Sub-Lieutenant (A) Edmund Hedley Archer
Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve

Town Memorial WWII Panel

Fleet Air Arm

785 Sqn NAS

Rank: Sub-Lieutenant (A)
Regiment: Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve
Unit Text: H.M.S. Jackdaw.
Date of Death: 12/10/1941
Grave/Memorial Reference: South of Church.
In Proud and Loving Memory of

image: Haslam

HMS Jackdaw was a land based establishment at Crail airfield, 7 mile SE of St Andrews, Fife. It was a torpedo aircraft training school.

Surrey Mirror
Friday 17 October 1941

ARCHER. —In October (on Active Service), Sub-Lieutenant Edmund Hedley Archer, R.N.V.R, aged 20, dearly loved elder son of Mr. and Mrs. C. E. Archer, Leatherhead, Surrey.

Surrey Advertiser
Saturday 18 October 1941

The death has occurred in Scotland of Sub-Lieut. Edmund Hedley Archer, R.N.V.R., aged 20, elder son of Mr. and Mrs. C. E. Archer, of Bridge-street, Leatherhead. Sub-Lieut. Archer joined the Fleet Air Arm in September last year. He was trained in Canada, where he gained his commission and wings, and returned to England last July.

An outstanding lad in many respects, he was educated at the City of Freemen’s School, Ashtead, of which he was captain in 1938. The same year he was also captain of the Rugby XV and cricket XI, and at his last school sports he won the senior 100 yards and high jump events.

After leaving school he obtained a position with Courtaulds, Ltd., until joining the Services. Sub-Lieut. Archer was a member of the Leatherhead Golf Club, where he had already won three trophies, one in partnership with his father, and also of the Leatherhead Constitutional Club, of which his father has been hon. secretary for many years.

There was a representative congregation at the funeral at Leatherhead Parish Churchyard on Thursday, when the service was conducted by the Rev. E. J. Austin (rector of Ashtead). The coffin was draped with a Union Jack.

Among numerous wreaths were tributes from the committee and members of the Leatherhead Constitutional Club; 6th Surrey Home Guard; his colleagues at Brocking; committee and members of the Leatherhead Golf Club; “The Three Corporals”; workpeople of Horrocks and Co., Ltd., Ashton-under-Lyne; Commanding Officer and Officers of his squadron; Captain and Officers of H.M.S. Jackdaw; and Officers of Polish Squadron. Another tribute was “In memory of our old school captain, from pupils and staff of the City of London Freemen’s School.” 

What were the circumstances of his death?

In ADM104/113, the Naval Register of Deaths for 1940/41, is this entry on page 434, the page for [HMS] Jackdaw:

Record: 46151/41
Official Number: -
Name: Archer Ed. H.
Age: 20
Quality: T.P. S/Lt (A)
Date of Death: Oct 12 [1941]
Place: Dunino
Cause of Death: Burns (Seq Flying Accident)

Initial research on Edmund's death - what aircraft, any crew, purpose of flight etc - showed that an Albacore crew was lost from HMS Victorious in a flying accident on the same date (see the end of this page). Some sources have the same crewman in both Edmund's aircraft, a Fairey Swordfish I L9757 coded H and the Fairey Albacore N4358. 

Following contact with the aircrewremembered.com Royal Navy and Fleet Air Arm Database about this problem they have concluded that Sub-Lt EH Archer was either flying alone that night or that his crewman survived the crash. They have now amended their information for Edmund accordingly:

HMS Jackdaw, Crail   Swordfish L 9757, coded H
Archer, Edmund Hedley  Temp Acting Sub-Lieutenant (A)  Pilot    RNVR    785 Sqd    HMS Jackdaw, Crail   
Killed    1941-10-12    RNAS Crail   
South of Church, Leatherhead (Ss Mary And Nicholas) Churchyard - Surrey, United Kingdom
It is not known if there was a second crewman aboard the aircraft. If there was his identity is unknown.

If anyone can shed more light on this accident, please contact the Leatherhead War Memorials website editor. Would Edmund have been flying alone at night, especially if it was more than to practice take off and landings? If he wasn't alone who was the surviving crew member? Was there an accident report?

A further source adds new information about what happened:

Swordfish: The Fleet Air Arm's Versatile, Long Serving, Legendary 'Stringbag' (Aeroplane Icons/Aeroplane Monthly)
Oct 12, 1941 [Swordfish I] L9757 785 Sqn Caught fire immediately after night take-off from Dunino and crashed into Kippur Wood (Sub Lt E H Archer +)  

Crail Airfield was HMS Jackdaw. Dunino was its satellite airfield, Jackdaw II. The Swordfish book link has excellent photos of the Fairey Swordfish and an interesting section on Crail/Dunino. The Fairey Swordfish was to be replaced in service by the Fairey Albacore, but ended up outlasting it.

No 785 Squadron, Fleet Air Arm: A Fairey Swordfish Mk I Naval
torpedo aircraft during a training flight from Royal Naval Air Station Crail.
IWM: Beadell, SJ (Lt), Royal Navy official photographer / Public domain

Edmund's life

His birth on 21 May 1921 was registered at Croydon, Surrey, the elder of two sons: his brother Keith was born on 14 November 1927.

His early childhood can be followed through the lives of his parents.

