In Father's Footsteps to Dunkirk
Reg Martin, First Chairman of CMHT, writes about his Father, Reginald Martin Snr
In May 2013 I set out on something of a pilgrimage, going to where my late Father got to in 1939-40. As the Royal Engineers were always first in and last out, his experience in the British Expeditionary Force was not one to be envied.
En route by car, via ferry to Le Havre, a detour was made to the medieval battlefields of Crecy and Agincourt. Then on to the Menin Gate at Ypres, where there is a very moving 10 minute ceremony at 8pm, and has been each night since 1928 (apart from WW2), during which the buglers of the Ypres Fire Brigade play Last Post and Reveille. Every ceremony is attended by a crowd of about 1,000 people, even in Winter on Christmas Day, to remember the names of those whose bodies were never found or identified in the Flanders battles of the First World War.
South of Lille there is a little village of Templeuve where my Father had been based with the 208th Field Company, Royal Engineers. I paid my respects in the Church of St Martin. Opposite there is an Estaminet where my Father consumed a glass or two. It is now a very good restaurant where, of course, I enjoyed the cuisine.
Then to Dunkirk beaches from where my Father was rescued 3 hours before the Germans took the beach, he getting injured in the process. Passing through Dunkirk Port, on the way back, what should I see but the Paddle Steamer Princess Elizabeth. This boat ran between Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight and took part in the Dunkirk evacuation. After the war, it became a restaurant on the River Thames and then a floating gallery/museum on the River Seine near Rouen. So there it was in Dunkirk, afloat and beautifully restored as a conference centre.
In June, my wife and I went to our twinned village of St Contest, near Caen. Our French friends took us to the Pegasus Bridge, where the Airborne Division landed in gliders on 6th June 1944. The museum there is quite remarkable.
Recently I met up with a Polish friend who flew Spitfires during WW2. He was shot down and rescued from the sea 3 times, including rescue by MTB 106.
John T. Cook DSM, RN. KIA 1940
In the loss of one gallant sailor at the beginning of World War II, one can only take heart in seeing, at the end of that war that:
> the Nazis were Crushed
> the Militarists in Japan were crushed
> the Fascists in Italy were crushed
Surely justice was never better served, nor the life of one man better lost.
John E. Cook (Son)
From C.M.Stubbings, Dorset (one of our Members)
My Father Bertie Stubbings, who at the age of seventeen volunteered for First World War service; found himself in the Battle of Loos in 1915. Subsequently in the Somme where he was wounded. In 1918 he was captured and spent the remaining period of the War in a German POW camp. After this baptism of fire, he returned to Civilian Life and became an artisan in the field of Metalwork and Design. Many examples of his craft can be seen in Churches and Cathedrals in many parts of the World. Including The Great Cross at Washington Cathedral in the U.S as well as the Altar Cross at Wells Cathedral in Somerset Bertie died at the age of one hundred years, his Legion D; Honour Decoration was placed on his Coffin by a proud family. His legacy; how to overcome the most dreadful of experiences with dignity and courage.
Cape Town Harbour June 3rd 1953 Mrs. Brenda Scott-Paine's account of a 2,000 mile solo drive from Cape Town in South Africa to Umtali in Rhodesia
"The weather was hot and gloriously sunny, and I travelled in great comfort on the perfect National Road which now extends hundreds of miles from Cape Town. I soon reached the Du Toit's Kloof and the Hex River Pass, the two mountain passes about 56 miles from Cape Town. The scenery here is magnificent, and I travelled on my route steadily; making the first two night stops at Tou'ws River and Hanover.
January 5th I reached Pary's holiday resort on the Vaal River which forms a boundary between the Free State and Transvaal. So I had traversed the Cape Province, the semi-desert countryside known as the Great Karroo and the Orange Free State, and had seen Vineyards, Farms and Ranches on my way.
