August 29 – Roll of Honour

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Amongst the ten in today’s Roll – A 25 year old Royal Irish CSM awarded the MC and MM; a lawyer journalist defeated by Edward Carson for the Duncairn seat in parliament; 2 aircrew killed over Poland and a Randalstown doctor awarded the Military Medal for “Conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in going forward under heavy shell fire” who post-war drowned at Castlerock. Photo – David V. Currie, a Canadian, was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions during the 36-hour battle at Saint-Lambert-sur-Dives, in 1944. Currie’s Victoria Cross is the only one associated with the fighting in Normandy. 

Representing their comrades who died on this day

1915

+JEFFS, Robert
RAMC. 31st Field Amb. Private. 46463. Died 29/08/1915. Aged 22. Son of Mrs. Amelia Jeffs, of Bush Rd., Dungannon. Helles Memorial, Gallipoli, Turkey. Dungannon WM

1917

+KEAN, Cuthbert Benedict
RNR. Lieutenant. HMS Jessamine. Died 29/08/1917. Age 27. Killed in action with a submarine as prize crew of SS Cooray in Irish Sea. Son of Dr. Hugh and Sarah Kean of Newry. Chatham Naval Memorial, Panel 25.

+WHELAN, Robert Selkirk
Royal Irish Rifles. Company Sergeant Major (CSM) 16093. M.C. M.M. Died 29/08/1917. Aged 25. Extract from the London Gazette dated 14th September 1917 – Military Cross – “10/16093 CSM Robert Selkirk Whelan Royal Irish Rifles. For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in capturing twelve of the enemy with the assistance of a comrade whilst they were reconnoitring our position. He also showed great courage and fearlessness in the face of machine gun fire bringing and abandoned enemy machine gun into action and enfilading the enemy with it, thereby facilitating our capture of a strong point. After this he took forward a patrol and captured and enemy field gun, together with its escort, thirty in number. He set a splendid example of pluck and initiative”. Son of John Edwards and Elizabeth of 64 Ravenhill Road, Belfast, Ireland. In 1911 he was an apprentice plumber. Metz-En-Couture Communal Cemetery British Extension, Pas de Calais, France. St Jude’s C of I Church, Belfast, WM
1920

+DAVEY, William Hamilton
Northumberland Fusiliers, B” Coy. 27th (Tyneside Irish) Battalion. Major. OBE. Died 29/08/1920. Age 40. QUB M.A. LL.B. Barrister – at – Law. Entered Queen’s 18/10/1899. William Hamilton Davey was an editor of the Ulster Guardian and he had been awarded the OBE. He stood in the General Election of December 1918 as a pro Home Rule candidate for the Irish Parliamentary Party in the Duncairn constituency in Belfast. The seat was won by the Irish Unionist, Sir Edward Henry Carson. Son of Robert and Jane Davey; husband to Ruby Irene Davey, Pier House, Cultra, Co. Down. Born at Carrickfergus. Carrickfergus (Victoria) Cemetery, Co. Antrim. (There are seven Commonwealth burials of the 1914-1918 war and 11 of the 1939-1945 war here.)

1941

+KELLY, Hugh Alphonsus
RAFV. Sergeant (Wireless Op./Air Gunner). 971259. Died 29/08/1941. Aged 30. 103 Sqdn. Son of Patrick and Mary Kelly  of William Street, Ballymena. Flushing (Vlissingen) Northern Cemetery, Zeeland, Netherlands

1942

+MURPHY, John
Royal Artillery. Gunner. 1149023. Died on 29/08/1942. Aged 34. 3 Field Regiment. Son of James and Jane Murphy of Hilltown; Husband to Lucy Murphy of Chorley, Lancashire. Hilltown (St. John) Roman Catholic Cemetery

1944

+DICK, Thomas
RAFVR. Sergeant (Air Gunner).1798176. Died 29.30/08/1944. Aged 19. 12 Squadron. Aboard Avro Lancaster PD273 which took off from R.A.F. Wickenby for a raid on Stettin, Poland on the night of 29/30 August 1944. Survivor, Sergeant A. Madelaine Flight Engineer, stated, ”Approaching the target we were told to descend below the cloud layer by the Master Bomber and we started our nun at 10,000’. The flak was extremely heavy and we had to turn away to avoid debris from a Lancaster that exploded alongside us.
“Suddenly the mid upper gunner reported a fire beneath him and I started to don a portable oxygen bottle in preparation for going down the fuselage to help douse the fire. The navigator passed me on the way to the bomb aimers compartment breaking my intercom, connection. Looking down the fuselage all I could see was a white glow and a thick white vapour. Out of this came the wireless operator wearing his parachute, he stopped me from entering the fuselage to attend to the fire and indicated that I should join him in the bomb aimers compartment. The pilot then indicated that I should leave, I left, noting that all the engine were still running.

“I saw the wireless operator leave the aircraft and immediately open his chute which reminded me to open mine. Smoke was rising to 10,000’ and I was falling in the target area and worried about landing in a fire.”

Thomas’ remains were buried along with his fellow Crew member, Sergeant (Air Gunner) Thomas Brian Dufty,1852960. Son of Adam and Annie Dick of Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim. Old Garrison Cemetery, Poznan, Poland.

