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Hoey, C.J., App.,1917

Photo: James Pasby

Shields Gazette Tuesday 14th August 1917

Newspaper report of the sinking Part 1

Shields Gazette Tuesday 14th August 1917

Newspaper report of the sinking Part 2

On Tower Hill Memorial is the name of Apprentice Cyril Joseph Hoey, serving with the Mercantile Marine on SS Belgian Prince who died 31/07/1917.

In St. Simon (Simonside) Churchyard is a family headstone which reads:

In loving memory of
Joseph Hunter
died January 24th 1909
aged 67 years.
Also Sarah,
wife of the above
died December 30th 1920
aged 74 years.
also Cyril Joseph Hoey
grand son of the above
died at sea by enemy action from
S.S. Belgian Prince, July 31st 1917,
aged 17 years.

The Belgian Prince was torpedoed by U-55 on the 31st July, but was sunk by scuttling charges the next day.

Read the newspaper report from the Admiralty of the incident.

See also fellow crew member Richard Thornton

Shields Gazette 17/08/1917 reads:-

Submarine Savagery
Thirty-eight men of crew deliberately drowned.
Newcastle Steamer
Cold blooded murder on the high seas
Survivor's story.

A crime unparalleled for fiendish cruelty, even in the worst phases of German submarine warfare, came to light yesterday, says a Press Association correspondence, namely the deliberate drowning of 38 of the crew of the vessel Belgian Prince.

The evident intention of the Huns was that none should live to tell the tale of this cold blooded murder.

There are, however, three survivors, who after fearful suffering, were picked up by a patrol boat and reached port.

Thomas A. Bowman. the chief engineer, a burly Tynesider, who has been ten times nearly drowned but never so nearly as this time, gave the following narrative of his thrilling experience:

About 8 o'clock on Tuesday evening, while 200 miles off land. I saw from the after deck the wake of an approaching torpedo.

I gave a lurch when the torpedo struck. I was thrown on the deck by a piece of debris. The vessel took a heavy list, and all took to the boats.

Called for the captain
The submarine approached and destroyed the wireless by shelling. The submarine then ordered the boats to come alongside and called for the skipper.

We were taken on board the submarine. Suddenly I heard a rush of water and shouting 'Look out; she is sinking' I jumped into the water. Many men went down with the submarine: others swam for boats.

"I had a life belt. Near me was an apprentice [Ralph Henderson Robinson], aged 16, shouting for help. I went to him and held him up in the darkness till about midnight, when he became unconscious, eventually dying from exposure

Newspaper report 2.

The Chairman introduced amidst cheers Mr George Seleski, [Silessi was his correct surname] a seaman, survivor of the Belgian Prince.

I signed on at Liverpool on July 23rd and sailed on the 24th. On July 31st the ship was torpedoed without warning about 200 miles from the Irish coast. When the crew took to the boats the submarine hailed them to come alongside. They were then ordered to go on board the submarine.

"Five Germans who were in a small boat then smashed the lifeboats of the Belgian Prince with hatchets. The crew were then ordered to take off their lifebelts and the lifebelts were taken down below in the submarine. The captain [Harry Hassan] was ordered down below also.

The crew were on board the submarine for about an hour on the foredeck. when without any warning the submarine submerged and left the crew to swim about, there being nothing in sight except the Belgian Prince, which had not sunk, but we could only just see her in the distance.I then made up my mind to reach the ship, but I was endeavouring to save the third officer (Richard Thornton) and kept him afloat for half an hour when he said "Oh, let me go now and look after yourself." I then swam to the ship and successfully reached her after being in the water from 9 o'clock at night until 5 in the next morning. Aug 1st.

When I reached the ship there was the Jacob's ladder over the side, and I managed to get up this and boarded the ship. I was only aboard half an hour when the submarine returned to the ship and three or four Germans came on board and started to gather the clothes out of the officers' quarters.

All this time I was hiding at the after end of the ship, but after the Germans had finished pilfering in the saloon. I saw then coming towards the place where I was hiding, and there was nothing for me to do but jump over the stern again into the water.

I then swam and held on to the rudder for half an hour, and then, as the submarine was coming away from the starboard side I was compelled to swim to the port side to avoid them seeing me.

The submarine then fired at the ship to make sense of sinking her, and eventually the ship started to settle down and I was again compelled to swim about.

Then the Germans noticed me and pointed their fingers at me and were laughing and grinning also. I swam to a dinghy which had floated off the ship and after struggling for about half an hour, I managed to get in the boat.

[The U-55 was commanded by Oberleutnant zur See Wilhelm Werner but was promoted to Kapitänleutnant on the 24th April 1916. He was born on the 6th June 1888, at Apola. He was charged with War Crimes after the war, for sinking without warning the Clearfield, Artist, Trevone, Torrington, Toro and attacking the hospital ships Rewa and Guildford Castle.

In the course of time this was reduced to a single charge of sinking the SS Torrington and murdering the whole crew except the captain who was taken prisoner.

He never appeared at the Leipzig trials, he fled Germany to work on a coffee plantation in Brazil. After some years he returned to Germany and even became a National Socialist member of the Reichstag. He eventually joined the SS and rose to the rank of SS Brigadefuhrer serving on the Reichsfuhrer, SS Heinrich Himmler's personal staff. He died 14th May 1945.

Source : Maritime Quest

Cyril Joseph Hoey (17), the only son of Mr and Mrs S. Hoey, master and matron of Morpeth Workhouse, was one of the victims of the Belgian Prince. He was serving his apprenticeship on the vessel.

One of the victims from the crew of the Belgian Prince was Apprentice Ralph Henderson Robinson who is remembered at Chester-le-Street on C105.01, C105.15, C105.36, C105.40 and on our List of Ships’ crews, whose widowed mother lived in Chester-le-Street. He was an only child. He had been away from for less than a fortnight when he was drowned, and had been at home as a consequence of having been torpedoed previously. A month ago he gave an exhibition of high diving at a local swimming gala, and won one of the prizes."

The Captain of the S.S. Belgian Prince was Henry Hassan

Cyril Joseph Hoey is remembered in Morpeth on M17.01, M17.06, M17.09, M17.12, M17.17, M17.29 and on our List of Ships’ crews.

The CWGC entry for Cyril Joseph Hoey

If you know more about this person, please send the details to janet@newmp.org.uk