The Bower & Collier Family History

Research by Colin Bower

What was new in 2020?


What a terrible and momentous year

Covid-19 devasted our country hospitalising many and over 60,000 people dying. On a personal note we were fortunate being able to look after ourselves and get out for walks.

We did miss face to face contact with friends and family.

I was grateful to be able to continue Discussion Group activities and having the website to work on.

In 2020, I spent a lot of time on the Sinking of the SS Britannia project.

I received some information in the first week of the New Year and Decade!

Find the Lady!

The Rooke Family

The surname Rooke appears a number of times in the Calling Book that was kept by Mary (Fawcett) Murray when she lived in Everton near Milford and Milton (now New Milton).

A correspondent advised me that he is connected to the Rooke and Burrard families.

His grandmother was Lettice Rooke who married Gregor Hugh Grant. Lettice's father was Vice Admiral Eustace Rooke.

In the 1851 Census, details of Eustace Rooke's father are given as: George Rooke, Vicar of Embleton in Northumberland , Age 54, born Lymington, Hants.

Silk Weavers named Collier

The heyday of silk weaving in London was the 18th Century after Huguenot weavers had left religious persecution in France and had re-established themselves in London.

The 19th Century saw the decline of the industry with the survival of the fittest and many weavers impoverished.

Most of the silk weavers named Collier would have supplied well-to-do weaver merchants and manufacturers but I stumbled across one Silk Manufacturer named Collier, Robert Collier, Silk Manufacturer circa 1860-1880.

Surprisingly, it has been difficult to find out more about Robert Collier born c 1820-1840 (?) though an extraordinary amount about the firm that owned the business and factory.

Apologies if I have not transcribed all the information correctly.


1837- 1845 James Vavasseur apprenticed to James Carter

Owners of Business/Factory

1843, 1845 Carter & Vavasseur

1850 Carter, Vavasseur & Rix

1856 Vavasseur & Rix

1865 Vavasseur, Taylor & Collier (Taylor retired & dissolved Co-Partnership 31.12.1865)

1866 Vavasseur, Carter & Collier

1870 – 1880 Vavasseur, Carter & Collier

1885 Vavasseur, Carter & Co

1890-1898 Vavasseur, Carter & Coleman


James Vavasseur
John Rix
Arthur Conyers Taylor
Robert Collier
Edwin Jones Carter
James Coleman

Like some other firms, the Vavasseur firm had a sales office away from the factory:

Address of Office

3 Huggin Lane, Wood Street (1866)
3 Huggin Lane E C (1875)

Address of Factory

15-18 New Nichol Street, Shoreditch (1866)
19-23 New Nichol Street, Shoreditch (1875)

Research undertaken has been listed as an Appendix

Family History

Brecht One-Name Study

It was July before there were any further developments.

I was delighted to hear from a distant cousin from a branch of the family tree I had not heard from before.

The branch of the family is the Barnett-Brechts formed when Charles Brecht (brother of my Great Grandfather) married Julia Barnett:

The Barnett-Brechts

My cousin was able to provide some new useful information.

Saunders/Neville Family

Visits to Places of Interest

In reviewing the website's Photo Album in the Summer of 2020, I felt that I wanted to add details of our visit to Bovisand and Plymstock in May 2001.

In 1852, Henry Saunderes was transfered from the Coastguard Station at Atherton on the Isle of Wight to Bovisand Station, where he was Chief Officer.

On our visit, I obtained the booklet "Bovisand: Once a Fort now an Underwater Centre" by Arthur Clamp. The booklet has an aerial view of the headland showing Staddon Height Battery and the larger Fort Bovisand . The Coastguard Cottages are shown in the top right corner:

Fort Bovisand

Guns were needed to protect Plymouth Dockyard from the French Navy (they were never needed!). Fort Bovisand's guns were to cover the Eastern End Entrance to Plymouth Sound.

