This is the first draft of
the notes written by Donald Hodges about his time in the Royal Navy
1935-1946. His official
Number was MX 52013.
Sent to us by his son.
After sitting and passing the written entrance exam
for the Supply and Writer (Accountant) branch of the Royal Navy I was
advised to report to HMS Drake - the Royal Navy barracks at Devonport on
the 4th November 1935. The
class for Devonport was transferred to HMS Victory at Portsmouth where
we were joined by the other classes due to belong to the other 2
divisions from Portsmouth and Chatham.
We were now Supply Probationers on a payment of 2
shillings and 6 pence per day (12.5 Pence) plus a clothing allowance of
3 pence and a Rum allowance of 3 pence, making a total allowance and pay
of 3 shillings (15 Pence) per day.
All Supply ratings were trained at Portsmouth and
after being issued with bedding and a basic uniform kit, and being
measured for, a tailor made a No. 1 Doeskin suit, we were first
instructed on assembling and slinging a hammock.
The three classes were then taken over by 3 Gunnery
instructors for basic training on the Parade Ground. This instruction was completed with a passing out parade and
was followed immediately by technical training in all aspects of Naval
Store keeping, Victualling, Clothing etc and in the Accounting
procedures connected with them. This
finished with a written exam which with a successful result we were
promoted to Supply Assistant with an accompanying rise in pay of one
shilling a day (5 Pence). Total
pay and allowances now became 4/= (shillings) (20 Pence) a day.
This promotion occurred on 25th March 1936 and the following days
all of these classes were returned to the depots to which they belonged
and were consigned to various duties within their ports.
On arrival at HMS Drake I was detailed to the Central Stores
department of the Naval Stores.
At the end of May 1936 I was drafted to HMS Exeter
which was due home shortly from the West Indies squadron to recommission
and return once more to the West Indies. In preparation for this I went
through the routine of having the necessary inoculations and
vaccinations and was sent on Draft Leave and then back to Devonport to
await the arrival of HMS Exeter.
Before this could happen HMS Adventure arrived back in Devonport
to recommission hurriedly and return once more to Haifa as soon as
possible. (She had been sent there from her usual base on the China
Station) As many of us had
already had leave, the new crew were transferred to Adventure on 17th
June 1936 and we sailed on 20th June, to return to Haifa in what was
then Palestine, with short calls at Gibraltar and Malta.
(The Adventure was built around 1928/29.
She had diesel engines and steam turbines.
in 1991 Mum and Dad later met a man who had worked on her during
building as an apprentice.)
I was consigned to the Naval Stores section, the
staff on this section being a Chief Petty Officer, Petty Officer,
Leading Supply Assistant and 2 Supply Assistants.
We were responsible for issuing and accounting for all stores to
keep the ship in running condition including all cleansing materials and
also oil fuel. We were also responsible for oil burning Navigation
Lights which were placed on the bridge against a failure of the electric
ones in normal use.
The journey to Gibraltar was the first time I had
seen Dolphins swimming directly before the ship's bows for miles and
also being attracted from a fair distance to join the ship. Seeing
the Rock and Malta for the first time was extremely interesting though
these calls were of short duration.
Haifa was more eye opening.
The Jewish Quarter of the city was a hive of building activity -
not much going on in the Arab Quarter which was quite smelly and served
by open drains. It was also
surprising to see armed Palestine Police on every street corner trying
to stop some of the atrocities being carried out by the Jewish
extremists against British soldiers, some of whom had been abducted and
hanged in the orange groves. They
were trying to make Britain give up the Mandate and open up the country
to Jewish settlement.
After a few weeks we moved on to Alexandria, a very
interesting city. The main
thing I remember are the Flying Boats of BOAC landing in the harbour.
After a few days we moved on to Port Said and waiting foe clear passage,
journeyed through the Suez Canal, passing traffic in the Bitter Lakes.
Clearing the Canal we anchored a few hours outside
Aden at the end of the Red Sea. After
leaving, our next port of call was Colombo in Ceylon - my first view of
some of the Beauties of the East.
I thought Ceylon was very beautiful.
After a few days we set sail once again - this time it was for
Singapore about a weeks sail away.
The Island Singapore saw my first
and played my first game of cricket since leaving England.
I went as far as Johore and saw the site of the new dockyard for
Singapore. It was quite
hilly. I also had a look at
a rubber plantation. Everything
was quite beautiful and interesting.
Our stay here was quite short.
It was now early September and we were shortly rejoining the
China Fleet from which Adventure had to be sent to stabilise the
position in the Eastern Mediterranean.
HMS Adventure was a cruiser - Cruiser - Minelayer,
the first ship built specified as a Minelayer.
She carried 4.5 inch guns and also 320 mines carried on sinkers
on four sets of rails. She
was also powered with steam turbines and also main diesel engines. This combination allows the ship to get under way immediately
whilst working up the steam for the turbines which meant that she could
move towards an emergency at a much earlier time.
We joined the China Fleet in early September - it was
the rainy season and before this I didn't realise how it could rain, in
comparison, rain at home was more or less like drizzle.
The rain was also quite warm.
The Fleet was composed of cruisers some of which were
County Class ships of some 10 000 tons, carrying 8 inch guns and a
couple of older C and D class ships of about 5 000 tons. There was also a flotilla of destroyers.
They were D class of 9 - 3 manned from each depot.
There were also some older World War I destroyers some gunboats
with shallow draught. There was also the Submarine Depot ship HMS Forth and the
aircraft carrier HMS Eagle. When
we arrived most of these were either at Wei Hai Wei - the fleet's summer
station or "showing the flag" at other places in the area.
I was learning my trade. Naval Stores covered some 7-8000 items, all to be accounted
for, and stock taking was continuous throughout the year. The
Engineer Department advised weekly on the use of and the amount of oil
fuel and diesel remaining accounted for by Naval Stores.
Nothing was booked out without authorisation of the department
head and signed for by the person drawing the item.
I suppose the most expensive item was gold leaf for gilding and
some of the wireless telegraphy valves were very expensive.
These were kept in a store room of its own as were many items.
While passing through the tropics we were dressed in
tropical short sleeved white doubled shirt and white shorts, stockings
and shoes. In Hong Kong at
this time of year dress of the day became white drill suits, with navy
trousers for evenings.
One surprise on entering Hong Kong was seeing a Japanese merchant
ship high and dry on the shore some fifty yards from the sea, lifted
there by the latest Typhoon earlier in the summer.
Chinese coolies were digging a channel by hand to refloat it.
The base at Hong Kong is on the island called HMS
Tamar an old wooden renovated ship which is directly opposite Kowloon on
the mainland. The merchant
and mail ships docked here before moving on to Japan etc.
These were well known shipping lines for example P&O, Dollar
Line (USA), Canadian Pacific, Blue Funnel to name a few.
I was always fascinated at the way these large ships turned into
the docks under their own steam with no fuss or bother.
Hong Kong - the island of Victoria was fascinating.
The centre of the island rose to the "Peak" in the
centre and in the summer much of the peak is covered in by the cloud
which causes a high humidity which was comfortable.
Also fascinating was seeing a large dead pig - feet tied
together, two front and two back, being carried (on a large bamboo pole)
through the streets by two coolies.
It was also strange to Europeans to see how the
native women shopped. No
paper bags were used and purchases were carried on a loop of what looked
like raffia. Food prices
were very low and wages were extremely small.
Just away from the landing stage was the Fleet Club
with a bar, Billiard and Snooker tables and where for a small price you
were able to rent a bed in its own cubicle for the night. This was just for Naval personnel. Just about 50 yards further on by the main road was the Union
Jack club. Very similar to
the Fleet Club. There was a
teeming population and evenings just before sun down many people laid
rattan mats on the pavements beside buildings and slept there.
A tram system ran from one end of the island to the other and
servicemen could travel this distance for half price - about 3
farthings. (.75 of an old penny). There
were also many rickshaws available, well balanced and drawn at a trot by
the rickshaw man. While not
pulling customers these were great gamblers.
One of the nicest places here was Happy Valley where
there was a race course and three Rugby pitches. We were only paid
monthly whilst abroad and at the end of the month we had to economise on
food from restaurants mainly in Queen's Road where we could buy eggs and
chips for 4.5d (about 2.5 new pence). Shops were surprisingly few
having windows but employing Sikh janitors and being shuttered by night. I was fascinated by the hand carved ivory goods and could
watch tradesmen carving using tools as they were generations before.
After a couple of months in harbour we travelled
North to Shanghai stopping on the way for a few days at the island of
Amoy. After about a week, we realised we were nearing the city as
the sea for about 100 miles from the land was a dirty brown from the
water from the Yangtse Kiang which was near to Shanghai on the Woosung
flats - just around the corner from the mouth of the river. We anchored at Shanghai and relieved the cruiser HMS Cardiff
of guard duty. The city at
this time was divided into different cantons, each controlled by a
different nation. i.e.
Britain, France, USA, Japan and so on.
Here we used Chinese currency almost on a par with the Hong Kong
dollar of 16 dollars to the pound.
The temperature was much less than in Hong Kong and
we stayed over Christmas. It
snowed over Christmas. To
me there seemed to be two types of Chinese.
The northerners seemed to be much bigger and hardier than there
Soon after Christmas we left Shanghai and journeyed
up the Kangtsi Kiang with its strong current and anchoring each night.
