Author Topic: HMS Dragonfly and the 1st Manchesters  (Read 7366 times)

Offline PhilipG

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Re: HMS Dragonfly and the 1st Manchesters
« Reply #30 on: April 20, 2018, 07:29:27 AM »
themonsstar,

Fascinating. Well done.   PhilipG.

Offline themonsstar

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Re: HMS Dragonfly and the 1st Manchesters
« Reply #31 on: April 20, 2018, 09:17:38 AM »
I spent 10 years going to kew looking at files of the Manchester Regiment and it's predecessors so I have lot's files on my harddrive. So I post them for your enjoyment.

Roy

Offline Drofseh

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Re: HMS Dragonfly and the 1st Manchesters
« Reply #32 on: November 14, 2018, 06:45:47 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.

Hello all, I am the grandson of Lt Hesford.
He swam from the sinking Dragonfly to the Grasshopper (which had been deliberately beached), was captured along with the survivors of that ship, and was a POW for the remainder of the war.
Our family history has one of the other 4 survivors of the sinking also surviving being a POW, but I don't know if it was Bostock or one of the Taylors.

If you'd be interested in more information about my grandad let me know and I'll provide what I can.

Attached is a photo of him, I believe from after the end of the war.


Offline PhilipG

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Re: HMS Dragonfly and the 1st Manchesters
« Reply #33 on: November 15, 2018, 09:55:07 AM »
Drofseh,

Welcome and thank you, too, for your information and photograph.   In the interests of research, I think it would certainly be of value if you were able to add some further background details and I look forward to reading them.    Regards, PhilipG.

Offline PhilipG

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Re: HMS Dragonfly and the 1st Manchesters
« Reply #34 on: November 17, 2018, 02:04:44 PM »
Looking at this officer's medal ribbons can anyone suggest what they would be?   PhilipG.

Offline charlie

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Re: HMS Dragonfly and the 1st Manchesters
« Reply #35 on: November 17, 2018, 07:49:09 PM »
Philip,
I think the colours of the ribbons have been distorted by the type of film used. I am pretty sure he is wearing the ribbons of the 1939-45 Star, Pacific Star and Defence Medal.

The War Medal was a later addition, only being instituted in August 1945, the Stars and Defence Medal had all been instituted by May 1945. I have been unable to establish when the ribbon for the War Medal became available to wear, my father who was demobbed in 1946 never wore his in uniform, perhaps your experience was different.

Lt Hesford was commissioned into the Manchesters on 20.04.1940 and relinquished his commission on 09.11.1948.

Charlie


Offline Drofseh

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Re: HMS Dragonfly and the 1st Manchesters
« Reply #36 on: November 17, 2018, 10:06:53 PM »
My father is out of town right now but when he gets back we're going to put our heads together and see what we can come up with.

Offline PhilipG

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Re: HMS Dragonfly and the 1st Manchesters
« Reply #37 on: November 18, 2018, 12:51:05 PM »
Charlie,

Thank you.   I'm sure you are right.   I do remember in 1944(?) advice that a medal would be produced styled 1939-1943 star and that it seemed to me that I would qualify.  In the event I never applied for my medals.    (Something to do with the loss of my cousin - a straight AG in a Lancaster - my mates, school chums and colleagues etc. and the fact that my wife was determined to forget the war even though she had been a nurse.)    Philip G.

Offline Drofseh

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Re: HMS Dragonfly and the 1st Manchesters
« Reply #38 on: December 04, 2018, 09:21:52 AM »
Alright, I've been going through the family archives and have written up a post to share.

It's about 12k characters. Is there a character limit for posts?

I've had a look at his medals and they are the Pacific Star, 1939–1945 Star and War Medal, although for some reason the War Medal and Pacific Star are hanging on each others ribbons.

Cpl R Taylor was the other escape party member to survive both the sinking and captivity.


Offline charlie

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Re: HMS Dragonfly and the 1st Manchesters
« Reply #39 on: December 04, 2018, 09:39:28 AM »
It's about 12k characters. Is there a character limit for posts?

There is a limit but in the past I have copied and pasted 1 side of A4 into a post, which worked. Hope that helps

Offline Helen M

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Re: HMS Dragonfly and the 1st Manchesters
« Reply #40 on: December 21, 2018, 07:18:42 PM »
I can confirm that Mack is correct that E Meredith was indeed Sergeant Ernest Meredith from Manchester.  He was my great Uncle and I learnt of his death on the HMS Dragonfly whilst researching the family tree.

