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General Category => Shoreham Discussion => Topic started by: dave1212 on September 13, 2018, 04:52:33 pm

Title: January 6, 1942 - tragic wartime incident on the Adur
Post by: dave1212 on September 13, 2018, 04:52:33 pm
January 6, 1942 at 1:10 pm during a military training exercise, an assault boat carrying nine soldiers of the West Nova Scotia Regiment capsized in the River Adur. Conditions at the time were described as 'a bitterly cold day, the tide was rising & the current was swift & treacherous'.

The men had just completed a 3 1/2 mile march when they arrived at the east bank side of the river. A recce boat manned by two soldiers successfully crossed to the west bank prior to the assault boat being pushed off from the shore. This was not the first time the men had undertaken this task.

The nine soldiers in the boat at the time of its sinking:
Lieutenant J.W.K. Smeltzer (Lunenberg, NS)
Corporal Walter Marshall (Digby, NS)
L/Cpl William McLean (New Glasgow, NS)
Private Howard Farnsworth (Digby, NS)
Private Joseph Gaudet (Officer Cadet) (Digby, NS)
Private Stuart Jaquest (Bear River, NS)
Private Robert MacDonald (Halifax, NS)
Private Edward Melanson (Weymouth, NS)
Private Alexander Vingar (Glace Bay, NS)
McLean, Farnsworth, Gaudet, Jaquest, Macdonald & Melanson drowned. Smeltzer, Vingar & Marshall were rescued however Marshall died February 15, 1942 from health complications suffered in the accident. They are buried Brookwood Military Cemetery.

I am not related to any of the men however I do belong to the West Nova Scotia Regiment Regimental Association & I'm asking for assistance in the hopes we can pinpoint the actual location where this tragic accident took place.

We have the transcripts of the Court of Inquiry January 8, 1942 which includes a statement from Police Sergeant Albert Edward Jones who was tasked with recovery operations. Sgt Jones wrote:
'I went in company with Sgt. Dean & other officers to the River Adur to a spot opposite Old Erringham, where I saw a number of officers & men of the West Nova Scotia Regiment.'

Does this help? Photographs of the area would be welcome. Let me know if further information is required.

Thank you in advance for any assistance offered.
Title: Re: January 6, 1942
Post by: Nelson on September 13, 2018, 05:13:01 pm
Many thanks Dave for the names of the men in that tragic incident. Iíve heard mention of it in the past but with no details. Our member John Lyne mentions it briefly in our article ĎShorehamís Warí and perhaps he will be able to tell us more but the point on the River Adur opposite Old Erringham will be identifiable on the maps Ė Iíll have a look through our records.
Title: Re: January 6, 1942
Post by: Spinalman on September 13, 2018, 05:22:20 pm
This is the general area of river opposite Old Erringham:
Map on the left is 1940's, on the right is modern aerial view.
https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/side-by-side/#zoom=17&lat=50.8548&lon=-0.2928&layers=173&right=BingHyb

Just to the north is a pedestrian level crossing at the top of a slight embankment over the railway - so if they were marching it would be a reasonable assumption they had crossed East West over the railway and approached the river at that point.
https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@50.8581668,-0.2908366,3a,37.5y,252.79h,89.67t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sQHSJ8GRHd-v9c0LDJR-ikw!2e0!7i13312!8i6656
and 3D view of site:
https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@50.858208,-0.295095,68a,35y,107h,73.26t/data=!3m1!1e3

Title: Re: January 6, 1942
Post by: dave1212 on September 13, 2018, 05:34:10 pm
Thank you so much for the responses. It means a great deal. I appreciate it.

Top L-to-R
Howard Farnsworth age 31, Joseph Gaudet age 20, Stuart Jaquest age 33

Middle L-to-R
Robert MacDonald age 27, William McLean age 21, Edward Melanson age 23

Bottom
Walter Marshall age 28 (died Feb 15 '42)
Title: Re: January 6, 1942
Post by: Spinalman on September 13, 2018, 06:14:58 pm
Hi Dave,

Do the transcripts detail where they were billeted and the route of the march?  3.5 miles could mean they had been based at Shoreham and come over the downs and descend into the river valley to meet the Adur.

If it should be ultimately determined where the location of the river crossing is and you would like some high quality photographs and video of the specific location, I'd be happy to do them for you.  Likewise I am local to Brookwood.
Title: Re: January 6, 1942
Post by: Nelson on September 13, 2018, 06:28:06 pm
Thanks Spinalman - this part of the wartime map of the area may be of interest too.
Title: Re: January 6, 1942
Post by: dave1212 on September 13, 2018, 07:03:19 pm
The Regiment arrived in England December 1939. In November 1941 they were posted to Worthing where guarding the Shoreham Airdrome was one of their responsibilities. No details regarding billets nor route of the march.

