William Arthur Kenneth Bott

D/JX555308, Able Seaman, Royal Navy, HMS President III (HMS Samaustral).

Drowned on the 19th October 1945 aged 20.

William was born in Frien Barnet on the 17th June 1925 the son of William & Lillian Bott. He was accidentally drowned at Maputo, Mozambique on the 19th October 1945 whilst his ship was at harbour in Delagoa Bay at the southern extremity of the country.

He is the only British serviceman to be buried in the Maputo Cemetery, Mozambique. (Special Memorial Grave. 7583.)

Michael Franklin Briden

39706, Flying Officer (Pilot), 149 Squadron. Royal Air Force.

Missing In Action on the 18th December 1939 aged 22.

The Runnymeade Memorial, Surrey.

Michael was the only son of Franklin & Marion Briden. He married Joyce Eyre Nicholson on the 19th September 1939, at Mildenhall, Suffolk, where he was stationed. Just a few weeks later he was to be one of the first men from North Hertfordshire to be killed whilst serving with the RAF.

On the 18th December 1939, Michael was the Pilot of a Wellington, N2961, which after taking off from Mildenhall airfield was detailed to attack German Shipping at Wilhelmshaven. Twenty-Four Wellingtons were dispatched and ordered not to attack at less than 10,000ft. to enable them to avoid the worst of the flak. Twenty-Two aircraft reached the target and several German ships, that were seen off of Wilhelmshaven, were bombed. Weather conditions were cloudless and visibility was perfect. This was the first time during the war that German Fighters were directed to the Bomber force by a ground controller. Information was being relayed from an experimental " Freya" radar station situated on the nearby island of Wangerooge. The radar station had detected the Wellingtons when they were some 70 miles out on their approach flight. Flak then caused the formation to open out and this enabled the Fighters of 4/JG 2 to come in and Twelve of the bombers were shot down.

During the attack the port wing tanks on Briden's aircraft were damaged by a German fighter and he asked the leader to take the shortest route home as he was losing fuel. When they were between 40 - 60 miles off of the coast between Cromer and Sheringham the engines spluttered and the aircraft dropped back. It then glided down and landed in the sea, turning 90 degrees to Starboard as it did so with waves breaking over the fuselage, the time by now was 15.05pm. The aircraft remained afloat for five minutes with it's nose down in the water. The dinghy was inflated and was seen by the nose of the aircraft with three of the crew around it. When the aircraft went down the dinghy was seen to be on end with three of the crew hanging on to it. That, despite an extensive search by the Cromer lifeboat, H.F.Bailey, was the last anyone ever saw of them.

No survivors were ever found but the bodies of P/O William Brown and AC2 Alan Foster were eventually washed ashore, William Brown is buried in Norwich cemetery. The loss of such a large part of the formation had a major effect on the policy of the British Bomber Commanders. The validity of the self-defending Bomber formation was, it seemed, placed in serious doubt.

Michael Briden has no known grave and his name is recorded on the Runnymeade memorial.

Crew of WELLINGTON N2961

Number

Rank

Name

Age

39706

F/O

Michael Franklin  BRIDEN

22

70794

P/O

William Stanley Francis BROWN

21

564063

F/O

Valentine Henry Garner RICHARDSON

26

547949

ACI

Peter John WARREN

21

621741

AC2

Alan Gordon FOSTER

18

547262

AC2

Isaac Davidson LEIGHTON

19

Reginald Alfred Brown

614115, Warrant Officer, 78 Squadron. Royal Air Force.

Missing on the 22nd April 1945 aged 25.

