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
Alan

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