The men involved were members of No. 12 platoon 'B' Company WNSR.

Within Inquiry transcripts - 'Pl arrived at river bank ref point 639269 sheet 133 at about 1300 hrs.' Of course without access to sheet 133, this doesn't really help.

Should we determine the actual site, the offer of photographs from the area is greatly appreciated in addition to everything received so far. Thank you again.
Title: Re: January 6, 1942
Post by: Nelson on September 13, 2018, 07:38:53 pm
In his reminiscences John Lyne mentions Canadian troops billeted at the Grammar School (pupils had been evacuated to Yorkshire)
Title: Re: January 6, 1942
Post by: dave1212 on September 13, 2018, 07:49:44 pm
The West Novas were part of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Brigade, 1st Canadian Division who later shipped out in July 1943 to fight in Sicily, Italy & finishing the war in northwest Europe. Other units in the 3rd were the Royal 22nd Regiment (Van Doos) & the Carlton & York Regiment.
Title: Re: January 6, 1942
Post by: Spinalman on September 13, 2018, 08:45:03 pm
The grid reference is important and it doesn't seem to relate to imperial Ordnance Survey sheets I have access to.
Title: Re: January 6, 1942
Post by: Spinalman on September 13, 2018, 09:52:32 pm
I have found a conversion for the grid reference:  wQ639269 is equivalent to the modern:
50į 51' 22'' N     0į 17' 23'' W  and that is here:

https://www.google.co.uk/maps/place/50%C2%B051'22.0%22N+0%C2%B017'23.0%22W/@50.8559068,-0.2906393,600m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4!1s0x0:0x0!8m2!3d50.8561111!4d-0.2897222

Which to me is probably a predetermined RV point rather than a retrospective plot of where they were.  Secondly 6 digit grid references are not super accurate (I'm a Scout Leader so do this all the time) so the fact that this comes out on the steep track down to the old Steyning Road (pre-1970) probably reinforces the RV point theory.  If they were within one digit of this point (to account for map reading inaccuracy) it still isn't at anything significant.  This is a track from the farm down to the valley and reinforces the notion that they were travelling East-West from the Downs to the Valley.  Here's the view looking S at the bottom of the track/RV point.
https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@50.857726,-0.2905902,3a,37.5y,151.81h,92.18t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sVmcqj8B5qftToSRSWfEkag!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

This shows the RV point and the path across the field, over railway (track removed 1980s) and to a point on the river. Shoreham Airport is in far distance (blue tents).
https://www.google.co.uk/maps/place/Adur+District/@50.8614624,-0.2915356,116a,35y,180.5h,72t/data=!3m1!1e3!4m16!1m10!4m9!1m3!2m2!1d-0.2897222!2d50.8561111!1m3!2m2!1d-0.2928385!2d50.8585019!3e0!3m4!1s0x4875975f56594fc9:0x40eae2da2ed4d90!8m2!3d50.8348175!4d-0.3101263
Title: Re: January 6, 1942
Post by: dave1212 on September 14, 2018, 03:33:49 am
This is great. If nothing else, I've had the opportunity to take a virtual tour of this beautiful part of the country you call home. Very informative. Thank you.

The Regiment's war diaries are available to view online:
https://www.wnsr.ca/war_diary
Title: Re: January 6, 1942
Post by: Nelson on September 14, 2018, 07:09:04 am
Wow - impressive work Spinalman.
Title: Re: January 6, 1942
Post by: johnjohn on September 14, 2018, 08:33:27 am
Hello Dave,
I can remember being told of this incident to warn us of the dangers of the river,we were often taken to the sandbanks at low tide for a paddle by one of my friends Father as the local beaches were mined at this time.

I would concur with Spinalmans scenario as the distanc from the camp and the most likely route would be as he said.
Their base would have been the  Grammar School Playing Fields (now a housing estate ) that had been commandeered with  a searchlight,AA gun and heavy machine gun emplacements installed together with a large encampment of French Canadian troops.

The river has a sharp bend at the point oppositeOld Erringham Farm and on the East side a sandbank has formed whereas on the opposite bank the erosion has formed a steep bank,anyone bringing small boats up the river would have chosen this site as ideal for mooring and later launching.
I would speculate that at low water the boats were brought up river and moored at this point awaiting the troops,then later when they arrived and embarked the tiday flow would have been very strong and then, trying to disembark up a steep bank, the boat capsized and it would have been very difficult to clamber up the bank especially wet and heavily loaded with equipment.
The only ideal time to cross the river would have been high water slack.
Title: Re: January 6, 1942
Post by: dave1212 on September 14, 2018, 03:25:29 pm
As part of the battle drill training, another platoon was setup in ambush on the west bank. Testimony offered the distance between east & west banks to be about 100-120 feet. When the recce boat reached the west bank, the nine men in the goatley boat headed out (two men were paddling).

