St. Paul’s Church is located just off Knightsbridge Road in London’s fashionable West End, near Harrods.

St. Paul's Church
St. Paul’s Church.

On the outside of the church, affixed to the wall, is a memorial to those members of the Women’s Transport Service (WTS) who gave their lives during World War Two.

WTS Memorial Plaque
WTS Memorial Plaque.

The First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY) was created in 1907 as a first aid link between front-line fighting units and the field hospitals.

During the First World War, FANYs ran field hospitals, drove ambulances and set up soup kitchens and troop canteens, often under highly dangerous conditions. By the Armistice, they had been awarded many decorations for bravery.

At the outbreak of the Second World War, the Corps was called upon to form the nucleus of the Motor Driver Companies of the ATS. Another section was attached to the Polish Army, and a Kenyan unit formed in 1935 also joined the war effort. A spirit of independence led others to join the FANY in the Special Operations Executive.

These women worked on coding and signals, acted as conductors for agents and provided administration and technical support for the Special Training Schools. Their work was top secret and often highly skilled. Members operated in several theatres of war, including North Africa, Italy, India and the Far East.

Since the end of the Second World War, the Corps has been known chiefly for its work in the field of military and civil communications, a legacy of its distinguished wartime record.

In 1999, the FANY was officially renamed the Princess Royal’s Volunteer Corps (PRVC), and it is now known as FANY(PRVC).

Just above the main memorial plaque is a smaller plaque commemorating Nurse Evelyn Fidgeon Shaw. She was a nurse who served on the Western Front and died on 24 August 1918. Nurse Shaw, who was awarded the French decoration Croix de Guerre with Palm, is buried in Sezanne Communal Cemetery (grave reference A.40).

The main memorial plaque lists the details of ATS casualties that occurred during the Second World War.

Anderson MW4115/11/43Ballymena New Cemetery
Austin BM412/02/44East Africa Memorial
Beekman YEM213/09/44Runnymede Memorial
Bloch D12925/01-05/02/45Brookwood Memorial
Boileau EM6010/01/42Ketteringham (St Peter) Church
Borrel A106/07/44Brookwood Memorial
Bradford CM2607/03/47Yokohama War Cemetery
Butler MS34111/05/41Westminster City
Byck M12523/05/44Pornic War Cemetery
Callisher412/02/44East Africa Memorial
Clerk-Rattray CE3301/03/45Rattray Parish Churchyard
Camerer CH412/02/44East Africa Memorial
Crooke CD01/04/42Chertsey (St Stephens)
Cross K3917/01/43Nottingham Crematorium
Damerment M12813/09/44Brookwood Memorial
Dickie BM3328/05/44Portland R.N. Cemetery
Ebden BE16/07/45South Ealing Cemetery
Grey W29/03/43Maala Cemetery
Heath-Jones M53326/10/45Rangoon War Cemetery
Hildick-Smith J2506-07/12/42Died at Sea
Hook S42712/02/44East Africa Memorial
Inayat-Khan113/09/44Runnymede Memorial
Kentish B43012/02/44East Africa Memorial
Le Poer Trench PH42112/02/44East Africa Memorial
Lefort C14601/05/45Runnymede Memorial
Leigh VE14006/07/44Brookwood Memorial
Lopresti CM3522/06/43Golders Green Crematorium
Manning DM2119/02/45Florence War Cemetery
McKenzie-Milligan MLM2727/09/41Birmingham (Lodge Hill)
Moojen FF43612/02/44East Africa Memorial
Morgan D2319/10/40Fort Pitt Military Cemetery
Nelson RE2228/03/46Calcutta (Bhowanipore)
Peake MC24/03/42Orsett (St Giles & All Saints)
Plewman ES113/09/44Brookwood Memorial
Ramsay BE2225/03/43Elton (St Mary) Churchyard
Rawlins FL25/10/45Brookwood Memorial
Rolfe LV105/02/45Runnymede Memorial
Rowden DH12906/07/44Runnymede Memorial
Rudellat Y101-30/04/45Brookwood Memorial
Sadler EG3421/03/43Ambleston (St Mary) Church
Salmon HIP63019/04/43Dyrham (St Peter) Church
Shepley J2518/10/39Brookwood Memorial
Southey R12/02/41Nairobi (Forest Rd) Cemetery
Stalker LM4824/09/40Creiff Cemetery
Stanger EP3428/04/44Speidhurst (St Mary) Church
Stapylton NC3315/09/42Myton-on-Swale (St Mary) Church
Swinburne-Hanham B4424/02/44Golders Green Crematorium
Sykes M2313/05/44Kandy War Cemetery
Szabo VRE12325/01-05/02/45Brookwood Memorial
Thompson MJ37410/05/41Holborn
Thomson BD42112/02/44East Africa Memorial
Woollan PC27/12/45Brighton (Downs) Crematorium
  1. On secondment to the Special Operations Executive (SOE).
  2. Beekman’s real name was Yolande Elsa Maria Unternahrer; the daughter of Berthe Lydie Unternahrer, of Mill Hill Middlesex. A SOE agent, she was aged 32 years’ old when she was killed. A French national, she was awarded the Croix de Guerre.
  3. The lady died as a result of enemy air action.
  4. The lady was onboard the Khedive Ismail when it sank.
  5. The lady was onboard the Ceramic when it sank.
  6. The lady was onboard the Yorkshire when it sank.
Lieutenant Borrel, Ensigns Bloch, Damerment, Leigh, Plewman, Rudellat, Szabo and Volunteer Rawlins on the Brookwood Memorial
Lieutenant Borrel, Ensigns Bloch, Damerment, Leigh, Plewman, Rudellat, Szabo and Volunteer Rawlins on the Brookwood Memorial.
Volunteer Shepley on the Brookwood Memorial
Volunteer Shepley on the Brookwood Memorial.

