WW2 Book of Remembrance - Surnames R

Index

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[Content]

RANDALL, Dennis Charles (Revised 04/10/2018)
RASEY, William George (Revised 04/10/2018)
RAWKINS, Geoffrey Lubbock (Revised 04/10/2018)
RAWSON, John Leslie (Revised 04/10/2018)
REACH, Sidney Christopher * (Revised 04/10/2018)
REACH, Thomas Edmund * (Revised 04/10/2018)
READ, Charles Edward (Revised 17/07/2018)
READ, Clive Ronald (Revised 04/10/2018)
REDFORD, Keith George (Revised 04/10/2018)
REES, Dewi (Revised 04/10/2018)
REESE, Frederick Oscar (Revised 07/10/2018)
REEVES, Charles Walter (Revised 07/10/2018)
RELF, Harold Albert John * (Revised 07/10/2018)
REYNOLDS, Ernest Robert Frank (Revised 07/10/2018)
RICHARDS, John Conway (Revised 07/10/2018)
RICHARDSON, Charles Henry (Revised 07/10/2018)
RICHARDSON, Edgar Arthur (Revised 08/10/2018)
RICHMOND, John Roderick (Revised 07/10/2018)
RINGER, Edwin Charles (Revised 07/10/2018)
ROBERTS, Albert (Revised 07/10/2018)
ROBERTSON, Adelaide Elvira May * (Revised 07/10/2018)
ROBINSON, George Radford (Revised 08/10/2018)
ROLL, John Castledine (Revised 08/10/2018)
ROOK, Peter (Revised 08/10/2018))
ROSS, Jack Kenneth (Revised 08/10/2018)
ROTHON, Norman Ashford (Revised 08/10/2018)
ROUTLEDGE, Leslie Thomas (Revised 09/10/2018)
ROWE, Charles * (Revised 09/10/2018)
ROWE, William (Revised 09/10/2018)
ROWLAND, Leah Frances * (Revised 09/10/2018)
ROWLAND, Thomas Alfred (Revised 09/10/2018)
RUMSEY, Eric George Henry * (Revised 09/10/2018)
RUSSELL, Alexander (Revised 09/10/2018)
RYAN, Ronald (Revised 09/10/2018)

* = Not included in the Book of Remembrance for reasons unknown.
If you are looking for someone whose name starts with a different letter please try:



Content


RANDALL, Dennis Charles. Rifleman (6855672)

1st Battalion, King's Royal Rifle Corps
Died 10 July 1944, aged 22

Dennis was born Q3 1922, the third child of Alan Randall and Florence Kathleen (née Shepherd). The parents' Q3 1916 marriage had been registered in the Epsom District - as were the births of all three children.

The September 1939 Register recorded the family living at 134 Kingston Road, Ewell. 46 year old Alan is listed as a "Builders Decorator" and 42 year old Florence with the conventional "Unpaid Domestic Duties". There is one currently closed record at the address, doubtless concealing the 17 year old Dennis. Of the other two children: 21 year old Sidney was a "Butchers Roundsman"; and 19 year old Arthur a "United Dairies Milk Roundsman".

Dennis's WW2 service was with the 1st Battalion of the King's Royal Rifle Corps. At the outbreak of the war, this was among the forces deployed to North Africa but, as Dennis was only 17 at the time, it is likely that he joined them later. Even so, he seems bound to have first seen action with them at the two Battles of El Alamein in the second half of 1942.

Following that turning point in the war as whole, the Allies defeated the Axis powers in North Africa. From the springboard of a secured North Africa, the Allies had captured Sicily in August 1943 and, on 3 September, invaded the Italian mainland. (The invasion coincided with an armistice made with the Italians who then re-entered the war on the Allied side.) Progress through southern Italy was rapid despite stiff resistance from German forces, but the advance was checked for some months at their winter defensive position (the "Gustav Line") south of Rome. The line eventually fell in May 1944 and the Allies took Rome on 3 June.

The Germans withdrew and, about 100 miles north of Rome (and about 45 miles south east of Florence) made a stand in front of Arezzo early in July 1944. In the fierce fighting, Dennis was (according to Casualty List No. 1512) killed in action on 10 July. The town was finally taken on 16 July.

Dennis is one of 1,266 Commonwealth WW2 burials in the Arezzo War Cemetery. His parents took the opportunity of adding a personal inscription to his headstone on Grave IV.B.5, "In loving memory of our son who died that we might live."

The Arezzo War Cemetery
The Arezzo War Cemetery
Picture with thanks to "Nordalbert" via Twitter

Roger Morgan © 2018

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RASEY, William George. Sergeant/Wireless Op./Air Gunner (1801807)

101 Squadron, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.
Died 29 August 1944, aged 22.

William's headstone in the Palsjo War Cemetery, Sweden
William's headstone in the Palsjo War Cemetery, Sweden
Picture courtesy of www.hembygdshistoria.se/palsjo

As illustrated below, the Borough's Book of Remembrance includes an Edward Rasey of the RAF. That first name must be a transcription error: the only person - of any service - with the surname Rasey in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission's database is this "William George Rasey" who, as described below, is well connected with the Borough. (It's interesting that the "Edward Rasey" is out of alphabetical order - but, then, so is the following "Edwin Charles Ringer" who is a Borough casualty.)

The Book of Remembrance entry for Edward Rasey
The Book of Remembrance entry for "Edward Rasey"
Image courtesy of Clive Gilbert © 2014

William was born Q1 1922, the second of six children born to William Charles Rasey and Lilian Amelia (née Boulcott). Like his parents' Q1 1919 marriage, William's birth was registered in the Epsom District).

Indeed, the Raseys were a well-established Epsom family: William Charles (William's father) was one of 14 children born to Thomas and Emily Rasey of Epsom Common. While William Charles survived his WW1 service (in the East Surrey Regiment & Labour Corps), three of his brothers - Frederick (whose WW1 entry sets out the family background), Albert & Bertie - did not.

The September 1939 Register records William Charles, Lilian and their family living at 18 Tonstall Road, West Ewell. 47 year old William Senior is listed as a "General Labourer, Heavy Work" and 44 year old Lilian with the conventional "Unpaid Domestic Duties". Three of the other five records at the address are currently closed, but presumably cover some of their children (including 17 year old William George). The two open ones are of first born Rosina (a 20 year old "Laundry Maid") and the penultimate 5 year old "Schoolboy" Charles).

William George's WW2 service was in 101 Squadron, part of the RAF's Bomber Command. In 1944, this was equipped with Avro Lancaster heavy bombers and was operating from RAF Ludford Magna, an airfield built the previous year some 20 miles north east of Lincoln.

Late on 29 August 1944, William was part of the 9-strong crew of Avro Lancaster Mk.I LL757 SR-W which took off from Ludford Magna to take part in a bombing raid on Stettin (now Szczecin) in Poland, an important port and industrial centre. On the way to the target, the aircraft was attacked by a German night fighter and badly damaged. It seems that the pilot was making for neutral Sweden. Having crossed the coast just north of Helsingborg, it appears that the crew bailed out but the aircraft (which had a full bomb load) exploded in the air at the same time, killing all nine.

William is one of 47 Commonwealth airmen of the Second World War buried in the Helsingborg (Palsjo) Municipal Cemetery, Sweden. The family took the option of adding a personal inscription to his headstone (on Grave XV.5),
"Deep in our hearts / a memory is kept / of one we loved / and will never forget."
Roger Morgan © 2018

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RAWKINS, Geoffrey Lubbock

Civilian
Died 11 October 1940, aged 41

Geoffrey was born on 11 September 1899, the first child of David Josiah Rawkins and Margaret (née Lubbock - they had married Q1 1899, registered in the Hackney District). The 1901 Census records the young family living at 19, Woodberry Grove, Stoke Newington with the 29 year old David listed as a "Builder's Manager". By the time of the 1911 Census, the family (now with the second child, Sydney, born in 1903) had moved to 27 Park Court Mansions, Clapham and David is now listed as an "Estate Agent and Builder".

On 12 September 1917, the 18 year old Geoffrey (described as an "Insurance Clerk") attested into the Royal Flying Corps. He served as a Second Lieutenant in 103 and then 116 Squadron, transferring out (from what had become the RAF) in April 1919.

In Q4 1924, Geoffrey married Dorothy Hale - they were both 25 years old. The birth of their only child, Anthony St John, was registered Q1 1932 in (like their marriage) the Wandsworth District.

The September 1939 Register records the couple staying/lodging with Malcolm and Nora Pickett at 38 Farm Avenue, Harrow. Geoffrey is now listed as a "Quantity Surveyor" and Dorothy with the conventional "Unpaid Domestic Duties".

That residence would seem to be only a temporary arrangement, since there is no closed record there to cover their son, Anthony. (There is no record of his early death - indeed, he appears to be the Anthony S Rawkins who, in Q3 1961 and registered in the local Surrey Mid Eastern District, married Beryl G Harrison.)

As noted by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (and the Probate record about administration of Geoffrey's £ 2,397 estate), the family were living at Craven Cottage, Woodcote Hurst, Epsom in 1940 - which is where Geoffrey died on 11 October 1940 as the result of enemy action. If Dorothy or Anthony were injured in the attack, they recovered.)

Roger Morgan © 2018

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RAWSON, John Leslie. Gunner (1542741)

3rd Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery
Died 21 April 1942, aged 25.

John was born on 25 March 1917, the first of four children born to Frank John Rawson and Emma Constance (née Palmer). They had married Q2 1914, registered in the Epsom District, and set up home in Ewell - John was baptised at St Mary's, Ewell on 19 April 1917, and siblings were also baptised there.

The September 1939 Register records the family living at 57 Heatherside Road, West Ewell. 54 year old Frank is listed as a "School Master (Head)" - possibly at Pound Lane, Epsom - and 47 year old Emma with the conventional "Unpaid Domestic Duties". Their third child, Emma (born Q2 1922) was away from home but 22 year old John is listed as a "Surveyor's Clerk; 19 year old Joyce as a "Civil Servant (Tithe Redemption)"; and nearly 15 year old Robert as "Seeking Work (not previously employed)". Also living with them was Emma's 80 year old and "Incapacitated" widowed mother, also called Emma.

John's WW2 service was in the 3rd Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery. This was sent to Malaya where, notwithstanding fierce fighting, Commonwealth troops were unable to halt the Japanese invasion from the north which began on 8 December 1941. Survivors retreated to Singapore which, with some 80,000 troops, was surrendered to the Japanese on 15 February. The Japanese, who had already taken about 50,000 prisoners on their progress through Malaya and Singapore, then set about processing these people for, as is now well-known, extremely harsh imprisonment.

In the very early stages of all this, on 15 February itself, John and Lieutenant Eric Alan Sawyer of the same Regiment somehow managed to escape, and it was reported that they had left Singapore by sea. It was later presumed that they had died, and this was later confirmed - in John's case, taking the date of death as 21 April 1942.

John's body was never recovered (or, if it was, could not be identified) and he is commemorated on the Singapore Memorial as one of the more than 24,000 casualties of the land and air forces of the Commonwealth who died during the campaigns in Malaya and Indonesia or in subsequent captivity and have no known grave.

The Singapore Memorial (rear) in the Kranji War Cemetery
The Singapore Memorial (rear) in the Kranji War Cemetery
Picture with thanks to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Roger Morgan © 2018
With thanks to Brian Bouchard for some family background

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REACH, Sidney Christopher

Civilian
Died 15 October 1940, aged 37

&

REACH, Thomas Edmund

Civilian
Died 15 October 1940, aged 66

Not listed in the Book of Remembrance

Sidney was born on 6 November 1902 the second child of Thomas Edmund Reach (born 28 December 1874) and Ellen Mary (née Christopher). The couple had married in Q4 1897, registered in Thomas's home Hendon District - Ellen had been born (on 28 January 1877) in Jersey. The 1901 Census records the mid-20s couple living at 54 Fordingley Road, Paddington with their first child, 2 year old Charles. Thomas's occupation is listed as a "Woodworking Machinist".

