- Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers during the Second World War -
Allied Forces Index
If you enjoy this site
please consider making a donation.
Allied Air Forces
Prisoners of War
Women at War
Those Who Served
The Great War
TWMP on Facebook
Your Family History
Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers
- Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers 1st Btn
- Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers 2nd Btn
- Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers 5th Btn
- Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers 6th Btn
- Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, 70th Btn
16th Sep 1939 On the Move
24th Sep 1940 In Billets
If you can provide any additional information, especially on actions and locations at specific dates, please add it here.
Those known to have served with
Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers
during the Second World War 1939-1945.
- Daly Christopher Thomas.
- Essling Patrick George. Fus. (d.21st April 1945)
- Gorman John. Fus.
- Hannan Robert Alphonsus. Drmr.
- Johnston Albert Edward.
- Lyons Thomas. WO/2 (d.15th June 1945)
- McGaughey Francis John. Pte.
- McMullan Alex. Fus.
- Murphy James. Fus. (d.16th Oct 1945)
- O'Shea Albert Joseph. Capt.
- Smith Willie.
- Stamper James .
- Stokes Herbert Bland. Capt
- Trainor Robert. Fus. (d.5th Aug 1943)
- White Hugh. Pte.
- White Hugh. Fus.
- Wilson Fred.
The names on this list have been submitted by relatives, friends, neighbours and others who wish to remember them, if you have any names to add or any recollections or photos of those listed, please Add a Name to this List
The Wartime Memories Project is the original WW1 and WW2 commemoration website.
- To commemorate the 70th anniversary of VE Day, we are launching a new feature, Second World War Day by Day and also a new Library to allow access to records which have previously been held in our offline archive.
- Looking for help with Family History Research? Please read our Family History FAQ's
- The Wartime Memories Project is run by volunteers and this website is funded by donations from our visitors. If the information here has been helpful or you have enjoyed reaching the stories please conside making a donation, no matter how small, would be much appreciated, annually we need to raise enough funds to pay for our web hosting or this site will vanish from the web. In these difficult times current donations are falling far short of this target.If you enjoy this site
please consider making a donation.
- We are also looking for volunteers to help with the website. We currently have a huge backlog of submissions which need to be edited for display online, if you have a good standard of written English, an interest in the two World Wars and a little time to spare online we would appreciate your help. For more information please see our page on Volunteering.
Research your own Family History.
June 2017 - Please note we currently have a large backlog of submitted material, our volunteers are working through this as quickly as possible and all names, stories and photos will be added to the site. If you have already submitted a story to the site and your UID reference number is higher than 231812, your information is still in the queue, please do not resubmit without contacting us first.
We are aware of the issue with missing images, this is due to the redesign of the website, images will reappear as soon as the new version of the page is completed, thank you for your patience.
We are now on Facebook. Like this page to receive our updates.
If you have a general question please post it on our Facebook page.
Wanted: Digital copies of Group photographs, Scrapbooks, Autograph books, photo albums, newspaper clippings, letters, postcards and ephemera relating to WW2. We would like to obtain digital copies of any documents or photographs relating to WW2 you may have at home.
If you have any unwanted photographs, documents or items from the First or Second World War, please do not destroy them. The Wartime Memories Project will give them a good home and ensure that they are used for educational purposes.Please get in touch for the postal address, do not sent them to our PO Box as packages are not accepted. World War 1 One ww1 wwII greatwar great
Did you know? We also have a section on The Great War. and a Timecapsule to preserve stories from other conflicts for future generations.
There are 4 pages in our library tagged Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers These include information on officers service records, letters, diaries, personal accounts and information about actions during the Second World War.
Fus. Patrick George Essling 2nd Btn. Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (d.21st April 1945)K.Knudsen
Pte. Hugh White 2nd Btn. Royal Inniskilling FusiliersHello I am researching my family history and have just discovered my grandfather's cousin, Hugh White was taken prisoner in 1940
This extract was printed in a local paper on June 24, 1940.
"Mrs.Hanna White, 34 Spencer Street, Belfast, has received official notification that her son, Fusilier Hugh White, of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, is missing. Fusilier White has been with the Inniskilling's for almost two years. He was formerly employed by the Belfast Corporation."