About a 1/3 of the way across an officer on the east bank threw a thunderflash which landed to the left of the boat. Due to the speed of the current, it rapidly drew closer & when it exploded, the men on the left side reacted instinctively by moving their bodies to the right which tilted the boat & then movement back to the left allowed some water to get in. A couple of men on the left near the stern then stood up & the boat quickly sank up to the gunwales then capsized throwing the men into the water - it happened in seconds.

When the boat was recovered, a tear in the canvas, below the waterline was discovered about 3/5's back towards the stern on the left side. As the thunderflash exploded near the front left bow, it was determined the tear was a result of a boot or rifle butt.

The court of inquiry as well as the coroner placed no blame on those in the boat nor on the shore. I have attached the coroner's report. New safety measures were recommended so perhaps the loss of these seven men inadvertently saved countless others due to new procedures being put in place.

Two soldiers were decorated for their actions that day. Privates Oran Foster (recce boat) & Frank Smith (dove in from west bank) received the BEM & their Distinguished Conduct citation reads:
' The accidental capsizing of an assault boat in the course of training exercise 6 Jan 42 precipitated all of the occupants into the extremely cold and swift current of a river which, at that point some 120 feet wide. Pte Foster, although unable to swim, immediately launched a small reconnaissance boat, and in constant danger of overturned he was successful in aiding four of the drowning men to reach the shore. Pte Smith despite the dangerous undertow dived from the riverbank and succeeded in supporting one man who had become exhausted in attempts at rescue.
The initiative of Pte Foster and his gallant conduct in thus disregarding his own personal safety are worthy of much praise, while Pte Smith, who has been awarded a Testimonial on Vellum by the Royal Humane Society, displayed a high degree of initiative, courage and fortitude in the rescue which he effected.'
Title: Re: January 6, 1942
Post by: dave1212 on September 14, 2018, 04:00:08 pm
Police Sergeant Jones' Report
Title: Re: January 6, 1942
Post by: dave1212 on September 14, 2018, 06:36:10 pm
Our Regimental reunion is being held this weekend & I will be forwarding the information you all have kindly shared. It is so important we remember.

Semper Fidelis
Title: Re: January 6, 1942
Post by: Spinalman on September 14, 2018, 07:17:57 pm
What a sad tale.

I looked up Goatley boat - here is an image.

Likewise I have linked to a 1946 aerial image that shows the lie of the land - the river was not swollen in the image, and you will see the road has a different track.  The rail tracks were twin in those days.
http://www.sussex.ac.uk/geography/researchprojects/sussexairphotos/1940/16-5098.jpg

I have put the RV point for reference:
Title: Re: January 6, 1942
Post by: Nelson on September 15, 2018, 12:34:35 pm
Of course Ė just realised our wartime map has the old co-ordinates and applying 639269 as 63.9 west/east by 26.9 south/north gives a rendezvous point Iíve marked in yellow. Dave quotes this as the river bank reference point and give or take a few yards for the inaccuracies of my illustrations it looks like that confirms it - just the other side of the road to Spinalman's RV. 
Title: Re: January 6, 1942
Post by: Spinalman on September 15, 2018, 12:48:07 pm
Hi Nelson,

That is interesting.  Do you know the sheet number of the map you are referencing?   The map sheet reference should be sheet 133. The 6 digit grid reference should have a prefix, depending on the scale and date of issue of the maps ( I think in the 60's it was TQ for our area) but for wartime the map prefix that I researched was wQ http://www.echodelta.net/mbs/grillesj/britishcassini.htm  and it was that I applied to a online conversion tool http://www.fieldenmaps.info/cconv/cconv_gb.html  to give lat/lon- and that then equated on Google maps to the Erringham track.  However, yours is a plot that is much closer to the river, although still the wrong side of the railway track.  So it would be good to get confirmation of accuracy.

If you use the conversion of the wQ639269 as WGS84/ETRS89 Reference for GPS & online maps of the British Isles GPS-compatible then the plot is the same as yours Nelson (see image below)   Lat 50  51  23.7222 N Lon  0 17 28.3212

however if you adopt: OSGB36 used as graticule markings on Ordnance Survey maps of Great Britain then it places it 400 yards East on the track from Erringham.  If this is incorrect then my speculation of their march route over the downs is without substance.

