Tag Archives: portsmout heroes

The national roll of the Grear War

I’ve been working through the list of names on the Portsmouth First World War Memorial. Although there are a few names that have eluded me, thanks to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the Portsmouth edition of the national roll, it has been possible to find out a lot about many of the men from Portsmouth who fell in the Great War.

The national roll in particular is a great reference source. It’s not comprehensive, as families had to pay for their relatives to be included, and it also covers men who survived as well as men who died. It tells us when a man joined the armed forces. The exact word used is important – men who were already in the Army were serving soldiers, men who joined in the euphoria on the outbreak of war volunteered, men in the Territorial Force or Army Reserve were mobilised, and men who were conscripted are described as ‘joined’.

The entry supplied by the family gives us details that we would not get from anywhere else. In some cases we are told when the person went to the Western Front. We find out when and where somebody was wounded. In some cases, we also hear about how somebody was killed.

Its also interesting to note how many men died of illness. In particular, towards the end of the war quite a few men died during the Influenza pandemic. In general however it seems that a lot less servicemen died on the home front or away from the front-line than did during the Second World War.

Some interesting stories include:

Private W.E. Morey, of the 6th Battalion of the West Yorkshire Regiment, came from 18 Vivash Road. He had volunteered in October 1915. He was taken prisoner on the Somme, and somehow was killed by the Germans in an internment camp at Langensatz – on 27 November 1918, 16 days AFTER the armistice.

Private P. O’Neill volunteered in August 1914. Although he never served overseas, he did serve at home with the Royal Army Medical Corps. He was invalided out of the Army in August 1915, and died in Landport Hospital in January 1916. He is not recorded on the Commonwealth War Graves Commissions register, as he was not a serving soldier when he died.

Pioneer James Newman was one of the oldest Portsmouth servicemen. Of 70 Unicorn Street, Portsea, he was serving in the Army when the war started. Initially serving with no. 2 Stores Section of the Royal Engineers, he was sent to France in December 1918 after the Armistice to work with the Graves Registration Unit. He was accidentally drowned in the Sambre Canal on 13 December 1919, and is buried in Les Baraques Cemetery, France. He was 63.

Sergeant A.A. Martin was a pre-war regular soldier. Serving with the 2nd Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment, he was wounded at Gallipoli. He was seconded to a Bombing School at Lyndhurst in the New Forest, to train new recruits in how to use Grenades. He was killed in an accident on 23 February 1917, and is buried in Lyndhurst. He came from 64 Bedford Street, Buckland.

Private C. Oakey was also killed accidentally. From 70 Union Street, Portsea, he originally volunteered in October 1914 and joined the Royal Army Medical Corps. He was wounded at Ypres, and was again wounded after being transferred to the Salonika Front in 1917. After the armistice he was transferred to Turkey, and was killed in an accident. He is buried in Haidar Pasha Cemetery in Istanbul.

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70 years ago – the Battle of Dunkirk begins

By late May 1940 the British Expeditionary Force and elements of th French and Belgian Armies were becoming bottled up in a small pocket based on the English Channel, cut off by the advance of the German Panzers. The situation was so serious that General Sir Alan Brooke wrote that “nothing but a miracle can save the BEF now”. Lord Gort, the BEF’s commander, informed the Secretary of State for War that there was a risk that a large part of the BEF would be lost in France.

Yet for reasons which Historians have never been able to substantiate with any certainty, on 24 May Hitler ordered the Panzers to halt and to leave the task of finishing off the Dunkirk perimeter to the Luftwaffe and the infantry. This may have been one of the most critical decisions of the war, for by the time the Panzers began their advance again on 26 May the BEF had managed to withdraw relatively unhindered towards the coast. The vital breathing space also allowed the Royal Navy to begin planning the evacuation.

Lance Sergeant Albert Reypert, 30 and from Portsmouth, was killed on 23 May 1940. He was serving with 9 Field Regiment of the Royal Artillery. He has no known grave, and is remembered on the Dunkirk Memorial. 9 Field Regiment were part of the 5th Infantry Division, a unit that was part of BEF GHQ reserve.

Corporal Alexander Boag, 29 and from Southsea, was killed on 26 May 1940. He was serving with the 4/7th Royal Dragoon Guards, a Cavalry unit. He is buried at Essars in France. 4/7 Dragoon Guards were the armoured reconnaisance unit in the 2nd Infantry Division. Essars is a communal cemetery, just south of Bethune. Boag was killed during a fierce battle where the resumed German advance pinned down the 2nd and 50th Divisions. The 2nd Division in particular suffered heavy losses. But they managed to keep a corridor open through which much of the BEF could reach the coast.