By the time of the 1911 Census, the family had moved to 104 Roundwood Road, Willesden - and grown with the addition of now 8 year old Sidney and 4 year old Edna. Thomas is now listed as just a "Machininst". Both Sidney and now 12 year old Charles were at school, but Charles was also a "Newsboy".

In Q3 1927, the 24 year old Sidney married 21 year old Margaretta Winifred Parks. They had two children - Kenneth and Ronald - whose births (in, respectively, Q4 1928 and Q1 1936) were, like their parents' marriage, registered in the Croydon District.

The September 1939 Register records Sidney and Margaretta (listed here as "Margaret") living at 24 Norfolk Road, Thornton Heath together with two currently closed records, doubtless of their children. Margaretta is listed with the conventional "Unpaid Domestic Duties" and Sidney as a "Wood Working Machinist".

Sidney's work was with his father, Thomas who - with Ellen - is recorded in the 1939 Register (where, at the time of writing, the surname is mistranscribed as "Leach") living at 88 Newbury Gardens, Stoneleigh and listed as a "Working Director Wood Machinist".

They worked in a sawmill located under some of the railway arches in Hercules Road, Lambeth. On 15 October 1940, a few weeks into the Lufwaffe's "Blitz" bombing campaign, there was a particularly heavy raid on London. A high explosive bomb in Hercules Road killed Sidney, Thomas and four others at the Sawmill. Thomas and Sidney are both buried in the Lambeth Cemetery, Blackshaw Road, Tooting.

Thomas's widow, Ellen, died aged 71 in Q3 1948, registered in the local Surrey Mid Eastern District. Sidney's widow, Margaretta, did not remarry and died aged 88 in Q1 1994, registered in Croydon.

Roger Morgan © 2018

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READ, Charles Edward. Sergeant/Observer (580828)

37 Squadron, Royal Air Force.
Died 15 July 1940, aged 20.

Charles was born Q3 1920, the first child of Charles Edward (in some records, written "Edward Charles") and Florence Ethel (née Rider - they had married Q1 1920). Their marriage, Charles's birth and those of his siblings - John (born Q1 1923), Elizabeth (born Q4 1925) and Mary Lillian (born 11 April 1931) - were all registered in the Epsom District (which included Ewell).

The record of Mary's baptism on 17 May 1931 notes the family's address as 29 Shortcroft Road, Ewell - and that is where the September 1939 Register also records the parents. (There are three currently closed records at the address, presumably of three of their four children.) The Register lists 43 year old Charles senior as an "Electrician (Lighting Heating)" and 47 year old Florence with the conventional "Unpaid Domestic Duties".

Charles junior served in 37 Squadron, part of RAF's Bomber Command. At 2200 hours on Sunday 14 July 1940, he was the Observer aboard Wellington 1c L7792/LF-L that took off from RAF Feltwell, Norfolk, as part of a larger mission to bomb Hamburg.

The crew were:-
Pilot: Sergeant John Francis McCAULEY (564908), aged 25. Killed
2nd Pilot: Sergeant Sydney Chapman KIRKBRIDE (566117), aged 24. Killed
Observer: Sergeant Charles Edward READ (580828), aged 20. Killed
Wireless Operator/Air Gunner: Sergeant George John William GRIMSON (631689), aged 32.
Air Gunner: Sergeant T JOHNSON (621438)
Before reaching the target, the aircraft was shot down by flak from the No.1 Reserve Flak of 182 Blumental-Bremen, and crashed at Beckedorf.

German troops inspecting the crashed Wellington L7792/LF-L
German troops inspecting the crashed Wellington L7792/LF-L
Image (and the 1940-44 details here) courtesy of aircrewremembered.

The two Air Gunners (Sergeants Grimson and Johnson) survived the crash and were taken prisoner. Initially held in PoW camp Stalag Heydekrug - 357. After a succession of PoW camps, Sergeant Grimson escaped and formed a network which assisted fellow escapers. He remained on the run in Germany, hunted by the Gestapo, but eventually disappeared, probably having been captured and murdered by the SS on or about 14 April 1944 in the Danzig area.

The other three of the crew, including Charles, were killed in the crash. They were first buried in Bremen's Friedhof Neu-Aumund Cemetery.

The three crew's 1940 funerals at the Friedhof Neu-Aumund Cemetery, Bremen.
The three crew's 1940 funerals at the Friedhof Neu-Aumund Cemetery, Bremen.
Images courtesy of aircrewremembered

On 12 April 1947, they were reinterred (in Charles's case in Grave 12.D.1B) among the 2,374 Commonwealth WW2 casualties collected into the Becklingen War Cemetery, some 40 miles to the east. The cemetery was chosen for its position on a hillside overlooking Luneburg Heath - which is where, on 4 May 1945, Field-Marshal Montgomery accepted the German surrender from Admiral Doenitz.

The Becklingen War Cemetery
The Becklingen War Cemetery
Photograph courtesy of "hajotthu" via Wikimedia Commons

Roger Morgan © 2018

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READ, Clive Ronald. Galley Boy

SS Christian Michelsen, Merchant Navy
Died 26 September 1943, aged 18

Clive's surname was Read rather than the "Reed" noted in the Borough's Book of Remembrance. Unusually, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission records contain no information about his family background. However, it seems likely that he was the first child of Ambrose Read and Doris (née Dench). They had married in Reigate Q1 1924 and this is where Clive's Q2 1925 birth was registered - as was the Q1 1929 birth of his sister Audrey.

The Q4 1934 birth of the couple's third child, Anthony, was registered in the Surrey Mid Eastern District so the family was probably already living at 28 Wheelers Lane Epsom, which is where the parents (with Ambrose as a "Sign Writer and Decorating Contractor") and 5 year old Anthony were - with two currently closed records - at the time of the September 1939 Register.

Clive served aboard the Norwegian steam merchant SS Christian Michelsen which, in September 1943, was part of trans-Atlantic Convoy UGS-17 from New York. Its cargo included 3,000 tons of oil (in drums), and 7,000 tons of aircraft bombs and ammunition.

The SS Christian Michelsen
The SS Christian Michelsen
Photograph courtesy of Karl Morten Bardsen
Image and incident details with thanks to uboat.net

At 1900 hours on 26 Sep 1943 - and not far short of the destination in Sicily - the Convoy was attacked by U-boat U-410. A torpedo hit the SS Christian Michelsen which - unsurprisingly, given its cargo - blew up, sinking in less than a minute. Miraculously, three crewmen survived, but 47 - including Clive - were killed

As one of nearly 24,000 WW2 Merchant Seamen with "no grave but the sea", Clive is commemorated on the Tower Hill Memorial.

The Tower Hill Memorial
The Tower Hill Memorial (the WW2 section is the sunken garden in the foreground).
Photograph with thanks to Dan Jenkins "lost at sea memorials" blog

Roger Morgan © 2018

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REDFORD, Keith George. Flight Sergeant/Air Bomber (656698)

578 Squadron, Royal Air Force
Died 16 March 1944, aged 22

Keith's headstone in Epsom Cemetery
Keith's headstone in Epsom Cemetery
Image courtesy of Clive Gilbert © 2018

Keith was born Q3 1921, apparently the only child of Osbert Henry Redford and Amelia Phyllis (née Kent). Their Q2 1915 marriage had been registered in Blything, Suffolk, and Keith's birth in the Marylebone District.

The 18 year old Keith is not found in the September 1939 Register, but his parents were recorded living at 12 Curvan Close, Ewell. 48 year old Osbert is listed as a "Motor Engineer" and 53 year old Amelia with the conventional "Unpaid Domestic Duties". Then only other resident was Osbert's widowed 72 year old mother, Fanny.

Keith's WW2 service was in 578 Squadron, part of the RAF's Bomber Command. On 15 March 1944, he was part of the crew of 578 Squadron Halifax Mk III LW495 LK-C which took off from RAF Burn (a few miles outside Selby, Yorkshire) at 18:52 for a night raid on Stuttgart. (862 other aircraft also took part in this massive raid: 617 Lancasters, 230 Halifaxes and 16 Mosquitoes.)

The Handley Page Halifax B.III
The Handley Page Halifax B.III
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Clear weather with adverse winds caused the delayed opening of the attack and the same winds may have caused the Pathfinder marking falling well short of the target. Early bombing fell in the centre of Stuttgart, but most of the bombing fell in open ground south-west of the city.

37 of the 863 aircraft involved in the attack were lost that night. In the case of Keith's Halifax, this was only a few miles from home when, presumably as a result of damage over enemy territory, the aircraft crashed at 03:35 into the brickworks at Selby. Keith and four others of the seven man crew were killed.

Keith's body was brought home for burial in Epsom Cemetery on 21 March 1944. His parents took the option of adding a personal inscription to his headstone on Grave N257,
"Greater love hath no man than this."
Roger Morgan © 2018

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REES, Dewi. First Radio Officer

MV Fort Richepanse (Belfast), Merchant Navy
Died 3 September 1941, aged 29

Not listed in the Book of Remembrance

Dewi Rees was born in Porthcawl, South Wales, Q1 1912. His mother's maiden name was Jones but, without more information, these common Welsh names cannot be traced with any confidence in the readily available records. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission's post-war records note that Dewi's (presumably widowed) mother was "Mrs P E Rees, of Ewell". However, she is not found in the September 1939 Register, and the address has yet to be established.

The Commission's records also note that Dewi was the "husband of Elizabeth Rees, of Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire." A record is found of Dewi's marrying Elizabeth Evans in Q2 1935, registered in the Sculcotes District of Yorkshire but, again, the common Welsh names rule out tracing them (and any children) in the readily available records.

Dewi was a radio officer in the Merchant Navy. In 1941, he was serving aboard the 3,485 ton MV Fort Richepanse. This Danish-built (and originally French-owned) vessel had, for a period after the Franco-German Armistice signed on 22 June 1940, been operating under Vichy French colours. On 9 February 1941, while en route from the Antilles to Casablanca with a cargo of 834 tons of bananas and 85 passengers, she was captured by HMS Registan (F106), and escorted to Gibraltar. The vessel was transferred to the Ministry of War Transport and began operating out of Belfast.

MV Fort Richepanse
MV Fort Richepanse
Photo courtesy of Danish Maritime Museum, Elsinore
Image and incident details with thanks to uboat.net

At the end of August 1941, MV Fort Richepanse sailed from Montreal, bound for Liverpool with 12 passengers and 2,890 tons of general cargo (including eggs and mail) - and a crew of 46. At 20:42 hours on 3 September 1941, the ship (which was unescorted) was torpedoed and sunk by U-567 about 300 miles west of Ireland. The master, 25 crew members (including Dewi), 5 gunners and 5 passengers were lost. (15 crew members and 7 passengers were picked up by two ships of the Polish Navy and landed at Greenock.)

As one of nearly 24,000 WW2 Merchant Seamen with "no grave but the sea", Dewi is commemorated on the Tower Hill Memorial.

The Tower Hill Memorial
The Tower Hill Memorial (the WW2 section is the sunken garden in the foreground).
Photograph with thanks to Dan Jenkins "lost at sea memorials" blog

Roger Morgan © 2018

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REESE, Frederick Oscar

Civilian
Died 15 October 1940, aged 55

Frederick was born on 26 June 1884, the third of five children born to John Thomas Reese and Catherine (née Thomas). The 1891 Census records the family of seven living at Plasyoner House, College Row, Ystradgynlais - which was then the largest town in the county of Brecknockshire (now the second largest in the present-day county of Powys). This was a prosperous household. 50 year old John Thomas was a "Medical & Surgical Practitioner and he, his 44 year old wife and five children aged from 1 to 11 (Frederick - listed here as "Oscar" - was aged 7) were supported by two domestic servants.

Frederick's secondary education was at Epsom College and he was recorded there in the 1901 Census as a 16 year old student. He is not found in the 1911 Census but, on 7 November 1914, Frederick received a temporary commission as an Assistant Paymaster in the Royal Naval Reserve. By the end of WW1, he had risen to the rank of Paymaster Lieutenant.

