Coigach Folk

COIGACH'S SACRIFICE IN THE SECOND WORLD WAR


Page 11

DEATH AT SEA

John MacIver, Trimmer, Naval Auxiliary Patrol, HMS Forfar (F30), Service No. 197164.  Died 2nd December 1940 aged 31.  Commemorated on Liverpool Naval Memorial on Panel 24.  Son of Simon McIver (1860-1943) and Mary Tullo (1875-1919) (below)

Photos:  Morag Henriksen

Simon hailed from Scoraig. Mary was born in Elgin. The letter, shown below confirms that she had been appointed as Teacher of the Scoraig Public School in October 1894, with a free house and a croft.

School Board House, Ullapool, 1st October 1894

Madam,

I beg to confirm your appointment as Teacher of the Scoraig Public School under my Board. The Salary, to begin with, to be at the rate of £50 per annum with a Free House and a Croft. Two monthly notice to be given on either side to terminate the engagement.  The House is partly furnished and I enclose herewith a list of the furniture. 

The School is due to reopen on the 8th instant and it would be desirable that you should be here by that date or as soon as possible thereafter. The route is by Rail to Garve Station on the Highland Railway hence Mail Coach to here where you stop over-night going on to Scoraig the following day. Arrangements will be made for conveying you from here to Scoraig.

Yours truly,
Ken Jameson

Simon and Mary were married on 31st January 1900 at Scoraig Schoolhouse. In 1901 the family was resident at No. 4 Scoraig, Simon aged 41, a boat builder. At some stage before 1907 the family moved to the schoolhouse at Achduart, where Mary was Headteacher. They then moved to Altandhu where John was born on 8th October 1909. He was one of 4 boys and 3 girls. Mary is listed in Souter’s Ross-shire Directory as the teacher in 1915.

An obituary for John’s older brother Thomas reveals that when the boys were beachcombing in childhood they came across a box that had come from the troopship ss Laurentic, which had been sunk by two mines, north of Ireland in 1917. The box contained the ship’s logbook.

The ship on which John was serving was previously called the Montrose. Sailors’ superstitions are that it is unlucky to change the name of a vessel as was proved in this case. On 4 September 1939, Montrose was requisitioned by the British Admiralty for World War II service with the Royal Navy  and converted to an armed merchant cruiser. Her conversion was completed on 6th November 1939 and she was commissioned into Royal Navy service as HMS Forfar (F30).

On 2nd December 1940 Forfar, operating on the Northern Patrol  was torpedoed  and sunk by the German submarine U-99 under the command of Otto Kretschmer. Forfar was en route to join convoy OB 251 and about 500 nautical miles west of Ireland. Thirty-six officers, including her commanding officer, Norman Hardy, and 136 men lost their lives. The survivors were rescued by the Royal Canadian Navy destroyer HMCS St Laurent, the British destroyer HMS Viscount, and the British cargo steamer Dursley.


HMS Forfar.  Photo:  State Library of New South Wales.

This article has been included on the Wartime Memories Project website by Morag McIver Henriksen

Trimmer. John "Jocky" MacIver .     Royal Navy HMS Forfar   from Ullapool, Ross-shire. (d.2nd Dec 1940)

Uncle John McIver was lost in the Atlantic when HMS Forfar was torpedoed on 2nd December 1940 a few months before I was born. I never knew him, but my father took me to see his name in the War Memorial in Edinburgh Castle when I was ten.

He had been on the Iceland run in HMS Forfar and got two weeks' leave to go home to Ullapool while the ship was being refitted to go to Canada in a convoy, which, under the Lease Lend scheme would be met halfway. The family were relieved at this. It seemed safer than the perilous Iceland runs - but it wasn't.

The headstone of the family grave at Badenscallie Burial ground is littered with lichen and not clear enough to show, but the wording is:

Mary (Tullo) & Simon McIver, sons John & George.

