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Tom McCormack, 5 Troop, 2 Commando, Died St Nazaire  XML
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MBrockway
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Joined: 18/04/2009 01:36:39
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Folks,
My mother as a wee girl spent the first half of WW2 in Ayr where her father Allan MUIR was posted as a Ministry vet.

They lived in Carwinshoch View in the south part of the town near to the old racecourse at Seafield.

She remembers with great fondness three commandos who were billeted with them sometime in the period 1939-1942

She remembers them as Tom, Bill and Syd.

Sadly she thinks one of the three was killed in Norway (possibly at Narvik?) while another fell in Europe.

She is confident they were all from the Liverpool Scottish and at least one of them was an NCO.

Tom had a sister Josie who later visited our family in Worcestershire and we kept in touch with her until the 1950s but then lost contact.

We have been trying to identify these three men for about ten years, including contacting the Liverpool Scottish Regimental Museum in Liverpool but with little progress.

Recently however we have tentatively identified Tom as Pte Tom McCORMACK, 2930404, 1st (Liverpool Scottish) Bn., Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders and 5 Troop, No. 2 Commando who died age 25 on 11 April 1942 as a POW from wounds sustained at the St Nazaire Raid a few days earlier.

Can anyone help us identify who exactly were Bill and Syd? There are several possible men in 5 Troop.

Also can anyone also confirm that Tom is indeed Tom McCormack?

Are there any records of billeting surviving?

My mother is very anxious to re-establish contact with these brave men and their families. I'd be very grateful for any help from the Pals here. :-)

Cheers,
Mark

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 10/09/2011 23:25:37


Remembering Tom McCormack, died of wounds, Bill Hughes and Syd Murdoch both captured, all at St Nazaire and all Liverpool Scottish/QOCH & 5(Scottish) Troop, No 2 Commando. Wonderful company & welcome guests billeted with my grandfather in Ayr in 1941-2.
Pete
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Hi Mark and welcome to the CVA. I am assuming you have seen the No 2 Commando Gallery and the album for 5 Troop. In that album there is a photo I posted of 5 Troop taken in Dumfries prior to St Nazaire. Pte. Tom McCormack is pictured on the extreme left , 3rd row up, as you look at the photo and in the same row are Pte. Syd Murdoch and Pte.Bill Hughes. All were from the Liverpool Scottish, as were my father and my uncle who are also in the picture. There are also individual photos of Tom and Bill but sadly not Syd. As you know Tom died at St Nazaire. Tom sailed on HMS Campbeltown. Syd was on MGB314 and was wounded, and taken prisoner, as was Bill Hughes whom I believe was on ML177. Thee was another Bill in 5 Troop at the time from the Liverpool Scots called Bill Blythe and he was a L/Cpl. He was also taken POW at St Nazaire. There is one member of 5 troop from the Liverpool Scots who was at St Nazaire that I am in contact with. If you wish to contact me by email I will gladly speak to him and to the curator of the Liverpool Scots Museum to see if I can find out any further information. I also have a notebook with billet addresses for 5 troop in Ayr but this was after St Nazaire. There is also a picture in that album of 3 members of 5 Troop taken I believe at the old Ayr Racecourse you mentioned. In fact No.2 Commando were due to stay in Perth but due to an incident with the Free Polish Division based there No. 2 moved to Ayr
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This message was edited 19 times. Last update was at 27/06/2011 14:05:52


Pete Rogers, son of LSgt Joe Rogers MM & nephew of TSM Ken McAllister. Both No2 Commando.
God and the Soldier, all men adore, In time of danger and not before.
When the danger is passed and all things righted, God is forgotten, and the Soldier slighted.


**** nb. I no longer monitor the pm facility ****
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MBrockway
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Pete wrote:I am assuming you have seen the No 2 Commando Gallery and the ... photo I posted of 5 Troop taken in Dumfries prior to St Nazaire.

If you wish to contact me by email I will gladly speak to [the Liverpool Scottish member of 5 Troop] and to the curator of the Liverpool Scots Museum to see if I can find out any further information.

I also have a notebook with billet addresses for 5 troop in Ayr but this was after St Nazaire. There is also a picture in that album of 3 members of 5 Troop taken I believe at the old Ayr Racecourse you mentioned.


Pete,
Thanks for such a speedy and helpful response!

I had indeed seen the 5 Troop photos you mention and had earmarked Bill Hughes and Syd Murdoch as possibles.

