DATA BASE REF: M/N 1003

JOHN STEPHEN HEPWORTH CBE of Peterborough, late RNVR, World War Two

 

John Hepworth was born on 6 July 1922 in Peterborough. He served in the Royal Navy during the Second World War. He then worked in Argentina until 1982 when he returned to England and lived in Castor.

 

 

Family:

                                                Herbert Hepworth = Clara Crossley

 

 

Eileen               Betty                Joan                 Peggy               John            = Molly                         Richard

Elsie                 May                                                                 Stephen                                                Allen(Bill)

                                                                                                           

                                                                        Sheilagh = John                        Moira               Peter

                                                                        Ann           With                 Jane                 Ian

                                                                                                            Died age 9

 

 

                                                                        Caroline O’Donnell                  Sarah Morgan

 

John married Molly while serving in Jamaica on 22 Feb 1945 at Kingston Jamaica

 

After leaving Deacon’s School John  went to do his banking articles with the Midland Bank, and was based in Spalding and Nottingham.

 

Initial Service:

John was warned that he was to be called up. The first thing that happened was that he, with a number of other men, were sat in a school-room, given pen, ink, and paper to do some tests, basically to establish how literate they all were. Most of the young men wanted to be pilots, John had always wanted to go to sea. When asked which service they would prefer, John was the only one to choose the Royal Navy. He was called up on 15 Oct 1940 and went to HMS Glendower ( a former Butlin’s Camp at Phwelli, North Wales). After 3 months he went to Portsmouth Barracks. He then had an awful trip as a Demi-Gunner to Gibraltar. At Gibraltar, he returned on a Van W class 1914 destroyer. He then went to the battleship, HMS Nelson and was selected as a Potential Officer, and had to wear a white hat-band. This required him to spend a minimum of one year at sea, after which the Captain of the Nelson recommended him. John went to HMS King Alfred at Brighton to officer training, being posted as a Sub Lieutenant in Dec 1941. While training they were based at Fortwilliam for a while. One of the navigation exercises included sailing from Fortwilliam along the West coast of Scotland to Tobermory. They had to go to the bar of an hotel, to meet an old Lieutenant Commander, who had been brought back into. service for the war. There you would ask “Would you like a drink , sir, “ and having bought him one, he would sign to say that you had arrived. John especially remembers one convoy, sailing down to South Africa , where looking around you could see 25 ships ( such as the Acquitaine) from all the famous shipping lines, serving as troop ships, carrying reinforcements in readiness for Alamein.

 

Later Service:

After various courses John ended up as a Deck Officer (Specialist Navigation). His next task was to travel to the Mediterranean with a flotilla of Fairmile Bs. After three months in hospital due to illness he was posted to Coastal Forces in the Caribbean. This was an area of very intense operations, with heavy losses of shipping to enemy U-boat action. At this stage the most intense slaughter in any ocean was in this area.  Ships coming through the Windward Channel between Cuba and Panama were very vulnerable to being ambushed by U-boats, and the situation did not improve until the USA joined the war in 1942.  At one stage, John was tasked to go to New York to pick up minesweeper crews. They were sent to Miami, and ferried PT Boat hulls and engines to New York, sailing up the intra-coastal waterways (speed limit 5 Knots, actual speed about 30 Knots!), passing through Georgia and the Carolina. At that time there was just nothing there, apart from the odd wild pig which they shot. Now of course the whole area is full of marinas. After operations in the Caribbean, John went to New York, then to Los Angeles, and across the Pacific in a troop ship to Calcutta, for the landings at Chittagong; from there to Trincomalee working up for the invasion of Japan planned for 9th Sept 1945, but on 10th August the Japanese threw the towel in.

 

Shirley Temple’s Bedroom:

While John and his party were travelling across the States to the Pacific, they were granted ten days leave in Los Angeles. They stayed in the Bachelor Officers’ Club in Sunset Boulevard. Shirley Temple had just become engaged, and she invited a group of officers from the club to join her celebrations. Lots were drawn to see who should attend, and John was one of the ones selected. On arriving at the party, they were told that Miss Temple was confined to her bed, but they were allowed to go in pairs into her bedroom to talk to her. (She was about 19/20 at the time, a bright, bubbly blonde)

 

Returning Home:

John returned home on an aircraft carrier in time for Christmas 1945 and was demobbed on 20th August 1946. Molly had been in Jamaica; after 4 days of marriage, John did not see her for 10 months. In the meantime Molly took a troopship to England (Molly had been a Naval Captain’s  secretary and thus qualified for the passage). On demob John was a Lieutenant in the RNVR. After the war John did not return to the Midland Bank. He was cold, and hungry and had a new wife, so he joined the Royal Bank of Canada. He worked for them firstly in Jamaica, then Montreal, then Cuba, before, during and after the Castro Revolution,, then to Barancquilla in Colombia, then Puerto Rica and then to Argentina in 1963. While in Argentina John was made a Companion of the British Empire (CBE) for services to Her Majesty the Queen and the Country and the local British community. He remained in Argentina with the Royal Bank of Canada, until the Falklands Conflict, when he retired and came home; firstly to Cambridge, then to Castor near the town of his birth Peterborough.

 

Shortly after these notes were written ( September 2002), John decided to return to Argentina to live in Buenos Aires, to be nearer his daughter Sheilagh and her husband John With.