AB D J44626 Frederick Bentley RN - Mystery Following POW Sinking 1941

Discussion in 'The War at Sea' started by Stephen Bentley, Aug 22, 2016.

  1. Hello

    I am wondering if anyone knowledgeable can help me out with this. The 'AB' in the title is my paternal grandfather. I am currently researching his naval service from 1916 to 1945.

    After his ship the Prince of Wales was sunk in December 1941 his naval record (attached) entry seems to be at odds with the previous entries.

    First of all it appears in "wish washy" handwriting and I suspect, but don't know, it has been altered in some way. It is also a single entry covering the whole time span between the sinking and his demob and pension in 1945. I find that very strange. There are no other ships shown or shore establishments. There is a date "from" showing the Lucia but no date "to". I am aware that the Lucia was a submarine depot ship.

    I also would appreciate any help with the meaning of the last entry: "Released in Class A A&S Group 6 16/10/45 S 161 R Drake".

    For the sake of completeness, I add that I only met him once when I was a kid and my father never spoke about him.

    I did learn from other sources that he had spent some time in Ceylon after the sinking and had been in the water for a considerable time surrounded by sharks before he was rescued.

    I would be grateful for any expert insight into this last entry, the "Lucia" and any leads to what may have happened to him in the immediate aftermath of the loss of the Prince of Wales.

    My research into the loss of the POW is complete mainly owing to the excellent Force Z Survivors website.

    The image of the entry I am referring to is attached.



    Attached Files:

  2. spidge


    Not my area at all however are there crew lists for naval ships that could fill in some of the gaps?

    The "Lucia" would certainly have reported all those rescued and although damaged at Ceylon, she survived the war.

    If he was in Ceylon then surely there should be reports somewhere in the archives as it was a most important base for the Allied navies.

    Allied Warships of WWII - Submarine Depot Ship HMS Lucia - uboat.net
    HMS Lucia (F 27)
    "During the Second World War she served in the far east. Damaged during a Japanese air attack on Colombo in April 1942.

    Later in the war she became a "small ship" (up to destroyers) repair ship. Sold in 1948 to become the merchant Sinai.
    Scrapped in La Spezia, Italy on 5 January 1951.

    Commander From To
    1 Capt. James Frank William Mudford, RN 21 Aug 1939 10 Dec 1939
    2 Cdr. Sidney Moffat Raw, RN Oct 1939 3 May 1940
    3 A/Cdr. (retired) Charles Richard de Bunsen Loftus Townshend, RN 3 May 1940 17 Mar 1942
    4 Cdr. Robert Michael Gore Gambier, RN 17 Mar 1942 2 Apr 1943
    5 A/Cdr. (retired) Gerald Hugh Stapleton, RN 2 Apr 1943 Dec 1945


    CL1 likes this.
  3. Hugh MacLean

    Hugh MacLean Senior Member

    Hello and welcome,

    At the end of the war personnel would be released under two classes: Class A and Class B. Most were released under Class A, the criteria being their dob and date their war service began. Each serviceman was allocated a Release Group Number. These group numbers then determined their demobilisation date. Your grandfather was released in Class A [Age and Service Group 6] on 16/10/1945. His Form S.161R [change of status, in this case demob] was sent to HMS DRAKE.
    I presume you already have his service record from 1916?

    Last edited: Aug 22, 2016
    CL1 likes this.
  4. Thanks Geoff.

    RN Crew Lists are not easy to come by for WW2. So far I have found a site that has them but only for 1908. But good idea and I'm working on it.
  5. Cheers Hugh! That was helpful :)
  6. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    F Bentley in the UK, Naval Medal and Award Rolls, 1793-1972
    Name: F Bentley
    Medal or Award: RN Long Service and Good conduct Medal
    Service Year: 1930-1933

    Attached Files:

    Stephen Bentley likes this.
  7. Thank you so much. Really appreciated.

    I am now on the track of the Admiralty Ship's Logs at TNA. The Lucia has a log for December 1941 so I'm hoping that there is an entry about taking on new crew from survivors of the Prince of Wales in Singapore. We will see :)
    spidge likes this.
  8. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin

    Take a look at this website which has three photographs, two of the ship and one believed taken in Ceylon in 1945 showing the whole ships company.
    Submarine Depot Ships
    Hope it is of some help.
    spidge and Stephen Bentley like this.
  9. Thanks Tom. I did find that site and the photo. It's impossible to make out faces on the photo unfortunately.

    The thing I am having trouble with is how and when and in what circumstances did he join the company of the Lucia.

