BRADING" by Marilyn Stephenson-Knight
“Don’t raise any hopes. There were no
survivors.” Since October 1943 Catherine Brading’s son had been
missing. Now the second World War had ended, and the sergeant on
her doorstep had confirmed that
Charlie would not be coming
Charles Frederick Brading was the odd one
out. All his family were seafarers. His father had been in the
Navy, so too had been his uncles. Even his brother Fred went to
sea. The Bradings were a family with a long seafaring pedigree.
They had their own fleet of ships in the 19th
century, carrying beer from their brewery. They were even named
after a port. Brading on the Isle of Wight is where the family
Charlie himself was well-acquainted with
the sea. Living in Dover, in the Metropole flats just opposite
St Mary’s church, he was a brilliant swimmer. He took part in
the Breakwater Swim every year. But the army was his calling.
Already in the Territorials, he served a new battalion of The
Buffs (East Kent Regiment), when war broke out. He was soon sent
to France, escaping after Dunkirk in a fishing boat. After a
brief spell in Wales protecting reservoirs, his battalion went
to Malta. There they stayed, undergoing the devastations of the
siege as they guarded the island, until 1943.
It was then that Fred saw Charlie for the
last time. Fred was working on the Malta convoy, and his
Commander arranged for the brothers to have four days’ leave
together. “We had a wonderful time,” smiles Fred. He won £17 on
a tombola, and remembers to this day the beers they enjoyed.
But war called. By October 1943, with Malta
deemed secure, Charlie’s battalion were racing across the sea.
The island of Kos had fallen, and they needed to defend its
neighbour, Leros. Charlie never arrived. On the night of the 23rd
his destroyer, the HMS Eclipse, struck a mine. She instantly
caught fire, broke up, and within minutes was gone. It was
Charlie’s 23rd birthday.
Charlie is one of over 1,300 Buffs who died
in the Second World War. Nearly 6,000 were lost in the first.
They are remembered daily at Canterbury Cathedral. Their colours
hang in St Michael’s chapel, otherwise known as the Warriors’
Chapel. Beneath are the Books of Remembrance. At eleven o’
clock, the time of the Armistice, six bells is rung on the bell
from the Great War cruiser HMS Canterbury. The Chaplain leads
prayers for Remembrance and for Peace, and then a former Buff
turns a page in just one of the books. Short, simple, and very
moving, the ceremony has been held for over eighty years.
Now the Buffs themselves are no more. Sadly
apt, 11am was when they marched into memory. After a history
spanning four centuries they were amalgamated with the West Kent
Regiment, The Queen’s, on 1st March 1972. Further
amalgamations followed, and the remains are now The Princess of
Wales’s Royal Regiment.
But Charlie’s fourth battalion died with
the second World War. There were, after all, some survivors from
the “Eclipse”, and they, along with comrades carried on a second
destroyer, fought fiercely at Leros. It was to no avail. Three
weeks later the island was surrendered and the remnants of the
fourth became prisoners of war. The battalion was never
But memories remain. The Green Dragon of
The Buffs can still be worn by those who served. In Books of
Remembrance, at Canterbury and at Dover, Charles Brading is
commemorated. “Veteri Frondescit Honore”. That is the motto of
The Buffs, Charlie’s regiment, and it is a fitting epitaph to
his name. It means, "with its ancient honour it is
This article first appeared in the Dover
Mercury, p10, 26th October 2006, under the title "Don't
raise hopes - there's no survivors"
a destroyer like the "Eclipse"
Warriors' chapel, Canterbury