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Created: 10 May 2003 Updated 15 March 2013
Copyright ©  Mike Kemble



And Braintree Services

May 2003

Captain Walker's Old Boys Association held a Memorial Service this month (May 2003) in Bootle. It was attended by Captain Pat Walker RN, his grandson. This occasion, however, was slightly different, as the Service and wreath laying was also to pay particular homage to the lads who died aboard HMS Kite. Kite had never really been officially included, as far as I am aware, in previous CWOBA Services partly due to the fact that Kite was sunk when on a separate mission to 2nd Escort Group, on Russian convoy escort in August 1944. However, she was and always will be, one of Walkers ships, and he commanded her on at least one occasion during his mission to seek and destroy the U Boat menace during the Battle of the Atlantic. It is only right and proper that HMS Kite be remembered in this way - as one of "Walkers' Own". I hope to be visiting Merseyside in the near future and will take some images of my own of various places, including Bootle.

An Email from Ray Holden on the events described and illustrated here. The CWOBA service is held every year at Kings Gardens, Bootle, at the War Memorial there. Last year I had the pleasure of attending with Lionel Irish, I couldn't help but feel that there was something missing, HMS Kite and those 217 lost men. Wreaths were laid every year for That very remarkable man, Captain Johnnie Walker, and rightly so. But those men of Kite were the only men lost in combat from the 2nd Escort Group, Johnnie Walker lost not one single man in combat. I made up my mind then that she would be recognised.
Prior to this years service I contacted Pat Marsh Secretary to CWOBA and made my suggestion of a wreath and she acknowledge what a wonderful idea it was. Pat made the arrangements for the wreath to be made and for its provision at Kings Gardens with an escort to carry it to Lionel. I would like to say that put to the vote of CWOBA committee it was overwhelmingly accepted. Although several high ranking officers were available to lay the wreath I chose Lionel, he had experienced the trauma of that fateful day, they were all his shipmates. I felt proud of my achievements but in my heart I felt that there was someone there even prouder than me. This is the man who prays for his shipmates every single day. In a way this was a reconciliation Kite was back were she belonged, with her 2nd Support Group. For the first time in over 58 years Kite had been honoured. The Admiral Flag Officer shows great interest in Kite and so does Captain Patrick Walker and all other officers and members of the public who received a leaflet from me. I feel that lots more people will be coming in, perhaps an Admiral on the Guest Book. Over 3000 people attended and many officers from the Russian ship anchored in the Mersey were there, so was a Russian TV crew who soon sorted Lionel out for an interview. The Commanding Officer of HMS Invincible was there and some of the crew. Alan McMillan made a last minute dash from Ireland via Holyhead to meet up with us. A coffee morning followed in Bootle Town hall were we had a chance to meet more friends. I also had a discussion with the Mayor about a future Kite event and he gave me some contact numbers, this event will be a visual memorial to those men of Kite in the safe keeping of the people of Bootle.



The CWOBA will be voting soon for a wreath to be provided to HMS Kite every year. I am very proud of my achievements regarding the ship and her crew, 58 years ago I was a broken hearted schoolboy, on Saturday I was a proud Royal Navy veteran honouring the men of HMS Kite. The memorial pages on the website are truly very remarkable, in as much that they contain so much information, no other site exists to even match it, I gave Mike Kemble history and he turned it into news and he thoroughly deserves what he now has, the finest Royal Navy website on the internet. Thank you Mike for all that you have done to bring Kite and her lost crew back from the dustbin of history.


The wreaths: HMS Invincible; CWOBA;People of Bootle for Capt Walker; RNA;
HMS Kite (Ray Holden & Lionel Irish) 

Lionel Irish lays the Wreath to commemorate his shipmates

HMS Kite
 

Flag Officer Liverpool

Flag Officer Liverpool Lays Wreath

Lionel pays his respects to his lost shipmates

HMS Kite wreath in remembrance of 217 of her crew

Captain Patrick Walker RN Captain Walker's wreath

VIP's to the right; Alan McMillan and Lionel Irish in the middle of the image.

Conducting the Service

Service by the Official Padre to the CWOBA - gives his services free

Service Scenes

Service Scenes

Service Scenes

Service Scenes

VIPs to the right, incl Russian Officers

Commanding Officer HMS Invincible

Commanding Officer HMS Invincible

Mr Carter, Chairman of the CWOBA

A good shot of the VIPs

Memorial

Memorial

Service Scenes

CWOBA Veterans

Last Post?

