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Old Elizabethan cricketers killed in WWII
F Borne (4041)
Frederick Borne started College in 1932, leaving in 1941. Whilst at school he won the Brice Cup in the Officer Training Corps for the best recruit of the year 1937. He played for the colts cricket team. The following year he progressed to the 2nd XI and in 1939 he played for the 1st XI and was described as a promising batsman who saved the College from defeat in the second match v Victoria College. He was awarded his colours. In 1939 he was right back in the football team being a ‘very reliable player’ and awarded his colours.
His record in 1939 for cricket was:
EC 144-1 dnb F W Mourant 127-5
EC 70 6 GICC 95-4
EC 180 6 Vic Coll 35
EC 55 6 Commercial Lge 149-9
EC 176-6 2 HMS Vindictive 103
EC 163 10 Tauntons school 31
EC 109 14 Vic Coll 103
In 1940 he also featured at right back for the hockey team being the ‘mainstay of the defence’. During his last year at school in 1941 he was the captain of football as well as playing for the hockey and cricket teams. He was also in the music society.
In his military service he was promoted to a lieutenant in the 47th Royal Marines Commando which was formed in Dorchester on 1st August 1943 from selected marines of the disbanded 10th Brigade. The 47th was finally disbanded at Haywards Heath, Sussex on 31st January 1946. He took part in the D-Day landings on 6th June 1944 as part of Operation Overlord. Although they lost large amounts of weapons, equipment and men the survivors regrouped. On 7th June they advanced on Port en Bessin but against all odds the commandos prevailed. The port was crucial as it was where PLUTO (pipeline under the ocean) came ashore which was to supply petrol needed to maintain the Allied advance.
On 11th August 1944, aged 20, he was killed in action at Troarn, Normandy, and is buried in the Ranville War Cemetery just north of Caen.
J A Carey (4044)
John Anthony Carey was born in Uckfield, East Sussex to Lt-Col John Lionel Romilly Carey and Mary Gertrude Dobson of Jersey. John was the 3rd generation of the Carey men to join the Royal Artillery. Grandfather Major General William Dobree Carey DSO was followed by his son John Lionel Romilly Carey who fought with distinction in the Great War also earning a DSO and his grandson John Anthony Carey. In 1939 John married Dorothy Margaret Shaw in Portsmouth. John was a 2nd Lt service number 73053 First Medium regiment, Royal Artillery.
John played for the 1st XI EC cricket team for three years from 1933 to 1935. His most successful match was in his opening year when against Victoria College he scored 107 and bowled 8-4-18-3 in their nearly 200 run victory.
His full record at cricket is:
EC 145 18 GICC 153-5
EC 123-8 11 FW Mourants 116
EC 89-4 dnb HMS Kennett, Garry, Liffey 51 2-0-8-2
and 28-8 3-1-25-2
EC 220-9 65 Banks CC 93 3 for 14
EC 92-0 dnb VA Lewis 182 10-3-37-2
EC 270 107 Vic Coll 89 8-4-18-3
and 55-2 0 for 16
EC 185-7 24 GICC 187-3 2-0-17-0
EC 61 16 FW Mourant 237-6 5-0-24-0
EC 76 28 Commercial Lge 169-7 1-0-2-0
EC 68-2 0 GICC 155-8d 6-2-12-1
EC 49 0 RE Spencer 83 7-2-18-0
and 75-2 16
EC 182 2 King Edward 144
EC 60 7 Pilgrims 129
EC 98 4 GICC 190-8
EC 142 42 Commercial Lge 156-6
EC 185-9d 25 VA Lewis 145-4 4-0-30-2
EC 178 3 Vic Coll 160 6-2-13-3
EC 154-7d 10 FW Mourant 110-6 5-1-18-0
EC 62 32 FW Mourant 162-4
EC 110 4 Commercial Lge 81
EC 172-7d 29 Banks CC 72
EC 147-4 72 FW Mourant 67
EC 128 94 GICC 50
EC 31 1 Pilgrims 109 4-1-3-4
EC 99 0 King Edward school 90 1-0-6-1
EC 162-5 4 VA Lewis 63
EC 72 26 Vic Coll 166 3-0-8-0
and 79-9 0
EC 82-9 24 VA Lewis 161
EC 132 45 Tauntons school 190
EC 132-8 66* GICC 165-2
EC 213 14 Vic Coll 118
EC 113 64 GICC 121-6
EC 178-8d 114 GICC 184-4
EC 85 1 GICC 143-9
EC 64 17 VA Lewis 87
EC 46 5 Pilgrims 70 7-0-14-3
EC 125 7 Commercial Lge 133 6-0-17-3
EC 46 6 GICC 124-3 4-0-31-1
EC 124 6 Pessimists 91 2-0-13-0
EC 76 1 FW Mourant 156-9 0 for 19
EC 200-3d 103* VA Lewis 107
EC 212 69 Vic Coll 198 5-2-9-1
EC 157 2 Tauntons school 134-7 5-0-41-1
EC 157 77 Commercial Lge 136-7 2-0-10-0
EC 115 26 King Edward school 120
EC 174-8 81 Vic Coll 171
He was awarded his colours that year. The following year he played right back in the hockey team where he also gained his colours. The comments made about his cricket was that ‘he had batted well but must try not to be always out LBW’. In his last year he was made captain and was ‘still inclined to play across the ball’. He also played Old Siward in the school’s production of Macbeth.
As a member of the Royal Artillery John took part in the rear-guard action at Dunkirk. His regiment (1st Medium Regt. R.A.) was one of three ordered to hold, at all costs, and cover the embarkation of the British Expeditionary Force. It was in action for two days and nights, fired off all its ammunition, and then blew up its guns. John was wounded by shell splinters and died of wounds on the hospital ship at sea on 23 May 1940 returning from France. He had been seriously wounded in the Allied retreat towards Dunkirk. Both Calais and Boulogne were under siege at the time from German land and air forces. His sacrifice is commemorated on the war memorial in St Brelade, Jersey as well as St Thomas’ Church, Bedhampton.
E J Crews (4072)
Eric John Crews attended EC from 1933 to 1936. He played for the 2nd XI in 1935 and in his last year for the 1st XIs in cricket, hockey and football. He was described as quite a good medium paced bowler.
His record in 1936 was
EC 165-8d dnb Commercial Lge 87-7 5-0-7-0
EC 112 1 GICC 113-8 3-1-14-1
EC 105-5 dnb Pilgrims 104 5-1-20-1
EC 63-8 dnb GICC 172-6 8-2-34-2
EC 116-9 6* FW Mourant 115 5-1-13-1
EC 122-5 dnb GICC 145-4 5-0-32-0
EC 104-9d 10* 2nd Bn Sherwood F 88-6 1-0-7-1
EC 69-5 dnb GICC 165-5d 7-1-24-0
EC 127-9 4 VA Lewis 103-4 1-0-1-0
EC 131 8 GICC 135-7 5-0-39-3
EC 188 10 Vic Coll 189 9-4-26-2
EC 187 13 King Edward school 201-8d 8-0-26-2
EC 37 4* Tauntons school 115-8 10-3-27-3
EC 82 2 Vic Coll 95 3-0-23-0
EC 77 9 2nd Bn Sherwood F 83-4 9-2-24-1
He passed his ‘A’ certificate in the Officers Training Corps
He was a lieutenant in the 69th brigade of the East Yorkshire regiment, service number 137961. He was promoted to captain in the 5th brigade and was mentioned in despatches. He saw service with the ‘Desert Rats’. On his return from North Africa he was chosen by the War Office to have his portrait painted as one of a group. This was put on show at ‘Salute the Soldier’ week in London and is now in the Imperial War Museum. He was involved in was service in Egypt, Cyprus, Palestine, Iraq, Syria, Sicily and NW Europe.
