Selby, Cuthbert William Prideaux

“John” Selby was the third and youngest son of Dr Prideaux George Selby OBE, MRCS, of ‘Brusons’, Teynham, Kent, and later of Beaugill, Lynsted, Kent. His mother, Elizabeth Mary Alice Selby MBE, was the daughter of the Reverend Joseph Henry Eastley, of Worcester College, Oxford. He was the brother of Gerard Prideaux Selby (G1904-08) who was killed in 1916 in action in action on the Somme (see individual entry).

He entered the Reverend G.M.A. Hewett’s House, from The Grange, Folkestone, in Short Half 1911. He stroked the winning crew in Hewett Cup in 1913 and in the following year rowed ‘2’ in the school IV, and earned his Flannels for cricket.   He left Winchester early to enter RMC Sandhurst in April 1915, and passed out with a commission in the Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment. He was soon seconded to the RFC and at the age of seventeen went to the front in France as an observer. In April 1916 he was badly injured in a crash. His left arm was amputated and both his legs were broken. After eight months as a prisoner of war in Germany he was invalided to Switzerland and in 1917 was repatriated. In 1918 he was appointed Assistant Military Attaché at Berne, and after holding the same post at Brussels in 1919 and 1920 he was awarded the Belgian Croix de Guerre. In 1920 he returned to England and took up political work, as a publicist and Conservative agent, as well as acting as director the the re-building appeal for St. George’s Hospital.

On July 31st 1924 he married Mary Catherine Ann Dames, daughter of Charles Richard Dames, of South Cerney, and had two sons.

When war again broke out in 1939 he was determined to go back on active service. In 1940, in spite of his physical handicap, he rejoined the RAF as an intelligence officer, first at RAF St. Eval and then at the Air Ministry.

On August 21st 1940 he re-married, his new wife being Joan (daughter of Douglas Howard Sutherland). In 1942 he was promoted to the rank of Squadron Leader and served on the staff of Coastal Command, with responsibility for anti-submarine work. He was twice mentioned in despatches.

By late August 1943 Selby was on special duty on board the sloop HMS Egret.

On August 27th HMS Egret was part of a group searching out U-boats off the Portugese coast and came under air attack by the Germans, with eighteen Dornier Do217s carrying Henschel glider bombs.  Egret then gained the unwelcome distinction of being the first ship in history to be sunk by a guided missile. One of the aircraft launched an Hs293 against Egret, which hit the ship and exploded. 194 of Egret’s crew were killed in the attack. After this loss the U-boat hunt was called off.

Aged forty-five, Selby was reported missing at sea when Egret sank, his death being presumed in September. He is commemorated in panel 119 of the Runnymede Memorial.


War: World War 2

  • Surname: Selby
  • Forenames or initials: Cuthbert William Prideaux
  • House: G
  • Years in School: 1911-1915
  • Rank: Squadron Leader
  • Regiment: RAF Volunteer Reserve
  • Date of Birth: 11th February 1898
  • Date of Death: 27th August 1943
  • How Died: Killed in Action
  • Location in War Cloister: Inner D1
  • Decoration: Belgian Croix de Guerre
  • Burial Site: Commemorated on Panel 119 of the Runnymede Memorial