    We know that the Prince of Wales was sunk on 11/12/41 and he joined the Lucia on the same date according to his naval record. That in itself seems remarkable as over 2000 survivors from the POW and Repulse were first taken to a hospital in Singapore. The critically injured stayed there and some captured by the Japanese at the fall of Singapore.

    Some went to Penang to help out the Army there.
    Quote "Detachments of Royal Naval personnel (mainly ex PRINCE OF WALES and REPULSE) were despatched to Penang by rail in order to assist in restoring communications (particularly ferries) and moral." - Naval History.net

    "ERINPURA sailed from Singapore for Colombo with 30 officers, 700 men ex PRINCE OF WALES and REPULSE, and some women and children evacuees, escorted by DURBAN, DRAGON, and VAMPIRE" - From <Royal Navy, China Station, December 1941 to March 1942, Admiral Layton's Diary>

    It appears, again according to his record, that he spent the rest of the war on board the Lucia. According to one crew member's account I found, that ship never fired a gun or was fires at between 1942 - 1945. Just what my Granddad needed!

    But it does appear remarkable that his record shows this swift transition (on the same day) from the Prince of Wales to the Lucia.

    Of course, I appreciate I may never find the answer but I'm going to have a damn good try!

    Many thanks for your help especially as it's not your usual area of expertise.

    Smudger Jnr likes this.
  10. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin

  11. Thank you once more! I will post a message on there. There are also some useful links on that site too.
  12. Hugh MacLean

    Hugh MacLean Senior Member

    Don't place too much weight on the date and the fact there is no mention after LUCIA. These records do have mistakes and omissions. You may wish to check his Pay & Victualing record with the MoD.

    Stephen Bentley likes this.
  13. Thank you Hugh. I wasn't aware of that resource so I will check it out. The records are bound to have errors and omissions, I agree. For example, the entry for 11/12/41 must have been post-dated. It beggars belief that it was contemporaneous given that the ship had sunk that day.

    The nation including Churchill were in a state of shock. Record keeping must have been a minor consideration (to a degree). It must have been a time of utter chaos.

    Thank you.

    By the way, do you know the answer to this: when the Prince of Wales left the Clyde in 1941 only the higher echelons knew of the destination - Force Z and Singapore. The lower decks were not aware of this. So, would the ship's stores carry "whites"? Tropical kit and shorts for the ratings? If so, what was this kit called? Whites?

    Tullybrone likes this.
  14. Hugh MacLean

    Hugh MacLean Senior Member

    Hi Steve,

    All aboard would have there own kit for all theatres. Not sure what the deal was with regards to stores holdings during the war though but certainly, he would as an AB probably have worn this kit shown on the right - Royal Navy Far East WW2 Petty Officer 1940 Rear Admiral 1940 Rating Far East 1945 (Art.IWM ART 17108 9)
    There were various types of tropical white uniform and they were all given a numeric name, for example: Number 1, Number 2, 3, 5, 8, 10 etc etc. They changed the numbers a bit throughout the years and I cannot for the life of me remember the name of the white kit - senior moments now.

  15. Most helpful (again). I know those "senior moments"! I like the open toed sandals for the ratings!
  16. Richelieu

    Richelieu Well-Known Member

    I suspect that joining LUCIA 11/12/41 may simply be an administrative sleight of hand, and indeed retrospective, with all supernumeraries in the area being assigned to her whether or not they were part of her permanent compliment. As a depot ship she would have been relatively static and therefore a good choice. I have an example of a sailor as being released as a POW in East Africa one day and assigned to an Australian shore establishment the next day when he was clearly still in East Africa.
    Stephen Bentley likes this.
  17. That does indeed make sense and something I suspected.

    However, it leaves a question open. Why is he shown as part of the Lucia's company from the date of the sinking of the Prince on 11/12/41 to the end of WW2? I am not asking you per se that question merely thinking aloud.

    I may have to check out other survivors to see what entries are shown in their naval records.

    I did track down an account from a sailor on the Lucia who had served on her from 1942 - 1945 and he wrote his account in 2009. Alas, I discovered he had died in 2013.

    Thank you for your input. It is really appreciated.
  18. Hello Hugh

    After you mentioned "naval pay and victualling records" held by the MOD, I made a FOI request but have asked for an internal review as the Navy FOI Dept. at Whale Island were (a) unhelpful and (b) inconsistent in the response to me compared with a previous similar request.

    If you are anyone else has experience of obtaining these records, I would be really grateful to learn the "wrinkles" as to best locate and obtain my grandfather's naval pay and victualling records from 1941 - 1945.

    Thank you and regards

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