British Military & Criminal History
1900 to 1999.
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Located just off Knightsbridge Road in London's fashionable West End, near Harrods, is St. Paul's Church.
St. Paul's Church (Stephen Stratford 2006).
On the outside of the church, affixed to the wall, is a memorial to those members of the Women's Transport Service (WTS) who gave their lives during World War Two.
The memorial plaque (Stephen Stratford 2006).
First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY)
The FANY was created in 1907 as a first aid link between front-line fighting units and the field hospitals.
During the First World War, FANYs ran field hospitals, drove ambulances and set up soup kitchens and troop canteens, often under highly dangerous conditions. By the Armistice, they had been awarded many decorations for bravery.
At the outbreak of the Second World War, the Corps was called upon to form the nucleus of the Motor Driver Companies of the ATS. Another section was attached to the Polish Army, and a Kenyan unit formed in 1935 also joined the war effort. A spirit of independence led others to join the FANY in the Special Operations Executive.
These women worked on coding and signals, acted as conductors for agents and provided administration and technical support for the Special Training Schools. Their work was top secret and often highly skilled. Members operated in several theatres of war, including North Africa, Italy, India and the Far East.
Since the end of the Second World War, the Corps has been known chiefly for its work in the field of military and civil communications, a legacy of its distinguished wartime record.
In 1999, the FANY was officially renamed the Princess Royal's Volunteer Corps (PRVC), and it is now known as FANY(PRVC).
First World War Commemoration
Just above the main plaque is a smaller plaque commemorating Nurse Evelyn Fidgeon Shaw. She was a nurse who served on the Western Front and died on 24 August 1918. Nurse Shaw, who was awarded the French decoration Croix de Guerre with Palm, is buried in Sezanne Communal Cemetery (grave reference A.40).
Second World War Commemoration
The table below shows their names, rank, age (if known), date of death (as held by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission) and place of commemoration.
Lieutenant Borrel, Ensigns Bloch, Damerment, Leigh, Plewman, Rudellat, Szabo and Volunteer Rawlins on the Brookwood Memorial (Stephen Stratford 2010).
Entry for Volunteer Shepley on the Brookwood Memorial (Stephen Stratford 2010).
Jeanne Shepley was a 25 years' old member of the WTS, from Holmesfield, Derbyshire.
The liner Yorkshire was a 10183 ton vessel built in 1920 by Harland & Wolff. She was equipped with 946 nhp turbine engines, with a maximum speed of 15 knots. Her dimensions were 482.4 x 58.3 x 40.4 feet.
The Yorkshire, Captain Victor Charles Patrick Smalley, with 278 persons onboard including a crew of 160, was torpedoed by a German submarine 700 miles west of Bordeaux on 17 October 1939. A total of 33 passengers and 28 crew lost their lives, including Captain Smalley. Jeanne Shepley and Sophie Edwards (another passenger) were seen by survivors assisting passengers into the lifeboats; neither of these two ladies survived.
The Merchant Navy personnel who died are commemorated on Panel 120 at the Merchant Navy Memorial.
As a member of the ATS, and the Army, Jeanne Shepley is commemorated on the Brookwood Memorial.
Jeanne Shepley's Brother, Pilot Officer Douglas Clayton Shepley, was also killed in World War Two. A Spitfire pilot with 152 squadron, Royal Air Force, his Spitfire was shot down on 12 August 1940. Having no known grave, Pilot Officer Shepley, aged 22 years' old, is commemorated on Panel 10 of the Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede.
The Khedive Ismail
The Khedive Ismail was a 7513 ton vessel built in 1922 by Scott's Shipbuilding & Engineering Company. She was equiped with 1469 nhp turbine engines and could achieve a maximum speed of 17 knots. Her dimensions were 422.8 x 56.2 x 30.4 feet.
The liner was requistitioned from the British India Steam Navigation Company by the Ministry of War Transport, for use as a troop-ship. The vessel was carrying 1,511 people including 178 ships crew, 996 officers and men of the 301st Field Regiment, East African Artillery, 271 Royal Navy personnel and a detachment of 19 British Wrens. Also on board were 53 nursing sisters with one matron and 9 WTS ladies.
While en route from Mombasa (Kenya) to Colombo (Sri Lanka), the ship was torpedoed in the Indian Ocean at 14.33 hours on 12 February 1944, by a Japanese submarine.
It took less than two minutes for the ship to sink taking 1,297 of her passengers and crew with her. The Merchant Navy personnel are commemorated on Panel 60 of the Tower Hill Memorial. There were 214 survivors including six female passengers.
The Ceramic was a 18713 ton vessel built in 1913 by Harland & Wolff. She was equiped with 7750 ihp triple-expansion engines and turbines. Her maximum speed was 15 knots with her dimensions being stated as 655.1 x 69.4 x 43.8 feet.
The Ceramic (Captain H.C. Elford), with 378 passengers and 278 crew, was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U-515 (Capt. Lt. W. Henke), west of the Azores on the night of 6-7 December 1942. Rescue ships from St. Michael's were unable to put to see due to the heavy weather. Only one man survived the sinking: Royal Engineer Sapper A.E. Munday, who was picked up by a German submarine on the following day.
Captain Herbert Charles Elford, who came from Norwich, is commemorated with the other Merchant Navy casualties on Panel 25 of the Tower Hill Memorial.
Ceramic Names: Panel 25 (Stephen Stratford 2006).
Cermaic Names: Panel 26 (Stephen Stratford 2006).
Some months later U-515 was sunk by American destroyers, which captured the commander and 43 of his crew. Capt. Lt. Henke was later killed trying to escape from a POW camp.
Special Operations Executive (SOE) agents.
The SOE was established by Winston Churchill to "... set Europe ablaze ...". The agency, under the Department of Economic Warfare, was divided up into various sections: one for each occupied country. France, being an exception, had two sections: F and RF section.
Lefort and Rolfe on the Air Forces Memorial, Runnymede (Stephen Stratford 2010).
Inayat-Khan, Rowden and Unternahrer on the Air Forces Memorial, Runnymede (Stephen Stratford 2010).
The following agents were taken together to Natzweiler Concentration Camp and executed by lethal injection on 6 July 1944: Borrel (Denise), Leigh (Simone), Sonia Olschanezky and Rowden (Paulette).
The following agents were taken together to Dachau Concentration Camp and executed by shooting on 13 September 1944: Beekman/Unternahrer (Yvonne), Damerment (Solange), Inayat-Khan (Madeleine) and Plewman (Gaby).
The following agents were taken to Ravensbruck Concentration Camp and executed by shooting during the period of 25 January to 5 February 1945: Bloch (Ambroise), Rolfe (Nadine) and Szabo (Louise).
Yvonne Rudellat (Jacqueline) died in the Belsen Camp during April 1945.
Cecily Lefort (Alice) died at Ravensbruck on 1 May 1945, the day after the camp's liberation by Soviet troops.
Muriel Tamara Byck, unlike the other SOE agents on the WTS memorial, has a known grave. She died on 23 May 1944, from meningitis, and is buried in Pornic War Cemetery (grave reference 2.AB.18). She died just six weeks after arriving in France. Pornic is 51 kilometres west-south-west of Nantes and 20 kilometres south-south-east of St Nazaire.
Those SOE agents who had been in the WAAF prior to their secondment to SOE were commemorated on the Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede. Those agents who joined the WTS as cover for their SOE activities were commemorated on the Brookwood Memorial.