FULL MILITARY HONOURS
This is the story of the death during World WarTwo, of Engine Room Artificer (ERA) Donald Cameron who is commemorated on the Lancaster War Memorial. It illustrates the Honour accorded to men who die in conflict, not only by their own side, but also by their enemy. The sensitive care taken by the authorities to establish and record the circumstances of death in war is also very apparent. It is mainly a pictorial account; sources are acknowledged, the main one being the Family archive (1) lovingly maintained.
Engine Room Artificer 4th Class C/MX 73098 Royal Navy
H.M. Submarine Tempest who died on 13/02/1942
BARI WAR CEMETERY, Ref. II. E. 3., Italy
The Family determined to find out about Donald's death and contacted the Royal Naval Regional Office in London. The tale of "Tempest" and Donald began to unroll. The Royal Navy began enquiries
with the Submarine Museum at HMS Dolphin and very quickly obtained and sent detailed information (2) to the family.
"TEMPEST had a tragically short history, being commissioned on 8 Nov 1941 less than 5 months after being launched by Cammell Laird at Birkenhead.She left Malta on 10 Feb 1942 for her first patrol, and was sunk only three days later in the Gulf of Taranto with the loss of the Commanding Officer, two other officers and 39 Ratings, including Donald. The submarine was "paid off" on 23 Feb 1942.
Records showed that Donald joined the Royal Navy on 16 October 1940; he joined the sub marine service commencing training on 10 Feb 1941 - a very short training you may think. He joined TEMPEST at Birkenhead where she was building on 3 Oct 1941
It is possible that he was first buried at Taranto still today (1994) an Italian Naval Base then re-buried at Bari a British Commonwealth War Grave Cemetery. Bari is a large commercial and industrial centre on the Adriatic coast where there is a small British Community there." They supplied the family with Donald's record of service ( Below) details of TEMPEST, and arranged for a photograph of Donald's Grave (see below) to be
DSEA -Deep Sea Escape Apparatus; DD- Discharged Dead. Note
Buried at Taranto Italy
Details of TEMPEST
The photographs below are from ANSCOMB(3). Top left is The Bridge of TEMPEST; below that "Crew Space and to the right "Looking forward through a water tight bulkhead"
The family continued their research and located a book by the Helmsman of TEMPEST Charles Anscomb (3). He tells a gripping and graphic tale of the TEMPEST being hunted by the Italian Torpedo Boat Circe, of being depth charged and unable to track their adversary due to damage. Eventually when broken containers of sulphuric acid reacted with salt water created an impossible atmosphere of chlorine the Captain ordered "Abandon Ship". During this the process Circe opened fire on the escaping sailors with several killed outright "If this seemed a cold blooded attack we had to remember that they were firing on the men whom they had thought had sunk their hospital ship".
Extracts from Admiralty historical documents depicting the sinking of TEMPEST
ANSCOMB continues:- "One survivor (sic) - it was ERA Cameron - had been picked up dead from the water. The Italians gave him a funeral with full military honours, and the coffin was draped with the Union Jack. They allowed us to attend the funeral in Taranto and even supplied a guard of Honour." Below are photographs of this funeral in possession of the family. Remember this was in 1942 at the height of the war - as the Italian Navy honoured one of their
Preparing for Burial . . . . . . .
. . the coffin . . . . .
. . . . . draped in a Union Jack . .
. . . . .supplied a Guard of Honour
Donald's resting places.
In a letter from the Royal Naval Barracks Chatham dated 14 November 1946:
"The attached photograph . . are forwarded for retention. . the Graves Registration Service point out that there are some discrepencies and omissions on some of the crosses . . under present conditions it is not possible to have them altered. A careful note has ben made of the correct particulars and when the time comes to replace the cross with a permanent headstone, they shall be correct in every respect.
Please accept a further expression of synpathy in your sad loss."
The "permanent" Commonwealth War Grave Headstone
Tributes to Donald which the family treasure.
It is hoped that this account of one submariners death during the Second World War will illustrate the honour accorded to war dead by all sides. It also shows the simple dedication of men and women for one another despite the horror and futility of war. In that we can see the greatness of the human spirit which gives us cause for hope.
1. The Family Archive
2. Naval Regional Correspondence
3. Submariner by Charles Anscom, Published by William Kimber London 1957