Hugh was reported as missing the day before his brother Samuel was killed in action. He was taken Prisoner of War in 1940 at Dunkirk and spent 5 years as a prisoner in one of the harshest POW camps, Stalag 344 at Lambinowice, Poland. This camp was in the Wehrkreis VIII region, Breslau (Wroclaw). Breslau became a fortress under Hitler's orders, as I read the personal accounts of the veterans who had been taken there along the 6 month death march from Dunkirk my stomach churns at what those guys had to suffer. It was the last camp to be liberated which was on St Patrick's Day the 17th March 1945.
With time we can forgive but we must never forget the sacrifices made for our country through all the conflicts by both Men Woman and Child both in our forces and on our Land.Davey
James Stamper 1st Battalion Royal Inniskilling FusilliersMy Dad, James Stamper joined the Royal Inneskillins in 1944 and was posted to India. I am trying to find information about that time as sadly we never wrote down his memories. Dad died in 2008. Can anyone help fill in the gaps?Moira Dales
Pte. Francis John McGaughey Royal Inniskilling FusiliersMy father, Private Francis John McGaughey, was a POW in WW2. He joined the Boys’ Service of the Army on 12th July 1938, in Omagh, Co Tyrone, N Ireland. He enlisted in the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and served 5 years 2 days with them. From 14th July 1943 until 5th June 1944 he was in the AAC. From 6th June 1944 until 21st May 1945 he was in the Paras in North West Europe, he remained in the Paras on his return home on 22nd May 1945 until he left the army on 12th August 1952.
He landed in France with the 6th Airbourne Division and was captured in July 1944. His POW number was 82290. He writes that at first he was in a camp within sight of Chartres Cathedral. Then he was put on a train with many others in terrible conditions. They arrived in Chalons and were marched to some barracks where they stayed for a while. He was eventually sent to a large Stalag Luft in Germany. From this Stalag Luft he was sent to (Chomutov- Czech name) Komotau in Czechoslovakia. He worked in an open cast mine there. There was a long, bitter winter and the workers were starving.
Actual words from my dad’s notes: “Hear guns in distance all the time. Now fighter aircraft quite common, bombers around the clock and refugees increase. 8 May 1945 our guards are gone. No work today and Russian soldiers arrive.”
My Dad returned home and finished his time in the army. He married my mother and became a fire fighter with the Surrey Fire Brigade and they became parents to me and my brother. We have our own families now.
My dad never really talked about the war, only rarely would he mention being a POW in Czechoslovakia. He passed away in 1994 and we miss him a lot. I found some notes of his, some old photos and his AAC wings and badge. I was too upset to look at them properly until recently. I’m very proud and honoured to have had a father like him. Would be grateful to hear from anyone who knew my Dad or has information to share.
Respects to all the brave men and women who fought.Margaret Sabuncu
Fus. John Gorman Royal Inniskilling FusiliersI have a POW Postcard sent on the 25th of January 1944 from the Camp by John Gorman 269612, a prisoner in Stalag 3a, to his mother at 630 Clonard Road, Dublin. I'm afraid I have no other infoMel Doyle
Christopher Thomas "Christy" Daly 2nd Battalion Royal Inniskilling and Royal Irish FusiliersChristopher Thomas Daly, my father, was born in County of Offaly, Ireland in 1914. He joined the Royal Inniskilling Royal Irish Fusiliers at Armagh on 11/11/1937 and was at home till 28/4/1938.
He was in Malta from 29/4/38 till 8/10/38. He was in Palestine from 9/10/38 to 29/3/39. He went back to Malta where he stayed from 30/3/39 to18/6/43. He was then sent to the Middle East from 19/6/43 to the 15/11/43 where he was sent to Germany and stayed as a prisoner of war till 24/5/45 then he went home on 25/5/45 and was discharged on 4/3/46.
This information I have taken from my father's war records which I am fortunate to have. My father never talked about his past. He passed away on the 13/4/1973 in Australia where he immigrated to with his Maltese wife Carmela (Debattista) in 1961 and had 12 children of which I am one.
