Object of the Week

Hi! My name is Harri and i'm a volunteer at the Museum. I'm a Masters student at Swansea University and i'm doing an internship at the Museum as part of my studies.

My object of the week is a telegram from the King to the parents of John George of Maesteg. John was sadly killed aboard HMS Charybdis during the Second World War.

On 23rd October 1943 HMS Charybdis sank off the coast of Guernsey following a failed attack on German ships. The attack, named “Operation Tunnel,” had been intended to intercept an important German convoy and was due to be carried out by six British ships. The plan failed after miscommunication between British ships resulting in the Charybdis being spotted and torpedoed, along with the HMS Limbourne. The German convoy escaped unharmed. 460 men aboard the Charybdis were killed with just 107 surviving to be rescued. HMS Limbourne lost 40 men. 500 British men were lost that day, the single biggest loss of life in the Channel during the Second World War.

Within a few days the bodies of 21 British naval officers washed up on beaches in Guernsey, which was still under German occupation at this time. The occupying German forces buried the men with full military honours. The funeral’s was a rare opportunity for the people of Guernsey to show defiance against the Germans. 5,000 inhabitants of Guernsey attended the funerals with over 900 wreaths being laid. In the weeks that followed, a further 29 men washed up on Guernsey’s beaches but the Germans banned the local men and women attending the funerals. ‘Charybdis Weekend’ is still held every year in Guernsey to commemorate those who lost their lives and the German Occupation of the Channel Islands.

John Islwyn George of Maesteg was a Petty Supply Officer on board the HMS Charybdis and was among the men missing presumed killed. His parents were informed by telegram that he was missing and received a letter of condolence from King George V. A commemoration for his life can be found on the Plymouth Naval Memorial.