Earle, Thomas Jeffery

Thomas Jeffrey Earle was born on 2nd October 1919, the third son of Lieutenant Colonel Francis William Earle DSO (D 1894-1898) and Marie Blanche, daughter of Lyne Stivens, MD and younger brother of John Vincent Earle (G 1931-1934).   He was senior prefect of his House and a Commoner Prefect.  He was a good swimmer and an accomplished actor and performed to much acclaim in T S Eliot’s “Murder in the Cathedral”.   The Wykehamist reviewed his performance most glowingly:   “The part of Becket was sustained with great dignity throughout by Earle. It is indeed difficult for any young man to give the full impression of an Archbishop of Canterbury at the culmination of his career and the crisis of his fate; there are some tones of the voice, some maturity of appearance, which he cannot possibly have. To say, therefore, that Earle never once let the part down is to say that all was achieved which was possible to achieve. To maintain interest with a sermon throughout an entire Act was a very considerable tour de force. Earle also performed the difficult act of lying absolutely still in the attitude of violent death for the long – perhaps rather too long – period between the murder and the final close of the play.”

He organised, captained and led to victory a Winchester team in the Baidland Cup, the Public Schools Skiing Trophy in Switzerland and whilst at St John’s College he was a member of the Cambridge University Ski Team.   He was also an enthusiastic student of entomology and had visited the Isle of Man in search of rare specimens.

On the outbreak of was he had joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and it was as a midshipman that he lost his life when HMS Glorious was sunk in the North Sea on 8th June 1940.

Covering the withdrawal of British troops from Norway in late May 1940 was a strong naval force, including HMS Glorious and HMS Ark Royal with 16 destroyers and numerous other ships.   On the morning of 8th June Glorious detached from the main British force, accompanied by the destroyers Acasta and Ardent, and set out for Scapa Flow to sail home independently, supposedly because of a fuel shortage.  At about 1630 that day the two German battlecruisers,  Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, seeing the smoke from Glorious’ smoke-stack, opened fire on the three ships at a range of 27,000 yards. Before any aircraft strike could be launched Glorious took a hit on her forward hangar. Fire destroyed the Hurricanes, and the torpedoes stored below for her aircraft could not be retrieved due to the aircraft on deck. The small-calibre weapons of all three RN vessels were completely ineffective at that range. By 1720 Glorious was listing heavily in the swell and within twenty minutes the carrier had sunk. Both destroyers were also hit, while laying  a smoke screen to shield Glorious; first Ardent and then Acasta were sent to the bottom, the latter somehow managing to damage Scharnhorst with a torpedo launched in the last minutes before she sank. The wrecks are located 170 nautical miles west of Harstad, Norway.

From Glorious, 1,474 Royal Naval crewmen and fifty-nine RAF personnel were killed.  Only thirty-nine sailors were rescued by a Norwegian vessel, whilst six were found by the German ships.  In the three naval vessels, 1,519 men had lost their lives.

Like many others, Earle is commemorated on the Plymouth Naval Memorial (panel 44, column 1).  His name can also be found on the memorial in Morestead Parish Church, Winchester.

War: World War 2

  • Surname: Earle
  • Forenames or initials: Thomas Jeffery
  • House: G
  • Years in School: 1933-1938
  • Rank: Sub-Lieutenant
  • Regiment: Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve
  • Date of Birth: 2nd October 1919
  • Date of Death: 8th June 1940
  • How Died: Killed in Action
  • Location in War Cloister: Inner A1
  • Decoration: NA
  • Burial Site: Commemorated on the Plymouth Naval Memorial, Panel 44, Column 1