On This Day in 1939 Cdre HH Harwood in HMS Ajax with Achilles and Exeter engaged the Admiral Graf Spee at the Battle of the River Plate forcing her to enter Montevideo in Uruguay for repairs but she scuttled believing superior forces were waiting. An early WW2 result. William Freeman from Cookstown was in Exeter.
William Freeman joined the Royal Navy in the summer of 1938, On the morning of 13th December, shortly after 6am AB Freeman was lying on deck when the order came for “action stations”. Distant guns flashed and soon HMS Exeter had received her first baptism of fire. Freeman was a member of the crew of one of the 4.7-inch guns that returned fire until the gun itself was disabled by a hit that killed and wounded many men, a piece of shrapnel cutting a hole in Billy’s cap and a slight cut to one hand. While serving onboard HMS Exeter, Billy served with 14 men from Northern Ireland as well as men from the Republic of Ireland. He died on 07/02/1944 in HMS Leonian.
Representing their comrades who died on this day
Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, 9th Btn. Private. 19295. Died 13/12/1916. Aged 25. Son of Joseph and Isabella Watt, of Annaghbeg, Donaghmore, Co. Tyrone. He is a linen worker. Henry enlisted in Bundoran, County Donegal. Bailleul Communal Cemetery Extension, Nord, France. Dungannon WM
RN. Died 13/12/1917. Armitage St., Belfast. Belfast Telegraph 17/12/1918 in memoriam notice from sister Susan Barker of Armitage St., Sara Downs of Bright St., and brother David. Megain Memorial – PCI RH
+WILSON, George D H
RM. PLY/9192. HMS Carysfort. Died 13/12/1917. Age 36. Born Bridgnorth, Salop 01/02/1879. Enlisted Walsall 31/05/1898. Son of John Wilson, Mount St., Coleraine. Husband to Annie Wilson, Plymouth. Woodlands Cemetery, Gillingham, Kent
+DOUTHER, Archibald Douther,
18th (Western Ontario) Battalion. Sergeant. 53042. Died 13/12/1918.
Enlisted in Fergus, Ontario in the 18th (Western Ontario) Battalion on the 24 October 1914, pointing out that he was ‘enlisting as a regimental tailor’; he was a tailor by trade. His service was later deemed to be from the 29 April. He was 5’ 9” tall, had brown eyes and brown hair, and said he was a Methodist. He was married, his wife Martha then being at North End, Ballyclare. During the war, since Archibald was to serve only in England, she lived at 3, Hillview Terrace, Etchinghill, Lyminge, Kent. He said he was born in Ballyclare, elsewhere Larne, but he was actually born at Drains, Cairncastle on the 28/09/1888 and he was the son of carpenter Thomas Douther and Agnes Elizabeth McConnell. He left Canada from Halifax aboard the SS Grampian on the 18/04/1916 with the 18th Battalion and landed in England on the 29th. April. He passed through the 36th Battalion before going to the 39th Battalion. He stayed there until transferred to the 6th (Reserve) Battalion on 04/01/1917. Archibald Douther was one of those struck down by the Spanish influenza outbreak at the end of the Great War. He was ill by 11/12/1918 and his illness was designated ‘influenza-pneumonia’ the next day. His problems developed rapidly and he was seriously ill on the 13th. He died at 12 Canadian General Hospital, Bramshott at 5.45 pm that day. Archibald Douther’s body was brought home and was buried in Ballyclare New Cemetery.
+FERGUSON, William Joseph
RNR. Trimmer. 7543/TS. HMS Pekin. Died 13/12/1918. Age 19. Son of Joseph and Margaret Ferguson, of Whitehouse, Belfast. Grimsby (Scartho Road) Cemetery.
RAF. Sergeant. 521091. Died 13/12/1939. Aged 23 236 Sqdn. Test pilot for the RAF, died after a flying accident in England. Son of Edward and Jane McCluggage of Larne. Larne (McGarel) Cemetery. (Larne Times 26/11/2009).
