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 Marshall, 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.