Author Topic: HMS Dragonfly and the 1st Manchesters  (Read 6363 times)

Offline PhilipG

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HMS Dragonfly and the 1st Manchesters
« on: April 13, 2018, 10:53:02 AM »
This vessel was a River Gunboat built at Woolston, Southampton.    On the 14th February 1942 it left Singapore for an undisclosed destination, but was sunk "east of Sumatra".   It is my understanding, that amongst the passengers aboard was a cadre of some 26 men of all ranks from the 1st Bn. Manchester Regiment.   These men had been designated to form the basis of a new formation of that battalion, consequent upon the original battalion's fate in the fighting in Singapore.   Is there any record of the names of these 26 officers and men?

As regards the fate of the ship's company, I calculate that about 40 officers and ratings were posted as missing.   PhilipG                                                   

Offline sphinx

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Re: HMS Dragonfly and the 1st Manchesters
« Reply #1 on: April 13, 2018, 11:22:50 AM »
Philip,

I am lucky enough to own a medal group to one of the NCO's off the Dragonfly.  Here is the write up I did for him:-

Arthur Spencer, b. 1912, son of Mr. & Mrs. G. R. Spencer of Farnworth, Lancashire.  He enlisted in the 1st Bn. The Manchester Regt in the 1930’s, as Pte. 3525760, becoming L/Cpl. on 7.8.1936.  He formed the Bn. water polo team in 1937. In 1938 he served in Palestine earning the GSM & from there to Singapore. By February 1942 the Japanese were in Singapore in strength & the 1st Bn was engaged in a desperate defence. Arthur was by this time a Sgt. The GOC ordered the CO to select 2 officers & 24 W.O’s & N.C.O.’s to proceed to Australia by any means they could.  The men were all regulars of long experience with special training such as weapons, signals, transport etc. & they were an exceptional group.  After midnight 14.2.1942 they went to Keppel Harbour & found a R.N. River Gunboat, HMS Dragonfly ready to sail.  By dawn they & other ships were in the Rhio Straits, when at about 9am they were sighted by a Japanese seaplane, which carried out 2 dive bombing attacks, but HMS Dragonfly was undamaged. After this attack it was decided to proceed to the nearest land to lay-up & they made for a small group of islands to the North of Singkep. Shortly after this, 2 formations of 81 Imperial Japanese Ki-21 bombers (Army Type 97), with attendant fighters flew over at 4000 ft, then broke formation & attacked in flights of 9 at heights of between 2000 & 4000 ft. The waves came in from all directions at 5 minute intervals & HMS Dragonfly was hit in the first wave by 3 bombs. 
The first 2 bombs landed amidships, pierced the deck above the Petty Officer’s mess where the Manchester Regt men were, almost certainly killing them immediately. The next bombs hit just behind & had the effect of splitting HMS Dragonfly in two. She turned turtle & sank within 10 minutes.  Only 4 men from the Regt survived the sinking & Sgt Spencer was not one
of them.

I have a list of all the Manchester Regiment casualties off the Dragonfly.  2 officers and 24 men.

regards

Offline PhilipG

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Re: HMS Dragonfly and the 1st Manchesters
« Reply #2 on: April 13, 2018, 12:06:41 PM »
Sphinx,

Thank you for your excellent account and detailed information.    It was interesting to learn that in this connection orders emanated from the GOC.   It would now seem appropriate that your list of names of these 26 regular soldiers be given a prominent place on the Forum.    It is sad that the endeavours of these brave men did not meet with success.   PhilipG.

