Harry Bernard Fidling, a gunner, served in Merchant Ships manning their armament, and was killed on the 15th. of October 1942

February 07, 2009

Subject: Long lost Uncle

Sir, I have just been searching for any records about my Uncle. H. B. Fidling.

My Father knows he served on HMS Birmingham & was later transferred to HMS President 3rd.

We were always under the impression that he was killed at sea, but with my web searches thus far can’t find any evidence of this.

I have a certificate showing he was in China in June ’39 but after that have no history of him at all.

Any information you could offer would be greatly appreciated. 

Thank you

Stuart & Peter Fidling stuartist@ntlworld.com

Your Uncle died at sea, here is his Commonwealth War Graves Commission Certificate:

His name is recorded on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial on Panel 63, Column 3.  
Casualty Details
Initials:  H B
Nationality:  United Kingdom
Rank:  Able Seaman
Regiment/Service:  Royal Navy
Unit Text:  H.M.S. President III
Age:  25
Date of Death:  15/10/1942
Service No:  P/SSX 15514
Additional information: Son of William Henry and Maud Fidling; husband of Audrey Sheila Fidling, of Ashby, Lincolnshire.
Casualty Type:  Commonwealth War Dead
Grave/Memorial Reference:  Panel 63, Column 3.

Now HMS President 111, was a Naval shore establishment near London that carried the pay records of Sailors who served in  Defencively Equipped Merchant Ships  ( DEMS ). This means your Uncle trained as a gunner, and served in Merchant Ships manning their armament, and was killed on the 15th. of October 1942.


The records of British RN personnel are held at 3 different locations, depending primarily on the time when a person entered or served in the Navy or an auxiliary service.

1. MoD. Ministry of Defence,
Bourne Avenue,
Middlesex UB3 1RF,

2. Centurion. Naval Pay & Pensions (Accounts),
Centurion Building,
Grange Road,
Hampshire PO13 9XA
England .

In both of the above archives, only written enquiries from next-of-kin are accepted, and a search fee is charged. There is an ongoing process of moving selected records from these locations to:

3. PRO. The Public Record Office,
Surrey TW9 4DU

Tel: +44 (0)181 876 3444

It is not possible to search PRO documents online.


February 08, 2009

Many thanks for your swift & enlightening reply.

My father (aged 78) & myself are deeply in your debt.

Can I be cheeky & quiz you a little more?

1.      What ship was he killed on?

2.    What is/was ‘Defencively?

3.    Is there a list anywhere of all the ships he served on?

Many, many thanks, my father is quite eager to settle his mind about his brother, he was beginning to query if he had gone AWOL or died of some illness. 

Thanks again


DEMS ships were Merchant Ships equipped with usually a stern gun and some light Anti Aircraft guns.

The DEMS Gunners were either Royal Navy, Royal Marines, or members of the Army trained to man those guns in MS, and thus  found in whatever ever Merchant ship they were drafted to.

Unfortunately the Commonwealth War Graves Commission site although carrying some 1.7 million records do not show in which ship a specific Sailor died.

Your Uncle's Naval records would show all the different ships in which he served, but you will need to pursue them separately.

Can you visit the PRO to seek those out at Kew?

Glad to be of of some little help. Good luck.

Best wishes,

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