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Those who Served

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Gilbert William Vail .     Auxiliary Fire Service   from Surbiton )

This picture was taken around 1941. The machine Fireman Vail is standing in front of is a 'Morris Commercial' fire engine which was quite popular in the 1930's. (Katmandu Fire Brigade in Nepal still have one!)

My paternal grandfather, Gilbert William Vail, lived in Surbiton all his life. He worked on the railway when he first left school and had a number of other jobs, including a motor fitter and general handiman. He was born in the early 1900's. Thus in the 1930's when rumours of a pending war where in the air he was of an age that he could be called up. He, and his brothers-in-law, believed that war was inevitable and came up with a plan. It was quiet simple, if they were in a reserved occupation they could avoid being called-up! So he volunteered to become retained firemen. My grandfather's house was very near the fire station and thus he could cycle there in good time. A bell was installed in the house in Richmond Grove via a line from the GPO pole. Presumably he had another job as well. Sure enough war was declared and the retained firemen became fulltime. My grandfather became fulltime in 1937/38, and received nearly £4 per week, a good wage then. Gilbert helped train recruits for the Auxiliary Fire Service. He was a trained motor fitter and served at the Brigade workshop at the Cattle Market at Kingston. He was also stationed at Godalming in Surrey and Norwich in Norfolk. He returned to Surbiton Fire Station on normal duties in 1945. He and his brothers-in-law were not asked to do military service. There was one small problem with their cunning plan, London was to become one of the most dangerous places to live. Its civilian population were in the frontline. Surbiton and the surrounding towns were hit on a number of occasions. He fought fires all over London and presumably lost some of his colleagues.

Fighting fires and dealing with incidents in all weathers, often for long periods of time, took its toll. He developed asthma, for which there was not any affective treatment. He died in 1949 of a heart attack. I was born in 1958 and thus never met him but I do have photos of him in his uniform at Surbiton Fire Station. His wife Bessie lived until she was 99 years old and carried photos of him. She was visited every Christmas by serving fire fighters. I am grateful that his work and widow were not forgotten.

Sgt. James Wentworth Vail .     United States Army 93rd Armored   from Camas, Wa)

My father James Vail served with the 93rd Armored Division, he was awarded the silver star and bronze star.

Leonard Valance .    

Leonard Valance is commemorated on the WW2 Roll of Honour Plaque in the entrance of Jarrow Town Hall.

William Valance .     Royal Air Force 460 Sqd.

Bill Valance flew with 460 Sqd as a rear gunner.

Billy Vale .     Home Guard Feltwell Btn.

Victor Arthur Vale .     Royal Navy HMS Kashmir

My father, Victor Arthur Vale, served on HMS Kashmir when she was on convoy duty.

Thomas Henry "Val" Valentine .     Royal Air Force   from Oxenhilme, Kendal)

Thomas Henry Valentine was called up in early 1941, having been waiting on deferred service since late 1940, and joined the RAF as Wireless Operator ACl, No. 1517358.

After initial training he was sent to Egypt and was involved in the push through to Libya. Before long he returned to Egypt whence he was sent to Palestine for further training ready for the assault on the Greek islands as part of an Advanced Landing Ground Party. At the end of September 1943 he was flown to the island of Kos in a Dakota.

Sadly the invasion of Rhodes did not go according to plan and the Allies were unable to establish air supremacy over the area, with the result that the Germans counter attacked on 5th October, 1943. Kos is a very small island and (as my father put it) with "nowhere to run" the allied forces were largely captured within the week. They were held for a short time in the castle on Kos whilst awaiting transport to the mainland of Greece, where they were marched to Athens. Here my father temporarily lost contact with many of his comrades due to sickness and being confined to a series of hospitals.

Next followed a 14 day train journey to the Dulag Luft interrogation centre for RAF personnel, and finally the arrival at Stalag IVB in December 1943. His prisoner number was 263514.

LACW Daisy L.W. Vallis .     Royal Canadian Air Force (Women's Division)   from Devonshire, Bermuda)

(d.5th May 1946)

Leading Aircraftwoman Vallis was the daughter of Clive Valentine Selby and Edith Beatrice Vallis, of Devonshire, Bermuda.

She was 28 when she died and is buried in the Pembroke (St John) Churchyard in Bermuda.

Daisy Vallis was the only Bermudian woman killed as the result of WW2. She was killed on her way to be demobbed. She was a Leading Aircraftwoman of the Royal Canadian Air Force (Women's Division).

