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Monday, May 20, 2019

SS Suva MemorialI recently received a most interesting email from Earle Seubert (Australia). He had been advised by the Vindicatrix Society which has just recently held their ‘Down Under Reunion’ in Fremantle, Western Australia, to contact Sea Breezes seeking information as detailed below.

Earle is not himself a member of the Vindicatrix Society, but had been assisting the group during its visit to Western Australia. Originally with the Fremantle Port Authority and later in the employment of P&O until his retirement in 2000, he is now the Honorary Historian at the former Woodsman Point Quarantine Station, situated some 9kms south of Fremantle.

About 18 months ago, a Merchant Navy memorial was built outside the old Isolation Hospital that is located within the grounds of the former Quarantine Station. The memorial is dedicated to the memory of the Chief Officer and few crew members of the ss Suva who died of smallpox in April 1943. They were all cremated and their ashes buried at the Woodman Point Quarantine Station.

The Chief Officer, Arthur David Waters – Discharge Number: R177, was born in Dover in 1906. The Pacific trading vessel, ss Suva, arrived off the Western Australian coast in March 1943, while most of the 28 crew were developing varying degrees of smallpox. One crewman, Sakusa Veiwili, had died on the 19th March on the voyage to Fremantle, and was buried at sea, and the remainder of the crew were landed at Woodman Point on 26th March 1943.

The more serious cases had been tended to by the 38 year old Chief Officer AD Waters (who had not been vaccinated against smallpox) whilst on passage to Fremantle. He in turn contracted smallpox before arrival at Fremantle and he died of the disease at the Woodman Point Quarantine Station on 1st April 1943 (for information, due to wartime security, all records stated that all the crew members died from typhoid, but it was definitely smallpox). Waters and the other deceased crewmen were all cremated and their ashes buried at the Quarantine Station.

After months of researching this incident, Mr Seubert made contact with Chief Officer Water’s niece, Ms Janet Napolitano and she sadly advised that the family were under the impression that Mr Waters had died in the Pacific and they had no knowledge of Woodman Point whatsoever – they all assumed he had gone to war and never came back.

Mr Seubert thinks that official photographs of Mr Waters must have been taken at some point in his career. He asks for help through Sea Breezes in trying to locate a photo of this very brave man to help their research.

It is somehow fitting that over 70 years after his death and that of the other crew members his courage is recognised and they are all remembered. I thank Mr Seubert for his information and hope our readers are able to help him.

More on this and other news in Sea Breezes Magazine - January 2015 Issue
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