Offline PhilipG

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Re: HMS Dragonfly and the 1st Manchesters
« Reply #41 on: December 23, 2018, 11:32:37 AM »
Helen M,
 Welcome.  Thank you for your interesting information advising that your relative, 3511718 Sgt Ernest Meredith of the 1st Manchesters was sadly lost when HMS Dragonfly was sunk on the 14th February 1942.

There was certainly dismay and disquiet in the UK when the news of the surrender at Singapore on the 15th February 1942 was promulgated, especially so, when it had previously been made known that the warships, HMS Prince  of Wales and HMS Repulse had been sunk on the east coast of Malaya on the 10th December 1941.     I see that your relative was 39 years of age when he died.   I wonder whether or not he had enlisted pre-war?

Lastly, HMS Dragonfly's on board mascot was a dog named Judy, who similarly had been captured by the Japanese.   Apparently, the animal was registered as a Second World War POW and later awarded the Dickin Medal by the PDSA, a medal considered to be the animals' VC.    Regards.  PhilipG.

Offline Drofseh

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Re: HMS Dragonfly and the 1st Manchesters
« Reply #42 on: January 16, 2019, 02:51:46 AM »
This took a little longer for me to get posted than I intended, apologies for the delay.
In addition to this I have scanned and OCR'd a copy of his personal account of the official escape party.
If any of you would like a copy of it then you may download it from this link.
https://drive.google.com/open?id=1ayOekaw6uKYrz7OjOYAvUycfSc8MbFti



Lt. Arthur Hesford

Born on October 28th, 1918 in Manchester.
His father, also Arthur Hesford, fought in WWI in the Manchester Regiment and was wounded at Gallipoli and again at The Somme.
He grew up in Salford where his father owned a small shop, it was apparently one of the first places in their neighbourhood to get a telephone installed and when neighbours traveled away they would ring the shop just to have the experience of talking on the phone.
He had a younger brother, Eric (Died due to complications from exposure during WW2), and a younger sister Doris (still kicking, just turned 97).

He attended William Hulme grammar school from September 1930, was awarded the School Certificate in July 1934 and the Higher School Certificate in July 1936.

During this time he also became an excellent competitive swimmer, having the fastest time for breaststroke in Northern England.
He was made an offer to swim for Great Britain at the 1936 Olympics but he turned it down in favour of continuing his education.
He had decided to become an accountant and agreed to instead swim in the 1940 Olympics, which of course never took place.

In October 1936 he was articled to a Mr D. Battersby, F.C.A of Manchester.
He spent half his time working and the other half of his time studying to take his examinations.
This was apparently not very productive and he felt his education suffered, but in May 1939 he wrote the Intermediate Examination for the ICAE (Institute of Chartered Accountants in England) anyways apparently to get a feel for the exam.
To his surprise (but apparently not to the surprise of his father) he not only passed the exam but was awarded a prize due to his excellent result.

Then with the Military Training Act 1939 having passed (also in May 1939) he decided to get his conscription over with as soon as possible in order to continue his education as an accountant uninterrupted.
As such he joined the British Army as a Private in July 1939, requesting to be place in the Manchester Regiment as that was where his father had served.

After war broke out in September he underwent was selected for officer training and was shipped to southern England.
He apparently had initial difficulty fitting in with the other officer candidates who tended to be from wealthier social classes and performed poorly, with his instructors unsure of his ability.
Happily this turned around at some point during the training and his instructors later wrote that they had been completely mistaken and now felt he had the potential to be an excellent officer.

He was commissioned back into the Manchesters in March 1940.
One of his first assignments as an officer was to take a motorcycle and go from town to town in northwestern England to talk to the various village councils about the preparations they were making in case the Germans were to mount an invasion.
During the early parts of the assignment when he arrived in a town he would go to the town hall or the local police station in an attempt to make contact with the town's officials.
Invariably he ended up being directed to find them in the local pub, so from then on he skipped the official buildings and just went straight to each towns pub.
This was an assignment he remembered fondly as each day consisted of a short motorcycle ride, a few hours work at the next town, and then a relaxing evening in the pub.

In 1941 he was was shipped to Singapore, arriving in October, to join 1st Battalion.
He was assigned to a company for a short time and then appointed by Colonel Holmes to be the battalion Intelligence Officer, as well as I believe the Sports/Recreation Officer.

Very early in the morning on 14 Feb 1941 he departed Singapore aboard the HMS Dragonfly as 2IC of 1st Battalion's official escape party headed for Australia, along with the HMS Grasshopper.
Unfortunately it was a short trip as later that day the ships were attacked by Japanese aircraft.

