THE  DOVER WAR MEMORIAL  PROJECT

 

war memorial at dusk, photographed by Michelle Cooper
 

 

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"Jottings" - spotted by volunteers as they visit the cemeteries (Index). 

SERVICE MEDAL WINNERS

1. VICTORIA CROSS WINNERS

gravestone shaped plaque listing the names of the four VC winners in Dover cemeteries, courtesy Bert Sheppard
There are four Winners of the Victoria Cross now at rest in Dover cemeteries.

William McWheeney

He was born in Bangor, County Down, Ireland in 1837. He became a Sergeant in the 44th Regiment (later the Essex regiment). On 20th October 1854 in the Crimea Sergeant McWheeny under heavy fire carried on his back a wounded Private to safety. On 5th December that year he also saved the life of a Corporal, by rescuing him under heavy fire and constructing a small shelter where they both remained until it was safe to be moved. The next year he also volunteered for an advanced guard. As well as his acts of bravery he never missed a turn of duty during the war. Sergeant McWheeney's award was Gazetted on 24th February 1857.   

He died in Dover on 17th May 1866, and is buried at St James, R J 11.


Sgt McWheeney's headstone reads:

Honoured Memory
of
C/Sgt Wm McWheeney VC
died 17th May 1866
aged 36 years
The First VC of the
Essex Regiment

 


Charles Wooden

He was born in Germany on 24th March 1827. He was a Sergeant-Major, and later Lieutenant and Quartermaster in the 17th Lances (Duke of Cambridge's Own). On 26th October 1854, at Balaclava in the Crimea, he and a surgeon went out under heavy fire to aid a seriously wounded officer.  His award was Gazetted on 26th October 1858.

Sergeant-Major Wooden had also ridden in the Charge of the Light Brigade. He had clasps for Balaklava, Alma, and Inkerman. He had some thirty years service, twlev of which had been spent in India.

He lived on the Dover Heights and died in Dover on 26th April 1876, aged 50. An inquest on his death found that he had committed suicide while temporarily insane. During the four or five days before he died, he had been complaining of a fearful pain in his head, although he had continued with his duties as normal. On the day before his death, Sunday, QMSr Wooden's wife sent for Lieutenant Hooper, Surgeon Major, in a great hurry, and Private Richard Kirby, his servant, said that QMS Wooden had hurt himself. He was bleeding profusely from his mouth and nose, and although his servant persuaded him to lie down, QMS Wooden could not rest. He pointed to his mouth and was attempting to dislodge an object, stating that he had a tooth that needed removing.  He had been drinking heavily of alcohol.

Lieutenant Hooper examined him, and discovered that the roof of his mouth was severely damaged. There were  were two cartridge cases on the floor. When he asked QMS Wooden's wife what had happened, she stated that she did not know, but that she had picked up a pistol from the floor, which Colt pistol QMS Wooden had bought a few days before from the town. Lieutenant Hooper and Private Kirby attended QMS Wooden until he died at 4 am on the Monday morning.  

QMS Wooden's body is buried at St James, K G 8. It was conveyed there on the following Wednesday, in a black upholstered coffin, borne on a gun carriage. His hat, sword, and two bouquets of flowers lay on the coffin. Nearly all the officers from the garrison attended, and all of his men. There were three marching bands to accompany the procession down Military Hill, and along the Maison Dieu Road. The route was lined with people, and many more were at the cemetery.

The service was begin in the mortuary, but there was insufficient room for all attending, so the men of his Regiment waited outside, heads bared. The coffin was lowered into its final resting place, and three volleys were fired as a final salute.     

