Category: World War 2

Commando Winners of the Victoria Cross

The Commando Winners of the Victoria Cross Plaque may be found at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.

Lt Col Geoffrey Keyes VC, MC.
Lt Col Charles Newman VC
Sgt Thomas Durrant VC
Maj Patrick Porteus VC
L/Cpl Henry Harden VC
Lt George A Knowland VC
Cpl Thomas Hunter VC
Maj Anders Lassen VC, MC**

DRW © 2018. Created 21/08/2018

Updated: 21/08/2018 — 07:00

Forest Frederick Edward “Tommy” Yeo-Thomas GC

Forest Frederick Edward “Tommy” Yeo-Thomas (17/06/1902 – 26/02/1964) was a British Special Operations Executive (SOE) agent in the Second World War and was awarded the George Cross for his clandestine work behind enemy lines.  Yeo-Thomas was known by the Gestapo as “The White Rabbit”. 

The Citation, recorded in the London Gazette of Supplement: 37468, Page: 961 reads: 

“The KING has been graciously pleased to award the George Cross to Acting Wing Commander Forest Frederick Edward YEO-THOMAS, M.C. (89215), Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.

This officer was parachuted into France on 25 February 1943. He showed much courage and initiative during his mission, particularly when he enabled a French officer who was being followed by a Gestapo agent in Paris to reach safety and resume clandestine work in another area. He also took charge of a U.S. Army Air Corps officer who had been shot down and, speaking no French, was in danger of capture. This officer returned to England on 15 April 1943, in the aircraft which picked up Wing Commander Yeo-Thomas.

Wing Commander Yeo-Thomas undertook a second mission on 17 September 1943. Soon after his arrival in France, many patriots were arrested. Undeterred, he continued his enquires and obtained information which enabled the desperate situation being rectified. On six occasions, he narrowly escaped arrest. He returned to England on 15 November 1943, bringing British intelligence archives which he had secured from a house watched by the Gestapo.

This officer was again parachuted into France in February, 1944. Despite every security precaution, he was betrayed to the Gestapo in Paris on 21 March. While being taken by car to Gestapo Headquarters, he was badly “beaten up”. He then underwent 4 days continuous interrogation, interspersed with beatings and torture, including immersions, head downwards, in ice-cold water, with legs and arms chained. Interrogations later continued for 2 months and Wing Commander Yeo-Thomas was offered his freedom in return for information concerning the Head of a Resistance Secretariat. Owing to his wrist being cut by chains, he contracted blood-poisoning and nearly lost his left arm. He made two daring but unsuccessful attempts to escape. He was then confined in solitude in Fresnes prison for 4 months, including 3 weeks in a darkened cell with very little food. Throughout these months of almost continuous torture, he steadfastly refused to disclose any information.

On 17 July, Wing Commander Yeo-Thomas was sent with a party to Compiègne prison, from which he twice attempted to escape. He and 36 others were transferred to Buchenwald. On the way, they stopped at Saarbrücken, where they were beaten and kept in a tiny hut. They arrived at Buchenwald on 16 August and 16 of them were executed and cremated on 10 September. Wing Commander Yeo-Thomas had already commenced to organise resistance within the camp and remained undaunted by the prospect of a similar fate. He accepted an opportunity of changing his identity with that of a dead French prisoner, on condition that other officers would also be enabled to do so. In this way, he was instrumental in saving the lives of two officers.

Wing Commander Yeo-Thomas was later transferred to a work kommando for Jews. In attempting to escape, he was picked up by a German patrol and, claiming French nationality, was transferred to a camp near Marienburg for French prisoners of war. On 16 April 1945, he led a party of 20 in a most gallant attempt to escape in broad daylight. Ten of them were killed by gunfire from the guards. Those who reached cover split up into small groups. Wing Commander Yeo-Thomas became separated from his companions after 3 days without food. He continued alone for a week and was recaptured when only 800 yards from the American lines.

A few days later, he escaped with a party of 10 French prisoners of war, whom he led through German patrols to the American lines. Wing Commander Yeo-Thomas thus turned his final mission into a success by his determined opposition to the enemy, his strenuous efforts to maintain the morale of his fellow prisoners and his brilliant escape activities. He endured brutal treatment and torture without flinching and showed the most amazing fortitude and devotion to duty throughout his service abroad, during which he was under the constant threat of death.”

