… Question 5: SABOTAGE: Did you do any sabotage or destruction of enemy factory plant, war materials, communications etc when employed on working-parties or during escape?…


Continue reading

A little-known memorial a few hundred metres from Imperial War Museums’ Churchill War Rooms


GIVEN ITS LOCATION in the heart of central London, Imperial War Museums’ Churchill War Rooms and Museum – to give its full title – is (unsurprisingly) surrounded by monuments and memorials.

Although only a short walk from CWR on Horse Guards Parade – the place where the annual Trooping of the Colour ceremony takes place – is the little known and often ignored Royal Naval Division Memorial Fountain, by Sir Edwin Lutyens.

Lutyens was an architect responsible for a variety of building, bridges and war memorials in France, India, Ireland and the United Kingdom, where he is best known for the Cenotaph on near-by Whitehall, the place where Britain’s annual commemoration of its war dead is held.


The Royal Naval Division Memorial before the Admiralty Citadel was constructed. Image by Horace Nicholls, © IWM (Q 45787)

His design produced an elegant and most ‘unmilitary’ memorial at a time when realistic and heroic statues of ‘Tommies’ were fashionable.


“Your family will never forget you or your sacrifice…” A family tribute a century later. Image © R Maddox 2017.

On a recent wet and windy visit I found a small number of fading tributes commemorating (amongst others) Lieutenant the Honourable Vere Sidney Tudor Harmsworth who died on 13 November 1916, the first day of the Battle of Ancre and James McDonald a member of the Royal Naval Reserve who became a machine gunner.

Having previously served in the Royal Navy until a hearing problem caused him to be discharged in May 1915, Lieutenant Harmsworth volunteered for the Division and after capture in Antwerp escaped to serve at Gallipoli and then on the Western Front (1).

His father (later Lord Rothermere) later funded the 63rd Royal Naval Division memorial in Beaucourt, on the bank of the Ancre river in France (2).


The faded Cross of Remembrance for William McDonald, a resident of Deptford, south London. Image © R Maddox 2017.

The faded Cross of Remembrance honours machine gunner Able Seaman James McDonald.

Serving with 189 Machine Gun Company and the Royal Naval Division’s Hawke Battalion, he would die of wounds on 29 October 1917.

Married to Susan Edith McDonald, they lived in Deptford, south London around six miles (10km) away (3).

Winston Churchill (who had formed the Division in 1914) unveiled the monument on 25 April 1925, the tenth anniversary of the Gallipoli landings (4).

Originally situated in its present location, next to the Old Admiralty Building (OAB) it was disassembled and placed in storage – leaving only its plinth in place – to enable the construction of the adjacent Admiralty Citadel, designed as an operations centre. In the event of a German invasion it would become a strongpoint for the defence of this historic and very important part of London.

Later it became a Royal Navy communications centre.

In 1952 the stored fountain pieces were installed at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, south east London (and not far from where James McDonald had lived).

After the Royal Navy left the site, the memorial returned in 2003 and re-erected on Horse Guards Parade (5) – although now looking somewhat squeezed between the OAB and the massive fortress-like Citadel.

Churchill was very appreciative of this example of Lutyens’ work. In his unveiling address he commented:

“Everyone, I think, must admire the grace & simplicity of this Fountain, which the genius of Lutyens has designed. The site is also well chosen. Here, under the shadow of the Admiralty building, where, 11 years ago, the Royal Naval Division was called into martial life, this monument now records their fame and preserves their memory… Doubts and disillusions may be answered by the sure assertion that the sacrifice of these men was not made in vain. And this Fountain to the memory of the Royal Naval Division will give forth not only the waters of honour, but the waters of healing and the waters of hope (5).

His thoughts on the Citadel were less complimentary, calling it:
“That vast monstrosity which weighs on the Horse Guards Parade” (6).


A view of the Citadel taken on 18 May 1945. Image by Lieutenant C J Ware, official Royal Navy photographer. The building has been since covered in ivy to soften its appearance. © IWM (A 28702)


More details about the Memorial and the Royal Naval Division are available at the link below: https://greatwarlondon.wordpress.com/2012/11/29/royal-naval-division-memorial/ – Retrieved 27 July 2017


(1) http://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/news-and-latest-activity/news/2016/november/07/161107-cadet-to-be-remembered-on-the-100th-anniversay-of-his-death – Retrieved 27 July 2017

(2) http://www.webmatters.net/txtpat/?id=191 – Retrieved 27 July 2017

(3) http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/153221/McDONALD,%20JAMES – Retrieved 27 July 2017

(4) https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1392454 – Retrieved 27 July 2017

(5) https://c20society.org.uk/war-memorials/london-royal-naval-division-memorial-fountain/ – Retrieved 27 July 2017

(6)  http://www.churchill-society-london.org.uk/chtruste.htm – Retrieved 27 July 2017



Beatrice Shilling and how she helped RAF pilots to fight another day


BEATRICE SHILLING was born into a middle-class family in Waterlooville near Portsmouth in Hampshire, England in 1909 before moving with her family to Surrey in 1914.