Wreaths on order L to R: HMS Invincible; CWOBA;People of Bootle for Capt Walker; RNA;
HMS Kite (Ray Holden & Lionel Irish) 

Cadet with Kite wreath Lionel receives the Kite wreath from the cadet

Wreath Laying - Lionel Irish Lionel pays his respects
Lionel Irish Lionel with Captain Patrick Walker
Ray Holden, Lionel Irish and Captain Patrick Walker Similar Scene
Similar Scene Kite Wreath
Kite Wreath General scene following Service.
Another image of Lionel with Captain Patrick Walker Ray Holden (L) Lionel Irish (R) The gent in the centre lost his father on HMS Kite
Same as previous image Captain Walker addresses those assembled
HMS Kite Battle Flag Plaque A slightly side on view of HMS Kite Battle Flag Plaque
HMS Kite Battle Flag General Chase Pennant Plaque
General Chase General Chase
Ray, Lionel & Capt Walker Lionel & Ray by the Memorial
Lionel & Ray Alan McMillan; Lionel and Ray
Alan, Lionel & Ray

Friend of Lionel, Lionel & Ray

Ray about to hand a leaflet promoting this site to Capt Walker, 25 went to Admirals!

Lionel & Ray talk to The Admiral Flag Officer

Lionel & Ray at Bootle Town Hall Doors

Ray Holden talks to the Mayor, Captain Patrick Walker to the rear, talks to Lionel Irish, survivor HMS Kite

The above photographs come from Alan McMillan & Ray Holden

I visited Bootle on 8 July 2003 and took this image, all the trappings removed and wreaths gone

Braintree Memorial Services 2003  - 2011


Lionel Irish

On 26th November 2003, I travelled down to Braintree in Essex at the invitation of Ray Holden to attend what was described to me as a presentation with Lionel Irish, one of only two remaining survivors of the sinking of HMS Kite on 21st August 1944. The other being Reg Holmes. I did not know but HMS Kite "belonged" to Braintree as, in 1942, Braintree had held a War Week to raise enough money to "buy" a warship. The ship in question was HMS Kite. I arrived in Braintree just before the rush hour started and soon found the hotel in the centre of town. Ray and his sister, Lionel and his wife, arrived shortly afterwards and I finally got to meet Lionel. Lionel is a hero, as were his shipmates, but he does not want this attention, preferring to remain, modestly, in the background. He greeted me most warmly and offered me a glass of "Pussers" to which I looked puzzled. It was rum - of the highest quality. Typical sailor!! We talked, the five of us, for a while and then retired to prepare to go out for a meal where we were joined by Rob Rose of the Braintree Museum and his girl friend Gemma.  A joke here for Lionel - What has 4 children and laughs a lot?


Braintree Town Hall

After the meal, which was very kindly provided by Ray Holden, we finally made our way back to the hotel, 5 minutes away, where Lionel entertained Rob and Gemma with a Cornish joke! Lionel hails from Hayle, Cornwall, pardon the pun, where, coincidently, my sister now lives, in Praze. Lionel insisted I had another glass of that potent rum. before I retired to bed. The following morning we had breakfast and headed to the Town Hall, from where the others went to look at the town and I headed to the museum where I met Rob and checked the HMS Kite section in the museum and took some photographs. I saw a very fine Roll of Honour which Ray Holden had donated to the town. I then returned to the Town Hall where I met Alan McMillan who had flown over for the event from Dublin.


Andrew Gladwell & Alan McMillan

At about 1030 the others returned to the Town Hall and, after a cup of tea,  Rob Rose took us over the museum to meet the Press. A nice lady from the Essex Chronicle, a gent from Anglia TV and some other reporters mingled about interviewing members of the party. Here we were joined by the two sons of one of the 9 survivors, Frank Webb. One of them, Rob,  flew in from Canada for the occasion. The other brother was Steve. In a classroom next door were a group of children, dressed in Victorian clothes attending a Victorian style class, very picturesque. A little later on, Lionel, myself and Ray were taken outside where Lionel and Ray were properly interviewed and the three of us photographed for the press and TV.  Lionel was naturally rather reluctant to divulge much of what he actually went through in those freezing Arctic waters, but opened up in answer to the questioning. He answered many queries that floated about and put a few "mysteries" to rest. A special thank you to that annoying taxi driver in Braintree who persisted in blowing his horn during the interview - deliberately I might add. I hope you live to realise the error of your ways.


