Dark Days 1941

29 May

December 7th 1941 a date the late and great American President Roosevelt said “A day that will live in infamy.” This was day the Japanese not only attacked the American fleet at Pearl Harbour, but started to attack British governed possessions in the Far East, particular Hong Kong and Malaysia. The Japanese troops from their military bases in Thailand invaded other nations in Southeast Asia and then proceeded overland across the Thai–Malayan border to attack Malaya. The Japanese began bombing strategic areas of Singapore, The air raids were consistent on Singapore from 29 December onwards, although The British anti-aircraft fire kept most of the Japanese bombers from totally devastating the island as long as ammunition was available.
Hope came to the Far East when the Battleship HMS Prince of Wales and the Battle-cruiser HMS Repulse and four Destroyers arrived at Malaya it was hoped they would be a strong deterrent to the Japanese forces. Unfortunately both Ships were attacked and sunk by Japanese aircraft on the 10th December while on the way to prevent the invasion of Malaya. This news came as a great shock not only for the British forces in Malaya but to everyone at home in Great Britain as well. The Japanese had invaded Malaya on December 8th 1941; they landed at the mouth of the Kelantan River, subsequently capturing Khota Bharu and its airfield. Nobody thought it possible particularly the British High command that an army could get through dense jungle and hills to capture Malaya and reach Singapore. All the big wigs thought the only invasion would be seaborne. The Japanese with light tanks and infantry, some using bikes, conquered Malaya within seven weeks
On January31st1942, after the last British Troops had been withdrawn to the Island of Singapore the Johore Causeway that connected Singapore with the mainland was breached. The battle for Singapore intensified with air raid attacks constant. The general attack began on 4th February when the naval base was raided and set on fire our big guns had been positioned for an attack coming from the sea not from the land. The British Forces and Allies were commanded by General Arthur Ernest Percival. No doubt he was a brave man during The First world War because he had been awarded a DSO and MC. History says he was the wrong man in the wrong place to be in charge of the defence of Singapore. One can only draw one’s own conclusion. I have not gone into the ins and outs too many writers have already written on this subject in great detail. That is why you the reader must draw your own conclusion.
The Japanese continued to make fresh landings; the Johore Causeway was soon fixed so that tanks were beginning to cross. After fierce fighting the reservoirs were lost to the enemy then the naval base. To the utter dismay to British troops on the ground General Percival surrendered unconditionally with 75,000 men to Lt General Yamashita. Singapore the jewel in the British Crown was lost one week after the initial Japanese attack on the Island.
The fall of Singapore was another low point for the British people during the early days of the war. All those captured troops both British, and Australian were sent to Prisoner of war camps and suffered horrendous brutality. There were 50,000 British Troops in Japanese captivity 12,433 died as POWs‎ .The Australians had 21000 in captivity of which 8031 died as POWs.
These were not old men they were young fit men who were broken bodily and mentally by the sheer cruelty of the Japanese military.
The men who survived the POW camps in the Far East suffered many health problems for the rest of their lives. Many died very young. It is very sad indeed for all of those unfortunate men. Their wives, girlfriends and parents must have had a hard time bringing some joy back to their lives, because those who did survive needed help that only loved ones can bring.
.My personal belief is, if General Percival could have for seen what would happen to the men under his command when he surrendered at Singapore and they went into Japanese captivity. I am sure he would have fought to the end. If he had, history would show him in a different light.
Both we the British and Americans were caught napping in 1941 and we paid a bigger price than anyone else for our negativity, because it was also the beginning of the end of our Empire.