Erected by/her family/in loving memory of/MARY TULLO/beloved wife of/SIMON McIVER Ullapool/died 14 August 1919/also the above/SIMON McIVER/died 9 December 1943/and their youngest son/JOHN/lost on HMS Forfar Dec. 1940/GEORGE died 22/5/77.

 

Here are some details about one of John's brothers, Thomas.
 


 

Thomas MacIver was born on 13th June 1907 in Achduart, Coigach.  Tom went to school in Altandhu, and finished his secondary school education in Ullapool before attending Glasgow University to study a degree in Arts, and graduated on 17th November 1928.  After graduation, and completing his teacher training at Jordanhill College, MacIver became a teacher at Plockton High School in 1929.  In 1936 he became headmaster at Kyle of Lochalsh Primary School.  He served in the Home Guard during the Second World War and in 1947 became headmaster of Marnoch Primary School.  He later worked as a further education officer in Skye and then Dingwall.

Tom MacIver helped found the Ross-shire branch of the Liberal Party in 1959 and was awarded an MBE for services to politics.  He was also a keen supporter of the Gaelic movement and a good friend of Gaelic poet Sorley MacLean.  He also enjoyed writing and reciting his own humourous Scots verse.  In 1994 Tom wrote a book called Croft Remote about a young boy called Murdo, based on his own experiences of growing up in the West Highlands. 



At the age of 102 he was invited to be the chieftain of the Coigach Gathering and when he died in April 2014, in Kingussie, Thomas MacIver was Scotland's oldest man at the age of 106.


James (Bunnie) Maclean Mackenzie, Able Seaman, Royal Navy, H.M.S. Repulse.  Service No. D/JX 169450.  Died 10th December 1941 aged 22.  Commemorated on Plymouth Naval Memorial, Panel 47, Column 3.

James was born in 1919, the son of Angus (1881-1960) and Morag Mackenzie née Maclean (1890-1983), of Polbain.

Ullapool Secondary School Group with Dan Macleod (headmaster) 1934.  Second row – 2nd girl to left Anne Mackenzie, Polbain. Her Brother James (Bunny) Mackenzie r.h. end bottom row.   Acknowledgement: Joyce Ingledew.


 

Following Ullapool School, James attended Dingwall Academy. He then began an Arts course at Aberdeen University in 1938. On the outbreak of war he joined the Royal Navy and trained as a Seaman. He was drafted to HMS Repulse, and lost his life on 10 December 1941 when his ship was sunk off the Malay coast.


Joyce Ingledew, niece of James has made available on the internet the following information and allowed me to use it. She has in her possession the photo of him (see below) and a brooch/tie pin of the ship that he sent his mother. Joyce states that her mother Anne was 13 years old and visiting a neighbour when she heard the announcement on the radio that the ship had sunk. She had to decide whether to go home and tell her mother. Joyce has the telegram and letter sent from Captain Tennant who was commanding HMS Repulse at the time of her sinking.

Extracts from Newspaper article about James (Bunny) Maclean Mackenzie. 
Posted 5th February 2003 in The Southern Daily Echo by Ron Wain.

 



WATERY GRAVE:  HMS Repulse, which sank on December 10, 1941 and, inset, James Maclean Mackenzie.

James Maclean Mackenzie died when Japanese warplanes torpedoed a British warship convoy in the Second World War.  His Hampshire niece discovered the last letters sent by him to his mother.

Ron Wain reports:  Few could imagine her grief as she pored over his words.  It was the last letter from her sailor son, written while on a British battleship that was to be torn apart by torpedoes dropped by Japanese warplanes.

Of course Morag Mackenzie had already feared the worst as she read what her beloved James, 22, had to say.  Mundane it may have been, but to a devoted mother every word tugged at her heart.  The Scottish crofter's wife had already been informed that James - nicknamed Bunny - was missing.  So when that conversational letter came, full of chatter about home affairs, she had hoped it was perhaps penned from a prisoner-of-war camp.  It was not to be.  Able Seaman James was one of 436 men who died when HMS Repulse sank following the intense air strikes by the Japanese on December 10, 1941, 50 miles off the coast of Malaya.

