BALLYMENA 1914-1918

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Second World War Names - Panel 7

Panel 7
Ross, 215468 Painter Harry (Henry), Naval Auxiliary Personnel (Merchant Navy), age 33, died when HMS Dasher was destroyed by a mysterious explosion while it was on the River Clyde on the 27th March 1943. He was the son of Matthew and Margaret Ross, of Ballymena, Co. Antrim. He is remembered on Liverpool Naval Memorial.
HMS Dasher was an Avenger Class Escort Carrier. She was built at Sun Shipbuilding, Chester. Pennsylvania. USA, as mercantile Rio de Janeiro. She was converted to an aircraft carrier and re-named BAVG-5, being transferred to the Royal Navy on completion and commissioned on the 1st of July 1942.
HMS Dasher saw action in the North African landings, Operation Torch in November 1942, carrying the Sea Hurricanes of 835 squadron. She also saw action in the Russian convoys to Murmansk.
On March 27th, 1943 HMS Dasher, mysteriously exploded in the Clyde. She sank within eight minutes with the loss of 379 lives; only 149 of those on board survived. Two small coastal vessels Gragsman and Lithium, and the radar training ship, Isle of Sark, along with the French La Capricieuse managed to rescue survivors from the blazing oil covered sea.
In 1993 memorial to the men who lost their lives was dedicated at Ardrossan.

Leith-Ross (or Ross), 1487121 Sergeant (Flight Engineer) Thomas, 408 (RCAF) Squadron, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, died age 19 years on the 13 June 1943. Halifax II of 408 Squadron, serial JB790, code EQ-V was lost on a mission to Bochum from RAF Leeming, Yorkshire on the 12/13th (Saturday/Sunday) June 1943. The plane was flown by J/9688 Flight Lieutenant (pilot) George Russell Large, RCAF. He became POW 1502 at Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria.
The remaining crew were 1487121 Sergeant (Flight Engineer) Thomas Leith-Ross, RAFVR, killed; R/121901 Sergeant Albert Frederick Rayment, RCAF, later POW No: 230 at Stalag Lemsdorf; J/20816 Flying Officer (Air Bomber) Francis Lloyd Milburn, RCAF, killed; R/133514 Sergeant (Wireless Operator & Air Gunner) Norman Bainblatt, RCAF, later POW No: 25 at Stalag Lemsdorf; R/96860 Sergeant (Air Gunner) Joseph Elland Forest, RCAF, later POW No: 30 at Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria; and R/137936 Sergeant (Air Gunner) David Hester Hutchinson, RCAF, later POW No: 174 at Stalag Lemsdorf.
The aircraft was one on 12 from RAF Leeming, Yorkshire which took off at 2339 hrs. to join a massive attack by 503 aircraft on Bochum. Weather conditions were favourable, there being small amounts of cloud, moderate visibility and a half moon. Some 24 aircraft failed, though just one from RAF Leeming, failed to return home. Halifax II, JB790 had been was shot down at 15,000 ft over Sellen, 3 km North West of Burgsteinfurt, by Hptm. Egmont Prinz zur Lippe Weissenfeld. He along with his crew were later killed on 12th March 1944 in the Belgian Ardennes during a transit flight in bad weather. He was credited with 49 kills.
The Master of the Schutzpolizei’s police report on the incident says the plane was shot down at about 13.30 hrs and crashed near a house and burned out almost completely. The plane apparently dropped its bombs shortly before the crash on farmland near Veltrup and one of these bombs exploded near the high voltage power line and cut it. It says three enemy flyers were captured around the city area of Emsdetten, and that another flyer landed by parachute in the Bauernschaft area. Some flyers the report said had still not captured, but he knew one flyer was burned in the plane. Another dead flyer was found in the woods between Werdeling and Palstring at Stellen.
The parents of Sergeant (Flight Engineer) Thomas Leith-Ross were James and Alexander Ross of Carclinty, Craigs, Cullybackey. He is interred in Reichswald Forest War Cemetery, Germany.

