Battle or Action:

Sinking of S.S. Alfred H. Read,

  Detail :

 The "greatest disaster in the history of the Liverpool Pilot service".

In the early morning of 28th December 1917, No. 1 Pilot Boat was on duty south of the Bar Lightship. It was an extraordinarily fine morning for the time of the year, and most of the pilots and crew, not required for duty, had retired to rest.

No. 3 Pilot Boat was in close proximity, and at 3.15 a.m. the pilots on board the vessel were startled by a load explosion, and at once notices that the lights of No. 1 Pilot Boat had disappeared. They hastened to the spot with all the boats ready for launching, to find that No. 1 Boat had sunk, only the top of a mast being visible, but hearing cries of help from the water, they lowered two boats, and picked up three survivors - a Marconi Operator and two Pilot Apprentices, one of whom expired on reaching the deck of No. 3 Pilot Boat. The cause of the explosion was determined to be a mine which had been laid nearly a year earlier by UC-75 (Johannes Lohs).

In all thirty-nine persons perished, of whom nineteen were pilots, the remainder being examination officers, boathands, engine-room staff, and signallers. At least 7 aboard were Freemasons, and others believed to either have previously been Freemasons or had relatives that were. There was probably not a Lodge in Merseyside which hadn't been shocked by this tragic loss.

This terrible event cast a gloom over the Port, for the pilots were well known to the shipping fraternity, and expressions of sympathy were received from all quarters. The disaster caused heavy claims to be made upon the Pilots' Benevolent Fund, and the Chairman of the Pilotage Committee, supported by the other members, came to the rescue, and were instrumental in obtaining such generous subscriptions from the Shipowners that they were not only able to reimburse the Pilots' Benevolent Fund but also to provide some additional assistance for those lost, other than pilots.

On the termination of the war the sinker of the mine (the box & mine tether) which it was believed was struck by No.1 Pilot Boat was handed over by the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty to the Pilotage Authority, and placed on the Canning Pierhead, in front of the Pilotage Office.

 Rank Initials Surname Died Lodge
 Lt. C.H. BARNARD 28-12-1917 Anfield No. 2215
Princes No. 2316
 Pilot J.F.J. CAMERON 28-12-1917 Wavertree Gateacre Queensway No. 2294
 Pilot J.H. CROSS 28-12-1917 Warren No. 1276
 Pilot R.J. DURRANT 28-12-1917 Prudence No. 2114
 Lt. W.C. POOLE 28-12-1917 Buckingham and Chandos No. 2667
 Pilot R. TAGGART 28-12-1917 Royal Victoria No. 1013
 Pilot J. WOOKEY 28-12-1917 Prudence No. 2114
United Temperance No. 3107

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