In Q4 1918, 34 year old Frederick married 33 year old Frances Margaret Meade (she had been born on Christmas Day 1884). The marriage was registered in the St Martin area of London. No record has been found of the couple having any children.

The couple are found in the September 1939 Register living alone at "Knighton", at 28 Woodcote Park Road, Epsom. The now 54 year old Frederick is listed as "Export & Imports Company Director" and 53 year old Frances with the conventional "Unpaid Domestic Duties". On 27 April 1940, less than 18 months later, Frances died in Epsom's Cottage Hospital. The 12 July 1940 Probate record of administration of her £ 5,701 estate being awarded to Frederick clarifies his business as a "textile importer".

However, on 15 October 1940 (only six months after his wife's death), Frederick himself died at Epsom County Hospital. To rank as a Civilian Casualty for the purposes of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission's database, this must have been the result of injuries caused by "enemy action" - probably received in the Luftwaffe's "Blitz" bombing campaign that began on 7 September 1940.

Roger Morgan © 2018

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REEVES, Charles Walter. Leading Aircraftman (1291215)

Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
Died 5 May 1944, aged 21

Not listed in the Book of Remembrance

Charles was born Q1 1923, the first child of Charles Reeves and Florence Emily (née West). The parents' Q3 marriage was registered in the Wandsworth District as were the births of Charles junior and his sister Betty in Q1 1926.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission' records note Charles's parents as being "of Epsom, Surrey". The September 1939 Register records his 37 year old mother living at 76 Hook Road, Epsom together with two currently closed records - presumably covering 16 year old Charles junior and 13 year old Betty. The head of the household was the apparently unrelated 44 year old James Cunningham (a "Dairyman Inspector") whose entry is followed by another currently closed record. Florence is clearly recorded as married (and with the conventional "Unpaid Domestic Duties") so Charles senior was elsewhere - but he has not yet been found in the readily available records.

(It is certain that Florence died in Swindon Q3 1965. It may be that the Charles Reeves who died in Swindon Q3 1965 was her husband. The record of his death notes that he was born in 1895 but, even knowing the birth year, the common names cannot be traced with confidence.)

Charles junior, enlisted with the Royal Air Force, probably at Uxbridge, during September 1940. There is little readily available information about his service as a Leading Aircraftman, a rank which undertook a wide range of non-aircrew duties. One record has been found of him attached to the UK-based 129 Squadron, part of the RAF's Fighter Command. By 1944, however, he was in the Middle East, and probably in Palestine (modern-day Israel).

The RAF's main base in Palestine was at Aqir, located about 5 miles southwest of Ramleh (modern-day Ramla), which became the home station for 76 Operational Training Unit. This had been formed at RAF Aqir on 1 October 1943 and equipped with Vickers Wellington Mk.IIIs and Xs to train night bomber crews for squadrons in the Middle East. RAF Ramleh, however, was right beside the town of Er Ramleh: there was a 'Y' junction with one road going towards Jerusalem and the other branching off to RAF Ramleh. The main road carried on to RAF Aqir and further towards Gaza.

Nothing is found in the readily available records about the cause Charles's death on 5 May 1944. No evidence has been found to suggest that he was involved in any aircraft crash. It may have been the result of enemy action or other injury or illness. It may be significant that No 12 Military Hospital was also at Ramleh.

In any event, Charles is one of the 1,168 Commonwealth WW2 casualties buried in the Ramleh War Cemetery, about 15 miles south east of Tel Aviv. (The Cemetery dates fro WW1 and holds 3,300 casualties of that war.) Charles's family took the option of adding a personal inscription to his headstone on Grave 5. C. 7.
"He is not dead... So young he was and gay, so gallant and brave a soul could never pass away."
Part of the Ramleh War Cemetery
Part of the Ramleh War Cemetery
Photograph (27426951) by "julia&keld" via findagrave.com

Brian Bouchard & Roger Morgan © 2018

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RELF, Harold Albert John

Civilian
Died 13 November 1940, aged 48

Not listed in the Book of Remembrance

Harold was born on 15 April 1892, the oldest child of Albert and Elizabeth Relf. His birth was registered in the Croydon District, the area where, after their marriage, his parents spent all their lives. The 1891 Census records the newly married early 30s couple living at 440 Whitehorse Road, Croydon with Albert working as a "Dairyman". By the time of the 1901 Census, all three children had arrived (the now 9 year old Harold, 7 year old Daisy and 5 year old Cecil), and Albert was working as a "Greengrocer". By the time of the 1911 Census the parents had moved to 61 Lakehall Road, Thornton Heath and 51 year old Albert was working as a "Jobbing Gardener". Only their youngest child (the now 15 year old Cecil) was still at home.

At some point, their son Harold moved to Kent. In Q3 1923, he married Una Emily Turner. The marriage was registered in the Tonbridge District, as were the births of their two children: Marjorie on 22 January 1924; and Gerald in Q4 1930.

By the time of the September 1939 Register, Harold and Una had moved back to his parent's patch of Thornton Heath - perhaps not unconnected with the death of Harold's father. The Register records his 88 year old widowed and "Incapacitated" mother, Elizabeth, living 13 Ramsey Road, Thornton Heath together with her 45 year old unmarried daughter, Daisy, whose occupation is listed as "Home Dress Making".

Harold and Una were living a few streets away at 42 Woodcroft Road, Thornton Heath. 47 year old Harold is listed as a "Nursery Foreman" and 48 year old Una with the conventional "Unpaid Domestic Duties". Their 15 year old daughter was living with them, working as a "Junior Shop Assistant (Milliner)".

On 10 November 1940, in the third month of the Luftwaffe's "Blitz" bombing campaign, Harold was injured at home in Woodcroft Road. He was taken to Horton Emergency Hospital - one of Epsom's "cluster" of mental hospitals that, as for WW1, had been taken over for dealing with wartime casualties - but died there three days later, on 13 November 1940.

If either Una or Marjorie were injured in the same attack, they recovered.

Roger Morgan © 2018

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REYNOLDS, Ernest Robert Frank. Leading Aircraftman (1265608)

Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
Died 13 December 1944, aged 39

Ernest's headstone in Epsom Cemetery
Ernest's headstone in Epsom Cemetery
Image courtesy of Clive Gilbert © 2018

Ernest was born on 8 June 1905, the first child of Henry Ernest Reynolds and Clara Annie (née Mercer - they had married in Epsom Q1 1905). The 1911 Census records the 25 year old Clara living with or visiting her parents (61 year old Frank, a "Carter", and 50 year old Eliza) at 38 Victoria Place, Epsom, the house she had been brought up in. Husband Henry was elsewhere but, with her, were not only 5 year old Ernest but also three more children aged from 1 to 4. Henry and Clara had three more children, born in 1912, 1913 and 1915. Ernest and all their children were, like Clara herself, born in Epsom.

In Q1 1930, also in Epsom, the 24 year old Ernest married 20 year old Irene Mabel Tugwell. She was from Walton on the Hill, where the 1911 Census had recorded her as the third child of the late 20s James (like Ernest's father, a "Carter") and Mabel Alice Tugwell living at Wooden Row, Walton on the Hill.

Ernest and Irene had two children - Michael (in Q4 1938) and Gerald (Q2 1940) - both births being registered in the local Surrey Mid Eastern District. Gerald arrived after the September 1939 Register which recorded the family of three living at 45 College Road, Epsom. Ernest's occupation was listed as a "General labourer and Irene with the conventional "unpaid domestic duties".

Ernest's WW2 service was in the RAF as a Leading Aircraftman. The readily available records provide no information about the location or nature of this service - which could have been in a wide range of non-aircrew roles. Nor do they tell us the cause of his death on 13 December 1944 - although, from the burial records, we know that he died in Horton Emergency Hospital, one of Epsom's "cluster" of mental hospitals that, as for WW1, had been taken over for dealing with wartime casualties. But he would have received his mortal injuries (or, alternatively, have fallen ill) somewhere else - and probably within southeast England.

Anyway, Ernest was buried in Epsom Cemetery on 19 December 1944. His widow took the option of adding a personal inscription to his headstone on Grave N254,
"Love's greatest gift, remembrance."
Roger Morgan © 2018

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RICHARDS, John Conway. Able Seaman (P/JX 141477)

HM Submarine H.31, Royal Navy
Died 24 December 1941, aged 22.

John was born Q1 1919, the third child of Alfred Thomas Richards and Alice Margaret (née Strudwick - they had married Q3 1905, registered in the Epsom District, but certain to have been in Alice's now home town of Ewell).

John's father, Alfred, had been born in Dorset. The 1891 Census records him as a 17 year old living with his parents - John (a "Retired Gardener") and Martha Richards - in West Street, Allington, Bridport and working as a "Shoemaker Apprentice". By the time of the 1901 Census, the now 27 year old was working as a "Prudential Assurance Agent" and lodging with the Arthur family at 1 High Street Ashtead.

It was perhaps while calling on clients that he met Alice Mary Strudwick. She had been born in Godalming in 1882, the daughter of Surrey-born John and Dublin-born Martha Strudwick. By the time of the 1901 Census, the early 40s John and Martha were living in the High Street, Ewell, where John was the "Coffee House Manager". Alice, now aged 18 and a "Dressmaker Assistant" was one of their three children living at home.

As noted above, Alfred and Alice married in 1905 - and the 1911 Census finds them living at The Cave Coffee Tavern, High Street (now 1 Cheam Road), Ewell with 37 year old Alfred as "Manager Coffee Tavern" and 28 year old Alice "Assisting in Business". Alice's parents and two of her sisters had moved to Vernon Cottage, London Road, Ewell where the 1911 Census lists the 56 year old John Strudwick as a "Retired Caterer". (It is understood that Alice actually ran the Coffee Tavern with help from Alfred alongside his shoemaking.)

Alfred and Alice had three children: Phillip (Q2 1912); Frances (Q4 1916); and John Conway, the subject of this article (Q1 1919). Either because of his age or because he was already in uniform, the 20 year old John is not found in the 1939 Register. His parents, however, remained at 1 Cheam Road where the 1939 Register lists the 66 year old Alfred as a "Bootmaker & Repairer" and the 57 year Alice with the conventional "Unpaid Domestic Duties". 1 Cheam Road, Ewell, is stated as John's address in the 1942 Probate record of administration of his £ 107 estate being awarded to his mother.

John's WW2 service was as an Able Seaman in Submarine H 31, built by Vickers in Barrow in Furness and commissioned on 21 February 1919. In the early days of WW2, she was used in many anti-submarine training exercises in home waters, but did also undertake a number of war missions in the North Sea (where, on 18 July 1940, she torpedoed and sank the German auxiliary patrol vessel UJ 126 off the Dutch island of Terschelling). She was also involved in the November 1941 operation to keep the German battleship Scharnhorst in Brest.

HM Submarine H 31.
HM Submarine H 31.
Copyright acknowledged.

On 19 December 1941, H31 sailed from Falmouth for a Bay of Biscay patrol, 250 nautical miles north of Cape Finisterre. She was reported overdue on 26 December 1941. The precise date of her loss with all 22 on board (including John) is unknown - as is the cause, although this is generally understood to have been a drifting mine.

John is commemorated on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial as one of nearly 15,000 naval personnel of WW2 who were lost or buried at sea.

The Portsmouth Naval Memorial
The Portsmouth Naval Memorial
Photograph with thanks to ww2cemeteries.com

Roger Morgan © 2018

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RICHARDSON, Charles Henry. Flight Sergeant (1392954)

630 Squadron, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
Died 22 May 1944, aged 26

Charles Richardson in his flying gear
Charles Richardson in his flying gear
Photograph with thanks to Airwar over Denmark

Not listed in the Book of Remembrance.

Charles was born Q1 1918, apparently the second of five children born to Frederick Samuel Richardson and Mabel Louisa (née Christian). The marriage of 28 year old Samuel and 22 year old Mabel had been registered in the Poplar District, as were the births of their children.

The September 1939 Register records now 56 year old Frederick (a "Weigh Bridge Clerk") and two of his sons (first born 26 year old "Pastry Chef" Frederick junior and 19 year old "Accounts Clerk" John) living at 9 Hartfield Terrace, Poplar. The whereabouts of the 50 year old Mabel and the two daughters has not yet been established (although the records of the girls - 14 year old Constance and 12 year old Victoria - would, at the time of writing, normally be closed).

