Officers of 2nd Battalion Royal Ulster Rifles - Hawick, March 1944
MAJOR J. ST. L. ALDWORTH
Killed at Cambes Wood 7th. June 1944.
John Aldworth joined the Battalion as a 2nd. Lieutenant when it was re-formed in Wincanton in June 1940. The son of such a famous Co. Cork family might be expected to possess more than his share of natural talents, but nature was especially liberal when equipping John Aldworth. In addition to a very fine brain, and a personality of great charm, he possessed a brilliant wit, which found expression in many forms, particularly in a satirical review of his Army career and a professed abhorrence of all things military. However, there is no disguising talent, and after a period as Battalion Intelligence Officer, he took over command of "D" Company in October 1942. He quickly impressed the stamp of his personality upon the Company, and under him "D" Company rose to great heights.
During the summer of 1943 he contracted an illness which troubled him for several months, and afterwards proved to be infantile paralysis. It was not until after Christmas that he was able to return to duty. During the period of his illness and convalescence, his great fear was that he might be posted away from the Battalion. Lt-Colonel Harris, however, was determined not to lose such a fine officer, and by a judicious arrangement of discharges and re-admissions to hospital it was possible to keep John on the strength. His left leg never recovered from the illness, the muscles were weakened and he walked with a slight limp. Only a word would have been sufficient to have himself down-graded, but such a thought was farthest from his mind.
John led his Company on to the Normandy beaches on "D" day, and on D plus 1 he was in command of a force of all arms acting as vanguard to the Battalion with orders to push on in the direction of Caen. A stiff fight was waged for Cambes wood, and when the Company was forced to withdraw with heavy casualties, John did not return with them. When the Battalion attacked and captured the wood two days later, John was found lying at the head of his men having penetrated deeper into the wood than anyone else. Within a yard or two of him there were a number of SS Stormtroopers lying dead. A fitting end for a brave soldier and a fine companion. but a great loss to the Battalion and the many friends he left behind.
LIEUTENANT R. S. HALL
Killed at Cambes Wood 9th. June 1944.
Ronnie Hall joined the Battalion early in January 1944 having been posted to the Infantry from the Royal Regiment. He took over command of No. 8 Platoon in "A" Company and very soon proved himself to be both an efficient and popular officer. He was a fine rugger player, and the try he scored in the semi-final of the Divisional Cup at Hawick will be remembered by many.
Ronnie led his platoon into action on "D" day, and two days later when the Battalion attacked Cambes Wood his platoon suffered very heavily. Ronnie was killed by a shell during the advance across the open, and it is due to the fine spirit with which he inspired his men that they carried on under a Corporal despite the loss of both their Platoon Commander and Serjeant, and then captured their objective.
He was buried in the wood for which he had fought so hard together with the lads who fell beside him, and although the greatest sympathy is felt for his young widow we know that it will be with a feeling of great pride that their son whom Ronnie never saw, will hear from her of his father.
LIEUTENANT R. C. DISERENS
Killed at Cambes Wood 9th. June 1944.
Bobbie Diserens joined the Battalion in March 1943 and took over 14 Platoon of "C" Company. From that date all his tremendous energy was devoted to training and moulding that Platoon into a fine fighting body. A year later, when that training was almost over, and we waited to go into action those thirty men were indeed Bobbie's men, for his spirit breathed through them, and his example inspired them.
During those months of strenuous training, Bobbie was always a prominent figure in the life of the Battalion. His cheerfulness and constant high spirits endeared him to everyone, and his warm hearted generosity was a byword among his friends. He worked hard and played hard. Many a slogging game he played at forward for the Battalion Rugby side. Another great enthusiasm was for horses. We had two in the Battalion, and they were under his care. He was often to be seen exercising them amongst the Scottish Hills.
When at last "D" day came Bobbie led his platoon into battle with that courage and high devotion to duty we had all expected of him. In the battle of Cambes Wood he led his platoon on to their objective with great dash, and it was amidst the hell of fire that greeted us there that he was killed. How typical of Bobbie was his death. He was moving about completely oblivious of his own safety, encouraging his men.
