The Parish Church of St George the Martyr, Waterlooville

Appledore is a small port on the North Devon coast not far from Bideford. It has always been associated with fishing, ship building and the coastal trade.

During the First World War most of the young men of the town were serving in the Royal Navy or the Merchant Marine. One such was John Cawsey the 39 year old master of a small wooden schooner the S.V. Reward mostly engaged in the coastal trade in the Bristol Channel and around the Cornish coast into the English Channel.

In March 1917 he was sailing from Falmouth to Guernsey carrying a cargo of coal. Normally this would have been a straightforward voyage. Unfortunately only a month before the Kaiser had declared a blockade of the English Channel warning that any vessel would be liable to submarine attack. A number of U-Boats were immediately sent to patrol the approaches to Plymouth and the other South Coast ports.
One such was UC 72 (Commander Ernst Voigt) and he spotted Reward through his periscope just south of Start Point. Seeing no sign of any Royal Navy patrol ships he immediately surfaced and opened fire at close range. The Reward had no defences and was quickly sunk. All 5 crew members perished.

They were:

John Cawsey (Master)
Sydney Cawsey (cook)
John Mactaggart Taylor
Andrew McLoughlin
Edward Campbell

Sydney Cawsey was the young son of John Cawsey serving as cook on probably his first voyage. Aged only 13 years and 9 months he is almost certainly the youngest person to be killed on active service during the war.
He was awarded the British War Medal and the Mercantile Marine Medal and these were recently sold at auction for 800. Both father and son are commemorated on the Appledore War Memorial and on the Merchant Navy Memorial at Tower Hill London.

Another point of interest is that Edward Campbell was a West Indian from Barbados aged 65 and thus perhaps the oldest man to be killed in action. The Reward was the first ship to be sunk by Ernst Voigt. Between March 12 and August 17 he went on to sink 41 ships in the English Channel, mostly trawlers and small coastal vessels. But his luck ran out on 24 August 1917. Whilst returning to his base in Germany his U-Boat struck a mine whilst passing through the Straits of Dover. There were no survivors.

John Symonds

Festival 2015

The Appledore War Memorial