After German citizens in Iran were expelled by Britain, German authorities retaliated by deporting those who were not born in the Channel Islands to Germany with their families. Some 2 200 people from the Channel Islands were removed to camps in Dorsten, Biberach, Wurzach, Laufen and Compiegne. Biberach became a civilian internment camp for people mainly from Guernsey until its liberation by French forces on 23 April 1945. Among those deported were Eric’s father William Henry and mother Edith.
Eric died of wounds he received in France on 11th Sept 1944 and is buried in Leopoldsburg War Cemetery in Belgium with inscription ‘At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them’.
D G de Garis (4200)
Derek Gordon de Garis played cricket for the 2nd XI during his time at College between 1936 and 1941. On leaving school he joined the RAF volunteer reserve and trained in Florida, service number 138197.
At 18.37 on 3rd February 1943 he took off in his Stirling R9197 BU-V aircraft, as co-pilot, from Chedburgh, Suffolk to go to Hamburg. A major raid had been planned for that day and 214 squadron with 11 crews responding. Only 10 took off loaded with 1710 x 4 lb bombs and 90 x 4 lb ‘X’ incendiaries each. Two planes returned early with 6 returning after 5 or 6 hours. However, R9197 and R9282 failed to return. In total there were 263 aircraft dispatched to Hamburg with the eventual loss of 16 bombers. After a short but heavy aerial combat at 20:04 hours Knacke downed Short Stirling Mk I R9197. Gunner O’Neill had shot his last salvos from the Stirling which were fatal for the Messerschmitt and killing its pilot. The Stirling, with a crew of eight, 5 Canadians and 3 Britains, crashed between the Valleikanaal and the railway embankment (northwest of the Bruinenburger locks) in the vicinity of the Leusbroekerweg after the aircraft has released its dangerous bombload during an emergency procedure. During the combat with the Stirling the Messerschmitt Bf 110 with pilot Reinhold Knacke and navigator/gunner Kurt Bundrock was also hit and crashed in a meadow near the Modderbeek, at the Helweg, Achterveld. Bundrock survived the encounter by jumping from the aircraft with his parachute, but his commander perished.
An eye-witness relates:
‘I was sitting at the table with my mother in the kitchen of our farmhouse, sorting beans. I was 6 at the time. There was a tremendous noise and then suddenly quiet. We were so afraid that we did not go out but stayed inside. Mt father was among those who saw the burning wreckage. Villagers tried to approach the plane but Nazi troops surrounded it. The next day I watched as troops salvaged the engines and other parts.’
The crash site is now a meadow near a trail that was once a railway line. A book belonging to the German navigator Bundrock was found and translated. He details how they had shot down the RAF Stirling R9197 above Lausden and the crash of his own Messerschmitt.
H D Green (3584)
Henry Dale Green was born in Lahore, India and attended EC in the early 1920s. In 1923 he played for the 1st XI, received his colours and was defined as a ‘much improved batsman with excellent style but often threw his wicket away’. He was the school bantamweight boxing champion in 1923 and 1924. In 1924 he was in the hockey team and was the captain of cricket, the year the pavilion was completed. In his last year, 1925, he became a top order batsman and useful bowler.
His record is;
Played outside left in the hockey team; ‘good and clever with the stick, and will improve when he grows older and stronger’
EC 116 21 Sporting Club 93 1 for 12
EC 53 FE Fulford 87 3 for 15
EC 59 FW Mourant 103 4 for 24
EC 78 17* Vic Coll 187 1 for 43
and 77 5
EC 110-9 Manchester Regt 156 4 for 52
EC 105 30* FW Mourant 114-7 3 for 34
EC 85 GICC 179 3 for 35
EC 128 49 GACC 130-5
EC 86 and 44-5 Manchester Regt 97 1 for 14
EC 127 22 Vic Coll 200 0 for 21
and 69-6 19
EC 23 and 63-4 Manchester Regt 79 6 for 25
EC 86 GICC 138 11-1-36-3
EC 66 GW Stone 117-2 5-0-20-0
EC 66 4 Vic Coll 207
and 58 2
EC 63 2 Vic Coll 89 1-0-10-0
and 106 24
EC 84 2 GICC 96-4 5-0-22-0
EC 72 6 EB Waite 116
EC 103 1 GW Stone 55 6-1-8-4
EC 58 3 FW Mourant 63 6-0-19-3
EC 56 1 DCLI 64
EC 78 18 GICC 92 4-0-14-1
EC 141 1 FW Mourant 76-4 2-0-6-0
EC 172-6 24 Coll Masters 49
EC 71 2 DCLI 128 11-2-30-4
EC 75 26 Vic Coll 187 5 for 26
140 10 32-2 2 for 16
EC 155-8 10 DCLI 144 0 for 19
EC 113-4 40 FW Mourant 85 5-0-12-2
EC 72-4 16 DCLI 135 8-0-28-1
EC 210 44 Vic Coll 247 1 wkt
He was part of 224 squadron coastal command, with service number 39155. The plane was on search operation and was a Hudson Mk1 based at RAF Leuchars, Fife, Scotland. The pilot, P/O HD Green took off at 17.10, dived into the sea at 22.10. The official record is:
Lockheed Hudson Mk.I N7247 “QX-G” of 224 Squadron RAF. Dived into the North Sea on 7/9/39, 4 miles north-north-east of the North Carr Light Vessel, which was moored off Fife Ness, the easternmost point of Fife. Despite a prolonged search by the Broughty Ferry lifeboat, and Avro Ansons on 220 Squadron, RAF, no trace of the aircraft or the crew was ever found. Two months later a cowling panel from the aircraft was recovered from the sea in the crash area.
B W Rose (4059)
Brian Westland Rose was at EC from 1933 to 1939. In 1937 Rose played for the 1st XI cricket team and was awarded his colours, and the following year he was one of the successful fast bowlers besides setting the high jump record for the school of 5’ 5” (1.65m). In his last year he was second in the long jump against Victoria College and was first in the 110m hurdles in a match that EC beat VC by 52 pts to 11. He played centre-forward in the 1st XI football team where he was said to ‘work hard and tries persistently’. As the spearhead of the cricket bowling attack he was described as a ‘fast right-handed bowler with deadly precision on several occasions and was rather intimidating on a fiery wicket’.
He was also something of a theatrical enthusiast playing Fleance in Macbeth in 1934, being one of the gentlemen of the jury in the school’s Trial by Jury in 1938, and the next year he was one of the pirates and the policemen in the Pirates of Penzance.
