Local knowledge could help expand war hero’s life story

Mr Fox by Ada Crow’s headstone in Manor Road Cemetery, Scarborough.

Mr Fox by Ada Crow’s headstone in Manor Road Cemetery, Scarborough. - Credit: Archant

Military enthusiast is appealing to Herald readers for any information about soldier John Rowland Sturdy MBE.

A military history enthusiast is trying to find the family of an esteemed Honiton war veteran to complete a fascinating account of his life.

Freddie Fox is appealing to Herald readers for any information about soldier John Rowland Sturdy MBE.

John was born in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, and lived in George Street, Honiton in his later years.

Mr Fox, who also lives in Scarborough, said: “I would like somebody to help me with the story of Ada Crow and John Rowland Sturdy. It’s a story which connects Scarborough, North Yorkshire, Honiton and the Great War.”

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The relationship of Ada and John is another tragic love story that was ended by the brutality of war.

On the December 16, 1914, at 8am, two German battle cruisers opened fire on Scarborough.

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In 30 minutes, around 500 shells were fired on the town, resulting in the death of 18 people.

Ada was working as a general domestic servant on the day of the bombardment, and was fatally injured by a shell.

She was just 28 years old.

Mr Fox added: “Ada’s fiancé Sgt J R Sturdy had been serving in India for eight years, but had gone to France in September 1914.

“He had returned home on the evening of the bombardment with the intention of getting married, only to be told that Ada had been killed that morning.”

Ada was buried in her wedding dress - on the day that they would have been wed.

Her death failed to deter John in his military career though, and he was appointed to the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire on April 1 1921, in recognition of gallant conduct in the performance of military duties. Some 23 years later, in September 1946, John was granted the honorary rank of major.

Mr Fox said: “This makes me think that he served with the Home Guard during World War Two.”

John died on January 2, 1960, at the City Hospital, Exeter, and his wife, Elsie May, died in 1963.

Mr Fox said: “Their son, Kenneth Rowland Sturdy, married Edna K J Lane in Honiton in 1951 and their daughter, Celia R A Sturdy, was born in Honiton in 1952. In 1972 she married Michael J Gilbert.

“To complete the story I would love to make contact with any of John’s relatives who may still live in Honiton.

“I would like to pass on to them a side to their family history which might be new to them and to learn what they can tell me about him.

“On the 100th anniversary of Ada’s death, 15 of her relatives from all over the country came to Scarborough and were interviewed by the BBC.

“I know that they would also like to know more about John.

“Everyone who knows the story wants to know if John lived happily ever after.”

Anyone who can assist Mr Fox with his research should call him on 01723 361525, email pat.parkinson@talktalk.net or send a letter to Freddie Fox, 37 Peasholm Drive, Scarborough, North Yorkshire, YO12 7NA.

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