D099091A Chief Petty Officer Weapons Engineering Mechanician Michael Edward Gordon Till HMS Sheffield 4 February 1947 ~ 4 May 1982 Age 35
On Mike’s mothers’ side the family were miners from Houghton Le Spring in Durham. Mary Gordon Laidler was born on 13 October 1919, her parents James Laidler and Jane Stockport had married in 1913. Both James and Jane’s family were miners, though prior to their marriage Jane had been in service. The Laidler family may be traced back to the 1700’s working in the pits in the Houghton Le Spring area. Prior to her marriage Mary had worked in a Drapery Shop.
Jack Edward Frederick Till was born in Southampton on 13 November 1920 to Edward and Elsie Till who married in 1918. Jack had an older sister Mary Elizabeth born on 1 July 1919. Elsie’s family originally from Wiltshire had settled in South Stoneham by the turn of the 20th century.
Jack Till and Mary Laidler married in 1946 in Southampton just after WW2 had yet again wreaked havoc across the World. Michael Edward Gordon Till was the couple’s oldest son born on 4 February 1947 in Southampton. Mike had two brothers Bryan and Peter, by 1951 the Till family was complete.
On 27 March 1957, the family set sail from Liverpool on the Empress of France headed for New Brunswick, Canada all set to make a new life. Jack travelled ahead of his family, Mary and the boys left Liverpool on the 21 June 1957 on the Empress of England all set for their new life. Sadly, less than five years later Jack died, Mary and the boys returned to England to be near her mother.
After leaving school Mike initially studied communications in Durham, he joined the Royal Navy when he was 19 years old. Initially Mike trained at HMS Collingwood and HMS Rhyll. On his travels as a young matelot Mike met his wife to be Audrey, the couple had their first child Emma, born in Weymouth in 1967. Military life is one of movement, the couple’s daughter Julia was born in Gosport in 1970 and their third daughter Nancy was born in Scotland in 1971 where the family were then based. Mike had started work on the submarines the year prior to Nancy’s birth.
When the Falkland Islands were invaded in April 1982 Mike was serving on HMS Sheffield though due to leave the ship that month it was postponed as she joined the Task Force to travel ‘Down South.’ As a Senior Computer Chief Mike was sadly to perish at his post when HMS Sheffield was hit by an Exocet missile on 4 May 1982. Without their computer systems ships are unable to defend themselves and therefore it is these amazing service personnel who stay working in extremely difficult circumstances to try their best to get those vital systems back up.
Mike and Audrey had been together for 15 years when he died. He had already been at sea for five months prior to the Falklands War, HMS Sheffield was just four days away from returning home when she was ordered to join the Task Force. Mike wrote home often, although he was away often, he was very committed to his family life.
In 2008 BBC Radio 4 honoured Mike with the readings of some of those letters he wrote home, read by Stephen Tompkinson. The programme ‘Falklands Families’ highlighted stories from different perspectives including the Governor, Rick Jolly, Army and Air Force participants. Through Audrey’s words and Mike’s letters it gave an insight to their story, one of sadly too many families torn apart by War in 1982.
Mike loved Cross Country and middle distance running and had quite a collection of trophies. Whilst on board HMS Sheffield in March 1982, the ship became the first to carry out a 100 x1 mile relay whilst underway, in doing so they claimed the waterborne record, Mike was 4th in the event. After his death in 1983 his family presented the Fleet with the ‘Mike Till Trophy’ the trophy is of an albatross soaring over a breaking wave, it is sculpted in wood.
All of Mike’s daughters have grown up and married. In May 1994 Mike’s grandson was born in Germany and named Alexander Michael after his grandad. His other grandchild Isabelle shares his birthday.
Mike was both dedicated to his Naval career as well as to his family, not the easiest life to juggle but he did so with a smile on his face. He was described as kind, gentle, patient, and tolerant.
For his bravery on 4 May 1982, he was Mentioned in Dispatches and therefore his medal contains a single bronze oakleaf to denote this.
We thank you for your service!
© Jay Morgan Hyrons
NB Each blog text is copyrighted. Each blog is individually researched and written by the author, unless otherwise stated as personal quotes. Every care is taken to ensure that the information in each blog is accurate though occasionally public records are incorrect. If you have any further information or would like to add to this story please contact the author…