January 6th, I headed Northwards into the Transvaal, the rich Mineral province of the Union. The weather was deteriorating and after days of Sunshine I now encountered Thunder and Lightning and rivers in flood. At Paul Potgeistersdorp I was held up by a Cloud Burst, when two inches of rain fell in half-an-hour. That evening I gladly took refuge in the local Hotel at Pietersburg, and left the following morning still in heavy rain. I pushed on over a ghastly road under construction, to Louis Trichardt, where a small Inn is situated on the highest point of the Zoutspanberg and overlooking Wyllies Poort, a natural pass Through this lovely mountain area. In spite of being so far north, there are large orchards of Citrus and sub-tropical fruits of all kinds. The torrential rain forced me to spend three nights at the Mountain Inn and the weather had not cleared properly when I left. At Beit Bridge, which crosses the enormous Limpopo River, I was subjected to customs formalities and new registration plates were fitted to my car. The Limpopo is the river Border between South Africa .and Rhodesia. I learned that the usual route to Fort Victoria was impassable with all the bridges being flooded, some to a depth of 12 feet. This meant a diversion through West Nicholson and Bala Bala and some 150 extra miles. With the rain and new road works frequently encountered, the roads became quagmires, but the car soldiered on with the only problem being the overworked Windscreen Wipers. After varied difficulties, I reached the large Asbestos Mining Centre of Shabini at 6pm feeling surprisingly fresh. Here at Shabani I was weather-bound with other travellers for the next five days. On
January 15th it was reported that the Duveli River, always a doubtful crossing in the rainy season, may be possible to cross. So at 7am I set out to make the crossing and complete the final 280 miles of my journey. This was a journey through Fort Victgoria and Birchenough Bridge, I now carried enough provisions to meet any reasonable eventuality. I crossed two rivers in full spate, the M'Tokwe and the Lundi and reached the wide and dangerous Duveli River. The upper side of the bridge was choked with trees and debris, threatening the structure of the bridge, it was a nerve racking crossing. Once across the last 100 miles were comparatively easy. I arrived at the house in Umtali at 5pm., the whole journey having taken twelve days."
Selfless Heroine Miss Dorothy Pratt -
Information supplied by Sonia Nixon
During most of her lifetime, Dorothy lived and worked in Wolverhampton and Coventry. In her spare time she took an interest in the local Church and its social activities. It was in the Choir Group that she met Alfred, the two of them found that they had similar tastes and enjoyed each others company, they fell in love and became Engaged. Suddenly War was upon them and Alfred had to rejoin his ship. They found themselves like tens of thousands of couples, forced to be apart from each other for months, years or eternity. He was sent to fight to defend Crete from invasion, a singularly dangerous posting in the Mediterranean.. His ship, HMS Coventry had already been bombed and torpedoed and had managed to fight on, unfortunately for Alfred Sephton and the rest of the crew the worst was yet to come.
Dorothy spent much of her wartime in and around Coventry, she was to see her beloved Coventry Cathedral bombed to destruction and the centre of Coventry flattened by bombing and almost destroyed. Workmen clearing the rubble from the Cathedral noticed that some iron fittings and nails had been fused together in the heat of the inferno to form a Cross, it was henceforth known as "The Cross of Nails"
In the conflict of the Second World War, and no doubt every war, those left at home waited for and longed to receive a letter from there loved ones, just as those in our forces abroad did. Dorothy had declared her love to Alfred in her letters and he confirmed the same sentiment in his. These letters were to sustain her at the notification of her fiance's death. They sustained her until the very last day of her very long life, on her deathbed his name was on her lips. She had stayed true to the promise she had made to him so long ago.
Miss Dorothy Pratt spent her life doing charitable works in and around St Johns Church in Wolverhampton as well at both Cathedrals in Coventry, she took a part in the handing over of the Cross of Nails to the new HMS Coventry, that ship carried it to the Falklands war, alas both 'Coventry' named vessels were to suffer the same fate they were bombed in war and sunk by the enemy. Divers were sent down to the Falkland's wreck and retrieved the Cross It was returned to England and received by Miss Dorothy Pratt on behalf of the Cathedral.
Dorothy and Alfred + Rest in Peace
Decades later this same Cross has been placed aboard the billion pound type 45 destroyer HMS Diamond. Commissioned 5th May 2011.
One of Miss Pratt's many admirers wrote: "He sent a boat for her they say When the light faded from her eyes, Then in the warm waters where he lay They met again and sailed to Paradise".