British Women

18 Apr

I have wrote many times about the brave men and women of the British services, but I have missed out the wives and mothers of service men and women, who were at home trying to make ends meet in the very difficult times of World War 2. Every mother had a big part to play in bringing about the eventual victory. These magnificent British women with ration books in hand stood in endless queues to buy food for the families. They cooked the meals, looked after the children. No doubt they went short themselves, because of the many shortages of just about everything. Many women had their sons, daughters and husbands serving in the forces and many had their loved ones killed in action in the many theatres of war. Families at home were killed in the bombing of many British Towns and Cities. The grief was shared with the rest of the residents of their streets throughout the country. Whatever happened and in many cases it was sad, they could not dwell on it, because life had to carry on for the sake of the family.
The British women are a strong breed and it was proved in those dark days of World War Two. Neighbours were closely knit your problem was their problem no family had it easy. Clothes were handed down to others in the family as they got older.
During those dark years and before, child mortality was quite common. Just to use this as an example, my parents lost their first child Freda who would have been my older sister if she had lived; Freda was only 2 months of age when she died. My parents did not talk about it, but my father told me when I was a young man. He said it felt as if the the earth had opened up and swallowed him. Our family, were not on their own, because some of my school friends’ parents had similar experiences. During the war years these brave women had other children and brought them up as happy and best they could in the very trying circumstances.
One must remember the illness’s that families endured did not have the medicines etc. to combat them that we enjoy in this present day. I personally think the school children in this present age should be taught about what happened in Great Britain during the war years. Let them understand what their Great Grand Parents went through in order to give them a better life. I could write about this for evermore. Sadly I know and believe they had a very rough time and it should not be forgotten. The trouble was they still had a tough time in the post war ration book years. There was no magic wand, even with their husbands and sons back from the war they just had to grin and bear it and to their credit they just did that. The British Government should have minted a medal for those brave women, who were on the home front and valiantly put the Great in Great Britain.
Alan

H. M. Submarines Seraph, Thorough and Truant.

4 Mar

In 1949 I attended the Walney Island secondary school. The houses of the school were split into three, the Seraph, Thorough and the house my sister, brother and I were in, Truant. These were three submarines that were launched at Barrow-in-Furness Shipbuilding yard at the start of World War Two. All pupils and teachers of the school were very proud to be associated with these submarines and their brave crews.
Seraph was one of the third batch of S-class submarines, built by Vickers-Armstrong at Barrow-in-Furness. Launched on 25 October 1941 and commissioned on 27 June 1942. I have to mention too build these Submarines in such a short time indeed speaks so highly of the Barrow-in-Furness workforce. The Seraph sailed on many dangerous patrols, but is most remembered for Operation Mincemeat. This operation was carried out to fool the Germans that there would be an invasion of Greece and Sardinia not Sicily. The Seraph set sail in April 1943 carrying the corpse of a dressed up Royal Marine officer packed in a sealed canister of dry ice, attached to the wrist of the corpse, was a briefcase containing fake documents to fool the Germans. In the early hours of 30 April Seraph surfaced off the coast of Spain, near the port of Huelva. The Skipper Lt Jewell and his officers removed the corpse from the canister and launched the body and briefcase into the sea. Lt Jewell then radioed back to headquarters the signal “MINCEMEAT completed.” The body was picked up by the Spanish, who decided it was a courier killed in an aircraft accident. The false documents were passed to the Germans and led them to divert forces from the defence of Sicily and the rest is history. The Seraph remained in active service throughout the war. In 1955 she was fitted with armour plating and used as a torpedo target boat. She was attached to a squadron commanded by none other than her first skipper, now Captain Jewell. She remained in commission until 25 October 1962, 21 years to the day after her launching and was scrapped.
The Submarine HMS Thorough was in the third group of the of T Class submarines being built by Vickers-Armstrong at Barrow-in-Furness. She was built and launched on 30 October 1943, commissioned for service on the 1st March 1944. The Thorough served in the Far East for much of her wartime career, where she sank twenty seven Japanese sailing vessels, seven coasters, a small Japanese vessel, a Japanese barge, a small Japanese gunboat, a Japanese trawler, and the Malaysian sailing vessel Palange. In August 1945, along with HMS Taciturn attacked Japanese shipping and shore targets off North Bali. The Thorough sank a Japanese coaster and a sailing vessel with gunfire. The Thorough survived the war and continued in service with the Navy, until finally being scrapped at Dunston on Tyne on 29 June 1962.
The Submarine HMS Truant was a T-class Submarine of the Royal Navy She was laid down by Vickers-Armstrong at Barrow-in-Furness, launched on the 5 May 1939 and Commissioned on October 1st 1939. The Truant had a very active service in many theatres of the war, in home waters, the Mediterranean and Pacific Far East. The Truant’s first victory was when she torpedoed the German light cruiser Karlsuhe off Norway. The ship was so disabled that a German motor torpedo boat had to sink it. Later after many operations the Truant was sent to the Mediterranean theatre of war in the mid 1940’s. During the assignment in the Mediterranean, Truant went on to sink a number of enemy ships, including the Italian merchants Providenza, Sebastiano Bianchi and the Multedo. Also two oil tankers were sunk by the Truant’s torpedoes, the Bonzo and Meteor. The Truant was not finished there; she also sunk the Italian auxiliary submarine chaser Vanna and the Italian Cargo ship Bengasi. That was some record for such a gallant submarine as the Truant.
After her gallant service in the Mediterranean the Truant was sent on operations in the Far East in late 1942, to disrupt and sink Japanese shipping. She torpedoed and sunk the Japanese Merchant cargo ships Yae Maru and Sunshei Maru. Also with torpedoes, the Truant sent to the bottom the Japanese Army cargo ship Tamon Maru. With many more exploits the Truant survived the war and was sold for scrap. During December 1946 whilst en- route to the ship breakers, true to her name the Truant broke loose her cables and was wrecked.
Walney Modern Secondary School has now been demolished. As you the reader will certainly understand, all ex-pupils who were members of the houses Seraph, Thorough and Truant were very proud pupils indeed. I know because I was one of those proud pupils.

