TITANIC-TITANIC.com | Titanic Articles: A brief biography of Walter Francis Fredericks (14 April 1891 - 30 June 1960)

Walter Francis Fredericks’ grandfather was Francis Fredericks – a Naturalised British subject born around 1820 in Nassau, Germany. Francis worked for a time in Plymouth, Devon, England as a ships porter before meeting a local girl by the name of Jane Traynor. The couple married in 1846 at St John’s church in Exeter, Devon, before moving to the busier port of Southampton where work was more abundant. There, they had ten children, the ninth of which was John George (1865) – Walter’s father. (Francis died in 1891, a few months after his grandson Walter’s birth)

John (as many people did in those days) preferred to go by his middle name of George. Growing up in the Chapel/St Mary’s area, he followed his father’s footsteps and became a general labourer at Southampton docks. On Christmas day in 1886 he married Amelia Mulford , who despite originating from Regents Park in London was working as a servant girl at an Inn in Southampton. The couple had six children – John (1887 who sadly died after just 2 days), George (1888), Walter (1891), Frederick (1893 died just 9 weeks old), Bertie (1895 died after 2 weeks) and Amelia (1896). As if losing three children so young wasn’t bad enough, John’s wife Amelia also died in 1898, leaving him alone with three children under the age of 10. Reluctantly, he moved the family into the common lodging house in West Street where there were plenty of others about to help with the children whilst he earned a wage to support them. A total of 34 residents shared the building.

The family grew up and moved out – each boarding in a different property by 1910. Walter had been working as a docks labourer for a couple of years before joining the merchant navy. His older brother George had been a Trimmer with the White Star Line for a while, and he put in a good word for Walter. On 13th April 1910, Walter made his first voyage working and learning the job side by side with his brother aboard the RMS Majestic. They would make another three journeys together that year aboard the same ship before going their separate ways.

Walter spent the first half of 1911 courting a laundry machinist by the name of Elizabeth Ethel Weeks who had moved to Southampton from South Wales with her parents before the turn of the century. They married 19th June 1911 at St Mary’s church and shared a property in 6 Elm Road, Chapel with James & Elizabeth Wallbridge (Ethel’s mother and stepfather). On July 12th 1911, Walter sailed on the giant White Star liner RMS Olympic under Captain Smith on its second Transatlantic run as a Trimmer on the 8-12 watch.

Work then seemed to dry up for Walt, and it didn’t help with the ensuing coal mining strike in the spring as it meant jobs at the docks were even fewer than before - the ships simply had no coal to fuel their furnaces. Men queued for hours at the dock gates in hope of acquiring work but more often than not, returned home with empty pockets and rumbling bellies.

In April 1912 Walter decided to try and land a job aboard White Star Line’s newest liner, RMS Titanic. It was a tough decision as Ethel was eight months pregnant and could conceivably give birth to their first child any day, but it made financial sense. Hopefully with the three week turn around he would be home again in time for the birth. Walter got up early on 6th April and signed on as a Trimmer at the Union hall. He was 5’ 8½”, had blue eyes, fair hair and a tattoo of a cross on his right arm. His agreed wage was 5 pounds 10 shillings.

April 10th saw another early start for Walter. After saying his farewells to Ethel, he wandered down to the dockside with his kitbag and gathered with some of the other crewmen for their 6am start. Role call on the ship was at 8am and lasted about half an hour. After that, some of the ‘Black gang’ returned ashore for one last drinking session, but Walter settled into his bunk and prepared for his shift. He was due on at 12 noon – the ships departure time.

The next few days were fairly uneventful. Walter did his shifts – four hours on, eight hours off on a rolling rota. He was part of the 12-4 shift. It was thankless work being a Trimmer - endlessly shovelling coal to the boiler rooms for the Firemen whilst maintaining an even load within the coal bunker itself to prevent the ship from listing to one side or the other. Intense heat coming up from the boiler rooms and air thick with coal dust made it a very unpleasant place to be.

 

Right - Boiler room conditions of a period liner.

