Harry Smirk AM

b. 15/12/1880 Ashton-in-Makerfield, Lancashire. d. 23/11/1913 at sea.

DATE OF AM ACTION: 21-22/10/1904 North Sea.

Harry was born on 15th December 1880 in Ashton-in-Makerfield, Lancashire, the eldest of six children of Joseph and Mary Elizabeth Smirk (nee Yates). He was baptised at St Mark’s Church, Preston on 9th January 1881, and from a young age was determined to go to sea. The majority of his childhood was spent in Preston, Lancashire. He spent all of his working life aboard ships, and died at sea aboard the Palmella on 23rd November 1913, aged 32.



The steam trawler ” Crane” was so badly damaged by the gun fire of the Russian Baltic Fleet in the North Sea on the night of the 21st October and the morning of the 22nd October last, that she began to sink. The skipper and the third hand of the vessel had been killed, and, with one exception, the surviving members of the crew were all wounded. The mate, William Smith, was severely wounded while on his way to assist the injured boatswain, and when he found that the skipper was killed, took charge of the sinking vessel. He subsequently signalled for assistance, and when the boat from the steam trawler ” Gull ” arrived he assisted in getting the wounded and the bodies of the dead into the boat, and was the last to leave the ” Crane ” just before she sank. As the Chief Engineer had been wounded and rendered insensible soon after the firing began, the Second Engineer, Arthur Rea (22 years of age), took charge of the engines, and, although the lights had been extinguished, he went into the stokehold to discover the cause of a loud report and an escape of steam. He was knocked down by a shot on his way but went on, and finding the stokehold more than a foot deep in water and steam blowing from the engine side, looked at the gauge glass and pumping additional cold water into the boiler partially drew the fires with the object of averting an explosion. He also set the pumps of the vessel working, and, after reporting that the vessel was sinking, went a second time into the darkened engine room and stopped the engines. Although wounded he did not stop working till he left the ship. In answer to signals of distress from the ” Crane,” Charles Beer, Mate, Harry Smirk, Chief Engineer, and Edwin Costello, Boatswain, of the steam trawler “Gull,” after the firing, which had been heavy and sustained, went in a boat to the ” Crane,” and succeeded with great difficulty in rescuing the wounded from the rapidly sinking vessel, and in bringing away the dead bodies of those who had been killed.