The Risk Management Tool Box Blog

We mark the passing of British War Hero's

Graham Marshall - Sunday, October 07, 2012

Today, we mark the passing of four quite remarkable men.  All four are British hero's in our eye's and their stories are each, simply astonishing. 

They are:

Charlie Daley, who has died aged 98, was one of the last survivors of the infamous massacre that took place at Wormhout, close to the Franco-Belgian border, in 1940 during the withdrawal to Dunkirk.  90 British Soldiers were murdered in a barn by German's using grenades and machine guns. To read more about this remarkable man, click here.

Lieutenant-Colonel Gretton Foster, who has died aged 94, was a soldier, farmer and field sportsman who was awarded a DSO and an MC in the Burma Campaign against the Japanese in WW II.  His obituary can be found here.

Commander Bill King, who has died aged 102, was the only man to be in command of a British submarine on the first and last days of the Second World War; he later circumnavigated the globe solo at his third attempt, passing five of the great capes.  An inspiring life story, read it here.

Finally, Ian Urquhart, who has died aged 92, was awarded an immediate Military Cross at the battle of Imphal and, after the Second World War, spent 18 years in Sarawak as a colonial officer.  His obituary can be found here.

Vale Flt Lt Donald Charlwood

Graham Marshall - Sunday, August 26, 2012

Flight Lieutenant Don Charlwood has died aged 96.

Flt Lt Charlwood is an Australian war hero who flew as a navigator in Lancaster bombers during WWII.

He wrote two classic accounts of the experiences of the young men serving with Bomber Command - No Moon Tonight and Journeys into Night. Together, these vivid and moving accounts are considered among the finest works on the experience of the air war over Germany.
Donald Ernest Cameron Charlwood was born on September 6th in 1915 near Melbourne.  He spent his childhood in Frankston, Victoria, attending the local high school.

Don Charlwood joined No 103 Squadron at Elsham Wolds in Lincolnshire in 1942.

The squadron was equipped with the Lancaster Bomber.

Over coming months, Flt Lt Charlwood and his crew attacked many major industrial cities, including Turin, Munich, Essen and Berlin.

Opposition from the Nazi's was intense, and on almost every occasion at least one crew from No 103 failed to return.

Flt Lt Charlwood was fortunate to have survived his tour of operations.

Of the 20 men who had qualified as navigators with him, only five survived the war.

At the end of his tour with No 103, Charlwood was commissioned and became an instructor at a bomber training unit.

In February 1944 he was repatriated to Australia, where he served for the rest of the war.

On his return to civilian life, Charlwood worked for 30 years as an air traffic controller, first at Melbourne airport, then as a selection and training officer.

In 1992 he was appointed as a Member of the Order of Australia .

For many years Charlwood was an active advocate for a memorial to the 55,500 men who died in Bomber Command, and he asked a friend to represent him at the recent dedication by the Queen of the Bomber Command Memorial in London.

He died just 10 days before the ceremony.

Don Charlwood married Nell East, a Canadian schoolteacher, in 1944; she survives him with their son and three daughters.

Saluting our Hero's

Graham Marshall - Monday, July 16, 2012

Wing Commander Gordon Hughes has died at the age of 94.  Read his obituary here.  Born into a Quaker family,  Hughes flew unarmed reconnaissance aircraft over German-occupied Europe at great risk to his personal safety from flak and German Interceptors.  He flew a remarkable 192 sorties across Europe between 1941 and the end of the war.  He was seriously injured in a crash landing 2 days before the end of World War II. 

Count Robert de La Rochefoucauld has died aged 88 years.  Read his fascinating life-story here.  A French Aristocrat, Count de La Rochefoucauld escaped from occupied France to join the Special Operations Executive (SOE).  After training in Britain, he parachuted back on sabotage missions against the German's where he was twice captured and faced execution.  Thankfully, he escaped on both occasions, once dressed as a Nazi guard.

Ron Jewell, who has died aged 89, was the last of the eight Welshmen who served with Popski’s Private Army. Read his obituary here.

Commander George "Mac" Rutherford.  Read about him here.

Tom Neill.  Read about him here.

Very brave men, one and all.


Accidents in the Battle of Britain

Graham Marshall - Sunday, July 15, 2012

In his excellent work "A Most Dangerous Enemy" (2009), Stephen Bungy reports that during the first month of the Battle of Britain air war in July 1940, 47 of 162 British fighter aircraft which were destroyed that month were lost due to accidental causes rather than enemy action by the German's. 

At the same time, of the 174 British fighter aircraft which were damaged in July - but repairable - 68 were due to accidental causes.  Those figures do not include four further machines which were destroyed by "friendly-fire" causes.

