Teen confirmed as youngest Second World War casualty

A 14-YEAR-OLD boy killed while serving his country was yesterday confirmed as Britain’s youngest known service casualty of the Second World War.

Reginald Earnshaw, known as Reggie, was just 14 years of age when he died under enemy fire aboard the SS North Devon nearly 70 years ago.

The Merchant Navy cabin boy had lied about his age, claiming he was 15, so that he could join the war effort.

Official confirmation of Reggie’s age by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) became possible after his sister, Pauline Harvey, responded to their nationwide appeal for his relatives to come forward.

Pauline Harvey, 77, and her great-niece Jenny marked Reggie’s birthday yesterday by laying flowers at his grave in Comely Bank Cemetery, Edinburgh.

There, she met relatives of Douglas Crichton and Reg Mitchell, who were also killed in the attack off the Norfolk coast.

Mrs Harvey, a retired teacher from Epworth in North Lincolnshire, who was just nine when her brother was killed, said: “Reggie’s death at such a young age and after just a few months at sea came as a great shock to the whole family.

“I am immensely grateful to so many people who helped research my brother’s forgotten story, and to the War Graves Commission for providing his grave with a headstone.”

Reggie’s story came to light after a shipmate led a four-year quest to find out what happened to his friend.

Former machine gunner Alf Tubb was 18 when their merchant ship was bombed by German aircraft on its way to Tyneside on July 6 1941.

He returned fire before rushing to the engine room to find Reggie but was beaten back by steam. Five other people died in the attack that night.

More than four years ago, Tubb, 86, of Swansea, decided to find out where the youngster had been laid to rest and he tracked down information through an internet appeal.

It emerged that Reggie’s body had lain in an unmarked grave in Edinburgh for decades.

Thanks to Tubb’s efforts, a permanent granite headstone was erected by the CWGC last summer in a ceremony the pensioner was able to attend.

Tubb has been informed of the latest development and it is understood he and Mrs Harvey have plans to meet up.


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