The Commemorations held on 10th July 2020
More than twenty members of the Association, The Lord Mayor of Canterbury, Standard bearers and members of the Glider Pilots Association would normally have gathered to mark the 77th anniversary of the Sicily Landings. Code named operation Huskey it marked the start of the Italian Campaign.
The following reports are from the National Vice Chairman, Robin Hollamby who lives in the Kent countryside near Royal Tunbridge Wells. The National Treasurer, Miss Maureen Hanlan from the village of Ferring on the West Sussex coast. With additional pictures from Miss Sheila Edwards the National Secretary and Miss Terri Camm, Chairman of the East Kent Branch
Remembering the 10th July, Brampton Bank, Tudeley.
Just before 11am on Friday 10th July five men gathered by the flagpole near the war memorial at Brampton Bank in the parish of Capel near Royal Tunbridge Wells in Kent. Of those five men four were from my parish and one from Paddock Wood. A passing motorist saw us, turned round, and came back to join us (social distancing was observed).
The 10th July marks a particularly important turning point in WW2. It was not just the 80th anniversary of the start of the ‘Battle of Britain’ but the 77th anniversary of the Allied fight back into Europe. A wreath was laid to commemorate this important date, on behalf of the Members of The Italy Star Association and those men and women who took part in this mostly forgotten but important campaign of WW2.
From the 2nd September 1939 the armed forces of Great Britain and the Commonwealth had been at war with Germany and the Axis powers.
After the great escape form Dunkerque and the Battle of Britain fought in the sky’s above my village came the challenge of the war in the deserts of North Africa. General Bernard Montgomery and our American Allies had managed against all odds to inflict a major defeat over the German troops in North Africa commanded by their charismatic leader General Erwin Rommel. Now was the time to chase the enemy back across the seas and into Italy and ultimately into Germany.
Plans were made, training carried out again and again, men and equipment assembled, finally the time was right. Late on the 9th July men boarded ships and landing craft, planes, and gliders in north Africa their destination obvious to the men but still top secret to others was the shoreline of Sicily. Some did not make it to the island, their transport being blown out of the sky or sea, others were dropped to early and had to ditch their gliders in the sea; many were lost. Enough men survived the hazardous journey to force the Axis troops into retreat towards the straights of Massena the shortest crossing between Sicily and Italy. Taking slightly longer than planned the Allies forced the Axis troops off Sicily and were in a position to follow them into Italy on 3rd September 1943, fighting their way north over the following weeks and months through the valleys and mountains in conditions not unlike those endured on the Somme during WW1. But by 2nd May 1945 they had prevailed, and Italy was once again free, shortly followed by the rest of Europe and by early September the war against Japan was also at an end.
My father was amongst those men who fought in Italy although he was not posted there until early 1944, he lived in the parish (always in Tudeley) from 1960 until the early 1980’s when he moved to Pembury. Dad was in Italy from 1944 until December 1946 apart from 3 weeks home leave in August 1945.
Amongst those names on my village war memorial is that of Frederick S Finn, the son of Mr & Mrs Finn who lived at Brampton Bank Tudeley (the site of the village war memorial).
Chief Petty Officer Frederick Stanley Finn Royal Navy
Frederick Stanley Finn was born on the 7th March 1910 in Faversham Kent the son of Frederick and Amy Finn. His parent’s later mover to Brampton Bank Tudeley from where his father worked at Bank Farm Tudeley. Frederick married Alice Bradford in 1938 and they had one son.
Frederick had been an Errand Boy prior to joining the Navy. He was part of the crew of HMS Barham in May of 1929. In December 1929 at his annual review his character was assessed as very good and his efficiency as satisfactory, a standard that he never fell below during his time in the navy. His early time afloat was spent on battleships before a spell on land for training at HMS Pembroke where he passed his test for Leading Telegraphist on 20th March 1931; he went on to pass the Education Test Part 1 on 5th July 1932. This was important to his future as a telegraphist who had to be able to read and spell with both speed and accuracy. In June 1935 he was promoted to Leading Telegraphist and on May 1937 became Acting Petty Officer Telegraphist. Just one year later on 1st May 1938 he was promoted to Petty Officer Telegraphist . While at HMS Pembroke on 6th September 1940 he was further promoted to the rank of Chief Petty Officer Telegraphist. His service afloat included postings to battleships, Heavy Cruisers and finally Light Cruisers.
