Frank Harold William Greaves - as he later became known - was born Mutford Suffolk on
4th July 1906 the son of Harold Frank Greaves born 1879 Dover Kent a Fisherman and
Ellen Martha late Wigg formerly Hood born Corton 3rd August 1878, residing 52 Queens
Road Lowestoft. His Birth Certificate however, states he was actually named
Harold William Frank Greaves.
Frank was the eldest and had three siblings: Leonard Henry P Greaves b. Lowestoft
1908; Ellen Martha M Greaves b. Lowestoft 1910 and Ada Jane Ethel Greaves (my mother)
b. Lowestoft 13 March 1912.
By way of his mother's previous marriage to James John Wigg, (d. 1903) Frank also
had 4 step siblings; Russell James Wigg b. Lowestoft 1898; Allan Christopher Wigg b.
Lowestoft 1899; Dorothy Elizabeth Wigg b. Lowestoft 1901 and Vera Elsie Wigg b.
At some time in their early childhood Frank and his sister Ada Jane Ethel - and perhaps
others too - were taken in by Dr Barnardos Homes. Frank and my mother were later fostered
by Edith Annie Groves residing Stonehouse Gloucestershire. Sadly, Edith Annie Groves
found she could not cope with boys as well as young girls at that time, Frank was
consequently returned to the home.
Frank Greaves Ordinary Seaman (OS) age 16, 5' 6" tall, weighing 136 lb., sailed from
Liverpool aboard White Star & Dominion vessel CELTIC arriving in New York 19th March
1923. There is a record of Frank H W Greaves being issued with a Record of Certificate
of Service for Able Seaman - High Seas and any Inland Waters - by the Charleston
SC Local Inspectors on July 9 1924. At the time Frank was shown to reside at the
Seamans Union Port Arthur Texas.
Frank was eventually granted US Citizenship on 20th June 1938 in New York City,
New York. Other residences for Frank during his time in USA are recorded as:
Before enlisting in support of the war effort, Frank sailed on the following
steamships owned by Isthmian Steamship Company:
- 25 South Street, New York, New York
- 50 Trinity Place, New York, New York
- 2727 South 16th Street, Philadelphia, PA
|Name of Vessel||Date||Rating|
|SS Steel Traveller||June 10 1925||unknown|
|SS Steel Maker||c.1924-1930||unknown|
|SS Fairfield City||Sept 1931- Aug 1932||A.B.|
|SS Steel Seafarer||1932, 1940||Bosun|
|SS Steel Navigator||1933, Aug-Oct 1942||Bosun|
|SS Steel Mariner||1934||Bosun|
|SS Chickesaw City||1935, 1941||Bosun|
|SS Steel Ranger||Nov 1940-Jul 1941||Bosun|
|SS Steel Worker||1941, 1942||Bosun|
|SS Knoxville City||1942||Bosun|
SS Steel Maker was sunk by a U-654 Submarine (Oberleutnant zur See Ludwig Forster)
on 20 April 1942, 350 miles east of Wilmington N. Carolina. Frank was among the
47 survivors rescued.
SS Knoxville City was torpedoed and sunk on 2 June 1942 by a U-158 Submarine
(Kapitanleutant Erwin Rostin). Frank was one of the 53 survivors rescued.
Looking at the history of the other vessels he sailed on, I have to wonder just how
many other narrow misses Frank experienced. With exception of SS Steel Ranger and
SS Steel Mariner which were both eventually broken up, and SS Steel Traveller sunk
in 1944, all the other vessels were sunk by a mine or torpedo in 1942 during
World War II.
Pictures of Frank are indeed rare, I have however found two images in his Service
records etc. which if nothing else will tell us what he looked like.
The photo at the top was taken in New York c.1930.
Taken in New York c.1942.
Believed to have been personally created by Frank in memory of his cruise
to the Orient China and Japan 1930s.
The picture has faded over the years (background silk was originally a vivid purple).
The top embroidery reads "IN MEMORY OF MY CRUISE TO THE ORIENT CHINA AND JAPAN".
The lower embroidery reads: "SS STEEL MAKER MAR 1930 FRANK H W GREAVES".
The in-set photo bottom left is my father, Alfred Edward Lane (added later). The
other photo to the right is Frank's original.
Taken on SS Steel Maker sometime around 1930.
My mother Mrs Ada Jane Ethel Lane formerly Greaves died in 1998. During her lifetime
she constantly wondered what happened to her Brother Frank. She knew he was lost at
sea but that was about all. I believe my mother also never knew she had other siblings;
as she only ever talked about "Frank".
Frank Harold Greaves was lost at sea on Oct 19 1942 when the Freighter SS Steel
Navigator was struck by a torpedo from a German U-610 in the North Atlantic.
The U-610 Submarine with a crew of 35 was under the control of Kapitanleutnant
Freiherr Walter von Freyberg-Eisenberg-Allmendingen.
The following Telegram was sent to Frank's friend (next of kin) Miss Mona O'Malley at
2727 South 16th Street, Philadelphia, PA by Vice Admiral R. R Waesche Commandant
US Coast Guard on November 19 1942:
"The Navy Department deeply regrets to inform you that Frank Harold
Greaves is missing and presumed lost following action in the performance of his
duty and in the service of his country.............................etc."
Bosun A19 Frank Harold Greaves was recently granted "Veteran" status and awarded
the following medals, badges, citations and campaign ribbons, from U.S. Coast
Guard Sealift Support:
Dates of service prior to casualty are recorded as follows:
- Merchant Marine Service Emblem
- Merchant Marine Mariner's Medal
- Atlantic War Zone Medal
- Merchant Marine Combat Bar with Stars
- Victory Medal
- Honourable Service Button
- Presidential Testimonial Letter
|Ship Date||Discharge Date||Rating||Official Number||Vessel Name|
|07121941||25021942||Bosun||220380||SS Steel Worker|
|21051942||10061942||Bosun||221587||SS Knoxville City|
|19081942||19101942||Bosun||221857||SS Steel Navigator|
Frank Harold Greaves, U.S. Merchant Marine, hometown Philadelphia, PA, is honoured by
the Merchant Marine Organization as a World War II Honoree Killed in World War II,
on the National WWII Memorial in Washington, DC, on 17th Street between Constitution
and Independence Avenues. He may also be listed by name on the World War II Memorial
at San Pedro, Los Angeles, CA.
We have to presume Frank never married his long time friend and soul mate Miss
Mona O'Malley or have any children. So was the framed picture a wedding gift from
him to my parent in 1937, or did it in fact belong to Miss Mona O'Malley who graciously
sent it to my mother after Frank was reported missing in November 1942. This might
explain how my mother got to hear of Frank's fate, however for this to take place,
Miss Mona O'Malley would have had to know my parents home address in Leonard Stanley
at the time.
Michael John Lane
Nephew of Frank Harold William Greaves
5 March 2009
1 June 2010 (revised)