Tiree Remembers HMS Sturdy

HMS Sturdy

“It was a Thursday, I remember it well. Willie got up – he heard something moving outside, something being blown by the wind…This would be about 6 or 7 o’clock in the morning. It was quite a rough morning and it was raining. I would call it force 9-10, a severe gale… Just before we got down there we could make out it was a naval vessel – the paint, the colour, you see. There were a lot of people there; you’d hear “Help!” [The wreck] would be about 60 yards from the gravel beach on the rocks out there. I remember – I’m sorry, I’m getting emotional – the first thing we met there, a body, a beautiful, young fellow. I picked him up and took him beyond the reach of the ocean and put him on the grass”

– the late Hugh MacLean, Barrapol.

Tiree had seen its fair share of wrecks driven ashore, but the scene on the rocks off Sandaig at first light on October 30th 1940 brought home the sickening reality of the Second World War. A Royal Navy destroyer broken in two, beaten up onto the oil soaked beach with scores of stunned sailors sheltering from the storm and five bodies left behind by the tide.

I was not able to walk very well because I had cut my feet on the rocks but the islanders seemed suddenly to appear…I was taken to a cottage where the people were very kind, my clothes were dried and I had a hot bath. I fell asleep exhausted in a beautiful bed.

– Leading Seaman Harry Springett, from the Sturdy

To honour the five seamen who lost their lives and to remember the great kindness the islanders showed to the shipwrecked sailors, a memorial has been built above the beach in Sandaig where the ship hit the rocks. 70 years, to the day, after the tragedy this memorial will be dedicated at a service on Saturday 30th October at 2pm. Relatives of the crew, along with Commodore Charles Stevenson, CBE, (Naval Regional Commander, Scotland and Northern Ireland), families of the islanders who showed such kindness to the seamen and the Tiree pipe band will be there.

After the ceremony there will be another short service in Soroby Cemetry to lay wreaths on the graves of those who lost their lives. Afterwards there will be teas at An Talla at 4pm where everyone will be welcome to meet the visitors.

In the evening at 7.30 Mike Hughes will give an illustrated talk on Tiree during the Second World War in An Talla (the last talk Mike gave at the Fèis was a sell-out! Be there early).

The memorial has been built by Bernie Smith and Sons and organised by Cmdr Mike Gibson, the son of the Sturdy’s chief engineer. The committee of An Iodhlann hopes the island will support this historic day.

Do you have anything salvaged from the Sturdy or connected with it? If so, we would love to borrow it for the evening of the 30th October. We plan to have a table of things from the wreck at Mike Hughes’ evening talk.

Please contact Dr John.

18 comments

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  • Hello Dr John,

    I was very moved to see that my late father, Harry Springett, was quoted in the HMS Sturdy story.

    I am presently in Glasgow and will be flying over to Tiree tomorrow. I will be staying at Ceabhar and I am very much much looking forward to meeting “everyone” and seeing the relics of the wreck!

    Dawn Springett
    Woy Woy NSW Australia

  • my father Edward Lional Birch was abourd the Sturdy on that fatefull night 1940. He survived. My brother and myself have just returned from a 1000 mile round trip to the isle of Tiree to visit the plaque dedicated to those who died. We stayed at the Tiree Lodge hote,visited the museum and found our two day stop most rewarding.
    John Birchl

  • Dear Mr.Burch, I have just been trawling the net, looking foranything concerned with HMS Sturdy and came up with your name. I have been organising a group of survivors (very few ) and relatives of the ships company. I have organised the m,emorial which wasell received by the islanders who we made a point of recording their efforts in looking after thesurvivors and casualties. May we add your name to a growing list? No cost involved. Would you be interested in somew of the photos and articles that we have? One of our most active members is a lady , Miss Dawn Springett whos father was a leading hand at the time ,. he died some time ago. She travelled all theway fgroim Australia for the dedication ceremony last year. I am now a retired .Cdr. R.N. contact mgibson829@aol.com and 58 Southway Lane,
    Plymouth PL6 7DL Phone 01752 771996

  • If anyone wishes to contact me my email address has changed. it is now
    mgibsonfaa@hotmail.co.uk. We are still active.I am particularly interested in contacting any survivors or relatives of the ships company of whom I now havea full list. A copy of the list of the ships company is also held by An Iodhlann, the islands archives at Scarinish

  • Hello John,

    I have only just read the information you left on the “Tiree Rembers” blog.I am so pleased you were able to visit Tiree. I would be very interested to be in touch with you because I have photograhs, articles and personal accounts in whichy ou may be interested.

