Mitcham Tooting Mercury
2nd October, 1914
As stated last seek, there were at least two Mitcham men on the boats sunk by the German submarines in the North Sea, viz., W. J. Richardson of Marian road Lonesome, and T. B. Smith, of Tamworth Cottage, Commonside East. The former was on the Aboukir, and the latter on the Cressy. Neither of their names appeared in the official list of those saved, and though nothing has been heard of the man Richardson, Smith made a dramatic reappearance on Sunday evening. Enquiries at the Admiralty on Saturday evening led to the worst fears being entertained, and the family had practically given up all hope of seeing the boy again, when, on Sunday evening, he arrived home. The nature of the surprise and pleasure at the home-coming can be imagined, if not described.
When seen by a representative of the “Mercury,” the gallant “Jack” was looking the worse for his experience, though, as a matter of fact, be was still feeling the effects of the ordeal through which he had gone. The agonising cries when the boat went down and we were all in the water, he stated, were something awful and I only hope I shall never have such an experience again. “Don’t you want to go back?” asked our representative. “Oh, yes I want to have a smack at the Germans. I must have something for my money, you know.”
The gallant tar confirmed the published reports about the disaster, and explained that the first they on the Cressy knew anything was amiss was when someone shouted “The Aboukir’s gone.” Shortly after the first alarm was raised, a torpedo struck the Cressy, and the boot immediately began to sink. At the time he was on duty as a stoker, and he and his mates kept the fires going until further effort was useless and then went on deck. Only a few minutes elapsed before the Cressy went to the bottom. For two hours and a quarter we was swimming about in the water, … feeling much exhausted when picked up by a Dutch trawler and taken to Holland. A Dutch fishing smack turned tail on us.
“We sunk a German submarine,” he proudly exclaimed. “We were treated very well in Holland and could not have been treated better at home.” The survivors on the trawler were taken some distance inland, and then brought back to Flushing on Saturday, where they embarked for Chatham, arriving there on Sunday morning. Stoker Smith was a seaman for six years, and, strange to relate, his first voyage was on the Cressy, which then went to South African waters. From there he went to Malta, and, while at that station, the Messina earthquake occurred, and for the plucky assistance he rendered on that occasion, he was awarded the Italian medal. His father was in the Army, and saw some fighting in Pekin in 1899, while a brother is with the Allied Forces in France. As to how he is getting on it is impassible to say, inasmuch as no word has been beard of him since he left England in August.
With regard to Richardson, he leaves a widow and five little children.
Richardson, W. J. is on the Mitcham War Memorial
For more details on W.J. Richardson, see the Mitcham War Memorials blog