Today, our ceremony in the late summer sunshine was a special one concentrating on Brookwood Military Cemetery’s Memorial to the Missing 1939-1945.
We remembered three individuals; Ensign Madeleine Damerment – First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY) / French Section Special Operations Executive (SOE), Major Richard Edwards – Royal Army Medical Corps and Volunteer Amiram Shohet – Palmach / SOE.
Ensign Damerment, whose family was part of the French Resistance, voluntarily joined the French Section of the SOE. Appointed to the FANY, she was parachuted into France on the night of 28/29 February 1944. Quickly captured, and held in a number of prisons, she was transferred to Dachau Concentration camp and was executed there on 13 September 1944.
Present at the ceremony today, and acting as Standard Bearer of a three person colour party from the present day FANY (PRVC), was Zoe Brooke, great-niece of Madeleine.
Major Edwards spent a great deal of his wartime service on troop ships in and around the Mediterranean, during the North Africa campaign and the landings in Italy. On 25th November 1943, HMT Rohna on which he was Senior Medical Officer and carrying around 2000 US troops, joined a convoy at Oran, Algeria bound for the Far East. The convoy was attacked by German aircraft on the following day off Tunis and HMT Rohna was sunk after being struck by a new type of guided bomb, the Henschel 293. The resulting loss of 1015 GI’s was the greatest loss of life at sea ever suffered by the US forces and in addition, 134 British and Indian officers and men perished.
Major Edwards’ son, Jonathan, and his grand-daughter Fenella Bootle-Wilbraham were present at the ceremony today.
Volunteer Shohet was the mate of the Sea Lion boat used during Operation Boatswain (known in Hebrew as kaf-gimel yordei ha-sira, “the twenty-three who went down with the ship”), the first of the operational missions carried out by the Palmach as part of the cooperation between the Jewish community in Mandatory Palestine (now Israel) and the British, during WW2. The mission, to sabotage Vichy French oil refineries in Tripoli, Lebanon was unsuccessful, ending with the disappearance of 23 Palmach commandos/SOE volunteers and British SOE officer Major Sir Anthony Palmer after the Sea Lion (borrowed from the British Palestine Police) was lost at sea on May 18, 1941. Several theories have been put forward for the boat’s loss including rough weather and the possible explosion of the explosives being carried.
Amiram Shohet’s second cousin, (former) Ambassador Gershon Gan was present at the ceremony today.
We read out the poem The Life That I Have, written by Alfred Marks and used as her coding poem by Violette Szabo GC of French Section, Special Operations Executive, commemorated on the Memorial to the Missing and subject to the film Carve Her Name With Pride. Paul McCue read the poem and the biographies.
Our ceremony was conducted by our Padre, Mr Bert Steed and we also had a representative from the Jewish Community lead with the Kaddish prayer.
Israeli Ambassador, Mark Regev laid a wreath and at the end of the Ceremony at the invitation of our Parade Marshal, inspected the seven Standards on parade.
BLP Member John Kingsbury laid a wreath remembering our former Chairman, Mr Malcolm Head.
Afterwards, we retired round to the Trench Experience for some refreshments.
We started our ceremony today with the sad news that our previous Chairman, Mr Malcolm Head had passed away this morning. Malcolm was Chair of the BLP during its most challenging period. The most recent ceremony that he attended was the July Last Post last month. Without his vision and drive, the Brookwood Last Post would not have survived and would now be consigned to history. We will miss him terribly.
Today we held a multi faith ceremony remembering those Commonwealth soldiers killed in all wars from across the faith spectrum.
We had representatives from the Bahá’í, Christian, Hindu, Muslim and Sikh faiths all of whom held a prayer.
Mr Simon Trick
Mr Inderjeet Singh Rehncy
Mrs Meeta Joshi
Mrs Kauser Akhter
We remembered Private James Henry Sitch, service number G/45373 who is buried in plot XIII, grave C.8A at Brookwood Military Cemetery.
Private Sitch died 100 years ago on Monday, 5th August 1918, his age isn’t listed, nor his address, but the fact that he was in the Royal West Surreys suggests that he was a local man, albeit he had transferred to the Labour Corps by the time of his death.
We read out the poem ‘The Crosses’ by Bill Mitton.
At the end of the ceremony, our Chairman, Kevin Davis and Woking Mayor, Cllr Will Forster inspected the Standards on parade.
We had four Standards on parade, and our Standard Bearer today was Mrs Sue Stallard. We had fewer Standards today as some members are attending the Great Pilgrimage 90 Parade in Belgium.
Our bugler was Mrs Ruth Moore, our Reverend was Mr Rob Bennett, and additional speakers were John Kingsbury and Paul McCue. Afterwards we went round to the Trench Experience for refreshments.
The hot temperatures today didn’t stop Beavers, Cubs and Scouts turning out from Woking District for the July edition of the Brookwood Last Post.
We had nine Standards on parade, five from the Scouts with Mrs Sue Stallard parading the BLP Standard.
We remembered Brookwood resident Wilfred Bolingbroke. Wilfred was the son of Alfred. He lived at The Homestead – now 142 Connaught Road. He enlisted in Bisley, joining the third battalion of the Tank Corps (formerly the Machine Gun Corps). He served as a private in Flanders and France. It is highly likely that he was part of the Battle of Cambrai-St. Quentin (27th September – 9th October 1918). This was the main British contribution to the attack on the Hindenburg line and succeeded in pushing back the Germans to the River Selle.