The Indian Mutiny 1857-58

13 Feb

Hello everybody I thought this might interest you about an incident that happened during the Indian mutiny
Early in the spring of 1857 there was discontent among many of the Indian troops that were in the Bengal army. The ring leaders of these troops believed the time had come to drive the British out of India and to set up their own leadership. Rumours spread rapidly amongst the troops exciting them to mutiny. One of the main stories being circulated to upset the troops was that the cartridges issued out to them, had been greased with pig and cows fat. The pig, being an unclean animal to both Hindus and Muslims and the cow being sacred to the Hindus. For the reader when a rifle was loaded in the years of 1857. The rifleman had to bite the end of the cartridge before putting it in the breech. This is why the rumour was circulated. The first mutinous action started at Meerut on the 10th May 1857. The Indian troops murdered their officers and many Europeans they could find, including women and children. Gathering in momentum and numbers the mutineers marched on the undefended Delhi and murdered the whole of the European population in absolute cruelty. Hearing the news from Meerut, the troops in the Bengal army also rose up and murdered their officers and all the European men, women and children they could find from the Punjab down to Calcutta. This can only be termed as complete mayhem and was spreading fast. The garrisons at Cawnpore and Lucknow were now heavily under siege.
At Cawnpore, the officer in command was Sir Hugh Wheeler who had 240 officers, soldiers and civilians many who had sought safety at Cawnpore along with 870 women and children. At the time they hoped they would be free from danger, because of the British friendship with the local Prince Nana Sahib. How wrong they were Nan Sahib joined the rebel forces and combining with his army of men it totalled 12000. During the course of the battle, the small British force repulsed everything the Mutineers could throw at them. After 21 days of fighting Nana Sahib offered free passage to the defenders if they would surrender. Sir Hugh Wheeler knew it was futile to carry on and the terms were accepted. The Nana and his Hindu followers taking the Hindu oath and the Muslims swearing on the Koran, that the conditions be observed. As soon as the Defenders of Cawnpore embarked on the boats down the Ganges. The mutineers opened up with terrific barrage of musket fire and cannon from the river bank. All the boats were sunk and all the men barring four, who escaped to tell the tale, were shot. The women and children, some with bad injuries were taken prisoner and marched back into Cawnpore.
On hearing the dreadful news a British force of 1400 men under General Havelock fought their way up from Allahabad defeating all opposition, including Nana Sahib’s force. The relieving force retook Cawnpore and rejoiced that the women and children would be free. When they entered the town they were too late. Everything was quiet, with scattered dresses and shoes were all around. The British troops knew something terrible had happened and it didn’t take long before their suspicions were realised. The great well near to the house where the women and children were imprisoned was choked to the brim with bodies, all had been massacred. The very tough soldiers, who had fought their way up, enduring heat and exhaustion to reach Cawnpore, broke down and cried at the terrible sight before their eyes.
There were many more battles before the final defeat of the mutineers at Lucknow in 1858, which brought the rebellion to an end. India at the time was run by the East Indian Company; this was now transferred from them, to the British Crown and India became a British Dominion.
In 1876 Queen Victoria was proclaimed Empress of India. Seventy one years later, India and Pakistan became Independent of Great Britain in August 1947.