Deciding in her early teens that she wanted to be an engineer, Beatrice left school and became an apprentice with Margaret Partridge who ran an electrical engineering company. Her company had a number of contracts with local authorities installing both domestic and industrial wiring and generators. It became apparent that her apprentice had a great talent for engineering (1).

Margarete was a member of the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) and would become its president for 1944 – 1945(2). The Society was formed in 1919 to press for women to continue to work in industry (as they had done during the First World War) and ultimately to be regarded as equal to their male counter parts.

In 1929 after three year of working with and being mentored by Margaret and after WES had helped her get her applied mathematics to the required level and given her an interest-free loan for her studies, Beatrice applied to the Victoria University in Manchester.

She was one of two women enrolling on the Electrical Engineering degree course that year – the first time the course had been open to women. She would graduate with honours in 1932 and do a post-graduate MSc in Mechanical Engineering the following year. (3)

Beatrice became a research assistant to Dr G F Mucklow in 1934, helping with his work concerning supercharging single-cylinder engines.


Beatrice in a publicity photograph used in the 1935 Norton catalogue. Image © Anne and Dennis Lock via https://www.raf.mod.uk/news/archive/the-b-in-the-rafs-bonnet-18082015.

Before going to university she had ridden and maintained her own motorcycle. At Victoria University she modified a Norton M30 500cc motorcycle by adding a supercharger and gained a Gold Star award for lapping the Brooklands motor racing circuit in Surrey at 106 miles an hour.

Joining the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE) on 25 April 1936 as a Technical Author, she would spend six months in the Technical Publications Department before transfering to the Carburettor Section of the Engine Experimental Department. (4)


Dark days ahead; Spitfires in Flight. Image © R Maddox 2017

As the RAF went into sustained combat operations in May 1940 a problem with the Rolls Royce Merlin engine equipping their latest fighters emerged.

The designers of the engine – fitted to both the early marks of Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire aircraft – had decided to use a carburettor rather than fuel injection as their German counterparts at Daimler Benz had done for the engine powering both the Messerschmitt bf 109 and Messerschmitt bf 110 fighters.

Carburettors are a vital component that ensures that fuel and air are mixed and delivered to the engine’s combustion chambers to provide optimum performance. Fuel injection does the same task but in a different way.

This design choice meant that an increase in the fuel/air density of carburettor-fed engines as opposed to their fuel injector counterparts resulting in a higher horse power to weight ratio.

However it also meant that when diving in combat the engine of the British fighters could misfire and cut out under negative gravitation as fuel pushed the carburettor needle closed. If the dive was continued then the pressure of the fuel could force the needle open and the fuel flood the engine’s combustion chambers.

Although the RAF pilots had a ‘work round’ of half rolling into the dive it was clear that a more effective solution was needed so they could fully utilise their aircraft’s potential.

Beatrice designed a restrictor plate – looking similar to a metal washer – that prevented flooding.  This together with modifications to the needle and an improvement to the float chamber to prevented the fuel and float from surging under negative gravity helped alleviate the problem.

Miss Shilling married George Naylor, an RAE mathematician (and later a pilot with RAF Bomber Command) September 1938. It is said that she would only accept his proposal after he too had lapped Brooklands racing circuit at a speed greater than 100 miles an hour!

She continued working at RAE on a variety of projects before retiring in 1969 as Head of Engineering Research Division.


Beatrice receiving her Honorary Doctorate at Surrey University in December 1969.
Image from University of Surrey Archives & Special Collections Blog.

Over the course of her career she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Surrey University (5), was a Chartered Engineer as well as being a member of WES and the Institute of Mechanical Engineers.

For her wartime work she was awarded an OBE in 1947.

Away from work she and George continued to race both motorcycles and later cars until health problems intervened. Then they took up target shooting.

She died in 1990 and was survived by her husband for another six years.


(1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women%27s_Engineering_Society retrieved 12 July 2017
(2) https://thrustvector.wordpress.com/2010/03/24/beatrice-shilling/ retrieved 12 July 2017
(3) https://ww2aircraft.net/forum/threads/spitfire-engine-failure-in-dive.12768/ retrieved 12 July 2017
(4) https://www.raf.mod.uk/news/archive/the-b-in-the-rafs-bonnet-18082015 retrieved 12 July 2017
(5) http://www.wes.org.uk/content/history/presidents-past-present retrieved 12 July 2017
(6) https://blogs.surrey.ac.uk/archives/2017/03/08/international-womens-day-the-inspirational-beatrice-shilling-2/ retrieved 12 July 2017