war memorial at dusk, photographed by Michelle Cooper

World War II


Occasionally we have extra information for those people for whom the connection to Dover has been uncertain.

Butler, Vernon Stanley

Boston, from Wikimedia commonsVernon Butler joined the Royal Air Force on a Short Service Commission and was made an Acting Pilot Officer on Probation just two days before Christmas 1935. When war was declared in early September 1939, Vernon Butler had reached the rank of Flying Officer.

Serving as a bomber pilot, he steadily rose through the ranks and by September 1941 he was an Acting Wing Commander leading 226 Squadron that operated Bristol Blenheim light bombers from Wattisham in Suffolk.

On 24 July 1941, he took part in a major RAF daylight attack against German warships harboured in French ports and many medals were later awarded to the gallant bomber crews. A general citation for the awards appeared in The London Gazette dated 2 September 1941, including a Distinguished Flying Cross to Acting Wing Commander Butler of 226 Squadron.

"In July 1941, large scale attacks were made on German warships at Brest and La Pallice (including the "Gneisenau", "Scharnhorst" and "Prinz Eugen"). A smaller attack was made on Cherbourg. The operations were carried out in daylight and extremely heavy and accurate anti-aircraft fire and fighter opposition were encountered by all aircraft when approaching the targets, which at Brest was protected by a balloon barrage. The aircrews engaged succeeded, nevertheless, in securing direct hits on their objectives and in inflicting very severe damage in the target area. During the combats with enemy fighters 21 hostile aircraft were destroyed and others were severely damaged. The precise timing of attack by the various formations of aircraft and their correct approach to and accurate bombing of the objectives in the face of such powerful opposition, demanded great skill and high courage. The great success of these operations was largely due to the bravery, determination and resource displayed by the following officers and airmen, who participated in various capacities as leaders and members of the aircraft crews"

In November 1941, the squadron began to convert to a new American built twin-engined light bomber called the Douglas Boston and during the following month, the squadron moved to Swanton Morley in Norfolk.

After going into action with their new mounts on cross-Channel raids during early 1942, a large operation was organised on 8 March to attack the Ford lorry factory at Poissy near Paris. The Bostons set off during the mid-afternoon with a large fighter escort, but the target was actually beyond the range of the fighter cover, so the Bostons carried out the attack at low-level. One Boston coded MQ-G (serial Z2209) and piloted by Wing Commander Butler along with his Observer Flying Officer Basil Mervyn Sayers (aged 29) and the Wireless Operator/Air-gunner Flying Officer Weston James Robertson (aged 33), flew into flak near the target and were hit, but pressed on towards their objective. Releasing their bombs at low-level, the Boston was caught by the blast and severely damaged necessitating a hurried emergency landing. Tragically, as the Boston touched down it hit a tree at high speed and exploded, killing all three crewmembers. This was the only aircraft lost on the raid which was declared successful and was also the first Boston aircraft the RAF lost in service with Bomber Command. The crew are buried at Marrisel French National Cemetery near Beauvais. 

Wing Commander Butler was aged 26 and was the son of Samuel Butler and Lilian Butler and the husband of Margaret Butler. They had a son, Beverley. Mrs Butler later remarried, becoming Mrs Lessing, and the family emigrated to South Africa


words with thanks to Dean Sumner
illustration:: Boston MkIII from Wikimedia Commons

Marrs, Eric Simcox

Better known as "Boy" Marrs in the Royal Air Force, he was born in Dover on 9 July 1921 to Major Robert Marrs, C.M.G., C.I.E., and Annie Marrs and was later educated at Dauntsey's School at Devizes in Wiltshire. He joined the RAF in April 1939 as a Flight Cadet at the RAF College, Cranwell and was granted a Permanent Commission in March 1940 and then later that month joined 152 "Hyderabad" Squadron at Acklington in Northumberland, to fly the Supermarine Spitfire MkIa.

The Squadron moved to Warmwell, Dorset in July 1940, at the start of the Battle of Britain and on 13 August Pilot Officer Marrs claimed his first victory in the air when he "destroyed" a Messerschmitt Me110. Attacking Junkers Ju88s on 17 September, his Spitfire was hit by return fire and he had to make a forced landing with a seized engine, but he was unhurt. Eight days later during air combat south of Bristol his aircraft sustained damage and he returned to base safely. Then during the morning of 27 September he shot down a Ju88 near Bristol, but not before his fighter was again hit by return fire though he made it back for a safe landing at his airfield.

During the late afternoon of 30 September, "Boy" Marrs was caught in the cross-fire from a formation of Luftwaffe bombers he was attacking and bullets struck the armoured windscreen of his Spitfire. He landed back at Warmwell with a damaged undercarriage that only had one wheel and fortunately was yet again unhurt.

Despite this run of incidents at the hands of Luftwaffe air-gunners, by the end of October P/O Marrs had claims against at least 10 enemy aircraft. Further victories followed in November, and at the start of 1941 reward for his success in the air was granted by the award of a Distinguished Flying Cross, the citation stating:- "Pilot Officer Marrs has participated in numerous patrols against the enemy and, on occasions, he has led his flight, with great skill and coolness. He has destroyed at least six enemy aircraft."

