Attribution: Photo courtesy of Morris Colven


The information and photographs are courtesy of W. McRae, Balnabruach House, Portmahomack.

Photo: #7175

C.S.M. Archibald Campbell M.M.

Archibald Campbell, M.M. Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders 2nd Battalion. Company Sergeant Major. Age 31. Date of death: 9 March 1944. [See also Invergordon War Memorial]

Company Sergeant Major Archibald Campbell M.M.

Name: Archibald Campbell, M.M.
Regiment/Service: Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders 2nd Battalion
Rank: Company Sergeant Major
Age: 31
Date of death: 9 March 1944

See also the Invergordon War Memorial
and the Ross-shire Journal extracts for Tarbat

Archie Campbell was born in Forres, Morayshire. His father was a farm worker and a maltman at Arboll Farm. Archie was a regular soldier from the age of 20 and is said to have taken part in the Spanish Civil War between 1936-39; he was already in the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders when war broke out.

Archie married Mary Dougherty in the Caledonian Hotel, Portmahomack, in November1942; his home address was given as 20 Elliot Road, Invergordon. Mary was the sister of Jack Dougherty, who was lost at sea during the war.

During the North Africa campaign Archie was awarded the Military Medal for gallantry during the 1st Battle of El Alamein. He was captured with his unit but with two others he escaped and captured a German gun post. He received his medal from King George VI at Buckingham Palace in April 1943. Mary travelled down from Portmahomack to be present at the ceremony.

The 2nd Camerons moved into Italy in February 1944 in time for the attack on the German Gustav Line. The Germans were retreating to the north in Italy but while doing so were building strong defensive positions across Italy to hold back the Allied advance.

The Gustav Line was one of these positions, commanded by the monastery of Monte Cassino situated high on a hill and heavily defended. The Camerons lost 250 casualties in a month of bitter fighting in trying to break through the Gustav Line. Archie Cameron was one of these casualties, killed on the 9th of March, 1944, shot by a sniper while talking to his men, and was buried in the Cassino War Cemetery.

Archie Campbell was the son of Lachlan and Helen Campbell of Invergordon and husband of Mary Campbell of Rockfield.

Photo: #7176

Private Alexander Cowie

Alexander Cowie. Seaforth Highlanders 4th Battalion. Private. Age 37. Date of death: 12 February 1942.

Private Alexander Cowie

Name: Alexander Cowie
Regiment/Service: Seaforth Highlanders 4th Battalion
Rank: Private
Age: 37
Date of death: 12 February 1942

Alex Cowie was born in Pulteneytown, Wick. His family moved to Inver in late 1911 and Alex went to Inver School. On leaving school he was a farm worker, but also worked on the construction of the fuel storage tanks near Invergordon. He, like many others from this area was in the Territorials and was called up when war broke out.

Alex was a member of the 4th Battalion Seaforth Highlanders which was, in January 1940, sent to France to reinforce the Maginot Line. When the German forces went around the Maginot Line, the British Expeditionary Force and the French were in full retreat towards Dunkirk, the 51st Highland Division, including the 4th Seaforths, was part of the rearguard used to slow down the German advance so that Dunkirk could be evacuated.

The 4th Seaforths were used to counter-attack the German forces at Abbeville and suffered many casualties, and once again were ordered to withdraw. The Battalion also fought bravely holding one bank of the River Bethune, near Dieppe, but the front line was crumbling around them and they were again ordered to withdraw, first to Dieppe and then to St Valery-en-Caux, where the 51st Highland Division, encircled and short of ammunition and food, were ordered to surrender on the 12th June, 1940.

Alex, now a prisoner of war, was marched, in the middle of summer with the rest of the Highland Division, for three weeks across France and into Germany, with very little food or water supplied to the prisoners during those three weeks, before being put into barges on the Rhine.

Alex was working on a farm in Poland when his spine was broken in an incident with a threshing machine and, although hospitalised, he died on the 12th February, 1942. He was 37 years old and left a wife and 4 young children in Inver.

