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Proving Sarah Gilbride’s Burial

Sunlight filters through the trees and headstones at St. Patrick Cemetery, Lowell, Massachusetts.   Last summer, I wrote about my third great-granduncle and Civil War veteran Michael Gilbride . I detailed his complicated life timeline which began in Ireland and ended in Sacramento, California. Along the way, he married Sarah Ruddy in Honesdale, Wayne, Pennsylvania, but he abandoned her and their family in about 1872. His wife Sarah and their children later relocated to Lowell, Massachusetts. As I researched the family in Lowell and searched for their final resting places, I had difficulty finding where Sarah Gilbride was buried. Over time, using both direct and indirect evidence—and with the help of knowledgeable local folks—I discovered where Sarah was buried. Here's how. Documenting Sarah and Michael’s marriage and children was a first step in putting the puzzle pieces together:  Sarah Ruddy married Michael Kilbride (Gilbride), in Honesdale, Wayne, Pennsylvania in 1850. 1 Sarah a

Confirming a Family Story: Able Seaman W.A. Hood


Information passed down through our friend Amber's family was that Walter A. Hood was a merchant sailor who died after his ship was torpedoed in WWII. In fact, it was his son (and Amber's great grandfather) Augustus William Hood—who went by William Augustus Hood or W.A. Hood— born 19 November 1900 in Belize, who died in such an attack.1

W.A. Hood served in the Merchant Navy from about February 1940 to 30 April 1942. A ship manifest from the port of New Orleans shows that he was a crew member on the SS Taborfjell, a Norwegian merchant ship, and arrived on 14 April 1942, just days before its fateful voyage. Hood’s rank was Able Seaman.2

William A. Hood (line 10) is noted on the Taborfjell’s crew list,

when it was in port in New Orleans on 14 April, 1942.

According to nautical author and historian Eric Wiberg, “The Norwegian steam ship Taborfjell was 1,339 gross tons and could carry 2,600 tons of dry cargo. She was built in Oslo, Norway in 1938 by Nylands Mek. Verksted. At the time of her final voyage her master was Captain Erling Nilsen, age 32. Below him were 19 mariners, all of them Norwegian except for William A. Hood and George Michael Parsons (age 18), both of Britain (one of them from British Honduras), as well as Thomas J. Berrigan, a 29-year-old ordinary seaman from Canada.”3

SS Taborfjell, Norwegian merchant ship.4

Wiberg continues the story of SS Taborfjell’s final voyage and sinking:

“In January 1942, the ship traded several times with Manzanillo in Cuba. On April 17th she left New Orleans for Matanzas and left that port on the 22nd with 2,320 tons of sugar in roughly 16,000 bags. She is also said to have stopped in Havana on April 23rd, on a draft of 17 feet forward and 18 feet aft. Her destination was New York Harbor, which she reached on April 28th. Taborfjell left the following day on its final voyage.

The ship proceeded, presumably via Long Island Sound, through the Cape Cod Canal, which it transited on the April 29th, bound for Montreal, on the St. Lawrence River. That day at about 3 p.m., the radio operator reported that they received a ‘CQ’ report relaying the sighting of an enemy submarine in roughly the position they were heading to.5

By the following day the ship was roughly 95 nautical miles east of the north tip of Cape Cod, and 125 nautical miles southwest of Cape Sable, on the southwest cape of Nova Scotia. There were two lookouts, one on the bow, the other on the bridge. The radio had not been used since transiting the canal. The ship was armed with a 3-inch gun mounted far aft, and five machine guns: a pair of Hotchkiss, a Marlin, and two Lewis type, as well as a Colt 50-millimeter pistol.

On her last evening under way the Taborfjell was making her maximum speed of 10.5 knots and had been zigzagging eastwards for roughly eleven hours. The conditions were calm, with a slight westerly breeze of about ten knots. The moon was bright and visibility was good. There was no ensign flying.

At roughly 1:50 a.m. on April 30th the German submarine U-576 under Hans-Dieter Heinicke sent a single torpedo into the side of the Taborfjell (The time was given as 1:37 a.m. by the Germans.). The results were as catastrophic as they were immediate. To quote from official reports, the “Starboard side, from #3 hatch to stern. Entire side of the ship ripped out from just below the waterline to deck plates…. 40 to 50 ft. long, 10 ft. deep.”

Location of attack and site of sinking of Taborfjell.6

Within one and two minutes the ship sank by the stern, with its bow sticking out at an angle of 60 degrees. After all, its cargo holds were filled to the brim. There was no time for the sailors aboard to send an SOS or SSS message, launch a boat, or fire its guns in retort. The gaping hole rent in the starboard side extended upwards to the deck and allowed water to fill the ship with stunning speed against which the men below were helpless to flee.

Radio Operator Olaf Alfsen was one of the lucky ones. He managed to run from his cabin, ran to the radio shack which was out of power, then leapt overboard from the bridge. Swimming around for some 20 minutes, he sought a lifeboat but never found one. Rather he found a life raft which popped free. He was joined by Second Officer Erling Arnesen. Together they found the Third Engineer Officer Ole Karlsen Svartangen floating in the water.

