Charlie’s sad death on doomed Glorious

Ill-fated: HMS Glorious was built as a cruiser during the first world war but during the 1920s was rebuilt as an aircraft carrier. In 1940, after failing to hunt down the German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee in the Indian Ocean she moved to support British operations in Norway. In June the ship was sunk by the German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau in the North Sea with the loss of more than 1,200 lives
Ill-fated: HMS Glorious was built as a cruiser during the first world war but during the 1920s was rebuilt as an aircraft carrier. In 1940, after failing to hunt down the German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee in the Indian Ocean she moved to support British operations in Norway. In June the ship was sunk by the German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau in the North Sea with the loss of more than 1,200 lives
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I READ your article concerning the recollections of Peter Dunn about a large family called Davis who lived at Wainstalls during the second world war.

Mr Dunn recalls in particular Charlie Davis and that he was lost at sea during the sinking of HMS Hood in 1941 (“Charlie’s sad death at sea hit village”, Nostalgia, June 18).

Nostalgia - Charles Henry Davis, died on HMS Glorious

Nostalgia - Charles Henry Davis, died on HMS Glorious

Charlie Davis did live at Wainstalls – at 4 Sun Buildings, to be precise – and did come from a large family. His father, also called Charlie, and his mother, Deaugeraverne, had eight children, four sons and four daughters, Charlie, Gwen, George, Herbert, Trevor, Margaret, Bronwen and Audrey.

Mr Dunn is correct when he says that one of Charlie’s sisters still lives locally. Bronwen has lived in the Pellon area since 1967.

But it is not true that Charlie Davis died during the battle between HMS Hood and the German battleship the Bismarck in 1941. He lost his life at sea while serving on the aircraft carrier HMS Glorious in 1940.

Charlie was born in 1920 and joined the Royal Navy in 1937. He was an able seaman on Glorious, on which he served from enlisting.

Charlie’s father had also served in the Royal Navy, during the first world war.

HMS Glorious was participating in Operation Alphabet, which was the evacuation of all British and allied forces from Norway in two convoys on June 7 and 8, 1940. Glorious was working with HMS Ark Royal escorting one of the convoys.

During the early hours of June 8 Glorious requested and was given permission to leave the convoy and proceed independently to Scapa Flow. Glorious, accompanied by the destroyers Acasta and Ardent, proceeded to Scapa Flow.

At about 4pm on June 8 Scharnhorst and Gneisenau were sighted by the British ships. The destroyers closed in on the German ships and at about 4.30pm the Gneisenau and Scharnhorst opened fire on Ardent.

Scharnhorst opened fire on Glorious at 4.32 and she received her first hit six minutes later. Gneisenau opened fire at 4.46. Both destroyers made smoke to screen Glorious and the smokescreen forced the German ships to cease firing from about 5pm to 5.20.

Then action resumed and Ardent was sunk at about 5.25pm. Further hits on Glorious resulted in her sinking at 6.10pm. The German ships ceased fire on Acasta at about 6.10pm and she sank 10 minutes later.

The action, from action stations being sounded to all three ships being sunk, lasted just two hours with the loss of more than 1,500 British srevicemen.

According to records two other Halifax seamen were lost during the engagement. They were Cecil Quigley, aged 18, of St Alban’s Road, and Gilbert Wardle, aged 21, of Ladyship Terrace.

Questions about the incident remain to be answered. Why were Glorious, Ardent and Acasta granted permission to leave the convoy and proceed independently?

Why were radio signals from the doomed ships transmitted on the wrong frequencies and therefore not received by other ships in the area?

HMS Devonshire was 30 to 50 miles away, transporting, in secret, the Norwegian royal family to Britain. If this ship had been diverted maybe more survivors could have been rescued.

The irony in this sad case is that both convoys reached the UK without loss.

I thank Mr Dunn for his memories and the opportunity to share the sad loss that the Davis family of Wainstalls, and other families in Halifax, suffered in June 1940.

l Stanley Bell lives at Broadley Grove, Moor End Road, Halifax, and is the son-in-law of Bonwen Garner, nee Davis.