    My email address in dgspringett@bigpond.com

    Dawn Springett
    NSW

  • My uncle William j Allen was a member of HMS STURDY crew when the ship broke up.
    He was rescued by some fishermen and went through the war only to be killed in action aboard H M S Indefatigable on the 1st April 1945 by a kamikaze pilot.
    I have no access to any of his surviving family.any information would bring most welcome.

  • Hello Chas,

    I was so pleased to see your email and I am sorry it has taken me so long to find it. . Unfortunately this blog does not always work and I have lots of information I can post to you including photographs. Please use my emails address directly to ensure that I can receive your postal address.

    dgspringett@bigpond.com

    Dawn Springett

  • Dawn Springett

    October 30th 2015 is the 75th anniversary of the loss of HMS Sturdy on the Isle of Tiree in the Western Hebrides. My father, Harry Springett, was a survivor of this tragic event and I feel it is my legacy to try and locate family, descendants and friends of the crew. I have the only known photographs of members of the crew in a football match against the French in Toulon in 1940. Many years later my father wrote about the tragedy as did other crew members. If you have a link to this tragedy I would be very pleased to hear from you. Please contact me directly on dgspringett@bigpond.com

  • My father Archie Wilson was on HMS Sturdy when it sank. As far as I understand, he was washed up on the shore and looked after. He returned to sea and on the Artic Convoys where he was sunk again but survived and lived until he was 75 up in Scotland.
    I would love any photos or information to share with the rest of my family.

  • my grandfather a.t trahearn leading stoker was one of the crew that lost their lives. all members of my family who had any information about this are all gone. if you have anything you could pass on to me I would be very grateful.

  • Hello Julie,

    I am delighted to read your email in reference rence to Albert Thomas Trahearn. I have a great interest in HMS Sturdy in which my father was a survivor. Albert joined HMS Sturdy 0n 9th May 1940. He was a Leading Stoker.

    I have the only know photographs of some of the crew and would be very pleased to pass copies on to you. I can also send you two stories of the loss of the ship and DVD of the memorial service held on the Isle of Tiree in October 2010.

    I would be grateful if you could contact me directly on my email address of dgspringett@bigpond.com

    I have been collecting material for many years and I am always pleased to pass on the information to “The Sturdy Family” …Best wishes,

    Dawn Springett
    Erina, NSW

    http://www.cwgc.org/dbImage.ashx?id=8693

    Casualty Record Detail

    n…

  • I was fascinated to read the posts about this incident and particularly that from John Birch about his father Edward Lionel Birch who survived. I believe that I am related to John and would love to get in touch. I can be reached on jonathan.birch59@btinternet.com and would be interested to find out more.

  • Stewart Spencer

    My name is Stewart Spencer,my father was leading seaman Ernest R Spencer who was a member of sturdys crew who survived the wreck and was cared for by the Mcarthur family.my dad took me and my brother to tiree in 1962 we met realatives of said family. The only one I can remember was Archie Mcarthur. Sadly our father died in -1968 aged 68 from cancer. I wish I had known about the memorial in 2010, we would love to have been there.

  • Hello,
    I am the keeper of the “Sturdy Family” stories. My father, Harry Springett was a 22 year old sailor who was the coxswain of the whaler that was swamped and five men were subsequently drowned.

    I would be very pleased to send you our “Sturdy package” which includes, photographs, stories and a DVD.

    Please reply to my email address: dgspringett@bigpond.com

  • Hello Stewart,
    I am the keeper of the “Sturdy Family” stories. My father, Harry Springett was a 22 year old sailor who was the coxswain of the whaler that was swamped and five men were subsequently drowned.

    I would be very pleased to send you our “Sturdy package” which includes, photographs, stories and a DVD.

    Please reply to my email address: dgspringett@bigpond.com

  • Hi Dawn,Thanks for your response to my comments re.HMS Sturdy.I would be delighted to receive the pictures and DVD.My e-mail address is stewspen@hotmail.co.uk I have several pictures of Sturdy which I will send to you in due course.Thanks again,
    Regards,Stewart

  • Hi, my name is Derek Fox – my late grandad Ernest Fox was on board HMS Sturdy the night she was lost. He survived the war and left the Nvy in 1945. Although I know Dawn and Mike well from previous correspondence, some of the other names are new, so thought I would introduce myself. Have only just found this site !

    Regards,

    Derek.

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