The Dragonfly was hit badly in the first pass and sunk in ~5 minutes. The captain gave the order to abandon ship, and (in what I believe were likely his last words) Lt Quinn told my grandfather "You go first Arthur."
In the water and knowing that he was a strong swimmer, he gave his life jacket to another man (a sailor on the Dragonfly, also named Arthur) and began to swim towards the Grasshopper which had been beached at an island a few miles away after also being hit.
It was a very hard swim and after about three hours he nearly gave up and sank into the sea.
In his personal account he says 'I thought to myself, "you are not finished yet, you are quitting too soon"' and in his later years he remarked to me that he had also thought about how disappointed his parents would be if they would have ever learned he had given up and drowned.

After swimming for ~5 hours total he managed to reach the Grasshopper where he held on to the anchor chain for ~20 minutes of rest before going ashore to meet with its crew, he was the first survivor of the Dragonfly to make it to land.
He had stripped naked during the swim in order to make it easier and when he was spotted by crewmen from the Grasshopper they stopped him from going any further until they'd found him some pants.
It turned out that just a little bit farther around copse of trees were several female nurses caring for the wounded and the sailors didn't want them startled by his nudity.

A naval Lieutenant (from the Grasshopper I believe) assumed command and over the next few days the survivors of both ships regrouped and moved to the larger island of Singkep.

There an evacuation was also underway, and the officer in charge of it asked for volunteers to stay behind for a few days to watch over some of the wounded until a medical group arrived to evacuate them.
He and the other 3 surviving Manchesters discussed it decided to volunteer, acting as medical orderlies for ~1 week.
Being delayed was however somewhat fortunate as a ship that had evacuated the town on Singkep was sunk with only two survivors.
They were then moved to Sumatra and evacuated up the Indrageri River by boat and then truck to Padang, arriving on 14 March 1941, one month after the sinking of the Dragonfly.

Three days later on 17 March 1941 the Japanese arrived in Padang and they were captured. The three surviving Manchester NCOs were sent to northern Sumatra with a large group of prisoners in ~2 weeks.
He was held prisoner in Padang for ~3 months before being moved to Medan in north Sumatra where he was imprisoned for the next several years.
While in Medan he was appointed Company Commander of the British troops by Major Campbell, the senior British officer.

In June 1944 the Japanese decided to move all POWs off of Sumatra and on 26 June 1944 he was put on a ship (the Harugiku Maru, previously known as the SS Van Waerwijck) to be transported back to Singapore.
At ~10 am the convoy the ship was in was spotted by the HMS Truculent and, not knowing there were POWs aboard, at 1112 hrs the Truculent fired 4 torpedoes at the Van Waerwijck two of which struck.
When he first torpedo hit he was tossed about and struck his head badly. He woke up two hours later in the water on board a piece of wreckage with some other survivors.
It was his second, and happily final, time being sunk, the Van Waerwijck having gone down in ~15 minutes.
The survivors were retrieved by the Japanese spent ~1 week in Singapore where he was able to get into contact with Colonel Holmes and make a report.
They were then transported back to Sumatra to Pakan Bahru to work on the Sumatra railway where they spent another year in harsh captivity.

There are two events he related to me from his time in captivity for which I do not know the time or place.
At some point he had to have a root canal without any anesthetization. I think this likely happened in Medan.
Later, I expect in Pakan Bahru when conditions were especially harsh, a man failed to show up for the camp roll call. The Japanese were very upset, thinking he had attempted to escape, and they other POWs were made to search for him.
The missing man was eventually found, he had gone to the latrines, died during his time there, and fallen down into them. The other prisoners were made to retrieve the body.

In August 1945, ~1 week after the Japanese surrender, an Allied officer came out of the jungle to the camp bearing a white flag.
This officer conferred with the commandant and the two of them agreed the war was over and that the prisoners were to be released.
Then ~3 weeks after the end of the way he was sent from Sumatra to Singapore, and then back by ship to Liverpool.
On the way back to England the ship stopped in South Africa and he found the country so beautiful that he considered emigrating there after the war.

Some time after arriving back in England he got into touch with Cpl R. Taylor, the other only survivor from the escape party.
Cpl Taylor was still in poor health, having spent months in the hospital as a result of his captivity.
My grandfather also suffered ill effects from his time as a POW, both physically and mentally.
When he was captured he was a fit young man weighing ~140-150 lbs, upon his release he was close to 100 lbs, and although I don't believe he suffered too greatly from PTSD his behaviours had changed in some ways.
An example of this is that for the remainder of his life he would refuse to queue in lines, for example at the bank or post office. They reminded him of his time in the camps, forced to line up for roll calls several times a day by the Japanese.
Instead he would find himself a seat somewhere, wait until the line had cleared up, and then conduct whatever business he was there for.

