WW2 Book of Remembrance - Surnames N

Index

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[Content]

NEAL, Brian Denis (Revised 08/04/2018)
NEILSON, James (Revised 09/04/2018)
NEWBERY, Alfred George (Revised 10/04/2018)
NEWBERY, George Dunster (Revised 10/04/2018)
NEWBY, George (Revised 09/04/2018)
NEWLING, Michael Alan (New 30/10/2017)
NEWMAN, Ernest James Edward (Revised 11/04/2018)
NEWMAN, George (Revised 10/04/2018)
NICHOLLS, Cyril Sydney * (Revised 11/04/2018)
NICHOLSON, John Girvin * (Revised 11/04/2018)
NOKES, Ernest Edward * (Revised 12/04/2018)
NORMAN, Harold Bertie (Revised 12/04/2018)
NORRIS, Charles Ernest * (Revised 12/04/2018)
NORRIS, Stanley Jack (Revised 12/04/2018)

* = 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


NEAL, Brian Dennis. Bombardier (269127)

4 Field Regiment, New Zealand Artillery.
Died 25 July 1944, aged 25

Brian's Headstone in the Bolsena War Cemetery
Brian's Headstone in the Bolsena War Cemetery
Picture with thanks to the New Zealand War Graves Project

Brian (whose second name in some records is written as "Denis") was born in Epsom Q4 1918, apparently the only child of Dennis Alfred and Elsie Morgan Neal.

Although his father had been born in Beccles, Suffolk in 1884, the next two Censuses record him in Epsom. As a 7 year old in 1891, he was living with three siblings in Pikes Hill - their early 40s parents (Edward and Susan) being away, perhaps in connection with Edward's being an "Evangelical Protestant Missionary". The 1901 Census records the 17 year old, Dennis - now a "Shorthand Clerk" - and two siblings living with their now early 50s parents in Albert Villas, 1 Church Road, Epsom.

Brian's mother had been born Q2 1881 in the Isle of Wight as Elsie Morgan Westmore. The 1901 Census records her as a 19 year old "Schoolteacher" living with her parents (49 year old Alfred, a "Dairyman", and 46 year old Phoebe, a "Dairywoman") and four siblings (aged from 10 to 20) at Chillerton, Gatcombe on the Isle of Wight. Every member of the family had been born on the island, and it was there that Elsie married Dennis in Q3 1908.

Dennis and Elsie set up home in Epsom. The 1901 Census records them, aged 27 and 29 respectively, living alone at "Beechwood", Temple Road. Dennis's occupation is listed as "Clerk, Bank of England". As noted at the beginning of this article, the birth of what seems to be their only child, Brian, was registered in Epsom in Q4 1918.

Dennis and Elsie appear only twice more in the readily available records. The manifest of the Orient Line's RMS Ormonde leaving London on 17 August 1935 for Sydney, Australia lists them as passengers whose last address in the UK was the Barkston Gardens Hotel, Earls Court, London SW5 and that their "Country of intended future permanent residence" was New Zealand. Nevertheless, they returned (if only briefly) to the UK and the manifest of the Orient Line's RMS Orion leaving London on 10 September 1937 for Sydney, Australia lists them as passengers whose last address in the UK was "C/o NZ House, Strand, London WC2" and, again, that their "Country of intended future permanent residence" was New Zealand.

No record has yet been found of their son Brian's move to New Zealand, but he clearly did so. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission notes that he had married Mary Isobel Neal, of Point Chevalier, Auckland, New Zealand and that his WW2 service was with the 4 Field Regiment, New Zealand Artillery.

Brian's Regiment was part of the forces New Zealand sent to assist the UK during WW2. It was attached to the British Eighth Army and saw action in Greece, North Africa (not least during the key battles of El Alamein) and Italy.

The Allies invaded the Italian mainland on 3 September 1943, coinciding 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, but the advance was checked for some months at the German winter defensive position known as the Gustav Line. After protracted fighting (not least at Monte Cassino in which Brian's Regiment was involved), the line eventually fell in May 1944 and as the Germans fell back, Rome was taken by the Allies on 3 June.

After being driven from Rome, the Germans made their first stand around Lake Bolsena about 60 miles to the north. It was in the wide-ranging action to break this stand that Brian was killed in action on 25 July 1944. He is one of 597 Commonwealth WW2 burials in the Bolsena War Cemetery (Grave III.A.7) situated on the eastern side of Lake Bolsena.

