Photograph (dated 1937) courtesy of Darren.
Born: 1919, Mutford, Essex.
Died: 14th November 1942; age 23; Drowned as an Italian PoW on board S.S.’Scillin.’
Residence: 26, Wilberforce Road, Ipswich.
Occupation: Postman – Ipswich Post Office.
Rank: Gunner; Service Number: 922391.
Regiment: Royal Artillery, 67 Medium Regiment.
Father: Frederick James Northrop, born August 1890, Chelsea. A Journeyman Baker.
Mother: Edith May Northrop (nee Baldry), born April 1891, Wickham Market, Suffolk.
In May 1936, Frederick was nominated Postman in Ipswich/Felixstowe.
In November 1938, Frederick was nominated Male Sorting Clerk & Telegraphists.
In 1941, Ipswich, Frederick married Jean Edith May Leggett, born 1920, Ipswich.
Frederick is also remembered on the war memorial at the Royal Mail Centre, Commercial Road, Ipswich.
A family note: My grandmother was Jean Ethel May Leggett, after Frederick died she married my grandfather George Aitchison – so if Frederick had survived the war my whole side of the family may not have existed. I don’t know anymore about him than what is already documented on your page. I am trying to find information about the daughter they had together, but nobody seems to know anything in our family.
A letter sent home to Gunner George Hale, who was sent home through ill health. The letter describes life in North Africa:
NO. 922391. Gnr. Northrop F.W.
232/67th Med. Regt. R.A.
At last I’ve managed it or I will have in a few minutes. For these last few weeks I’ve been meaning to write thanking you for a letter that you wrote in December also an airgraph, if I’ve answered them, I can’t remember the deserts got me, just put it down to the heat. I’m very pleased to hear you are out of the Army, but very sorry to hear that you had been in hospital with your old trouble I hope you have fully recovered by now. Well I suppose you would like to know what I’ve been doing these last few months. To begin with on arriving out here I threw up the old job and went back on driving, but owing to the regiment being over strength I had to go back to Base as a reinforcement, the Base Camp, was near Cairo and we were allowed out until 1:30 A.M. I managed to lay off both the beer and brothels while I was there, about nine weeks. Cairo is just an ordinary city with a lot of scruffy urchins and Egyptians slinking around, it has modern cinemas and several clubs for troops. I visited the pyramids while I was there, anyone who travels half the world to see them is plain nuts. Just after Xmas I rejoined the regiment at Halfaya Pass, I was transferred to Don troop as a driver. Since then I’ve been all over the Western Desert and now after five months of it I’m browned off. During these five months I haven’t seen a woman, a shop, or any thing civilised, just rocks and sand. The regiment has been and still is in action, but as yet we have been very lucky and have had very few casualties. I don’t see much of the R.H.Q. boys now, they are back a bit. But most of them are quite well, Ken Copping went into hospital with a rupture soon after we arrived out here, but he is now quite well and back at his old job. Stevie is still the same only he doesn’t trouble to blacken his moustache now, he has been on leave, he told me he had one or two hectic nights, he also visited the “Berker” a street consisting solely of brothels, price 20 piastres or 4/-. Tuck has thrown over Mac and is now a cook in 231, North, King, & Old Bill are about all that is left of the old gang. The remainder of R.H.Q. remains about the same, Jack Revell should be home by now, he had his hand blown off at Bordia. I now receive my mail from Jean and home quite regularly, I find it a hard job to keep up with my correspondence.
Well, boy, this desert is the most detestable place on God’s earth, you are choked with sand, thirsty all day, tormented by rats, flies, fleas, and scorpions, and of course Jerry and his “Stukas” are more than a nuisance, can you wonder I’m browned. The chaps in Don troop are a decent crowd and I get along O.K. The weather is becoming very hot, just recently I’ve had a couple of dips in the Med, only to be covered with dust on the return journey. The food is the usual Army stuff, sometimes it’s just “bully” and biscuits for a few days, drinking water is priceless, but we sometimes receive a supply of salt water for washing. Taken all round you are not missing a thing by not being out here, except for several different types of shit.
Please remember me to your Father & Mother, I hope they are keeping well, also Joyce, Is she one of the family yet? Boy after this lot I’ll appreciate home more than I did, I’m going to be a real devoted husband and a home bird. But of course this wont prevent us from having a night out together, I’ll be able to fix that, do you remember the night of whiskey & ginger ale at Amersham, I could do with a good drink right now, a real stiff one at that, Jerry has been shelling & dive-bombing all day.
