Cyril Ernest Barrett was born in December 1919, to parents Joseph and Ann Barrett of 19, Middle Row. At the outbreak of the Second World War he was working as a house painter and decorator. He enlisted into the 4th (Territorial) Battalion, The Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, as a Private. He then volunteered for special services and was attached to 3 Commando, joining No 1 Troop. He married Margaret, from Oakville, Canada, in Chipping Norton in 1942.

In August 1942 No. 3 Commando was involved in the ill-fated Operation Jubilee, an exploratory raid on Dieppe in France. Objectives included seizing and holding a major port for a short period, both to prove that it was possible and to gather intelligence. Upon retreat, the Allies also wanted to destroy coastal defences, port structures and all strategic buildings. The raid had the added objectives of boosting morale and demonstrating the firm commitment of the United Kingdom to open a western front in Europe. The plan called for a frontal assault on the port by the Canadian 2nd Division. Before this would take place, however, Troops from No. 3 and 4 Commandos would land at beaches on the eastern and western flanks and neutralise two German artillery batteries that were covering the main anchorage. No. 3 Commando was assigned the task of attacking the Goebbels Battery, landing on the eastern flank. The battery was located near Berneval-le-Grand, about half a mile from the sea with steep cliffs in front of it. It was decided that No. 3 Commando would land on two beaches to the east and west of the battery, from which gullies rose towards the battery and which would provide concealment while the commandos approached. 

As the convoy of landing craft and other vessels ferried the commandos across the English Channel, however, they had a chance encounter with a German tanker escorted by a number of armed trawlers which proceeded to fire upon them. In the confusion that followed a number of the landing craft were damaged and forced to turn back, while others were reported as missing and believed sunk. As a result the decision was made to abandon the attack.

Nevertheless, unbeknown to their commanders and each other, and having lost communications, the seven landing craft that had been reported missing made for their assigned beaches, determined to press on with the attack. In the end two parties landed, one party consisting of six craft carrying approximately 120 men landed on the beach opposite Le Petit Berneval to the east of the battery—Yellow I—while the other, consisting of only one craft of 20 men from No. 6 Troop landed to the west at Yellow II.

Of the 120 men that landed at Yellow I, 37 were killed including Private Barrett, 81 were captured, mostly after having been wounded, and just one managed to evade capture and return to Britain. However valuable lessons were learned for the Normandy Landings in June 1944.

Private Cyril Barrett was reported missing on 19th August 1942, later confirmed to have been killed in action. He was aged 22. his body was never recovered, he is commemorated on the Brookwood Memorial in Surrey for those with no known grave.


ERNEST EDWARD BOWSER was serving as a Private in the 4th Battalion, The Parachute Regiment when he was killed in action on 27th October 1944 during Operation Manna, the airborne capture of Megara airfield near Athens, Greece. He was aged 25. He is buried in Phaleron War Cemetery in Greece.

He was the son of Ernest and Alice Bowser, having been born in Plaistow in Essex. At the time of his death he had been living at 1, Alfred Terrace, Chipping Norton. His father won the Military medal for bravery in the field, whilst serving with the Royal Artillery in World War One. 

JOHN CAPEL BUTLER was serving as a Private with 7th Battalion, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry when he was killed in action during the Battle of Monte Cassino 23rd January 1944 aged 28. He is commemorated on the Cassino Memorial, Italy for 4000 allied soldiers with no known grave. He was the son of Herman and Emily Butler, worked as a carpenter and joiner and married Ivy Barnes of Bloxham in 1940.

He is also commemorated on the Bloxham war memorial. 

The Battle of Monte Cassino was a costly series of four assaults by the  Allies  against the Winter Line in Italy held by the Germans and Italians during the Italian Campaign with the intention to breakthrough  to Rome. At the beginning of 1944, the western half of the Winter Line was being anchored by Germans holding the Rapido, Liri and Garigliano valleys and some of the surrounding peaks and ridges. Together, these features formed the Gustav Line. Monte Cassino, a historic hilltop abbey  dominated the nearby town of  Cassino and the entrances to the Liri and Rapido valleys, but had been left unoccupied by the German defenders. The Germans had, however, manned some positions set into the steep slopes below the abbey's walls.

The 7th Battalion, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry formed part of the 56th London Division.With the rest of the division, they left the United Kingdom in late August 1942. The division was sent to Persia and Iraq Command and the battalion later fought in the final battle in the Tunisia Campaign in April 1943. The battalion made a successful attack at Enfidaville following a 3,000-mile road move from Iraq. In the Italian Campaign, 7th Ox and Bucks took part in the landings at Salerno in September 1943 and suffered heavy casualties. On 17th January 1944 they took part in the first assault in the Battle of Monte Cassino, near the coast, when the British X Corps (56th and 5th Divisions) forced a crossing of the Garigliano River to engage the German 94th Infantry Brigade. Private Butler was killed during the attack, one of 4,000 casualties.

PETER JOHN CALLAHAN was serving as a Lieutenant  with the Royal Armoured Corps (3rd Reconnaissance Regiment) formed out of B Squadron, 3rd (8th Battalion, The Royal Northumberland Fusiliers) Regiment, when he was accidentally killed on 20th September 1944 on his 20th birthday. He is buried in Leopoldsburg Military Cemetery, Belgium. He son of John and Daisy Callahan of Chipping Norton, and before the war had worked for Barclay's bank.

He was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant into the Royal Armoured Corps (3rd Reconnaissance Regiment) on 12th December 1943. He landed with his regiment on Sword Beach on D-Day, 6th June 1944, and promoted to Lieutenant on 12th June 1944. As part of the 3rd Infantry Division  and fought through the Battle of Normandy at Caen, Bourguébus Ridge and Mont Pinçon. They crossed into Belgium and he was accidentally killed on 20th September 1944 on his 20th birthday.

SIDNEY ERIC DEE was serving as a Driver with the Royal Army Service Corps when he died on 16th March 1946 in Chipping Norton aged 33. He is buried in Chipping Norton Cemetery. He married May Mills in 1932 in Chipping Norton and was father of two children, Edith Rose and Freda. He died of a heart attack at home in Hailey Road.

