THE MAYDON FAMILY
My Grandfather the Politician and My Father the Submariner: John George Maydon and Stephen Lynch Conway Maydon D.S.O. and bar, D.S.C.
Robert Maydon gave a most interesting talk about these two outstanding men in his family at our Annual General Meeting.
His grandfather, John George Maydon, was born in Mogerhanger, Bedfordshire on 14 October 1857. His parents were John and Ann Maydon. His father was a farmer. He attended the City of London School and a school report dated July 1874 still survives. He came fourth in a class of 37 boys.
The Maydon family crest is a crowing cock with the motto “Spes Sibi Quisque” meaning Each Unto Himself a Hope.
His first employment was with the company Bullard King and Company Limited which ran a fleet of small sailing ships trading from the Thames to the Mediterranean. In 1879 it extended its services to Durban, Natal.
At the age of 21 he emigrated to Natal to serve in the Zulu War. He joined the Durban Mounted Rifles in 1879 and papers concerning his court martial for desertion or absence without leave are in Robert’s possession along with a pay cheque for £15.
He formed King & Sons on 19 December 1881, a company which undertook the functions of ships’ brokers, insurers and surveyors. One of the partners in the venture was Daniel King, who later became his father-in-law. This company, now part of the Grindrod Group, is still active in southern Africa, representing a wide range of global principals in all ports in South Africa, Namibia and Mozambique.
He returned to England and married Alice King on 1 June 1882 at Clapton Weslayan Chapel in Lower Clapton, NE London. She was the daughter of Daniel and Sarah King.
The couple returned to Natal, where he was CEO of King & Sons. In 1884 their son was born, at sea, as they traveled back and forth from Britain.
POLITICS, WAR AND THE WHARF
In 1893 John George Maydon was elected Member of the Natal Parliament for Durban County Borough and served a four-year term until 1897. They lived in Bellair, near Pinetown. In 1894 he was appointed as a Justice of the Peace. In 1895 he retired from King & Sons.
His wife Alice died age 42 in 1897 after only 15 years of marriage. He retired from politics and returned to England with his son Conway Maydon, now aged 13. By 1899 he was back in South Africa at the start of the 2 Anglo Boer War. He was a correspondent for the London Daily News, following the progress of the war. He was wounded at Abrahamskraal in the Orange Free State, presumably in the battle in which the Boers under the leadership of General de la Rey tried to prevent the advance on Bloemfontein British forces under Robert’s command.
He wrote a book entitled French’s Cavalry Campaign which was published in 1901. He sent a copy of it to Douglas Haig who was Chief of Staff to Roberts, and Robert has the letter of acknowledgement which Haig sent in return.
He returned to Natal and was re-elected as Member of Parliament in 1901 and it was at this time he presented his grand scheme for Durban Harbour. As a ships’ broker he must have been very aware of the deficiencies of Durban as a harbour as boats were unable to dock and goods and passengers had to be transported from boat to shore by lighters. He had his critics who thought he took credit for the ideas of others but he must have been very closely concerned with matters pertaining to the harbour.
In 1903 he was invited to become Colonial Secretary and in 1904 he was appointed as Natal’s Minister of Harbours and Railways. The major achievement which is associated with him is, of course, Maydon Wharf, with its 15 berths, which is an integral part of the Durban Harbour. It was an enormous undertaking, first the dredging of the Maydon channel and then the building in stages of Maydon Wharf itself. It stretched for 1½ km when opened in 1906. Union Castle Liners were able to dock beside the Point by 1904.
Manufacturers began building premises alongside the Wharf to take advantage of these facilities, one of the most prominent being Lever Brothers who still operate there today. The Wharf berths are currently leased to private companies and through these, sugar, coal, grain and other agricultural and mineral products are exported in large quantities.
He remarried in 1902 to Dorothy Isabel Cope, from Highlands, Natal, in Fulham, London. The couple had four children born in 1903, 1907, 1909 and Robert’s father, Lynch Maydon in Pietermaritzburg in 1913.
John George Maydon was firmly against the establishment of the Union of the South African colonies and paid many visits to Cape Town during the discussions that led up to Union. He was strongly convinced that Natal had a far better future as an independent colony.
He and his family lived at Netherley, Town Hill in Pietermaritzburg but returned to the United Kingdom in 1918 at the end of the 1 World War. He died in London at the age of 61 on 2 August 1919.
After his death, the family moved to Dorset. His half-brother, Conroy, 29 years older than the youngest son, Stephen Lynch Conroy Maydon and acted as a father to his two half-brothers and two half sisters. Lynch attended prep school in Twyford, Winchester from the age of 7 to 13. He then went to the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth from 1927 to 1931. He was a cadet on the Battleship HMS Resolution in 1931, a midshipman in 1932 and a sub-lieutenant in 1934. In 1935 he attended a sub-marine training course and his first posting in 1936 was on HMS Orpheus, an Oberon Class submarine.
He found time to marry in 1938 before being transferred to HMS Porpoise at the outbreak of the 2 World War in 1939. The Porpoise was a Grampus Class mine-laying submarine built by Vickers-Armstrong. It was 1000 tons and had a crew of 45 to 50 and could dive to a depth of 200 feet. It was UK based. In 1941 at the age of 26 he attended a commanding officers course at Portsmouth and in Scotland. In July he was posted as commanding officer to HMS Umbra stationed at Malta. It was a Royal Navy U-class submarine built by Vickers-Armstrong in Barrow-in-Furness. It took part in operations in the Gulf of Genoa, and was active in the defense of Malta, a key port in the Mediterranean.
He returned to England in 1943 and was promoted to Lieutenant Commander. In May that year he was posted to command HMS Tradewind, a Triton Class submarine, which was built at Chatham, Kent, and launched in December 1942. They were sent to Trincomalee, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). It was while operating in this area that HMS Tradewind sank the Japanese cargo ship the Junyo Maru. It was only much later that Lynch Maydon discovered that on board the Junyo Maru were 2300 Allied prisoners of war and 4200 indentured labourers. Altogether 5620 lived were lost. No flag indicated the presence of POWs as required by the Geneva Convention. When Robert asked his father how he felt about it when he discovered that POWs had drowned after the hit, he confessed that it was very upsetting to know that this had happened but he accepted that such events were unfortunately part of the horrors of war. The outcome was only made known to him in about 1967 when a tape of memories of survivors surfaced in the United States.
A Dutch documentary on the sinking of the Junyo Maru was produced in 2002 and Robert was interviewed to recount his memories of his father, which was a very interesting experience for him.
Robert brought a lot of memorabilia, photographs, documents and medals to show the members who were fascinated by his story of an interesting family.