We then reached Nanking. The
river is very wide at this point and the scenery on the river journey
was fantastic with Pagodas and for the first time we saw water being
pumped by means of a treadmill.
Whilst there, there was a civil war being conducted between some
Warlords, virtually bandits and the National Party being led by Chiang
Kai Chek. The National
Party was being hard pressed. The
opposing sides were on opposite banks and two miles or so apart.
The river here is wide open and the wind bitterly cold.
No-one landed at Nanking and after showing the flag for a couple
of weeks we ran back down river and returned to Honk Kong.
Whilst in the tropics the ship worked on Tropical
routines, starting work an hour earlier in the day, having a three hour
break for lunch and working for an hour later in the day. We were taking it more or less easy during the worst of the
The Adventure carried a small Chinese laundry of 5 or
6 laundry men who would launder our drill suits for a few pence and this
was very convenient especially when we wore semi stiff collars in cooler
After some eight or so weeks in Hong Kong we were
dispersed once again from the fleet to show the colours. This time
we carried some soldiers from the Seaforth Highlanders who were based in
Hong Kong. These men danced
sword dances to a piper playing and entertained in various places.
This time we journeyed once more to Singapore for a short stay
then travelled South along the coast of Sumatra and arrived at Batavia
now known as Jakarta. At this time it formed part of the Dutch East Indies and the
influence of the Dutch was very apparent.
After a short stay we travelled northwards to
Sawdakam on the North coast of Borneo. (at that time it was British)
again "crossing the line" having first done so between
Singapore and Jakarta, when we held the "crossing of the line"
We had arrived in Borneo for the Coronation
celebrations for King George VI where the junior rating did a drill
display and the ship's cricket team played
a one innings game against a Civil Servants XI
After a short stay, on completion of our celebration
we travelled North once again to Manilla in the Philippines where there
was an American base. Here
we had a short time for sightseeing and had a short cruise on a river
boat before returning again to Hong Kong.
Soon after leaving Manila we had to change course
slightly because there was a Typhoon directly in our path.
We kept more to the edge of the storm.
I'd never seen a storm like this for about 36 hours.
The waves in this area are short and sharp and the high winds cut
the tops off the waves until the spray was horizontal.
The experience was awe inspiring.
Our arrival back at Hong Kong was 24 hours late which gave us
time to tidy up a little. The
violence of the storm was indicated when on our arrival the
Commander-in-Chief sent out a signal congratulating the crew on the
ship's appearance after such a storm.
Now followed a quick visit to a private dry dock for
a boiler clean and some small repairs.
At the head of this dry dock was a smooth cliff face where ships
who had previously used the dry dock had painted their ship's crests.
The one I particularly remember was the county class cruiser HMS
Kent - a horse standing on hind legs and the motto INVICTA.
Meanwhile HMS London another County Class ship had
been relieved on the station by a similar class HMS Berwick.
Out of the dock once more and we journeyed North to
Wei Hai Wei to join the rest of the fleet and after exercises held the
annual regatta with rowing competitions between crews of the 3 depots.
This was where I first heard of the cry "Oggy, Oggy, Oggy",
the rallying cry of the ships from Devonport.
On dispersal of he fleet from Wei Hai Wei we
travelled North and visited further Chinese ports in North China.
On passage from Hong Kong to Wei Hai Wei we had already visited a
fresh port. This was in a
secluded enclosed bay - Tsing-Tao, the cleanest city I saw in China.
It had previously been under German influence and held an
On our northward journey we now visited Shan Hai Quan
where the Great Wall of China meets the sea and also Ching Wang Tao.
There we saw a large collier being loaded by hand with an endless
line of coolies mostly women, who carried small baskets of coal on each
end of a large bamboo pole. In
these days because of the large number of people concerned these jobs
were done quickly enough and because the pay was a few cents a day -
cheaply. At this time the
Japan started their invasion of China and we watched Japanese ships
unloading ponies and hay for their fodder at the end of a jetty nearby.
There were also an Italian gunboat present and the Japs ignored
the presence of both of us. These
ports are in the extreme North of China.
After leaving this area we returned once more to Hong Kong.
When the coolies working on the channel to refloat the beached
ship heard of the invasion in the North by the Japanese, all work on the
During this period whilst away from Hong Kong to gain
experience in all subjects, I was switched from Naval Store to
Victualling and Clothing accounts whilst another SA called George Evans
(who joined and trained with me) went from Victualling to Naval Stores.
The Victualling Office staff was one Chief PO (Jack Shannon) one
PO(Ernie Down), two SA's Willie Haynes and myself.
In addition there were three Able Seamen storemen (known as
Tankys) who were responsible for bringing up to the issue room and to
the Galley(cookhouse) everything we wanted for the day's menu for the
crew and also a Royal Marine butcher who with the Tankys brought the
meat required from the fridges. The
ship had cold rooms and cool rooms which held our needs for about ninety
days. So we stored ship
with all of these items from a store ship as required.
We never fell under about 30 days in case of an emergency call.
The CPO was in overall control of the Victualling
Office and had control of the Clothing Store(Slops Room) and the
Clothing and loan Clothing Accounts.
He also worked out the coming week's menu for the
ships company and on Thursdays went to a conference with the Paymaster
Commander (Accountant Officer) in charge of all Writer (Supply and Cooks
staff) and also the chief cook. When approved the menu was adhered
to. He was assisted by one
of the SA's who advised the cooking staff daily of the numbers to be
catered for in each mess. He
was also responsible for opening the Spirit Room-the hold where the Rum
and Lime Juice was kept, measuring the Rum required for the days issue,
making the issue of neat Rum to the Chief and Petty Officers messes and
diluting the rest and issuing to the rest of the ships company by
messes. This always took
place at 11.00 a.m.
The Petty Officer kept the Victualling Account
assisted by the other SA. The
value of all the food was accounted for daily, transferred to a weekly
account. From Saturday
dinner time each week was a stocktaking of all the food left was
undertaken and valued. Issues
and remainders had to agree with the total value of the previous weeks
value, plus any additions for the week.
All Victualling and Stores supplied through
Victualling Yards and Store ships were charged to the ship at set
prices. Whilst other stores
not supplied by the Navy were purchased through the NAAFI through the
canteen manager. Items such as bacon, supplied in complete sides,
frozen pork, butter, tinned fruit and many other items.
These were carried in a separate section of the accounts.
We had a daily monetary allowance for the entire
lower deck. I think we were
allowed one shilling and elevenpence halfpenny per member of the crew
and we were able to save a little of this each week to provide a slap up
Christmas dinner. This
meant careful planning of the menu to conform to this monetary value and
also to take account of the items of food available.
The weekly accounts were transferred to a monthly
account and this finally to a quarterly account which all had to be
proved and the quarterly account proved and submitted to the Admiralty
30 days after the last day of the quarter.
This quarterly account was worked on whilst doing the normal
current accounts. In this
account there were some funny little things - one of these which comes
to mind was the formula for bread making.
The Chief baker had to produce 1000 lbs of bread from each 750
lbs of flour using only a very small quantity of yeast by making a
rising agent (brew) from dried hops and malt.
On the change over from Naval Stores I was assigned
to assist the Sy PO on the Victualling Account and from that time on
never had a Saturday afternoon off.
The weekly accounts were usually finished in time to go ashore by
about 6-8 p.m. I stayed on
this assignment during the rest of the commission.
Whilst abroad each member of the crew was able to buy
tobacco duty free monthly. We
could buy cigarette tobacco (2 shillings and sixpence or 12.5 pence) for
a one pound tin, Pipe tobacco at 2 shillings (10p) and leaf tobacco at 1
shilling and sixpence (7.5p) which the old timers made up into pipe
tobacco. These items were
carried on our clothing account. The
requirements of each mess was collected by the leading hand of the mess
who was responsible for payment and distribution.
Cigarette tobacco was known as Ticklers.
All the SAs were messed together with LSAs writer (one only on
the ship) and the Sick Berth Attendant.
We were 'daymen' with no watch keeping but sometimes working odd
hours. We also had a
messman who fetched and dished up dinners and breakfasts from the
galley, washed up and kept the mess clean and tidy.
One other thing in the tropics, there was always a 40
gallon tub of Lime juice available on deck for anyone requiring it to
help themselves. The winter
and early spring we spent in Hon Kong but early ish in the year 1938 we
wet once more to Singapore. During
this voyage we saw a very unusual sight.
We passed through a school of jellyfish for 24 hours.
As far as the eye could see on either side of the ship. There must have been millions.
Arriving at Johore - what a surprise.
The area had been levelled entirely by hand and work on the base
and docks started. No
machinery used but coolies mostly women with their bamboo poles and
baskets - the work being carried out being the ultimate result of the
numbers being used. In the
Far East many trades were carried out with the tools used for
After two or three weeks we returned once again to
Hong Kong. On our arrival, some tradesmen arrived on board
including a tailor and shoemaker. These
men always came on board on a ship's arrival and were a very useful
addition to the ships conveniences.
At one time I bought three yards of double width
Doeskin cloth for an extra No 1 uniform at a cost of 8 shillings and 4
pence per yard from the ship's clothing store, a total of £1 5s or £1.25.
This was passed to the Chinese tailor with buttons and badges
costing another 25 pence.
A week later the tailor delivered a new suit (he provided the
lining) and charged $5 Hong Kong or 6s 3d (31p) a total cost of about £1
16 3 (in new money £1.81). At
this time a suit of this sort would be £5 - £6.
