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The blog continues to receive enquiries. These are forwarded to Stuart Gray, who has been able to help the families of several soldiers who were stationed at Perrranporth at the time of the attack.

A fond, final farewell to the Penhale bomb victims as 70th anniversary marks closure

July 26, 2010

A final farewell to the Penhale bomb victims as 70th anniversary marks closure


Medals were worn proudly at the event


A fond farewell has been given to an event that has annually honoured fallen, veterans and currently serving military personnel.

On Saturday, in perfect summer weather, the final Perranporth Veterans’ Day took place and the 70th anniversary of the bombing of the Penhale camp was remembered.

In July 1940, 22 men from the 58th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment sent to recuperate at the camp a few weeks after surviving the German attack during the evacuation of Dunkirk were killed after a lone German plane dropped four bombs on the camp.


Stuart Gray, the son of one of the survivors, had traced relatives of those who died and they travelled to Perranporth for the event.

Mr Gray said: “I managed to find relatives of 19 of the 22 who were killed, and 13 of the families came along.”

A veterans’ committee has organised the event for the past three years, led by Commander Ian Inskip, after it was started in the 1990s by Frank Tyrer, who served as a Spitfire mechanic at RAF Perranporth during the war. But the closure of Penhale Camp has meant that the financial support from the Army has come to an end.

Co-ordinator of the veterans’ committee, Frances White, said: “The day went like clock-work and the weather was glorious. The committee would like to thank all the sponsors and local businesses that donated money and raffle prizes to support the event, helping to ensure the day went ahead.”

The parade, which included serving personnel, newly-qualified recruits from HMS Raleigh, veterans and standards, cadets, the emergency services, civilian organisations such as the RNLI, and local schoolchildren, was led by the RNAS Culdrose Volunteer Band and the St Agnes Band to and from the Inner Green where Lady Mary Holborow, the Lord Lieutenant of Cornwall, gave an address and presented Bernie Porter, from Perranporth, with his veterans’ badge.

The parade marshal was Peter Paice and the 13 standard bearers were led by Pat Jephcote, with Bill Bishop the bugler. A service was given by the Rev Jeremy Andrew, vicar at Perranzabuloe Church. He said: “It is very important to remember those who have offered their lives in service and those who are still serving.

“It has been a very moving event.”

Lunch, prepared by the Perranporth Women’s Institute for the marchers, followed in the Memorial Hall and in the afternoon various bands, Perranporth School Cornish dancers and the Cornwall Military Vehicles Trust entertained visitors, with the Royal British Legion (RBL), ShelterBox and the RNLI having stalls on the Inner Green, with Redruth Town Band performing at a concert in the evening.


This year marks the end of the RBL Perranporth branch, and it was the final time that its standard will be on parade.

It was laid up at Perranzabuloe Church, at a service on Sunday that included the laying of wreaths at the graves of those killed in Penhale.

Once the event costs have been covered all surplus money raised will be shared between The British Legless Ex-Servicemen’s Association and the Royal British Legion.

Closure for some of the relatives too, with many thanks to Stuart Gray’s determination to find them in time to attend the final remembrance service.


Soldiers who died on a sunny Sunday afternoon 70 years ago, together with service people serving in danger zones today, were remembered at events in Perranporth.

July 26, 2010

Ian Inskip with his wreath from the RBL ready to be laid at the gravesides at Perranzabuloe Church

Holywell Bay dead honoured at last parade

Soldiers who died on a sunny Sunday afternoon 70 years ago, together with service people serving in danger zones today, were remembered at events in Perranporth at the weekend.

Some relatives of the 22 men who died when a German Junkers dropped bombs on Penhale Camp, at Holywell Bay, travelled from as far afield as Australia for the final Perranporth Veterans’ Day celebration.

Some families had only found out in the past few months where their loved ones had died, because in those dark and secret days of war there was the utmost secrecy and the Army command at the time would only revealed that soldiers had been killed “somewhere in England”.

The men had been at the recently constructed Penhale Camp for rest and recuperation after surviving the hell and fury of the German attack during the evacuation of Dunkirk only a few weeks before.

They were sitting out in the sun at about 3pm when a lone German Junkers dropped four high explosive bombs. Three of them detonated and an afternoon of rare pleasure was turned to tragedy.