QMS Wooden's headstone reads:

In
Memory Of
Quarter-Master
Charles Wooden VC
104th Bengal Fusiliers
Born March 1829
Died 26th April 1876
Deeply Regretted
Who Served in the
Inniskilling Dragoons
5th and 17th Lancers
With Which Latter Regiment
He was Present
in the Celebrated
Balaklava Charge
This Stone is Erected by his
Brother Officers

William House

He was born in Thatcham, near Newbury, Berkshire on 7th October 1879, believed the son of Thomas House, 1854-1889, a labourer, and Sarah Sally Owen 1860-1938.. In the 1891 census he is recorded as having two sisters, Edith Mary and Lucy Matilda, and a brother, Thomas.

William House became a Private, and later a Lance-Corporal, in the 2nd battalion of the Royal Berkshire Regiment (Princess Charlotte of Wales's Own). On 2nd August 1900 at Mosilikatse Nek, South Africa, he went out against advice under very heavy fire in an attempt to rescue a wounded Sergeant. He was wounded himself, but asked his companions not to help him, owing to the bombardment. His award was Gazetted on 7th October 1902.

He died in Dover on 28th February 1912, having shot himself in the head by rifle. He had arranged a cord around a bed post to pull the trigger, and did so while six companions were in the same room, though with their backs turned as they were watching through the window the retreat of a paraded battalion.

It was said that Lance Corporal House's brain was unhinged either by the two wounds he received in the head when he gained his VC or by subsequent service in India. He was said to suffer fits of depression, and during the days before his death he had been unwell, suffering pains in his stomach and attending hospital. Even so, he had continued his duties, and was due to drill recruits the morning he died. However, this was a task he did not particularly enjoy.

Lance Sergeant Stroud had known Lance Corporal House before he had undergone duties in India. He stated that on Lance Corporal' House's return, "there was a terrible change in him. From being lively and talkative he had barely a word to say to anyone, "would mope about round his cot a good deal", and after his death there was no letter to be found from the young woman with whom he had been corresponding. The verdict returned was that he committed suicide during temporary insanity.

Lance Corporal House is buried at St James. His grave originally had no headstone, but one was placed in 1994 by his regiment. It was dedicated by the Revd Joseph Bell, padre of the Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire, and Wiltshire Regimental Associations, and Brigadier John Rodan laid a wreath (left). Two descendants of the House family were amongst those present.

His headstone reads:

1742 Lance Corporal
William House VC
The Royal Berkshire Regiment
28 February 1912 aged 32
Erected by his Regiment in 1994
In Memory of
a Courageous Soldier

William Bernard Traynor

He was born in Hull, Yorkshire, on 31st December 1870. He joined up as W B Traynor, courtesy Dover Express2332 in the West Yorkshire Regiment on 15 November 1888. He was then working as a labourer and had a tattoo on his left forearm. His next of kin was Francis Traynor, of Hull, and his religion was described as Roman Catholic.

Appointed Lance Corporal on 7 October 1896, he became a Corporal on 8 September 1897, three months after his marriage on 12 June at Hunton, Kent, to Jane Elizabeth Martin.

 On 16 September 1899, William Traynor became a Sergeant. He re-engaged at Aldershot a month later, to complete his 21 years of service. He went to East India on 29 January 1891 until 21 April 1893, and to South Africa on 20 October 1899 to 9 March 1901.

It was here that he gained his Victoria Cross.  On 6 February 1901, at Bothwell Camp, South Africa, Sergeant Traynor ran out of a trench to assist a wounded man. He was wounded himself, and Lance-Corporal W T Lintott came to his aid. Between them they carried the wounded man to safety.

Though wounded, with a splinter in his chest and a bullet in his thigh, Sergeant Traynor remained on duty "and was most cheerful in encouraging his men". His award of the Victoria Cross was Gazetted on 17th September 1901, as was a Medal for Distinguished Conduct in the Field for Lance-Corporal Lintott.

Such were the conditions, a telegram was sent to Mrs Traynor, announcing that her husband had been killed in action. However, this was certainly not so, though Sergeant Traynor was returned hom on programme for the dinner, donated by Leonard Franchetti10 March 1901, and discharged as medically unfit for further service on 29 September 1901. His wounds meant that he could not travel to London to receive his VC from the King, but instead received it at York in July 1920, from Colonel Edward Stevenson-Browne, himself a VC winner.