As to Charles, the subject of this article, was he the Charles H Richardson recorded in the 1939 Register as one of many Metropolitan Police Constables living at what appears to be a Section House ("Gilmores House") in Renfrew Road, Lambeth? His 5 February 1918 birthdate certainly fits the Q1 1918 registration of our Charles's birth.

Some time in the early years of WW2, the family moved into the Borough. In early November 1943 Aged 60, Frederick senior died in Epsom Hospital. The death was registered in the local Surrey Mid Eastern District and he was buried in Plot O530 of Epsom Cemetery on 11 November 1943. The Probate record of administration of Charles's £ 258 estate being awarded to his widowed mother records the family address as 60 The Greenway, Epsom.

Whether or not Charles was in the Metropolitan Police in 1938, he enlisted as a 22 year old with the Royal Air Force at Euston in September 1940. Disappointingly, there is nothing in the readily available records about his service over the next three and a half years.

He is next found as the Navigator aboard Lancaster Mk.1 LL950 LE-Y of 630 Squadron, part of the RAF's Bomber Command. At 22:18 hours on 21 May 1944, the aircraft took off from East Kirby for a "Gardening" or mine-laying operation - (Forget-Me-Not, Kiel Bay)

Members of the crew were:
  • Pilot - P/O Ronald Walter BAILEY, aged 22
  • Flight Engineer - P/O Jack Maxwell WHITING, aged 31
  • Navigator - F/Sgt Charles Henry RICHARDSON, aged 26
  • Bomb Aimer - F/Sgt James Mitchell HENDERSON, aged 35
  • Wireless Operator/Air Gunner - F/O Albert Edward 'Bertie' TRUESDALE, aged 22
  • Air Gunner - Sgt James LINDSAY, aged 22
  • Air Gunner - Sgt Martin Ernest MURTON, age unknown
The aircraft was flying at 15,000 feet over the Jutland peninsula when it was attacked by a German night fighter from 10./NJG 3 piloted by Unteroffizier Heinz Koppe. The Lancaster's load of six mines was dropped (which fell in Runæs Forrest on the island of Fyn) and the aircraft then headed west while trying to escape. Local reports were that the aircraft started burning and came down in great circles before, at 02:00 hours, it exploded and broke up in mid-air. Most of the aircraft crashed to the ground just west of the small village of Vesterlund in central Jutland, and the tail landed some three miles away, a little to the east of the village of Dørken. Four bodies were found in the wreckage near Vesterlund and two in the wreckage near Dørken. The seventh and final body was found in a nearby field with an unopened parachute.

The dead airmen were left lying where they were found until the evening of 24 May when the Wehrmacht from Give collected the bodies and took them to Esbjerg on Jutland's North Sea coast. They were buried in Esbjerg's Fourfelt cemetery on 27 May 1944. (This now holds 252 Commonwealth WW2 casualties.) Charles's family subsequently took the option of adding a personal inscription to his headstone (in the photograph on the right below) on Collective Grave A.12.18-24,
"Until we meet again you are 'home' in the hearts of Mum, brothers and sisters."
The villagers of Vesterlund erected a memorial stone at the principle crash site, as in the photograph on the left below, taken on 5 May 2011 (the trees have grown since the crash). The Danish inscription on the central pillar translates as "Allied airmen fell here on 22 May 1944 for the cause of England and Denmark". Around the central pillar are stones for each airman: the one for Charles (inscribed "C H Richardson / Surrey") is on the right of the picture. The wreaths were from residents of the area to mark the 66th anniversary of the Liberation of Denmark.

Memorial stone and headstone
Left: Memorial stone in the woods outside Vesterlund
Right: Charles's headstone in Esbjerg (Fourfelt) Cemetery
Photographs with thanks to the website airmen.dk

Brian Bouchard & Roger Morgan © 2018

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RICHARDSON, Edgar Arthur. Private (29808)

18th Battalion, New Zealand Infantry
Died 25 May 1941, aged 31

Edgar's headstone at Grave 6D4  in the Suda Bay War Cemetery, Crete
Edgar's headstone at Grave 6D4 in the Suda Bay War Cemetery, Crete.
Photograph (18993109) by "BobBoston" via findagrave.com

Not listed in the Book of Remembrance.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission notes that Edgar was the "son of Victor and of Mary Richardson, of Ewell, Surrey, England." That address has yet to be established but, even so, the connection with the Borough is not strong. To date, the closest the parents are found is in the September 1939 Register living at what seems to be called "Haifi Lockeel Rest" in Box Hill Village's Ashurst Drive. 70 year old Victor is listed as a "Decorator, Retired" and 76 year old Mary with the conventional "Unpaid Domestic Duties".

The house name presumably refers to some more exotic location - perhaps somewhere in India, where their son Edgar was born on 1 January 1910 and, indeed, where the 26 year old James Albert Victor John Richardson had, on 1 September 1892 in Dinapore, Bengal, married the 19 year old Mary Jane Clarke. Edgar was baptised on 6 March 1910 in St Thomas Church, Dehradun (in the hills about 150 miles north of New Delhi) where the records note him as the son of Albert Victor John and Mary Jane Richardson.

Military records are clear that Edgar had (or had taken) New Zealand nationality - reinforced by his membership of an NZ battalion. And things get thoroughly confused by finding that the NZ War Graves project - alongside a repeat of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission's note that Edgar was the "son of Victor Richardson and of Mary Richardson, of Ewell, Surrey, England." - has other and apparently well-informed material about Private Edgar Arthur Richardson (29808). This is that, on enlistment into the New Zealand Infantry, 18 Battalion:
  • Edgar's next of kin was given as "Mrs M. Mayo (mother), 31 Wellington Street, Bangalore, India";
  • His address was "c/o C A Bowler, Waikarau, Te Aroha, Waikato, New Zealand"; and
  • his occupation was "Farm manager".
The 18th Battalion was formed in New Zealand in September 1939. After a period of training, in 1940 it embarked for the Middle East as part of the 2nd New Zealand Division and then, in 1941, on to Greece as part of the Allied reinforcement of the Greek Army as it prepared to repulse a second invasion by Italian forces from Albania compounded by a threatened invasion by German forces from Bulgaria. When the invasions came, Greek and Allied forces were in insufficient strength to repel them.

They withdrew to Crete which, on 20 May 1941, was invaded by German forces in the first mainly airborne invasion in history. With the active involvement of Cretan civilians, it seemed initially that the Germans might be repulsed. However, an Allied tactical error allowed the Germans to capture the Meleme Airfield at Chania in NW Crete and gave them the upper hand. The Allies were driven south and it was during this that Edgar was killed in action on 25 May. The Battle of Crete ended with Axis forces' victory on 1 June.

Edgar and other New Zealanders killed in the same action were initially buried in the Lakkai Cemetery, about 8 miles SW of Chania in NW Crete. In August 1945, they were reinterred in the Suda Bay War Cemetery - in Edgar's case, in Grave 6.D.4. This cemetery (at the head of Souda Bay, a couple of miles due east of Chania) was established shortly after the war to receive graves from the four main burial grounds that had been established by the German occupying forces - at Chania, Iraklion, Rethymnon and Galata - and, as in Edgar's case, from various isolated sites and civilian cemeteries. It now holds 1,500 Commonwealth WW2 casualties, just over half of whom are unidentified.

Roger Morgan © 2018

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RICHMOND, John Roderick. Sergeant/Pilot (658703)

211 Squadron, Royal Air Force
Died 2 May 1943, aged 22.

John ('Jack') Richmond
John ("Jack") Richmond
Copyright acknowledged.

John (known as "Jack") was born in Q3 1920, the first child of Herbert Roderick Richmond and Bessie Harriet (née Reeves). The couple had married Q1 1919 (registered in the Poplar District of London), perhaps immediately following Herbert's discharge from the RAF on 18 March 1919.

Herbert's background is worth a digression. He had been born in Norfolk on 31 August 1891. The 1901 Census records him, 9 years old, as the second child of early 40s Frederick (a "Farmer") and Clara Richmond living at The Hall, Booton, St Faiths, Norfolk. This was a prosperous household, supported by two domestic servants. His RAF record card notes that, from 15 December 1914 to 9 December 1915, Herbert had served in the 65th Lowland Division Signal Company of the Royal Engineers - the Scottish link presumably arising from his pre-war work for over 8 years as a fitter at Argyll's Ltd, a motor manufacturer in Alexandria, Dumbartonshire. On 9 December 1915, he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps - presumably to use his mechanic's skills - which later became the RAF.

Anyway, Herbert and Bessie set up home in Epsom where, in 1920, Herbert founded Epsom Coaches. The couple's second child, Roydon, was born Q2 1925 - perhaps at 45 Copse Edge Avenue, Epsom which was the family home in the 1939 Register (and the 1943 Probate record about administration of Jack's £ 276 estate being awarded to his father, a "Motor Coach Proprietor"). In the September 1939 Register, the 48 year old Herbert is listed as "Company Director (Heavy Goods Vehicle Driver)". The 49 year old Bessie was not at home - being recorded in the Register as a patient at the Cottage Hospital in Alexandra Road.

Given his father's WW1 service, it is perhaps no surprise to find that Jack's WW2 service was in the RAF - in his case, in 211 Squadron which was part of Bomber Command. In the early hours of 2 May 1943, the 22 year old Jack was the pilot of a Wellington Bomber IC Z8806 of 11 OTU which took off from RAF Westcott on a night training flight over Oxfordshire. He apparently lost control and, at 0245 hours, the aircraft crashed at Stadhampton (a few miles south east of Oxford) killing him and the other six on board.

Jack's body was brought home and he was buried in Epsom Cemetery on 8 May 1943. His family took the option of adding a personal inscription to his headstone on Grave N258,
"To a beautiful life / came a sudden end; / he died as he lived / everyone's friend."
Jack's headstone in Epsom Cemetery
Jack's headstone in Epsom Cemetery
Image courtesy of Clive Gilbert © 2018

Roger Morgan © 2018

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RINGER, Edwin Charles. Serjeant (5771996)

1st Battalion, Royal Norfolk Regiment
Died 5 November 1944, aged 28.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission database notes that Edwin was the "son of Mr and Mrs Fredrick Ringer" and that he was 28 when he died in 1944 (which means that he was born around 1916). The Army's Roll of Honour states that he was born in Norfolk. In spite of these leads, no birth record has yet been found for him.

The first sighting of Edwin in the readily available records is his Q4 1940 marriage to Edith Frances May Bullen, registered in the local Surrey Mid Eastern District. Edith had been born on 25 March 1914 in Epsom and was baptised at St. Barnabas church on 21 June 1914. Her parents, Walter, a labourer, and Edith Bullen (nee Stevell), lived at 237 Hook Road, Epsom. Four of Edith's siblings were also baptised at St. Barnabas church. The September 1939 Register records Edith (currently employed as a laundry maid) living with her parents and an older brother, still at 237 Hook Road, Epsom.

Edwin and Edith had two children: Rosemary E F registered Q4 1941 in the local Surrey Mid Eastern District; and John G, whose Q4 1944 birth was registered in the Surrey North Western District.

It is not known if Edwin was a Regular Army soldier before the war but the 1st Battalion Royal Norfolk Regiment was a Regular Army unit that was stationed in Bangalore, India at the outbreak of war, being recalled to Britain in the summer of 1940 for home defence and initially was billeted in Ashtead.

The Battalion became part of the 185th Infantry Brigade and landed on Red Queen Beach, the left flank of Sword Beach at 07:25 on 6 June 1944, D-Day, and fought through the Normandy Campaign, then throughout the North-West Europe Campaign. Allied forces entered the Netherlands on 12 September 1944. Airborne operations later that month established a bridgehead at Nijmegen and in the following months, coastal areas and ports were cleared and secured.

