Sub Lieut John Latham - Gordon Newman
J.O. Latham, lived on Alderney. Served 1943-1946 in 12th Submarine flotilla as a Sub-Lieut. RNVR. Crossed the bar on 7th February 2007.
When I left school for Reading in 1942 to read agriculture, I was billeted in the same college block as John, or Johnny as he was then called. A year senior to me, he was always sympathetic to 'freshers' and became a good friend. We rowed in the same eight, albeit at different ends, him at bow and me at stroke! A goup of us decided to 'join up' at the end of the academic year, as the war was progressing badly.
We all went our various ways and by some incredible coincidence, as a very green midshipman, I walked in the wardroom at HMS Dolphin, Gosport and there was Sub Lieut. Johnny Latham, reading the newspaper.
We had both volunteered for special service and were to be trained as oxygen divers (no bubbles!), to later serve in midget submarines, or X craft, as they were called. Whilst at Dolphin, the D-day fleet was assembling in Spithead and one day we were able to join Mr Latham Senior, the perfect English gentleman, who was on a reservist supply vessel, 'vitualling' the fleet. I could see from whom Johnny had inherited his good manners and exemplary behaviour!
Posted to a 'top secret' base on Loch Striven, we trained to cut anti-submarine nets and place limpet mines, in very cold water! We were posted to our respective 'boats and worked up into operational crews. The unique camaraderie there stood us well in later life, and the late Dennis Easom, for one, remained a good mutual friend for the rest of his life.
For various reasons, we were dispersed to other duties and John was involved in mine clearance in the Thames Estuary, whilst I was involved in salvage work in Singapore. We were released in the summer of 1046 resumed our studies, older and wiser, of course! John admitted to a weak heart and we had both been affected by our diving, so decided to row non-competitively in the only coxless pair in the boathouse! The younger students couldn't resist calling us the 'sexless pair'!
And so our strong friendship continued when we took part in the first post-war rag procession as a 'don't forget the diver' tableau, featured in a photograph in the local newspaper with Johnny, in his white submariner's sweater, holding me, rather hot, in a diving suit! Happy days!
In 1947, our ways parted as we both married and lived off campus, pursuing our separate careers in agriculture, but keeping in touch by notes on Christmas cards and at the occasional 12th flotilla reunion. Not until we retired to Weymouth and I saw the possibility of visiting Alderney a couple of years ago, did we renew our close and valued friendship....how glad I am that we tood that opportunity
Funeral oration written by Gordon Newman to be read at John Latham's funeral 16th February 2007