OGILVY, Alexander Eaton. Lieutenant.
Fleet Air Arm, Royal Navy.
Killed on Active Service 4 September 1940, aged 27.
Alexander Eaton Ogilvy was born in Epsom in 1913, (GRO reference: Sep 1913 Epsom 2a 69), the eldest child and only son of David
and his wife Pollie.
His parents had met while working together in Horton Hospital and were married in 1912 in Cornwall. Also during that year his father was promoted to Superintendent of Long Grove Mental Hospital. The family lived in Long Grove House until Alexander's father's death in 1934.
Alexander was baptised on 7 October 1913 in Christ Church, Epsom and was named after his paternal grandfather who had died in Dublin on 14 June that same year.
Alexander's sister Elaine Eaton was born on 2 December 1914 and baptised in Christ Church on 23 March 1915. His youngest sister Rosalind Mary Eaton, later known as Roddy, was also baptised in the same church, on 22 January 1917.
Alexander's early education was undertaken at Upland House School, Epsom, then aged 14, he entered the Royal Navy at Dartmouth in May 1927 and went on to serve as a cadet. After training, on 1 January 1931, he became a midshipman and served on the Repulse, Nelson and Warspite, as well as the cruiser Danae in the West Indies.
On 1 January 1934, Alexander was promoted to acting sub-lieutenant.
Alexander's father had been suffering from bad health for some time before his death in his home on 13 May 1934. A memorial service was held for him five days later on Friday, 18 May, in the Long Grove Chapel, which Alexander managed to attend with his mother and sisters, along with many other mourners.
Four months later, on 1 September, Alexander was promoted to sub-lieutenant and served on the cruiser Frobisher.
Alexander's widowed mother appeared in the 1934 Epsom Electoral Register as living under the address of Long Grove Mental Hospital, but she and his sisters had moved to Appletreewick, 80 Worple Road, Epsom by 1935.
In September, after the move, his 21-year-old sister Elaine, along with two friends, travelled to Worth Matravers, Dorset for a camping holiday that ended with tragic consequences for Elaine
. The Coroner recorded a verdict that her death was due to misadventure and expressed his sympathy to her relatives, none of whom were present. It was explained that her widowed mother had been forbidden to travel by her doctor as she was in bad health and, presumably, Rosalind was nursing her and that her brother was abroad. Alexander had in fact just started a two-year tour of duty aboard the sloop Western
in the East Indies and had by 16 September 1934 gained the following certificates:
Greenwich Course: Grade 2
Seamanship: Grade 2
Navigation: Grade 2
Gunnery: Grade 3
Torpedo: Grade 3
At the end of his tour, on 16 January 1937, Alexander was promoted to lieutenant.
Alexander appears with his mother and sister Rosalind in the 1938 and 1939 Surrey Electoral Registers, living at 80 Worple Road, Epsom. However, Alexander, specializing as an air observer, was appointed in 1938 to the aircraft carrier Ark Royal.
On 1 September 1939 Germany invaded Poland and on 3 September France and Britain declared war on Germany. The long agony of the Second World War had begun.
Eleven months later, on 31 August 1940, Alexander was serving with the Fleet Air Arm aboard the aircraft carrier H.M.S. Illustrious. The Illustrious, capable of carrying up to 57 aircraft, was part of a strike force launched against the airfields at Maritsa, a village situated on the west coast of the island of Rhodes.
The headquarters of the Fleet Air Arm was based in Lee-on-the-Solent in Hampshire. It played a reconnaissance role, supporting land operations in the Far East, France, Greece, Italy, Netherlands and North Africa. The Fleet Air Arm operated from aircraft carriers like the Illustrious and was one of Britain's chief weapons against the German U-boats.
On 4 September 1940, Alexander was involved in an aircraft accident aboard H.M.S. Illustrious, which resulted in his death aged 27. On 27 September 1940 a service in honour of Alexander was held at St. Barnabas.
Alexander is one of nearly 2,000 remembered on the memorial erected in Lee-on-the-Solent in honour of the men of the Fleet Air Arm who died but have no known grave. Alexander Eaton Ogilvy is remembered in Bay 1, Panel 2.
He is also commemorated in the Book of Remembrance in Epsom Town Hall and on the Second World War Roll of Honour that once hung in St. Barnabas church in Temple Road, Epsom, but is at the time of writing (March 2014) unseen but in safe keeping in the Surrey History Centre in Woking, Surrey.
Administration of Alexander's effects, valued at £1,386 11s. 2d., was given to his mother on 17 April 1941.
His mother later commissioned a carved wooden statue of St. Peter in memory of her deceased children.
A member of the St. Barnabas' congregation, who now lives in Australia, recalls that:
On the left of the entrance to the Lady Chapel there was a beautifully carved wooden statue of St. Peter with Bible in hand and from his belt hung the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. Above the figure hung an oil lamp. The Memorial was given in memory of a Naval Officer and his sister. I am sorry that I cannot remember their names, but at the foot of the figure carved in wood was a Naval badge as seen on a Naval Officer's peak cap.
Carved Naval badge
Photo courtesy of Clive Gilbert
Fortunately, despite the radical changes within St. Barnabas, from its traditional church layout to a modern open plan design with very few of its original furnishings, the statue still stands on the left of the entrance to the Lady Chapel, in loving memory of Alexander Eaton and Elaine Eaton Ogilvy.
Statue of St. Peter and the plaque in memory of Alexander and Elaine Ogilvy
Photos courtesy of Clive Gilbert