Most of those at the camp at that time were members of the mainly Scottish 58th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, which had been augmented by men from the North of England and Wales.

Stuart Gray, the son of one of the survivors, had contacted relatives of those who died and they travelled to Perranporth for Saturday’s parade and a wreath-laying service at Perranzabuloe Parish Church, where many of them are buried, on Sunday.

“I managed to find relatives of 19 of the 22 who were killed, and 13 of the families are represented here today,” he said. His father’s regiment had started as the 9th battalion of a Territorial Regiment in Scotland and as an anti-aircraft unit they had lost 100 men at Dunkirk.

“They were having some relaxation at Penhale to recover from their ordeal when the bombs dropped. Some say the Junkers was actually looking for the RAF airfield at St Eval. It all happened on the same day that Falmouth was bombed and lives were lost there.”

Mr Gray’s late father survived the war and returned to visit Penhale 20 years ago, but among the other relatives was a woman who had only found out last month where her brother died.

Bill Mitchell, whose father also died in the carnage, found out where his father had been killed after his mother died 16 years ago. He has been visiting Perranporth for the ceremony for the past five years.

Mr Gray read out the names of those killed at the service on The Green at Perranporth. Organised by Commander Ian Inskip after being started in the 1990s by Frank Tyrer, who served as a Spitfire mechanic at RAF Perranporth during the war, the event is the last of its kind.

The closure of Penhale Camp has meant that the financial support from the Army has come to an end, and efforts are being concentrated on the recently introduced Armed Forces Day which takes place on the last Saturday in June.

The weekend services were conducted by the Rev Jeremy Andrew, vicar of Perranzabuloe, while those attending at the parade on The Green included the Lord Lieutenant, Lady Mary Holborrow, the High Sherriff, John Williams, and the MP for Truro and Falmouth Sarah Newton, the chairman of the parish council, Doreen Lawrence, and the co-ordinator of the veterans’ committee, Frances White.

Lady Mary said it was a time to remember the part Perranporth had played in the Second World War, when pilots from many nations flew from the airfield.

“We must not forget those who fought and died for freedom then and those who are doing so today,” she said.

Lady Mary also presented a veterans badge to Bernie Porter, of Perranporth, who served in the RAF with ground crew servicing Sabre jets and Hawker Hunters from 1955-60, including a period on the Dutch-German border as the first line of defence against the Russians.

The parade through the streets of Perranporth included the RNAS Culdrose Volunteer Band and the St Agnes Silver Band and representatives from many service and civilian organisations. The parade marshall was Peter Paice, there were 13 standard bearers, led by Pat Jephcote, and the bugler was Bill Bishop.

A Battle of Britain Day is scheduled for Perranporth Airfield on Sunday, August 22.


A final, personal tribute to the soldiers who died on 7th July 1940. Many relatives were able to attend and were able at last to say their fond farewells to loved one’s lost so long ago.


Talk given by Stuart Gray at Perranporth Memorial Hall, Saturday evening, 17th July 2010

July 26, 2010


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you all for being present here tonight.

I owe a great deal of thanks to many people:

to Commander Ian Inskip, Royal British Legion Coordinator for Cornwall, for the massive amount of time and effort needed to organise this weekend’s events.

to Major Mick Pawlak for his assistance and the tour of Penhale Camp.

Not least I owe a huge debt of gratitude to all those who freely made available to me their memories, their photographs, official documents, personal letters, etc., which I was then able to share with all involved in the Penhale story. It added immeasurably to our understanding of the event and how it affected the families.

I have been asked specifically to speak about my father’s wartime experiences, and I hope I am not repeating what many may already have heard.

My late father, Andrew Gray, was born in 1918, the youngest of 9 children. Like all the neighbours, his family was poor and Andy ran about as a youngster in bare feet during the summer, but he had a pair of boots for winter use.

In those days, most people left school at 14 to earn a living, and Andy was no exception. He was fortunate to obtain a job as an apprentice butcher with  Clydebank Cooperative Society, especially at the start of the Great Depression with its high unemployment rate.

In February 1939, Dunbartonshire’s Territorial Army unit, the 9th. Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, an infantry regiment, was converted by Government decree to a regiment of Royal Artillery, the 54th. Light Anti Aircraft Regiment. As war with Germany became more certain, it was decided to form a duplicate regiment of the 54th., and hence the 58th. Light Anti Aircraft Regiment started recruiting in Dunbartonshire in June 1939, headquartered in Clydebank.

