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Watmore, Charles Maurice

Charles Maurice Watmore was born on the 15th January 1921, a twin to Francis G. Watmore in the Grantham, Lincolnshire Registration District. (Grantham Vol. 7a Page 841).   They were the sons of George Henry & Maud Watmore (nee Robinson) who had married in the same registration district in the June quarter of 1920 (Grantham Vol. 7a Page 1561).

I believe that George Henry was in WW1, as I found some Attestation Papers and Medal Card for him.   He was a Private in the Lincolnshire Regiment, Regtl. No. 18127.   He was a Skinner’s Labourer, 5feet 8 inches tall, 132lbs and his chest measured 37 inches with a range of expansion of 2 inches.   The Medal Card states that he was awarded the Britain and Victory Medals.   He was in the Wharncliffe War Hospital, Sheffield from the 15th June 1918 to the 29th October 1918 for Empyema, (The collection of pus in a cavity, especially in the pleural cavity.   Also known as pyothorax.)

The Attestation Papers tell us that he was age 18 years and 82 days old when he enlisted on the 31st day of May 1915 and he was discharged on the 22nd November 1918 as “Being no longer physically fit for war service.” (Para 392 (XVl).    I have downloaded them, so if anyone want5s them, contact the website.

Between 1921 and 1927, George & Maud must have moved to Wales, as I believe that the rest of their family were born in the Hawarden Registration District.    I believe that they were Kathleen E. born in the March Quarter of 1927 (Hawarden Vol. 11b                Page 337); Noreen Watmore born in the September quarter of 1929 (Hawarden Vol. 11b Page 316) and then Regg Watmore, born in the December quarter of 1931 ((Hawarden Vol. 11b Page 268), I believe these are the children whose records were redacted or closed on the 1939 National Register, taken on the 29th September 1939.  Their address on that day was 10 Bryn Yorkin,Caergwrle, Hawarden, Flintshire.

It is this record that gives us the dates of birth of all the family.   George H. Watmore had been born on the 10th March 1898 and he was a Steel Works Labourer.   Mau Watmore had been born on the 23rd December 1897 and like most married women on this register who did not have a job was described as doing “Unpaid Domestic Duties.”    Charles M. Watmore and his twin brother Francis G. Watmore had been born on the 15th January 1921, which matches the date on the UK, British Army and Navy Birth, Marriage and Death Records, 1730-1960 for Charles Maurice Watmore.   They were both single and Colliery Screen Hands.  There are 3 redacted or closed records and these I believe are Charles’s other sibling, as stated above.

Sadly I do not have information on Charles’s childhood, teenage years or when he was to either enlist or be conscripted, but he was to find himself in the Royal Navy and aboard H.M.S. “Thanet” on the 27th January 1942, 12 days after his 21st birthday.  We do know that it was after the 29th September 1939.

By 1942 Charles had been made a Stoker 1st Class and was stationed on H.M.S. Thanet.    I was lucky enough to find an excellent article by Philip.G.Cracknell@gmail.com – He has allowed me to print an extract of his article which refers to Charles’s last day on H.M.S. Thanet, many thanks to him. http://battleforhongkong.blogspot.com/2017/07/hms-thanet-monthly-blog-july-2017.html  Please refer to the website for the whole story.

“HMS Thanet  – Later that day, on 26 January, HMS Thanet and HMAS Vampire were ordered to sail from Singapore to intercept the Japanese convoy at Endau some eighty miles north of Singapore.  In the early hours of 27 January they sighted a Japanese warship, thought to be a destroyer, and Vampire fired at her with torpedoes, which missed the target. The Japanese vessel turned out to be a minesweeper and the torpedoes probably passed underneath her shallow hull. A short while later they sighted the  Japanese destroyer IJN Shirayuki, and Vampire fired two more torpedoes which also missed their target. Thanet then launched her four torpedoes, which also missed. The two Allied destroyers then engaged the Japanese vessels with their 4-inch QF guns. Shirayuki was joined by the Japanese cruiser Sendai. Outgunned and outnumbered, the two Allied destroyers started to withdraw towards the southeast. At 0400 hours Thanet was hit in the engine room, lost propulsion and was brought to a stop. Vampire commenced laying a protective smokescreen, but it was too late, Thanet was immobilised and was already sinking. The Japanese destroyers, Fubuki, Hatsuyuki, Asagiri, Amagiri, and Yugiri closed in for the kill. Thanet sunk within fifteen minutes of being hit. Vampire was undamaged, but facing a strong Japanese naval force, had no opportunity to assist Thanet, and accordingly, she disengaged and sailed back to Singapore.