Roger Morgan © 2018

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NEILSON, James. Staff Serjeant (2754514)

The Glider Pilot Regiment, Army Air Corps
Died 24 March 1945, aged 25

Not listed in the Book of Remembrance

James was born in Fifeshire, Scotland in 1920/21, the son of Mr and Mrs James Neilson. In Q1 1940, he married Flora Colquhoun Stuart Macquarrie. The marriage was registered in the Brentford District, but the couple set up home in the Borough, perhaps at 534 Chessington Road, West Ewell recorded as their address in the 1945 Probate records. Certainly, the births of their two children - James (after his father and grandfather) in Q4 1940 and Marguerita in Q2 1942 - were registered in the local Surrey Mid Eastern District. (It was also in the Surrey Mid Eastern District that, in Q1 1946, the widowed Flora married again, her second husband being Victor Crapper.)

James's WW2 service was in the Glider Pilot Regiment of the Army Air Corps. Their gliders were nothing like the wispy modern recreational aircraft. Instead, they were substantial machines: the most common WACO CG-4 (known in the UK as the Hadrian) - of which more than 14,000 were built -could carry either 13 combat-equipped troops or the equivalent weight of equipment such as a jeep or field-gun; the Airspeed Horsa (of which over 3,600 were built) carried about double the load. The more substantial General Aircraft Hamilcar (of which nearly 350 were built) carried heavy loads such as tanks. These gliders were towed into the air by heavy bombers and released short of their targets to which their pilots - such as James - would then make an unpowered (and silent) descent and landing. After landing, the pilots were then expected to fight as infantry.

A WW2 Horsa glider being towed into the air by a Halifax bomber.
A WW2 Horsa glider being towed into the air by a Halifax bomber.
Public Domain

James is likely to have been involved in the highly effective use of gliders in the 6 June 1944 Normandy landings and their immediate aftermath, and perhaps also in the July 1943 invasion of Sicily. Gilders' last significant use in WW2 was in the 24 March Operation Varsity - the largest one-day air operation in history. This was part of Operation Plunder, the Anglo-American-Canadian assault under Field Marshal Montgomery to cross the northern Rhine River and, from there, to enter Northern Germany. Varsity was to help the surface river assault troops by landing two airborne divisions on the eastern bank of the Rhine to capture key territory and to generally disrupt German defences to aid the advance of Allied ground forces.

For this mass assault, James was piloting Glider 428. His co-pilot - also from Fife - was 22 year old Flight Sergeant Robert James Shepherd (1568430), one of many RAF men attached to the Glider Pilot Regiment to help make up numbers after the catastrophic losses in the "bridge too far" operation at Arnhem. While Operation Varsity was an unparalleled success, Glider 428 crash landed in Landing Zone "B". It seems that the crash did not kill the pilots outright: both were originally reported as "missing" and only later confirmed as killed.

Their bodies were somehow lost. James is commemorated on Panel 8 of the nearby Groesbeek Memorial. (As an RAF man, his co-pilot is commemorated on the Runneymede Memorial.)

Roger Morgan © 2018

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NEWBERY, Alfred George. Gunner (6102818)

Royal Artillery 5/3 Maritime Regiment
Died 10 March 1943, aged 28

Alfred George Newbery - only in the Borough's Book of Remembrance is the surname written as "Newbury" - was born on 8 August 1915, the third child of George Dunster Newbery (a carpenter) and Maud Mary (née Elsey). His parents had married in Christ Church Epsom Common on 13 July 1901 and, as for his three siblings, this is where Alfred was baptised. That was on 19 December 1915, when the church records noted the family's address as 111 Church Side, Epsom Common. And, in the 1939 Register, Alfred, his widowed father (Maud having died in 1936) and his younger brother William were still there. (Alfred was recorded as a "Builder's Labourer", while both his father and William were "Carpenters and Joiners".) However, the head of the household was recorded in 1939 as William O'Sullivan (a "foreman of boiler & steam pipe etc - heavy work') with his wife, Margaret - Alfred's older sister - and two young children.

Alfred's WW2 role was as a Gunner in the Royal Artillery's 5/3 Maritime Regiment. As noted in the fuller article about the Borough's Naval Fatalities, merchant ships carrying vital cargo were usually "Defensively Equipped Merchant Ships" (DEMS) with mounted guns of some kind, and both the Royal Navy and the Royal Artillery Maritime Regiment deployed gunners to man them.

In March 1943, Alfred Newbery was serving on the SS Nailsea Court, laden with over 7,500 tons of general cargo, including 650 tons of copper bars and 800 tons of nickel ore. The ship was part of the Convoy SC-121 (the prefix denoting "Slow Convoy") from Nova Scotia to the UK. It left Canadian waters with 69 freighters and an escort of 2 destroyers, 3 cutters and 4 corvettes.

