Soldiers who died 80 years ago during World War Two

Date published: 11 May 2021

To remember the fallen, volunteers at Littleborough History Centre have been researching the service personnel from the Pennine districts of Rochdale (Littleborough, Milnrow, Newhey, Smallbridge and Wardle) who died during World War Two.

This article details men who died in April and May of 1941.

Sergeant John Mingham

Born on 23 October 1914, John (aka Jack) was the only son of Tom and Mary Mingham. John attended Rochdale Secondary School and was a prominent member of the Rochdale Swimming Club, being club champion and a regular member of the Water Polo Team.

At the time the 1939 register was created, John lived with his parents at 1 Grimes Street, Norden and was employed in the RAF unit LAC 759032 Manchester, whilst his father was a textile bleaching manager and mother a fustian weaver.

John later married Muriel Cryer in Littleborough on 26 December 1939 and in 1941 she was living at ‘Woodside’, Littleborough. At the time of his enlistment, John was employed at J & J Makin, Firgrove Mills besides being the secretary of Rochdale Swimming Club.

As a member of the Volunteer Reserve, he was called up at the outbreak of war and, after training, joined the Coastal Command as a Sergeant Observer.


Sergeant John Mingham
Sergeant John Mingham


26-year-old Sergeant John Mingham 759032, 59 Squadron, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve was killed in action on 28 April 1941 ‘when acting as an Observer on Blenheim IV V5520 TR-F Operation Strike – Their plane Bircham Newton, Norfolk, in the morning when a formation of Blenheim’s carried out a low-level attack (at mast height) on a German convoy off the Hook of Holland. The ship's heavy AA defences succeeded in bringing down all four aircraft at 1220 hrs.’

John flew with the same crew during the Battle of Britain.

The Rochdale Observer for 3 May 1941 indicated that John was reported missing, but the 24 May edition confirmed that he had been killed. Indeed, all three crew on board the plane were killed and like him were buried in Hook of Holland General Cemetery, Netherlands, with John being in Row F Grave 50.

John is remembered on Littleborough Cenotaph and Greenhill War Memorial. After John’s death Muriel decided that she wanted to get away from Littleborough and go somewhere to start again, so she joined the Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF), where a couple of years later she met Vernon whom she married.

Telegraphist Frank Chadwick

Frank was born in Littleborough on Christmas Day in 1909, the son of James Robert and Hilda Bowers Chadwick who also had another son, James Laycock Chadwick. Frank lived at 12 Duke Street, Littleborough for a time and according to the Rochdale Observer for both 31 May and 19 July 1941 he was a telegraph boy at Rochdale Post Office before enlisting in the navy in December 1927.

His mother later lived at 115 Foxholes Road, Rochdale.

32-year-old telegraphist CHADWICK C/JX126406 H M S Kelly Royal Navy was killed in action on 23 May 1941 during the evacuation of Crete. His ship, HMS Kelly, was bombed and sunk with half of her crew lost. The survivors were deeply affected by the loss of their ship. Their Captain – Mountbatten - shared their loss and tried to console the ship's company by reminding them that "we didn't leave the Kelly, the Kelly left us!"

Frank Chadwick is remembered on Chatham Naval Memorial but is not recorded on any found local memorial. Frank’s father was killed during WW1 on 21 May 1916, almost 25 years earlier to the day.

Marine Herbert Arnold Shaw

Herbert Arnold was born on 4 January 1914 and married Amy Amelia Hacking in Littleborough during late spring/summer of 1936.

At the time the 1939 Register was compiled, Herbert worked as an oven cleaner in the bakehouse of Henry Whittles Ltd in Featherstall. Amy was a confectionary cake finisher, assumed working for Whittles. They lived at 70 Featherstall Road.

Herbert was a keen sportsman playing for both the Breda Visada football team and Littleborough Cricket Club.

He enlisted early in 1940 and served in the Mediterranean. A year or so later, 27-year-old Marine Shaw PLY/X 100525, Royal Marines Group, M.N.B.D.O.1. died of wounds received during the battle of Crete on 28 May 1941. He is remembered on Plymouth Naval Memorial, Panel 103. Column 2 but he is possibly one of the ‘unknowns’ in Suda Bay Cemetery, Crete.

He is remembered locally on Littleborough Cenotaph and St Andrew’s War Memorial.

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