In February 1946 he was demobilized at the rank of Lieutenant and in March 1946 became employed as the Senior Audit Clerk at Harvey, Longrigg & Crickett, Chartered Accountants, in Manchester.
He continued with his education and in May 1947 passed his Final Examination for the ICAE, 8 years after after passing the Intermediate Exam.

In October 1947 he moved to London and worked at the London office of Peat, Marwick, Mitchell & Co. as Senior Audit Clerk.
Colonel Holmes wrote him a letter of reference.

During this time he became acquainted with a woman named Mary Jacqueline Berry.
Mary was the pen pal of his sister Doris, and she had come to England at the end of war to marry an RAF pilot who she had met while he was training in Canada.
The engagement had fallen apart largely due to disapproval of her from his family (social class issues).
Mary was then temporarily staying with Doris until she could return to Canada.

By late 1947 he had decided to emigrate and after consideration chose Canada as his destination.
South Africa was the other possible destination but disliked the social environment (which led in 1948 to the start of Apartheid, a policy he strongly disagreed with).
Mary had since returned to Canada (likely another large factor in his decision) with her ex-fiance's family paying for the journey.
The family was only willing to get her back to the country however, and not to pay her way back to British Columbia, so she settled for a while in Ontario.

My grandfather arrived in Canada on 22 February 1948, and on 8 March 1948 became employed as Second in Charge to the Principal with MacDonald and Healey, Chartered Accountants, in Windsor Ontario.
However his employment there was short lived as he resigned on 20 April 1948 in order to move to British Columbia with Mary.
They then married on 24 April 1948, and arrived in New Westminster, BC on 5 May 1948.
He reliquished his commission in the British Army on 9 November 1948.

Over the course of the next few years they had three children, Patricia (Patty), Jacqueline (Jackie), and my father Arthur John (AJ).

In 1960 the family relocated back to England for a period of 3 years before returning to North Vancouver, BC in 1963.
My grandfather continued his career as an accountant and was a partner in an accounting firm in Vancouver (Hesford & Fraser).
He was a strong proponent of cricket and a life member of the Canadian Cricket Association.
Mary died suddenly in July 1986 and he never remarried.

After retiring in 1992 he moved to Victoria, BC where his daughter Patty had settled (and continues to live).
He bought a house in the Gordon Head neighbourhood, which after deciding to downsize he sold to AJ, and moved into an apartment in the Fernwood neighbourhood nearly across the street from Patty's house.
I lived with him in this apartment for about a year when I moved back to Victoria in 2009, and then I got a different apartment in the same building.
He died peacefully in his sleep on the morning on the 27 October 2010.
« Last Edit: January 16, 2019, 04:27:56 AM by Drofseh »

Offline PhilipG

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Re: HMS Dragonfly and the 1st Manchesters
« Reply #43 on: January 16, 2019, 07:23:43 AM »
Drofseh,

A truly fascinating account and thank you for sharing your research with the forum.  Such bravery and fortitude.    PhilipG.

Offline Michael pether

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Re: HMS Dragonfly and the 1st Manchesters
« Reply #44 on: June 10, 2019, 01:59:36 AM »
Hello, I am an amateur history researcher who focuses on ships sunk during the evacuation of Singapore in February 1942.

i have just completed the memorial document for the 'HMS Dragonfly' - covering the detail of its last voyage and the identities of all on board i could determine from UK Archives and elsewhere.

I have completed some 14 other memorial documents on other ships sunk during the evacuation. Since the largest group of passengers on board the 'HMS Dragonfly' I figure that either the Manchester's Org or individual members might be interested in reading the document - all my research is shared freely and without any charge whatsoever except it is not available for commercial use.

I am not sure whether there is any repository in the UK specifically related to the Manchester regiment  ( not the IWM ) which may also be interested in a copy - feedback is that my documents usually reveal new truths about these tragic events.

If Philip G or anyone else would like a copy please contact me on mncpether(at)gmail.com - copies of earlier documents I have compiled on the people and ships lost in that chaotic event may be viewed on the websites of the 'Children of Far East POWs' (COFEPOW) -  or the Malayan Volunteers Group - in their Evacuation Ship sections.

Thank you,

Michael Pether
Auckland
New Zealand.

On the Email address replace (at) with @. This was altered to stop spam.
Timberman
« Last Edit: June 11, 2019, 07:53:44 AM by timberman »