Reg & Audrey Brown
(Courtesy of Angus Moss)

On the 26th June 1942 a Halifax bomber, W1067, was on an operational flight to attack Bremen. The rear gunner was Warrant Officer Reginald Brown and at 00.42 Hours the aircraft was attacked by a German night-fighter piloted by Unteroffizer Heinz Vinke of II/NJG2. The pilot and the mid-upper gunner of the bomber perished in the attack but the rest of the crew baled out and were taken prisoner. Reginald was held in Stalag Luft 6 at Heydekrug as prisoner No.311 and remained there for nearly three years. In the Spring of 1945 the German forces were coming under increasing pressure on both their Western and Eastern fronts. In an effort to prevent Allied prisoners of war from joining up with the Allied forces it was decided to move them further back into the German interior, where they would be out of reach. Very often, due to the limited availability of transport, prisoners were forced to march on foot for many miles without a break. These men were usually in no fit state to undertake such an exacting task and many of them perished on the way. It appears that the men of Stalag Luft 6 may have been a little more fortunate in that transport was made available to move them. However, it seems that the very presence of these vehicles may have contributed to the deaths of a number of men.

On the 22nd April 1945 the small transport column had stopped at a small farm and the prisoners were placed in a barn for the night. As they slept a number of Typhoon fighters on an Intruder mission spotted the transport around the farm and attacked it. The barn was set alight and one prisoner described how Reg Brown had been killed instantly after a cannon shell from one of the aircraft had struck him in the throat whislt he was asleep.

Reg Brown was later buried by the side of the road and subsequently has no known grave. His name is recorded on the Runnymeade Memorial. (Panel 269).

Official records show him as being a resident of Benington.

 

Charles Eric Canning

C/MX57846, Chief Petty Officer, Royal Navy, HMS Porcupine.

Died Of Wounds on the 9th December 1942 aged 26.

The grave of Chief Petty Officer Charles Eric Canning in the Le Petit Lac War Cemetery, Oran, Algeria.

Charles was born in Kings Norton, Worcestershire on the 16th May 1917 and was the second son of Francis & Daisy Canning who later moved to " Ivanhoe" , Walkern.

He joined the Navy when he was aged 18 and married in 1939. He and his wife, Alma, lived with their son in Grange Road, Gillingham, Kent.

HMS Porcupine was a 1540 ton P Class Destroyer which was torpedoed on the 9th December 1942 by the German submarine U-602 whilst 70 miles North-east of Oran. She was towed to Arzeu where her wounded were put ashore. Later the ship was towed to the UK but was never repaired.

Charles is buried in the Le Petit Lac War Cemetery, Oran, Algeria. (E.B.15.)

George William Chambers

974483, Lance Bombardier, 75th Medium (Shropshire Yeomanry) Regiment. Royal Artillery

Killed In Action on the 12th April 1945 aged 29.

The grave of Lance Bombardier George William Chambers in the Faenza War Cemetery, Italy.

George was born on the 26th August 1915, the son of Herbert & Sarah Chambers of 3 Nottingham Road, Stevenage. Prior to joining the Army he worked as a shop assistant in a grocery store. In 1942 he married Doreen Davies of Moss Side, Manchester.

His Regiment served through the Italian campaign, sometimes in support of the 5th Army, sometimes with the 8th, and saw action in many notable battles. These included the third battle of Cassino, operations against the Gustav Line and subsequent breakthrough, operations against the Hilter Line, actions at Arezzo and the occupation of Florence. On the day he was killed his unit were in action in the area near Imola Bridge, Italy. No details are given in the Unit War Diary as to how many casualties were suffered by the Regiment.

George is buried in the Faenza War Cemetery, Italy. (3.C.10.)

Headstone Inscription: "Sincere And True In Heart And Mind What A Beautiful Memory He Left Behind".

Frank Cheyne

1878750, Driver, 254 Field Park Company. Royal Engineers.

Drowned on the 8th March 1944 aged 25.

The grave of Driver Frank Cheyne in the Kirkee War Cemetery, India.

Frank was the son of William & Agnes Cheyne and was accidentally drowned in Bombay.

He is buried in the Kirkee War Cemetery, India. (8.K.2.).

Fred A Clements

5834344, Private, 5th Suffolk Regiment.

