TWO TRAGIC COUSINS

Date:
November 2, 2015

William Edwin Geoffrey WAYCOTT 1918 – 1941
William Hugh Percival WAYCOTT, DFM 1922 – 1944

Earlier this year I was intrigued to receive an email from a Frenchman enquiring about an airman with the surname WAYCOTT who had died when his Lancaster bomber was shot down over France in 1944. I had the basic details of this man (who is not in my own family tree), but my attempts to uncover his history and contact relatives revealed a much deeper story.

Over a hundred years ago two brothers, Cyril Caldwell WAYCOTT (1878-1968) and Percival Guernsey WAYCOTT (1884-1937) were born in Frindsbury, Kent. The family had originated (as all WAYCOTT families do) in Devon, in this case in the Tavy Valley north of Plymouth. Two generations earlier their grandfather Richard WAYCOTT (born 1802 in Bere Ferrers) had enlisted in the Royal Engineers as a sapper and miner and found himself at the huge military base in Woolwich, Kent where he married a local girl and eventually settled there, having meanwhile baptised children in Barbados, New Brunswick and Quebec as well as Kent.

Cyril Caldwell WAYCOTT obviously had engineering and the sea in his blood, and in 1911 he was an Inspector of Fitters at HM Dockyard, Chatham in Kent. He had married Edith GITTINGS in 1907, and two daughters were born in Kent. However when his only son William Edwin Geoffrey WAYCOTT was born in 1918, Cyril was Foreman at HM Dockyard, Malta. The Mediterranean island acted as a refuge and hospital during WWI and tens of thousands of wounded servicemen from the Dardanelles and Salonika campaigns were treated there. The dockyard would have been full of hospital ships, with German U-Boats prowling the seas outside.

Percival Guernsey WAYCOTT, meanwhile, became a carpenter and joiner and was working as such in HM Dockyard, Chatham in 1911. Something, probably WWI, took him north to Scotland where in 1919 he married Annie LEE in the port town of Inverkeithing, Fife. Tragedy struck when Annie died in Inverkeithing of pregnancy-related heart problems after the birth of their only child William Hugh Percival WAYCOTT early in 1922.

Little more is known of the brothers until 1934, when they appear in Plymouth, Devon to set up a building firm, the Eagle Joinery Company Limited, intending to “carry on the business of joinery manufacturers, builders, building contractors, builders’ merchants, contractors for aeroplane woodwork construction etc.” Both brothers were directors, giving an address at 1 Alma Road, Plymouth. Business would have been good; no doubt both brothers had plenty of contacts in the dockyard and indeed it seems that Cyril was still working in the dockyard as in 1937 he was awarded the Imperial Service Medal as Foreman of the Engineer Branch, HM Dockyard, Devonport. Unfortunately in the same year Percival fell from the top of a boiler he was working on, fracturing his skull and later dying of pneumonia.

It is probable that after this tragedy, the orphaned fifteen year old William H P WAYCOTT was taken in by his uncle and aunt to be raised alongside their own son, William E G WAYCOTT. Then the Second World War broke out.

On 13 November 1941 Lt W E G WAYCOTT was on board HMS Ark Royal when it was torpedoed by a German U-boat off Gibraltar. One rating died, and the crew were evacuated before the ship sank under tow a day later. Having survived one sinking, it was a cruel irony that barely five weeks later, on 19 December 1941, Lt William Edwin Geoffrey WAYCOTT should die along with 125 others when the destroyer HMS Stanley, on convoy escort duty, was sunk by a U-Boat torpedo off the coast of Portugal.

Meanwhile his cousin Sergeant William Hugh Percival WAYCOTT, 101 Squadron, was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal “for gallantry and devotion to duty in the execution of air operations” in 1943. He was re-posted to 550 Squadron and granted the rank of Acting Flight Lieutenant w.e.f. 20/12/43. He was Senior Gunnery Officer from 25 Nov 43 to 10 Apr 44, but was reported missing when Lancaster LL836 was lost on 10/11 April 1944 on an operation to Aulnoye. All the members of the crew were killed and they are buried in the cemetery at Achiet le Petit in northern France.

Lt W E G WAYCOTT is remembered on the Plymouth Naval Memorial, and both young men are named on the War Memorial in St Andrew’s churchyard in Whitchurch, Devon.

Last year the village of Achiet le Petit organised a memorial service to honour the airmen who are buried there - http://www.550squadronassociation.org.uk/pages/550-sqdn-achiet-le-petit-commemoration-2015.php

The organisers were able to contact relations of some of the crew and invite them to the ceremony but had found no information on William H P WAYCOTT, hence the email to me. I had already reconstructed the family tree and knew there were no immediate relatives, but I was surprised to find that the closest relatives were 4th cousins! I am pleased to report that I was able to contact one of them who was surprised but grateful to learn the story of his gallant cousins.

 

Maureen Kenchington (waycott@one-name.org)
Member 1264

Researching:
Waycott, Fewings, Piper, Burgoyne, Johns, Phillips, Paddon, Streat;
Morrish, Rowd*n, Pike, Lowder, Flood, Parsons and others.
All in glorious Devon!

 

< Back to News
©2014-2023 The Surname Society