Category Archives: My Current Projects

The Sinking of the SS Lisbon Maru

On 1 October 1942, the SS Lisbon Maru, a Japanese freighter transporting prisoners of war from Hong Kong to Japan, was sunk by the submarine USS Grouper.

Fifty Royal Signals soldiers died. This is their story and that of the most gallant Signalman Arnold Topliff.

SS Lisbon Maru


We Shall Suffer There by Tony Banham

 

I must acknowledge the help given by Tony Banham in the preparation of this story. His three books on the Battle for Hong Kong, the sinking of the SS Lisbon Maru, and  the fate of the prisoners of war are masterly and highly recommended.

See Hong Kong War Diary.

Sacrifice – New Biographies Published

The Canadian Book of Remembrance showing the entry for Private Lawrence Manning

Three new biographies have been added to the Sacrifice project website:

Private Chester Covell Buck served briefly in England with 202nd (Sportsman’s) Battalion before being sent back to Canada unfit for further duty. He died in Ponoka Asylum Hospital, Alberta, on 7 December 1917 and was buried in Oak Hill Cemetery, Plymouth, Indiana.

Private Lawrence Eugene Manning served in France with 72nd Canadian Infantry Battalion (Seaforth Highlanders of Canada). Greatly affected by his experiences, he took his own life on 9 November 1919 and is buried in Salt Lake City Cemetery, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Second Lieutenant George Albert Ruffridge and Cadet Hugh Barker O’Leary of No. 80 Canadian Training Squadron were killed in a flying accident at Camp Bordon in Canada on 6 May 1918. Ruffridge was buried in Rosedale Cemetery, Montclair, New Jersey.

Blacker’s Letters – ‘Finis’

When the last commanding officer of the 9th Royal Irish Fusiliers signed off the final page of the Battalion’s war diary on 9 June 1919 he did so with a Gallic flourish – ‘Finis’. That is the word that most readily comes to mind as I write this.

After 444 letters recording the thoughts and comments of Lieutenant Colonel Stewart Blacker, the identification of nearly 300 men and women to whom he referred, and many footnotes to explain events, the Blacker’s Letters project has ended. The project was made freely available to read via the project’s website and on social media.

Blacker’s Letters also contributed to the BBC project Voices 16, and I am very pleased that it has been web-archived by the National Library of Ireland and will be added to the web archive of the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland.

 

For Exemplary Bravery – The Queen’s Gallantry Medal

 

Following the Civilian Gallantry Awards List published in the London Gazette in January 2017, I have updated the Addendum to For Exemplary Bravery—it now contains all of the new awards since December 2013 and new information about a number of previous recipients. The Addendum is a pdf in the same format as the book and it can be downloaded (free) from the book’s website.

Many thanks, again, to those who have contributed to the project.

For Gallantry, Volume 1 – The Burma Gallantry Medal

The Burma Gallantry Medal, 1939-1945 Star, Burma Star and War Medal 1939-1945 awarded to Sepoy Nand Singh, 1st Battalion, The Burma Regiment. His award was for his gallantry during the attack on Aradura Spur on 29 May 1944 during the Battle of Kohima when he brought into action an abandoned machine gun and held off a heavy enemy counter-attack, during which he was wounded. (Photo © Dix Noonan Webb.)

Following the partition of British Burma from British India in 1937, two new awards were introduced on 10 May 1940 the Order of Burma and the Burma Gallantry Medal.

The Burma Gallantry Medal was to be awarded to Governor’s Commissioned Officers, non-commissioned officers and other ranks of the Burma Army, Burma Frontier Force, Burma Military Police, Burma Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve Force and Burma Volunteer Air Force for ‘…an act of conspicuous gallantry’. This remained the case until 1945, when the Royal Warrant was revised to elevate to the award to the status of the Distinguished Conduct Medal. Continue reading

Blacker’s Letters – January 1917

Distinguished Service Order

 

Lieutenant Colonel Blacker was awarded the Distinguished Service Order in the New Year Honours and when he returned from leave at the beginning of January 1917 he assumed temporary command of 108th Brigade. Nonetheless, he still found time to visit and comment about the activities of the Battalion. His letters home written in January have now been published and they can be read on the project’s website.

Blacker’s Letters – November 1916

The letters written by Lieutenant Colonel Blacker in November 1916 have now been published and they can be read on the project’s website. The letters cover a wealth of subjects from equipment and clothing, to promotion and the award of medals, and, of course, the weather. In a few days Lieutenant Colonel Blacker will go home on leave and we won’t hear from him again until early January 1917/2017.

The Thornton Trench Coat - "New Thornton coat and long gum boots kept me quite dry in spite of rain and flood."

The Thornton Trench Coat – “New Thornton coat and long gum boots kept me quite dry in spite of rain and flood.”

 

Blacker’s Letters – October 1916

Lieutenant Colonel S W W Blacker DSO

Lieutenant Colonel S W W Blacker DSO

Lieutenant Colonel Blacker’s letters home in October 1916 are all now published and you can read them all on the project’s website. His comments about the weather are reminiscent of those written the year before; this time, however, the Battalion must contend with the nearby River Douve, which regularly breaks its banks flooding the trenches. These letters reflect the routine of life for many in the line south west of Ypres—cold and boring in the most part with occasional flurries of activity and noise, described by Blacker as ‘hideous’.

Royal Corps of Signals – Awards for Gallantry and Meritorious Service on Operations 1920-2020

The Corps of Signals was established by Royal Warrant on 28 June 1920.

Six weeks later, the title ‘Royal Corps of Signals’ was conferred by King George V.

From its earliest days soldiers of the Royal Corps of Signals were engaged in operations across the Empire, most notably in Mesopotamia and on the North West Frontier, and they were duly recognised for their gallantry and valuable service. The majority of awards were made during the course of the Second World War but since then the officers and soldiers of the Corps have been decorated for their gallantry in most of the conflicts in which the British Army has been engaged. Continue reading