We had precious little time to mourn our friend, but it is a proud memory we have of him.
Sufficient tribute is it to say that the spirit that Bobbie Diserens had created in his platoon remained to inspire them through the subsequent battles.
LIEUTENANT C. LYNDON-ADAMS
Killed near Cazelle 21st. June 1944.
I first met Clifford Lyndon-Adams in the 30th. Bn. RUR., when he commanded the 3" Mortar Platoon, and we became great friends. He was a quiet type of young man, but one of the most earnest and efficient officers one could meet. He had great determination and perseverance. I never knew him to become over excited or unduly depressed about anything. He was always so confident and capable. He inspired confidence. He joined the 2nd. Battalion just after the successful attack on Cambes Wood, and became Mortar Officer. Shortly he was wounded, and it was while he was being evacuated that he was killed by a direct shell hit. In his passing, the Mortar Platoon and the Battalion lost a really first class officer, and those who knew him a real friend.
LIEUTENANT S. E. FROST
Killed in Cambes Wood 27th. June 1944.
Sidney Frost joined the Battalion when we were at Hythe, and in the arduous training that followed at Rushven and Inverary, soon infected 10 Platoon with his own enthusiasm and keenness. When the Battalion moved back to Hawick, he took part in all sports, and in particular I remember him in "B" Company's cricket team and his regular appearance every week of the winter as a wing forward in the Battalion Rugby team, where his speed and initiative were of great value. Both in the arduous exercises that took place in bitter weather in Scotland, and under the more serious strain of active service, he was always able to pull out that extra bit of physical endurance and determination of spirit, that brought him and his men through many tough times. He landed with the Battalion in Normandy on "D" day, and took part in the assault on Cambes Wood. His cheerfulness, leadership and courage were outstanding, even amongst the many fine examples of such that were seen during those trying early days. It was a great shock and a grievous loss when the news that he had been killed by a mine, was announced; but the spirit of cheerful comradeship, determination, and disciplined initiative that he had passed from himself to 10 Platoon, during the 16 months he was their leader survived his death as the finest tribute to his memory his men were able to pay.
CAPTAIN N. R. V. WATSON
Killed in Cambes Wood 30th. June 1944.
It was in June 1940 that Norman Watson joined the Battalion. First of all he was a Platoon Commander in "A" Company, and then spent many months as Battalion Intelligence Officer. He became Second-in-Command of "C" Company during our stay in Hawick, and his thoroughness and sense of responsibility was of great assistance in the administration of the Company. Each season he played full back for the Battalion Rugby Team, showing a fine sporting spirit and terrific keenness. He also performed the duties of Battalion swimming officer and Battalion cross-country running officer, arranging many enjoyable competitions. He landed as Second-in-Command of "C" Company in Normandy on "D' day and took part in the assault on Cambes Wood. It came as a great shock to me when I heard that -Norman had been buried in his slit trench and later died. He was always so cheerful and light hearted, taking part in the sports and life in the Battalion where his gay boyish, laughter will always be missed. His cheerful, enthusiastic manner and high devotion to duty made him an officer whose death was a great loss to the whole Battalion.
LIEUTENANT B. BURGES
Killed at Troarn 19th. July 1944.
Brian Burges joined the Battalion in January 1944 in Hawick. He was only eighteen at that time, and when he was killed in action months later, he was little more than nineteen.
But Brian had not wasted his few years. He had a positive zest for living. He loved the good things of life and always took care to keep himself surrounded with them; even in his trench in Cambes wood, which was palatially dug and decorated, he maintained a cellar of choice wines which he gladly dispensed to anyone who cared to visit him.
But besides this fresh and exuberant joie de vivre, which he concealed beneath a casual and wholly delightful manner, Bryan possessed more solid and durable qualities. In action they were shown in utter indifference amounting almost to contempt for anything the enemy could do. Hardened veterans have often revealed to me the astonishing coolness with which Brian behaved under shell and machine gun fire. He thought as little of himself as of the bullets or shells falling around in the determination to complete any task assigned to him.