The Traynors settled in Dover in 1902, Mr Traynor becoming an Orderly Room Clerk with the Royal Artillery. In 1911 they was living at 36 Eaton Road, an army pensioner and barrack warden, which job he retained until he retired in 1935. With him were his wife and their sons, Francis Bernard R, born in 1899 at Hunton, and who was to die later in 1911, Cecil Robert, born 1903,  twins William Bothwell and Victor Charles, born in 1905, and Eileen May, born in 1910, all in Dover. Another daughter, Alice Kathleen, had been born in 1898 but had died in early 1901.

At the end of the Great War Mr Traynor was mentioned in dispatches for "valuable services in connection with the war". He became a member of the British Legion in Dover, and was for ten years Vice Chairman. He was also a Freemason, initiated into Military Jubilee Lodge No 2195 in February 1919, and a founder of Snargate Street Lodge No 6770 in November 1946. He served too on the Whitfield Parish Council.

In 1951 a dinner was held at the Town Hall to honour the 50th anniversary of his Mr Traynor, photograph, donated by Leonard Franchettiaward of the VC. The programme reveals that the guests enjoyed soup, followed by fish, with a main course of steak pie, cream potatoes, and peas or cabbage. Trifle and coffee followed.

Music was supplied by the Band of the 1st battalion of The Buffs, and there were a number of toasts. That to Sergeant  Traynor was proposed by Colonel Tidmarsh, while Sergeant Traynor, after responding, proposed a toast to his own old regiment, the West Yorkshires. 

In 1953 Sergeant Traynor was one of the few non-Freemen invited to a Coronation lunch at the Town Hall held by the Hereditary and Honorary Freemen. 

He died on 20th October 1954, at Buckland Hospital. The funeral was held at St Andrews, Buckland, and was attended by a large congregation, including the Mayor, many representatives of the Services and of Veterans, and Freemasonic Lodges. Sergeant Traynor is buried at Charlton, XI8, in the grave of his wife, and as the coffin was lowered the Last Post and Reveille were played, and black-draped standards were dipped.  

His headstone reads:

In Fond Remembrance
of
Frank Traynor
Who Died 12th August 1911
Aged 12 Years
Also Jane E. Traynor
Who Died 6th June 1934
Aged 59 Years
Also William B. Traynor VC
Husband of Jane
Who Died 20th October 1954
Aged 83 Years

signature of Mr Traynor, courtesy Leonard Franchetti

The programme of the dinner and photograph were kindly donated by Mr Leonard Franchetti.  The signature (left), is on the back of the photograph. 

The photograph was placed inside the programme. The inscription beneath it reads; "Bernard. One of England's great gentlemen, a very good friend of the family, really a wonderful person" 

 

(For a picture of Sergeant Traynor laying a wreath at the Town Memorial, see here)

Further notes on William Traynor's Freemasonic career, from an article "At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them", by Mike Gee, published in December 2007 in the Province of East Kent Masonic News.

W B Traynor was initiated into Military Jubilee Lodge No 2195 in February 1919, Passed in March 1919, and Raised in April 1919. He was Master in 1925 and remained a member until his death in 1954. He was a founder of Snargate Lodge No 6770 in November 1948 and also remained a member there until his death. Provincial honours came in 1935 with appointment to Provincial Grand Sword Bearer (Kent). He was the first member of Military Jubilee Lodge to be honoured with Grand Rank as Past Assistant Grand Sword Bearer in 1951.

He was exalted into the Holy Royal Arch in January 1920, at the Military Jubilee Chapter No 2195, where he was First Principal in 1927 and 1928. He gained the rank of Provincial Grand Sword Bearer (Kent) in 1934.  

WBro Traynor had six children in all, and his twin boys joined the army, both reaching the rank of Major in the Royal Engineers. Both also became members of Military Jubilee Lodge. Little Frank Traynor died in the Dover hospital, after an operation for appendicitis.

