LESLIE JOHN DANIEL (1918 - 1941)
Able Seaman Leslie John Daniel D/JX165661 was lost at sea from HMS Gloucester during the Battle of Crete on 22nd May 1941.
Leslie was born on 2nd December 1918, and attended North Hill Village School (now the Racehorse Inn). At the age of 15 he left Cornwall to work for Sainsbury's in London, where he remained until he was called up at the beginning of WW2 in 1939. His step-sister, June Rawlings (nee Lawrence) remembers him leaving to join HMS Gloucester, a Town class light cruiser which had returned from the Far East in 1940 and joined the Mediterranean Fleet. Leslie boarded a troop ship that sailed via Cape Town to the Egypt because the Mediterranean was unsafe due to enemy action. Leslie eventually boarded her in Alexandria on the Egyptian Mediterranean coast.
He left from the family home, the Rodd Arms in North Hill, coming upstairs to say goodbye to his sister. She never saw him again, and had to tell her mother when she heard of the sinking on the news. June wrote to Leslie regularly, and after the sinking of HMS Gloucester a package of her letters was returned undelivered. She never opened them and they were put into a drawer, and eventually disappeared. Her mother never spoke of Leslie again.
HMS Gloucester was on duty continuously from mid-1940 until her sinking by German Stuka dive bombers during the Battle of Crete on 22nd May 1941. By this time she was known as the Fighting G, having won five battle honours in under twelve months. Leslie was officially posted as lost at sea, and is memorialised on the Parish War Memorial at Congdon's Shop and the Plymouth Naval War Memorial on the Hoe. Seven hundred and twenty two of the 807 crew members were lost, representing over 30% of total naval personnel killed in the Battle for Crete.
Leslie's family joined The Fighting G Club, which was set up post war for survivors and families of those who were lost. There was a reunion each year at the RN Club in Devonport, with a service in the chapel. In 2001 the family went to Greece, then to Kithera and aboard HMS Northumberland to the site of the wreck. Here is an account of what happened:
"In memory of HMS Gloucester 1937-1941
June and Charles Rawlings and their daughter Pamela Barrett together with members of the Fighting G Club made their way to the island of Kithera off mainland Greece to commemorate the sinking of HMS Gloucester (pictured here) by the Germans 60 years ago with the loss of over 700 of her 800 crew. In May 1941 Kithira was under German occupation. The 85 survivors from HMS Gloucester were picked up by the Germans off the coast of Kithira, thinking they were their own men. The Germans took them to the island, where they were held captive in a house in Kipsali Bay without any food or water.
The six survivors who accompanied us, all in their eighties, had come to say thank you to Nickos Sotirches who with two of his friends fed the survivors for ten days. The two boys would distract the Germans while Nickos smuggled food in the back door. Afterwards the survivors were sent to POW camps in Europe, which is another story. John Stevens, president of the Fighting G Club, presented Nickos with a medal engraved ?He Who Dared?. A plaque was unveiled on the house in which they were imprisoned.
On the Sunday we were taken by HMS Northumberland, which was on duty in the Med, to the spot where HMS Gloucester was sunk, for a commemorative service and wreath laying ceremony. It was a very emotional time for June, who lost her brother on the Gloucester. We felt very privileged to have had the opportunity to attend this ceremony, and will always remember the hospitality extended to us by the ship's company of HMS Northumberland. God bless HMS Northumberland and the British Navy."
The ship's wreck is a controlled site under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986.
We are very grateful to June Rawlings and her family for their time and the opportunity to learn more about this courageous young man. He was clearly very much loved and missed.
The images at the top of the page show (L-R): Leslie Daniel; HMS Gloucester; British War Medal (WW2)