The name on the Sandycroft WW2 War Memorial in St. Francis’s Church, is D. MATHEWS-SHEEN, but I believe that it should be for Thomas MATHEWS-SHEEN, who was Killed in Action on the 14th October 1939 in Scapa Flow in Orkney, Scotland when the H.M.S. Royal Oak was torpedoed. Thomas had, as far as I know, 2 brothers, without a “D” in their name and a sister Dorothy, who may have been the one putting Thomas’s name forward to be remembered and her initial was added instead of Thomas’s. Any help would be appreciated.
Thomas was born on the 7th May 1915 and Baptised on the 20th June 1915 at St. Ethelwold’s Church Shotton, the son of Reginald Thomas & Margaret Ann Mathews-Sheen, Pianist.
I found a baptism of Thomas’s brother, Reginald Basil who had been born on the 3rd January 1918 and Baptised on the 17th March 1918, the family then were living at “Ivydale,” Bridge Street, Shotton and his father Reginald Thomas was a Chargehand at H.H. Factory, Queensferry. This may have been the Munitions Factory.
In the June quarter of 1921 another sibling was born in the Hawarden Registration District, Edward K. Mathews-Sheen (Hawarden Vol. 11b Page 404) and then Dorothy Mathews –Sheen was born in the same district in the June quarter of 1923 (Hawarden Vol. 11b Page 385). I was unable to find the baptisms, as they weren’t on line and it was the lockdown for Covid-19 and I was unable to get to the Record Office.
I do not know anything about Thomas’s early and teenage years, so any help to tell his story would be appreciated. I believe that Thomas had already joined the Royal Navy as in the December quarter of 1938 he married Ruby Lilian Dorothy Jones in the Portsmouth Registration District, (Vol. 2b,Page 1343.)
However by the 1939 National Register (This was taken on the 29th September 1939) the family had moved a long way away from Deeside. Reginald Thomas and Margaret Ann are seen living at 5 Eriswell Road, Worthing, Worthing M.B., Sussex, England. This source gives us the date of birth and Reginal Thomas had been born on the 11th September 1892 and he was a Organist and Export Typist 4 Years Foreman In ? Station H M Factory Queensferry. So he still held the job in Queensferry, even though he was living so far away. Margaret Ann had been born on the 29th March 1899 and as most married women who did not have a job was described as doing “Unpaid Domestic Duties.” Two of Thomas’s siblings are recorded here – Reginald Basil, single was born on the 3rd January 1918 and a Storekeeper In Provision Maker. Dorothy* had been born on the 27th May 1923 and was a Cashier and single. This National Register tells us that she was to marry a gentleman called Redfern.
There were two redacted or closed records and I do not know who they are, but one should not have been Edward K. Mathews-Sheen as he was born before Dorothy. This is the notification on both – “The record for this person is officially closed. – For individual people, records remain closed for a century after their birth (the 100-year rule), unless it can be proven that they passed away before this milestone. “
*I believe that Dorothy married in the June quarter of 1947 at Hawarden to Clifford H. Redfern.( Hawarden Vol. 8a Page 1108)
Thomas died on the 14th October, – 15 days after the Register was taken.
He was to find himself on the fateful day onboard H.M.S. Royal Oak when it was hit with a torpedo from Uboat U-47 and he was killed with 834 others who were killed that night or died later of their wounds, his body was never found and so Thomas is remembered on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial, but I’d like to believe that he is resting with his shipmates who are entombed on the wreck of H.M.S.Royal Oak, as it is designated as a War Grave .
H.M.S. Royal Oak
HMS Royal Oak (08) – From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
HMS Royal Oak was one of five Revenge-class battleships built for the Royal Navy during the First World War. Completed in 1916, the ship first saw combat at the Battle of Jutland as part of the Grand Fleet. In peacetime, she served in the Atlantic, Home and Mediterranean fleets, more than once coming under accidental attack. Royal Oak drew worldwide attention in 1928 when her senior officers were controversially court-martialled, an event which brought considerable embarrassment to the world’s then largest navy. Attempts to modernise Royal Oak throughout her 25-year career could not fix her fundamental lack of speed and, by the start of the Second World War, she was no longer suitable for front-line duty.
On 14 October 1939, Royal Oak was anchored at Scapa Flow in Orkney, Scotland, when she was torpedoed by the German submarine U-47. Of Royal Oak’s complement of 1,234 men and boys, 835 were killed that night or died later of their wounds. The loss of the outdated ship—the first of five Royal Navy battleships and battlecruisers sunk in the Second World War—did little to affect the numerical superiority enjoyed by the British navy and its Allies, but the sinking had a considerable effect on wartime morale. The raid made an immediate celebrity and war hero out of the U-boat commander, Günther Prien, who became the first German submarine officer to be awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross. Before the sinking of Royal Oak, the Royal Navy had considered the naval base at Scapa Flow impregnable to submarine attack, but U-47’s raid demonstrated that the German navy was capable of bringing the war to British home waters. The shock resulted in rapid changes to dockland security and the construction of the Churchill Barriers around Scapa Flow.