Coastguard Cottages, Bovisand

The booklet has a photo of the Coastguard Cottages on the left:

I also obtained a separate photo taken across Bovisand Bay from the car park we used:


In 1861, the Census shows Henry & Ann Saunders and their 2 children Francis and Charles living in Plymstock. A map shows Plymstock (in yellow) in relation to Bovisand. Plymouth Sound is in the top left corner:

Tragedy befalls Family

I had not realised the extent of the tragedy that befell the family. I knew that Henry Saunders died in Turnchapel, Plymstock in 1867 (age 56) and his son Francis died there in 1869 (age 28).

I had never been able to trace either Ann or Charles in the 1871 Census.

Using an Ancestry search, I found an entry for a death in Jan-March 1868 of an Ann Saunders (age 57) in Plympton. Disease must have been rife.

After 3 deaths in 1867, 1868 and 1869, of the family it just left Charles my great grandfather.

He was apprenticed in London in 1863-1866 and married in Plaistow in 1876 but his whereabouts in 1871 are still unknown. Perhaps he was at sea.

Sinking of the SS Britannia

I thought that I would review the contents of this research project and found that there were some gaps:


The book, German Raiders of World War II was not listed as part of Dad's memorabilia which came my way

There was not an article on the Thor itself.

There were inconsistencies in reports on the number of crew and passengers on the Britannia and how many survived.

Actions taken and planned

I typed a short initial report on the Thor:

The Thor

and decided that some time I would type up:

- Lt. Commander West's account & Lt Rowlandson's account (both in the book Lifeboat Number Seven) and

- the relevant entry about the Thor in the book, German Raiders of World War II.

Also I would read through all the paperwork and:
- list the various accounts of the numbers of people on the Britannia and how many survived.
- collate all the different references to the people onboard the Britannia

Changes Made

During the review I made the following changes:

- I changed the order of the  "Other Websites" page

- I added to the Other Websites:

- an extract from an account by Dave Mathieson on the voyage made by Lifeboat No 7
- the extraordinary story of the Britannia's ship's surgeon Nancy Miller
- a link to Memorials to 123 people, mostly crew, who did not survive the sinking

- I added some more books to the list of Dad's memorabilia

- I added an article about the German surface raider Thor

- Changing the list of signatures of Dad's Menu from J. Wheater to J. Leach, as J. Wheater was in Lifeboat No 7

- Changing the list of passengers to 281

Out of the Blue

It is extraordinary that I still get the occasional enquiry and/or information from new contacts, after all these years.

When I updated the "Other Websites" page, I said that apart from the amazing photo of the survivors in Lifeboat No 5 and the extraordinary story of Nancy Miller, the ship's doctor, I had not been able to obtain many references to the survivors of Lifeboat No 5.

"Other Websites"

This was to change quickly when the son of one of the survivors brought my attention to an account of his father's experience that had been placed in the main SS Britannia website:

Thomas Caldwell's account

NB Click on the "diary" link

In his account Thomas Caldwell lists the 65 occupants of  Lifeboat No. 5 by category but not their names. He says that 63 surviuved as against 51 previously provided.

He noted that one of the destroyers in the escort from Liverpool was American.

Lifeboat No 5

The survivors of Lifeboat No 5 were picked up by the Bachi on 26th March the day after the sinking.

They were later transfered to the Anchor Line ship Cilicia and taken to Freetown, thus avoiding internment in the Canaries like some other survivors.

Photo Album

I updated the contents of the Photo Album

Photo Album

Leslie Duck

Leslie Duck's son contacted me to point out that I had listed his father as "D. Luck (?)" instead of L. F. Duck, in Column 1 of the Cabo de Hornos menu.

It appears that his father was in the same lifeboat (No 3) as my father and also rescued by the Cabo de Hornos.

Leslie Duck was in the Royal Navy from October 1940 - 1946 and his port division was Chatham.

When the Cabo de Hornos went to Santa Cruz, Tenerife with the survivors, Leslie Duck, like other services personnel, was interned for 6 months.


I added links to the Personal Stories and Press Reports in the main website including the graphic story of survival on a raft written from 2nd Lt Cox's notes:

Rescue from a raft per 2nd Lt. Cox

Names Index

I completed a list of the names mentioned so far in this website and othe websites linked.