His father was Cecil Edmund Archer born 12 July 1890, baptised 20 November 1890 at Immanuel Church, Streatham Common, Surrey. 
In 1914 when living at Dimora, The Crescent, Leatherhead Surrey and working at the Stock Exchange, he attested for the Territorials, 2nd (City of London) Battalion, The London Regiment Royal Fusiliers. He served in the UK from 28 September to 22 December 1914 and then in Malta until 29 October 1915.

Private Cecil Archer was discharged on 4 July 1916 as "No longer fit physically for war service". His disability was described as valvular disease of the heart (VDH mitral) & gastritis. He had been in hospital for 4 months in Malta with paratyphoid fever & cystitis and this was followed by spells in UK hospitals.

Cecil and Ella née Neate were married five months later on 27 December 1916 at St Gabriel's, Warwick Square, Pimlico.

When Cecil died aged 65 in a swimming accident in the River Thames near Staines, opposite Penton Hook Lock, on 31 July 1955 the address on his death certificate was 2 The Crossways, Ermyn Way, Epsom Road, Leatherhead. As can be seen above, he is buried in the churchyard of Leatherhead Parish Church.

In his research on the Neate family Alun Roberts (see below) wrote: When The Terrace in Bridge Street was sold after Mary Neate's death [Mary was Ella's mother] in 1925, Nos. 28 and 30 were bought by Cecil Edmund Archer, a printer who had married Stephen Neate’s youngest daughter Ella. The couple had met at the Leatherhead Operatic Society (it was a great marriage market) and lived [as would have Edmund b1921] first at No. 30, and then, until 1954, at No. 28."  

Edmund's mother Ella Neate was born 6 October 1888 and baptised on 16 January 1889 at Leatherhead Parish Church. She lived at the family home The Nook, (No.1) Poplar Road, Leatherhead (1891 & 1901 Censuses). In the 1911 Census the Neates were at [4] The Terrace, Bridge Street, Leatherhead, the address she gave when she married Cecil in 1916. She died aged 87 on 17 April 1976 in Boston, Lincolnshire and as can be seen above she too is buried in the churchyard of Leatherhead Parish Church.

In the 1939 England & Wales Register Cecil and Ella Archer were at 28 Bridge St Leatherhead Surrey with their youngest son Keith. Also there was Edmund's grandmother, the Neate family matriarch Mary aged 66 (Grocer Retired Temporarily), and Ella's older sister Beatrice Eva Neate aged 59  (Grocer Retired Temporarily).
Cecil gave a lengthy description of his occupation as  "Manager Printers of Advertising Display Creative Ideas for Adv Propaganda Travel".

The newspaper article above covers Edmund's secondary education and sporting achievements. So far it is not known where he was at the time of the Registration on 29th September 1939.  If he was already a member of the Armed Forces he would not have been included unless he was on leave.

Edmund's maternal grandfather was Stephen Neate. The Neate family, once prominent in Leatherhead, are today still present in the town in the form of Neates' Alley off the High Street.

Alun Roberts' paper on THE NEATE FAMILY OF LEATHERHEAD can be read in the 2001 issue of the Proceedings of the Leatherhead & District Local History Society, page 112.  He wrote:

Stephen Neate’s grocery, after which Neate's Alley is named, stood on its southwestern corner, on the present site of Halfords [ now {my dentist} ], for more than eighty years (c.1862-1945).

On the opposite side of the Alley was Gothic Lodge, where the Edmund Tylney public house now stands.

According to Stephen’s grandson, Charles Lester Neate, the present name was never used when he was a boy, the thoroughfare being generally known as Dog Alley, after the many stray dogs who frequented it for various purposes. Pigs were kept for fattening and eventual slaughter in the back yard of the shop, which attracted both the dogs and small boys who would beg for the animals’ bladders for use in their footballs.    

Edmund Hedley Archer is remembered on these memorials
Leatherhead Town Memorial
Leatherhead RBL Roll of Honour, Leatherhead Parish Church

Crail Airfield

the website editor would like to add further information on this casualty
e.g. a photo of him , the circumstances of his death
and of any recollections within his family.

with thanks to:
local historian Alun Roberts, who knew Keith & Hazel Archer
Ralph Snape at aircrewremembered

page last updated 13 Jul 20

For completeness aircrewremembered.com's  details of the Albacore loss from HMS Victorious on the same date are summarised as follows:

HMS Victorious    Albacore N 4358: Crew Missing presumed killed    12 October 1941 At sea
Jack Guiscard Rouse Flowers  25yrs   Temp Lieutenant (A)    Pilot    RNVR    817 Sqd 
Bay 2, Panel 6, Lee-On-Solent Memorial - Hampshire, United Kingdom
Son of Harold Jack and Marion Edith Flowers. BA (Lond)                    
James Walter Mallet  21yrs   Leading Airman (TY)    FX 77170    Air Gunner 3rd Class    RN    817 Sqd
Bay 2, Panel 2, Lee-On-Solent Memorial - Hampshire, United Kingdom
Son of Abraham Edgar and Harriet Ann James of Cwmdare, Glamorgan, Wales

Both crew members have no known grave and are commemorated as detailed above on the Fleet Air Arm Memorial at Lee-on-Solent in Hampshire.

The primary source is ADM104/113 p441:

Record 46270/41 46270/41
Official Number - Fx/77170
Name Flowers JGR James WM
Age 24 21
Quality S/Lt (A) TA/LA
Date of Death Oct 12 [1941] Oct 12 [1941]
Place at Sea at Sea
Cause of Death Seq: Flying Accident Seq: Flying Accident