His full record is;
2nd in long jump v Vic Coll when EC beat VC by 36.5 to 12.5 pts
EC 104 0 GICC 86-8 7-2-18-0
EC 203-7 dnb GICC 80 6-0-25-1
EC 61 5 FW Mourant 61 4-1-7-2
EC 126-2 dnb Pilgrims 97 10-2-28-5
EC 139-6d dnb Commercial Lge 67 10-2-22-4
EC 95 6 Pilgrims 124-5 10-2-43-1
EC 26-2 aband. GICC 45 6-2-6-4
EC 73 0 2nd Bn Sherwood F 113 9-3-18-0
EC 137-4 dnb GICC 83 7-0-29-1
EC 106-5 dnb FW Mourant 158-6d 6-1-15-0
EC 128 3 HMS Nelson 101 7-3-9-4
EC 126 6* Vic Coll 156 8-1-48-3
EC 111 27 GICC 106-8 9-2-23-6
EC 137-8d 10 Commercial Lge 109-3 8-1-25-0
EC 254 34 King Edward school 264-4 12-0-58-2
EC 139 9 Tauntons school 113-9 9-1-25-0
EC 121 2 Vic Coll 101 10-2-30-2
He was awarded his colours
1st in high jump with New Record of 5’ 5” (1.65m), 2nd in long jump
EC beat VC by 50 – 13 pts
EC 155-8 25 Sherwood Forresters 61 6-2-10-0
EC 181-2d dnb GICC 42 8-3-10-6
EC 64 15 FW Mourant 124-7 9-4-29-1
EC 162-4d dnb GICC 154-5 13-2-48-2
EC 108 13 Commercial Lge 120 6-0-13-1
EC 181-2d dnb Pilgrims 101-9 12-1-31-4
EC 174 60 GICC 104-7 6-1-22-0
EC 72 12 FW Mourant 60 9-3-20-4
EC 135 0 Vic Coll 70 13-4-30-2
EC 188 4 King Edward school 68 12-2-36-1
EC 167 8 Tauntons school 112 13-5-30-2
EC 78 16 Vic Coll 89 5-0-19-0
He was awarded his colours
1st in high jump, 2nd in long jump, 1st in 120 yard hurdles. EC beat VC by 52 – 11 pts
EC 169-6 0 Royal Irish Fus. 87 8-1-30-1
EC 123-8d 7 GICC 63 5-1-8-3
EC 219-3d 3* Pilgrims 102 7-2-15-4
EC 144 27 FW Mourants 127-5 7-4-14-0
EC 133-8d 48 GICC 54 5-2-14-1
EC 147-3 dnb Commercial Lge 135 9-2-38-2
EC 64 13 Commercial Lge 42 9-2-21-3
EC 98 5 FW Mourant 85 9-2-16-2
EC 180 22 Vic Coll 35 3-1-7-3
EC 43-1 dnb GICC 116-6d 10-5-30-1
EC 55 10 Commercial Lge 149-9 13-0-40-4
EC 176-6d 21 HMS Vindictive 103 10-2-28-5
EC 109 8 King Edward school 44 9-4-10-6
EC 163 2 Tauntons school 31 11.2-5-14-6
EC 109 16 Vic Coll 103 14.5-3-35-5
He joined the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve. He was in the Fleet Air Arm Swordfish of 825 Squadron from Manston in 1944 as well as numerous RAF Coastal Command and Bomber Command aircraft carried out attacks. The incident where six FAA aircraft crews and their fates were as follows –
(1) Lt Cdr (A) E Esmonde DSO+, Lt W H Williams+, gunner L/Airman W J Clinton+,
(2) S/Lt B W Rose RNVR, Acting Temporary S/Lt (A) E F Lee RNVR, L/Airman A L Johnson+,
(3) S/Lt C M Kingsmill RNVR, S/Lt (A) R M Samples RNVR, L/Airman D A Bunce,
(4) Lt J C Thompson+, S/Lt E H F Wright RNVR+, L/Airman E Tapping+,
(5) S/Lt C R Wood+, S/Lt (A) R L Parkinson+, L/Airman H T A Wheeler+
(6) S/Lt P Bligh RNVR+, S/Lt D R Beynon RNVR+, L/Airman W G Smith+.
Most were killed (+). Rose, Samples, and Kingsmill were wounded, and only Lee and Bunce were uninjured. Rose and Lee were rescued by MTB.45, Samples and Bunce by a minesweeper, and it is believed Kingsmill by an MTB. The bodies of Esmonde and Smith were later recovered and buried ashore. Esmonde received the Victoria Cross (posthumously), Rose, Lee, and Samples the DSO, and Bunce the CGM.
Destroyers taking part: CAMPBELL (D 21 Pizey), VIVACIOUS, WORCESTER
Early in February
1942, the Admiralty suspected that Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Prinz Eugen might
break out from their French port of Brest and try to force a passage through
the English Channel to their home ports in Germany. The Fleet Air Arm had a
long account to settle with Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, for eight of Ark Royal’s
Skua crews had perished in an attack on the enemy battleships at Trondheim, as
well as two Swordfish in an attack off the Norwegian coast in the same
campaign. Although naval aircraft had sighted the two ships more than once in
the Atlantic, no striking force had ever caught them. Lieutenant Commander Esmonde
had already asked to be allowed to lead his squadron against them if the need
for such an attack ever arose.
One evening Esmonde called his squadron officers to his cabin and told them to be ready for a strike at any moment; the aircraft were prepared and armed with torpedoes. There was a ‘flap’ at 0300 hours next morning and the officers were briefed, but it proved to be a false alarm – a strange coincidence in view of what was soon to happen.
Next morning the squadron flew to an RAF station in Kent, arriving in a blizzard, and were put on five minutes’ readiness. Esmonde was in fact expecting to make a night attack on the German ships, and arrangements had been made for RAF fighters to accompany the Swordfish as flare-droppers. The maintenance ratings had to dig the dispersed aircraft out of the snow in the morning and run the engines three times during the day to keep them warm.
On 11 February, Esmonde went to Buckingham Palace to receive the DSO he had been awarded for the Bismarck action. Next morning, Thursday 12 February, Sub-Lieutenant (Air) B.W. Rose, RNVR, was returning to the mess with his observer after a practice flight when a lorry with some of the squadron officers came tearing past. One of them shouted: ‘The balloon’s gone up.’
It was then a few minutes after noon. The RAF Headquarters had reported that the three ships had at last broken cover and appeared in the Channel, with an escort of destroyers, torpedo boats, E-boats and minesweepers, and a fighter escort described as the biggest ever seen over a naval force.
Rose and his observer ran back to the crew room to put on their flying kit again, and just as they were ready Esmonde came rushing in to give them orders: ‘Fly at 50 feet, close line astern, individual attacks, and find your own way home. We shall have fighter protection.’
The Fleet Air Arm did not waste time. Already the enemy ships would be well along the French coast and nearing the Straits of Dover. The aim was to try to intercept this massive force of more than two dozen surface craft, and attack them before they could reach the sandbanks north-east of Calais.
The six Swordfish crews climbed into their slow, torpedo-carrying biplanes, taxied out and took off at about 1230 hours. They were grouped into two sub-flights of three each, flying in echelon. Only a few Motor Torpedo Boats, the Dover shore batteries, and ten Spitfires were able to support them, the fighters zigzagging across the course keep their speed of advance down to that of the Swordfish. Already by 1942 the biplanes, with their Pegasus engines and single gun turrets, were rightly regarded as out-of-date.