Alfred Sephton RN, Victoria Cross. Killed in action 1941
A.B. Michael Meighan, Just one of the 1,314 men who crewed the Battleship King George V. From the extremes of cold during the infamous Convoy PQ14, when the great warship ran over the Destroyer HMS Punjabi, sending it to the icy deep with more than forty men, to the firing of one thousand hugh shells at the German Battle Cruiser Bismarck, sending her to the bottom with 1,995 men to avenge the sinking of HMS Hood.
This citation has been sent to our Trust by the Heroes' Son Dennis
CHANNEL RESCUE, June 1942
Message from, Air Ministry Whitehall.
To: Officer Commanding HSL Launch Base Felixstowe, 6th June 1942.
"My warmest congratulations to yourself and the crews of both Launches that took part in the vigorous and spirited action on Thursday night in which the crew of a missing Halifax Bomber was rescued and five E- Boats defied. It was a magnificent piece of work and has won the admiration of us all.
Sir Archibald Sinclair, Sec. of State for Air"
Another Message from A.O.C. Bomber Command.
"Please convey to Flight Lieutenant Clarkson and Flying Officer Greenway and all crew members of HSLs 125 and 134, who rescued air crew of No 10 squadron from the Dutch Coast on Thursday Night. our gratitude and admiration for a magnificent example of courage and skill in the face of what must have been hopeless odds."
The above messages and several others were followed by many congratulatory articles in the National Press. The boats concerned were ''whalebacks'' built by the BPCo. Hythe Hants.
and operating from Felixstowe.
See Picture of Whaleback HSL142 sister ship to these two vessels on our Home Page
After the war, Bob Greenway lived in Essex, he died on 6th March 2007, his wife lives on and this year turned 101 years old.
1945 United States Submarines
[Still on Patrol]
Albecore Amberjack Argonaut Bonefish Bullhead Capelin Cisco Corvina Darter Dorado Escotar Flier Colet Grampus Grayback Grenadier Growler Gudgeon Harder Herring Kete Lagarto Perch Pickerel Pompano Robalo Runner R -12 Scamp Scorpion Sculpin Sealion Seawolf Shark I Shark II Snook Swordfish S - 26 S - 27 S - 28 S - 36 S - 39 S - 44 Tang Trigger Triton Trout Tullibee Wahoo
We are grateful to our Trust Supporter,
Mrs P. Sitton for supplying this information.
ERNEST SEAMAN was born on 16th August 1893 at no. 9 Derby Street, Heigham, Norwich, son of Henry and Sarah Elizabeth Seaman. He attended the local school at a small village called Scole In 1915 just after his 21st Birthday, he enlisted at Le Havre in the month of December.
Due to his poor physical condition he was not considered fit for front line Infantry and so was drafted into the Expeditionary Force Canteens. As the casualty rate soared, it was found necessary to transfer men from the rear into forward fighting units, thus he was drafted into 'A' Company, 2nd Battalion The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and given serial no.42364.
In this Regt. he saw considerable fighting in the Ypres sector and his Company Commander Captain V.E. Mattocks wrote ''He is one of the best soldiers I have ever met, an excellent soldier in every sense of the word, always keen in his duties, volunteering for any task however dangerous or difficult'' For this constant devotion to duty and attending his wounded colleagues under fire he was to receive the Military Medal for Gallantry under fire.
Now a L/Cpl, his service found him fighting along the Passchendaele Ridge, where his Company came under heavy fire from a nest of machine-guns, thus preventing the push forward to new positions.
Citation in the London Gazette: ''L/Cpl Ernest Seaman showed conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty when, with great courage and initiative, he rushed forward under heavy fire with his Lewis Gun (light machine-gun) and engaged the position single-handed capturing two Machine-Gun Posts, killing one officer and two men and capturing 12 prisoners. Later that day, he again rushed another Machine-Gun Post capturing the gun under heavy fire. His courage and dash were beyond any praise and it was entirely due to the very gallant conduct of Lance Corporal Seaman, that his Company were able to push forward to its objective and capture many prisoners.
On 13th February 1919, in the State Ballroom at Buckingham Palace, His Majesty King George V placed the Victoria Cross into the hand of Ernest Seaman's Mother Sarah Elizabeth, her Son having died in action later that day following his heroic action mentioned above.
See also The Website of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers Regimental Museum
We are indebted to our member Peter Seaman for supplying the above information