Sunday, January 13, 2013

Smalley-Marsh Family History


In 1874 Elizabeth Kitchen and her younger brother Harry arrived in Stalybridge from Wisbech in Cambridgeshire where they had been living with a fairly prosperous farmer who had brought them up from birth.  They were the children of one of his daughters who had formed a relationship with a silk merchant in Cambridge, he in turn paid the farmer to bring them up with his own family. Elizabeth was now 18 and the arrangement was brought to an end.

Why Stalybridge was chosen is not known but is possible that a post had been found in service for Elizabeth and Harry was found a place on a farm in Matley. Before long she had met up with Charles Marsh. He had recently lost his wife through illness and was left with 3 young boys, Charles, Nathan and George. They soon got married and went to live in a cottage in Mately together with the three young boys. Over the years Elizabeth was to give birth to seven children by Charles, James, Grace, Helen, Ervin, Harry, Elizabeth and Alice.

Cotton mills covered the area and this is where Grace Marsh found work in a mill in Stalybridge and also found Sam Smalley.  He was from a family of seven also. He worked for the Co-Operative Society in the grocery department. They were married in St Pauls Church Stalybridge and went to live in Kinders Street in Stalybridge where the first of the children were born, Cyril and Phyllis. Grace left her job as a weaver and continued life as a house wife bringing up her family.

She was very good with the needle and took to making hats and finished up being quite proficient as a milliner. Whether it was due to some estrangement they were going through at this time is down to speculation but Grace decided to move to Lytham St Annes on the coast to start a millinery shop taking the children with her. The shop and business prospered and things started to look up. Cyril recalls some talk about hired help to look after himself and Phyllis in the home. It was at this time that Sam decided to give up the job of manager of the branch of the Co-Op and move to be with Grace at the coast. It turned out to be a poor move for Sam as he failed to find any sort of a job and more over the shop ran into the sand and before long the family was on the move and I arrived by this time as my birth certificate records my place of birth as Lytham St Annes.


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Running Wild


Perhaps my arrival in 1921 was a bit of a surprise to Sam and Grace when they were by then aged 40 but it never-the-less did not result in me being in any way un-cared for. It was just that they were possibly so busy trying to screw a living out of that era that left little time to keep an eye on my boyhood activities in that period before the war.

One of the earliest memories was being dumped up to my neck in a lime pit. Houses build in the 20’s involved having a big pit containing a ready mixed lot of lime for the business of building with bricks. When the builders had pushed off for the day the site was left unguarded and at the mercy of the local kids. One of the older girls cajoled me to walk to the end of this long plank leading out to the middle of the pit. Being about aged four at the time the outcome never entered my innocent mind but when she stepped off her end I finished up covered in slimy mess.

This was a time of no radio, television and no computers so the big out-doors was where every child finished up to burn of their energy no matter the weather. In the winter the promenade was a roller-skater’s paradise especially the slopes down to the beach. The evenings would be spent racing around until it was time to go home. Adult strangers would be approached in the street or on the promenade and asked if they had any cigarette cards: ”Any cig cards mister?”.

The beach in the summertime provided all sorts of scope for fun and mischief and an opportunity to earn some coppers. One scheme was to dig a bridge of sand across the wet patches between the islands of sand left by the receding tide and then with a cheeky grin hold out a hand for anything the visitor would care to give.

A more devilish scheme was to dig a hole in the sand about a couple of feet deep and then cover the hole with a newspaper and a sprinkling of sand and wait for some unfortunate to fall into the hole. Call it what you will but shear devilment was the uppermost aspect of outdoor life.

Once we found the burning properties of magnifying glasses more havoc remained to be wrought. I could not say whether it was matches or the burning glass that set fire to a large expanse of sand dunes at the wild area that existed at that time south of the Pleasure Beach. However I feel the bit of play was not expected to get beyond our control but it did and the only answer for us was to get on our bikes and hare it back home passing coming in the opposite direction, the fire brigade coming to deal with our mischief.

I am sure I was not alone in finding a more mischievous activity for the burning glass. Sunday afternoons could be pretty quiet along the Dickson Road and I found myself idly focusing the glass on the inside of the local chemist’s window. The item that eventually got me interested was the hot-water bottle being displayed on this sunny autumn day. The smoke from the rubber was soon curling upwards and a sort of brown hole was forming on the target. What thrilled me more than anything was the thought of this bottle eventually leaking out in some unfortunate's bed.