Alex was the son of Alexander and Helen Cowie and husband of Jean Margaret Cowie of Inver and is buried in the Commonwealth War Cemetery, Poland.

Photo: #7047

Cumming Alastair, Leading Telegraphist, Portmahomack

Leading Telegraphist Alastair Cumming

Name: Alastair Cumming
Regiment/Service: Royal Navy
Rank: Leading Telegraphist
Naval vessel: H.M.M.T.B. 360
Age: 26
Date of death: 1st October 1944

Brother of Henry James Cumming (see below)

See also the Ross-shire Journal extracts for Tarbat

Alastair Cumming, known as Ally, was born in Tain, the son of Alexander and Annie Cumming of Portmahomack, and attended Tarbat Old Public School.

After leaving school in 1932, Ally worked as an assistant in D. J. Ross’s shop in Portmahomack.

When the war started he joined the Royal Navy and was a Leading Telegraphist on a Motor Torpedo Boat.

On the night of the 1st October 1944 Ally was a member of the crew of M.T.B.360, which was one of M.T.B. flotilla that attacked a German convoy sailing between Rotterdam and Borkumon.

During the attack two M.T.B. boats were sunk, one being M.T.B. 360, and Ally Cumming was killed. He was 26 years of age and has no known grave, and is commemorated on the Plymouth Naval Memorial.

His younger brother, Henry James Cumming, was also in the Royal Navy and died earlier in the war in Singapore.

Photo: #7048

Cumming Henry James, Ordinary Seaman, Portmahomack

Ordinary Seaman Henry James Cumming

Name: Henry James Cumming
Regiment/Service: Royal Navy
Rank: Ordinary Seaman
Naval vessel: HMS Scorpion
Age: 21
Date of death: 24 May 1941

Brother of Alexander Cumming (see above)

See also the Ross-shire Journal extracts for Tarbat

Henry James Cumming, known as Harry, was born in Tain, the son of Alexander and Annie Cumming of Portmahomack, and attended Tarbat Old Public School.

He joined the Royal Navy and was trained at Devonport and was then posted to the Far East as an Ordinary Seaman aboard HMS Scorpion.

HMS Scorpion was a flat-bottomed river gunboat with a crew of 93, based in Hong Kong to protect British interests there. At the fall of China to the Japanese, HMS Scorpion was moved in December 1940 to help Singapore with its defence, also from the Japanese, attacking down through Malaya.

Harry fell ill with a haemorrhage of the brain and died from tubercular meningitis in the military hospital in Singapore on the 24th May 1941; he was 21 years of age. He is buried in Kranji War Cemetery, Singapore.

Japanese destroyers in the Banka Strait sank HMS Scorpion on the 13th February, 1942, two days before Singapore fell; there were 5 survivors.

His elder brother, Alastair Cumming, was lost in the North Sea later in the war.

Photo: #7177

Able Seaman John Dougherty

John Dougherty, Royal Navy Able Seaman, HM Trawler Avanturine. Age 34. Date of death: 1 December 1943.

Able Seaman John Dougherty

Name: John Dougherty
Regiment/Service: Royal Navy
Rank: Able Seaman
Naval vessel: HM Trawler Avanturine
Age: 34
Date of death: 1 December1943

John Dougherty, better known as Jack, was born in Glasgow in 1909. The family moved to Rockfield in1918 and with his two brothers and a sister he attended Tarbat Old Public School.

Jack married Janet Henry, from Rockfield, in December1929. Jack was a farm worker and he and Janet had two children.

When war broke out Jack joined the Royal Navy and was assigned for duty to minesweeping trawlers. In World War 2 the Royal Navy took over fishing trawlers and used them in different roles, minesweeping being one of them. The depot for these trawlers was Lowestoft in Suffolk.

The role of these minesweeping trawlers was to keep channels leading to harbours clear for the Royal Navy’s capital ships and also the much-needed convoy merchant ships to arrive and leave port without the fear of German U-boats and planes sowing mines in these important shipping lanes.

