All Saints Weston War Memorial

After the Remembrance Day Service in Church, the whole congregation, including all the uniformed organisations, and our local Councillors and British Legion representatives, make their way round to the Garden of Remembrance, where the Weston Green War Memorial is situated.

At 11 o’clock we observe the two minute silence, the Last Post is played on the trumpet, the poppy wreaths are laid, and all the names inscribed on our War Memorial are read out by the Vicar.

We finish with the words…

“We will remember them”.

So who were the people whose names we remember each year?

There are forty four names inscribed on the base of the War Memorial. They include men from the Army, Navy and Air Force, killed in action in the Second World War all over the world, with graves or memorials in France, Egypt, Italy, Germany, Holland, Singapore, Malta, Malaysia, South Africa, Tunisia, and Britain. There are also some men with no known grave remembered by name at the Air Force Memorial at Runnymede, and the Portsmouth, Plymouth and Chatham Naval Memorials. There are also ten civilians remembered, eight of whom were killed in their houses, from bombing in Weston Green..

Of the men serving in the Army one of the first casualties was Lieutenant Percival Harris, of Newlands Ave who was 57, and had been on active service in the first World War. He signed up immediately, and was lost at sea on 28th May 1940, after being one of the last to leave Ostend in the Dunkirk operation. In the All Saints Parish Magazine he is reported to have refused a War Office posting in England, and had “set off in high spirits and full of keenness on leaving for France”. He is remembered at the Dunkirk Memorial.

2nd Lieutenant Robert Emmett , 6th Bn. East Surrey Regiment, died on 22nd May 1940, aged 20. He was killed in action in Flanders. He is buried at the Avelgem Communal Cemetery in Belgium. He was part of the British Expeditionary Force which suffered many casualties in covering the withdrawal to Dunkirk in May 1940.

Driver Ian Pugh of the Royal Corps of Signals was also only 20 when he died on 31st May 1940, and he is remembered at the Dunkirk Memorial.

2nd Lieutenant E. Rolfe Gunther of the 72 Searchlight Regt Royal Artillery, of Ember Lane, died aged 37 on 31st May 1940. According to his obituary in “Nature”, July 1940, he was accidentally shot while on active service. Before the war he had been the Zoologist to the Discovery Expedition which charted the Peru coastal currents in 1924, and which investigated the natural history of whales in the Antarctic. “Nature” records that “this tragic event robs oceanography of one of the most virile of its younger workers” He is buried in St Mary, Heacham, Churchyard in Norfolk.

2nd Lieutenant Leslie Foster 5 Bomb Disposal Coy., Royal Engineers, age 38, was killed attempting to defuse an unexploded bomb in a front garden in Dagenham on 7th October 1940. The explosion killed five soldiers including him, and seriously wounded 7 others. He is buried in St Nicholas Churchyard, Thames Ditton.

Captain H. Frederick L. Sladen 5th Bn., Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment, a Territorial Army Battalion, who lived at 28 Grove Way, escaped from Singapore after it had fallen. He was presumed to have lost his life in action December 20th 1942, age 23, being last seen off the west coast of Sumatra He is remembered at the Singapore Memorial.

Lieutenant J. Maxwell Hicks 1st Bn., East Surrey Regiment, was killed in action on 15th April 1943, age 31 in North Africa. He is buried at the Medjez-El-Bab War Cemetery near Tunis.

There were several soldiers killed in Italy in 1944.

Captain Clifford Archer , 2nd Bn, North Staffs Regiment, (whose parents lived in The Drive and then Chestnut Ave), died of wounds on 15th February 1944, age 31. He is buried at Anzio War Cemetery.

Gunner Basil Whybray 77 Field Regt, Royal Artillery, age 24 died 6th July 1944, on active service in Italy and is buried in Foiano Della Chiana War cemetery. The All Saints Parish Magazine reported that his Commanding Officer paid him a tribute of the highest praise.

