University of Oxford
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Three Family Legacies from World War II

online resource
posted on 2024-06-05, 17:47 authored by Their Finest Hour Project Team

FREDERICK: My father served in the Royal Navy during the war effort, joining at around 29 years old. He underwent training at Gosport and was later transferred to Fort William in Scotland. Serving on coastal patrol boats, including motor torpedo boats, he didn't share any stories about action. He and his friends didn't talk much about their war experiences, preferring modesty and often forgetting about them. I brought photographs of the 1937 edition of the manual of seamanship, which was used to train sailors like my father. Sailors were encouraged to make models of their ships, because they had spare time when they weren't fighting. Pictures are of wooden models my father made. The models are of the ships my father sailed on. They were very fast and not very armoured.

MARK: He was the half-brother of my father. He was in the Royal Navy as well- either 21 or 23 (early 20s). He served on a big ship like an aircraft carrier- HMS Thane. Its job was transport aircrafts made in America to Britain. Sadly, on one trip where they were almost back at Glasgow, a German submarine torpedoed it. It wasn't badly damaged but 16 men including my uncle died from the explosion. He was the only one of his family who was killed.

SIDNEY: He was my wife's father. He wasn't in the military because of his job in normal life- in cement manufacture, critical for building defence. He was a volunteer fireman. He lived very close to the city of Coventry that was very badly bombed by German aircrafts on 14 November of either 1940 or 1941. It is known as the Coventry Blitz. As a volunteer fireman, it was a complete devastation of the city; there were massive fires and all the local fire brigades were called to help because of the size of the fires. He was on duty there without going home or getting much sleep for about 5 days.

I learned of the stories from my parents; my father and father-in-law. I learnt the story of my uncle from my father and cousins. My uncle was half related to me due to my father's father marrying twice. That side of my family did more research.


Item list and details


Person the story/items relate to

Fredrick Arthur Townsend, Mark Townsend, Sidney French

Person who shared the story/items

Ian Geoffrey Townsend

Relationship between the subject of the story and its contributor

Fredrick Arthur Townsend (father), Mark Townsend (father's half-brother), Sidney French (wife's father)

Type of submission

Shared at Thornton College, Buckinghamshire on 16 September 2023.

Record ID

92940 | THO00X-1