 

April 14th 1912 – Walter’s 21st birthday and very nearly his ‘death-day’. Twenty-first birthdays are supposed to be memorable, and this would definitely be one that Walter would never forget. Although it was largely business as usual, several of the Black gang had promised Walter a celebratory drink once the ship made port as they played cards in their quarters (Promises that would die with many of them later that night). With his birthday almost at an end, Walter prepared for the midnight shift. He pulled on his short pants and sleeveless shirt in preparation for the furnace-like conditions below.

About twenty minutes before he was due to start, there was a noticeable jolt and a groaning of metal. His quarters on E deck were on the fore starboard side of the ship – directly above where the iceberg had perforated the hull – although he didn’t know it at the time.

The hum of the ships engines was silenced, so the crew knew something was amiss. They half expected to hear an explanation such as the ship losing a propeller at the pending shift change. Walter and the others started down the spiral stair that led to the Firemen’s corridor, They all took this route twice daily to reach their point of work, but on this occasion the bottom of the stairwell was completely flooded due to the watertight doors being closed to try and contain the leaking. It was not a good sign. Walter headed straight up on deck with several of his comrades without stopping to change clothes.

Up on deck, things were relatively calm. The lifeboats were being uncovered, but there were many passengers refusing to believe anything was seriously wrong. A steward walked by handing out spare life jackets to those on deck without them and Walter gratefully took one and put it on. He was thankful for the extra layer of insulation against the freezing night air. By this time he had heard that the ship had hit an iceberg. Several people were carrying chunks of ice that had fallen onto the well deck floor.

As the night wore on and the bow of the ship dipped lower and lower, Walter’s thoughts alternated between his crew mates and family back home. Those men from the 8-12 shift, what must have happened to them? Were they drowned down below? If this had all happened a half hour later then their fate would have instead been his. It still may come to that. And what of home? Would he ever see his beloved Ethel again? Had his baby been born yet he wondered? Would he ever get to hold it in his arms?

It was desperately cold. Walter considered going back down for his overcoat, but did not want to lose his place in the lifeboat ‘queue’ as the crowd of men now wanting to vacate the ship was steadily growing. It was a decision that probably saved his life.

Walter had assembled on the aft starboard of the ship with a lot of the other Trimmers and Firemen. Lifeboats 13 and 15 were being readied at about 1.40am. The call for women and children came. Fortunately (for Walter), there were not that many to be found in that area for whatever reason, and what few there were got placed aboard. Walter waited anxiously as the call went out again from First Officer Murdoch – “Are there no more women and children to be found? Right men - Let’s get these boats filled then.” Sixth Officer Moody oversaw the actual lowering of the boats as Murdoch went portside.

Boat 13 went first. Walter climbed into boat 15 and offered to row. Although technically not an Able Seaman, growing up next to the river Itchen had provided several opportunities to hone rowing skills. The exercise he thought would get the blood moving in his body to stay warm. Frank Dymond, a Fireman from the same shift as Walter took on responsibility for the boat. As it neared the water, there were frantic cries from below to stop lowering. Lifeboat 13 had been forced directly underneath number 15 by the backwash from Titanic’s condenser discharge. They were unable to release their lowering lines as they were still under tension. Frank desperately shouted up to the deck to stop lowering, but still they continued downwards until the very last second.

Fortunately, the heads up crew of boat 13 managed to manually cut their lines away with a pocket knife and got clear just before boat 15 hit the water – much to the relief of both boats occupants.

As Walter rowed away from the doomed liner he could see that Titanic was by this time well down by the bow, but amazingly still fully lit. Music could still be heard being played from the liner. Everyone in the packed lifeboat gasped though as the lights finally went out and the ship noisily broke in two before plunging below the surface, drowning many still aboard.

The sea was littered with what looked like white specks – the unfortunate souls left behind who had jumped at the last moment with nothing to keep them afloat bar their lifebelts. Walter closed his eyes but the sound of the distant cries and moans would haunt him for many years. Eventually the screams faded, leaving only the silence of the dark night sky and the bitter cold. Frank Dymond offered Walter a blanket to help fend off the shivering. A few of the men wrapped cloth around the boat hook and set it alight as a torch to signal the other boats, but it burnt out very quickly and proved ineffective.

