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News > Announcements > Obituaries > RICHARD LLEWELLYN (39-43)

RICHARD LLEWELLYN (39-43)

8 Mar 2021
Obituaries

Richard C. Llewellyn (39-43) died peacefully at home in the Wirral in February 2021, aged 95. He is survived by his partner Elly, his first wife Alice (née McInnes) and their three children Mark, Victoria and Jonathan.

His nephew David Craddock (58-62) writes: “Richard was my uncle and entered Pangbourne as war broke out in September 1939. At the NCP he became a Cadet Leader in Macquarie division and was in the MN form. In his holidays he was far from idle. A letter of September
1940 from the Air Raid Precautions Department of Esher Urban District Council commends him for “the splendid gesture of giving up so much of your holidays to this useful and essential work.”

As a Cadet RNR in wartime, Richard was bound to serve with the Royal Navy when he left the NCP aged 17. A spell at Greenwich Royal Naval College and a short gunnery course at Chatham followed his departure from Pangbourne in May 1943 before he joined his first ship, the battleship HMS Howe, at Scapa Flow in September.

The pages of Richard’s Midshipman’s Journal for the period aboard Howe have not survived but his journal, now in the Imperial War Museum (IWM), is picked up again on 1 st January 1944. By then he had been posted to the Leander Class Light Cruiser HMS Ajax of the 1939 Battle of the River Plate fame. The journal is full of the routine detail of a Midshipman’s life aboard one of His Majesty’s busier ships: gunnery practice, night action stations, more gunnery practice, running liberty boats, torpedo exercises and copying up the fair log.

Ajax deployed to the Mediterranean from the end of January until May 1944, during which time she provided gunfire support for the stalled landings on the Anzio beachhead in Italy and sent a boarding party to supress a mutiny aboard the Greek warship HS Georgios Averof in Alexandria. Everything, including a description of the eruption of Vesuvius seen from Naples, is written up in the formal prose of the journal. On the next deployment with Bombardment Force K off the Normandy Beaches, however, Richard gives us the most vivid account of his service aboard Ajax. By this stage he was the Navigator’s ‘Tanky’ and his action station was at the heart of ship on the bridge.

Contemporaneously, and probably illegally, Richard kept a hand-written diary (also in the IWM), that attests to the visceral experience and din of continuous gunfire, rocket fire and occasional air-attack seen through the eyes of an 18-year-old Midshipman. On 6 th June, to give an example, he describes a low-level attack by a JU88 at 2315 hours: “Heavy flack of all descriptions coming from all around. Marvellous Brocks [a brand of firework] show. Many bombs dropped on shore and in water; an amazing sight.” Apart from a daylight dash to Plymouth to re-ammunition on 9th June, Ajax remained off the Normandy beaches until 21st June before a quick refit at Portsmouth with new gun barrels and a return to the Mediterranean.

In contrast to Operation Neptune, Richard found the action off the beaches of Southern France for Operation Dragoon in August 1944 “very tame compared to Normandy!” Further adventures in the eastern Mediterranean followed, including taking the surrender of the German garrison on Santorini amid “much cheering and kissing by the locals en route.” That October Richard, still a Midshipman, joined the ‘Hunt’ class destroyer HMS Easton as Navigating Officer. Being under 21, he was ineligible for promotion to Sub Lieutenant.

Easton was tasked with bombardment of communist forces near Piraeus during the early stages of the civil war in Greece before returning to UK where she spent the last months of World War 2 with the 21 st Destroyer Flotilla based at Sheerness protecting Allied supply convoys to Antwerp. VJ day brought relief from an intended deployment to the Far East. The next eight months, until his demobilisation in April 1946, were devoted to ferrying Lend-Lease destroyers back to the US and German POWs from Larne to Stranraer on an LST on their way to repatriation. He had certainly packed a lot into 35 months since leaving Pangbourne.

After the war, Richard worked for a short period for Glaxo, now GSK, in Co Durham. Marriage in 1952 to Alice McInnes was followed by a move to Southern Rhodesia, working with an agricultural seed supplier and fund-raising for the British Red Cross. In 1960 he returned to the UK and began a series of business initiatives that led to the purchase and turnaround of the Banbury printing firm of HE Boddy, before a move to Devon in 1973 where he again built from scratch a thriving print business on the Dartington Hall Estate.

In his leisure time in Devon Richard was either on or under the water, when not taking part in local amateur dramatics of which he was a keen supporter. He became a qualified Diving Instructor and an enthusiastic champion of the British Sub-Aqua Club. In 1995 he moved to the Wirral with his partner Elly in 1995 and re-connected with his brief but intense wartime experience in the Royal Naval Reserve by becoming an active member of the Normandy Veterans Association. As such he made several commemorative visits to the Normandy beaches and raised funds for the D Day 75 Garden at the Chelsea Hospital.

Like many of his generation, Richard’s self-effacing reflections in media interviews around the time of the 75th Anniversary of D Day felt both poignant and genuine. But among all the experiences he recalled, and despite the pride his pride in receiving the Légion d’Honneur, it was an event that involved “cycling around in my tin hat with dog fights going on over my head” as a 15-year-old ARP messenger on holiday from the NCP that stood out as “the most exciting time of my war.” And he got paid for it - 47 hours at 7d per hour (just over £4.00 in today’s money) plus one hour at 9d.!

To read more on Richard’s wartime experiences go to https://d-dayrevisited.co.uk/veterans/richard-llewellyn/ 

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