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20th May, 2022

Cruel sea claimed the life of seaman after U-Boat torpedoed Q ship

Ross Crawford 12th Feb, 2018

RAYMOND Jelfs had only a passing acquaintance with Redditch, but is still remembered as one of the town’s sons on the Astwood Bank war memorial.

The son of Henry and Ada Taylor, he was born in Bretforton near Evesham in 1896, and christened Raymond Victor John Jelfs.

The couple also had a daughter. His father was a market gardener and by the time he was 15 Raymond was helping him in the family firm.

Little is known of the life he led, but by the time of his death, aged 22, his parents had moved to Feckenham Road in Astwood Bank.

He served as an Able Seaman with the Royal Fleet Auxiliary and served on HMS Cullis, a requisitioned supply ship.

Formerly called the Westphalia, it was operating as a ‘Q’ ship – a warship disguised as a merchant man – on a mission to sink enemy U-boats.

Armed with a 4” gun and two torpedo tubes, she was commanded by Lieutenant Commander Salisbury H Simpson of the Royal Navy.

HMS Cullist had some considerable success as a ‘Q’ ship; Typically a U-boat would surface to attack and Lt Cmdr Simpson would steadily lure them within range before opening fire.

According to the Royal Auxiliary Fleet Historical Society, Cullist sank at least two enemy submarines and damaged two more before finally succumbing to the prey she hunted.

On February 11, 1918 while on patrol in the Irish Sea she was sunk by torpedoes from U-97, captained by Kapitänleutnant Hans Von Mohl, with the loss of 43 of her 70 strong crew, including Raymond Jelfs.

Survivors were picked up by both the U-boat and the trawler James Green.

As well as being remembered in Redditch Raymond’s name is carved with pride on the Chatham, Plymouth and Portsmouth Naval memorials.

With thanks to:

Remembering Redditch’s Fallen Heroes; http://www.historicalrfa.org/; http://www.worldnavalships.com/; https://www.wrecksite.eu/ .

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