Houston, Thomas McMahon

Houston, Thomas McMahon (Thomas)

Fifth Engineer Officer

SS Empire Attendant (Glasgow), Merchant Navy

Died as a result of enemy action on Wednesday 15 July 1942 (aged 20)

No known grave


Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Tower Hill Memorial, London, England (Panel 38)

Bangor and District War Memorial

First Bangor Presbyterian Church


Thomas McMahon Houston was the elder son of Thomas and Mary Ellen Houston (nee McMahon) who were married on 6 October 1920 in Trinity Presbyterian Church, Bangor.  Thomas Houston, a labourer from Bangor, was a son of James Houston, a labourer.  Mary Ellen McMahon from Bangor was a daughter of Thomas McMahon, a labourer.

The Houston family lived in Newtownards Road, Bangor.

Thomas Houston Junior was educated at Bangor Central Public Elementary School and Belfast Technical School and he was just three months away from completing his apprenticeship in the Engineering Department of Messrs Harland and Wolff, Belfast when he joined the Merchant Navy.  He served aboard the SS Empire Attendant.  This passenger cargo vessel was launched in December 1920 as Magnava and completed as Domala in 1921 by Barclay, Curle and Company, Whiteinch, Glasgow.  She was owned by the British India Steam Navigation Company.  Following damage sustained in an air attack in 1940, Domala was requisitioned by the Ministry of War Transport, rebuilt, and renamed SS Empire Attendant.  She was placed under the management of Andrew Weir and Company (Bank Line).  On 1 July 1942 she sailed from Liverpool as part of Convoy OS-33 with a cargo of stores, vehicles and a quantity of explosives bound for Freetown in Sierra Leone.  On 10 July 1942 the escort vessel, HMS Pelican, signalled the Admiralty that SS Empire Attendant had broken down for the seventh time and was out of contact.  At 3.30 am on 15 July 1942, when she was south of the Canary Islands and off the west coast of Africa, she sank after being torpedoed by the German submarine U-582.  All 59 men aboard the SS Empire Attendant died; there were no survivors.

Able Seaman John Joseph Kennedy from Holywood was another one of the casualties.  Fifth Engineer Officer Thomas McMahon Houston’s mother, father and brother placed a Roll of Honour notice in the 20 July 1946 edition of the County Down Spectator and it included the text:

Unknown to the world he walks by my side

Fifth Engineer Officer Thomas McMahon Houston was 20 when he died, and he is commemorated on Tower Hill Memorial in London; on Bangor and District War Memorial and in First Bangor Presbyterian Church.