Whichever the correct plot, I would imagine the river bank launch point would have been dictated by where the advance party had found a good place to beach the assault boat on the East bank - presumably at lower tide.
Title: Re: January 6, 1942
Post by: Nelson on September 15, 2018, 01:14:35 pm
Unfortunately I was only given the Shoreham part of the map for use with the Action Officers Minute Book research so donít have the border/edges of the complete map that provides the reference letters and numbers. I can ask for them but that will take a some days for response, nevertheless as you say it would be good to be more sure. 
(Edit - have since seen your updated post which tells us what we wanted to know anyway and, as you say, they would have chosen the best point nearest to that for using the boats. Your1940's aerial shot does show a convenient spot very close by - I tried searching for a site that provides tide times for that day in 1942 but didn't find anything)
Title: Re: January 6, 1942
Post by: Gerry White on September 16, 2018, 06:04:14 am
     In 2008 I wrote a Poem about the Adur Valley and the view from Mill Hill


     A nineteenth century Vicar
     A mighty vision he
     To build a Splendid chapel
     That's seen from out to sea
     It stands above the Adur
     That flows from out the land
     Panoramic Perfection
     Describe it very well
     And from Mill Hill the sight is still
     A picture made by god
     A silver sea, the Airport
     And bridges one two three
     That carry traffic East to West
     And then the other way
     All visitors to the area
     Completely all agree
    The view from the Hill is marvellous
    The best there is to see.
   

       I was born in Old Shoreham in 1938, and so have much to be thankful for'
       particularly the Canadians of the West Nova Scotia Regiment, who came to Shoreham
       to fight against NAZI tyranny, and bring an ultimate peace to Europe.
     
       It may be worthy of note that the location of the  tragic incident is traditionally called
       Cuckoo Corner only 100 metres away The vicar I referred to is Rev Woodard BA the
       Photo shows Lancing College Chapel ,
       
   

 
   
     
   
   
Title: Re: January 6, 1942
Post by: johnjohn on September 16, 2018, 08:19:12 am
Dave,I am a little confused about the West Novas Regiment,did they have French Canadians in their ranks?
The troops I can remember were definatly French Canadians or was this the next contingent based here possibly for the Dieppe raid ?

In WW1 there were a lot of Canadian troops based in Shoreham, encampted on the Downs,one of them married one of my maternal Aunts,survived the war and settled in Toronto,later followed by another Aunt and an Uncle also heading for Ontario.
Unfortunatly two of their Brothers are still somewhere in France.
Title: Re: January 6, 1942
Post by: Spinalman on September 16, 2018, 10:51:00 am
Reading the regimental war diaries in detail it appears they were based in various billets in Worthing, but I can't find any reference to Shoreham.  So our supposition that they marched from Shoreham is speculation.  I assume there were very many Canadian contingents in Shoreham and surrounds, and that they moved frequently.
Title: Re: January 6, 1942
Post by: Nelson on September 16, 2018, 12:11:05 pm
Just picking up again on the coordinates - I donít think they were ever always completely accurate. Iíve reviewed the ones given in the Action Officers Minute Books (wartime incidents in the area) to pick out those where it is possible to identify more or less exactly where the incident site was and compared that with the map coordinates noted for the incident. Unsurprisingly this reveals some discrepancies between the two.
For example, we know that the bomb that fell on St. Richards Street, Fishersgate demolished number 16 there. Compare that with the map coordinates given and you can see a difference.
Repeating the exercise for three other examples where the exact site is known shows similar discrepancies (some by up to two-tenths of a grid square) and these have been entered in red on the Erringham area map using the original yellow coordinate 639269 as the marker. They all vary in their distance and direction from the marker but one of them hits the river bank very close to the point we reckon was the boat launching spot.
Coincidence I suppose as they were never likely to be that precise.
Title: Re: January 6, 1942
Post by: dave1212 on September 16, 2018, 06:42:27 pm
Sorry I was away from the computer for a couple of days.

French Acadian history & culture are woven into the tapestry which makes up Nova Scotia. Many with Acadian heritage served within units from the Maritimes.

I mentioned earlier the two other infantry units along with the West Novas that made up the 3rd Infantry Brigade, 1st Canadian Division; Carlton & York Regiment & the Royal 22nd.

The Carlton & York Regiment is based in New Brunswick, the only officially bilingual province in Canada so many of it's members, like the West Novas would have spoken French as their first language.

The Royal 22nd Regiment from Quebec is entirely French Canadian.

The 1st Canadian Division left for Sicily in July 1943.

The 2nd Canadian Division were involved at Dieppe. The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada & Le Regiment de Maisonneuve in the 5th Infantry Brigade, 2nd Canadian Division were French Canadian units as was Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal 6th Infantry Brigade, 2nd Canadian Division.

