Joseph Edward Gilbert’s birth was registered in Hawarden in 1908 (Flintshire (Mold) HAW/09A/37), he was the son of John & Emily Gilbert who, I believe, had married in the September Quarter of 1907 in West Bromwich, Staffordshire.
John, 29, & Emily, 26, must have moved to Deeside very quickly, as Joseph Edward, as said before, was born in the Hawarden Registration District in 1908 and by the 1911 census they were living at 28, Butler Street, Shotton where they had another child, Winifred Evelyn, who on this census was 9 months old. John was a Chilled Roll Moulder in the Galvanized Ironworks (Foundry) and they tell us that they had both been born in West Bromwich and they had been married 3 and ½ years and they had 2 children, both still living. Joseph Edward was 2 and ½ years old.
The 1921 census, which was taken on the 19th of June 1921, shows they were still at the same address, and now John Gilbert was 39 years and 7 months old, he was an Iron Moulder at John Summers Lt., Hawarden Bridge, Shotton and he had written “Out of Work.” On the census, but it had been crossed out. There were thousands of men out of work because of the Miner’s strike, but perhaps he was still in work. Emily Gilbert was now 36 years and 9 months old and was doing “Home Duties.” Joseph Edward Gilbert was now 12 years and 9 months old. Winifred Evelyn Gilbert was now 10 years 11 months old, and Dorothy Gilbert was 3 years 11 months old, they had been born in Hawarden Parish and were at school.
I have no news about the family till the 1939 Register, which was collected on the 29th of September 1939, whereas the War was declared on the 3rd September of that year. They were living at “Quinton,” Shotton Lane, Shotton and the head of the household on the National Register is John Gilbert and this source gives us the dates of birth. He had been born on the 26th of November 1881 and was an Iron Moulder, Emily Gilbert’s birthdate was the 24th of September 1884 and was doing “Unpaid Domestic Duties. Joseph Edward Gilbert had been born on the 5th of Septmber 1908 and was an Iron Foundry Labourer, I believe that he was working or volunteering for the St. John Ambulance Service. Dorothy Gilbert* had been born on the 30th of July 1917 and was a Clerk for a Wholesale Merchants. John Morris Gilbert had been born on the 10th of January 1925 and was a Van Boy.
*I believe that Dorothy Gilbert later married a Kenneth H. Dempsey in the December quarter of 1941 (Hawarden Vol. 11b Page 740).
St. Ethelwold’s Church Parish Register- Marriages. – Page 98 No. 195 6th December 1941 Kenneth Humphreys DEMPSEY, 23, Bachelor, Fusilier. H.M. Forces. , Beaconsfield Road, Shotton, Father Patrick DEMPSEY, Ex. Police Officer & Dorothy GILBERT, 24, Spinster, Quinton, Shotton Lane, Shotton, Father John GILBERT, Foreman Moulder. (after Banns). Witnesses: – Thomas Alan DEMPSEY & Maureen DEMPSEY.
I have no news about the family till the 1939 Register, which was collected on the 29th of September 1939, whereas the War was declared on the 3rd September of that year. They were living at “Quinton,” Shotton Lane, Shotton and the head of the household on the National Register is John Gilbert and this source gives us the dates of birth. He had been born on the 26th of November 1881 and was an Iron Moulder, Emily Gilbert’s birthdate was the 24th of September 1884 and was doing “Unpaid Domestic Duties. Joseph Edward Gilbert had been born on the 5th of September 1908 and was an Iron Foundry Labourer, I believe that he was working or volunteering for the St. John Ambulance Service. Dorothy Gilbert* had been born on the 30th of July 1917 and was a Clerk for a Wholesale Merchants. John Morris Gilbert had been born on the 10th of January 1925 and was a Van Boy. *
*I believe that Dorothy Gilbert later married a Kenneth H. Dempsey in the December quarter of 1941 (Flintshire (Mold) C115/06/E195), in St. Ethelwold’s Parish Church, Shotton.