Names Index

There are a number of other indexes to be discovered.

Account of "Other Survivors" including an account by Lt. Rowlandson in the book, Lifeboat Number Seven

I did something that I have wanted to do for a long time and typed some extracts from the chapter "Other Survivors" which includes an account by Lt. Rowlandson.

Account by Lt. Rowlandson and "Other Survivors"

It is very valuable information but it does throw up 2 mysteries:

1. In Lt Rowlandson's Account

The Cabo de Hornos rescued seven people in Lieutenant A.D. Hunteer's waterlogged boat but I have not been able to trace his signature on the Cabo de Hornos menu (but see below).

From Lt.Commander West's account, that follows, it appears that this was Lifeboat Number Ten.

I would love to know the names of the other six survivors.

In Lt. Commander West's Account which follows

Lifeboat Number Three under Commander Spurgeon picked up Fourth Officer W. Leitch and two Naval officers, who had left Britannia in a small dingy.

They had joined a water-logged lifeboat in which were Captain Collie, the Chief Officer, Second Officer, Purser and Third Wireless Operator together with a number of others.

From Lt. Rowlandson's account, this lifeboat appears to have been Lifeboat Number Four.

There appears to be some confusion over what happened to the occupants of Lifeboat Number Four.

W. Leitch signed the Cabo de Hornos menu but we know from a list of  Memorials that, for example the Captain ad the Chief Officer did not survive.


It would be good to get some clarification about what happened to the occupants of Lifeboat Number Four.

SS Raranga

At present I don't know much about the survivors in the lifeboat that were rescued by SS Raranga and taken to Montevideo

Anthony Griffin

On searching the internet, I did find an entry for Anthony Griffin, Officer, R.N. who was sailing to Cape Town on the Britannia but rescued by the Raranga.

Some of the Britannia's survivors went on to have illustrious Naval careers like William MacVicar who went from Third Officer to Senior Captain and Ian McIntosh who became Vice Admiral Sir Ian Stewart McIntosh. Though none more tha Anthony Griffin who became Admiral Sir Anthony Templer Frederick Griffith Griffin who ran the Navy! (Controller of the Navy 1971-1975)

A Voyage Around My Mother

Eleanor Stewart has published a paperback, A Voyage Around My Mother (2016), about her mother Mrs Mary Stewart another survivor of the sinking.

Reading the preview on the internet, I could not find the number of her lifeboat (there were about 56 occupants), so I ordered a copy of the book!

Even in the preview, a number of other people in the lifeboat are named:

Ted Boddle
Mrs Harrison
Second Officer Lt. Frank Parker
Miss Phelps, a nurse and
The Quartermaster, not named

There were also some Goanese Stewards in the lifeboat

(A quick look at the book reveals that the survivors were picked up by the SS Raranga and taken to Montevideo but the Lifeboat Number is not given)

Tower Hill Monument, London

I keep finding more websites that provide more information and sometimes a great deal. One such has references to a number of stewardesses who did not survive the sinking:

Janet F. Todd, Chief Stewardess (age 51)
Mary Bernadine Hind (age 30)
Annie Seatter (age 48) and
Sarah Struthers (age 48)

Memorial to Janet Todd

Their names also appear on the Tower Hill Monument to members of the Merchant Navy on the Britannia who died without a grave.

I must admit I had not heard of the Monument before and have typed up some information including the panel that has a list of 30 people on the Britannia who did not survive the sinking.

Tower Hill Monument


Earlier in the year, I added a link to a website that has a link to a detailed list of 127 people who did not survive the sinking and did not have a known grave:


I decided that it would be useful to have a simpler list in my website:

Extracts of details of 127 people who have no known grave

Tony Sangster, R.N

One of the names in Dad's Cabo de Hornos menu, that was difficult to read, was that of Anthony d'Evelyn Trevor Sangster (which I had read as Sangsta Ad'ET)

Fortunately, there is a reference to him on the internet:

Tony Sangster, R.N.

