Thundersley Village

Connections to the Sea

No.33 St.Sidwells: click on it to enlarge
Ian Hawks
HMS Mastiff
HMS Curzon
Details of HMS Curzon
Allen Diggens

In the 1920s, Harold and Kate Diggens occupied No. 33, St. Sidwells, Raymonds Drive. Harold worked as a wholesale market gardener and florist from their garden,  which in those days ran down to the unmade lower section of Langford Crescent.

Harold worked with Mr Newman, a market gardener, whose wife was a teacher with Miss Watson at the Thundersley Primary School.

Kate was one of the daughters of Alfred Hawks, my paternal grandfather, {see A Hadleigh School Master page} who was schoolmaster at the Hadleigh Church School.
Kate and Harold were staunch members of the St. Peter’s Church congregation and had three sons;

Fred worked in South Africa on a coffee plantation;

Graham worked for W.H.Perry the local Ford Dealer and during the 1939 war was a Captain in the Royal Engineers;

Allen joined the Merchant Navy {he was my inspiration for joining the Merchant Navy.}

In 1938 he transferred to the Royal Navy, serving as First Lieutenant on HMS Mastiff and later on HMS Curzon as Captain, when he was awarded the DSC for sinking submarines in the Mediterranean. He was later awarded a bar to the DSC and mentioned in despatches for convoy escort work.

Allen and I met up twice during the war, first in Freetown when our ships were waiting to join a homeward-bound convoy and next in Bermuda Naval Dockyard.

I was on a Fleet Tanker and Allen had just collected the Curzon from the States.  He retired as Commander.

On their retirement, Harold and Kate moved to Kent. When the house was sold, the lower part of the garden was sold for redevelopment, as were many of the adjacent gardens.

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  • Jim,  thanks for your interesting comments. Am a bit confused with the names you mentioned. Allen’s wife was called June although the name Waddingham does ring a bell, am waiting to hear from June to see if she can put any light on it. On my ship the SS Kingsbury we had fitted in 1939 a 12 pounder anti aircraft gun and a 4-inch surface gun manned by a DEMS member who trained the ship’s crew to operate the guns. The only action we used the guns in was with the anti aircraft one against a lone raider one night in the English Channel, unfortunately we lost one crew member in the attack. If you are interested, I have photos of the guns on Kingsbury and would be pleased to mail them to you.

    By Ian Hawks (31/10/2012)
  • Ian, thank you for this site. It has proved invaluable in my family history research. I had no idea that the family line to Rosemary nee Waddingham, Allen Diggens’ wife, would lead me to my home county, let alone the other coincidences. My grandmother was Rosemary’s great great aunt. She was born London and married Rosemary’s grt grt uncle, but she remarried in of all places, St John’s Church, Southend (at the time in 1915 my grandfather was in the Border Regt. at Shoeburyness training for the Gallipoli landings), after her first husband had been killed in an accident. My uncle, James Lewis Jones, the only child of the first marriage, served in RNVR as a Petty Officer on a minesweeper. He is buried in a War Grave at Sutton Cemetery, Southend. I was also very interested to learn that you served on the convoy ships since my father, having been in the Essex Regiment as a Territorial, joined up in September 1939, volunteering in 1940 to join the Royal Artillery ‘Maritime Regiment’ to serve on DEMS*. He was transferred to Oban and served on many convoys. On a return from Freetown, Sierra Leone (from which my eldest son has just returned!) his ship was sunk by a U boat and he was eventually rescued by a Canadian destroyer HMCS St Francis (I have yet to find out the name of the ship he was on or when this happened). There seems to be scant information about the Maritime Regiment and their support for the Merchant Service. Even Nicholas Monsarrat in ‘Three Corvettes’, whilst he says that the MS were among the bravest men in the war, mentions little about the Royal Artillery. Like all of us as we get older, I wish I’d asked my father more, particularly what being at sea and in constant danger felt like. I’d be very grateful if you have any ideas as to where I might be able to find more about this branch of the services or could point me in the right direction. Again, thank you for the site. 

    Best wishes.

    {Ed:} * Defensively Equipped Merchant Ships  (DEMS) were merchant navy vessels that were equipped with limited armament to assist in convoy defence during the Second World War.

    By Jim Toone (29/10/2012)
  • Ian – No, but do please contact me through my web site: as this is really out of the community forum… I’m planning a talk at St Michael’s, Daws Heath, when new building appears … about my seafaring life … it is currently booked for end of September.

    By Nick Ardley (13/03/2012)
  • Ian, Interesting. You were on a ‘fleet tanker’. Do I assume that this was a Royal Fleet Auxiliary? Can you remember the name of the tanker? I spent 30 years with that mob, rising, briefly, to Chief Engineer Officer. As you know I’ve been connected to the sea all my life … and was out there yesterday!

    By Nick Ardley (12/03/2012)
  • Yes, Third officer on the RFA War Nawab, War Brahmin, War Sudra and Second on the Airsprite. Do you belong to the RFAA ?

    By Ian Hawks (12/03/2012)
  • I have no records of why the house was called St.Sidwells.   Saint Sidwell was a virgin saint from the English county of Devon, possibly of British origin. Her historical existence is not well established. 

    By Ian Hawks (27/02/2012)

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