Any help to fill in the intervening years would be gratefully received as we need to make sure that Joseph Edward is remembered.
I am presuming that Joseph Edward was to join the Royal Navy after this date. Below is an eye-witness account taken from https://uboat.net/allies/warships/ship/4628.html. These are the sad circumstances of Joseph Edward’s death. Many thanks to this wonderful website.
Commissioned 3 Aug 1940
HMS Quorn (L 66)
Escort destroyer of the Hunt (Type I) class
Navy The Royal Navy
Laid down 22 Aug 1939
Launched 27 Mar 1940
Lost 3 Aug 1944
HMS Quorn (Lt. Ivan Hall, RN) was sunk by a German “Linsen” explosive motorboat or a German “Neger” manned torpedo off the invasion area.
This is an eye witness account by Norman Ackroyd (a survivor) of the events of the night of 3rd August 1944: ” The ship had been part of the beach head defence force for some nights before, on the night of August 3rd we sailed as normal just before dusk and went to all night action stations (I was part of No 3 guns crew on the quarterdeck) again as normal, this time however, we were accompanied by an American radar ship and we were informed over the tannoy that at dawn we were going in close to Le Havre in order to bombard the e-boat pens. The American ship was to control the shelling. Just before midnight however there was a massive explosion amidships and I understand we had been hit in the boiler rooms, the ship broke in two, and sank in a few minutes. I personally was blown overboard by the blast and found myself in the water fully dressed. A large number of my shipmates must have gone down with the ship but there were quite a lot of us in the water. The American ship left the scene at full speed which caused a lot of resentment at the time but it was explained to us later that if she had stayed she would possibly have sustained the same fate as the Quorn. A lot of those with me in the water did not last the night but quietly slipped away, I was in the water for eight and a half hours before we were picked up by an armed trawler looking for us, by that time we were only a small band. We were informed after that the ship had been sunk by a German human torpedo on which the pilot sat on a type of torpedo which had an explosive torpedo slung underneath and that the German pilot had been picked up by another of our destroyers of the defence force. We were also told that we had run into a number of these torpedoes which were being carried into the beach head by the tide but as a result of the Quorn being sunk the alarm had been raised and the other torpedoes had been dealt with.”
3 Aug 1944
Sinking the Quorn (Employment of a human torpedo on the 02./03.08.1944) (Report of Ferdinand Hoffmann , written down by Alfons Steck) ?At the beginning of the war I was an enthusiastic ?German? and volunteer. After an examination as a miner I was sure to become a volunteer of war. If you hear all your life only the propaganda of the Nazis and no other opinion, you probably cannot act in another way. As youngsters we had been drilled in the German ?Jungvolk? for a war from the beginning, but we ourselves did not notice this. Maybe, there was no other decision possible as to become a volunteer. In the end I decided to join the navy. After a first mission on the destroyer ?Z 25?, a following mission at the eastern front, where we should reach the Caspian Sea, after the defeat of Stalingrad and the retreat from there and after a mission on the weather observation ship ?Kehdingen? to Franz-Josef-Land, I falsified my leave pass because of a story with a woman. I was caught and had to apply as a ?volunteer? to the human torpedoes, in order to escape from a court-martial. In Surendorf at the Baltic Sea I got my Examination. There we were trained and learned, how to handle the emergency diving-dress. Already in the time of examination one of our comrades died, when he shot his torpedo, but the explosive torpedo did not depart from the human torpedo. After the invasion of France we should have a mission there. By train we came to France close to Paris. We continued only slowly, because the partisans had blown up the railroads nearly everywhere und this firstly had to be repaired. Because I had a toothache, I was able to leave the place of our accommodation to Paris, where I was attended by a French doctor. In this way I could visit the Eiffel Tower, too. The next day we drove to the coast, but we had to interrupt our ride again and again because of the lots of low-level flying aircraft. At last we arrived at the bay at the mouth of the river Seine, from where we had to attack the allied fleet. We were not located in a village, but somewhere outside on the beach. In the evening our ?Marders? were tied into the water by pioneers and round about 10 