On this day……. 100 years ago; 06/08/1914

Remembered today:


CH/17226 Private William Thomas Lacey, Royal Marine Light Infantry


A Chatham Royal Marine, who died aboard “HMS Hussar”, possibly from disease near Malta.


On this day……. 100 years ago; 04/08/1914

Remembered today:
CH.8671 Private G. Davies Royal Marine Light Infantry
A Chatham Division Royal Marine, he is buried in Middlesex at St.Pancras cemetery.

Oh what a lovely war………..


Antonia Hunt (Nee Lyon-Smith), her father, a successful, and gallant army officer, was trapped in France in 1939 behind the enemy lines in France when the Nazi’s invaded.  Unbeknownst to me when I bought her fathers medals in 2002, although more was going to come to light over her wartime exploits than I could have ever imagined…..


BBC reported:

Intelligence officers suspected a teenage daughter of a British brigadier was a German officer’s mistress during World War II, National Archives files show.

Antonia Lyon-Smith was interned by the Germans in 1940 when she was 15 and living in France, but released due to her youth.

She was taken in by a Gestapo officer and another Nazi wanted to marry her.

MI5 suspected she had betrayed her knowledge of the Resistance.

The previously-secret files said Antonia was the daughter of Royal Artillery officer Brigadier Tristram Lyon-Smith and a Canadian mother.

A Nazi officer called Karl Gagel initially tried to claim there was no intimate relationship between the teenager and himself, but “there was nevertheless an understanding that when Germany and Britain ceased to be enemies they would become engaged,” the file shows.

Antonia revealed in her 1982 autobiography Little Resistance: A Teenage English Girl’s Adventures In Occupied France that she had kissed the officer but was never engaged to him.

She had tried unsuccessfully to flee France for Switzerland, but eventually gave up.

Ed Hampshire, from the National Archives: “She had various liaisons with Gestapo officers”

In December 1942, she had been asked to write a letter of introduction for a friend of Claude Spaak, the brother of the Belgian foreign minister.

She later told MI5 that she had no idea Mr Spaak was heavily involved in the Resistance.

The Nazis intercepted the letter, and she was interrogated in Paris by senior Gestapo officer Heinz Pannwitz.

She claimed she was held in Paris in solitary confinement from October 1943 until January 1944, when she was allowed to leave and stay with her cousin.

But her MI5 file includes a report from a Nazi source suggesting that she enjoyed “comparative freedom as a species of office girl” for Pannwitz.

It added that she “did little but make tea, sew and listen to radio”, and even went on shopping expeditions with Gagel.

During interrogation by MI5 she did not disclose anything about her relationship with Gagel – which led the British intelligence officer to conclude that she was his mistress and “almost certainly” betrayed all her knowledge of a Resistance group to the Germans.

Letter to father:

Antonia has not the slightest intention of ever seeing Karl again if she can possibly avoid it”Brig Tristram Lyon-Smith

Gagel’s feelings for Antonia were discovered after her irate father received a letter from Gagel via his bank branch in East Sussex.

The former Gestapo officer wrote to the bank in October 1945: “I should be much obliged if you would kindly inform Miss Antonia Lyon-Smith that I shall be in Germany for some time to come, and that I should like to have news of her.”

An MI5 officer who interviewed Brig Lyon-Smith about his daughter noted: “She was apparently ‘befriended’ by Karl Gagel, who ostensibly arranged that she should not be sent to Fresnes prison in return for her undertaking to marry him when the war was over.

“Antonia has not the slightest intention of ever seeing Karl again if she can possibly avoid it.”

Her own account, given in 1946, of her time with the Gestapo was described as “rather disconnected” and “not satisfactory” by an MI5 officer.

At first the MI5 officer concluded: “It is clear to me that she was holding back on this matter [of Gagel], though whether simply because her association with him was a disreputable one or not, I cannot say.”

But after further research, the officer wrote in April 1946: “My own view is that she certainly became Karl Gagel’s mistress and almost certainly disclosed to the Germans all her knowledge of the Spaak organisation, which I believe to have been considerably greater than she admits.”

He even raised concerns two months later about whether Miss Lyon-Smith was suitable to continue working for the Women’s Royal Naval Service, but Royal Navy intelligence considered her not to be a risk as as she was about to marry.

Her autobiography, published under her name from her second marriage, Antonia Hunt, was released in 1982, more than two decades before her death. In it, she mentions a surprise visit from the comic author PG Wodehouse when she was seriously ill while in Gestapo custody in Paris.

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On this day…… 24th May 1941: Sink the Hood….

On the 24th of May, an epic sea battle remembered in the annals of Naval history took place between the German ship Bismark, and the Royal Navy Cruiser HMS Hood.  The Hood, referred to as “the embodiment of British sea-power and the British Empire between the wars.” was to lose its place in the Royal Navy’s fleet that day, with the loss of 1421 men, the whole crew, barring three!


In the early hours of 24 May, the two opposing fleets engaged one another. Thirteen miles from one another, opened fire, the noise, which could be heard in Iceland, was deafening.  The battle lasted merely twenty minutes and both the Bismarck and the Prince of Wales took direct hits, but it was the fate of the Hood that stunned the world. A shell from the Bismarck hit the Hood on its vulnerable upper deck, tore through the ship and penetrated its ammunition room, causing an almighty explosion.

