READER Matthew Smaldon has shed light on the mystery of a group of British servicemen who drowned in the Second World War.

Pictures of a funeral procession, funeral ceremony and graves were found in the attic of former Marine Walter George Clifton in George Street, Bicester.

His family discovered some information about the victims, but were mystified why Mr Clifton should have had the photographs.

Mr Smaldon, who lives in Abingdon, tells me that eight men perished off the coast of Boulogne during stormy weather on October 13, 1944.

Five of them were crew members of HMS Scott, a fleet minesweeping sloop, which surveyed liberated harbours in Europe as well as the route for Pluto (Pipeline under the Ocean), which carried fuel from the UK to Europe.

The men, Charles Dansie, 23, of Ilford, Essex, Walter Whitmore, 25, from Norfolk, Thomas Peckitt, 26, of Scarborough, Leslie Richards, 18, of West Kensington, and John Flynn, 19, address unknown, were the volunteer crew of one of the ship’s motorboats.

They put to sea during a gale to try to rescue Lieutenant Commander John Booth, of Great Yarmouth, and Marines Ronald Edwards, 22, from West Ham, and John Nicholson, 32, address unknown, who were adrift in a dory.

Both boats were lost. All bodies were recovered, except those of Booth and Peckitt. The official cause of death was given as drowning.

The six bodies recovered were buried in Boulogne Eastern Cemetery Pas de Calais on October 17.

Lieutenant Commander Booth, who was Officer in Command of HMBY Minesweeper 2155, is remembered at the Calais Canadian War Cemetery, Leubringhen, and Peckitt’s name is recorded on Chatham Naval Memorial.

Mr Clifton’s son-in-law, Chris Bowers, of Welland Croft, Bicester, asked (Memory Lane, June 16) if anyone knew why the pictures were in his father-in-law’s possession.

Mr Smaldon writes: “I would assume that Mr Clifton, being a Royal Marine, may have served on HMS Scott alongside the men who were killed. If his son-in-law can obtain his service record, it should confirm this."


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