Wartime tragedy of Shropshire village brothers

For the Dudley family from Chelmarsh, the war was to bring a heavy cost.

George and Arthur Dudley were well known Chelmarsh sportsmen.
George and Arthur Dudley were well known Chelmarsh sportsmen.

This year has marked the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, when the legendary "The Few" tackled the might of the Luftwaffe as the German air force attempted to pave the way for an invasion.

The RAF fighter pilots who faced the aerial hordes became heroes. But others gave their lives for the cause too, and one of them was Aircraftman 2nd Class George William Leslie Dudley.

He had been in the RAF for only two weeks when he was killed at the age of 20.

George was at RAF Honington, which is in Suffolk, and had been crossing the parade ground on his way to tea on the evening of August 19, 1940, when the Luftwaffe carried out a surprise attack.

He was one of at least seven personnel who were killed during two attacks on the station by the Luftwaffe that day. More than 20 were injured.

These pictures of the tragic brothers were used in the Bridgnorth Journal after Arthur was killed in 1944.

His older brother, Arthur Dudley, was also killed during the Second World War while serving in the King's Shropshire Light Infantry near Arnhem in October 1944.

"Both my father and his brother were local boys from Chelmarsh who went to Bridgnorth Grammar School," said Arthur's 80-year-old son, Michael Dudley, who attended a recent event at RAF Honington commemorating the 80th anniversary of the tragedy there which killed George, Michael's uncle.

The Dudley brothers had been well-known local sportsmen. George had played cricket for Chelmarsh and Foley Park, and football for Chelmarsh and Stottesdon. Arthur had been captain of Chelmarsh's cricket team, and at football had played for the village, Stottesdon, and St Leonard's, and at one time was secretary of the Chelmarsh club.

During the ceremony a wreath was laid at the RAF Association memorial to those who had died in the attack, and also in remembrance of Michael's father.

George had served in the RAF less than a month when he was killed in a bombing raid.

Joined by the station commander, station warrant officer and station padre, Michael was able to visit the former mess where his uncle tragically lost his life.

Speaking at the ceremony, Mr Dudley, from Henley, said: “I am here as much for my father to remember his dear brother – they were devoted and shared everything as they grew up.

“My father didn’t know about George’s death for a month until his mother’s letter reached him – he was based in Curacao in the West Indies.”

George was serving with 9 Squadron, which operated Wellington bombers at the time, and was the son of William Henry Russell Dudley and Lucy Dudley, of Church House, Chelmarsh. Members of the RAF acted as bearers, escort, and firing party at his funeral at St Peter's Church, Chelmarsh, where his grave is in the churchyard.

Recalling the bombing attack, Sergeant ‘Tiny’ Cooling, who had been dining in the Sergeants mess, recalled: "We heard the whistle of a stick of bombs coming down and immediately the dining room took on the look of the Mary Celeste.

"Plates of food steamed gently and not a soul in sight. We were under the tables. One bomb hit the parade ground and killed a number of airmen and WAAFs in that lunch queue, about a dozen. Another hit the barrack block and blew it to bits, and another blew in the window of my quarters.

"When the racket died down, most of us sat back at the table and finished our lunch. We would find out what happened later."

Arthur was the senior Sergeant of a mortar battery and served in the 2nd Battalion of the KSLI. He had landed on D-Day and fought through the subsequent campaign. He was 35 when he died on October 7, 1944.

He had been injured by shrapnel and was being taken by ambulance to a field hospital when it took a direct hit, killing all inside.

He left a widow, Lilian Honor Dudley, of Pershore. He lies at Mook War Cemetery in the Netherlands.

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