The Nailsea Court
The Nailsea Court
Photo Courtesy of Library of Contemporary History, Stuttgart

U-boat attacks on the Convoy began in the mid-Atlantic on 7 May when two merchant ships were lost. Six were then lost on 8 May, and another five on 9 May. At just after 01:00 on 10 March, U-299 fired three torpedoes. Nailsea Court was hit and sank with the loss of the master (Ralph Good, OBE), 33 crew members, nine gunners (including Alfred) and two passengers: only four (all crew members) were rescued.

That was the last attack on the Convoy. Of the 69 freighters that set out from Nova Scotia, 14 (a fifth) were lost - together with, in aggregate, about three quarters of their crew.

Like many others lost at sea, Alfred is remembered on the Chatham Naval Memorial.

A sad postscript is that, only a few weeks after Alfred's death, his widowed father, George Dunster Newbery, died at 111 Church Side. He was buried in Epsom Cemetery on 30 April 1943, and is listed in the Borough's WW2 Book of Remembrance as a civilian casualty.

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NEWBERY, George Dunster

Civilian
Died 25 April 1943, aged 69

George was born on 9 April 1874 in Chardstock, Devon to Alfred and Elizabeth Newbery - only in the Borough's Book of Remembrance is the surname written as "Newbury". Alfred had been born in Tatworth, Somerset. He was a carpenter, and had married Elizabeth in Chardstock Q3 1869. (Her maiden name was Dunster, hence their son George's middle name. The Dunsters were a long-standing Chardstock family, but of relatively modest means: Elizabeth's father was a shepherd.)

George continued his father's carpentry trade, and moved to Epsom. On 13 July 1901, he married Maud Mary Elsey in Christ Church Epsom Common. Maud was born Q2 1879 in Greenwich but, only a couple of years later, was recorded by the 1881 Census, as living - together with a couple of older siblings - with her grandparents James and Mary Elsey on Epsom Common. She was still there for the 1901 Census - shortly before her wedding - and working as a laundrywoman. (Her grandmother was, by then, a widow.)

George and Maud had four children:
  • Mary Elizabeth - born 23 April 1904;
  • Margaret - born 7 April 1906;
  • Alfred George - born 8 August 1915; &
  • William - born 1 January 1918
all of whom were baptised at Christ Church Epsom Common, where (for the last two) the church records noted the family's address as 111 Church Side, Epsom Common.

(It may well be that George was the George Newbery that records show served during at least part of WW1 as Engine Room Artificer 4th Class with the Service Number M.13154. In any event, he then reverted to his trade as a carpenter and joiner.)

Maud died in mid-1936 and was buried in Epson Cemetery on 2 July. By the time of the 1939 Register, George was still living at 111 Church Side. However, he was no longer listed as the head of the household. That designation went to William O'Sullivan, recorded as married to Margaret, George's second daughter (although the marriage registration records list the wedding as having been in Q2 1946). Also in the household were William and Margaret's two young children and George's two sons - of whom the younger, William, was (like his father) listed as a "Carpenter and Joiner", while Alfred was recorded as a "Builder's Labourer".

As described in the separate article, Alfred Newbery served in WW2 as a Gunner in the Royal Artillery's 5/3 Maritime Regiment and, aged 28, was lost at sea when his ship was torpedoed on 10 March 1943.

Within two months of that, the 69 year old George was also dead, dying at 11 Church Side on 25 April. He was buried in Epsom Cemetery (Plot O332, which no longer has any visible grave marker) on 30 April. As illustrated below, George is listed in the Borough's Book of Remembrance (immediately under his son's name) as a civilian casualty, having died as a result of "Enemy Action".

George Newbery's entry in the Borough's Book of Remembrance
George Newbery's entry in the Borough's Book of Remembrance

However, his Death Certificate is quite clear that the cause of death was a combination of heart failure and chronic bronchitis. His final deterioration may have been accelerated by news of Alfred's death, but that does not match "Enemy Action".

Nor is George's name among the 67,000 commemorated in the WW2 Civilian War Dead Roll of Honour, located near St. George's Chapel in Westminster Abbey, London - and names on which are in the database searched via The Commonwealth War Graves Commission's website. That Civilian Roll contains only four Newberys for the whole of WW2 - and the only one who died in 1943 was the 86 year old William Newbery, a retired shoemaker, was killed during a "tip & run" air raid by four Focke-Wolfe Fw 190s on his home town of Ventnor at 4.45pm on 1 April 1943.