WILLIAM ALFRED FREEBORN was serving as a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve when he died of natural causes on 31st July 1944. He was aged 33 and is buried in Largo cemetery, Fifeshire.

He was the son of George and Alice Freeborn of Market Street, Chipping Norton. He worked as an engineer, visiting Australia and Canada. He married to May Maclennan and lived at Roselea, Lower Largo, Fifeshire.

He joined the RNVR Clyde Division in April 1937 and was made a temporary sub-Lieutenant on 1st May 1940. He served on the Janethea IV, below, a motor launch requisitioned by the Navy as a coastal patrol vessel. As HMS Corax she assisted in the Dunkirk evacuation.

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He then commanded HMS Elsie Cam, a mine sweeping trawler from August 1941 until September 1943 and was promoted Lieutenant in March 1942.  He then commanded HMS Motor Minesweeper 44, (below), until 1st December 1943.

He was attached to HMS Victory Training Establishment when he was diagnosed with cancer and died at his home on 31st July 1944.

HORACE GARDNER was serving as a Stoker 1st class with the Royal Navy on board the light-cruiser HMS Fiji and died on the 23rd May 1941 aged 36 when she was sunk South West of Crete by German bombers. He is commemorated on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial.

He was born in October 1904, the son of  Wilfred and Maud Gardner of 4, Victoria Place, Chipping Norton.

He had been working as a boat repairer when he joined the Royal Navy in Portsmouth on 8th May 1929 and trained as a stoker. He was assigned to HMS Osprey the anti-submarine establishment at Portland as a Stoker 1st class on 12th February 1931. He served on the destroyers HMS Heather and HMS Woolston and on the patrol vessel HMS P59, below, as part of the Portland anti-submarine flotilla. Home on leave in summer 1931 he married Hilda Taylor in Chipping Norton 

He then joined the crew of the C class light cruiser HMS Coventry in December 1932, serving with the Home Fleet. On 2nd February 1935 he was back at HMS Osprey and served on board the armed trawlers HMS Blackwater and HMS Topaze on anti submarine duties. On 1st February 1938  he joined the crew of HMS Vernon a minelaying tender and served with her until February 1940. On 2nd April 1940 he joined the Crown Colony class light cruiser HMS Fiji.below.

She was commissioned on 5th May 1940, and initially joined the Home Fleet. On 31st August 1940 she sailed for the African Atlantic coast to take part in Operation Menace, the attack on Dakar. Before she could join the task force, Fiji was damaged by a torpedo from a U-Boat on 1st September and had to return to Britain for repairs, which lasted for the next six months. She was fitted with radar and her Anti-Aircraft armament was increased. She returned to service in March 1941 and was assigned to patrol the Denmark Strait for German raiders. In April she was reassigned to Force H to blockade the German heavy ships then stationed at Brest. With Force H, she sailed into the Mediterranean to support operations to relieve Malta.

On completion of these duties she participated in the Battle of Crete. On 22nd May 1941 she was acting in company with the  destroyers  HMS Kandahar  and  HMS Kingston shortly after the loss of HMS Gloucester. These ships fought on and shot down one attacking aircraft and damaged two others. She finally expended all of her AA ammunition fighting off numerous air attacks that persisted for two hours. She was attacked and hit by several bombs from Messerschmitt Bf 109s before an aircraft of Jagdgeschwader 77 dropped a bomb close alongside to port. This blew in Fiji’s bottom plates and caused a list to port. Fiji lost power and came to a standstill. She was now largely defenceless, having practically exhausted her 4 inch ammunition. She was then hit by three bombs dropped by a Junkers Ju 88 from Lehrgeschwader 1 piloted by Gerhard Brenner. Captain Peveril William-Powlett gave the order to abandon ship and at 2015 Fiji rolled over and sank. The two destroyers dropped floats and withdrew to the south. They returned after dark to pick up 523 survivors. 241 men had gone down with the ship including Horace Gardner.

LESLIE CHRISTOPHER GILBERT was serving as a Gunner with the 135th (Hertfordshire Yeomanry) Field Regiment, The Royal Artillery when he died on 21st September 1944 aged 28.  He was on the Japanese ship Hofuku Maru carrying Allied prisoners of war. 

He was born in Chipping Norton, in April 1916. the son of Christopher and Frances Gilbert. Before the war he had worked as a brick moulder and married Beryl Shepard in 1939, and lived at 5, Pembridge Terrace, Chipping Norton. He is commemorated on the Singapore Memorial, for those with no known grave. 

The 135th were a Territorial regiment and in October 1941 they boarded the Polish ship "Sobieski" (below) at Gourock in Scotland, as part of the 18th (East Anglian Infantry) Infantry Division and sailed across the Atlantic in convoy, in somewhat cramped conditions, to the Canadian port of Halifax. 

There they boarded the USS Mount Vernon, a converted passenger liner, with better conditions and food, but still packed with 9,00 troops aboard. She sailed from Halifax in November 1941, dodging a U-boat pack and making first landfall at Cape Town. During the Atlantic crossing the ships company learnt of the attack on Pearl Harbour and the United States entry into the war, which lifted the spirits of the men. During the two day stop over they enjoyed the hospitality  of the Cape Town residents before  sailing on to Bombay. They arrived at their destination, Singapore , on 13th January 1942, during a tropical rain storm, which protected the disembarking troops from Japanese bombers, which had been carrying out massed raids on the town. 

Based on a rubber plantation near the causeway that linked Singapore Island with the mainland, they were soon in action to defend the Malay Peninsula and had some success before falling back on the island.They continued the action on Singapore Island before they had to destroy their guns and surrender to the Japanese on 15th February 1942. Their commanding officer was Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Toosey, who defied orders to evacuate from Singapore, to remain with his men in captivity. The men, including Leslie Gilbert, were sent to Tamarkan camp in Thailand to build rail bridges over the Khwae Noi River, part of the "Death Railway" from Bankok to Rangoon. 

