Commanded the Grilse

by Laurel | December 16th, 2011

On 11 December 1916 the Canadian war vessel Grilse left Halifax for Bermuda, the commander was Lieut. Walter Wingate, a former Holyoke resident. Late the following afternoon the Grilse sent a wireless message stating they were returning to Shelburne due to bad weather. At 7:28 the ship sent out an S.O.S and by 7:30 a final message was sent “Now Sinking.”

HMCS Grilse in 1916

HMCS Grilse in 1916

Newspaper headlines reported the ship as lost along with all hands, numbering some fifty-six men. For two days the Grilse was reported as sunk and no rescue ships could find any trace of the vessel. On the 14th of December, the badly battered Grilse was reported as “limping” back to port, damaged with six crew members lost in the storm and others injured. In the 1916 papers, Lieut. Walter Wingate is reported to be 35 years old, placing his birth year between 1881-1882. I have a remote connection to the Holyoke Wingate line via a marriage — are any of you connected to this Wingate family? Is this the same Walter Wingate who eventually landed in Southwick area?

16 December 1916

Lieut. Wingate Was Former Resident of Holyoke

Lieut. Walter Wingate, who commands the Canadian torpedo boat Grilse (A salmon that has returned to fresh water after a single winter at sea), which reached Shelburne, N.S., yesterday morning after a stormy voyage in which six of her crew were killed, is a former Holyoke resident. Lieut. Wingate was formerly assistant superintendent of the Merrick division of the American Thread Company, and served under the late Anthony Moore and Arthur J. Richards, the present superintendent. He went to Holyoke in the spring of 1909 and left March 1, 1910. During the big shakeup of officials of the American thread company in 1910 Lieut. Wingate was transferred to the American Thread mills at Willimantic, CT.

He remained there but one month, resigning his position with that concern to enter the insurance business in Texas. He left Texas some years ago, and nothing further was heard from him until the news dispatches brought the information that he was in charge of the torpedo boat. While in Holyoke, Lieut Wingate was a member of the Holyoke Canoe Club. Previously to coming to the city he was a lieutenant on an ocean liner between New York and Liverpool. While an officer on board the liner Lieut. Wingate became familiar with the big officials of the American Thread Company from England, who crossed the water at different intervals to inspect the local mills. They took an interest in him and had him resign his position with the steamship company and take up the cotton business. This he did and came to Holyoke.

While in Holyoke Lieut. Wingate told many of his friends that he held a commission as lieutenant in the British navy and that he had traveled around the world on different boats. He was a very tall young man, and during his stay in Holyoke attracted considerable attention owing to his military bearing. One of his suggestions while in the city was that the different mills organize fire drills.

One day while engaged in his daily work at Holyoke, a middle-aged man appeared in his office seeking employment. The man stood looking at Wingate for a few minutes, when finally the stranger asked him if he was not Lieut. Wingate. The latter replied in the affirmative, and asked the stranger how he knew. He replied that he had served under him on a British boat on the China station. The stranger was promptly given employment. Wingate had a sister who lived in Holyoke several years ago and was formerly a nurse at the city hospital.

From The Springfield Republican, image from the public domain.

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