A memorial at Tower Hill, London, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, commemorates the men and women of the merchant ships, including the crew of Persia, who died in both World Wars and “have no grave but the sea”.
There is a memorial for the Asian crew at the Indian Sailors’ Home in Mumbai and their names and the positions they held are documented at The National Maritime Museum.
Many of the European crew came from London and some like Head Saloon Waiter, William Dowling, moved into the area to be near the docks which at the time was at the hub of world trade. 14 crew members had direct links to what is now Newham.
William Allen, Able-bodied Seaman, born in West Ham
Edward Bellenger, 24, born in East Ham, electrician who had previously worked for East Ham Corporation Generating Company
Victor Gordon Berry, 22, Assistant Engineer, lived at 202 Plashet Grove, East Ham in 1915
Stuart W Boyd, Third officer from New Zealand and lived in Canning Town whilst qualifying for 2nd Mate’s certificate in 1906
Jemima Coster, Stewardess lived at 115 Monega Road, East Ham in 1915
F.A. Cotterell, 21 general servant and writer, born in Plaistow and lived at 13 Harcourt Avenue, Manor Park in 1915
Frederick Charles Croxson, 39 Travelling Chef, lived at 91 Browning Rd Manor Park Essex
William Henry Dowling, 24, Head Saloon Waiter, lived at 20 Morton Road, Portway, West Ham in 1915. Survived
Frank Godfrey, Cabin steward, lived at 177 Monega Road, East Ham in 1915. Survived
Edward Smith, 48, Hydraulic Winchman, born in Plaistow and lived at 16 Conway Street, Plaistow in 1915
Harold Ernest Turner, 43, 2nd Supernumerary Engineer, born in Stratford and lived at 31 Maryland Square, Stratford in 1915
George Walton, 2nd Saloon chef lived at 164 Mitcham Road, East Ham in 1915
Arthur S Wall, General steward, born in Canning Town and in 1911 was working as a tailor’s shop assistant at 118 Butchers Road, Victoria Docks, Canning Town
Assistant Engineer Victor Gordon Berry and the South Asian firemen and trimmers who worked around the boilers and furnaces, would have perished instantly when the port boiler blew up after the attack, unable to shut down the boilers which would have slowed the ship down, she sank within five minutes.
This stained glass window in All Saints Church, Forest Gate, easily overlooked in a church under threat of demolition, is dedicated to the memory of Victor Gordon Berry by his devoted parents, one tragic but untold story in the bigger picture of the sinking of the SS Persia.
William Dowling, 24, Head Saloon Waiter, lived in West Ham and survived the sinking. In the 1960s he started writing his memoirs including his account of surviving the SS Persia in memory of the people that lost their lives.
The grandson of William Dowling speaks of William’s early life and of his time living in Newham when he was working at sea. ‘A True Story, an account of the sinking of the “Persia”, December 1915’ a copy of which is in The National Maritime Museum, forms the basis of this interview.
“What a fine fellow he was”. ‘He had an adventurous spirit and wanted to get out and see the world a bit’