This caper was much better than the practice of tying up a house brick in brown paper and fancy string and placing it in the path of pedestrian traffic. We figured that anyone coming across the 'parcel' would firstly give it a kick followed by a yelp. I can’t say this ever came about but even thinking about these devilish schemes was a scallywag's delight.

We all had bikes of course and a long ride out into the countryside was a Sunday occupation. The foothills of the Pennines was the farthest we would go but plenty of fun was available with the possibility of being able to swim in the lakes and go out to the islands where seagulls were nesting. There we could swim back with eggs and set about eating them raw. We would often be out all day and return home exhausted late in the evening.

I had fitted out my bike with a fairly unique form of lighting. Carbide lamps were quite a novelty and gave a lovely white light. Carbide being a white chemical in powder form which when water is added forms a gas. The lamp was usually on the front of the bike and the container was fixed in the rear with the gas travelling along a rubber tube via the crossbar. By adjusting the drip of water to the powder enough gas was made and the lamp could be lit.

The gas we found could also be used to make minor explosives. An inverted pop bottle filled with gas made a mini projectile. Pop bottles were soon found to be a bit tame and one eventful day was when we filled old oil drum mounted on bricks and waited till we could smell the distinctive gas coming out of the opening. The effect was dramatic, the drum went way up into the air but instead of landing back in the friends garden made its landing known with the sound of tinkling glass. We quickly vanished from the scene and just hoped we could remain in the clear.

I remarked earlier that there was no radio but of course in due time this was to be part of everyday life. Amateur radio was a flourishing hobby for lots of boys who could afford the parts and buy the magazines giving the latest one or two valve circuits. Making up these little radios was a regular pastime among the local chums. As we spent most of our time on bikes it was not long before radios were being made with the batteries in the saddle bag and the radio parts in front to twiddle the knobs and search the airwaves. With a pair of head-phones on and tuned in to the latest popular number life was a breeze.

This new craze could not be funded out of sixpence a week pocket money so other means had to be found. The local golf links were a good source of spare cash. Norbreck Hydro had a links attached to the hotel and a few miles further north was Cleveleys links. Four or five lads used to gather outside the golf pro’s office to await the sign to carry someone's bag. The going rate was 2 shillings for the 18 holes but quite often the chap would make it half a crown. I used to wear a very bright yellow jersey I used to fondly think that it used to nearly blind the pro as quite often he would call out “you with the yellow jersey” regardless of any rota. It was possible to get a round in morning afternoon and evening if the light held out. I remember a time when it cost sixpence to get in the cinema and I had thirty shillings in my pocket. A fondness for money never left me.

When the links were too wet to play the time could be taken up with looking for lost golf balls. This was not really allowed by the golf course but that did not stop us from scouring the roughs and into the ponds knee deep in bare feet trying to locate what had sunk in the mud. A maximum of sixpence for a good ball or much less for balls that the men would use for practice hits. Searching in the deep grass was not with out its hazards. One Sunday afternoon had me walking into the barbed wire fence producing a deep gash in my cheek which scared my face for twenty odd years.

This need for ready cash would lead eventually to an activity which crossed the legal boundaries. Whisky needs soda and soda in those days came in large soda siphons which were quite a solid piece of glass ware. These were a returnable item and from memory the money back was either 2 shillings or half a crown a time. These were returnable to chemist shops as well as off-licences. Who thought up this dodgy activity I fail to recall but I fell in with the scheme. Sunday afternoons were the best time to climb over into the back yards of a chemist shop and see if any of these items were to be had. It was decided that no more that say two were to be filched so as to allay any suspicion. It would have been too much of a cheek to take it in to the same chemist to get the refund so after cleaning them up they would cashed in somewhere else. This stunt was pulled off a few times until the shop owners figured something was amiss and kept the siphons safely doors We were lucky to getaway with this one but one of the group took up serious thieving and finished up in court. The year would be about 1936/7 when the authorities were stepping up the recruiting drive to boost the armed forces as things were looking grim in Europe. The offender was given the choice of either doing some time in a Borstal institution or joining one of the forces. He decided to join the Air Force and we thought that would be the last we would see of him but strangely after the war when Peg and I lived in London we came across this chap on a pitch in the Ideal Homes Exhibition demonstrating a potato peeler. Whether he was one of the few we never found out but he would have had the makings to break a few barriers.

