Here are some more stories from Grangetown covering the Second World War.

Anxious wait before family hear of brothers' survival on ship


Harry and Raymond Burford as young men

Two Grangetown teenage brothers were involved in one of the earliest incidents of the Second World War, when their merchant ship was attacked by U-boat in the middle of the Atlantic.

Henry "Harry" Burford, 18, and his 16-year-old brother Raymond were among 33 crew on board the Royal Sceptre, which was carrying wheat and maize from Argentina to Belfast. But after it was attacked, it was an anxious two weeks before the family learnt they had survived - with many believing the crew had been lost.


The ship had only been in service for two years

At midday on September 5th 1939 - barely 48 hours after Britain declared war on Germany - the submarine U-48 was spotted, 300 miles north west of Finisterre, in the middle of the ocean. The Royal Sceptre's radio operator sent distress signals and master James Gair tried to make the ship's escape. The U-boat fired on the steam ship for nearly half an hour, killing Gair - from the ship's home port of Newcastle - and wounding nine of the crew.

They took to their lifeboats, while the radio operator - who had refused to leave his post - was temporarily ordered aboard the U-boat, The ship was sunk.

The U-boat's commander Herbert Schultze then approached the Royal Sceptre's lifeboats and told the crew to stay put as he would arrange their rescue. To his great credit, he kept to his word. However, initially, when the surfaced submarine approached another British cargo ship, the SS Browning, the crew at first took to lifeboats fearing they were about to be sunk. Shultze told them to return to their boat and to find the Royal Sceptre's lifeboats.

Back home however, the crew of the Royal Sceptre were feared lost. The letter from the ship owners, Hall Brothers, to the Burford brothers' mother Louisa sympathises with the "great anxiety" being faced by families, while reiterating that the Admiralty still had no news of the vessel.

In the newspapers, the Germans were accused of a "foul act of piracy" and it was reported on September 26th that "all hope has now to be given up" for the crew. Winston Churchill also mentioned them as "assumed to have perished" when he spoke to the House of Commons. But across the Atlantic, the crew were disembarking at Bahia in Brazil. One of the reasons for nearly two weeks elapsing before any news was heard was that the SS Browning had kept a radio silence as it headed to South America with the rescued crew.

The crew list here for their passage home shows nine of the crew from south Wales, mostly from Cardiff; Donkeyman Manuel Martinez and fireman Manuel Diaz were both slightly injured. In addition there were two men from Barry who were in hospital.

Harry Burford, a messroom boy, was living with his grandparents at Grange Farm. The Burfords were long associated with the farm and its dairy. Raymond was still living with his parents in Paget Street. Henry died in 1990 and Raymond in 2002. Niece Jill Williams said they never talked about their wartime drama and she only found out the details when her mother died and was left the letter and telegram.

JULY 6th 1944 - PILOT'S ACTIONS SPARED VILLAGE

The final actions of a pilot, from Grangetown in Cardiff are not forgotten by a Nottinghamshire village.

Pilot Officer Reg Parfitt, 22, and six fellow crewmen were killed when their damaged Halifax bomber crashed returning from a mission over northern France on 6th July 1944. But P/O Parfitt managed to prevent the plane from coming down in the village of Farnsfield, sparing a further loss of life.

In 1994 - 50 years after the tragedy - the village erected a memorial to the men, all in their early 20s, which was marked with a fly-past. They have also named a road Parfitt Drive.

Reg was the son of Arthur Ernest Parfitt and wife Sarah, who for many years ran a chip shop at the top of Clive Street and the family were prominent members of Clive Street baptist church. He is pictured left while on leave back in Clive Street.

The Halifax MZ519 was built as a night bomber at high altitude and had been on a raid on V1 flying bomb sites. P/O Parfitt had earlier flown a day-time mission, as part of Number 578 Squadron, but set out again at 7pm. On its return from a successful raid it was thought to have been hit by anti-aircraft fire somewhere near Dieppe. The damaged and burning plane headed back towards its Yorkshire base at RAF Burn and reached as far as Farnsfield near Mansfield, where the wing fell off and it crashed in trees at 10.25pm.

He was said to be a "serious and determined young man" who had been promoted from Sergeant-Pilot to Pilot Officer only the day before he was killed. This was his 24th bombing mission.

Thanks to Ken Harris in Canada for the details and permission to use the photos

There are more details on the excellent Halifax Bomber Memorial webpage, which aims to keep up a virtual memorial, while local people maintain the memorial at the site of the crash.


Parfitt Drive

NOVEMBER 3rd 1943 - ENGINEER HELPS BRING STRICKEN BOMBER HOME

An RAF engineer from Amherst Street, Grangetown was honoured both by Buckingham Palace and his old school following an act of gallantry while flying on a bombing mission.

Sgt Jim Norris, 23, was an engineer on board a Lancaster, which was badly damaged over the Netherlands by two German fighters in November 1943. Two of the crew were killed but the Scottish pilot Flt Lt William Reid, 21, and Flt Sgt Norris, both injured and in a seriously damaged aircraft, carried on with their mission over Dussedorf. The course was plotted using the moon and stars for nearly an hour. On the return, the pilot became semi-concious and Sgt Norris, who had an injured arm, had to stand up and take control of the aircraft as it crossed the Channel with the pilot slumped in his seat. Flt Sgt Norris gave Flt Lt Reid oxygen and Flt Lt Reid eventually recovered enough, and despite having no navigation equipment left, a smashed windscreen and no undercarriage, landed the plane on its belly at an airbase in Norfolk. Pupils at Grangetown Boys School were given an afternoon off to mark Sgt Norris' heroics, while he was presented with a framed photograph of himself, which he donated back to the school. He received the Conspicuous Gallantry medal for his actions in 1944, while Reid was awarded the Victoria Cross. Jim Norris ran a shop in Mardy Street after the war with his wife Lilly and died in 2009, aged 88. The late Reid's VC medal was sold for a record £384,000, in the month of his former colleague's death.

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