I'll be speaking to my mother tomorrow and she will probably be able to confirm from the pictures of Tom and Bill. She's making her way back north to Taynuilt at the moment after visiting my sister in Norwich so has no e-mail access till she's back home again.

We'd be very interested in the billet addresses in the Notebook, even though it is after St Nazaire. I'll get the exact address in Carwinshoch View from her when I speak to her.

Also the photo at the old racecourse - there's a good chance the same men may be present there.

This is the approx location:
http://www.multimap.com/maps/?qs=&countryCode=GB#map=55.44489,-4.65000|15|4&dp=os&loc=GB:55.44582:-4.64517:17

The old racecourse is the large open area 1/4 mile due east. HQ in Wellington Square is a pleasant flat walk one mile away to the north.

My mother thinks one of soldiers was killed in Norway - she is not 100% certain of this by any means, but I have identified a possible candidate for this in Lance Serjeant Bill CHUDLEY who failed to return from the Glomfjord Operation in 1942.

Bill Chudley was an NCO, but was a gunner, not in the Liverpool Scottish, so the L/Cpl Bill Blythe you mention is perhaps the more likely option. Chudley also appears to have been from Devon and my mother remembers all the men being fellow Scots - at least by heritage!

By all accounts none of these men were back safe in Blighty by the end of 1942.

I will send you a PM with my contact details as you suggest. When we contacted the Liverpool Scottish Regimental Museum ourselves, we only had the men's christian names, so it's not surprising we did not get very far then. I think they were also in the middle of a difficult re-location.

Once again many thanks for all the help!
Cheers,
Mark



Remembering Tom McCormack, died of wounds, Bill Hughes and Syd Murdoch both captured, all at St Nazaire and all Liverpool Scottish/QOCH & 5(Scottish) Troop, No 2 Commando. Wonderful company & welcome guests billeted with my grandfather in Ayr in 1941-2.
NIC
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This all sounds very promising and seems to be a good result for Mark and his Mother, great work Pete.

Nick Collins,

Commando Association Historical Archivist & Photographer.

Proud son of Cpl Mick Collins, 5 Troop, No5 Cdo

"Truly we may say of them, when shall their glory fade?"


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Pete
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Hi again Mark

There is also a picture of Lance Sergeant William Chudley in the No.2 Commando Gallery, where there are 2 albums I have posted for Operation Musketoon, one for those executed and one for those who escaped. You may wish to show your Mum that picture as well. As you rightly say, L/Sgt Chudley was not Scottish nor in the Liverpool Scots. He was born on the 10th May 1922 in Exeter and served in the Royal Artillery prior to the Commandos. Also I do not believe he was in 5 Troop. I know that one of the officers involved was from 4 Troop but am not sure if he was as well. Finally although i cannot see the road you mention in my fathers notebook I can see billet addresses in roads adjoining it and in the near vicinity. The men I have mentioned are not in the picture at Ayr racecourse but they were all Liverpool Scots who went to 5 Troop No.2 Commando..one of whomwas killed at Salerno. I mentioned it purely because of your original comment regarding the location where your mother lived being near the racecourse

Regards

Ps ..thanks Nick

This message was edited 3 times. Last update was at 18/04/2009 18:26:11


Pete Rogers, son of LSgt Joe Rogers MM & nephew of TSM Ken McAllister. Both No2 Commando.
God and the Soldier, all men adore, In time of danger and not before.
When the danger is passed and all things righted, God is forgotten, and the Soldier slighted.


**** nb. I no longer monitor the pm facility ****
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NIC
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Just a quick observation, you both talk of William (Bill) Chudley as a Lance Sergeant but the CWGC has him as a Lance Bombardier - don't know if that has any significance to Mark's research...

http://www.cwgc.org/search/casualty_details.aspx?casualty=2145562

nick

Nick Collins,

Commando Association Historical Archivist & Photographer.

Proud son of Cpl Mick Collins, 5 Troop, No5 Cdo

"Truly we may say of them, when shall their glory fade?"


