Roland Frederick Dunsby

819666, Bomberdier, 259 Battery, 65th (Norfolk Yeomanary) Anti-Tank Regiment. Royal Artillery.

Killed In Action on the 26th May 1940 aged 39.

Roland was the son of William & Anna Dunsby and the husband of Olive Dunsby. His father was the local Policeman and they lived, not surprisingly, at Police cottage in Benington. Roland served for six years in the Royal Field Artillery and in 1939 he joined the Hertfordshire Constabulary and was stationed at Hertford where he served until re-called for service.

The Regiment, part of the 50th (Northumbrian) Brigade, served in France from January 1940 until the BEF evacuation. Following the German invasion of France & Belgium the unit was sent to Gramount where it remained for two days. On the 19th May they were attached to the 151st Infantry Brigade and sent to defend the bridges at Avelghem - Bossuyt. The following day they were attached to the 74th Field Regiment and were moved to the Bethune Line. On the 24th May they were in a position on the La Base - Bethune canal. After the bridges were blown at Berclau part of the Battery was withdrawn to Camphin. The remainder of the battery remained at the La Basse - Bethune position and the following day was in action with the enemy. During this action Bombardier Pointer was awarded the Military Medal and it is believed this is where Roland Dunsby was killed.

He is buried in the Merville Communal Cemetery Extension, France. (2.C.33)

Thomas Earle

524033, Sergeant (Flight Engineer), 426 “Thunderbird” Squadron. Royal Air Force.

Killed In Action on the 26th March 1944 aged 22.

Sergeant Thomas Earle and his crew.

Thomas was the son of Thomas & Elizabeth Earle. After joining the Royal Air Force he trained as a Flight Engineer and on completion of his training was posted to No.426 Squadron, a unit of the Royal Canadian Air Force.

He flew a total of 16 Operational flights with his crew but on 18th March 1944 misfortune struck their faithful chariot, Lancaster Mk.II DS 711, which had carried them on many missions. It was damaged in a taxiing accident whilst returning from a raid on Frankfurt. Damage sustained to the Tail, Starboard Wing and Fuselage meant that the aircraft would be out of service and they would be forced to use alternative aircraft.

On the Night of 26th March they took off in the alternative aircraft, Lancaster Mk.II DS789 OW-A, from their base at Linton to attack a target in Essen. Thomas was in his usual Flight Engineer position. The flight was relatively uneventful but, at a point some 10 miles west of Gelsenkirchen, over the town of Boltrop the aircraft received a direct hit from a flak shell and exploded in mid-air.

All the crew were instantly killed and they are buried in the Reichswald Forest Cemetery, Germany.

Crew of LANCASTER Mk.2  DS789 OW-A

Number

Rank

Name

Age

J19280

P/O

Alan Ludvig OLSSON  RCAF

25

J19263

P/O

Jack Olavi KOIVU   RCAF

22

524033

SGT

Thomas EARLE

22

R106617

W/O

Charles Garnet PHINNEY  RCAF

21

J19063

P/O

Thomas Harold PROUDLOCK  RCAF

21

2208899

SGT

Reginald Victor JONES

19

173268

F/SGT

Francis Edward FOX

22

William James Dixon Ellis

2156325, Sapper, 21st Bomb Disposal Company. Royal Engineers.

Killed on the 9th November 1945 aged 23.

William was the son of Henry & Grace Ellis and the husband of Phillis Ellis. After leaving school he had worked at ESA and was a member of the local Home Guard. He joined the army in 1940 and entered the Royal Engineers. Where he served in a Bomb Disposal Unit.

In 1943 William married Phyllis Scott and the couple lived at 46 Grove Road, Stevenage. On the 9th November 1945 he was involved in clearing mines, which had been laid behind the sea wall in Lowestoft. One of the mines exploded and instantly killed William and his comrade, Sapper Sydney Arthur Denton. It is a sad irony that after five years of war service involving the clearing of many enemy bombs that William should be killed by one of our own mines.

He is buried in the St.Nicholas churchyard, Stevenage. (Plot A. Grave 99)

Gordon Franklin

51342, Lieutenant, Royal Signals.

Killed between 28th May & 2nd June 1940 aged 32.