Cpl. Arie van .     Dutch Army

PFC. Charles Edgar Van .     United States Army H Coy. 310th Infantry Regiment   from Somerville, New Jersey)

My uncle Charles "Ed" Van Lieu was a machine gunner in company H, 310 infantry regiment. A few days before the regiment helped take the bridge at Remagen, he and his assistant gunner were sent in a jeep to set up their gun in a town which was believed to have been abandoned by the German Army. On reaching the town they parked and were looking around for the best place to put their MG when a German 88 started to fire on them. A round landed well down the street, then started to move towards them. Uncle Charles thought there was a spotter somewhere directing it onto them.

They both broke for the nearest door, my uncle in front. It was locked. As they pressed on it, a shell hit the eaves of the building over their heads. A piece of shrapnel went through his assistant (killing him), then through my uncle's pack, and into his butt. At the same time he was blown through the door.

He awoke in a cellar with ersatz coal, and some stairs going up to a door into the house. He crawled over to the door, and heard someone on the other side. He drew his .45 and knocked. The door opened, and there in front of his face were German army jackboots. Without looking up, he fired his pistol, hitting the man between the eyes, and driving the German back, where he ended up sitting on the stove, dead. Then he saw the man must have been a deserter or invalided, because he was in civilian clothing except for the boots.

He awoke again sometime later being carried out to a jeep by medics. He was taken to an aid station in a low building, part of a farm. After his wound was given treatment, he was put onto a Weasel, a jeep-sized tracked vehicle with racks for six stretchers. As they drove away, a German 88 shell hit the aid station and destroyed it.

Then the shells were directed down the road after the Weasel. My uncle was on his stomach facing the rear, watching as the shells got closer... then the road turned, the shells went straight, and his adventures for the next several weeks were over.

Gerard Henri Marie Van .     Dutch Army MW 2eKl   from Holland)

Sgt. Hendrik Van .     Royal Dutch Marines   from Holland)

Pte. Lawrence Arthur Van .     United States Army H Coy 157th Infantry Regiment   from Summit County, Ohio)

Cpl. Willem Van .     Dutch Army   from Holland)

F/O Willem Jacob van .     Royal Canadian Air Force 10 Sqd. (d.10th Jun 1944)

Willem van Stockum is my mother's brother. He was the person who introduced my parents in 1932. He died in 1944 and my father told my mother "the wrong man came back", meaning that Willem was more important to her than he was, and that his bravery made him the one who deserved to come home. He was Dutch. A book has been written about Willem Time Bomber by an Army Major and pediatrician, Dr. Robert Wack.

A/Sqd.Ldr. Ralph Van Den Bok DFC..     Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve "B" Flight (CO) No. 214 (FMS) Sqdn   from East Horsley, Surrey)

Further to my researches into the service career of this interesting and remarkable man, with whom my father flew a number of missions or "Ops" in 1944/45,I now have something approaching a proper "story".

Ralph Van Den Bok was born in London, in about 1907, of a Dutch father and Australian mother. After school, he attended Dulwich College, and by the outbreak of WW2, was working at the London Stock Exchange. In 1940,he applied to join the RAFVR, and was granted a commission as a Pilot Officer on Probation (July,1940). After training as a Wireless Operator/Air Gunner, Ralph joined No.408 (Goose) Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force, with whom he flew 30 Operations as a "Wireless Air Gunner ", to use RCAF parlance.

In August 1941, Ralph was "Gazetted" as a Flying Officer, and continued to serve with No.408 Sqdn, rising to become a leader , and so always flying with the Squadron Commanding Officer, Wing Commander John D Twigg, RCAF. In the summer of 1942, following a brave but unsuccessful attack on the German cruiser "Scharnhorst", and having exhibited outstanding devotion to operational flying, Ralph was awarded his first DFC (Gazetted August 1942, at which time he was also Gazetted as a Flight Lieutenant).

Within a few weeks, however, Ralph's aircraft, a Handley-Page Hampden, was shot down over Belgium, returning from a mission to bomb Saarbrucken, by Luftwaffe night-fighter "Ace" Hauptmann Wilhelm Herget in a JU 88. The pilot Wing Commander Twigg and the rear gunner, Flt/Lt Maitland DFC were killed, but Ralph and Flt/Lt Gordon Clayton Fisher, RCAF, baled out and after contacting Belgian esacape organisations , in Ralph's case "Comete" ,they returned to the UK. Ralph was then awarded a second DFC, Gazetted November 1942.

Ralph was then accepted for training as a pilot,and was sent to Hagersville, Ontario, Canada,where he was awarded his wings, aged 38. Returning to Britain, he joined No. 12 OTU at Chipping Warden, where he "crewed up" with my father, then Flt/Sgt John Mills RAFVR, who became Ralph's Wireless Op/Air Gunner, they first flew together in Wellington bombers in June 1944.

