Mawnan – St Mawnan and St Stephen’s Church & Churchyard

From the Highlands of Scotland to the far south west of England, we now find ourselves in Mawnan, on the south Cornish coast, only about thirty miles from Land’s End.

The churchyard is quite extensive, so we shall have a look inside the church first,…

…where Rolls of Honour for both World Wars are immediately evident.

To the left of the window,…

….a memorial to Captain Francis Welsford Ward, Gloucester Regiment – the rest you can read yourself.

Military representative to the Hampshire Appeal Tribunal between 1916 & 1917, Captain Ward has no known grave, and his name can be found on the Tyne Cot Memorial.

With which we head outside to explore the churchyard.

On 15th March 1917 H.M.S. Foyle’s war came to an end when the destroyer struck a contact mine laid by the German submarine UC-68 off Plymouth, blowing off her bow and killing 28 of her crew, including Engine Room Artificer 4th Class Eujen Gavey McKeown, aged just 21, who is remembered on the above headstone.

Lance Corporal Peter Eddy, West Country through and through (his parents and his wife were Cornish), was nonetheless serving with 10th Bn. London Regiment when he was killed on 24th August 1918 aged 39, as you can see in the inset below, which shows his entry in the Cemetery Index for Bagneux British Cemetery, Gezaincourt.

Unfortunately the GRRF shows him serving with the Rifle Brigade – oh, and gives his initial as ‘D’.

No, I am not looking into it further.

Now, I cannot swear to it, but this could well be the oldest serviceman I have ever encountered on a CWGC headstone:

Herbert Warington Smyth (the hyphen is incorrect) was born in 1867, the son of Sir Warington Wilkinson Smyth FRS, Professor of Mining at the Royal School of Mines, and brother of Sir Nevill Maskelyne Smyth, who won a V.C. at the Battle of Omdurman in 1898.  Herbert’s career followed that of his father in that, as well as being a barrister, he held numerous positions connected with the mining industry in Siam and South Africa, and was Secretary for Mines in the Transvaal between 1901 & 1910, after which he became Secretary for Mines and Industries in South Africa and Commissioner of Mines for Natal.  On the outbreak of the Great War he became an Acting Sub-Lieutenant in the Royal Naval Reserves, taking an active part in the early fighting in South West Africa where he was Mentioned in Despatches.  Between 1915 & 1917 he served as Acting Naval Senior Officer at the Cape, and then Controller of Imports and Exports for the Union of South Africa.  Awarded a C.M.G. in 1919 and retiring to Falmouth in England in 1927, he would serve once again in the Second World War as a Lieutenant Commander in the Royal Naval Reserves before his death, aged 75, on 19th December 1943 at Redruth.

The other CWGC headstone in this cemetery is a humble private of the D.C.L.I., who died, aged 28, in October 1947, more than two years after hostilities ceased.

Two victims of German bombing.

All thirty seven passengers died when EgyptAir Flight 741 crashed on its descent to Nicosia International Airport on 29th January 1973.

Wing Commander Ros M. Lea (née Hyde) sadly died of cancer in 2014.

Private John Ivor Castle Mann, aged 22, 9th Bn. Devonshire Regiment, died on 13th October 1917 and is buried in Godewaersvelde British Cemetery, a few miles south west of Poperinge.

One final grave caught my eye.  The bottom name on this headstone is that of Lieutenant Commander Anthony Hunter Terry, who died on 28th February 1942 during the aftermath of the Battle of the Java Sea, aged 32.  His story is interesting; an eye-witness to the sinking of H.M.S. “Hood” on 24th May 1941 aboard H.M.S. “Prince of Wales”, he had been seconded to H.M.S. “Sultan”, not a ship, but the Singapore Naval Base, and thus avoided the fate of his colleagues when the “Prince of Wales” and “Repulse” were sunk by Japanese bombers off the east coast of what was then Malaya on 10th December 1941 , just three days after Pearl Harbor.  Fast forward two months to early February 1942, and with the evacuation of Singapore in full swing it seems that Terry, one of only two naval officers left at H.M.S. “Sultan”, had made his way to Sumatra, where he and some 200 men, including survivors of the “Prince of Wales” and “Repulse”, boarded the S.S. “Ban Ho Guan” (pictured below) at the southern Sumatran port of Padang with the objective, perhaps, of reaching Fremantle in Australia.  The ship was last seen on 28th February, the day after the Battle of the Java Sea, after which it disappeared without trace somewhere in the Indian Ocean.

Terry had been called as a witness to the Admiralty Board of Enquiry into the sinking of the “Hood” held on board H.M.S. “Devonshire” on 12th August 1941.  This is his testimony:

Are you Lieutenant Commander Anthony Hunter Terry, Royal Navy, of “H.M.S. Prince of Wales”?  Yes

Is your recollection of what you actually saw fairly clear?  Yes.

Where were you at the time?  Port-After H. Director.