Bombardier Harry Short, 34 and from Eastney, was killed on 26 May 1940. He was serving with 5 Battery, 2 Searchlight Regiment of the Royal Artillery. He has no known grave, and is remembered on the Dunkirk Memorial. 2 Searchlight Regiment were part of 5 Searchlight Brigade, which was attached to BEF GHQ.

Gunner Frederick Morgan, 28 and from Stamshaw, was killed on 27 May 1940. He was serving with 5 Battery, 1 Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment of the Royal Artillery. He also has no known grave, and is remembered on the Dunkirk Memorial. 1 Anti-Aircraft Regiment were part of BEF GHQ.

Lance Corporal Henry Bonner was killed on 27 May 1940. He was 28 and from Portsmouth. He was serving with 7 Field Company of the Royal Engineers. He is buried in Comines, Belgium. 7th Field Company were part of the 4th Infantry Division. Comines is 12 Kilometres south of Ypres. On 27 May General Brooke was conducting a holding operation near Ypres, which became known as the battle of Wytschaete.

Two things become immediately clear from what we know about the men from Portsmouth who were killed in the early stages of the Battle of Dunkirk. Looking at their ages, most of them were obviously pre-war regular soldiers. In addition, that some of them were serving with Anti-Aircraft units or Searchlight units, who might expect to be some way back from the front line, suggests that the fighting was extremely muddled, and/or that the Luftwaffe was attacking the Dunkirk pocket with ease during this period.

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The Lee-on-Solent Fleet Air Arm Memorial

Lee

Lee-on-Solent was selected as the site for the Fleet Air Arm Memorial as it was the location of the large Naval Air Station HMS Daedelus. It is one of the lesser known Memorials in the UK, but remembers 1,925 men of the Fleet Air Arm who have no known grave, most of them having been lost at sea.

The Fleet Air Arm served in almost every theatre between 1939 and 1945, such was the growing importance of sea-based airpower. Men and aircraft were lost in air combat, accidents, and also when aircraft carriers were sunk – the Royal Navy lost seven in the Second World War.

The Fleet Air Arm carried out many daring operations in the Second World War, including the hugely succesful strike on the Italian fleet at Taranto in 1940, the sinking of the Bismarck in 1941, and operations against the battleships Scharnhorst, Gneiseau and Prinz Eugen during their channel dash in February 1942.

20 Portsmouth men are remembered on the Lee-on-Solent Memorial:

The Aircraft Carrier HMS Glorious was sunk on 9 June 1940. Onboard were Air Mechanic 1st Class Harry Aldington (28, North End), Warrant Air Mechanic Leslie Ayres (34, Southsea) and Air Mechanic 2nd Class William Nevitt (20, North End). She had recovered RAF aircraft from Norway and was in the process of returning to England when she and her Destroyer escorts were intercepted and sunk by the German Battleships Gneisenau and Scharnhorst.

Air Mechanic 1st Class Douglas London (21, Copnor) died on 27 November 1940. During this time his ship, HMS Hermes, was on station in the South Atlantic defending convoys and intercepting German warships.

Petty Officer (Airman) Ronald Hurford (28, Stamshaw) died on 1 January 1941 when HMS Formidable was in the process of transferring from the South Atlantic to the Mediterranean.

From HMS Goshawk Air Mechanic 2nd Class George Harris (21, Milton), Air Fitter James Davitt (19, Portsea), Chief Petty Officer (Airman) Alfred Dicks (36, Portsmouth) and Air Mechanic 2nd Class Stanley Newnham (29) were all killed on 17 January 1941. HMS Goshawk was a Naval Air Station in Trinidad.

Sub-Lieutenant Francis Gallichan (25, Southsea) was killed on 30 July 1941. His ship, HMS Furious, was operating in support of Arctic Convoys to Russia, Furious launched an air attack on Petsamo. 11 Fairy Swordfish Biplanes were lost.

Air Mechanic 1st Class Leonard Sanger (22, Copnor) died when HMS Audacity was sunk on 22 December 1941. Audacity was a captured German Mechant ship, converted into the Navy’s first Auxiliary Aircraft Carrier. Operating in defence of an Atlantic Convoy, she was spotted by Kondor aircraft and subsequently torpedoed by U571.

Leading Photographer Sydney Horne (23, Cosham) of HMS Sparrowhawk died on 1 April 1942. HMS Sparrowhawk was a Naval Air Station in the Orkneys. It hosted a number of different aircraft, including Swordfish, Rocs and Avengers.