I would love to hear from anyone who may have a similar story that connects with my fathers.Bill Daly
Capt. Albert Joseph "Paddy" O'Shea 1st Batt/2nd Batt Irish Guards/Inniskilling FusiliersMy father, Captain Albert J. O'Shea, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, was a Guardsman in the 1st Battalion Irish Guards from 1931 until commissioned in July 1942 in the 2nd Battalion Inniskilling Fusiliers in India. In the Guards, on April 10 1940 the day I was born, he was sent to Norway. In the Narvik campaign he saw a lot of action on the ground and was also on the Troopship HMT Chobry was sunk at 2 AM above the Arctic Circle in May 1940 with many casualties including all the officers. A month later, after several more weeks of fighting, with the German invasion of France, the Narvik campaign was concluded and the troops came home. Norway was a disaster and in 2 months the British and Allied French, Norwegian and Polish lost about 7 thousand dead, wounded and missing from all Services. A disaster with poorly equipped British troops facing German ski troops with command of the air. Only the Navy was superior to the enemy
On his return he was a DI at the Guards Depot in Caterham, close to RAF Kenley a prime target of the Luftwaffe. On September 1, 1940 the house next door received a direct hit and our house was uninhabitable. A Guardsman in September 1939, he was a Sergeant and Temporary Company Sergeant Major in December 1941 en route to Officer Training in India. In July 1942 he was a 2nd Lieutenant and in August a Lieutenant. He was in Persia/Iraq Force, Syria and Egypt until September 1943. My mother died in a raid on my third birthday, April 10 1943. He had volunteered for the Long Range Desert Group and was doing Commando Training in Syria at this time. He was in hospital in Cairo missing the invasion of Sicily. Of the two other platoon commanders in his company the 2nd Battalion Inniskilling, one was killed and one wounded, so his dysentery may have saved him. He returned to the UK in September 1943
I only remember seeing him once during the war. I went to boarding school on my third birthday in April 1943 and he was posted to St Helena, S. Atlantic in August 1944 and came to visit me. I did not know him and thought he was very demanding. My "safe" school in Heathfield, Sussex was in Doodlebug Alley and we were in the air raid shelters almost daily from mid 1944 until early 1945 and one day I ran from the shelter and saw one just overhead. The first V 2 landed in Chiswick 200 yards from my grandfather's furniture store and his accountants' child was one of the first three killed by V2's
He became very ill in St Helena, was sent home in 1945, in and out of hospital for the next two years. He was promoted Captain in November 1945 Father was invalided from the Army in 1948 with a 100% War Disability pension and never recovered, passing away in November 1955. My mothers' 2 brothers both served in the RAF for the duration. One did 3 years in Malta throughout the siege and the other went to India and Burma. He was on embarkation leave in April 1943 when my mother died and left shortly after. He was in 3207 RAF Servicing Commando in Burma until the Japanese surrender.The two brothers did not see each other from 1940-1946
My grandfather, a WW1 soldier 1916-1918 was in the home Guard throughout WW 2 and my stepmother was a WAAD from 1941-1945Patrick J. O'Shea
Fus. Alex McMullan Royal Inniskilling FusiliersMy uncle, Alex McMullan, was a member of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers with the BEF at the beginning of WW2. He was wounded and captured north of Dunkirk in 1940 and spent the remaining years of the war in a prison camp, either Stalag 3A or Stalag XX B.
Upon his release he returned to Northern Ireland but was killed in a shooting accident, at his home, in December 1946. He was 24 when he died. I have numerous photos and postcards at home and would like to share with others on this site. I doubt whether there will be anyone alive now who remembers him but any snippets would be welcome. I was only 2 years old when he died but have childhood memories of him and his bagpipes. He joined the Inniskillings with a friend of his, Freddie Wilkinson, as a piper when he was 17, Freddie was killed in the action where Alex was taken prisoner, or so I am led to believe.David Gilbert
Fus. James Murphy Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (d.16th Oct 1945)James Murphy died 16th October 1945, aged 33. He is buried in Little Bray (St. Peter's) Catholic Cemetery in the Republic of Ireland. He was the son of Patrick and Mary Murphy and husband of Frances Mary Murphy, of North Bray.s flynn
Fus. Robert Trainor 6th Btn. Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (d.5th Aug 1943)Robert Trainor served with the 6th Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers He was from Tyrone and was 18 years old when he was killed on the 5th of August 1943 He is buried in the Catania War Cemetery, Sicily, Italy. He was the son of William and Sarah Trainor, of Castledawson
Capt Herbert Bland Stokes MBE. Quartermaster General Royal Iniskilling FusiliersMy grandfather, Herbert Stokes, was among the number still stuck in France two weeks after Dunkirk was all over, while the Nazis were already strutting about in Paris. Many of these troops left behind were sadly killed or taken prisoner, but a large number of Army units were ordered to evacuate from other ports further west. Unlike at Dunkirk they were not at immediate risk from land attack by the Germans, who had not yet penetrated that far west on the ground, but they certainly were at risk from the air.