It’s an age-old question, what were the parents doing, did mine know what I was getting up to?  Dad was busy at the shop desperately trying to screw a living wage out of his corner shop. Mother was probably laid low with the dicky tummy that seemed to plague her life. Her diet seemed to consist of tripe, tomatoes and a strange kind of bread that was called scofar bread only obtainable from Yates Wine Lodge in Talbert Square in Blackpool.  Of the rest of the family, Cyril was no doubt away in Birmingham working as a journeyman joiner. Grace and Phyllis were busy trying to make a living in Fleetwood market selling cheap clothing or it could have been cheap jewellery. I am sure if Dad had known of what I was up to I would have been on the end of some physicality. I know of only two occasions when he let fly at me.

When I was about seven we lived in a two roomed basement flat in Station Road South Shore in Blackpool. It had an old type kitchen range fired by coal. What was in the oven at this time I can’t remember, could have been bread or a rice pudding, however Mum and Dad were peering into the open oven to see what was in there was getting on and I said “Let’s 'av a scen then“ --- with that Dad turned round and I finished up on the other side of the room having got a good clout on the head. The word "scen" had really annoyed him. Scen was street talk that I had picked up from other kids and he wasn’t having that word in the house.

The other time was years later when I was in sole charge of the shop whilst Dad was in the flat above having his dinner. Nestle's Milk was sold in a very small size and I had taken a fancy to helping myself to one of these and enjoying the sweet milky contents. One day he confronted me with the empty tin which he had fished out of the dust bin. “What’s this?”. Quick as a flash, “Oh, I saw Jacky Dixon kicking it about on the pavement outside so I fetched it in” … ”Little liar”, followed with hard thump to the head. Bad enough mice eating his cheese or fruit going bad but to have his kid nicking stuff was just too much. Jacky was my local chum and we used to give ourselves electric shocks. The light switches in the house were a brass type with a cover that could be un-screwed revealing the connections. We would stick our fingers on the points and see how much we could stand or hold hands and with the free hand stick a finger on either the plus or minus. Wouldn’t like to try it now.

What remains in my head about school is virtually nil. I do know there were around 42 pupils in the class and I always came somewhere in the middle for marks. The boy next to me was Billy Broadly who became a friend. So it was Broadly & Smalley --- Smalley & Broadly. His family had a pig farm which I used to visit on occasions. One day we were leaping across a dyke near the farm and I misjudged the distance and fell waist deep in what could only be pig slurry from the stink that followed me home. Coming home after school I had to pass a nice house at a corner and one day the Lady of the house stopped me and asked if I would come in the house where she had lots of toys I could play with. Who these toys belonged to I could not say. Could be that they had perhaps lost a son and they wanted to see another boy playing with them. I guess I would have a drink and a bun and then off I would go. What I do remember about school was the caning I had a few times for inattention I guess and the pain and loss of half a front tooth falling in the school playground. Pain would appear to have a lasting effect on me.

At the time we lived in Alexandra Road at the flat above the shops I formed a friendship with a boy further down the road where the houses were quite large. The boy's father was a school master and they were quite well off in relation to my family with mother going out in the evenings selling door to door some rather nice yellow powder to make a refreshing drink.  At the rear of the big house was a garage run commercially. I always assumed it belonged to the school master but I could be wrong. The boy who’s name was Desmond Hough (pronounced Huff) his next door neighbour was his girl playmate Brenda Duff! She always reminded me of Elizabeth in the Just William books probably as she had a pigtail. The Hough family cultivated me no doubt as I made a play-mate for their dear spoilt boy. I had no complaints as I went everywhere with them. One year I joined them for a week in the Lake District and often we would drive out in his big car which had a folding canvas hood.

They were typical middle-class. I can’t recall the mother but the father would be dressed in a tweed double-breasted suit plus deer stalker. A meal at a restaurant after a fun was always Steak and Chips which went well with his florid round face. I made a mistake a decade later in seeking Desmond out. I was just curious to see what had happened to him. They were at a different address by then and he was different too. He didn’t want to know me, I soon got the drift. It was the class thing. By then I had joined up and childhood days were well in the past.


