World War Two veteran honoured by Royal Marine Comrades

World War Two veteran honoured by Royal Marine Comrades

2 June 2015

World War Two veteran honoured by Royal Marine Comrades

A World War Two veteran from Wimbledon has been presented with a Royal Marine Dark Blue beret in recognition of his dedication and service to the Corps.

A special parade and presentation was made by the Royal Marine Reserves (RMR) at Wandsworth Barracks to recognise World War Two Veteran, Ernest Harvey aged 95.

Mr Harvey fought in a Second World War naval battle between the Royal Navy and the German Kriegsmarine, which was took place in the Denmark Strait on 24 May 1941 and resulted in the sinking of HMS HOOD.

Royal Marine Warrant Officer Class 2 Richard ‘Chippy’ Thornton, who is based at Wandsworth Barracks, presented the beret, which recognises Ernest’s service as a Ships Marine during the Second World War; prior to the formation of the Royal Marine Commandos who went on to wear the highly regarded Green Beret, which is still worn today. 

He said: “We greatly enjoyed hosting Corporal Harvey and it gives us great pleasure to see him holding the dark blue beret with pride.  It is very important to us that we look after those who served in the Corps.  The Corps family is something that we take very seriously, from cradle to grave.”

Piff Clulow from the Armed Forces charity SSAFA said: “It was an unforgettable evening and presentation to a war veteran who was warmly honoured by the RMR, held in front of his daughter, grandchildren and great grandchildren to always remember.  Thank you RMR Wandsworth.”

Frances, Ernest’s daughter said: “Dad was overwhelmed by the presentation and the effort that everyone went to.  He had a very special evening and it rekindled many memories for him but also created lots of new ones.  As his family, we were honoured to have the opportunity to witness our father and grandfather be honoured in this way.”

In 1941 Ernest volunteered for the Royal Marines aged 20, following a childhood interest in the Sea Cadets.  He had always been drawn to the Armed Forces following in the footsteps of his brothers and father who had both served in the Army. 

Within months Ernest was drafted to HMS SUFFOLK and was aboard on the night that the German Bismarck was spotted. On patrol in the Denmark Strait HMS SUFFOLK was able to shadow the German ship, reporting on its movements throughout the night.  

Ernest recalls “Bismarck was sighted on my 21st Birthday.  The alarm sounded and all crew were informed. I was a gunner at the time, manning and alternating between the 8inch and 4 inch guns.”

Ernest does not have many memories from that night but distinctly recalls: “We were all aware of the sinking of HMS HOOD and the huge loss of life.  I considered myself to be very fortunate that I was still alive.”

After the war Ernest returned home. “I left the Royal Marines in the rank of Corporal and returned to Bennett’s of Wimbledon and thankfully had no problems obtaining employment or housing.”

More recently Ernest moved into a Wimbledon nursing home on the advice of his medical health team due to deteriorating health. His family approached the Wimbledon Division of SSAFA to ask for support with his nursing homes fees, which SSAFA was able to provide. 

Ernest’s daughter Frances said: “If SSAFA had not stepped in, the finances would have been difficult for the family to cover. We are all extremely grateful for the help and support we received and would like to say a huge thank you to SSAFA for being there for us as a family and for being so friendly and helpful.”