Rowan, 1111475 Sergeant Thomas Edward, RAFVR, was aboard a Wellington III bomber, serial number X3724 and code KO-T, of 115 Squadron that was lost on a raid of the 3/4 June 1942. The aircraft took off from RAF Marham at 23.28hrs, its target the city of Bremen, Germany. It crashed in the North Sea off Texel, Netherlands after it was intercepted and shot down by a German night-fighter -The Wellington crashed south-east of Vlieland, and all five crew were killed.
The full crew were R/75946 Flight Sergeant Jack Leon Hutchison, RCAF, the 25 year old pilot, from Niagara, Ontario, Canada (His body washed ashore between Oudeschild and Nieuweschild on 12 June 1942 at 1900 hrs and was recovered for burial in Texel (Den Burg) General Cemetery); 1057220 Sergeant (Wireless Operator and Air Gunner) Terence Allen McGrath, RAFVR, aged 20 and from Hull (His body was recovered from the sea near Oudeschild on 4 June 1942 at 0730 hrs and he is buried in Texel (Den Burg) General Cemetery); 1083914 Sergeant John Turner Plant, RAFVR, (20) from Oncham, Isle of Man; 1111475 Sergeant Thomas Edward Rowan, RAFVR, 20 and from Patrick Place, Harryville, Ballymena;  and 1286585 Sergeant Eric Roland Harding, RAFVR, aged 18 and from Gravesend, Kent.
One hundred and seventy aircraft had flown on the raid, the first large raid against Bremen since October 1941.The initial reports suggested only indifferent bombing results, but Bremen recorded this as a heavy attack, the damage inflicted greater than in previous raids. Housing areas were heavily hit with six streets affected by serious fires. However, damage to the U-boat construction yards and the Focke-Wulf factory were described as superficial. There were hits in the harbour area which damaged a pier, some warehouses and the destroyer Z-25. Eighty-three civilians were killed, over two hundred injured, Bremen’s third heaviest casualty toll in the war.
The Allies lost eleven aircraft, four Wellingtons, two Halifaxes, two Lancasters, two Stirlings and one Manchester. One of those aircraft was Wellington III bomber, serial number X3724 and code KO-T, of 115 Squadron.
Thomas Edward Rowan (Senior) was the son of shoemaker Edward Rowan and his wife was Ellen Erwin, of Patrick Place, Ballymena Co. Antrim. Two families, Erwins and Rowans, had lived at adjacent houses in Patrick Place, as indicated on the 1911 census; the Erwins had been living at Dunclug, the opposite end of town, in 1901. The couple had married at Harryville Presbyterian Church, Ballymena on the 22 July 1911. Thomas Edward (Snr) was then described as a pork curer. Their son, also Thomas Edward Rowan, was born about 1922.
Thomas is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.

Rowan, 993604 Aircraftman 1st Class William Erwin (‘Ervine’ on registration of the birth), Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, older brother James Edward Rowan and born on 20th September 1917 at Patrick Place, Harryville, Ballymena, died aged 23 years on the 5th August 1943.
William was serving with the RAF at Singapore when the Japanese invaded. The fighting at Singapore lasted from 8 to 15 February 1942, and came after the two months during which Japanese forces had advanced down the Malayan Peninsula. 130,000 British, Indian and Australian troops taken by the Japanese in their Malayan Campaign, Churchill calling it the "worst disaster" in British military history.
Many of these British and Australian soldiers were taken to Singapore's Changi Prison where many died. Thousands of others were shipped on prisoner transports known as "hell ships" to other parts of Asia, including Japan, to be used as forced labour on projects such as the Siam–Burma Death Railway and Sandakan airfield in North Borneo. POWs who fell into Japanese hands in North and Central Sumatra were also transported to Burma, and many of these too were put to work on the Burma-Siam railway. During its construction, approximately 13,000 prisoners of war, including British, Dutch and Australian servicemen, died and were buried along the railway where they fell. They were concentrated and reburied in three larger cemeteries.
William Erwin Rowan died on 5th of August 1943 and is one of 1,379 casualties commemorated in the Chungkai (also Chonk-Kai) War Cemetery which was built on the same spot as the notorious POW camp.
Three of Thomas E. Rowan senior's step-brothers also died in war. 18/319 Serjeant Samuel, 12th Royal Irish Rifles, died of wounds on 24 November 1917. He was born on the 2 December 1894 at Springwell Street in Ballymena and enlisted in Ballymena. He was the son of shoemaker William John Currie and Jane Henry. Widower William John Currie had married widow Jane Henry, formerly wife of Edward Rowan, on the 22 October 1889, his first wife having died of typhus fever at Mill Row/Robert Street on 25 May 1886. Samuel’s brothers, James and John Currie also died.
251217 Sergeant James Currie, 1/6th Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, died of wounds in a casualty clearing station (gassed) on 30 October 1917. He was born on the 18 June 1877 at Robert Street, Ballymena and was the son of William Currie and Mary Jane Blair (Died 25th May 1886 and aged 45 years). He enlisted in Paisley, Scotland. He is buried Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, Belgium.
3514 Private John Currie, 2nd Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, was killed in action on 16 May 1915 and he is named on the Le Touret Memorial, France. John Curry (sic) was born on the 13 December 1874 at Robert Street, Ballymena and was the son of William Currie and Mary Jane Blair. He had enlisted in Belfast.
Their sister lived at 8 Patrick Place, Harryville, Ballymena.