By now, the German warships had passed through the Straits of Dover and were some ten miles north of Calais. According to the subsequent German account, they had left Brest with their escort of destroyers immediately after an RAF raid at 2030 hours the previous night. The E-boats and minesweepers had joined them up-Channel hugging the French coast. Their covering umbrella of shore-based fighters could be relieved and reinforced from the French coastal airfields at short notice. As the squadron passed through the Straits, the long-range batteries on the Kent coast opened fire, but the ships took evasive action. They were also able to avoid the torpedoes fired by the MTBs and destroyers that tried to intercept them.
The Swordfish sighted the enemy after twenty minutes’ flying time. The vessels were a mile and a half away, steaming in line ahead, with Prinz Eugen leading, followed by Scharnhorst and Gneisenau; they were almost through the Straits. Visibility had been patchy during the flight, sometimes right down, and at other times up to a couple of miles.
The force went into the attack over the destroyer screen, meeting the anticipated intense anti-aircraft fire as they closed towards the capital ships. Esmonde in aircraft No W.5984/825 was still flying at only fifty feet when a shell ricocheted off the water and hit the belly of his Swordfish, causing him to steer an erratic course from then on. Johnson, the air gunner of Rose’s aircraft next astern, was hit.
Then the ships’ guns quietened and the fighter attacks began. About fifteen Me 109s and FW 190s dived out of the clouds onto the tails of the Swordfish, and the Spitfire escort became involved in a general dogfight. An FW 190 ripped off the top of the mainplane of Esmonde’s aircraft and he went straight down into the sea.
Rose was attacked both from ahead and astern, at a range of some 200 yards. He dodged as well as he could while his observer, Sub-Lieutenant (Air) E. Lee, RNVR, stood up in the after-cockpit and shouted ‘Port’ or ‘Starboard’ as the attacks came in. They could see the tracer bullets streaming past, and the Swordfish was being hit continually. Moreover, the constant evasive action slowed down its advance, while to make matters worse there was no-one to work the rear gun. Johnson had been either knocked unconscious or killed instantaneously, and Lee could not move his body.
In spite of Lee’s watchfulness, Rose was hit by splinters from a cannon shell that struck the bulkhead behind his seat. Now leading the formation, and with his engine faltering, he decided they must attack without delay. He selected the leading ship and, getting as good a position as he could, dropped his torpedo at a range of about 1,200 yards and saw it running well. It was difficult to observe results, but directly he had made his attack the fighters ceased to pay any further attention to him, concentrating instead on the others. One Swordfish had two Focke-Wulfs on its tail, their flaps and undercarriages down to retard their speed, attacking whichever way the pilot turned.
Sub Lt B W Rose RNVR
The third aircraft, piloted by Sub-Lieutenant (Air) C.M. Kingsmill, RNVR, had the two top cylinders of its engines shot away. The engine and the upper port wing caught fire, yet the air gunner, Leading Airman D.A. Bunce, continued to engage the enemy fighters and saw one crash into the sea. Although all the crew of this Swordfish were wounded, Kingsmill kept control long enough to aim his torpedo in the direction of the second enemy ship, then turned with difficulty and tried to land near some vessels – which turned out to be E-boats. They opened fire on him but he kept flying until his engine finally cut out. The Swordfish crashed on the water a few hundred yards from some British MTBs and eventual rescue; although the crew had first to take to the icy wintry water because their dinghy had been destroyed by fire.
The three Swordfish aircraft in the second sub-flight were piloted by Lieutenant (Air) J.C. Thompson, RN, Sub-Lieutenant (Air) C.R. Wood, RN, and Sub-Lieutenant (Air) P. Bligh, RNVR. They were seen crossing the destroyer screen to attack, taking violent evasive action, but proceeding steadily towards the enemy capital ships. Nothing further was seen of them after that.
As soon as Rose had dropped his torpedo, he tried to make as much height as possible and went out on the port wing of the destroyer screen. He had climbed to 1,200 feet when Lee told him that petrol was pouring out of their starboard side. It was obvious that he could not reach the English coast and he decided to make for some MTBs. He was within four miles of them when his engine cut out but, undeterred, he glided down towards the sea, pulled his stick well back and pancaked down. As he said later, ‘The Swordfish sat down very nicely’.
Rose climbed out of his cockpit into the sea, while Lee tried, unsuccessfully, to remove Johnson, the air gunner, from the after-cockpit. Rose could not help him because his left arm was useless. Despite this incapacity, when the dinghy was washed out into the sea Rose recovered it and got it upright. Lee held it while Rose climbed into it, then he went back to the aircraft to make another attempt to remove Johnson. He could not do so and had to leave him. There was no doubt that Johnson was already dead.
Lee then joined Rose in the dinghy, but the sea was choppy and the little craft soon filled with water. They tried baling it out with their flying helmets, though without much success. Then from their emergency gear they took out the marine distress signals and the aluminium dust-markers. The dust formed a silver pool around the dinghy and could be seen at a distance. But they flung the dust to windward and it blew back on them, so that they looked like a couple of shining tin soldiers. However, they could use the empty tins for baling out the dinghy, and when it was dry they fired the distress signals. Two MTBs then closed in on the dinghy. By that time they had been in the water for an hour and a half. Rose was suffering severely from his wounds, and both he and Lee were numb with the cold.
Only five aircrew survived from the Swordfish striking force, Lee being the only one unwounded. Having made his report to the naval authorities, he apologised for having to hurry away, but as he explained, he was now acting senior officer of the little squadron.
Another account of the battle was:
On 12 February 1942, 18 young men of the Fleet Air Arm flew 6 fabric-covered Fairey Swordfish Torpedo Bombers from RAF Manston in Kent, at little more than 100mph to attack in the Straits of Dover, the largest German Battle Fleet ever assembled. The fleet included the Battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau and the Cruiser Prinz Eugen, protected by 6 Destroyers, 40 Flak Ships and more than 200 fighter aircraft. All of the Fairey Swordfish were destroyed and only 5 of the aircrew were rescued alive from the cold, dark waters of the Straits.
The Daily Mail reported at the time;
“This is an episode of which Britons can be rightly proud. In planes which, against the German protecting aircraft, were as slow as a cart horse compared with a motorcar, 18 men of the Fleet Air Arm flew over the Channel. Crippled and ablaze before they got within range, they kept on, delivered their attacks – and died!”
The Admiralty predicted that the German Battleships would come through the Straits of Dover at night and a sophisticated plan of co-operation between 32 Motor Torpedo Boats and 6 Torpedo carrying Fairey Swordfish aircraft was devised to mount a converging attack on each side of the ships’ bows, lit by flares from the aircraft. The crews practiced this from the start of February but just 2 days before the attack, the Admiralty decided that the threat level had lowered. They removed most of the MTB’s, leaving only 6 boats in Dover at 4 hrs. readiness. 825 Squadron were reforming after having lost their aircraft when the Aircraft Carrier HMS Ark Royal was sunk. Three replacement aircraft were to be collected from storage at Campbeltown in Scotland and Petty Officer WJ Clinton was detailed to go there to check-out polar diagrams for the replacement aircraft. He had arranged a date with his fiance in London for that particular weekend, and as CPO Les Sayer’s wife was living in Scotland, he willingly agreed to swap duties. Les had previously flown with pilot “Percy Gick” in the attack led by Esmonde against the Bismarck but now as CPO, he would fly with the CO. In his place however, CPO Clinton became Senior TAG and so it was his lot to accompany the CO.
