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Wednesday 30 January 2008

A country churchyard

Most churches and churchyards in the county have multiple memorials of one sort or another. That at Whicham, a little chapel tucked beneath the slopes of Black Combe, has more than most.

Best known perhaps for having the grave of Tom Mayson, a local man who won the Victoria Cross at Passchendaele in 1917, it hosts a number of other memorials that illustrate the ubiquity of loss in the conflicts of the twentieth century.

Three unknown merchant seamen are buried here, their place marked with Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstones. Two of them share a common grave and must have been found on the beach off Silecroft on the same day in April 1941. They are a stark reminder of the Battle of the Atlantic during which long campaign over 50,000 merchant seamen of many nations perished, their bodies occassionally thrown up by the ocean and given anonymous burial. The courage, commitment & tenacity of those remarkable men is rarely acknowledged.

Check out and the Tower Hill memorial on the CWGC website for the endless lists of 35,808 names.

Next to this are two further CWGC headstones marking the graves of two Australian airmen, 27 year old Corporal Clifford Amos of South Australia & A/C John Francis aged 22 of New South Wales. Both were crew members of a Short Sunderland flying boat of number 10 squadron RAAF that came down in the sea off Anglesey. Their bodies were washed up at Silecroft some time later.

On the south side of the church is a plot belonging to the Caddy - Huddlestone family that contains a family headstone and two more CWGC graves. The earlier war grave is that of Private Tom Caddy who, having served with the Machine Gun Corps, died of the effects of gas poisoning in March 1920. The later one is that of his nephew, Sgt Tom Huddlestone, Wireless Operator/Air Gunner, RAF, who died on October 2, 1944 aged 19. On the family headstone is the name of Annie May Huddlestone, nee Caddy, sister of one, mother of the other.

Inside the church are three memorials, one each for the world wars and a copy of the citation for Tom Mayson's VC. The orginal was, unbelievably, stolen in the early 1990s.

1 comment:

Louis said...

A guy on the great war forum going by the name of 'Northern Soul', added the following. ..... There are some references to men killed in the war on various civil headstones in there but I have done a bit of digging on the 3 x Merchant Navy men. They all washed up at the same time, in mid-April, but the two found at Silecroft were buried more or less straight away while the one found further down the coast at Haverigg was not buried until July for some unknown reason. What it does give us is a possibly sinking to tie the casuallties to - the SS Brier Rose which vanished in the Irish Sea on March 26th, 1941 on a voyage between Belfast and Cardiff with a cargo of steel billets. It is assumed she was sunk by enemy action although her loss has not been linked to any known submarine attack. Captain Williams and nine other crew were killed. The date of sinking and the location would mean that bodies would wash up on the South Cumberland coast after a fortnight or so - c.f. Amos and Francis (who crashed off Bardsey Island rather than Anglesey). Of course, I can't prove any of this.............