Russell, 6983747 Fusilier Thomas, 2nd Btn. Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers died on the 21 January 1944.
The 2nd Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, as part of 5th Division, fought in the retreat to Dunkirk in June 1940, the capture of Madagascar in 1942 and fought throughout the Sicilian and Italian campaigns from 1943 to 1945.
At the conclusion of the brief Sicilian campaign, 2nd Inniskillings landed on the European mainland at Reggio on the 'toe' of Italy on 3 September, where initially they met no opposition. In the next fifteen days the Battalion advanced 240 miles on foot, by road and by landing craft. The town of Isernia was a vital point that was heavily defended by the Germans and after much aggressive patrolling the town was taken.
However, the 5th Division then faced the Gustav Line where it guarded the approach to Rome in the Garigliano Valley. A silent night attack across the river was planned for the night of 17 January 1944, but in spite of impeccable planning, the assault was opposed, and very heavy casualties were sustained. The Battalion did not finally achieve its objective until two days later. It was in the aftermath of this that Russell was killed.
He was married to Agnes Russell, and his parents, Samuel and Emily Russell, lived at Garfield Place, Ballymena. They had married in Ahoghill Church of Ireland on the 26th May 1911. Samuel, aged 21, and his bride Emily Balmer 919) both came from Drumrankin, Cullybackey. He is buried in Minturno War cemetery, Italy.

Saunderson, 157140 Flying Officer (Air Gunner) Christopher William, 76th Squadron, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, died on the 13 May 1944. He was an Air Gunner on board RAF 76 Squadron’s Handley-Page Halifax MX575 MP-W that took off at 2225hrs on 12th May 1944 from RAF Holme-on-Spalding Moor, Yorkshire. It was taking part in a bombing mission against a railway marshalling yards at Hasselt, Belgium. The raid cost the Royal Air Force 9 Halifaxes and 1 Lancaster, but the accuracy of the bombing was poor and damage slight; many of the bombs landed in open fields. Saunderson’s aircraft was one of those lost, shot down over Hadschot near Geel, Belgium by Oberleutnant Frederick Tober of 8/NJG2.  The plane crashed into the ground at 0037hrs.
The bomber crew were of the aircraft were as follows: 135399 Flying Officer (Pilot) Jack Newcombe, MID, RAFVR, 67050 Squadron Leader (Navigator) Nathanial Leslie Shove, DFC, RAFVR; 149983 Flying Officer (Flight Engineer) Alan John Crouch, DFM, RAFVR; 138825 Flying Officer (Air Bomber) Charles Hume Stewart, DFC, RAFVR; 978731 Flying Officer (Wireless Operator / Air Gunner ) Harold Downs Reeder, DFC,  RAFVR; 988635 Flight Sergeant (Air Gunner) Roy Reading, RAFVR; and 157140 Flying Officer (Air Gunner) Christopher William Saunderson, RAFVR. Reeder and Reading survived the crash.
Christopher William Saunderson’s grave is in Schooselhof Cemetery, Antwerp, Belgium, though the dead were first buried at Antwerpen-Deurne Cemetery on 15th May 1944. Saunderson’s name is also on a war memorial at St. Mary’s Church of Ireland, Donnybrook, Dublin.
His parents were Captain William Robert Saunderson, MC, a 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Irish Fusiliers at the time of his son’s birth on the 26th October 1916 and then living at 32, Victoria Avenue, Dublin, and Mrs. Isabella Saunderson, nee Graham, later of Rosebank, Cushendall Road, Ballymena. His father had been born at Farnaconnell, near Lisnaskea, Co Fermanagh on the 7 October 1893 and he was the son of Eliza Catherine Sanderson (sic).

