A fitting final epitaph for Able Seaman Harry Tisson

I recently asked for your help in discovering information about Able Seaman Harry Tisson, who was severely injured when the sloop HMS Foxglove was attacked on July 9, 1940, off the Isle of Wight.

Sunday, 20th November 2016, 6:36 am
Harry Tisson aged about 35.

Although it was reported that he died of wounds some seven months later, it appears that was not the case. For on February 17, 1941, this obituary notice was published in The Evening News:

TISSON - In loving memory of my dear husband, Harry, who was drowned February 16th, 1941 – always remembered by his darling wife, Violet, and children. Kenneth, Doreen, and Percy.

It is only those who have lost can tell the parting of a loved one without farewell.

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As I reported, Harry’s granddaughter Wendy believed he was drowned in Cardiff Docks and this seems to back that up. But why was he in Cardiff?

Is it possible he was on leave there, went swimming and, because of his injuries, drowned? But why go swimming in February, and why in the docks?

I made several phone calls to Cardiff newspapers to see if anyone could help and I eventually got through to local historian Tony Wallaway, who is my counterpart for WalesOnline based in Cardiff. Tony searched the local papers from that period to see if there was anything reported about the drowning, but he found nothing.

I showed this picture to Mike Hill who says: ‘The photo shows Harry sporting three good conduct badges and probably the Long Service and Good Conduct medal which is awarded after 15 years’ service.

‘I suspect he joined up at the outbreak of the First World War or even earlier and in normal circumstances would have retired on reaching 40. Service in the RN reserve might have followed leading to call up in 1939.’

His eldest son Kenneth was born on June 16, 1929, so the photo was taken in December and probably sent out with the Christmas cards that year. Kenneth would be joined by a sister Doreen in 1932 and a brother Percy in 1938.

The 1939 register has the family living at Riga Terrace, Hilsea, Portsmouth, with Harry shown as an AB serving in HMS Rosemary, a sloop built in 1915.