Eric Harry Churchman

5831425, Private Eric Harry Churchman, Age 27
2/5th Battalion, The Queen’s Royal Regiment (West Surrey)
Died 29 April 1943

Private 5831425, 2/5th Battalion, The Queen’s Royal Regiment (West Surrey). Died 29/04/1943. Age 27.

 

Born in Felixstowe, 27th July 1915 the youngest son of William Henry Churchman and Agnes Maria nee Aldis. It looks like William & Agnes moved into 1 Violet Villas (19) Cobbold Road shortly after they married, with the family & eldest son Bertram b. 12 April 1903 living there in 1911. William was a cab driver. By 1939 William had become the secretary a Friendly Society and Eric was working as a stores clerk for Felixstowe Urban District Council, still living at the same address. Bertram was working a Hot water & Sanitary Engineer living with his family next door at 21 Cobbold Road. In early 1940 Eric married Kathleen Agnes Proctor, a shop assistant working at Marks & Spencer.

 

Eric enlisted on the 18th April 1940, joining the 2/5th Battalion, part of the 169th Queens Brigade. The brigade had been in Kent since July 1940. On 17th November 1941 56th Division moved to East Anglia, bringing many closer to home. 2/5th Battalion had a counter-attack role at Martlesham Airfield.  On the 24th August 1942 the 169th Brigade embarked at Liverpool on board the HMT Johan van Oldenbarnevelt for destination unknown. They joined a convoy at the Forth of Clyde & sailed for Cape Town via Freetown. The "Ocean Flight" carrying most of the divisions transport & ammunition was hit by a U-Boat & sank, those on board made it shore in the lifeboats. They then headed for Bombay, arriving the 16th October, where the 2/5th moved to a transit camp at Deolali. On the 31st October they returned to Bombay by train & moved by ship to Basra, arriving 13th November. They remained here to assist Russia in the Black Sea but ultimately were not required. The opportunity was taken for training.

 

In February 1943 they left for Alexandria, across the desert in mechanical transport, then by ship to Tripoli, joining the 4th Indian Division on the 31st March a week prior to the battle of Wadi Akarit. Eventually they arrived at Azizia, south of Tripoli. The 2/5th moved forwards again on the 16th April, the route led through Medenine, the Mareth battlefield, through the Gabes gap to Sousse. The final days march on 22nd April took them to 10 miles south of Enfidaville. The 2/5th took over from the 7th Green Howards and were in the line by 9 am 23rd April. They received their first casualties from shellfire by 10 am. On the 26th April the 2/5th & 2/6th took over from the New Zealanders, the 2/5th was the most forward battalion, they reached their target with little opposition. The rocky terrain was impossible to dig & by the morning there was considerable disorganisation and in the concentrations of shellfire & mortars, with several casualties, it became necessary to fall back to the less exposed olive groves. Eric is one of 10 from the 2/5th battalion recorded killed in action on the 29th April 1943. He is buried at Enfidaville War Cemetery.

 

Brother in law of Bertie Joseph Proctor who died 29th November 1941 at Tobruk, Libya.

The Queens Royal West Surrey Regiment.JP
Churchman, Eric grave.jpg
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Enfidaville War Cemetery

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169th Brigade passing through Enfidaville

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The Queen's Royal Regiment (West Surrey)