Goole Times, 11 November 1977
48 years sailing out of Goole
The sudden death occurred last Wednesday of one of Goole's most experienced master mariners. Captain Herbert William Crabtree (78) of 7 Clifton Gardens, collapsed at his home at midday.
Capt. Crabtree retired from his post as senior skipper with Associated Humber Lines in August 1964, after 48 years of sailing from Goole.
He was awarded an MBE for his services during the last war with the Merchant Navy, in charge of convoys to and from Iceland and the Mediterranean.
Born in Goole, Capt. Crabtree lived at his Clifton Gardens address from 1916 onwards. He started work as office boy for the shipping firm of France Fenwick Ltd. at the age of 13, and went to sea three years later as an apprentice.
At the age of 20 he made his first voyage round the world, and came back as bosun because the regular bosun had been injured. With six months of his time still to serve he was appointed third mate, and obtained his master's ticket in 1924.
His first command came one year later, when he took charge of the SS Equity on a journey to Hamburg on relief duty for the old LMS Railway Company. LMS offered him a permanent position, and in 1931 he became master of the SS Saltmarshe.
As skipper of the SS Ouse when the second world war broke out he accidentally ran into a minefield in dense fog off the south coast. He dropped anchor, and when the fog cleared the ship was seen to be nestling between four mines before it drifted clear.
Capt. Crabtree almost thought the war had begun before it did, when he saw a large detachment of German troops on the quayside at Hamburg. In fact, they were waiting to honour the return of the body of a famous German TT rider who had been killed while racing in the Isle of Man.
In 1940 he was an unknowing witness of the seaborne evacuation of Dunkirk. He was sailing from Middlesbrough to Bordeaux when he saw many small boats and activity in the English Channel.
Association Humber Lines took Capt. Crabtree on again after the war, when he commanded the SS Irwell, the SS Hebble and the MV Wakefield.
Capt. Crabtree's last command was the Kirkham Abbey. He leaves a widow and one son.