One of those ports, St Nazaire, became the scene the worst loss of life that Britain has ever suffered from one vessel. This was the sinking of one of the ships involved in the rescue, the Lancastria, and my grandfather was on it. For the sake of morale the whole episode was so completely hushed up at the time that few now have ever heard of it.
When the defeated French asked the Germans for an armistice on June 16, time had nearly run out for the British troops still in France further west of Dunkirk. Frantic evacuations began at several ports in Brittany. Let us not forget the big ships operating from these ports, under fierce air-attack, for another two whole weeks after the Dunkirk show was over. Manned by merchant seamen and fisher¬men, they had names like Sobieski, Ulster Prince, Oronsay and, of course, the ill-fated Lancastria. The Lancastria, originally the Tyrrhenia (because of this name it was called the Old Soup Tureen by its sailors) had been re-named in 1924, despite a naval superstition that it is very unlucky to re-name a ship. In this case the superstition was to prove ominously correct. My father, Adrian Stokes, has written the following account of what happened to his father, Herbert Stokes, during the first months of World War II. (Adrian was twelve years old when these events took place.)
‘A definitely unpleasant show’ After Dunkirk: The last out of France
"My father, Herbert Stokes, was a great survivor. Blown up by a shell on the Somme in 1916, he was on light duties till the end of the First War; I still have the silver badge awarded to those who had been so severely wounded that they were exempted from further military service. However, despite being exempt, he insisted on rejoining the Army in his old rank of Captain, at the age of 45, on September 2nd 1939. On 16th September, Herbert left for France with the British Expeditionary Force. Officially his Regiment was the Royal Iniskilling Fusiliers, but in WW2 the Army recognised his experience as the Chief Executive of Queen Charlotte's Hospital in London, and based him in Dieppe organising medical supplies, which came under the general heading of the Quartermaster General.
Herbert's letters were hardly a record of light duties. They were usually scribbled at the end of an 18-hour day, and reveal the strange unreality of the so-called Phoney War. Work was often interrupted, not by air raids, but by visiting ‘Brass Hats’ or by the lavish entertainment of, or by, local French digni¬taries. Few military matters could be mentioned in letters, but in February 1940 the censor passed an account of grave discussions with a very senior officer from the A.T.S. as to whether her women soldiers should have Army Issue Pots, Chamber, with or without handles. These deliberations seem to have borne fruit, because later, when Rheims was occupied by a special contingent of the SS, sent ahead of the main German force to secure the Champagne stocks for their officers' messes, they found a mysterious crate painted with the words ‘Security - Only to be opened in the presence of a senior officer.’ It contained 144 enamel chamberpots, female staff for the use of, with handles.
Comments on the progress of the war would have been deleted by the censor's blue indelible pencil. How much the combatants themselves knew is uncertain; in April 1940 writing at 10.20 p.m. after escaping from an official reception for the ‘King-pin of the Parsons and his satellite curates’, Herbert says, ‘Every day brings the end of this most stupid war nearer, and the more immediate prospect of leave more delight¬ful.’
Within days all leave was cancelled. Despite his disappointment, Herbert's letters remain optimistic, reflecting ‘stirring times’ and looking forward to being ‘really on the job of smashing this mad swine and keeping him away from our folks and families.’ The reality was very different. By mid-May Hitler's Blitzkrieg was sweeping through Belgium, and Herbert's letters indicate evacuation of medical staff from Dieppe to points further west; the last letter he wrote from France, nearly a week after Dunkirk, describes ‘a wonderful old watering-place’ - probably Deauville.