No doubt you the reader will understand that they were turbulent years in the history of India. The seeds for independence for the Hindu and Muslim religion were sown over those turbulent years. During the war against the Japanese both Hindu and Muslims bravely fought side by side with the British forces in Burma, to eventual victory. At this present time both India and Pakistan are strong Independent nations. For the future of both cultures, let’s hope they can live together in peace
Alan

Kingsman Dave Shaw Duke of Lancaster’s Regt

8 Feb

Kingsman Dave Shaw 23 years of age of the 1st Battalion the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment was laid to rest on Tuesday 6th February 2013 at Barrow Cemetery with full military honours.
Kingsman Dave Shaw the eldest son of David and Jenny Shaw, from a very early age wanted to join the army. A Barrow-in-Furness born lad, he attended local schools and joined the local army cadets. He later joined the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment and successfully completing his infantry training served a tour of duty in Afghanistan. On Kingsman Dave Shaw’s second tour of duty while on a patrol near Lashkar Gah in Helmand province, he was shot by insurgents. He was rushed to Camp Bastion where surgeons worked hard on him before transferring him to the Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital in Birmingham, but sadly surrounded by his parents and family Kingsman Dave Shaw passed away. Lieutenant Colonel Wood the commanding officer of the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment spoke very highly of him and turning to Kingsman Shaw’s family said “I hope the memory of a true warrior, a lion of England, a friend and marra, who died doing something he believed in and that he was so good at may offer you some comfort.”
I personally did not know Kingsman Dave Shaw, but I feel the sadness of the passing of this very brave Barrow lad along with his family, friends and fellow servicemen. On behalf of you the reader I wish all our men and women serving in Afghanistan a safe return home.
Alan

Tragedy in Afghanistan 1842

6 Feb

The present conflict in Afghanistan is one of the many conflicts that have plagued Afghanistan for hundreds of years. Here is just one of them.
During the early part of Queen Victoria’s reign in 1883 trouble arose on the borders of India. The British army had entered Afghanistan to restore an Afghan prince to his throne from which he had been driven by a rival. The British Army achieved this task after some heavy fighting especially at the town of Ghuznee, which the Afghans thought it to be impregnable. It was taken after a few hours of fighting. The British soon put down all the resistance. A strong British force remained at Kabul for the protection of the prince.
Towards the end of 1841 a great misfortune happened to this British force. On the 22nd November the inhabitants of Kabul rose up in rebellion and were joined by tribesmen from all parts of the country. All supplies etc. were cut off and the position became very serious. General Elphinstone getting on in years was in command and he was not up to the situation and responsibilities. He decided to leave Afghanistan with his army of 4500 men and some 12000 camp followers. The movement began on the 6th January 1842. As one can imagine the weather was extremely cold with snow very deep on the ground and ravines through which the force had to travel. Not only to contend with the weather. The area was swarming with the enemy and was being attacked from all sides. Numbed with cold the passage blocked by fallen horses and overturned carts, the British soldiers fought to the last man. Of the 17000 who set out from Kabul only one man a Dr. Brydon made it back to Jelalabad in safety. All the rest barring about 100 men and women, who had been taken prisoner, had died by the sword or the cold weather. Quite unbelievable but true.
Sir Robert Sale was in command of a brigade in the area between Kabul and Jelalabad when the news reached him of the massacre. It wasn’t long before his force was attacked but they fought their way down to Jelalabad. Although he was far away from support the prospect was gloomy. The walls of the town were in ruins, but defend it they did. After a few months they took the action to the enemy and attacked them whenever they approached and taking in their cattle. As the siege came into its fifth month the garrison boldly marched out attacking the besieging army in their camp completely routed them and capturing all their cannons. Shortly afterwards, General Pollock with a relieving army, fought his way up the Khyber Pass and reached Jelalabad.
With absolute confidence the united forces marched onto Kabul annihilating any opposition who ventured against them. On reaching Kabul, the great bazaar was burnt as a punishment to the town for the part the inhabitants taken in the massacre. The British force then marched back to India.
Britain is only a small nation, but in this small nation we breed men of steel. Not only just then also in this present day

Alan

Ivan Steadman RAOC 1957-59.

