Lest We Forget Continued (page 26)
14708390 Private Stanley Ernest HEAD. 7th Battalion Duke of Wellingtons Regiment. (West Riding). Killed in action 29th October 1944.
At the end of September 1944 the task was now to clear the Belgium-Dutch frontier areas northwards to the River Mass. The Airborne landings at Arnhem had taken place, but the weather was bad. It rained continuously on the 19th and 20th October. For ten days the 7th Duke of Wellingtons pushed on with the 34th Tank Brigade.
It was an interesting operation, in which the battalion carried out a variety of offensive and defensive roles, sometimes with and sometimes without tank support. This phase of operations ended with a night advance to the outskirts of Roosendaal. A few days later they moved back to Nieumoer for a few hours rest; but almost immediately moved back to Roosendaal to occupy the line of an anti-tank ditch in the vicinity of the town. This was an unpleasant sector. ‘C’ Company had to cross a lateral ditch and advance 800 yards over bare, open fen. The Company was sniped during their advance by all weapons, including German self-propelled guns. It was only possible to crawl, and where crawling was possible one crawled in the water.
‘A’ Company, in a series of attempts to cross the main ditch, killed and captured many Germans, and themselves suffered casualties by sniping, shelling and counter-attack. ‘B’ Company spent a most uncomfortable day pinned down in ditches by close-range sniping and mortaring. ‘D’ Company protected the right flank and engaged the enemies attention in that area by several fine patrols and raids.
By the early morning of 30th October the enemy had became exhausted, and under the general pressure and artillery fire he left in a hurry.
It was on the 29th October 1944, during this action that young eighteen year old Stanley Head lost his life. From the 28th to the 31st of October the battalion lost fifteen men. Stanley Head was the son of Ernest and Mary Head of Highworth, and is buried in Dordrecht (General Cemetery, Netherlands. Dordrecht is a town on the River Maas in the province of South Holland. It is twenty kilometres south-east of Rotterdam and thirty kilometres north-north west of Breda. The cemetery is about half a mile south of the town on the west side of the road to Dubbeldam.
C/JX 557641 Ordinary Seaman Ernest LAY, Royal Navy. HM Motor Launch 916. Died 8th November 1944, Age 19.
The Battle for Arnhem had failed but only just, largely through the weather conditions and the very limited resources available for a most imaginative and strategically brilliant operation. Since the battle for the Rhineland could clearly not now be fought immediately, it was decided, in view of the onset of winter and the likelihood of difficult beach working for the maintenance of supplies, to concentrate on clearing the Scheldt estuary and opening the port of Antwerp. The Germans had left do-or-die garrisons in all the Channel ports and, although the Allies held the perfectly placed port of Antwerp, the Germans still controlled the banks of its forty-mile river approach. The Armies were forced to halt after Arnhem and wait for the clearance of the Channel ports and Antwerp. This operation would include the sealing off and then clearance of South Beveland, and the capture of Walcheren, and was to be carried out mainly by the Canadians. On October lst the Canadians opened their advance over the Antwerp-Turnout Canal, and round the north of Antwerp, and initially made progress.
By the 4th November the first convoy reached Antwerp three weeks later. On the 8 th November 1944, while on the way back from helping to relieve Antwerp, HM Motor Launch 916 hit a mine with disastrous results. Nineteen year old Ordinary Seaman Ernie Lay who was a signal-man on board ML 916 lost his life at this time.
There was only one survivor, a young officer who lost both his arms and legs.
Sometime after the war the young officer made a visit to Mrs Lay at her home in Highworth to pass on his condolences, and to tell her what had happened.
Ernie Lay was the son of Arthur Ernest and Isabela Ann Lay, of Westrop, Highworth, and is commemorated by name on the Chatham Naval memorial in Kent. The site chosen for the Chatham Naval memorial was high up on the open area known as the Great Lines, overlooking the town of Chatham. Cast on bronze panels there are the names of 8,515 sailors who lost their lives in the 1914-18 war. After the Second World War the memorial was extended to include the names of 10,112 sailors who died during the 1939-45 war. The memorial is open daily. The memorial register is kept in the Naval Chapel of Brompton Garrison church and may be consulted there. Ernie Lay‘s older brother Arthur, also served in the war with the Royal Air Force. Most of the time he was in Canada, where he was responsible for running the household of the Air Officer in charge of Pilot Training. Towards the end of the war when pilot training ceased in Canada he returned to England.
DIKX 140733 Stoker 1st Class Albert George SMITH. HM Submarine Porpoise. Royal Navy. Killed in Action 16th January 1945.
Having been in service since 1932 HM Submarine Porpoise was well known in the submarine service. Her work during the siege of Malta made her name known to a wider audience. During the Mediterranean patrol Porpoise had earned the anger of an enemy minesweeping flotilla when she sunk a ship off the Lipari Islands carrying £l8,O00 in lire, the flotillas pay. She arrived in the Far East towards the middle of 1944. A mine-lay of 8th July in the Malacca Straight sank a Japanese A/S Craft. Soon after the same minefield accounted for the tanker Taketum Maru of 3,000 tons.
Command of the submarine Porpoise which was a worn-out lumbering minelayer, had passed to Lt-Cdr Hugh Turner in late 1944. When he signalled the completion of a mine-lay off Penang, it was to be the last of his signals. The exact cause of the minelayers loss is not known. Japanese reports have led to speculation that Porpoise had been sighted in the vicinity of Penang by an enemy aircraft. The plane dropped a bomb which is believed to have caused Porpoise to slightly leak oil. A/S Craft from Penang were able to track and perhaps destroy the submarine. It was on the 19th January l945 when HM Submarine Porpoise was sunk with the loss of her full compliment of 59 crew.
One of the crew-members was Stoker 1st Class Albert George Smith from Highworth who was twenty-one years of age, and was the son of Walter and Esther Smith of Highworth, Wiltshire. He is commemorated by name on panel 94, column 3, of the Plymouth Naval Memorial, Plymouth, which is situated in the park on the north side of the Hoe between the Drake Statue and the Armanda Memorial. There are 15,935 names on the 1939-45 war panels. The memorial has been the site of many thousands of individual pilgrimages and each year on Remembrance Sunday a major ceremony is held. The memorial is accessible at all times and there is car parking nearby. The memorial register is kept at the Tourist Information Office in the Civic Centre and also in the Naval Historical section at Plymouth library. Although Albert George Smith and his parents and family were Highworth residents at the time of the Second World War, (and since,) for some unknown reason Albert ‘s name is not commemorated on Highworth Town war memorial.
5733919 Lance Corporal David Jesse CHEESLEY. No 24 Platoon D Company, 2nd Battalion Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, Glider-borne Infantry of 6th Air Landing, 6th Airborne Division. Died of wounds 1St April l945, Age 20. On the 6th June 1945, (D Day) there took place the greatest sea-borne invasion in the history of mankind. The Allies, who had been planning and preparing for that day for over four years launched a massive assault on the northern shore of France. Hours before the sea borne landings began parachutists and gliders were moving to their appointed tasks. One of the most effective and vital of these was that performed by a force of 180 men travelling in six gliders which had taken off from Tarrant-Rushton in Dorset during the evening of 5th June. They comprised of Glider-borne infantry men of the 2nd Battalion Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, and 249 Company Royal Engineers. Their task was to prevent the Germans demolishing two bridges near Benouville. Like all vital bridges the two were already wired for demolition as part of the defensive plan and it was essential to seize them before the charges could be blown.