Barbour, Thomas Crawford

Barbour, Thomas Crawford (Crawford)

Cabin Boy

SS Empire Heritage (Cardiff), Merchant Navy

Died as a result of enemy action on Friday 8 September 1944 (aged 18)

No known grave


Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Tower Hill Memorial, London, England (Panel 42)

Bangor and District War Memorial (as Barbour C.)


Thomas Crawford Barbour was born in Bangor on 9 April 1926 and in the Register of Deceased Seamen his last place of abode is recorded as 25 Stanley Road, Bangor.  He went to sea and during the Second World War he served as a Cabin Boy aboard the SS Empire Wordsworth.  All of the Empire ships were owned by the Ministry of War Transport.  Thomas Crawford Barbour was six feet tall and he had a tattoo on his right forearm when he signed on in Liverpool on 21 November 1943.  He was one of 73 ‘Distressed British Seamen’ (DBS) aboard the SS Empire Heritage when he died on 8 September 1944.  Distressed British Seamen were survivors of previous sinkings, or men who had been discharged from ships abroad because of illness and were being given passage back to Britain.

The SS Empire Heritage was completed in 1930 by Armstrong Whitworth and Company Ltd., Newcastle-upon-Tyne as the SS Tafelberg – a South African whale factory-ship built for the Kerguelen Sealing and Whaling Company Ltd., Capetown, South Africa.  On 28 January 1941 the Tafelberg was damaged by a mine and beached at Porthkerry in Wales.  A year later the ship was refloated and taken to Whitmore Bay.  She was rebuilt as the steam tanker Empire Heritage by the Ministry of War Transport and returned to service in February 1943.  The SS Empire Heritage was torpedoed and sunk about 15 miles northwest of Malin Head, Co. Donegal when on route from New York to Liverpool in Convoy HX-305.  At around 6.00 am on 8 September 1944 she was struck by a torpedo fired from the German submarine U-482 and an hour later she was hit by a German Navy Acoustic Torpedo (GNAT).  The rescue ship Pinto stopped to pick up survivors and at around 6.40 am the Pinto was torpedoed and sunk by U-482Pinto survivors were picked up by the trawler HMS Northern Wave and taken to Londonderry.  Thus it was that some of the DBS who had been aboard the SS Empire Heritage survived three separate sinkings during one crossing of the Atlantic.  In addition to its passengers, the Empire Heritage was carrying a cargo of 16,000 tons of fuel oil and almost 2,000 tons of deck cargo.  The deck cargo included a number of Sherman tanks that are now strewn over the seabed around the wreck site.

Cabin Boy Thomas Crawford Barbour aged 18 and Fireman Garner McCartney Wilson from Newtownards were two of those aboard the Empire Heritage who were presumed drowned.  Cabin Boy Thomas Crawford Barbour is commemorated on the Tower Hill Memorial in London and on Bangor and District War Memorial (as Barbour C.).