As they were pulling him out of the water U-576 surfaced nearby (20 yards away) for just 2-3 minutes and motored by. Svartangen was another lucky one, who managed to have been on deck when the torpedo struck, and not in the engine room, whose occupants perished. They witnessed two of their crewmates floating dead in the water, without recognizing – or retrieving them. In the dry tone of official reports it was observed that “Many trapped in cabins; others died in water after jumping overboard.”


U-576 getting underway. (Photo: Ed Caram)7

Unusually for such a remote sinking in ideal conditions, Heinicke preferred not to interact with the three survivors on the raft, alongside whom he motored. The Norwegians estimated the sub was 900 to 1,000 tons. After just a few minutes it submerged and motored off – they did not ascertain in what direction.

For over 22 hours the three men floated around in the general vicinity of the sinking. Then, in another stroke of luck, at 11:30 p.m. on the very same day they were spotted by a British submarine numbered HMS P-552. The British submarine spent two hours searching – in vain – for any survivors amongst the 17 remaining officers and men of the Taborfjell. On 7 May they diverted to St. John’s, Newfoundland to drop off the merchant survivors ashore. They arrived in New York on 24 May. The men were interviewed by Lieutenant R. D. Warden, Jr., USNR on June 30, 1942 in New York.”8

William Augustus Hood was one of the unfortunate crew members who perished at sea as the Taborfjell sank on 30 April 1942, in the service of his country. He was 41 years old.

Hood’s British service and his sacrifice have been commemorated by the Commonwealth War Trust. His name and ship are inscribed on a plaque at the Tower Hill Memorial in London. The memorial is one of two which commemorate “...civilian, merchant seafarers, and fishermen who were killed as a result of enemy action and have no known grave.” The first, the Mercantile Marine War Memorial, was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and unveiled in 1928; the second, the Merchant Seamen's Memorial, was designed by Sir Edward Maufe and unveiled in 1955.”9

Merchant Navy Officer statue, part of the Tower Hill Memorial, London.10

W.A. Hood’s name is inscribed at the Tower Hill Memorial in London.11

In 1949, an honor scroll was issued to Hood’s widow, Virginia Matranga Hood, in the name of King George VI.

Honor scroll issued by the British Ministry of Pensions in 1949 to William’s widow, Virginia.12

The Hood family: Virginia Matranga Hood, William A. Hood, and William A. Hood, Jr.13

The German submarine U-576 which sank the Taborfjell, was itself sunk on 15 July 1942 off the coast of North Carolina, the victim of depth charges from two U.S. aircraft and gunfire from a merchant ship. This ended U-576’s career after five patrols, during which it sank four ships and damaged two others. The shipwreck was discovered in 2014. Click here to view video of the wreckage.14

Until next time...

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1 "Belize, Civil Registration, 1881-1951", database, FamilySearch ( : 1 August 2023), p. 51, #503, Augustus William, son of Laura E. Ross, 19 November 1900, Belize; citing General Registry Department, Belize City.

2 "New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S., Passenger Lists, 1813-1963," Ancestry ( : 1 August 2023), SS Taborfjell crew list, William A. Hood, 41, arrived 14 April 1942; citing "Crew Lists of Vessels Arriving At New Orleans, Louisiana, 1910-1945"; RG 85, Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service the National Archives, Washington, D.C.

3 Eric Wiberg, Nautical Author and Historian ( : 30 July 2023), "SS Taborfjell, sunk by U-576/Heinicke off Cape Cod MA, British sub rescued 3 men, took to Canada," 25 March 2017. All excerpts used with Mr. Wiberg’s permission.

4 ( : 30 July 2023), "D/S Taborfjell," 7 August 2012.

5 Merriam-Webster ( : 1 Aug. 2023), “CQ.” Used at the beginning of messages of general information or safety notices or by shortwave amateurs as an invitation to talk to other shortwave amateurs.

6 (, Ships Hit by U-Boats, “Taborfjell.”

7 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Monitor National Marine Sanctuary ( : 1 August 2023), "U-576."

8 Eric Wiberg, Nautical Author and Historian, "SS Taborfjell," 25 March 2017.

9 Wikipedia ( : 30 July 2023), “Tower Hill Memorial.”

10 Ibid.

11 Ancestry, Find a Grave ( : 30 July 2023), memorial 168433936, Able Seaman William A Hood (-30 April 1942), Tower Hill Memorial, London Borough of Tower Hamlets, Greater London, England, monument photo by Gunner, 2019.

12 British Ministry of Pensions Honor Scroll issued to W.A. Hood, Able Seaman, 1949; private collection of R. Hood, Chandler, Oklahoma, 2023. Scroll features the Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom. The inscriptions are French, translated to “Shame on anyone who thinks evil of it" (Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense”), and “God and My Right” (“Dieu et Mon Droit”).

13 Hood family photograph, Mariana Beach, c. 24 October, 19??, unknown photographer. private collection of R. Hood, Chandler, Oklahoma, 2023. Pictured are Virginia Hood, William Hood, and William Hood, Jr.

14 Wikipedia ( : 31 July 2023), “German submarine U-576,” last updated 27 June 2023, at 20:37 (UTC).