1st Radio Officer Harry Peever
Harry Peever was born on 27th April 1893 in Oxton, Birkenhead, son of Eliza Peever (Stephenson) and John Peever. One of six brothers all of whom served during the Great War. Harry, a veteran of the Merchant Navy and Royal Flying Corps, also continued at sea between the wars and when WW2 was declared he was still serving in the Merchant Navy as 1st radio officer.
At the outbreak of WW1, in 1914, he was a qualified wireless telegraphy operator and serving at sea aboard the ss MINNETONKA. He joined ss BARON NAPIER in 1915 but on 5th January 1916 he enlists in the Royal Flying Corps as a wireless operator with the rank of Air Mechanic 2nd class, and embarks for France on 31st May 1917, being transferred to the Royal Air Force on its inception 1st April 1918.
Harry is gassed in the field in early August of 1918 and is transferred back to England, 6th September 1918 aboard the H.S. PRINCESS ELIZABETH and admitted to the Essex County Hospital in Colchester. At the end of the war, he is demobbed from the RAF and in June 1919 goes back to sea with the Merchant Navy joining the ss ERINIER. He served in at least 40 ships between 1919 and 1942.
On 29th May 1940 he signed on the ss NORTHERN PRINCE in London, as 1st radio officer, sailing independently mainly between the UK and the USA and also in Mediterranean and Middle East convoys. On Tuesday 1st April 1941, the ship sailed from Alexandria in convoy ANF.24 coming under air attack on 2nd and 3rd April. At about 18:46 on Thursday 3rd April, six enemy bombers attacked the convoy for about 35 minutes and NORTHERN PRINCE was hit by a bomb in No.4 Hatch passing through and exploding in the hold. Fire spread rapidly and the ship was abandoned. At 01:00 on 4th April the ship’s ammunition exploded and she disintegrated and sank almost immediately. All of the crew survived and were picked up by HMS PROTECTOR and landed at Piraeus.
After a voyage on the ss ABOSSO, Harry joins the Ellerman Hall steamer CITY OF CAIRO as 1st radio officer on 14th November 1941 and almost a year later while on a voyage from Bombay, Durban and Cape Town to the UK via Pernambuco on 6th November 1942 the ship was torpedoed and sunk by U-68 (Karl-Friedrich Merten). Sadly, Harry did not survive the sinking being one of the six people killed in the initial explosion, he was 49 years old.
Normally, the last two people to leave a sinking ship would be the radio officer [who would be sending distress signals] followed by the master and during WW2, 10% of all masters and radio officers were lost at sea. It should also be remembered that the MN suffered more casualties per capita than any of the fighting services.
Harry Peever is remembered in perpetuity by the CWGC on the Tower Hill Memorial, London – for all those who have no grave but the sea.
Lest We Forget!