Lieutenant E.H. Felix Stapleton of the Royal Engineers was also killed in action in Italy on 24th July 1944, age 25. He is buried in the Florence War Cemetery.

Lieutenant Harold Hall 4th Queen’s own Hussars,Royal Armoured Corps, who lived in Ember Lane, died on 13th September 1944 in Salina Grande, Southern Italy age 28. He was part of the 8th Army, and his regiment had been in continuous battle for most of September. He was killed during a week of heavy losses for the 8th Army with some 150 dead. He is buried in the Coriano Ridge War Cemetery.

Lieutenant Hugh Bedell, 1 Survey Regt, Royal Canadian Artillery, born in New Brunswick Canada, and died 17th November 1944, age 27. He was killed in Italy by a new type of mine, which exploded while being lifted from a jeep. He was married and lived in Thames Ditton, and is buried at Cesena War Cemetery.

Major John Maxwell, of The Kings Regiment (Liverpool) died during the battle of Arnhem on 27th September 1944 age 25. He is buried in Arnhem Oosterbeek Cemetery. The inscription on his grave reads “We smile with the world beloved but we shall never forget you”.

Private Joseph Wood 3rd Bn. (Penang & Province Wellesley Voluntary Corps), Straits Settlement Volunteer Force. He was from Weston Green, and had been working in Singapore, where he was living with his wife Ethel and their two young children when war broke out. When Japan joined the war on the enemy side, and as they moved towards Singapore, Joseph joined the Straits Settlements Volunteer Force to defend Singapore. Meanwhile Ethel Wood and her two children, aged 2 and 5, had to start on an extraordinary journey, the long walk of over 1000 miles up through the jungle of Singapore to Bangkok, from where they managed to get to Australia, and finally back to Britain after the war. Despite all the efforts, Singapore was captured and Joseph was taken prisoner and placed in a camp on an island off Borneo. He died in captivity in Kuching, Malaysia of septicaemia 16th September 1943, age 37.

In 2000 Ethel Wood died and her ashes were interred in our Garden of Remembrance. Revd. Caroline Corry, then our Curate, told Ethel’s moving story at Remembrance Day that year, with her children present at the service.

From the Royal Navy, Lieutenant Richard Lake Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, of Chestnut Ave, died on HMS Fiji on 23rd May 1941, age 32. HMS Fiji was sunk by enemy aircraft 50 miles south west of Gavdo Island, during the Battle of Crete on 22nd May 1941 with the loss of 241 crew. He is remembered at El Alamein War Cemetery.

Signalman James Phillips age 42, of Pound Farm Cottages, Ember Lane, lost his life on HM Yacht Rosabelle 11th December 1941, which was hit at 04.42 hours by a torpedo from a U-boat off Gibraltar. She sank within 30 seconds of being attacked while trying to locate the U-boat that had sunk the HMS Lady Shirley, 20 minutes earlier. He is remembered at the Chatham Naval Memorial.

Ordinary Seaman James Macfarlane died 15th Dec 1941 age 19, on HMS King George V, which as flagship of the Home Fleet, participated in several North Atlantic operations protecting the Arctic Convoys. From the All Saints Parish Magazine, “He was a member of the Youth Club, and his loss is a heavy one as he was well liked by all of the members”. He is remembered at the Portsmouth Naval Memorial.

Paymaster Sub Lieutenant Roy Walmsley, was killed on 11th February 1942, age 20, on HMS Cleopatra. She was attacked and hit by a 500kg bomb, with 20 men killed, as she attempted to enter Grand Harbour Malta. Together with HM Destroyer Fortune, the two ships had made a brave dash through the western Mediterranean via Gibraltar, bringing essential spares to Malta. He is buried at the Malta (Capuccini ) Naval Cemetery.

