Wednesday, February 6, 2013



This is the next photo in the February Photo Collage Festival dreamt up by the lovely Julie at Angler's Rest and cleverly named by the lovely Pauleen at Family HIstory Across the seas.

Okay - let's have a change of gender.

This photograph is obviously a copy of a copy.

It bears the simple word "Gramps" on the back of it.

I am assuming it is Edwin Conner - my father's grandfather - because of the uniform and it's in my paternal grandmother's family album.

Edwin was born Christmas Day 1869 at 46 Albert Street, Portsea Island, Southampton in England and died in the Greycliffe disaster in Sydney Harbour 3 November 1927 at the age of 57 - nearly 58.  He was buried in the Methodist section of South Head Cemetery by a Salvation Army Minister.  There is a memorial page which I have just discovered on Find A Grave here.

The newspapers said he lived at 58 Salisbury Street Watson's Bay.

However his death certificate says he lived at 2 Military Road Watson's Bay.  He was stated as being a fitter or Royal Engine Artificer, to use a Naval term.

Edwin Conner married Eleanor Eliza Cook in Portsea 1892 at the age of 22 and they had three children - Constance, Lilian and Edwin Arthur James.  The family emigrated to Australia on the "Omrah" arriving in Melbourne May 6th 1912.  They moved to Sydney in 1920.

Edwin was in the Navy.

My father's memories of him are him working on Garden Island and catching the ferry home to Vaucluse every day.  Only he died before my father was born so they must be hand-me-down memories.   

This is the account of the recovery of Edwin's body from the Greycliffe - one of the last two bodies to be found in the wreckage.  Family hearsay has it that he was deaf and would have not heard any call for alarm.  Family legend had it that they found him at the bottom of the harbour still reading the paper.

I looked up Edwin's naval record on the National Archives website. And I also found his record on the equivalent on the British National Archives using their fabulous Discovery tool here.

Edwin commenced in the Royal Navy at the age of 19 on 17 March 1890.  He was described as 5ft 3 with dark brown hair.  His Australian record is similar and he has brown eyes and a fresh complexion.  No marks, wounds or scars.  

He served on the following ships

Victory I & II
Vivid II
Duke of Wellington
Panche (?)
Terpsichore (?)

He came to Australia in 1912 and served on the following ships:

Eliza (?)

I think the medals he is wearing on his jacket are for Long Service and Good Conduct.  At last that's what I have tried to decipher from the acronyms on his Australian Naval Record - LS and GC. I think the Navy was sparing with its praise.

Various addresses on his Australian record include:

10 ???Forte or Jonte???Avenue, Glen Huntley, Victoria
122 Asling ??? Street Garden Vale, Melbourne

and then

Fitzwilliam Road Vaucluse
Salisbury Street Vaucluse

In 1919 he was paid 48 pounds 10 shillings compensation for "Marsina" 20 June 1916 - this needs investigating.

He was also paid the final share of a Naval Prize Fund 37 pounds....what does this mean???  Ah, good old Wikipaedia has the answer.  

I think this is in connection with the capture of the SS Komet - later renamed the Una.  And it was the Una that came to the rescue of the "Marsina" according to this article...

Goodness - I think that's enough for one day.


Aillin O'Brien said...

Alex, you've obvious done a lot of research into the Navy records, well done. How tragic that Edwin may not have heard any calls of alarm :(

Kristin said...

If he was really at the bottom of the bay still reading the paper maybe it was a blessing he didn't hear the call if he still would have been killed. I guess I have to read the links to find out the details. Very interesting. Maybe even more so since I spent yesterday piecing together my great uncles USA navy record.

Alex Daw said...

Dear Aillin - Thank you for your comment. I feel a bit frustrated with the naval research actually - some it is very difficult to read - particularly the Australian record - some of it seems to be written in faint pencil. And yes, it was a tragic accident and it is interesting how the family stories seem to make light of it when it must have been so very very sad. Some of the newspaper accounts are very sobering. It was an afternoon ferry so there were some school children aboard. I forgot to mention that Steve Brew has written a book called Greycliffe - Stolen Lives about the disaster as well. Alex

Alex Daw said...

Dear Kristin - Thank you for your comment. Ooh another type of naval record - I'd like to see an American one. I look forward to reading about your discoveries. Alex