Tony Sangster was en route to Bombay. It appears that he was in Lifeboat Number 10, which the above website says had 52 occupants of which just 9 were picked up after 5 days by the Cabo de Hornos (In Lt Rowlandson's account 7 people were rescued).

Tony Sangster wrote a 180 page memoir of his service in the Royal Navy. It would be interesting to read his account of the sinking.

Casualty Lists of the Royal Navy and Dominion Navies, World War II

I came across a website: which had Casualty Lists of the Royal Navy and Dominion Navies, World War II:

Full details of casualties in website:

Under the date 25 March 1941, there is a list of casualties for "Britannia, steamship"

I have extracted a list with some of the detail that might be useful to researchers:

list extracted from website:

Fuller details are given in website:

Jean McClure Millar - Roll of honour for Civilian Dead World War II

Another website lists civilian Jean Millar, who did not survive the sinking:

Jean McClure Millar

Lifeboat Number Seven - Account by Lieut. Commander Frank West M.B.E.

I completed my look at the book, Lifeboat Number Seven by typing up some extracts about the convoy and the fate of the lifeboats:

Extracts from the book, Lifeboat Number Seven

I did not attempt a summary of the lifeboat's journey to Brazil. There are various accounts available though Frank West's is the most detailed because he kept a log throughout and consulted with other survivors afterwards to produce a remarkable account.

German Raiders of World War II

I cannot remember a year like this one where I have continued to work on a project through the Summer. In October with Covid restictions in place and the onset of Autumn weather, I turned my attention to another of the major sources, the book by August Karl Muggenthaler which includes information about the German raider, Thor.

The book was first published in 1978 and an editioin was among my father's memorabilia. The author cast his net wide to put together an account of the sinking of a passenger ship, albeit with a lot of forces personnel aboard.

The content about the Britannia is written from both the German and British points of viuew. He attempts to deal with the decision taken by the Captain of the Thor to pick up just one survivor.

The book is very useful in that I feel that I can come to a conclusion on:

- the ships in the convoy from Liverpool
- what happened to each lifeboat
- how many passengers& crew survived the sinking

I have typed up some extracts from the book leaving out some of the upsetting and grisly detail:

Extracts from the book, German Raiders of World War II

There are a few names only mentioned in the section of the book about the Britannia but I have added them to the Names Index:

Names mentioned in the book, German Raiders of World War II

After all these years, for the first time I have come to the shocking and dreadful conclusion that approx 300 of the approx 500 passengers & crew did not survive the sinking. Taking all the different accounts of the carnage and chaos on the Britannia on 24 March 1941 into account, approx 200 did not make it to the lifeboats and approx 100 did not survive on a raft or in an overcrowded lifeboat on meagre rations (particularly in Lifeboat No. 7 and Lifeboat No. 10)

A sober conclusion.

Other Entries on the Internet

I am sure that there are still many websites to discover. Three examples are:

1. The War Dead of North Down & Ards

Entry for William James Canavan, who was a barber on the Britannia

2. Entry in London Gazette 16 December 1941

In the Supplement, there are 4 Commendations:

"His Majesty has also been graciously pleased.... to approve the following Awards:

For courage and fortitude when SS Britannia was sunk by an Enemy Raider in Mid-Atlantic:

Commendation (Posthumous)

Lieutenant Frank Mosford Lyons, R.N.R.


Commander Stanley Herbert King Spurgeon; D.S.O., Royal Australian Navy

Lieutenant Arthur Haddon Rowlandson, Royal Navy

Lieutenant Richard Joseph Tadhunter, R.N.R.

Mr. William Frederick Morgan Davies, Warrant Shipwright, Royal Navy

Sister Phyllis Lucy Shipton, Q.A.R.N.N.S."