Lieutenant John Wraith DSO DSC age 30, in command of HM Submarine Trooper, sailed from Beirut in September 1943 to patrol in the Aegean Sea off the Dodecanese Islands. HMS Trooper failed to return on 18th October 1943, and was presumed lost from German mines east of Leros. He had been awarded the DSC in 1940 for good service in recent patrols, and the DSO in 1942 for 17 war patrols in the Mediterranean, showing “courage skill and coolness in successive submarine patrols”. He was described in the All Saints Parish Magazine as being “a most able and intrepid submarine commander with a fine record of war service at sea”. He is remembered at the Portsmouth Naval Memorial.

Sub Lieutenant Kenneth Thomson, age 19 of Imber Close, served in HMS Orion which was deployed in support of Military Operations of the Greek Mainland and in the Aegean. He died in a shell explosion on shore on 28th November 1944. He is remembered at the Plymouth Naval memorial. In the All Saints Parish Magazine he is described as “one of the original members of the Weston Youth Club and loved by all who knew him”. The Vicar wrote “he fulfilled his career in a short time, and had no twisted knots in the straight upbringing of his sapling growth”.

Chief Engine Room Artificier Robert Best died whilst serving in the minesweeper HMS Chameleon July 1946 age 27. His death was described as “missing presumed killed”. He is remembered at the Portsmouth Naval Memorial.

The men serving in the Royal Air Force remembered on our War Memorial were involved in many and varied missions throughout the war.

Pilot Officer David Wardlaw 115 Sqdn died 7th April 1940, age 26, flying a Wellington on reconnaissance operations. The squadron took off from Lossiemouth to search for enemy shipping off Denmark. The aircraft became separated from the main formation, and was shot down by a Messerschmitt. He is remembered at the Runnymede Memorial.

Flying Officer Herbert Knight 46 Sqdn died 9th June 1940 age 21. He was part of the expeditionary force in Norway which had been invaded by the Germans in April 1940. When the Squadron was ordered to evacuate Norway on the night of 7/8th June the Hurricanes flew back to successfully land on Aircraft Carrier HMS Glorious. The following day it was sunk, on 9th June, by the German Battlecruiser Scharnhorst. The squadron’s aircraft and eight pilots of 46 Squadron were lost. F/O Knight is remembered at the Runnymede Memorial.

Flying Officer Theodore Lumb 83 Sqdn, RAF Volunteer Reserve, died 29th March 1942, age 28, flying in a Manchester on operations to Lubeck. This raid was described as the first major success against a German target. It was carried out in good visibility with an almost full moon. 234 aircraft participated including 21 Manchesters one of which was lost. The lost Manchester was that of Pilot Officer Theodore Lumb, and his crew. He is buried at Kiel War Cemetery.

Pilot Officer Anthony de F Gardner 101 Sqdn, RAF Volunteer Reserve, died 31st May 1942 age 22. His Stirling was heading towards Cologne taking part in Operation Millenium. This was the largest bomber raid ever attempted with over 1000 aircraft taking part. The RAF lost 41 aircraft, including that of P O Gardner whose crew of 5 was lost without trace. He is commemorated on the RAF Memorial at Runnymede.

Sergeant Robert Williams 420 (Royal Canadian Air Force) Sqdn RAF Volunteer Reserve, died 3rd July 1942, age 24. He was flying bombing raids by night over Germany and occupied Europe. He was shot down during an attack on Bremen and crashed near Sneek, Holland, on 3rd July 1942. He is buried in Hemelumer Oldeford (Koudum) Cemetery.

Pilot Officer Peter Keeping 80 Sqdn RAF Volunteer Reserve, age 29, died in North Africa on 5th August 1942. His Squadron was tasked with covering the lines of communication following the breakout from El Alamein. He is buried in El Alamein War Cemetery.

Leading Aircraftman Observer U/T John Deedman, age 19, died in the Eastern Cape, South Africa on 8th October 1942. He is buried in East London (East Bank) Cemetery, South Africa.