Will you describe what you saw of the action particularly with reference to the “Hood”, from the time “Hood” opened fire?  “Hood” opened fire with foremost turrets, that is “A” and “B”, at 0552. “Prince of Wales” opened fire with “A” and “B” turrets shortly afterwards. “Bismarck’s” first salvo straddled the “Hood”, apparently no hits. One or two more salvos fell close to the “Hood”. One salvo which fell astern of “Hood” I took to be 8″ H.E. The splashes were considerably smaller than the previous ones and apparently burst on striking the water. There was a flash and black smoke when it burst. At 0557 “Hood” was hit amidships by “Bismarck’s third or fourth salvo. A big fire started just before the main-mast and a lot of black smoke was given off. The fire appeared to die down slowly and then increase again, flames were a dull red colour. The flames did not reach high but appeared but appeared (sic) to be burning just forward, around the foot of the main-mast. “Hood” continued to fire and fired one salvo from the after group on the foremost bearing. At 0600 there was a heavy explosion at the after end of the “Hood”, no actual fall of shot was observed at that time. A column of smoke rose above the ship and completely enveloped her. It formed into a mushroom at the top. I thought she had blown up completely but shortly afterwards the smoke cleared sufficiently for me to see her. She was apparently still moving ahead and turning to port. She was down at the stern and listing heavily to port and the after part of the ship appeared to be a mass of twisted framework, as though the plates of the side had been blown out leaving only the frame. The part of the ship which I saw was just forward of “X” turret. At this time we were turning to port between the “Hood” and the enemy and I observed debris falling towards “Prince of Wales”, in particular one large piece that looked like the main-mast or a derrick. 0601, “Prince of Wales” was hit by a shell in the after funnel and this obstructed my attention. Shortly after this I observed “Hood’s” bows sticking vertically out of the water and sinking rapidly, I think on an even keel. This was about 0603 and after that I saw nothing but black smoke hanging over the scene of the wreck.

Can you give us a more elaborate detail as to the position and appearance of the explosion?  A large cloud of black smoke rising I think from the quarter-deck abreast “X” turret.

Did you see any flash before the smoke?  No, but I think my attention was slightly distracted.

Do you consider that the explosion was abaft of the original fire?  Yes.

Were you watching through glasses or the naked eye?  Naked eye.

Are you quite certain that you saw the ship’s-side plating had been blown away and that the position was about abreast the after-end of the superstructure?  Yes.

Did this gap in the ship’s side extend to the upper deck or not?  I am not absolutely certain. My impression is that it did.

Can you remember if you could see “X” turret at the same time?  No, it was enveloped in smoke.

Did you see any smoke emerging from the hole in the ship’s side?  No.

Do you know if the armoured doors overing “Hood’s” torpedo tubes were open or shut?  I could not say defiitely, my impression is that they were shut. I am almost certain about that.

Did you actually see any shell strike “Hood’s” side or upper deck?  No.

Did you hear anything of the explosion?  I did not notice anything. Our guns were firing at the time.

Did you feel any shock on your own ship?  No, our own guns were firing.

Were you looking at the “Hood” at the time of the explosion?  Not at the actual moment of the explosion.

Witness withdrew (Witness’s evidence was largely taken from notes written at the time of the action and the times were taken on the spot).

Fosbury the shrew.  No, I didn’t put him there.

This entry was posted in Cornwall, U.K. Churches, Memorials & Cemeteries - Back in Blighty. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Mawnan – St Mawnan and St Stephen’s Church & Churchyard

  1. Sid from Down Under says:

    Very interesting church interior and especially the churchyard – good photos thank you but Hmmmm … Foyle’s War … been watching too much TV in retirement? Actually I’ve been watching reruns.
    HM Destroyer HMS Foyle has an interesting history – one of the new River Class destroyers laid down in 1902 then entered service in 1904. The heroic attempt to tow her stern to Plymouth ended in failure and she’s now a dive and fishing site in 50 metres of water.

    Small correction required – should be Fremantle (not Freemantle) just above the SS Ban Ho Guan insert photo – another interesting ship

    • Magicfingers says:

      Oh come on, how could I resist Foyle’s war! I’m actually watching it for the very first time. Good, isn’t it. Correction made, I thank you. I do very occasionally find an error of some sort in an old post and always think ‘someone could have told me’, so thanks for that.

  2. Margaret Draycott says:

    Great post M churchyards always such fascinating places, the stories that lie behind the sentiments on the headstones I thankyou for researching some of them. Churchyard looks a bit of a mess but good for the wildlife I suppose. Yes ears or eyes pricked up when I saw Foyle. Love that series watching the reruns as and when also.

  3. Nick Kilner says:

    Cracking churchyard! I’ll have to pop in next time I’m down that way.
    This made me laugh “No, I am not looking into it further.”. Even I have resisted the urge this time hahaha.
    The piece on Terry is really interesting, great research as usual. And I think it’s fair to say that Herbert Warrington Smyth put in a full service. He’d have been entitled to the long service medal three times over. Not too many can make that claim, although I did see an article about an army farrier who finally retired at 90. He had reportedly been shoeing horses since the age of fourteen and had a hunched back and one arm shorter than the other. I kid you not. I’ve no plans to go on that long lol.
    Another very enjoyable article, always nice to see a piece of the West Country.

    • Magicfingers says:

      Yes you will. Well worth a visit. I wonder who actually is the longest serving member of our Armed forces ever – there must be one – maybe your farrier.

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