Lionel Talks to Anglia TV

After the Press had got their articles and video and images, we returned to the museum for a while to chat with many of the people who had turned up. I learnt from one gent how the Braintree Museum exhibition came about. He had been left a folder in someone's will and when he opened it found documents and photographs on HMS Kite. These, he donated to the museum and now stand in perpetual memory of both the Braintree Sloop and her brave crew.


Rob Rose formally accepts the plaque from Lionel Irish on behalf of the Council, Museum and People of  Braintree.
Rob & Steve Webb stand in the background

On returning to the Town Hall we had the formal presentation from Lionel Irish to the museum and people of Braintree of a heavy brass plaque depicting the crest of HMS Kite. The inscription:

PRESENTED BY LIONEL IRISH SURVIVOR OF HMS KITE IN MEMORY OF ALL HIS LOST SHIPMATES.


At this point Ray surprised me by presenting me with a beautifully framed smaller print of the painting he had commissioned on which he had added the crests of Walkers' sloops. I was very surprised to say the least! We sat and chatted for quite a while, Lionel telling his "cornish joke" to anyone who would listen. Lets just say it was not exactly a joke "for the ladies" and leave it at that! Lionel recounted many varied and interesting anecdotes during the afternoon until, regretably, it became time to call it a day and prepare to leave Braintree for our respective homes. We said our goodbyes after exchanging addresses, email addresses, information and phone numbers and headed for the cars. Alan was to head off for his train to Stansted for his flight back to Dublin, the brothers Webb departed and I entered the modern world again with the traffic and roadworks abounding on the A120 outside Braintree.

Another view of Braintree Museum, showing the statue of John Ray.
Aerial view of Cammell Lairds Shipyard on the River Mersey, Birkenhead, birthplace of HMS Kite. Copied from one of the folders on the exhibit table.
Ray Holden says a few words whilst Rob Rose looks at the Lionel Irish plaque.
Rob Rose catches Lionel out with a present, quite unexpected.
Lionel with his present. A very tolerant Kathleen Irish looks on!!
Taken by Rob Webb, the Roll of Honour
Another Rob Webb Image: Lionel with Plaque for Press Photo's
Lionel
Lionel
Ray, Rob Rose, Lionel and Myself for Anglia TV
Lionel with Rob Webb
Steve Webb, Lionel and Rob Webb
Kathleen Irish
Lionel
Ray makes a surprise presentation to me, a framed miniature of the HMS Kite painting he commissioned. I was astounded to say the least! Image: Ray Holden
Lionel with his present from Braintree council, presented by Rob Rose. Image: Ray Holden
The Group. Left To Right: Andrew Gladwell, Rob Rose, Lionel Irish, Mike Kemble, Ray Holden and Alan McMillan. Image: Ray Holden
Another view of the Roll of Honour. Image from Ray Holden.
Mike Kemble, caught unawares. Its a wonder the camera still worked! I won't be modelling for RN Monthly! Image: Ray Holden.
The story of Lionel, 4 kids and giggling came from this dinner! (No story really, just an "in" joke) Image: Ray Holden.
Kathleen Irish and Ray's sister, Shirley. Image: Ray Holden
Gemma and Rob Rose. Image: Ray Holden
Lionel and Pamela Norman who lost a brother on HMS Kite. Image: Ray Holden
Image from Alan McMillan. This shows the relationship between HMS Kite and Braintree and is posted on the Museum Wall in the corridor near the Victorian classroom.
Another Image from Alan McMillan. Left to Right, Lionel and Kathleen Irish, Ray Holden, Mike Kemble and Rays sister, Shirley.

Just one of the newspaper articles of this event. This is a large file so it may take some time to download if your using a telephone line modem. I have others but they are too large to scan properly. My thanks to Andrew Gladwell, Braintree District Council, for this and other cuttings of this momentous day. This cutting is from the Evening Gazette, Braintree & Witham, dated Mon December 1st 2003. Reporter: Ben Attenborough.