Similarly with shoes - the shoemaker drew around your feet for
measurement and a few days later arrived back on board with a completed
pair of shoes black or white at a cost of about $6 which was 7s 6d or
Other things we purchased, tropical shirts (these had
a double thickness of back, and shorts and also white drill tunics and
Around this time on 4th May 1938 I was promoted to
Leading Supply Assistant with a rise in pay to 5 shillings and 1 penny
per day with the same allowances. Making
5s 7d or 28p per day.
After provisioning, we set off Northwards once again, to Shanghai
once more to "Show the Flag".
At this time because of the Japanese invasion of
China, the Chinese dollar halved in value, so we received double the
amount of dollars i.e. somewhere about $30 to the pound.
China being such a vast country and virtually self sufficient,
the dollar still purchased the same as it did in our previous visit.
I remember one of the things I purchased was an eye test and new
glasses which cost me somewhere in the region of 30s (£1.50).
The opponents on the two sides of the civil war had ceased
opposing each other for the time being to combine forces against the
Shanghai was the largest city in China and very
cosmopolitan. We had a very
pleasant stay, and for the last time we left Shanghai to return once
more to Hong Kong. This
time our stay will be short as the commission had only a few months to
run. Very soon the time would soon come to leave the China
When the departure day finally arrived the Adventure left harbour
followed by some native sampans which had been attached to the ship to
ferry numbers of the crew to and from the jetty.
They followed the ship, sending us off with a display of
After a short delay in Singapore we eventually left
once more for home, calling at Colombo (Ceylon) the Port Suez to wait
for the Canal to clear of South bound ships between Bitter Lakes and
Port Suez - the on to Port Said at the Northern end of the Canal.
The next stop was Malta for a few days, then
Gibraltar and after a few more days in the harbour finally left for
Plymouth. Sometime in
December we passed the breakwater and flying our long Paying off Pennant
- flying yards behind the ship. We
eventually tied up at our home port after 2.5 years commission.
Each watch (Port and Starboard) were now due for a month's leave.
Whilst on our journey home, on 4th November I was
granted my first good conduct badge (after 3 years) and worth an extra
3d a day. I also took the
written exam for Supply Petty Officer and passed.
This exam also took in eventual promotion to Chief Petty Officer
on a seniority basis. Each
red ink record enhanced seniority by two months.
I might add that I was detailed to take this exam
otherwise I probably wouldn't have bothered.
I went on a month's leave with the first half of the ship's crew
and returned while the second half had their due leave. The ship then, "Paid off into the Reserve Fleet" on
1st March and anchored in the "Hamoze" with two or three other
ships. I remained as part
of the care and maintenance crew with about 40 others and here we
remained for some five months when on 1st July 1939 the ship was
re-commissioned with a few active service ratings and members of the
Naval Reserve, including pensioners.
Among the many called up on 31st July to man the reserve fleet
were many fishermen who at that time were members of the Royal Naval
Volunteer Reserves (RNVR) Among
those joining the Adventure were members of the Looe Fishermans Choir.
It was grand when off watch they gathered on a forward mining
hatch (used to load the mines on to the mining deck) for an evening
singing many of their unaccompanied hymns and songs.
We left Plymouth and assembled with a great many
other ships for a Royal Review of the Fleet.
This fleet was kept in being because of the uncertainty of the situation
at that time until the German Army invaded Poland and war was declared
on 3rd September.
1939 - 1945.
I was retained on Victualling on recommissioning and
the new supply branch for victualling which was made up of two pensioner
Chief Petty Officers one active service Petty Officer and myself an LSA.
On allocation of duties, the Senior CPO (Charles Old)
elected to do the clothing accounts.
The other Chief volunteered the junior SA's job, dealing with rum
etc and the PO (Bill Cornelius) had never experienced General Mess
duties, but volunteered to assist me if I would take them on, so that is
how we stood at that time. We
were now on a war footing and my action station was in the TS
(Transmitting Station). Here
I was linking the Range finders to the Guns receiving the ranges,
averaging them before communicating them to the Guns.
The TS was three decks down on top of the oil fuel tank.
As soon as war was declared the Reserve Fleet was
displaced and absorbed into various units of the active fleet.
HMS Adventure went to HM Dockyard at Portsmouth and loaded with
her compliment of mines - just over 300 in number and then proceeded to
Dover. In company with some
small Mine Layers converted from small ferries proceeded to lay the
minefield between Dover and Calais.
Returning to Portsmouth on completion, each watch was given a
couple of days leave and some of us being Devonport based hired coaches
to take us to our leave in Devon.
When on this leave we were given petrol coupons to
enable us to buy a couple of gallons of fuel for this leave - petrol
being one of the first things to be rationed.
On the first afternoon at home my girlfriend (later my wife)
decided to go for a spin on the motorbike - just for a break - to
nowhere in particular. We
found ourselves near Newton Abbot so we decided to go to the pictures.
Arriving at the Alexandra cinema and found on changing into
civvies I'd left my money and cigarettes in my uniform.
Mum searched her pockets and found 1s 2d (about 6 new
pence) so we bought two seats at the cinema (6d each) and a 2d packet of
Woodbine cigarettes) The
bike was left outside the cinema. On
the way home - halfway there we ran out of petrol.
Someone had siphoned the petrol out of the tank.
After pushing a short way I saw that a friend of mine was still
up and he siphoned a couple of pints from his lorry to enable us to get
home. The last mile was
steeply uphill, so we were glad.
This leave completed we then went to Immingham on the
Humber and there laid a minefield off the Yorkshire coast.
Meanwhile on the 17th September 1939 I was promoted to Supply
Petty Officer. On this date
HMS Courageous an Aircraft Carrier was sunk so I think a SPO was lost in
We eventually ran out of mines at Immingham and on
11th\12th November 1939 left the Humber to return to Portsmouth to
collect another cargo of mines. Owing
to very thick fog we had to anchor off Grimbsby and again futher South
getting under way again in the early hours of the morning of 13th
December with the ship closed up at action stations.
At about 6.30 a.m. there was a violent explosion - we had
encountered an acoustic mine in the swept channel which had been swept
overnight for traditional mines. This
was probably off the Essex coast. The
damage was enormous and we had about 100 casualties out of about 400
crew, including about 30 deaths. In
the TS (Transmitting Station we were quite close to the point of the
explosion. I was blown out
of the earphones I was wearing at the time and had a crack on the head
caused by a plotting table I was in control of rising less slowly than I
did. It was unpleasant.
The lights had failed and oil fuel was spraying up from the
fractured tank below us. I
managed to tie a handkerchief around my head to keep this from getting
in my eyes. After a
struggle and with help from Bill Cornelius who came looking for me at
the TS I managed to reach the upper deck. With his help I was put aboard the escort destroyer which
came alongside to pick up the wounded and was ferried to the RN Hospital
at Rochester (Chatham Command). It
was a day or two before I realised that I had been blown out of my
glasses - which were missing and a couple of days before I stopped being
sick through swallowing a small amount of fuel oil.
After about two weeks I was returned to Chatham
Barracks to be re-kitted. The
uniform I was wearing at the time having had to be cut off and the rest
of the kit in my locker being lost.
After this I was sent on 10 days survivors leave and after
returning from this I was once more in Chatham.. I was sent home on 10
days sick leave to return to Devonport on completion.
Meanwhile the Adventure had after temporary repairs, been towed
to Devonport for complete repairs.
Returning to Devonport on finishing my leave on 1st January 1940
I had to return to HMS Adventure to finalise the accounts on the
victualling side while living in the RN Barracks but carrying out this
job from a temporary office alongside.
This took until the 1st February on which date I returned to
barracks (HMS Drake) and was employed in the General Mess Department
On return to barracks all the survivors were told
that they would have at least six months shore service.
Much to my surprise after less than eight weeks I had a draft to
join HMS Illustrious a brand new Aircraft Carrier whose building at
Barrow-in-Furness was almost complete. I complained about this, the six months promise being reduced
to two months. My
Divisional officer agreed and said they would look into it, but we were
a small branch and they were pressed for staff.
My draft was cancelled but about a week later I was on my way to
join the aircraft carrier HMS Furious to replace the supply PO sent from
Furious to Illustrious.
Leaving Devonport in early April with about 30 seamen
and a leading Physical Training Instructor we were sent to Greenock for
our new ship. On our
arrival at Greenock we were unable to find the Furious which had sailed
the previous day and no-one appeared to know where she was.
(Research shows that she was involved in operations off Norway)
Returning to the RTO at St Enochs station in Glasgow, no-one
seemed to know the whereabouts of the Furious and we were sent to HMS
Cochrane the Depot ship at Rosyth on the Firth of Forth.
We stayed here for a couple of days, no one seemed to be
interested, and we were sent to the RTO at Perth who sent us on
immediately to Thurso in the far North of Scotland for transit to Scapa
Flow. After about 4 - 5
days having had three meals in three different hotels and sleeping in
the town hall we eventually boarded the ferry to Scrabster the tiny
ferry for Scapa and sailed despite the locals telling us it was too
rough to rough in the Pentland firth to sail.
After a rough crossing we arrived at the accomodation ship
Dunluce Castle and stayed there for a couple of weeks.
Then once again on to a ferry to Scrabster, train from Thurso in
stages once more to Greenock arriving very shortly after the ship we had
been chasing for so long.
