Baxter, John George Briggs

Baxter, John George Briggs

Third Engineer Officer

SS Beaverford (London), Merchant Navy

Died as a result of enemy action on Tuesday 5 November 1940 (aged 57)

No known grave


Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Tower Hill Memorial, London, England (Panel 15)


John George Briggs Baxter was born at 1.00 pm on 14 September 1883 in Portaferry and his birth was registered in Downpatrick.  He was the only surviving son of Henry and Mary Baxter (formerly Jefferson, nee Briggs).  His twin brother, Alexander Baxter, was born at 12 noon on 14 September 1883 and he was six days old when he died of exhaustion on 20 September 1883.

Henry Baxter worked as a blacksmith, estate agent and rate collector and he and Mary Jefferson (nee Briggs) were married on 29 December 1881 in Derriaghy Parish Church of Ireland Church, Lisburn.  Henry Baxter from 8 Howard Street, Belfast was a son of Alexander Baxter, a blacksmith.  Mary Jefferson from Kilmakee was a daughter of John Briggs, a farmer.  Mary Jefferson already had a daughter called Armenella who was born on 28 October 1872 at 45 Kendal Street, Belfast.  Mary Briggs (aged 21) and Redmond Jefferson (aged 24) were married on 2 February 1866 in Lisburn Church of Ireland Cathedral.  Redmond Jefferson died in 1875 (aged 34).

In 1911 John George Briggs Baxter was a marine engineer in the Mercantile Marine and he was boarding with the Jones family who lived in Bootle Cum Linacre in Lancashire.  On 4 October 1915 he was living at 36 Oxford Road, Putney when he and Madge Amelia Clarkson (born 1892 in Cupar, Fife; daughter of publican Henry Clarkson) were married in St. Stephen’s Church of England Church, Wandsworth, Surrey.  They subsequently divorced and on 17 November 1930 John George Briggs Baxter was living at 19 Clifford Street, Govan, Glasgow when he and Ellen Elizabeth (Nellie) McFadden from Portaferry were married in Langside Old Church of Scotland, Glasgow.  Nellie was a daughter of Robert and Annie McFadden (nee Gowan) from Portaferry where Nellie’s father, by then deceased, had been a master draper.

During the Second World War John George Briggs Baxter served with the Merchant Navy as Third Engineer Officer aboard the SS Beaverford.  This ship was built in 1928 by Barclay, Curle and Company Ltd., Whiteinch, Glasgow and owned by the Canadian Pacific Steamship Company.  In November 1940 the SS Beaverford was sailing from Halifax in Nova Scotia to Great Britain in Convoy HX-84 with more than 30 other merchant vessels escorted by the armed merchant ship HMS Jervis Bay.  The convoy was intercepted by the German battle cruiser Admiral Scheer which had been commissioned in November 1934.  Hopelessly outgunned, HMS Jervis Bay engaged the enemy and was sunk in the process.  However, this gave the convoy time to scatter and the Admiral Scheer was only able to sink six other ships, five from the convoy (Beaverford, Fresno City, Kenbane Head, Maidan, Trewellard) and one sailing independently (Mopan).  The SS Beaverford sank off the coast of Greenland with the loss of 77 men.  The tanker San Demetrio was set on fire by the Admiral Scheer but didn’t sink and was later salvaged.  The Admiral Scheer capsized in Kiel harbour in Germany when struck by RAF bombs dropped during a raid on 9 April 1945.

Third Engineer Officer John George Briggs Baxter was 57 years old when he died and Nellie was living at Rock-Angus, Portaferry when she received the news of his death.  Nellie Baxter died on 13 July 1975 and was buried in the McFadden family grave in Ballymanish Graveyard, Portaferry:

In loving memory of Robert McFadden died 5th August 1925

And his Wife Annie McFadden died 24th Oct.1933

Also their beloved Son Hugh G. McFadden died 12th September 1965, Interred in Sydney, Australia

Also his Daughter Nellie Baxter (nee McFadden) died 13th July 1975

Third Engineer Officer John George Briggs Baxter is commemorated on the Tower Hill Memorial in London.