The battle of Overloon began on 30 September as the Allies in Operation Aintree advanced from nearby positions south toward the village of Overloon. An advance on Venray resulted in serious losses, especially around the Loobeek creek, which was swollen due to heavy autumn rains and was flooded and mined by the Germans. Casualties were heavy here among the First Battalion of the Royal Norfolk Regiment. By the end of the war in Europe, the 1st Battalion had gained a remarkable reputation and had suffered 20 officers and 260 other ranks killed with well over 1,000 wounded or missing in 11 months of almost continuous combat.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission records that Edwin died on 5 November 1944, has no known grave and is commemorated on the Groesbeek Memorial as one of 1,029 members of the Commonwealth land forces who died during the campaign in north-west Europe and who have no known grave. (Groesbeek is a village in the Netherlands about 6 miles south east of the city of Nijmegen in the Netherlands.)

The Groesbeek Memorial
The Groesbeek Memorial.
Photograph with thanks to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission

In addition to his entry in the Borough's Book of Remembrance, Edwin is commemorated on the St. Barnabas Roll of Honour.

Clive Gilbert & Hazel Ballan 2014
(with minor additions by Roger Morgan 2018)

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ROBERTS, Albert Edward. Private (5768951)

2nd Battalion, Royal Norfolk Regiment
Died between 10 May and 22 June 1940, aged 30

Unusually, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission database does not contain the usual brief family background for Albert. However, from a Forces record noting his birth town as Plymouth, it has been possible to untangle a rather complicated story.

The birth of Albert Edward Roberts was registered in Plymouth Q3 1911. He was the first of four children born to Lewis Arthur Sandoner Roberts and Monica Mary (nee Goodman - they had married Q4 1908 in Plympton St Mary, Devon).

Sadly, the 29 year old Monica died in the autumn of 1915, apparently in giving birth to the couple's fourth child, Violet Mary. Husband Lewis was in the Army for WW1, but apparently stationed in the UK. There is a December 1916 record of his initiation into the De Shurland Lodge of Freemasons in Sheerness noting his profession as "Company Sergeant Major".

In Q3 1923 and registered in Norwich, the widowed 37 year old Lewis married again. His bride was the widowed 32 year old Alice Mary Maria Hardingham. She had been born in Norfolk as Alice M M Covell and, on 16 February 1923, had married local William March Hardingham. His WW1 service was as Private 37361 in the 1st Battalion, Royal Fusiliers (City Of London Regiment). He died of wounds in Flanders on 11 June 1917 (and was buried in the Mendinghem Military Cemetery, Poperinge, Belgium) leaving the widowed Alice with two young daughters. (Some records of his death misstate his widow's name as "Ada".)

The September 1939 Register records Lewis and Alice living at 4 Knox Road, Norwich. 53 year old Lewis is listed as a "Prison Officer" and 49 year old Alice with the conventional "Unpaid Domestic Duties". Living with them were Lewis's second child, 27 year old Monica (a "Bow Attacher, Boot & Shoe"), and Alice's two daughters, 26 year old Alice (a Typist Invoice Clerk) and 23 year old Hilda (a "Stenographer").

At some point, Albert - the subject of this article - had moved to Epsom to work at Horton Hospital, one of Epsom's "cluster" of mental hospitals. (He is commemorated on the Hospital's WW2 Roll of Honour.) In Q3 1938 and registered in the local Surrey Mid Eastern District, Albert married Mary Frances McCawley - they were both aged 27. It has not yet been possible to trace this Mary back in the readily available records, but it seems likely that she is the Mary Roberts recorded in the 1939 Register as a married 29 year old (born 25 March 1911) lodging with Frank (a male nurse at Horton Mental Hospital) and Ellen Gilkes at 42 The Greenway.

The September 1941 Probate record of administration of Albert's £ 460 estate being awarded to his widow, gives their address as 67 The Greenway, Epsom. It is possible that the couple had a child: the birth of Douglas M J Roberts was registered in the Surrey Mid Eastern District in Q1 1940, whose mother's maiden name is recorded as "Macauley".

Albert is not found in the 1939 Register (which was taken on 29 September, nearly four weeks after the declaration of war), probably because he was already in uniform with the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Norfolk Regiment.

The Battalion was sent to France in early 1940 as part of the British Expeditionary Force ready to repel the expected German invasion. However, when it came on 10 May 1940, the invasion was of unanticipated speed and ferocity and the BEF was pushed back. The 2nd Battalion was part of the rear-guard actions with French allies seeking to maximise the time for other British forces to reach Dunkirk and then be evacuated in Operation Dynamo (from 26 May to 4 June 1940).

Many men were killed or captured during those rear-guard actions and their aftermath. At some point, Albert was lost and, in Casualty List No. 422 of 27 January 1941, formally declared as "killed in action" at some point in the "Battle of France".

Albert's body was never recovered - or, if it was, he could not be identified. He is one of 4,513 members of the BEF commemorated on the Dunkirk Memorial as having no known grave.

The Dunkirk Memorial
The Dunkirk Memorial
Photograph by the International War Graves Project via findagrave.com

Roger Morgan © 2018
With special thanks to Hazel Ballan

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ROBERTSON, Adelaide Elvira May

Civilian
Died 20 February 1942, aged 30

Not listed in the Book of Remembrance.

Adelaide was born Q2 1911, apparently the first child of James McDonald Robertson and Sarah Ann (née Honor). Their Q1 1909 marriage was registered in the Lambeth District, as was Adelaide's birth and that of her two siblings, May (Q2 1913) and James (Q3 1914).

The September 1939 Register records the unmarried 28 year old Adelaide (a "Counter Hand, Catering") and her widowed 45 year old mother, Sarah (a "Cleaner") living with Sarah's 74 year old widowed mother - and Adelaide's grandmother - Eliza Honor (an "Old Age Pensioner") living at 109 Mann Street, Southwark, London.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission notes that Adelaide died on 20 November 1942 at Horton Emergency Hospital, one of Epsom's "cluster" of mental hospitals that, as for WW1, had been taken over for dealing with wartime casualties. However, no record has been found of where or when Adelaide received the injuries from enemy action that led to her being taken there for treatment.

Roger Morgan © 2018

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ROBINSON, George Radford. Lance Corporal (2619629)

6th Battalion, Grenadier Guards.
Died 9 November 1943, aged 30.

George was born Q1 1913, the first child of Harry Radford Robinson and Annie (née Warner). Their Q2 1912 marriage had been registered in the Southwark District, but they settled in the Wandsworth area. George's 1913 birth was registered in the Wandsworth District, as was the Q1 1915 birth of his brother, Harry.

In Q2 1936 and registered in the local Surrey Mid Eastern District, George married Winifred Florence Shaw. They set up home in Worcester Park where the September 1939 Register records them living at 36 Woodland Road. 26 year old George is listed as a "Printing Machine Manager, Newspaper" and 31 year old Winifred with the conventional "Unpaid Domestic Duties". The couple later had two children - Sheila (Q2 1940) and Christine (Q1 1944 - shortly after George's death).

Incidentally, the 1939 Register records George's parents, now in their 50s, living at 76 Vernon Avenue in nearby Raynes Park. George had followed his father into the printing trade: Harry is listed as a "Printing Machine Minder".

George's WW2 service was in the 6th Battalion of the Grenadier Guards. This was formed in 1941 and, after training, was posted to Syria in mid 1942 with orders to guard the border and protect the oil pipelines at Kirkuk. In early March 1943, it was posted to North Africa in early 1943, joining General Montgomery's Eighth Army which, following the late 1942 turning point of El Alamein had now pushed Axis forces to Tunisia, where they were being pressed on their western flank by General Patten's Seventh Army.

Within three weeks of its arrival, the still young Battalion was involved in its first battle, the 20-26 March 1943 Battle of the Mareth Line. This was the Eighth Army's last major set piece battle in North Africa, and successfully forced the Axis troops to retreat from their last significant defensive position in southern Tunisia. The Battalion was involved in a supporting action known as the Battle of the Horseshoe after the ring of mountains in the area. Some have seen this as an almost sacrificial diversionary tactic to help achieve the overall objective. Whatever the truth, the Battalion sustained very heavy losses in the action.

From the springboard of a liberated North Africa (following the 13 May 1943 capture of Tunis), the Allies had - in a fierce battle - captured Sicily in August 1943. From there they invaded mainland Italy on 3 September 1943 - with the rebuilt and re-equipped Battalion returning to the action with the landings at Salerno.

The invasion coincided with an armistice made with the Italians who then re-entered the war on the Allied side. The landings were successfully accomplished and there was then relatively rapid progress northwards - although with much hard fighting against German forces - until approaching their defensive "Winter Line" south of Rome. This took months of hard fighting to break. The best known of a series of actions along the Line were the several Battles of Monte Cassino between 17 January and 18 May 1944.

Getting to the Winter Line proper necessitated getting past a number of other heavily defended German strong points. The Battalion were among the Allied forces tasked with neutralising the German position on Monte Camino, about 12 miles south of Monte Cassino. The Allies' first assault began on 5 November 1943, and it was during this fierce fighting that George was killed in action on 9 November. The Allies withdrew on 11 November but, at heavy cost, were successful in the second battle on 2 - 5 December.

After the war, scattered graves from across the region were concentrated in the Cassino War Cemetery which now contains 4,280 Commonwealth WW2 casualties. The widowed Winifred took the option of adding a personal inscription to his headstone on Grave XIX.J.13,
"Our hope's in Heaven that we may meet, then joy will be complete. Till we meet again, Beloved."
The Cassino War Cemetery
The Cassino War Cemetery
Picture with thanks to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Roger Morgan © 2018

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ROLL, John Castledine. Captain (155657)

2nd Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment
Died 8 July 1944, aged 28

Captain J C Roll
Captain J C Roll
Image courtesy of his nephew, John Roll-Pickering © 2017

John Castledine Roll was born on 14 June 1916, the first child of Henry John Roll and Elizabeth (née Castledine - hence John's middle name). Before the birth of Nora (the couple's only other child) in 1920, they moved to their long-term home, Harmston (now numbered 12) in Christ Church Road, Epsom. (The house name honoured Elizabeth's home town in Lincolnshire, where the couple - normally known as Harry and Bessie - had married in 1914.)

Harry was the oldest son of Henry Roll (who with, his partner Henry Taylor, ran an Epsom-based building firm). Harry, with his younger brother, Frank Ernest, continued in the building trade as H H & F Roll. The brothers became significant local developers - among other projects, overseeing the 1930s development of Hookfield.

The 1939 Register (taken on 29 September, three weeks after the British declaration of war) lists Harry as a "Building Contractor" - and the 23 year-old John as a "Builder's Assistant". Before long, however, John had enlisted. Having successfully completed his officer training on 9 November 1940, he was gazetted as a Second Lieutenant in the Lincolnshire Regiment, in which he was assigned to the 2nd Battalion. (The Regiment did not become the Royal Lincolnshire Regiment until after the war.)

The 2nd Battalion had seen action as part of the British Expeditionary Force in Northern France where it suffered losses, through both death and capture, before the remainder were evacuated from Dunkirk. So, by the time John joined it, the Battalion was back in the UK. At first, it was engaged in home defence in anticipation of the threatened German invasion. After the tide of war turned, the Battalion - in which John had been promoted to Captain - was then involved in preparations for the D-Day landings on 6 June 1944.

The Battalion was part of the British forces assigned to land on Sword Beach, the easternmost of the D-Day beaches. After aerial bombardment, the first ashore were tanks to provide covering fire for the infantry landings that began at 0730. The 2nd Battalion was in the wave that began landing at 1130. Casualties during the actual landings were relatively light, but there was fierce fighting not far behind the beach. The rapid advance and quick capture of objectives (including Caen itself, some 6 miles inland) did not materialise as planned.

It took several weeks' hard fighting to get sufficient men and materiel in place to mount "Operation Charnwood" - a three-pronged attack aiming to take Caen. In this, the 2nd Lincolnshire Battalion was assigned to the easternmost "prong" aiming to take the bordering village of Herouville-Saint-Clair. This was their first major action of the invasion, and was directed from Battalion HQ in the Chateau de Beuregard.