After the completion of the bridges the so-called fit men were put aboard the Hofuku Maru, a tramp steamer (below), to work on the Japanese mainland. About 1,200 prisoners were crammed  into 2 holds with not enough room to lie down all at once. Food was meagre, about a cup of rice a day, barely enough water and sanitary conditions appalling. 


She sailed from Singapore to Miri, Borneo, on 4th July 1944, as part of convoy SHIMI-05 consisting of 10 ships, 5 of which carried, in total, 5,000 POWs. At Borneo, the Hofuku Maru left the convoy with engine problems, and sailed on to the Philippines, arriving on July 19th. She remained in Manila until mid-September while the engines were repaired. The POWs remained on board, suffering terribly from disease, such as beri-beri, hunger, and thirst. Around 90% of the prisoners were reckoned to be incapacitated by illness. On September 20 1944, the Hofuku Maru and 10 other ships formed Convoy MATA-27, and sailed from Manila to Japan. The following morning, the convoy was attacked 80 miles north of Corregidor by more than 100 American carrier planes. All eleven ships in the convoy were sunk. The Hofuku Maru was hit by three bombs and sank in under 5 minutes with most of the prisoners unable to escape from the holds, 1,047 of the 1,289 British and Dutch POWs on board died, including Chipping Norton's Leslie Gilbert.

LESLIE ROBERT HARRIS was serving as a Corporal with the 1st Battalion, The Gordon Highlanders when he died of his wounds on  24th August 1944 aged 24.  He is buried in Hermanville War Cemetery (behind Sword Beach).

Leslie Robert Harris was born on the 28th October 1920 and was the first born son of Elizabeth Harris of Ragland Way, Chipping Norton. He worked at the Co-operative in Chipping Norton. During this time he enlisted into the local company of the 4th Battalion of the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, where he began his training as rifleman.
Leslie was called up in August 1939 before the outbreak of war when the country prepared to deploy troops to France as part of the BEF as a result of anticipated hostilities brewing in Europe. Fortunately the call never came and Leslie remained in England and began to further his infantry training where he reached the rank of Corporal and was assigned to the 1st Battalion Gordon Highlanders. The 51st Highland Division had returned to Britain in November 1943, already battle hardened from campaigns in North Africa and Italy and in much need of rest.
In March 1944 the division moved to East Anglia and on 5th April 1944 transferred from 30th Corps to 1st Corps and commenced training for the planned invasion of main land Europe as part of Operation Overlord. During this time Leslie married his sweetheart Gertrude Irene Hodson from Wellingborough in a small ceremony with only a small number of family present.

In early June, Leslie, along with the rest of his battalion travelled south to London and then onto Portsmouth where they joined the massing allied forces to prepare for the invasion. Leslie landed with the Gordon Highlanders and other regiments of the 51st Highland Division on the 7th June 1944 on Sword beach. After spending a brief period supporting the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division, the Gordons were sent across the River Orne, and spent two months supporting the 6th Airborne Division in its bridgehead.
During this period they fought in many difficult actions around Breville (11th–12th June) and on the 13th June, the battalion ran into stiff opposition in the area of St.Honorine and Demouville. Their attacks were driven off and assumed a defensive position north of St. Hororine.
On the 11th July – the allies launched a night attack on Colombelles, a village with a large factory and chimneys which acted as excellent observation points for the enemy. Despite a determined attempt the position was not taken, a German armoured counterattack destroyed 10 of the 11 Sherman tanks supporting the infantry and at 0830 the next morning the Brigade withdrew back to St. Hororine and Longuecal.
On the 18th of July the allies launched Operation Goodwood an attack spearheaded by three armoured divisions focused on the German-held Bourguébus Ridge. The idea was to force the Germans to commit their armoured reserves in a series of costly counterattacks. The Germans were able to stop the British advance short of Bourguébus Ridge but had been shocked by the weight of the attack and preliminary aerial bombardment.
When Operation Goodwood ended on 20th July, the armoured divisions had broken through the outer German defences and advanced 7 miles but had been stopped short of Bourguébus Ridge, only armoured cars having penetrated further south and beyond the ridge. While Goodwood failed in its primary aim, it forced the Germans to keep powerful formations opposite the British and Canadians on the eastern flank of the Normandy beachhead.
The 1st battalion Gordon Highlanders along with other elements of First Canadian Army launched an attack that was codenamed ‘Operation Totalise’. The intention was to break through the German defences south of Caen on the eastern flank of the Allied positions in Normandy and exploit success by driving south, to capture the high ground north of the city of Falaise. The goal was to collapse the German front and cut off the retreat of German forces fighting the Allied armies further west.

It is believed that Leslie was wounded during this operation and was taken immediately to a field hospital for medical treatment. He died of his wounds on the 24th August 1944 aged 24 and was laid to rest in a small orchard in Hermanville Sur Mer. Located approximately 15km north of Caen which later became Hermanville War Cemetery.

THOMAS JAMES HARRIS was serving as a Gunner in the 64th (The Queen's Own Royal Glasgow Yeomanry) Anti- tank Regimen, The Royal Artillery when he died of accidental suffocation on 17th May 1943 aged 39, during the North Africa Campaign. He is buried in Medjez-El-Bab War cemetery in Tunisia.

He was the son of George and Louisa Harris of 11, West End, Chipping Norton. He married  Mary Whitehead in Brackley in 1935 and moved to Bourton-on-the Water and had two sons and two daughters.

The 64th (Queens Own Royal Glasgow Yeomanry) Anti-Tank Regiment Royal Artillery were a Territorial Army Unit mobilised in September 1939 they remained in the United Kingdom as part of the 15th (Scottish) Division until March 1942. They then moved to North Africa with the 78th Division, equipped with 17 pounder anti-tank guns, below In Tunisia.

The 78th was formed specifically for Operation Torch from regular British Army units, landing at Algiers in November 1942. The Axis forces defeated at El Alamein withdrew into Tunisia along the coast through Libya, pursued by the Allied Eighth Army. By mid April 1943, the combined Axis force was hemmed into a small corner of north-eastern Tunisia and the Allies were grouped for their final offensive. Medjez-el-Bab was at the limit of the Allied advance in December 1942 and remained on the front line until the decisive Allied advances of April and May 1943. Gunner Harris died near the town of Thibar.