These figures show that almost 18 per cent of the RAFs front-line fighter capability was temporarily or permanently out of action due to accidental causes.

The accidents were due to a number of factors, but included reasons which any OHS Professional would be familiar with today.  These include:

+   Inadequate supervision by commanders pre-occupied by other duties;

+   Taxi-ing accidents due to movement of planes on the ground in marginal weather conditions;

+   Lack of procedures causing pilots to land without the undercarriage being down;

+  No audible/visual alarm showing status of undercarriage when landing (equipment status not known);

+  Inexperienced pilots (inexperienced equipment operators);

+   Mechanical failures; and

+   Flying in unfamiliar circumstances (night flying).

Stephen Bungy records that fully one quarter of all accidents, including six fatal accidents occurred with inexperienced pilots practising night-flying.











Our Tribute to Fallen Hero's

Graham Marshall - Thursday, June 07, 2012

I'd like to pay tribute today to four very real hero's who have recently passed away, and to whom Englishmen everywhere owe a debt of gratitude.

I doubt we will see their likes again in our lifetime.

First is Gunnar Sonsteby, who has died aged 94.  Gunnar was one of Norway’s most decorated war heroes, chief of operations for the underground resistance and sole surviving member of the "Oslo Gang" - a team of saboteurs led by Max Manus.

Second is Major Ian Smith, who has died aged 92.  Major Smith won two Military Crosses while serving with the Commandos, the Special Operations Executive and the Special Boat Squadron in the war against the Nazi's.

Thirdly, I'd like to pay tribute to Lieutenant Claude Holloway, who has died aged 92.  Lieutenant Holloway survived a mustard gas blast in the only chemical weapons explosion in the Second World War.

Finally is Corporal Ian Harris, who has died aged 92.  Corporal Harris was an Austrian-born soldier awarded the Military Medal as a British commando in north-west Europe in April 1945. 

At his funeral a Royal Marine bugler sounded the Last Post. The service ended with his son Mark carrying out his Father’s orders by loudly proclaiming: “Up yours, Hitler!”




A life worth remembering

Graham Marshall - Sunday, May 27, 2012

Major Dick Williams, who has died aged 91, was one of the first British soldiers into Belsen, the Nazi concentration camp.

As the second World War neared its end, Williams was in a reconnaissance party  whose task it was to ascertain the conditions in Belsen which was in the direct line of the Allied advance.

Travelling in jeeps with white flags hoisted along the Bergen road from Celle, their final reference point was a small cutting in a dense plantation of fir trees leading to a side road. There were no signs or markings, but 30 meters along the road there was a gaurd post manned by an armed soldier who raised the barrier to let them pass.

Williams and his team had to check the supplies of food and water but they had to move carefully because, covering the ground throughout the camp, were inmates with emaciated faces, shaven heads and sunken eyes, some lying on the ground, some hanging on to the barbed wire for support, some trying to stand.

There were piles of dead bodies everywhere. Dazed, apathetic figures, dressed in rags, wandered aimlessly around. The stench of putrefaction hung over the camp, an acrid haze obscured the sun and the silence was oppressive.

There was no food, water or fuel in the camp. All Williams could find in the five cookhouses were 50lb of rotten turnips. When two of the inmates tried to approach him, the SS guards knocked them out of their path.

Williams returned to Corps HQ and reported that food and fresh water had to be found for thousands and that thousands more lay dead and had to be buried. The next day, Williams was able to lead the first food convoy into the camp.

Solid food had to be turned into something like soup for shrunken stomachs; tea could be distributed only in small amounts. The British units had the dreadful task of trying to separate the living from the dead, for both were lying side by side.

An anti-tank regiment was put in charge of the SS, who had the task of collecting all the dead bodies, loading them on to trailers and taking them to the mass burial trenches. Some of the SS tried to escape through the barbed wire and were shot.

Their colleagues were ordered to retrieve their bodies and load them on to the trailer to be buried with the rest. It was a ghastly operation. “How our gunners managed to stay sane, I will never know,” Williams said afterwards.

On a search of the surrounding area, Williams found a deserted Army barracks a mile away with a storehouse of cereals and a bakery in full working order. He asked why it was that the SS had not made use of these to feed their prisoners and was told simply that they had not been prepared to do so.

William Richard Williams, the son of a clergyman, was born at Peterson Super Ely, Glamorgan, on August 23 1920 and educated at Wrekin College. He left school early to take up an apprenticeship with Austin Motor Company but was called up on the outbreak of war and joined the RASC.

He landed in Normandy on D-Day and remained with 8 Corps as they pushed eastward, providing transport and supplies to the advancing Allied forces. After the war, he rejoined Austin and spent four years in Canada and the Far East as its advertising manager.