Thank you for all the replies.
Title: Re: January 6, 1942
Post by: johnjohn on September 16, 2018, 07:19:29 pm
Thanks Dave,
I did not realise that some regiments had mixed French and English speakers.
Title: Re: January 6, 1942
Post by: Gerry White on September 17, 2018, 08:06:08 am
 Just like me John John  Good English, and very bad French . Worse than Churchill whose French was notoriously  poor.   On V E day in Shoreham High Street, I spoke to a number of Canadians  who all spoke English, but they borrowed my Union Flag, and gave it back later. with 2/6p ..for luck.
Title: Re: January 6, 1942
Post by: johnjohn on September 17, 2018, 10:43:20 am
Hello Gerry,I don't know about my English, it has atrophied a bit since retirement but in French the vocabulary is very weak but the pronounciation very good due to watching many episodes of 'Allo,'Allo
Title: Re: January 6, 1942 The French Language
Post by: Gerry White on September 17, 2018, 02:00:14 pm
 Just like Mon Dieu, or Sacre Flipping Bleu mon frere
Title: Re: January 6, 1942
Post by: dave1212 on September 17, 2018, 02:21:51 pm
Don't mean to sound like a broken record but thank you again for the great info.

'West Novas - History of the West Nova Scotia Regiment' by Thomas H. Raddall (written 1947) remains 'the bible' for all West Novas past & present. I have the book of course however should I be away from home & need to reference anything from it, I use this link to access the online version.
Depending on your pc speed, could take awhile to load when first accessed (click on 'View/Open') & you're on your way.
http://dalspace.library.dal.ca/handle/10222/53155
Title: Re: January 6, 1942
Post by: Spinalman on September 17, 2018, 05:59:21 pm
Just picking up again on the coordinates -
Repeating the exercise for three other examples where the exact site is known shows similar discrepancies (some by up to two-tenths of a grid square) and these have been entered in red on the Erringham area map using the original yellow coordinate 639269 as the marker.

Hi Roger.  We haven't established if your maps are the same maps that were referenced by the reports of the time. We have that noted as sheet 133.  The potential anomalies are caused by selecting the wrong datum (the basis upon which the grid is applied to a map.)  I know of two used on maps of that era, and that causes a 2 tenths difference (horizontally but not vertically) depending on which datum you use to convert the grid reference to a modern map.   Now I doubt that difference is uniform -ie Fishersgate may have a bigger difference that the more Western grids of Erringham.  the two datum I used are in here: http://www.fieldenmaps.info/cconv/cconv_gb.html

Next is the original grid reference accuracy itself. 6 digits is fairly coarse, and was it of the river (as implied in the text) or was it the RV point prior to them going to the river, or was it the nearest point on the road for rescue teams to assemble at.
Title: Re: January 6, 1942
Post by: Nelson on September 17, 2018, 07:15:27 pm
Blimey Spinalman things get more complicated than ever it seems. Anyway, I've asked West Sussex Records Office for the reference numbers of the wartime map they gave me for the AOMB research so perhaps that will make things clearer even though it won't be the complete answer,
Title: Re: January 6, 1942
Post by: dave1212 on September 19, 2018, 01:07:48 pm
What's the depth of the river in the area we're looking at when the tide is coming in - give or take?

Also, I forgot to mention, the book link offers more detail to the Regiment's time in the UK in the early chapters.
Title: Re: January 6, 1942
Post by: Gerry White on September 19, 2018, 01:42:27 pm
 At full tide, estimate twixt 8ft and 10 ft and from river bottom to top of the bank 12ft maybe 13ft.  That is todays measures but back in 1942m the river may not have scoured the chalk bottom so deeply, the river has a chalk bottom covered with silt/mud.  I have swum across at that point, as a youngster, but the outgoing tide is quite strong, and can quite see why the soldiers had severe difficulties, I only attempted the swim at full high tide, just before it turns to go out.  Best wishes,
Title: Re: January 6, 1942
Post by: dave1212 on September 19, 2018, 04:48:16 pm
L-to-R
Lt. Smeltzer, Private Vingar

Vingar made it to the west bank by swimming on his back. He remained with the Regiment. He was later WIA December 17, 1943 & was awarded the MM for actions May 23, 1944.

Alexander Vingar was KIA December 3, 1944 age 27. He is buried Ravenna War Cemetery, Italy.

Lieutenant Smeltzer was rescued by Private Foster in the recce boat. He too remained with the Regiment & returned home to Nova Scotia after the war. I'm still attempting to trace his post war years.
Title: Re: January 6, 1942
Post by: johnjohn on September 19, 2018, 07:53:24 pm
I would concur with Gerrys opinion on the depth of water in that area and the strong currents at all but high tide.