VICTOR  PERCIVAL HARRIS was serving as a Lance-Corporal with S Battery, the Royal Marines Mobile Naval Base Defence Organization (Landing) when he died from small pox on 22nd June 1943 aged 23 in the 19th General Hospital in Alexandria. He is buried in Fayid War Cemetery in Egypt.

He was the son of Phillip and Fanny Harris of 2, Market Street, Chipping Norton. Before the war he worked as a warper at Bliss Mill and served as an Air Raid Protection warden there at the outbreak of war. He was a member of The Chipping Norton Temperance Brass Band.

The function of the M.N.B.D.O. was to provide the Fleet with a base in any part of the world, whether on the coast of a mainland or an island, within a week, and to defend it when prepared. The Unit was carried in specially equipped merchant vessels. The landing group is responsible for the collection of the required material, and for putting it ashore in landing craft, and also the transporting of itonce it has been landed. The Group then completes its function by building wharves or converting existing jetties, making roadways from the beach, and erecting such buildings as may be necessary. The defence side of the Organization is divided into artillery groups with naval coastal guns, anti-aircraft and anti-tank guns, and searchlights all to co-operate with each other. It has a Land defence Force consisting of rifle companies, machine gun sections and light artillery batteries.

PHILLIP LIONEL BERNARD HIATT was serving as a Gunner in the 8th Medium Regiment, The Royal Artillery, when he was killed in action during the Battle of Imphal on 8th May 1944, aged 20 and is  buried in Imphal War Cemetery, India.

He was the son of of Ernest and Linda Hiatt, of Over Norton. He is also remembered on the Over Norton War Memorial.


The 8th Medium Regiment was formed in India in 1941 and moved into Burma in 1943 where it remained to the end of the war. Theywere equipped in 1943 with the 5.5 inch gun. They were part of the 4th India Corps in Imphal, Assam, India.

The Battle of Imphal took place in the region around the city of Imphal, the capital of the state of Manipur in North-East India from March until July 1944. Japanese armies attempted to destroy the Allied forces at Imphal and invade India, but were driven back into Burma with heavy losses. Together with the simultaneous Battle of Kohima on the road by which the encircled Allied forces at Imphal were relieved, the battle was the turning point of the Burma Campaign, part of the South-East Asian Theatre of the Second World War. 

GEORGE LEONARD HOLTOM was serving as an Ordinary Seaman in the  Royal Navy when he was killed in action on 8th November 1944 aged 19.  He is buried in Bergen-op-Zoom War Cemetery, Netherlands. 

He was born in December 1925 to Florence Mabel Holtom, who was only 17. He was educated at Kingham Hill School and had worked at Craft’s Mill before joining the Royal Navy.

He joined the crew of His Majesty’s Motor Launch 916, The first Fairmile Type B motor launch (below) was completed in September 1940 and some 650 were produced during the war. Initially designed as submarine chasers they went on to fill many roles including gunboat, motor torpedo boat and minesweeper. After the war many were turned into pleasure craft and a few still survive.

After the breakout from Normandy by the Allied armies, in August 1944, the German forces held on stubbornly to the French and Belgian English Channel ports. This forced the Allies to bring all supplies for their rapidly advancing armies from the artificial harbour they had constructed off the beaches of Normandy, and from Cherbourg. Because of its port capacity Antwerp became the immediate objective of the British 21st Army Group commanded by Bernard Montgomery. While Antwerp fell to Montgomery on September 4th no supplies could be landed there until the German forces holding the lower reaches of the Scheldt, between Antwerp and the North Sea, were removed and the approaches swept for mines.ML 916 in company with another Motor Launch, swept with Oropesa sweeps (for moored or contact mines) all the way to Antwerp. 

They were the first Royal Navy vessels to reach Antwerp and were given an incredible reception by the Mayor and people of Antwerp.  On 8tgh May 1944 ML916 with her sister boat ML906 was laying a smoke screen when she detonated a magnetic mine off Walsoorden, Zeeland, Holland.  The ship was blown into the air and disintergrtatedThere were only two survivors. Nineteen of her crew, below, were killed.

Six badly burnt bodies were recovered, including Ordinary Seaman George Holtom. He was aged 18 and is buried in Bergen-op-Zoom War Cemetery, Netherlands.


Ronald Jacques was born in November 1914, the son of Jack and Mary Anne Jacques, licensees of the Kings Arms, 18, West Street, Chipping Norton. He married Olga Slack in Sheffield in 1936 and they lived in the city where he was a schoolmaster. He joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve and trained as a Navigator. He was commissioned as a Pilot Officer on 20th November 1942 and was promoted to Flying Officer on 20th May 1943. He joined  463 Squadron of the Royal Australian Air Force flying Avro Lancasters from RAF Waddington. He took off  on 10th May at 2200 aboard Avro Lancaster Mk 1 serial no LL882, JO-J, to bomb marshalling yards in Lille, France. 

The other crew members were:

Squadron Leader Mervyn Powell DFC RAAF Pilot

Flight Lieutenant William Read RAAF Air Gunner

Flight Lieutenant Robert Croft RAAF Rear Gunner

Flying Officer David Croston RAAF Air Gunner

Flight Sergeant Bertram Fraser RAF Bomb Aimer

Sergeant Harry Molyneux RAF Flight Engineer

His plane was shot down by a Heinkel HE 219 night fighter piloted by Lieutenant Hans Schmitz of 4/ NJG1 and crashed into a flooded clay pit at a brickworks  in Langemarck in Belgium killing all aboard. The wreckage was recovered from the pit after it was drained (below).

Flying Officer Ronald Jacques was killed in action on 11th May 1944. He was aged 28 and is buried in Wevelgem Communal Cemetery in Belgium.


JOHN HAROLD JEFFRIES was serving a Sergeant, Flight Engineer with 10 Squadron, the Royal Air Force when his aircraft went missing on 26th February 1942. He was aged 21 and is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial, Surrey for aircrews lost over Europe with no known grave. 

