Old football photo revived memories of tragic war hero

FREDERICK Barry must have had good reason to be optimistic towards the end of April, 1945. The war was almost over, and the young sailor would soon be going home to England, and his wife who was expecting their first baby back in Dagenham. He was servin

FREDERICK Barry must have had good reason to be optimistic towards the end of April, 1945.

The war was almost over, and the young sailor would soon be going home to England, and his wife who was expecting their first baby back in Dagenham.

He was serving on the HMS Goodall, a Royal Navy frigate stationed far away in the Arctic Sea.

But on April 29 the Goodall was among a number of ships escorting a convoy back to good old 'Blighty' and the spirits of all the servicemen on board must have been running high.


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But about seven miles off the coast of the Russian port Murmansk they met a pack of German U-boats lying in wait.

The frigates attacked three of the submarines and sunk two, but the U-Boats fought back and Goodall took a direct hit.

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The torpedo struck the bow, blowing the bridge completely away, and sinking the vessel with huge loss of life.

Of the 156 men on board only 44 survived and 21-year-old Frederick Barry was not among them.

Just 10 days later on May 8 the European War came to an end, making HMS Goodall the last British ship to be sunk in the conflict.

And two days after that, Frederick's widow Hilda gave birth to a baby boy, who she named Des.

Des, now aged 63, and living in Bruce Avenue, Hornchurch, got in touch with the POST a fortnight ago when he saw an old photograph of a school football team from 1934.

The boys were from the now-demolished Charlecote School in Charlecote Road, Dagenham, and sitting in the front row with his arms folded is none other than the father he never knew, Frederick Barry.

Des said: "My mother remarried when I was two years old, and I never even saw a photo of my father until about 20 years ago.

"It was quite strange when I saw that first picture. I couldn't get over how much he looked like me.

"When the torpedo struck I think he was working in the engine area at the front of the ship."

In his short life Frederick managed to make a name for himself as a useful amateur boxer.

He would regularly appear in prize fights at the now-demolished Merry Fiddlers pub in Beacontree Heath.

Des said: "My uncle Arthur Barry is still alive and he's still got a cup his brother won for boxing."

Des's mother died three years ago, but she always kept the heartbreaking letter which she received after her first husband's death at sea.

The brief letter from a Royal Navy Commodore reads: 'Following my earlier telegram to you, there can, I fear, be no hope that your husband is still alive.

'I should like to express on behalf of the officers and men of the Royal Navy, the high traditions of which your husband helped to maintain, sincere sympathy with you in your sad bereavement.'

The full story of the HMS Goodall is told in the book Last But Not Least by Vic Ould.

l Another reader who got in touch with the POST about the Charlecote Boys football photograph was Bill Jennings of West Mersea, Essex, who spotted his father-in-law, Ron Hobbs.

Ron, who died 10 years ago, is on the far left of the back row wearing a black shirt.

Bill said: "Ron worked at Ford's all his life, liked sports, and was a keen West Ham supporter.

"After his wife died he took up bowls, and played for the Liberty of Havering club in Gidea Park."

Bill added that Ron lived most of his life in Connor Road, Dagenham, before moving to Hornchurch to enjoy his retirement.

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