Following the Allies' air bombardment of Caen the previous evening (the first use of heavy bombers for tactical bombing), the early hours of Saturday 8 July saw a tremendous artillery barrage, coupled with shells from the 16-inch guns of HMS Rodney stationed off-shore. While that led to the relatively straightforward liberation of Caen itself, the three-day "Battle of Herouville" was a much tougher fight as the attack was over ground exposed to enemy fire from across the Orne canal.

On the first day of the battle, Captain John Roll was overseeing the mortar support for the attack from various positions just in front of the Chateau. Late in the morning, he was between two of the mortar positions when the German forces launched a Nebelwerfer rocket, known by the troops as a "Moaning Minnie" because of its distinctive whine in the air. It landed just a few feet from the mortar pit that John had just visited. While the pit provided sufficient cover for the men of the mortar platoon to survive, the blast killed John instantly.

The capture of Herouville cost the 2nd Lincolns around 200 casualties (including 50 deaths, one of which was John's) between 8-12 July 1944. The dead were first buried in the grounds of the Chateau de Beuregard but, with about 2,500 others from the general area, were subsequently re-interred in the new War Cemetery at Ranville, the first village to be liberated in France when the bridge over the Caen Canal was captured intact in the early hours of 6 June by troops of the 6th Airborne Division. His parents took the option of adding a personal inscription to his headstone on Grave II.B.21,
"He gave a gallant life of loving-kindness, courage and self-sacrifice."
The Ranville War Cemetery
The Ranville War Cemetery
Photograph by "Woose" via findagrave.com

The Roll family were very active members of Christ Church, Epsom Common: among other things, Harry was a Churchwarden from 1941 to 1946. In addition to John's entry on the parish WW2 memorial, he is also remembered on one of Christ Church's new peal of bells installed in 1992. Kindly sponsored by Harry and Bessie's other child, Nora (who married Thomas Pickering in 1943), the bell carries the following dedication:
"In loving memory of Harry and Bessie Roll and their son John who worshipped and worked in this church".
Roger Morgan © 2018

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ROOK, Peter. Captain (67912)

1/5th Battalion, Sherwood Foresters (Notts and Derby Regiment)
Died 11 February 1942, aged 26

Peter's headstone in the Kranji War Cemetery
Peter's headstone in the Kranji War Cemetery.
Photograph (56322952) by "Stombell" via findagrave.com

Peter is not listed in the Borough's Book of Remembrance, but is included here because the Commonwealth War Graves Commission's records note that he was the "son of Maurice and Ethel Rook, of Epsom, Surrey." The nearest we have so far got to establishing that Borough link is the Q4 1958 death of a 68 year of Ethel Rook (who would have been aged 26 when Peter was born in 1916) registered in the local Surrey Mid Eastern District. Even so, it does not seem that Peter himself ever had any particular connection with the Borough.

Peter was born Q3 1916 in the Nottingham District, the first child of Maurice Rook and Ethel (née Stanley). The couple's Q3 1915 marriage was registered in the London City District, but they made their home in Nottingham - which is where Maurice himself had been born Q3 1891 and at least two more of the couple's children were born.

There are Forces records of Peter's being a Second Lieutenant in the 5th (Territorial) Battalion of the Sherwood Foresters (Notts and Derby Regiment) as early as 1936. In 1939, he married Barbara Helen Bleckley (noted by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission as just "Helen"), registered in the South Derbyshire District - and later Forces records note that his "resided town" was Derby. Neither of this couple is found in the September 1939 Register - nor are Peter's parents. It does not seem that Peter and (Barbara) Helen had any children.

Peter's WW2 service was in the 1/5th (Derbyshire) Battalion of the Sherwood Foresters, a 1st-Line Territorial Army formation that, in December 1939, saw service with the BEF in France and Belgium in 1940 before evacuation from Dunkirk. In late 1940, now part of the 18th Infantry Division was posted to Malaya to defend the peninsula and the island of Singapore.

Although invasion by the Japanese was anticipated, when it began in the north of Malaya on 8 December, it was of a ferocity and speed that Commonwealth forces were unable - in spite of fierce fighting - to halt. After a couple of months, surviving Commonwealth troops (other than the 50,000 taken prisoner during the fighting in Malaya) had retreated to Singapore.

The Battle of Singapore began on 8 February and ended with the British surrender (of the territory and another 80,000 troops) on 15 February. Peter was killed in action during that fierce fighting, on 11 February 1942.

He is buried in the Kranji War Cemetery on Singapore island. The widowed Helen took the option of adding a personal inscription to his headstone on Grave 23.C.16-17,
" 'Some corner / of a foreign field / that is forever England' / To a beloved soldier."
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ROSS, Jack Kenneth. Flight Lieutenant (79163) D F C

134 Squadron, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.
Died 6 January 1942, aged 26

Jack Kenneth Ross
Jack Kenneth Ross
Photograph (and much of the mission information below) with thanks to The Battle of Britain Monument

It is surprising that, for this distinguished WW2 fighter pilot, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission's database does not provide the usual brief family background information: indeed, it does not even have his age when he died. Fortunately, some devilling in the readily available records and the website credited above enable a rounded story to be told.

Jack Kenneth Ross was born on 11 January 1916, the second child of Kenneth Duncan Ross and Frances Margueritte (née Roberts). The parents Q4 1913 marriage was registered in the Edmonton District as were the births of all their children, namely:
  • Joan on 9 June 1914;
  • Jack on 11 January 1916;
  • Megan in Q3 1920; and
  • James in Q2 1924.
Jack's father, Kenneth Duncan Ross was originally from Jersey. The 1901 Census recorded this 12 year old schoolboy as the sixth of 11 children living with their parents (James, a "Grocer and Baker", and Elsie Jane Ross) at Tiptree House, Grouville, Jersey. Kenneth came to London. The 1911 Census records him as one of about 70 young single men (almost all, like Kenneth, "Upholsterer's Clerk") living in lodgings run by the then Maple & Co furniture makers in Crafton Way, just round the corner from their shop at 149 Tottenham Court Road, London.

Jack's mother, Frances, was a Londoner. The 1911 Census records this 20 year old as the middle of three siblings living with their mid-50s parents (John, an "Assistant Schoolmaster", and Henrietta Roberts) at 24 Beresford Road, Hornsey. Frances' occupation is listed as "Clerk". Was this at Maples, and how she met Kenneth? (Hornsey fell within the Edmonton Registration District which is where they married and their children were born.)

After their marriage and at least the birth of their first child, Kenneth served in WW1 (apparently in the UK) as a Driver in the Royal Field Artillery.

At some point, the family moved to the Borough. The September 1939 Register records them living at 25 Chase Road, Epsom. 50 year old Kenneth is listed as "Manager, Mail Order Department"; 49 year old Frances with the conventional "Unpaid Domestic Duties"; 25 year old Joan as "Shorthand Typist (Shipping)"; and 23 year old Jack as an "Electrical Engineer". There are two currently closed records at the address, doubtless of the 19 year old Megan and 15 year old James.

Jack's original record in the 1939 Register was annotated to show his membership of the Royal Air Force Reserve, with a Service No 745307. Jack had joined the Reserve in about March 1939 as an Airman u/t Pilot. He was already a keen flyer, having gained his Aero Certificate (16624) at Redhill Flying Club on 4 November 1938 (when his occupation was recorded as electrician). He completed his RAF training at 10 FTS Ternhill, Shorpshire in early May 1940, was commissioned with the Service No 79163 and arrived at 6 OTU RAF Sutton Bridge, Lincolnshire on 8 May.

After converting to Hawker Hurricanes, Jack was posted to 17 Squadron at RAF Kenley on 25 May. The Squadron was sent to France on 5 June where, operating from bases in Le Mans and Dinard, it was active in impeding German attacks on the British Expeditionary Force as it withdrew to Dunkirk. Jack had a natural flair as a fighter pilot and used this to good effect. The Squadron was withdrawn from France on 17 June - via Jersey (not taken by the Germans until the end of the month) - reaching RAF Tangmere on 19 June.

Back in the UK, Jack's Squadron was heavily engaged in the Battle of Britain. On the particularly intense day of 13 October 1940, Jack was involved in a dogfight over Chatham when his Hurricane P3536 was shot down by friendly anti-aircraft fire. He baled out, wounded, and was admitted to Gravesend Hospital. His aircraft crashed at Rochester.

When 134 Squadron - equipped with Spitfire fighters - was formed at RAF Leconfield, Yorkshire on 31 July 1941 from 17 Squadron personnel, Ross was promoted and went to the new unit as a Flight Commander. He and the Squadron then served in Russia, assisting their forces' resistance to the German invasion of the Soviet Union that had begun on 22 June. In November 1941, Jack was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross - a decoration which recognised "an act or acts of valour, courage or devotion to duty whilst flying in active operations against the enemy".

Jack and his Hurricane Z3763 in Russia
Jack and his Hurricane Z3763 in Russia
Photograph with thanks to The Battle of Britain Monument

The photograph above shows Jack removing his parachute after a dog-fight over Russia. (Note the well wrapped Russian looking on, and the state of the runway they had to use.) As can be seen, Jack was quite short, being more than a head and shoulders below most of his fellow airmen. However, his stature was an advantage as a fighter pilot, giving him more room to move in the cockpit - and smaller pilots tended to have higher kill rates.

Jack's Squadron returned from Russia in December 1941 and, after a short stay at Catterick, was posted to RAF Eglinton, Northern Ireland (now the City of Derry airport) for defence and convoy escort duties. During a convoy escort on 6 January 1942, Jack had to ditch his Spitfire IIa P8393 in the Irish Sea - it is thought as result of engine failure. Extensive searches failed to find him.

This WW2 "Ace" (credited with 7 kills - and will have assisted in many others) is commemorated on the Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede as one of the 20,000+ members of the RAF who were lost during WW2 operations and who have no known grave.

The RAF's Runnymede Memorial
The RAF's Runnymede Memorial
Photograph with thanks to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Roger Morgan © 2018

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ROTHON, Norman Ashford. Captain (149749)

Royal Artillery, attached to 1st Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers
Died 26 March 1944, aged 31

Not listed in the Book of Remembrance

Norman was born on 28 July 1912, the second of two children born to Sydney Rothon and Ida Jennie (née Harrison). Their Q2 1904 marriage - when Sidney was 25 and Ida 22 - was registered in the Greenwich District. The couple set up home at 58 Riseldine Road, Forest Hill where they were recorded in the 1911 Census (with Sidney is listed as an "Estate Agent") together with their first child, 6 year old Marjorie.

At some point, the family moved to Epsom. The September 1939 Register records them living at "Holme Lacey", Longdown Lane South. 60 year old Sidney is listed as an "Auctioneer & Estate Agent"; 58 year old Ida with the conventional "Unpaid Domestic Duties"; and 27 year old Norman also as an "Auctioneer & Estate Agent" (and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission credits him with the acronym "AAI"). Living/staying with them are: now-married 34 year old daughter Marjorie Fothergill, listed as "Secretary Shorthand Typist" (plus a currently closed record - probably one of her two children, 12 year old Keith or 10 year old Jill); and Ida's married sister, 55 year old Lilian G Gaddes - listed with the conventional "Unpaid Domestic Duties" - plus her 24 year old daughter Ida Gaddes, another "Secretary Shorthand Typist".

Norman attested into the Royal Artillery in late 1939 and was attached to the 1st Battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers which, at the outbreak of WW2, was based in British India. The Battalion was heavily involved in the long-running Burma Campaign. After the Japanese had captured Malaysia and Singapore in early 1942, they also captured Rangoon, the capital and main port of the then British colony of Burma (modern-day Yangon in Myanmar) thus providing a strategic bulwark to defend Japanese gains further east. In conjunction with the now allied Siamese Army (and with the help of the Indian National Army - Indians seeking their country's independence from Britain - and an analogous Burmese Independence Army), the Japanese then turned their attention further north and into NE India itself. Commonwealth forces stood against this in northern Burma (with support from allied Chinese forces) and in NE India (notably, around Imphal and Kohima).

