Lochbroom Folk

Lochbroom's Sacrifice in the Second World War

Page 22


Nurse Stewardess Agnes Harris Wallace, ss City of Benares (Glasgow)
Able Seaman Roderick Mackenzie, ss Romsey (Liverpool)
Fireman Roderick Thompson Mackenzie, ss Romsey (Liverpool)
2nd Officer James Macnab, ss Moidart (Cardiff)

Nurse Stewardess
ss. City of Benares
Died on 17th September 1940
Photo courtesy of Ullapool Museum Trust  

The above form states that Agnes was born in Liverpool, which is inaccurate.  She was born on 5th July 1915 in Ullapool, Ross-shire, the daughter of the local Doctor, David Wallace (1871-1947) and his wife Mary Johnstone Harris née Stalker (1884-1973).  David and Mary married on 28th February 1912 at Whitechapel, London.

Three other children were born to this family, Mary Kate, Alan and John.  John was killed in action during WW2 (see page 23) and Alan was a prisoner of war (see page 17).

City of Benares

The following information has been obtained from Wikipedia:

The City of Benares was part of convoy OB-213, and was being used as an evacuee ship in the overseas evacuation scheme organised by the Children’s Overseas Reception Board (CORB). She was carrying 90 child evacuee passengers who were being evacuated from wartime Britain to Canada. The ship left Liverpool on 13 September 1940, bound for the Canadian ports of Quebec and Montreal, under the command of her Master, Landles Nicoll. She was the flagship of the convoy commodore Rear Admiral E.J.G. Mackinnon DSO RN and the first ship in the centre column.

Late in the evening of 17 September, the City of Benares was sighted by U-48, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Heinrich Bleichrodt, who fired two torpedoes at her at 23.45 hours. Both torpedoes missed, and at 00.01 hours on 18 September, the U-boat fired another torpedo at her. The torpedo struck her in the stern, causing her to sink within 30 minutes, 253 miles west-southwest of Rockall. Fifteen minutes after the torpedo hit, the vessel had been abandoned, though there were difficulties with lowering the lifeboats on the weather side of the ship. HMS Hurricane arrived on the scene 24 hours later, and picked up 105 survivors and landed them at Greenock. In total, 260 of the 407 people on board were lost. This included the master, the commodore, three staff members, 121 crew members and 134 passengers. Out of the 134 passengers, 77 were child evacuees. Only 13 of the 90 child evacuee passengers embarked survived the sinking.

The sinking was controversial, the Allied powers criticised the "barbaric" actions of the Germans, and there was an outpouring of sympathy and support for those who had lost children in the sinking The Germans defended the attack as being on a legitimate military target, and insisted that the British government was to blame for allowing children to travel on such ships in war zones when the German government had issued repeated warnings. They claimed the City of Benares would be used to transport war material back to Britain on her return voyage.

Agnes is commemorated in Ullapool, West Argyle Street Cemetery, with her brother John.
She is also commemorated on Tower Hill Memorial, London on Panel 29.

Photo: Roddie Macpherson

Able Seaman, R202449
ss. Romsey (Liverpool)
Died on 4th September 1942 aged 25
Son of John and Isabella MacKenzie

John Mackenzie, aged 41 (bachelor), a fisherman married Isabella Munro aged 38 (spinster) a domestic servant, on 28th March 1916 at Altnaharra, Ullapool, according to the forms of the United Free Church of Scotland.  John lived at Letters and Isabella at Rhiroy, Lochbroom.

Roderick’s Birth Certificate clearly states that he was born on 29th January 1917 at Letters. 

He first served on Baron Tweedmouth in November 1939.  This ship was built in 1927 by Lithgows Ltd., Glasgow for Hogarth Shipping Co. Ltd, Ardrossan.  She was used for plying general cargo which included iron ore from West Africa and timber and pit props from Canada.

Roderick was discharged from the Baron Tweedmouth on 13th February 1940.


The following information has been sourced from the website Inverclyde Now.

“The 75th anniversary [2017] of the sinking of a tug at Gourock has been marked by the nephew of one of the 16 crewmen who died in the tragedy, at the virtually unmarked grave in a local cemetery where his uncle and two other victims were buried.   Finlay MacKenzie's uncle Roddy, who was 25 years old and engaged to be married, was one of 20 crew on board the Romsey when it was struck by a ship on the Clyde just before midnight on 4 September 1942.

The Romsey had been requisitioned by the Royal Navy as a rescue tug and was based at the old Admiralty Pier in Cardwell Bay.  The vessel had been sitting just off Gourock Pier when she appears to have dragged her anchor, with a strong wind carrying her into the shipping channel. Being war-time, blackout regulations required her to carry minimal lighting and she was run down by a mail ship, the ss Lairdsburn, which was sailing from Glasgow to Belfast. The Romsey sank within minutes; there were only four survivors. The vessel was lifted a month later and the bodies recovered.   Most of the crew hailed from the villages of Ullapool and Gairloch in Wester Ross with others from Southampton, Merseyside and Wales. 

