Friday, August 07, 2009

Two casualties of HMS Dasher

Father Bernard Hearty at the war memorial, St Joseph's, Frizington
Able Seaman Sylvester Woolaghan is commemorated on this memorial
(AB Sylvester Woolaghan, HMS Dasher, is buried in the churchyard)
[Photograph by J. Ritson]

The sinking of HMS Dasher

On 27 March 1943, shortly after entering the Firth of Clyde on the west coast of Scotland the escort carrier HMS Dasher was sunk by an internal explosion. Of the 528 crew, 379 perished in the disaster which was not believed to have been the result of enemy action. Many of the bodies that were recovered were not formally identified.

Some WW2 researchers have even suggested that one of the casualties was used as 'The Man Who Never Was' (alias Major William Martin) in a plan to fool the Axis powers about the Allied plans to invade Sicily. The body of ‘Major Martin’ was left to wash up in Spain, after apparently having been lost in a plane crash on the way to Gibraltar. Whether or not it was the body of one of those lost on HMS Dasher that was became William Martin is debatable, but at the very least it seems it was considered.

For additional information click on 'Comments' below


Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Additional information

(1) Two casualties of HMS Dasher

My particular interest regarding the loss of HMS Dasher is connected to research into a 'Roll of Honour' for Cleator Moor, Cumbria. The body of one of these two was never formally identified, while the second was identified and was buried near the family home. The first casualty, whose body was not subsequently identified, was Able Seaman C/JX238822 William Barnes of Cleator Moor, aged 24. William was one of the sons of Robert and Margaret J. Barnes of Cleator Moor and husband of Isabella Barnes, also of Cleator Moor. Able Seaman Barnes is commemorated on the CWGC memorial at Chatham (Memorial Ref: 68, 2).

The second casualty came from the village of Frizington, about 3 miles from Cleator Moor. His name was Able Seaman C/JX 212950 Sylvester Woolaghan, aged 23. Sylvester was the son of Sylvester and Catherine Woolaghan. In addition to being remembered on the war memorial of his parish church - St Joseph's R.C. Church, Frizington - Able Seaman Woolaghan is also interred in the churchyard at St Joseph’s.

(2) A little about HMS Dasher

HMS Dasher was originally launched in April 1941 as a merchant vessel - the Rio de Janeiro, acquired by the US Navy in May 1941 and later transferred to the Royal Navy as HMS Dasher (commissioned 2 July 1942). HMS Dasher took part in Operation Torch, was then engaged in aircraft ferrying operations in the Mediterranean area and later engaged on escorting the Atlantic convoys. On its second convey run, HMS Dasher developed engine trouble and so turned back to the Clyde. It was when entering the Clyde that an internal explosion occurred which led to the vessel and many lives being lost.

Because of wartime restrictions and the loss of HMS Dasher was not due to enemy action, news about the accident did not appear in the press. This was to avoid giving away any information to the enemy. So families of the bereaved were rather kept in the dark about what had happened. Even in the 21st century it is not that a simple matter to determine actually what happened, or to honour those who lost their lives in the accident.

(3) A further loss later in 1943

Later in 1943 the war was to bring more bad news to homes in Cleator Moor and Frizington. Such things happen in wars and conflicts. 1943 was a particularly bad year for the Barnes family. On 16 August of that year a brother of Able Seaman William Barnes - Private Alexander Barnes, 4th Battalion The Border Regiment, Service No 3598377 - died while serving with the army in India. Private Alexander Barnes was married to Mrs Freda Mary Barnes of Frizington.

(4) A visit to Frizington

In 2009 I visited St Joseph's R.C. Church, Frizington and met with the Parish Priest Father Bernard Hearty. As well as helping me with various aspects of my research, Father Hearty also showed me the church and the war memorial at the church entrance. The St Joseph’s parish church memorial lists the parishioners who lost their lives in both World Wars, 11 of these being from the Second World War.

Father Hearty told me when he was a young lad during the war years he had lost his own father - a seaman out of Fleetwood, Lancashire – when the vessel was accidentally lost. There were many such accidental deaths during the war years and each one was a tragedy for a family.

Civilians who died as the result of accidents, even when engaged on 'essential war work' such as on the merchant vessels or fishing fleets, are not normally listed by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and usually not remembered on war memorials. Those who died while serving in the Armed Forces in WW2, such as those lost on HMS Dasher, are listed by the CWGC even if this was not the result of enemy action.

[Thanks to Father Bernard Hearty, St Joseph’s R.C. Church, Frizington].

Friday, 07 August, 2009  

Post a Comment

<< Home