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25th July 2013

Thursday, 25th July 2013 is the 70th anniversary of the death of Joseph Cummings – buried in Syracuse, Sicily. We shall remember him.

MV Fishpool – sunk 23rd July 1943

M.V. Fishpool was apparently an unlucky ship. She was bombed in the  North Atlantic  in November 1940 on her maiden voyage.  Captain Hill, 10 officers and 16 men were killed. She was abandoned and eventually towed back to the Clyde.

On 9th May 1941 she was bombed whilst in Barrow.

 The Fishpool was bombed again, set alight and sank by German aircraft in July 1943. She was carrying 1,000 tons of aviation spirit and 4,000 tons of munitions.

MV Fishpool

MV Fishpool sunk 25th July 1943, Syracuse, Sicily

The following is courtesy of Tony Wilding:

SS FISHPOOL (2), 4,950grt, built 1940, (ON. 160785) Sunk in an air raid at Syracuse on the 26th July 1943 while discharging ammunition and aviation spirit brought from Alexandria killing 23 crew and 5 DEMS gunners. 18 survived. Earlier in the war on the 14th November 1940 the Fishpool had been sailing from the Tyne to Vancouver in ballast when she was hit by seven incendiary bombs South-West of Rockall killing several crew. The ship was abandoned and one lifeboat with 15 crew was never seen again. The ship was taken in tow and repaired. Also on the 9th May 1941 while loading stores at Barrow-in-Furness the ship was again damaged by a parachute mine, which detonated next to the ship killing 2 crew.

Letter from Regimental Paymaster, Royal Artillery

This letter was sent to Joseph’s mother on 6th January 1944. It appears that a pension of some description of seven shillings a week (about 35 pence now) that she was receiving for Joe was stopped and a letter of great insensitivity sent to her:


Letter from Regimental Paymaster, Royal Artillery

Letter of Condolence – King George VI

This is the letter that was sent to my grandparents from Buckingham Palace expressing the condolences of the royal family:

Letter from King Geoge VI

Letter from King Geoge VI

War Office letter – death details

The following letter confirms the Joe was killed on his ship when it was sunk in the harbour. No details of the ship’s name (Merchant Vessel Fishpool) or what the harbour was (Syracuse). This was no doubt for security reasons. Apparently there were some survivors but Joe wasn’t amongst them

War Office letter confirming death on board ship

War Office letter confirming death on board ship in harbour

Joseph Cummings

This photograph was taken  at Gee H. Rowland and Son, photographers, 29, King Street, Oldham. The Royal Artillery cap badge can be clearly seen. I am not sure why he went to Oldham for this when he lived in Withington, Manchester


Nazareth – by Joseph Peter Cummings – 1943 ‘Mid dust-cloud and fumes the bus grinds to a still Unloads, then reloads, and has roared up the hill. And softly peace steals to the sun-soaked white walls And a deep, holy … Continue reading

Joseph Cummings – Grave in Syracuse

Here is the grave of Joseph Peter Cummings, Gunner, 1st Regiment, Royal Artillery Maritime:

Rank: Gunner
Regiment/Service: Royal Artillery
Unit Text: 1 Maritime Regt.
Age: 32
Date of Death: 25/07/1943
Service No: 1809118
Additional information: Son of Robert and Margaret Cummings, of West Withington, Manchester.
Grave/Memorial Reference: III. D. 13.

Photo link to website of 1° Institute “ M. BARTOLO “, Pachino, (Sicily)

Joseph Cummings - Grave

Joseph Cummings - Grave, syracuse

Regiment details

 Extract from Lochwinnoch newspaper:

The Armistice Day Service this year will be the first not to be attended by a resident who served in the 1st Regiment Maritime Royal Artillery during the Second World War. This regiment had two batteries and the HQ of one was located here in Lochwinnoch from 1941-45. It was sited next to the Lochhead Furniture & Cabinet Work, affectionately and more frequently referred to as the Klondyke. The officer in charge was Colonel Dunkeld who reported directly to the man in overall command of the Maritime organisation, Major George Ewart whose office was in Cockspur Street in London.

Before the end of 1945 the barracks were closed. Captain Geoffrey Tharme R.A. was one of many serving members of the Regiment who married local lassies and stayed on in the village. Others who did so and made contributions in a variety of ways to post-war village life included Eugene Flanagan, Arthur Cusworth, George Jepson, Bobby Bryce, Bill Love, and John Scales. Sadly the last of these men died a few weeks after Armistice Day 2006. With his passing a page if not a chapter of local social history has been turned. Whoever is asked to lay the wreath on the memorial plaque to the regiment in the Parish Church this November will be doing so in a year when perhaps we should give an extra thought for the 1st Regiment Maritime Royal Artillery.

Newspaper Notices

I have found  a newspaper notice concerning Joe’s death, probably from the Manchester Evening News:

CUMMINGS. _ Gunner J.P. Cummings (Maritime Regiment), posted as missing at sea July. the third and loved son of Mr and Mrs Robert Cummings, 81 Mauldeth Road West, Withington. Any information will be gratefully appreciated