Author Topic: HMS Dragonfly and the 1st Manchester's.  (Read 16666 times)

Offline Drofseh

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Re: HMS Dragonfly and the 1st Manchester's.
« Reply #15 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.

« Last Edit: November 30, 2020, 05:10:44 PM by rafboy »

Offline Helen M

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Re: HMS Dragonfly and the 1st Manchester's.
« Reply #16 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.
« Last Edit: November 30, 2020, 05:25:41 PM by rafboy »

Offline Drofseh

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Re: HMS Dragonfly and the 1st Manchester's.
« Reply #17 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.

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: November 30, 2020, 05:25:16 PM by rafboy »

Offline Michael pether

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Re: HMS Dragonfly and the 1st Manchester's.
« Reply #18 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) - 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
New Zealand.

On the Email address replace (at) with @. This was altered to stop spam.
« Last Edit: November 30, 2020, 05:24:56 PM by rafboy »

Offline charlie

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Re: HMS Dragonfly and the 1st Manchester's.
« Reply #19 on: June 11, 2019, 01:08:44 PM »
I would suggest that the Manchester Regiment Archives would be the most suitable.

« Last Edit: November 30, 2020, 05:24:17 PM by rafboy »

Offline Robert Bonner

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Re: HMS Dragonfly and the 1st Manchester's.
« Reply #20 on: June 15, 2019, 11:15:20 AM »
I have emailed Michael Pether confirming Charlie's advice  regarding the archives  I have also asked him to send me a copy of his draft as its possible that I may have some extra detail which he would find of interest.
Best wishes to all.
« Last Edit: November 30, 2020, 05:23:45 PM by rafboy »

Offline mack

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Re: HMS Dragonfly and the 1st Manchester's.
« Reply #21 on: August 30, 2020, 09:59:18 PM »
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.
mrs dooleys 4 sisters,brother and mother all perished as well[the schooling family]

the wives and families of the following men,all arrived home safely on 4th april 1942 at liverpool on board the duchess of bedford

mrs jane le page,54 stamford rd,longsight
mrs mary robinson,11 northern st,hulme
mrs kathleen fellowes,17 caroline st,york

« Last Edit: December 02, 2020, 05:07:51 PM by rafboy »

Offline mack

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Re: HMS Dragonfly and the 1st Manchester's.
« Reply #22 on: August 31, 2020, 12:57:15 PM »
specialist qualifications of some of these men

sgt 3525760 arthur spencer,153 bradford st,farnworth,motor transport sgt
sgt 3511718 ernest meredith,124 thornton rd,chorlton on medlock,provost sgt
L/cpl 3523990 richard olsson,2 garden st,wigan,bandsman
L/sgt 3524069 arthur stanard openshaw,13 edmund st openshaw,signals sgt
sgt 3442837 albert,thomas robinson,11 northern st,hulme,sgt cook
cpl 3534741 arthur frederick bray,15 newton rd,altrincham,clerk orderly room
pte 3534710 ronald leonard daniels,54 hartley st,oldham,QMs clerk
col/sgt 724269 herbert frank fellowes 17 caroline st,york,orderly room sgt
L/cpl 3523133 stanley arthur hake,37 st peters rd,swinton,bandsman
L/cpl 3524258 norman farnell,93 pearson st,manchester,HQs company
L/cpl 3526054 sidney hepworth,142 lightbowne rd,manchester,HQs company,drove the group down to the docks

sgt 7584492 victor,george,alex cole
A/sgt 7583235 percival,francis,joseph,wass walker
sgt 7591472 henry noyce
all armourers for the 1st manchesters
« Last Edit: November 30, 2020, 05:22:28 PM by rafboy »

Offline rafboy

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

Offline mack

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Re: HMS Dragonfly and the 1st Manchester's.
« Reply #24 on: August 31, 2020, 03:51:05 PM »
thanks cliff
the article supports my opinion about the manchester contingent,they were not the hand picked specialists that everyone assumes

RQMS edward le page and RSM albert sturch would be top of the list for evacuation because they were the highest ranking NCOs and ideal for forming a new battalion,sgt arthur spencer[transport sgt]provost sgt ernest meredith,sgt arthur openshaw[signals]and col/sgt herbert fellowes[orderly room sgt]would also have qualified as well as the two officers hesford[intelligence] and tommy quinn and probably sgt/cook.albert,thomas robinson.

why were lance corporals stanley hake and richard olsson both bandsmen picked instead of the band sgt,L/cpl norman farnell was in the HQs company with L/cpl sidney hepworth,personally i think hepworth was given a pass to leave because he drove them down to the docks


at least half of these men were in the HQs company but i have no record of what the rest of them were qualified in
« Last Edit: November 30, 2020, 05:22:12 PM by rafboy »

Offline rafboy

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Re: HMS Dragonfly and the 1st Manchester's.
« Reply #25 on: August 31, 2020, 04:31:34 PM »
I think you are correct, I remember reading somewhere several years back that the men were picked as the basis to enable a new Battalion to be formed.