Jack served at one timeon the Swansea Castle but was to meet his death on HM Trawler Avanturine (FY1886) on the night of 1st December 1943 while sweeping for mines off Beachy Head in the English Channel. Avanturine was attacked and sunk by the German motor torpedo boat S-142.

Jack was the son of Edward and Christina (nee Scott) Dougherty and husband of Janet. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Lowestoft Naval Memorial, Panel 11, Column 3, Belle Vue Gardens, Lowestoft, Suffolk.

Photo: #7178

Private Harry Rayner Forbes

Henry Rayner Forbes, Seaforth Highlanders 5th Battalion. Private. Age 21. Date of death: 2 November 1942.

Private Harry Rayner Forbes

Name: Henry Rayner Forbes
Regiment/Service: Seaforth Highlanders 5th Battalion
Rank: Private
Age: 21
Date of death: 2 November 1942

Henry Forbes was born in Kent. His father, George, was a farm worker and moved about with the work, so Henry was educated in Cromarty, Tarbat and Aberfeldy. Before the war he worked with his father who was then cattleman at Bindal Farm. Like many, before the war he joined the Territorials and was a drummer and bugler in the 4th Battalion Seaforth Highlanders, and was mobilised when war broke out. He was under age to go with the 51st Highland Division to France, the Division that fought so bravely to protect the Dunkirk evacuation before having to surrender, low on ammunition, at St Valery-en-Caux.

Henry became part of the reformed 51st Highland Division that sailed for North Africa, but this time with 5th Seaforths, to take part in the war in the desert, arriving on the 14th August1942.

21-year-old Henry died during the Battle of El Alamein, in North Africa. The battle for Alamein started on 23 October, 1942; it was Field Marshal Montgomery’s last chance to hold back the advancing German Afrika Korps who were at the gates of Alexandria.

The Seaforth Highlanders were held in reserve for a second attack, which took place on the night of the 1st/2nd November. Their part of the attack was to advance over two miles on foot behind an artillery barrage, cross no-man’s land, through German minefields and breach a hole in the German front line so Allied tanks could drive through and attack the Afrika Korps from the rear.

This attack was successful and the Afrika Korps were in retreat but the cost in dead and wounded to the Seaforths was high – 177 men in all were killed or wounded.

Henry was the son of George and Isabella Turner Forbes of Bindal and later Nigg Station. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Alamein Memorial.

About Henry, as far as I know he is still missing, perhaps his people at home may have had word from him, that’s to say if he got wounded and was picked up by the ambulance people. I do hope he is O.K. [Part of letter from Edward Shearer to his sister Mary.]

The chance is very faint but he (Henry) may be a prisoner. [Part of letter from Douglas Gordon to his mother.]

Photo: #7179

Captain Douglas Malcolm Gordon

Douglas Malcolm Gordon, Seaforth Highlanders 5th Battalion. Captain. Age 25. Date of death: 6 April 1943.

Captain Douglas Malcolm Gordon

Name: Douglas Malcolm Gordon
Regiment/Service: Seaforth Highlanders 5th Battalion
Rank: Captain
Age: 25
Date of death: 6 April 1943

Douglas Gordon left Glenalmond School and was set to go toAssam to become a tea planter; his passport already stated his occupation as a tea planter on it, but the war breaking out meant he never reached India.

Douglas enlisted as a private but was then commissioned as an officer in the 5th Battalion of the Seaforth Highlanders.

The Seaforths found themselves in North Africa with the 51st Highland Division fighting Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Korps and were involved from their arrival in Egypt in August 1942 in the attempt to drive the Afrika Korps out of North Africa. Douglas was promoted from Lieutenant to Captain and was Officer Commanding ‘C’ Company in the Battalion when the Afrika Korps, who had been in retreat since El Alamein, tried to hold up the Allied advance in the last natural defence left to them, the Heights of Roumana, which jutted up 600 feet from the flat plain around Wadi-el-Akarit.