Norman's Battalion fought with various units in all this until, in 1943, it became one of what were officially named "Long Range Penetration Groups". These unorthodox - and, to say the least, rigorously trained - special operations units were the creation of the charismatic Brigadier Orde Charles Wingate. They are better known as "The Chindits", named after the Burmese mythical beast Chinthé, statues of which guarded Buddhist temples.

The Chindits' badge
The Chindits' badge.
Photograph public domain

The Chindits' first operation in 1943, Operation Longcloth, was less than a complete success. However, its effect on Allied forces' morale was tremendous as it was the first time that they had got the better of the Japanese. The next operation, Operation Thursday, was even more ambitious with the aim of establishing a fortified base behind Japanese lines to carry out further guerrilla operations. The operation began with a major airlift on 5 March 1944 and was reckoned to be a complete success, eliciting a congratulatory telegram from Winston Churchill. Success, however, was not cost-free and Norman was killed in action on 26 March 1944, aged 31.

Norman (in Grave 7.C.5) is one of the 6,374 Commonwealth WW2 casualties buried of the Taukkyan War Cemetery on the outskirts of Yangon, Myanmar (formerly Rangoon, Burma).

The Taukkyan War Cemetery
The Taukkyan War Cemetery
Photograph with thanks to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Roger Morgan © 2018

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ROUTLEDGE, Leslie Thomas. Stoker 1st Class (C/KX 95515)

HMS Eskimo, Royal Navy
Died 13 April 1940, aged 20

Leslie's Q4 1919 birth was the eighth of 12 children (including twins in Q4 1922) born between 1910 and 1925 to William Routledge and Lily (née Mitchell). William was originally from Manchester and Lily from Winkleigh in Devon. But they had married Q4 1909 registered in the Epsom District. The 1911 Census records them living at 6 Downs View Cottages, West Ewell. 31 year old William is listed as an "Attendant, Asylum" - doubtless at one of Epsom's "cluster" of mental hospitals. Lily had her hands full with the first child, 1 year old Francis, and was already pregnant with Winifred, born Q3 1911.

William died Q3 1927. The widowed 53 year old Lily is recorded in the September 1939 Register living at 41a Heatherside Road, West Ewell - listed as a "Café Kitchen Hand". Still living with her were three of her children - but not the 19 year old Leslie, unless he is behind the currently closed record - and an apparently unrelated 27 year old lodger, William Saunders (a "Builders Labourer).

Leslie's WW2 service was as a stoker on HMS Eskimo, a Tribal-class destroyer commissioned on 30 December 1938. From the date of his death, it would appear that he was a victim of the torpedo which blew off Eskimo's bow, during the "Second Battle of Narvik" (part of the unsuccessful "Norwegian Campaign" seeking to eject German forces after their invasion of neutral - but strategically valuable - Norway.

Although (as illustrated below) HMS Eskimo was extensively damaged, she did not sink and, after repair, saw further active duty in the Mediterranean and English Channel.

HMS Eskimo after the 12 April 1940 torpedo attack.
HMS Eskimo after the 12 April 1940 torpedo attack.
Imperial War Museums photograph N 233, Public Domain.

Leslie's body was never recovered and he is one of the over 10,000 WW2 Naval personnel commemorated on the Chatham Naval Memorial who were lost or buried at sea.

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ROWE, Charles. Fireman

National Fire Service
Died 17 February 1944, aged 43

Not listed in the Book of Remembrance

Charles was born on 30 January 1901, the third child (and first son) of Charles Rowe and Annie (née Trevorrow). The family is recorded in the 1901 Census living in The Digey, the old quarter of St Ives, Cornwall. 32 year old Charles senior is listed as a "Fisherman". He, 34 year old Annie and the three children had all been born in St Ives, as was their fourth child, Richard, in 1904 - whose birth may have led to Annie's death that year, aged 37. The 1911 Census records the widowed Charles senior and the four children living in Fish Street, St Ives.

In Q2 1935, the 34 year old Charles junior married 28 year old Inez Harris, registered in the Penzance District. What seems to be their only child, another Charles, was born on 17 April 1936. The September 1939 Register records this family of three living at 4 Station Hill, Lelant - on the coast, 3 miles east of St Ives. Our Charles is listed as a "Plumber" and Inez with the conventional "Unpaid Domestic Duties".

During WW2, Charles served in the National Fire Service. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission notes that he was injured by enemy action while on duty in St Ives on 17 January 1943. Presumably after some intermediate stage, he was admitted to Horton Emergency Hospital, one of Epsom's "cluster" of mental hospitals that, as for WW1, had been taken over for dealing with wartime casualties. Over a year after receiving his injuries - and some 250 miles from home - he died at Horton on 17 February 1944.

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ROWE, William. Driver (1878857)

Royal Engineers
Died 17 June 1940, aged 25

Not listed in the Book of Remembrance

William and his twin Charles were born on 6 August 1914, the first children of William Rowe and Mary (née Doherty). The parents' Q4 1913 marriage had been registered in the St Olave, Southwark District of London, but they set up home in the Fulham area, where the twins' births were recorded. The birth of couple's third child, John, was registered Q4 1921 in the Hammersmith District.

At some point, the family moved to Epsom. The September 1939 Register records the 25 year old William living with his parents at 129 East Street. William senior, now aged 54, is listed as a "Fruiterer & Greengrocer" and 46 year old Mary with the conventional "Unpaid Domestic Duties". William junior is listed as an "Assistant Greengrocer", presumably working with his father. There is one currently closed record at the address, more likely to be 17 year old John that 25 year old Charles.

William's WW2 service was as a Driver in the Royal Engineers. His company was sent to France in 1940 as part of the British Expeditionary Force. As is well known, the BEF was overwhelmed by the ferocity of the expected German invasion. It is less well known that the consequent evacuation was not just from Dunkirk in Operation Dynamo from 26 May to 4 June. A significant number of troops and others could not get there and made their way west. Operation Cycle was the evacuation of Allied troops from Le Havre, at the mouth of the Seine from 10 to 13 June 1940. Further west, the 15 to 25 June Operation Ariel saw the evacuation of Allied forces and civilians from a number of France's Atlantic ports, particularly from St Nazaire and Nantes on the Loire.

William had reached St Nazaire, and secured a place on the Lancastria, a British Cunard liner (built in the 1920s and, until 1924 known as the Tyrrhenia) that had been requisitioned as a troopship - and had already seen service in evacuating troops from Norway. The ship's official capacity was 2,200 including the 375-man crew. In the crisis conditions at St Nazaire, however, the Captain had been instructed by the Royal Navy to "load as many men as possible without regard to the limits set down under international law". By the mid-afternoon of 17 June, she had embarked an unknown number - most likely between 5,000 and 7,000 - of troops, RAF personnel and civilian refugees (including embassy staff).

The Luftwaffe sought to disrupt the evacuation and, at about 16:00 hours, a Junkers Ju88 dropped four bombs on the Lancastria. Three direct hits caused the ship to list first to starboard then to port, while a fourth bomb fell down the ship's smokestack, detonating inside the engine room releasing more than 1,200 tons of crude oil into the Loire estuary. These bombs will have killed or mortally wounded many on the packed ship. Fifteen minutes after being hit, Lancastria began to capsize. When German aircraft began strafing survivors in the water, this ignited the fuel oil that had spread over the sea. Many survivors of the strafing drowned or were choked by the oil.

RMS Lancastria
Top: the pre-war RMS Lancastria (copyright acknowledged)
Below: Lancastria as she sank off St Nazaire (public domain)

2,477 survivors were picked up by other ships. The death toll of 4,000+ (less than half of whom are named) is the largest loss of life in British maritime history - more than the combined loss from the Titanic and Lusitania put together. The immense loss of life was such that the British government sought to suppress news of the disaster, but that held only for a few weeks. As the wreck site lies in French territorial waters, it is ineligible for protection under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986. However, at the request of the British Government, in 2006 the French authorities gave the site legal protection as a war grave.

Unlike many of the others killed in the disaster, William's body was recovered. With 394 other WW2 casualties, many of whom were washed ashore after the Lancastria's sinking, he is buried in the Pornic War Cemetery, on the coast about 12 miles south of St Nazaire. His prents took the option of adding a personal inscription to his headstone on Grave 2.A.6:
"Will. 'His passing brought great sorrow but in his memory we find peace'.".
The Pornic War Cemetery
The Pornic War Cemetery
Photograph with thanks to Isabelle & Guillaume van der Wende via inmemories.com

Other Borough casualties of the Lancastria sinking were Frederick Fletcher, and George Newby.

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ROWLAND, Leah Frances

Civilian
Died 5 October 1940, aged 81

Not listed in the Book of Remembrance.

Leah was born in Ewelme, Oxfordshire on 2 April 1859, at least the second child of James (an Agricultural Labourer) and Elizabeth Munday. In Q4 1882 and registered in the Wallingford District of Berkshire, she married Oxfordshire-born John Rowland.

The couple are recorded in the 1891 Census living in Cranham Road, Rotherhithe. 28 year old John is listed as a "Railway Fitter". As usual at the time, no occupation is listed for 31 year old housewife Leah who was looking after their two children, 7 year old Frederick and 5 year old Caroline.

By the time of the 1901 Census, John had died and the widowed Leah is recorded living at 4 Bowles Road, Camberwell. Now aged 41, she is listed as a "Factory Hand". Both children were living with her: 17 year old Frederick is listed as an "Apprentice Railway"; and 15 year old Caroline as an "Apprentice Book Binder". In the 1911 Census, the 51 year old Leah had moved to 56 Bramcote Road, Rotherhithe and is listed as a "Charwoman". The unmarried 27 year old Frederick (a "Coach Maker") was still living with her.

Leah never remarried, and the September 1939 Register records the now 80 year old living at 47 Haydock Road, Bermondsey, listing her as "Retired, Blind". Living with her is the unmarried 53 year old Caroline, listed as "Housekeeper to Blind Mother".

On 6 September 1940, the day before the generally reckoned first day of the London Blitz, Leah was injured by enemy action at home, 47 Haydock Road. She was taken to Horton Emergency Hospital, one of Epsom's "cluster" of mental hospitals that, as for WW1, had been taken over for dealing with wartime casualties, where she died a month later, on 5 October. (If Caroline was injured in the same attack, she survived.)

Leah was buried in Grave M354 of Epsom Cemetery on 9 October 1940.

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ROWLAND, Thomas Alfred. Private (5436797)

Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry, 5th Battalion
Died 28 March 1945, aged 31

Thomas was born on 31 August 1913 the fourth of eight children born to William Rowland and Emily (née Deards - they had married Q4 1907, registered in the Epsom District). The 1911 Census had recorded the 25 year old parents - William as a "Builders' Labourer" and Emily as a "Laundry Hand Ironer" - living in Charmans Cottages on Epsom Common. They then had three children: 5 year old William; 4 year old Edward; and 4 month old Emily.

The record of Thomas's 12 October 1913 baptism in Christ Church Epsom Common listed the parents' address as "2 Chandlers Cottages, Epsom" - not necessarily a transcription error. Thomas's birth was followed by three more: Edward in Q2 1915; Walter in Q4 1921; and Amy in Q1 1923. By the time of the September 1939 Register, the parents and three of their children were living at 11 Ebba's Way, Epsom. 52 year old William is now listed as a "Locomotive Driver" and 51 year old Emily with "Home Duties". Both 26 year old Thomas (the subject of this article) and 18 year old Walter are listed as single and "Labourers". The remaining and currently closed record at the address is presumably of one of the younger children.

Thomas's WW2 service was in the 5th Battalion of the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry. This was a unit of the Territorial Army, and was engaged in home defence duties for the first four years of the war. Its members first taste of overseas action was in 1944, when they landed in Normandy with 43rd (Wessex) Division. The Division was then closely involved in the Allies' hard-fought advance eastwards, including the highly significant late March 1945 crossing of the Rhine. It was in the fighting very hortly after this that Thomas was killed in action.

