HMS Raleigh remembers the Fallen

Two men with links to Torpoint who died on the same day 24-years apart will be remembered during Remembrance Services in the town on Sunday.

Driver Jack Bryan was among those killed when a bomb hit an air-raid shelter within HMS Raleigh on 28 April 1941, while Acting Sergeant Gerald Rich was listed as ‘missing, assumed dead’ on 28 April 1917, while fighting in France.

Jack was laid to rest at Horson cemetery where around 350 Officers, ratings and recruits from HMS Raleigh will attend a Service of Remembrance. The cemetery is the final resting place of 74 Service personnel; 48 sailors, 25 soldiers and one airman.

Of those, 44 sailors and 21 Royal Engineers, including Jack, lost their lives on 28 April 1941. It is thought that the engineers were part of two troops who were based in the Plymouth area, helping to prepare assault boats for the North Africa campaign. 

As the grave-side service is being held, the Commanding Officer of HMS Raleigh, Captain Ellie Ablett and a marching contingent of sailors will join the community of Torpoint for the Civic Remembrance Service. The sailors are currently undergoing the second stage of their training at HMS Raleigh.

Remembrance Sunday is a day for us all to remember and honour the brave Servicemen and Servicewomen who have paid the ultimate sacrifice to secure and protect our freedom across the generation

Captain Ellie Ablett, Commanding Officer of HMS Raleigh

There will be over 50 wreaths laid including one by Anne Millman, in memory of her great-uncle Gerald James Rich. Aged just 23-years-old, his body was never found.

Driver Bryan was born in Northamptonshire. He was married to Phyllis and they had one son Geoffrey ‘Jack’ Bryan, who was born in 1934. Jack senior was greatly interested in cars and as a young man had a driving licence and enjoyed riding his Enfield motorcycle around the countryside. 

He worked at weekends driving cars for two local garages and later got a job as a truck driver. When the Second World War broke out, Jack joined the Army and eventually found himself stationed at HMS Raleigh, where he was killed during the air-raid at the age of 30.

Phyllis and their seven-year-old son, Jack, came to Torpoint a few days later to see Jack’s make-shift grave. Later Phyllis married an American serviceman and with her son Jack and his two siblings emigrated to the United States.

Jack junior eventually returned to Torpoint, during a visit to the UK in 2003, bringing his son Kevin, to pay their respects to a lost father and a grandfather that Kevin had never met.

From his home in the United States, Kevin Bryan said, “I’m told that my grandfather was a fun loving man, friendly, and interested in seemingly everything. He was an avid darts player and belonged to a local darts team. He also loved football. Both my father and myself want to thank the entire training centre of HMS Raleigh for their continuing Remembrance Services to all those who fell during that night of 28 April 1941.”

On Sunday, Crosses of Remembrance will be laid on each of the war-graves by recruits undergoing the first phase of their training. 

Wreaths will be laid at the war memorial by Commander Pinch Martin, the Commander HMS Raleigh, Warrant Officer Paul Bell, the Base Warrant Officer, Councillor Chris Goodman, Deputy Mayor of Torpoint, the youngest sailor and representatives from a number of veterans’ associations. Members of the Royal Engineers Association will also be among the wreath layers this year.

Gerald Rich was born in East Stonehouse, but was listed as living in Torpoint on the 1901 census. Both Gerald’s father and grandfather had served in the military and he followed suit in 1909, enlisting in the Royal Marine Light Infantry, initially as a Bugler. He transferred to Private in 1911 and in 1915 was posted to the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, fighting at Gallipoli.

In 1916, Gerard was sent to France and remained there throughout the rest of the war, climbing the ranks and becoming an Acting Sergeant just two months before he died.

Anne, who is travelling to Torpoint especially for the parade, said, “Doreen, my mother and Gerald’s niece, said that his parents left the back door unlocked forever after, hoping that he would return home one day. He is commemorated in perpetuity by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and remembered with honour on the Arras Memorial. 

“He is also lovingly remembered on the memorial at Torpoint, alongside other ‘men of this town who laid down their lives in the Great World War’, and on the memorial at Antony. One hundred years on, it is a huge honour to be at Torpoint to remember Gerald and all those who fought for our freedom and lost their own lives.”

Captain Ablett and the youngest rating present will also lay wreaths.

Captain Ablett said, “Remembrance Sunday is a day for us all to remember and honour the brave Servicemen and Servicewomen who have paid the ultimate sacrifice to secure and protect our freedom across the generations. 

“As we join with members of the Royal British Legion and other veterans’ associations, this is a chance for our younger sailors to witness the enduring comradeship and mutual respect that exists between those who have served and those who serve today.”