RONALD WILLIAM LEEKE

P/JX 154364 Leading Signalman, Royal Navy, H.M.S. Aurora

Ron leeke

photo from Brenda Macphail, daughter of his cousin Alec Bullivent

lost at sea 29th April 1942 aged 20

He was a bachelor, the son of Thomas William and Ada Dorothy Leeke (nee Quince), who lived on High Street, Scotter.  His younger brother was named Maurice Christopher.

Until he was a young man the family lived at 21 Gainsthorpe Road East ('Bottom Row') beyond Cleatham Hill.  His father would have worked at the Parry cement works and paid them rent because they owned all the houses.

Ron was 'full of fun' and each day would catch the bus with his friends to attend school next to the church on St. Andrew's Street, Kirton-in-Lindsey.

As a boy he went to the Tunnelworks Sunday School run by Jim Scott.  Classes were also taught by Tom Hardy and Lillian Gooseman, the piano player.

Perhaps due to retirement Thomas and Ada Leeke moved to live at 8 High Street, Scotter.  During the War they looked after Ron and Stanley Booth who had been evacuated from Leeds.

As there were few opportunities at Parry's he decided to enlist in the Navy 'to make a career out of it'.
 

HMS Aurora was an Arethusa-class light cruiser fitted with 6 six-inch guns, 8 four-inch guns and had anti-aircraft and other short range weaponry. Built by Portsmouth Dockyard she launched on 20th August 1936.  In 1939 Ron joined the crew at Rosyth and they became part of 2nd Cruiser Squadron escorting convoys to Scandinavia. There the Aurora was involved in the hunt for the German battleships ‘Scharnhorst’ and ‘Gneisenau’ and, after a Norwegian campaign, helped track down the ‘Bismark‘.

In July and August 1941 she was with the Home Fleet taking part in operations to Spitsbergen and Bear Island. That autumn she transferred to the Mediterranean Fleet, arriving in Malta on 21st October to join the new ‘Force K’ battle group which had great success sinking the Italian destroyer ‘Fulmine’, German and Italian transport ships and damaging the ‘Grecale’ and ‘Euro’.

On 19th December 'Force K' was intercepting an Italian convoy bound for Tripoli when it sailed into an Italian minefield.  Two of the vessels sank and the Aurora was badly damaged.  She was given emergency repairs in Malta and sailed for home 3 months later on 29th March 1942 to be repaired at Liverpool.  Ron was not part of the skelton crew.

Records from the Royal Navy Submarine Museum state Ron joined the crew of HMS Urge from HMS Talbot, the shore base at Malta, on 27th January 1942.  However on the casualty list they include him as a passenger in transit rather than a crew member.

The Urge was a 540 tonne class U submarine built by Vickers at Barrow-in-Furness and launched on 12th December 1940.  In charge was Lieutenant Commander E.P. Tomkinson, R.N., DSO and Bar.  During her short life she had much success against Italian shipping sinking the tanker Franco Martelli in the Bay of Biscay and damaging the battleship Vittorio Veneto.  Just a month before her demise she torpedoed and sank the light cruiser Giovanni delle Bande Nere off Stromboli, Italy.

The crew made supply drops to Malta which included medical stores, kerosene, mail bags, armour piercing shells and petrol.  The island had almost ceased to be of any value as a base for attacking Rommel's supply lines as most of his transports were getting through.  A decision was made to withdraw the 10th Submarine flotilla from the island.

On 27th April 1942 she left for Alexandria and two days later attacked the Italian sailing vessel San Giusto off Ras Hilal.  In the immediate area was a small convoy of 3 German MFP landing crafts, escorted by a Fiat CR42 biplane.  As the Urge was engaged in the attack against the boats she was dive-bombed and sunk by the plane.  All 35 men died.  The submarine was declared missing on 6th May.

Leading Signalman Ronald Leeke is remembered on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial and on the Kirton-in-Lindsey War Memorial.

In 1995 his medals were donated to the Royal Naval Association.

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In the whole of the Second World War only one unofficial passenger set sail on a British Submarine.  He was Bernard Gray the war correspondent for the 'Sunday Pictorial' whom they billed as 'the man who goes everywhere'.  An hour before he sailed he wrote to his wife:-

"My own darling, I'm going away now on a trip which is dangerous.  It's the last thing of its kind I shall ever do.  I'm doing this for the children."

He then went on board for the last sailing of HM Submarine Urge.

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At Liverpool in May 1942 the Aurora received new crew members (including Officer Kenneth More who became a famous British actor) and was later the 12th Cruiser Squadron flag ship.