6 aircraft were sent to RAF Manston but 7 pilots were available. So, on the morning of 12th February, the 2 most junior pilots, Sub Lt Peter Bligh, and Sub Lt Bennet tossed a coin to decide who should fly. Peter Bligh called tails and flew whilst Bennet stayed on the ground.
Since they arrived at RAF Manston, on the morning of 4th February 1942, 825 Naval Air quadron consisting of Fairey Swordfish had been on 5-minute standby but on 11th February as there appeared no real threat they were stood down. Their CO, Lieutenant Commander Eugene Esmonde, had a very important appointment in London on that day to receive the award of Distinguished Service Order from HM King George VI at Buckingham Palace, for his part in the attack on the Bismarck 7 months earlier.
Squadron Senior Observer Lt Williams, took the opportunity to visit his mother and family who had been evacuated from their Leigh-on-Sea home to Ruskin Manor, Denmark Hill in London. He received a telegram recalling him to RAF Manston but with an air raid in progress no public transport was running. Jack Hulbert, a well-known variety artist who was a war reserve policeman and as such had a petrol ration, was visiting a friend who had also been evacuated to Ruskin Manor. When he understood just how important it was for Lt Williams to return to RAF Manston he readily agreed to drive him there.
That evening some RAF Officers together with the Fleet Air Arm flying crews arranged a small party to celebrate with Esmonde the award he had received that afternoon. The party ended reasonably early and soberly, for the Fleet Air Arm aircrews had to be standing by their aircraft at 0400 hrs. ready for take-off. This was a routine alert for the pre-dawn critical danger period, which the Admiralty believed the Germans might use to attempt to slip through the Straits. By dawn they were stood down again on a cold crisp morning with freezing snow swirling over the runways at Manston. In the corner of the dispersal area of the aerodrome 6 obsolete biplanes stood alone, fully exposed to the elements.
When the presence of the German ships in the Channel was established beyond doubt, Admiral Ramsey realised that these 6 old planes which had been standing by, on the assumption that a night attack would be ordered, were in fact the only aircraft immediately available to attack the German ships. But how could he send these slow planes out in daylight against the ferocious firepower of the German Battleships and accompanying heavy fighter escort? It would be certain death. Admiral Ramsey telephoned the First Sea Lord, Sir Dudley Pound, in Whitehall and pleaded with him not to be asked to send these 18 men on such a suicidal mission. Sir Dudley replied: “The navy will attack the enemy whenever and wherever he is to be found”. Putting the phone down, Admiral Ramsey nodded to his Air Liaison Officer, Wing Cdr Constable-Roberts.
At Manston Lt Cdr Esmonde addressed his crews in a clipped voice. “The balloon’s gone up. Get ready”. It was of course essential that the vulnerable torpedo carrying biplanes should be given fighter cover for their run in. When Lt Cdr Esmonde’s phone rang again, it was 11 Fighter Group, saying; “We intend putting in the Biggin Hill Wing of 3 squadrons as top cover with the Hornchurch Wing of 2 squadrons as close escort to beat up the ‘flak’ ships for you”. The voice continued: “Both Wings have been told to rendezvous over Manston. What time should they be there?” Lt Cdr Esmonde glanced at his watch and said: “Tell them to be here by 12.25 hrs. Get the fighters to us on time – for the love of God”.
At Dover Castle, despite Sir Dudley-Pound’s ruling, there was evidently some misgivings, for Wing Cdr Constable-Roberts telephoned Esmonde again to stress that the Swordfish must go only if he was satisfied that the fighter cover was adequate. Both the RAF and RN officers on the spot felt that even with a heavy fighter escort, few Swordfish crews would return from this mission.
At 12.25hrs Eugene Esmonde waved his arm to signal the take off. As the 6 biplanes climbed into the air, the Commanding Officer of RAF Manston’ Wing Commander Tom Gleave, stood alone in the middle of the snow-covered airfield and gave a farewell salute. The Swordfish circled at 1,500 feet over the East Kent coast waiting for their fighter escort. At 12.29hrs – 4 minutes after the arranged rendezvous time – the Swordfish were still circling over the coast off Ramsgate. The weather was thickening up but there was not a fighter to be seen in the sky let alone the promised 5 Spitfire squadrons. Only 10 Spitfires of No. 72 Squadron, commanded by Squadron Leader Brian Kingscombe, found the Swordfish and that was at 12.32hrs. The Swordfish and Spitfires circled for another 2 minutes but no more fighters arrived. Esmonde knew that it was case of ‘now or never’. He waved his hand and dived down to 50 feet above sea level and led his squadron out to sea.
Squadron Leader Kingscombe at this stage had little knowledge of what was really happening. The security screen at this stage was still functioning. The orders which had been given to him were: “Get to Manston to escort 6 Swordfish and intervene between German E-Boats and British MTB’s”. He had thought it odd to be asked to intervene in a small naval scuffle, but just then it became obvious to him that there was a big flap on. He said later that as he made for the first of the Messerschmitt, “I saw a beautiful ship. I did not know that the Royal Navy had such a lovely ship”.
The British aircraft were approaching the main Luftwaffe fighter screen flying through layers of cloud and meeting the enemy at all levels. As they broke up one wave of attacking aircraft another flight dived to attack the Swordfish. There were 20 or more Me109s circling to make a mass dive on the old biplanes when 3 of Kingcombes Spitfires attacked and scattered them. Suddenly all 10 Spitfires were lost in a whirling air battle with the Luftwaffe. As the Squadron Leader’s courageous and experienced Spitfire pilots began fighting furiously, the Swordfish pilots sighted the German battle fleet. From just about sea level up to about 2,000 feet the whole sky swarmed with Luftwaffe fighters, the largest number ever to have covered any Naval Fleet of any nation up to that time. Onboard the Battle Cruiser Prinz Eugen the anti-aircraft gunnery officer, Cdr Schmalenbach, suddenly heard one of his look-outs shout, “Enemy planes at sea level” The Germans realised with a cold chill that here was their greatest danger of all – a suicide attack! When they were 2,000 yards away every flak gun in the German fleet from the 4-inch guns to the multi-barrelled guns manned by the German Marines, burst with flickering flame. With gold tracer shells and white stars of bursting flak around them, the Swordfish continued on unswervingly.
