and weighing 500 pounds) for the ill-fated Titanic ocean liner.

John's grandmother Rosannah née Hingley was the daughter of Noah's brother Josiah. Noah Hingley was born on 7 March 1796 the son of Isaac and Esther Hingley. With his father he set up a forge and small chainmaking works on the banks of the River Stour in Cradley in the 1800s.

By 1845 the Cradley workshops were too small and new purpose built works at Netherton on the banks of the Birmingham Canal were opened in 1852. The success of the Hingley works was based on the skills of the Cradley men and women, many of whom continued to work at the new premises, thereby starting a tradition of Cradley chain makers working in Netherton, one of whom was John Raybould.

Postcard picture of the center anchor of the Titanic, weighs 15½ tons, fabricated by Messrs. N. Hingley & Sons, Ltd. of Netherton, Dudley, Worcestershire, seen here in the works yard before it was despatched to Belfast and installed in the half-completed ship.

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My great grandfather John Raybould (1867-1937) worked as a chain striker making the anchor chains for the Titanic at Noah Hingley's, Netherton.

The RMS Titanic was a four funnelled British Olympic-class ocean liner, owned by the White Star Line, built for the transatlantic passenger and mail service between Southampton and New York. Constructed at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast, Northern Ireland she was, at the time, the largest vessel afloat.

Titanic set sail on April 10th 1912 on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York with 2,200 passengers and crew. She struck an iceberg on April 14, 1912 and sank on the morning of April 15, 1912. 1500 people died and 700 survived.

Title: R.M.S. TITANIC. Departure from Queenstown (Ireland). Artist: Colin Verity R.S.M.A. Image Size: 20.75" x 13.5". (Original is signed by Millvina Dean, survivor)

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My grandfather Robert John Brown served on HMS D8 submarine from 25 November 1913 to 16 June 1916. D8 fought in the Battle of Heligoland Bight on August 28, 1914 along with sister ships HMS D2 and HMS D3. Then on 18 October 1914, D8 shadowed German hospital ship Ophelia which was judged to be spying and was interned.

The D Class submarine was the Royal Navy's first class of submarine capable of operating significantly beyond coastal waters. These boats were designed for foreign service with an endurance of 2500nm at 10 knots on the surface and much improved living conditions for a larger crew. D boats were fitted with twin screws for greater manoeuvrablity and were fitted with saddle tanks. The D class were the first submarines to be equipped with deck guns forward of the conning tower beginning with D6. They were also the first boats to be fitted with wireless transmitters.

Eight D-class boats were built, and they were based at Harwich, Immingham, Blyth and Dover. Their wartime role was to sink German warships. In the latter stages of World War I the D class were used for training crews based at Portsmouth. During WWI the boats patrolled the North Sea and the Heligoland Bight, and protected cross channel troopships. During the war, four boats (D2, D3, D5, and D6) were lost, and the remainder (D4, D7, and D8) were paid off in July 1919.

HMS D8, a British D class submarine built by Chatham Dockyard, launched from No.7 Slip, 23 Sept 1911.

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My father Daniel Ralph Brown (1922-1990) was a Prisoner of War of the Japanese in the Far East for 3½ years from 1942 to 1945. He served in the Royal Air Force 605 Squadron that all but disappeared in Java in March 1942. After several months in captivity on the island he was one of 1300 prisoners transported on the Dai Nichi Maru hellship. In Japan he worked as slave labour in docks and mines at Hakodate on the north island of Hokkaido.

My father kept a diary on scraps of paper that he wrote up into small note books at the end of the war. I have the first and last of these; one or more others were submitted to the War Crimes Tribunal. Fred Goodwin, a fellow 605 squadron aircraftman who also travelled on the Dai Nichi Maru made drawings and paintings of what he saw throughout the war. He drew pictures of the camp at Hakodate and the mines where he was forced to work.

I have prints of some of Fred's sketches, and they mirror what my father wrote, as if the two men were standing side by side, one writing, one drawing. They chronicled their experiences as Japanese PoWs, including their time in the hold of the Dai Nichi Maru on a month-long journey. The voyage was infamous because more than 50 prisoners died in the appalling conditions and their bodies were simply thrown overboard.

Later, on 8 October 1943, US submarine Gurnard (SS-254) torpedoed and sank the Japanese transport hellship Dai Nichi Maru off the northern tip of Luzon, Philippines, 18º48'N, 119º21'E, in the South China Sea, and over 2,000 Japanese soldiers and its crew died.

The Dainichi Maru was on the North American line (Dalian /Kobe / Yokohama / Seattle), and later it operated as an ocean tramp steamer. The Dainichi Maru was used during the war as a Japanese Army troopship and PoW hellship.

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At the end of the Second World War my father Daniel Ralph Brown crossed the Pacific Ocean from Japan to San Francisco, and from there went to Vancouver and on the Trans Canadian Railway to New York. There he embarked on the Queen Mary, an ocean liner converted to troopship, and arrived in Southampton six days later.

R.M.S. Queen Mary became R.M.T. Queen Mary in 1940, when she was refitted as a troop ship, her capacity increased from 2,410 to 5,500. The Queen Mary carried troops to and from the war around the world for the next six years. She survived a collision at sea, carried the most people ever on a floating vessel (16,683), and participated in the D-Day invasion.

To transform her into a troopship, she was stripped of her signature Cunard red, black and white and slapped with a coat of camouflage grey. Placed in storage, along the Hudson River, were several miles of plush carpeting, expensive art deco furnishings and more than 200 cases of crystal, china and silverware.

The luxuries were replaced with an underwater sound detection system, a four-inch gun, a mine sweeping paravane system and a degaussing girdle meant to neutralize magnetic mines. More than 2,000 stateroom doors were removed in order to install tiers of wooden bunks and rows of canvas hammocks. Shops and boutiques became the quarters of military offices and the First-Class Dining Room was converted to a 24-hour mess hall.

RMS Queen Mary, ocean liner, sailed the North Atlantic from 1936 to 1967 for Cunard Line (then Cunard White Star Line). Built by John Brown and Co., Clydebank, Scotland. Launched: 26 September 1934. Maiden voyage: 27 May 1936. After World War II troop transport duties, she returned to passenger service for two decades until retirement in 1967.