An Old Coathamian – Not Forgotten

Geoffrey Willis KIRBY

Second Officer, Merchant Navy;
S.S. ‘Harmala’.

Died 7 February 1943, aged 23 years.

Commemorated on the Merchant Navy Tower Hill Memorial,

On the night of 7 February 1943 in the mid-North Atlantic, the German submarine U-614 attacked a British-bound convoy with torpedoes, and the S.S. ‘Harmala’, 5,730 tons, of London, was hit and sunk. She had been carrying 8,500 tons of iron ore. Of the ship’s complement of 54, only eleven were saved, picked up by a convoy escort vessel; the remaining 43, Second Officer Kirby among them, went down with the ship

The Tower Hill Memorial records the names of the many thousands of merchant seamen and those of the fishing fleet who lost their lives in the two World Wars and whose only grave is the sea.

Geoffrey Willis Kirby was the son of Arthur Stanley Kirby and Alice Maud Kirby of Whitby. He was born there in December 1919 and his mother was to live there until her death in 1963. Geoffrey’s father, however, died in Australia in August 1931. Geoffrey had come to Coatham School in January of the same year, as a fee-paying day boy, and joined School House. He already had an older brother (K.S.) in the school and by 1934 a younger one (P.R.) had joined him. His older brother was head boy in 1936-1937 and went on to Manchester University. Geoffrey was awarded his colours for playing rugby for his house and he also played for the school 1st XV, in the same team as Coupe (q.v.) in the 1934-1935 season. His occupation on leaving school in July 1935 is not known. His home address remained in Whitby at the time of his death. He was first listed on the School’s Roll of Honour in December 1943.