He stayed in the automobile industry and with Austin as it went through its many changes of name, but in 1981 he had quadruple heart bypass surgery, a pioneering operation at that time, and was forced to retire. He was told that he might survive for 10 years; in the event, he lived for more than 30.

He used this reprieve to educate a rising generation about the Holocaust and became involved with the Imperial War Museum and the Jewish community at home and overseas.

At the Holocaust Memorial Day Service at Westminster Hall in 2005 a BBC film was shown which recounted the return to Belsen of Susan Pollock, who survived the deportations from Hungary in 1944. She was accompanied to the camp by Williams, and the part that he had played 60 years earlier received wide coverage in the press and led to many speaking engagements.

He was a quiet, modest man but felt it his duty to reach out to as wide an audience as possible so that others would never have to witness what he had seen.

Dick Williams married, in 1954, Jean Wilson, who survives him with their son and daughter.

Last of the Original SAS

Graham Marshall - Sunday, February 12, 2012

Jimmy Storie , who has died aged 92, was the last surviving member of “The Originals”.

These were the handful of brave men who, during World War II first joined “L” Detachment, the unit that under the leadership of David Stirling developed into the British Special Air Service (SAS) Regiment.

James Storie, always known as Jimmy, was born at Ayr on December 3 1919.

He left school aged 14 and when war came he joined the Royal Scots Fusiliers.

He then served with 11 (Scottish) Commando before being recruited to “L” Detachment SAS Brigade.

To read more about this amazing, brave man and his exploits against the Germans in WW II, click here.

Vale Colonel Henry Lafont and Captain Jeff Gledhill

Graham Marshall - Sunday, December 04, 2011

Two of our remaining World War Hero's and pilots have recently died, and we'd like to pass on our condolences and gratitude to their respective families for the part they played in maintaining our liberty.

Firstly, Col Henry Lafont, who has died aged 91, made a dramatic escape from Vichy-held Algeria and reached England to fly Hurricanes in the Battle of Britain.

He was the last survivor of the 13 French fighter pilots to fly in the Battle.
On arrival in England, Lafont and his colleagues trained on Hurricanes and were sent to a squadron in Northern Ireland.

They then joined 615 Squadron at Northolt, from where they flew patrols during the Battle of Britain.

Col Lafont flew more than 100 patrols during the Battle of Britain and was credited with shooting down two enemy aircraft.

From the Risk Tool Box, we'd like to pay our respects to Col Lafont and recognize his efforts in helping to keep our country safe from the Nazi menace.

Secondly, Captain Jeff Gledhill, who has died aged 90, scored a direct hit when he divebombed the German battleship Tirpitz in Norway, removing the threat it posed to the D-Day landing ins June 1944.

Jeff Gledhill was a sub-lieutenant when he took off from the carrier Victorious in his dive-bomber to attack the the German warship.

On his final approach to the fjord where the Tirpitz was hidden, Gledhill climbed over the mountains and then started a 45 degree dive, before releasing his 1,600lb armour piercing bomb.

The operation was considered a great success: the Nazi battleship was crippled by 15 direct hits, and rendered incapable of interfering with the D-Day landings two months later.

Postwar analysis of Tirpitz showed that Gledhill’s bomb had struck one of Tirpitz’s 15 inch guns.

After further operations in WWII, he was awarded a DSC.

 A very brave man.  Thank you.

Vale our World War II Heroes

Graham Marshall - Sunday, November 06, 2011

Today, Sunday 6th November, I'd like to bring your attention to three war-time hero's who deserve the recognition we owe for their magnificent efforts in the fight for freedom.

Wing Commander Tadeusz Sawicz, who has died aged 97, was the last surviving Polish Battle of Britain fighter pilot.      Read his obituary here.

Lieutenant-Commander Tony Spender, who has died aged 91, was a submarine captain during the Second World War whose coolness under pressure enabled him and his crew to emerge intact after their boat, Sirdar, had made an involuntary dive and buried its bow in mud during sea trials in 1943.  Read his obituary here.

Major John Timothy, who has died aged 97, won three Military Crosses with the Parachute Regiment in the Second World War.  His last was won leading a bayonet charge at the battle of Arnhem.  Read his obituary here.

What magnificent examples of selflessness to the current generation.  Thank you all.

Vale Frederick Cardoza

Graham Marshall - Sunday, October 16, 2011

Frederick Cardozo, who died on October 7 aged 94, was an officer with SOE (Special Operations Executive) and played a key role in the organization and fighting actions of the French Resistance against Nazi forces in the Massif Central immediately before and after D-Day, 1944.

To read his inspirational story in the Telegraph, simply click here.


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