Nostalgia - do you remember Sidmouth's brave sailor?

PUBLISHED: 12:47 31 August 2009 | UPDATED: 10:10 18 June 2010

THANKS to the efforts of Sidmouth branch of the Royal British Legion, the War Graves Commission is to fund a stone memorial to a young sailor from the town, lost at sea during World War Two while serving as a rating on HMS Ormonde.

THANKS to the efforts of Sidmouth branch of the Royal British Legion, the War Graves Commission is to fund a stone memorial to a young sailor from the town, lost at sea during World War Two while serving as a rating on HMS Ormonde.

The Royal Navy's MS Trawler class minesweeper was sunk by German aircraft on February 16, 1941, off the east coast of Scotland, with the reported loss of all life.

Rating Donald Charles Channing was just 19 and had, according to a report in the Sidmouth Herald & Directory of February 22 "been engaged in the dangerous task of mine-sweeping."

Poignantly the report states he had been due leave and his parents, George and Ada Channing of Ham Cottages, had been looking forward to his home-coming.

It continued: "On Monday morning a letter was received from him in which he referred with pleasure to his impending temporary leave, but, in the afternoon a telegram came saying he was 'missing, presumed killed'."

The following day his fiancée, Connie, also received a letter from Donald referring to his anticipated leave.

The newspaper report hoped there was "just the possibility of his having been rescued," but realistically added: "but the worst is feared."

They described Donald as "industrious, well spoken, and of a most cheery disposition.

"He was greatly beloved and respected and the sad news has occasioned profound grief to his parents and fiancée and to a wide circle of friends.

"Fond of the sea, and of sailing in particular, he frequently used to sail with Mr John Trick, in the periodical races of Sidmouth Corinthian Sailing Club."

It was not until November of that year - nine months after the ship had been sunk - that Donald's body was washed ashore off Scotland, and he was buried in Sidmouth a week later, his funeral and list of mourners, recorded in the Herald.

Alec Chalmers, 88, remembers being at senior school in Vicarage Road with Donald, but lost touch when they left, Donald joining the RN and Alec the RAF as a fitter armourer of guns in aircraft.

"I remember he was connected with the sea," he said.

The fated HMS Ormonde was built in 1906 by Cochrane & Sons Shipbuilders in Selby and before being commissioned by the Royal Navy in November 1940, had spent two years in the Persian Gulf and off Cyprus (1933-35) carrying out naval surveys.

It is mentioned as being both at Muscat; where its name joins those of many other British and US ships, painted on the black rocks that form its backdrop - known as "the Sultan's visitor's book", and in Bahrain in 1932, carrying out detailed surveys to chart its waters.

It was in the 1930s that the Naval Intelligence Division of the British Admiralty began producing intelligence reports for strategic government planning.

Under the direction of Rear Admiral H P Douglas, hydrographer of the Navy, the ship's then commander was directed to conduct tests of deep-sea thermometers in the Arabian Sea to follow the outflow eastwards.

* Do you remember Donald Channing or have a photograph of him? If so please call Nostalgia on (01392) 888 502.


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