Roger Morgan © 2017

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NEWBY, George. Serjeant (3440142)

1/6th Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers
Died 17 June 1940, aged 34

George's headstone in the Prefailles Communal Cemetery
George's headstone in the Prefailles Communal Cemetery
Photograph (68084149) by "kernowmaid" via findagrave.com

Not listed in the Book of Remembrance

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission records state that George was the "son of Frank and Charlotte Newby; husband of Marion Newby, of Epsom, Surrey" and was aged 38 when he died in 1940. However, the only George Newby found in the records whose parents were Frank and Charlotte was born Q2 1906, registered in Rochdale, Lancashire. His parents Frank and Annie Charlotte (née Forshaw) had married in Rochdale Q1 1903. Their first child, James, was born in 1904 followed by George in 1906.

The 1911 Census records the family of four living at 20 Trafford Street, Rochdale. 27 year old Frank is listed as a "House Painter" and 26 year old Charlotte as a "Cotton Rover" - a job in the cotton spinning industry.

In Q2 1925, 19 year old George married 16 year old Marion Greenhalgh - an early marriage doubtless connected with the birth of their first child, Frank, in Q4 1925. The marriage and birth were both registered in Rochdale - as were the births of their children Fred in Q1 1929 and Shirley in Q3 1935.

Marion is recorded in the 1939 Register as one of three unrelated people lodging with Irving Crabtree at St Andrew's School, Downs Road, Epsom. Now aged 30 her occupation is listed as a "Cotton Spinner". It is not known where her young children were. (Given their ages, their records would be currently closed, and there is none at this address.) Anyway, it seems that the couple had moved south: the birth of their fourth and final child, Heather, was registered in the local Surrey Mid Eastern District in Q3 1940.

George's WW2 service was with the 1/6th Battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers. They were 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.

George 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, George's body was recovered and he is buried in Prefailles Communal Cemetery, on the Atlantic coast about 10 miles south of St Nazaire. (His grave 29 is shared with another but unknown casualty of the sinking.)

Roger Morgan © 2018

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NEWLING, Michael Alan. Flight Lieutenant (41867) DFC

145 Squadron, Royal Air Force
Died 6 July 1941, aged 21

Michael Alan Newling
Michael Alan Newling
Image © Adrian Williams (Michael's cousin), via http://users.telenet.be

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission database does not contain even the usual brief family background for Michael - indeed, does not even have his age at death. However, thanks principally to a biography posted on http://users.telenet.be by his cousin, Adrian Williams, many details can be filled in.

Michael was born in Barnes, Surrey, on 28 February 1920, the first child of Dorothy (née Cranston) and George Arthur Newling's six children. (George had a distinguished record in WW1 with 2nd Royal Marine Battalion and was awarded the Military Cross.) Michael attended Oakham School, Rutland, until age 17 when family sailed to start a new life in New Zealand. However, only 9 months later (Autumn 1938) the prospect of war brought them back to the UK. Michael joined the RAF - one of 20 selected from over 300 applicants when he applied - and, by the time war was declared, he had been fully trained (at Uxbridge and Kenley) as a day/night fighter pilot, and stationed with 145 Squadron at RAF Tangmere, near Chichester. (He would thus not have ben at home when the 1939 Register was taken. This records the parents - with George listed as "Advertisements Director" plus three currently closed records - living at 43 Kensington Hall Garden, Fulham.)

145 Squadron's first action of the WW2 on the 18 May 1940. From the French base at Merville, Michael's Hurricane Mk I (N2600, SO-G) was part of a flight that went on patrol over Brussels where they intercepted and attached twelve German bombers. Because of combat damage, Michael was forced to leave his formation and try to fly back to base. The damage was too severe and, at 1625 hours, he had to abandon his aircraft and landed safely by parachute near the village of Pamel-Roosdaal (province of Flemish Brabant). This was behind enemy lines, through which he was led by a 13-year old boy. (Broad shouldered and 6' 2" tall, he ejected from his aircraft by turning it upside down - a technique taught to other pilots.)

After covering the evacuation from Dunkirk, Michael and his Squadron were actively involved in the ferocious Battle of Britain in the second half of 1940 and, having converted to Spitfires, in continuing actions after that.