Well pal, I think this is all for now, if you see Jean don’t give any trade secrets away. I hope you are enjoying “civvy” life as much as I would if I was home, I used to think I was tough but this desert is too good for me. Don’t forget to drop me a line when you can, I’ll try to reply more quickly. Will say cheerio for now, all the best from,
P.S. Charlie has left the regiment.
67th Medium Regiment
67th Medium Regiment, R.A. (T.A.)
HQ, 232nd (Suffolk) Bty: Ipswich
231st (Suffolk) Bty: Sudbury
67th Medium Regiment served under command of IV Corps Artillery in the autumn of 1940. It was sent to North Africa in October 1941 as part of the Crusader convoys. It served under 8th Army in the campaigns in the Western Desert from November 1941 until June 1942. It supported the South African attack on Bardia in December 1941. The regiment added (Suffolk) to its name on 17 February 1942. It was captured at Tobruk on 20 June 1942. Due to causalities the regiment was reduced to a cadre on 7 September 1942.
The regiment was reformed at Hunstanton, Norfolk on 7 February 1943 from 167th Field Regiment. It joined 3rd Army Group RA on its formation on 11 February 1943 at 49 Trant Road, Tunbridge Wells. It served in Northwest Europe with this formation from June 1944 until the end of the war.
S.S.’Scillin’ was a cargo steamship built in 1903, at Russell & Co., Greenock, Renfrewshire, at yard 511, for William Peterson Ltd., of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and named H.M. ‘Pellatt.’ In 1905, she was sold to the Canadian Lake & Ocean Navigation Co., of Newcastle. H.M.’Pellatt’ was sold again in 1911, to the Merchants Mutual Line, of Newcastle. The Canadian Northern Steamships, of London bought her in 1917, and soon sold her in 1918 to Canada Steamship Lines Ltd., of Montreal. She was sold once again in 1920, and re-named S.S. ‘Memling’ by her new owner the Société Belge d’Armement Maritime. In 1924/1925 her name was changed to S.S. ‘Nicole Le Borgne’ by the Compagnie Charles Le Borgne, of Marseille. In 1934, her new owner Giuseppe Pagan, of Venice re-named her S.S. ‘Giuliana Pagan.’ The Aurora SA di Navigazione, of Genoa had bought the steamship and changed her name to S.S. ‘Scillin Secondo,’ which was later shortened in 1937 to S.S. ‘Scillin.’ In 1941, S.S. ‘Scillin’ was in the ownership of Fratelli Biarchi Società Di Navigazione of Genoa.
14th November 1942
On the 13th November 1942, over 800 PoWs weak from the lack of food and medical treatment were loaded onto the S.S.’Scillin,’ at the Spanish Quay in Tripoli Harbour. The men were penned into the severely overcrowded hold, with insanitary conditions. The only air and light came through a small hatch. A further 195 PoWs were left behind to board another ship after the British Captain Gilbert, of the R.A.M.C. made a strong forceful and intense protest that the ship was already overcrowded.
With an Italian Naval gun crew and guards, the ship set sail three hours late on it’s passage from Tripoli to Trapani, Sicily.
The British P212 submarine H.M.S. ‘Sahib’ (Lieutenant John Bromage), was on patrol in support of the Axis campaign in North Africa. When S.S. ‘Scillin’ appeared on their radar. In the darkness, 9 miles north of Kuriat, Tunisa Lt. Bromage, believing that the ship was carrying Italian troops, ordered open fire of their 3inch gun as a signal for the ship to stop. She did not respond. At 19:50hrs a torpedo was fired. The torpedo blew out the bottom of the hold in which the PoWs were penned. There was little chance of survival and the ship sank rapidly.
H.M.S.’Sahib’ rescued 27 PoWs (26 British & 1 South African), plus S.S. Scillin’s Captain and 45 Italian crew members, before an Italian warship arrived and H.M.S. ‘Sahib’ was forced to withdraw. Only when the survivors (who later landed in Malta) were heard speaking English did Lt. Bromage realise that the ship had been carrying PoWs.
The ‘friendly fire’ tragedy was investigated as a war crime, and the subsequent inquiry absolved Lt. Bromage of any blame. The Ministry of Defence kept the incident a secret for 54 years. Telling families that their loved ones had died as PoWs in camps, or ‘lost at sea.’ In 1996, after repeated requests from the families the truth was revealed.
Now the Date of Death recorded by the C.W.G.C. (26th October 1942 – 14th November 1942) has been corrected to show the 14th November 1942 to almost all who had died on board S.S.’Scillin.’
S.S.’Scillin.’67th Medium Regiment information used from the work of Brian Sims (1997) and courtesy of Pat Dowsing.