The poignant correspondence between a mother and son during wartime had been revealed for the first time by Southampton music teacher Joyce Ingledew.  James was her uncle and Morag her grandmother, whom she cared for until the mother-of-five died at the age of 95.  Joyce, 48, from Bursledon, said:  "At the same time the old family home in the north of Scotland, which would have gone to Bunny as the eldest, has ended up in my hands;  which is strange as my mother was the youngest of a large family who have all died.

"I love the place and felt I needed to find out more about the family.  What I find is interesting in reading the letters in hindsight.

"My grandmother received the last letter after James was posted missing.  The postman held it back until one of the family was there with my grandmother."

The 32,000-ton Repulse was joined at the bottom of the sea by fellow battleship HMS Prince of Wales, bringing the combined death toll to 840.

Both warships were part of the heavyweight Force Z, but the British loss had been often overlooked because of the havoc wreaked on the American Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbour, on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, three days earlier.  That undeclared act of war by Japan brought the USA into the Second World War;  an estimated 3,000 naval and military personnel had been killed or injured.

Back in 1941, James would often write to his mother from Repulse - a Portsmouth based ship which Lord Louis Mountbatten of Romsey served on in 1921.  One of James's earlier letters to his mum in 1940 echoed a moving Second World War song - "We'll Meet Again" - immortalised by Forces' sweetheart Vera Lynn.  He said:  "Glad to hear John got a job at last.  I may meet up with him some sunny day, who knows."

The Royal Navy man had every reason to be philosophical for death shadowed millions of people like him.  That was why every letter sent to anxious mothers and fathers back home was proof that, thank God, their son or daughter was alive.  Morag had already gone through the agony of thinking James was dead because of Nazi propaganda that was aired nightly on British radio by hate figure Lord Haw-Haw.  Lord Haw-Haw - whose signature opening "Germany calling, Germany calling" heralded each lie-packed broadcast - claimed in 1940 that HMS Repulse had already met a sticky end.  James later wrote to his mother:  "Sorry to hear Haw-Haw's recounting of imaginary triumphs over Repulse etc troubled you, but you will be wiser next time."

In another letter to Morag, who lived on remote farmland near Ullapool in Scotland, James sought to give her reassurance as to his welfare.  He penned:  "Well re myself, I can only give you the old formula - alive, afloat and well."

What came out of James's letters was his relish of family life, of his joy at receiving morale-boosting gift parcels, and his sensitivity to others.  And so to this man's last letter home, dated December 1, 1941.

"Dear Mother, thanks very much for your letter and parcel, which I had yesterday.  Life with me is much as usual and I was pleased to hear likewise of you.
"I expected you would have grim weather about this time of year.
"The parcel was very nice indeed, but sad to say, as in the case of the former parcel, the biscuits received a somewhat rough handling but were edible nevertheless."

James, who left university to enlist, went on:  "Correspondence between us has been very irregular and unsatisfactory since I went back off leave, due, I suppose, to the disorganisation caused by air raid, so do not be alarmed if you do not hear regularly from me.  This letter is in reply to yours of 20th Nov.

"I wrote Nan a few days ago, but have received no letter so far.  In fact you are the only ones with whom I am in communication at present.
"I intend to send Christmas cards here and there but am doubtful if I can get any, or in time.  Well, it looks as if this will be the first birthday spent away from home.
"However, I can't complain having had 21 at home.  Closing now, hoping Dha, Rhods, Heckie and all around are in their usual place."
James signed off simply:  "Yours Bunny."

Nine days later he was dead.  No doubt his mother would have cause to read those heart-wrenching letters and reflect on James's words to her about being alive, afloat and well.
If only, my darling son, if only.


This is the grave of the Mackenzie family at Badenscallie burial ground.



Return to Contents

Continued in page 12

Terms & Conditions     © Ross and Cromarty Heritage