In Britain, a nation reeled in shock, stunned by the loss of the Hood demanded swift and brutal vengeance, Churchill, issued his famous battle cry: “Sink the Bismarck!”…………


The Live Bait Squadron…. HMS Aboukir, Hogue and Cressy… 22nd September 1914


Recently I attended a family history fair, and on one of the stands, was a leaflet asking for information on the “Live Bait Squadron”, something I hadn’t heard of until now…..

Three large but old British cruisers -HMS Cressy, Hogue and Aboukir- were shot at and went down just off the Dutch coast. Eight torpedoes launched by stealth from German submarine U-9 sufficed to sink the ships whose crews were totally unprepared for the attack. The action lasted barely 90 minutes, an attack which awoke the Grand Fleet to the dangers of the U-boat – but condemned 62 officers and 1,397 men to a watery grave. Weeks after this catastrophe, bodies of British sailors were washed ashore on the Dutch coast. A few dozens of these men are buried at cemeteries in Holland. Of the combined crew of 2296 there were 837 survivors, a few hundred of whom could be rescued by Dutch merchant vessels. The wrecks of the three unfortunate cruisers still rest on the seabed, forming as many mass graves.

By early August 1914, the British naval fleet was at fighting strength. The aged ships received their new crews and underwent a thorough clean up before setting out to assume their patrol duties on the North Sea. They were HMS Cressy, Hogue and Aboukir. Obsolete, unwieldy, badly armed and poorly armoured, these had been mothballed just before the war as being out of date, and no longer fit for peacetime service.

Those old cruisers of the Bacchante class were considered totally unfit to take part in modern warfare at sea. Because of this they were soon given the rather wry but spot-on surname The Live Bait Squadron, first within the Navy and later, after the disaster, also in popular speech. Together with sister ships they were assigned to a patrol unit of the North Sea fleet, making up the 7th Cruiser Squadron of the Southern Force. Their homeport was Harwich in the Thames estuary, not far from the River Medway embouchure. And not only the ships – the thousands of reservists who manned the cruisers were also mostly from the Medway region.

There were 837 survivors of the combined crews of 2296. A goodly number of them were picked up by two small Dutch merchant vessels, SS Flora (287 survivors) and SS Titan (114). Most of them were taken to neutral Holland, where they received a warm welcome and medical and personal care. After briefly having been accommodated in some refugees’ camp, they were transported back to England, thanks to a flash of inspiration that must have hit some governmental official, claiming they were not to be regarded as prisoners of war now that they had come ashore on non-military vessels.







Real life Biggles…..

Hero who makes Biggles look like a wimp: He’s flown more planes than anyone else in history – and took 2,000 Nazis prisoner single-handed. And now, at 94, he’s telling his breathtaking story

Eric Brown must rank as the most extraordinary airman alive. Indeed, open his memoirs at any page and you are left asking a single question: how on earth did this modest Scotsman live to tell the tale?  But Captain Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown RN is very much alive and in sparkling form as he pours me a glass of sherry at his West Sussex home and reflects on an astonishing life. This is the man who has flown more aircraft than anyone else in history.  He was the first man to fly a jet on and off an aircraft carrier. He has set aviation records that will almost certainly never be broken and is revered as one of the greatest test pilots of all time.


Eric “Winkle” Brown, holder of the AFC, DSC, MBE, and OBE (Air Force Cross, Distinguished Service Cross, Member of the Order of the British Empire, and Officer of the Order of the British Empire).  He apparently took 2000 prisoners at Belsen concentration camp with only one pistol and without firing a shot… (Commando comic do daring if ever you heard it).  He later picked up a Kings Commendation for Brave Conduct (Similar to a mention in dispatches: acknowledged brave acts by civilians and members of the military in non-warlike circumstances during a time of war or in peacetime where the action would not otherwise be recognised by an existing award.)  and lastly the Queen conferred a CBE on this brave man in 1970 in recognition of his service as her Aide Du Camp.  I look forward to more information coming out about this man and his incredible story!


23rd April – St Georges Day…… On this day.

First off to all my English (and Georgian) fans, Happy St Georges Day!

On this most auspicious of days there have been many events occur, however I shall write about only a couple.

23rd April 1918: The Zeebrugge raid took place…

A wonderful piece of pathe film footage about the raid. (however slightly inaccurate as it was made after the war to buoy public morale)

On the 23rd of April 1918, the Royal Navy and Royal marines attempted to neutralize the port of Zeebrugge  and Ostend.   Both these ports were used for German U-boats and light shipping, which were causing problems in the English Channel for allied forces.  The raid was principally a failure due to the unexpected change of wind direction which blew the obscuring smoke screen away from HMS Vindictive, and meant it had to, under extremely heavy fire, moor in the wrong place.  Three other ships, HMS thetis, Iphigenia and Intrepid were disabled too late and did not manage to scuttle themselves and use their concrete filled bodies to block the canals entrance effectively.  Hailed as a Victory by both the allies and the Germans, it’s overall disruption lasted only a few days, with considerable loss of life to the British.

A total of 500 casualties are recorded and 8 Victoria Crosses awarded for gallantry.



23rd April 1942; Baedeker raids began……

In retaliation for the RAF raid on Lubeck, which was a submarine port, the Luftwaffe retaliated by bombing Exeter, (later: Bath and York, as well as Canterbury and Norwich), in a series of raids named the Baedeker raids after a popular holiday book at the time which gave areas of natural beauty, historical importance and such like for tourists (similar to an AA guide today).