A creative VE day activity for all the family
Gawthorpe Hall and VE Day
As part of the VE Day commemorations we wanted to share the stories of the Kay-Shuttleworth family of Gawthorpe Hall who served during World War II, in particular those of brothers Richard & Ronald Kay-Shuttleworth.
Their father Lawrence had been killed in action in 1917 and Richard was brought up as the heir to the family estates, acceding to the title Lord Shuttleworth in Dec 1939. Before the war, Richard was a county councillor for East Lancashire and a member of the RAF Volunteer Reserve. After hostilities were declared he transferred to 145 Squadron, flying Hurricanes from RAF Westhampnett on the Isle of Wight.
During the retreat to Dunkirk, 145 Squadron provided air cover for the retreating forces and for those, like his cousin Charles, who were holding bridges and crossroads to slow down the German forces (Charles received the Military Cross for his efforts). On 8 August 1940 145 Squadron, including Flying Officer Lord Richard Kay-Shuttleworth, were scrambled to protect CW9 “Peewit”convoy, a group of merchant vessels being sent through the English Channel. They came under heavy fire from German JU 87s and ME 109s and lost 5 pilots and aircraft, including that of Richard in his Hawker Hurricane P3161. Seven months later the family received confirmation of his death – his plane was seen to have crashed in the Channel. Richard was the only Peer of the realm to die in the Battle of Britain, he is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.
Ronald, always known as Ronnie, was a Captain in 138 Field Regiment, Royal Artillery. In November 1942 he landed in Tunisia as part of Operation Torch, a campaign to squeeze German forces out of North Africa.
On 17 November 1942 Ronnie’s unit was caught in an ambush near crossroads at Djebel Aboid, Tabarka. Acting as Battery Commander, Ronnie was returning to a forward observation post by motorcycle when he was hit by a shell burst and instantly killed. He is buried at Tabarka Ras Rajel war cemetery. The family commissioned artist Harold Speed to produce posthumous portraits of both brothers, which now hang in Gawthorpe Hall.
Many other members of the Kay-Shuttleworth family served, their first cousin Charles Kay-Shuttleworth M.C. (who became 4th Lord Shuttleworth upon Ronnie’s death) was a member of the Royal Horse Artillery. After his exploits on the retreat to Dunkirk, he was stationed in North Africa. Injured twice, he lost his leg due to the second injury and was invalided out of the Army. He supported the British Limbless Ex-Servicement’s Association (BLESMA) for the rest of his life, after they helped him to recover.
Another cousin Captain Ughtred James, a naval commander who had a long career, was captain of HMS Speaker during the war. This small aircraft carrier spent much of the war in the Pacific and was the first ship to leave Yokohama port carrying former Prisoners of War to safety after V.J. Day.
Two other cousins, brother and sister Derek and Freydis Leaf had significant war service. Derek was a commander of Motor Torpedo Boats which protected the coastal waters of the North Sea. This was a dangerous role but he relished the challenge and adventure, he was awarded a Distinguished Service Medal in 1941 for bravery in action and then had a Bar added for bravery in an attack, in which sadly he was killed on 14 February 1944. Derek had earlier written to his sister that he did not expect to survive the war. His mother (Catherine, younger sister of Rachel Kay-Shuttleworth) describes 1944 in her journal simply as “A horrible year”.
His sister, Freydis, began the war as a VAD nurse, but in the mid-1930’s she had learned to fly and joined the Air Transport Auxilliary (ATA) in 1943. She flew most types of aircraft, including 110 Supermarine Spitfires from factory to airfield, her favourite plane to fly. She survived the war and continued flying, being one of the first women to gain her RAF wings. Interviewed in 2009 she said of VE Day:
“I was very glad that the war was over… it wasn’t until afterwards that one had time to mourn the people who had been killed, my brother and my cousins. I felt so sad for them that I didn’t go to any parties… I felt the people I should have been celebrating with weren’t there…”
Other women of the family served in the Women’s Voluntary Service or in administrative roles – Rosemary, sister of Richard and Ronnie lived in Oxford and travelled to work at Woodstock each day, where the wartime MI5 was based. She wrote lively and interesting letters to both her brothers and was devastated by their deaths. This was the sacrifice that the family of Gawthorpe Hall, like so many families across the country, had to pay in order to secure victory and an end to the War.
Create your own VE Day newspaper
Children can take part in the VE Day commemorations through creating their own VE Day newspaper. Lancashire Museums have produced a special copy of the newspaper headlines used on the actual day in 1945. Children can use their own writing, drawing or image to share their thoughts on how they would have celebrated VE Day 75 years ago.
Download our Create Your Own VE Day Celebrations Picture – PDF for printing out
Download our Create Your Own VE Day Celebrations Picture – JPG for digital creations
VE Day Celebrations
It already seems a little strange, in this time of ‘lock down’ and ‘social distancing’, seeing photos of mass celebration. But on May 8th 1945, the whole country turned to celebrate the war’s end in Europe, with gatherings and street parties all over, including these scenes captured in Lancaster..
See more photos of Lancaster at War on Red Rose Collections