It is with great sadness that we heard of the departure of Sid Tiffin, a Second World War veteran. Our thoughts are with Sid’s family, son Stephen, daughter-in-law Irene and their children and grandchildren.
Sid Francis Tiffin was born on the 23rd September 1924 in Kingston-upon-Thames, the youngest of five siblings. He went to St John’s Primary, and later to St Luke’s School, which he left at the age of 14 and started working at RG Whittaker’s factory that manufactured laundry equipment. When the war started in September 1939 the factory was repurposed for military production, fitting army tanks with extra fuel tanks. He worked 48 hours a week getting paid three old pennies an hour, but was too young for overtime, although he was paid five shillings for night-time fire watching at the factory.
In 1942 Sid decided to join the Royal Navy. His call-up papers and warrant arrived with a one-way train ticket to Portsmouth. He was underage by a couple of months but still was accepted. The three months’ training at HMS Collingwood that followed soon knocked him into Navy shape.
In 1942, after finishing his training on HMS Collingwood, Sid was sent to the naval barracks in Portsmouth. From there it took two days by train to get to the Scapa Flow fleet moored off the coast of Scotland. On that journey they were bombed and machine-gunned by German fighters. On arrival at Scapa Flow, Sid stayed at an old battle ship “Iron Duke”, while waiting for HMS Berwick to return from convoy duty. Sid served on the Arctic convoys delivering essential supplies to Russia. The winter of 1943 was horrendous with temperatures of minus 30C with storm-force winds of 80 to 120 miles per hour, and up to 100-foot waves coming over higher than the ship. Only lookouts and watch-keepers were allowed on deck.
His action station was in the main shell magazine, four decks below the waterline. When the armour-plated hatches were shut tight there was no escape; if there was a problem, it was like a tomb. During all the convoys the boats were under constant attacks by German bombers, fighters and submarines. Sid was then drafted to HMS Maidstone, in Perth, Australia, a depot ship for the S-type submarines of the Fourth Flotilla, a massive vessel. When they got aboard she was already loaded with stores, ammunition and torpedoes. Berthed in front of them was a Panamanian vessel. Although by then the Japanese had surrendered, their garrison in Hong Kong had no intention of doing so. On 27th August 1945 his ship sailed from Subic Bay in the Philippines to Hong Kong. They anchored just off the mouth of the Victoria River at dawn on the 30th August 1945 to go in and retake Hong Kong. When the island was secured about 500 POWs were taken on board. “What a dreadful sight! We all thought we had it tough not putting a foot ashore for 5 months, but these guys, poor devils, had been prisoners of the Japanese since 1941.”
After hostile actions ended, in his final months in the Navy, Sid was a tour guide on HMS Victory in Portsmouth Docks. After demob he returned home to his old job at RG Whittaker’s. In the 1950s he worked for Cooper Racing Cars in Surbiton and at Tiffin Engineering, then had a job at Hawker Siddeley, and in his retirement took a part-time job at Marks & Spencer in Kingston.
Sid met Jean, his future wife, during the war whilst on leave. They corresponded and, finally, in April 1948 they were married in Teddington, and lived happily for 68 years until Jean’s death in Feb 2016. They had a son, Stephen, who married Irene and they had two children, Joanne and Christopher. Sid and Jean were both extremely proud of their family.
Sid was very much involved with the North Russian Convoy Club, and, with Jean, had many trips to Jersey and weekend meet-ups on Hayling Island. He attended the Imperial War Museum for the Victory Day celebrations and the Royal British Legion Remembrance Day parades, always marching the whole route; his final one was in 2018 at the age of 94. Sid kept himself busy by corresponding with old shipmates around the world, bought the Navy News, often wrote in and had a few letters printed, and filled several photo-albums with his lifetime memories.
For his wartime service, Sid was awarded the 1939-1945 Star (the highest British military honour for the RAF in WWII), the Arctic Star, the Pacific Star, the Atlantic Star, and the War Medal 1939-45. To acknowledge the bravery of the Royal Navy crew serving during the Second World war Russia presented a few commemorative awards to mark some VE day anniversaries. In 2014 Sid received the Medal of Ushakov in the Russian Federation Embassy in London.
After Jean’s death he continued to live in their flat until 2022 when he moved into Linwood Care Home in Thames Ditton. He settled in and enjoyed his surroundings in his own way. His only requests were to have his daily paper, a banana and plenty of Word Search books. Sid passed away peacefully on the 12th July at the care home.