Jeanne Shepley was a 25 years’ old member of the WTS, from Holmesfield, Derbyshire.

The liner Yorkshire was a 10183 ton vessel built in 1920 by Harland & Wolff. She was equipped with 946 nhp turbine engines, with a maximum speed of 15 knots. Her dimensions were 482.4 x 58.3 x 40.4 feet.

The Yorkshire, Captain Victor Charles Patrick Smalley, with 278 persons onboard including a crew of 160, was torpedoed by a German submarine 700 miles west of Bordeaux on 17 October 1939. A total of 33 passengers and 28 crew lost their lives, including Captain Smalley. Jeanne Shepley and Sophie Edwards (another passenger) were seen by survivors assisting passengers into the lifeboats; neither of these two ladies survived.

The Merchant Navy personnel who died are commemorated on Panel 120 at the Merchant Navy Memorial.

As a member of the ATS, and the Army, Jeanne Shepley is commemorated on the Brookwood Memorial.

Jeanne Shepley’s Brother, Pilot Officer Douglas Clayton Shepley, was also killed in World War Two. A Spitfire pilot with 152 squadron, Royal Air Force, his Spitfire was shot down on 12 August 1940. Having no known grave, Pilot Officer Shepley, aged 22 years’ old, is commemorated on Panel 10 of the Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede.

The Khedive Ismail was a 7513 ton vessel built in 1922 by Scott’s Shipbuilding & Engineering Company. She was equiped with 1469 nhp turbine engines and could achieve a maximum speed of 17 knots. Her dimensions were 422.8 x 56.2 x 30.4 feet.

The liner was requistitioned from the British India Steam Navigation Company by the Ministry of War Transport, for use as a troop-ship. The vessel was carrying 1,511 people including 178 ships crew, 996 officers and men of the 301st Field Regiment, East African Artillery, 271 Royal Navy personnel and a detachment of 19 British Wrens. Also on board were 53 nursing sisters with one matron and 9 WTS ladies.

While en route from Mombasa (Kenya) to Colombo (Sri Lanka), the ship was torpedoed in the Indian Ocean at 14.33 hours on 12 February 1944, by a Japanese submarine.

It took less than two minutes for the ship to sink taking 1,297 of her passengers and crew with her. The Merchant Navy personnel are commemorated on Panel 60 of the Tower Hill Memorial. There were 214 survivors including six female passengers.

The Ceramic was a 18713 ton vessel built in 1913 by Harland & Wolff. She was equiped with 7750 ihp triple-expansion engines and turbines. Her maximum speed was 15 knots with her dimensions being stated as 655.1 x 69.4 x 43.8 feet.

The Ceramic (Captain H.C. Elford), with 378 passengers and 278 crew, was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U-515 (Capt. Lt. W. Henke), west of the Azores on the night of 6-7 December 1942. Rescue ships from St. Michael’s were unable to put to see due to the heavy weather. Only one man survived the sinking: Royal Engineer Sapper A.E. Munday, who was picked up by a German submarine on the following day.

Captain Herbert Charles Elford, who came from Norwich, is commemorated with the other Merchant Navy casualties on Panel 25 of the Tower Hill Memorial.

Ceramic Names: Panel 25
Ceramic Names: Panel 25.
Cermaic Names: Panel 26
Cermaic Names: Panel 26.

Some months later U-515 was sunk by American destroyers, which captured the commander and 43 of his crew. Capt. Lt. Henke was later killed trying to escape from a POW camp.

The SOE was established by Winston Churchill to “… set Europe ablaze …”. The agency, under the Department of Economic Warfare, was divided up into various sections: one for each occupied country. France, being an exception, had two sections: F and RF section.

For their work during this period, Noor Inayat-Khan and Violette Szabo were posthumously awarded the George Cross.

Lefort and Rolfe on the Air Forces Memorial, Runnymede
Lefort and Rolfe on the Air Forces Memorial, Runnymede.
Inayat-Khan, Rowden and Unternahrer on the Air Forces Memorial, Runnymede
Inayat-Khan, Rowden and Unternahrer on the Air Forces Memorial, Runnymede.

The following agents were taken together to Natzweiler Concentration Camp and executed by lethal injection on 6 July 1944: Borrel (Denise), Leigh (Simone), Sonia Olschanezky and Rowden (Paulette).

The following agents were taken together to Dachau Concentration Camp and executed by shooting on 13 September 1944: Beekman/Unternahrer (Yvonne), Damerment (Solange), Inayat-Khan (Madeleine) and Plewman (Gaby).

The following agents were taken to Ravensbruck Concentration Camp and executed by shooting during the period of 25 January to 5 February 1945: Bloch (Ambroise), Rolfe (Nadine) and Szabo (Louise).

Yvonne Rudellat (Jacqueline) died in the Belsen Camp during April 1945.

Cecily Lefort (Alice) died at Ravensbruck on 1 May 1945, the day after the camp’s liberation by Soviet troops.

Muriel Tamara Byck was born in Ealing, London, on 4 June 1918. She joined SOE in July 1943. Due to a torn leg muscle, she was unable to use a parachute, and was taken by Lysander to act as the radio operator for Philippe de Vomecourt’s Ventriloquist circuit. She died on 23 May 1944, from meningitis, and is buried in Pornic War Cemetery (grave reference 2.AB.18). Pornic is 51 kilometres west-south-west of Nantes and 20 kilometres south-south-east of St Nazaire.

Those SOE agents who had been in the WAAF prior to their secondment to SOE were commemorated on the Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede. Those agents who joined the WTS as cover for their SOE activities were commemorated on the Brookwood Memorial.