As dawn approached some 3 hours later, rockets were seen on the horizon and woe turned to cheer as the Carpathia approached to rescue them all. It was a huge relief. Bobbing up and down in a small overcrowded boat in the middle of the ocean, not knowing when help would come had been an unnerving experience. The crew and passengers of the Carpathia were extremely sympathetic and accommodating to the survivors. Walter slept most of the following day. It had been an exhausting night.

Back in Southampton, news of the sinking had spread quickly, and many people feared the worst. Most of Titanic’s engineering crew resided within the city. Crowds of family and friends gathered anxiously at the White Star office in Canute Road in the hope of news, but frustratingly there were no survivors lists posted for two days. Ethel – still pregnant – sobbed tears of relief when eventually Walter’s name appeared on the lists posted on the huge iron railings. You can just about make it out in the photograph below, listed in the second column from the left, 3rd from bottom.

Once the Carpathia docked at Pier 54 in New York late on 18th April, the passengers disembarked. The crew were made to wait around until the early hours of the 19th, when they were ferried up to Pier 60 by the tender George Starr. There they were marched across to Pier 61 before boarding the Red Star liner Lapland. Walter was assigned a third class cabin for the voyage home. The following day, the crew were only allowed ashore to attend a memorial service at the Institute of Seaman’s Friend located at 507 West Street across from Pier 54. There they also received new clothes – a much welcomed gift to those who had lost everything. Lapland departed for England at 10am on Saturday 20th April with 167 of Titanic’s crew aboard, and reached Plymouth around 7am on Monday 29th April.

Once again, the surviving Titanic crew were made to wait as the Lapland’s passengers disembarked. They were then herded onto the tender Sir Richard Greenville. The crew refused to talk to any Board of Trade officials until their Union representatives were allowed on to advise them of the legal proceedings. The tender landed at noon, and many thought they would be released upon arrival but it was not to be. Instead the crew were taken to the docks third class waiting room which had been sealed off from all outsiders by police. The crew were virtual prisoners until all their depositions had been taken. They would all have to appear before the Receiver of Wrecks before they could be released, and had to stay the night in the makeshift dorm. After telling all he knew, Walter was one of about 85 Firemen and Seamen that left aboard the special train bound for Southampton at 6pm on 30th April. Walter was given a Subpoena payment of 7 pounds, 6 shillings and 6 pence, but would not be called to give evidence at either inquiry.

About three hours later, shortly after 9pm, Walter was greeted by Ethel in a tearful reunion. He was safe home at last, and 10 days later on 10th May 1912, he was able to hold his 1st son – Walter Charles – in his arms.

After the harrowing ordeal of the tragedy, Walter chose not to sail again for two years and went back to labouring at the docks. The couple took the opportunity to extend the family and had another son, William George born 16th September 1913. But with a young family to provide for, it was finance that again tempted Walt back to the sea.

After a two year break from sea following the Titanic disaster, Walt signed onto the RMS Asturias as a Coal Trimmer on 8th April 1914. On the crew agreement his age is given as 32 although he was only 22. His last ship is clearly listed as Titanic. The seven week voyage would take him across the Atlantic down to the South American ports of Buenos Aires, Argentina and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to name a couple. Thankfully, the journey was an uneventful one and Walt was discharged on 30th May 1914. It would not stay that way for long though. With the outbreak of World War One, the Asturias was quickly requisitioned by the Admiralty and converted into a Hospital Ship. Within a few months she was handed over to the Army and was soon employed making regular crossings to France carrying back the wounded from the Western Front. She had accommodation for 896 patients, but on one occasion due to very heavy casualties at the Front, she transported 2,400 sick and wounded. She served in the Eastern Mediterranean during the Dardanelles Campaign, returning wounded from Gallipoli, Egypt and Salonika to the UK. On 2nd February 1915, as the Asturias laden with doctors and nurses headed for Havre to embark wounded soldiers it was targeted by a German submarine, but the torpedo narrowly missed. It was the first time that the Germans had attacked a Hospital Ship. It would not be the last. At time of writing we do not know if Walter signed back on to the Asturias, but that knowledge may be obtainable from checking one particular crewlist held at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. What we do know is that at some point in 1915 he signed onto the giant paddle steamer Empress Queen.