A further award followed in March 1941 when he was Mentioned in Despatches that was gazetted on 17 March 1941.Supermarine Spitfire from Wikimedia Commons

The squadron moved to Portreath in Cornwall during April and on 18 July over the Scilly Isles, 20 years old Flight Lieutenant Marrs shared in the destruction of a Heinkel He111 bomber.

On 24 July the squadron were detailed to provide close escort to a force of RAF Hampden bombers that were to attack the German warships "Scharnhorst" and "Gneisenau" anchored at Brest Harbour. A heavy barrage of flak was encountered over the target and "Boy" Marrs was shot down in his Spitfire MkII P7881 and killed. His body was recovered and today is buried at Kerfautras Cemetery at Brest in France.

Tribute was paid to Eric Marrs in the squadron diary, which recorded that he was loved and admired by everyone and that his name in the squadron would live for evermore.

words with thanks to Dean Sumner
illustrations: "Boy" Marrs, supplied by Dean Sumner, Supermarine Spitfire Mk11a by Adrian Pingstone from Wikimedia Commons
more about "Boy" Marrs, with extracts from his diary and a picture, on the 152 (Hyderabad) Squadron website:

Oakden, Alfred

Alfred D J Oakden was born in 1922, the son of John Nathaniel George and Maud Alice Oakden (née Scott). Mr Oakden had been born in Margate in 1890, while Mrs Oakden came from Pembroke Dock, in Wales.

Sadly, Mr Oakden died in 1928 with shrapnel still lodged in his head. He had enlisted in 1909 and served through the Great War. Becoming a Sergeant in the Kings Machine Gun Corps, he received a Silver War badge after being discharged and pensioned in 1919. In January 1915 he is recorded wounded in the head and shoulder and recuperating at Margate, the only one of 25 men in a machine gun section to have survived. Mrs Oakden, whom he had probably met while in hospital in Wales, died four years later. Their four children, who had all been born in Wales, came to their father's family in Kent; Alfred and his brother John were taken in by their Aunt Constance and their sisters, Irene and Emily, by an uncle.

John gained a scholarship to the Dover County School, and joined the RAF in 1936. He was one of the radio experts in the Dambusters Squadron. Alfred, meanwhile, joined the Royal Navy, serving as C/JX158109. He lost his life at the age of 18 when HMS Juno was sunk off Crete after an aerial attack on 21 May 1941. He is commemorated on the Chatham Naval Memorial, panel 43.2.

Alfred Oakden was a cousin of William Lilley, William being his Aunt Constance's son.

Note: Emily married David Baird, who had served in the parachute regiment during the war. They emigrated to Australia. Irene lived in Cumberland, dying in 1997.

photo courtesy of David Baird

Rembridge, Lewis Garnier

F/O Rembridge, RAF 47411, was Captain (pilot) of Avro Lancaster ED917, coded OF-U, of 97 Squadron based at Bourn, Cambridgeshire. The Lancaster took off at 22:35 hours on 3 July 1943 for a raid on Cologne and was lost without trace. All of the crew are commemorated on the RAF Runnymede Memorial, except F/O Parry who is buried in Rheinburg War Cemetery.

The crew were:
Flying Officer Lewis Garnier REMBRIDGE Captain (pilot) aged 27
Sergeant Richard Charles Sydney GOLDING Flight Engineer aged 27
Flying Officer William John HILLS Bomb aimer aged 38
Flying Officer Henry Weston PARRY Navigator aged 25
Warrant Officer Geoffrey Raymond COBBY Wireless operator aged 22
Sergeant Frank Morrison LAMB Air gunner aged 28
Sergeant Arthur JONES Air gunner age unknown

635 RAF bomber aircraft took part in the raid on Cologne and 30 aircraft were lost including Lancaster ED917, with almost 180 crewmen killed. Twenty industrial premises and over 2,200 houses were destroyed in Cologne. About 600 people were killed on the ground with another 1,000 injured and over 70,000 made homeless.

On this night the Luftwaffe introduced a new night-fighter unit specialising in attacking aircraft over the target area and claimed 12 bombers shot down over Cologne, of which ED917 could have been a victim.

On 9 November 1943, at Courtlands, Courtland Drive, Chigwell, Essex, FO Rembridge's wife, Marjorie, née Kenton, had a baby son, Nigel Garnier. The couple had married at St Martin's Church, Dover, on 29 July 1939, after becoming engaged in January. FO Rembridge was the second son of the late Mr H. Rembridge and Mrs Rembridge, formerly Dray, and Marjorie was the second daughter of Mr and Mrs E R Kenton, from Elms Vale Road, Dover

RAF information with thanks to Dean Sumner
illustration - panel 129 at Runnymede

Copyright 2009-15 © Marilyn Stephenson-Knight. All Rights Reserved