 I don't know if the tide was considered on this exercise but at this point the tide could be ebbing for some time at the harbour mouth and a yet still a very strong current flowing in this location.
 As an example of this tidal delay, on one occasion a friend of mine, Bruce Johnson and I went up river from near the harbour paddling a smal dinghy. Aided by the flood tide we had an easy ride as far as the 'Rising Sun' at Upper Beeding where we disembarked and went in for a couple of drinks. Later we came back and tried for a considerable time to paddle back under the bridge and found that we had to work hard to make any progress,eventually the current turned and we ended up around 2300 navigating the Norfolk Bridge rapids
Title: Re: January 6, 1942
Post by: Spinalman on September 22, 2018, 11:02:40 pm
Here are some still photos from today:
High tide of the suggested incident location, from the West bank.
Low tide from the East bank - boat launch site.
https://www.dropbox.com/sh/4r2r9ozfspt3i24/AADiOwngWcao5yM0Bp5nzv_Ia?dl=0

http://youtu.be/a0pmEqrMjBc

The aerial view is comparison 1946 aerial photo, 1947-1964 map, and 2016 aerial photo. Red marks the track of the video camera and viewpoints. This is based on the assumption that the platoon used the railway crossing point and path to river. The best estimate grid reference from Nelson's map is shown in yellow.

Note: the Level crossing (LC) evident in the 1947- map is not evident in the 1946 aerial. Although there is sign of a similar crossing point of the railway 100 feet South and that has a track to a dyke footbridge and then to the river.    If the 2 boats were moored up in advance of the exercise, presumably at low tide and at a point on the bank where you could tie up a boat onto the bank OR unload it from the back of a vehicle onto the bank, then maybe a more logical place is opposite the Southern most red dot - and that may indicate where they crossed the Adur to be engaged by the "opposition force" on the West bank.
Title: Re: January 6, 1942
Post by: Nelson on September 23, 2018, 06:22:14 am
Impressive work Spinalman and frighteningly realistic of  how difficult things would have been in the water with full kit 
Title: Re: January 6, 1942
Post by: johnjohn on September 23, 2018, 08:11:59 am
Ditto !
It clearly shows that other than at high water it would be very difficult if not impossible for a fully laden soldier to climb up the steep eroded mud bank on the west side assuming that the boat could be held steady enough in the strong current to disembark....unless they carried an anchor with them ?
Title: Re: January 6, 1942
Post by: Spinalman on September 23, 2018, 09:00:21 am
Whilst it was a pretty windswept spot yesterday there is a lot of walker activity along both banks.   I am sure all are oblivious to the tragedy that occurred there.  I think the soldiers that lost their lives deserve a permanent memorial placed here so this event 76 years ago is not forgotten.
View from probably launching point on East bank at low tide looking SW:
Title: Re: January 6, 1942
Post by: johnjohn on September 23, 2018, 07:35:17 pm
Yes,that would be good.

I doubt if any Shoreham people alive today are aware of this incident. My only knowledge was at the age of aprox 8 being told that a boat carrying Commandos capsized just North of the toll bridge causing a lot of fatalities, which I had related to the old forum,this information being inaccurate makes me wonder if the episode was 'hushed up' as being very bad for morale and only rumours were around at the time.

I wonder if the information of this tragedy could be passed to the local press for publication,it would be good to remind people of the sacrifices made by the Commonwealth forces
Title: Re: January 6, 1942
Post by: Gerry White on September 23, 2018, 10:09:10 pm
 Excellent idea to notify the press ...and media TV and Radio...As you both say Spinalman and John John , no one knows what happened at that spot.And they were defending our Country and preparing to invade the Continentof Europe. May be worthy of note at this point that the Dieppe Raid, was planned in the boardroom at Shoreham Airport , and then Raid was predominently  carried out by Canadian forces.
Title: Re: January 6, 1942
Post by: dave1212 on September 25, 2018, 01:56:54 am
This is brilliant! The information provided is remarkable & I truly appreciate the efforts of you all. It's hard to explain the importance of knowing these details. May I share the maps/photos provided with the Association?

I'm glad I was able to provide names & photos of the men involved. I'm currently writing brief bios of the men to accompany their photos. I'm still looking for William McLean's photo but hopefully we'll soon have some luck. I'll share the finished results with you when completed.

The plaque idea is wonderful. If I can be of some assistance let me know.

Thank you again for helping us ensure these men are not forgotten.

Semper Fidelis
Title: Re: January 6, 1942
Post by: Spinalman on September 25, 2018, 07:29:18 am
This is brilliant! The information provided is remarkable & I truly appreciate the efforts of you all. It's hard to explain the importance of knowing these details. May I share the maps/photos provided with the Association?

Indeed, everything may be shared.    If a memorial stone or plaque were appropriate, I wonder how best to achieve that?  A letter from the WNS Regiment to the right people may be a good start. 

The river is probably the jurisdiction of the Environment Agency, whilst Adur Council is the Local Authority.
Title: Re: January 6, 1942
Post by: dave1212 on September 25, 2018, 02:59:13 pm
Thank you. Just for verification; what bank is the photograph taken on?

