St. Paul’s Church is located just off Knightsbridge Road in London’s fashionable West End, near Harrods.
On the outside of the church, affixed to the wall, is a memorial to those members of the Women’s Transport Service (WTS) who gave their lives during World War Two.
The First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY) was created in 1907 as a first aid link between front-line fighting units and the field hospitals.
During the First World War, FANYs ran field hospitals, drove ambulances and set up soup kitchens and troop canteens, often under highly dangerous conditions. By the Armistice, they had been awarded many decorations for bravery.
At the outbreak of the Second World War, the Corps was called upon to form the nucleus of the Motor Driver Companies of the ATS. Another section was attached to the Polish Army, and a Kenyan unit formed in 1935 also joined the war effort. A spirit of independence led others to join the FANY in the Special Operations Executive.
These women worked on coding and signals, acted as conductors for agents and provided administration and technical support for the Special Training Schools. Their work was top secret and often highly skilled. Members operated in several theatres of war, including North Africa, Italy, India and the Far East.
Since the end of the Second World War, the Corps has been known chiefly for its work in the field of military and civil communications, a legacy of its distinguished wartime record.
In 1999, the FANY was officially renamed the Princess Royal’s Volunteer Corps (PRVC), and it is now known as FANY(PRVC).
Just above the main memorial plaque is a smaller plaque commemorating Nurse Evelyn Fidgeon Shaw. She was a nurse who served on the Western Front and died on 24 August 1918. Nurse Shaw, who was awarded the French decoration Croix de Guerre with Palm, is buried in Sezanne Communal Cemetery (grave reference A.40).
The main memorial plaque lists the details of ATS casualties that occurred during the Second World War.
|Anderson MW||41||15/11/43||Ballymena New Cemetery|
|Austin BM4||–||12/02/44||East Africa Memorial|
|Beekman YEM2||–||13/09/44||Runnymede Memorial|
|Bloch D1||29||25/01-05/02/45||Brookwood Memorial|
|Boileau EM||60||10/01/42||Ketteringham (St Peter) Church|
|Borrel A1||–||06/07/44||Brookwood Memorial|
|Bradford CM||26||07/03/47||Yokohama War Cemetery|
|Butler MS3||41||11/05/41||Westminster City|
|Byck M1||25||23/05/44||Pornic War Cemetery|
|Callisher4||–||12/02/44||East Africa Memorial|
|Clerk-Rattray CE||33||01/03/45||Rattray Parish Churchyard|
|Camerer CH4||–||12/02/44||East Africa Memorial|
|Crooke CD||–||01/04/42||Chertsey (St Stephens)|
|Cross K||39||17/01/43||Nottingham Crematorium|
|Damerment M1||28||13/09/44||Brookwood Memorial|
|Dickie BM||33||28/05/44||Portland R.N. Cemetery|
|Ebden BE||–||16/07/45||South Ealing Cemetery|
|Grey W||–||29/03/43||Maala Cemetery|
|Heath-Jones M5||33||26/10/45||Rangoon War Cemetery|
|Hildick-Smith J||25||06-07/12/42||Died at Sea|
|Hook S4||27||12/02/44||East Africa Memorial|
|Kentish B4||30||12/02/44||East Africa Memorial|
|Le Poer Trench PH4||21||12/02/44||East Africa Memorial|
|Lefort C1||46||01/05/45||Runnymede Memorial|
|Leigh VE1||40||06/07/44||Brookwood Memorial|
|Lopresti CM||35||22/06/43||Golders Green Crematorium|
|Manning DM||21||19/02/45||Florence War Cemetery|
|McKenzie-Milligan MLM||27||27/09/41||Birmingham (Lodge Hill)|
|Moojen FF4||36||12/02/44||East Africa Memorial|
|Morgan D||23||19/10/40||Fort Pitt Military Cemetery|
|Nelson RE||22||28/03/46||Calcutta (Bhowanipore)|
|Peake MC||–||24/03/42||Orsett (St Giles & All Saints)|
|Plewman ES1||–||13/09/44||Brookwood Memorial|
|Ramsay BE||22||25/03/43||Elton (St Mary) Churchyard|
|Rawlins FL||–||25/10/45||Brookwood Memorial|
|Rolfe LV1||–||05/02/45||Runnymede Memorial|
|Rowden DH1||29||06/07/44||Runnymede Memorial|
|Rudellat Y1||–||01-30/04/45||Brookwood Memorial|
|Sadler EG||34||21/03/43||Ambleston (St Mary) Church|
|Salmon HIP6||30||19/04/43||Dyrham (St Peter) Church|
|Shepley J||25||18/10/39||Brookwood Memorial|
|Southey R||–||12/02/41||Nairobi (Forest Rd) Cemetery|
|Stalker LM||48||24/09/40||Creiff Cemetery|
|Stanger EP||34||28/04/44||Speidhurst (St Mary) Church|
|Stapylton NC||33||15/09/42||Myton-on-Swale (St Mary) Church|
|Swinburne-Hanham B||44||24/02/44||Golders Green Crematorium|
|Sykes M||23||13/05/44||Kandy War Cemetery|
|Szabo VRE1||23||25/01-05/02/45||Brookwood Memorial|
|Thomson BD4||21||12/02/44||East Africa Memorial|
|Woollan PC||–||27/12/45||Brighton (Downs) Crematorium|
- On secondment to the Special Operations Executive (SOE).
