from the CWGC archives gives his date of death as 17th Jan 1942, which
is 38 days after the sinking of Repulse, although he is listed as being
still on HMS Repulse in January 1942. (This is possibly just a clerical
error, although if he hadn't actually been assigned to another base or
ship, he'd still have been 'on HMS Repulse' officially until posted
elsewhere, even though Repulse had been sunk. Many men ended up
reassigned to HMS Sultan, the Singapore Naval Base.)
Little information is known at the moment as to the actual
whereabouts of John at the time of his death although it was apparently
from an accident with a rifle.
Casualty lists did not have John listed anywhere, but they do now.
John (Jacky) Anderson lived in Easson Street, Grove Hill, Middlesbrough. He was in the same class as me at Hugh Bell School and was my best
friend. He joined as a boy around about July-August 1938 and was on HMS Caledonia in Rosyth where he did his training. I was on draft to Repulse when news of her sinking came through and
I was put ashore in Colombo. There I met many survivors of the Repulse and Prince of Wales. From them I learned that Jack survived but his mother later told me that Jackie got off the Repulse but was killed in Singapore. His oppo was cleaning his rifle and it fired accidentally. I presume therefore that he is buried in the cemetery in Singapore. I had joined
HMS Caledonia in June 1938 but after illness was transferred to HMS Ganges. MY service number was P/JX 158757 so his would be just after
that. So far as I remember Jack had an older sister and two younger brothers.
Among the survivors of the Prince were two brothers, twins I am sure. They got a draft to HMS Exeter which was sunk in the battle of the Java Sea. I have often thought about them and wondered if they
survived. A lot of the survivors were sent to the Maldive Islands which had become a base for the fleet.
Signed Bert Ward aka George
also wrote a short story which includes Jackie:
Hugh Bell School 1937. by Bert Ward (1934 - 1938).
It was a hot, sultry afternoon. It was so hot you could wonder where the sun got the energy from to shine so brightly. Sleepy, would describe that afternoon exactly, and the drone of the teachers’ voices from the classrooms seemed to increase the sleep inducing qualities of the last three hours before home-time. Across Victoria Square the sound of the Town Hall clock tolling the hours and half hours only added to the general debility afflicting the boys.
Occasionally the sound of a teacher’s voice raised in anger or irritation in another classroom disturbed the general somnolence. The sharpness of the raised voices rang through the building, cutting through the heavy oppressive atmosphere. Raji, Johnny Rosser, Shorty Calvert, Beaker Hughes, Taffy Evans the Boss. We could recognise the raised voices. Then the school settled down again to gloomily consider maths, English, French, and the variety of subjects taught at Hugh Bell Central School in Grange Rd.
This afternoon it was English, with Boxer Collingwood. Why he was called Boxer I never discovered. Perhaps he had been a boxer. His flattened nose and craggy features strongly suggested that. Or perhaps he’d had an argument with a steamroller, or a tank. Being Boxer, it was more likely an enemy tank. But he wasn’t bad. Easy going really, though he had his limits, and when he felt sufficiently provoked his voice would rise. He was a powerfully built man, with a voice to match. It commanded attention. Even on afternoons like this one it penetrated the deepest sleep of the sleepiest boy.
What Boxer was like as a teacher of English language and English literature, I don’t know. But he was good on the First World War. He was in it and was reporting back to the next generation. His lessons were something like letters from the trenches, but delivered in person. Ikey Solomon, who taught French, was good on the League of Nations. He would come into his French classes with League of Nations leaflets. He looked forward, though not in the sense of pleasurable anticipation, to the Second World War. Boxer looked back to the last one. He taught English, and the First World War. Perhaps the explanation for the difference between them was geography. French and English. Or perhaps Ikey wasn’t in the trenches in the First World War. Boxer was. He told us. Often.
And on this sleepy afternoon, with the sun streaming through the top window panes, and the dust motes dancing and warming themselves in the sun’s rays, Boxer was teaching our class English again. I was sitting next to Jacky Anderson. Jacky, my best friend at school would be killed in 1941 when the Japanese sank his ship, the ‘Repulse’, off Singapore. But this afternoon, as Boxer stood at the front of the class holding forth, Jacky was up to mischief. Folding a piece of paper into a hard pellet, he placed it on the end of his ruler, and flicked it. It flew across the room with deadly accuracy and hit Harry Dodds on the back of the neck. Harry’s hand shot up to his neck and he whipped round. We could see that he was not amused. If there was one thing you could say definitely about Harry that afternoon, it was that he was not amused. We did our best to look innocent, but to no avail, because Harry’s eyes focused on Jacky. He’d identified the culprit, and now it was retribution time.
Tearing a piece of paper from his exercise book, Harry folded it into a pellet and placed it in his ink well to soak. Revenge, as the Mafia say, is a dish best served cold, and Harry was decidedly cool in his actions. Jacky was trapped. He could see what Harry had planned for him, but there was nowhere to go. Harry was good at maths and geometry. He could work out angles and flight paths. He was destined to become a bomber pilot in the Royal Air Force, and would die in the mass bombing raids over Germany.
But this summer afternoon, this sleepy summer afternoon, Harry had a different target. Lifting the pellet from the inkwell, he placed it on the end of his ruler, and in one motion turned and flicked it. Heavily laden with ink, the pellet flew across the room discharging its cargo in the form of blots on the open exercise books of the boys between Harry and his target. It was a good shot. The pellet hit Jacky on the back of his hand and then flopped on to the open page of his exercise book. “What’s going on?” shouted Boxer, suddenly aware that there was a diversion from his English lesson. Attention was not being paid. “Nothing sir”, and Jacky swiftly moved the evidence out of sight.
The class settled down from the interruption, and Boxer stood at the front of the class in his black gown uniform gloomily staring across no mans land into the enemy trenches. We pulled on our tin hats and prepared to dive for cover at the sound of his first salvo. Where would it land? When finally it did come he fired right across the front line and into the reserves at the back of the class. Straight over the head of Victor Hawken, a sitting target in the front line. Vicky, the school’s champion diver and swimmer from Doughty’s Buildings in Wilson street, who would go down in the Mediterranean with his ship the ‘Barham’.
The salvo landed in Nutty Bullock’s sector and there was a sigh of relief, tinged with sympathy from the rest of the trenches. “Bullock”. The dust
mites dancing in the sun’s rays scattered and fled in terror. Nutty dived for cover. “Bullock”. The second salvo landed. Nutty fired back, but against Boxer’s heavy artillery he only had a light machinegun. “Y-Yes sir”, he stuttered. “What do you think the author meant by that?” Nutty fought a defensive battle. “I don’t know sir”. A groan went up from the rest of the trenches. If Nutty didn’t know, Boxer would shift target. Maybe to our sector.
I don’t remember much more from that afternoon. The last time that I saw Nutty, he was on leave from the army and walking along Linthorpe Rd. We stopped to talk for a while. That was his last leave before he returned to his unit and was killed in action on the Second Front.
The school’s been pulled down now and the Law Courts stand in its place. Each time that I pass them, I think of Jacky, Harry, Vicky and Nutty. And Boxer, and lkey, and the school and the school’s song that we sang every morning at Assembly. “Play Up, Play Up, and Play the Game”. And that hot sunny afternoon in 1937.
Bert Ward 26.2.1992
is also a webpage about Tom Barron on the HMS Ganges website, Tom was
another boyhood friend of Bert. Click here
to view it (opens a new window)
contact Andy (webmaster) with any information.