Funeral of heroic former Wirral lifeboatman this week

Thomas Henry Jones with his MBE

Thomas Henry Jones with his MBE

First published in News
Last updated
Wirral Globe: Photograph of the Author by , Chief Reporter

THE funeral of a decorated Hoylake lifeboatman who survived freezing waters during the Atlantic Convoys of World War Two takes place this week.

Thomas Henry Jones, also known as Harry, was born in 1919 into a seafaring family. His funeral service will be held at St Hildeburgh's Church in Hoylake on Tuesday, June 10, at 11am.

The route to Landican after the service will take in Hoylake Lifeboat where the boat will be out with a guard of honour and then via West Kirby prom to pass the lifeboat and crew there.

Paying tribute to the 94-year-old, Sheila McClennon, who is married to Harry's nephew Mal Jones, said: "He knew the Dee estuary like no one else.

"At his 90th birthday party he made a little speech in which he said ‘You can’t trust the sea. It will have you at half the chance’ and that he’d seen so many drowned during the war that he vowed that no one would drown on his watch, and he was proud to say no one ever did.”

Four of Harry’s uncles manned the Hoylake lifeboat and after school he worked the Hoylake 'nobbies', fishing for plaice in Liverpool Bay and for shrimps off Hilbre.

He was a Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and called up to the Royal Navy in August 1939. He was in South Africa and the Southern Ocean before joining the Atlantic Convoys in 1941.

His ship, The Comorin was hit off the freezing waters of Iceland and Harry at just 21 was one of the most experienced seaman on board so he was in charge of his life raft.

Sheila continued: "Years later Harry used to tell how he'd urged his soaking wet and terrified crew to row as fast as they could to escape the propeller of the stricken Comorin.

"Even then they were still in danger as huge waves capsized the raft throwing the occupants into the sea. They would then have to swim back and scramble in.”

One by one the men were lost until only Harry and three others were left. They were finally picked up by the Liverpool ship Glenartney after eight hours in the water.

Harry then joined the destroyer HMS Malcolm on Convoy P.Q.17 and 18 sailing to Archangel in Russia and also the Mediterranean. After demobilisation, Harry joined West Kirby Sailing Club as boatman in 1945. He stayed there until officially retiring in 1984.

Harry, however, carried on working there every day until he was in his 90s and was a much loved character in the boatshed where friends would visit and take him chocolate cake to have with his tea.

Harry was incredibly strong – his nephew Malcom remembers how he once lifted a blacksmith’s anvil above his head and he would often lift a boat using his shoulder or back, with his familiar shout of "Keep her upright, John".

Harry followed his family into the lifeboat.

He was a Hoylake crew member for over forty years and Cox from 1974 – 1981. He was awarded the RNLI bronze medal in 1980 for a rescuing three men from a Catamaran in stormy seas off Hilbre.

He was very proud to represent the RNLI at the Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall in 1979, the last representative who had served throughout the Second World War.

He retired from the Hoylake boat aged 55 he went on to crew West Kirby lifeboat many times. He also received a medal from the RSPCA for the rescue of a horse that had got stuck in the mud whilst being ridden at West Kirby.

Sheila McLennon continued: "It was up to its belly in the mud with the tide approaching fast and all efforts to dig it out had failed but Harry twisted its tail and it shot out with minutes to spare.

“He was also a familiar sight every November until shortly before his death at the cenotaph at West Kirby, quietly wearing his numerous medals.”

Harry also had a string of fishing boats and was a member of the North Western and North Wales Sea Fisheries Committee and was awarded the MBE in 1987.

Harry’s final year was spent at Brimstage Manor Nursing Home. He is survived by wife Annabella, the Londonderry lass he met when stationed in Northern Ireland and to whom he was married for over 66 years.

Comments (1)

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7:56pm Tue 10 Jun 14

dave301bounty says...

Was very privaliged to meet Harry many years ago ,what a gentleman ,he was a great friend of Tom Fish from Connahs quay ,Tom was buried last week also ,two great seafarers who have now gone ,farewell and thank for the priveledge of knowing you both.
Was very privaliged to meet Harry many years ago ,what a gentleman ,he was a great friend of Tom Fish from Connahs quay ,Tom was buried last week also ,two great seafarers who have now gone ,farewell and thank for the priveledge of knowing you both. dave301bounty
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