Scott, 7011203 Rifleman William John, 2nd Btn. Royal Ulster Rifles died on the 9th June 1944. He is buried in Cambes-en-Plaine War Cemetery, France.
Scott was killed in the taking of Cambe on the 9th June 1944. The action began at 1515 hours on the 9th June when 'A' and 'B' Companies of 2nd Royal Ulster Rifles crossed the start line and were soon followed into battle by the Battalion O Group behind 'A' Company. They reached the ridge that lay some 1100 yards from their objective, and, now visible, came under a heavy barrage of mortar, shell and machine gun fire. The men remained calm and advanced through this seemingly impassable barrage, but took casualties.
The advance nevertheless succeeded. 'A' Company reached their Company objective, as did 'B' Company on the right, even though they came under heavy mortar and machine gun fire from their flank, from about 400 yards from the front of their first objective. Indeed, 'A' and 'B' Companies had reached their first objective by 1630 hours, and 10 Platoon, passed through them to take the church, their objective. 'C' Company had also fought their way through the wood to their final objective, too.
'D' Company was sadly depleted, but went through 'B' Company, and almost immediately, two more of its remaining three officers were wounded. The unit kept going forward for had 'D' Company failed, it is possible that the enemy could have used that portion of the village and wood to make a dangerous counter attack. In this battle 'D' Company lost a further two killed, fifteen wounded, and one missing.
Whilst consolidating against a probable counter attack, the enemy subjected 2nd Royal Ulster Rifles and the position they held to a vicious attack of mortar and shell fire which lasted for five hours, so that the digging in was carried out under the greatest difficulties.
At the end of the day, the Battalion’s total casualties were three Officers and forty-one Other Ranks killed. Somewhere among the dead was 7011203 William John Scott.

Shaw, 7018861 Lance Corporal Frederick, 1st Btn. King’s Own Scottish Borderers died age 22 on the 19 July 1944. He is buried in Banneville-La-Campagne War cemetery, France. His father was Mr. John Shaw (father) of Harryville, Ballymena.

Shaw, 2992044 Private Samuel, 1st Btn. Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders died age 23 on the 15th May 1944. He was the husband of Elizabeth (Lily) Shaw of Tullygarley, father of Desmond and Thomas.  Thomas grew up to be the Rev. Thomas Shaw.

Samuel's parents were Andrew and Margaret Shaw.

He is buried in Cassino War Cemetery, Italy.