Everyone was extremely broke, not having been paid
before leaving Devonport and taking that on home stations pay is only
made on a fortnightly basis. Furious
was anchored in the "Tail o the Bank" a large anchorage in the
Clyde opposite Greenock.
Anchored close by was the Free French destroyer
"Marie Breise". Shortly
after the arrival of the Furious whilst her crew were doing torpedo
drill there was a violent explosion aboard.
The Destroyer's bows were wrecked and she started to settle
quickly under the water. Many
of her crew were trapped below deck with no hope of escape and doctors
went from the Furious to their help.
They gave injections through the portholes in order to ensure
that they were unconscious before they drowned.
As a reminder of this the wreck was left where it sank and her
mast was uncovered at low water almost in the form of a Cross of
HMS Furious was an Aircraft Carrier of about 23000
tons (22450 She carried 33
planes? Other sources give
48 perhaps this changed over time as she was refitted.) with a crew of
about 1400 all told. She
was originally built in 1917 as a Cruiser carrying two 15" guns
She was converted to an Aircraft Carrier and after re-design was
one of six carriers operating with the Navy at the outbreak of war. On this class of ship the Supply Branch had three sections,
Naval Stores, Victualling, and Aircraft Stores.
My job once again was in Victualling and this staff
consisted of a Chief, one PO, one Leading Hand, five assistants also
three Marine butchers and three "Tankies" able seamen who
looked after the stores and brought up provisions as required for use. Here we had a separate issue room from where messes were
issued with necessary stores.
We also had connections with the two Chief Cooks one
in charge of the Galley (kitchen) and the other the Chief Baker.
All bread was produced in the ship to a laid down recipe from
which 1000lbs of bread had to be produced from 780lbs of flour with a
low amount of yeast which was a starter for a brew of hops and malt
which was used for the dough to rise.
Soon after I joined HMS Furious our Captain T H
Troubridge was replaced by Captain A G Talbot, known by the crew as
Arthur George. Captain
Troubridge later commanded the Aircraft Carrier Indomitable and was
later Commodore in charge of Central Naval Task Force in the North
African landings at Oran.
HMS Furious carried
two squadrons of Swordfish aircraft (torpedo bombers) which had a
crew of three. There was
also a squadron of Skuas (fighter bombers) which were later replaced by
Rocs and later again replaced by Fulmars.
Shortly after my arrival we embarked a squadron of
Gladiator planes which were destined for an air station being built at
Bardufos in Norway. This
was to counter the German landings in that country.
This construction was under the command of Admiral the Earl of
Cork and Orreray, fondly known in the Navy as Paddy Boyle.
At the same time another Carrier HMS Glorious also embarked
After a few days we left port in a hurry with members
of the crew missing the recall from shore leave and a Destroyer from the
escort stayed to collect the stragglers and return them to their ships.
Eventually the little squadron of two Carriers and four
Destroyers arrived at their appointed positions off the coast of Norway.
The weather was calm but we were in and out of thick patches of
fog and then brightness. To
make matters worse the aerodrome was not ready and we were forced to
stooge around until everything was ready.
The Gladiators took off from Furious, each three planes being
escorted by a Swordfish (who carried a navigator) to guide them.
On completion we returned to UK.
Unfortunately Glorious was unable to complete her mission and
still had her planes.
Furious returned to Liverpool and was loaded with
gold ingots after disembarking most of our compliment of planes, leaving
only enough for scouting for submarines.
We proceeded to Halifax to collect Grumman planes from USA.
Part way across the Atlantic we heard about Dunkirk and the
horrifying news that HMS Glorious had returned to Norway to complete her
task. The conditions were
the same as before and out of the fog bank appeared two German heavy
Battle Cruisers the Scharnhorst and the Gneisnau.
They had heavy calibre guns in short order the Glorious and her
two escort Destroyers had been sunk by gunfire. (29/9/1940)
In retrospect, what hurt was that shortly afterwards the
aerodrome was abandoned.
At the entrance to Halifax we encountered the French
Aircraft Carrier "Richlieu" returning to France.
This was shortly before France capitulated.
On our arrival we off loaded the gold bullion for transit to the
USA and loaded the planes and also a few tons of sugar for the ministry
On our return we off loaded our cargo, embarked our
planes once again in the Firth of Clyde and sailed for Iceland.
We had been issued with warm clothing - extra thick underwear,
duffels etc. Our first
landfall on Iceland was on the East coast a place called Sedisfjord
which looked quite a large place on the map but which at this time
consisted of about 50 or so
houses scattered around a deep fjord with steep sides.
After a few days we moved on to the capital Reykjavik and after
another few days moved to Akarari on the North coast.
Although it was summer there was an abundance of snow on Iceland.
We moved North once more, past Jan Meyan island almost to
Spitzbergen before moving in a Southerly direction to send our bombers
to destroy part of a railway line in the very North of Norway which was
being used by the Germans to transport copper ore from Petsamo for use
in their war effort.
While on this mission the Furious went into Tromso
Fjord. (?) The ship was
light on fuel oil and went into the fjord to "borrow some oil"
from the Germans. The ship
had oil pumped into her tanks by the Norwegian Fire Service.
They pumped for between 7 and 8 hours at about 7 tons an hour.
On the way out of the fjord the ship was bombed by two German
planes. One sheered off
under fire but the other looped and dropped bombs close to the ship.
The blast from the bombs upset the steps on the propeller shaft
This was to have an effect on the part that the Furious played in
the fleet later as she had to be re-fitted.
On completion we returned once more to Scapa Flow.
It was unusual on this trip to be able to read with no artificial
light at midnight.
Scapa Flow was a most terrible place, islands
enclosing the anchorage with the entry closed by a wire boom which was
only opened for a fleet vessel to enter or leave.
The islands looked barren without a tree in sight.
When a gale occurred as it often did the weather was atrocious
and bitterly cold.
Our next task was to be able to disrupt German
activity in Southern Norway. Unfortunately,
our planes did not have the range for the double journey.
It was decided that the Furious should ferry its bombers to
within an hour of the Norwegian coast, fly off our bombers to bomb the
German positions near Oslo and on completion should fly back to RNAS
Hatt in Shetland and then to rejoin the Furious.
The first sortie took place on a Friday, the fleet leaving Scapa
in the late afternoon soon after dusk.
The CinC was present in HMS Nelson also Rodney was there.
These were our two largest Battleships before the war.
Ships carrying nine
16" guns. We also had
the company of several cruisers and also several destroyers. The mission
was successful and the units concerned deployed elsewhere.
Two weeks later on a Friday at the some time the same type of
raid was carried out, this time by the Furious escorted by two
destroyers. Again two weeks
later at the same time and day the raid was once more carried out.
This was for the last time.
We thought at the time that probably units of the German army
were sent from parts of France to protect parts of the Norwegian coast.
When these operations had finished we were sent to
Liverpool to be fitted with de-gaussing cables which were being fitted
to Naval ships to change their magnetic polarity in order to overcome
the damage being caused by German magnetic mines.
While this was being done it was decided that Furious would
undergo a fairly extensive refit to put right damage caused by enemy
near misses and other defects and boiler cleaning.
The refit would take place in the coming April (1941) but certain
essential staff would stay on board during this refit, when the crew
would go on leave. The
essential staff would go on leave from Liverpool while meantime the
ship would load with fighter planes for the RAF and would fly
them off from the West coast of Africa (Takoradi) from where they would
fly in stages across Africa to support troops in the Western Desert.
(Egypt and Libya)
Of the Supply Branch required on board during the
refit were SPO Annis on RAF stores, SPO Dixey from Naval Stores and
myself from victualling. The
planes were brought on board in crates and about 120 RAF personnel
drafted in to build the planes during the outward journey.
Arriving back to the ship after spending the Sunday
at my aunts, early on Monday 15th November the last two arrived on board
we found the rest of the essential party had already left to catch their
I arrived home in the evening of Monday 11th November
on leave until recall when necessary and Mum and I were married on 14th
November at St martin and St Mary's church at Chudleigh in Devon.
We spent a few days at the Millbay Hotel in Plymouth.
While in Plymouth we met my mate from the Furious also on leave -
the SPO from Naval Stores Bill Dixey and had a meal together in a well
known cafe in the centre of Plymouth called Goodbody's.
I was on leave until recalled on 18th December.
Furious was once more loaded with planes and on completion left
on the second delivery of planes for North Africa.
With only three Swordfish planes for convoy duty we joined a
convoy with Destroyer escort and also one of the new Cruisers with
5" guns called HMS Penelope. After
nightfall on Christmas Eve the Penelope was relieved by HMS Berwick a
County Class Cruiser of 10000 tons with 8.8" guns.
I think a German U Boat had been shadowing the convoy
and reporting to a German Cruiser on the progress of the convoy and as
the switch in cruisers took place after dark this was missed by the
shadower. On Christmas
morning about 6.30 a.m. while it was still dark, gunfire sounded over
the convoy. The sea was
rough, too rough to fly off planes.
The convoy was being fired at by the German Cruiser Prinz Eugen.
His salvo was immediately answered by the Berwick who scored a
direct hit on a gun turret. One
shell from the Prinz Eugen went through the bows of one of the
troopships without doing any damage.
This hit was far above the water line at the sharp end.
The Furious' crew were immediately called to action stations.
For my action stations on the Furious I was
responsible for ensuring that the after part of the ship's crew received
adequate food and drink while at action.
For this task I had a party preparing sandwiches and drinks (tea
and cocoa) and also another party distributing the food prepared.