Rudyard Kipling wrote a poem which forms part of the title of a booklet "The Price of Admiralty" by C J Thompson MA
This is on sale from the museum at £2.50

"We have fed our sea for a thousand years
And she calls us, still unfed,
Though there's never a wave of all her waves
But marks our English dead:
We have strawed our best to the weed's unrest,
To the shark and the sheering gull.
If blood be the price of admiralty,
Lord God, we ha' paid in full"

 

Braintree District Museum — Information Sheet No 1  Braintree and HMS Kite


The Kite was constructed during the Second World War as a sloop, being better armed than a corvette and slightly smaller than a destroyer. She was the eleventh vessel to ever bear that name. Her role was to act as a convoy escort and submarine chaser. Kite was ordered on 27 March 1940 as part of the 1940 Build Programme. Her keel was laid on 25 September 1941 at the well-known Cammell Laird yard at Birkenhead and work was completed on 1 March 1943. After a successful Warship Week’ National Savings campaign in March 1942 Kite was officially adopted by Braintree and Bocking in Essex. She was eventually launched by Mrs Cooper on 13 October 1942.


After completion, Kite undertook her trials and commissioning in the River Mersey. After being accepted into service, Kite went to Tobermory for gun trials. In the first week of April 1943, Kite became a founding member of the Second Escort Group based at Liverpool and was initially deployed with the group in support for the defence of Atlantic convoys. Kite initially supported the safe passage of Convoy HX233 that was under threat of the SPECHT group of German U-boats.

The Bay of Biscay and the Atlantic

After the fall of France in May 1940. Germany was able to send submarines to attack the allied fleet from their bases at Brest and St Nazaire direct into the Bay of Biscay. The Bay was therefore an area of some considerable strategic importance with both navies employing sophisticated means to detect and destroy vessels. By 1943, German submarines were operating in groups to reach an area of the mid-Atlantic known as the Atlantic Gap. Here, they could operate with relative ease although they had to remain submerged in waters that were regularly patrolled by surface escort groups like the one that Kite had joined in early 1943. It was at this point that Captain Walker took command of Kite. At the end of July, Kite rescued survivors from German submarine U462 and the group also sunk U461 and U504. In late October 1943, the group continued its escort duties resulting in the sinking of two U-boats off the Canadian coast near St. Johns. Meanwhile, Kite had been repaired at both Londonderry and Liverpool. On 8-9 February 1944, three more U-boats were destroyed off the West coast of Ireland with Kite playing a major part in the sinking of U-734. Towards the end of February, she was transferred to Greenock where she became part of the 7 Escort Group.

D-Day
After completion of repairs, Kite was ordered to escort an assault convoy across the English Channel as part of the D-Day operations on 6 June 1944. She remained in this role until July during which time she undertook work that was totally different from her Atlantic convoy work. Arctic Convoys Kite was built primarily to escort Atlantic convoys but in August 1944, she focussed her attention on providing convoy duties in the Arctic. Hitler’s invasion of Russia resulted in Churchill promising to supply Russia with war materials. The most obvious way of transporting these supplies was by sea over the top of Norway but this route was prone to severe winter weather conditions. The German occupation of Norway was also a threat as the deep Fjords provided suitable bases for Hitler’s submarines and warships.

At the time when Kite started her Arctic convoy duty, the power of the Luftwaffe and surface vessels was on the decline and they were no longer deemed to be a major threat. Kite was detailed to escort the JW.59 group which was the first convoy to depart after D-Day. On 21 August 1944, members of the German Trutz submarine group placed themselves across the route of convoy JW.59. A German Junkers Ju88 aircraft reported the convoy east of Jan Mayen Island. The Trutz Group then started to attack the convoy.  U-344 closed in on the warships and with torpedoes launched, the Kite was hit by two of them and began to sink fast in the icy seas. The Kite took just 90 seconds to sink and with her she took the majority of her crew. Just a handful of survivors were to be seen in the unforgiving sea. Aftermath The icy and hostile waters of the Arctic meant that there would be few survivors from Kite’s crew of 226. Only 16 men (most sources claim only 14 rescued) were pulled from the sea by the Keppel. Of these, 7 (or 5) died of wounds or exposure before the ship docked. Just 9 men survived the sinking of the Kite. The survivors were:

Able Seaman Bonsall
Leading Seaman Bradley
Able Seaman Brannigan
Able Seaman Holmes
Able Seaman Irish
Able Seaman Johnson
Petty Officer Payne
Ordinary Seaman Sharples
Able Seaman Webb


Despite offers to transfer to the cruiser Jamaica, the survivors stayed aboard the Keppel and endured more action when the Keppel participated in the sinking of U-394 on the homeward journey. Later, a Court of Enquiry found that the main cause of the Kite’s sinking was the German torpedoes! But a contributory factor had been Kite’s slow speed of just 6 knots as she had slowed down to disentangle lines leading to the ‘stinger’ device that she was pulling. Reg Holmes testified that the speed was actually only 4 knots.