RAF. Corporal. 638345. Died 13/12/1941. Aged 24. Son of George Gamble, and of Florence M. Gamble of Lisburn. Dromara First Presbyterian Churchyard
RN. Petty Officer Supply. P/MX. 55389. Died 13/12/1941. Age 23. HMS Puckeridge, a Hunt type escort destroyer. Lost 06/09/1943. Around 2015 hours on 6 September 1943 HMS Puckeridge (Lt. John Cecil Cartwright, DSC, RN) was hit by two of four torpedoes fired by the German submarine U-617 and sank about 40 nautical miles east of Gibraltar in position 36º06’N, 04º44’W. HMS Puckeridge was en route alone taking important messages to Oran. 129 men were rescued and 62 men were lost with the ship. Four years service in RN. He was a member of10th Belfast Scout Troop and of St John Ambulance Brigade. Worked previously in Durham Street Weaving Company. He was married only three weeks before his death. Son of David and Elizabeth Henderson, Dundela Crescent, Belfast; husband to Isobel Henderson, Dunfermline, Fife. (Belfast Weekly Telegraph 02/01/1942). Commemorated Pembroke Dock Cemetery, Wales
RNVR. AB.Service Number P/ED/X. 1615. Died 13/12/1941. Age 21. HMS Puckeridge. Brother Richard serving with the Royal Artillery. His father had served throughout WW1. Son of William and Rebecca Agnes Montgomery, Boundary St., Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Belfast Weekly Telegraph 26/12/1941). Pembroke Dock (Llanion) Cemetery
+MARTIN, William John Robertson
RN. AB. D/JX 146964. Died 03/12/1942. Age 22. HMS Penylan. Joined RN as a Boy. Served two years on China Station prior to the war. Brother also serving in the RN. Father and two uncles served in WW1. Husband to Wilhelmina Mary Martin, Auburn St., Belfast. (Belfast Weekly Telegraph 25/12/1942). Plymouth Naval Memorial, Panel 66
RN. AB. D-JX182483. HMS White Bear. Died 13/12/1942. Age 25. White Bear served as a tender to submarine flotillas. Son of Joseph and Sarah Nutt, Ballysillan, Belfast. Carnmoney C of I churchyard
RAF. Sergeant. 541549. Died 13/12/1943. Aged 27. Husband of Margaret Price, of Belfast. Dundonald Cemetery
+JOHNSTON, George Usher
RN. Leading Stoker. D/KX132149. HMS Kenya. Died 13/12/1943. Age 21. Born 21/01/1923. Son of William & Annie Johnston, Cookstown. He had tried to join the Navy on a couple of occasions before his 18th birthday but was unsuccessful. Died as a result of a fatal accident during recreational bathing in Trincomalee harbour. His body was buried in an iron casket on the shore close to where he died. A few years later his body was reinterred at Trincomalee War Cemetery, Sri Lanka. Cookstown WM. Molesworth Presbyterian RH
WHITESIDE, Henry Albert
Lieutenant. North Irish Horse. Henry Albert (born Albert Henry) Whiteside was born on 13 December 1892 at Goragh, Mullaglass, County Armagh, the third or fourth of eight children of farmer David Whiteside and his wife Rebecca (nee Kirkpatrick). By 1911 he was living at Goragh and working on the family farm.
Whiteside enlisted in the North Irish Horse between 12 November and 8 December 1909 (No.426 – later Corps of Hussars No.71025). He embarked for France on 20/08/1914 with C Squadron, seeing action in the retreat from Mons and advance to the Aisne.
Much later in the war he applied for a commission and undertook training at an officer cadet battalion in the UK. On 27 March 1918, he was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant and posted to the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.
Later that year he embarked for France, where he was posted to one of the Inniskilling battalions in the field. He saw action in the Advance to Victory offensive in the last months of the war, and in September or October 1918 was wounded, though not seriously.
Whiteside was promoted to lieutenant in 27/09/1919.
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