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Gilbert Roland Milton

Gilbert was the first son of John William North and Maria Milton. He was born at the home of Maria's family in Washford, where he is recorded on the 1901 census at 6 months of age. Later John moved Maria into St Pancrets (Pancras) Cottage in Old Cleeve below Rodewater. It was there that Gilbert was brought up for the next 12 years. Gilbert had two bothers, Ronald and Lionel and two sisters Beatrice and Frances. Upon the death of Maria at the age of 32 the boys spent a short spell living with Maria's parents (they did not have fond memories of this time). The girls were sent to an orphanage at Broadclyst in Devon. Gilbert and Ronald then embarked on naval careers starting on an old training ship on the Thames. Following completion of their training the two brothers went their separate ways - Gilbert into the Royal Navy and Ronald into the Merchant Fleet - a good choice for Ronald. Gilbert served on HMS Calypso, a fit and able sailor, he was a member of the sports team (see photo with Gilbert far left) and rose to rank of Chief Petty Offcier.

HMS Calypso was a Caledon Class Light Cruiser built by Hawthorn Leslie. Laid Down 7 February 1916. Launched 24 January 1917. Completed 21 June 1917.

Calypso served with the 6th LCS in the Grand Fleet 1917/1919, and was badly hit in the action in the Heligoland Bight on 17 November 1917. Deployed to the Baltic in 1918/19, she subsequently went to the 3rd Cruiser Squadron in the Mediterranean in March 1919, where she remained until returning home in 1932. In 1922 Calypso played a small part in the life of Prince Phillip who's idyllic lifestyle and happy childhood in Greece did not last long. When he was just 18 months old, in 1922, King Constantine of Greece abdicated and a military junta seized power. When a revolutionary court in Greece sentenced Prince Andrew to death, as part of the "Trial of the Six", the family were forced to flee the country. In an act of kindness that was never to be forgotten, Britain's King George V, upon hearing the news a day after the trial, despatched HMS Calypso, to evacuate them. The entire family climbed aboard wearing and carrying what they could and Prince Philip was famously taken aboard in a cot made from an orange box.

The years before the Second World War were spent in the reserve fleet. At the outbreak of the war she was serving with the 7th Cruiser Squadron on Northern Patrol duty, and captured the blockade runners Minden on 24 September and Konsul Hendrik Fisser on 22 November 1939. She was also deployed in the hunt for Scharnhorst and Gneisenau after their sinking of Rawalpindi. In 1940 she went to the eastern Mediterranean, based on Alexandria, and was torpedoed and sunk by the Italian submarine R.Smg. Alpino Bagnolini under the command of C.C. Franco Tosoni Pittoni while on a sweep 70 miles South of Cape Lithinon, Crete (34.03N-24.05E) on 12 June 1940 while on aortie from Alexandria with Mediterranean fleet against Italian shipping to Libya. Hit at 59 minutes past midnight and sank with the loss of 1 officer and 38 ratings (North African Campaign)

HMS Calypso: c1935

Image of C.C. Tosoni Pittoni: c1940-41

C.C. Franco Tosoni Pittoni (pictured left in Bordeaux c1941)was killed while in command the Italian Submarine 'Michele Bianchi'which was torpedoed by the British submarine Tigris off Bordeaux on 7th May 1941 and Alpino Bagnolini under the command of T.V. Aldo Congedo was captured by the Germans in Bordeaux on 3 November 1943 and later sunk by British airplanes while in transit to Japan off Cape Good Hope.

Gilbert was survived by a wife, Dorothy (who he had met in Plymouth) and a disabled son. His name appears with 23183 other naval casualties of the two world wars on the Plymouth Naval Memorial. The Memorial is situated centrally on The Hoe which looks directly towards Plymouth Sound. It is accessible at all times. Copies of the Memorial Register are kept at the Tourist Information Office at Island House, 9 The Barbican, Plymouth, PL1 2LS, and also in the Naval Historical Section at Plymouth Library.

Plymouth Naval Memorial

The certificate reads:

In Memory of Chief Petty Officer
D/J 53546, H.M.S. Calypso, Royal Navy
who died age 39
on 12 June 1940
Husband of Dorothy May Milton, of Plymouth.
Remembered with honour

If anyone has information about Gilbert, about HMS Calypso or the Mediterranean Fleet, please get in touch...

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HMS Calypso: Service Medal

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