Lest We Forget Continued (page 14)

1254805 Flight Sergeant Ronald John CROSSLEY, Royal Air Force. (VR) Died of Wounds lst May 1943. Age 25 years.

Flight Sergeant Ron J. Crossley was in the RAF Volunteer Reserve. When war broke out he was posted to 254 Squadron which consisted of Bristol Beaufighters. These were home defence night-fighters, also used for long-range escort fighter and ground attack roles, as well as anti-shipping strike duties. Other roles were bomber, torpedo-carrier and rocket fighter. It had a crew of two. Flight Sergeant Crossley was a navigator/wireless operator. The first strike wing was brought together at North Coates in November 1942, comprising of No’s 236 Squadron, and 254 Squadron with a third squadron 143 joining the Wing who had already been based at North Coates since August 1942. A successful strike was launched on the 18th April 1943 and was repeated again on the 29th April against some enemy shipping off Terschelling, Norway and the Beaus sank three ships. Two days later however 31 Beaus set out to find the German cruiser Nurnberg off south-east Norway but, without their usual fighter escorts, were swamped by a force of German fighters and lost five Beaufighters in the ensuing maul. Forced to jettison all bombs and torpedoes, the Beaus were still no match for the Focke Wulf FW 190’s and Messerschmitt BF109F’s when it came to pure dogfighting combat and manoeuvrability. It was during this raid that Ron Crossley lost his life. This was his 30th combat flight straight off and so he was due for a rest from action. Flight Sergeant Ronald Crossley is buried in Haugesund (Rossebo) Churchyard in Norway. Haugesund is a seaport on the south-west coast between Stavanger and Bergen. On the north-eastern side of the Church of Our Saviour is the Commonwealth War Graves plot. It contains forty four graves in which are buried eight men of the Royal Navy, of whom six belonged to the Fleet Air Arm and two are unidentified, and thirty-six airmen.

Ron Crossley was the son of Joe and Louise Georgina Elsie Crossley of the Fishes Inn, Swindon Street, Highworth. When war broke out he was playing cricket for Essex County Cricket Club First Eleven. He was an excellent batsman and a good spin bowler. Before the war he had played club cricket for Highworth CC before going on to play for Essex.

6028768 Private Henry (Harry) Charles MILES, 1st Battalion Cambridgeshire Regiment, The Suffolk Regiment. Died 31st July 1943. Age 30.
Just before war broke out in September 1939, Harry Miles was on the verge of becoming a professional footballer when he received his call-up papers to report for active service. He was in France at the time of the German advance to Dunkirk and was eventually evacuated back to Britain from the Dunkirk beach-head.

After being reorganised the battalion, during September 1941, marched to Whittington Barracks, Lichfield to the anticipated winter quarters. However, sudden orders were received to prepare to move overseas. On the 27th October the Battalion entrained at Lichfield for Liverpool. The ship the Battalion embarked on formed part of a large convoy which sailed on the 30th with a small escort. On the 29th December they reached Bombay via Cape Town. They sailed from Bombay on the 17th January 1942, arriving at Singapore on the 29th and finding the battle for the island about to begin.

The Battalion moved into the Ketong area for two days and took up positions covering the flanks and rear of the RAF station at Seletar, later moving on to the aerodrome itself for 48 hours. The afternoon of 11th February found them, after a further move, dug in near the junction of Thompson and Braddell Roads, but the following morning they took up positions, less two companies, along Adam Road. The two detached companies went to hold the pipeline between the Peirce and MacRitchie Reservoirs for 24 hours. In both these areas the Battalion was in action and, after the two companies rejoined in positions round Adam Park on the morning of the 13th February, the Japanese attacked them continually. They failed to make any impression and, when the ceasefire sounded on the afternoon of the 15th, the Battalion, with both flanks in the air and communication with the rear cut off, was still holding its ground. From that time the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the Cambridgeshire Regiment ceased to exist until after the war. An honour was awarded for the campaign which had lasted just ten weeks, a most prestigious honour. Malaya 1941-42 was gained by ten British regiments, including both battalions of the Cambridgeshire Regiment.

For over a year Harry Miles endured the hardships of the Japanese prison camps which were unspeakably filthy; just primitive bamboo huts surrounded by jungle. After the surrender of Singapore many of them had been incarcerated in the infamous Singapore POW camp, Changi. Like so many other prisoners of war Harry worked building a railway through the jungle. Private Harry Miles was thirty years old when he died on the 31st July 1943.

Mr and Mrs Miles received the following letter from the Shire Hall (Courts) Cambridge.
“The Committee of the Cambridgeshire Troops’ Comforts Fund wish to express to you their deep sympathy in your great loss. The wonderful courage shown by the men during long months of captivity in Japanese hands is an inspiration to all who knew them, and it is hoped that the admiration, which they have so justly earned, will help to comfort you in this time of sorrow”.

Private Henry Charles Miles is buried in Kanchanaburi War Cemetery, Thailand. Kanchanaburi is a little town on the Me Khlong river about 120 kilometres west north-west of Bangkok, which is the capital of Thailand. The cemetery is only a short distance from the site of the former Kanburi “Prisoner of War base camp”, through which passed most of the prisoners on their way to other camps, and is the largest of the three war cemeteries (two in Thailand and one in Burma) on the notorious Burma – Siam railway. Most of the base camps and hospitals were in this area and the total number of burials in the cemetery is 6,982.

Harry‘s younger brother, Driver Frank MILES enlisted into the Army in l941 at the age of eighteen and was assigned to the Royal Army Service Corps as a driver. After his initial training he was posted to Amphibious Company, RASC. He was then a driver of a DUKW, an amphibious three ton lorry shaped like a boat.

In January 1943 a decision to invade Sicily was implemented once the campaign in North Africa was successfully completed. Frank‘s Amphibious Company was assigned to be involved in the invasion which would be of a new concept – sea-borne landings against strong defences. Although two previous sea-borne landings, in Madagascar and at the Western end of North Africa had been successful neither had been strongly contested. The largest force of its kind so far was assembled for the operation including over 150,000 men and 3,000 ships of all kinds. The assault on the island was made on the 10th July 1943. Frank described it as very hazardous due to the adverse weather conditions and heavy fighting from coastal defences. After the capture of Sicily it was decided to invade the mainland as soon as possible. The assault was made on the 3rd September and Frank‘s company was again involved. After the initial landing Frank was involved in unloading and bringing supplies from ships by DUKW for about a year. He was then posted back to Peterborough. The 2nd Army was then being formed for the assault on France. Frank was moved to Portsmouth and landed on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, 6th June 1944. Severe weather conditions and fierce resistance made the landing a very frightening experience for all concerned. After about three months Frank transferred from DUKWs to lorries and he was attached to the Royal Artillery bringing up shells for boffers and 25 pounder batteries.