Died on the 13th August 1943 aged 30.

Fred lived at 3 Frogmore Lane with his wife and daughter. Before joining the Army he was employed by Wright & Co. in Walkern.
The Battalion sailed from Liverpool on the 28th October 1941, it’s original destination being the Middle East. On route orders were received diverting the Regiment to the Far East. After a long, arduous, eight-week journey that had taken them via Halifax, Cape Town & Bombay the Regiment arrived in Ahmednagar on the 27th December. After three weeks of intensive acclimatisation and training the Regiment embarked on the USS West Point for Singapore where they arrived at dawn on the 29th January 1942, just two weeks before the island fortress would capitulate to the forces of the Japanese Imperial Army.

On the 9th February the Japanese landed on the north-western side of the island and began what was to be the greatest defeat the British army had ever suffered.

Fred died whilst a Japanese Prisoner of War and is buried in the Thanbyuzayat War Cemetery, Burma. (B4.W.6.)

Edwin Robert Couldrey

830703, Lance Bombardier, No. 8 Commando & Royal Artillery

Missing In Action on the 18th August 1942 aged 27.

Ted was born into a soldiering family in 1916 the youngest son of Catherine Couldrey of Hellards Road. His father had died from his wounds whilst in action during the First World War. Ted was educated at the Stevenage Boys School and later worked at the ESA factory. He joined a local unit of the Territorial Army and later went on to serve with the Royal Artillery as a regular soldier and saw active service in both the North West Frontier of India and in the Middle East. He was preparing to join the South African Police Force when the war broke out and returned to England where he was stationed at Folkestone. Ted was one of the first to volunteer for the Commandos and, after training, was sent to Burma in 1941. In a last letter home he described how he was “going native”, an expression used to explain that he was about to embark on a jungle patrol.

He is believed to have been involved in an operation known as Mission 204. This was a top-secret mission to train Chinese guerrillas to fight the Japanese. The small team of men were located in the mountains with the Chinese guerrillas until September 1942, when the project was abandoned. The troops suffered from malaria, dysentery and typhus which may have been the cause of his death

He has No Known Grave and his name is recorded on the Rangoon Memorial, Burma. (Face 2)

Stanley Crosse

14839952, Private, 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire & Hertfordshire Regiment.

Died on the 26th April 1946 aged 19.

Stanley was the son of Jesse & Ruth Crosse. His father was the Farm Manager to the Keysall family of Trotts Hill Farm.

Young Stanley was educated at Letchmore Road Boys School and at the age of 14, became a Porter on the LNER Line at Stevenage. He later worked for Ibcol before joining the Army.

After carrying out his initial training at 53 PTW in Bury St Edmunds he spent some time with the 8th Battalion of the Suffolk Regiment before being posted to India with Beds & Herts Regiment.

Whilst in India he contracted Typhoid Fever and died at the Dehra Dun Military Hospital.

He is buried in the Delhi War Cemetery, India. (3.H.4.)

Robert Michael Drake

219025, Lieutenant, No.3 Company. 6th Battalion, Grenadier Guards.

Killed In Action on the 10th September 1943 aged 22.

Robert was the son of Major Frederick & Betty Drake.

On the 9th September 1943 the 6th Battalion of the Grenadier Guards tool part in the Allied landings at Salerno in Italy. One the Grenadiers had formed in the assembly area they were ordered to advance and deepen the bridgehead in the direction of Battipaglia. The Grenadiers faced the might of the German 16th Panzer Division and resistance was intense.

Through the day and night No.3 Company fought it's way forward, eventually reaching a network of lanes north of Verdesca where a hail of bullets and hand-grenades brought the advance to an abrupt halt. At dawn the company again attempted to advance and became involved with a group of German tanks and infantry in half-tracks. It was at this point, whilst at the head of his platoon, that Robert Drake was killed outright.

Robert is buried in Salerno War Cemetery War Cemetery, Italy. (2.C.27)