Something is confusing me about the Taylor's who initially both survived I can find nothing on R. Taylor 34, he is not on the Roll of Honour site nor is there an R Taylor in any of the lists I have copies of or in the lists in Arthur Lanes book "One God". I am not sure what the 34 and 43 after the Taylor names refer to, there is a 3445333 L/Cpl James Taylor buried in Kanchanaburi Cemetery (I have a photo of his grave), however the Taylor with 34 after his name is the R Taylor, J Taylor has 43 after his, I cannot find a J or R Taylor with 43 at the start or end of his Service number. There are 9 Manchester Regiment Taylor's on the Roll of Honour. I guess I have now confused everybody. 

Of the four survivors Lt Hesford is known to have survived the war.
3529632 Cpl Harry Bostock is buried at Thanbyuzayat.
The two Taylor's are said to have died later on the Railway. 
I don't have grave photo's or POW Record Card's for any of them other than the one mentioned above.

« Last Edit: November 30, 2020, 05:21:27 PM by rafboy »
Cliff P Son of 3525679 Sgt Arthur Phillips 1st Bn Manchester Regiment and RAPC

Offline mack

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Re: HMS Dragonfly and the 1st Manchester's.
« Reply #26 on: August 31, 2020, 05:16:41 PM »
hiya cliff
34+43 are the last numbers of their service numbers

3527434 richard taylor,101 royds st,rochdale survived the war,Lt hesford visited him after the war,he was still suffering badly from his ordeal as a POW,he was in the camp at tamarkan along with the other taylor L/cpl 3527543 james taylor,67 church st,goldborne,james died of cholera on 27-12-1943 aged 29,buried kanchanaburi cemetery

« Last Edit: November 30, 2020, 05:21:08 PM by rafboy »

Offline mack

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Re: HMS Dragonfly and the 1st Manchester's.
« Reply #27 on: September 01, 2020, 07:41:28 PM »
ive since found out something that supports the theory that many of these men were not hand picked but just happened to be part of battalion HQs at the time
RSM albert sturch was a WOII,it appears that RSM 4605008 edward everett of kirkbrook st,oldham was the WO1 at the time,CSM 3521826 fred lewis of cleveland house,farcet peterborough was part of the motorised infantry,CSM 3524845 arthur,frank myerscough of 28 wade st,bradford manchester was a instructor attatched to federation of malay straits volunteer force[sgt dooley was also attatched to them]dooley died on the dragonfly
captain wlliam,irving oflynn weston super mare was the garrison adjutant
all these NCOs and captain oflynn should have been on the list for evacuation.
everett,lewis and myerscough along with the other CSM 3524539 william harrison of 10 carthage st,oldham,all died as prisoners

the only good thing about the day they embarked on the dragonfly that day,was the story of the two soldiers mahoney+cunliffe,who escorted the group down to the docks,they were not allowed to go aboard
L/cpl 3527792 john mahoney,27 bloom st,werneth+pte 3526013 john cunlffe,41 alice st,bradford,manchester were left on the dock as the dragonfly sailed,they were taken prisoner the following day,on 21st september 1944,both of them were on the hofuku maru being transported to japan,when she was attacked and sunk by american carrier borne aircraft,both men survived,john mahoney died in 2000 aged 83,john cunliffe died in 1972 aged 58
« Last Edit: November 30, 2020, 05:20:53 PM by rafboy »

Offline rafboy

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Re: HMS Dragonfly and the 1st Manchester's.
« Reply #28 on: September 05, 2020, 02:25:25 PM »
This from:
supports your theory:
[Researcher Note: the official line and something repeated by many historians was that this was an effort to redeploy
‘skilled servicemen’. The actual composition of the resulting evacuees seems to have been as confused and disorganised as
much of the evacuation efforts by the authorities across the board. Closer analysis of exactly who comprised the
Manchester Regiment personnel on ‘HMS Dragonfly’ reveals that many seem to be lesser skilled Cooks, Orderly Room
clerks and Quartermaster’s clerks – perhaps men who happened to simply be at regimental HQ when the departure time
arrived, and took the place of men still occupied in frontline battle – they do not seem to be in the category of the skilled
technicians as in the case of the RAOC and REME.]

One very sad aspect of the sinking of HMS Dragonfly was, unknown to 3525852 Sgt James Dooley his wife of only a few days was killed on HMS Giang Bee
• DOOLEY - Mrs. Dorothy Dooley (nee Schooling); “…Dooley Mrs. …” (NIRC); also “…Dooley Mrs. Manchester Regt…” (GBL); PD She had married earlier in February 1942 and was the Eurasian wife of Sgt James Dooley 1st Manchester Regiment – he was lost on HMS Dragonfly (MVG).

« Last Edit: November 30, 2020, 05:15:21 PM by rafboy »
Cliff P Son of 3525679 Sgt Arthur Phillips 1st Bn Manchester Regiment and RAPC

Offline mack

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Re: HMS Dragonfly and the 1st Manchester's.
« Reply #29 on: September 11, 2020, 01:51:43 AM »
In November 1945, ex 19442 CSM Joseph Lucy. 21st Manchester's  MC.MM.DCM of 3 Chapel Lane, Cheetham began posting enquiries in the Manchester Evening News asking for news of his son 3521762 CSM Joseph Lucy Jnr, who was reported missing since February 1942.

« Last Edit: November 30, 2020, 05:14:59 PM by rafboy »