Beyond the Call of Duty

In his book, Brian Crabb has listed a full list of awards etc:

Beyond the Call of Duty

3. Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Their website lists 54 Civilian War Dead which I have extracted the names into an alphabetical list:

Civilian War Dead

Lifeboat No. 10

I put 2 and 2 toghether and have now the names of 3 of the 7 survivors from Lifeboat No. 10 and all 3 signed Dad's Cabo de Hornos menu:

Lt Richard Joseph Tadhunter, R.N. (see Note below)
Tony Sangster, R.N.
David Brown, R.N.

Lt. Tadhunter received a Commendatioin like another lifeboat commander Commander Spurgeon

Ian McIntosh and William MacVicar, who commanded Lifeboat No. 7 received MBEs.

In his account, Donald Brown said that he should have been in charge of Lifeboat No. 8 but he joined Lifeboat No. 10. Like Lt. Rowlandson, his own lifeboat got away before he could get in it.

According to this account, Lifeboat No. 10 took in the occupants of another lifeboat that was waterlogged.

NB Previously I had picked up that the commander of Lifeboat No. 10 was A.D. Hunter

A Voyage Around My Mother

I read the enjoyable book written by survivor Mary Stewart's daughter, which includes Mary's account of the sinking and the jouney to Montevideo by the Raranga, that picked up the survivors from the lifeboat, number still unknown:

A Voyage Around My Mother

Final Countdown

This year, I have made a concerted effort to develop the information on the Britannia in the website.

I decided to have a final stab at trying to reconcile the offical figures of 122 Crew Lost and 127 Passengers Lost:

Crew of the Britannia that were lost

Sources give the number of crew lost as 122, which I have wanted to prove.

I came across a list on the website, Ancestry, with 121 names including Mary Bernadine Hind, Supernumerary Stewardess and Steward, Salvadore Carneiro. (There is a pencil note that there is one name on the list that was a passenger).

The list has been badly transcribed so I have not typed it up.

I have been able to reconcile the list to the list of 127 Memorials:

that I had obtained previously.

The reconciliation is 127 less 8 people (including 2 Priests) who were not crew plus Mary Hind and Salvadore Carneiro, equals 121.

So I am happy to accept the figure of 121 or 122.

Passengers Lost

Somewhere there is the calculation of 127 passengers who were lost.

I have the list of 54 who died:

and another with 69 services personnel (mainly Navy) who died:

There may be a few more individuals to identify but currently the total I have is:

54 Civilians
69 Services Personnel
2 Priests
125 Total

So I am happy to accept the figure of 125 or 127 and move on!

Family History

Stanhope Rovers, Beckenham

It was a lovely surprise to be contacted by the son of someone I played football with. His father and I both played for Stanhope Rovers and I was able to provide him with a copy of the photo of the league-winning side in which his father played:

Football in the Family

On the downside, he told me that the local pub,the Rising Sun, had been turned into flats!

He also provided me with the names of some of the other plauers and a slip showing that his father had been selected to play for Stanhope:

Lists of Great, Great Grandparents and 3 x Great Grandparents

I found that I needed to update my list of our 2 x Great Grandparents:

List of Great, Great Grandparents

I also thought that it might be useful to have a list of 3 x Great Grandparents:

List of 3 x Great Grandparents

There are a number of gaps remaining that I thought I would gradually work through.

When I discover new information, I will change my records including the records of individuals.

Bower/Pitts Family

An example of this is the Bower/Pittrs family where I have set up a new record for Louisa Pinion/Pinnion:

Louisa Pinion/Pinnion

The parents of my 2 x Great Grandparent Mary Pitts were James Benjamin Pitts and Louisa Pinnion.

