Full Name: Walter John HOPPER
Rank: Chief Engineer Officer
Service: Merchant Navy
Vessel: S.S. Maid of Kent (London)
Age at Death: 54
Date of Death: 21 May 1940
Cemetery: Tower Hill Memorial, London, UK
EVERY MAN REMEMBERED: http://www.everymanremembered.org/profiles/soldier/2789926/
Walter was born in 1894 in Margate, Kent and was the only child born to Charles Hopper and Rose Huxstep. In the 1911 Census Walter (aged 17) is described as a solicitor’s clerk.
In 1916 Walter married Elizabeth Ford in Dover and their son, Anthony was born three years later.
By 1945 Walter was Chief Engineer aboard the SS Maid of Kent…
S.S. Maid of Kent was built in 1925 and – with her sister ship the Isle of Thanet – was originally used as a cross Channel ferry. In September 1939 both vessels were requisitioned by the Admiralty as a Hospital Ships – the Maid of Kent became Hospital Ship no 21 and the Isle of Thanet became Hospital Ship no 22.
On 18 May 1940 the Maid of Kent arrive in Dieppe to pick up wounded servicemen being evacuated from France. However, thirty minutes after the Hospital Carrier arrived, the harbour was attacked by the Luftwaffe in a well-planned bombing raid. The ship was not damaged in this attack, neither was it harmed in an attack on the following night. However, on Tuesday 21 May, at 5pm the Germans attacked again. The first raid left the Maid of Kent untouched, but a second round of attacks resulted in a number of direct hits. As one eye witness described: “The Hospital Ship was completely ablaze within three to four minutes. The mainmast had falled and at least one engine had exploded. The people below decks didn’t stand a chance.”
Stanley Barker and his two workmates died instandly. Seventeen of the crew were lost, including Chief Engineer Walter Hopper and the Second Engineer, Robert (Bob) Marks, who was killed in the engine room having just returned there after talking with Captain Addenbrooke.
Of the 30 RAMC personnel on board, 19 were saved, 11 were lost.
Read ‘Luftwaffe Destruction of the Maid of Kent’ by Richard Thwaites – using the first-hand recollections of eye-witness William (Bill) Warman and others (pdf)