Leading Signalman: The father I never knew
Written by Eddie’s son Michael Rawlinson with photos from family albums.
John Edwin Rawlinson (Eddie), my father, was born 10th December 1922 in Shepherds Bush and was 19 years old, working as an Insurance Clerk at Lloyds of London, when he joined the Royal Navy on 9th April 1941 ‘until the end of the present emergency’. His home port was Chatham.
He trained at HMS Impregnable, Plymouth from 11th April 1941 for 6 months as an ordinary signalman until 27th Oct 1941 and then at HMS Pembroke, Chatham, from 28th October 1941 to 13th November 1941. He served on HMS Sheffield from 14th November 1941 until 23rd January 1942 as an ordinary signalman. Posted again to Sheffield from 24th January 1942 to 20th May 1942 as a signalman, then returning to HMS Pembroke, Chatham, until 23rd July 1942. From 24th July 1942 until 27th August 1943 he was posted to the signal station, HMS Tana, Kilindini, Mombasa, Kenya. He spent a further period from 28th August 1943 until 14th April 1944 at HMS Tana as an acting leading signalman. He was then posted to the signal station, HMS Lanka, Colombo, Ceylon from 15th April 1944 until 3rd May 1944. He served on HMS Bermuda from 1st May 1944 to 21st November 1944.
He returned to HMS Pembroke, Chatham, from 22nd November 1944 to 8th January 1945, and on 13th January 1945, whilst on 4 weeks home leave, married Dorothy Gwendoline Carter and they honeymooned in Beer, Devon. He returned to HMS Pembroke, Chatham until 2nd March 1945 to sit Yeoman of Signals exams. On 3rd March 1945 he was posted to HMS Goodall (Eaglet, named after Nelsons Captains at the Battle of Trafalgar), replacing another signalman taking the exam. This was a destroyer escort and American lease-lend ship on Operation ‘Roundel’ Convoy JW66 to Murmansk. The convoy arrived on 25th April 1945 with ‘u’ boats off the Kola Inlet. On Sunday 29th April 1945 at 1927hrs on the return convoy RA66, in the Kola Inlet, 7 miles from Murmansk, HMS Goodall, ‘K479’ was hit by a Gnat Torpedo from U286. The magazine exploded, blowing away the forepart of the vessel, killing the Commander and 102 crew. HMS Honeysuckle took off 13 survivors. Before the night was out the Frigates, Loch Inch, Loch Shin, Cotton and Anguilla attacked and sank U286 in revenge for the sinking of Goodall. Eddie was lost aged 22 years. This was the last Royal Naval Ship to be lost in the European Theatre of War WW2. On 30th April 1945 Hitler committed suicide. Convoy RA66 was to steam unmolested in exemplary order through the Barents and Norwegian Seas and round Cloch Point, heading for the Tail o’ the Bank on VE day 8th May 1945. The war was over.
Eddie’s only son Michael Rawlinson was born on 19th October 1945 never knowing his father.
His wife Dorothy (Maynard) passed peacefully away on 29th July 2014 aged 93 years and 4 mths. Dorothy had also been an instrument fitter on ‘Fairy Swordfish’ aeroplanes during the war at Fairy Aviation and these planes were instrumental in damaging the Bismark (Sheffield carried one aboard and Eddie was aboard when Sheffield was involved in the search)
Click to expand photos