John Owen Jones , of the 127th Field Ambulance attached to the 42nd East Lancashire Infantry Division. He was one of the last men to leave Dunkirk. (Photograph and additional information supplied by his son, Michael Jones.

Kenneth Leigh Baker .

Able Seaman Kenneth Leigh  Baker's Story

Thank you to Tony Baker who's father, Kenneth Leigh Baker, served on HMS Golden Eagle from early 1940-1941. 

Extract from Kenneth Leigh Baker's memoirs.

I joined a small anti-aircraft ship HMS GOLDEN EAGLE at Sheerness and soon found out that my mess mates were a real good lot and I was privileged to share many traumatic events with them. We in the seaman’s branch had many jobs to do. One was on entering and leaving harbour, to take our own turn as buoy jumpers. First we fastened a cork lifejacket, then secured a line with a bowline knot around our waist, followed by being lowered over the bows and down a Jacob’s ladder onto a pitching harbour buoy; quite a scary situation if there was a heavy sea running. A wire hawser was passed down through the ring in the buoy and so back inboard. Once the ship went astern too fast and the buoy, being attached to the ship, took me under the waves, whilst I hung onto the buoy ring for dear life!

John Owen Jones, one of the last men to leave Dunkirk, on the last ship to leave Dunkirk, loved this poem about Dunkirk.

BRAY DUNES 

Keep them combined! Else,
Of the Myriads who fill
That Army, not one shall arrive;
Sole shall they stray; in the sands
Flounder for ever in vain,
Die one by one in the waste.
God marshall them: at your voice,
Panic, despair, flee away.
Ye move through the ranks,recall
The straggelers, refresh the outworn,
Praise, re-inspire the brave.
Order, courage, return;
Eyes rekindling, and prayers,
Follow your steps as you go.
Ye fill up the gaps in our files,
Strengthen the wavering line,
Stablish, continue our march,
Into the waves, where grey shapes
Await; distant White Cliffs, beckon!

Michael tells us his father’s story. While as many men as possible were released from the 127th Field Ambulance to make their way to Dunkirk and salvation, “volunteers” were required to stay behind to attend the wounded. They would remain until the very last minute, before the enemy arrived, until they made their bid for freedom.  All names were placed into a steel helmet.  John Owen Jones never did have much luck and was chosen to stay. With the enemy on top of them the remaining men were eventually given the order to make their escape. John Owen Jones would be one of the last men to escape from the hell of Dunkirk!

John did make it home to England, would continue to fight the war and raised a family of six children all of which he was proud.

Like many other soldiers he would return to Europe. He fought in France and Belgium as the Allies advanced helping to liberate the people of Europe. He endured the German terror weapon the V2 rocket, half of which were fired at Antwerp.

John was sent to train as a Paratrooper in preparation for Operation Market Garden.  On his fifth jump, he got his lines twisted, landed awkwardly and injured himself.  This injury stopped him for parachuting into Arnhem of “A Bridge Too Far” fame.

John remained in Germany, with the army, for six months after the war ended. He helped at the prisoner of war camps and Concentration camps like Belsen. He tended the sick and mass burials and de-loused prisoners with DDT powder.

In his latter years John became very emotional when he reflected what he had seen and the comrades he had lost. He could never forget his days at Dunkirk, the misery he had seen, the loss of his friends and the relentless bombing of the Stuka Dive Bombers.

John Owen Jones, one of the last men to leave Dunkirk.

The Paddle Steamer Golden Eagle transporting passengers in the Thames Estuary.


HMS GOLDEN EAGLE.
Type:                                    Passenger Paddle Steamer.
Official No:                          129003
Route:                                  Tower Bridge, London to Southend, Margate and Ramsgate, Kent.
Service dates:                     1909 - 1951
Owners:                               General Steam Navigation Co Ltd
Builders:                               John Brown, Clydebank
Year Built:                            1909
Propulsion type:                 Paddle, triple expansion 3 crank engines.
Speed:                                  18.5 knots  
Tonnage:                             Net 435 Tons. Gross 793 tons
Length:                                84.03m (275.7ft)
Breadth:                              9.78m (32.1ft)
Depth:                                 3.07m (10.1ft)
Armament:                         4 x 2pdr single Anti-Aircraft,
                                             2 x 20mm single Anti-Aircraft,  
                                             2 quadruple .303,
                                             2 quadruple .303,
                                             2 light MG,
                                             2 quadruple rocket launchers (Fitted at a later date)

Fate:                                    Survived WW2, returned to service and scrapped in 1951

GOLDEN EAGLE
Anti-Aircraft Vessel.