He was the son of William Cyril and Doris Jeffries of 34, New Street, Chipping Norton. John Jeffries joined the Royal Air Force from school as a "brat", part of the 33rd entry at No 1 School Technical Training at RAF Halton.

After training he was posted to No 10 Squadron based at RAF Leeming in North Yorkshire operating the Handley Page Halifax Mk II four engined heavy bomber. He was Flight Engineer on board Halifax ZA-M V9986 which took off from RAF Leeming at 1823 on a mission to bomb a floating docks at Kiel. Nothing more was heard from the aircraft which disappeared without a trace.

The rest of the crew of the Halifax were;

Flight Sergeant Ernest Wieland

Flight Sergeant John Bissett RCAF

Sergeant Clifford Darwin

Sergeant Edward Simmons

Sergeant William Glanville

Sergeant John Westland

LESLIE WILLIAM JOHN KING DFC was serving as a Flight Engineer, 617 Squadron, The Royal Air Force when he was killed in action on 24th June 1944. He was aged 30 and is buried in Longuenesse St Omer Souvenir Cemetery in the Pas de Calais.

Known as Bill, he was the son of William and Emily Maria King, of Enstone, and had joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve in September 1939 at RAF Uxbridge and trained as an engine fitter on ground crew. In September 1942 he joined 57 Squadron and had qualified as a Flight Engineer with the rank of Sergeant. They were based at RAF Scampton flying the Vickers Wellington Mk111, converting to the Avro Lancaster from September 1942. He was promoted to Flight Sergeant and took part in the famous low level raid on the Schneider factory at Le Creusot, on 17th October 1942, being seriously wounded when a bird strike shattered part of his windscreen. He was hospitalised until January 1943. Returning to operations he was commissioned as a Pilot Officer on 9th May 1943 and by September that year had completed 29 missions with 57 Squadron, including raids on Wilhemshaven, Nuremberg, Cologne, Hamburg, Munich, Essen and Spezia in Italy.

In October that year he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his persistent achievements but citing the incident in October 1942:


 “As flight engineer Pilot Officer King has completed many sorties and displayed skill and keenness of a high order. On one occasion, at an early stage of a daylight sortie on Le Creusot, Pilot officer King was badly injured in the face by flying splinters when the windscreen of his plane shattered. Although in considerable pain and unable to see, this gallant flight engineer refused to allow other members of the crew to leave their stations and come to his aid. During the remainder of the flight he showed great fortitude and constantly attempted to render assistance. His courageous example proved most inspiring. Upon recovery, Pilot Officer King resumed operations and has executed his duty with rare zeal"


In early November 1943 he converted to the Avro Lancaster and then joined 617 Squadron, picked by Wing Commander Leonard Cheshire for his personal crew. He is on the far left on the photo below.

 In January 1944 the Squadron moved to RAF Woodhall Spa carrying out several raids on France. Bill King was promoted to Flying Officer on 25th January.  

 The squadron began a series of accurate attacks on industrial targets in occupied Europe between 3rd and 24th March 1944. Targets were an aircraft factory at Albert, the La Ricamerie factory, the Michelin tyre factory at Clermond-Ferrand, explosives factories at Bergerac and Angoulême and  an aircraft engine factory at Lyon. Wing Commander Cheshire along with Bill King as his flight engineer had been using their Lancaster to mark targets but in April 1944 Cheshire was presented with a single seat Mustang fighter by the Americans, which he successfully used to mark targets.

As F/O King was now redundant he was transferred to the crew of Flight Lieutenant John Edward DFC. On June 5th and 6th they were involved in "Operation Taxable" to deceive the Germans into thinking the Allied invasion was taking place in the Pas de Calais. They returned to more conventional targets from 8th June and bombed railway tunnels at Samur, used to bring men and supplies to Normandy, using the Barnes Wallis Tallboy bomb for the first time. On 14th and 15th they bombed E-boat pens at Le Havre and Boulogne. on 19th June 1944 they bombed a V-weapon store at Watten.

On 24th June 1944 Bill King set out on his 54th sortie, a daylight attack on V2 rocket storage at Wizernes. He took off at 1630 from Woodhall Spa aboard Avro Lancaster Mk1 DV403 KC-B, armed with a Tallboy bomb, along with 16 other Lancasters, the target being marked by De Havilland Mosquitos. There was more than usual apprehension from the crew about this particular raid. firstly they were flying a strange aircraft, their normal Lancaster had been grounded after a heavy landing, aircrews were often superstitious about a strange aircraft. There was known to be a flak emplacement on high ground above the V-2 store and this was a daylight raid, which was unsettling for the crew. A Spitfire fighter escort was promised and their Lancaster carried an extra gunner, making the compliment of the aircraft to 8.

They began their bombing run at just before 1700, on a straight and level approach the aircraft was hit by flak, and Bill King killed instantly. The port inner engine burst into flames and the pilot called for the crew to bail out. Two of the crew, the Navigator and the Bomb-aimer managed to bale out and became prisoners of war. Bill King's body was flung from the aircraft as it crashed in flames near the French village of Leulingham. The wireless operator was pulled from the wreckage with broken limbs as was one of the air gunners, but he died in hospital in St Omer a few hours later. The pilot and two other gunners both died in the crash. The Germans moved in quickly to secure the prisoners and remove the bodies, except Bill King whose body was not discovered until a few weeks later lying in a cornfield. later the three bodies were dumped at Leulingham church, where a local resistant worker arranged a funeral. The crew on Lancaster DV403 that day were;

Flight Lieutenant John Andrew Edwards DFC, aged 29, pilot, Royal Air Force. He was the son of Harold Westbrook and Harriet Emily Edward, of Willand, Devon. Killed in the crash and buried in Leulingham churchyard.

Pilot Officer Thomas Williard Percy Price, aged 20, Air gunner, Royal Canadian Air Force. He was the son of Willard and Edith Price of Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada. Killed in the crash and buried in Leulingham churchyard. He was the additional air gunner aboard.

Flight Sergeant Samuel Isherwood, aged 22, Air gunner, The Royal Air Force. he was the son of Lucy Williams and was the husband of Mary Isherwood of New Springs, Lancashire. He was killed in the crash and is buried in Leulingham churchyard.

