The NAAFI at war

As well as servicemen and women and people killed in bombing, a number of civilians were killed while on active service during the Second World War. A number of them were working for NAAFI, the Navy Army and Air Force Institute. Between 1939 and 1945 the NAAFI ran 7,000 canteens and had 96,000 personnel, in Barracks, shore bases, airbases, and onboard ships the world over.

Onboard ships the NAAFI employees faced exactly the same dangers as the other members of the ships company. This was shown in the Falklands in 1982, when the NAAFI Canteen Manager onboard one of the ships, an ex-soldier, went up on deck and manned an anti-aircraft machine gun. And sadly, when a ship was sunk, NAAFI employees were at exactly the same risk as the other crew members – at sea there is no option of going to the rear. Wherever the ships goes, so go the men onboard her.

Canteen Assistant Alan Daysh, 19 and from Cosham, was onboard HMS Royal Oak when she was sunk in Scapa Flow on 14 October 1939. Canteen Manager Gordon Huggins, 36 and from North End and of HMS Foylebank, died on 8 July 1940 and is buried in Kingston Cemetery, Portsmouth. Canteen Assistant James Henwood, 19 and from Southsea and of HMS Kashmir, was killed on 23 May 1941. On 24 May 1941 Canteen Assistant Frank Ayling was onboard the Battlecruiser HMS Hood when she was sunk by the Bismarck. Canteen Assistant Leslie Ayling, 20, was onboard HMS Calcutta when he was killed on 1 June 1941. 34 year old James Noyce, from North End, was onboard HMS Galatea when he was killed on 15 December 1941. And Canteen Manager Edgar New, 24, was onboard HMS Audacity when he died on 22 December 1941.


Filed under Navy, portsmouth heroes, World War Two

8 responses to “The NAAFI at war

  1. Ross Clare

    My father, Arthur Clare was NAAFI manager in the mid 1950’s. He served on several camps. Among thise was RAF Brigenorth, RAF St Athan and RAF clee Hill.
    My dad used to take me to some of these camps to stay during the long summer holidays and I have wonderful memories of RAF Clee Hill, sadly now no more. Clee Hill was a Loran and Gee station and although I was a bit too young to understand what was going on with the transmitters, generators and aerials I was completely besotted by the look, sound and smell of this equipment.
    This boyhood experience and exposure to early Radar and electronics was to dominate the rest of my life. I am seventy now and a retired professional electrical engineer still with a passionate interest in radio and all things electronic.
    What a lucky boy I was to go to Clee Hill.

    Ross Clare.

  2. G

    Hi Ross I was stationed on the Clee Hills In 1948 as a radar mech (poss the best time of my life ( never left me either . You were expected to know everything , But the winters were rough.Best wishes from an old Bod Glyn Evans

    • Ross Clare

      Hello Glyn. I am sorry for the very late response to your post and so pleased to hear from you.
      Yes, I can well immagine how bad the winters could be up there. I suspect from your name that you are, like me, a welsh man….I was born in a little village called Glyncorrwg.
      I hope you are well and able to receive this.
      Regards and best wishes.
      Ross Clare.

  3. Brin

    I have just rescued from a charity shop a NAAFI Roll of Honour, an A4 printed paper containing about 200 names, with ranks, regiments etc. The frame is crude and seems to be made out of old NAAFI tea boxes, and there is no name or hint of where it came from.
    Are these things pretty common ?
    I imagine they were printed in about 1946 and sent to every NAAFI, and most of them were just stuck up on nocice boards. But it could be, highly unlikely that this might be the only one, any ideas ?

    • Ross Clare

      Hello Brin.
      Sorry, I have no idea how common these are. I have never seen or heared of these before.
      I hope you are well.
      Regards, Ross Clare.

    • Cheryl Fitchew

      Hello Brin,
      I am an Ex-NAAFI employee and doing research on wartime NAAFI personnel. I see this blog was posted many years ago but….. I can’t help wondering…. do you still have the NAAFI Roll of Honour? It might contain some good leads. A huge long shot I know, but worth asking.

    • Hi do you still have this roll of honour? I am trying to put together as much as i can about the fallen for NAAFI. I published the Book NAAFI by land an sea and would love to add to this archive


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