- Beekman’s real name was Yolande Elsa Maria Unternahrer; the daughter of Berthe Lydie Unternahrer, of Mill Hill Middlesex. A SOE agent, she was aged 32 years’ old when she was killed. A French national, she was awarded the Croix de Guerre.
- The lady died as a result of enemy air action.
- The lady was onboard the Khedive Ismail when it sank.
- The lady was onboard the Ceramic when it sank.
- The lady was onboard the Yorkshire when it sank.
Jeanne Shepley was a 25 years’ old member of the WTS, from Holmesfield, Derbyshire.
The liner Yorkshire was a 10183 ton vessel built in 1920 by Harland & Wolff. She was equipped with 946 nhp turbine engines, with a maximum speed of 15 knots. Her dimensions were 482.4 x 58.3 x 40.4 feet.
The Yorkshire, Captain Victor Charles Patrick Smalley, with 278 persons onboard including a crew of 160, was torpedoed by a German submarine 700 miles west of Bordeaux on 17 October 1939. A total of 33 passengers and 28 crew lost their lives, including Captain Smalley. Jeanne Shepley and Sophie Edwards (another passenger) were seen by survivors assisting passengers into the lifeboats; neither of these two ladies survived.
The Merchant Navy personnel who died are commemorated on Panel 120 at the Merchant Navy Memorial.
As a member of the ATS, and the Army, Jeanne Shepley is commemorated on the Brookwood Memorial.
Jeanne Shepley’s Brother, Pilot Officer Douglas Clayton Shepley, was also killed in World War Two. A Spitfire pilot with 152 squadron, Royal Air Force, his Spitfire was shot down on 12 August 1940. Having no known grave, Pilot Officer Shepley, aged 22 years’ old, is commemorated on Panel 10 of the Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede.
THE KHEDIVE ISMAIL
The Khedive Ismail was a 7513 ton vessel built in 1922 by Scott’s Shipbuilding & Engineering Company. She was equiped with 1469 nhp turbine engines and could achieve a maximum speed of 17 knots. Her dimensions were 422.8 x 56.2 x 30.4 feet.
The liner was requistitioned from the British India Steam Navigation Company by the Ministry of War Transport, for use as a troop-ship. The vessel was carrying 1,511 people including 178 ships crew, 996 officers and men of the 301st Field Regiment, East African Artillery, 271 Royal Navy personnel and a detachment of 19 British Wrens. Also on board were 53 nursing sisters with one matron and 9 WTS ladies.
While en route from Mombasa (Kenya) to Colombo (Sri Lanka), the ship was torpedoed in the Indian Ocean at 14.33 hours on 12 February 1944, by a Japanese submarine.
It took less than two minutes for the ship to sink taking 1,297 of her passengers and crew with her. The Merchant Navy personnel are commemorated on Panel 60 of the Tower Hill Memorial. There were 214 survivors including six female passengers.
The Ceramic was a 18713 ton vessel built in 1913 by Harland & Wolff. She was equiped with 7750 ihp triple-expansion engines and turbines. Her maximum speed was 15 knots with her dimensions being stated as 655.1 x 69.4 x 43.8 feet.
The Ceramic (Captain H.C. Elford), with 378 passengers and 278 crew, was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U-515 (Capt. Lt. W. Henke), west of the Azores on the night of 6-7 December 1942. Rescue ships from St. Michael’s were unable to put to see due to the heavy weather. Only one man survived the sinking: Royal Engineer Sapper A.E. Munday, who was picked up by a German submarine on the following day.
Captain Herbert Charles Elford, who came from Norwich, is commemorated with the other Merchant Navy casualties on Panel 25 of the Tower Hill Memorial.
Some months later U-515 was sunk by American destroyers, which captured the commander and 43 of his crew. Capt. Lt. Henke was later killed trying to escape from a POW camp.
SPECIAL OPERATIONS EXECUTIVE AGENTS
The SOE was established by Winston Churchill to “… set Europe ablaze …”. The agency, under the Department of Economic Warfare, was divided up into various sections: one for each occupied country. France, being an exception, had two sections: F and RF section.
The following agents were taken together to Natzweiler Concentration Camp and executed by lethal injection on 6 July 1944: Borrel (Denise), Leigh (Simone), Sonia Olschanezky and Rowden (Paulette).
The following agents were taken together to Dachau Concentration Camp and executed by shooting on 13 September 1944: Beekman/Unternahrer (Yvonne), Damerment (Solange), Inayat-Khan (Madeleine) and Plewman (Gaby).
The following agents were taken to Ravensbruck Concentration Camp and executed by shooting during the period of 25 January to 5 February 1945: Bloch (Ambroise), Rolfe (Nadine) and Szabo (Louise).
Yvonne Rudellat (Jacqueline) died in the Belsen Camp during April 1945.
Cecily Lefort (Alice) died at Ravensbruck on 1 May 1945, the day after the camp’s liberation by Soviet troops.
Muriel Tamara Byck was born in Ealing, London, on 4 June 1918. She joined SOE in July 1943. Due to a torn leg muscle, she was unable to use a parachute, and was taken by Lysander to act as the radio operator for Philippe de Vomecourt’s Ventriloquist circuit. She died on 23 May 1944, from meningitis, and is buried in Pornic War Cemetery (grave reference 2.AB.18). Pornic is 51 kilometres west-south-west of Nantes and 20 kilometres south-south-east of St Nazaire.
Those SOE agents who had been in the WAAF prior to their secondment to SOE were commemorated on the Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede. Those agents who joined the WTS as cover for their SOE activities were commemorated on the Brookwood Memorial.