According to Lt. Smeltzers's testimony the soldiers were wearing the following:
'Battle Order, respirator slung, bayonet attached to haversack less entrenching tool, gas capes & greatcoat plus 50 rounds S.A.A. & loaded bren magazine.'

One of the NCO's (McLean, Marshall) would have carried a bren gun & the others had their rifles.

The recce & assault boats were already there on the east bank when the men arrived after their march at 1254 hrs.

Title: Re: January 6, 1942
Post by: Spinalman on September 25, 2018, 03:04:28 pm
Thanks for that added info Dave.    That ties in with my assumptions based on the other information. Is there any info on how many were waiting on the East bank to mount the simulated attack?

Here is my earlier take on the likely chain of events:

The training advance party was probably sent out by truck from the airport with the assault boat and recce boat loaded.  They may have had a predetermined RV point near to the Steyning Road opposite the junction to Old Erringham Farm.  They would unload the boats and walk them to the river (200 yards) crossing the twin tracked railway embankment  (not overgrown in 1942).  Immediately West of the RV point is a small footbridge over a drainage dyke that would give them access to the river bank.   The boats didnít need to be moored, so I am assuming they were simply left on the embankment closest to the RV point - as no other points on the bank would offer better launch points.  The advance party could then drive to Bramber and cross the river and return South via the Coombs road and park up at Cuckoo Corner.  They could then set up their ambush positions on the East Bank opposite the boats.

Meanwhile the marching platoon will have been marching for 2 hours or so and arrived at 1pm at the Old Erringham Farm Junction RV point.  I think it is safe to suggest they hiked from the Airport and over the Downs towards Truleigh and cut into the valley at Old Erringham.  The Platoon will make for the river and discover the boats.  There wonít be much in the way of choice for launching as the tide was at full and there were no inlets on the East bank.  The tide was still coming in.  The report suggests that at half way across a thunderflash was thrown from the East bank to simulate attack. This floated upstream towards the left side of the boat. In reaction the soldiers shifted to the right, an the boat was holed in the process. The result was a capsize.

At near high tide it appears possible to disembark from a boat, but if someone was in the water there is a very poor prospect of anyone getting purchase on the bank to get out of the water. The banks are muddy and inclined at 45 degrees immediately under the surface.
Title: Re: January 6, 1942
Post by: Spinalman on September 25, 2018, 03:13:20 pm
Thank you. Just for verification; what bank is the photograph taken on?


The photographs at High tide were taken from the West bank. The chimney in distance is North. The low tide views are all from the probable launching point on the East bank. The gothic chapel is to the South. The video was taken at same times, captioned as to which bank.

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/4r2r9ozfspt3i24/AADiOwngWcao5yM0Bp5nzv_Ia?dl=0
http://youtu.be/a0pmEqrMjBc

I think the 1942 sheet 133 grid reference of the incident is 63752690   or if only using 6 digit reference 637269.
Modern equivalent location: 50.857379, -0.292950
Title: Re: January 6, 1942
Post by: dave1212 on September 25, 2018, 04:03:06 pm
Wow - fantastic shots thank you.

I'm assuming a platoon strength attack.

Lt. A.J.W. Dyer (in charge of the 'enemy/ambush' platoon) testified:
'At the time of the river crossing, I was standing on the west bank of the river, one section was on top of the bank with me, the remainder was in ambush. I saw the reconnaissance boat come across. It landed safely. I then saw the assault boat being loaded & shoved off from the shore on the east bank.'

Platoon Sergeant Richard Ellis (KIA Aug 2 '43) pushed the boat from the east bank. I only see references to the recce & this assault boat but only a section of men from the platoon could get across at once. No idea if the plan was to row the boat back again after the first load got off or if other boats (just not mentioned) were waiting to be loaded.

Only the recce boat is mentioned in rescue attempts & men from both banks dove in to help. Due to water temperature & current, more would-be rescuers were rescued than boat occupants. It happened so quickly, perhaps even if there were other boats on the east bank, it was over before they could be launched.
Title: Re: January 6, 1942
Post by: dave1212 on September 25, 2018, 06:19:56 pm
When the boat capsized, tossing the men into the water, Jaquest & Melanson never resurfaced. Vingar & McLean were between the boat & the west bank. McLean soon disappeared but Vingar made his way to the west bank by swimming on his back.

Five men were clinging to the inverted boat. Marshall, Farnsworth & MacDonald were hanging on to the down current side with Gaudet & Smeltzer on the opposite side. The swift current swept four of the five men away from the boat & Smeltzer was unable to push the boat in the direction the others were going. L\Cpl Marshall was floating face down when Private Foster reached him in the recce boat but the others had disappeared. Marshall was revived on the west bank but never fully recovered dying Feb 15, 1942. 