Monday, January 7, 2013

War-time Memories


When the Second World War started I was working at Redman's Grocery Store in Talbot Road Blackpool and it wasn't too long before all my contemporaries were all talking about joining up. The big question was which of the services was it going to be. The Navy wouldn't be too bad providing that one could swim, which I could. The Air force didn't have that much appeal, so it seemed in the end to be the Army. 

I seem to remember that a big factor in all this was the question of which branch of the service had the most liberal attitude to smoking, which we were all addicted to at the time. I suppose we could have been influenced by pictures and cartoons of soldiers in the 1st World War where soldiers were depicted in the trenches with fags in their mouth or "Old Bill" in his "Better 'ole' sitting besides a German unexploded bomb smoking away with his pipe. There were pictures of Pilots in aircraft having a dogfight with the Hun with both hands hanging on to a machine gun blazing away but no sign of any cigarette. However in Feb 1940 I was on my way to Preston to join the Royal Navy so I guess it must have been the uniform that I fancied myself in.

A batch of about 20 of us gathered in a Church Hall and after a bit of paper work, which might have entailed "swearing in" or some such thing we were all entrained for Shotley Barracks near Harwich and Felixstowe in Suffolk.

H.M.S. Ganges is on a very draughty peninsular of land formed by the rivers Stour and Orwell before they merge into one and then into the North Sea.

According to the training manual 12 weeks was the allotted time to get these grocers boys away from bacon slicing machines and delivery bikes and on to rowing and sailing carver/clinker boats, signalling with flags, semaphoring with our arms, Morse coding and generally tying ourselves in knots that weren't supposed to come undone.

Three-quarters of the way through the course it all came to a full stop as the Germans had overrun the Low Countries and the threat of invasion was on everyone's mind. We were all fell in one day and issued with spades and digging gear and detailed off to dig emplacements around the Barracks and the peninsular. After all this was done we had to man these positions day and night, 4 hours on and 4 hours off. The Dunkirk evacuation happened about this time and one day a few of our section was detailed off to train as a firing party for the funeral of a Officer whose body had been washed up onto the shore at Shotley Head and the powers that be decided to have him buried in the establishments cemetery. I think there was 10 in number that were put through this special drill which involved slope arms, present arms and fire arms to be done in such a way that nobody else finished up dead.

The state of things in France at this time were so bad with the German Army over-running the country and the threat that France might capitulate that the British cabinet under Churchill offered France a joint Union where the two countries would become one nation if only France would continue the fight in North Africa where she had considerable troops. This desperate deal came to naught and we were left to carry the fight alone except that De Gaulle left France for U.K.and brought many of his countrymen with him including many Navy and Air Force personnel. 

Eventually after about a month the invasion panic subsided and we were able to resume the training after which we were sent on to H.M.S. Drake at Devonport. Travel by train in Wartime was a very haphazard venture and punctuated with all sorts of delays for unknown reasons so the whole journey via London could have taken all day to complete.

At this time great difficulties were being felt in the Atlantic as German submarines were creating havoc in sinking many cargo ships coming fro America and so it came about that Roosevelt offered a deal to lend on lease among other items 50 Destroyers to help our Navy  deal with the menace in our shipping lanes.  The extra ships have been laid up since the first world war and were in poor shape but we were up against it with our back to the wall and had no option but do the deal it meant that the U.S.A. got bases in the West Indies.

H.M.S. Drake was a huge sprawling barracks spread around a big parade ground and was filled with Navy personal either waiting to be drafted to a ship or undergoing some further training. There is always a percentage of the complement that are anxious not to get sucked in to the work-a-day part of barrack life and all manner of dodges would be thought up to keep out of the way of "falling in" and being "detailed off" for some dreary sweeping or painting task. Some would choose to walk about the barracks in a fairly purposeful way carrying a piece of paper and head in the direction of the various offices and give a good impression of working or to develop a limp and spend hours in the Sick-bay in the hope that they would be blessed by having their name drop off the list of men destined to go to some horrible cold place like the Russian Arctic and the Russian convoys. They were to be dreaded  by me and others as the most horrific assignment. The losses of merchant ships trying to vital supplies to the Russian front were truly great. It was all part of our effort to play some part in carrying the fight to the enemy as were in not state to start a second front in France. 

