b. 21/07/1899 Stanraer, Scotland. d. 31/01/1953 North Channel off Larne, Northern Ireland.
DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 31/01/1953 off coast of Larne, Northern Ireland.
David Broadfoot (1899-1953) was born on 21st July 1899 in Stanraer, Scotland, the son of David and Martha Broadfoot (nee Rennie). His father was a librarian, and David junior was one of four children. His sibliings were James, Isabella and Janet. Little is known about David’s schooling, and he joined the Merchant Navy towards the end of the Great War. He held a 1st Class Wireless Telegraph Certificate (awarded in 1917), and became an employee of the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company in the 1920s and 1930s. He served in the Merchant Navy throughout the Second World War as a radio operator.
On 31st January 1953, off the coast of Larne, Northern Ireland, he was serving aboard SS Princess Victoria (a car ferry) when his ferry encountered severe gales and squalls of sleet and snow. A heavy sea struck the ship and burst open the rear doors; sea water flooded in causing a list to starboard of 10 degrees. Attempts were made to secure the stern doors but without success. The captain tried to turn his ship back but the conditions were so harsh that the manoeuvre failed. Some of the ship's cargo shifted and this increased the list to starboard. From the moment the Princess Victoria got into difficulties. Broadfoot constantly sent out wireless messages giving the ship's position, although the listing of the ship made this task even more difficult. When the ship finally stopped in sight of the Irish coast her list had increased to 45 degrees. Thinking only of the crew and passengers, he stayed at his post, receiving and sending messages, although he must have known that by doing so he had no chance of surviving. He went down with the ship, having deliberately sacrificed his own life in an attempt to save others. Of the 177 crew and passengers, 133 were lost, including all the women and children, whose lifeboat sank. Only 65 bodies were recovered including Broadfoot’s.
David Broadfoot was laid to rest in Inch Parish Churchyard, Inch, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland. Following the disaster of the Princess Victoria, the award of a posthumous George Cross to David Broadfoot was recommended, and his citation was published on 6th October 1953 in the London Gazette. The ship’s captain James Ferguson, was awarded a posthumous George Medal. His widow Muriel and son William David attended an investiture at Buckingham Palace on 20th October 1953, where the Queen presented them with his George Cross. The medal was held proudly by the Broadfoot family until 1999, when on William David’s death, his two sons (David Broadfoot’s grandsons) had to decide what to do with the medal. They chose to donate it on loan to the Stanraer Museum, where it is proudly displayed with other items pertaining to the Princess Victoria.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: STANRAER MUSEUM, STANRAER, SCOTLAND.
BURIAL PLACE: INCH PARISH CHURCHYARD, INCH, SCOTLAND.
David Broadfoot's George Cross at Stanraer Museum, Stanraer, Scotland.
SS Princess Victoria
The officers of the Princess Victoria (Broadfoot is second left)
David Broadfoot with his wife Muriel and son William