Our annual Remembrance Sunday service had to be cancelled, due to the Covid lockdown, but a short time of private prayer in the church was enjoyed by a healthy number from the parish. The roll of honour was called by Henry Blacksell, and at 11am we stood in silence as the Last Post rang out, as it has done every year for 100 years. Wreaths were laid by Nicholas Oulton DL on behalf of Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant and Helena Hewston on behalf of Shalfleet Parish Council. The National Anthem was played, and it felt, for just a moment, as if the world had returned to normal.
It has become a tradition at Shalfleet to read a short biography of one of the fallen, and this year we pay particular tribute to Lt Alistair Kindersley. The following is taken from the website of the Battle of Britain London Monument:
“Alistair Thomas James Kindersley came from a military family. His grandfather had served in the army and his father, Archibald Ogilvie Lyttelton Kindersley, had a distinguished army career ending with the rank of Lt-Colonel. In WW1 he fought in France and later Greece, ending the war in Romania. He presented Shalfleet Church with a flag that once flew over the Allied HQ at Constanta, Romania.
Archibald married Edith Mary Craven in 1908 and they had three children. Alistair was the youngest, being born in Edinburgh in 1915.
The family home was in Lymington, Hampshire but in 1919 they moved to Hamstead Grange, Shalfleet, near Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight.
Alistair Kindersley broke the family link with the army by entering Dartmouth Naval College as a cadet, passing out on 1st September 1932. He was then granted a temporary commission in the RAF as a Flying Officer but was posted to the Fleet Air Arm for service there. This ended in July 1939.
In July 1940 808 Squadron Fleet Air Arm was formed at Worthy Down, Hampshire operating the Fairey Fulmar. Kindersley was one of the first pilots posted to it.
The squadron went immediately afterwards to Wick in Scotland in the dockyard defence role, coming under Fighter Command and qualifying as a Battle of Britain unit.
808 Squadron embarked on HMS Ark Royal at Liverpool on 22nd October 1940.
On 6th November Ark Royal sailed for Gibraltar, her main task being to escort convoys en route for Malta or Alexandria.
The convoys were attacked incessantly and Kindersley shared in destroying a SM79 on 8th May.
Later that month Ark Royal was diverted west into the Atlantic to take part in the pursuit of the Bismarck. Only the Swordfish of the ship’s air component were involved and the Bismarck was sunk on 27th May.
On 25th July 1941 Ark Royal was 120 miles SW of Sardinia, taking part in Operation Substance, a convoy escort for convoy GM1 from Gibraltar to Malta. Twelve Italian SM79 torpedo bombers were detected approaching the convoy and Lt. RC Cockburn (also a Battle veteran) led a mixed detachment of Fulmars from 806, 807 and 808 Squadrons to intercept them.
The Italians were driven off with two destroyed and one damaged but three Fulmars, including Cockburn’s and Kindersley’s, were shot down, Kindersley and his crewman Acting P.O. FA Barnes were killed.
Cockburn was awarded the DSO (gazetted 25th November 1941) and the citation describes the action:
In company with another pilot, the late Lieutenant ATJ Kindersley RN, this officer, whilst patrolling over the Fleet on 25th July 1941, intercepted a formation of twelve S79 aircraft. The two Fulmars attacked immediately and forced the formation to turn away. They shot down two of the enemy for certain and probably a third, and severely damaged another which was later shot down by another Fulmar. They made attack after attack until they expended their ammunition, but before this occurred they forced many of the enemy to jettison their bombs and finally broke up the attack.
Both Fulmars were finally shot down, Lieutenant Cockburn being picked up by one of our destroyers. As Air Gunner in Lieutenant Cockburn’s aircraft, P.O. Airman Cuttriss used his Thompson sub-machine gun to good effect, damaging one of the enemy bombers as his aircraft passed under it at 50 yards range. He showed consummate coolness throughout the action and by his observations helped his pilot achieve the success that we won.
Cuttriss was awarded the DSM.
Cockburn and Cuttriss were picked up by the destroyer HMAS Nestor.
Sub Lt. KG Grant and TAG H McLeod in another Fulmar were also lost.
The recommendations for awards were reviewed by the Second Sea Lord who observed:
I am not sure that there is a strong enough case for giving Kindersley a posthumous VC.
Kindersley and Cockburn in company achieved the same success in the face of heavy odds: Cockburn survives and is recommended for a DSO, Kindersley is killed and it is proposed to award a posthumous V.C. There is no saying that Cockburn was not the more valiant of the two. It is also observed that the FOH (Flag Officer Home Fleet) puts Lieutenant Lewin, another Ark Royal pilot, ahead of Kindersley in his order of merit.
I feel, therefore, that a Mention for Kindersley would be more equitable unless it is particularly desired to give the Fleet Air Arm a VC.
Kindersley and Barnes were awarded a Mention in Dispatches. (The VC and MiD are the only awards that can be made posthumously).
Kindersley’s body was not recovered and he is commemorated on the FAA Memorial, Lee-on-Solent.
His family also placed a plaque in Shalfleet Church.
Additional research and image above courtesy of Alistair’s sister-in-law the late Vivien Kindersley via his niece Sukie Hillyard and Shalfleet resident lan Broad.
He is also commemorated on a plaque in St Michael’s Church, Shalfleet, Isle of Wight (below).”
It is easy to come and go in the church, barely noticing things that have become familiar to us. The monument to Alistair Kindersley, who came very close to being awarded a posthumous VC, deserves more than a cursory glance, and at this time of Remembrance, it is right that we say of him, and all of our fallen heroes, We will remember them.