HMS Kite

Displacement 1350 tons
Dimensions
Length 299 ft. 6 in.
Beam 38ft. 6in.
Armament
3x Twin 4 in. guns
2x 2-Pounder 4 barrel pom-poms
2x 20mm. Oerlikon AA guns
2x .3in. Twin machine guns
2x Stern rollers, 2 light and 2 heavy rail throwers for
depth charges
Machinery Geared turbines
Design Speed 1975 knots
Kite’s range was 8,600 miles at 10 knots and 6000 miles at 15 knots
For more information read

Thompson, Christopher J. The Price of Admiralty, The Story of HMS Kite — the Warship adopted by Braintree in World War 2, 2001.
Kemp, Paul Convoy — Drama in Arctic Waters
McMurtrie, F. Ships of the Royal Navy, 1947
Barringer, E. E. Alone on a Wide, Wide Sea
Hague, Arnold Sloops 1926-1 946
The HMS Kite Archive held at Braintree District Museum.

Visit Braintree District Museum where a small display tells the story of the Kite and its adoption as Braintree’s own warship.

Braintree District Museum is open Monday to Saturday l0am to 5pm including Bank Holidays. Telephone number (01376) 325266.

Reproduced by kind permission of Robert Rose. Nov 27th 2003.

Braintree:  http://www.braintree.btinternet.co.uk/braintree.html
 

Dec 2003. Received an email from John Murray who reports on the following piece of information: Just been rereading some of the Kite history again. Came across a book you mention "The Price of Admiralty" by CJ Thompson who at one point in his description of the sinking, indulges in quite unnecessary inaccuracy by writing "the small ice-covered warships heaving in freezing seas". Yes, even in August the sea was pretty cold, but there was no ice visible, in the water or on the ships. I' m not sure what he knew about sloops - he must have been thinking of corvettes or even armed trawlers! The sea was almost an oily calm that morning , visibility was good and the temperature was anything but cold - probably about 8 or 10 degrees (centigrade) - I was on morning watch on B gun deck when the sinking occurred on the other side and just astern of the convoy. John served aboard HMS Keppel.

Braintree Memorial - 21 Aug 2004

60th Anniversary Sinking of HMS Kite

I was unable to attend this event due to work commitments, but Steve Webb very kindly has provided me with a narrative of the event, as well as some photos.
Ray Holden has also sent some of these images. My thanks - MK

Here are some of the photos taken at today's unveiling of the HMS Kite memorial stone at Braintree & Bocking public gardens. An excellent turnout was achieved with approximately 80 people from all over the UK including visitors from Canada and Australia who made the special trip. Following the unveiling by Lionel Irish all guests then gathered at Braintree Council House for lunch, opportunity to view the small exhibition and to exchange/listen to the fascinating stories that many of the guests had to tell. (Especially Lionel!!! - mk)

Following lunch an opportunity to either participate in a guided tour of Braintree to learn about its history, buildings and rather unusually, its high number of Pubs (51 at its highest point) or alternatively a tour of the Braintree Museum and viewing of their D-Day landings exhibition. Finally everyone met back at the Museum for tea/coffee and to bid farewell to friends new and old. Although a day for remembrance; the day was happy, well organised, informative and above all very very enjoyable. Steve Webb.

This is Steve Webb, son of Frank Webb, HMS Kite survivor. Steve and I have met at a couple of functions. His brother Rob, resides in Canada.

 

The people of Braintree, not as large a town as it is now, raised £150,000 to purchase a warship. That warship was HMS Kite.
The amount was a princely sum in those days, especially for such a "small town".

Braintree Memorial -  August 2008

64th Anniversary of HMS Kite

And Nov 2009 and 2010

On this occasion a roll of honour was added to the memorial ensuring that all 217 names and J Crompton (lost at sea)
will be remembered both collectively and individually.

         
         
         
         
         
The above images
were from
Steve Webb
 
The following
from

Ray Holden
 
     
         
         
         
         
    Braintree 2009     
         
         
    Braintree 2010     
         
         
         
         
    Braintree 2011