He was mentioned in despatches on 1 January 1941 and, a month later, awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. The citation for this in the London Gazette for 4 February 1941 reads:
"This officer has been continuously engaged in active operations since May 1940, and has at all times displayed marked courage and leadership. On one occasion during an attack against a large force of enemy bombers, he was shot down into enemy territory, but with great determination succeeded in gaining his own lines. Flight Lieutenant Newling has destroyed at least three enemy aircraft and assisted in the destruction of several more."
On 6 July 1941 he was killed in action when, on one of many his Squadron's cross channel sweeps, his Spitfire Va (W3366) was attacked near Lille. It appears that, again, he sought to return to base but came don in the sea. His body was never recovered and he is commemorated on the Runneymede Memorial.

None of this, however, throws light on the connection with the Borough. Please contact the Webmaster if you have information about this.

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NEWMAN, Ernest James Edward. Lance Corporal (T/265102)

Royal Army Service Corps
Died 19 October 1945, aged 24

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

Ernest was born Q2 1921, the third child of Sidney Newman and Winifred (née Townsend - the couple married in Reigate Q2 1916). His older siblings were Sidney (born Q4 1916) and Joyce (born Q1 1919).

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission note that Ernest was the "husband of Olive Newman, of Epsom." She was actually Olivia, born Olivia Annie Craddock. Her Q1 1912 birth was registered in the Guildford District - as was the Q3 marriage of her parents, Arthur Craddock and Maria née Dean. Olivia and Ernest married in Q4 1944. They had a child, Christopher, born Q3 1945. Like his parents' marriage, this was registered in the Surrey South Western District. All these individuals have left a very light trace in the readily available records and it is not possible to say more about them with any confidence. In particular, an Epsom address has yet to be established for Olivia - though the fact that Ernest is buried in Epsom Cemetery clearly supports that local connection. (When the widowed Olivia died on 13 May 1975, her address was "Ruapehu", Manor Road, Ripley, Woking.)

Disappointingly, the readily available records are equally silent about Ernest's WW2 service in the Royal Army Service Corps. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission records note that he died on 19 October 1945, several months after the cessation of hostilities.

The records of Epsom Cemetery where Ernest was buried on 23 October (in Grave N253) note that he died in the RAF Hospital, Wroughton, Wiltshire. His widow took the opportunity of adding a personal inscription to his headstone,
"Asleep in god's garden / free from sorrow and pain / when life's journey is ended / we hope to meet him again."
Roger Morgan © 2018

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NEWMAN, (Stephen) George. Private (6139172)

1st Battalion, East Surrey Regiment.
Died 16 November 1940, aged 32.

George Newman's headstone
George Newman's headstone in Bournemouth North Cemetery
Photograph (136127044) by "James" via findagrave.com

Unusually, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission database does not contain the usual brief family background for George - indeed, does not even have his age at death. Fortunately, the record of his 7 April 1930 attestation into the Army has been found, and its details allow a fuller story to be told.

Stephen George Newman (who seems always to have gone by his second name - as used for the rest of this article) was born in Horsham, Sussex in 1908, the sixth child of Alfred George Newman and Catharine Sarah (née Bale - they had married in St Alphege's, Southwark on 11 August 1895). The 1911 Census records the family living at 14 Pondtail Road, Horsham. The 29 year old Alfred is listed as a "Carman for HAD&S Ltd, Wholesale Corn Dealers". His 28 year old wife, going by her second name of Sarah, is listed as a "Housewife" - doubtless having her hands full with six children from 3 year old George to their 15 year old Alfred Charles, listed as a "Kitchen Boy". (All the others were at school, except George who was still under school age.)

The 22 year old George attested into the Royal West Surrey Regiment in 1930. His papers note that he had been living at Oakshott Cottages, Rosebery Road, Langley Vale, Epsom and had been working as a Stable Lad. He was just over 5' 5"; weighed just over 8 stone; and had black hair, brown eyes and a fresh complexion.

At some point, George transferred to the East Surrey Regiment, and his WW2 service was in its 1st Battalion. This Regular Army unit was based in England at the outbreak of the War but, as part of the 4th Infantry Division, was sent to France with the British Expeditionary Force in October 1940. As is well-known, the BEF was unable to resist the expected - but, when it came, unexpectedly ferocious - German invasion. George was among those who were able to make it back to Dunkirk for evacuation.

On return to the UK, the 1st Battalion was reformed and spent the next two years on home defence against the expected a German invasion. It was when on duty in the Bournemouth area on 16 November 1940 - a few weeks into the Lufwaffe's "Blitz" bombing campaign - that, as noted in to Casualty List No. 388, George was "killed in action".

George was buried in Grave J.4.91 of the Bournemouth North Cemetery, one of the 110 WW2 forces' burials there.