He survived the war and died in 1964 at the age of 61 in his Paris apartment following a massive haemorrhage. He was cremated in Paris and then subsequently repatriated to be interred in Brookwood Cemetery, Surrey, where his grave may be found in the Pine Glade Garden of Remembrance. 

DRW © 2018. Created 21/08/2018. Image courtesy of Mark Green

Updated: 21/08/2018 — 06:31

James Hendry GC

James Hendry (20/12/1911 – 13/06/1941) was was posthumously awarded the George Cross for his self sacrifice  on 13/06/1941 Loch Laggan, Scotland.

The Citation, recorded in the London Gazette of Supplement: 35962, Page: 1511 reads: 

The KING has been graciously pleased, on the advice of Canadian Ministers, to approve the posthumous award of the GEORGE CROSS, in recognition of most conspicuous gallantry in carrying out hazardous work in a very brave manner, 
to: — B.28593 Corporal Jame Hendry.”

No.1 Tunnelling Company of the  Royal Canadian Engineers was tasked with digging the tunnel between Loch Spey and Loch Laggan to supply water to the British Aluminium works at Fort William, when a fire broke out in an explosives store near Loch Laggan.  Corporal Hendry  ordered his colleagues to run to safety and attempted to extinguish the blaze, rather than attempt to escape the inevitable explosion that would have killed more men and stopped work on the tunnel. However it was in vain as the ensuring explosion killed him and Sapper John MacDougall Stewart. Seven more were injured.

James Hendry was buried in Brookwood Military Cemetery (grave reference 31. F. 9.) in Surrey. 

DRW 2018. Created 16/08/2018, image courtesy of Mark Green.

Updated: 16/08/2018 — 06:37

John *Jock” Rennie GC

John *Jock” Rennie (1919 – 29/10/1943) was awarded the George Cross for the gallantry he displayed in protecting others during a training accident at Riddlesworth near Slough on 29 October 1943.

The Citation, recorded in the London Gazette of Supplement: 36529, Page: 2417 reads:

“The KING has been graciously pleased, on the advice of His Majesty’s Canadian Ministers, to approve of the posthumous award of the GEORGE CROSS, in recognition of most  conspicuous gallantry in carrying out hazardous work in a very brave manner, to: —
6.45960 Corporal (acting Sergeant) John Rennie, Canadian Infantry Corps.”

The Citation does not elaborate on the incident, however, it is accepted that: 

“On 29th October 1943, Acting Sergeant Jock Rennie was supervising grenade-throwing by his unit at a Canadian training camp in Slough, then in Buckinghamshire. One grenade had been thrown successfully but a second failed to clear the protective embankment and rolled back to the throwing area. Rennie had time to get clear of the danger but, concerned for the safety of his men, he ran forward and tried to pick up the rolling grenade and throw it clear. However, the grenade exploded as he did so and he was fatally injured. Three other soldiers within 5 yards of the grenade were only slightly hurt.” (Victoriacrossonline)

He was accorded a military funeral and is buried in Brookwood Cemetery in the military section

DRW © 2018, created 14/08/2018. Image courtesy of Mark Green, description of GC action by Victoriacrossonline. 

Updated: 14/08/2018 — 12:51

Lachhiman Gurung VC

Lachhiman Gurung (30/12/1917 – 12/12/2010), a member of the 4th Battalion, 8th Gurkha Rifles of the Indian Army, was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions in May 1945 at Taungdaw, Burma.

The Citation, recorded in the London Gazette of 24 July 1945, Supplement:37195, Page: 3861 reads:
“No. 87726 Rifleman LACHHIMAN GURUNG, 8th Gurkha Rifles, Indian Army.

At Taungdaw, in Burma, on the west bank of the Irrawaddy, on the night of I2th/I3th May, 1945, Rifleman Lachhiman Gurung was manning the most forward post of his platoon. At 0120 hours at least 200 enemy assaulted his Company position. The brunt of the attack was borne by Rifleman Lachhiman Gurung’s section and by his own post in particular. This post dominated a jungle path leading up into his platoon locality.

Before assaulting, the enemy hurled innumerable grenades at the position from close range. One grenade fell on the lip of Rifleman Lachhiman Gurung’s trench; he at once grasped it and hurled it back at the enemy. Almost immediately another grenade fell – directly inside the trench.

Again this Rifleman snatched it up and threw it back. A third grenade then fell just in front of the trench. He attempted to throw it back, but it exploded in his hand, blowing off his fingers, shattering his right arm arid severely wounding him in the face, body and right leg. His two comrades were also badly wounded and lay helpless in the bottom of the trench.