For this purpose we had an emergency stock of bread
Corned Beef and Butter etc stored in the Officers Galley.
For most of the day in very poor visibility the Furious chased
the Prinz Eugen while Berwick stayed with the convoy.
Since we were closed up at action stations until late in the
afternoon dinner that Christmas Day was Corned Beef sandwiches.
After being ordered to rejoin the convoy, we did eventually have
a Turkey dinner at night and cruising stations became the order instead
of action stations. During this period, while in the Atlantic the ship was always
closed up at action stations for an hour before and an hour after dawn.
We eventually heard that the Prinz Eugen had made Brest.
After this we had an uneventful trip and with one or
two ships in the convoy entered the harbour at Freetown in Sierra Leone
whilst the convoy sailed on to its destination. After a day or two we sailed further down the coast to
Takoradi on the Gold Coast (Ghana), flew the planes off the airfield
there and they flew in stages to North Africa.
We were well into the tropics, it was hot and sticky and because
our boilers were losing water a restriction was placed on the amount we
were able to use. No fresh
water could be used for washing - only salt water and for this purpose
everyone was issued with salt water soap which did give a little lather
but still left you feeling sticky.
For health reasons there was always a tub of lime juice on deck
for anyone to help themselves to.
We returned from Takoradi which is in the tropics,
direct to Greenock where it was snowing, loaded with crates again, left
Scotland once again for West Africa.
The sudden changes of temperature were not at all pleasant.
This trip proved to be uneventful and we returned once more to
the UK. All of our planes
were sent to HMS Daedalus the FAA (Fleet Air Arm) Headquarters at Lee on
Solent and we went to Belfast for our long awaited refit.
We went alongside and connected all our power units
to shore connections while ships power was run down and all cooking
utensils necessary were transferred to a galley on shore beside the
ship. All these
preparations took several days so there was some delay in the watches
going on leave. Before this could happen, on the Sunday night Belfast
suffered a terrific air raid. On
Monday morning the centre of Belfast round the Harland and Woolf
shipyard was on fire. A few
days earlier Mum had arrived in Belfast to stay during the night and we
had found digs with Supply CPO Duggie Swales and his wife Helen, who was
Mum went from Greenock to Stranraer
and then on to Larne in Northern Ireland. She had already got a
special permit which allowed her to travel.
On her journey she encountered some trouble with police who were
checking her permit. She
had some cards which mentioned the name of the ship.
This led to a lot of fuss and questioning.
She eventually got to Belfast.
While Mum was in Belfast there was bombing.
She had to leave the Swales home and go to another flat which was
in a safe area, and when this area too was bombed she and Duggie went
out into the hills outside Belfast to escape the dangers.
The Swales’ dog Nutty which was a spaniel also went with them.
On particularly bad night they could not get out and spent the
night under a table. As the
Furious had left, Mum was now left with having to return home.
It was very difficult to get out of Belfast as roads were
blocked. It took about a
week to get to Devon.
On Monday morning the scene in Belfast was
horrendous. Having to
return to the ship normally a half hours walk, took with all the detours
about two hours.
On the Furious, one small bomb had exploded in one of
the aircraft hangers and one crew member had been killed with blast
damage to his lungs. Damage
to the ship was infinitesimal but more of the same stick of bombs had
destroyed the shore equipment and completely demolished the shore galley
including the cooking utensils. One
scene sticks in my mind, Furious was berthed close behind a dry dock on
which a ship was being built on the slipway.
From one of the pylons closing the dock gate was a German land
mine, hanging by its parachute and swaying in the breeze.
Such is luck.
Furious raised steam while the wooden mine sweepers
trailing electrical equipment to account for any German magnetic mines
which may have been dropped, cleared a passage through Lough Belfast.
Furious made the short passage to Liverpool as soon as there
preparations were made. I
had to leave Mum to find her own way home to Devon.
We arrived in Liverpool whilst the port was getting a systematic
bombing. However the port
was so long, some seven miles we saw no enemy action and some of it was
just a rumble in the distance. Mum
arrived home in Devon between 7 and 10 days later it being difficult
after each nights bombing to get a train to Larne where the ferry sailed
Our stay in Liverpool was quite short, just long
enough to embark an RAF ground staff and crates of Hurricane fighter
planes for assembly and transport overseas.
A cargo larger than our previous consignments.
After loading we left the Mersey with our escort,
heading for Gibraltar. The
Hurricanes were assembled by the RAF crew and had extra fuel tanks
fitted to their wings to give them extra range.
On arrival at Gibraltar, the planes already assembled were
transferred to HMS Ark Royal and the rest of the planes were assembled.
Both ships then proceeded to a point off Algiers where they were
flown off by RAF pilots in order to give some aerial coverage of Malta.
Soon after take off one of the planes developed engine trouble
and because the Ark was at this time was an operational carrier, the
pilot was ordered to try and land on the Furious.
These planes had no deck landing gear to use with
arrester wires as used by the Naval planes and the pilot had no deck
landing experience. So a
crash was expected. Fire
crews, crash landing crews were assembled to deal with the emergency
only for the pilot to make a perfect landing.
We therefore learned that the Hurricane fighters could operate
from Aircraft Carriers which in the long run made a great difference to
the Fleet protection. By
this time, Victorious, Illustrious, Formidable and Indomitable, all
Fleet Carriers had joined the active list of the Navy.
Shortly after this the Ark Royal was torpedoed and
sunk just outside Gibraltar. I
should have explained earlier that to fly off and to take on planes an
Aircraft carrier had to steam into the wind at high speed, usually
outside a Destroyer screen and we were therefore more vulnerable
while on this manoeuvre.
After completion of this we returned to UK in consort
with the Cruiser HMS Sheffield and escorting two merchant ships filled
with refugees. The passage
to England usually demanded a longer passage than in peacetime with
ships proceeding far out into the Atlantic.
After about three days out, our radar picked up some German
planes forming together about 12 miles away.
They seemed to be making a search pattern and eventually appeared
in sight. Guns from the Sheffield opened up and one salvo burst quite
close to the enemy which were Focke Wulfe Condors, the only planes
Germany had which could travel the distances from their airfields in
France. The outcome of
these shots was that the Condors dropped their bombs about a mile away
and then flew off. The rest
of the journey was uneventful.
Once again at Greenock, my wife was able to join me
and stay with James Jean and wee Jean Patterson a real Scottish family.
James was a boiler maker at a ship yard at Greenock.
Mum was able to join me on many occasions when we returned to
While we were anchored at The Tail o the Bank in
Greenock and Mum was away I used to enjoy fishing. In the mackerel season we were supplied with hooks and
coloured feathers by members of the crew of the Drifter attached to the
Furious. I also used to
catch Codling and on one occasion one of the largest Plaice I have ever
seen, somewhere about 4lbs. It
was hard to get off the bottom and land it on deck.
I often took fish to Jeans and had to prepare them for her.
On one occasion I preserved some of my catch in salt and sent
them to Devon. Fish was
extremely rare at times. In
Scapa Flow we sometimes had the opportunity to take a small boat around
some small islands to fish. This
was fine until we caught a dogfish which would wrap itself around and
around your line. It took so long to unravel the line that this finished the
I have just realised that I had forgotten to tell you
that we had to store ship at intervals of about 90 days for dry
provisions with the refrigerators being re-stocked at different times.
Of course this job took much longer on the Furious and we were
stretched to the limit to ensure that everything did arrive on board and
arrived complete and in the correct hold.
There were holds in both on the fore and after parts of the ship.
Once again planes were loaded for rebuilding and once
again we set off for Gibraltar. Everything
as far as Gibraltar went normally and continued to do so until flying
off time which was somewhere off Algiers.
The fly off took place early in the morning, soon after full
RAF pilots were not used to flight decks and
unfortunately one nervously sheered away to his left and his port wing
dropped a little and hit the deck.
The extra fuel tank fractured and the contents spread over the
deck and a spark started a fire, a serious fire.
Several of our lookouts - always on duty at sea were unable to
escape from their lookout posts and were burnt to death or died from the
effects of their burning. Many
other crew were badly burnt including the duty doctor who was always on
duty on the flight deck when flying was taking place.
The plane landed in the sea just off the bows and the pilot
picked up uninjured. The
doctor died in hospital at Gibraltar as did other members of the crew.
Many were buried at sea during the return journey to Gibraltar.
The mission was accomplished before returning to Gibraltar.
It was probably at this time that our squadrons were
reforming at Lee on Solent.
The German heavy battle Cruisers were trying to sneak
from Brest to Bremen and eventually one of the squadrons of Swordfish
were sent to try and stop them. After
several gallant attempts the squadron (I think it was 821) was
decimated. Many of the crew
were killed, including the Squadron Commander
Lt Cdr Esmonde who was later awarded the Victoria Cross.
The German ships reached safety.
I forgot to mention earlier that in addition to their
ordinary account work all the Petty Officers of the Accountant Branch
did a watch while at sea in the Cipher Office with an Accountant
Officer. It turned out to
be one watch in seven for us and while in harbour we were on turn for a
day in turn (24hrs). If a
ciphered message was received the people on watch for that particular
day were summoned to the cipher office over the ship's Tannoy system.
Messages received in ordinary code were decoded in the WT Office.
During this episode in Furious' history the Germans
had attacked Greece and in a little later Crete. Normally we only had messages for the ship or for the force
we were attached to. They
were deciphered in order of priority indicated.
