This is the fourth article in the series to commemorate the men from Wisborough Green who lost their lives during World War II.
Nearly two years had passed since one of Wisborough Green’s sons had lost his life fighting in the war but this run of good fortune ended when Henry Chivers was killed in action on 11th March 1943.
Henry Thomas “Harry” Chivers was born in Paddington on 2nd August 1923, the first child of Henry and Rosetta Chivers. Henry senior had been a twenty-year Navy regular, retiring in the rank of Petty Officer the year before his son was born. A sister for Harry, Elizabeth “Betty” Anne was born in 1926 and the same year the family moved to Newpound Lane where in following years two more daughters and a son were born to Henry and Rosetta. Henry senior was a labourer in an agricultural engineers, presumably Carter Bros.
Harry was educated at Wisborough Green School and in 1934 won a scholarship to Collyer’s Grammar School in Horsham. After leaving school he became a bank clerk.
Harry joined the Royal Navy like his father before him and in 1943 was serving aboard the destroyer HMS Harvester as a coder, a role that involved encrypting and decrypting wireless messages. In March the ship was commanding the Escort Group escorting Convoy HX 228 formed of 60 ships carrying war materials on an east-bound trip from New York to Liverpool. On 10th March, the ship detected a U-Boat on the surface which it forced to submerge before carrying out an accurate depth-charge attack. This forced the U-Boat back to the surface where it was rammed by Harvester, the two vessels becoming locked together. After some time the U-Boat broke free and was rammed and sunk by a French vessel that had arrived on the scene.
HMS Harvester, however, had been badly damaged and was unable to move due to a broken propeller shaft. The following day another U-Boat fired two torpedoes at Harvester which caused her to break in half and sink with the loss of nine officers and 136 ratings, including Harry Chivers. In an ironic twist, this U-Boat was rammed and sunk by the same French warship that had sunk the U-Boat that crippled HMS Harvester when the two vessels collided. Over the two days 10th and 11th March, six ships from the convoy were sunk.
As well as the village war memorial, Harry is remembered on the Chatham Naval Memorial to the missing.
Harry’s father had rejoined the Navy in 1940 and served in shore establishments until he was invalided out in 1944.
The photographs of Harry Chivers have kindly been supplied by Barbara Peacock who as a young girl lived near to Harry and his family. The portrait photo was sent to Barbara in January 1943 from HMS Cabbala, a shore-based coding training establishment near Warrington and carries the dedication “To Barbara with love from your boy-friend “Hally.” Young Barbara couldn’t pronounce “Harry.”