The Empress Queen was well known to the travelling public, when she previously ran on regular service between Liverpool and Douglas on the Isle of Man, and was a great favourite on account of her fast runs and the ease with which she carried her two thousand passengers.

For the conveyance of troops across the Channel she was an ideal ship, and it was for this purpose she was chartered by the Government on February 6th, 1915.

Her fitting-out at Barrow occupied a fortnight, and two days after her arrival at Southampton she sailed from that port with nineteen hundred men of a Scottish regiment for Le Havre.

She remained on this service, gaining for herself the good opinion of the transport authorities for her regular and fast passages, as she had never to stop for bad weather or for engine trouble. She was crowded with outgoing troops on the journey from Southampton, and, returning, often brought back large numbers of "Liberty Men," who during the earlier Stages of the War, came direct from the trenches.

Everything went exceedingly well until February 1st 1916, when, returning from Le Havre with some thirteen hundred "liberty men," during thick foggy weather, she ran ashore about 5 a.m. on the Ring Rocks at Bembridge, Isle of Wight, about a quarter of a mile from the cliffs. Because of her speed, she ran well up on the flat rocks at about half-flood tide, and lay nearly upright with the fore end embedded in the rocks, and the after end afloat.

The troops were taken off by destroyers, and all sorts of craft, which came alongside in reply to her calls for help. The weather was calm and there was no apparent danger to life. The crew remained aboard, as it was hoped that the ship could be refloated and pulled away with tugs. A small number of men from Portsmouth dockyard boarded with appliances for stopping leaks, etc. All in all about 110 people were still aboard, including Walter. One has to wonder if his mind flashed back as the grinding sound of the ship’s hull scraping the rocks echoed throughout the vessel.

As the day went on, the weather began to change for the worse. That night it blew a gale, and everyone on board had an anxious time. In the morning things were so bad that the Bembridge lifeboat was called out at 9.30 a.m. to take off all hands, but, as the lifeboat house was about two miles from the wreck, and the wind dead ahead, it took a long time to beat up to anywhere near the Empress Queen. The vessel had been swept from stern to stem by huge seas, piling up ropes, furniture, etc., on the foredeck in a confused mass. The spar deck aft had been beaten down by the seas, and the ship, being full of water, did not float again. Up to this time the after end of the ship had been afloat at high tide, and the saloons were quite dry, but during the gale, the after deck-house was smashed, and the saloons were flooded. All compartments, including the engine room, were now filled with water at high tide, and there seemed to be little hope of refloating the ship. Once again, Walter found his place of work aboard a ship to be virtually underwater.

It was decided that the best plan was to wait until low water and then land the men on the flat rocks, which formed a sort of natural pier, alongside of which the lifeboat could lie. Around 2 p.m. the work of rescue commenced, and boatload after boatload of crewmen was safely landed, until the water was so low, that even the lifeboat grounded and received damage! The last remainder of the crew was taken off by the two fishermen brothers – Walter and Fred Attrill. By 5 p.m. all hands were landed, including the ship’s cat and dog: the latter animal was on the ship’s articles, and wore a disc. The crew could not, of course, bring with them their bags, containing their clothes and belongings. The latter were landed the next day, Friday, but, owing to War regulations, these bags could not be removed from the beach until the Sunday afternoon. During all that time they lay exposed to the weather. The result can only be imagined.

Efforts to get the water out were made with the assistance of motor driven pumps from the dockyard. But soon it was found to be a lost endeavour, and the only thing that could be done was to save as much of the ship’s gear as possible. These efforts at salvage were ably assisted by Mr. J. Halsall, superintendent carpenter, and much valuable property was saved. The chief engineer, Mr. George Kenna, also stood by and rendered valuable help.