Esmonde led his squadron over the destroyers while his TAG, PO Clinton, continually fired his machine gun at the diving Luftwaffe planes. Tracers from the destroyers and E-boats smacked into the cockpit as some FW190s now joined the attack. They dived onto the Swordfish and their cannon shells tore big holes in the fuselage and wing fabric. It was a miracle that they kept flying. Tracers set fire to Lt Cdr Esmonde’s tailplane. Spitfire pilot Flt Lt Michael Crombie reported with the raging all around he was aghast to see a crew member (PO Clinton) climb out of his cockpit and crawl along the back of the fuselage to the tail where he beat out the flames with his hands! By the time that ‘Clints’ Clinton had eased himself back to his cockpit they were over the outer screen of the flak ships and the German Battleships’ main 11-inch guns came into action. Belching smoke and flame they laid down a barrage that sent spray splashing into the low flying and now limping aircraft. One shell burst right in front of the CO and it shot away his lower port wing. His Swordfish shuddered and dipped but Esmonde kept it flying. With blood pouring from wounds in his head and back Lt Cdr Esmonde hung onto the controls, holding his course steady for the Prinz Eugen. In the rear cockpit lay PO Clinton and the Observer Lt Williams, both killed in the last attack by a Focke-Wolf Fw 190.
In a last desperate effort he pulled the Swordfish’s nose up and released his torpedo just before a direct hit blew the Swordfish to pieces in a red flash. As pieces crashed into the sea lookouts on the Prinz Eugen reported the torpedo track, Captain Brinkmann ordered “Port 15”, and the ship turned easily to avoid the torpedo. Aboard the German Battleships all this heroism by the Swordfish crews produced no sense of danger whatever, but certainly a feeling of compassion for the fliers sacrificing themselves against impossible odds. Admiral Ciliax, watching from the Scharnhorst Bridge, the Swordfish lumbering towards her, remarked to Captain Hoffmann: “The British are now throwing their mothball Navy at us. Those Swordfish are doing well to get their torpedos away”. While all 3 ships steamed full speed ahead, firing everything they had, the torpedo planes continued flying straight towards them, just skimmimg the waves.
The Swordfish immediately behind the leader followed in to attack and the Observer, 20-year-old Sub Lt Edgar Lee, saw the CO crash into the sea. The Pilot, Sub Lt Brian Rose, tried to keep a steady course and when Edgar Lee had a clear sighting seeing the ships stand out under the clouds, he tried to give instructions through the Gosport Speaking Tube, shouting: “Now, Brian, now!” Unaware that the speaking tube had been severed by gunfire and that his instructions were not being heard. Brian Rose, wounded in the back by cannon shell splinters, held onto the controls, whilst Edgar Lee was too busy shouting directions to notice that the torpedo had been released. At the same time Brian was wounded the main petrol tank was hit. Fortunately, it did not catch fire but fuel starvation made the engine splutter. Brian switched over to the 12-gallon emergency gravity tank which would allow them another 10 to 12 minutes flying time.
As they were losing height, Brian tried to pass round the stern of the Gneisenau but flew right as they swerved away from the barrage of anti-aircraft fire, Edgar Lee turned and saw TAG ‘Ginger’ Johnson slumped over his gun. He had been mortally wounded when that cannon shell had hit them.
Brian kept control of the plane and managed to bring it down on the ice-cold sea about half a mile from the Prinz Eugen. Edgar managed to get Brian out of the aircraft and into the yellow dinghy he had released just as the battered Swordfish sank taking the body of Leading Airman Johnson with it as he was still attached by his G-Strap. The third Swordfish, flown by sub Lt Kingsmill, can claim to have had the most success, insofar as the TAG, Leading Airman ‘Don’ Bunce is credited with shooting down a German Fighter. Don was standing up firing his Vickers gun and after several bursts he looked down to where his seat should have been, only to see a gaping hole. In fact, most of the fuselage was full of holes and tears. Suddenly through the mist Observer ‘Mac’ Samples caught a glimpse of a big ship which he identified as the Prinz Eugen. They continued over the battle fleet screen with a tremendous amount of flak coming up at them. It all seemed so unreal. The three aircrew watched the shells and bullets ripping through wings and amazingly the Swordfish kept flying. Suddenly a cannon shell hit the fuselage immediately behind the Pilot and exploded, wounding both Pat Kingsmill and Mac Samples. Don Bunce saw that the Observer was covered in blood but as he was continuing to shout orders to the pilot to try to dodge the attacking aircraft, Don continued to fire his Vickers gun. Pat Kingsmill recalls: “The tracers came floating gently towards us and then whizzed past. There were more and more large splotches in the sea as aircraft and ships fired at us and their shells burst into the waves. We were really in it, when suddenly I felt a sharp pain in my shoulder and my foot went squelchy. Oddly enough I didn’t feel any more pain and I managed to keep control of the plane. Mac had been hit in the legs at this point but luckily Don Bunce was unhurt”. Whilst still concentrating on the Prinz Eugen, as the sea was rough Pat wondered whether the torpedo would run true. He chugged along at 50 feet but could not at first get lined up properly. He then turned back to make another run in against the intense flak sent up from the Destroyer screen. As he once again flew towards the Prinz Eugen, the German gun crews could be seen in their sleek black anti-flash overalls as they continued to fire everything they had at them. Mac felt a sudden burning sensation in his leg and when he looked down at his black flying boots he was astonished to see that in one there was a neat pattern which looked like button holes. He felt no pain but whilst gazing at his leg that had been drilled with holes, he did not notice that Pat had dropped his torpedo, aimed at the Prinz Eugen, from about 2,000 yards. As Pat’s Swordfish, ripped and shaken by the flak, veered back once more over the destroyer screen a shell sliced off the tops of two or three cylinders which greatly reduced the engine power.
Losing height rapidly he pulled the stick back to bring the nose up to keep flying. With the fabric of the wings tattered with holes the plane could not maintain height and was gradually sinking towards the water when the engine burst into flames and the port wing caught fire. Don continued firing at the same time as screaming insults at the Germans. Pat tried to shout to Mac through the Gosport Tube, not realising that it had been shattered, to say that he was going to attempt to get back to base. Covered in blood Mac managed to climb up towards the pilot and shouted into his ear; “We’ll never make it, ditch near those MTB’s”, and pointed in the direction of Pumphrey’s boats, which were still in the area. Kingsmill’s burning plane, with the engine shot to pieces, glided silently towards the sea. The crew saw the 2nd Vic of three Swordfish, led by Lt J C Thompson, approach the Prinz Eugen at about 100 feet. Pat Kingsmill, being unable to gain height, passed underneath them.
Thompson’s Swordfish limped on, the fabric of the wings and fuselage now tattered and in ribbons and their crews wounded or dying. They still maintained a steady course and flew into the red and orange wall of exploding shells. One after another the Swordfish with their young aircrews were blown to pieces. Of these 9, only the body of Leading Airman William Granville-Smith was recovered. That was the last that anyone saw of those three planes.
As he watched the smoking wrecks falling into the sea, Captain Hoffmann of the Scharnhorst exclaimed; “Poor fellows. They are so very slow. It is nothing but suicide for them to fly against these big ships”. Everyone on the bridges of the Battleships felt the same. Willhelm Wolf, on the Scharnhorst, said; “What a heroic stage for them to meet their end on. Behind them their homeland which they had just left with their hearts steeled to their purpose still in view”.
The heroic attack was over. As the last of the Fairey Swordfish Torpedo planes blew up and splashed into the sea and the German fighters resumed their patrol, it was 12.45hrs. 825 Naval Air Squadron had only taken off from RAF Manston 20 minutes earlier.
