Soldier’s story from headstone in Scotland
The story of how a Leamington soldier came to be buried in a remote area of Scotland during the Second World War has come to light during the production of a Warwickshire regiment’s roll of honour.
Trooper Norman James King of the Warwickshire Yeomanry, Royal Armoured Corps, died on July 2, 1940, aged 21 at sea whilst on board the SS Arandora Star.
The former passenger ship Arandora Star was sailing from Liverpool to Canada with hundreds of German and Italian prisoners of war and civilian internees when it was hit 125 miles off the Irish coast by a torpedo fired from the German submarine U-47. The ship’s master, 12 officers, 42 crewmen, 104 guards, 470 Italians and 243 Germans were lost.
The majority of those lost were washed ashore by the tide and current at Colonsay in Scotland.
Norman’s body was washed ashore on August 21, 1940 at Kilchoan in Argyllshire, Scotland, and was buried there in the churchyard of St Conan’s the same day.
Norman was born in London in 1918 but lived at 27 Campion Terrace, Leamington, and went to the Leamington College for Boys.
Leamington historian David Eason discovered the story of Tpr Norman King while writing the Warwickshire Yeomanry’s 1939-1940 Roll of Honour.
He said: “Norman was only recorded as died at sea on the July 2, 1940, and buried at the most westerly part of the UK while at the time the regiment was serving in Egypt.
“As I began to look into Norman’s story to be able to complete his entry, I came across on the internet a story published on the Kilchoan-Diary of a Scottish Village website. The author of the story asked why was Tpr N J King buried there?
“I obtained a copy of Norman’s army record, which confirmed his loss on the Arandora Star, and with amazement his parents address as being in Leamington and his date of birth, which isn’t recorded on his headstone. None of these facts was known by the local residents where the lad is buried.
“It also confirmed, sadly, that Norman’s body was swept ashore on August 21, 1940, near to where he is buried.
What is also sad is that Ken Fowler in the Warwickshire Roll of Honour missed Norman from the Leamington War Memorial 1940 list, only just mentioning him vaguely in the Leamington College for Boys 1939-1945 Roll of Honour, which I surveyed for the War Memorials Trust last year without realising Norman was commemorated.
“Norman’s headstone has been affected by the weather in Scotland. I have contacted the UK office of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and asked for it to be cleaned, which they have informed me that they will do this coming year.
“Since 2005 a memorial plaque has been placed at the foot of Norman’s headstone commemorating a Douglas H King, Norman’s brother, also ex-Warwickshire Yeomanry. Taking into consideration the location, distance and isolation of Norman’s grave it must have meant a great deal for his brother Douglas and his family to make sure Douglas was remembered, and be with his brother at the end.
“To complete Norman’s story, I would like ask for any family members to contact me please, so we can complete for the first time Norman and Douglas’s story, and give them the remembrance they deserve.
If you can help, call David Eason on 07896 201176 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Pictured: Norman’s headstone in Scotland and Douglas’s memorial plaque.
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