Reverend Thomas Shaw & his wife Mabel with Lily (Elizabeth) Shaw.
Lily is buried in Ballymena Cemetery, Toome Road.
Simpson, 1045724 Sergeant (Air Bomber) John Johnston, 12th Squadron, RAFVR died age 26 on the 15th June 1943.
RAF Wickenby, the home of No. 12 Squadron at the time of Simpson’s death, was situated near Langworth in Lincolnshire, and after the winter of 1942/43 No. 12 Squadron was using Lancaster III aircraft.  The squadron was in the thick of the air war against Germany, and 12 Squadron suffered the second highest percentage losses in Bomber Command. 1080 lives were lost from the base, Sergeant J J Simpson being one of them.
Simpson’s aircraft was Lancaster III, serial W4992, code GZ-A and the official record, the Operations Record Book, shows that the crew joined RAF Wickenby from 1656 CU (Conversion Unit, a training unit) on the 6th May 1943. They flew to bomb Bochum, their first raid, on the 13th May and then W992, GZ-A flew on raids to Dusseldorf on the 11th June and to Bochum on the 12th June, before going on the raid on the night of the 14/15th June 1943.
Oberhausen was the target for 197 Lancasters and 6 Mosquitoes on the night of the 14-15th June 1943, and 19 of that total set out from RAF Wickenby’s 12 Squadron. The target was cloud-covered but the Oboe sky-marking (Mosquitoes guided by Oboe marked the targets with coloured parachute flares) was accurate, and the report from Oberhausen says that the Germans noted the markers right over the top of the Altstadt. The raid completely shattered 267 buildings and 584 were seriously damaged. 85 people were killed and 258 were injured. 17 Lancasters lost, 8.4 per cent of the attacking force; one was Lancaster III (W4992 GZ-A). Hit by flak when approaching the target, the aircraft exploded and crashed near Stadfriedhof.
The crew was 416633 Flight Sergeant (Pilot) William John Tucker, RAAF; 1045724 Sergeant (Air Bomber) John Johnston Simpson; 1313708 Sergeant Brinley Davies; 39570 Sergeant (Flight Engineer) Frank Gordon McKay, RNZAF; 1088071 Sergeant (Air Gunner) Reginald Fletcher, and 1300587 Sergeant (Rear Gunner) Thomas Carter. Pilot Officer (Navigator) K Truelove, the only crew member to survive the action, was taken as a POW.
He was the son of Thomas and Rachel M Simpson of Grovehill, Bally, Ballymena. He is buried in Rheinberg War Cemetery, Germany.

Simpson, 5773490 Private Joseph, 7th Btn. Royal Norfolk Regiment died on the 13 April 1943 and aged 22 years.  He is buried in Poznan Old Garrison Cemetery, Poland.