24 Jan

Hello
My name is Ivan Steadman and I have just finished reading Alan’s book which I found especially interesting.
I am just a couple of months younger than Alan and I did my National Service with the RAOC from April 1957 to April 1959.
I am contacting you because, as a result of the plebiscite in Cameroon that you mention, it was necessary to change the currency in the former British Southern Cameroon. The old Nigerian pounds shillings and pence had to be collected in and the CFA franc given out on exchange.
I had been out of the army for over three years when I was one of about a dozen volunteers, all employees of Barclays Bank, who went out to Cameroon to help with this task.
I was there from March to July 1962 and I spent a couple of months in the villages around Bamenda, a month in the villages near Mamfe and the rest of the time I was in Buea. We were split up into teams of two English bankers and two French bankers alone with a local cook, driver and boy. We had two or three vehicles per team. When we drove north, we went up to Kumba and then we crossed the border into the French Cameroon where the roads were a lot better! We could usually make the journey from Buea to Bamenda in a day.
Around Bamenda we were given a schedule of villages to visit and, typically, we spent about a week at each one. We had to find our own accommodation at each village and, occasionally, this meant us living in mud huts but we always chose ones with corrugated iron roofs! Substantially, we lived off the land, so we got a lot of our food from the local markets which, rather confusingly, we’re usually held every eight days rather than weekly. Unlike your experience, we all kept healthy and none of us Europeans even had a stomach upset. This must reflect great credit on our cook. I was appointed chicken buyer for my group. Some of them were very scrawny but the cook used to feed them on maize and it was uprising how quickly they fattened up. Although living conditions were very basic I really enjoyed my time in Cameroon and one very quickly learned how to look after oneself!
Before going out we had a briefing in London and we were informed that there might be terrorist activity in the areas we would be visiting. We did not give too much weight to this and, I am happy to say, we did not have any problems in this respect. However, we did see several burnt out huts which we were told had been destroyed by terrorists.
It occurs to me that I, and all my colleagues who went out to Cameroon in 1962, should be very grateful to you, and all your fellow soldiers who, at considerable personal risk, sorted out a lot of this problem before we arrived. Thank you all very much for what you did.
Since my return from Cameroon I have only come across one person who had been to Cameroon. He was a professional photographer and went out there to photograph the wildlife. That country is hardly on the tourist trail.
Thanks again for what you did and for writing the book.

Kindest regards

Ivan Stedman

Warrant Officer Norman Cyril Jackson VC

13 Jan

I do not intend to write all stories about the brave men who won the Victory Cross, but there is one man who deserves more recognition for you the reader. His name was Norman Cyril Jackson. He was born in Ealing, London on April 8th 1919. Through problems he was adopted by a family named Gunter, when he was only a few weeks old. They set him on the right path in his life and he passed for the grammar school at Twickenham. When at school Norman was always interested in engineering and on leaving school he carried on this interest by becoming a Fitter and Turner with an Engineering Company. In 1939, when the dark clouds of war loomed he joined the RAF Volunteer Reserve. He was trained at Halton and Hednesford where he passed the RAF Engineering exams.
Promoted to Sergeant he was Flight Engineer on a Lancaster bomber on many bombing missions over Germany. The mission that won Sergeant Jackson his Victoria Cross happened on the night of 26/27 April 1944 when 215 Lancaster bombers and 11 Mosquitoes raided Schweinfurt. The path finding aircraft inaccurately marked the target, also contending with strong headwinds and enemy fighters attacking constantly. With all this to contend with the bombs were dropped successfully. The aircraft was climbing out of the target area when it was attacked by an enemy fighter at about 20,000 feet. The Captain took evading action at once but the enemy fighter with a burst of his machine gun secured hits on the Lancaster’s starboard wing which started a fire between the inner engine and the plane’s fuselage. During the engagement with the fighter, Sergeant Jackson was wounded by splinters in his right leg and shoulders. Although shaken up, he told the Captain he could deal with the fire on the wing. The Captain gave him permission to deal with the fire.
Pushing a small fire extinguisher in the top of his life jacket and putting on his parachute pack. Sergeant Jackson jettisoned the escape hatch above the pilots head. He then started to climb out of the cockpit and along the fuselage to the starboard wing. Before he left the fuselage his parachute opened and the whole canopy and rigging spilled into the cockpit. Unbelievably Sergeant Jackson continued on trying to reach the fire. The Pilot, Navigator and Bomb Aimer gathered the parachute together and leased it gently out has the sergeant crawled along to his objective. With the plane travelling at 200 mph and with strong headwinds Sergeant Jackson fell from the fuselage onto the wing. He reached out and got a hold on the air intake and succeeded in hanging on, but unfortunately he lost the fire extinguisher. The fire by now was spreading rapidly and Sergeant Jackson was getting severely burned to his face and hands etc. Unable to hang on anymore he was swept away over the starboard wing with his parachute trailing behind. He survived the parachute landing but broke his ankle when he hit the ground and suffering with burns he was captured and interred where he was put in a hospital for ten months recovering from his burns.
With the fire spreading rapidly the Captain of the Lancaster gave the order to abandon the aircraft. Four of the crew landed safely but the Captain of the Lancaster, Flying Officer F. Miffin and the rear gunner were killed. Sergeant Jackson’s experience did not come to light until after the war when prisoners were repatriated back to England. Sergeant Jackson had said nothing about what had happened but the navigator Flight Lieutenant Higgins and the other survivors of the Lancaster told the story and they recommended him for the Victoria Cross. He was awarded the Victoria Cross in October 1945. After the war He married raised a family but always struggled with the injuries he received during the war. Norman Cyril Jackson died in March 1994 and his buried in Middlesex England.
One in this present day cannot visualize the sheer bravery of the RAF aircrews during World War Two. I and you the reader must be quite astonished to read and comprehend about such a very brave man as Warrant Officer Norman Cyril Jackson VC.

