Billy McGee in England plans a Memorial to Raymond Victor Steed. The youngest recorded Service death in WW2.

In WW1 many young men, indeed some were still but boys, joined the Armed Services, and a host of them died at a very young age. WW2 was no exception, and here is an example, a boy, Raymond Victor Steed, still in his 14th. year, cut down before he reached manhood.

Billy McGee in England is seeking to remember Raymond by erecting a memorial to his memory in his home town of Newport in Monmouthshire.

The story of Raymond is reproduced here on AHOY, not only as a tribute to him, but in the hope, in a small way it may assist Billy in his endeavours.

An E-Mail from Billy McGee.

Hello Mac,

This is in the very early stages, but I am hoping to have a memorial dedicated to the memory of Raymond in his home town, if I can raise sufficient interest and funding. The idea is again to raise awareness of our war dead as well as highlighting just how young some of these boys were. The information below is what I have gathered from a copy of his birth certificate I purchased as well as the ships official Log Book I found at The National Archives.

Raymond Victor Steed, Son of Mr Wilfred & Mrs Olive Steed (Nee Bright) of 20 Christchurch Road, Newport, Monmouthshire was born Monday 1st October 1928 at 2 Rimberley Terrace, St. Mellons, and is the youngest recorded service death of WWII who died on Monday 26th April 1943. Age 14 years & 207 days.

Raymond’s official service record (CRS10) shows he joined the Merchant Navy Reserve Pool (MNRP) 29th December 1942, just two months after his 14th birthday, joining his first ship as a Stewards Boy, at Newport the same day. The ship being the former Royal Mail Line 15,620grt SS Atlantis, which had been converted into a Hospital Ship in 1939. He left this ship 13th March 1943.

After taking his leave Raymond joined the 1941 built Catapult Aircraft Merchant Ship Empire Morn, 7,092grt, (MOWT, Headlam & Son-Whitby) at Newport on 4th April 1943. The ship loaded with a cargo of naval, military and RAF equipment for Casablanca & Gibraltar left Milford Haven sailing to the Barry Roads anchorage while awaiting to join up with the combined 69 ship Convoy OS-46/KMS-13, which sailed from Liverpool on 15th April 1943. On 24th April the convoy split into two and continued to their individual ports of call.

On the evening of Monday 26th April at 9.45pm an explosion rocks the ship followed by a secondary explosion in the ships magazine seriously damaging the stern of the ship and blowing out a greater portion of the crew accommodation. At 10.05pm the Captain decides to temporarily abandon his ship until daybreak to assess the situation further. A thorough search and head count reveals 21 men are missing before the ships lifeboats are finally launched. The following morning at 5.30am the ships Captain, all his Officers and three crewmen re-board the ship and assisted in working the vessel into Casablanca with the assistance of the salvage tug USN Cherokee.

On 28th April at 2.30pm during a further search through the wreckage of the crew accommodation the remains of two crewmembers were found and extricated and immediately recognised as that of Raymond Steed and John W. Gardener, an 18-year-old Ordinary Seaman. Identity papers found on both the bodies confirmed with out doubt whom they were and it was stated that both had been killed instantly in the explosions. The remains of the other 19 men killed were never found, either being blown overboard or incinerated. On 29th April 1943 at 2.00pm the bodies of Raymond & John were laid to rest at the Ben M’Sik Cemetery about 6 kilometres from Casablanca town centre, which lies between the main road to Marrakech and the road known as Oulad Zianc. Present at the service was the Captain, all Officers and surviving crew who could be spared from duty.

German records show that the Empire Morn had detonated a mine laid earlier on 10th April 1943 off Casablanca by U-117.

Raymond V. Steed was awarded the 1939-1945 Star, Atlantic Star, Africa Star (with clasp), and the 1939 War Medal.

The CWGC records the names of 516 boys age 16 & under killed while in service in the Merchant Navy during WWII, which includes fourteen boys who were only 14 years old.

I recently wrote to a Capt. Joe Earl, a retired Master and poet (The Men Who Missed the Tide ISBN 0 7223 3477-X) and asked if he would write a poem about Raymond Steed. This morning I received a poem dedicated to the young lad and have permission to use accordingly. I have superimposed the poem over a photo I have of Ray's grave in Casablanca and added his photograph.

Rgds Billy McGee.

Raymond Victor Steed


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