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Lest We Forget

08 January 2015
 

With the 100th Anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War, the conversation in the admin room inevitably turned to war.  Did anyone have a relative who had served in either of the World Wars? The answer - yes!

We’d like to share with you the story of Lorraine Paul’s Grandad, William McAlonie, pictured here as a young recruit, who had a long and distinguished career in the Royal Navy during WW2. 

The details have been lovingly researched by Lorraine’s Mum and Stepdad, Hazel and John Sweeney.

"William McAlonie, Bill as he was always known, volunteered to join the Royal Navy at the onset of WW2. 

He was posted to HMS Formidable, an aircraft carrier built by Harland and Wolff in Belfast and launched in 1939.

Bill served as an armourer, whose duties included loading bombs on to aircraft and replenishing the gun ammunition.

HMS Formidable initially escorted a convoy to Cape Town, South Africa then returned to the Mediterranean and took part in the Battle of Cape Matapan 27-29 March 1941, Italy’s greatest defeat at sea. 

Convoy duties again followed supporting operations in Crete, where the carrier was badly damaged.  After repairs in the USA, she joined the Eastern Fleet in the Indian Ocean until August 1942. 

Formidable again returned to the Mediterranean, taking part in the Sicily landings in July 1943 and the Salermo landings in September 1943.

Her next action was to escort an Arctic convoy and then on 17 November 1943 she was again in action in the Mediterranean, sinking the German U-boat U-331. 

The carrier was refitted between January and June 1944 and on 17 July 1944 her aircraft took part in Operation Mascot, the attack on the German battleship Tirpitz in Norway.

After a stopover at Gibraltar for repairs, Formidable joined the British Pacific Fleet taking part in air strikes against the Japanese at Sakishima Gunto. 

In May 1945 she was hit by kamikazes but her aircraft were able to resume operations a few hours later.  These same aircraft would later take part in air strikes against the Japanese Home Islands."

 

"By now Bill was a hardened veteran with campaign medals for the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans as well as the Burma Star and the Italian and North African Campaigns (pictured).  Bill was also mentioned in dispatches.

After Demob Bill met and married Jesse, went to work in the local pit and raised a family.  He never missed a Remembrance Parade with the British Legion and in 2000, a year before his death, he flew to London to take part in the Centenary Remembrance celebrations. 

We remember him as a quiet, proud, hard-working man who did what he had to for his country and the people he loved."

 

We're sure you'll agree, Bill was a remarkable man.  Lorraine’s Grandad also fortunately kept lots of pictures of his time in the Navy which have really brought his story to life for the family and for us. 

Perhaps you have an interesting story about a relative who served his/her country which you would like to share with our subscribers – if so please contact Jane Carmichael on jcarmichael@springfords.com

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