Second World War - Lynsted Memorial Project

Cuthbert William Prideaux SELBY (of Lynsted & Teynham)

b. 11th February 1898
d. 27th August 1943. Aged 45

Squadron Leader, Service Number 80697
Royal Air Force Voluntary Reserve
Runnymede Memorial
Commemorative plaque in Teynham Church
Lost at Sea on HMS Egret

Memorial Plaque for Cuthbert William Prideaux Selby in Teynham Church

The youngest of the 4 children of Dr Prideaux George Selby OBE, MRCS, originally from New Zealand, and Elizabeth Mary Alice Selby MBE (née Eastley). Cuthbert (known as John) was born on 11 February 1898 at Bruson's in Greenstreet. The family later moved to Beaugill (now known as Bogle) in Lynsted Lane. His older siblings were Gerard Prideaux Selby, who was killed in the First World War in 1916, Roger Prideaux Selby and Joan Prideaux Selby. Cuthbert was christened in Teynham Church on 3 March 1898.

Cuthbert married his first wife, Mary, on 30 July 1924 in South Cerney, Gloucestershire. They had 2 sons, Patrick Gerard Prideaux in 1926 and Brian Prideaux in 1927. Mary never remarried and died in 1994. Outliving one of her sons.

Cuthbert married his second wife, Joan, on 21 August 1940. After Cuthbert's death, Joan married Arthur P Pennington in 1946. Joan died in 1981.

His short but astonishing life is well documented by Winchester College, where he is commemorated in their War Cloister and in their Roll of Honour:

"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 on the Somme.

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 of 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 re-joined 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 Portuguese 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."

There were just 35 survivers of the Egret's sinking. Cuthbert was one of the 4 RAF electronics specialists on board dealing with Enigma intercepts. All 4 died in the attack.

First reported missing:

The Times of 3rd September 1943
SELBY - Missing from operations whilst on duty in one of H.M. ships, Squadron Leader C. W. P. (John) Selby, R.A.F.V.R., dearly loved youngest son of Prideaux George and Mrs Selby of Beaugill, Lynsted, Kent, and beloved husband of Joan.

Although not yet officially confirmed, his death was reported locally.

Faversham News of 10th September 1943

Dr & Mrs Prideaux Selby of Beaugill, Lynsted, have received the sad news of the death in active service of their youngest son, Squadron Leader C. W. P. Selby of the R.A.F.V.R. while serving on special duty on one of His Majesty's ships.

Squadron Leader Selby was born in 1898 and educated at Folkestone and Winchester. On leaving Winchester in 1915 he went to Sandhurst and obtained a commission in the Royal West Kent Regiment and was then seconded to the Royal Flying Corps. In 1940 he re-joined the Royal Air Force as an Intelligence Officer.

Cuthbert's death was more widely reported:

The Times of 11th September 1943
SELBY - Previously reported missing, now presumed to have lost his life in Aug. 1943. Squadron Leader C. W. P. (John) Selby, R.A.F.V.R., dearly loved youngest son of Prideaux George and Mrs Selby of Beaugill, Lynsted, Kent, and beloved husband of Joan.
Cuthbert is commemorated with a plaque in Teynham Church.

Better news was recorded for Cuthbert's brother, Roger:

Faversham News of 24th November 1944
The Distinguished Service Order has been awarded to Captain Roger Prideaux Selby, the only surviving son of Dr & Mrs George Prideaux Selby of Beaugill, Lynsted, for gallantry, skill, determination and undaunted devotion to duty during the landing of Allied Forces in Normandy.
His brother, Squadron Leader Cuthbert Selby lost his life on duty on one of her Majesty's ships in September 1943.

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