Saturday 20 March 2021

Raymond Frederick Horrocks 1921 - 1958

 Raymond Horrocks and his Air Fleet memories during WW2

During World War Two, my oldest uncle (who I never met) served in the Air Fleet. Raymond or Ray as he was known, was one of the four children of my grandmother Doris hands and her first husband Charles Frederick Horrocks (1894 - 1933). Born in Birmingham, he enlisted during the early years of WW2. A few years later, he thanked my grandfather (his step father) for instilling some discipline in him. Because without this, he said he would never have survived his time in the navy. 

Following the death of his own father. Ray and his siblings had been left to run a little wild. Eating when and what they liked. Generally left to their own devises as my grandmother had to go out to work to survive. She had very little support from both the families. I think because she had married her first cousin (frowned upon) and had also been pregnant at the time. Her family were members of the Salvation Army very strict and unfortunately her own father had just died in 1920, so probably grief with the fact that money may have been an issue for her at that time.     

Ray had been engaged to the girl living next door. Jean Adkins (1921 - 1948). The only daughter of Robert William Adkins and Beatrice Maud Walton. Years later, when the mother died. She had no family to arrange her funeral. My grandfather arranged her cremation and cleared her council house. Nothing of value but he did find the silk material for her wedding. Ray had sent it to Jean during the war to make her wedding dress. Unfortunately Jean died before they got married. Such a tragedy.

 Jean is the adult bridesmaid in Ray's sister's wedding above. Ray went on to marry some one else in 1958. Just a few days before he died.

Dorothy Rose Stokes attended a factory for the disabled in Birmingham. Ray had been injured during the war and worked there. They met and married. Dorothy later married another man who worked there and one of Ray's friends, William Lee. Dorothy and William married in 1960 and my family lost touch. Unfortunately photographs and Ray's medals stayed with Dorothy and are no longer in the family.

HMS Glorious

One of the ships that Ray was on was HMS Glorious. Ray told his younger brother that something dangerous was going on. He was transferred to another ship. He said he was moved because he was one of the younger crew members. Reading about the fated ship Glorious after my other uncle told me about this. I think Ray was sent ashore to either guard the Commander Flyer J B Heath or the Captain didn't want a young and inexperienced man on board his ship, knowing of the coming orders. What ever the reason. It saved Ray's life.   

Heath and the Captain D'Oyly-Hughes had argued about the coming use of the fleet ship. Heath had been transferred to Scapa Flow in the Orkney Isles to face court martial. HMS Glorious left and on the 8th June 1940 came under attack from two German war ships. Glorious and her two escorts Ardent and Acasta were sunk. Over 1 500 men died with only 41 rescued. 

My uncle told his family that it was the captain's fault. He left the safety of the rest of the fleet with no way of defending it should they have come under attack. Although many men jumped into the water as the ships sunk. The men in the water were fired at by the Germans and it was 3 days before the few remaining men were rescued. It will be another 20 years before the file will be opened and can be scrutinized. 


Death cometh three times.

Ray Horrocks always stated that he had missed death three times during the war. First was by being transferred from HMS Glorious. The second was when he was onboard another ship and it was torpedoed and sunk. Unfortunately I don't know the name of the ship. Only that Ray ended up in the sea and suffered permeant damage to his lungs. The third time was when he was in line to have a ride on a helicopter. The man behind him was the last to be allowed on board. However, he had a girlfriend with him and they wanted to go together. Ray stood back and told her to go in his place. Tragically the helicopter developed engine problems and crashed. Everyone on board was killed. 

Photographs from his Air Fleet days.

The group photographs are unnamed and are in an album that one of my brothers has. I scanned them and have taken each individually to be seen a bit clearer. If anyone can contribute a name to the many faces. Please contact me via this blog.

The last photograph is a card sent to his family at Christmas. The ship he was on at this point was HMS Venerable

The above photograph was Ray Horrocks medal entitlement. He would have received the 1939- 45 Star, Atlantic Star, Pacific Star, Defence medal, War medal 1935 - 45 and the Defence medal. All of these would have no name on - as was for all the second World War medals. I said earlier they were kept by his widow Dorothy Lee and unfortunately their whereabouts unknown. 

Ray told tales of his time aboard the ships. It was quite boring and he took up knitting to pass the time. He also made a bracelet for one of his young sisters from silver coins collected on his travels.

More family photographs.

Ray died in 1958 from acute bronchitis, spontaneous pneumothorax, emphysema and pulmonary tuberculosis. Left with only one lung functioning. He didn't stand a chance against any lung disease. He was just 37 years old. 

World War Two battle ship photographs.

Amongst the few pictures are several of British official photographs. I am not sure on how or why he had them. 

 The label to the side of this photograph says "Navy's Air Strike Against Enemy Shipping" It gives an account of a successful attack in the Bodo area. 

   This one has a label "The assault on Southern France" with HMS Attacker and HMS Khedive leading on Aug 15 (no year given) The photo was taken from the the British Escort Carrier Pursuer.

Unfortunately the writing on this label is very faded. I have tried to enhance it but can still only read Jun 1944. There are 3 ships named on this one though.

The four photographs show the fleet's aeroplanes and battle ships during WW2. There were no labels attached to them. Bit difficult to scan as they are pasted into a photo album.

My Uncle ray died before his time. On his death bed, he told my mom that he had cheated death three times and it was bound to get him sooner rather than later. He was apparently a lovely man and my regret is that I never got to meet him as he died well before I was born. 

Raymond Frederick Horrocks 1921 to 1958. Remembered and not forgotten.