THE MEN WHO DIDN’T RETURN – WW2

ARTHUR CURTIS  1919-1943

Arthur CurtisArthur Curtis was born on 19 December 1919 in Toft to Henry    Victor, a General Labourer and Ethel (nee Cousins).  The family were known to have lived at 5 Church Street, Thurlby.  Arthur  attended Thurlby School and was a classmate of Edgar Stevenson.  Together they joined the 6th Battalion of the Lincolnshire Regiment.

In 1940 he married Violet Ethel Rodgers, a Domestic Worker residing at 33 Willoughby Rd, Bourne.  The marriage took place at the Abbey Church, Bourne.

Arthur learned bricklaying, being apprenticed to a local firm, and worked on the council houses on Northorpe Lane.  The Battalion embarked for France in april 1940 and later in 1940 he was evacuated from Dunkirk.  Still in the army he was sent to Hull to use his Bricklaying skills in rebuilding the Smith and Nephew building. His wife went with him.

In January 1943 the battalion moved from training in Sunningdale to the Clyde, travelling by train.  Arthur was again with his friend Edgar Stevenson, and their Battalion sailed to North Africa aboard the Polish vessel SS Sobieski. He died aged 23 during a battle at Medjez—el—Bab, and is buried at the War cemetery there.

ROLAND NEEDHAM  1922 – 1941

Roland was born at Northorpe on the 8th January 1922 the son of John William Needham and his second wife Florence Mary (formerly Brown).  At the time of Roland’s birth father John W was about 58 years of age, a “general labourer”, and his mother 41 years of age.  Roland NeedhamWhen Roland was 15 his father died.

l-r   Roland, Arthur (Bob), John W, Gordon, Florence, Stanley, Ivy with Norman in front of her. 1930.

Roland was Baptised at Thurlby, on the 5 February 1922, the Vicar officiating at the Baptism was A Haig.   Roland was the youngest child of John William, having 11 siblings and half siblings, (9 boys; John, Walter, Joseph, George, Stanley, Arthur, Gordon and Norman/3 girls Emily, Kate and Ivy).  His elder half-brother Walter, born 1889 died in the 1WW..

The Needham family home was a cottage in Northorpe, end on to the road and still occupied today (No. 53 Woodland Cottage).  The rear garden was large and appears to be well stocked with produce for all the family.  There was for a time a railway carriage in the garden used as an extra bedroom for the boys.

Roland attended the village school when a youngster and according to a press report in the Grantham Journal he was a good attendee – we know at the annual prize giving he was awarded a silver wristlet watch for “5 years perfect attendance”.

The Grantham Journal of June 10th 1933 tells us that Roland took part in the parade through the village, led by the Bourne Town Brass Band, dressed as a sailor, for which he won a prize and he won a further prize when he came 2nd in the “bean bag”.

Roland worked hard and won a place to attend Bourne Grammar School, as had his elder brothers.

Roland (or Rowley as he was known) served in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR) and was killed when his plane crashed into the sea west of Westkapelle, Holland on the 25 April 1941 aged only 19. His Service No. was 60808. He is one of many whose body was never recovered and therefore has “no known grave”.  He was a Pilot Officer and his duty when he crashed is described as “anti-shipping”. Roland was part of bomber command, 105 Squadron and his aircraft was a Bristol Blenheim, code GB-T baring the mark IV.

Roland was based at RAF Swanton Morley, in Norfolk, located near the village of Swanton Morley.  This base was operational from 1940 until its closure in 1995 when it was converted to an Army base.

Three WW2 medals would have been awarded to Roland and these would have been sent to his widowed mother.  It is likely that Roland was awarded the 1939-45 Star for operational service between 3 September 1939 and 2 September 1945, and the Air Crew Europe Star.

The Air Crew Europe Star Campaign medal of the British Commonwealth was awarded to Commonwealth air crew who participated in operational flights over Europe, from UK bases (or for operational flying from the UK over Europe) between 3rd September 1939 to 5th June 1945.

Roland is commemorated at the Air Force Memorial, Runnymede.

The Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede, overlooking the Thames on Cooper’s Hill four miles from Windsor, commemorates the names of over 20,000 airmen who were lost in the Second World War during operations from bases in the United Kingdom, North and Western Europe and who have “no known graves”. They served in all commands from Bombers to Maintenance, and came from all parts of the Commonwealth as well as countries in Europe which had been taken by the Germans (such as Denmark, the Netherlands, or Poland) and whose airmen continued to fight in the ranks of the Royal Air Force. The memorial was designed by Sir Edward Maufe with sculpture by Vernon Hill and ceilings by John Hutton.

 EDWIN SLEIGHT 1921-1942

sleightEdwin was born 20 August 1921 at Thurlby, nr Bourne, Lincolnshire the 6th child of Herman Evison Sleight,  a Blacksmith Journeyman, and his wife Winifred (formerly Gale). Edwin was Baptised at the High Street, Chapel, Thurlby in 1922.

Edwin attended the local Thurlby Board School,  being awarded a silver watch after 5 years “perfect attendance” and getting a mention in the Grantham Journal when both he and his sister Joyce gained “6 years perfect attendance”.

