Military historian in search for family of Chichester sailor

Information on a Second World War veteran from Chichester is sought as part of a project investigating ‘missing’ British servicemen.

Tuesday, 20th April 2021, 8:01 am

Attempts are being made to locate 150 British and Commonwealth servicemen who were deployed to New York during the war – and J. Charles Saigeman, who had an address in Kings Avenue, is among them.

The project started with a Book of Memories that was rescued from the bin after its creator, Mrs Eleanor Casey, died. It was taken on initially by Barrie Holden, whose father was one of the men, then military researcher Gloria Winfield and her colleague Nicola Girling stepped in to help in September.

Goria said: “These men were on convoy duty escorting our valiant merchant ships across the U-boat infested Atlantic.

Mrs Eleanor Casey and daughter Peggy with four of the sailors, John Currie, John McNair, Geoffrey Hawkesworth and Tom Le Poidevin, in a New York park
Mrs Eleanor Casey and daughter Peggy with four of the sailors, John Currie, John McNair, Geoffrey Hawkesworth and Tom Le Poidevin, in a New York park

“In 1941, the Lend-Lease agreement kicked in and they were deploying out to the USA to pick up and crew the converted ships we so desperately needed. Many of these men went on to fight in the many invasions and naval battles of the war.

“Eleanor Casey was the wife of Fraser, a US naval architect and a member of the Union Jack Club. They invited these men to their home, offering them a chance to relax and enjoy American hospitality.

“Many of these men became good friends. Eleanor would write to the families and send food and clothing parcels to those with young children.”

The files collected by Mrs Casey, including photographs of the men and accompanying notes about them, were rescued by surviving daughter Patsy, who is now aged 83 but still offering assistance with the search.

The photograph of J. Charles Saigeman, taken on Christmas Eve in 1943

Patsy remembers the sailors visiting the family and spending time with her and her siblings Peggy and Fraser.

In the past six months, the project’s team has managed to locate 80 of the men, or their families, but now Barry has had to take a step back due to serious health issues.

Gloria said: “I have one man in the Chichester area, J (Jack) Charles Saigeman. He had an address as Montrose, 9 Kings Avenue, Chichester, where his wife lived with two children, John and Kenneth.

“He may have married Doris in 1940 and he may have died in 1996.

Notes in the Book of Memories give more information about J. Charles Saigeman

“He was on HMS Zanzibar and visited New York in December 1943, when he spent Christmas with the Caseys.”

His photograph in the book is accompanied by notes which suggest John and Kenneth were aged about three and four in December 1943. Mr Saigeman is described as ‘very quiet’, with the very underlined, and keen on darts. The notes say he was in the Royal Navy and aged about 26.

Gloria, who used to live in Sussex, said she knew the Chichester area well and had found there were quite a few Saigemans living in Bognor Regis, too.

The historians hope to reunite people with this unique piece of wartime Royal Navy history spanning the Atlantic. If you can help, please email [email protected]