Parents and siblings
Both parents were born in Westmorland in the Kendal area but by 1881 the family had moved to Vicker(s) Grove, Withington. Frederick’s father, John Townson, was usually described as a gardener, although in one document from 1898 he was described as a chapel keeper. It is interesting that in 1881 almost all the neighbours were also gardeners. In 1881 John was 37 and his wife, Mary, was 36. At that time they had five children, Henry, 8, born in Kendal, William, 7, born in Barrow, Mary Harriet, 5, Robert, 3 and John Richard, 1. Mary and Robert were born in Broughton, Salford, and John in Withington.
By 1891 the family was living at 32 Orchard St, Withington. Henry was now a joiner, William a warehouse assistant and Robert a gardener. There were three more children all born in Withington, Frederick, 9, Thomas Ernest, 7, and Harold, 3. In 1901 they had moved to 22 Orchard Street. Thomas was now an apprentice joiner. In 1911 they were at 96 Burton Road. Thomas was now a gardener and Harold a plumber.
We found very little about the children except that Mary was baptised at St Philip’s church in Salford on 16 January 1876 and married Joseph Swinbourne Swainson, an electrician, at the Albert Park Chapel, District of Chorlton, on 28 July 1898.
Frederick was born about 1882 in Withington. At the age of 19 he was a gardener but ten years later he was an electrician. By 1917 he was a private in the 2nd Battalion of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, service number 36274. By this stage both parents had died.
The 2nd Battalion was one of two regular battalions of the regiment. We do not know when Frederick joined up but the battalion landed at Tanga in German East Africa in November 1914, later moving to Mombasa. It transferred to Egypt in January 1917 and to France in 1918.
On 3 May 1917 the SS Transylvania, built as a passenger liner by Cunard but taken into service as a troop ship, sailed from Marseille heading for Alexandria with a full complement of troops, including Frederick’s battalion. At 10am on 4 May 1917 the ship was torpedoed by German U-boat U-63. She was struck by a second torpedo and sank off the coast of Italy in the Gulf of Genoa. Ten crew members, 29 army officers and 373 soldiers lost their lives. Frederick is remembered on the Savona Memorial.