Two incidents must be remembered here. Just before the Battalion went down into Caen, Brian led his platoon deep into the town they were the first British Troops to enter it on patrol. Towards the end of his little operation, he was shot through the shoulder by a sniper. In spite of this he brought his platoon out of Caen, and then rather than be evacuated from the theatre of war, he rejoined the Battalion a week later, having only allowed himself a brief rest at "A" echelon.
Later he was killed in the hard fought battle for Troarn, when attempting to recover a wounded brother officer who had become stranded in the open, he was shot in the back. Bryan died as he lived, for in that last act he displayed the same self sacrifice and cheerful generosity which had infused his whole life.
CAPTAIN L. F. LAVING
Killed at the Escaut Canal 19 September 1944.
George Laying was Second-in-Command of the Anti-tank Platoon from its formation, and never did anyone know his job better than he. He was an ideal officer. He had a wonderful personality and everyone who knew him loved him. It was in very great measure due to his untiring efforts and keenness that the Anti-tank Platoon was such a well trained and well disciplined unit when he landed with it in Normandy on "D" day. Times were hard in those days, hut George was always on top. He was always in the thick of things with ever-ready wit, unceasing encouragement, and quiet confidence. His men were always his first thought. They knew it and loved him for it.
The whole platoon was sorry to see him go to a Rifle Company, but rejoiced in his promotion. Soon after, George was killed in the crossing of the Escaut Canal. How we all grieved his passing. There could never be another George Laving. He was a soldier and a very gallant gentleman.
LIEUTENANT J. J. MORGAN
Killed at the Escaut Canal 19 September 1944.
Mike Morgan arrived in "A" Company at the end of August 1944 during the rout of the Germans in the Falaise pocket. He was a quiet young officer with a charming Irish brogue, and a great sense of humour. He took command of 7 Platoon "A" Company during the rest and training period, north of the Seine where by his enthusiasm and personal charm he soon became the youthful leader of a Platoon of battle tried men. His first action was the crossing of the Escaut Canal where he inspired his Platoon by his coolness under fire, splendid leadership and personal courage. It came as a great blow to all his platoon, and everyone who knew him, when we learned that he had been killed by a German machine gun.
No finer tribute to his memory could be paid than the fact that after many months of action the surviving members of his Platoon still talk of this charming youthful leader, who showed such great enthusiasm, keenness and devotion to duty.
LIEUTENANT E. RAPKINS
Died of wounds sustained at Overloon 14th. October 1944.
Eddie Rapkins first joined the 2nd. Bn. while we were stationed at Hawick, and soon endeared himself to us all by his sense of fun and merriment. He became Second-in-Command of the Anti-tank Platoon in Troarn, a rather unpleasant place in Normandy and at once showed his worth as a soldier. He took part in many attacks and covered many weary miles with his platoon from that area to the Overloon region in Holland, and never failed to see the bright side of things, or to infuse a ray of happiness wherever he went. He died from Shrapnel wounds at Overloon. Even while he was being evacuated to hospital, the only comment he would make in reference to his injuries was "I'm feeling fine", still with a smile on his face. I shall never forget the signs of sober grief in the Anti-tank Platoon when the sad news of his death was received. There was a fine young man, an inspiration to all who knew him.
CAPTAIN H. SHEANE
Died in Hospital 27th. November 1944.
Hugh Sheane joined the Battalion in 1943 and latterly had been Senior Liaison Officer at Brigade Headquarters for a long period. He only returned to the Battalion a few weeks before his death.
In spite of this Hugh could always claim a vast friendship among the officers and men of the Battalion. The sight of him motor cycling into the Battalion area with his green forage cap perched dangerously upon his head was a much known and well loved one. Then, his sense of humour, his tolerance and forbearance made him one of the most popular officers that the Battalion and the Brigade had the good fortune to possess. His keen legal brain and his unlimited resources of patience and sympathy many times contributed towards the solution of problems and troubles of the men under his command.
As Senior Liaison Officer, Hugh was called upon to go out at all hours of the day and night, and in a Dutch winter to essay through mud, rain and sleet. Equally, nothing that the enemy could throw around him depressed Hugh nor affected his cheerful and imperturbable temperament.