Sloan, P/JX 189420 Ordinary Seaman James, was serving on HMS Gloucester, Royal Navy, when he died in her sinking on the 22nd May 1941. He was the 19-year-old son of Margaret Sloan, of Ahoghill, Co. Antrim. He is commemorated on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial.
HMS Gloucester was a town class British cruiser. On the 12th May 1941 she was deployed to the Mediterranean Fleet in support of reinforcement convoys to the Crete garrison. On the 13th May the ship went to Heraklion with HMS Fiji and took troops to Crete. Thereafter, HMS Gloucester joined Force B and with HMS Fiji carried out in attacks on invasion convoys near Crete.
German paratroopers nevertheless landed on Crete on 20 May [Operation Merkur], and HMS Gloucester was allocated to Force C that was tasked with prohibiting any efforts to reinforce the German forces on Crete. On 22 May, while in the Kythira Strait, about 14 miles north of Crete, she was attacked shortly before 1400 hrs by German JU87s, the Stukas of StG 2, as were the light cruiser HMS Fiji and the destroyer HMS Greyhound. The latter was sunk, and the two cruisers were each hit by 250-kilogram (550 lb) bombs, but not fatally damaged. Two other destroyers were ordered to recover the survivors while the two cruisers covered the rescue efforts.
Gloucester was attacked almost immediately and sustained three more hits and three near-misses and began sinking. The crippled ship soon lay dead in the water, on fire and listing to port. The ´Abandon Ship´ order was given and she sank at 1715hrs. HMS Fiji, under heavy fire and forced to retreat, dropped rafts as it passed HMS Gloucester. She was unable to stop and was herself sunk within a few hours.
The 5th Destroyer Flotilla was dispatched to search for survivors of both the Gloucester and the Fiji in the evening but was diverted to bombard Maleme airfield on Crete before reaching the search area. It was the Germans who belatedly picked up survivors and brought them to Kythira. Of the 807 men aboard HMS Gloucester at the time of her sinking, only 85 survived to reach shore. Two died shortly after being brought to land.
The sinkings are now viewed as not quite an unavoidable consequence of enemy action. It has been alleged that military chiefs blundered by splitting the cruisers from the main fleet and sending HMS Gloucester back into action when it was low on ammunition. They needed a full supply for on 30 May 1941, in a letter to the First Sea Lord, Sir Dudley Pound, Cunningham wrote, "The sending back of Gloucester and Fiji to the Greyhound was another grave error and cost us those two ships…. The Commanding Officer of Fiji told me that the air over Gloucester was black with planes." Sending HMS Gloucester, low on fuel and anti-aircraft ammunition, less than 20% remaining, into danger was undoubtedly a "grievous error". There are also concerns about why, contrary to usual naval practice, a vessel was not sent under cover of darkness to rescue survivors. The fleet commander was heavily criticised away from public gaze for the decisions made and was removed from his command and sent to an office posting.
Smith, Lieutenant Donald Hector Tresham, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, HMS Penn, died of illness and aged 24 on the 9th January 1944. He was the son of Robert Fergus Smith and Anna Dora Amy Smith, of Ballymena, Co. Antrim. He is buried in Alexandria (Hadra) War Memorial Cemetery.
He had had a good career, though sadly a short one. He was in 1939 at HMS President for training on Pilot Course No. 6, RN College, Greenwich, was based at HMS Pembroke, Chatham, then attended No 23 Elementary Flying Training School, Belfast. He went at the turn of the year to HMS Daedalus and RN Air Station, Lee on Solent and No1 Flying Training School; it was there that his wings were awarded and soon after he was transferred to RNVR. He was at HMS King Alfred, the RNVR officers’ training establishment, when he volunteered for service at the Dunkirk evacuation. He returned to HMS President for ‘special service’ before going to HMS Nimrod (Campbeltown) for anti-submarine training, and then onward to HMS Defiance, the torpedo school at Plymouth. He went to the destroyer HMS Forester and participated in the assault on Dakar, Operation Menace, September 1940, an interesting and largely forgotten event in WW2.
After the defeat of France and the conclusion of the armistice between France and Nazi Germany in June 1940, there was considerable confusion about the allegiance of the French navy and the French colonies. Indeed, the possibility that the French fleet might come under Nazi control led the British to sink the French Fleet at Mers-el-Kebir on 3 July 1940, an incident still resented by the French. While the British had eliminated that potential threat, the attack discouraged other units from joining the Free French and Allies.
De Gaulle, however, believed that he could persuade French forces in Dakar to join the Allies. Another Vichy French colony changing sides would have political significance, and moreover, the gold reserves of the Banque de France and the Polish government in exile were stored in Dakar. The Royal Navy knew the port of Dakar was far superior as a naval base to Freetown, which was the only Allied port in the area.
The Allies decided to send a taskforce to Dakar: an aircraft carrier (HMS Ark Royal), two battleships (HMS Resolution and HMS Barham), five cruisers, ten destroyers, and several transports carrying 8,000 troops (the 10st Brigade of the Royal Marines and the 13th demi-brigade of the French Foreign Legion). Their orders were to negotiate with the French governor for a peaceful occupation, but if this was unsuccessful, to take the city by force.
The Vichy French would not surrender, and largescale action resulted. Overall, the Battle of Dakar did not go well for the Allies. HMS Resolution was so heavily damaged she had to be towed to Cape Town. During most of this conflict, bombers of the Vichy French Air Force, based in North Africa, bombed the British base at Gibraltar. Ultimately, the Allies withdrew, leaving Dakar and French West Africa in Vichy hands.
Smith survived the debacle and then served aboard the destroyer HMS Foresight in the guarding of convoys to Malta. He was back in England for a time thereafter and then joined destroyer HMS Penn on the 7th January 1942. He appears to have been the gunnery officer in the transmitting station and was involved in the landings in North Africa, Sicily, and Salerno and his ship was supporting operations in the Aegean Sea in late 1943.
Smith’s death on the 9th January 1944 was a tragedy for the Royal Navy as well as the family.