After further training in Stirlings of 1657 Conversion Unit, they became "operational" with No.214 (Federated Malay States) Squadron, which flew Radio Counter-Measures (radio/radar jamming) sorties using Boeing B 17 "Flying Fortress" aircraft, from RAF Oulton in Norfolk.

In January 1945, Ralph was promoted to Acting Squadron Leader,and became Commanding Officer of "B" Flight of No.214 Squadron.By the end of hostilities,in May 1945, Ralph had flown a further 17 "Operations",and had exhibited such qualities of leadership and devotion to duty that he was awarded his third DFC ,in October (Gazetted November 1945). He remained in the RAF,in the rank of Flight Lt. for many years after the war, resigning his commission (as a Sqd/Ldr) in the Reserve in 1955. After flying a Proctor for a while with Standard Oil (ESSO), Ralph was, sadly, badly hurt in the Lewisham Rail Disaster of 1957, losing a leg to gangrene. He died in Salisbury in 1976.

I am deeply indebted to Adrian Van Den Bok, in Australia,for all the information he has provided about the life of his admirable and inspirational father, without whose skill and professionalism I would not be here today to write this tribute.

WO1 G. van Alphen .     South African Air Force 15 Sqdn.   from Transvaal)

(d.23rd February 1944)

On 23rd February 1944 a Baltimore from 15 Sqdn RAF (235 Wing, 201 Group) was shot down by five ME 109 fighters off Dhia island, Crete. The aircraft was on a long-range shipping reconnaissance off Iraklion Bay, Greece and failed to return to base. The crew were:

  • Lt. C.P. Peachey, 180275V, Pilot.
  • Lt. Neville St. Ledger Seaton, 547404V
  • W/O 1. O.C. Spargo, 544027V, WOp/AG.
  • W/O 1 G. van Alphen, 572187V, WOp/AG.

    All the crew were lost and are commemorated on the Alamein Memorial.

  • Gi Sld David Van Altena .     Dutch Army   from Holland)

    POW Camp Fukuoka 17 in Japan

    Cadet Cato Van Ardenne .     Dutch Army   from Holland)

    POW Camp Fukuoka 17 in Japan

    A. E. Van Den Bogaert .     Royal Air Force 320 (Netherlands) Squadron   from Holland)

    (d.11th Jan 1943)

    A E Van Den Bogeart, a Dutch national, served in the Royal Air Force with 320 (Netherlands) Squadron during WW2.

    On the 11th January 1943 Hudson '863' of 320 Squadron was lost on a training flight over the Irish Sea.

    It's crew members were:

    • Off. A.E. Van Den Bogaert - Missing in Action.
    • Off. F. Schut - Missing in Action.
    • Cpl. B. Corporaal - Missing in Action.
    • A.F. Post - Missing in Action.

    Sqdn Ldr Ralph Van Den Bok DFC & 2Bar..     RAFVR 214 squadron

    I am most interested in Squadron Leader Ralph Van Den Bok, DFC & 2Bar. RAFVR, as my father, Flying Officer John Tudor Mills (Wop/AG), flew on Ops with him in Boeing B17 F & G aircraft of 214 Sqdn, based at RAF Oulton, Norfolk, part of 100 group, during 1944/45. Records of the squadron's activities are somewhat sparse, in view of what they did (ECM etc). I have been quite unable to determine S/Ldr Van Den Bok's nationality, although I suspect that he might have been Canadian,as he was awarded his first DFC in 1942, as a Flying Officer, whilst operating with 408 (Goose) Squadron, RCAF (although he himself was RAFVR). From bits and pieces that I have managed to unearth, I gather that he was shot down by Flak at some point and escaped through Belgium, but I don't know the details. 3 DFC's is quite an achievement, he was awarded one of them for "Devotion to operational flying", or words to that effect. I would really like to find out more about him.

    Van Den Burg .     Royal Air Force No. 320 (Netherlands) Squadron RAF   from Holland)

    On 9th August 1944 a RAF plane, a Mitchell FR143 NO-S of 320 squadron, ditched at sea at 11:44 hrs (GMT)

    Crew Members were:

    • Van Den Burg
    • C.A.G. Pieters - WIA
    • Sgt. Wams
    • Sgt. Hoffman

    All were saved by ASR Walrus

    Sqd.Ldr Pieter Robert Marie van der Heijden .     Royal Air Force 541 Squadron   from Holland)

    My Uncle, Squadron Leader Pieter Robert Marie van der Heijden was stationed at RAF Benson with the 541 Sqadron from 28/7/1940 until he was killed on a photo rec mission off the coast of Holland, year unknown. I would very much like to hear from anyone who knew my Uncle Pieter and any details of his fateful mission. I understand he had the reputation of being somewhat of a "maverick" amongst his conteporaires and was shot down whilst flying a mosquito on recon, as a result of low flying over his homeland.