Leading Airman John Bristow (20, Cosham) was a crew member of HMS Avenger when he died on 4 May 1942, while she was in transit from the US to England, having been acquired as part of the Lend-Lease agreement.

HMS Dasher sank on 27 March 1943. Amon those killed were Air Mechanic 1st Class William Cluett (21, Portsmouth), Chief Petty Officer (Air) George Chaplin (35, Fratton) and Petty Officer (Airman) Albert Young (44, Cosham). Whilst at anchor in the Clyde a fire onboard caused her to explode. An inquiry found that the fire was probably caused by a dropped cigarette.

Sub-Lieutenant Edward Clark (23, Hilsea) was serving in 838 Naval Air Squadron when he was killed on 1 May 1944.

Sub-Lieutenant (Air) Leslie Smith (21, Milton) was onboard HMS Illustrious when he was killed on 11 June 1944. During June 1944 Illustrious was operating in support of US Landings in the Mariana Islands, by launching diversionary air raids on Sabang.

Lieutenant (Air) George Cornish (24 Southsea) of HMS Puncher was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross on 8 June 1945 ‘for gallantry, determination and devotion to duty in carrying out a successful air operation in the face of heavy opposition’, for action on 26 March 1945. In poor weather Puncher launched air attacks on German shipping in Alesund, Norway. Cornishas killed during the attack.

Lieutenant Kenneth Lorimer (22, Southsea) died on 20 March 1947. He was serving at HMS Ferrett, a shore establishment in Derry, Northern Ireland.

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Portsmouth war dead project: News

I’ve now finished processing the list of Portsmouth’s World War Two Dead from the list on Portsmouth City Council’s website. Each name has been inputted into a database, along with their details from the Commonwealth War Graves online roll of honour. I have also done a lot of research on each person, using websites such as lostbombers, Far East Prisoners of War, RAF Web and Naval History.net.

I’ve managed to find some fascinating stories, which I have written about on my blog over the past few months. Stories of heroic deeds, medals, families, young and old, men and women, rich and poor. Men who have no grave, who are buried in Portsmouth, or who died far away from home. Men who died in famous battles, and men buried in cemeteries long forgotten. Men who served on the sea, on land and in the air. From all corners of Portsmouth.

There are a total of 2,023 names in the list. 1,027 in the Royal Navy, 539 from the Army, 319 from the Royal Air Force, 84 in the Royal Marines, 35 in the Merchant Navy and 11 in the NAAFI.

From Ordinary Seaman to Admiral of the Fleet, Private to Lieutenant Colonel, and Aircraftman 1st Class to Wing Commander. Youngest 16, oldest 73.

82 men died on HMS Hood, 60 on HMS Royal Oak, and 43 on HMS Barham. 12 Died on D-Day.

2 George Crosses, 5 BEM, 2 CBE, 1 Cross of St George (Russia), 1 DCM, 9 DFC, 5 DFM, 4 DSC, 1 DSC and Bar, 2 DSO, 5 MBE, 1 MC, 3 OBE, 35 Mentions in Dispatches and 32 DSM and 2 DSM and Bar.

113 are buried in France, 60 in Germany, 102 in Italy, 128 in the Far East and 100 in North Africa. 632 are remembered on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial on Southsea Common. 147 are buried in Milton Cemetery, 96 in Kingston Cemetery, and 35 in Highland Cemetery. To put that in perspective, more are buried in Milton Cemetery alone than are buried in France.

I have found some amazing stories – the Chindit, the 16 year old Para, the two brothers who died on the same plane, the submariners, the Paras, Prisoners of War, the Bomber Crew, Engineers, Sappers, Gunners, Ground Crew… all manner of men and women, of all ages, from all parts of Portsmouth, and from all walks of life. I guess the moral of this story is that war, and death, knows no distinction. Like the gravestones in War Cemeteries – all the same, row upon row.

This list was generated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission for the Council, in order to compile a list of names for the proposed WW2 memorial in Guildhall Square. It is clearly far from complete, however. There are many names on local war memorials that do not feature in the list and will require some further research. Also, using Geoff’s WW2 search engine has already helped me identify that there are many people who’s location is given as ‘Fratton’, and not ‘Portsmouth’, for example, and hence may have slipped the net.

So, the project is far from completed. The names that are inputted still require a lot of research, and there are potentially hundreds of other names that can be added to the list. I’m already starting to think about what to do with my findings – clearly, such a database does need to be available to the general public. I especially hope that young people may be able to use it for school projects and such like. The statistics should be able to tell us so much. I also have plenty of ideas for a website including pictures of each grave, so families may even be able to find pictures of the last resting place of their loved ones.

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