On this particular task our captain was interested in the events
in the Eastern Mediterranean. This
meant that every cipher in this area was deciphered.
When on watch more ciphers were handed over to our reliefs than
we started with. Once we
had left the Mediterranean the extra cipher traffic ceased.
Once more we returned to England.
We carried with us on our hanger deck some German and
Italian Prisoners of War from the desert.
They were made up into three messes, one formed by the German and
Italian NCO's together and the other two made up of German privates and
Italian privates which were separated off.
After few days we found that the Italian privates mess was short
of provisions. On our
investigation we found that the Italian NCO's had been kicked out of the
NCO's mess by the arrogant German NCO's and had joined the privates
causing some overcrowding in the private's mess.
The situation was soon sorted out and the prisoners discharged on
arrival at the UK to a PoW camp.
We did just one more such trip to deliver fighter
planes to be used in the defence of Malta.
On completion of this task to USA for our long awaited refit.
Crossing the Atlantic was unbelievable, the sea was like a
millpond all the way, not even a ripple.
We saw literally hundreds of flying fish who seemed to glide
above the sea until their elongated fins had dried out at which point
they fell back into the sea.
Our first landfall was Port Royal in Jamaica where we
stayed for several days. The
climate was hot and the island itself very beautiful and the people very
From Jamaica we sailed through the Windward Passage
to Bermuda another British West Indian Colony.
It is a series of small islands joined together by a series of
bridges with a light railway starting at St Johns and terminating at
Hamilton the capital where their two largest ships Monarch and Queen of
Crossing the bridges you could see fish swimming in
the clear blue water. The
two ships from a distance seemed to dwarf Hamilton.
It's surprising in the West Indies how many small districts were
named after English Counties e.g. Devon Somerset Dorset. Bermuda has a very equitable climate which was very pleasant.
After a short stay we once more got under way and
after a short journey arrived at Delaware Bay in the USA and travelled
up river past Salem etc until arriving at Philadelphia. - the city of
brotherly love, originally a Quaker city and probably the most
historical city in the USA.
Arriving here we entered the US Navy yard and the dry
dock. Different to the
yards at home which were virtually all
run by civilians, in the US the yards were in the charge of Naval
Officers. On arrival at the
dockyard we were manoeuvred into an empty dry dock.
Among the boiler and turbine overhauls we were to have blisters
fitted. These were a device
to lessen the results of a torpedo explosion.
Philadelphia was then the fourth largest city in
America.. There did not appear to be a lot of integration between the
various nationalities. There
was one section which was about 90% German, another Polish, also
Scottish, Italian and some other European countries.
They appeared to be close communities and did not appear to mix
much. Philly had a good
transport system, having street cars (trams) underground and elevated
railway systems. It was the
first time I had seen a main railway system where the
long distance trains left from underground platforms and the
station entrances given over to shops.
Although America was neutral at this time we had no
restrictions of travel placed on us.
America was not such a rich country as today - her wealth was
accumulated during the war when in earlier years the combatant countries
were only supplied with necessities for cash and gold. Part of our crew including the Skipper A G Talbot was sent to
another shipyard to crew or part crew a ship HMS Illustrious which had
finished a refit. They were
able to return home. The
rest of the POs took evening duty turns in joining US sailors checking
returning libertymen using an office at the dock gates.
This seemed to work very well.
On one of my early visits to see the city I was
approached by a middle aged couple who asked about the uniform and where
we were from. They were
Scots who had emigrated many years earlier.
They were housekeeper and cook for an American who had been the
non playing captain of the US Davies Cup tennis team and they also
looked after his young ten year old daughter.
Mr and Mrs Campbell became friends and during my stay
showed me many of the historical sites and places of Philadelphia.
They introduced me also to another Scottish family - Mr and Mrs
Steele and their young son Billy. They also had an older son who was in the US Navy.
We remained firm friends during my stay in their country and did
all they could to help. I
was taken to Valley Forge just outside the city - the scene of one of
the British defeats in the War of Independence and there saw the Liberty
Bell a cracked relic of the revolution all kept in excellent order.
I also saw the house of Benjamin Franklin one of the founders of
the infant state and Betsy Ross's cottage where the Stars and Stripes
was originally designed and hand sewn.
I suppose I went to the Steeles or to the Campbells about once
every two or three weeks.
My friend Bill Dixey and I spent time exploring the
city. We found
Snellingbergs a large department store and were able to purchase food
parcels for home which the store posted for us.
I suppose because of their long isolation, the average American
except for the latest émigrés were ignorant of the state of things in
Europe. The news was a single column of no more than three inches on
one of the inside pages of the newspapers.
I was informed on many occasions that the only planes doing any
sort of good work in Europe were the Spitfires and Hurricanes which were
built and designed in the US and sold to us.
That didn't exactly go down too well.
I had to deal for our wants with a section of the
Navy and became friendly with a young fellow of Italian descent who was
married to a girl of Polish descent.
Nether sets of parents spoke English but Tony was extremely
helpful. Through him I was
able to purchase our needs and to convert the prices to those charged to
ships at home by the Victualling yards.
At this time the rate of monetary exchange was four
dollars to the £ and we had a small cost of living allowance to make up
for the higher cost of living there.
Some things were strange, the only bacon available was blocks of
belly bacon. I had been
used to buying sides of bacon complete with legs which we used as ham.
We soon settled down to a set routine and at that
time liked the country, the least said about the average people the
better. We were left in no
uncertain terms we should give up all colonies in particular in Africa
and until a good time later I did not have a good picture of America and
had no real answer to the statements put up by these people.
More of this later just before we left America.
The refit progresses well and time went on
I began to feel unwell, starting every morning feeling sick and
miserable. One day my then
Chief, Wally Sussex said to me "You know what's wrong with you
don't you - Your wife's pregnant!!"
I thought he was talking nonsense and I suppose it must have been
two months after this that I heard he was right.
Soon after this came the news that Wally's wife had died and he
was returned to England to enable him to look after his two young sons.
In October the weather is very warm and Bill and I
were able to go to Snellingbergs to purchase a baby's layette and also a
matching bed jacket and dressing gown for my wife, and also some
underclothing. This latter
was very embarrassing as the salesgirl when she finally realised what I
wanted to buy repeated to all and sundry my request to all and sundry to
hear. Bill had disappeared
in embarrassment. These
items were all duly posted home for me by the store and arrived safely
in due course.
The change in temperature between late October and
early November was amazing. We
went virtually from tropical clothing to thick winter clothing.
The street cars were so hot that leaving them was like entering
an icy blast.
On Sundays I went to the morning services of several
church denominations and found the nearest to Church of England was the
Episcopal Church. The
Catholic Church was well attended in the morning with the knowledge that
the rest of the day was their own.
On our Sunday afternoons we decided to cross the bridge joining
Philadelphia to Cambden which was in the state of New Jersey to watch a
football match. We had to
make this journey because the state laws of Pennsylvania forbade
sporting events on Sunday (Quaker influence?) whilst in New Jersey such
pastimes were allowed.
During the match there were many radios switched on
when there was a government announcement that in a series of air raids
the Japanese had attacked the US Pacific Fleet at anchor in Pearl
Harbour. It said that some
damage had been inflicted. The
heavy loss of men and ships was not known until later.
With their usual bombast the Americans present although a little
shocked were talking of slapping the Japs back in five or six weeks.
Again this was ignorance of the world outside America. Nearly the whole of the US Pacific fleet was destroyed or
disabled in the raids and yet a few weeks later we had to take a lot of
stick when our ships Prince of Wales (Battleship) and Repulse (Battle
Cruiser with the armaments of a Battleship and the armour of a Cruiser)
were sunk by Japanese air attacks off the coast of Malaya.
Christmas came and in consultation with the Chief
Cook (Baker) I purchased Christmas Cakes or rather cakes with a hole
through the centre which he iced with flowers he made himself, turning
the cakes into baskets of flowers. They
looked really good.
Christmas over and we were soon in 1942 which started
with a fall of snow, which lasted a day or two and lingered for a couple
During this time I'd been awaiting news from home and
about 20th January I received a radio message relayed on from Ottawa
with the news that my wife had given birth to a daughter on 15th January
and that everything was fine. From
then on until I left America I used to buy little girls clothing as I
was able to afford it. By
the time I left Philly I had bought two outdoor outfits, coat and
bonnets, five dresses, a suit and dresses for mum and a couple of pairs
of Nylon stockings not available in UK.
A new invention by a US manufacturer of armaments called Dupont
whose workers were allowed to buy two pairs a month and those were
obtained for me by the Steeles, from some of their friends.
Work on the refit continued at pace and with
satisfaction. In the three
months to the end of January I had to get several items we required from
the Navy yard which differed vastly from their usual issues.
One of these was uniform and another was cups used by the crew.
The normal cups used on US ships did not have handles so these
and several other items had to be specially made for us and several
meetings had to be made with the officers of the Navy Yard.
Time passed on and soon somewhere about the end of March our crew
was completed. A new
Captain, and a Secretary joined and we were ordered to the US Navy Yard
in Norfolk Virginia.
The journey from Philadelphia was a relatively short
one and we were now arriving in one of the Southern States - Virginia
and the stay was going to be fairly short.
The Navy Yard was about three miles from the city.
On my first visit I was appalled at the conditions
under which the black population lived.
