Archive | April, 2012

The Padre

29 Apr

Padres in the British forces are of all denominations and apart from their normal duties; they are there to help service men and women with any personal problems.
Many Padres won the Victoria Cross, particular in the First World War Two men come to my mind. The first being, Theodore Bayley Hardy who was attached to the 8th Lincolnshire Regt and the 8th Somerset Light Infantry. He won the D.S.O and the Military Cross in 1917. The Following year in April 1918 he was awarded the Victoria Cross and was presented with the medal by King George V in France. One month before hostilities ended in October 1918 He was wounded and died of his wounds in Rouen France. He was 54 years of age
The other Padre was The Reverend Geoffrey Studdert-Kennedy who was nicknamed Woodbine Willie. He won the Military Cross at Messines Ridge for rescuing men in Gas attacks in 1917. He died at the age of 46 in 1929.
During My National Service with the King’s Own Royal Border Regiment, we had a Padre name Rev G.G Holman CF; I.V. He would visit platoons out on schemes or in the camp on a regular basis. A popular man, who would always tell us not to salute him which we always did, because of the respect we had for him. He came out to the Cameroons with the regiment and would visit the various camps up and down the country. I must say he was a friendly sight due to his easy going attitude and topics of conversation. One day on a road block, in the middle of a jungle area, smack in the middle of nowhere. Who turned up, the Padre with the words “I knew something would happen on this road”.
A few years back I received a letter from a man who was born in Banso in the Cameroons 1960. He wrote saying he was baptised by the Chaplain of the King’s Own Royal Border Regiment. He said he was getting married in France and needed his certificate of baptism because his original one had been lost over the years. He didn’t know the name of the Chaplin and he had contacted the army Chaplains department who said they had no records for Africa.
He asked if I could help him. I gave him the name of our Padre G.G.Holman with details etc. and told him to again get in touch with the Chaplin’s Department. I told him not to be fobbed off and wished him the best of luck. A week later I received a thank you letter telling me the information I gave paid off. The Reverend Holman was alive and well living in York. This is a few years ago and I hope he is still in the best of health.
I am sure ex and present service men and women have a tremendous amount of respect for their Padres. It does not matter if one is not religious; because there are no barriers when you talk to the Padre.

The Very Brave Heroes Of Hastings Street

21 Apr

I was born in April 1938 and grew up in Hastings Street on Walney Island, Barrow-in Furness.
The Second World War lasted six long years and I was seven years old when victory came. During those early years of my life many things happened that I still remember. What in my mind notably most was the blackout, the air raid shelters and military personnel everywhere? The doom and gloom of the war years with defeats and victories was shared in the family households throughout Britain. One has to remember there were no televisions and family life was very close indeed.
What has always been in my mind when I think back on the Second World War, was the two Hastings Street lads who lost their lives in the conflicts
Jack Williams lived at 52 Hastings Street, educated at Walney Modern Secondary School where he was a pupil and left at 15 years of age in1938. Like many more young men in Barrow-in-Furness, Jack sought employment in the then Vickers- Armstrongs Shipbuilding yard. For three years he was employed as an apprentice Miller.
On reaching the age of 18 Jack packed it all in and ran away to join the Royal Artillery. When his training was over, he became a Gunner in 178th Field Regiment and was sent out to Burma in 1942. On the day he left home for embarkation to Burma, I was 4 years old and along with the many mothers etc. in the backstreet I watched Jack leave his house. When he reached the corner of the street, without turning round he gave all of us a wave. That moment has been embellished in my mind ever since.
The sad part to the story is that Jack Williams was killed in action on Friday 17th November 1944, age 21. I don’t know any details of how he was killed, but he must have been in many actions during the two years he was in Burma.
Jack is buried at the Taukkyan Cemetery Myanmar. The Cemetery is just outside Yangon, formerly Rangoon. Grave Ref No 6. K. 23.
In the cemetery at Taukkyan there is the Rangoon Memorial which bears the names of 27000 British and Commonwealth forces who have no known graves. This must have been very sad for all the families and friends of those very brave men, knowing they never had a proper burial.
I feel it is a great honour that I write about Jack Williams. A brave Hastings Street lad who is not and never will be forgotten.
The second Hastings Street lad who lost his life in the Second World War was George Frederick Kelly. I personally never knew him, but I knew of him.
Freddie has he was known was born in 1918 in the Isle of Man. His parents moved to England when he was a young boy and like Jack Williams he was educated on Walney Island. He joined the Merchant Navy as a young man before the Second World War began. Freddie not having a trade was trained as a waiter while working for a Swedish shipping company. When the Second World War started he was serving on the Swedish Motor Merchant Vaalaren of 3402 tons with a 38 man crew.
The Vaalaren was in many convoys crossing the North Atlantic and in doing so was involved many times picking up survivors from ships that had been sunk by U-boats. In late March and early April 1943 the Vaalaren was in Convoy HX-231 travelling from New York – Swansea – Belfast, with a cargo of 4915 tons. In the early morning on April 5th U-boat 229 had seen a ship leave the convoy. The U-boat chased after it and sunk it with one torpedo, the ship was the Vaalaren. Unfortunately there were no survivors of the 38 crew. Freddie’s parents, who lived at number 2 Hastings Street, were informed by the Swedish Shipping Company of his fate and they expressed their deepest sympathy in George Frederick Kelly’s death. It was a very sad end for the 25 year old Freddie and indeed for the Kelly family, neighbours and friends.
George Frederick Kelly was a very brave man. He volunteered along with the other 33000 Merchant seamen who lost their lives, trying to bring food and supplies to Great Britain during the Second World War. Very brave men indeed.
Incidentally on the 22nd September the U-boat 229 was depth charged and rammed by the British Destroyer Keppel. All 50 members of the U-boat229 were lost. It happened in the same area that the Vaalaren went down.
I hope you the reader finds this interesting; about the two very brave Hastings street lads

Follow the Blog Reminder

9 Apr

Hi all, don’t forget to follow the blog, you will not get loads of spam emails only a note when I update the blog  which is usually once or twice a week. Click the follow in the right hand corner – Cheers Alan

John Giles RASC 1947-49

4 Apr

Hi Alan

Just a short letter about my national service
My name is John Giles and I was hauled in to do my National Service at Canterbury with the RASC on the 20th February 1947.When training was complete. I was stationed at various camps in England for the first year. I must admit the time certainly seemed to drag
Then the powers to, be sent me to the Middle East Land Forces Egypt on the S.S. Franconia. As luck had it, I was sent on to Kabrit which was an intelligence Corps depot. This is the camp where the British Commandos trained many years earlier.
I was a white kneed clerk when I arrived, but due to the hot climate that was not for long and after a boring six months, I was sent on to Salonika in Greece for my last six months in the army. The Salonika detachment was a great improvement, even though we were in the middle of a fierce civil war. The unit was Salonika Interrogation Centre and we were billeted in a large private house and yes there were girls around
At one time 40,000 British troops were in Greece; too stop Greece being taken over by the communists. American President Truman poured money into Greece to help the poor financial state of the country. That was the beginning of the end for communist rule in Greece. All British servicemen who served in Salonika were on active service and indeed my last six months in the army soon passed by and I got my demob in 1949.
I would like to send all my friends who served at Kabrit and Salonika all my best wishes
Best of luck
John Giles S/19136378

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