Desmond John Eke was Chelmsford born and bred. After education at the town's grammar school he worked for the Chelmsford Borough Engineer's Department. He joined the Merchant Navy and was awarded the King's Commendation for Brave Conduct while serving on the Malta Convoys. He died in March 1943 when his ship was torpedoed and sunk in the Atlantic Ocean. His parents had moved from Manor Road, Chelmsford to Braintree.
Desmond was born on 28th June 1924 in the Chelmsford registration district, the youngest son of Edward Osbourne Eke (1885-1966) and Alice Priscilla Eke (nee Arnold) (1887-1972). His parents had married in the Ongar registration district in 1913.
On 21st April 1924 Desmond was baptised at St. John's Church in Moulsham. At the time his father was a fitter living at 34 Manor Road in Chelmsford.
Desmond's siblings were Dorothy Alice Eke (1913-1980), Arnold Edward Eke (1914-1991), Marjory Mary Eke (1917-1917), Brenda Winifred Eke (born in 1919), Osborne B. Eke (born in 1921), and Daphne Melissa Eke (born in 1922).
In April 1927 Desmond won second prize for 'toddlers' at the annual infant welfare tea for the South Ward at the Orchard Street Hall in Chelmsford.
Desmond was a pupil for five years at King Edward VI's Grammar School in Chelmsford and from school was on the staff of Chelmsford's Borough Treasurer’s Department. He was a member of Chelmsford Cathedral's Young People's League.
During the Second World War he served as a Cadet in the Merchant Navy and was awarded the King's Commendation for Brave Conduct for bravery whilst serving on the Malta Convoys.
He lost his life on 3rd March 1943 when his ship, S.S. City of Pretoria (pictured right) was hit by two of three torpedoes fired by the German submarine U-174.
After an explosion the ship sank and all 145 on board were subsequently killed. Desmond was 18 years old. The 8,049 ton vessel had been enroute from New York to Liverpool carrying 7,032 tons of cargo and explosives when she was lost in the north Atlantic, north-west of the Azores.
Desmond John EKE, Cadet, S.S. City of Pretoria (London), Merchant Navy
Killed when his ship was sunk by a U-Boat. Aged 18
Shortly before his death Desmond's parents had moved from Manor Road, Chelmsford to Queenborough Lane in Braintree.
Desmond is commemorated by the Tower Hill Memorial and by the King Edward VI's Grammar School War Memorial in Chelmsford.