Remembrance: Seaton's sons who died for our freedom

PUBLISHED: 10:44 11 November 2009 | UPDATED: 00:32 16 June 2010

How heroes were remembered after the Second World War.

How heroes were remembered after the Second World War.

Copyright Archant Ltd

IT might be a good time to remind the present generation how the quiet courage of the men and women who served in the Second World War shone through and showed why this country deserved to be known as Great Britain.

IT might be a good time to remind the present generation how the quiet courage of the men and women who served in the Second World War shone through and showed why this country deserved to be known as Great Britain.

The freedom we all enjoy today was not easily won and towns and villages throughout East Devon bear witness to the sacrifices ... to remember those who lost their lives.

Freedom is the most precious commodity a country should possess. I am a great advocate of freedom and the present generation should guard these freedoms, many of which today our political masters are slowly removing. My history spot will be dedicated to the local men and women who willingly served their country in the Second World War; men such as Seaman Reginald Thomas (Rex) Good, of Cliff Hotel, Seaton.

Rex was serving on SS Draco when she was attacked by dive-bombers at Tobruk on April 11, 1941. Mortally wounded, with severe leg injuries, he was transferred from the gun platform of his sinking ship to a lifeboat and then quickly conveyed to Tobruk hospital, where he died at midnight on April 11. He was buried at midnight at Tobruk War Cemetery (grave no 64) and was posthumously awarded the George Medal.

Flight Sergeant Thomas Hill Clapp, an engineer, was the son of Annie and Sam Clapp. Tom was born in Seaton on January 2, 1924, and educated at St Walter Trevelyan's School.

He was a member of the Colyton Grammar School ATC and joined the RAF at the age of 18. He flew in Wellington bombers and was killed on active service over Lincolnshire on October 3, 1943.

He was only 19 and his death left a void in the family that was never filled. Ellen, his sister, joined the ATS and, after the war, played an important part in the Seaton Royal British Legion.

We have a lot of modern criticism about the bombing of Hitler's cities. I hold no brief with this. I remember well the destruction of Exeter and Plymouth and many other English cities.

The Lancaster was the British bomber used and, of the 7,377 Lancs built, 3,932 were lost in action.

Flight Sergeant W (Bill) Smith, only son of Edgar Smith of Seaton, was reported missing on February 13, 1944, when he took part in a Lancaster raid on Berlin. He was never found.

Two days before he was killed, he wrote the following letter to his best friend, Seaton boy Douglas Littley, nickname Nib:

Dear Nib

Just a line to let you know how things are going once again.

Thanks for mail, I received one of your letters ok on return from leave and the other last week.

Talking of leave reminds me, we are due for our second 14 days in about a fortnight's time.

Well, Nib, things have been on the top line recently. Our pilot received an immediate award of the DFC for 14 trips to Berlin - see the citation in the papers this week Our radio op also had the DFC, so things are looking up.

On top of that, we were all introduced to the King and Queen last Thursday. I spoke to both of them and shook hands with the Queen. Gee - but she is marvellous.

Yes, the general idea is for us to pack up for good after the next 15 trips. If I get through ok I shall have seen enough excitement for one war.

Let me know if you come up this way and I will see what can be fixed up.

By the way, I wish they would put the Home Guard on the German Flak Guns.

Guess that about all till next time so over to you.

Cheers, all the best from Bill

When I read this letter and write about the other young Seaton and Beer boys who lost their lives, tears prick my eyes and I become haunted by the reflection of what did medals mean to them, compared with the travesty of extinction?


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