The wreck of Royal Oak, a designated war grave, lies almost upside down in 100 feet (30 m) of water with her hull 16 feet (4.9 m) beneath the surface. In an annual ceremony marking the loss of the ship, Royal Navy divers place a White Ensign underwater at her stern. Unauthorised divers are prohibited from approaching the wreck under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986.
Please see :- https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-north-east-orkney-shetland-50033917 – IMAGES REVEAL EXTENT OF HMS ROYAL OAK TORPEDO ATTACK
https://uboat.net/allies/merchants/crews/ship68.html – Ships hit by U-boats
Crew lists from ships hit by U-boats – HMS Royal Oak (08) – British battleship – Thomas is remembered here:-
RN (P/JX 150561). British
Died 14 Oct 1939 (24)
Roster information listed for Thomas Mathews-Sheen :-
Ship Type Rank / role Attacked on Boat
HMS Royal Oak (08) Battleship Leading Seaman 14 Oct 1939 (+) U-47 (1)
Son of Reginald Thomas Mathews-Sheen and Margaret Mathews-Sheen; husband of Ruby Lilian Dorothy Mathews-Sheen, of Southsea, Hampshire.
Notes on event – At 01.16 hours on 14 October 1939 U-47 fired a spread of three torpedoes at HMS Royal Oak (08) (Capt W.G. Benn, RN) and the British seaplane tender HMS Pegasus lying at anchor in the harbour of Scapa Flow, then turned around and fired a stern torpedo at 01.21 hours. Prien claimed a hit on the seaplane tender, misidentified as HMS Repulse (34), but one of the torpedoes apparently hit the starboard anchor chain of the battleship and both targets were undamaged.
At 01.23 hours, the U-boat fired a second spread of three torpedoes which hit HMS Royal Oak (08) on the starboard side and caused a magazine to blow up. The battleship rolled over and sank in 19 minutes. 386 of the survivors, including the commander, were rescued by the drifter HMS Daisy II (Skipper John Gatt) which had been alongside as tender.
Please read https://uboat.net/ops/scapa_flow.htm – The Bull of Scapa Flow – by Donald A. Hollway.
Type – VIIB
Ordered 21 Nov 1936
Laid down 27 Feb 1937 F. Krupp Germaniawerft AG, Kiel (werk 582)
Launched 29 Oct 1938
Commissioned 17 Dec 1938 Oblt. Günther Prien
17 Dec 1938 – 7 Mar 1941 KrvKpt. Günther Prien (Knights Cross)
17 Dec 1938 – 31 Aug 1939 7. Flottille (active service)
1 Sep 1939 – 31 Dec 1939 7. Flottille (active service)
1 Jan 1940 – 7 Mar 1941 7. Flottille (active service)
Successes 30 ships sunk, total tonnage 162,769 GRT
1 warship sunk, total tonnage 29,150 tons
8 ships damaged, total tonnage 62,751 GRT
Missing since 7 March 1941 in the North Atlantic south of Iceland, in approximate position 60.00N, 13.00W. 45 dead (all hands lost). (FDS/NHB, June 1991).
https://uboat.net/men/prien.htm – The Men – U-boat Commanders – Günther Prien (Photo below)
Born 16 Jan 1908 Osterfeld, Thüringen
Died 7 Mar 1941 (33) North Atlantic
Thomas was obviously loved and missed by his family and new wife of a few months and I think it was probably his parents, Margaret Ann & Reginald with Dorothy who made sure that his name would be on the Sandycroft WW2 War Memorial for perpetuity.
I believe that Ruby Lilian Dorothy Mathews-Sheen remarried in the March quarter of 1942 to Frederick A. Bridger in Chichester, Sussex (Vol. No. 2b, Page No. 1132).
Thomas’s mother Margaret Ann Mathews-Sheen sadly died in 1960, her probate below:-
MATHEWS-SHEEN, Margaret Ann of 46, Clwyd Street, Shotton, Flintshire (Wife of Reginald Thomas MATHEWS-SHEEN) died 19th June 1960. Administration, Bangor 16th October 1961 to Dorothy Redfern, married woman.
I believe that Reginald Thomas Mathews-Sheen remarried in the September quarter of 1960 to Lilian Mathews-Sheen in Chester. (Chester Vol.10a Page 492). I found a Lilian Price on the 1939 National Register, whose name was altered to Mathews-Sheen as though she had married a gentleman with that name and she had been born on the 5th January 1897 and was a Cinema Cashier, living in lodgings at Stella Rives Egerton Road, Blacon, Chester. I do not know if this is the right person. As Reginald Thomas was a Cinema Pianist, perhaps that was how they met as at this time although he was living in Worthing, he must have travelled for his job at H.M. Factory, Queensferry.
Reginald Thomas Mathews-Sheen died in the December quarter of 1971 (Chester Vol. 10a Page 508) and his new wife, Lilian, died on the 18th April 1972 (Cheshire Vol. 10a Page 418).
Thomas’s parents, Reginald Thomas & Margaret Ann, would have been alive, I hope, to see his name on the St. Francis’s Church Memorial, so that he would be remembered.