Fundraiser: No Roses on a Sailor’s Grave – The search for a WWII veteran’s lost ship unearths more than expected.

The search for a WWII veteran’s lost ship unearths more than expected.

Our very own John Henry Philips, guest blogger, and writer of reviews has embarked on a special mission – and for that, he needs your help!

When historian and archaeologist John Henry Phillips made a promise to WWII British Navy veteran Patrick Thomas, he had no idea where the adventure would take them.

From the depths of the National Archives to the murky waters of the D-Day landing beaches, we’ve joined forces with some of the best divers, historians, and experts as we zero in on Patrick’s vanished shipwreck.

The Objective: Find the wreck and build a memorial in honor of Patrick’s shipmates.

Filming has already begun, but they need your help to complete this incredible untold story and share it with the world.

Like most veterans, Patrick came home from the war and got on with his life. He never spoke of the sinking or his later adventures in the Far East until his twilight years, figuring his story and the story of his ship would die with him. John intends to change that.


June 6, 1944: D-Day. Patrick Thomas, a telegraphist in the Royal Navy boarded a craft in Portsmouth as thousands of vessels and tens of thousands of soldiers prepared for the day that changed history. His landing craft was part of the first wave on Sword Beach before heading offshore to cover communications for land battles. At night, the ship joined others in forming a line to defend from E-Boats and Manned Torpedoes. During the day, the crew were either catching up on sleep or taking part in sea rescues.

June 25, 1944: An acoustic mine sank Patrick’s ship. He recalls regaining consciousness while in the water, bleeding from the head and covered in Battleship Grey paint. He watched the boat turn and sink to the bottom of the English Channel. Most of the crew went with it. With men and machines dropping like flies throughout WWII, the ship and its men mostly vanished from history.

Patrick and the families of the crew have no place to honor the fallen who sacrificed so much for our freedom. No one knows where those men ended up. There is no memorial to lay a wreath. Seven decades later all that will change.


On his way to one of many WWII celebration events, John Henry Philips got his accommodation mixed up and found himself without a place to stay. Thankfully, a kind old veteran by the name of Patrick Thomas offered John his spare room.

A wonderful and unique friendship was to bloom over the next few events and years. One day, having visited Sword Beach earlier and looked out over the sea, John said to Patrick: “You know, your ship really deserves a memorial.” He then went further; “Patrick, someone should find your ship.” Patrick was all for it.

The only problem is he has no idea where to begin building a permanent memorial. More importantly, no one knows where the ship is; there are almost no records to help find it, and John cannot scuba dive.

Undeterred and realizing the gravity of his promise and his friend’s age, John began a search for the missing ship and an adventure to build a permanent memorial to honor his old friend and the crew that was lost.

Click here to help!


When John told us his story, we realized the urgency in getting the project done quickly. Like all WWII veterans, Patrick is not getting any younger. Every year we lose more of these heroes and with them goes vital history that can never be retold. Living memory is what attracted John to modern conflict archaeology, and we feel a duty to attempt to tell this story while Patrick is still here to witness the discovery of his ship and unveil a memorial.

John’s relationship with Patrick is key to the story and their time together is touching to watch. Both discovered deeper connection on this journey, and we want to capture that.

As a result of all the above, we decided to jump head first into this adventure and began filming in summer 2017.

Joris Nieuwint

Joris Nieuwint is a battlefield guide for the Operation Market Garden area. His primary focus is on the Allied operations from September 17th, 1944 onwards. Having lived in the Market Garden area for 25 years, he has been studying the events for nearly as long. He has a deep understanding of the history and a passion for sharing the stories of the men who are no longer with us.