Memories of a war hero brother

John William Leach who was 21 years old and a Stoker First Class when he was killedon the HMS Fidelity off the Azores in January 1943 in a U Boat attack during the Second World War. His name is on the Melton war memorial EMN-150126-143607001
John William Leach who was 21 years old and a Stoker First Class when he was killedon the HMS Fidelity off the Azores in January 1943 in a U Boat attack during the Second World War. His name is on the Melton war memorial EMN-150126-143607001
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Seventy-seven names are listed on stone plaques at Melton’s war memorial to denote servicemen who were killed in the Second World War.

And many of them died after a tragic stroke of bad luck. One was John William Leach, who lived in Rosebery Avenue, Melton, before joining up to serve with the Royal Navy.

He was a Stoker First Class on board HMS Fidelity in late December 1942, in an Atlantic convoy en route to the Far East to bolster Allied forces against the Japanese.

John’s vessel developed mechanical problems off the Azores and while it was awaiting repairs the rest of the flotilla of ships went on ahead. HMS Fidelity, with a crew of around 400 men and one woman, was a sitting duck for a passing German U-boat, which sunk it after unleashing torpedos. Most on board died.

John was 21 at the time and his brother James, who is now 80, recalls hearing the terrible news: “I was eight or nine at the time and had been out playing in the street,” he recalled.

“I went in the house and everyone was crying. I have heard since that the ship was only doing two knots an hour at the time. You can row faster than that so they didn’t have a chance.”

John, who also had two sisters called Nancy and Lilly, lived with parents John Frederick and Isabella. He had worked with his father at Stewart and Lloyds at Asfordby Hill before the war.

James has made a donation to the Melton Times appeal to enhance the town’s war memorial in the gardens of Egerton Lodge with photographs and details about each fallen serviceman.

Martin Shouler, of Melton property specialists Shouler and Son, has researched his father’s uncle, Edward Shouler, who was killed in the First World War while serving with the Royal Navy.

Edward was second in command of a crew of 71 on the destroyer HMS Viking, which sailed with a flotilla around the North Sea and English Channel on the look out for enemy targets.

Disaster struck on January 29, 1916, as the vessel, which was carrying troops to fight in France, hit a submerged mine off the coast of Boulogne.

Martin said: “There were nine casualties plus one injured man who died later in hospital. Edward was one of the unfortunate ones who died in ensuing explosions.”

Edward, who was 29 and the son of a Thorpe End-based auctioneer, is listed on the war memorial at St Mary’s Church in Melton.

The list of Melton servicemen killed at sea during the Great War also includes Ernest Brotherhood.

His family was well known in the town with his father Jacob owning the shops opposite the entrance to the bus park in King Street - the family name is etched on the mosaic in the doorway.

Ernest joined the Royal Navy when he was 15 and served as a Yeoman of Signals for 18 years on a variety of ships.

In August 1916, shortly after he had been involved in the Battle of Jutland, Ernest was on board HMS Nottingham searching for the German High Seas Fleet in the North Sea.

His ship was hit by two torpedoes from a U-boat and sank with the loss of 39 men.

Ernest was 34 and left a grieving wife, Louisa, and parents Hannah and Jacob.