Roger Morgan © 2017

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NICHOLLS, Cyril Sydney. Lieutenant

Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve - HMS Patia
Died 27 April 1941, aged 36

Not listed in the Book of Remembrance

Cyril was born on 26 February 1905, the son of Sydney and Ethel Nicholls - who, as noted in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission's records were of Buckhurst Hill, Essex. In Q3 1930 and registered in the Marylebone District, Cyril married Irene (in some records, Renee) Sybil Martindale. There is no record of their having any children. The 1939 Register records the couple living at "The Lyn", Roding Lane, Chigwell (about a mile from Buckhurst Hill). 34 year old Cyril is listed as a "Builder's Merchant" and 35 year old Irene with the conventional "Unpaid Domestic Duties". Lodging with them was an unrelated RAF Officer.

Cyril's WW2 service was as a Lieutenant on HMS Patia. This had been built in the 1920s as an ordinary merchantman of 5,355 tons. It was requisitioned the Admiralty in September 1940 and converted into a "fighter catapult ship" able to launch a modified Mk 1a Hurricane (known as a "Hurricat") from a rocket driven catapult mounted on the forecastle. The aim was to improve the air cover available for convoys. As there was no means of the pilot landing back on the ship, it was a weapon that could be used only once per mission. If near the shore, pilots (who were all volunteers) would seek to land. Otherwise, they would have to ditch and hope to be picked up. The ships, of course, had other armaments - in the case of HMS Patia, two 6" guns for surface use, a 12 pounder anti-aircraft gun and four .303" anti-aircraft machine guns.

A Hurricat being launched
A "Hurricat" being launched from a catapult powered by 13 solid fuel rockets
Image with thanks to WW2talk.com

While the Navy had only five such ships, known (after the mythical winged stallion) as the Pegasus Class, the concept was extended to some merchant ships which were known as Catapult Aircraft Merchantmen or "CAM ships".

On 27 April 1941. HMS Patia was near Coquet Island about half a mile off the Northumbrian cast some 25 miles north of Newcastle when it was sunk by a bomb from a German Heinkel HE111. Cyril was one of the 39 people who were killed in the attack. His body was recovered and taken home for burial in the St John the Baptist Churchyard, Buckhurst Hill, Essex.

According to the Probate record about the administration of his significant £ 12,376 estate, his (and presumably Irene's) address was "Lugano", Powell Road, Buckhurst Hill, Essex. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission's post-war records note that the widowed Irene was "of Epsom Downs" but that address has yet to be established. However, it was in the nearby Surrey North Western District that, in Q2 1962, the widowed Irene married Walter G C Blunn.

Roger Morgan © 2018

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NICHOLSON, John Girvin. Midshipman

Royal Navy - HMS Isis
Died 20 July 1944, aged 18

Not listed in the Book of Remembrance

John was born Q4 1925, apparently the only child of George Robbins Nicholson and Lilian Elizabeth Knox Girvin (née Armstrong - they had married Q3 1922, registered in the Wandsworth District). John's birth was registered in the Southwark District.

The 1939 Register records the parents living alone at 81 Cricklade Avenue, Wandsworth. (The 14 year old John is not found in the Register. Someone his age would generally be behind a currently closed record at the address of which there is none at the address.) 44 year old George is listed as a "Director of Companies & Surveyor (Land & Proprietor)" and 40 year old Lilian with "Domestic Duties". The original record is annotated to show that George was also a Special Constable in the Transport Division.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission records note that the parents were "of Ewell, Surrey". Their address will have been 52 Ewell Downs Road, Ewell - given as John's address in the 1944 Probate record of administration of his modest estate being awarded to his mother. His parents later moved to 21 The Highway, Sutton where George died in September 1969 and Lilian in August 1971.

John's WW2 service was as a midshipman aboard HMS Isis. This was one of nine Intrepid-class destroyers built for the Royal Navy during the 1930s - in her case, launched on 12 November 1936 and commissioned on 2 June 1937. Given John's age, it is unlikely that he was involved in much of her earlier and far-ranging distinguished wartime service in the Far East, Mediterranean and Atlantic.

HMS Isis
HMS Isis
Image with thanks to pinterest.co.uk

On 20 July 1944, HMS Isis was on anti-submarine patrol about 5 miles off the Western Sector of the Normandy beaches, providing cover for the stream of supplies arriving to support the Allies' advance from the now well-established 6 June D-Day beach head. The ship was badly holed when she hit a mine. The initial explosion was followed by another. Some reports say this was the boilers exploding, while others suggest it was an attack - perhaps like the first - by a German "human torpedo" or mini-submarine.