Flying Officer Leslie William John King DFC, aged 30, Flight Engineer, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. He was the son of William and Emily King of Enstone. He was killed by flak and is buried in Longuenesse St Omer Souvenir Cemetery in the Pas de Calais.

Flying Officer James Ian Johnston DFC, aged 26, Air gunner, Royal Canadian Air Force. He was the son of Craig and Jean Johnston and husband of Marian Johnston, of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He was pulled from the wreck alive but died a few hours later in St Omer hospital. He is buried in Longuenesse St Omer Souvenir Cemetery in the Pas de Calais.

Flight Sergeant Gerrard Hobbs, Wireless operator, was pulled from the wreckage and became a prisoner of war.

Flying Officer Lorne Thomas Pritchard, aged 22, Navigator, Royal Canadian Air Force. He came from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada and baled out of the stricken Lancaster to become a prisoner of war.

Sergeant Jackie Brooks was the bomb-aimer and baled out of the stricken Lancaster to become a prisoner of war.

In a postscript to his service and a further link to the town, his flying log book was found when an old school at 28/30 New Street, Chipping Norton was being converted to recording studios in 1972.

MAURICE CHARLES KNIGHT was serving as a Corporal in the Royal Army Service Corps when he died on 22nd May 1944 aged 42. He is buried in Chipping Norton Cemetery. 

He was born in Church Enstone to parents George and Sarah Knight in 1903. His father served with the 2nd Battalion, The Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry in the First World War and was wounded in action during the Battles of Arras in April 1917. Maurice Knight married Ivy Gardner in 1931 in Enstone. They lived at 6 Hailey Avenue, Chipping Norton with their three children where he worked as a bricklayer. He died at home of pulmonary tuberculosis exhaustion. 

JOE TAYLOR LIVESEY was serving as a Lieutenant with the 4th County of London Yeomanry (Sharpshooters), the Royal Armoured Corps when he was killed in action on 6th April 1943 aged 29, during the Tunisia campaign. He is buried in Sfax Military Cemetery in Tunisia.

He was the son of Richard and Clarissa Livesey of Golcar, Yorkshire. He had worked as Chief engineer at Bliss Mill in Chipping Norton from April 1933 to before the war. He was also Chief Officer in the Mill fire brigade and lodged at the Hollies in Burford Road. He was commissioned into the County of London Yeomanry as a 2nd Lieutenant on 3rd January 1942.

The 4th County London Yeomanry was formed on 27 September 1939. On formation, it was assigned to the 22nd Armoured Brigade and equipped with Sherman Tanks. They took part part in Operation Crusader, the Battle of Gazala, and the First Battle of El Alamein as part of the 1st and 7th Armoured Divisions. The regiment particularly distinguished themselves in the Second Battle of El Alamein between 23rd October and 11th November 1942. They then fought in the advance into Tunisia from 17th November 1942.

RICHARD HERBERT LOVICK was serving as a Musician with The Royal Marines Band aboard HMS Cleopatra when he died of his wounds on 16th July 1943 aged 22 when his ship was torpedoed by the Italian submarine Dandolo. He is commemorated on the Portsmouth Memorial for sailors with no known grave. He was the son of Arthur and Rose Lovick, and born in Orsett, Essex. His father had served with the Royal Marines. He later moved to Chipping Norton where his parents had run the Blue Boar. He is not on the town war memorial.

HMS Cleopatra was a Dido class cruiser launched in 1940 and commissioned the following year. In 1942 she arrived in Gibraltar then sailed to Malta where she was damaged  by a bomb. After repair, she was transferred to Alexandria in early March for the 15th Cruiser Squadron. She was Admiral Philip Vian's Flagship during the Second Battle of Sirtes, when his group of four light cruisers and 17 destroyers held off an Italian force which included the battleship Littorio, two heavy cruisers, a light cruiser and 10 destroyers, which had all been sent to intercept their convoy to Malta. During the engagement, Cleopatra´s radar and wireless stations were wrecked by a 6" round fired by an Italian light cruiser. In June 1942, she covered Operation Harpoon and Vigorous, and in August bombarded Rhodes as a diversion for the Operation Pedestal convoy. By January 1943, Cleopatra was part of Force "K", later Force "Q" at Bone, from where the Axis traffic to and from Tunisia was attacked. Later, she was a unit of the 12th Cruiser Squadron, and was present at the landings in Sicily, Operation Husky, in June, followed by supporting the army ashore. However, on 16 July 1943, Cleopatra was torpedoed by the Italian submarine Dandolo and again badly damaged, 30 of her crew were killed. Temporary repairs were made at Malta which lasted until October 1943, after which she sailed to Philadelphia, US, for full repairs.

NORMAN JOSEPH NAYLOR was serving as a Sergeant Air Gunner/Wireless Operator with the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve in 57 Squadron when he was killed in action 8th April 1942 aged 23. He is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial, Surrey for aircrew with no known grave. 

He was the son of Joseph and May Naylor and lived at 34, Churchill Road, Chipping Norton and worked as an agricultural engineer.

Norman Naylor enlisted into the RAFVR on 26th February 1940 and after training as a wireless operator/air gunnerwas promoted to Sergeant aircrew and posted to No 11 Operational Training Unit for night bomber training. On 6th November 1941 he joined 57 Squadron based at RAF Feltwell in Norfolk teaming up with a regular crew to fly the Vickers Wellington, then Bomber Command's front line aircraft. He flew on 11 sorties over Europe including raids on the Channel ports, Emden, Hamburg, Essen and the Deutch Works Shipyards. On the 7th April 1942 he and his crew took of from RAF Feltwell at 2205 in Wellington Mk111  X3757 DX-A, on an operation to Hamburg. The crew were;

Pilot Officer Noel Morse - Pilot, Royal New Zealand Air Force, aged 28, from Sydney, New South Wales. 

Flight Sergeant James Linehan - 2nd Pilot, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, aged 20, from Putney in London.

Flight Sergeant George Vogan - Observer, Royal New Zealand Air Force,  aged 23 from Canterbury, New Zealand.