*

Mr Traynor was a very close friend of Private Thomas (Paddy) Byrne VC. He died in 1944 and a requiem mass was held at St Thomas Roman Catholic church before the interment. Mr Traynor attended as vice-chairman of the British Legion (Dover branch). Many veterans were present, including those of the Egyptian War 1885, Soudan 1898, South African War 1899-1092, and the Great War 1914-1918.

Initial information about VC winners and the VC gravestone image kindly supplied by Mr A Sheppard, of The Victoria Cross Society. The Society seeks to ensure that the graves of those awarded the highest honour of the Nation remain marked and maintained.
Further information courtesy the Dover Express

grave photos by courtesy of Joyce Banks


MORE VC CONNECTIONS WITH DOVER

Lieutenant Edward Benn ("Ned") Smith was well-known in Dover as he had been stationed in the town. Born on 10 November 1898 to Charles and Martha Smith, he was from Maryport, Cumberland. He won his VC in France during the Great War on August 21-23 1918.

His citation states that while in command of a platoon, he took a machine gun post with a rifle and bayonet, even though he was under attack from hand grenades. He killed at least six of the enemy. He then assisted another platoon, took command, and captured the objective. The next day, during a counter attack, he led a section and restored a part of the line. His personal bravery, skill, and initiative were said to be outstanding, and his conduct an inspiring example. He was still 19, and he was awarded also a Distinguished Conduct Medal.

He retired as a Regimental Sergeant Major in 1938, but when the Second World War began he rejoined, and went again across the channel with the Lancashire Fusiliers, in one of the first contingents. He was promoted to Lieutenant and Quartermaster. On 12 January 1940 he was in action and received a fatal shot to the head.  He is buried at the Beuvry Communal Cemetery Extension, France.

*

In the early 1900s, Sergeant James Smith, of The Buffs, was stationed at Dover. He was one of a few non-commissioned VC winners. He had enlisted on 23 September 1893, and was discharged on 22 September 1915. On enlistment at Maidstone he was a labourer, aged 19; his next-of-kin was his father, also James, of The Cherry Tree, Preston, Faversham.

Others stationed in Dover in 1912 were Major James Masterson, of the King's Own, and Barrack Warden Traynor, late sergeant in the West Yorkshires.

*

Lt Parsons, courtesy Dover ExpressLieutenant Francis Newton Parsons received his Victoria Cross posthumously. Serving in the Essex Regiment during the Boer war and under constant enemy fire, he rescued at Paardeburg, on 18th February 1890, an injured comrade. Private Ferguson had been wounded in the stomach, and, while trying to crawl to safety from open ground, was wounded again. Lieutenant Parsons went out to him, dressed his wounds, twice retrieved water for him from a nearby river, and eventually brought him back to safety.

Sadly, Lieutenant Parsons was killed at Dreifontein, aged 25, a month after his award was recommended on 3rd March 1900. He is commemorated on a tablet at the battlefield, along with 216 others, and later fellow officers erected a headstone on his grave, a lone marker in a field at the site. He is also commemorated in St Mary's church, Dover.

Lieutenant Parsons was an old Dover College boy, and, born in Dover in 1875, was the son of Dr Parsons, a surgeon who lived at St James' Street. He and his wife had eight children, and later in the same year, in December 1900, his brother, Courtney Parsons, a civilian surgeon, also serving in the Boer War, died from enteric at Harrismith. 

Information on Lt Parsons from an article by Bob Hollingsbee, with information also from Tony Belsey, and with thanks to Joyce Banks

*

We are informed that Major Edward ("Mick") Mannock, of the Royal Engineers and subsequently the RAF, VC, DSO and 2 Bars, MC and Bar, lived for a time with his mother at Maxton, Dover. He was a flying "ace" of the Great War, who sadly lost his life on 26 July 1918.

