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Ronald William Dell

Private Ronald William Dell, 6096656, 4th Battalion, The Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment).

Ronald William Dell was born in Ossett on 8th April 1915, the second son of Herbert Dell and Florence Maud Dell (nee Green), of Ossett, Yorkshire, who married at South Ossett Christ Church on the 17th April 1910. Ronald had an elder brother Wilfred Dell, born in 1911, and a younger brother, Herbert Trevor Dell, born on the 25th May 1926.

In 1911 Ossett born Herbert and Florence Maud, born at Lingwell Gate, were living at 3, Stafford Buildings, Ossett. Herbert was a 27 year old woollen mule spinner and Florence was aged 22 years. By 1939, the couple had moved to 12, Wycliffe Street, Ossett, where they were living two of their three sons including Ronald William who was working as a basket maker. The youngest son, Herbert Trevor aged 13 years was still at school and the boys’ father, Herbert, was a woollen spinner.

On the 23rd October 1943, the 4th Buffs were rushed to Alexandria docks in Egypt and boarded two destroyers, HMS 'Eclipse' and HMS 'Petard', which set off at high speed for a destination unknown, as usual, to the troops. The 4th Buffs were, in fact, on their way to Leros, one of the Greek Dodecanese Islands, which was occupied by a British garrison, to bolster the island's defences, the neighbouring island of Kos having already fallen to the Germans.2

At around midnight, HMS 'Eclipse', the destroyer carrying 'A' company and part of the HQ company, struck a mine, laid in 48 fathoms, between Kos and Kalymnos. The mine exploded under her forward boiler room, setting the fuel tanks ablaze. She immediately took on a heavy list and broke in two, spilling burning fuel into the sea. Within three minutes she sank.

"I was standing on deck with my best friend Jack (Hawkes) and the other boys....and that was it, I didn't know any more....I woke up and all I saw was flames in my eyes and everything was still. My legs were caught in the wires going round the boat....my back was towards the edge of the destroyer and as she turned I went down with her. Strangely, it felt kind of peaceful....then, I don't know if I kicked or what, but I came to the surface....about 100 yards from the destroyer. I saw her turn over and the screws were still going fast as she went down....speeding down."

There was heavy loss of life: 119 of ship's company and 134 troops were killed.

HMS Eclipse

Above: Destroyer HMS 'Eclipse' which sunk after hitting a mine on the 23rd October 1943.

Private Ronald W. Dell died between the 23rd and 24th October 1943 aged 28 years and is remembered on Face 5 of the Athens War Memorial. The Athens Memorial stands within Phaleron War Cemetery and commemorates nearly 3,000 members of the land forces of the Commonwealth who lost their lives during the campaigns in Greece and Crete in 1941 and 1944-1945, in the Dodecanese Islands in 1943-1945 and in Yugoslavia in 1943-1945, and who have no known grave.

References:

1. Commonwealth War Graves Commission web site

2. WW2 People's War by Private Stanley 'Bill' Froud, 4th Buffs 1939 - 1945