James Gordon Melville Turner GC (EGM exchanger)

b. 30/04/1907 Dartford, Kent. d. 05/11/1967 Lewisham, Kent.

DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 06/09/1939 Cape Vincent.

James Gordon Melville Turner EGM/GC was born on 30th April 1907 in Dartford, Kent. He was the son of William Turner and his wife Harriet (nee Norris). His father was a managing nurseryman and he had two brothers and four sisters. The house that the family lived in was called Melville, which coincides with James’ third name. When he was 15, Gordon as he preferred to be known, entered Naval College with the intention of joining the Merchant Navy.

James G M Turner GC

Little is known of his service prior to 1939, by which time, he had become a Radio Officer. When War broke out, Turner had already suffered the misfortune of having two ships he served on sunk. On 6th September 1939, his ship SS Manaar was torpedoed by the U-38. The torpedo exploded amidships, and the submarine then surfaced and commenced firing on the stricken vessel. After about 20 minutes the captain gave orders to abandon ship and the boats were lowered. Turner insisted on staying behind to help two wounded Lascars. He tried to lower a lifeboat, which crashed into the sea, and then he carried a severely wounded Lascar to another boat, which was blown to pieces by shellfire with him in it. Turner then swam out to a crashed boat and pulled it alongside. The other Lascar climbed down a rope into the boat, which Turner cut adrift, and they joined the Master’s boat. All of this was under shellfire.

Turner lost the lower half of his leg, and was taken prisoner to Stalag II POW camp. He was treated there and other prisoners made him crutches. After the War, he was repatriated to Scotland, he recovered and decided not to return to sea and bought a small holding in Kent whilst working for a company called Brocklebanks. In 1950, he met a young 17 year old girl called Peggy Masters, and despite their large age gap (Gordon was 43), and a lot of family disquiet, they married in 1951. They went on to have two children, James and Pamela Jane. After the birth of Pamela Jane, money became tight and Gordon had to find another job, eventually taking a job in a car factory in Luton. He worked nights so that he could be home with his family. He would travel home on a Friday to spend the weekend with the family before travelling back on Monday to work that night.

Tragedy struck on Sunday 5th November 1967, when a strike happened and Gordon was asked to come in on a Sunday. Gordon caught the train to Charing Cross, but at 9.16pm at Hither Green, near Lewisham, the train crashed and 53 people including Gordon were killed. He was cremated and his ashes were interred in Mountfield Parish Churchyard, East Sussex. His medals are held by his family.