Relatives remember life of tragic soldier killed at sea 100 years on

Elizabeth Preni and Colin Jenner place a floral tribute to their great uncle William Crichton. Picture: Damien Maddock
Elizabeth Preni and Colin Jenner place a floral tribute to their great uncle William Crichton. Picture: Damien Maddock

A ceremony was held in Ireland to remember a young Falkirk man who tragically died at sea 100 years ago.

William Cowe Crichton was just 18 when the ship he was on board was hit by a torpedo from a German U-boat in the Irish Sea just a month before the armistice ended the First World War.

The act of remembrance was attended by Elizabeth Preni and Colin Jenner, grandchildren of William’s sister, Jesse, who had been researching their family history and discovered details of his devastating death.

William had been travelling on the RMS Leinster with the intention of returning home to his parents in the town’s Garrison Place on his first leave after enlisting as a mechanic with the Royal Air Force (RAF) six months earlier.

The sinking of the ship brought about the greatest single loss of life in the Irish Sea with more than 560 killed.

William was one of the first recruits in the newly-formed RAF and had been stationed in Ireland for just four weeks.

Elizabeth and Colin’s research also revealed his elder brother had been serving on the Western Front with the Seaforth Highlanders at the time.

An anniversary commemoration took place in Grangegorman Military Cemetery in Dublin, where William is buried, on Thursday, October 11 to allow relatives of all those who died in the sinking of the RMS Leinster to pay their respects a century on.

Military colours were paraded and a piper played a lament during the remembrance service, which included a laying of a wreath made of heather, thistle and Scottish wildflowers placed beside William’s headstone.

The cemetery acts as the final resting place for several military personnel who lost their lives that day on the Dublin to Holyhead mail boat, which operated between Kingstown, Ireland and Holyhead in Wales, where around half of its crew were from.

Colin said: “It’s sad to reflect that young William was probably looking forward to sharing his new experiences of service life with family and friends.

“After a few months training in England and then getting his first posting to Ireland, he must have felt the world was at his feet. It feels good to know that he’s not been forgotten.”