Offline sphinx

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Re: HMS Dragonfly and the 1st Manchesters
« Reply #3 on: April 13, 2018, 01:26:14 PM »
Lt. & QM. T. Quinn
Pte. ?? Bennett
Cpl. F. Bray
L/Cpl. R.L. Daniela
Sgt. J.W. Dooley
L/Cpl. N. Farnell
C.Sgt. H.F. Fellows
L/Cpl. S.A. Hake
L/Cpl. S. Hepworth
RQMS ? Horage?
CSM J. Lucy
Cpl. G. Maskery
Sgt. ? Meredith
L/Cpl. D. Mitchell
Sgt. L. Noble
Cpl. R. Olsson
L/Sgt. A.S. Openshaw
Sgt. A. Robinson
Sgt. A. Spencer
B. Sgt S.W.G., Stillwell
RSM A. Sturch
CSM S. Windsor

Its a poorly copied list & some of the initial and surnames may have thw rong letters in, so any corrections gratefully recived.  the official record says 26 but my list has just 22?

regards

Offline rafboy

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Re: HMS Dragonfly and the 1st Manchesters
« Reply #4 on: April 13, 2018, 02:08:36 PM »
From the Roll of Honour in Document Reference MR1/3/1/18 "First battalion The Manchester Regiment Malaya, Thailand, Burma 1939 ~ 1945" which should be available from the Regimental Archive/Museum:

Lt. & QM. T. Quinn               = Is listed as : Lt. (QM) T. Quinn, MM.
2034499 Pte. ?? Bennett      = Initials are "S.A."
3534741 Cpl. F. Bray
3534710 L/Cpl. R.L. Daniela = Surname is Daniels.
3525853 Sgt. J.W. Dooley
3524258 L/Cpl. N. Farnell
724269 C.Sgt. H.F. Fellows
3523133 L/Cpl. S.A. Hake    = Is listed as Cpl.
3526054 L/Cpl. S. Hepworth
RQMS ? Horage?                 = Is not listed.  3514357 R.Q.S.M. E. Le Page. Is listed.
3521762 CSM J. Lucy
3525898 Cpl. G. Maskery
3511718 Sgt. ? Meredith     = Initial is "E".
3528870 L/Cpl. D. Mitchell
3526838 Sgt. L. Noble
3523990 Cpl. R. Olsson
3524069 L/Sgt. A.S. Openshaw
3442837 Sgt. A. Robinson
3525760 Sgt. A. Spencer
3526908 B. Sgt S.W.G., Stillwell = Is L/Sjt (All the Sgt's are listed as Sjt).
3514765 RSM A. Sturch
3517970 CSM S. Windsor
Cliff
Cliff P Son of 3525679 Sgt Arthur Phillips 1st Bn Manchester Regiment and RAPC

Offline sphinx

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Re: HMS Dragonfly and the 1st Manchesters
« Reply #5 on: April 13, 2018, 02:53:39 PM »
Thanks Cliff, thats better.  I thought Daniela was a a bit odd!!

LePage is also correct.

thanks

Offline Robert Bonner

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Re: HMS Dragonfly and the 1st Manchesters
« Reply #6 on: April 13, 2018, 04:42:29 PM »
I think that the name Horage on the list  can be dismissed as having been a ministry clerk's effort to spell Le Page.  There was certainly only one RQMS and that was Le Page.
This leaves 22 names on the list. Not shown are Lieutenant Hesford, Cpl Harry Bostock, L/Cpl J Taylor 43 and L/Cpl R Taylor 34.
This totals 26 Manchesters. Not included are three men of the RAOC attached to the battalion.  Total 29 aboard Dragonfly plus numerous others and a large native crew.

Hesford, Bostock and the two Taylors all survived initially.  Hesford managed to avoid capture but the other three were captured and eventually  died as PoW.
Robert

Offline sphinx

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Re: HMS Dragonfly and the 1st Manchesters
« Reply #7 on: April 13, 2018, 09:22:57 PM »
Thanks Robert, I forgot about the 'survivors'

regards

Offline PhilipG

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Re: HMS Dragonfly and the 1st Manchesters
« Reply #8 on: April 14, 2018, 10:59:56 AM »
Gentlemen,

Many thanks for your information in answer to my query.    I note that Lt. T. Quinn won a Military Medal.   PhilipG.

Offline Robert Bonner

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Re: HMS Dragonfly and the 1st Manchesters
« Reply #9 on: April 15, 2018, 05:08:47 PM »
I thought that it would be of interest to everyone to know the background to the Dragonfly adventure.  The following is an extract from Lieut Hesford's account written after the war.

