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CPT Thomas Stanborough

CPT Thomas Stanborough

Death 18 Jan 1962
Burial New Orleans, Orleans Parish, Louisiana, USA
Plot 7 Laurel Venus Osier, Cemetery G
Memorial ID 71932962 · View Source
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Biography researched and written by Evelyn Park Blalock. Please do not publish biography or photos elsewhere without providing full and proper credit. Thank you.


Tom was born to Zachariah Thomas Stanborough (1859-1932) and Elizabeth Wyld Stanborough (1863-1908) in Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia. He had eight siblings: Henry, Zachariah T, Daniel, Alice Elizabeth, Frederick S, Charles Hale, Walter Oliver, and Thelma Lillian Rose.

Always restless, Tom went to sea at age 16, originally serving as a messboy on ships between Australia and South Shields, England. In April 1912, he was serving aboard the 'City' which sailed to Newport News, Virginia. Tom and a shipmate decided to jump ship and stay in the United States when they were offered the opportunity to join an American crew... on a Moran Towing recovery tug chartered by the Associated Press to respond to the sinking of the 'Titanic'.

Tom continued to sail on U.S. ships with Moran Towing and then with Lykes Brothers, eventually making his way south to the ports of Pascagoula and New Orleans. There, he met and married Catherine Annie Cora "Katie" Johnson. Together, they had three children: Zachariah Thomas Stanborough (1915–2006), Thelma Rita Stanborough Blalock (1921-2010), and Thomas William "Tommy" Stanborough (1922-1943). Their marriage was tumultuous, as could be predicted when a seafaring dreamer butts heads with a forthright and fiesty Irishwoman. But, their many touching letters are evidence of the deep love they felt for one another.

Tom graduated from the Merchant Marine training courses and was certified as a Ship's Master for both ocean and river duty. He was a born leader on the ship, but his shore leave antics often got him into trouble... from sharing a jail cell in Spain with Juan de Borbon, Count of Barcelona (the deposed Prince) during the Spanish Revolution, to being mistaken for a ghost by his own messboy when he was found inexplicably covered head to toe in coal after one "less than sober" shore leave (only his eyes were visible through the blackness!). Tom always returned home with treasures from his travels and exciting tales of the world beyond Louisiana, which undoubtedly contributed to his children becoming adventurous travelers as well.

Tom was also an innovator. A report from one of his youngest crew members, who we (his descendants) had the pleasure and privilege to meet many years after Tom's death, insisted that Tom was "the first captain" to use fish oil on his decks and equipment to prevent rust from forming. This sailor went on to tell us that another crew member had the good sense to patent the idea, for a product that became known as Rustoleum. We later found notes in one of Tom's early Captain's journals to support this information! In another venture, Tom and some of his seafaring buddies pooled their money to purchase a dry dock in New Orleans, but Tom then lost his share in a poker game. A year later, World War II began, and his buddies became quite rich when this dock became the site of Avondale Shipyard! There are many more examples of Tom's great opportunities that were eventually reaped by someone else. He seemed to be the original Get Smart... "missed it by that much!"

Though Tom loved traveling the world, he was very proud of becoming a U.S. citizen. His naturalization process was complicated because his initial entry into the U.S. (in 1912) was undocumented. Not knowing this would be a problem, Tom listed that date and port of entry on his Letter of Intent, a mistake that delayed his citizenship by two years. However, once he took the oath of allegiance, a new tradition began. He always requested a band to meet his ships when returning to port in the U.S., and they were instructed to play the Star Spangled Banner.

Tom's most challenging commands came as Ship's Master in the Merchant Marine during WWII. Though the incidents were downplayed and often censored from news reports throughout the U.S., Merchant Marine vessels were being sunk at an alarming rate. These ships were necessary to the success of Allied forces, as they transported much-needed replacement personnel and supplies to the fields of battle. One of Tom's voyages did not go well. On June 7, 1942, and under Tom's command, the unescorted and unarmed 'Hermis' was torpedoed by German U-boat 158 (commanded by Erwin Rostin). One torpedo struck on the port side just forward of the bridge, and a few minutes later a second torpedo hit on the port side at #3 hatch. The U-boat then surfaced and shelled the disabled ship, setting it on fire. Fortunately, the US Army transport 'Toloa' spotted the burning 'Hermis' still partially afloat 12 hours later, with the stern out of the water. The survivors (including 12 injured) and one fatality were picked up and taken to the nearest port, in Kingston, Jamaica. Tom continued to serve as a Ship's Master with the Merchant Marine after the incident, until he was eventually considered too old for active service.

Tom's life was full of colorful events and too many brushes with history to recount here. He was truly a memorable personality, a passionate husband, and a devoted father. He is remembered and missed.

Other members in Tom's family who served during World War II include his sons, Thomas William Stanborough (a survivor of the U.S.S. Arizona, later died in the Solomon Sea) and Zachariah T. Stanborough (a bomber pilot with the Army Air Corps); his daughter, Thelma Stanborough Blalock (a civilian employee with the Army Air Corps); his son-in-law, Dennis Ferrell Blalock (an infantry commander with the Army); and numerous nephews.

  • Created by: EveyBl
  • Added: 
  • Find A Grave Memorial 71932962
  • EveyBl
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for CPT Thomas Stanborough (12 Jan 1894–18 Jan 1962), Find A Grave Memorial no. 71932962, citing Greenwood Cemetery, New Orleans, Orleans Parish, Louisiana, USA ; Maintained by EveyBl (contributor 47540842) .