Finlay Mackenzie at Gourock Cemetery.

Finlay, who lives in Gourock, said: "Three of the bodies could not be identified and their families decided to bury them together in Gourock Cemetery.  "There is no headstone but a shrub was planted to mark lair number 40 in section F; one of those interred there was my uncle Roddy from Ullapool.  "There was no-one from Inverclyde on board which is probably why so few people are now aware of the sinking."

Finlay's father, also from Ullapool served on the rescue tugs as well. He met a local woman while based on the Clyde and they moved to Ullapool where they married.  However, when Finlay was 16 years old, his father died and his mother decided to move back to Gourock with Finlay.  He has made a point of finding and visiting his uncle's grave and laid a wreath there to mark the 75th anniversary.

The Romsey, which was built by Ferguson Bros, Port Glasgow in 1930, was repaired and put back into service. After the war she was returned to her owners and continued working until she was broken up in 1962.”

The family grave stands in Lochbroom churchyard.

Photo:  Roddie Macpherson

Erected by/JOHN MACKENZIE, Letters/in loving memory of his beloved wife/ISABELLA MUNRO/who died 27th March 1930/aged 53 years/and their son RODERICK/lost at sea 5th Sep. 1942/aged 25 years/also the said/JOHN MACKENZIE/died on 20th January 1955/aged 78 years.
Blessed are the pure in heart/for they shall see God. MATTHEW V.8.
Roderick is commemorated on TOWER HILL MEMORIAL on Panel 131. 

ss Romsey (Liverpool)
Died on 4th  September 1942 aged 29
Roderick, born on 21st September 1912 at Moir Street, Glasgow, was the only child of Roderick, a dairyman, and Mary Ann, née Thompson.  Tragically, his mother died within a few days of his birth, on 27th September, of puerperal septicaemia, caused by childbirth.

Roderick Thompson was married on 25th November 1938 at St Andrew’s Church of Scotland, Tongue to a local girl Jane Macleod Maciver, a shop assistant, aged 26 of Kirkiboll in the village. He was occupied as a vanman, aged 26 and living at 17 Pulteney Street, Ullapool.  Jane’s parents were Gordon Macleod Maciver, a Joiner, and Barbara (née Macleod).  D Mclean of Point Street, Ullapool and Nancy Maciver from Tongue were witnesses to the marriage.

ss Romsey

The details regarding the sinking of ss Romsey are given in the biography for Able Seaman Roderick Mackenzie on pages 21, 22.  Roderick is buried in Ullapool in West Argyle Street Cemetery.

Photo: Roddie Macpherson

The details regarding the sinking of ss Romsey are given in the biography for Able Seaman Roderick Mackenzie on pages 21, 22.  Roderick is buried in Ullapool in West Argyle Street Cemetery.

Photo:  Roddie Macpherson

Second Officer
ss Moidart (Cardiff)
Died on 29th July 1940 aged 38

James was the son of Duncan Macnab and Mary (née Macrae).  Duncan and Mary married on 7th January 1897 at The Caledonian Hotel Dingwall.  He was aged 36 and Foreman of Road Labour.  His address: Ardindrean.  Mary worked as a domestic servant, aged 27.  Her address 53 Octavia Terrace, Greenock.

James was born at Ardindrean on 31st October 1901, his father at that time employed as a general labourer.  In 1911 the family was living in the same dwelling which contained four rooms.  Duncan (50), Mary (42), James (9), Annabella (4) and Flora (9 months). 

In 1927 James received his Certificate of Discharge in respect of joining the British Monarch.  Prior to this time he had been employed on coastal trading vessels.


ss Moidart was a British Cargo Steamer of 1,262 tons built in 1922 by Campbeltown Shipbuilding Co., Yard No 114 for the Portsmouth Steamship Co., (McNeil & Jones), Cardiff as the HILLGLEN. Its main cargo was coal.

The cargo ship struck a mine in the North Sea off Harwich, whilst sailing between London and Newcastle, with the loss of 11 of her crew.  Her chief engineer and his engine room greaser were the only survivors; they were washed through the engine room skylight when the ship went down. 

The family gravestone in Lochbroom churchyard reveals the following words:

In memory of/our beloved children/DUNCAN/died 14 March 1900, aged 2 years/and DUNCAN died 6 September 1910/aged 10 years/also of DUNCAN McNAB/died 27 April 1940/aged 83 years and of his son/JAMES who was lost at sea 29 July 1940 aged 39 years/also MARY MACRAE/wife of said DUNCAN McNAB/died 27th Dec, 1959, aged 91 years.

James is also commemorated on Tower Hill Memorial on Panel 70

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