The enemy, screaming and shouting, now formed up shoulder to shoulder and attempted to rush the position by sheer weight of numbers. Rifleman Lachhiman Gurung,  regardless of his wounds, fired and loaded his rifle with his left hand, maintaining a continuous and steady rate of fire. 

Wave after wave of fanatical attacks were thrown in by the enemy and all were repulsed with heavy casualties. For four hours after being severely wounded Rifleman Lachhiman Gurung remained alone at his post, waiting with perfect calm for each attack, which he met with fire at point-blank range from his rifle, determined not to give one inch of ground.

Of the 87 enemy dead counted in the immediate vicinity of the Company locality, 31 lay in front of this Rifleman’s section, the key to the whole position. Had the enemy succeeded in over-running and occupying Rifleman Lachhiman Gurung’s trench, the whole of the reverse slope position would have been completely dominated and turned.

This Rifleman, by his magnificent example, so inspired his comrades to resist the enemy to the last, that, although surrounded and-cut off for three days and two nights, they held and smashed every attack.

His outstanding gallantry and extreme devotion to duty, in the face of almost overwhelming odds, were the main factors in the defeat of the enemy. “

Lachhiman Gurung VC died at the  Chiswick War Memorial Homes on 12th December 2010  aged 92 of pneumonia, and was buried in Chiswick New Cemetery.

DRW © 2018. Created 12/08/2018. Image courtesy of Mark Green

Updated: 12/08/2018 — 19:38

Bristol Civilian War Dead Memorial

Bristol has 3 churches that were damaged by bombs in World War 2, and two of them have been left as they were (with minor strengthening) as a memorial to the bombing of the city between 24 November 1940 and 11 April 1941. The “Bristol Blitz” helped fashion the city into what we know today, and I am sure that in my explorations in Arnos Vale Cemetery a number of the graves were of those who died in the bombing.

The church that this post is about is called St Peter’s and may be found in Castle Park.  (Google Earth co-ordinates  51.455358°,  -2.589682°). It is also where the memorial may be found affixed to the wall.

The interior of the church appears to be laid out as a garden but was not accessible and could only really be seen from two spaces unless you were very tall and could reach the window spaces.

The plaques.

(1500 x 820)

The images above are each 1024 high.

The area around the church has been made into gardens and quiet spaces and it was a very attractive space. Whether there is a graveyard I cannot say. 

The second church is at Temple Church and Gardens, and it too is a shell that has been propped up and allowed to become a recreation space. It is a very pretty area. There are more images of this church in my Bristol blogpost

The third church is somewhat of a disaster, only the tower remains and it can only be seen from one side otherwise it is completely hemmed in.  The church was called St Mary-le-Port,  and it is really just an oddity that happens to still exist.

Fortunately St Peter’s is still with us to remind us of what the Second World War wrought in terms of civilian war deaths, It is just a pity that often the real meaning gets lost as more people take these spaces for granted. How long before some group takes offence? who knows. But for the moment those who lost their lives are still remembered.

DRW © 2018. Created 04/08/2018

Updated: 05/08/2018 — 13:42

The Fourteenth Army Memorial

In the same space occupied by the Bristol Cenotaph in Magpie Park is the The Fourteenth Army Memorial. 

The Fourteenth Army, also known as the Forgotten Army,  was a multi-national force comprising units from Commonwealth countries during World War II. It’s  operations in the Burma Campaign were easily overlooked by the contemporary press and a memorial to the memory of these men is quite rare to find.

It is a relatively simple memorial though, with a beautiful relief plaque and a simple explanation on the plaque.

 

The Forgotten Army did however leave us one legacy. Known as the Kohima Epitaph it has been incorporated in many military commemoration services.

“When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say,

For Your Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today”

The Kohima Epitaph is attributed to John Maxwell Edmonds (1875–1958).  

