Bermuda’s first-lost in the Second World War
The Air Forces Memorial, or Runnymede Memorial, near Egham, Surrey, England is a memorial dedicated to some 20,456 men and women from the British Empire who were lost in operations from World War II. All of those recorded have no known grave anywhere in the world, and many were lost without trace. Runnymede Memorial web site 2011.
YESTERDAY was Memorial Day for 2011 and was thus the 93rd anniversary of the end of the First World War, otherwise the Great War, which ground to a halt on November 11, 1918, after four years of the bloodiest conflict ever waged. Millions of military personnel and civilians were killed by the war machines in a number of theatres around the world.
Bermuda lost 80 men in overseas service in the Great War from the Bermuda Militia Artillery, allied with the gunners of the Royal Garrison Artillery, and the Bermuda Volunteer Rifle Corps, matched up with foot soldiers of British army regiments, and others who had signed up for air force and other duties.
While that was a high price for a small place with a small population, Bermuda has been fortunate that it has never been invaded or suffered from the boot of foreign occupation in any war. Similar corps of men volunteered in World War Two, while a corps of women also enlisted for overseas service. One woman and 34 men did not return home, but are buried on foreign fields, or in the case of some lost at sea, their remains have vanished forever in the vastness of the ocean seas.
Yesterday on parade were some of the last survivors of such overseas service of the Second World War, joined by younger veterans of more recent conflicts. It is salient to consider that the end of World War Two was 66 years ago and thus the youngest of personnel, enlisting between the ages of 16 and 18, are now in their eighties. With a few exceptions of men in their late thirties or forties, most of Bermuda’s overseas casualties in World War Two were persons in the twenties, most in their early twenties. For the sake of the Island, those people never had the chance of making it to their thirties, let alone the esteemed age of an octogenarian.
The first Bermuda lost in the Second World War was one such victim, the aviator Flight Officer Herman Francis Grant Ede, the son of Winifred Louise Ede of Pembroke, ‘proprietor of the defunct Cloverleaf restaurant in the Walker Arcade’ (Winifred was related to the Walkers). Ten months after the birth of Herman on February 17, 1917, Mrs Ede had the misfortune of losing her husband, Lieutenant Commander Ernest Grant Ede RN, on December 12, 1917 while on convoy duty in the North Sea on HMS Pellew.
According to research carried out by Sean Talbot, young Herman grew up in Bermuda, but enlisted in the Royal Air Force at the age of 20 in 1937, as war clouds gathering over the European continent. He had left McGill University to enlist, but formerly was at Trinity College School in Canada, being the first ‘Old Boy to be decorated in the Second World War’, namely with the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC).
As Sean Talbot has written, Ede was ‘posted to Fighter Command as a Gladiator pilot, he went first to 111 Squadron, but in the spring of 1940 he was drafted to 263 Squadron, which was rebuilding in Scotland after its return from Norway. With its aircraft replaced and its personnel back up to strength, the squadron was immediately dispatched back to Norway to resume their ill-fated defence of that country from its Nazi invaders (the pre-war Bermuda liner, Monarch of Bermuda, incidentally, had delivered Scots and Irish Guards detachments to Narvik in Norway on April 14, 1940).’
On May 21, 1940, the Squadron lifted off the carrier HMS Glorious to begin their work over the skies of the Norwegian coast around Bardufoss in the north. Herman Ede went into action almost immediately, as described by Sean Talbot:
On the morning of the 24th May, four German Messerschmitt Bf110 twin-engine fighters strafed the aircraft dispersed about the field. FO Ede took off to engage them. The Bf110 was a faster aircraft with a considerable advantage in firepower to the already obsolete Gladiator bi-plane, but was far less maneuverable and Ede was able to pour fire on them before they out-ran him, causing one to crash onto a frozen lake near Tysfjord. Later that day, in the company of another Gladiator, Ede attacked a lone Heinkel He 111 bomber. He machine-gunned the rear gunner, and his companion shot out the starboard motor. Another Gladiator joined them and shot out the port motor. The German pilot made a forced landing and the three Gladiator pilots shared the kill. At 0900 hrs the following morning, the 25th, FO Ede flew his first sortie in Gladiator N5705 over Harstad. He chanced upon a Focke-Wulf 200 making a reconnaissance at 15,000 feet and shot it down over Dyroy Island. Flying a second patrol at 1030 hrs, he came upon a Junkers Ju 90, another four-engine aircraft, over Finnoen Island and sent it down in flames.
Despite such victories by FO Ede and other military actions, the German forces prevailed and in early June 1940, HMS Glorious with the 263 Squadron aboard withdrew for Britain, along with other Allied forces. Not have any of the planes in the air for reconnaissance on the voyage, the carrier was surprised by the German battle cruisers, Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Admiral Hipper and sent to the bottom, some 350 miles west of Narvik in Norway, with only six survivors from the Royal Air Force and Fleet Air Arm.
Herman Ede was among the missing and thus became the first Bermudian military man to be lost in the Second World War. History does not record the reaction of his mother who so lost her firstborn, following on the earlier loss of her husband to the same enemy.
Edward Cecil Harris, MBE, JP, PHD, FSA is Executive Director of the National Museum at Dockyard. Comments may be made to director[AT]bmm.bm or 704-5480.