The Seaforths’ advance on the Heights started at 3.30 am on the 6th April,1943, with ‘C’ Company on the forward left. The advance would go for 2000 yards before the artillery barrage would come down on the enemy positions and the advance would then climb the Heights and take the position. This attack was successful but the Germans launched a counter-attack and bitter close-quarter fighting ensued, but the Seaforths held until the Black Watch came to relieve them, but the action was costly to the Seaforths with 32 men killed and 96 wounded.

It was the last major battle of the North Africa campaign.

Douglas Gordon was killed early in the morning leading ‘C’ Company forward and was initially buried in a Seaforth cemetery below the Heights before being reburied in Sfax War Cemetery, Tunisia.

Douglas Gordon was the son of Mr and Mrs Alexander Paterson Gordon of Bindal, Portmahomack.

Photo: #8004

Leading Aircraftsman Finlay MacIntosh

Leading Aircraftsman Finlay MacIntosh

Name: Finlay MacIntosh
Regiment/Service: Royal Canadian Air Force
Rank: Leading Aircraftsman
Age: 42
Date of death: 3 May 1945

Finlay MacIntosh was born in Rockfield; he emigrated to Canada around 1924 where he was employed as a miner with the International Nickel Company of Canada.

He was also a piper with the S.S.M. and S.R. in Sudbury, Ontario.

He served for three years with the Royal Canadian Air Force before being taken ill while serving with the East Coastal Command of Canada. After five weeks of illness, the last two weeks in the Christie Street Hospital, Finlay MacIntosh died on Thursday 3 May 1945. He left a wife and two children.

Finlay MacIntosh was the son of John and Eliza MacIntosh of Rockfield and husband of Bertha L MacIntosh of Sudbury, Ontario, and is buried in the Park Lawn Cemetery, Sudbury, Ontario, Canada.

Photo: #7173

Stoker First Class David Mackay

David MacKay, Royal Naval Patrol Service, Stoker HM Yacht Rosabelle. Age 30. Date of death: 11 December 1941.

Stoker First Class David Mackay

Name: David MacKay
Regiment/Service: Royal Naval Patrol Service
Rank: Stoker
Naval vessel: HM Yacht Rosabelle
Age: 30
Date of death: 11 December 1941

Additional information provided by Mrs Moira Goodman
Regiment/Service: Merchant Navy
Rank: Stoker First Class

David MacKay was born at Hilton Farm, son of a salmon fisherman. He was educated at Tarbat Old Public School and, on leaving school, became a salmon fisherman like his father.

When war broke out David joined the Royal Navy and was a stoker on HM Steam Yacht Rosabelle.

David died while on patrol on the Rosabelle in the Straits of Gibraltar on the 11 December 1941; he was 30 years old. The Rosabelle, built in 1901, was torpedoed by the German submarine U374 – of the crew of 34 only 4 were rescued.

David was the son of David and Isabella (nee MacKenzie) MacKay; he has no known grave and is commemorated on the Lowestoft Naval Memorial, Panel 7, Column 1, Belle Vue Gardens, Lowestoft, Suffolk.

David Mackay was born on 7 March 1911 at Hilton Farm, Portmahomack.

He was a Stoker on HMS Rosabelle which was torpedoed on 11 December 1941 while in the Straits of Gibraltar.

On 9 December 1941, two days before he died, he wrote to his brother John (Jock) Mackay, who had been exempted from war service as he was required to work on the land. The letter reads:

The next time you write to mother tell her you had a letter from me, tell her how well I am getting on, then she won’t worry so much, you know how she feels with everybody being away. But anyway here’s looking forward to the day we arrive home, and this bloody war is finished. I will make a point of coming to see you then if all goes well.

David had two brothers on war service. Murdo was shot through the side at Dunkirk but was lucky as the bullet went in one side and out the other, missing all major organs. He lived into his sixties. James died aged 42 from the effects of dust in his lungs from the trenches.

Photo: #7180

Private John MacKay

John MacKay, Seaforth Highlanders 4th Battalion. Private. Age 29. Date of death: 9 August 1940.