DRW © 2018. Created 22/07/2018

Updated: 22/07/2018 — 18:13

Bristol Cenotaph

The Cenotaph in Bristol may be found at  Google Earth co-ordinates 51.454987°,  -2.596391°. in Magpie Park, Colston Avenue, Bristol. I believe the area around the cenotaph as recently been remodelled so everything is in a reasonably good condition.  War Memorials Register entry

It was unveiled on 26 July 1932, attended by: Field Marshall Sir William Birdwood. There are no names on the memorial, and only two commemoration panels. The panel on the face above is:

SACRED TO THE MEMORY
OF BRISTOL’S SONS AND
DAUGHTERS , WHO MADE
THE SUPREME SACRIFICE.
THEY DIED THAT MANKIND MIGHT LEARN TO LIVE IN PEACE

The opposite side panel reads:

“O VALIANT HEARTS WHO TO YOUR GLORY CAME,
THROUGH DUST OF CONFLICT AND THROUGH BATTLE FLAME:
TRANQUIL YOU LIE, YOUR KNIGHTLY VIRTUE PROVED,
YOUR MEMORY HALLOWED IN THE LAND YOU LOVED:
SPLENDID YOU PASSED THE GREAT SURRENDER MADE.
INTO THE LIGHT THAT NEVERMORE SHALL FADE.
ALL YOU HAD HOPED FOR, ALL YOU HAD, YOU GAVE
TO SAVE MANKIND, YOURSELVES YOU SCORNED TO SAVE.”

There are no names on the Cenotaph.

DRW 2018. Created 22/07/2018

Updated: 22/07/2018 — 17:45

Chasetown Saint Anne’s Church War Memorials

St Anne’ Church in Chasetown has become the caretaker of 4 plaques that were sited at the colliery pits where many of the men from the area worked. They commemorate men from 2,3,8, and 9 pits who lost their lives in World War 1.  The four plaques are mounted on the exterior wall of the church.

Unfortunately for most of the time that I was in Chasetown the church was surrounded in scaffolding and I only discovered these memorials towards the end of my stay so was never able to find out much from the people at the church.

Even though the plaques are in a good condition they are difficult to read. 

To the Memory of the Men from No. 2 Pit who fell in the Great War

Thomas Brookes • John Rochelle • Enoch Hancox
William Deakin • Alfred Ross • George H Evans
William A Elson • Enoch Smith • Albert Fairfield
Alfred E Fisher • Charles E Williamson • Walter Reynolds
John Rushton • W Harrold Williamson • Reginald Lees
Ernest Craddock • Frederick Crutchley

To the Memory of the Men from No. 3 Pit who fell in the Great War

Harold Spencer • Thomas Lewis • Albert Lees
Bert Gozzard • Joseph Robinson • Arthur Wright
William Buckley • Joseph Witton • William Daker
Horace Derry • Thomas Downing • Charles Beach
Arthur Heath • Walter Evans • Henry Griffin
John Kelly • Thomas Rose • William Robinson
William Robinson • Percy Bradshaw • William Fellows

To the Memory of the Men from No. 8 Pit who fell in the Great War

Alfred Bradshaw • John Dolman • Richard Stevens
Frederick Bailey • William Longdon • Herbert Nicholls
Edward Bills •  Albert Meaton • Enoch Bedow
William Day • Nonnie Pritchard

To the Memory of the Men from No. 9 Pit who fell in the Great War

Harry B Yardley • Roland Foster • Samuel Evans
Hubert Millard • Joseph W Roberts • Noah Lysons
Henry Duffield • Eli Bott • Bert Roper

DRW ©2015-2018. Retrospectively created 11/07/2018

Updated: 17/07/2018 — 06:10

Liverpool Naval Memorial

Liverpool Naval Memorial may be found on the Mersey River Bank between the Ferry Terminal  and the Museum of Liverpool. (GPS co-ordinates: 53.40349, -2.99659). There are 1408 identified casualties from the Second World War  on the memorial. 

The memorial was designed by C. Blythin and S.H. Smith and was unveiled by the Admiral of the Fleet, The Viscount Cunningham of Hyndhope, K.T., G.C.B., O.M., D.S.O., on the 12th November 1952.

More than 13000 officers and men from the Merchant Navy served with the Royal Navy and they were  subject to Naval discipline while generally retaining their Merchant Navy rates of pay and other conditions. Liverpool was manning port for many of the various types of auxiliary vessels, including armed merchant cruisers and boarding vessels, cable ships, rescue tugs, and others on special service. 

Representative panel

Representative panel

Two of the more well known ships on the memorial are HMS Rawalpindi and HMS Jervis Bay which were both sunk protecting their convoys from German surface raiders.

The memorial is a difficult one to photograph as it is a very popular spot with people, and I was never really able to get decent photographs of it from land side, and the closest I got from the ferry was:

It is also very close to the statue of Captain Frederic John Walker RN.

Appropriately the Merchant Navy Memorial is also in this area.

This was not one of my better memorial explorations, but if ever I return I will rectify the situation.

DRW © Created 16/06/2018

Updated: 17/07/2018 — 06:10
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