The Empress Queen remained a very conspicuous figure for a long time after she was stranded and could be seen by all vessels navigating Southampton Waters. The two big funnels seemed to be always in view during the daytime, and were still standing there on Armistice day. In the summer of 1919, however, during a heavy gale, which lasted two days, the funnels finally disappeared, and all that now remains to be seen at low water is a sad lump of old iron.

On 13th March 1916, Walt signed onto the Hospital Ship Western Australia. A fast ship, she was continuously used on cross-Channel work, running between Southampton and Le Havre and up the Seine to Rouen. She was heavily utilised during the battle of the Somme in 1916. Walter was discharged on 23rd August 1916.

What he did for the next 18 months is currently a mystery. It may be worth pointing out that in March 1917 after landing her wounded at Avonmouth, the earlier mentioned Asturias was attacked by German submarine and struck by a torpedo which blew off her stern, killing 35 of her crew. It is possible Walt was aboard, but unlikely given the number of vessels he could have been on at this time. The ship was declared a total loss, but her hulk was put to use as a floating ammunition store at Plymouth for the rest of the war.

By the start of 1918, Walter was back on the Western Australia. Unfortunately, he was about to be involved in another collision. On 28th January, 1918, the Royal Navy Reserve minesweeper H.M.S.Hazard was steaming up the Solent when she was rammed by the Western Australia - the former being very nearly cut in two. The Mona’s Queen, having sailed from Le Havre on January 27th, was fortunately on the scene of the disaster just in time to take the sinking ship in tow. It soon became evident however that the task was a hopeless one, the damage to the Hazard being so extensive. After being towed for a short time, she sank, the tow-rope parting as she went down. All but 3 of the 120 crew were saved by vessels in the vicinity, but one of the survivors would later die from his injuries. The Western Australia suffered minor damage to its bow panelling which was quickly repaired. An inquiry was made by the Admiralty and Lieutenant Commander Finlay - Master of the Hazard was found to be at fault for the collision and court-marshalled accordingly.

Walter dodged catastrophe again on the 20th of March, 1918 when the freshly repaired Western Australia was attacked by a German submarine, but fortunately the torpedo missed.

For his service during WWI Walter received the 1914-15 Star, British War medal, Mercantile Marine medal and Victory medal.

Walter’s father John George sadly died in 1915 aged 50, but the following year Ethel gave birth to Walter’s only daughter – Phyllis Gwendoline Irene. The joy was short lived however as once again tragic events hit the family just one month later. On 14th June 1916 the eldest son Walter Charles died aged only 4 years on the way to Royal South Hants hospital, Southampton. He had sustained horrific crush injuries from an accident at the local timber yard. Whilst playing a balancing game he had fallen under the wheels of a moving timber transport trolley. An inquest was held 16th June, but the death was declared to be accidental. The family were living at 112 Albert Road at this time – again with the Wallbridges.

In 1917, Walter, Ethel, William and Phyllis finally got their own home at 41, Chantry Road in Chapel. Ethel’s parents were only around the corner - still at Albert Road – so could still help out when Walter was at sea. In March 1919, the 3rd and final son of Walter came in the shape of Ernest James.

More heartbreak would strike the family when Walter’s only daughter Phyllis, fell ill. She died of Tuberculosis Meningitis in 1923 aged only 7. The death of her daughter hit Ethel hard, and she died herself just one year later in 1924. Walter now sadly found himself in the same situation his own father had been in years ago, a widower with two boys under the age of ten to care for. Fortunately, Walter had Ethel’s parents to lean upon. Mother-in-law Elizabeth Wallbrige agreed without question to take the boys in so Walter and his 2 sons left Chantry Road and moved back into 112 Albert Road.

Walter’s second wife Florence Beatrice Stride. They had known each other for years, but grew closer with the marriage between their two children.

Walter’s daughter-in-law Florence, pictured holding his first grandchild Kenneth William in 1934.

