Pritchard, David John

Pritchard, David John (Dave)


SS Kenbane Head (Belfast), Merchant Navy

Died as the result of enemy action on Tuesday 5 November 1940 (aged 21)

No known grave


Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Tower Hill Memorial, London, England (Panel 60)

Glastry Methodist Church

Family grave headstone in Ballyhalbert Graveyard


David John (Dave) Pritchard was born on 16 April 1919 in Ballyhalbert and he was baptised on 25 April 1919 in Glastry Methodist Church.  He was a son of David and Eliza Jane Pritchard (nee McMaster) who were married on 1 January 1908 in Glastry Methodist Church.  David Pritchard, a labourer from Church Street, Greyabbey was a son of David Pritchard, a labourer.  Eliza Jane McMaster from Ballyhalbert was a daughter of William McMaster, a labourer.

David and Eliza Jane Pritchard (nee McMaster) had five children:

James (born 26 October 1908 in Ballyhalbert)

Jane (Janette/Janet born 26 June 1911 at 24 Houston Street, Belfast; married Samuel Burns 19 June 1935)

David (born 2 February 1913 in Orangefield, Belfast; died of convulsions 23 April 1913)


David John (Dave, born 16 April 1919 in Ballyhalbert; his father was recorded as being a discharged soldier)

During the Second World War Dave Pritchard served as a sailor in the Merchant Navy aboard the SS Kenbane Head.  This ship was built in 1919 by Workman, Clark and Company, Belfast and was owned by G. Heyn & Sons Ltd., who operated the Ulster Steamship Company (Head Line).

In November 1940 the SS Kenbane Head 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 battlecruiser 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 Kenbane Head went down at 5.30 pm on 5 November 1940, off the coast of Greenland with the loss of 23 men.  The tanker San Demetrio was set on fire by the Admiral Scheer and later salvaged.  Other crew members from North Down/Ards who lost their lives aboard the SS Kenbane Head were James McNeilly Belshaw from Ballywalter, George McClelland Leckey from Holywood and Reginald John Primmer from Portaferry.  On 9 April 1945, the Admiral Scheer was capsized in Kiel harbour, Germany by RAF bombs dropped during a raid.

Each year after Dave Pritchard died his family and friends placed Roll of Honour insertions in both the County Down Spectator and the Newtownards Chronicle.  These included his mother, brother, and sister of Shore Street, Ballyhalbert; his sister and brother-in-law Janet and Sam Burns of Ballyvester, Donaghadee and his comrade William James Thompson of Shore Street, Ballyhalbert.  Some of the verses were:

At the river’s crystal brink,

Christ shall join each broken link.


No morning dawns, no night returns,

But we remember thee.


He sleeps where all is peace.


Gone but not forgotten.


Someone remembers, somebody cares.


I’ll remember while the rest of the world forgets.


God always takes the best.


Loved and longed for always.

Sailor David John Pritchard was 21 when he died, and he is commemorated on the Tower Hill Memorial in London; in Glastry Methodist Church and on the family grave headstone in Ballyhalbert Graveyard.

His father David died on 10 November 1935 (aged 50), his mother Eliza Jane died on 20 January 1962 (aged 72) and his sister, Janet Burns (nee Pritchard), died on 13 November 1992.