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Final appeal to honour our heroes

By Leek Post and Times  |  Posted: July 24, 2014

By Abbey Buxton

  • Lazy Trout, formerly the Three Horse Shoes, where Ricshard Hassall was raised.

  • SS Orcades, the ship Richard Hassall was killed on.

  • The SS Orcades, which was sunk by a German submarine in October 1942.

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A SECOND new name is to be added to the wartime casualty lists on Leek's Nicholson War Memorial.

Richard Gerald Hassall, aged 50, a hospital attendant serving aboard a troopship, lost his life when the vessel was torpedoed and sunk by a German submarine in the South Atlantic in October 1942.

Richard was the son of the landlord of the Three Horseshoes Inn, Meerbrook, now The Lazy Trout.

He was a long-standing member of the congregation at St Mary's RC Church in Leek and is commemorated there.

His name will appear on a new memorial plaque on the front of the Monument alongside that of Driver Vernon Talks, another new name which the Post & Times reported upon on in April.

The new name, revealed by Friends of the Nicholson War Memorial, is set to be included in November.

Local Historian, Chris Sheldon, along with a former colleague, has researched the circumstances of Mr Hassall's death. He said: "Richard Hassall was too old to serve on an active front, but did his bit by being a member of the Merchant Navy and serving as a hospital attendant on board the troopship, SS Orcades, a converted passenger liner.

"This ship was carrying over 700 passengers from South Africa to Liverpool when she was attacked and eventually sunk by a German U-boat, U172.

"Fortunately, most of the crew and passengers survived the sinking but 45, including Richard Hassall, lost their lives.

"His body was never found, and he is commemorated on the Tower Hill Memorial in London along with thousands of other Merchant Navy seaman who were lost at sea.

"It is not known if Richard has any family still living, but if there are we would like them to get in contact with us as soon as possible".

Mr Sheldon also renewed the appeal for the people of Leek and district to think about any local casualty of the 1914-18 war or the 1939-45 war who they feel should similarly be commemorated on the Nicholson War Memorial.

Councillor Pam Wood, chairman of the Friends of the Nicholson War Memorial, said: "Apart from Vernon Talks and Richard Hassall, several names of casualties from the First World War have been suggested to us over the past few months.

"Enquiries determined that the men concerned either lived outside the Leek area or died from a non-war related cause after the war.

"Nevertheless, I urge people to get in contact with us if they feel that any name has been omitted from the memorial.

"We will look at each case properly and, if a casualty fits the previously published criteria, then his or her name will be added.

"Time is of the essence now. The new plaque needs to be designed and ordered very soon so we have to impose a cut-off date for any new suggestions.

"That will be Monday, August 4, which, as most people know, is the date Britain declared war on Germany exactly 100 before."

The Friends of the Nicholson War Memorial can be contacted via the Leek Town Clerk Julie Taylor 01538 381271 or email julie.taylor@leektowncouncil.co.uk

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