Private John MacKay

Name: John MacKay
Regiment/Service: Seaforth Highlanders 4th Battalion
Rank: Private
Age: 29
Date of death: 9 August 1940

John MacKay, known as Jackie, was from Inver, a carpenter to trade, and a member of the 4th Battalion Seaforth Highlanders, a Territorial Battalion which was sent, in January 1940, to France to reinforce the Maginot Line, a defensive position on the France/Germany border.

When the Germans avoided the Maginot Line and attacked through Belgium, behind the defensive line, the British and French forces were in retreat.

The 51st Highland Division, including 4th Seaforths, were used to delay the German advance so that the main British Expeditionary Force could be evacuated from the beaches of Dunkirk.

These part-time soldiers held the German advance at Abbeville, the River Bethune, Dieppe, and finally at St Valery-en-Caux, where, eight days after the last ship left the Dunkirk beaches, out of ammunition and food they were ordered to surrender on the 12th June,1940.

With the rest of the 51st Highland Division Jackie was marched back through France to Prisoner of War camps in Germany and Poland. The supply of food and water was minimal on this three-week march and soldiers were forced, through thirst, in the height of summer to drink from ditches.

Jackie was taken ill and died in Lengen hospital on the 9th August, 1940, of sepsis (bacterial poisoning) and a weak cardiac muscle. It was almost two years before his wife Jessie and young son, Donald John, knew of his fate.

Jackie was the youngest son of Donald and Catherine MacKay and husband of Jessie MacKay of Inver, and is buried in the Rheinberg War Cemetery, Berlin, Germany.

Photo: #7174

Flight Sergeant (Navigator) Hugh Munro Mackenzie

Hugh Munro Mackenzie, Royal Canadian Air Force, Flight Sergeant (Navigator). Age 21. Date of death: 29 January 1945.

Flight Sergeant Hugh Munro Mackenzie

Name: Hugh Munro Mackenzie
Regiment/Service: Royal Canadian Air Force
Rank: Flight Sergeant (Navigator)
Age: 21
Date of death: 29 January 1945

Hugh Munro Mackenzie was a flight sergeant navigator in the Royal Canadian Air Force; he died on the 29 January 1945 when his Lancaster 111 of 5 Lancaster Finishing School crashed in flames on landing at Syerston, Nottinghamshire, at 02.16 am returning from a cross-country sortie. Eyewitnesses say the aircraft was already on fire in the air. The seven-man crew were killed.

Hugh was the son of Farquhar Mackenzie and Catherine Mackenzie (nee Munro) of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Farquhar Mackenzie was the policeman in Portmahomack in the 1920s; his wife, Catherine, was born at Loch Eye. The Police moved Farqhar and his family to Achiltibuie in the late 1920s (the move took two days by horse and cart), and from there, around1930, they emigrated to Canada when Hugh was 6 years old.

Hugh had three older brothers who also fought in the Second World War, Jack and Donald in the Army and Simon in the Navy. He also had a sister, Margaret. Hugh was 21 years old when he died and is buried in the Harrogate (Stonefall) Cemetery, Yorkshire.

Photo: #8000

Aircraftsman Murdo Macleod

Aircraftman 2nd Class Murdo MacLeod

Name: Murdo MacLeod
Regiment/Service: Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
Rank: Aircraftman 2nd Class
Age: 21.
Date of death: 30 June 1944.

See also the Ross-shire Journal extracts for Tarbat

Murdo MacLeod was killed in the London area, caught in the explosion of a German flying bomb.

Murdo gained an M.A. from Edinburgh University and was considered a brilliant student at both Edinburgh and Tain Royal Academy. He was the son of the Revd. Murdo MacLeod and Mary MacLeod (nee Montgomery) of the West Manse, Portmahomack, and he is buried in Tarbat Parish Churchyard beside his parents.

Photo: #7181

Able Seaman Donald Mitchell

Donald Mitchell, Royal Navy, Able Seaman HMS Hollyhock. Age 22. Date of death: 9 April 1942.