Flying Officer Allan Palmer 183 Sqdn, RAF Volunteer Reserve, of Ember Lane, died age 20 on 2nd November 1943. His squadron was based in Cornwall, from where it was used to reconnoitre and attack enemy shipping. His Typhoon was shot down near Brest and crashed into the sea, and he was presumed killed. He is remembered at the Runnymede Memorial.

Flying Officer Geoffrey Croskell of 14 Sqdn, RAF Volunteer Reserve, age 25, died on 8th February 1944. His squadron were performing anti-submarine missions out of Algeria, and F/O Croskell and his crew crashed into the sea on a transit flight between Italy and Algeria. All were missing, presumed dead, and are remembered at the Malta Memorial.

Flying Officer James Black 96 Sqdn RAF Volunteer Reserve, age 26, died 30th July flying over the English Channel. His squadron was countering V1 flying bomb attacks. He is remembered at the Runnymede Memorial.

Flying Officer Godfrey White 55 Sqdn RAF Volunteer Reserve, age 30, died 24th September 1944. His aircraft was shot down by flak during a night mission over Ravenna, Italy. He is buried at the Ravenna War Cemetery.

Warrant Officer Alister Miller Royal Australian Airforce, attached RAF, age 22, was killed on 27th April 1945, flying a Spitfire in combat over Parchim Germany. He is buried in the Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery.

Flying Officer David Elias 60 Sqdn, RAF Volunteer Reserve, died age 21 on 13th June 1945. He served in the Far East, and is remembered at the Singapore Memorial.

The war also had a direct impact on Weston Green and people living here, with eight deaths of people in their own houses from bombing action. Danger in the locality also came from incendiaries and flying bombs, and there was damage to houses, gardens, the Common, the railway line, and to the Church Hall in Weston Park.

The first civilian death in Weston Green, was of Emma Gerrard age 45, who died at Parkmead, 1, The Drive on 29th September 1940.

At the end of November 1940, a bomb killed five people in neighbouring houses in Oaklands Avenue. At Moorcroft, 21 Oaklands Avenue, Arthur Metson age 56, and his 20 year old daughter Jean, died on the 29th November. His wife Linda Metson, age 50, died the following day in West Molesey Cottage Hospital. In 23 Oaklands Avenue, Beryl Turner age 37, and her husband’s aunt Kate Turner age 65 died. Miraculously, Beryl Turner’s daughter, Elizabeth age 6, was saved when her mother threw herself over her just before the bomb hit.

Long time Weston Green residents, Roma Deans and her late husband Robert, still remember this night in November 1940 when a stick of four bombs was dropped in a line falling in Grove Way, The Drive, Oaklands Avenue, then the Common, thankfully missing the family house, White Gables, Orchard Gate, where Roma was then living.

Later in the war on 23rd August 1944 Richard Crusoe age 78, was killed at Harrow View, Weston Park. His wifeEdith Crusoe age 70, died on 2nd September 1944 at Botleys Park War Hospital, from injuries sustained in the same attack.

Two other parishioners remembered on our War Memorial are Basil Southall age 19, who died at East Hall, St Mary Cray, Orpington, Kent, on 18th September 1940. East Hall suffered a direct hit by a German land mine, and eight of the staff working for the Sun Life Assurance Company lost their lives. His mother lived in 5 The Broadway, Weston Green. Dr Sidney Kirkby-Gomes died in Stanley Internment Camp in Hong Kong on 22nd November 1943 aged 76. This was a civilian internment camp used by the Japanese Imperial Forces to hold non-Chinese enemy nationals.

After the War had ended there was a unanimous vote at the Church Annual meeting in favour of a Memorial for parishioners who died in action, or who died as a result of enemy bombs. Sir Edward Maufe, the architect of All Saints Church, was asked to design the War Memorial and it was dedicated in 1948.

Local people were asked for names of parishioners who lost their lives in the war, including those civilians who died in air raids, and advertisements were placed in the Church magazine and local press in order to compile the complete Roll of Honour.

“We will remember them”

Pam Tiller