Of the 5 survivors, only Observer Edgar Lee was not wounded although the wound of Donald Bunce was slight. Pat Kingsmill and Mac Samples had serious leg injuries. Brian Rose had back injuries but after some months was fit for duty. He died in his aircraft 2 years later in an accident when the wing of his Barracuda aircraft folded up shortly after take-off. He was aged just 23 and is in Paisley Cemetery in Scotland.
The surviving Officers were each made a Companion of the DSO and Don Bunce received a CGM. The others who lost their lives were awarded a posthumous Mention in Dispatches. And, for their exceptionally brave, Commanding Officer, Lt Cdr Eugene Esmonde DSO, a posthumous Victoria Cross – incredibly, the second Victoria Cross to be won by his immediate family.
The Bodies of Lt Williams and PO Clinton were recovered from the sea, taken to RAF Manston and buried in Aylesham Cemetery, near Dover, Kent. The body of PO Clinton was returned to his home in Ruislip, Middlesex, where he was buried with full military honours in St Martin’s Church Cemetery. Lt Cdr Esmonde’s body was recovered from the River Medway at Gillingham, Kent, having drifted from near Calais. He was buried on 30 April 1942 in grave number 187 of the RC Section, Naval Reservation, Woodland Cemetary, Gillingham, Kent, with full military honours. Nearly two weeks later, the body of Leading Airman W G Smith was found on Upchurch Marshes, close to Gillingham, Kent. Naval authorities would not allow his widow to have his body for burial at his home town of Poplar, East London, and he was buried at a private ceremony in grave number 1393 in the same Woodlands Cemetery Naval Reservation, 40 yards away from his Commanding Officer.
W C Watling (4194)
William Charles Watling (4194) was born in Middlesborough on 22nd February 1920 but his family later settled in Guernsey and he attended Elizabeth College there from 1936 to 1939. He excelled at Athletics, Cricket, Hockey and Football.
He entered the RAF College, Cranwell in September 1939 as a flight cadet. The course was suspended on the outbreak of war and he was transferred to the RAFVR as an Airman u/t Pilot, but still at Cranwell.
P/O W C Watling
After completing his flying training, he graduated with a Permanent Commission on 14th July 1940 and joined 92 Squadron at Pembrey on the 15th. He was then posted straight to 5 OTU Aston Down to convert to Spitfires and did not return to the 92 squadron till 2nd August.
He claimed a share in the destruction of a Ju88 on 14th August. He was shot down in combat with enemy aircraft over East Guldeford near Rye on 9th September in Spitfire P9372 and baled out, badly burned on face and hands. The official record is:
On 1940-09-09, Pilot W C Watling (Pilot Officer, RAF) with service number 44186, flew a Spitfire I with serial P9372 for this duty: Patrol. His mission was not completed. As part of 92 squadron he was airborne at 16.30 from Biggin Hill with the instructions that the squadron was to patrol Canterbury with 41 squadron’s spitfire up to nearby Maidstone in Kent. The official Air Ministry (RAF Historical Branch) narrative later told how 41 and 92 squadrons ‘took the first shock’ of the incoming German attack over Kent and Sussex, a force comprising ‘a large formation of bombers escorted by Me109s’. Somewhere and somehow in the whirling melee that followed Watling’s spitfire was hit and set ablaze at around 20 000 feet over the Sussex harbour town of Rye. Watling was forced, with no other option, than to bale out and, leaving P9372 to its fate, he drifted down to land in the sea of Winchelsea Beach from where he was eventually rescued suffering from bad burns to his face and hands.
Spitfire P9372 with Pilot Officer W C Watling on 9th Sept 1940
Returning to flying after recovering from his burns Watling probably destroyed a Me109 on 2nd November and damaged another on 1st December.
He was killed on 7th February 1941, still with 92 squadron. Two Spitfires, including Watling in R6924, took off from Manston in the morning for a weather test. Visibility was extremely bad and his aircraft flew into high ground near Deal. Watling was 20 years old and is buried in St. Mary Cray Cemetery, Orpington, Kent. He was recorded as having been killed in a flying accident.
Going back to his time at Elizabeth College he was a prolific and very successful sports player. He entered College in 1936 and gained his School Certificate the following year and Higher Certificate in 1938. He became a prefect in 1937. He played for the football 1st XI from 1936 to 1938 together with being awarded his colours and was captain in 1938. In hockey he played from 1937 to 1939 again gaining colours in the last two years and secretary in his last year. He was part of the Town house gym team and was boxing middleweight champion in 1938-39.
He was even more successful in athletics where he was part of the school team for three years, colours in all three years, secretary in 1938 and captain in 1939. He held the school record for the 220 yards in 1939. In the inter-collegiate meeting he set a new record in the 220 yards with 24.4 sec and in the 100 yards with 10.2 sec. He equalled the record for the quarter mile (440 yards) in 54 sec which he had won for three years and was the senior champion in both 1937 and 1939. In 1937 he won the ‘throwing the cricket ball’ event with a throw of 93 yards and nearly hitting the pavilion.
Cricket was also a sport he excelled at, playing in all three summers from 1937 to 1939, gaining colours in each year and captain in 1939. In 1937 and 1938 he was the recipient of the Dr Robinson’s Bowling Belt and in 1939 he was awarded the Royal Irish Cup for batting. Incredibly he took five or more wickets on 17 occasions. His exploits were:
EC 104 GICC 86-8 12-3-32-7
EC 203-7 103* GICC 80 11-2-29-7
EC 61 19 FW Mourants 61 13-3-26-3
EC 126-2 Pilgrims 97 12-3-25-3
EC 139-6 49 Commercial Lge 67 9.2-2-25-5
EC 95 Pilgrims 124-5 12-5-19-1
EC 26-2 GICC 45 8-2-17-3
EC 73 2nd Bn Sherwood F 113 15-6-32-7
EC 137-4 GICC 83 10.3-3-17-6
EC 106-5 FW Mourant 158-6 14-1-39-2
EC 128 20 HMS Nelson 101 12-2-49-3
EC 126 Vic Coll 156 18-4-70-2
EC 111-0 GICC 106-8 11-3-23-0
EC 137-8 Commercial lge 109-3 8-0-22-0
EC 254 47 King Edward school 264-4 23-3-76-1
EC 139 56* Taunton school 113-9 15-1-43-4
EC 121 Vic Coll 101 14.4-6-16-3
EC 154-0 OEs 156-6 19-4-48-3
In the players profiles in the school magazine his bowling was described as unplayable at times.