Alan

Men Who Have Won The Victoria Cross Twice

16 Dec

The Victoria Cross takes precedence over all other medals for bravery. For over a hundred years out of all the millions of men who have served in the British and Commonwealth military services. The Victoria Cross was only awarded 1356 times, three of which were awarded twice to three men.
The first to receive the Victoria Cross twice was Arthur Martin- Leake, who was at Standen near Ware, Hertfordshire. He was educated at Westminster School and went on to study Medicine at University College Hospital. After his qualification he joined the Imperial Yeomanry. Later he joined the South African Constabulary as a Surgeon Captain attached to the 5th Field Ambulance. He won his first Victoria Cross at the age of 27 during the second Boer War on the 8th February 1902 at Vlakfontein. During all the fighting at Vlakfontein on the 8th February 1902. Surgeon-Captain Martin-Leake went out to a badly wounded man to give him aid under a hail of heavy fire from about 40 Boers at 100 yards range. Not content with this he then went on to give assistance to a wounded officer, and, whilst trying to place him in a safe and comfortable position. He himself was shot three times, but although in considerable pain he stayed with the injured men until relieved. Martin-Leake while convalescing from his wounds he qualified as a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in1903.
On the outbreak of World War I he returned to service, as a lieutenant with the 5th Field Ambulance, Royal Army Medical Corps, on the Western Front. It was here on the Western Front that he won his second VC, at the 40 years of age. The Citation reads Lieutenant Arthur Martin Leake, Royal Army Medical Corps, who was awarded the Victoria Cross on 13th May, 1902, is granted a Clasp for conspicuous bravery in the present campaign. For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty throughout the campaign, especially during the period 29th October to 8th November, 1914, near Zonnebeke, in rescuing, whilst exposed to constant fire, a large number of the wounded who were lying close to the enemy’s trenches. He was promoted captain in March 1915and major in November of the same year. In April 1917 he took command of 46th Field Ambulance at the rank of lieutenant Colonel. He retired from the army after the war and resumed his company employment in India until he retired back to England in1937. During the Second World War he commanded an ARP post
He died, aged 79, at High Cross, Hertfordshire on the 22nd June 1953, and was cremated with his remains buried in St John’s Church, High Cross. He is commemorated with a plaque and a tree at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. What a very brave man
The second double Victoria Cross winner was Noel Godfrey Chavasse, born in Oxford on the 9th November 1884. He was the younger Identical twin of the Rev Francis Chevasse who later became the Bishop of Liverpool. Noel was educated at Magdalen College School in Oxford then went on to Trinity College Oxford where he graduated with first class honours and stayed on at Oxford to study medicine. In 1912 Noel Chavasse passed his final exams and became a qualified surgeon working in Liverpool. In 1913 he applied and was accepted in the Royal Army Medical Corps as a Lieutenant. One year later the First World War had broken out and he was attached to the 1/10th (Scottish Battalion) of the King’s (Liverpool Regiment) At Hooge in Belgium in June 1915, Captain Noel Chavasse was awarded the Military Cross for gallantry. At Guillemont in France on the 9th and 10th of August He received the Victoria Cross for tending wounded soldiers in the open all day under heavy fire from the German lines. Although wounded in the side by a splinter from a shell, he still carried on helping and carrying wounded men back to safety. Sometimes these brave deeds were just 25 yards from the enemy trenches. The bar to his Victoria Cross came at Wieljte, in Belgium during the period 31st July to the 2nd August 1917 1907 for conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty. Although severely wounded Captain Chavasse continued to perform his duties and went out repeatedly to tend wounded soldiers. Many of these soldiers would have died of their wounds in the bad weather conditions if it hadn’t have been for the brave actions of Captain Noel Godfrey Chavasse. Later in the day he was so exhausted and badly wounded, that he died in a medical dressing station. It is strange that the doctor tending to Captain Chavasse when he died was Martin Leake the other double VC winner. Captain Noel Godfrey Chavasse is buried at Brandhoek New Military Cemetery, Vlamertinge Belgium. One can only visualize what a brave man he was.
The third and last man awarded a double Victoria Cross was Charles Upham, born at 32 Gloucester Street in Central Christchurch on 21 September 1908. He was educated in private schools before going to Canterbury Agricultural College (now known as Lincoln University) where he earned a diploma in agriculture in 1930. At the age of 30 when war loomed in September 1939 Charles Upham Upham enlisted in the 2nd NZ Expeditionary Force and was posted to the 20th Canterbury-Otago Battalion, which was part of the New Zealand Division Despite the fact that he already had five years experience in New Zealand’s Territorial Army, in which he held the rank of sergeant, he signed on as a private. He was promoted to Lance Corporal but at first declined a place in an Officer Cadet Training Unit (OCTU). In December, he was promoted to Sergeant and a week later sailed for Egypt for further training. In July 1940, he was finally persuaded to join an OCTU. In March 1941 Charles Upham no a 2nd Lieutenant left with his battalion to Greece then withdrawn to Crete it was here at Crete that he gained his first Victoria Cross.
German paratroopers were dropped on the Maleme airfield and after a desperate situation of close fighting they took the airfield. During this fighting Upham led his platoon and soon silenced an enemy machine gun post. A cottage nearby taken over by the Germans fired a stream of bullets at Upham. He made use of the scanty cover and lobbed two hand grenades through the window and the German guns went quiet after the explosions. Lt Upham and his platoon attacked another machine gun post and again Upham from 30 yards lobbed two grenades into the machine gun nest scoring a direct hit. During the next 48 hours of non-stop fighting against the enemy, Upham was blown up by a mortar shell, shot in the foot and wounded in his shoulder. Despite these wounds Upham fought on. The following day he saw a neighbouring company in danger of being cut off by the advancing Germans. He single handedly fought through to them and escorted them back to safety. Later that day two enemy machine gunners were causing trouble, Upham twisted and fell to the ground. The Germans with machine pistols at the ready and certain that he was dead. How wrong they were Upham shot them dead at close range with his rifle. With his wounds, fever and fatigue which had drained his strength Charles Upham was evacuated back to Egypt on a British Destroyer where he spent time in hospital. It was here that Lt. Charles Upham learned he had been awarded his first Victoria Cross.