In the 1911 census his brother Patrick John Mannock was boarding at 48 Elms Vale Road, Dover; he was then working as a clerk for the national telephone company. On 1 June 1915 at SS Peter and Paul, Charlton, he married Dorothy Beatrice Stone, daughter of Philip Twyman Stone, who had been employed by the Post Office in Dover for many years. Patrick Mannock served in the Royal Engineers and the Royal Tank Corps.

Patrick was present when a plaque to Major Mannock was unveiled in July 1925 in the nave of Canterbury Cathedral. Major Mannock is also commemorated on the Canterbury memorial and on the Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, memorial, above, and right.

*

Thomas William Gould was born at 6 Woolcomber Lane, Dover, on 28th December 1914. His father, Reuben, was killed in the Great War when Tommy was 19 months old.  Tommy attended St James School, Dover, and in January 1930 he was chosen to be the page boy to present a bouquet to the Mayoress on the opening of the Granada cinema.

On 29th September 1933 he joined the Royal Navy, perhaps encouraged by his stepfather, Petty Officer Cheeseman, who was on Pilot Cutters, stationed at Dover. Two of Tommy's brothers also joined the Navy, another the Army.  He served in the East Indies on the cruiser Columbo, and on the China Station. After four years, in 1937, he became a submariner, and became himself a Petty Officer (acting) in August 1940. He was invalided out in 1945.

It was on 16th February 1942 off the north coast of Crete that occurred the action that brought Tommy, then a second Coxswain, his VC. His submarine, "Thresher" had sunk a supply ship, and subsequently underwent over three hours of attack by enemy aircraft and by depth-charge. The submarine survived, but on later surfacing two bombs were discovered in the casing. Tommy and his comrade, First Lieutenant Peter Roberts, volunteered to remove the bombs. The  first they fairly swiftly dislodged and dragged some hundred feet forward to drop overboard.

The second, however, was trapped between the casing and the internal hull. The only way to remove it was to wriggle between the two, in places just two feet apart, and through a tangle of supports and ventilators, to bring the bomb back to a metal trap door. Tommy lay on his back, placing the bomb on his stomach, Lieutenant Peters, lying on his stomach, edged backwards, pulling Tommy inch by inch by the shoulders. The bomb was ticking and twanging, while "Thresher"  rolled on the waves.

It took forty minutes to travel the 20 feet to the trap door, and not only was there the fear of the bomb exploding, but too the knowledge that if the submarine, lying near an enemy coast, was attacked, it would have to dive and Tommy and Lieutenant Peters would be drowned as the seawater flooded in between the casing and the hull. 

Tommy met Phyllis Eldridge, his wife-to-be while visiting a Dovorian friend, Mr A S Ware, at St Albans. Mr Ware's parents lived at no 8 Douglas Road, next door to his mother, Christina, and Mr Henry Cheeseman at no 6. Phyllis and Tommy married in 1941, and on 6th June 1942, Mr Ware was godfather to their son, born 14 weeks before, and whom Tommy, on service, had not then seen. The announcement of the award of the VC was made on Mrs Gould's birthday.  

On 13th January 1943, Tommy was made an Honorary Freeman of Dover. He was President of the International Submariners Association of Great Britain for twenty years, and was a member of the Freemasonic Lord Charles Beresford Lodge No 2404. In his post-war civilian career he became personnel manager in a catalogue shopping company.

On 6th December 2001, after a long illness, Tommy Gould died at the Edith Cavell Hospital, Peterborough. His body was cremated at the North Bretton Cemetery outside Peterborough, his coffin borne there by Royal Naval Coxswains. In his memory there is said to be a road named after him, Gould Close, at Rowner, Gosport.. 

With thanks to Neil Clark (Kent Fallen) and to Mrs V Measey for knowledge of Thomas Gould.
Set 153/18, Freedom ceremony

Tommy Gould's half-brother,  Bernard G Cheeseman, was reported missing in HM Submarines on 8 January 1943, the week that Tommy received his Freedom. He is commemorated on the Chatham Naval memorial.