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MBrockway
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NIC wrote:Just a quick observation, you both talk of William (Bill) Chudley as a Lance Sergeant but the CWGC has him as a Lance Bombardier - don't know if that has any significance to Mark's research...

http://www.cwgc.org/search/casualty_details.aspx?casualty=2145562

nick

Nick,
Good point. However Bill Chudley looks a less likely candidate than Bill Hughes since ...
  • he is from Devon, not Liverpool nor Scotland

  • he was in the RA, not the Liverpool Scottish/QOCH

  • he may not have been in 5 Troop and it is probable all three men were from the same troop


  • I've sent my mother links to the pictures here of Bill Hughes, Syd Murdoch and Tom McCormack, but she won't be back home at Taynuilt till Monday as she's breaking her journey in Glasgow.

    She has described Bill as being a cheery jovial fellow, full of fun and very happy to spend time playing with my mother and her elder sister, both of whom were under 10 years old! That certainly fits the impression of the character of Bill Hughes such as you can tell from the photos Pete has put in the Gallery!

    We'll see what she says once she's looked at the photos.

    Cheers,
    Mark

    Remembering Tom McCormack, died of wounds, Bill Hughes and Syd Murdoch both captured, all at St Nazaire and all Liverpool Scottish/QOCH & 5(Scottish) Troop, No 2 Commando. Wonderful company & welcome guests billeted with my grandfather in Ayr in 1941-2.
    Pete
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    Nick once again you are correct .. I meant to say he was a Lance Bombardier...don't quite know why I put Sergeant. I had already put the correct details down on his CVA gallery entry.

    http://www.commandoveterans.org/cdoGallery/v/units/2/Operation+Musketoon/William+Chudley++++No_2+Commando.jpg.html

    Regards

    This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 18/04/2009 21:22:33


    Pete Rogers, son of LSgt Joe Rogers MM & nephew of TSM Ken McAllister. Both No2 Commando.
    God and the Soldier, all men adore, In time of danger and not before.
    When the danger is passed and all things righted, God is forgotten, and the Soldier slighted.


    **** nb. I no longer monitor the pm facility ****
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    MBrockway
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    Pete wrote: ... The men I have mentioned are not in the picture at Ayr racecourse but they were all Liverpool Scots who went to 5 Troop No.2 Commando..one of whomwas killed at Salerno. I mentioned it purely because of your original comment regarding the location where your mother lived being near the racecourse

    Pete,
    The little bit of background visible in the photo of the three at the racecourse is certainly consistent with the Old Racecourse at Seafield, but I only know it from the late 1960's by which time it was a completely open field with no signs of racecourse "furniture" as far as I remember.

    The current Ayr Racecourse is to the west of the town centre and north of the River Ayr. It's possible that your photo could be at this new racecourse. Alternatively the horse barriers may have still been in place down at Seafield in 1941-42. I'll see if my mother can remember.

    Cheers,
    Mark

    Remembering Tom McCormack, died of wounds, Bill Hughes and Syd Murdoch both captured, all at St Nazaire and all Liverpool Scottish/QOCH & 5(Scottish) Troop, No 2 Commando. Wonderful company & welcome guests billeted with my grandfather in Ayr in 1941-2.
    MBrockway
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    Talking of possible slips of the pen, the Roll of Honour on the St Nazaire Society website (http://www.stnazairesociety.org/Pages/index.html) lists Private J McCormack - 2 Commando rather than T McCormack.

    I assume this is a mistake?
    Cheers,
    Mark



    Remembering Tom McCormack, died of wounds, Bill Hughes and Syd Murdoch both captured, all at St Nazaire and all Liverpool Scottish/QOCH & 5(Scottish) Troop, No 2 Commando. Wonderful company & welcome guests billeted with my grandfather in Ayr in 1941-2.
    Pete
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    Possibly but not necessarily a mistake Mark. However I will check this with the curator Liverpool Scots Museum. Commandos often were known by other names. A recent post on here for Victor John Cox shows that he was known as Jack. The Westminster Abbey Commando Roll of Honour also has him down as J. McCormack . The CWGC site has him down as Thomas ( these details being provided by next of kin) .I have also seen reference to this initial in an entry about his time in No.4 Ind Company which is the subject of an email I have sent you. Also he is shown as J. in Stuart Chants book " St Nazaire Commando" Yet in James Dorrian's book "Storming St Nazaire" he is shown as " Tommy McCormack". I'll let you know what I find out tomorrow hopefully.

    Regards

    Pete Rogers, son of LSgt Joe Rogers MM & nephew of TSM Ken McAllister. Both No2 Commando.
    God and the Soldier, all men adore, In time of danger and not before.
    When the danger is passed and all things righted, God is forgotten, and the Soldier slighted.


