The nephew of a young sailor who died aboard the first ship to be sunk by a German U-boat in World War One has turned to a group of scuba divers for help with honouring his memory 100 years on at his final resting place.
On Friday, September 5, a group of British Sub Aqua Club (BSAC) divers will remember 250 men who lost their lives aboard the light cruiser, HMS Pathfinder, by laying a wreath and flying the Union flag on the wreck which is located off St Abbs Head in Scotland.
They will also gather vital information and video footage about the wreck which is 68 metres below the surface.
Close by on a boat he has chartered will be Malcolm Stern, 85, from Rickmansworth, whose uncle, William Stern, was just 22 when he lost his life aboard the stricken vessel.
Malcolm, a grandfather-of-eight, will sail out to the wreck with his wife for 50 years, Sharon, his son, Jonathan, 49, who is travelling from his home in Philadelphia, and other members of his family.
Together, they will cast an inscribed stainless steel commemorative plaque into the sea above the wreck site and say prayers in respect of the ultimate sacrifice which William made in the Great War.
A retired manufacturer, Malcolm, has researched his family history and what happened to his Uncle William and was heartened to learn that divers were planning to explore the Pathfinder wreck exactly 100 years to the day after she sank.
He said: "I saw a BBC report outlining what the divers were planning and got in touch with them. I think it’s a wonderful idea and I’m so pleased the 250 men who lost their lives will be remembered in this way."
Malcolm said: "I knew very little about William, who was my father’s brother. However, the internet is a wonderful tool.
"I researched the British Jewry Book of Honour, which shows that William was not quite the first Jew to fall in the First World War, but, he certainly appears to have been the first Jewish sailor to have given his life.
"William, when 17 years old, although he should have been 18, signed on for a 12 year period of engagement in the Royal Navy on December 20, 1909. He served as a Stoker for over four and a half years, on nine different Royal Navy ships, before his tragic death on his fated last ship, HMS Pathfinder.
"As he was lost at sea his body was never recovered and the ocean is his grave. But Esther Stern, his mother and my grandmother, who is buried in the Plashett Jewish Cemetery in east London, has a stone scroll laid on her grave in loving memory of William.
"And when my brother, Raymond, who now lives in Ottawa, Canada, was born he was given the middle name William in memory of the uncle he would never know."
He added: "When I saw the report on the planned dive I thought I had to be there to pay my own respects.
"I have had two steel plaques made with a simple inscription engraved on them honouring William’s memory.
"One I will cast into the sea above the wreck site and the other I intend to keep. I feel it’s important to record family history before it’s too late. All too often people don’t think about genealogy until they are getting on in life but these stories and memories need to be recorded."
Launched on July 16 1904, HMS pathfinder was the lead ship of the Pathfinder class of cruisers.
Armed with nine 4-inch guns, she initially saw service with the Atlantic and Channel fleet while at the start of the First World War she was part of the 8th destroyer flotilla based at Rosyth in the Firth of Forth.
Records show that the Cammel Laird Birkenhead-built HMS Pathfinder was struck by a single torpedo fired from U-21 as it patrolled the Scottish coast south of the Isle of May.