As mentioned, some would-be rescuers found themselves in difficulty but were assisted back to either east & west banks or were picked up by the recce boat & taken to the west bank. Horrible day....
Title: Re: January 6, 1942
Post by: dave1212 on October 10, 2018, 07:47:37 pm
River Adur casualties 1 of 4
Title: Re: January 6, 1942
Post by: dave1212 on October 10, 2018, 07:48:03 pm
River Adur casualties 2 of 4
Title: Re: January 6, 1942
Post by: dave1212 on October 10, 2018, 07:48:31 pm
River Adur casualties 3 of 4
Title: Re: January 6, 1942
Post by: dave1212 on October 10, 2018, 07:48:57 pm
River Adur casualties 4 of 4
Title: Re: January 6, 1942 - tragic wartime incident on the Adur
Post by: Brian Drury on November 10, 2018, 06:15:22 pm
Probably a coincidence but according to Stewart Angell a secret Auxiliary unit underground bunker was located in the woods very close to the area you have identified. He says the dimension quoted in the book is probably not very accurate.

This is taken from his book 'Secret Sussex Resistance'

The patrolís hideout was sited in a  small  wood beside  the  A283  Steyning to Shoreham road, 300 yards to the north of Old Erringham Farm,  Old  Shoreham, and was built by the Royal Engineers.   It is not known if there was an underground lookout.
Title: Re: January 6, 1942 - tragic wartime incident on the Adur
Post by: Nelson on November 10, 2018, 07:48:35 pm
That's interesting Brian - I wonder if there's anything still there? (No - I'm not going..... you've got a push bike)
Title: Re: January 6, 1942 - tragic wartime incident on the Adur
Post by: Brian Drury on November 11, 2018, 11:03:19 am
The land is privately owned and I am told that permission is not given for a search.

The patrol was called The Small Dole Patrol. The name was usually given to a location some distance from the hideout for security reasons.

This is the Small Dole section from the book (ISBN 1 873 793 82 0) using OCR:

Small Dole Patrol
The Small Dole Patrol had eight members.   The Patrol Leader was George Cooper who worked for a company called Jenner and Higgs as a corn merchant, which meant he had a petrol allowance.  He lived in Small Dole.  George Cooper was a veteran of the First World War, when he was a bomber pilot in the Royal Flying Corps.   The methods used in those days were very primitive, the bombs being lobbed out of the plane by hand!  The other patrol members were Richard Griffiths, another World War I veteran, who was a farmer at Merrion Farm  to  the  north  of Ashurst;  the  brothers  George  and  Fred  Cooke,  both  farmers  from Woodmancote;   Bernard  Chaplin,   a  local  gunsmith;   Bernard  Coleman,   a  farmer  from Henfield;  William  Parker,  a  farmer  at  Little  Bendy  Farm,  Henfield  and  Ralph  Paine, occupation unknown.   All the men did their basic training at Coleshill House.

Localised training included one memorable mock attack on Shoreham airport. After the  war,  George  Cooper would tell  his  friends  about  the  time  he and his patrol entered the airport at night time by  getting  under  the  barbed  wire perimeter  fence  and  proceeding  to  lay various fake charges  on  the  runway and planes,  leaving the same way as they got in without being detected  by  the  army who were guarding the whole area.

The patrolís hideout was sited in a small wood beside the A283 Steyning to Shoreham road, 300 yards to the north of Old Erringham Farm, Old Shoreham, and was built by the Royal Engineers.   It
is not known if there was an underground lookout.

George Cooper kept extra supplies of ammunition and explosives buried in his back garden.   These  remained buried until  after  his  death  some  twenty years  ago,  and   were  only   discovered when the new  owners  of his  house  were carrying  out  alterations  to  the  garden.

They unearthed the secret cache, which not only gave them a fright but gave the authorities the problem of how to remove it all and make the area safe.

Title: Re: January 6, 1942 - tragic wartime incident on the Adur
Post by: Nelson on November 11, 2018, 11:21:22 am
Fascinating Brian - thanks for that.
Title: Re: January 6, 1942 - tragic wartime incident on the Adur
Post by: Spinalman on November 11, 2018, 09:09:48 pm
Nelson has been working hard to collate the information relating to this incident into an article.  It can be found here : http://www.shorehambysea.com/tragedy-at-old-erringham/
Title: Re: January 6, 1942 - tragic wartime incident on the Adur
Post by: johnjohn on November 12, 2018, 08:01:59 am
Very informative and interesting....I hope that many Shoreham people get to read it.
Title: Re: January 6, 1942 - tragic wartime incident on the Adur
Post by: Spinalman on January 06, 2019, 10:55:23 am
Lest we forget. 6th Jan 1942