Gibbs, Reginald William Dudley
Second Engineer Officer
No. 1111732, SS Empire Portia (Newcastle-upon-Tyne), Merchant Navy
Died as a result of enemy action on Thursday 29 June 1944 (aged 42)
Gosport (Ann’s Hill) Cemetery, Hampshire, England (Plot 189 Grave 13)
Holywood and District War Memorial (as D.W. Gibbs)
Reginald William Dudley Gibbs was born on 10 October 1901 in South Stoneham, Southampton, Hampshire and he was a son of William and Antoinette Gibbs. William Gibbs was a coachman and cab proprietor and he and Antoinette had at least five children:
Reginald William Dudley (born 10 October 1901 in South Stoneham, Southampton, Hampshire)
Reginald William Dudley Gibbs and Grace Wallace Legge were married on 27 July 1933 in Second Holywood (High Street) Presbyterian Church and during the Second World War he served with the Merchant Navy aboard the SS Empire Portia. The SS Empire Portia was built by Swan, Hunter and Wigham Richardson Ltd., Wallsend-on-Tyne and was completed in 1943 for the Ministry of War Transport (MOWT). She was operated by Common Brothers Ltd., Newcastle-upon-Tyne. At about 4.00 pm on 29 June 1944 the SS Empire Portia, sailing in Convoy FTM-22 from the Normandy beaches to Portsmouth, was badly damaged by an explosion off Selsey Bill (a headland in West Sussex extending into the English Channel). The vessel was taken in tow by the British landing ship HMS LST-416 but the tow parted, and she ran aground with a broken back on Peel Bank near Ryde, Isle of Wight. The forward section was towed to Falmouth in Cornwall and the aft section to Briton Ferry in South Wales. The captain and 41 crew members were saved but five of the crew were lost. The German submarine U-988 was known to be in the area but it did not return from patrol and, in the absence of a report, it was not clear whether the SS Empire Portia had been torpedoed or mined.
One of the survivors later recalled that the SS Empire Portia accommodated around 500 troops in the main hold along with equipment and cargo on deck. They were returning from their third trip to the beachhead at Arromanches, northwest of Caen, on the stretch of coastline designated Gold Beach during the Normandy landings. At Arromanches there was a mulberry harbour – a portable temporary harbour built to facilitate the rapid offloading of cargo. After the explosion, survivors took to the lifeboats and the ship that picked them up took them to Gosport in Hampshire.
Second Engineer Officer Reginald William Dudley Gibbs (No. 1111732) was 42 when he died aboard the rescue ship on 29 June 1944 and he was buried in Gosport (Ann’s Hill) Cemetery on Monday 3 July 1944.
In the Register of Deceased Seamen his last place of abode was recorded as 1 Seaview Terrace, Holywood, Co. Down and the cause of death was ‘due to mine explosion’.
Second Engineer Officer Reginald William Dudley Gibbs (No. 1111732) is commemorated on Holywood and District War Memorial (as D.W. Gibbs).