Friday, 24 April 2015

Whoan, Sydney - Gunner

(No soldier photo available)
4/2 Maritime Regiment, 
Royal Artillery 
Died 2 January 1943
Age 27

The 7,040 ton steamship, Empire March, left Durban, South Africa, on 18 December 1942 for Bahia (Brazil) and England. On 2 January, about 150 miles from Tristan de Cunha, she was intercepted, and after a brief and fierce fight, she was sunk by the German surface raider Michel. (The Michel was a heavily armed naval ship disguised as a merchant ship). Thirty three of the crew of the Empire March were killed and 26 were taken aboard the Michel as prisoners of war. Gunner Sydney Whoan was one of several gunners who were killed in their gallant defence of their ship. On 17th January 1945, during the campaign to drive the Japanese forces out of Burma (Now Myanmar), the Worcestershire Regiment crossed the wide River Irrawaddy and established a bridgehead.  By early March, the Regiment had advanced as far as the Mandalay Canal on the outskirts of that City.  Patrols reported no Japanese troops but, on 9th March, 'C' Company was rushed by a Japanese force.  After fierce hand to hand fighting, however, the company prevented the Japanese from crossing the canal.  Private Eric Wilkinson was killed and two men were wounded in the attack.

Sydney was the son of Mrs. Margaret Whoan. He was 27. Sydney attended St.Peter's Church and Sunday School. In 1938 he became the youngest bowler to win the Lacey Cup in the Victoria Park bowling handicap. He worked at Messrs. Porritt's and Spencer's woollen mill at Sunnybank, Helmshore. Sydney enlisted in the Loyal Regiment (North Lancashire) on 17 October 1940, but was transferred to the Royal Artillery on 6 May 1941.

Sydney is commemorated on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial, Hampshire. The Memorial bears the names of almost 10,000 sailors of the 1914-1918 War and almost 15,000 from the 1939-1945 War who died at sea and have no known grave. Sydney is named on Panel 80, Column 3.