Walter continued working aboard the Royal Mail ships. He sailed many times on the White Star Liner Olympic, as well as the Majestic and Adriatic. In 1933 his son William married the girl around the corner Florence Alice Rose Stride. The Strides lived at 33 Chantry Road, just 4 doors down from where the Fredericks’ had been. The two families had known each other for several years. William and ‘Flossy’ bore Walter’s first grandchild one year later when Kenneth William was born in November 1934. The couple would go on to have a total of eight children. Flossy’s mother was Florence Beatrice Stride who had been widowed since 1918 when her husband George had died. With the marriage of their two children, she and Walter grew closer and they married in 1936. Walter moved back to Chantry Road, this time at number 33. It is perhaps worth mentioning that in a strange coincidence, at the same time the Carpathia had picked up Walter on 15th April 1912, Florence Bea’s father (Henry Haynes) dropped down dead with a brain haemorrhage whilst on his coal rounds in Sholing, Southampton.

In 1940, Walter’s youngest son Ernest married Annie Morley in Eling (near Southampton). They would go on to have six children.

Walter went on to sail on other White Star vessels:

Olympic, Adriatic

and Majestic (pictured)

At the outbreak of war on 3rd September 1939, Walt was on the last leg of his second voyage aboard the Warwick Castle. He is listed as a Greaser/Cleaner. It docked back at Southampton on 9th September. Walt also signed on for the next two journeys, 21st Sep to 7th Nov, and 16th Nov to 30th Dec. The Warwick Castle was a mail ship that travelled to South Africa. She docked at Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Durban, Mossel Bay, East London, St Helena, Natal and an undisclosed Naval Port before returning to Southampton. On 5th March 1940, Walt signed on again for the journey but changed his mind at the last minute and was discharged two days later on the 7th March as the ship set sail. His home address was 33 Chantry Road, Southampton.

On 6th April 1940 Walt signed on as a Storekeeper aboard the tanker Toorak, which had just arrived in Southampton from the Orient and North Pacific. The voyage was a relatively short one as Walt travelled across the English Channel to Le Havre in France then into the Mediterranean Sea to the Libyan port of Tripoli in North Africa. The ship was initially part of convoy OA 125G which consisted of 38 merchant vessels and 3 escorts. When it met convoy OB 125 they joined to become OG 25 which was 50 merchant ships strong with 6 escorts. In the ships log Walt gets a mention as he cut his left hand deeply on 6th May. The wound was cleaned with Iodine and a dressing applied. He was discharged when the ship returned to Southampton on 27th May 1940.

On 31st May 1940, Walt signed onto the tanker San Conrado as a Storekeeper. The ship would sail down to Gibraltar before heading across the Atlantic to the Islands of Curacao and Bermuda where it picked up a cargo of Petrol and Paraffin. The journey was initially part of OA 163GF before joining OB 163GF to form OG 33F. The ‘F’ denotes a fast convoy so the San Conrado must have been a reasonably swift vessel. At Bermuda, the ship joined convoy BHX 56 for safe passage up the US Eastern coast to Halifax. This consisted of 20 merchant ships and 1 escort. After a few days docked at Halifax, the ship joined convoy HX 61 for the voyage back across the Atlantic. The convoy contained 45 merchant ships and 10 escorts. Walt was discharged at the port of Clyde in Scotland on 19th August 1940.

By 26th September 1940, Walt had made his way back to Southampton, and he signed onto the Empire Attendant as a Greaser. Formerly known as the Domala, the ship had been requisitioned by the British Admiralty and renamed accordingly. His home address is given as 4 St Mary’s Road, Southampton. The ship travelled across the Atlantic to Galveston port at Houston, USA, where it picked up a cargo of steel before cruising up the East coast to Nova Scotia where it stopped at Halifax and joined convoy HX 98 for safe passage up to Sydney CB. Convoy HX 98/1 left Sydney CB for the UK on 2nd January 1941. It consisted of 24 merchant ships but the only escort available was the Armed Merchant vessel Laconia. HMS Revenge was monitoring from a distance however. The Empire Attendant ported briefly at Oban, Scotland before being redirected to Middlesbrough, England, where it landed on 27th January 1941 and Walter was discharged. He caught the train back to Southampton.