With a number of fellow soldiers killed at about the same time, Thomas was initially buried at Esserden, a couple of miles east of the Rhine, between Emmerich and Wesel. In October 1946 they were reinterred in the Reichswald Forest War Cemetery - in Thomas's case in Grave 56.B.5. This cemetery - in the extreme north-west of Germany, about 10 miles west of Esserden and just south of Arnhem in The Netherlands - was created after WW2 when burials were brought in from all over Western Germany. With some 7,600 Commonwealth servicemen of the Second World War buried or commemorated there, it is the largest Commonwealth cemetery in the country.

Part of the Reichswald Forest War Cemetery
Part of the Reichswald Forest War Cemetery
Photograph by Wouter van Dijken via findagrave.com

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RUMSEY, Eric George Henry. Leading Sick Berth Attendant (P/MX 58359)

Royal Navy, HMS Cossack
Died 23 October 1941, aged 24

Eric is not listed in the Borough's Book of Remembrance, but is included here because the Commonwealth War Graves Commission records note that he was the "son of George Henry and Dorothy Florence Alberta Rumsey, of Epsom." However, that address has yet to be established and, in any case, the Borough connection seems likely to be weak.

The family's origins were in East Anglia. Eric's father, George, was born in Bramford, Suffolk and, as a 17 year old "Apprentice Motor Car Body Building" is recorded in the 1911 Census as the oldest of three children living with parents Abraham and Eliza Rumsey (respectively, Head and Assistant Elementary School Teachers) living in the School House, Bramford, near Ipswich. Eric's mother Dorothy Florence Alberta (née Woods) had been born in Thetford, Norfolk in 1895. She is recorded as a 16 year old in the 1911 Census living with her uncle, John Leavold, at 110 Dover Street, Norwich and working in a Chocolate Factory.

George and Dorothy married Q4 1915, registered in the Wangford District, Suffolk. Eric, their first child, was born on 19 November 1916, registered in the Bosmere District, Suffolk. Their second child, Godfrey, was born Q3 1919, registered in the Spalding District of Lincolnshire. But Wangford seems definitely to have been their home patch - and this is where George, aged only 39, died in Q3 1929.

It seems likely that Eric joined the Navy before WW2 began, so it is not surprising that he is not found in the September 1939 Register. His widowed mother, Dorothy, is not found in that Register either, but is probably because of transcription errors: she never remarried, dying as Dorothy Rumsey in Q3 1975, registered in the Bournemouth District.

Eric's naval service was as a Leading Sick Berth Attendant aboard the 1,870 ton destroyer HMS Cossack. This was relatively new, having been completed (by Vickers-Armstrongs Ltd in Newcastle-upon-Tyne) in June 1938. She became famous in her first action, on 16 February 1940, when she boarded the cornered German supply ship Altmark in then neutral Norwegian waters, and rescued nearly 300 merchant seamen originally captured by the German cruiser Admiral Graf Spee.

HMS Cossack arriving at Leith on 17 February 1940, with British prisoners rescued from the Altmark
HMS Cossack arriving at Leith on 17 February 1940, with British prisoners rescued from the Altmark
IWM Photograph - Public Domain

After minor repairs, HMS Cossack returned to duty and saw further action in Norwegian waters following the German invasion of 1 March 1940. Among other actions she was, on 1 May 1941, involved in the closing stages of the finally successful hunt for the German Battleship Bismarck.

On 21 October 1943, HMS Cossack was escorting Convoy HG-75 which had just left Gibraltar bound for the UK when she was hit by a torpedo from U-boat U-563. The explosion blew off the bow section and destroyed most of the forward section, killing 159 officers and men, including Eric. 60 survivors took to floats and were rescued.

Against the odds, HMS Cossack did not sink. The next morning, she was boarded by a volunteer crew and a tug and escort from Gibraltar arrived to take her in tow. However, the weather worsened and prevented the salvage. The volunteer crew was taken off, and HMS Cossack sank about 200 miles west of Gibraltar.

Eric is one of the almost 15,000 WW2 Royal Navy personnel commemorated on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial who were lost or buried at sea.

Roger Morgan © 2018

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RUSSELL, Alexander. Flight Sergeant/Flight Engineer (653110)

97 Squadron, Royal Air Force.
Died 17 December 1943, aged 25

Alexander's headstone in Epsom Cemetery
Alexander's headstone in Epsom Cemetery
Image courtesy of Clive Gilbert © 2018

Alexander (known within the family and perhaps more widely as "Sandy") was born in Q2 1918. He was the second and last child of William Russell to Mary Smith (née Middleton) who had married in the St Martin District of London in Q2 1915. Alexander's birth (like that of his older sister Elizabeth, on 3 April 1916) was registered in the St George, Hanover Square District.

The family subsequently moved to the Borough - probably a little before Q3 1937 when, registered in the local Surrey Mid Eastern District, daughter Elizabeth married Eric E Doughty.

The September 1939 Register records the parents living at 32 Seaforth Gardens, Stoneleigh. 62 year old Mary is listed with the conventional "Unpaid Domestic Duties" and 59 year old William as "Police Constable - Re-engaged Pensioner". (He is presumed to have been the Metropolitan Police Officer in the who joined the force on 23 January 1911 and left on 23 May 1937; last posted to A Division, Whitehall, as a PC.) There is one currently closed record at the address, likely to be that of the 21 year old Alexander.

(Some time after Alexander's death at the end of 1943, the parents left the Borough: the Commonwealth War Graves Commission's post-war records note that they were "of Markinch, Fife". However, sister Elizabeth and her husband appear to have stayed in the area for the rest of their lives. The September 1939 Register records this couple living at 30 Vale Road, Worcester Park and both their deaths - Eric's in Q1 1987 and Elizabeth's in Q4 1992 -were registered in the local Surrey Mid Eastern District.)

Alexander's WW2 service was in 97 Squadron, part of the RAF's Bomber Command. On 18 April 1943, and equipped with the Avro Lancaster heavy bomber, the squadron arrived at RAF Bourn in Cambridgeshire.

An Avro Lancaster
An Avro Lancaster "bombing up"
Photograph with thanks to the 97 Squadron Association

On Thursday 16 December 1943, 97 Squadron provided 21 Lancasters towards a large force to bomb Berlin. Alexander was the Flight Engineer aboard Lancaster JB243 OF-P, the full crew of which was:
  • Pilot: S/L Ernest Alfred Deverill DFC AFC DFM,
  • Flight Engineer: F/S Alexander Russell,
  • Navigator: P/O John Thomas Brown
  • Bomb Aimer: F/S Francis Roy Farr
  • W/Op: F/S Ralph Crossgrove (RNZAF) DFM
  • Mid-Upper Gunner: W/O James Benbow
  • Rear Gunner: W/O Donald Jamieson Penfold DFM
The aggregate force lost 25 Lancasters (but only one from 97 Squadron) to fighters and anti aircraft fire over Germany. Worse was to come as the bombers returned to England in the early hours of 17 December to find that many of their airfields were fog bound. The situation became desperate at the planes began to run out of fuel. Some crews abandoned their aircraft and baled out. Others died when their planes crashed on landing. In total, 29 planes were lost and 148 men killed. It was the worse single night for such accidental losses. Overall, it was one of the worst nights on Bomber Command record, becoming known as "Black Thursday".

97 Squadron RAF was the worst hit in this last stage of the mission, losing 8 aircraft with 28 aircrew killed and another 7 injured. In the case of Lancaster JB243 OF-P with Alexander on board, the pilot joined some others from the Squadron in diverting to RAF Gravely where FIDO (a system for burning off the fog and lighting the runway using large quantities of burning petrol, sprayed from pipes beside the runway) was in operation. The aircraft ran out of fuel during its landing and suffered a horrific crash and fire in which Alexander and all but one of the others on board were killed.

(The survivor, W/O James Benbow, suffered severe burns. After life-saving treatment in Ely Hospital, he became a patient of pioneer plastic surgeon Archibald McIndoe at Queen Victoria Hospital, East Grinstead - a member of the "Guinea Pig Club".)

Alexander's body was brought home to Epsom for burial in the Cemetery on 23 December 1943. His parents took the option of adding a personal inscription to his headstone on Grave N.593,
"In proud and cherished memory of 'Sandy'."
Brian Bouchard & Roger Morgan © 2018

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RYAN, Ronald. Lance Serjeant (6090148). MM

2/6th Battalion, The Queen's Royal Regiment (West Surrey)
Died 9 September 1944, aged 25

Ronald's entry in the Borough's Book of Remembrance is consistent with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission's note that he was the "son of Vincent and Ann Ryan, of Epsom Downs, Surrey." That address has, however, not yet been established and, in any case, seems not to have been of very long standing.

While his parents' Q4 1916 marriage (registered in the Southwark District) was Vincent's first, it was Ann's second. Her first marriage was to Herbert William Allen in 1902, but he died in 1905 aged only 22. This explains why, although Ann's surname was Allen at the time of her marriage to Vincent, the mother's maiden name recorded for the births of their three children - Vincent (Q3 1917), Ronald (Q1 1919) and Margaret (Q1 1921) - was "Geany". All three births were registered in the Southwark District, consistent with a Forces record noting that Ronald had been born in SE London.

The parents, Vincent and Ann, are found in the September 1939 Register as a mid 50s couple still living in Lambeth, at 141 Brook Drive. Vincent is listed as a "Hairdresser" and Ann with "Domestic Duties". There are two currently closed records at the address, doubtless covering a couple of their children.

As noted above, an address for the parents in the Borough has yet to be found. However, Vincent's death on 20 December 1967 and Ann's on 24 June 1971 were both registered in the local Surrey Mid Eastern District - although, to confuse things further, Vincent's address is given in the Probate records as 34 Wallingford Avenue, London W10. The Probate records list Ann's address in 1971 as 14 Woodfield Road, Ashtead.

Ronald's WW2 service was in the 2/6th Battalion of The Queen's Royal Regiment (West Surrey). This was among those sent to France in 1940 as part of the British Expeditionary Force ready for the expected German invasion. As is well-known, when this came it was of unexpected speed and ferocity. The Battalion was still short of training and suffered heavy casualties leading up to the evacuation from Dunkirk. On return to England, the Battalion was rebuilt and was then engaged in home defence ready for the expected German invasion. After that that threat had receded, the Battalion became part of the 169th Infantry Brigade serving in the 56th Division and was active in the Italian Campaign.

Having defeated Axis powers in North Africa by May 1943 and captured Sicily in August 1943, the Allies invaded mainland Italy on 3 September. The invasion coincided with an armistice made with the Italians who then re-entered the war on the Allied side. The battalion was involved in the main landings at Salerno. Although there was hard fighting against German forces, the Allies made fairly rapid progress northwards until they met the prepared German defensive "Winter Line" south of Rome. It took several months of some of the fiercest fighting of the war Anzio (such is the various battles around Monte Cassino) to break through that.

At some point in this, and as noted on page 2854 of the London Gazette published on 15 June 1944, Ronald earned a Military Medal, awarded for "acts of gallantry and devotion to duty under fire."

Even after the Allies had captured Rome, German forces continue to resist strongly at various pre-prepared defensive lines. In the Adriatic sector, Coriano Ridge was the last important ridge in the way of the Allied advance in the autumn of 1944. Its capture was the key to Rimini and eventually to the River Po. German parachute and panzer troops, aided by bad weather, resisted all attacks on their positions between 4 and 12 September 1944. It was during this fighting that, on 9 September 1944 and aged 25, Ronald was killed in action as noted in Casualty List No. 1649. The Allies finally took the Ridge on 12 September, but that marked the beginning of a week of the heaviest fighting experienced since Cassino in May, with daily losses for the Eighth Army of some 150 killed.

Ronald is one of the 1,939 Commonwealth WW2 burials in the Coriano Ridge War Cemetery, situated near the Adriatic coast a few miles south of Rimini. The family took the option of adding a personal inscription to his headstone on Grave XVII.K.11,
"Sweet Jesus, have mercy on the soul of our beloved son and brother. R.I.P."
The Coriano Ridge War Cemetery
The Coriano Ridge War Cemetery
Photograph by "bbmir" via findagrave.com

Roger Morgan © 2018

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