Herbert was now in the rear party, charged with seeing all medical personnel and patients across the Channel. Around the 7th June, his camp moved to Nantes, a town some 30 miles inland from the port of St Nazaire. On Saturday 15 June the two other officers in his camp were away reconnoitring for a new site. Herbert was left behind because, as he told his family afterwards, he was so dead-beat. Meanwhile the order came through that the camp was to be evacuated within seven hours. Herbert got them all safely away, and waited behind for the other two officers to return, which they did to find the evacuation all done.
Herbert's last two days in France are vividly recalled by his water-stained movement orders, immaculately typed, detailing the move from Nantes to St Nazaire. For instance the order for 15/6/1940 includes:4. Transport: One 25 h.p. Vauxhall will remain with Rear Party. Capt. Webster will retain motor cycle.
5. Rations:. Two days hard rations will be carried. Water bottles will be carried filled.
These orders, with a bunch of receipts for meals and rooms in anonymous French hotels (the Army was scrupulous about paying its way) were stuffed into Herbert's battledress pocket as he scrambled aboard HMT Lancastria at 10 a.m. on Monday, 17th June.
What happened next was that at 3:50 pm the Luftwaffe bombed her, holing her below the waterline, causing her to list rapidly and discharge 1400 tons of oil into the sea. Hundreds of men who had not eaten for days were making their way below decks to the restaurant areas. Moments later, a second bomb penetrated a forward hatch and exploded. Some men died in the water, burning in the oil-slick onto which the Germans had dropped incendiaries; others broke their necks jumping from the ship. Within 25 minutes the Lancastria, listing ever more steeply, turned completely upside down with men still clinging to her hull, and sunk with at least 5,000 casualties, possibly many more. The Luftwaffe continued attacking even after that, so that other vessels were unable to go to her immediate aid - Herbert estimated that it was one and a half hours before he was picked up, and some survivors were in the water even longer.
Herbert's next letter home came from ‘an appropriate address’: Stokes and Military Hospital, Devonport, Plymouth, dated June 17th. With typical under¬statement he wrote: ‘There is very little wrong with me except some twisting of the back and the effect of an hour and a half's swim after the Boche had got our ship with a couple of eggs. Thank Heaven I saw all the hospitals and personnel in our charge away without being bombed on the 15th. I and the others, very few left, got on board on the 17th, but we did not have the luck, as ours was the only boat they got. A definitely unpleasant show.’
As for the Lancastria, a brief note among Herbert's papers reads: SS Lancastria: 5500 Troops (incl. ship's complement) Survivors: 2100 Casualties: 3400
This calculation was optimistic. It is now known that by noon on the 17th June, the Lancastria was crammed with between 7,500 to 9,000 people, grossly overloading her. Of this number, exactly 2,447 survived. Simple subtraction shows that the dead therefore numbered between 5,000 and 6,500, but no one will ever know for sure as no one knows exactly how many men had gone aboard. There were only 2,000 lifejackets. Herbert had no lifejacket but found something even better: a lifebelt which was able to support four men.
Despite the overall success of Operation Aerial, the losses caused Churchill to order the news to be suppressed, so the story is in danger of remaining a forgotten footnote. Churchill wanted nobody to talk about it, so nobody did. My only memory is of my father showing me a gleaming pair of shoes, polished ready for his return to duty. ‘Not bad,’ he said, ‘considering they spent some time in the sea.’"
My grandfather Herbert Stokes, like many of his generation, found it almost impossible to speak of his wartime experiences. A kind and loving, but very shy man whose mother had died when he was only three, it is often only in the letters he has left behind that you can get some idea of what was in his heart. Anyway, the survivors of the Lancastria were all ordered to stay silent on their return to Britain. Even if he had been allowed to talk about the horrors he had been through, the stiff upper lip tradition of the British gentleman in those days meant that they were not given to discussing their "feelings".
