Cochrane, Thomas John (Tom)
C/JX 375555, HM LCT (A) 2454, Royal Navy
Accidentally drowned on Friday 13 October 1944 (aged 20)
No known grave
Chatham Naval Memorial, Kent (Panel 75 1)
Dromore (Co. Down) War Memorial
Newtownards and District War Memorial
Thomas John Cochrane was born on 30 October 1923 and he was the eldest son of Joseph and Elizabeth Helene Cochrane (nee Gracey) of 108 Scrabo Road, Newtownards. Joseph Cochrane and Elizabeth Gracey were married on 23 December 1921 in Hillsborough Presbyterian Church. It was reported in the Newtownards Chronicle that the Cochrane family moved to Newtownards in 1936 from Dromore, Co. Down and that Tom joined the Royal Navy in 1942 after a year in the Ulster Home Guard (formerly the Ulster Defence Volunteers). Prior to active service he worked for James Mackie and Sons Ltd., Belfast. Able Seaman Thomas James Cochrane (aged 20) died on 13 October 1944 when HM LCT (A) 2454 ran ashore on Chesil Beach in Dorset. HM LCT (A) 2454 was a Mark 5 version of His Majesty’s Landing Craft Tank (Armoured) which was used as an amphibious assault ship for landing tanks on beachheads.
HM LCT (A) 2454 was caught in a force 9 gale whilst on route from Dartmouth to Portland. Her engine failed and, despite attempts to anchor, the vessel was swept onto the shingle bank at Chesil Beach where her back was broken. The local Coastguard Rocket Lifesaving Company from Wyke Regis was quickly at the scene and managed to get lines onto the vessel, but eleven of the crew were washed overboard by the 30ft waves, together with the lines. Two coastguard officers, Commander Legh and Coastguardsman Robert Henry Treadwell ran into the surf in an attempt to pass the lines by hand but both were swept away and drowned. Both men were posthumously awarded the Silver Sea Gallantry Medal. A further attempt was made by another three coastguards who were swept back ashore. In what was described as ‘an amazing feat of endurance’ Auxiliary Coastguard George Brown stayed in the surf for over 30 minutes and managed to get aboard and pass the lines to the two remaining crew. He and one of the crew were hauled ashore but the remaining line broke before the final crewman could be rescued. Albert Oldfield, another Auxiliary Coastguard, succeeded in passing a line to the final crewman and he was subsequently saved.
Nine of the thirteen Royal Navy crew died along with two Coastguard officers. There were only four survivors. Auxiliary Coastguard George Brown also received the Silver Sea Gallantry Medal together with the Royal Humane Society Silver Medal and the Stanhope Gold Medal for ‘the bravest successful rescue in 1944’.
Able Seaman Thomas John Cochrane (No. C/JX 375555) is commemorated on Chatham Naval Memorial in Kent; on Dromore (Co. Down) War Memorial and on Newtownards and District War Memorial. One of the Killed on Active Service notices inserted by his family in the Newtownards Chronicle included the text:
He was only one, but he was ours