Watch sent to Glasgow museum sparks WWII mystery

Canadian Gerald Hutchinson (left) kept the watch for more than 80 years after it was handed to him by a Scottish ship cook during the resuce of TSS Athenia in 1939. PIC: Courtesy of Glasgow Life.
Canadian Gerald Hutchinson (left) kept the watch for more than 80 years after it was handed to him by a Scottish ship cook during the resuce of TSS Athenia in 1939. PIC: Courtesy of Glasgow Life.
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A curator is seeking the family of a Scot who survived a World War II torpedo attack off the coast of Canada after his long lost watch was sent to a Glasgow museum.

The watch belonged to ship’s cook Sidney Worrall, who handed the timepiece to passenger Gerald Hutchinson during the rescue of the TSS Athenia which was torpedoed off the coast of Canada on September 3, 1939 - the first day of WWII.

The watch belonging to Sidney Worrall, a ship's cook from Scotland, has been returned to the Riverside Museum in Glasgow. PIC: Glasgow Life.

The watch belonging to Sidney Worrall, a ship's cook from Scotland, has been returned to the Riverside Museum in Glasgow. PIC: Glasgow Life.

Mr Hutchinson kept the timepiece for more than 80 years but, following his death in 2015, his family would like to reunite the watch with its rightful owner.

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Glasgow Museum curator Emily Malcolm, who works at Glasgow’s Riverside Museum, received the watch in a batch of Mr Hutchinson’s belongings which relate to the war disaster.

The TSS Athenia, a transatlantic steam liner, was built in Glasgow in 1923.

Mr Hutchinson always believed that Mr Worrall died in the attack on the liner.

But Ms Malcolm’s research has since established that Mr Worrall, a fish cook who was badly burned by hot oil in the liner’s kitchen after the torpedo strike, survived the incident.

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It is believed he and a colleague were sent to hospital in Galway to recover from their injuries.

Ms Malcolm is now keen to trace anyone who knows what happened to Mr Worrall and where his family may be.

She said: “Emily said: “I was extremely surprised to find that Sidney Worrall, the second fish cook on board Athenia, didn’t die after the sinking.

“The records are very patchy, but it looked as if he had recovered and gone on to live and marry in Scotland.”

Rob Hutchinson, the son of Gerald, said his father had helped to load the lifeboats after the torpedo struck.

Mr Hutchinson said: “He ended up in lifeboat six, which also carried the two badly injured cooks.

“My father did what he could for them over the next few hours, making them as comfortable as possible.

“One of them, named Sid, was really ill when he pressed his wristwatch into my dad’s hand saying “please look after my watch for me”.

Mr Hutchinson added: “My dad grew to treasure the watch that he had been entrusted with.

“He didn’t talk about his experiences much, but when he did he would show the wristwatch and talk about Sid.”

It is now known that Mr Worrall was issued a replacement seaman’s ticket later that year with no death record for any Sidney Worrall until 1973.

She added: “Together with Rob and his family in Canada we would love the public’s help in tracing Sid’s relatives.

“I think they would be genuinely touched to learn that Gerry had kept his treasured watch safe all these years.

“We hope that, with their blessing, it can go on show at Riverside to help tell the important story of the Athenia disaster and those that were on board on that fateful day.”

Glasgow Museums would like the public to help them complete the story.

If you have any information about Sid Worrall and his life after the sinking contact Emily at emily.malcolm@glasgowlife.org.uk