   After the order was given to abandon ship,  there was enough time for most of Thanet’s  crew to get off the ship and into the water. Many were able to get aboard the Carley floats, others hanging on to floating debris, they started paddling, and pushing their rafts towards the East Malayan coast. Reports suggest that the Shirayuki picked up thirty-one of Thanet’s crew members. They were landed at Endau and handed over to the Japanese Army. None of these men were seen again and it is assumed they were all executed by the Japanese possibly as an act of retaliation for Japanese losses in an ambush carried out by Australian troops. One of the Thanet officers, Sub-Lt R.H. Danger, the ship’s Torpedo Officer, remained on Shirayuki, it is not clear why; perhaps he was wounded, perhaps they wanted to interrogate him as to presence of minefields. He was later interned in Indochina, and he survived the war.

   The web site for Force-Z survivors (www.forcez-survivors.org.uk), details some one hundred and thirteen crew members, including some Chinese stewards and cooks, and identifies those that were killed in action on 27 January 1941. There are thirty-seven Thanet crew listed as killed and their details are also shown in Commonwealth War Graves Commissions records. Thirty of those thirty-seven listed as killed on 27 January must have been in the group picked up by Shirayuki and the remaining seven may have perished when the ship sank, or they may have failed to make it ashore and drowned,  or, they may have died whilst trying to make their way south to Singapore.

   Some seventy-six members of the crew survived the sinking, and made it to the shore including the commanding officer. A large number, reports suggest more than fifty, of the crew made it back to Singapore ahead of the surrender of Singapore on 15 February 1942. Five crew members are listed as having died in POW Camps. Some of the POWs may have been caught in Singapore at the surrender, some may have been captured in Malaya whilst trying to escape south to Singapore.

   When the survivors reached the shore they became widely dispersed. Few of them had any footwear or much clothing. They all headed southwards determined to get back to Singapore more than eighty miles away. Some went along the jungle shore following the coast. Some found boats. Some went along roads through the jungle towards Johore. The survivors ran into various RAF aircrew who had been shot down, and who were also heading south for the relative safety of Singapore with the Japanese relentlessly advancing behind them. Sgt Charles MacDonald had been shot down in his Vildebeest, most likely in the attack on the same group of Japanese landing ships and destroyers at Endau. He recalled coming across a number of Thanet survivors. They joined up and made their way through the jungle to Singapore. Sgt Harry Lockwood had been shot down in a Fairy Albacore. He met up with six Thanet survivors who were heading for Singapore. Two RAF officers who had ditched their aircraft north of Mersing, found a boat which they used to cross the Mersing River. They then ran into a group of Thanet survivors. They joined up, and used the boat to go south, rowing at night and sleeping ashore during the day. They were eventually picked up by a coaster and taken to Singapore. In another incident, RAF pilot John Fleming had ditched in the sea. He swam ashore and started heading south. He swam the Mersing River and after continuing southwards came across a large group of Thanet survivors, some of which he recalled had been badly injured. They found a whaler and used the boat to sail down the coast. At one point they were hailed by another group of Thanet survivors who were with two aircrew from a shot-down Vildebeest. They were taken onboard the whaler and the escapees continued down the coast eventually reaching Singapore.

  Between fifty and sixty survivors trickled back to Singapore all having made incredible escapes, some by land and some by sea. The Naval Historical Society of Australia web site states that some of the survivors were allocated to HMS Stronghold and HMS Sultan. The former was another S-class destroyer which was sank in March 1942, the latter was the RN shore base in Singapore. Other sources state that a number of Thanet survivors together with other Force Z survivors got away on HMS Endeavour which was reportedly one of the last evacuation ships to get away from Singapore before the surrender.”

I believe that probably Charles was killed in the first hit of the torpedo when it hit the Engine Room, but of course we do not know.

The above story only reinforces the saying – “Lest we Forget” as we mustn’t forget the sacrifices of all the men and women who fought o give us freedom.

I believe that Charles Maurice’s father, George Henry, died in the December quarter of 1960, age 62 in the Hawarden Registration District. (Hawarden Vol. 8a Page 486).

I found a death of a Francis G. Watmore in the March quarter of 1965, age 53 in Basinstoke, is this Charles ‘s twin brother? (Basingstoke Vol.  6B Page 108) – The district Basingstoke spans the boundaries of the counties of Berkshire and Hampshire.

I believe that Charles Maurice’s mother, Maud, died in the March quarter of 1972 age 75 (Wrexham Vol. 8a Page 2620).  There is a year difference in the date of birth on this compared to the 1939 National Register, the death certificate Maud’s date of birth is given as 23rd December 1896.

Obviously Charles was very much loved and missed by his family as they made sure his name would be remembered for perpetuity by adding it to the Hope WW2 War Memorial.  His father was alive to suffer the grief of losing his young son and his mother had to bear the death of both of their sons, one in war service, and also her husband as well.


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