On 1st January 1941 he joined the crew on HMS Euryalus, a Dido Class Light Cruiser. She was the last cruiser to be built in Chatham Dockyard being commissioned on the 30th June 1941. Having taken part in the naval operations in support of land troops in the Mediterranean along the North African coast they took part in Operation Huskey on 10th July 1943. On the 16th July HMS Euryalus was on patrol off Cape Passaro Sicily and was stood by HMS Cleopatra which had been damaged amidships by a torpedo fired by an Italian Submarine. At some point either on the 16th July or during the previous few days Frederick had been taken ill. The naval records show that he died on the 16th July 1943 from a coronary occlusion (a heart attack or blockage). Frederick had been Mentioned in Dispatches on the 8th September 1942; although Mentions in Dispatches are published in the London Gazette, they do not give the reason for the award. On 16th April 1943, he received the Naval Long Service and Good Conduct Medal.
Frederick is buried in the Capuccini Malta Naval Cemetery Plot F Grave 38. Because of the ground conditions in the cemetery the headstones are recumbent and each one marks the spot where up to three men are buried or remembered. Fredericks final resting place is shown below, the headstone bears the personal family inscription. ‘In Honoured memory of our dear Fred. Only farewell till we meet again’.
Particular thanks to Charles, David, William, and John Leigh bugler from the Paddock Wood Royal British Legion, and to the Parish Council for their co-operation with this event.
Robin R Hollamby
National Vice-Chairman Italy Star Association
Friday 10th July 2020, Ferring West, Sussex.
Friday 10th July 2020, The Italy Star Association National Memorial Day, unfortunately because of Covid-19 restrictions the Members of the Association we were unable to meet at the National Memorial in Canterbury.
I decided that the day would not pass without some Remembrance taking place so I planned laying a wreath ay the Ferring Village Memorial with a 2 minutes silence, thinking it would be just me, however, I contacted the Parish Council Office checking that it was OK and was delighted that the Chairman of the Parch Council, Cllr. Stephen Abbott asked if he could join me and raise the Union Flag.
I had wanted to play the Last Post, but my mobile could not download it, so I set out to find a bulger and was lucky to find Nick Trish from Bognor Regis. Two of my neighbours also came along and the Secretary of the Ferring History Group , Ed Miller, also attended, a number of general public stop for the short commemoration.
The Secretary of the Ferring History Group Ed Miller was a great help as he was one of the team who had researched all the names on the War Memorial and had found out that William E (Ted) Murrell, Guardsman in the 3rd Battalion Coldstream Guards was killed on Spineta Beach on 11th September 1943, aged 21 and is buried in the Salerno War Cemetery.
The Ceremony started with me saying the Exhortation followed by The Last Post, a 2 minutes silence, The Reveille and The Wreath Laying.
The Parish Priest, Father Gary, who was unable to attend wrote a lovely piece in his daily newsletter shown below.
“Today [Friday] you may go into the village and see the Union Flag flying at the war memorial. It is the Italy Star Association Memorial Day. Each year on 10th July, a service of dedication and remembrance has been held at the Association’s national memorial in Westgate Gardens, Canterbury, Kent. That date specifically commemorates the anniversary of Allied troops landing in Sicily. This year it cannot happen, but a wreath will be laid by a village member [Maureen] at 11.00am in memory of all who fell in that campaign. This it the Association’s epitaph – “Let us remember our comrades in the air, on the seas, in those valleys and on those mountains. When you walk in peaceful lanes so green, remember us and think what might have been”. Rest eternal grant unto them, O Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon them. Amen.”
“This Commemoration Service was a very special & moving day; I was so very pleased to have been part of it.”
Editors Note. Like so many men William Murrell was initial buried in the 21 Beach GP Military Cemetery close to where he fell. On 29th April 1944 he was reburied in the Salerno War Cemetery in Plot 2, Row F, Grave 11. At the base of his headstone is the simple family inscription ‘He careth for you’.
Friday 10th July 2020, High Street, Hornchurch, Essex.
A wreath was laid by Miss Sheila Edwards at the War Memorial, St Andrews Church, Hornchurch. Marking the 77th anniversary of Operation Huskey the start of the air and seaborn invasion of Sicily, which would lead to the end of the war in Europe in May 1945.
Friday 10th July 2020, Westgate Gardens Canterbury Kent.
Terri Camm laid the East Kent Branch wreaths at the memorial in Westgate Gardens Canterbury. She was joined by Joe and Betty Coreara with the National Standard and the Standard from the Buffs Association.