On this day in 1940, 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.
The three ships were taking part in the evacuation of Allied forces from Norway when they came under attack from the German battleships, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau.
Glorious, Ardent and Acasta were destroyed in less than three hours.
In all 1,530 British officers and men from the three ships died during and after the attack.
The demise of Glorious was filmed by a crew aboard Scharnhorst and triumphantly displayed to the world days later on Die Deutsche Wochenschau (The German Weekly Show).
William, a stoker (1st class) is remembered on the Royal Naval Memorial at Plymouth Hoe.
A plaque commemorating the loss of Glorious, Ardent and Acasta was unveiled in June 2001 at the Church of St Nicholas at the HM Naval Base Drake, Devonport.
William, born on August 30, 1916 in Crediton, was the son of William John Elston (1893-1976) and Agnes Vile (1890- 1988). William (1893-1976) was the son of Emanuel Elston (1849-1903) and Thirza Nott (1862-1935). Emanuel was the son of William Elston (1813-1885) and Loveday Roberts (1819- 1909). Loveday was the daughter of William Roberts (1791-1875) and Frances Hodge (1796-1873). William was the son of John Roberts (1766-1834) and Elizabeth James (1767-1861). John was the son of William Roberts (1738-), my great-great-great-great-great grandfather.
HMS Glorious, pictured by a Royal Navy photographer. Public domain image, via Wikimedia Commons. Source: Imperial War Museum. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:HMS_Glorious_FL22991.jpg