    Also anyone who may have known his younger brother, Johanus or "Johnnie" who was killed after the war, when his plane blew up during radar testing in July 1945

    P. van Der Watt .       from New Zealand)

    J. Van Dijke .     Royal air Force 320 Squadron (Netherlands)   from Holland)

    On 25th October 1943 a plane, a Mitchell FR166 of 320 squadron was hit by flak nr. Brest. It was ditched at sea at 14:47 hrs (GMT) at 49'40 N - 04'30 W.

    Crew members were:

    • J. Van Dijke - Captured by the Germans and became a POW
    • H.A. Kaufman - Captured by the Germans and became a POW
    • C. Schot - Captured by the Germans and became a POW
    • C.J. Bank - Missing in Action.

    Sgt Carolus Ludovicus "Charles" van Heugten .     Royal Air Force 320 Sqd.   from Netherlands)

    (d.22nd Nov 1942)

    Carlus Ludovicus van Heugten was my wife's uncle. He was from a family of military pilots. His brother Fons was a military pilot in The Netherlands before the war and emigrated to Australia afterwards. His brother Willem, my father in law, got his training in the Netherlands in 1923 at 17 year of age from the first military instructor here, Versteegh. He later on moved to former East Indies (now Indonesia) to serve with the N.I. Navy Airforce. At the Japanese attack he moved to Australia via Broome and from there to the USA to join as flight instructor the Royal Netherlands Military Flying School in Jackson, Mississippi. He ended his carreer as airline pilot with KLM.

    Sgt. Carolus Ludovicus Gerardus Van Heugten .     Royal Air Force 320 Squadron (Netherlands)   from Holland)

    (d.21st Nov 1942)

    On 21st November 1942 the Hudson EW903 of 320 Squadron was lost off the Dutch Coast.

    The crew members were:

    • Sgt. Carolus Ludovicus Gerardus Van Heugten - Missing in Action
    • Sgt. Laurens Abraham Hoogteiling - Missing in Action
    • Lac Jacob De Ligt - Missing in Action
    • Lac Jan Adrianus Den Ouden - Missing in Action

    Pilot Officer Johannes Henricus Josephus Van Loon .     Royal Air Force 320 Squadron (Netherlands)   from Holland)

    (d.9th Nov 1942)

    On 9th November 1942 a Hudson EW912 of 320 squadron failed to return from anti-shipping-patrol and was lost at sea.

    The crew members were:

    • P/O J.H.J. Van Loon - Missing in Action
    • P/O Richard De Boer - Missing in Action
    • Lac Hindrik Jongman BEM - Missing in Action
    • Lac Johan Frederik Mijsberg - Missing in Action

    Johannes Antonius "Joop" van Lunenburg .     Dutch Army (d.24th Jan 1944)

    Around 1999 I learned from an aunt that I was named after my uncle Joop, Johannes Antonius van Lunenburg as I have same initials. Until then uncle Joop has never been mentioned by neither his four brothers nor his two sisters. Before my mother died at the age of 92 she gave me a picture and an "in memoriam" of Uncle Joop. but no further story and from my side I asked no further questions. Surfing around the internet for my last name I came at the Institute of Genealogie in Holland and to my surprise I found a death certificate of my uncle made in Chech and German language more or less confirming what was on the "in memoriam" and the cause of death, blood poissoned because of etc. It also states that he was a Dutch soldier and in a firm handwriting there is STALAG XIA. In my opinion Stalag means POW camp but how does a dutch soldier get there and why has nobody ever talked about him. I have my thoughts but is it possible to get a story straight?

    Leroy "Bud" Van Natta .     US Army 634th AAA AW Battalion 106th Inf Division

    My father, Leroy (Bud) Van Natta was captured during the battle of the bulge and sent to Stalag 4B, where he spent the remainder of the war. He was in the 634th AAA AW Battalion attached to the 106TH. He mentioned that they used to smuggle in cirgarettes into the camp in the sleeves of there coats. Once he mentioned that an SS Officers' son approached the fence and asked a prisoner for some gum and when the prisoner did not have any the Kid told the guards to shoot the prisoner which they did. If anyone remembers my Dad please let me know.

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