My father’s involvement with the 58th. began when some of his friends, already enlisted in the Regiment, told him that they were short of a butcher for the upcoming first annual camp of the Regiment. Four days before the camp to Stiffkey, Norfolk, my father signed on, no doubt influenced by the £3 training bounty plus the one shilling per day pay. It was at Stiffkey that the only known photos of the regiment were taken, all 185 men in it most probably Scots from Dunbartonshire. Although a brand new regiment, the 58th. were highly praised for their discipline, their marching ability and having a well-run camp.

Thereafter, Government decided to increase regimental strength yet again, and a draft of English, Welsh and Irish militiamen were posted into the ranks of the 58th. turning them from a purely Scottish regiment into a British one.

In March 1940, the 58th. Light Anti Aircraft Regiment received a detachment of Royal Army Ordnance Corps and Royal Corps of Signals who were attached to, lived with, and fought alongside the 58th. They were effectively members of the 58th. despite their origins.

In the same month the Regiment was posted to France as part of the British Expeditionary force. My father remembers the whole regiment had only one case of twenty rifles amongst over 600 men, and each officer had a revolver. Britain was not well prepared for war.

In France, units of the 58th. defended airfields, ports, military installations etc. in scattered locations. My father’s particular unit was stationed on a section of the Maginot Line, operating obsolete French Naval guns. They had never seen a big gun till then, never mind fired one!

The Germans attacked suddenly on 10th. May 1940, and chaos resulted. 58th. Regimental Headquarters was soon ordered to return to Britain, leaving their equipment behind, which angered the men. Colonel Kirsop, Commanding Officer of the regiment, was killed at Dunkirk in an air raid. The second in command and 15 others were also killed during this period. Up to 100 men were captured by the Germans.

My father took part in a 5 man patrol sent out to destroy two German tanks which had run out of fuel somewhere outside Calais. On the way back under heavy shell and machine gun fire, the whole party was knocked over and only Sergeant Larry Robb and my father escaped. Both are mentioned in the Regimental History of the 58th. as joining with men of the King’s Own Royal Regiment and “doing good work with their Bren guns.”

My father and a mixed party thereafter accompanied three light tanks which were trying to break out from the surrounded town of Calais to Dunkirk. The tanks were quickly knocked out by the Germans, and the remaining men retreated back the way they had come. My father spied an old abandoned lifeboat beached well up amongst the sand dunes. The planking had shrunk over the years and there were gaps between each plank. However, my father knew that the planks would swell in the seawater, and he had the men with him drag the old lifeboat into the water. They broke up the duckboards for paddles and set out for Britain, baling out water with their tin helmets.

Well out into the English Channel, a German plane came over them low, and turned to come back. As one, the twenty or so men in the boat jumped overboard and hung onto the external rope loops of the lifeboat. They expected, yet again, that their last moment had come.

However, the pilot merely waggled the wings of his plane as he passed overhead, and carried on for bigger targets, of which there were plenty.

Soaked, cold and miserable, the men hauled themselves wearily back into the boat and continued paddling and baling.

Some time after, a French motor torpedo boat drew alongside and threw them a line. Spirits soared in the lifeboat – a tow straight back to Britain! However, where they ended up was at the jetty at Dunkirk on the outside of ranks of tied up French fishing boats. The men had to cross from boat to boat to reach the jetty, and quite a few succumbed to the hospitality of the French fishermen who plied them with wine and brandy.

My father and two others reached the jetty to be met by an obviously shell-shocked army Captain, who ordered them to put out a fire in a 5 storey building which was ablaze on the top floors. The men looked at each other, saluted the Captain, ran in the front door of the blazing building, then jumped out a side window out of sight of the Captain and disappeared from the area!

Dunkirk was being very heavily shelled and bombed and several nerve wracking days were spent on the beaches waiting for rescue. With a badly burned arm, my father was eventually taken off and returned to Britain.

He was at Penhale Army Camp when the raid occurred and he lost his good friend Gunner James Litster. Incidentally there are 4 generations of Jimmy Litster’s family present here tonight.

My father was one of several posted two days later to man Anti Aircraft guns at St. Eval Airfield and he could not attend the funeral held on the 11th. July. It was to be many, many years before he found out where Jimmy was buried.

