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Hubert Charles Courtney TANNER (1913-1940)

Biographical Details

Hubert Charles Courtney Tanner (1913-1940) was the great-nephew of Eugénie Sladden (née Mourilyan).

Hubert was born on 7th May 1913 at Penicuik, Edinburgh, the eldest of three children of Frederick Courtney and Ethelwyn Florence Tanner.  In June 1914, Ethelwyn’s Aunt Polly (Mary Anna Robinson) refers to them coming to visit for a fortnight.  In many of the letters, Hubert is referred to just as “Baby”.

Hubert was educated at the Royal Naval College and then joined the Navy.  The London Gazette of 19th January 1937 reveals that he was granted a temporary commission as Flying Officer on attachment to the Royal Air Force.  He returned to naval duty in February 1938.

In 1938 Hubert married Anne Winifred Markham, the daughter of the Reverend Algernon Augustus Markham, Bishop of Grantham, and his wife, Winifred Edith, at the Church of St Andrew & St Mary, Stoke Rochford, Lincolnshire.  The bridegroom wore full naval uniform; the reception was held at Stoke Rochford Hall.

Hubert died on 29th May 1940, missing presumed killed.  He was serving on HMS Grafton as a Lieutenant. In May 1940, HMS Grafton was involved in evacuating over 1600 troops from beaches north-east of Dunkirk.  On the morning of 29th May, while rescuing survivors from the destroyer Wakeful off Nieuwpoort, Belgium, Grafton was struck in the stern by a torpedo from the German submarine U-62. This seriously damaged the ship, and also triggered a secondary explosion which damaged the bridge.

Lieutenant Tanner is commemorated on the Plymouth Naval Memorial, Devon, the war memorial at Budleigh Salterton  (where his parents had lived from the mid 1930s until about 1943) and at the Church of St Andrew & St Mary, Stoke Rochford, Lincolnshire.  Newspaper reports of his death state that his home was also at Budleigh Salterton.

Just 13 days before Hubert’s death, Anne had given birth to a stillborn baby boy.  After Hubert’s death, his widow threw herself into war work.  Anne was a member of one of the relief teams which entered Belsen concentration camp after the shocking discovery of its human content when British and American troops fought their way into Germany in the spring of 1945. It was here that she met her future second husband, Dr David Waterston, who was among the first medical teams to visit Belsen concentration camp on 8th May 1945.  They were married in 1948.  Anne died in 2009, aged 97.

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