The Mariner Whose Ship Was Torpedoed In The English Channel

January 20, 2019….Researching the names on the Cenotaph outside the Borden-Carleton Legion continually brings some surprises as we unlock the stories behind the names.  It’s well documented that there was a merchant navy in WW2, and there are many stories about the infamous U-boats used by the Nazis during WW2.  But, did you know that there was a merchant navy in WW1?……And did you know that there were German U-boats in WW1?…….

In researching what happened to James Graham FARROW (FARRAR), we learned that he was NOT a soldier, but served as Second Mate in WW1’s Merchant Navy aboard the SS Port Dalhousie, ferrying needed supplies from England to allied soldiers in France.

Farrow was born April 4, 1856 in Argyle Shore, the son of Henry Farrow and Mary Jane Gouldrup.  In 1897, he married Mary Jane Howatt and they had 4 children.  Mary Jane also had a son William from her first husband, John Morrell, and was the sister of Harold Keith Howatt who served in the same regiment as William Galen Campbell. Campbell is also listed on the Cenotaph outside the Borden-Carleton Legion.  (See Christmas At The Front During WW1)

A mariner, Farrow received his Captain’s papers by 1903.  He owned a schooner named ‘Eva May’, but sold it in 1906 and moved to a homestead in Saskatchewan.  However, by 1912 the family was back on PEI, where, according to ‘Seafarers of the Atlantic Provinces, 1789-1935’, he was the owner and operator of a schooner registered on PEI, named ‘Howard L’.  (Source: Canada, Seafarers of the Atlantic Provinces, 1789-1935)

In a February 19, 1916 letter to his son Welton, who was living in Portland, Maine with his mother and siblings, Farrow explains that that he gave up the schooner and on December 27, 1915 he accepted a position as second mate aboard a steamer, and was currently sailing between France and England.  “I am here in France.  I had charge of a schooner and when I laid her up in Pictou, I got a job in this steamer as second mate. It is a good job with a little more wages than on the schooner.  I got $50 a month on the schooner and $55 a month here.  (Source: farrow 1916.html)

Farrow explained that the steamer intended to return to Canada in July, but had decided to stay in Europe.  If he wanted to return to Canada, his way would be paid back after 6 months, but as he was paid promptly each month, he thought he would stay with the steamer.

Unfortunately, by the time that Welton Farrow received that letter, his father was dead.  On March 19, 1916, U-Boat 10 torpedoed the steamer Port Dalhousie, the ship he was on, and it sank in the English Channel.

From the New York Times, page 2, column 6:


“Sinks two trawlers off Northeast Coast of England. London July 13 – Following the attack by a German submarine on the British port of Seaham Harbor on Tuesday night, a submarine raid on fishing near the English coast was reported by Lloyd’s today.   A German submarine attacked a British fishing fleet off the northeastern coast and sank the trawlers Florence and Dalhousie and several smaller vessels.” (Source: farrow 1916.html )

Fake news isn’t a new phenomenon!  The story about Port Dalhousie being a fishing boat, as reported in a New York Times article, was a cover the boat used. When it sank, the cargo manifest said it was transporting steel billets.  Farrow and 18 other crew members perished, their bodies lost to the sea.

Farrow’s wife, Mary Jane, stayed in Maine.  In 1930 she moved to Waterville, where she lived until her death on May 15, 1956, when she was buried in the Tryon Peoples’ Cemetery in Tryon.

Service and duty were legacies of Farrow as his sons Ralph, Harold, and Welton also served in WW1.  Ralph and Harold enlisted in the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force in July 1917.  Welton served in the US Army.  Ralph’s son joined the US Air Force and served in WW2, but after the war he met an untimely death when his plane crashed in Florida during an exercise.  He’s buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

With no body to bury, James Farrow is remembered on the memorial stone at the Tryon People’s Cemetery in Tryon and on the Halifax Memorial in Point Pleasant Park in Halifax.

memorial stone tpc pieter valkenbrg

Photo: Memorial stone at Tryon Peoples Cemetery in Tryon, PEI. Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg

Photos: Halifax Memorial at Point Pleasant Park in Halifax. Photo credits: Pieter Valkenburg

Besides Farrow, two additional names from this Cenotaph Research Project are listed on the Halifax Memorial:

Although we know a lot about James Farrow’s life, we do NOT have a photo of him.  If anyone has photos or information to share, please let us know. You can send an email to or comment on this blog.

© Daria Valkenburg