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Created: 25 July 2001 - Updated: 30 June 2006
Ray Holden's Story
A Narrative by Ray Holden (centre picture) on how this HMS Kite's memorial page came about, his brother Tom and how he found shipmates of Tom's.
I was a boy of thirteen when HMS Kite was sunk and I still remember how devastated I was to have lost Tom. The world might just have well come to an end. However I hid my emotions and kept them well inside until some weeks later I read the lesson for the day in the school assembly hall. I can still remember that lesson, "Give unto Caesar that which belongeth to Caesar". Something was telling me that I had to give Tom up, it wasn't any use hoping that he was going to come back and in the corridor, on my way to the classroom, all those emotions deep inside were let loose, the tears fell like rain.
In the very dark days of the Battle of the Atlantic, Tom was on leave for two or three days, he brought home with him a mate who had missed his connection to Crewe and he stayed with us overnight. His name for some reason or other was burnt into my brain. Reg Holmes, from Stoke on Trent. How I yearned to find him to find out what had happened to Tom. Reginald was one of the nine men to survive, but, as a boy, I had no idea of even where to start. In early 1950, I joined the Royal Navy at the tender age of 17, hoping that my service would lead to someone who could tell me what had happened to HMS Kite and my brother. I spent 8 years in the service but didn't find out a thing.
And so I returned to Civvy Street, to my wife and young family, but HMS Kite would not go away. I felt that Tom would not rest until we knew where he was. After writing to a local newspaper in Stoke, without any success, I turned my attention to my family's history, this really was rewarding. I found centuries of farmers and landowners and a famous Barrister and a Politician. My father had worked all his life to support his family and didn't have a penny. On the 21st August 1993, the 49th anniversary of the sinking of HMS Kite, my wife called me to the phone. A lady was enquiring about the family. This I thought, was one of the researchers I had been using. Instead I was given the third degree! Did I live in Cherry Orchard when I was a boy? Did I have a brother who lost his life on HMS Kite? I was able to answer a positive yes and then she told me that her husband wanted to speak to me. Straight away I told her I knew who that person was, Reg Holmes, and so it was. Reginald spoke to me through his tears, telling me he hadn't lost a mate - he had lost even more. Tom had been like a brother to him. Reg came to see me the following morning and what a meeting that was! Through Reg I was introduced to Clem Bray who was running a small HMS Kite Association.
This man, although he served only a few months on HMS Kite, has done so much to keep their memories alive, he deserves a medal as big as a bloody dustbin lid! It was he who organised a 45th Remembrance Service at Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral, attended by veterans of the 2nd Escort Group and also the Swordfish pilot who sank U344, Gordon Bennett. And then Clem came up with another classic, a 50th Remembrance Service at Gloucester Cathedral. (Amanda Jones is the grand daughter of Albert Edward Read who died aboard Kite. She tells me that she organised the Gloucester Memorial Service with a lot of help from Clem Bray.) It was here that I met Lionel Irish, he took me to one side and told me something he had not spoken about before. Tom, a great mate of his, had died alongside him on board HMS Keppel. At last ghosts could be put to rest, but I fear that the full story will never be told because crew members of HMS Keppel who I have spoken to do not recall any burials. The 5 men who died on board that destroyer were probably put over the side, which is what I would expect when a ship is still actively hunting U Boats; their departed comrades would not have wanted them to risk their own lives. And yet the Admiralty still insist that these men are missing, presumed dead. The log book of HMS Keppel would have recorded the deaths as would the Medical Officers Journal. (Signals to the Admiralty from Keppel confirm the deaths and subsequent burials at sea - see Kite Board1.)
In 1994, at the slipway in the dockyard at Plymouth, Clem came up with another, last classic. A presentation in front of the veterans of Walkers Group, a ships crest of HMS Kite, presented to the Church at HMS Drake, in safe keeping and in remembrance of the 217 Johnnie Walker Pirates who died with HMS Kite. I formed part of the escort party with Lionel Irish. Reg could not attend because his wife was very ill. Shortly afterwards, Reg lost his beloved Betty, the angel who brought us together. The names of the men of HMS Kite need to be written in the sky for all to see, these were the real heroes of the Group, those who gave their lives. Ray Holden July 2001.
Ray contacted me after seeing an email requesting information about Captain Walker RN on www.militaryhistoryonline.com and then finding my page about the "Boss". These pages are the result of that conversation. When I was typing this up for the net, in spite of the sombre accounts, I burst out laughing when I reached the part about the Swordfish pilot attending the service in Liverpool. I had this mental picture of a Fairey Swordfish coming onto U344 - the U Boat Captain or lookout, looking up and shouting "Gordon Bennett!" (It was, in fact, the pilots name!). Why the laughter? Here in the UK, "Gordon Bennett" is an exclamation of surprise, of shock!! I wonder if Tom put that into my mind?? Hmm, just think what might have not happened if Reg had caught his train to Crewe that night. Ray would not have had any leads - I would not be typing this. Mike Kemble. July 29 2001.
Tom Holden's Medals
1. 1939 - 45 Star; 2. Atlantic Star; 3. Victory in Europe; 4. Malta Campaign;
5, Russian Convoys.
The following images are from Ray, on a Liverpool visit in July 2005, 61 years
after the death of HMS Kite. In the background on images 3 & 4 can be seen the
birthplace of HMS Kite,