p.m. we started our attack. We had been informed, where the allied ships should have been. I did not know anything about the attack of explosive boats after our attack in the same night. We had been told too, that the German Air force would fly an attack on the ships to help us to orient ourselves. It had been expected, that the ships would fire on the aircraft and that we in this way could find the ships. But there was nothing to be seen of German aircraft and there was nothing to be seen of firing ships, it was rather dark, you could see next to nothing. The sight out of the cupola of a human torpedo is extremely bad. At last however I found the warships. I saw a destroyer, fired my torpedo and hit the destroyer. The time was about 03.00 a.m. I am sure, that the ship was a destroyer, because I had seen the high upstanding canon, and I am of the opinion, that the destroyer sank at once. An old cruiser, which had been hit in the same night and which was destined by the allied to be sunk as a breakwater, would have given a much higher silhouette and could not have been changed by mistake despite the fact, that it had been an old ship. After my shot I turned at once and tried to reach the saving coast. I was terribly afraid. With my human torpedo I passed the middle of the allied ships and I always thought, they truly must have seen me. The ships towered incredible high out of the water, the situation was ghostly, but firstly I got away. Round about 05.00 a.m., when the dawn came, I was hit. An English gun boat took me over, went into the bank and returned. When the bullets of a machine gun tore the cupola of my torpedo into pieces, I made myself as small as possible and I pulled down my head as deep as possible, in order not be hit. In spite of that I was hit in my neck by splinters of the cupola and later on, when I was a prisoner of war, I was a treated in an English military hospital for a short time. When the gun boat approached, I sank down with my torpedo round about 20 m on the ground of the sea, but I kept sitting in it. I still had my emergency diving suit case and so I could breathe for some time. Under water you can hear every noise and I noticed that the gun boat over me turned again and again. I supposed, they shot me at once, because I had sank their destroyer only a short time ago. So I stayed waiting down on the bottom of the sea. When I heard, the gun boat was not longer there, I dived up and tried to reach the French coast by swimming. I still wore my life-jacket and swam about 1 hour. At some time or other I must have lost consciousness, because I cannot remember, how I got on board of the English gun boat, which saved my life. At once everything was taken away until I only wore my trousers. Before the beginning of my mission I had sewed a death?s head on to my cap. This cap, my clock and my compass were taken at once as a trophy. From this gunboat I was carried to a greater warship. When I climbed up the ladder-roap and arrived at the deck, I saluted smart: ?Heil Hitler!?. At that time I still was extremely proud of myself. From this warship I was carried to the French Side of the Channel and separated at once from the other prisoners of war, because I had told the English soldiers before, that I had sunk one of their destroyers. From here I was brought into captivity to England, where I was kept about 4 weeks and in was interrogated by the British Secret Service. Because I had told them already on the destroyer, that I had sunk one of their destroyers, I was kept in solitary confinement. In the prison I was kept in, there was ostensibly a German Fighter pilot, who had become separated from the other prisoners of war too. I could talk to him through the closed doors. By the English I was treated fair and in the afternoon I even got tea and a piece of cake. From England I was carried by ship to the United States into the prison camp of Fort Devens in Massachusetts. Because I did not like it and I was together with Austrian prisoners of war who acted, as if they been victims of Hitler and not his soldiers, I was carried on my own request to Texas into the navy prison camp of Fort Bowie, where we had to mount Jeeps or could fell trees. I might have learned the English language, but at that time I still objected to the allied so much, that I simply would not do it. By the Americans we were treated fair too, especially we got the same catering as the American soldiers. There in the prison camp I saw the first films about the German concentration camps. Already earlier, when I still was in Caucasus, I had heard, that some members of the German army or members of the ?SS? had shot Jewish people. But when we saw the films about the concentration camps, I just could not believe, that this really