A year after Charles Upham was evacuated to Egypt; he was promoted to a Captain and sent with his battalion for operations against the Axis forces in the Western Desert. During operations with his company, they were involved in the attack on El Ruweisat Ridge on the night of 14th-15th July, 1942. In spite of being twice wounded, when crossing open ground swept by enemy fire to inspect his forward sections guarding the British mine-fields and again being wounded when he completely destroyed an entire truck load of German soldiers with hand grenades. Captain Upham insisted on remaining with his men to take part in the final assault. During the opening stages of the attack on the ridge Captain Upham’s company formed part of the reserve battalion, but, when communications with the forward troops broke down, he was instructed to send up an officer to report on the progress of the attack. Captain Upham went out himself armed with a Spandau gun, after several sharp encounters with enemy machine gun posts he succeeded in bringing back vital information needed. Just before dawn the rest of the New Zealand reserve battalion was ordered forward, but just before reaching their objective they came under heavy fire from strongly defended machine gun posts and tanks. Captain Upham saw the seriousness of the situation and without hesitation led his Company in a determined attack on the two nearest strongpoints on the left flank of the sector. His voice could be heard above the din of battle cheering on his men and, in spite of the fierce resistance of the enemy and the heavy casualties on both sides, the objective was captured.
Captain Upham, during the engagement, himself destroyed a German tank and several guns and vehicles with grenades and although he was shot through the elbow by a machine gun bullet and had his arm broken, he went on again to a forward position and brought back some of his men who had become isolated. He continued to dominate the situation until his men had beaten off a violent enemy counter-attack and consolidated the vital position which they had won under his inspiring leadership. Exhausted by pain from his wounds and weak from loss of blood, Captain Upham was then removed to the Regimental Aid Post Not content in what he had endured, immediately after his wound had been dressed, he returned to his men, staying with them all day long under heavy enemy artillery and mortar fire. He was again severely wounded and being now unable to move. He was finally captured by the enemy when his gallant company now reduced to only six survivors was overrun by superior enemy forces. Captain Charles Upham, for his actions over the two days was awarded a bar to his Victoria Cross. During his captivity he attempted to escape on numerous occasions before being sent to the notorious Colditz Castle where he remained until the liberation. After the war he returned to New Zealand and became a successful farmer. When poor health forced him to retire in 1992 he went to live in Christchurch. He died in Canterbury on 22 November 1994 and his burial service in Christchurch Cathedral was conducted with full military honours and was buried in the graveyard of St Paul’s Church Papanui. Again, here was another very brave man who had total disregard for his own life, to help others