1st in 400 yards in win over Vic Coll by 50 -13 pts
EC 155-8 65* Sherwood Forrests 61 8-5-6-5
EC 181-2d 83* GICC 42 9-3-9-2
EC 64 6 FW Mourant 124-7 8-1-37-1
EC 162-4d 23* GICC 154-5 13-2-42-0
EC 101-7 5 GICC 147 19-4-53-5
EC 108 0 Commercial Lge 120 14-4-41-5
EC 181-2d 17 Pilgrims 101-9 13-3-24-4
EC 174 12 GICC 104-7 12-4-35-2
EC 72 4 FW Mourant 60 14-5-22-3
EC 135 14 Vic Coll 70 14.4-7-14-6
EC 163-9 50 GICC 152-9d 11-2-35-3
EC 188 64 King Edward school 68 12-5-17-3
EC 167 40 Tauntons school 112 15-6-33-8
EC 78 1 Vic Coll 89 15-4-30-6
1st in 100 yards, 1st in 400 yards (equal record 54 sec) in EC win over VC by 52-11 pts
EC 169-6 60 Royal Irish Fus 87 10-1-16-6
EC 123-8d 57* GICC 63 5-0-14-3
EC 219-3d 15 Pilgrims 102 11-4-27-2
EC 144 3 FW Mourant 127-5 11-3-35-1
EC 133-8d 0* GICC 54 13-7-10-7
EC 147-3 86* Commercial Lge 135 14-2-34-6
EC 70 4 GICC 95-4 8-1-28-1
EC 64 0 Commercial Lge 42 8-3-21-7
EC 98 8 FW Mourant 85 11-1-12-5
EC 180 0 Vic Coll 35 8-1-19-6
EC 43-1 aban 11* GICC 116-6d 18-7-42-2
EC 109 32 King Edward school 44 9-4-14-1
EC 163 23 Tauntons school 31 11-3-14-1
EC 109 8 Vic Coll 103 17-4-35-2
He was described as one of the most outstanding athletes the college has produced. Besides captain of cricket, football, and hockey he was senior athletics champion, held the 100 yards and 220 yards records and equalled the 440 yards record. He was middleweight boxing champion and an enthusiastic member of the music society, and gained 6th place on entrance to Cranwell in 1939.
He belonged to the OTC, was a member of the chess club in 1939, choral society in 1938 and 1939. He left school in July 1939 and took up his place at Cranford.
R M G Wetherall (3216)
Rule Maxwell Glasse Wetherall was an older casualty of the war as he had been a student at the College from 1909 in the junior department to 1919 being 38 when he was killed early in the conflict. He was a member of the 2nd Battalion of the Northampton Regiment rising to Lt Colonel. There is confusion about his names. The military have it as Grant but the College admissions have it as Glasse. The latter is much more plausible as his mother had that name.
Known as Max he played cricket for a couple of years. His record is;
EC 53-4 Castle Cornet 119 2 for 31
EC 54-9 5 Royal Garrison Art. 73 0 for 3
EC 92-5 Royal Garrison Art. 88 3 for 18
EC 74-7 6 P de la Mare XI 158-8
EC 48 0 Harding XI 66
EC 185 1* Vic Coll 64 and 55-2 0 for 10
EC 112-3 Royal Gsy Light Inf 30
His military involvement is well documented. He was active in holding positions in northern France during the evacuation of Dunkirk.
Withdrawal: On 25th May 1940 at 1800 hrs the 58th Battalion withdrew to Nerville St Vaast and was heavily bombed. Fortunately there were no casualties. Just after 2200 hrs the Battalion now commanded by Major RMG Wetherall (sic) occupied a position 1.5 miles south of Nerville St Vaast. No sooner had the position been occupied than orders were received to move with the greatest possible speed to Douai. Half of the Battalion was loaded onto ‘A’ Escelon vehicles which proceeded to Douai whilst the remainder moved by march route to be picked up on a second lift by ‘A’ Echelon transport. After a hot meal the Battalion took up defensive positions of 5 bridges, but at 2100 hrs 24th May was ordered to withdraw, this time to Seclin, just south of Lille. A day was spent at Seclin reorganising and standing by ‘to move at ½ hr notice’. At 0330 26th May we moved off by march route to Templemars on the Lille-Seclin road, where we picked up TCVs (troop carrying vehicles) and in them moved towards St Eloi. At Messines the convoy came under fire; after debussing the journey was continued on foot reaching St Eloi at 2000 hrs.
Holding the canal and railway: The next defensive position was on the Ypres-Comines canal, facing north-east; right was ‘B’ company; centre ‘D’ company; left ‘A’ company. Battalion HQ details forming the reserve. During the night the FDLs (Fast Deployment Logistics) were moved forward to the line of the railway to conform with the position held by the 150th Brigade on the left. No contact was made with the enemy during the night. During the afternoon of 27th May ‘B’ and ‘D’ companies gained contact with the enemy and managed to prevent infiltration while ‘A’ company had two of its forward positions overrun. By 1630 hrs touch had been lost with the 150th Brigade on the left of ‘A’ company and a section of carriers under 2nd Lt RCR Roche was moved forward to protect the left flank. The position of ‘B’ and ‘D’ companies’ fronts grew serious and by 2000 hrs the enemy attacked strongly and drove back the Battalion on the right. ‘B’ and ‘D’ companies had to give ground and occupied positions on a ridge which was some 400 yards north-east of Battalion HQ. ‘A’ company held their position and in fact the Battalion front merely pivoted on ‘A’ company. In order to stabilize the position about 40 men from Battalion HQ personnel and stragglers from other units were taken forward by the second in command (Major Watts) and dug in alongside ‘B’ and ‘D’ companies.
The Brigadier left Brigade H.Q. to visit battalions and to impress the C.O.’s that there must be no withdrawal from the positions now held as the Brigadier had been informed by G.O.C that 5 Div MUST hang on in order to protect the northern flank of the remainder of the British Expeditionary Force which was beginning a withdrawal to the coast. The 2nd Northamptons were next visited, Battalion HQ in a farm a short distance south-east of St. Eloi on the St. Eloi – Warneton road. Maj R.M.G. Wetherall (sic), who was in command, appeared to have a good grasp of the situation and was unruffled. The Brigadier discussed the arrangements to be made for sending out patrols across the Ypres-Comines canal which was now the forward defensive line.
Counter attack; on 28th May at dawn ‘B’ and ‘D’ companies attacked in an attempt to regain their position on the canal banks. Largely owing to inadequate artillery support and strong enemy opposition the attack failed and ‘B’ and ‘D’ companies were forced to consolidate near their start line. Both companies had casualties from mortar and artillery fire. The Commanding Officer Major RMG Wetherall (sic) went off to visit the right forward company and was killed. The position grew rapidly worse and by 0830 hrs both ‘B’ and ‘D’ companies had so few men left unwounded that it was purely a question of time how long they could maintain their positions. ’A’ company had several casualties and was in close contact with the enemy.
The final enemy attack: Major Watts, who had taken over command, left to inform the Brigade Commander of the position. During his absence a very strong enemy attack came in between ‘A’ and ‘B’ companies and broke through to Battalion HQ. A further attack came in on ‘D’ company’s right flank. As the CO returned his carrier was knocked out by an anti-tank gun and he was, by this time, covering the whole area. The enemy was firmly entrenched on the ridge and on their favour. ‘A’ company was completely cut off from the rest of the Battalion and continued to fight until overwhelmed by sheer force. A mere trickle of 40 NCOs and men were able to get out from this position when the Battalion was ordered to withdraw and the small force moved by military transport to Driridders.
Lt Col RMG Wetherall with the boxing team
Lieutenant Colonel RULE MAXWELL GLASSE
WETHERALL 15089, Cdg. 2nd Bn., Northamptonshire Regiment who died age 39 on 28
Son of Henry Rule Wetherall and Rita Cecilia Glasse Wetherall; husband of Margaret Evelyn Wetherall, of Moor Park, Surrey.
Remembered with honour in Oosttaverne Wood Cemetery, Belgium