The following extracts from other family letters tell more of what happened to him that fateful day. Herbert's eldest daughter, my aunt Audrey, then a 19-year-old Oxford undergraduate, wrote to her fiancé (Hugh Verity) on Friday June 21st, whilst sitting on her father's bed at the military hospital: "The ship hadn't got underway when the Boche dropped two eggs. A re¬con-naissance plane came first and then the squadron (Dad only saw two aircraft). They got the ship with their third shot and the ship sank in twenty minutes. It is incredible luck that Dad got away all right. The bomb fell hardly any distance away from his cabin. In the water, I gather, he had a few other men hanging onto him. He was afterwards picked up by a minesweeper and then he got into another boat and was landed here. His ears are a bit injured and he got rather a bang when he swung against the ship's side in getting away. Otherwise I think he must be terribly tired and stiff. It must have been frightful in France with air raids and all the work he had to do and then he didn't have anything to eat from Sunday night till Tuesday morning. I think about 3,000 men were saved. Most of his kit, of course, is at the bottom of the sea. He is getting a discharge and I expect he will be going home today ...." Herbert did indeed go home later that day because the entire hospital was evacuated.
This extract from a letter which my grandmother, Enid, wrote to her brother, the Daily Mirror press baron Cecil King, tells more of what happened to her husband Herbert. Enid’s letter is also dated Friday 21st June – the longest day of the year for the Stokes family in more ways than one - and she had just brought Herbert back to their home in the Cotswolds: "Just a note while Herbs is asleep. I arrived in Plymouth at 3 o'clock this morning and was allowed to see him at 8 - only an hour or two before the whole hospital was ordered to be evacuated. I might so easily have missed him. He looks very ill indeed, but as he is only suffering from shock and extreme exhaustion I have been allowed to break every known rule and to bring him home. He had been bombed incessantly for 5 weeks without the protection of a single anti aircraft gun. He says Dieppe is completely wrecked. Among many other escapes he met 4 German tanks at a hundred yards while he was helping the A.M.P.S. to put up some sort of defence and even then wasn't hit. He was so done-in when he had moved everything over to the west that his two senior officers left him to rest while they went off to prospect a new site further south in the belief that we would stand on the Loire. In the meanwhile he got orders to pack up the whole base for England within 7 hours. He was single-handed but it was done and he saw them safely off on the 15th and boarded the Lancastria on the 17th with his two senior officers returned by that time. The ship's usual compliment is 1200 and it filled up to 6000 and was kept waiting from 11 till 4.30 with German planes circling round and round practising till at last of course they got a direct hit. The idea was to wait till another transport was over loaded before setting forth. Herbs was in his cabin where he found a life-belt which made it possible for him to keep 3 other men afloat for one and a half hours. He says he never will forget seeing the troops linking arms and walking down the sloping sinking side of the ship singing ‘Roll out the Barrel’. He thinks about half, about 3000, were saved. I only think all the time how unbelievable it is that he is here and for the moment safe. He never thought he had a chance of seeing us again and doesn't seem to want me to leave him for a single second.
"There wasn't a bed to be got in Plymouth which is crammed with B.E.F., an odd assortment of allies and the population of Guernsey. I was cheered to see hundreds of French sailors, a train-load of men I took to be Poles, and 6 fat French seaplanes floating in the harbour.
"H. says the French defeat was due to the absolute panic of the people and a lot of the troops, there is no other word for it ...."
Herbert was awarded the M.B.E. in July 1940. He had sick leave until he was posted to 213th Infantry Brigade on 16th August and then as Deputy Adjutant and Quartermaster General with Headquarters South Eastern Command. Here he found a new General, one Bernard Montgomery, who instructed his staff to go on daily early morning runs. Characteristically, Herbert, who was after all forty-six years old and had probably done no such thing since he was at school, took a dim view of this and was not to be ordered about in this way. He ignored Monty's demand.
Herbert remained in England for the rest of the war and was rapidly promoted to Major and then Lieutenant Colonel. On 1st October 1943 he was appointed Colonel in charge of Administration in the South Midland District. He was able to visit his home in Gloucestershire from time to time. In the services, no one ever mentioned what they were doing or where they were stationed so we can only guess that Herbert was very much involved in the planning of the Arnhem operation and in the invasion of Normandy on 6th June 1944. He was demobilised on 24 August 1945; at the age of 51 he was in the first category of service personnel to be demobilised. Subsequently he was granted the rank of Honorary Colonel. He spent his gratuity on a beautiful diamond bracelet for his wife.
