A young victim of 'The Cruel Sea'

Dessie Blackadder


Dessie Blackadder

AS the Royal British Legion marks its 100th anniversary, it is worth recalling one of the famous lines from their annual commemoration ceremonies - ‘age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn’.

And as we also near the anniversary of the D-Day landings and subsequent actions it is fitting to remember one young man from Ballymena who perfectly fitted the sentiments of the poem quoted above.

Matthew Herbison Marshall, known to his friends and family as ‘Herbie’ was one of many young men - little more than boys in many cases - who joined up to serve their country in Wolrd War 2.

Just 12 months before he was killed in action, Herbie Marshall was a carefree teen playing football with his mates.

But that young life was cut short by a German torpedo in June 1944, devastating all who knew him.

It may be 77 years later, but ‘At the going down of the sun and in the morning, that family is still ‘remembering him.’

Marshall, D/LX 31320 Steward Matthew Herbison, (Herbie), H.M.S. Mourne, Royal Navy, died off the beaches of Normandy and aged 19 on the 15th June 1944.

He was the son of H. and Jeannie Marshall, of Ballymena, Co. Antrim and is remembered on Plymouth Naval Memorial.

At 13.45 hours on 15 June 1944, HMS Mourne (K 261) (River class frigate commanded by Lt Cdr R.S. Holland, RD, RNR) was hit and sunk by a torpedo fired from U-767.

The ship was south-southeast of Wolf Rock, and together with other warships was on patrol off the western entrance of the English Channel, their role being to screen Operation Neptune, the Allied landings in the Normandy. The unfortunate frigate had just turned towards the U-boat after making Asdic contact when the torpedo struck her bow and she disappeared in an explosion caused by the ignition of the forward magazine.

The blast killed the commander, seven officers and 102 crewmen; another rating later died of wounds. HMS Mourne was built by the Smiths Dock Co., South Bank-on-Tees. Two others of the type, HMS Itchen and HMS Tweed, were also lost while serving with the Royal Navy.

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