'On 13 February 1942 the Japanese had been on the island of Singapore in strength for six or seven days.  The Manchesters had been pulled back into the edge of the city and ironically our battalion HQ, where I, as Assistant Adjutant and Intelligence Officer, was stationed, was in the world notorious Lavender Street –the  centre of houses of ill-repute. We occupied one of the larger houses in the neighbourhood.  The outer room was used as the battalion office and the inner room as a temporary mess.

Later that day, at about 6pm, Lieutenant-Colonel EB Holmes the commanding officer received a secret and confidential message from the GOC Malaya.  As a result he called a conference of all company commanders and HQ officers.  It took them about two hours to assemble at the Lavender Street HQ. The gist of the message was that in view of the situation he was ordered to select two officers and 24 warrant-officers and NCOs, issue them with official passes, which arrived from GOC, authorising them to leave Singapore and proceed to Australia by any means they could find.  The group had to be specially selected so that when they reached Australia, their qualifications would fit them to be the nucleus of a new 1st Battalion to be formed around them.

The CO said the conference had been called to decide on the 24 NCOs to be chosen and to make arrangements for them to be relieved of their duties and sent to HQ immediately. There was considerable discussion but eventually the 24 NCOs were chosen; all regulars of long experience and special training such as weapons, signals, transport etc. they were an exceptional group. The selection was carried with a great air of secrecy because of the effect on morale if it were known that an escape party was being sent off.

The CO announced that he had personally chosen the two officers and they were to be Lieutenant Quinn, Quartermaster and former Regimental Sergeant-Major in command and Lieutenant A Hesford as second-in-command. Tommy Quinn protested, to no avail, that he did not want to leave the Regiment.
Robert

Offline mack

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Re: HMS Dragonfly and the 1st Manchesters
« Reply #10 on: April 16, 2018, 01:51:38 AM »
Lt+QM Thomas Quinn aged 44.Manchester
Samuel alexander Bennett.aged 24.Manchester
Arthur Frederick bray.aged 25.staffordshire,originally from monton
Ronald leonard daniels.aged 22.Oldham
james William Dooley.aged 24.Manchester
norman farnell.aged 29.Manchester
Herbert frank fellowes.aged 38.London
Stanley Arthur hake.aged 29.Manchester
Sidney Hepworth.aged 27.manchester,father john,william Hepworth KIA 15-4-18
Edward le page.aged 43.hampshire,originally from Guernsey
joseph lucy aged 29 Manchester,father joe snr served in manchesters in WW1
joseph maskery.aged 27.stoke
ernest Meredith.aged 39.Manchester
Donald Mitchell.aged 24.Manchester
leslie noble aged 30.Manchester
Richard Olsson.aged 28.wigan
Arthur standard openshaw.aged 30.openshaw,Manchester
albert robinson.aged 32.Salford
Arthur spencer.aged 29.Bolton
Sidney William George stilwell.aged 26.Essex
albert sturch.aged 38.Hampshire
Stanley Windsor.aged 36.glamorgan

Offline PhilipG

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Re: HMS Dragonfly and the 1st Manchesters
« Reply #11 on: April 16, 2018, 07:38:38 AM »

Thank you to Robert and Mack for the additional information.   It is very sad that this bold undertaking did not meet with success.   PhilipG.

Offline PhilipG

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Re: HMS Dragonfly and the 1st Manchesters
« Reply #12 on: April 17, 2018, 10:46:26 AM »
I note that Sergeant Dooley's wife - Dorothy- died when HMS Giang Bee, in which vessel she was a passenger, was attacked and sunk by the Japanese on the 13th/14th February 1942.    PhilipG.

Offline PhilipG

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Re: HMS Dragonfly and the 1st Manchesters
« Reply #13 on: April 17, 2018, 11:26:46 AM »
                          Sergeant James William Dooley

The CWGC record his age at the date of his death as being 24 years.   Would that age qualify him for Married Quarters?   PhilipG.

           

Offline rafboy

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Cliff P Son of 3525679 Sgt Arthur Phillips 1st Bn Manchester Regiment and RAPC