In any event, HMS Isis sank quickly. Of the 180 on board, only 20 survived. John was one of the 160 who died. His body was never recovered and he is commemorated on the Plymouth Naval Memorial, and on the HMS Isis memorial in Portsmouth Cathedral.

Roger Morgan © 2018

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NOKES, Ernest Edward

Civilian
Died 10 May 1945, aged 54

Not listed in the Book of Remembrance.

Ernest was born on 18 December 1890, the first child of Edward and Amelia Nokes who had married earlier that year. The 1891 Census records the three living in Loanda Street, Shoreditch. 24 year old Edward is listed as a "Mouldings Maker Sawyer". 23 year old Amelia would have had her hands full with new-born Ernest.

The couple's second child, Harold, was born in 1898. By the time of the 1911 Census, the family of four was living at 70 Herbert Grove, Shoreditch. Edward is now listed as a "Warehouse Porter (picture frames)" - perhaps the "mouldings" of the 1891 Census. Ernest, now aged 20 is working as a "Silver Plater" and his 13 year old brother, Harold, was at school.

In Q1 1919, and registered in Shoreditch, Ernest married Esther Elizabeth Hope. They had three children - twins Emily and Esther born Q3 1920 and Amelia born Q2 1922 - all registered in the Islington District.

The 1939 Register records Ernest and Esther, now in their late 40s, living at 34 Herbert Grove, Shoreditch. Ernest is listed as a "Civil Servant: Coin operative and Medalist, Royal Mint" and Esther with the conventional "Unpaid Domestic Duties". There is one currently closed record at the address, presumably one of their children.

By 1945, the couple had moved to 56 Elizabeth Avenue, Islington. On Sunday 7 January 1945, Ernest was injured by enemy action while at nearby 37 Ringcroft Street, Holloway. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission notes that he died at St. Ebba's Hospital, Epsom, some four months later, on 10 May 1945. St Ebba's was one of Epsom's "cluster" of mental hospitals. Unlike Epsom's Horton Hospital - which, as in WW1, was taken over during WW2 for dealing with wartime casualties, St Ebba's continued as a mental hospital, and it seems likely that Horton annexed some space there for handling its overload.

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NORMAN, Harold Bertie. Trooper (6849930)

"A" Squadron, 40th (7th Battalion The Kings Regiment [Liverpool]),
Royal Tank Regiment, R.A.C.

Died 27 September 1943, aged 22.

Harold was born Q1 1921, the son of George E and Dorothy E (née Elliott). Their Q4 1917 marriage had been registered in Epsom, but Harold's birth was registered in Camberwell. These names are relatively common in the readily available records and it is hard to say much more about the family background with any confidence.

Harold's headstone suggests that his father had died - and he may be the George E Norman born in 1888 whose Q2 1927 death was registered in Camberwell. And the widowed Dorothy E Norman may be the person found in the 1939 Register found as the second lodger (born on 16 July 1897) with the apparently unrelated William Harker at 97 Roedale Road, Brighton. Her entry (in which she is listed with the conventional "Unpaid Domestic Duties") is followed by one which is currently closed. Could the 18 year old Harold be behind that? The Commonwealth War Graves Commission's post-war records note that Dorothy was "of Epsom, Surrey", and the link with the town was strong enough for Harold's name to be included in the Borough's Book of Remembrance. But the address has yet to be established.

Harold's WW2 service was as a Trooper in "A" Squadron of the convolutedly-named 40th (7th Battalion The Kings Regiment [Liverpool]), Royal Tank Regiment, Royal Armoured Corps. It is not clear at what point he joined the unit on its progress though North Africa and then Sicily. It is clear, however, that he was part of the Allies' 3 September 1943 invasion of the Italian mainland at Salerno. This coincided with an armistice made with the Italians who then re-entered the war on the Allied side. However, German forces were present in strength to oppose the landing and it took two weeks' fierce fighting for the Allies to be able to push forward from the established beachhead. Progress after that was relatively speedy (until the Allies came up against the German's defensive "Gustav Line" south of Rome) but still involved much fighting. It was during such action that Harold was killed on 27 September 1943.

Harold is one of the 1,846 Commonwealth WW2 casualties buried in the Salerno War Cemetery, Italy. His apparently widowed mother took the opportunity of adding a personal inscription to his headstone (on Grave VA3),
"Across the sea Mother mourns for her child fallen in the cause of the free."
Part of the Salerno War Cemetery
Part of the Salerno War Cemetery
Picture with thanks to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Roger Morgan © 2018

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NORRIS, Charles Ernest

Civilian
Died 25 September 1940, aged 76

Not listed in the Book of Remembrance

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission notes that Charles was "of 16 Lambeth Road, London SE1" and that is where he is found in the 1939 Register. He was born on 14 March 1864 and is listed as "House Painter - Retired". The one other person at the address is his wife, Elizabeth: she was born on 31 August 1874 and is listed with the conventional "Unpaid Domestic Duties". Unfortunately, the names are too common to trace these individuals' backgrounds in the readily available records with any confidence.