On the BBC in February 2004 a number of programmes about Dunkirk were broadcast, and on the BBC's teletext pages appeared a paragraph which stated that the evacuation "officially began at 18:57 on 26 May 1940. The signal announcing that the British Expeditionary Force had been evacuated was sent at 23:30 one week later." The false impression given by this assertion, and by all of the various Dunkirk documentaries, is that all of the BEF was rescued at Dunkirk whereas in fact it was only about two thirds of them. 366,162 troops were brought out of Dunkirk but over 150,000 were not recovered there because they were trapped further west. The little-known rescue of these other troops was begun immediately after Dunkirk ended. This second rescue was codenamed Operation Aerial, and although 163,000 people were freed during it, a scale comparable to the Dunkirk evacuation, most people seem never to have heard about it. The inaccuracy of the impression given by the BBC prompted me to put together this account.
Churchill condemned to official secrecy the story of what remains Britain's worst ever maritime tragedy. ‘The newspapers have got quite enough disaster for today,’ he wrote. Also he did not want to take the edge off the ‘Finest Hour’ broadcast speech which he was preparing. The occasional newspaper article appears: Evening Standard 30 May 2000 and The Times shortly after, around the time of the 60th anniversary. As if it wasn’t enough to bomb the ship, the Germans next dropped incendiary bombs on the sea, which was by now covered in a film of oil, to ensure that many of the floating soldiers burned to death before they could be rescued. Veteran soldier George Crew, interviewed by the Standard, corroborated this terrible memory of my grand¬father's: ‘The young private heard a sound that haunts him still. "I looked back and I could hear people still on the sinking boat singing Roll Out The Barrel. I can never hear that song without remembering those who sang it as they died."’ The headline of that piece in the Standard was entitled "The day the dying sang." The BBC transmitted one documentary about the Lancastria disaster on 19th of July 2001 entitled "A Secret Sacrifice". And that's about it. We have a mission in my family to try and dispel this secret, and bring to public knowledge this little-known episode in the war, which is in danger of remaining a forgotten footnote. This is why I put this account on the BBC People's War website, and am now adding it to the Wartime Memories Project Website. An excellent article in The Times on Saturday 13 June 2015 makes me hope that there will be some mention of it in the press or TV on the 17th in two days’ time. We’ll see.Teresas Stokes
Drmr. Robert Alphonsus Hannan 2nd Battalion Royal Inniskilling FusiliersBob Hannan joined up as a drummer boy in 1926 and was stationed at Holywood Barracks, Co. Down until 1933 when he moved to Aldershot. He went on to serve in Shanghai, Singapore and returned to Catterick in 1938 vefore he was demobbed. He was recalled for the duration of WW2 and in 1940 was wounded at Dunkirk and moved by mine sweeper to Mansfield Notts Hospital. After recuperation he was sent Crieff in Scotland to train members of the Home Guard.Robert Hannan
Willie Smith Royal Inniskilling FusiliersMy great uncle Willie Smith was a POW in Stalag XXa 35. He was from Belfast and served in the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. He returned home to Belfast in 1945. Son to David and Minnie Smith and brother to Ernie Smith who also served in WW2.Kathy Brant
Fred "Tug" Wilson Inniskilling FusiliersMy grandfather, Fred Wilson fought at Dunkirk for the Inniskilling Fusiliers. He was captured and taken to Stallag XX1. At first, his family got the 'missing in action' telegram and rumours were abound that he had got away or been shot while crossing a river, but they later heard that he was a POW. After a couple of escape attempts, he was sent out to work on a farm. He enjoyed this work. He often recalled the horrific walk to Germany towards the end of the war and the time when he stopped to take the boots off a dead German because they were in better shape than his own and being threatened by a German soldier. I would love to hear from anyone who knew of him, he was a rogue with a great sense of humour.Joanna Fyffe
Albert Edward Johnston 2nd Btn. Royal Inniskilling FusiliersAlbert E Johnston was my maternal Grandfather. I know that by the time he was married in 1938 (age 22) he was the rank of Corporal with the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, based at Catterick Camp as it is stated with his service number on his marriage certificate.Emma McLeod
Available at discounted prices.
The Wartime Memories Project is a non profit organisation run by volunteers.
This website is paid for out of our own pockets, library subscriptions and from donations made by visitors. The popularity of the site means that it is far exceeding available resources.
If you are enjoying the site, please consider making a donation, however small
to help with the costs of keeping the site running.
Website © Copyright MCMXCIX - MMXVII
- All Rights Reserved