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Frank Harold William Greaves


Isthmian Steamship Company
U.S. Merchant Mariner, WWII
KIA, North Atlantic, 19 October 1942
Merchant Ship SS Steel Navigator

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. Lowestoft 1903.

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:
  • 25 South Street, New York, New York
  • 50 Trinity Place, New York, New York
  • 2727 South 16th Street, Philadelphia, PA
Before enlisting in support of the war effort, Frank sailed on the following steamships owned by Isthmian Steamship Company:
Name of VesselDateRating
SS Steel TravellerJune 10 1925unknown
SS Steel Makerc.1924-1930unknown
SS Fairfield CitySept 1931- Aug 1932A.B.
SS Steel Seafarer1932, 1940Bosun
SS Steel Navigator1933, Aug-Oct 1942Bosun
SS Steel Mariner1934Bosun
SS Chickesaw City1935, 1941Bosun
SS Steel RangerNov 1940-Jul 1941Bosun
SS Steel Worker1941, 1942Bosun
SS Knoxville City1942Bosun

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:
  • 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
Dates of service prior to casualty are recorded as follows:
Ship DateDischarge DateRatingOfficial NumberVessel Name
0712194125021942Bosun220380SS Steel Worker
2105194210061942Bosun221587SS Knoxville City
1908194219101942Bosun221857SS 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)

Photo courtesy of John Pitts 2010 - All rights reserved.

SS Steel Navigator Crewmen Lost
from the
American Merchant Marine Veterans Memorial
South Harbor Blvd at West 6th St
San Pedro, CA 90731

"This striking memorial, the first national memorial to merchant seamen in the United States, was commissioned by a group of local seamen to honor merchant marine veterans from all wars. At the height of World War II, there were 215,000 merchant mariners, including many teenage boys too young to enlist in the military, and men classified as 4-F, yet caught up in the patriotic fervor that swept the country after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. According to official statistics, more than 6,795 civilian merchant seamen lost their lives in World War II for a causality rate of 1:32 (the highest casualty rate of any service); 600 were taken prisoner; and more than 650 of their ships were sunk. Unofficial statistics cite 8,651 merchant mariners killed at sea, 11,000 wounded, 1,100 died from their wounds ashore, 604 taken prisoner and 60 died in prison camps."

The information and photos on this page are courtesy of Michael John Lane 2009. All rights reserved.

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