Most of the way between the Navy Yard and the City was bordered
by shacks made up of dismantled tar barrels in which a large part of the
blacks lived. They were not
allowed on the same public transport neither were they allowed in the
same sections of the cinema. This
was the same country where we had been criticised about our African
Colonies whose populations were being treated much better than these
Americans. I was very
surprised when the early racial riots started in the Northern Cities
which were much more tolerant than the South. I've often thought that by their arm twisting the Americans
were responsible for a lot of the troubles in Africa especially in the
Belgian Congo. No account
was taken of tribal differences and the fact that the native population
was not ready for self government.
There was not enough educated people to take over from the
Belgians to stop corruption by the few.
The Congo was rich in minerals with a few only benefiting from
the "Freedom from the European Power".
Our stay in Norfolk was a short one and we left the
Navy Yard with an escort of two four funnelled destroyers.
The Yanks used to say of their ships 1 stack (funnel) 10 knots, 4
stacks 40 knots. This was
just bragging or wishful thinking. The only 40 knot boats that I knew of were MTB and the newly
built mine layers Manxman, Welshman and Abadeil. Our first objective was a full power trial (usual after a
refit) to Bermuda. After
some little time working up to full steam we had a request from our
escort to ease up a little as they were unable to keep up.
After a short stay at Bermuda we left for the UK with the same
escorts who were to hand over to some British Destroyers in Mid
Atlantic. Soon after leaving we ran into a really terrific storm
forcing the US Destroyers to return to Bermuda and the British
Destroyers to take shelter in Falmouth.
We were left on our own in Mid Atlantic, not really a good
position. When the storm abated a little the escorts from the UK were
hurrying to meet us and we had to increase speed to meet them.
Eventually we met and were escorted once again into Greenock and
after going through Customs we left for Rosyth from where we went on
leave. Though the first job
on arriving at Greenock before moving to replace all the cups and plates
and so on which been broken during this horrific storm.
I arrived in Exeter in the early morning after the
Blitz (the Baedecker raid?) on the city.
It was devastating with clothing and bedding hanging from trees
on St David's Hill near the station.
Country buses weren't running and I found a taxi to take me the
10 miles to Chudleigh. (I
have not included some comments Dad made here as thy were a bit
This was in early May and I saw my daughter for the
On returning from leave of both Port and Starboard
watches our stay at Rosyth was a short one and we returned to the Clyde
to carry out deck landing trials for a very short period.
In late July we took on board 38 Spitfire planes with
extra wing tanks and also their RAF pilots. Early in August we went down the Clyde as far as the
submarine boom. Failing to
find an escort we returned to our anchorage at Greenock.
This happened on three consecutive days with the same result.
On the fourth day - Friday 4th August we were once more sailed
down the Clyde, met the Cruiser Manchester of 9000 tons.
We travelled at high speed using a peacetime route towards
On the 7th August caught up with a giant convoy of
Navy ships in company with 14 large, fast merchant ships, fully loaded
with stores urgently needed to replenish Malta with foodstuffs.
At this time there was about 3 - 4 weeks stocks left on the
island. Included in this
convoy was the tanker Ohio who was carrying 11500 tons of Kerosene and
The escort was colossal being made up of the
Battleships Rodney and Nelson with terrific armaments, three Aircraft
Carriers - the Victorious, Indomitable and Eagle plus the Furious.
Furious was not part of the escort but when in flying distance of
Malta was to fly off the Spitfires to Malta to augment the few left.
Several had been lost after the convoy had been planned.
Each Carrier was to be shadowed by Anti-Aircraft Cruisers Phoebe,
Sirius and Charybdis. These
were newish large Cruisers Nigeria, Kenya and Manchester all about 9000
tons and an old Cruiser the Cairo which had been converted to an Ack-Ack
Cruiser. In addition there
were about 30 or so Destroyers many of them of the Hunt Hall Class, I
Class, F Class and several Tribal Class which were halfway in size
between older Destroyers and small Cruisers.
After carrying out manoeuvres so that everyone knew
the drill the whole fleet passed through the Straits of Gibraltar soon
after dark on 10th August. The
early passage was uneventful with no action.
We passed a quiet night and also a quiet forenoon. On 11th August early after dinner, Furious closed up to
action stations to prepare to fly off our Spitfires.
We were then in a position between Algiers and the isle of
Minorca. We moved outside
the main Destroyer screen as did the Eagle who was flying off planes to
act as an umbrella over the convoy.
We had only flown off a few planes when we heard a muffled
explosions. Looking out
from our action stations to our horror there was a column of smoke over
the Eagle which was listing badly whilst the guard Cruiser and some
Destroyers were rushing around dropping depth charges.
In about five minutes Eagle had disappeared beneath the sea and
now the Destroyers were busy picking up survivors.
A lot of those picked up from the sea were brought to the
Furious. We later heard
that of her crew of 1100 just over 900 were rescued.
The flying off of more planes was stopped on the
Furious for the time being but restarted again later in the afternoon.
One had engine trouble and landed on the Indomitable.
We carried on with the convoy until darkness fell.
We had earlier received a message that 36 planes had arrived in
Enemy activity increased during the afternoon with
air attacks. Some of the
high level bombers (Italian) could hardly been seen and the ships would
disappear behind showers of spray and would then be seen steaming
through. More air attacks
were experienced later that day without any further loss.
The barrage put up by the two Battleships was awesome and several
planes were destroyed.
Sometime after dark Furious withdrew from the convoy
escorted by her screen of I think 4 Destroyers. Not long after leaving a submarine was detected on the
surface, probably charging batteries and an old V&W (Vosper and Wass
World War I) Destroyer rammed and sank it damaging her bows in the
process. She was later
found to be the Italian submarine Dagahur.
The Destroyer Wolverine was left to make Gibraltar at the fastest
speed she could make whilst we carried on at normal speed.
Meanwhile with the main convoy the first merchant man
was sunk at about noon on the 12th.
Shortly after this the Indomitable was damaged by bombs.
The Kenya had her bows blown off by a torpedo and the Nigeria was
also damaged. The
Victorious was hit by a bomb which did not explode and sustained damage
to her after lift. Another
Italian Submarine was forced to the surface with depth charges and on
surfacing was rammed and sunk by Illuriel.
At about 7 p.m. on the 12th the capital ships were withdrawn i.e.
Carriers and Battleships and their escorts.
Meanwhile the convoy battled on towards Malta. The Narrows and the Skerri Bank were obstacles in the way of
larger units being able to manoeuvre.
About midnight just off Pantelleria the enemy attacked with MTBs
(E Boats?) and caused damage to the MVs. (Motor Vessels)
Just previous to this the Cairo was attacked and sunk
close to the Tunisian coast, and the Ohio had been severely damaged as
she had been hit by a torpedo and a bomber had also been shot down and
was draped over her bows. She
continued to steam towards Malta at about 3 knots.
She was abandoned in the evening and re-boarded the following
At about 4 p.m. three merchant ships entered the
Grand Harbour at Valetta to be followed later by a fourth.
The four ships carrying some 40000 tons of cargo.
This left the Ohio who was the only ship carrying fuel.
After trials and tribulations the Penn and Bramham managed to tie
up either side of the tanker and eventually after a fierce struggle
delivered her to Valetta with her life saving cargo.
Our stay in Gibraltar was short not long enough to
see the arrival of all the crippled ships into harbour.
We returned to the Clyde and probably spent a few
weeks in carrying out more deck landing trials in the Clyde with our
squadrons from Campbleton on the Mull of Kintyre.
The news from our campaigns in Africa began to improve.
In June the Eighth Army put a stop to General Rommel's advance at
El Alamein and held the situation.
In early October the news came through that the Eighth Army under
General Montgomery had begun an offensive against the Africa Corp., had
broken through and the German Army was in full retreat.
Holding Malta and reinforcing had helped some of the essential
supplies from reaching the German troops with MTBs sinking and harrying
their supply ships.
We restored the ship and took our squadrons and left
the Clyde once again for Gibraltar once more attached to Force H which
was the force we were always attached to in the Western Mediterranean.
It soon became evident what was afoot.
The harbour at Gibraltar showed evidence of the Malta convoy.
There were damaged ships in harbour including the Kenya without
her bows which had been blown off and also the badly damaged Nigeria.
We joined up with a large fleet of escorts of many
sorts and eventually with an enormous fleet of Transport and Troop ships
sailing eastward into the Mediterranean.
Probably if we were seen the enemy would decide that another
convoy was on its way to Malta and preparations were being made to cover
this. After passing through
the Straits of Gibraltar on 6th November planes from the rock took over
the anti submarine patrols over the convoy and Force H.
It transpired that a joint UK/American landing was being carried
out. The overall C in C
(Commander in Chief) was General Eisenhower and Naval Forces commanded
by Admiral Cunningham. The
force was divided into three sectors, the Western Sector being landed
around Casablanca in Morocco.
This was composed entirely of American troops,
escorts and Carriers whilst Central Naval Task Force with British troops
and escorts under the command of Commodore Troubridge our old skipper
was heading for Oran in Algeria. The
Eastern Naval Task Force was under Rear Admiral Borough who forced
through the final day of the Malta convoy was bound for Algeria.
The Naval Commander was in charge of the proceedings until the
assault troops had landed when the military took over the beach.
The escorts consisted of Battleships, Cruisers,
several Destroyers, T, two Fleet Carriers and also some small Carriers
which were then known as Escort Carriers, being like a flight deck on a
The landings were set for 8th November and on the 7th
at about 11 p.m. the ships turned South and the zero hour became 1 a.m.