The Commission's records also note that Charles died on 25 September 1940 at Horton Emergency Hospital, Epsom. This was one of Epsom's "cluster" of mental hospitals that, as for WW1, had been taken over for dealing with wartime casualties. His injuries from enemy action - probably from bombing in the Luftwaffe's "Blitz" campaign that had begun on 7 September - would have been received some days or even weeks before his death (If this was at his home in Southwark, his wife survived.)

Charles was buried Epsom Cemetery (Grave M354) on 4 October 1940.

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NORRIS, Stanley Jack. Gunner (1627882)

5 Searchlight Regiment, Royal Artillery.
Died 5 March 1943, aged 31

Stanley was born on 28 April 1911, the second child of Frederick John Norris and Kate (née Gray - they had married Q2 1902, registered in the Thrapston District of Northamptonshire. The couple set up home at 24 Laitwood Road, Balham, where their first child, (another) Frederick, was born on 27 April 1903. The parents and son were recorded at that address in the 1911 Census (taken on 2 April). 35 year old Frederick senior is listed as "Gardner (Domestic)". 36 year old Kate was heavily pregnant with Stanley who was born 4 weeks after the Census.

By the time of the 1939 Register, the family had moved to 86 Meadowview Road, West Ewell. 63 year old Frederick senior is listed as a "Land Foreman - Builder and Contractor" and 28 year old Stanley as a "Jobbing Builder". 62 year old Kate is listed with the conventional "Unpaid Domestic Duties" and her other child, 36 year old Frederick junior (and, like his brother, unmarried), as "Incapacitated".

Stanley attested into the Royal Artillery in 1940 and, as part of the 5th Searchlight Regiment was sent to Singapore to help defend against the expected Japanese invasion. As is well-known, Singapore was captured by Japanese forces in early February 1942. That was immediately followed by the negotiated mass surrender of the surviving Commonwealth forces - including Stanley.

After processing in the Changi PoW camp, Stanley was one of the 600 or so prisoners - all artillerymen or "Gunners" - loaded into the Kenkon Maru, one of the prisoner transports justifiably called "hell ships" by the prisoners. This left Singapore on 18 October and, after a number of intermediate stops, arrived at Rabaul (on New Britain, one of the Solomon Islands) on 5 November 1942. The prisoners were disembarked and marched to the Kokopo Camp where, as for other Japanese PoW camps, the regime and conditions were extremely harsh. On 15 November, the prisoners were paraded. About 80 were already too weak from hunger and disease to work, but the fittest 517 were sent - via another "hellship" - to build an airstrip on Ballali (one of the Shortland group of islands just south of Bougainville). Not one of them survived, but their story can be told thanks to native islanders briefing the Australian forces when the islands were subsequently liberated.

The extremely harsh treatment and conditions continued. Over the next few months, a good number of prisoners died from beatings, illness and from Allied bombing. In April 1943, the Japanese on Ballali were told by their headquarters that the US Navy was preparing for an attack and that, if this happened, all prisoners were to be disposed of by whatever means was available.

On 29 June 1943, an American warship bombarded the island. The next day, the surviving 400 or so prisoners were lined up and killed by sword or bayonet. The bodies were stripped of their identity tags and dumped in a large pit. In November 1945, this mass grave, containing 436 bodies, was uncovered. The remains of these British servicemen were recovered by 3 Division of the War Graves Unit of the Australian Army and, in December 1945, were finally interred in graves in the Port Moresby (Bomana) War Cemetery, in Papua New Guinea. As the bodies could not be identified, each one has all individual grave marked
"A Soldier of the 1939-1945 War known only to God".
It is not known precisely when, in this appalling series of events, Stanley died. The official records still give 5 March 1943 as the date of death for all 600 Gunners who left Singapore on 18 October aboard the Kenkon Maru - a date appearing to originate in the Japanese untruth that the PoWs were still aboard when the Kenkon Maru was sunk some time after they had been disembarked at Rabaul.

It is quite likely that Stanley is one of the many "known only to God" in the Port Moresby cemetery. However, he is commemorated on the Singapore Memorial (which stands in Kranji War Cemetery on Singapore Island) 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

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