Captain Pritchard's memoirs

Submitted by pritchah on Thu, 01/19/2017 - 21:44

Capt, Thomas Pritchard, Commander R.D. R.N.R

Born at Bryn Coch Farm, Abererch Nr. Pwllheli, Carnarvonshire, N.Wales on September 24th 1877.

He wrote these memoirs whilst interned at Stanley Camp Hong Kong Dec 1941 - Aug 1944. He died in Stanley Camp.

His original notes were brought back by Capt. Albert Jones, "Mathan“, Pwllheli, friend and fellow internee.


Book type
Diary / Memoir
Dates of events covered by this document

Sample pages

I was 15 years old in the year 1893, a Farmer's son looking always away to sea watching the Portmadoc Schooners daily setting sail from Portmadoc. It was much against my father's and mother's will that I should take up the sea as a career, however I was bent on going and had made up my mind. So one fine afternoon Captain John Evans Gegin Abererch came to see me having heard that I wanted to go to sea (a strong boy). He offered me to go away with him in the Fishguard Lass - a small thing of…

We arrived in Cardiff in due course Captain's wife was on board - on arrival in Cardiff the crew were paid off and I went home for a short holiday and then went to London to go to School and prepare for my Master's Certificate, I went up after about three weeks at School and passed at first attempt (1902 - July). After spending a few weeks holiday at home I went to Liverpool after having having been offered a mate's job on the "Cambrian Warrior" which I refused to accept, I was offered 10/-…

I joined the R.N.R. In 1907 applied to the Company for time off to do my R.N.R. training which was granted me so I joined H.M.S. "Illustrious" (Battleship) at Portsmouth and was given a 1st. certificate in gunnery after 4 weeks training, also promoted to acting Lieutenant from Sub-Lt. R.N.R. I left H.M.S. Illustrious in some place in Ireland and proceeded to Devonport to go through a 3 months gunnery training. I obtained my gunnery Certificate which consisted of big gun training, machine gun…


I forwarded a copy of the memoirs to local maritime expert Dr Stephen Davies, and he replies:

The memoirs are indeed interesting. By the by, Captain Evans came from a small property called Y Gegin, Abererch, Pwlleheli now in Gwynedd but then, I think, Caernarvonshire - the manuscript was probably ill punctuated. Ditto for Captain Williams, who was from Clogwyn Bach, Trefor, Caernarvonshire. Basically what we are seeing is the way in Wales people, many, many of whom share a family name, are distinguished either by where they live/come from (as with the Captains) or what they do (as in Evans the Bread).

There are a number of things like this which could perhaps benefit from some editing - q.v. Port Germein in Australia, not Port Germain, Kirkcudbrightshire, not Kerchubreshire, Talcahuano, not Talcuano, Caleta Bueno, not Caleto Bueno and so on. For example there’s a right royal muddle as to where the good captain did his studying for his 2nd mate’s ticket (and presumably his other tickets up to his master’s in 1902) - this was the school in Limehouse founded by Captain Alfred Edward Nicholls in 1894, which in 1904 was moved to the new British Sailors’ Society premises on East India Dock Road (correct name) and became known as the King Edward VII Nautical School. Captain Nicholls died in 1907. The timings aren’t clear (my rough count of the voyaging, given a start in 1893, would be around 1899-1900 for the first visit without sufficient sea time for his 2nd mate’s) but the school would seem likely to still have been that of Captain Nicholls and in its original premises the exact location of which I am not sure of, save that it was in Limehouse.

Captain Nicholls, by the by, was the author of Nicholls's Concise Guide to the Navigation Examinations, first published in 1902, now in its 12th edition and still in print (though much revised!)!

There’s a heap more possibly interesting editing work - the background to his ships and voyages, the trades, the other personnel - which might serve to locate the narrative more firmly. 

Do we know whether the eccentric spelling is the good captain’s, or is it that of the transcriber? The Welsh hymn has been misremembered or mistranscribed - the opening two lines are "O fryniau Caersalem ceir gweled/Holl daith yr anialwch i gyd" (among many translations, "From Salem's fair heights we shall witness/Our way through the desert of life”).

Terrific, thank you very much. The ending is extremely poignant and moving.

Dr Stephen Davies

I've added the spelling corrections into the main text, using the format:
"((StephenD: Port Germein))"

Thanks very much for these comments Dr Davies. I am Captain Pritchard's grandson (on my father's side) and I originally typed up the handwrtten memoirs about 50 years ago. Forgive the miunderstandings and mis-types.

I think that the original manuscript is in Gwynedd Archives, Caernarfon. I mean to go over there one day and take a look at it, so if there's anyting particaulr you'd like me to check, please let me know.


Huw Pritchard