THE CEO of a Southampton-based maritime welfare charity has uncovered his own personal link to tragedy at sea – with his grandfather’s death at the hands of a German warship 75 years ago.

Stuart Rivers, CEO of Sailors’ Society didn’t realise his own family’s trauma until earlier this year, when his cousin in Canada sent him details after Stuart posted a photo on social media of himself laying a wreath at a war memorial on behalf of the charity.

Stuart’s grandfather, William Ross, a fisherman from Aberdeen, was one of 34 men lost when the trawler he was on board, HMS Ullswater, was torpedoed in the English Channel. He was 43 years old.

Also lost in the tragedy was George Pragnell, a 35-year-old stoker from Southampton.

The Ullswater was sunk near Eddystone Lighthouse by heavily armed German S-boats while defending a convoy of merchant ships.

As the vessel sank, the German boats torpedoed Norwegian steamer SS Lab and British vessels SS Yewforest and SS Birgitte, all of which sank in minutes.

Yewforest had attempted to save the crew of the Ullswater when it was hit, with only four of its crew surviving.

Stuart said: “While it is very sad to have never met my grandfather in person, I feel that I am now starting to understand what a great man he – like George Pragnell and the other brave men who died with him – was through his service to King and country.

“Because my work involves supporting those affected by trauma at sea, it has given me greater insight into how devastating it is when someone dies suddenly at sea. The families of all those who were lost in this tragedy will have carried this with them for the rest of their lives.”

William Ross and George Pragnell are commemorated at the Royal Naval Patrol Service War Memorial at Sparrow's Nest in Lowestoft.