Euphorbia (1924)
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Jan. 20, 2012

Able Seaman Frank Sherval was my mother's cousin, but was quite a few years older than she was. His mother was her Auntie Nell (Helen), of Reading. (In other words, he was my first cousin, once removed.) My mother attended his wedding as a bridesmaid, when she was a little girl. She remembers being taken by Frank around a submarine moored in the Thames, and all she knew was that he later died in WW2 when his ship was sunk.

She was very interested when a few years ago I found his details on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website, but it took me a long time to find out that HMS President was not a ship, but was the designation (for admin purposes) of naval gunners serving on Merchant Navy ships. Only today have I found all the details relating to the ship's sinking in 1940.

Frank was the gunner who died with all the civilian crew. Whilst researching Frank on the CWGC site, I was astonished to find that his younger brother William went down on the HMS Hood in 1941. Having been raised on a diet of films like "Sink The Bismarck", I never imagined that a relative of mine had been involved with that particular bit of our naval history. It's difficult to imagine how their mother in Reading coped with the loss of 2 of the 3 sons that she had.

My mother always related to me that her first boyfriend served in the Merchant Navy (the Port Line) and he had a brother Richard Garner, who went down with the Port Gisborne, which was also sunk in the Atlantic in 1940. My mother died 2 years ago, but she would have been thrilled, and saddened also, to hear the circumstances in which all these brave men died. Those of us who grew up after WW2 do not always recognise the debt we owe to men like this.

Chris Addy

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