The Paddle Steamer Golden Eagle took passengers from London along the River Thames to Margate and Ramsgate. The Golden Eagle was in service during the First World as a troop carrier where from 1915 to 1918 she carried 518,101 men across the English Channel to fight in France and Belgium. After WW1 she continued service between the Tower Pier in London and Southend in Essex. She had the distinction of being the most successful Thames Excursion Steamer ever!

In September 1939 she transported children, who were being evacuated from London, to the East Coast of England.

The Golden Eagle was requisitioned by the Admiralty at the Start of World War Two and based at Sheerness where she was put to work as an anti-aircraft ship in the Thames Estuary protecting the East Coast Convoys from attack by German planes. She played a major part in the Dunkirk Evacuations where she rescued 3,200 troops.

Frank Langshaw. Radio Direction Finder Operator, Frank Langshaw served on the Golden Eagle during 1943 to early 1944.

Frank had been called up from a reserved occupation as a policeman in August 1942, trained at HMS Raleigh and then on Radio Direction Finding, on the Isle of Man. His first ship was the Golden Eagle, under the command of Lt Com Geoffrey T Blake R.N.R. He recalled his captain with great affection.

In 1944 Frank was selected for a commission. When Sub-Lieutenant Frank Langshaw was commissioned in May 1944, he was sent to North Shields to join a Minesweeper Squadron, serving on HMT Suma and HM/MMS 1045.

After discharge Frank returned to the police and retired from the Staffordshire Police as an Inspector in 1966.

OFFICERS ON THE NAVY LIST August 1940

Lieut.-Com., R.N.R., G. T. Blake (ret) 18 July 40  
Temp. Lieut. R.N.R. J. R. Dent, (proby) 1 May 40
Temp.  Sub-Lieut., R.N.R., F. G. Kerr (proby) 12 June 40
Temp.  Sub-Lieut., (E) R.N.R., J. Challenger 6 Apr 40.

OFFICERS ON THE NAVY LIST June 1941

Lieut.-Com., R.N.R., G. T. Blake (ret) 18 July 40  
Lieut. R.N.R. J.  F. Coleman 31 Mar 41
Temp. Lieut. R.N.R., R., Dent 1 May 40
Temp. Lieut. R.N.V.R., J. C. Newman, MBE (Proby) 28 Feb 40
Temp. Lieut. R.N.V.R., G. Paterson, Jan 41.
Temp. Sub-Lieut. R.N.R., P. S. Thirsk, 6 May 41.
Temp. Sub-Lieut. R.N.V.R., C. R. Webster (proby.) 26 Aug 40   
Temp. Sub-Lieut. (E) R.N.R., J. Challenger, 6 Apr 40.
Temp. Sub-Lieut. (E) R.N.R., H. H. Norman, 28 Sept 40.
Temp. Act. Sub-Lieut. (E) R.N.V.R., J. A. Wilkinson. 6 Aug 40.
Temp. Act. Sub-Lieut. (E) R.N.V.R., W. E. G. Ruthven, 21 March 40.

OFFICERS ON THE NAVY LIST June 1942

Lieut.-Com., R.N.R., G. T. Blake (ret) 18 July 40  
Lieut. R.N.R. J.  F. Coleman 31 Mar 41
Temp. Lieut. R.N.R., R., Dent 1 May 40
Temp. Lieut. R.N.V.R., J. C. Newman, MBE (Proby) 28 Feb 40
Temp. Lieut. R.N.V.R., G. Paterson, Jan 41.
Temp. Lieut. R.N.V.R., T. Blairs, May 42
Temp. Sub. Lieut. R.N.V.R., R. W. Norris 12 Jan 42
Temp. Sub. Lieut. R.N.V.R., S. H. Brown 28 0ct 41
Temp. Sub-Lieut. (E) R.N.R., T. H. Leathley, 15 June 41
Temp. Sub-Lieut. (E) R.N.R., J. Challenger, 6 Apr 40.
Temp. Act. Sub-Lieut. (E) R.N.V.R., J. A. Wilkinson. 6 Aug 40.
Temp. Act. Sub-Lieut. (E) R.N.V.R., W. E. G. Ruthven, 21 March 40.