Able Seaman Donald Mitchell

Name: Donald Mitchell
Regiment/Service: Royal Navy
Rank: Able Seaman
Naval vessel: HMS Hollyhock
Age: 22
Date of death: 9 April 1942

[See also the account of life in Rockfield by Dan’s sister, Mrs Cath. Rae, Maryburgh]

Donald Mitchell, known as Dan to his family, was born in Rockfield and was a farm worker before being called up and joined the Royal Navy.

Dan was posted to HMS Hollyhock, a Flower Class corvette, and during 1940 and 1941 saw service in the North Atlantic on convoy protection on the routes to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and New York, USA.

In October1941 HMS Hollyhock was refitted for service in the South Atlantic and duly sailed again on convoy duty to Freetown, Sierra Leone, and then, picking up another convoy, continued south before finally arriving in Simonstown, South Africa.

It was this time (7th December1941) that Japan entered the war; this caused problems for the South Atlantic Fleet with ships being moved to the East Indies Fleet to meet the threat of Japan. HMS Hollyhock was one of the ships transferred and she sailed to Colombo, Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, arriving on the last day of February 1942.

On the 9th April HMS Hollyhock was escorting a single ship, the tanker Athelstane, loaded with 7,000 tons of fuel oil, around Ceylon from Trincomalee to Colombo.

Both ships were attacked by Japanese dive bombers, and in his report of the sinking of his ship Captain Moore of the Athelstane states that the Hollyhock was dive bombed, the first bomb landing alongside her and the second striking her near the funnel, probably exploding in her magazine, causing the Hollyhock to blow up and disintegrate. Captain Moore’s lifeboat found only 14 survivors of the Hollyhock; 53 of the crew were lost.

Dan Mitchell was 22 years old when he died; he was the son of Walter and Margaret Mitchell of Rockfield.

He has no known grave and is commemorated on Portsmouth Naval Memorial.

Photo: #7182

Lance Corporal Edward Shearer

Edward Shearer, Seaforth Highlanders 5th Battalion. Lance Corporal. Age 21. Date of death: 25 May1943.

Lance Corporal Edward Shearer

Name: Edward Shearer
Regiment/Service: Seaforth Highlanders 5th Battalion
Rank: Lance Corporal
Age: 21
Date of death: 25 May 1943

Edward Shearer worked at Brucefield Farm and as a member of the Territorials was mobilised when war broke out.

He was too young to go to France with the 51st Highland Division, which fought the rearguard action against the Germans to protect the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force at Dunkirk. This action was ultimately to lead to the Division’s surrender at St Valery-en-Caux.

Edward became part of the reformed 51st Highland Division, which found itself in North Africa fighting Field Marshal Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Korps. Edward, as a Lance Corporal in the Intelligence Section of the 5th Battalion of the Seaforth Highlanders, was always in the vanguard of the fighting, having to find out what the enemy movements were and taping the routes for attack through enemy minefields.

Edward was badly wounded in action outside Tripoli; a bullet lodged in the spine and he was paralysed. He was moved to hospital in Cairo where he died of wounds on the 25th May, 1943, and is buried in the Heliopolis War Cemetery, Cairo, Egypt.

Edward was the only son of Edward Skinner Shearer and Williamina Sinclair Shearer of Portmahomack.

You can tell Shearer’s people up at Brucefield that his Platoon officer said he is an excellent fellow at his work. [Part of a letter from Captain Douglas Gordon to his mother.]

About Shearer, I had been told he was not in the last battle before Tripoli, but have now found out he was. He is very badly wounded and is in a Cairo hospital suffering from a paralysed spine where a bullet entered. There is hope that he will recover but again it is only a chance. [Part of a letter from Captain Douglas Gordon to his mother.]

Had letters from Clare, Nell and Mum, all seem to be very well and cheerful. This, dear sister, is just how I want you all to be. Don’t worry too much about me, just keep on praying and all will be well. God knows just what is best for us all. [Part of letter (written by a friend) from Edward Shearer to his sister Mary four days before he died.]

Photo: #8003

Gunner James Ross Skinner

Gunner James Ross Skinner

Name: James Ross Skinner
Regiment/Service: 5th Field Regiment New Zealand Artillery
Rank: Gunner
Age: 36
Date of death: 14 February 1942

See also extracts from Ross-shire Journal for World War 2.

