People on board
JEFFRIES, Arthur Henry
Arthur Jeffries was born in Chesterton, north east of Cambridge, in 1891. He was son of Richard Henry and Alice Bertha Jeffries. His father’s occupation was Butler. In 1901 the family were living in Clapham, London where his father, Richard, was working as an usher. There were 3 children; Arthur, a daughter, Gladys, and another son, Eric.
Arthur Jeffries was educated at St. George’s School, Battersea, and St. Luke’s School, Cambridge
Arthur commenced his career, as an apprentice in electrical engineering, with Messrs. B. Newton and Ward Brothers, of Cambridge. Arthur trained at the British School of Telegraphy, London. He later joined the Seaforth School of the Marconi Company and trained as a Marconi Radio operator, with a 1st Class qualification and was employed by the CDSPCo.
The Marconi system had been successfully used to transmit results of the Royal St. George Yacht Club Regatta in 1898 from a boat in Dublin Bay to Marconi’s land station in Kingstown Harbour. In the 1911 Census Arthur was recorded as “Marconi Operator” on the RMS Leinster in Kingstown harbour.
His would have been a skilled job as the use of Marconi radio was a relatively recent introduction on commercial ships with Marconi Radio Officers first going to sea in 1900.
In 1914 Arthur married Margaret Torkington (née Smith) in Dublin. Margaret, a widow, was living in Kingstown with 2 children by her first marriage, Olivette born 1902, and Charles born 1905. Margaret’s first husband, Thomas Torkington, had died in 1913.
Arthur and Margaret lived in Monastir Lodge, Glenageary Road, Kingstown. A son, Arthur Henry St. George, was born in April 1916.
Arthur was the radio operator on the RMS Leinster on 10th October 1918. The radio operator on the RMS Ulster later reported that he exchanged the usual greeting with the RMS Leinster as they passed that morning. He got a reply and then immediately “S.O.S. S.O.S. S.O.S. Torpedoed Torpedoed Torpedoed”.
Arthur Jeffries did not survive the sinking. His body was recovered and he was buried in the family grave in Deansgrange Cemetery. He is also commemorated on the War Memorial unveiled, in October 1919, in the Mariners’ Church in Dun Laoghaire, now the National Maritime Museum.
Charles Torkington, Arthur’s stepson, who played hockey at senior level for Kingstown Grammar School, died in a shooting accident in Anglesey in 1923.
Arthur’s stepdaughter, Olivette married Frank H. Stringer in England in 1932 and they returned to Dun Laoghaire, living in Mellifont Avenue, later moving to England. Their children subsequently emigrated to Canada.
Arthur’s widow, Margaret, moved to London with her son, Arthur Henry St. George, and in 1939 they were living in Hampstead, London. His mother is believed to have run a Tea Room on Hampstead Heath. She died in Hampstead in 1964 at the age of 88.
Her son was apparently a talented musician and worked with the Cunard Company in the late 1940s in the band on the S. S. “Media”, a “1st class only” liner between Liverpool and New York. He died in Hampstead in 1977.
Arthur Jeffries, Radio Operator: His world.
Arthur Jeffries, husband and father, was just 27 years old when he died on 10th October 1918 as a result of the sinking of R.M.S. Leinster. Like all ships Radio Officers of the time, and indeed all to follow, Arthur knew, that in times of emergency on board ship, his only responsibility was to the safety of lives on board. So, although Arthur died on that fateful day, he did so while bravely and honourably fulfilling his duty by transmitting an SOS message.
Arthur would have been aware of the danger. Although relatively new to ships, Radio Officers were already playing an important part in the safety of lives at sea during WW1, and over 170 British Radio Officers had already paid with their lives. Sadly, this figure was to be outdone in WW2 when a figure exceeding 1400 British Radio Officers were lost.
The first British merchant ship to be fitted with Wireless Radio was the Beaver Lines ‘Lake Champlain’ in 1901. Initially the introduction of Wireless Radio and Radio Operators to shipping by Marconi was seen as more of commercial importance than for safety reasons.
Before its introduction, communications between ships owners/merchants and the ship were largely limited to when the ship reached port. With Wireless Radio, the ship could be advised of weather conditions and/or changes in destination ports to avail of better prices in the sale or purchase of cargo.
Famously, on the 31st July 1910, Ship to Shore wireless radio played a major role in the speedy identification and arrest of the infamous murderer Dr. Crippen, when he boarded the S.S. Montrose to flee to Canada. How exciting this must have been to the 19-year-old Arthur Jeffries as he set out on his career as a young Radio Operator.
With the introduction of Passenger Liners, there was also the opportunity to charge passengers for the privilege of sending messages to shore stations for onward delivery to loved ones. Indeed, confusion arising from the commercial demands on the Radio Officers on board R.M.S. Titanic on the 14th to 15th April 1912 may have played a part in the tragic sinking and delayed rescue efforts for Titanic. However, like Arthur Jeffries, R.M.S. Titanic Radio Officer Jack Phillips, age 25, lost his life while ensuring that an SOS message was sent. This is, incorrectly, sometimes considered to be the first use of the new distress signal SOS; however, the SOS distress signal was adopted in 1906 and was first used in 1910 by a ship named Minihaha.
In recognition of the role played by wireless radio and Radio Officers in the last 100 years of Maritime history, the National Maritime Museum of Ireland has a dedicated display showing some of the radio equipment used over the years. These include Radio receivers from the 1930/40s and the 1960/70s, as well as Direction Finding equipment, a Lifeboat emergency radio, and a radio from a Submarine.
As a way of demonstrating the tasks and difficulties facing ships radio officers the Museum also has an Amateur Radio station. This station can be used to demonstrate - to an audience, whose main experience of wireless radio communication may be through their mobile phone - these tasks and difficulties.
The station also played a part in the 2018 Centenary commemorations for R.M.S. Leinster. Through the use of a Special Radio Licence and Call Sign EI100MCV, which contains the original Radio Call Sign of R.M.S. Leinster (MCV), the station brought the story of R.M.S. Leinster to a worldwide audience, communicating, through voice or Morse code with over 3,000 other amateur radio stations from various countries, with 11,000 views from 64 countries on our web page, https://www.qrz.com/db/EI100MCV.
In the days before and after the 10th October 2018 there was a link between EI100MCV and a station in Holyhead using the call sign GB100MCV to mark the R.M.S. Leinster Centenary and the close bond between the two Harbour towns.