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Thomas Sidney Edwards Whittaker

Warrant Officer Class II, C.S.M, Thomas Sidney Edwards Whittaker, P/40015, Canadian Royal Corps of Signals

Thomas Sidney Edwards Whittaker was born in Hull on the 6th February 1900, the elder son and eldest child of three children born to estate agent and accountant, Sidney Hernest Whittaker and Emily Jessie Edwards who were married in November 1898 in Cleethorpes. In 1901, aged one year, he was living with his parents at De Grey Street, Cottingham, Hull and by 1911 he was living at Scarborough with his 79 year-old widowed grandmother and his spinster aunt, Winifred Mabel Whittaker who had brought him up from the age of eight years. In 1911, his parents and siblings were living in Sparkbrook, Birmingham. By 1929 his father, Sidney H. Whittaker, was living at “Brentwood”, Belle Vue Parade, Scarborough. His mother, Jessie E. Whittaker died on 16th March 1929.

By  September 1939 Thomas’ father, Sidney Hernest Whittaker, had moved to Ossett  where he lived with his married daughter, Caroline Farrelly and her husband and child  at "Grasmere", Kingsway. By this time he was 70 years of age and a retired auctioneer and estate agent.

Thomas Sidney Edward(s) Whittaker served with the Canadian forces in WWII and that he had also served with the British forces in WWI. In the latter case he served with the R.A.F. B.E.F. in France as a 2nd Lieutenant between the 6th July 1918 and the 12th September 1919. On the 22nd October 1918 he was serving with the 214 Squadron and on the 13th July 1919 he transferred to 22 Squadron. Both served in France and he returned to home establishment on the 22nd July 1919. Whittaker had served for one year and ten months and was subsequently awarded the British War and Victory medals.

Thomas Whittaker first attested with the Royal Canadians (Lord Strathcona’s Horse) Regiment on the 15th April 1929, transferring to the Royal Canadian Signals on the 1st October 1935. At the time of his enlistment he was employed by the Canadian Department of National Defence in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Elsewhere his former trade at enlistment was described as a farm worker. Although already a member of the Active Militia of Canada, on the 8th September 1939 at Edmonton, he attested to serve in the Canadian Forces for the duration of the War. His address was Headquarters, M.D. 13 Calgary, Alberta, Canada. His trade or calling was "soldier" and his next of kin was given as Sidney Whittaker of "Grasmere", Kingsway, Ossett, nr. Dewsbury, Yorkshire, England.

Aged 39 years at the time of his attestation for war service in September 1939, he was 5’ 9” tall, 160 lbs in weight, with a ruddy complexion, blue eyes, brown hair and generally in A1 condition for service.

Thomas Sidney Edwards Whittaker left school aged 17 years and studied at Bradford College of Art for three years, but left the course before acquiring his degree. By the 20th November 1917 he was enrolled in the RAF Officers’ Technical Training Wing at St Leonards and in April 1918 joined the School of Military Aeronautics. He qualified as a military observer in 1918 whilst in service with the British Army in WWI. Following his enlistment in the Canadian army he qualified as a sergeant, R.C.S. of Cavalry and later CSMI, Royal Canadian Signals, St. John’s First Aid in 1935,”A” Radio, 1st 1936 and “C” Wing, 1939. Between early September 1939 and late August 1940 he was posted to different positions and locations within Canada.

It is not certain when Thomas Sidney Edwards Whittaker emigrated to Canada, but his subsequent Canadian Army service record reveals that at one time he had worked as a farm labourer. On the 22nd May 1925, Thomas Whittaker, aged 25 years, occupation farming, left Liverpool for Quebec aboard the Canadian Pacific ship "Montclare."

Records also show that Thomas Whittaker, soldier, had departed Montreal for Liverpool arriving on the 12th November 1932 aboard the Canadian Pacific Line "Duchess of York." His proposed address in the U.K. was 19, Lyell Street, Scarborough. At different times during his Canadian service this address was given as the home of his father, Sidney E. Whittaker and his spinster aunt, Winifred M. Whittaker. His country of intended future residence was given as "other parts of the British Empire."

There were other journeys too. On the 10th September 1937 a Thomas Whittaker, born about 1900, sailed from Liverpool aboard the Canadian Pacific Line "Duchess of Atholl" bound for Montreal. His home address was 42, Lyell Street, Scarborough and his occupation was given as "soldier." It appears likely that the same Thomas Whittaker had arrived in Liverpool from Montreal on the 1st August 1937 aboard the Canadian Pacific Line ship "Montcalm." His occupation was "soldier" and his destination in the UK was 42, Lyell Street, Scarborough. On this journey the ship’s log records him as Thomas S. Whittaker. Rather oddly his name and particulars in the ship’s log for each of these journeys has been crossed through but, seemingly, not to obliterate the content.

S.S. Nerissa

Above: S.S. "Nerissa" sunk by German U-Boat U552 on the 30th April 1941 resulting in the death of C.S.M. Thomas S.E. Whittaker.

He was posted overseas on the 19th April 1941, sailing from Halifax, Nova Scotia, on the 5,583 ton steam ship S.S. "Nerissa" on the 21st April 1941. Thomas Sidney Edwards Whittaker, aged 41 years, died nine days later on the 30th April 1941 whilst serving as P/40015, Warrant Officer Class II, Rank, C.S.M. with the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals. The S.S. "Nerissa" was sunk about 100 miles north-west of Donegal in Ireland and south-east of Rockall after being torpedoed by at 11:30 p.m. by German U-Boat U552 commanded by Captain Erich Topp. The S.S. 'Nerissa' sank within four minutes after being split in two by three torpedoes from U552, which all scored direct hits. Only 84 of the ship's complement of 290 passengers survived. Besides the Canadian troops, the S.S. 'Nerissa' was also carrying a cargo of 1,872 tons general, 574 tons aluminium, 352 tons shells, and 251 tons of trucks. Survivors were picked up by the destroyer HMS "Veteran" and eventually landed at Londonderry in Northern Ireland.

Thomas Sidney Edwards Whittaker is remembered on Panel 14 of the Halifax Memorial, Nova Scotia, Canada. 91 Canadians, including T.S.E. Whittaker, died on 30th April 1941. He was recorded missing, believed lost at sea from S.S. "Nerissa", in a cable telegram dated 1st May 1941 and later presumed died at sea.


1. Commonwealth War Graves Commission web site