Edwin joined the Merchant Navy and on the 24 October 1938 we find Edwin, aged only 17,  at Cardiff on the SS English Trader, a merchant ship built by the Furness Ship Building Company  and launched in 1934.

In January 1939 we find Edwin at Barry, Wales, discharged from the SS English Trader. At some point he came home to Thurlby on leave as on the 12 December 1941 he was Best Man at his sister Joyce’s wedding at Bourne Register Office.

We next find Edwin as Assistant Steward on the SS Saganaga, a British built cargo steamer of 5,452 tons built in 1935 by D and W Henderson Ltd., Glasgow, for Christian Salvesen.

Edwin died on the 5th September 1942 at the age of 21 at Lance Cove, Bell Island, Newfoundland, Canada when the SS Saganaga was sunk by a torpedo fired from the German submarine U-513 in Conception Bay.  His name appears in the “Register of Deceased Seamen” in February 1943 along with his comrades on the SS.Saganaga, boys from Yorkshire, Hull, Grimsby, Mansfield etc.

The vessel fully loaded with 8,800 tons of Bell Island iron ore was anchored off Little Bell Island in wait for a convoy to escort her to the smelters in Sydney, Nova Scotia. The 48 crew members were enjoying a quiet Saturday when the torpedo struck.  29 crew members were lost when the ship sunk within minutes:

Torpedoes Strike SS Saganaga  1:07 am Atlantic Daylight Time. William Henderson, Chief Engineer of  the Lord Strathcona, hears a sickening sound of explosion as the first torpedo hit the Saganaga about midship on the port side, tearing her in two. In less time than it takes to say Saganaga, Henderson reports that “a second torpedo literally blew the Saganaga to pieces. Debris and iron ore was thrown up about 300 feet and, before the last of it had fallen back into the water, the Saganaga had disappeared.”

With 8,800 tons of iron ore on board, Saganaga landed upright on the bottom of the North Atlantic in 15 seconds. Today she is a divers’ paradise teeming with new life.  Beautiful Anemones decorate her decks and an abundance of see creatures have found refuse in her iron hull.

Bell Island Sinkings   –  Bell Island is one of the few locations in North America that German forces directly attacked during the Second World War. U-boats raided the island twice in 1942, sinking four ore carriers and killing more than 60 men. The events highlighted how potentially vulnerable Newfoundland was to enemy attack, and it is perhaps not surprising that Canadian authorities, at the request of the Newfoundland Commission of Government, developed defensive plans in case the Germans tried to capture St. John’s.

U-513, under Kapitän-Leutnant Rolf Ruggeberg, had arrived off Newfoundland in August and patrolled the Strait of Belle Isle. Having had no success, Ruggeberg decided to try his luck closer to St. John’s. Noticing steamers coming in and out of Conception Bay, he followed the small Evelyn B into the Bell Island anchorage on the surface after dark on September 4, and then spent the night on the bottom in 24 metres of water. The next morning, Ruggeberg rose to periscope depth and in quick succession, sank the Strathcona and Saganaga. Twenty nine men were killed in the attack, all from the Saganaga. Shortly thereafter, the U-513 escaped on the surface.

Edwin’s mother sent him a telegram to wish him a Happy Birthday on his 21st Birthday, but it is believed he never got the telegram, and it was returned to his mother after being opened and stamped by the examiner

CHARLES EDGAR STEVENSON  1920-1943

Charles Edgar Stevenson was born on 14th February 1920.his parents were Charles Jjames and Annie Katherine Stevenson who lived on The Green Thurlby where Animates is now.

In 1942 Edgar enlisted with his friend Arthur Curtis into 6th Battalion Lincolnshire regiment. On 4th January 1943 the Battalion moved from Sunningdale to Clydebank to board HMT Sobieski to go to war in North Africa.The journey was bad with overcrowding and cold.

Arriving at Algiers the soldiers moved towards Tunisia. It was here that Edgar’s war came to an end as he was killed on 4th March 1943. He is buried at Tabarka ras Rajel War Cemetery.His parents continued to live in Thurlby for their rest of their lives.

PETER ALEC WARD    1920– 1945

??????????Peter Alec Ward was born 3rd February 1920 at Deeping St Nicholas to Ernest Ward , born at Edenham  and Edith Ward (formerly Feneley), born at Spalding. His father was a farmer.

Peter had three brothers, John Gordon, Walter Noel,  William Harold and two sisters Clarice Bertha and Margaret Mary.

Peter went to Bourne Grammar School and passed the     University of Cambridge  School Certificate Examination in 1937 in English, English History, Geography, French,           Elementary Mathematics, Chemistry and Physics.

In 1942 at the age of 22 he was a bank clerk and living at Thurlby Manor with his family.

Peter married Olive Bertha Timmins on 5th February 1942 in Derby and had a son David in 1943 and a daughter    Barbara in 1945, sadly he never knew of her birth as she was born a month after his death.

Peter served with the Lincolnshire Regimen, attd 5th Bn. The Nigeria Regt., R.W.A.F.F.t in WW2. He died on the 27th February 1945 at the age of 25.

 

 

 

 

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