On 17 January 1942 five men from NI were lost when HMS Matabele on a convoy from Iceland to Murmansk was hit by a torpedo from the German submarine U-454. On the same day in a different arena, an MTB under command of Sir Ivan Ewart came under German fire and, in the ensuing explosions he lost an eye and severely injured his right arm before becoming a prisoner in Colditz Castle. Photo – An icon of WW2: the Avro Lancaster in all its glory.
Representing their comrades who died on this day
RNVR. Lieutenant (A) Died 17/01/1941. Age 33. HMS Goshawk. Son of Thomas J and Mary Carr, Belfast. Lee-on-Solent Naval Memorial, Panel 6. RNIYC WM
+GORDON, Daniel Regis
RAF. Corporal. 519673. Died 17/01/1941. Age 24. 55 Sqdn. Son of Daniel and Rose Gordon of Lurgan. El Alamein War Cemetery, Egypt
+JACKSON, George Balfour Sydney
RN. FAA. Leading Airman, FAA/FX 80569. Assigned to HMS Daedalus (FAA base at Lee-on-Solent). Died 17/01/1941. Age 19. He was a passenger on steam passenger ship Almeda Star lost on passage to Trinidad. The ship was sunk with the loss of all crew and passengers by U-Boat 96. Son of Sydney Herbert and Marjorie Sinclair Jackson, Belfast. Lee-on-Solent Memorial, Hampshire. St Jude’s Parish Church, Belfast WM
RAFVR. Leading Aircraftman. 1059208. Died 17/01/1941. Aged 21. Son of John and Emily McFaul of Kilwaughter. Kilwaughter New Cemetery
On 30/08/1941 she was deployed with the aircraft carrier Argus and other ships on a mission to deliver RAF equipment and personnel to North Russia to support Soviet military operations after the Soviet Union had entered the war. The operation was completed successfully and the ships returned to Scapa Flow on 15 November. Matabele spent October to December on patrol, and screening operations off Norway. In January 1942 she formed the screen, with Somali, for the cruiser Trinidad on Convoy PQ-8 from Iceland to Murmansk. The convoy departed on 11 January, and came under torpedo attack on 16 January. On 17 January Matabele was hit by a torpedo from the German submarine U-454 and sank almost immediately. Only two out her complement of 238 survived. Many who were able to leave the stricken ship succumbed in the ice-cold water before rescue was possible. The two survivors were picked up by the minesweeper Harrier.
RN. AB. D/SSX 17785. Died 17/01/1942. HMS Matabele. Plymouth Naval Memorial, Panel 65. KIllyleagh WM
RN. Able Seaman. D/JX 148535. Died 17/01/1942. Age: 39. HMS Matabele. James had served in the RN for three years prior to rejoining on the outbreak of war. Son of William and Sarah Lynas; husband to Mary Lynas,’Newlands’, Magheramourne.. Father of three children. (Belfast Weekly Telegraph 20/02/1942). Plymouth Naval Memorial, Panel 47
RN. Petty Officer Cook (O). D/MX 49918. Died 17/01/1942. Age: 27. HMS Matabele. Son of Richard and Mary McIlroy, Carrickfergus. Plymouth Naval Memorial, Panel 72
+WARDEN, Robert John
RN. AB. D/SSX15810. HMS Matabele. Died 17/01/1942. Son of Robert John and Elizabeth Warden. Husband to Josephine Sarah Warden, Newtownards. Plymouth Naval Memorial, Panel 66
+McMULLAN, William Austin
RAFVR. Pilot Officer. 139489. Died 17/01/1943. Aged 23. 35 Sqdn. Son of Clifford and Helen Elizabeth McMullan, of Belfast. Esbjerg (Fourfelt) Cemetery, Denmark
+LAVELLE, Willam George
Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, 2nd Btn. Serjeant. 6977351. Died 17/01/1944. Aged 31. Son of Moses and Martha Lavelle, of Augher, Co. Tyrone. Minturno War Cemetery, Italy. Clogher WM
RM. Marine. CH/X 3889. Died 17/01/1945. Age 19. Son of Alexander and Isabella J. Cowan, of Belfast, Northern Ireland. Guildford (Stoke) New Cemetery.
Pioneer Corps. Private. 6978287. Died 17/01/1946. Aged 27. He had served with the Royal Ulster Rifles before the Pioneer Corps. Son of John and Mary Porter, of Magherafelt and Husband to Matilda Porter, of Magherafelt. St Swithins Church of Ireland, Magherafelt.
ERSKINE, John Thomas Morley
RN. Lieut.-Commander. (S). 1939 – 45. Lieutenant 01/09/1944. Born 17/01/1922, son of J Erskine, Greenisland, Co. Antrim. Campbell College 2681
HMS Caroline. RNVR. Lieutenant. DSC. Sir William Ivan Cecil Ewart. Appointed to Vernon for duty with the 4th MTB Flotilla as First Lieutenant of MTB 22. Promoted Acting Sub-Lieutenant September 1939 and Lieutenant in June 1941, when appointed in command of MTB 51. January 1942 appointed in command of MTB 47. On 17/01/1942 this came under German fire and, in the ensuing explosions, he lost an eye and severely injured his right arm. He was to wear an eye patch for the rest of his life. He was later captured by the Germans and sent to Colditz Castle, a camp for “incorrigible” Allied officers who had repeatedly escaped from other camps, where he spent the remainder of the war. In 1945 he was awarded the DSC. Several weeks before his death he traveled to Germany to meet with an officer who had participated in the attack upon his MTB. This was an event he had been waiting fifty years for, he held no animosity toward the enemy, regarding them as honourable adversaries. William Ivan Cecil Ewart, 6th Baronet, was born at Derryvolgie House, Lisburn.
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