CWG: Lieutenant Ernest Hutchinson

Lieutenant Ernest Hutchinson

Ernest Henry Hutchinson was born in January 1878, one of four children to Dorothy Hutchinson, from Blyth, Northumberland. Details of Ernest’s father are sketchy and, by the time of the 1891 census, Dorothy seems to have been widowed and remarried, as her surname was now Alexander.

By this time Ernest was at school, and boarding with his aunt and uncle, but his siblings were all living with Dorothy and listed as ‘step-children’. Dorothy gave her employment as ‘housewife; husband at sea’, and it seems that this was likely her first husband’s job and, in fact, it would turn out to be her eldest son’s as well.

Ernest disappears from the census records for a while, but had readily taken to a life at sea. Over the next few years, he became certified as a Second Mate of a Foreign-Going Ship (1897), First Mate of a Foreign-Going Ship (1899) and Master of a Foreign-Going Ship (1904).

When war broke out, Ernest was seconded into the Merchant Navy. Sadly, his military records no longer exist, but during his time he attained the rank of Lieutenant. Ernest survived the war, and was retained as part of the Royal Naval Reserve, while continuing with his own sailing work.

At some point, Ernest married a woman called Emma Jane; documentation on the couple is scarce, so the date of the marriage is lost to time. The couple settled, however, in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, but do not appear to have had any children.

Ernest’s maritime career continued after the war. One of his commissions was as First Mate aboard the SS Treveal. This was a new vessel in 1919, making its maiden voyage from Glasgow to the Middle East. It then sailed on to Calcutta, and was on its way back to Dundee by the beginning of 1920.

A local Cornish newspaper took up the story.

The terrible toll of 36 lives were levied by the wreck of the St Ives steamer Treveal, off the Dorset Coast on Saturday morning. The crew totalled 43, only seven surviving.

The Treveal, 5,200 tons, one of the Hain fleet of steamers, was caught by a fierce gale during Friday night and was firmly wedged on the Kimmeridge Ledge, near St Alban’s Head.

A Portland tug and Swanage lifeboat came to her assistance, but were unable to lend any practical aid, and on Saturday morning the Treveal was abandoned in favour of the ship’s boats. The latter were soon capsized and only seven of the crew succeeded in reaching the shore.

West Briton and Cornwall Advertiser: Monday 12th January 1920.

The report went into much more detail about the tragedy, including “a warm tribute to the vicar of a parish nearby, the Revd. Pearce, who stood up to his neck helping to pull the men in. The vicar tried for an hour to resuscitate the First Mate [Ernest Hutchinson], but without success.

Another newspaper gave further information about Ernest’s funeral, and the impact of the shipwreck on his widow.

There was a simple but affecting scene in Weston-super-Mare Cemetery on Saturday afternoon, when the body of Chief Officer EH Hutchinson, one of the 35 victims in the wreck of the SS Treveal… was laid to rest.

It will be recollected that… the first tidings of his tragic fate reached the widow… through the columns of a Sunday newspaper. Only on the previous morning she had received a letter notifying the date on which the Treveal was due to reach Dundee – whither the major portion of her cargo has been consigned from Calcutta – asking him to meet her there.

Western Daily Press: Monday 19th January 1920

Ernest Henry Hutchinson drowned at the age of 42 years old. He was buried in the Milton Cemetery in his adopted home town of Weston-super-Mare in Somerset.


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