Captain Henry Kendall was a mariner who lived from 1874 to 1965. He was a hero of his age and in 1910, as captain of the SS Montrose, sent a celebrated wireless message from his ship to Scotland Yard, as he headed out into the Atlantic Ocean:
“Have strong suspicions that Crippen, London cellar murderer and accomplice, are among saloon passengers.”
Inspector Walter Dew of the Metropolitan Police raced to Liverpool and boarded a faster ship to Canada. In the newspapers each day the world watched... as the power of radio communication was proved for the first time, in the most dramatic fashion. The story made Kendall a household name.
Four years later, at almost exactly the same spot as Crippen had been arrested, in the St Lawrence Estuary, close to the Father Point lighthouse, the RMS Empress of Ireland, which Kendall was commanding, was hit by a heavily-laden coal frieghter, with an ice-breaking bow. The liner sank in just 14 minutes, killing 1012 people. By a quirk of fate Kendall survived - although he had no desire to do so...
Kendall's life reads like a work of fiction. He went to sea as a cabin boy at 15. He survived attempted murder, shipwrecks, torpedoes, icebergs, scorpion bites, cannibals, sharks, fevers, flying bombs and even a marauding leopard. The captain of an Atlantic liner by the age of 32, he played a key role in rescuing 800 refugees when the Germans invaded Belgium in 1914, using one liner to tow another out of Antwerp, despite attempts to stop the two ships leaving.
The whole story has been researched in the course of the last 20 years and follows the amazing tale of "The Grand Prix Saboteurs", about the motor racing champions who became British secret agents in Occupied France during WWII.
Joe Saward is now working to unearth another extraordinary true story...