OFFICERS ON THE NAVY LIST June 1943

Lieut.-Com., R.N.R., G. T. Blake (ret) 18 July 40  
Lieut. R.N.R. J.  F. Coleman 31 Mar 41
Temp. Lieut. R.N.V.R., J. C. Newman, MBE (Proby) 28 Feb 40
Temp. Lieut. R.N.V.R., G. Paterson, Jan 41.
Temp. Lieut. R.N.V.R., T. Blairs,  May 42
Temp. Lieut. R.N.V.R., G. M. Knocker 16 Feb 43
Temp. Lieut. (E) R.N.R., J. V. Challenger, 28 May 41. (Different date to 1942?)
Temp. Sub. Lieut. R.N.V.R., S. H. Brown 28 0ct 41
Temp. Sub. Lieut. R.N.V.R., J. R. Crichton 8 Feb 43.
Temp. Sub-Lieut. (E) R.N.R., T. H. Leathley, (Act)15 June 41

Radio Direction Finder Operator, Frank Langshaw.

OFFICERS ON THE NAVY LIST June 1944

Temp. Lieut. R.N.V.R., T. Blairs, May 42
Temp. Lieut. R.N.V.R., J. R. Crichton 8 Feb 43.
Temp. Lieut. (E) R.N.V.R., S. B. Hicks, 10 Sep 43.
Temp. Sub. Lieut. R.N.V.R., A. W. Lloyd, 1 July 43.


If you, your father or your grandfather have any additional information about this ship, crew lists, stories, photographs, please send copies of them to be added to our records and this website.

Thank you.

Contact: Johntenthousand@yahoo.co.uk


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HMS Golden Eagle, Anti-aircraft Ship in her war time paint, (Probably) moored off Queenborough.

Wednesday,  29 May 1940.

The Flotilla Leader HMS Waverley (Auxiliary minesweeper Lt S.F. Harmer-Elliot R.N.V.R) out of Harwich left Dunkirk with a full load of troops. She met with disaster when she came under repeated attack by twelve He 111 German aircraft. With bombs exploding all around four troops were killed and many others wounded. She dodged the bombs for half an hour until a near miss damaged her steering gear and made her unmanageable. Unable to manoeuvre a direct hit by a bomb wrecked her ward-room and passed through her bottom leaving a six feet wide hole. Sinking by the stern, the Waverly's guns, her twelve pounder and Lewis guns continued to fire. Troops on board also fired their rifles at the German Planes, fighting off low flying bombing and strafing attacks. In less than a minute of the order to abandon ship, she sank with the loss of 360 troops and crew. Her Captain went down with her but managed to fight free of underwater entanglements. He surfaced in a sea thick with troops many of who would soon slip below the surface.

HMS Golden Eagle, on her first trip to Dunkirk, came upon this carnage. Guided to the disaster by British aircraft she set about rescuing all she could. The captain of the Waverley and over half of her crew and troops were saved by the Golden Eagle, the French Destroyer, Cyclone, Minesweeper Drifters and the Tug Java.

HMS Golden Eagle returned to Margate with the rescued survivors of the Waverley, many of them wounded.

31 May 1940

On her return to Dunkirk the Golden Eagles used her lifeboats to lift troops off the beaches. Smaller vessels such as the Glala towed whalers full of soldiers from the beaches out to the Golden Eagle.  The Golden Eagle returned to England with over 1,000 troops.

3 June 1940

The Golden Eagle was the last vessel to leave the Dunkirk area loaded with troops.

A soldier of the 127 Field Ambulance, R.A.M.C having drawn straws to see who would stay with the wounded and who would try to reach England by ship eventually made it to a ship. As he was pulled on board by a sailor, he asked the name of the ship. The sailor told him it was the Golden Eagle. The Soldier exclaimed, "it should be called the "F...ing Golden Angel"!! as he collapsed on the deck  in utter, utter relief.
 

Fear can be paralysing, as I am sure we have all experienced at some time, but to see a sailor who saw service in the First World War riveted to the spot and unable to move is an unnerving sight. This happened when we were bombed and machine gunned by a lone enemy aircraft; no serious casualties, but we did however wing him. In action, providing you are doing a good job, such as firing a gun, you do not feel fear, but when it is all over, relief surges in. Most experience a splitting headache, then over a good strong cup of char, we would analyse what we should have done and try not to make the same mistakes. We would shout at one another, to release the tension; this was our therapy and it worked very well indeed. Our gunnery instructors would say “do not think of the pilot or crew, it is the aircraft you are shooting at.” It was amazing how much better we felt.