The larger units remained some distance from the coast whilst the
smaller Carriers were close inshore to fly off fighters at first light
to cover transport and landing beaches.
The Fleet Carriers flew planes to cover the Fleet Units which
were deployed to stop any interference from the Vichy French or Italian
Naval forces. It was
thought that the French in North Africa would put up considerable
resistance because of the Naval bombardment of the French Naval base at
Oran when the Vichy French surrendered sometime in 1941.
This bombardment had done a lot of damage.
By about 6 a.m. we heard that the landings had been
successful with little or no opposition.
The airfield at La Senia sent fighters against our fighter cover
and one was shot down. Patrols
were made to prevent French planes from taking off.
One or two forts were holding up the smooth advance
of some troops already landed were bombed and then taken.
There seemed to be a lot of confusion, conferences taking place
with the French, no agreement being made with a little further fighting
and more talking. The same
thing was happening on the 9th and this situation continued until 10th
November when an attack by bombers on the forts was in preparation and
under this threat Oran capitulated.
By this time U Boats were gathering and Force H kept up anti
submarine activity. One
submarine was torpedoed by an Albacore and two survivors were picked up.
Some of the Escort Carriers had returned to Gibraltar while
others maintained patrol. On
her return journey one Escort Carrier the Avenger was sunk at night by a
torpedo. After a few days
to allow things to settle Furious entered the port of Mers el Veberie
the port for Oran and we were able to go ashore and have a look around.
While I was there I bought an oblong leather handbag with no
strap which was made of Camel leather and beautifully tooled. After giving the bag to Mum I accidentally sat on it while it
was on a chair and the mirror inside was broken.
This was my one souvenir of Oran.
At the port I had never seen such wide walks on the
seaward side. They were
wide enough for several lorries to fit side by side.
They were really massive. Leaving
Oran after a short time we patrolled as far as Algiers before returning
to Gibraltar. The Army
which had just landed now became known as the First Army and fought its
way to Tunis to join up with the Eighth Army from Egypt, both taking
thousands of prisoners.
I forgot to mention earlier that when the ship
recommissioned in 1942 SyCPO Les Hopkins was drafted in to replace Wally
Sussex. On 20th January
1943 I had been promoted to Supply Chief PO and was due to leave but Les
Hopkins became ill early in 1942 and was sent to hospital on shore. I took over in charge of all the CPO duties in the
Victualling Branch. This
promotion increased my pay by about 5 shillings (25p) per day.
The Navy had been given a pay rise of sixpence (2.5p) a day which
would be paid into a Post Office account and not released until the end
of the war.
When the landings in North Africa had been successful
and the First Army gathered strength we returned once again to Greenock.
For the next few months as far as I remember we left Greenock for
short patrols of 3 - 4 weeks usually to the Mediterranean, eventually
returning to Liverpool. When leave was given we arrived in July somewhere about the
20th and I found digs for Mum and Daphne our daughter who was now 18
months old. A relief SCPO
at last arrived as my replacement and I was told he would go on leave
and I was retained on the ship until all leave was completed.
On his return I went on leave complete with all my gear and
family with orders to report to RNAS Yeovilton on 21st September.
Part way through my leave I was informed that as Furious had
indicated my leave and as Yeovilton were unable to wait for a
replacement I should report to RN Barracks (HMS Drake) on completion of
my leave on 21st September.
During this I hope that I have not indicated that
time on a ship was all work and dull.
The only form of gambling allowed was tombola and
this was played regularly. Friendships
were made which lasted throughout our time on the ship.
Concerts were performed by members of the crew, entertainments
were carried out on a fairly regular basis as service requirement
allowed. On Furious in the
PO's mess Besique and Cribbage tournaments were held and also teams of
players played "uckers" (Ludo) on a knock out basis.
In the CPO's mess we usually played Solo whist with all the same
players (4) taking part as watch keeping and other duties allowed.
It was strange that after a months play the points accumulated
were very much level. Another
game which was popular was Mah-Jong most Navy hands could play.
Bill Dixey my friend had been senior to me as LSA but hadn't
bothered to take his Supply PO's examinations.
Consequently when a vacancy arose I gained promotion and stepped
over him in seniority.
There were some friendships which were based partly
on one upmanship. On
Furious we had two CPO messes, one with about 40 members, the other
about 20. Among this
smaller mess were CPO Cook in charge of all Galley cooking and a Chief
PO Ordnance Artificer dealing with guns.
Once when we had a new draught of young Ordinary Seamen from our
depot four of hem were allocated as Chief Cook's working party for
clearing up the gash in the galley and putting it down the chute into
the sea. When they were
allocated, the Chief Cook told them that the Chief OA was working on a
process to transform the gash into pigfood to be sent ashore on arrival
in port. This work was
being carried out in the OA's after workshop.
Arriving at the after workshop flat these youngsters were
confused, there were two hatches and they didn't know which was the
OA's. While they waited a
man in overalls came up from one of the hatches so they enquired from
him. They asked him and he
said why did they want to know and when he heard the reason he pointed
out a hatch so they happily emptied their sacks onto the flat below.
Unfortunately the informant was the Chief OA himself.
The Chief Cook was extremely surprised when a call from the
tannoy came for him to report to the Engineers Commanders Office
On arriving at the Barracks I reported to my divisional office
for re deployment and was put in charge of the loan clothing store with
all its attendant accounts and was also put in charge of issuing
necessary Tropical clothing to ratings due to travel to areas where this
is worn and other necessary clothing for other areas and accounting.
The Naval patrols in the city were issued with watch
coats on signature and returned the next morning. My staff consisted of a pensioner Chief Cooper recalled to
active service, one SPO Wren one LSA Wren and five Wren SAs as permanent
staff plus one or two young Supply Assistants awaiting posting
elsewhere. It was quite a
busy store and the accounts kept everyone busy as we also had two or
three other stores in outlying units which did not have anyone from
Supply Branch. After a
couple of weeks of living in Barracks I was offered a flat for us in the
house of CPO Cooper who had a three storey house with the third floor at
present unoccupied. So our
family shifted to Plymouth and as the Barracks were looking for ratings
to live out and a living allowance was available, so I was able to live
at home unless I had a duty night which occurred about once every 8 - 10
days. There were a few
night air raids with a very few planes which gradually reduced in
We were quite close to Chudleigh, about an hours trip
by bus on the direct route from Plymouth to Exeter.
We were then expecting an increase in the family and Mum arranged
to give birth at Chudleigh and so she was seen there by the District
Nurse and the family doctor. The baby was expected in mid May so just
before the date Mum returned home.
Daphne stayed with me on one or two occasions and with permission
went to and from the Barracks for a day but when the time was close she
went home with Mum. Just
about this time the invasion of the mainland was very close and we were
extra busy issuing gear required during the invasion.
By the time David was born the services had an embargo on travel
outside of a radius of 10 miles from the perimeter of the port, but
after his birth on the 12th may I did manage to sneak a lift home with
an American Jeep a few days after his birth.
We meantime had a smallholding between Bodmin and St
Austell near a village called Bugle and we went to live there some six
weeks after his birth. The
only drawback to this was having to cycle to St Austell some 6 miles,
half up hill to catch the 6 a.m. train for dockyard workers in order to
arrive at the Barracks on time. I
took my cycle on the train as far as Par in the goods van, unloaded it
at Par in order to catch the train.
Then in the evening, get off at Par take the train to Bugle with
the cycle in the Goods Van and then cycle the two miles home.
The railway staff were very good not charging transport on the
bikes and putting them in shelter during the day.
The rest of my time at the Barracks was somewhat of
an anti-climax with only two notable events, Victory in Europe followed
by Victory in Japan.
Ever since joining Furious I had suffered
periodically from severe headaches and I'd been advised to always carry
Aspros with me. I had a
medical somewhere about October 1945 when the doctor diagnosed Post
Concussional Syndrome and recommended that i should be invalided from
the service. At the end of
November I was sent to HMS Raleigh a shore base to return hammock and
kit bag which we were issued with when joining.
I was kitted out in a civilian suit, hat etc and went on leave
which expired on 1st January 1946.
I was granted a small disability pension of about 10%
disability which after about three years because it was only about 10%
was converted into a lump sum and the pension ceased. The headaches continued for four or five years but gradually
diminished in severity and finally ceased altogether and now I can't
remember when I had the last one.
Returning to the isolationism of the Pre war American
Government I really do think the average American citizen is very
uninformed of the outside world. Whilst
in Australia about 5 years ago a young friend of my Grand daughter Sarah
whose father was connected to the oil industry and who was seconded to
Texas for a couple of years had just returned after being there a year.
At twelve years old she was amazed that when she first went to
Texas her class mates asked how she got to America.
"Did they drive?"
Another question was, "How does President Bush look after
Australia as well as America?"
The Gulf War broke out while they were in America and
quite a few people they knew were in a panic trying to purchase or
obtain gas masks, They
didn't know exactly where the Gulf was.
Her brother who was 2 years older attended a different school and
among his lessons was a daily one hour period being taught the History
of Texas. They couldn't
believe that you could stretch the Texas History to cover some 150
hours. They had all been
used to covering world history before leaving Australia.
Please note the writings here are Copywright to the
Hodges family represented by Neil Hodges.
Please ask permission before using any part of them.
Also note that some of the writings are opinions and
these shouls not be treated as fact, but as opinions.