The son of Francis & Grace Franklin he was born in May 1908 and was educated at Alleynes school between 1917 & 1925. Gordon was then employed by the Post Office as an electrical engineer and worked in Rugby, Cambridge and London. He was amongst the many servicemen who were killed or went missing during the BEF retreat from France. Due to the confusion of the retreat and the fact that many official records were lost the exact cause of his death is not known.

Gordon is buried in the Dunkirk Town Cemetery, France. (2.18.28).

Rupert Charles Connaught French

845038, Corporal, 907 Balloon Squadron, Royal Air Force.

Died on the 23rd November 1940 aged 31.

The grave of Rupert Charles Connaught French at St. Nicholas churchyard, Stevenage, but whose name is not recorded on the war memorial.

Rupert was the elder son of Rupert and Violet French who, in 1940, owned the Cromwell Hotel in Stevenage High Street.

He was serving with No.907 Balloon Squadron at Cardington and his wife, Alice, lived in nearby Biddenham. It was from his mother's Hotel that he left to return to his quarters at Bromham near Bedford on the evening of Saturday 23rd November 1940.

A Removal lorry had broken down on Hammer Hill near Cardington and a passing bus stopped to assist. The bus driver, George Plester, helped to fix a minor fault on the lorry and the two vehicles set off in opposing directions. At this point George Plester saw Rupert French come over the brow of the hill, travelling at a terrific speed, and flash past him. He then heard a crash and stopped his bus. He could see that Rupert's sports car had struck the rear of the removal van and burst into flames.

At first Plester tried to pull French free but the door of his car had jammed, so he tried to put out the fire with an extinguisher. Eventually he managed to pull French free but he was terribly injured and quickly died on the roadside.

Rupert French is buried in grave 554 of the St.Nicholas churchyard, Stevenage, and, although he died whilst in the service of his country, his name is not recorded on the local War Memorial.

Arthur James Froy

Private, 2nd Hertfordshire Battalion, Home Guard.

Died on the 21st September 1943 aged 21.

The grave of Private Arthur James Froy at St. Nicholas churchyard, Stevenage.

Arthur was the son of Claude & Ada Froy and the husband of Monica Froy. He was a keen Rover Scout, and lived at 103 Haycroft Road, Stevenage, with his wife of only 14 weeks. He was employed as a Draughtsman at Kryn & Lahy in Letchworth and was an enthusiastic member of the Home Guard.

On returning from a weekend camp at Knebworth he complained of an irritating insect bite on the back of his neck. Over the following week things became increasingly worse and he was eventually admitted to Hertford Hospital where he died on the following Tuesday from blood poisoning.

He is buried in the St.Nicholas churchyard, Stevenage. (Grave 658).

George Henry Gaylor GM

166510, Lieutenant, 11th Bomb Disposal Company. Royal Engineers.

Killed on the 7th August 1946 aged 30.

Lieutenant George Henry Gayler GM

George was born in Stevenage and educated at the Letchmore Road School. After leaving school he was employed at ESA in Stevenage for four years in the firms paint-dipping workshop. When he reached 18 years of age he decided to join the Army and entered his fathers old corps, the Royal Engineers. George served in Malta for four years and left the Army just before the outbreak of war. As a reserve he was re-called to the service when the war began and again served with the Royal Engineers.

He was employed on bomb disposal work and was eventually commissioned as a Lieutenant. It appears that he also helped to train saboteurs and covert operatives at the Commando training school at Tatlers Farm near Stevenage. George then married a girl named Ruth and they had two children, Anthony & Janet.  He was awarded the George Medal for Bomb Disposal underwater in the wreckage of the Railway Bridge across the Albert Canal at Hasselt, Belgium between the 6th-8th November 1944. He acted as the company diver and the official citation reads as follows;

London Gazette 29.4.1945 Lieutenant George Henry Gaylor, Corps of Royal Engineers (166510) 
'For conspicuous gallantry in carrying out hazardous work in a very brave manner.'