Alan

Stanley Hollis VC.

24 Nov

Unbelievably, there was only one Victoria Cross awarded on D-Day June 6th 1944. It was won by Company Sergeant Major Stanley Hollis. He was born in Middlesbrough, Yorkshire where he grew up and attended school. In 1929 Stanley Hollis was apprenticed in a shipping Company to learn to be a navigation officer. During the course of this learning he went on a few voyages around the coast of West Africa. Unfortunately for Stanley He took ill and due to this illness he was forced to leave the merchant navy. Returning back to Middlesbrough area, where he had various jobs and later married and had a son and daughter. When, the dark clouds of war threatened Great Britain, Stanley Hollis Joined the local Territorial unit the 4th battalion of the Green Howards. When World War finally broke out he was mobilized and joined the 6th Battalion of the Green Howards. They were eventually sent out to France in 1940 as part of the British Expeditionary Force under Lord Gort. Somebody in high authority must have seen Stanley Hollis had what it takes, because he rose through the ranks very quickly and was a sergeant at the time of the evacuation at Dunkirk.
After Dunkirk, the Green Howards were strengthened and re-equipped and sent out to the Middle East and were part of the British 8th Army that fought and chased back the Afrika Corps from El Alamein to Tunis and the ultimate victory in the North Africa campaign Before the invasion of Sicily in 1943, Stanley Hollis was promoted to Company Sergeant Major. He was later wounded at the battle of Primosole Bridge and spent time in hospital recuperating this did not keep Stanley out of the war. On June 6th 1944 still a company sergeant major with the Green Howards he was in one of the first Assault crafts that hit Gold Beach in Normandy. After the initial resistance the regiment moved in land. The company commander asked Stanley Hollis to go with him to reconnoiter two German pill boxes which had been by-passed by the attacking force. Moving very quickly they rushed the two pillboxes with guns blazing taking all but five occupants as prisoner. They then dealt with the second pillbox taking twenty six prisoners along with clearing out an enemy occupied trench
The adrenalin must have been pumping hard into his veins, because later that day on the 6th June, he led an attack on an enemy position. The position contained a field gun and carefully camouflaged Spandau machine guns. After withdrawing under heavy fire, he learned that two of his men had been left behind. He told his Commanding Officer a Major Lofthouse. Sir, I took them in and I will try to get them out. Taking a grenade from one of his men, Hollis carefully observed the enemy’s pattern of behavior and threw the grenade at the most opportune moment that came. Unfortunately, he had forgotten to prime the grenade, but the enemy did not know this and kept their heads down waiting for it to explode. By the time they realized their mistake Hollis was on top of them and had shot them all. In September 1944 while still in France he was wounded in the leg and was evacuated to England. On October 10th 1944 he was decorated with the Victoria Cross by King George V1
After the war, when back in civilian life he had various jobs he even went back in the Merchant Navy for five years until1955.. Gradually settling down Stanley became a publican and ran the Albion public house in North Ormesby and later became the tenant of the Holywell View public house at Liverton Mines near Loftus for many years. Stanley Hollis a much loved family man died on 8 February 1972 aged 59 and was buried in Acklam Cemetery Middlesbrough. Stanley Hollis’s Victoria Cross now has pride of place in the Green Howards Regimental Museum in Richmond Yorkshire. Obviously you the reader must agree with me, in thinking and saying that indeed Stanley Hollis VC. was a very brave man

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