Sergeant Graham Lakeman - 2nd W/T, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, aged 22, from Plymouth. 

Sergeant Roland Richards - Air Gunner, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, aged 18 from Wakefield, Yorkshire.

The raid involving 272 aircraft was the largest number put up by the RAF thus far, made up of 177 Wellingtons, 41 Hampdens, 22 Stirlings, 13 Manchesters, 12 Halifaxes, 7 Lancasters. 4 Wellingtons and 1 Manchester were lost, including  Wellington X3757 which disappeared at around 0400 without a trace in the Wilmshaven area, a victim of anti-aircraft fire or a night fighter.

ALBERT VICTOR NEWMAN was serving as a Corporal in the 1st Battalion, The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry when he was killed in action 16th July 1944 aged 28 at Cahier near Caen, during the second Battle of Odon. He is buried in Brouay War cemetery.

He was the son of Charles and Edith Newman, was born in Little Compton and educated at Kingham Hill School. 

Before the war he worked as a market gardener living with Albert and Victoria Stares and their family at The Bungalow, Foxholes. He was also a Scout Leader and played in goal for the Church Army reserves.

After the outbreak of war he enlisted into the local company of the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. He married Violet Stares, the daughter of Albert Stares, in Chipping Norton in early 1941.

He was embodied into the 1st Battalion, The Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry and promoted to Corporal. In October 1943 they started training for the Normandy Landings. The 1st Ox and Bucks landed  on the Normandy beaches on 24th June 1944 as part of the 71st Infantry Brigade in the 53rd Welsh Division. On 25th June Operation Epsom began, it's intention to take the town of Caen, a vital objective for the British. This proved to be a formidable town to capture and the operation was unsuccessful. However, it did divert significant numbers of Germans away from the Americans. The Germans counter-attacked and the 1st Ox and Bucks moved to positions around the Odon bridgehead where it suffered from heavy German artillery fire. The Allies launched further attempts to capture Caen, the first Allied troops entered the city on 9th July, by then much of it had been destroyed. After holding the line the 1st Battalion's first major engagement with the enemy during the battle for Caen was the successful attack to capture the village of Cahier and a nearby mill. Albert Newman was killed in action during this engagement.

Shortly after the end of the war Joy Newman, who had worked in munitions during the conflict, visited her husband's grave in Brouay War Cemetery still marked by a wooden cross.

ALBERT GEORGE PICKERING was serving as a Private with 4th (Territorial) Battalion. The Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry when he was killed in action between 10th May and 26th June 1940 aged 21 whilst covering the evacuation from Dunkirk. He is buried in Bavinchove Churchyard near Dunkirk, one of only 8 Commonwealth graves there.

He was the son of Frank and Rose Pickering of The Green, Chipping Norton and worked as a printer. He was also a member of the local company of the 4th(Territorial) Battalion, The Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry.

The 4th (Territorial) Battalion, The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry was sent to France in January 1940 to join the British Expeditionary Force as part of the 145th Brigade. They were involved in action along the line of the River Scheldt (Escaut), south of Tournai. The British force, having given a good account of themselves in the defence of the Scheldt, eventually withdrew into France, moving towards the area around Dunkirk. The 4th Ox and Bucks were eventually encircled by German forces near Watou on the French border and forced to surrender. The battalion had split into two groups with the aim of reaching Dunkirk by going through the surrounding enemy forces. The battalion sustained many casualties and had to surrender; becoming prisoners of war for the next five years. Only four soldiers from the two groups of 4th Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry that had left Cassel returned to the UK.
Private Pickering had been reported as missing on 10th May 1940 and was probably buried by local people.

GERALD WALTER PLUNKETT was serving as a Lieutenant with the 231st Light Anti-Aircraft Battery, of the 42nd Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery when he died of his wounds on 10th April 1943 during the campaign to drive Axis forces out of Tunisia. He was aged 23 and is buried in Sfax War Cemetery.

He was born in Dublin in March 1918 and was the younger brother of Oliver, below He was educated at Ampleforth College in Yorkshire and studied at St John's College, Cambridge and attained a BA. He was attested into the Royal Artillery in 1938, whilst living in Hove and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant on 24th August 1940.

The 42nd LAA including 231 Battery were a Territorial Army unit which joined the 8th Army in North Africa in December 1941. After pushing the Axis forces out of North Africa they Campaign advanced into Tunisia in March 1943. Lieutenant Plunkett was mortally wounded in action on 9th April 1943 and died the following day.

He is also remembered on his brother's grave in Holy Trinity Churchyard in Chipping Norton.

OLIVER PETER  PLUNKETT was serving as a Pilot Officer (Navigator), Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve with No 3 School of General Reconnaissance when he was killed on active service on 16th August 1941. He was aged 26 and is buried in Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Churchyard, Chipping Norton.


Oliver Peter Plunkett was born in Dublin in March 1915 to parents Oliver and Cordelia Plunkett. His father was a member of the Irish bar and had served with distinction in the First World War, after which he joined the Colonial Service. He was Governor-General of St Lucia before becoming a Judge in Egypt and Palestine.

Oliver Plunkett emigrated to Argentina, sailing from London to Buenos Aires on the SS Stuart Star, a refrigerated cargo liner of the Blue Star Line, on 24th April 1937 in company with Kenneth Gadd. They were both working as fellmongers or fur dealers and Oliver was a member of Buenos Aires Rugby Union  & Cricket Club.

Oliver Plunkett left Argentina on 23rd July 1940 and returned to England and joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. He was commissioned as a Pilot Officer and posted to No 3 School of General Reconnaissance as a Navigator under training, based at RAF Squires Gate Blackpool. They flew the 4 seat Blackburn B26 Botha Mk1, originally designed as a reconnaissance and torpedo bomber. The aircraft was underpowered and unstable and by the end of 1940 relegated to a training role. On 16th August 1941 he was aboard Botha L6315 on a training flight. On coming back into land at Squires Gate the aircraft crashed on the approach to runway No 1. The pilot was badly injured and taken to Victoria hospital. Oliver Plunkett, 26, along with fellow pupil navigator Pilot Officer Robert Simpson Hayward, 27, and wireless operator/observer Aircraftman 2nd class Charles Mair, 21, were killed in the crash.