I did not know any more information about Louisa, so I did a few searches on Ancestry and found:

1. James Benjamin Pitts (1791-1839)
married 30.8.1812
Louisa Pinnion (1793-1838)
at Parsons Green, Fulham

2. Louisa Pinion bp 28.4.1793
(Parents William Pinion (1759-1826) and
Mary Smithers (1764-1830)
at St Peter& St Paul Church, West Clandon
- This came as a real surprise with the Bower Tree because Chris and I have been to the Chuch when researching the Collier/Peryer/Smith Tree (see below):

Visit to West Clandon

James Benjamin Pitts (Parents John Pitts and Elizabeth Bates) had a sister Elizabeth who married Christopher Bower

James Benjamin Pitts

Elizabeth Pitts

Jones/Counter Family

I hold a certificate for the marriage of:

John Jones (Father David Jones, School Master)
married 12.4.1841
Elizabeth Counter (Father Richard Counter, Excise Officer)
at St Matthew's, Bethnal Green

I did find out a little more on Ancestry:

1. Elizabeth Counter born 10.11.1815
bp 8.12.1815 at St Matthew, Bethnal Green
(Parents Richard Counter, Excise Officer& Elizabeth of Collingwood Street)

2. Richard Counter (1783-1855)
married 29.3.1804
Elizabeth Jones
at Old Church, St Pancras

3. A Richard Counter lived at 58 Clark Street, Mile End Old Town from 1833 for some years, per the Electoral Roll 1832-1965

I updated the individual records including Elizabeth Jones:

Elizabeth Jones

Smith/Nye Family

Elisha Smith married Mary Ann Nye in 1836. We knew from the 1861 and 1871 that Mary Ann was born c 1819 in Godalming.

Searches of Ancestry provided more information:

1. Mary Ann Nye bp 31.10.1819 in Godalming
(Parents James Nye Labourer of Bridge Street and Jane)

2.James Nye
married 22.6.1819 in Godalming
Jane Sly

3. 1841 Census
Bridge Street, Godalming

James Nye (50) Ag Lab
Jane Nye (47)
James Nye (19) Ag Lab
John Nye (16) Ag Lab
Henry Nye (11)
Jane Nye (6)
Charlotte Nye (2)
Samuel Walkford (65) Pensioner
Elizabeth Walkford (59)
William Nye (60) Ag Lab

I added the Census entries and updated the individual records inclding Mary Ann Nye:

Mary Ann Nye

While updating my records, I tried again to trace Elisha& Mary in the 1841 Census and found them despite the enumerator mis-spelling Elisha's name:

1841 Census

West Clandon, Surrey

(?)Elijah Smith (30)
Mary Smith (20)
John Smith (3)
Mary Smith (2 months)

All born in County

I updated the Census entries

Marjoram/Rookyard Family

We know the names of Chris' 2 x Great Grandparents and where and when they died:
- John Marjoram Died 3.1.1858 9 (Age 80) in Debenham
- Mary Rookyard Died 5.10.1878 (Age 95) in Debenham

From the Censuses, we know that the family lived in Debenham 1841-1871.

Unfortunately, the 1851 Census states that John and Mary were born in Debenham, whereas the 1861 and 1871 Censuses show that Mary was born in Westleton, Suffolk.

It is less easy to develop the tree because of the name variants and so far I have not traced the bp of either John or Mary.

Even their marriage has proved elusive with 2 genealogists claiming different dates:

St Michael, Occold, Suffolk

John Marjoram
married 9.12.1808
Mary Rockwood

(?) St Andrew, Bredfield, Suffolk

John Marjoram
married 19.4.1806
Mary Rockyard

I cannot find either marriage on Ancestry but appreciate that there are other sources I could use but for the moment their bps and marriage remain a mystery.

I did update the list of Census entries and added place of birth to Mary's record:

Mary Rookyard

Bower/Gardner Family

We have not made the same progress with the Gardner name as other names, though name variants are a known problem, as illustrated below.

After many years of trying, I traced the Gardner Family in the 1841 Census, which shows an elder child Martha.

The family were listed by the enumerator as Gardiner and transcribed on Ancestry as Gardina!

The illusive Edward is shown as a Baker but previously and subsequently was a Printer or Compositer:

1841 Census

34 (?) Ginger Street, St Giles in the Fields, Finsbury

Edward Gardiner (32) Baker
Martha Gardiner (31)
Martha Gardiner (11)
Edward Gardiner (9)
John Gardiner (7)
Mary Gardiner (3)

I updated the list of census entries

Good to end a strange and turbulent year on a high!

Colin Bower
19 December 2020

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