Soon after this, I was drafted into the Gunnery School to take a course and return to the same ship. I was made a gun layer and able to fire my own gun, a pompom. A PAC thrower had been fitted on the quarter-deck and I was given the job of arming the hand grenades before leaving harbour, then taking out the detonators upon return. A section of the deck was roped off to prevent anyone coming near, in case I blew myself up! The thrower fired the grenades at low flying aircraft, not that we ever fired it in anger. It would probably have caused more damage to the ship than the aircraft.

About this time the Nore Lightship was sunk by enemy action, so we were detailed to proceed to the spot and raise a brilliant light at the masthead. We led the enemy to believe that the lightship was still afloat. What a night – we heard the enemy passing overhead, guided up the estuary by our bright light. However, we had orders not to open fire unless attacked. During the following day a replacement lightship was towed out to relieve us and we were very pleased to be on the move again and to manoeuvre against surface craft.

Whilst on another patrol, an object was reported floating not far from the ship. The whaler was called away; I happened to be the bowman; and on going alongside, we discovered the body of a naval officer, which had been in the water for some time, being so bloated to be beyond recognition. Someone’s son or husband I thought; my stomach turned over as I helped to lift the body into the boat.

Our feelings were shown again on the occasion when we were returning from patrol one evening. Ahead of us, floating down attached to a parachute, was an enemy pilot, his aircraft having crashed into the sea. Many on the ship wanted to shoot him out of the sky, especially those who had lost loved ones during the blitz. Sense prevailed and the skipper ordered no firing. The pilot was picked up by a nearby minesweeper.

During this part of the war, the enemy commenced dropping mines in the estuary, using parachutes. These mines were dropped at night in the shipping lanes (those that concerned us were Barrow Deep and Edinburgh Channel) and as the parachutes were black, they were very difficult to detect, especially on moonless nights. We were however, able to plot quite a few of these mines – then the minesweepers came out and did their work. Unfortunately not all mines were found and may a good ship was blown up in these busy shipping lanes, with great loss of life. One dark night our ship hit one of these mines and the explosion badly damaged our bows. The paint locker, cable locker and heads were flooded and we started sinking. Fortunately a convenient run onto a sandbank kept us afloat, otherwise it would have been abandon ship. No one was killed or seriously hurt and at daybreak a couple of tugs frog-marched us into port, our pumps having failed to keep us afloat. Thence into dry-dock; repairs started and survivors leave granted! Half the ships company had seven days leave, followed by the other half, therefore in an emergency the ship could put to sea with only half the ships company. Life on board ship in dry-dock was quite Spartan. Water for washing and cooking had to be piped from shore and the heads on board ship were closed. Quite a slippery climb up the steep steps of the dry-dock had to be made; very hair rising during an air raid on a wet night to ease the call of nature!

On my return from leave the bows had been patched up and we were once again ready for sea and further patrols. About this time of the war, the cruiser HMS SOUTHAMPTON was secured to a buoy not far from us. It was daylight and the enemy sent over a great flight of fighter escorted bombers up the Thames to attack London. There were so many planes overhead and moving, we thought, so slowly, that daytime almost turned to night. Suddenly every gun in the port and surrounds opened fire, including the six inch guns of the “Southampton”. A curtain of fire went up and at last we saw the enemy planes wheel round and head back out to sea. A real awesome sight and as we had many cockneys on-board, everyone was greatly relieved that the “smoke” had been spared.

After a few further uneventful patrols, I was drafted ashore for a higher rate and went on a course down to the West Country.

June 1940 the Golden Eagle was based at Sheerness with Lieutenant J R Dent R.N.R as Commanding Officer
Special Service vessels – paddle steamers GOLDEN EAGLE (Ty Lt J R Dent Pbty RNR), ROYAL EAGLE (Ty Cdr E F A Farrow RNR), both at Sheerness June 1940.

Jan 1942. Eagle Ships - ARISTOCRAT, BALMORAL, GOLDEN EAGLE, JEANNIE DEANS, QUEEN EAGLE, ROYAL EAGLE, all at Sheerness Jan 42.

6 June 1944. HMS Golden Eagle was in the first “Follow Up” convoy to leave for the D-day Invasion beaches. An eye witness states “The one ship I remember particularly in that convoy was the paddle steamer 'Golden Eagle' which used to ply the Thames. It was full of reporters and photographers and I believe it was to be used as a hospital ship.”

June 1945 returned to her owners.

7 June 1948 berthed on Clacton Pier

1951 arrived Grays, Essex to be scrapped by T. W. Ward Ltd.