DESMOND JOHN SIMS was serving as a Private in the 2nd Battalion, The Duke of  Cornwall's Light Infantry when he was died as a result of an accident on 20th August 1944 aged 19 during the Allied advance on Rome. He is buried in Assissi Military Cemetery. 

He was the son of Hubert and Annie Sims of Market Street, Chipping Norton. His father had served with the Somerset Light Infantry in the First World War and lost a brother in the conflict.

The 2nd Battalion, The Duke of  Cornwall's Light Infantry was part of the 10th Infantry Brigade and had been sent to Algeria and Tunisia in 1943. They then moved into Italy and saw hard fighting in the Battle of Monte Cassino between 17th January and 18th May 1944.

NICHOLAS JOHN STOCKFORD was serving as a Sergeant with the Royal Air Force when he died of pleurisy on 18th September 1944 aged 22. He is buried in Heythrop Churchyard and was the husband of Joyce Stockford of Churchill.

HARRY WILLIAM WILSON was serving as a Private with the 5th Battalion The Hampshire Regiment and was killed in action on 7th February 1944 aged 20, during the attack on Mount Cerasola in Italy. He is buried in Minturno Military Cemetery near Naples.

He was the son of William and Emily Wilson of Chipping Norton.

The 5th Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment was a Territorial Battalion that formed part of the 128th Hampshire Brigade.  In January 1943, the brigade left Britain with the rest of the 46th Infantry Division, for North Africa, as part of Operation Torch. The brigade disembarked at Algiers on 17th January, moving to Bone, where it remained until the end of January, when the brigade moved to Hunts Gap.

The 5th Battalion was sent 12 miles further ahead to Sidi Nsir and was attacked in overwhelming strength in February 1943 as the Germans began Operation "Ox Head", a Corps level assault by German Paratroopers, elements of 10th Panzer Division and the 501st Heavy Tank Battalion.  At 1700 ‘B’ Company of the 5th Battalion, reduced to 30 men, was overrun. At dusk, the battalion considered its position untenable, and it withdrew to a feature known as "Hampshire Farm". The German force was delayed for one critical day.

Later in the month, the Hampshire Brigade was attacked at Hunt's Gap by the German force that had been delayed at Sidi N'sir. 2/4th was the main Battalion engaged, with 1/4th Battalion in support. Extensive minefields and heavy dive bombing kept the German tanks at bay. 

On 5 April, the brigade handed over its positions and moved 100 miles south to El Ala. The 128th Brigade subsequently captured the Fondouk Gap, allowing the 6th Armoured Division to pass through and debouche onto the Kairouan Plain. In April 1943, the 128th Infantry Brigade attacked Bou Arada. 

Tunis fell and the North African Campaign was over in May 1943. 

The 128th Infantry Brigade was one of three British brigades that made an assault landing at Salerno in Italy as part of British X Corps in September 1943. The landing was opposed by shore batteries firing shrapnel, and the beaches were raked by machine gun fire. The 5th Battalion had been landed in the wrong place and suffered heavily. A German counter-attack overran ‘B’ Company and the Battalion HQ of 5th Battalion. The 5th Battalion lost 40 men killed and over 300 were wounded or taken prisoner.

On 12th September, the Germans started a general assault against the Salerno bridgehead, which made good progress. The 128th Brigade was in the hills above Salerno, and the fighting was hard, but on 20th September the Germans began to withdraw northwards, and the pressure eased.The 5th Battalion suffered 29 officer and over 400 other rank casualties.

The 128th Brigade, still part of the X Corps, moved up to the River Volturno, behind which the Germans had withdrawn. On 10 October, the 1/4th Battalion captured the town of Castel Volturno, alongside the river, and on 12 October the 1/4th made a night assault across the river, establishing a small bridgehead. The 2nd and 5th battalions moved across the river in support, but the entire 128th Brigade was soon engaged in a stiff fire-fight. The brigade advanced some 2,500 yards, and then dug in behind a canal as the Germans bought up tanks. The brigade remained in the low-lying, swampy, mosquito-ridden land between the river and the canal until the Germans withdrew due to a breakthrough elsewhere.  The 128th Brigade was then taken out of the line for rest and recuperation.

In November 1943, the Hampshire Brigade moved up to the River Garigliano. It was relieved on 11th January, and moved back to the River Volturno. They were selected as the Assault Brigade of the 46th Infantry Division, and trained in river crossings. Then, in January 1944, the Hampshire Brigade made a night assault across the swift flowing River Garigliano. The brigade had severe problems getting the boats through the minefields down to the river, and in the darkness confusion reigned. Only a few men managed to get across, and these were withdrawn at daylight. 

The 5th Battalion was put under the command of the 138th Infantry Brigade, part of the 46th Division, to assault Mounts Ornito and Cerasola in February 1944. The assault met little opposition, although the Germans put in spirited counter-attacks on Mount Ornito, which were all driven off. However, as the days passed, the casualties mounted from heavy shelling, the bare rock made cover difficult. In eight days, the 5th Battalion suffered 200 casualties. Supply was particularly difficult, as supplies had to be carried up by mules and porters for 3 to 4 hours from the nearest road. On 7th February, the 5th Battalion attacked Mount Cerasola, a successful assault but Private Wilson was killed in action during the attack.

PETER PATRICK WOOD was serving as a Flying Officer with the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve when he died on 10th April 1945 aged 25. He is buried in Khartoum War Cemetery.  

He married Alice Lilian Perry in Romford in the autumn of 1942. They lived at Midway Grange in Chipping Norton and had one daughter, Catherine born in 1944.

He died at El Fashir airfield in Sudan from a shot gun wound to the head.

Some of the information and photographs on this page come from the Book of Remembrance in Chipping Norton Museum which was collected by Josephine Madge Byford (9th December 1919 to 9th February 1995).

Madge had served with The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry on an AA battery between 1939 and 1945. After the war ended she volunteered for the Red Cross, and worked to alleviate the suffering of women and children who had been incarcerated at Belsen concentration camp.