had been done by Germans. A long time I looked upon these films at a complete falsification. The fair treatment by the Americans ended like a blow at the end of the war. From one day to another the good quality of catering was stopped and we were carried to Belgium, where I had to work as a forced labourer in a coal mine in the city of Ans. When we were carried to the mine in a train with open wagons from the harbour through France and Belgium, there were civilians on the bridges who threw big stones into our wagons. In the train there were dead and wounded persons. After a failed escape with a friend, when the guards shot at us at once, and we after some meters of escape were stopped by a high wall behind a church, I was beaten up and taken into solitary confinement for 4 weeks. Probably because of the temptation of escape I was dismissed as one of the last prisoners of war only in 1947. At one time or other and later on I got to know, that after the mission in Normandy from 60 people of my group only 13 could reach the safety on the French coast. I myself never knew the name of the destroyer, I had sunk? Remarks of Alfons Steck I became acquainted with Ferdinand Hoffmann in1969. In the beginning he still was proud of sinking the destroyer, but advancing in years he suffered more and more under this mission and the many of dead people. This was the reason, why he could not agree to this publication during his lifetime. Ferdinand Hoffmann told his story coherently only once in 2005. He died at the age of 86 years in 2009. There is no doubt on validity in his report. In British documents (Rohwer: chronology of war ? page 169) it is told, that in this combined mission of explosive boats ?Linsen? and human torpedoed ?Marder? the destroyer ?Quorn?, trawler ?Gairsey?, LCT 764, transporter ?Fort Lac La Ronge?, transporter ? Samtucky ? and the old cruiser ?Dragon? had been damaged or sunk. Opposite to the German suppositions (Bracke: Einzelk?mpfer der Marine ? Page 197 ? ??.2 destroyers, 2 corvettes, 1 trawler 10.000 tons, 1 trawler 3.000 tons??) only the destroyer ?Quorn? was really sunk. This success was attributed to the pilot of an explosive boat, to Frank Gorges. (Bracke: Einzelk?mpfer der Marine ? page 200 – ?? I had taken aim just to bend ?.. we could observe bend and stern breaking together ? probably the main charge put the water away, so that the destroyer really broke together in the middle ???.) Frank Gorges obtained the decoration ?Deutsches Kreuz in Gold? and he was presented in German cinema. In the first German notifies of the 03.08.1944 however there was no talk about sinking a destroyer, but only of sinking of a trawler and off and landing craft trawler (Bracke: Einzelk?mpfer der Marine ? page 197). Later on the pretended numbers of success were fundamental raised (Bracke: Einzelk?mpfer der Marine ? page 206). Even sinking a destroyer by the pilot of an explosive boat was reported to the commander of the German navy only later on (Bracke: Einzelk?mpfer der Marine ? page 205 – ??0515 observation of an explosion on a destroyer, destroyer sunk ??) . Nevertheless the time of this report is not concluding to the same observation of another pilot of a human torpedo named Berrer, who observed the explosion substantial earlier (Bracke: Einzelk?mpfer der Marine ? page 208 ? ? 0339 ?.torpedoing and sinking of destroyer in a distance of 700 m ??). Ferdinand Hoffmann, who had already been captured at this time of reporting, could not contradict the report of Frank Gorges. The report of Ferdinand Hoffmann however corresponds strikingly with the report of Norman Ackroyd, a survivor of the ?Quorn?, which is published in the internet (??..We were informed after the ship had been sunk by a German torpedo on which the pilot sat on a type of torpedo which had an explosive torpedo slung underneath and that the German pilot had been picked up by another of our destroyers of the defence force ?.?). The original missing letter of the commander of the ?Marder? pilots, Leopold Koch to the parents of Ferdinand Hoffmann with a reference to this mission, the requested cession of potential letters of Ferdinand Hoffmann out of the capture to the commander of the German navy and the original letter of demission out of the capture camp are still in family possession. Looking back from today there are considerable doubts of the German representation of 1944 about sinking the destroyer ?Quorn? by the pilot of the explosive boat. There is the question, if these overstated numbers of German success of the night attack and the presentation of the hero of war in German cinema was more important at that time than the historic truth. (1)
Joseph Edward Gilbert was well loved and his name was put forward to be remembered on the Memorial