Bid to save Totnes war hero's memorial before it 'disappears forever'

By Bob Rogers   |   Reporter   |
Thursday 8th August 2019 11:28 am
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Totnes town ranger Steve Howrihane with the shattered war memorial to Stoker Stanley Williams ()

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An appeal has gone out to save a memorial for a Totnes sailor who died in the Second World War before it is lost forever.

Stanley Williams died while serving as a stoker aboard HMS Norfolk in October 1941, aged just 23 years.

He was part of the crew when the British warship famously helped chase down and sink the German battleship Bismark in May that year.

Although he is buried in mainland Orkney, a memorial to the young sailor was set up in the Totnes Cemetery in Plymouth Road – probably by his family.

That memorial is now in pieces, either damaged by vandals, by accident or old age and weather.

Totnes Town Council ranger Steve Howrihane is now asking if there were any of the sailor’s relatives still living who wanted to get the broken memorial repaired or replaced.

“If nothing is done then the memorial will disappear in the undergrowth and brambles and this man will simply be forgotten,” he explained.

Steve discovered the broken memorial while out on his rounds as Town Ranger and launched his own investigation into the lost sailor.

He checked with the National War Graves Commission and found that Stoker Williams is buried in the Royal Navy cemetery on Orkney.

The exact circumstances of the stoker’s death are not known although in May 1941 five months before his death – his ship was involved in the hunt for the German pocket battleship The Bismarck.

HMS Norfolk was the first to sight the German ship and was part of the British force which finally sank her on May 27, 1941.

The broken sections of the memorial contain the lines: “Remembrance is the golden chain, which binds us ‘till we meet again.”

Steve said that he had discovered that Stoker Williams father was a lieutenant in the pay corps during the Second World War but could not find any other information about the family.

He said it was almost certain that the family had set up the headstone.

It was therefore only right that any surviving family members should have the opportunity to get it repaired or replaced before the memorial disappears forever.

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