Lest We Forget


Mr and Mrs Cooper of Park Avenue had two other sons serving in the war. Percy, serving with the Royal Artillery in the Middle East and Italy and Bill serving with the RAF during the Battle of Britain and later in Africa.
During his time with the Royal Artillery, Percy spent much of his time as a forward observer. Together with an Officer he had to make frequent trips into no-man's-land and relay the range of targets back to allow the gunners to do their job in destroying the enemy target. On one occasion he was fired on by the regiment to which they were attached. On his arrival back at the British front line he was told that they were trying to alert him because he had been heading for a German patrol. Percy seemed to have a charmed life because on another occasion he was running back with a message when he heard an enemy aircraft approaching. Just as the aircraft's guns started firing he fell over and could hear the bullets thudding into the ground just in front of him. He is convinced that if he hadn't fallen the bullets would have caught him in the middle of the back. He feigned death, lying still on the ground while the plane did another circuit and then went away. Towards the end of the war Percy went back to Egypt to help bury some of the many allied servicemen who lost their lives during the conflict in the Middle East.

Percy's younger brother Bill was serving with the RAF and during August 1940 was stationed on the south coast with the famous 56 Hurricane Squadron. By mid August the Luftwaffe had switched its attacks to Southern England and the Battle of Britain had begun in earnest. At the time Germany was sending more than a thousand planes a day over Britain. During that time the airfields came under constant attack from the Luftwaffe. At the end of September Hitler's long awaited Blitz had started. The RAF came under tremendous pressure from the enemy, but those who were called "The Few" came through with flying colours, although at a cost. Bill said that the ground crews worked round the clock to repair and get the fighter planes back in the air ready for the next wave of enemy aircraft. After working on Hurricanes, Bill went on to work on Typhoons.

Another soldier who was to serve in the DEMS was Highworth born and bred Ron GORTON who, like George Cooper, had volunteered to be a gunner aboard ship.
Ron had started his army service doing ten weeks training with the Wiltshire Regiment at Devizes. During that time they asked for volunteers for gunners on coastal ships and Ron, being just twenty years old at the time, volunteered. He was then sent to Cardiff along with naval ratings and on his arrival was issued with tropical kit. He was then transferred to Scotland where he joined the SS Largs Bay and so his journey to Sierra Leone, West Africa began.
On his arrival he spent ten days in a transit camp and then joined the SS Thurland Castle for a trip back to Scotland, where all the ships had anti-aircraft guns fitted. This was the beginning of the DEMS. After shore leave Ron said they would join another boat for Milford Haven where the boats would collect for the North Atlantic convoy - 35 to 60 boats. Ron Gorton was a gunner on board ship for four and a half years. He describes his war service as a very exciting time.

It was during the early part of March 1941 that another Highworth serviceman was to lose his life as a result of the war. Sergeant Wireless Operator-Air Gunner Garnet COUZENS was twenty-five years old when he was killed in a flying accident while on active service in Malaya. He had been educated at Highworth and Swindon schools and was popular with his school friends. His parents Mr and Mrs A.E. Couzens were in business as a baker and confectioner at Westrop, Highworth, before moving to Spaxton, near Bridgwater.

798243 Gunner Eric Edward EDDOLLS, 16 Battery, 2 HAA Regiment, Royal Artillery. Died 26th/27th April 1941.
On the 26th April 1941 the Germans marched into Athens and were later followed by heavy mechanised detachments which had overcome the British rearguard on the road from Thebes. Most of the British soldiers garrisoned around Athens had left amid moving scenes. Many of the Allied forces were fighting a slow retreat to the southernmost embarkation point. Greek infantry, with no chance of escaping, had covered the British flank. The German ground forces were backed up by the Ju 87 Stuka, the screaming dive-bomber that was so effective on ground targets.
It was during the fierce fighting at the end of April 1941 that Gunner Eric Eddolls was badly wounded. Along with other wounded soldiers he was quickly taken to a British hospital ship which was sunk by enemy action just after leaving the quayside. This was on the 26th/27th April, which possibly indicates that they were trying to get away under cover of darkness. Like so many others his grave is the sea.
Gunner Eric Edward Eddolls, Royal Artillery, was thirty-three years old, and was the son of Edward and Edith Eddolls of Inglesham, Highworth, Wiltshire. He is commemorated by name on Face 2 of the Athens Memorial, Greece.
The memorial is situated in Phaleron War cemetery, Athens, and is situated a few kilometres to the south-east of Athens on the coast road from Athens to Vouliaghmeni. The memorial is to nearly 3,000 members of the Commonwealth land forces who have no known grave. His brother Doug served with the Commandos during the war. Eric and Doug were cousins of Jack Archer of Highworth. Although Eric Eddolls and his parents were Inglesham residents, for some unknown reason Gunner Eric Eddolls is not commemorated by name on the Highworth Town war memorial.

Leading Aircraft Fitter, Arthur WRIGHT.
Arthur Wright was born in Croydon in 1919. After leaving school he served his time as an Aircraft Engineer with Handley Page Ltd. He joined the Fleet Air Arm in 1940, and served until he was demobbed in 1946. After joining the Fleet Air Arm he was sent to HMS Pembroke, (Chatham) to take a trade test. From there he was sent to RAF Hednesford on a further aircraft course. From then on he served on various ships and land bases.

The following is a list of ships and shore stations where LAF Arthur Wright served. HMS Pembroke (Chatham) - HMS Hawke - HMS Medina - HMS Hednesford - HMS Raven - HMS Merlin - RAF Abbotsinch (Paisley) - HMS Waxwing - SS Mooltan - HMS Hannibul - SS Marigot (All Algiers) - RAF Ta Kali, (Malta) - HMS Sheffield - HMS Cormorant - (Both Gibraltar) - HMS Pincher - HMS Goldfinch - HMS Daedalus - HMS Perigrine - (Demobbed 1946).

Highworth Historical Society

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Our Next Monthly Guest Speaker

26th March 2018
The The Archaeology and Early History of Highworth.
by Mike Stone.
With the new building work in the town finds of the early settlers are being made all the time. Areas include
the Cricklade Road area, The Willows and Priory Green.

Prices for Lectures:
Members: Free of charge
Visitors: £3.00.

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