On 17th February 1941 at Southampton, Walt signed onto the Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship War Nawab as a Fireman although he was promoted to Greaser on 7th March 1941. He was now living at 74 Athelstan Road, Southampton. The tanker ship was under repair at Southampton docks until 17th April 1941, when it relocated to Portsmouth. Just one month later it was damaged again on 24th May 1941 following near misses during an air raid and once again returned to Southampton for repairs which were completed on 5th June 1941. On 31st December 1942 Walt was reassigned as a Donkeyman/Greaser. A Donkey engine is a small auxiliary engine used for lifting or pumping aboard a ship. The War Nawab was mainly used as a depot ship for other vessels. On 1stth July 1943 the ship relocated from Portsmouth to Aultbea, Inverness in Scotland where it was mostly moored fore and aft as a hulk.

By this time, Walter’s second wife Florence had recently died, and he gave his new address as living with his oldest son Walter at 7 Leyton Road in Northam, Southampton. This is most curious, because 7 Leyton Road was home to his second born son William and his young family. Walter Junior of course had died aged 4 in 1916 as previously mentioned in this bio. One has to wonder if Walt’s memory is starting to play tricks on him by this time. On 6th September 1944, Walt was forcibly discharged from the vessel for being physically unfit for sea service due to arthritis and he was sent home to Southampton. A CRS 8 form was issued to him on 5th April 1945, basically discharging him from the Merchant Navy.

Although Walter was discharged from Merchant Navy service, it is quite likely that he appealed this because on his marriage certificate to his 3rd wife Mary Hicks on 28th September 1946, in Gosport, Hants, he lists his occupation as ‘Greaser on HM Dredger, Southampton docks’. The name of this vessel has at time of writing yet to be established.

As a point of interest, here is what happened to the ships Walt worked aboard after he left them:

Warwick Castle – Sunk by torpedo attack from German Uboat 413 on 14 Nov 1942

Toorak – Damaged by torpedo attack from German Uboat 86 on 16 Jan 1942

San Conrado – Bombed and sunk by aircraft from KG 27 on 01 Apr 1941

Empire Attendant – Sunk by torpedo attack from German Uboat 582 on 15 Jul 1942

For his service of duty during WWII, Walter was awarded the following 3 medals:

1939-45 Star, War Medal 1939-45, and Atlantic Star.

Walter and Mary stayed in Gosport for a few years until their move back to Southampton at 36 Bellevue Road in 1956. By 1958, Walter’s breathing was deteriorating so the couple moved to Southampton’s outer suburb of Coxford where there was at that time still a lot of greenery, peace and fresh air at 67 Outer Circle.

Walter & Mary Fredericks

c1956

Walter Francis Fredericks died 30th June 1960 aged 69. The cause of death was Fibrosis lung and Chronic Tuberculosis, leaving Mary a widow. From his obituaries it is evident that he suffered with painful breathing during his final days. Today through his two sons William and Ernest (who died in 1996 & 1980 respectively) he has over 100 direct descendants with his bloodline that would not be here today had he not escaped the infamous Titanic sinking. His grave is located at Hollybrook cemetery in Southampton, plot M014/044.

The author of this piece is David William Fredericks, second son of Kenneth William (who was Walter’s 1st Grandchild)

Information pooled from National census records, General Register Office, Electoral rolls, Central index register of Merchant Seamen (Southampton Archives), 1923 Book – How the Manx Fleet Helped in the Great War by CJ Blackburn , National Archives crewlists, logbooks and movement cards, National Roll for the Great War 1914-1918, Ellis Island Record Service, several Titanic websites, numerous Titanic books and verbal accounts taken from older family members.

Photographs from author’s collection, barring one still from the 1997 film ‘Titanic’.

A special thanks to Brian Ticehurst for research guidance, and to Gillian Dunkason for locating Walter’s final resting place. Also to all the staff at Southampton Archives.

 

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