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 hush over Nazareth falls.

There’s a cool, quiet church standing near to the road;

‘Tis built o’er the place where once Jesus abode

With Mary and Joseph so long, long ago,

That sacred spot soon this pilgrim will know.

There’s a tiny French nun at the gate to be found,

Her privileged task – to guide pilgrims around.

Six soldiers accost her – she motions us in

And each shows a sign of his feeling within.

The old crumbling walls – the world we’ve forgot

In this nearness to Christ in this so hallowed spot.

We kneel in the room where once Jesus did live

And in divers tongues our humble thanks give.

Three Negroes, two Anzacs, the French nun and I,

We knelt there in silence as minutes sped by.

Departing, reluctant to return to the world

Where Christian ‘gainst Christian in battle is hurled.

As the bus groaned its way to the top of the hill

I looked back and could see quiet Nazareth still.

The old road that Christ and Crusaders once knew …

The bus topped the hill and it faded from view.

Joseph Cummings R.I.P.

Killed in action at sea a few months later.