HMS Avenger- Who was Peter Clipstone?
The first page in a remarkable WW2 photograph album, is Peter Clipstone. Taken in New York, in the earlier days of WW2, he stands to pose for a portrait. A Petty Officer ( Writer) in the Merchant Navy, young and smartly dressed.
He had been invited to the home of an American family, The Casey’s. A family that documented each of their visitors from the Allied Forces. 80 years later, we are starting an extraordinary search for the next of kin of each man within the albums pages- all 150 of them.
The following is the actual album page detailed with notes by Eleanor Casey.
Sadly, in November 1942, Clipstone was onboard the ill fated HMS Avenger which was hit by a torpedo from a German U -Boat. The torpedo took out the entire centre of the ship, which sank within a few minutes. Those that were not killed instantly by the impact, drowned. Of the 516 men on board, only 12 were pulled from the water alive. The body of Peter Charles Clipstone was not recovered.
With the knowledge that this may be one of the very last photographs ever taken of Peter, we set about creating his family tree to try and locate his next of kin.
The Family Of Peter Clipstone
The Common Wealth War Graves Commission listed the names of Peter’s Parents-George and Louise Florence Clipstone. The notes from the album written by Mrs Casey stated that Peter’s Parents were no longer alive, but that he had 2 Sisters. The first step was identifying his Parents marriage in Chelsea in 1906, this gave us his Mothers maiden name of Bartlett, leading to the records of birth for Peter and his Siblings- Ena and Madge.
We checked the Find My Past 1939 Register for Peter and his family, finding only his Sister Ena Beatrix Clipstone living in Lambeth- but it gave us an accurate date of birth and a lead down that line. Ena had passed away in 1970, with no obvious marriage or children, so we redirected our enquiries to the family line of Peter’s other Sister- Madge Clipstone.
Marriage records revealed that Madge has indeed married and had 3 Sons. With the family name now being Watts, further checks revealed the passing of Madge and her Husband Geoffrey, who had lived out the end of their years In Southampton. We needed to track their Sons.
Once again, time had taken its toll, and more deaths within the Watts family meant we needed to step down another Generation. Following the line of Madge’s eldest Son- Simon, we found he had a Son and a Daughter. As men tend to retain their birth name and are often easier to trace, we opted to trace Mark Watts. Mark Watts being the Great Nephew of Peter Clipstone.
Identifying Mark to be in the Burgess Hill region of Mid Sussex, and with our voluntary research costs and time spiralling, we opted for a short sharp social media campaign specifically in the area of Burgess Hill. Mark responded within a couple of hours to confirm that not only was he the right person, but that he had researched his Uncles life and was in possession of the telegram sent to his Grandmother Madge- informing her of Peter’s death on the HMS Avenger.
Mark, had never seen a photo of his Great Uncle Peter Clipstone, it was an amazing moment for him to come face to face with the man he had researched only a short while before we got in touch.
HMS Avenger Crew- -Commemorating Peter Charles Clipstone
With no body recovered to bury. Peter was lost at sea. The decision was made to commemorate him and others of the HMS Avenger Crew on the Liverpool Naval Memorial.
Now we want to discover what happened to Eleanor, Peter’s Fiance in Nova Scotia.
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