Thomas Isambard James Beckett


From Mrs. Judith West, granddaughter of Isambard.

My grandfather Thomas Isambard James Beckett was born in Southampton on 3rd may 1882.

He first went to sea for a short period as a Bell Boy but we don't have the dates.

Thomas (snr) joined Union-Castle, then the Castle Co'y in the early 1900's and we know he served on a hospital ship in the Boer War.   He was a Pantryman on the "Walmer Castle" in 1905 and when he married in 1914 he was a 1st Saloon Steward.

August 1914 finds him in the Royal Navy as PO Steward on H.M.S. "Kinfauns Castle".   The landings at Port Noloth (German South West Africa now Namibia) were covered by the "Kinfauns" guns.

February 1915 finds him at Bombay and he was paid £8 naval Prize Fund (a fortune in those days).   He was finally discharged from the "Kinfauns" at Marseilles March 1917.   He then served on H.M.S. "Hunsend" until the end of the war.

Once back in the Merchant Marine he made steady progress up the promotion ladder becoming Chief Steward September 1919 on the "Comrie Castle".   In 1939 at the start of the 2nd World War he was Chief Steward of the "Warwick Castle".   He saw action at Singapore and Java.   In 1942 he was promoted to the "Capetown Castle", the commodore ship of the fleet.   It was on trooping duties including India.   They picked up a particularly bad lot of German prisoners at Suez during that year.

By 1943 it was the big lift of American troops across the Atlantic.   His plan of organising the catering on a 24 hour clock was adopted and applied for all trooping.

In December 1944 he received a letter, I quote:

"I am directed by the Minister of War Transport to inform you that he has learned with great pleasure that on his recommendation The Prime Minister has obtained the King's approval for your Appointment as a Member of the Order of the  British Empire, (MBE) Civil Division, for meritorious sea service in the Merchant Navy"

At the end of the war it was a case of getting everyone back to their own country.   He did trips to India, Australia and New Zealand.

During 1946 he was in Belfast overseeing the "Capetown Castle" refit for the resumption of the South Africa Service. In April 1947 he completed his last voyage but stayed on shore as Assistant Catering Superintendent he finally retired in 1949

Note by OGK.

Thomas Isambard Beckett founded one of the many 'Company dynasties', the Union-Castle line had a number of such family groups.

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