Captain John HJ Hamling
Captain John HJ Hamling of Hillside Road was invested with the OBE on 1 September 1943 for conspicuous bravery when his ship was torpedoed on 3 February 1942 and for skilful seamanship in bringing his damaged vessel safely to port.
He was in command of a fully laden 11,000 ton oil tanker, bound for Australia, when, about 100 miles south of Ceylon, the rending explosion of a torpedo striking the vessel indicated the presence of a Japanese submarine. Fortunately the cargo did not fire but the ship took a heavy list and it was only due to the excellent teamwork of all the crew that the ship was righted and a course set for Colombo.
The Japanese then surfaced and opened fire from their deck gun and as the speed of the tanker was greatly reduced on account of the gaping hole and jagged plates in her side, the enemy were able to circle easily round her.
Although it was a dark night, the position of the submarine was finally sighted and an exchange of gunfire continued for the next 3 hours, during which a hit was thought to have been made. After this the submarine disappeared and the damaged tanker was able to proceed and reach Colombo by 4 AM on 4 February.
On his return to England in August 1943, Captain Hamling was presented with an inscribed piece of silver plate from the directors of his company the Anglo-Saxon Petroleum Co. Ltd.
A true Brixham hero.
text from ‘Brixham – its history and people’, 1951
Driver Ernest Lister RASC of 71 Berry Head Road was awarded the DCM on 28 February 1942. Without the knowledge of his parents, Lister joined the army in 1939 and was sent over to France with the British Expeditionary Force. He was seriously wounded at Dunkirk and was taken prisoner by the Germans.
In June 1940 he was posted missing and later presumed dead. There was no further news until Christmas 1941 when a message came through the Church of Scotland that he was a British refugee in Marseille. Apparently he had escaped with five other prisoners from a German prison camp with the sole aim of finding their way back to England.
On reaching the Rhine they had to stay in hiding for two days and three nights before they could find a boat to cross the river. In the attempt three of them were shot and the remaining three (which included Lister) were flung into the water and separated when the boat hit a pile. Lister was now on his own and although suffering from his wounds, was able to pass as a French peasant with his knowledge of the language.
During his travel southwards he was thrown into various prisons over six times, but somehow managed to escape. When the French people, especially the women, discovered he was a British soldier, he was often helped to escape from the German soldiers. He finally reached Spain and then Gibraltar after a journey lasting 14 months.
Ernie Lister is indeed a true Brixham hero.
text from ‘Brixham – its history and people’ Volume 5
Skipper William J Goouch
Skipper William J Goouch RNR of the HMT River Clyde was mentioned in dispatches for good services in the salvage of a ship which had been bombed. Skipper Goouch was the son-in-law of Mr RA Jackman (New Road, Brixham) and was a well known Brixham fisherman and yachtsman.
Mr Goouch was a Naval Reservist, with 25 years service to his credit, and was therefore called up at the outbreak of war. He was out minesweeping on the day that war was declared. Despite rigorous winter weather the Skipper and his crew continued month after month to make the seas safe for the British and neutral ships, often picking up survivors from ships that had been mined.
The ship had been attacked by enemy aircraft but Skipper Gooch and his crew managed with praiseworthy promptness and efficiency to take her in tow and save both ship and cargo. They also rescued half of the crew, the remainder were picked up by other craft in the vicinity.
Born in Silvertown, London in 1893, William received his certificate of competency as a skipper after taking his exam on 4 December 1924 at the port of Brixham. He received his commission as Skipper in the Royal Naval Reserve on 28 March 1934.
It is difficult to imagine how much courage it took for the men of Brixham to go out sweeping for mines day after day, never knowing whether they would return home to their loved ones.
Skipper William J Goouch is indeed a Brixham hero.
text from ‘Brixham – its history and people’