+MURRAY, Charles Malachi
RAF. Sergeant (Flight Engineer). 535937. MiD twice. Died 29 – 30/08/1944. Aged 27. 166 Squadron, RAF. On the night of 29 – 30/08/1944 he was aboard Avro Lancaster 1, PD261, AS-S as Flight Engineer when the aircraft left R.A.F. Kirmington, Lincolnshire on a mission to Stettin, Germany.402 Lancaster Bombers took part in this raid of which 23 were lost including AS-S which is believed to have been shot down by a German Night Fighter with the loss of all on board. Having finished his initial training at Henlow, he was assigned to 6 Squadron and posted to the Middle East where he was stationed in Palestine and Egypt before the outbreak of war. Early in the war, his squadron was involved in the North African Campaign providing air cover and, for his services, he was awarded the ‘Africa Star’. Following the allied victory at El Alemein, 6 Squadron was recalled to the United Kingdom. In October 1942, he was transferred to Coastal Command 228 Squadron. He flew many missions over the Atlantic in Sunderland flying boats, spotting German U-boats, which were ravaging allied convoys at the time. At different times he was stationed at Lough Neagh and Lough Erne. In March 1944 Charlie was transferred to 166 Squadron Bomber Command. Son of Patrick and Emily Murray from Acton, Co. Armagh. Charles Murray’s remains are together with the rest of the Crew at Poznan Old Garrison Cemetery, Poland.

+STEWART, Charles Fullerton
RAFVR. Flying Officer (Air Gunner). 169048. DFM. Died 29/08/1944. Aged 22. 582 Sqdn. Son of William and Sarah Black Stewart, of Clogher, Co. Tyrone. Norre Vorupor Cemetery, Denmark. Clogher WM

 

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VETERAN

Samuel Ernest Picken, MM

RAMC. Captain. MC. Samuel was educated at the Belfast Royal Academy and studied medicine at the Queen’s University, where he graduated in June 1914. He volunteered for service on the outbreak of war and gained a temporary commission at the rank of Lieutenant within the R.A.M.C. on 9th October 1914. He was promoted to temporary Captain exactly one year later. Samuel was awarded the Military Medal for “Conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in going forward under heavy shell fire and attending to the wounded in advanced trenches and shell holes. He remained in the shelled area for a ling period, working incessantly and efficiently at the dressing and evacuating the wounded. He has always shown the same gallant spirit and devotion to duty.” He also served with the Army of Occupation, and was promoted to Acting Major on 13th December 1918. Relinquished the rank of acting Major on 12th October 1919, he finally left the army on 10th April 1920 and took up general practice.

A comrade wrote of him – “When I joined them (the 10th R.I.F.) I found that Dr. S. E. Picken, in the spite of his youth and inexperience, had established himself as a very efficient medical officer, and had identified himself heart and soul with the battalion, which he served so faithfully till the end of the war. We have often seen him with absorbed and pitying face, skillful hands, and infinite patience, spending hours in trying to make the waiting easier from some tortured soul. Many to-day, looking at their visible scars, will bless Sammy Picken for smoothing the first hours of shock and pain, and for seeing that they were sent back with all speed to quieter regions. Sammy was a battalion M.O., a front line doctor, during all his time in France. It was his own choice…. I remember a dressing station, with a wooden cross at the entrance marking the grave of the previous medical officer, a distinguished V.C. with bar, and a pill box in the salient swimming with water, shelled night and day – a death trap, because from our point of view the door was turned the wrong way. These were some of the residences which Dr Picken had to occupy in the performance of a duty he never shirked. He did not talk much, but he had a keen sense of humour, which made him a delightful companion. He rejoiced in the quaint sayings and extraordinary actions of his men, and he was in his glory when a ‘rag’ was in progress, and was ever ready to lend a helping hand. When Sam Picken was promoted, when he was mentioned in dispatches, when he was decorated, there was no doubt about the approval of all who knew him. We felt no honour could repay him for what he had done for all of us, and indeed honour he valued most was the enduring place which he held in the hearts of thousands of men. That he should have earned such a reputation for courage in a battalion that was noted all over the Western Front for its dash, its reckless bravery, its grim determination to do or die, speaks for itself.”

Samuel died in a bathing tragedy when he, his wife and friends went bathing in the sea at Castlerock. It is believed Samuel suffered a heart attack when they were all leaving the sea and disappeared, his body was recovered a few minuets later in shallow water. Born on the 29/08/1890, he was the third son of Dr James Picken, Hazelbank, Randalstown, and Mrs Picken O.B.E., and later of 7 Richmond Crescent, Belfast.

Acknowledgments : The British Medical Journal Obituary 1935, London Gazette; Belfast Evening Telegraph, The RAMC in the Great War.

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One thought on “August 29 – Roll of Honour

  1. Major David Currie’s VC was not the only one associated with the fighting in Normandy. CSM Stanley Hollis, 6th Green Howards, earned the only VC on D Day while Lieutenant Tasker Watkins, 1/5th Welch, earned the VC for his part in the fighting near Balfour on 16 August. Canadian-born S/Ldr Ian Bazelgette, whose father was English and mother Irish, earned a posthumous VC for an air action over Normandy on 4 August.
    David Currie earned his VC commanding a battlegroup of 29th Reconnaissance Regiment (The South Alberta Regiment) at St Lambert over three days from 19 August. Since St Lambert was on a road leading out of the Falaise Pocket, and therefore vital to Germans seeking to escape, his BG, including tanks, infantry and SPGs, was subjected to a series of ferocious attacks, but succeeded in taking St Lambert and cutting off one of the German escape routes. Currie was the only Canadian soldier to earn the VC in Normandy and the first Canadian VC in the campaign to liberate NW Europe.

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