Captain John Robert Townshend served in the Royal Canadian Artillery during the Second World War. Born in the United Kingdom in 1903, he emigrated to Canada where he made his home in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
John Robert Townshend was the son of Albert and Hannah Townshend. After moving to Canada, he married Mabel Beatrice Townshend of London, Ontario. They had three children – John, Patricia, and Robert.
The sinking of the SS Nerissa
On 21st April 1941, the SS Nerissa departed Halifax, Nova Scotia. The Nerissa was a troop ship carrying Canadian soldiers to the United Kingdom. John was one of the many passengers on his way to join to war in Europe.
Nine days later, the SS Nerissa sank en-route to Liverpool in England. A torpedo from U-Boat U-552 struck the troop ship, which sank in under four minutes. Under the command of Erich Topp, the type VIIC submarine was known as The Red Devil and was deadly in the Atlantic. The Nerissa was one of many confirmed sinkings by U-552 including the USS Reuben James.
It would be the only ship to lose Canadian men on their way to England during the course of the war. Of the 290 passengers and crew on board, only 84 survived. Captain Townshend was one of the many fatalities. His body washed ashore in Co. Antrim.
Remembering Captain Townshend
Captain Townshend’s grave is in Plot 2, Grave 16 of Bonamargy Cemetery, Ballycastle, Co. Antrim. His name is listed on page 47 of the Canadian Second World War Book Of Remembrance.