Since my father’s trade was listed as “Butcher” on his enlistment papers, authority in its wisdom, or otherwise, thought he should be posted to the new “Emergency Cookery Training Centre,” and he ended up as a sergeant instructor cook, and was later posted to India.

Andrew Gray returned to Britain in 1946, to his wife, Joan and the 3 year old son (my elder brother) who he had never seen.

Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you.

Stuart Gray.

May I invite anyone else who would like to say a few words to please do so now.

Thank you.


July 15, 2010
Hi everyone,
I was interviewed by BBC Radio Cornwall this morning.  The Radio Cornwall material, which also covers the event at St Piran's Church, will be used by Radio Cornwall on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

I was told that the BBC TV interview I did on Monday will go out on BBC Spotlight on Friday Evening. 

The TV material will also be used on Radio Cornwall's breakfast show on Friday.

The long range local weather forecast for Saturday looks good, so hopefully you will see Cornwall at its best, and have a memorable weekend.

BBC TV Spotlight – The latest news, sport, weather and features from the South West of England.
Radio Cornwall103.9FM, 95.2FM, 96FM & DAB


July 8, 2010
ITV Wales has followed up on finding the cousin of Private Thomas Edward Charles Evans (K.O.R.R.) in Bargoed with a 3 1/2 minute appeal for the relatives of:


  • Signalman Arthur Tysilis Jones (Royal Corps of Signals)
  • Gunner John Samuel O’Sullivan (Royal Artillary).
The clip can be viewed at:
Set the slider to 19.00. The clip lasts till 22.30.
Name: JONES, ARTHUR TYSILIS (born ISLE OF ANGLESEY)***Now looking for his son, also Arthur Tysilis Jones, born South Wales 1940***
Regiment/Service:Royal Corps of Signals
Date of Death:07/07/1940
Service No:2313458
Additional information:Son of Owen and Margaret Jones; husband of Dorothy
Ada Jones.
Regiment/Service:Royal Artillery
Unit Text:58 Lt. A.A. Regt.
Date of Death:07/07/1940 (born 1918, South Wales)
Service No:1494270
Additional information:Son of Samuel Michael and Elizabeth Louisa (maiden name Angell)

Mother: Elizabeth Louise (or Louisa) Angell, born 1893, Bristol area/Gloucestershire
Father: Samuel Michael O’Sullivan, (possibly born Liverpool 1901 – only birth of a Samuel O’Sullivan in the right age range in FreeBMD)


July 8, 2010

Great News! As a result of yesterday’s superb ITV Wales coverage of the Penhale story, a cousin of Private Thomas Edward Charles Evans (K.O.R.R.) has been in touch today and will be attending the Remembrance Service at Perranporth.

We are now needing only 3 more . . . two from Wales and one from Nottinghamshire.

Link to info about soldiers whose relatives are still missing:

Link to TV and Radio clips:





July 8, 2010

So far, one Radio and four TV stations have featured the Penhale Camp story today, all with a different emphasis.

Not only is this the first time that the story has been broadcast, it is only now that most of the families have found out how their boys died.

  • Coming so soon after Dunkirk, it was felt at the time that the story would be bad for morale nationally and the tragedy was kept secret even from the soldiers’ families.
  • Some have only just learned where their brothers and fathers were buried and they will be traveling soon to say their belated goodbyes to the boys and men who lost their lives 70 years ago.

For all this time, the villagers of Perranporth have paid their respects to these soldiers with an annual memorial service and parade.

  • Remembering that they survived the horrors of Dunkirk and Calais only to meet with their deaths on home ground.
  • Although this will be the last dedicated remembrance service, Perranporth will continue to remember the sacrifice that these soldiers and their families made, as part of the national Armed Forces Day.

LTV and Radio coverage – July 7th 2010 – on search for soldier’s relatives and the story of what happened at Penhale Camp 70 years ago on 7th July 1940.

1. Scottish Television News…

2. ITV Wales (you have to sit through a short Toyota advert first!)

3. South West TV (Cornwall)

4. Radio Scotland. (Set the clock to 1.50.00).

5. BBC Scotland
Available for 24 hours only…

It is thanks to the relentless efforts of Stuart Gray over the last year, tracing the families and drumming up publicity, that this story has finally been told.

Many thanks for any help you can give in searching for relatives.

Best wishes,

Liz Panton