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    MBrockway
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    Forenames can be tricky, I agree - my own grandfather was William John BROCKWAY but served in WW1 as Cpl John Brockway, 12/KRRC later 16/KRRC and was apparently known as Jack Brockway. Finding any of his records was confusing until it became clear he had not used his name in the way you'd expect.

    I've been trying to hunt down some genealogy for Tom McCormack.

    His CWGC entry has his parents as Jeremiah and Joanna Ramsay W.W.P. McCORMACK of Allerton, Liverpool.

    I have found a Marriage between Jeremiah McCORMACK and Joanna Ramsey (sic) W.W. PATERSON registered in the Apr-May-Jun quarter of 1907 at West Derby, which is the Registration District covering Liverpool and includes Allerton.

    I then have Birth Register Indexentries in Wigan for Alicia McCORMACK in Q3 1911 and Thomas McCORMACK in Q4 1916 both with mother's name of PATERSON. This is almost certainly Tom, as both age and mother's maiden name are correct.

    Getting Rolls of Honour entries re-visited would be premature though without having sight of the source Birth Register entries to confirm Tom's full names - like my own grandfather, Tom may have gone under his Middle Name.

    There is also an earlier Birth Register entry in Wigan for Jeremiah McCORMACK in Q3 1911, [Edit 22 Apr: Apologies, that should read 1909] but this is before the mother's Maiden Name began to be listed in the Index of Register Entries. However it seems probable that this is an elder brother for Tom and Alicia.

    It looks like the family had a spell out of Liverpool in Wigan.

    I have not so far found a birth entry for Josie McCormack, Tom's sister known to my mother. It is possible Josie is a pet name for Alicia?? I shall explore that with my mother.

    I have so far not found any record of Tom's parents in the Liverpool area before the wedding in 1907.

    There is a Birth Register entry for a Jeremiah McCORMACK in Q3 1886 in Salford. That birth year would put this man at 21 years old at a wedding in 1907, which is a good fit. This could be Tom's father, but without further research to corroborate, that is mere speculation.

    No sign so far of Joanna, Tom's mother, although I have found a Death Register entry for a Joanna M PATERSON, aged 70 years in Q4 1914 in West Derby (=Liverpool). The 1911 Gore's Directory for Liverpool lists a Mrs Joanna Paterson living at 80, Eversley Street, Liverpool 8 (which is just east of the city centre). Again, one could speculate this is Tom's maternal grandmother.

    I had further luck digging in the Directories, because the 1938 Kelly's Directory for Liverpool turned up a Mrs Joanna Ramsay McCORMACK living at 25 Clavell Road, Liverpool 19, which is Allerton. This is almost certainly Tom's mother and possibly Tom's own home.

    Since Jeremiah, Tom's father, is not mentioned, it's possible he may have died by 1938. I could find no Death Register entry for him via the FreeBMD database, but these have only been partially transcribed after the mid 1930s. On the other hand, I suspect CWGC would publish the mother's details alone, if the father pre-deceased the serviceman, and Tom's entry has both.

    I could find no entries for a Jeremiah McCORMACK in either the residential nor commercial sections of any of the directories to which I have access :( No clues to Tom's father's occupation therefore.

    So far I've found no record of Tom being married, but that can hardly have been unusual for a commando!

    Clavell Road is not listed as a street in the 1911 Gore's Directory, so I am running with the hypothesis that that area of Allerton was developed between 1907 and 1938 while the family appears to be based in Wigan. The relevance of this is that Clavell Road will not be in the 1911 Census.

    I've drawn a blank so far on both of Tom's parents in the 1901 and 1891 Censuses :(

    There is a tantalising mention of a Joanna Paterson on an Inbound ship passenger list, but I do not have access to that without spending , so I'm holding that in reserve for now! One scenario is that Tom's parents were ex-pat Scots returning from some time in the Empire, again pure speculation at this stage though!

    I still have some leads to chase up using the freely available tools on the web, but I'm building a pretty good picture ahead of a trip to the Records Office in Liverpool to look up the original source documents.

    As I have said up above, my mother very much wants to establish contact with the families of the three men.

    Is it likely that the CVA may hold info on Tom, Bill and Syd's dependents/descendants?