The news of his death came as a great shock to large numbers of people, for Hugh, by virtue of his personality and his position was one of the best known characters in the Division. But, though the fortunes of war have removed him from our midst, nobody who had any contact with him will lose the thought and the memory of Hugh Sheane, a gallant soldier, and truly one of nature's gentlemen.
CAPTAIN M. BARRY
Killed at Lingen 6th. April 1945.
Mike Barry was a fellow who had a genius for living, and although his life was cut tragically short, it can be certainly said that he enjoyed it to the full. Mike joined us in July 1944 and it didn't take us long to appreciate his personal charm. His tremendous sense of humour made him a grand companion always. Whether it was a Mess party, or a front line slit trench his high spirits were unfailing. Nor should Mike's devotion to his religion be forgotten. It meant much to him, and he was unfailing in his observance of it.
Mike took over 12 Platoon of "B" Company when he joined us and led them with great success, first of all over the Escaut Canal, and then all through the miserable battles around Venray.
It was in January 1945 that he came to "C" Company as Second-in-Command, and it was not long before he was called upon to take over command of the Company under most trying conditions. It was during the battles west of the Rhine that the Company Commander was wounded, and Mike stepped into the breach. It was a very depleted Company at this time, being reduced indeed to two platoons. By his fine personal example and by constant encouragement, Mike Barry rallied his weary men and led them with complete success through the remaining battles.
Having built up "C" Company again and imbued them with a fine spirit he led them into battle, this time East of the Rhine. It was here, during the battle for Lingen that Mike was lost to us. He was killed in bitter hand-to-hand fighting in the streets, while, regardless of his personal safety, he was encouraging his Company on to success.
His devotion to duty, and his personal gallantry made him a sad loss to the Battalion; but we, his friends, feel still deeper the loss of that good companion, that delightful personality - Mike Barry.
LIEUTENANT L. HARRIS
Killed near Harpstedt on 13th. April 1945.
Leslie Harris came to "C" Company on the 7th. March 1945. Into the task of rebuilding from a few battle tried soldiers and many inexperienced reinforcements, Leslie threw all his enthusiasm and personal charm, and it was not long before 14 Platoon showed the influence of his leadership, developing into a team -that worked as such, and not as individuals. I always wondered how a new arrival would react under fire; but, when, on the Rhine, Leslie coolly and slightly apologetically 'phoned "I'm sorry I've withdrawn the OP without orders, but we're being shelled and one came through the roof", I ceased to wonder. It was two days later when I discovered from a member of his Platoon, that he had been in the OP at the time. Similarly, when, after a patrol to get information about the River Aa, he gave a full description, not only of the near bank, but of the enemy side as well, only under pressure did he reveal that, leaving the patrol under cover, he had waded alone across the river within a few yards of enemy machine gun posts. Such modesty, coolness and determination to fulfil orders were typical of him. He gave all he could to make a success of whatever he undertook. It was a great tragedy that at Harpstedt he did not return from another patrol. He had shown that he possessed great courage and splendid leadership, and promised to add to the reputation he had, his enthusiasm and high sense of duty made him an officer whose loss was a great blow to all who knew him.
LIEUTENANT A. S. HANCOCK (photo from 1942 when with East Kent Regiment)
Killed at Bremen 26th. April 1945.
Tony Hancock joined my Company in September 1944 and was immediately posted to 16 Platoon commander.
His quiet manner and scholarly appearance demanded respect and before long his was the best platoon in the Company. The men in that platoon, and in the Company loved him, both for the excellence of his leadership and for his profound understanding regarding all personal matters.
In action he was outstanding, a fearless leader always cool and unafraid no matter how trying the circumstances or how fierce the battle. Typical of him was a remark which he passed when a bullet narrowly missed its mark in the course of the action at Blitterswijk. He appeared at Company Headquarters bleeding from the throat saying that he'd got a slight scratch. On examination I discovered that the enemy bullet had passed underneath his chin and had dented his "Adam's Apple"!
