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BBC News - War grave officially identified

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David McNay
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 25, 2009 12:03 pm    Post subject: BBC News - War grave officially identified Reply with quote

Spotted this on the BBC News website this morning.

War grave officially identified
One of the youngest British men to be killed while serving his country in World War II is to be honoured on the 68th anniversary of his death.

Records show Reginald Earnshaw, who is buried in Edinburgh, was aged about 15 when he died aboard the merchant ship SS North Devon on 6 July 1941.

But it is thought the boy may have lied about his age and could have been as young as 14 when he was killed.

A stone is to be erected at his grave in Edinburgh's Comely Bank Cemetery.

The location of Mr Earnshaw's grave was never reported to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission or marked with a headstone until recently, when a simple wooden cross was erected as a temporary marker.

But that is set to change in less than a fortnight's time, when the grave will have a granite headstone erected by the commission.

The move comes thanks to the efforts of a small group of campaigners, one of whom served alongside Mr Earnshaw on the SS North Devon.

Alf Tubbs, now 86, from Swansea, was an 18-year-old machine gunner on the ship when it was bombed by German aircraft heading to Tyneside.

After firing at the attacking planes, his thoughts turned to his young friend.

The gunner rushed to the engine room to try to find Mr Earnshaw but was beaten back by the steam.

Mr Earnshaw was one of six people who died that night.

Decades later Mr Tubbs decided to find out what happened to his friend and he got in touch with various people via an appeal.

It has since emerged that Mr Earnshaw was born in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, but his last known address was in Edinburgh.

His final resting place at Comely Bank is close to where he lived in the Granton area of the city.

There are no known living relatives but the commission is appealing for any family members to get in touch.

Mr Tubbs said he is glad his friend's grave is soon to be identified properly.

"The most important thing to me is that he gets a fitting headstone," he said.

"I'm glad that after all these years, the sacrifice of such a young man, my pal, will be properly marked."

The commission, which is responsible for marking and maintaining the graves of members of the Commonwealth forces killed during both world wars, is investigating Mr Earnshaw's case to try to establish his age.

His death certificate said his date of birth was February 5 1926, but those who have looked into the matter can find no record of Reginald Earnshaw's birth in Dewsbury on that date.

They did however find a Reginald Earnshaw born exactly one year later.

If Mr Earnshaw did lie about his age then he is the youngest British man to die serving his country during the WWII - at 14 years and 152 days.

The youngest serviceman recorded at the moment is Raymond Steeds, another merchant seaman who died aged 14 years and 207 days.
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 06, 2010 3:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote from (Edinburgh) Evening News:

    Lesson in war from tragic young hero
    Published Date: 05 February 2010

    HE was officially the youngest serviceman to die in the Second World War and now his story may be told to teach children not much younger than him about the war.

    The city council is considering using the story of navy cabin boy Reggie Earnshaw, who was just 14-years-old when he was killed aboard the SS North Devon on 5 July, 1941, as part of their primary seven curriculum.

    The Commonwealth War Graves Commission today confirmed that Reggie was the youngest known service casualty of the Second World War, following the discovery that he lied about his age to serve his country by claiming to be 15.

    The fateful fib was only revealed following a public appeal to have a headstone erected by his grave in Comely Bank Cemetery in July last year. The youngster was born in Dewsbury in Yorkshire on 5 February 1927 but the family moved to Granton in the summer of 1939 and enrolled Reggie at Bellevue School.

    He left less than two years later to join the Merchant Navy in February 1941. Five months later he was dead.

    Now, 69 years after his death, Reggie's sister, Pauline Harvey, has contacted the War Graves Commission, after she became aware of the publicity generated by the erection of the headstone at Reggie's grave.

    Affirmation of Reggie's birthday by Mrs Harvey means the Commission can now confirm that Reggie died aged 14 years and 152 days.

    Previously, the youngest known service casualty of the war was recorded as being Raymond Steed, who was killed aged 14 years and 207 days, also whilst serving in the Merchant Navy.

    Mrs Harvey, 77, a retired teacher from Epworth in North Lincolnshire, was aged nine when her brother was killed.

    She said: "Reggie's death at such a young age and after just a few months at sea came as a great shock to the whole family.

    "I am immensely grateful to so many people who helped research my brother's forgotten story, and to the War Graves Commission for providing his grave with a headstone."

    Mrs Harvey and her great-niece Jenny were due to lay flowers at Reggie's grave today, on what would have been his 83rd birthday.

    Ranald Leask, of the CWGC said: "Having last year erected a headstone at Reggie's grave, we at the War Graves Commission are very pleased that Mrs Harvey contacted us. She will now be able to choose an inscription for her brother's headstone and provide him with a fitting final tribute."

    Mrs Harvey was also set to be introduced the families of two of Reggie's shipmates Douglas Crichton and Reg Mitchell who were killed in the same attack.

    Mr Crichton was cremated at Warriston Crematorium and Mr Mitchell is buried at Piershill Cemetery.

    A council spokesperson said: "We would consider any interesting local history story as we like to make lessons as relevant as possible for our pupils.

    "Second World War history is a key part of our Primary Seven curriculum and it's good to have a local story which provides history and colour."

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