    Thanks again everyone for all the fantastic help and the very warm welcome you have given me here. I've long been interested in the St Nazaire Raid but never suspected such a close connection until now. In future, 28th March will now have new meaning for me.

    Cheers,
    Mark



    This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 22/04/2009 23:40:21


    Remembering Tom McCormack, died of wounds, Bill Hughes and Syd Murdoch both captured, all at St Nazaire and all Liverpool Scottish/QOCH & 5(Scottish) Troop, No 2 Commando. Wonderful company & welcome guests billeted with my grandfather in Ayr in 1941-2.
    MBrockway
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    MBrockway wrote:
    The current Ayr Racecourse is to the west of the town centre and north of the River Ayr. It's possible that your photo could be at this new racecourse. Alternatively the horse barriers may have still been in place down at Seafield in 1941-42. I'll see if my mother can remember.

    Pete,
    My mother is confident that there were indeed horse barriers still in place at the old racecourse at Seafield in the early 1940s, so your photo could be at either of the two courses.

    The background probably favours the old Seafield racecourse.

    I've done some cursory digging on the web to try and ascertain when the new racecourse came into operation but no joy so far.
    Cheers,
    Mark

    Remembering Tom McCormack, died of wounds, Bill Hughes and Syd Murdoch both captured, all at St Nazaire and all Liverpool Scottish/QOCH & 5(Scottish) Troop, No 2 Commando. Wonderful company & welcome guests billeted with my grandfather in Ayr in 1941-2.
    Pete
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    Just a quick update regarding the initial J. being shown against Tom's name. I have received a reply from the author James Dorrian from which I quote " Hi Pete, I'm in Ireland at the moment so don't have access to my files. Most of the early references to names etc, were taken from the lists provided in 'The Greatest Raid of All', way back in 1958. These lists contain numerous errors and I have been seeking to correct them. Sadly the errors have been repeated many times by writers who did no original research. McCormack was always Tom, but there may be additional initials: I will check when I get back. The plaque to the fallen in Saint-Nazaire lists two men as killed who in fact survived, so official lists are to be treated with suspicion Excellent news about Bill's letter: I look forward to viewing it in situ. All the best, James "

    The reference to Bill's letter refers to the letter I asked Geoff to place on the CVA from L/Sgt Bill Gibson to his father just before St Nazaire. Geoff has currently placed it on the CVA home page.

    Pete Rogers, son of LSgt Joe Rogers MM & nephew of TSM Ken McAllister. Both No2 Commando.
    God and the Soldier, all men adore, In time of danger and not before.
    When the danger is passed and all things righted, God is forgotten, and the Soldier slighted.


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    MBrockway
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    Folks,
    My mother has now seen the photos of Tom McCormack, Bill Hughes and Syd Murdoch.

    She is 100% certain that it was Tom who was billeted with them. In fact she thinks our family had the very same photograph of Tom in his kilt leaning on his stick pipe in mouth.

    She is going to have a serious hunt through my grandparents' material to see if she can turn it up.

    If she does, I will organise a high quality scan for here, as I am sure there are those here who will appreciate having the same :)

    She is also confident about Bill Hughes. She remembers him very well.

    She is less confident about Syd, but I think he is looking a bit dour in the Dumfries 1941 group photo and not his typical self. Given that Tom and Bill have been definitely identified, we can be confident that it was three men from 5 Troop. Since there was only one Sydney in the Troop, it follows that Syd Murdoch has to be the third man.

    She has asked me to pass on her greatest thanks to the Forum here for all this help. In a matter of days we have progressed immeasureably, where ten years had seen us get almost no-where!

    She is very grateful indeed.


    As regards the photo at Ayr Racecourse, she thinks that is definitely the Seafield Racecourse. She thinks the current Ayr Racecourse at Craigie Park was developed after the war and Seafield was still the active course in 1942. She's going to look into that though.

    We'd now like to ...
  • see if we can trace the descendants of Tom McCormack and his sister Josie

  • find out more about Bill and Syd after they became POWs

  • work on Bill and Syd's family history a bit


  • All suggestions/advice welcome!
    Cheers,
    Mark



    This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 22/04/2009 23:41:11


    Remembering Tom McCormack, died of wounds, Bill Hughes and Syd Murdoch both captured, all at St Nazaire and all Liverpool Scottish/QOCH & 5(Scottish) Troop, No 2 Commando. Wonderful company & welcome guests billeted with my grandfather in Ayr in 1941-2.
     
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