'On the 6th November, 1944, at Hasselt, reconstruction of the demolished railway bridge was stopped owing to the presence of an unexploded bomb under 30 ft. of water in the Albert Canal. Lieutenant Gaylor went down and located the bomb half buried in the mud underneath torn railway lines, steel girders and wreckage. To do so he had to squeeze himself between damaged girders at the risk of tearing his diving suit or fouling the air or lifeline and so being trapped. In spite of Nil visibility he identified the tail fuze by touch, found it was in a dangerous condition, and since technical equipment could not be used water, he unscrewed the fuze by hand. Due to mud and the damaged condition of the nose, Lieutenant Gaylor was unable to ascertain whether the bomb had a nose fuze, but, acting on the assumption that it had, he again went down and guided the bomb through the wreckage, inch by inch, as it was hauled out, knowing that any movement of the bomb might set if off. Lieutenant Gaylor's brave conduct enabled work to be resumed on the vital railway and canal communications.'

Corporal John Christie Fordyce.

After the war had ended George remained in the Army and was employed on the dangerous work of clearing British mines and bombs from the coastline. On the 7th August 1946 he was off duty when some mines were detected at Rattery Head, a beach north of Aberdeen. He volunteered to go out to the site with two young recruits, Corporal John Christie Fordyce, a 24 year-old Scotsman who had only been married for  13 days, and Sapper Albert Hurley, a 19 year-old Cornishman, who had only been with the company for three weeks. During the process of defusing the mines one of them exploded and killed all three members of the team.

His body was transferred to London and he lays buried in the Abney Park cemetery, Stoke Newington, London.

John Wellington Hall

Lieutenant Commander, Royal Navy, HMS HOOD.

Died At Sea on the 24th May 1941 aged 38.

Lieutenant Commander John Wellington-Hall

John was the son of Harry & Edith Hall and the Husband of Joan Hall. He received his commission on the 30th September 1934 and joined HMS Hood on the 25th August 1939, prior to which he served aboard HMS Wryneck.

The German battleship, Bismarck, and the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, sailed from Gotenhafen in the Baltic for the Atlantic via Norway on the 19th of May, 1941. Once out of the Baltic, they headed north. They were spotted during an RAF reconnaissance flight, and the hunt was on. The English knew the target for these two warships were the convoys and the Home Fleet brought a large number of ships into action to cover all the routes into the Atlantic. They were spotted northwest of Iceland by the heavy cruiser Norfolk on 23 May, 1941. The Hood and HMS Prince of Wales dashed to intercept them west of Iceland. Early the following morning Prince of Wales sighted Bismarck 17 miles away and both ships moved towards the German vessels.

The big ships met at 06:00 in the morning. Hood opened fire first. A shell from Prinz Eugen hit Hood on the boat deck, causing a fierce fire. Then a salvo from Bismarck struck HMS Hood. There was an enormous explosion and the ship broke in half and then sank within minutes. Only three of the crew of 1,418 survived.

John has no known grave and his name is recorded on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial. (Panel 45 Column 1)

Edward Victor Hemmings

14804334, Private, 2nd Battalion, Ox & Bucks Light Infantry (Airborne).

Killed on the 1st May 1945 aged 18.

Edward was the son of Albert & Bertha Hemmings of 29 Whitesmead Road. After leaving school he was employed at G W Kings in the town. On the 20th July 1944 he joined the army and was initially in the Bedfordshire & Hertfordshire Regiment but later transferred to the 2 Ox & Bucks Light Infantry, part of the Airborne forces. It was not until February 1945 that Edward was posted overseas with the Battalion and was involved in the allied advance into Germany.

On the day of his death the Unit War Diary records that the Battalion was located in the area around Norstorf in Germany and spent most of the day rounding up Prisoners Of War from the farms and woods in the locality. There appears to be no official record of Edward’s death and, initially, it appears that the circumstances were unknown. Unofficial reports, however, claim that whilst examining captured enemy arms he accidentally shot himself with a Luger pistol.

Edward is buried in the British War Cemetery in Berlin. (10.J.7)

Frederick Albert Hill

T/254739, Driver, No. 14 General Transport Company. Royal Army Service Corps

Killed In Action on the 14th April 1943 aged 22.

Frederick was the son of  Frederick & Rose Hill of 12 Haycroft Road. He was educated at Walkern School. Frederick was employed for 5 years, before joining the Army, with Eastman’s butchers in the High Street. He joined up in 1941 and had been serving overseas for 20 months when he was killed.  The unit War Diary gives little indication as to how Frederick met his fate but merely states that three men were killed as the result of enemy action.

Frederick is buried in the Enfidaville War Cemetery, Tunisia. (6.E.7.).