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Royal Oak
HMS Royal Oak

According to the official list, the number of survivors from the
Royal Oak is 414, out of the ship's complement of about 1,200.

It is feared that two local men, one from Rushden and one from Finedon, have lost their lives in the sinking by Nazis of the 29,150-ton battleship, Royal Oak, on Saturday.

H M S Royal Oak

Evening Telegraph, 16th October 1939, transcribed by Kay Collins

Two Local Men Lost In Royal Oak
Raunds Survivor

Among those lost is Able Seaman Ernest Westnutt, aged 20, and much sympathy will be felt for his parents, Mr. and Mrs. A. Westnutt. of "Clovelly" Irthlingborough-road, Finedon. He was their only son.

Admiralty Message

On Sunday afternoon a telegram reached Mr and Mrs. Westnutt from the Rear-Admiral at the Royal Naval Barracks, Portsmouth, stating:—

"Deeply regret to report death of your son, Ernest Westnutt CA.B. SSX 21140, on war service."

Ernest Westnutt had been in the Navy nearly three years. By going to sea, he followed in the footsteps of his father, who was on H.M S. Revenge at the Battle of Jutland in the last war. When he joined up he was 17½ years old, and last month he attained his 20th birthday.

As Westnutt was a good swimmer, his parents had anxiously hoped for more than 24 hours after the sinking of the Royal Oak first became known that he might be among the survivors.

Prior to joining up, Westnutt was employed at Burton's Stores, Finedon. He was an old scholar of the Senior School.

Mr. A. Westnutt, his father, is a retired petty officer. He served 16 years in the Navy, and during the last war was in five actions, on one occasion being wounded in the knee by shrapnel. The Revenge, on which he served at Jutland, was a sister ship to the Royal Oak.

Rushden Hero

The other local man on board was 2nd Class Stoker Arthur Frederick Allen, the younger son of Mr. and Mrs. F. Allen, of 27. Oval-road, Rushden. He would have been 20 in November. Mr. and Mrs. Allen were informed by the police on Sunday evening that their son was one of those who were missing.

Stoker Allen joined the Royal Navy eleven months ago, and after undergoing training at Portsmouth on H.M.S. Victory, was drafted to the Royal Oak in June. Since then he earned high praise from his superior officers, and had recently begun training in air gunnery.

Educated at Rushden Newton-road Council Schools, Stoker Allen was employed for a time by Messrs. Bignells Ltd., and afterwards by Messrs. J. and C. Claridge He was a member of a Territorial Army searchlight unit before he joined the Navy. His father served throughout the last war, at first in the 5th Northants Battalion and later in the 2nd Northants Battalion. He was taken prisoner in May, 1918, and remained a prisoner until the Armistice.

Stoker Allen has one brother, Frederick, and three sisters, Mrs. Phyllis Denton and Doreen and Jean Allen.

Raunds Mother's Relief
Son a Survivor of Royal Oak Disaster
Rushden Sweetheart

A 23-year-old Raunds man is a survivor of the Royal Oak disaster, and the news of his safety has greatly relieved his widowed mother who had suffered considerable anxiety since the news of the disaster to the battleship became known.

He is Able Seaman Samuel Percy Head, of 9, Brook-street, and his mother, Mrs. S. E. Head, who formerly lived at Keyston, received a telegram on Sunday morning from the Rear-Admiral, Royal Naval Barracks, Portsmouth, stating that her son was safe, but the welcome news first came when the local police were able to give her a similar message on Saturday night. "It was a great relief to me," said Mrs. Head to-day.

A.B. Head has a soldier brother, and he happened to be on leave when the wireless set was tuned-in for the one o'clock news on Saturday, and the news of the sinking was announced.

"I am thankful to think my boy is safe, and that his brother knew before he went back to the barracks," Mrs. Head added.

She said that her son had been in the Navy about 18 months. He had passed his swimming test, and this had afforded her some hope of his surviving.

"He always wanted to travel—he was not seeing life enough," she explained, when asked how her son, who had previously been at the Tecnic Boot Company's works, Rushden, came to join the Navy.

Previously he had been unsuccessful in trying for the Army, and then, one Saturday, coolly announced after a trip to Northampton, where it was thought he was seeing the "Cobblers," that he had joined the Navy.

Among others whose hearts are glad that, he is safe is his sweetheart, a young Rushden lady. A.B. Head is a former member of the Raunds Harriers.

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