James Skinner emigrated from Pitcalzean Mains, Nigg, at the age of 19 to New Zealand. He led a very successful life in New Zealand and at the time of his volunteering for active service was the manager of a large dairy farm.

James was a gunner in the 5th Field Regiment New Zealand Artillery and died of wounds on the14th February, 1942.

In North Africa in late 1941 the Allied Forces had been driven back over 50 miles to the east of the important port of Tobruk. The German Afrika Korps had Tobruk surrounded but Allied Forces in the port held out. The New Zealand 5th Field Regiment were involved in ‘Operation Crusader’, a plan to push the German lines back past Tobruk and relieve the garrison in the port. The plan was successful but within two months the Afrika Korps were back in their old position and all that had been gained was lost.

The New Zealanders took many casualties over this period.

James Ross Skinner was the younger son of Alexander Skinner and Christina Skinner (nee Ross) of Arboll Farm and is buried in El Alamein War Cemetery. His brother, Lance Corporal John Alexander Skinner, Seaforth Highlanders, residing at Cullisse Cottages, Nigg, was severely wounded on active service in France and was invalided out of the army.

Photo: #8001

Able Seaman John Skinner

Able Seaman John Skinner

Name: John Skinner
Regiment/Service: Royal Navy
Rank: Able Seaman
Naval vessel: HMS Mohawk
Age: 34
Date of death: 16 April 1941.

HMS Mohawk was based in the Mediterranean at Malta and was part of a naval force sent on the 16 April 1942 to find and attack an enemy convoy bound for Tripoli in North Africa. The destroyer had just opened fire on the lead ship in the convoy when she was hit by a torpedo from the Italian destroyer Tarigo. The explosion from this killed the crew of the Y gun and its supply party and blew off the stern of the ship, leaving her awash as far as the X gun mounting. Although A and B guns continued firing and caused damage to the lead ship in the convoy, a second torpedo from the Tarigo hit No. 3 boiler room causing her boiler to burst; this sent scalding water over the crew on deck. The upper deck split open allowing her torpedo tubes to spill into the engine room and crush the sailors on watch below.

Mohawk immediately started to sink and within a minute had listed heavily to port. There was no time to lower lifeboats and most of her crew were left struggling in the water before being picked up by HMS Nubian. Mohawk had sunk and what was left of her stern was touching the bottom but her fo’c’sle was sticking out above the water until HMS Janus was ordered to finally sink the dying destroyer with shellfire. In all 41 men were lost with her.

John Skinner has no known grave and is commemorated on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial. He was 34 years of age and was the son of James and Jessie F. Skinner of Portmahomack.

Photo: #8002

Corporal John Taylor

Corporal John Taylor

Name: John Taylor
Regiment/Service: Royal Air Force Regiment
Rank: Corporal
Age: 42
Date of death: 25 April 1947

John Taylor was born in Glasgow, the son of Alexander and Isabella Taylor. His father was a marine engineer and his grandfather owned Taylor’s yard during the herring fishing days in Portmahomack.

John was a baker to trade. Pre-war he emigrated to Australia with his brother; he already had another brother and sister out there but Australia was not for him and he signed on as a baker on a ship which brought him back to Britain.

During the war he was a member of the RAF Regiment. The regiment was used mainly to guard airfields, but in 1944 was used in Greece, first of all against the remnants of the occupying German forces and then against ELAS, the Communist-backed Greek rebels.

John suffered badly during his time in Greece; his chest had been crushed and he also endured severe winter conditions in the Greek mountains.

He returned to Portmahomack after the war and was a baker in the Co-op, but he died two years later as a result of his war injuries. John was 42 years of age and is buried in the Taylor family plot in Tarbat Cemetery.

Photo: #7184

Left to right: Donald Patience, James Ross, John Percy, John Hendry

Left to right: Donald Patience,  James Ross,  John Percy,  John Hendry

Page updated on 20 December 2022

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