This month I am paying tribute to eight men connected to my family who died in the First and Second World Wars. They were among 104 men connected to my family who died in the two world wars and the 2nd Boer War. Because of other commitments in June, I have been unable to pay tribute to the eight individually on Twitter. So I honour them here together.
William John Elston (1916-1940) died in a devastating attack on the aircraft carrier HMS Glorious in the Second World War. Twenty three-year-old William was a stoker in Glorious when she was sunk by two German battleships in the North Sea on June 8, 1940, with the loss of more than 1,200 lives. The sinking of one of Britain’s largest and fastest aircraft carriers – and of escorting destroyers HMS Ardent and HMS Acasta – was one of the greatest disasters of the war for the Royal Navy. William, a stoker (1st class) is remembered on the Royal Naval Memorial at Plymouth Hoe.
Samuel John Raymont (1898-1916) died from a lung illness in Egypt in the Great War. Samuel, a private in the 2/4th Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment, was just 18 when he died of empyema – almost certainly caused by pneumonia – at the British Army’s 17th General Hospital in Alexandria on June 10, 1916. He was buried at the Alexandria (Hadra) War Memorial Cemetery in Egypt.
Philip William Rayment (1913-1945) took his life in the final months of the Second World War – after killing his wife and two young children. Philip, aged 32, shot his family with a German pistol he had borrowed from his soldier cousin before turning the gun on himself on June 13, 1945. It was never established why he had murdered his wife Doris and daughters, Valerie, aged four, and Linda, aged two at their home in Islington, London. Philip had been a private in the Royal Army Medical Corps for about three months and was stationed at Aldershot. He was expecting a posting to Burma at the time of the tragedy. He is commemorated at Islington Cemetery.
David Powell (1878-1917) died of heart failure while serving in Mesopotamia (Iraq) during the Great War. David, a driver in the Army Service Corps, died at the British Military Hospital in Basra on June 14, 1917. He was 38. His service records show that he was suffering from acute dilatation of the stomach – chronic enlargement of the gastric cavity – and heart failure when he was admitted to the hospital ten days before his death. A report by his captain said that David’s death was ‘due to active service’. A driver at the ASC’s mechanical transport base depot, he was a taxi driver and living in Albert Road, Weston-Super-Mare when he enlisted in September 1915. David was buried at Basra War Cemetery. In November 2013 it was revealed that the cemetery had been completely destroyed, with all 4,000 headstones knocked down and broken by looters and vandals.
Cecil Sharland (1917-1941) was a sergeant in the Royal Artillery when he died in hospital in London during the Second World War. Newlywed Cecil was 23 when he died on June 15, 1941 in Woolwich after an operation for goitre (a swelling of the thyroid gland). He was buried in St Michael’s Churchyard in Milverton, Somerset.
Herbert Walter Kingdom (1899-1918) was just 19 when he died as a prisoner of war in Germany on June 15, 1918. Herbert was a private in the 1/5th Battalion of the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry when he lost his life. He was buried in Cologne Southern Cemetery in Germany four days after his death and is remembered on the War Memorial at the Church of St Thomas the Canterbury in Puddington, Devon.
David Leslie Jones (1916-1940) was 23 when he died in the worst maritime disaster in British history – the sinking of the troopship Lancastria in the Second World War. David, a lance-bombardier in the Royal Artillery, was among at least 4,000 men, women and children who lost their lives when the ship was attacked by a German bomber on June 17, 1940 and sank in just 20 minutes. More than 6,000 were on board the former Cunard liner as she took part in the evacuation of troops and British civilians from France – just nine days after the miraculous rescue of 338,000 soldiers from the beaches of Dunkirk. David’s body was among dozens washed up on the coast at Saint Nazaire in France. He was buried at the nearby Escoublac-la-Baule Cemetery. David served in 158 Battery of the 53rd (City of London) Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment of the Royal Artillery.
Alfred Bishop (1890-1915) died at Devonport Military Hospital on June 25, 1915 while serving in the Great War as a corporal in the 1st Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment. The Devon and Exeter Gazette reported that he had had been home ‘recuperating from a wound received on Hill 60’ (a battleground near Ypres). The newspaper said: ‘Since then he had been with a recruiting party and contracted measles, to which pneumonia and bronchitis supervened. He was at the Front all through last winter and no doubt the ordeal there weakened his constitution.’ In May 1915, The Devon and Exeter Gazette reported that 24-year-old Alfred had been in St Mary’s Hospital in Southend-on-Sea after being ‘slightly wounded in the right shoulder’. At the time he was wounded, he was attached to the Maxim gun section of the 1st Devons. Alfred was buried at Weston Mill Cemetery, Plymouth.
Herbert Walter Kingdom (1899-1918), who died as a prisoner of war in Germany (picture supplied by Anita Kingdom).
Corporal Alfred Bishop’s war grave at Weston Mill Cemetery, Plymouth. Picture by Julia&Keld.