*

Arthur Leyland Harrison was awarded his Victoria Cross for his actions during the raid at Zeebrugge in 1918. He was a pupil at Dover College, and is commemorated on Dover Town Memorial. More about him is here and here, and the commemorative plaque to him in the chapel at the College may be seen here     

*

Geoffrey Charles Tasker Keyes was the son of Sir Roger Keyes, Baron Keyes of Zeebrugge and Dover. He is buried at the Benghazi War Cemetery, Libya, but his father is buried in Dover. They share a monument at the Zeebrugge plot in St James' cemetery, where Sir Roger Keyes and some of those who fell on the Zeebrugge Raid in 1918 are buried.

He was awarded the VC posthumously. The citation appeared on 19th June 1942 in the London Gazette. "Lieutenant-Colonel Keyes commanded a detachment of a force which landed some 250 miles behind the enemy lines, in North Africa, to attack Headquarters Base installations and communications. Lieutenant-Colonel Keyes deliberately selected the command of the party detailed to attack the residence and Headquarters of the General Officer commanding the German Forces in North Africa. This attack meant almost certain death for those who took part in it. The disposition of his detachment left him only one officer and a NCO. with whom to break into General Rommel's residence. On the night 17/18 November, 1941, he boldly led his party to the front door and demanded entrance. It was unfortunately necessary to shoot the sentry; the noise aroused the house, so that speed became of the first importance. Lieutenant-Colonel Keyes instinctively took the lead and emptied his revolver with great success into the first room. He then entered the second room but was mortally wounded almost immediately. By his fearless disregard of the dangers which he ran and of which he was fully aware, and by his magnificent leadership and outstanding gallantry Lieutenant Colonel Keyes set an example of supreme self-sacrifice and devotion to duty."

Captain Robin Campbell, who took part in the raid, was wounded and taken prisoner. He wrote to Lieutenant-Colonel Keyes parents, "I was at Geoffrey' side when he was killed in the early hours of November 18th. He was leading the raid with great dash when a bullet, fired at close range, struck him over the heart. He fell unconscious and died immediately afterwards as I was carrying him out of the scuffle." 

*

Sergeant Rawdon Middleton  was from the Royal Australian Air Force. He was captain and first pilot of a Stirling aircraft scheduled to attack the Fiat Works in Turin. The flying conditions were very difficult, and three low altitude passes were necessary before the target was identified. This rendered the aircraft dangerously gravestoneshort of fuel.

Sergeant Middleton was determined to attack the target, but before the bombs could be released, anti-aircraft fire damaged the plane. A splinter from a shell which burst in the cockpit wounded both pilots and the wireless officer. Sergeant Middleton's right eye was destroyed, and the bone above it exposed. He lost consciousness, and the aircraft dived to 800 feet before the second pilot gained control.  Taking the plane back to 1500 feet, he released the bombs, with the plane all the while being hit by light flak.

When he recovered consciousness, Sergeant Middleton took the controls and said that he would try to reach the English coast, so that the crew could leave the plane by parachute. Four hours later the plane reached the French coast, where it was hit by more anti-aircraft fire. It crossed the Channel, and Sergeant Middleton ordered the crew to abandon the aircraft. Five left safely, but the front gunner and the flight engineer remained to assist him, and died with him when the plane crashed into the sea. Sergeant Middleton is buried in Beck Row (St John) churchyard.

Sergeant Middleton's body was recovered from the sea off Shakespeare Cliff on 1st February 1943, and the bodies of the two crewmen who stayed with him were recovered the next day.  All the crew were commended for heroism, and Sergeant Middleton was credited with the fortitude and strength to ensure the mission was completed, with a devotion to duty in the face of overwhelming odds unsurpassed in the RAF. He was awarded the VC posthumously.  The words at the bottom of his headstone read:

True to the End

citation from Gazette and CWGC
headstone by courtesy Ray Young

 


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