Wednesday 28 June 2023

T. H. FLINT - Royal Army Service Corps

John Henry Thomas Flint (Corporal/Acting Sergeant T/I27600) - Royal Army Service Corps

John, often known as Tom, was an Eton Wick boy and man. He was born on August 10th 1916 to John Ernest and Dorothy Flint, who were then living at Castle View Terrace, Victoria Road, Boveney. The family later moved to Northfield Road in Boveney Newtown. John was the only child of the Flints. His mother Dorothy was one of the large Bryant family and in fact her brother, Thomas Bryant, was Eton Wick's second Great War fatality, having been killed 21 months before John's arrival, at the age of 20 years.

It is believed John attended Dorney School in the early years of his education until at the age of 11 or 12 he qualified for acceptance as an Eton College Chorister. When schooling at the College was over, he attended Pitman's College in London, where he won a book prize as the outstanding pupil. It is not surprising he found employment on the clerical staff of the London Transport Company. In his recreational time John was a keen swimmer and was a member of Eton Wick's Tilstone Tennis Club during the 1930s. The tennis club had courts behind the Institute, now known as the Village Hall. He was also a member of the 20's Club, and the Windsor Badminton Club.

When war came in September 1939 he was 23 years old and, having no intention of waiting to be conscripted into the army, he quickly volunteered. Probably he was also influenced by the Bryant family's war service in the earlier conflict. Two months after the declaration of war John was in uniform. He obtained special Christmas leave the following month, enabling him to marry his fiancée, Marjorie Brentnall, of Alma Road, Eton Wick, on December 26th 1939. The officiating curate, the Reverend David Wingate of Eton Wick, regretted having to impose a double fee for the Christmas wedding, and later graciously returned the extra charge.

After completing his military training John was sent to France with the B.E.F. A few weeks later the German Army ended the long stalemate known as the "Phoney War" by making a powerful thrust and driving the allied armies back toward the sea. The French Army collapsed and the British were evacuated from the continent by every available means in the epic of Dunkirk. John however was not near the sea at this point. In fact, he was one of several thousand troops evacuated from Brest, St. Malo, St. Nazaire and Cherbourg, two weeks after Dunkirk.

Upon returning to England he told his wife how he had seen a rescue liner bombed and destroyed at St Nazaire. He little knew he had witnessed the demise of S.S. Lancastria and that an Eton Wick man, Tom McMurray, was one of the 3,000 men on board who perished. The date was June 17th 1940. Back in England Tom served near Guildford and Swindon for perhaps the next year. In 1942 he was in the Middle East and in May and June was again facing German might during the defence of Tobruk against Rommel and the Afrika Korps. Battered, bombed and shelled, the Libyan harbour finally fell to the enemy in June.

John was among the many who were captured and shipped to Italy as prisoners of war. It was a year later, on June 28th 1943, Marjorie received a letter from the R.A.S.C. Record Office in Hastings reporting the death of her husband on May 19th, nearly six weeks earlier. John's death was given as due to suffering from nephritis and pulmonary emphycema, while being a P.O.W patient in the Masarata City Hospital. Tragically delayed letters from John arrived after the late notifications of his death. He was 26 years old. His grave is in the Ancona War Cemetery in Italy, approximately two miles south of Ancona and near the Adriatic coast. It is located in Plot 3; Row B; No. 12. The cemetery contains 1,019 British Commonwealth graves: 590 U.K., 161 Canadian, 78 Indian and Pakistani, 77 South African, 44 New Zealanders, 12 Australian and 57 unidentified.

Marjorie did not marry again and now, over 50 years later, still lives in No. 4, Snowdrop Villas, Alma Road. Obviously in error the first initial of John's name not put on either village memorial. As T.H. Flint he is commemorated on the war memorial in the Eton Wick Churchyard and also on the commemorative tablet at the Village Hall. Having been an Eton College Chorister he is also commemorated on the walls of College Cloisters.

This is an extract from Their Names Shall Be Carved in Stone  
and published here with grateful thanks to the author Frank Bond.

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