Although wounded twice in battle he always refused to be evacuated and remained with his platoon until the end of the day.
His untimely death, right at the end of the campaign was a cruel blow. His carrier ran over a mine on a road on the outskirts of Bremen, and all the occupants were instantly killed. But we shall long remember his quiet unassuming personality, and in recalling his worth as a friend we can offer with feeling our deepest sympathies to his bereaved relations.
MAJOR A. C. BIRD, MC
Killed at Bremen 26 April 1945.
The death of Major A. C. Bird, MC at Bremen on the 26th. April came at a time when it seemed that the period of danger was rapidly passing, and the prospect of peace might be looked forward to almost daily.
"Dicky" Bird was commissioned in the Regiment from the Artists' Rifles in October 1939, and he joined the 2nd Battalion at Lezennes in March 1940, being posted to 'D' Company as a platoon commander. He fought throughout the dark days in France and Belgium, gaining the complete confidence and support of his platoon to a man, and making for himself the reputation of a very determined and brave leader.
Dicky landed in Normandy on 'D' Day as Second-in-Command of 'A' Company, and his great spirit did much to create confidence and cheerfulness during those hard days. On the death of Major Aldworth he was posted to command 'D' Company, and it was as a leader, with a command of his own in the field, that the great qualities of Dicky became apparent. He commanded 'D' Company throughout the remainder of the campaign, and in the many attacks and actions he seemed to bear a charmed life. Wherever danger threatened or he was most needed, Dicky was always to be found, cheering and encouraging his men with no thought to spare himself. At the fierce action in Blitterswijk, where 'D' Company fought a great battle in very difficult conditions, Dicky particularly distinguished himself, and he was awarded the MC for his fine work.
After the fighting in the early spring in the Reichswald Forest area and the crossing of the Rhine, came the assault on Bremen, the last battle in the campaign to be fought by the Battalion. After the town had been cleared, and the last shot fired, Dicky was killed by a sea mine, planted in the road by Germans who had already retreated or surrendered. He was buried the same evening together with the lads of his Company who had died with him, their graves making a neat row in a meadow by a German Inn, a strip of ground, one felt, very personal and sacred to 'D' Company. Dicky had seen the thing through from beginning to end. He had died in the hour of triumph, and has probably missed the disillusionment of post-war years. To his friends he will be a memory of a well known figure, pipe in mouth, up with the leading platoon working his Company forward, or the centre of a party, seated at the piano, playing the old tunes he loved so much.
MAJOR CHARLES SWEENY, MC.
Killed on 9 May 1945
(An appreciation from Field Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery, KCB, DSO.)
It is with a heavy heart that I record the death of another member of my team of liaison officers, who was also a former A. D. C. - Charles Sweeny of the Royal Ulster Rifles. It is a tragedy that of that team of gallant young L.Os whose photograph appeared in the Illustrated London News of 5 May, two are now dead (John Poston and Charles Sweeny) and one is lying wounded in hospital in Germany (Peter Earle). The photograph was taken on 12 April.
The loss of Charles Sweeny is hard to bear. I first got to know him in Palestine in the troublesome days of the winter of 1938/39 when the 2nd Bn RUR was serving in that country; later his battalion was in the 3rd Division which I took to France in September 1939, and it was in those days that I began my close association with him. He became my A. D. C. early in 1940. and was with me in the Dunkirk days.
Charles was an orphan and possibly it was that fact which drew us close together; he knew the depth of my devotion to him because I had told him of it; he knew that he could call on me for anything he needed, as if I was his father.
He was an Irish boy with a delightful brogue. There was nothing he liked more than a good argument; he would "trail his coat" with great skill and when discussion was started, he would take whichever side was likely to lead to the most heated argument; nothing would shake him from his adopted line of country.
He had a very strong character and was utterly incapable of any mean or underhand action; his sense of duty was highly developed, and his personal bravery very great.
His death is the more tragic in that the road accident which led to it occurred after the German surrender on the north flank had taken place; he was escorting a German Admiral back to Kiel and the car left the road and crashed into a tree.
I loved this gallant Irish boy and his memory will remain with me for all time.