TOM TOWNDROW ex East Sheen County School, September, 2006

TOM TOWNDROW ex East Sheen County School, September, 2006

The following appeared in the Barnes and District History Society magazine:

A remarkable local link with the Dunkirk evacuation was recalled with the death on September 4th, 2006 of Tom Towndrow aged 91.   Thomas Austin Towndrow was born at Barnes on October 6th and from East Sheen County School he joined the staff of Barnes Urban District Council.   He also enlisted with 1st Mortlake Sea Scouts and was immediately involved in refitting the scouts 'former Naval steam pinnace, the 45-foot Minotaur.   He became her skipper and by 1940 was Senior Scout Leader at Mortlake.
When a quarter of a million British troops plus French units sought to evacuate Dunkirk on May 26th of that year the Admiralty called for every seaworthy craft to cross the Channel and help the rescue.   Towndrow skippered Minotaur with a Sea Scout crew down the Thames to Southend and then Ramsgate.   Placed under Naval control, she took on stores and fuel - and two ratings with .303 rifles and 600 rounds of ammunition to counter German dive-bombers and E-boats.

Minotaur made the initial Channel crossing safely and over the next few days Towndrow piloted her on numerous voyages to the foreshore West of Dunkirk, ferrying exausted soldiers from shallow water out to bigger transports and destroyers as well as towing small boats.

The hard-worked engine began to fade and, with fuel running low, Towndrow decided to embark a final batch of French Troops with the plan of getting them back to England if his gallant craft could manage the distance.   A trawler relieved him of his passengers and Minotaur, despite her engine problems, was able to make port having played a part in evacuating 338,000 troops.   The Admiralty had believed little better than 45,000 could be saved.

Minotaur was patched up and transferred to coastal patrol while Towndrow was commissioned into the RNVR spending much of the remainder of the War as a liaison officer with the Free French Navy.

One posting was with the submarine La Sultan based at Oran in Algeria and he was awarded the Croix de Guerre for his services which included his part in landing agents in Occupied France.
After the War Towndrow returned to local government settling at Bexley and qualifying as a solicitor.   He held posts at Maidenhead and Windsor and finally became Town Clerk at Frome in Somerset.

He retired to Lymington, Hampshire where he was active in the local Sailing Club and the Sea Scouts unit.
Editor's Note:   Tom's photograph appears in the Photo Gallery under Familiar Faces, Part 6