"To Keep in Memory"

Pte. J. D. Larman

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2338218 Signalman Douglas Clarke Larman

2nd Air Formation Signal Regiment, Royal Signals

Accidentally killed, 8th December 1939

Age 27

Buried in Terlincthun British Cemetery, Wimille, near Boulogne, Pas de Calais, France.

Plot 19, Row B, Grave 2.

RoyalSignalsBadge.JPG
The badge of the Royal Signals 1920 - 1953

Douglas Clarke Larman was the elder of the two children of George Thomas Larman, an electrician, and his wife, Ann Goodwin Clarke, from Chorlton in Manchester. Both Douglas, and his sister, Marjorie were born in Chorlton, in 1913 and 1916 respectively, and both shared their mother’s maiden name, Clarke, as their middle names. 

During the Great War, George Larman had served between December 1917 and April 1920 in the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Air Force.

Douglas Larman married Joan Constance Baguley in Manchester early in 1937, and soon afterwards moved to Scholes. Their only child, Alan, was born in 1939 just before the Second World War began, by which time, Douglas and Joan were living on Barwick Road. Douglas Larman was a highly skilled teleprinter operator and worked for the GPO. He also acted as the electrician to the Scholes Village Players amateur dramatics group which put on many productions in the then new village hall.

1939 was a very busy year for the Larman family as a whole. With war looming, Douglas’ father, George volunteered for service with the RAF, as he had done during the previous war. He was accepted and joined the service on 23rd June. He wasn’t fit for overseas service, but the Royal Air Force employed him as an instructor to trainee electricians. Then Douglas and Joan became parents to Alan. When war came, Douglas Larman joined the Army where his skills as a teleprinter operator and electrician ensured that he was enlisted into the Royal Signals. He would deploy to France with 2nd Air Formation Signal Regiment. In her husband’s absence, Joan and Alan moved to 9 Redland Crescent, Chorlton to live with her parents.

When the British Expeditionary Force left for France under the Command of General Gort, VC, 2nd Air Formation Signal Regiment was attached to General Headquarters. It consisted of signallers from the Army and the RAF and provided support to air elements of the British Expeditionary Force.

2ndAirFormationSignalRegimentRoyalSignals-IWMINS6188.JPG
Formation Sign of 2nd Air Formation Signal Regiment (Image - IWM INS 6188)

The deployment of the BEF in France before 10th May 1940 has become known as the ‘Phoney War’. For the most part, the British troops dug defences which became known as the ‘Gort Line’, which was intended to halt any German invasion in that area.
 
The day on which Signaller Larman was killed began with an air of excitement. The King was in France, visiting the GHQ, and the troops out in the line. He also held an open-air investiture in which some of the very first decorations of the war were presented to their recipients, almost all of them airmen for their exploits against the Luftwaffe. Those troops who could be spared were released to give the King a rousing welcome, and later they were able to attend a concert. 

Returning to their quarters after the cinema was over, Douglas Larman was travelling in an army lorry with seven others, when on negotiating a level crossing, the lorry stalled and could not be restarted. While the driver was still attempting to restart the lorry’s engine, it was hit by an express freight train travelling at speed. The lorry was torn apart by the force of the impact, and some parts of it hurled 235 yards from the crash site.

Signaller Larman and four of his colleagues were killed instantly as the train ploughed through the lorry, a fifth man suffer fatal injuries from which he died later in hospital. Killed in the crash were Lance Corporal CW Smith, and Signalmen C Kitching, WM Sullivan, and NM Walker. Signalman CH Taylor died in hospital.

The dead men were buried in Epernay French National Cemetery, which had been established after the Great War. There were more than 200 British and Commonwealth dead buried from that war, and Signaller Larman and his friends were among the first of the British Casualties to be buried there during the Second World War. In 1953, all British and Commonwealth burials under the care of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission were cleared from the cemetery, and the remains of the casualties were relocated to Terlincthun Military Cemetery, at Wimille, near Boulogne on the French coast. The six men who died are buried side by side there.

Joan and Alan Larman never returned to Scholes after the war. She married Bertrand Duggan in Walsall at the end of 1945 and they moved to Christon in Devon, where they lived until Mr Duggan died in 1952, whereupon Alan and his mother moved to live with the now widowed Mrs Baguley. Joan’s father had died in 1952. Joan Duggan married for a third time in 1959 when she became Mrs William Bradshaw Walls.

Signalman Larman’s name is recorded incorrectly on the war memorial panel for the Second World War. Because the family only lived in the village for perhaps as little as two years prior to the Second World War, it is likely that the committee which oversaw the production of the panel commemorating the dead of the war had to rely on his friends in the Village Players to provide his details and the error crept in there. As we see with William Herbert Wilkinson, because he was universally known as ‘Jack’, his name is recorded as Pte J Wilkinson on the memorial. Perhaps Douglas Larman also had a nickname that he was better known by.

The grave of Signalman Douglas Clarke Larman
The grave of Signalman Douglas Clarke Larman

Remembering the Fallen of Two Villages on the Eastern Fringes of Leeds.

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