The war was to last just one month more, but sadly Wilfred was killed in action on 8th October 1918, aged just 22 years. He is buried in the Busigny Cemetery in Northern France.
Although we performed the long ceremony, we substituted the second hymn with the poem ‘The Life of a Soldier’ by Jodi M. Kucera.
Our bugler was Mrs Ruth Moore and our Padre was Bert Steed.
Afterwards we had some refreshments round at The Trench Experience.
Today in the nice sunshine, we welcomed members of Woking District Scouts for our short ceremony. The Scouts are planning to lay a wreath at the Menin Gate on 10 November 2018 and form up as part of the Poppy Parade on the 11 November through Ypres. As part of this, Scouts are attending our ceremony to gain experience with parading Standards. We are very pleased to see them with us.
We had 10 Standards on parade today with six of them from the Scouts.
Woking District Scouts in attendance
11 Standards on parade
We remembered Flying Officer Ronald Charles Wood, 12251. A flying instructor with 20 (Pilots) Advanced Flying Unit, based at RAF Kidlington, F/O Wood was killed when the Airspeed Oxford in which he was flying collided in mid-air with a similar aircraft of the same unit on 3rd June 1943 – exactly 75 years ago. Both aircraft, on night flying exercises, crashed and five men died.
F/O Wood was the son of Alfred and Alice Mary Wood of Woking, Surrey. He is commemorated on the war memorial at Old Woking and buried in plot 23.C.12 at Brookwood Military Cemetery. He was 25 years old when he died.
Our bugler was Mrs Ruth Moore, the Union Flag was paraded by Mrs Sue Stallard, and the BLP Standard was paraded by Tom Milne.
Paul McCue read the war poem ‘Occupation’ by Roger Elkin.
Afterwards we had some refreshments round at the Trench Experience.
Today in the wonderful sunshine, we were joined by members of the Free Czechoslovak Air Force Association. The FCAFA hold a couple of ceremonies at the cemetery each year and we were honoured to have them join us. The Mayor of Woking, Cllr Graham Cundy and Cllr John Kingsbury in his last role representing Woking Borough Council also attended.
We remembered Jaroslav Štěrbáček, who was a member of the Czech Air Force in the 30s, prior to transferring to the RAF in 1940. He was posted to the newly formed 310 (Czechoslovak) Squadron which flew Hurricane Mk 1s. Jaroslav flew his first operational patrol flight on 19 August and five more during August.
At 13:00, 31 August, twelve 12 Hurricanes from 310 Sqn took-off for an operational patrol. At 13:25, flying at an altitude of 12,000 feet over the Thames Estuary, they saw a Luftwaffe bomber formation along with numerous Me 109 for fighter support. 310 Sqn Hurricanes attacked and in the resultant dog-fight, Štěrbáček’s Hurricane was last seen attacking a Do 17 before being shot down by a Me 109 about 13:30. His Hurricane was seen to go into a steep dive with Jaroslav managing to bail-out. The Hurricane crashed near Romford, Essex, but Jaroslav landed into the Thames Estuary and is believed to have drowned, his body was never found.
P/O Jaroslav Štěrbáček is commemorated on panel 10 of the RAF’s Runnymede Memorial. He has the dubious distinction of being the 1st of 511 Czech airmen inc 1 WAAF to be killed in RAF service during WW2. He was 27 years old.
Our bugler was Mrs Ruth Moore, the BLP Standard was paraded by Tom Milne and the Union Flag by Mrs Sue Stallard. We had an additional seven Standards on parade and a number of air force cadets.
After the ceremony we had some refreshments at The Trench Experience.
Today our Last Post ceremony was RAF themed, it being 100 years ago since the formation of the RAF. For this reason, we chose to extend our individual remembrance to four individuals, two from WWI and two from WWII.
Cadet Axel Bendix, 43rd Wing, Royal Flying Corps, aged 22 was undergoing training at Fort Worth, Texas, USA when he was killed on 21 January 1918.
Pte Francis Redwood, aged 30, of Wantage, Berkshire died on 19 November 1918 in unknown circumstances.
Both are commemorated on the WWI – The Brookwood 1914-1918 Memorial for those with no known grave.
Warrant Officer Terence Riordan, aged 22, RAFVR of 98 Sqn RAF and Flying Officer Ernest Fooks, aged 32, RAFVR of 180 Sqn RAF were both pilots of North American B-25 Mitchell Mark II bombers based at RCAF Dunsfold, Surrey.
Returning from a bombing mission attacking construction sites for V-1 ‘buzz bombs’ on 7th January 1944, their two aircraft collided and crashed close to the village of Rudgwick, West Sussex. All crew were killed. Six were buried in their home towns, while Riordan and Fooks were buried in Brookwood Military Cemetery.
Warrant Officer Riordan
Flying Officer Fooks
We will remember them.
For the first time, in many years, the Brookwood Last Post’s Union Flag was paraded by Mrs Sue Stallard. This flag was commissioned in 1968 and is now 50 years old.
The Brookwood Last Post Standard was paraded by Alan Lopez and there were several other Standards on parade.
Afterwards we went round to The Trench Experience for refreshments.