For some time there had been a "buzz" that a draft was being assembled to join a ship whose name came over to me as "Kay Gee Vee" or sometimes as "Kay Gee 5". In the way of youth I was not about to ask about it further and it remained with me that they had not got around to giving it a proper name. However eventually through the fog that I seemed to be constantly trapped in it came to me that the name was King George the Fifth.  The ship I finally was drafted to was the Prince of Wales, always know in navy circles as the P.O.W. This was berthed in Rosyth in Scotland being got ready for commissioning and ready to join the rest of the Fleet at Scapa Flow.

Work on the ship had got behind schedule and she was unable to take us so we were sent to a holding depot in Bristol for some weeks. Muller's Orphanage was a series of buildings funded by a German philanthropist in the latter part of the 19th century, the orphans all being dispersed to other parts of the country. The very same day that we arrived Bristol received its first major incendiary bombing raid and by night it was all well alight mainly down by the docks area. The next day we were all mustered into different parties and marched down to the docks to help clear the place up. Spare time would be spent playing cards, brag or cribbage. Cribbage would go on for hours and hours and on going to sleep the numbers "15-2" "15-4" would be endlessly going round in the head and then to wake up the next morning and almost straight away start another game. This is I first came in contact with this Northeast crowd from the Newcastle and Middlesbrough area. A hard drinking and gambling bunch that was full of life and fascinating to rub shoulders with. Instead of "yes" to a question it would "way eye man".

Big Ships take a long time to get orientated to, what with the various decks and stairways and "flats" which are the various inboard walkways. As most of the time one can not see the sea or sky it is easy to find oneself going for'ard instead of aft and up instead of down as each side of the ship is identical to the other and even though one was "top-side" unless the ship was underway there were no direction to say which was the pointed end. Some weeks were to pass before this fog was lifted.

Almost a third of the ships complement were Hostilities Only rating of which I was one. Getting this lot fit enough to cope with the day to day running of this new ship was quite a task and the ship itself was going through some teething troubles. Although the Captain had reported to the Admiralty that we had finished our running up trials and so theoretically we were a fighting unit we still had on board three dock yard mateys who were trying to iron out some troubles with the tracking of two of the big guns.

With in a few weeks of beginning our Commission we received a signal from the Admiralty to join up with the Battlecruiser H.M.S. Hood and try and intercept the German Battleship Bismark and Battlecruiser Prince Eugene who had been reported as trying to break out into the Atlantic from a Norwegian fiord. We finally caught up with this formidable pair at dawn on the 24th of May. As Pom-Pom Guns crew we had no part to play in the dramatic sea battle that was to unfold in the next half hour or so. All we could do was watch it as though on a "big screen" and yet live, you couldn't believe it was happening to you. To see the flashes of the enemy ships guns and then the sound from the guns followed by the "Woosh" as the 16-inch diameter shells travelled through the air and then to see them drop into the sea was transfixing.

The Hood and the P.O.W. were not all that far apart from each other at the time of the action, maybe a half mile.  A tactical mistake had been made at this stage, which was acknowledged later on but too late to save the 1,416 men that perished in just a few seconds. The original plan was to engage the enemy from two separate quarters so as to reduce his firepower by half but this plan was ditched at the last minute and whatever the reason for this mistake it cost the Admiral his life too.

When the first shells were fired we didn't know who was going to be the target but soon the water splashes around the Hood revealed that she was considered by the Germans to be the more formidable. The Hood was the pride of the navy, she looked impressive. If you wanted to serve in "big ships" she was the one. She was fast, the reason for that was the fact that she didn't carry the weight of armoured upper deck plating, she had armoured plated sides but she had sacrificed upper deck protection for speed.

The first splashes were on the far side of her, the second were this side and the third and decisive salvo couldn't have been more accurate, right on the quarterdeck. This was textbook gunnery by the German ship. I recall vividly the 6 or 7 spouts of flame shooting up from the holes made in the ships deck, we were that close. After a few seconds a massive explosion which blew the main part of the ship to pieces to leave the fo'castle and bow just moving forward out of this huge cloud of cordite smoke and then to sink out of sight below the waves. Just three crew survived this great sea tragedy: a Boy Seaman aged 16, a Midshipman and a signaller.

Within seconds the Bismark had got her guns trained on to us and we got hit with a salvo of 7 shells. One shell made a shambles of the bridge causing many casualties and 13 dead including two Midshipmen and a Boy Seaman none older than 18 years of age. The Captain was unhurt and realized that if we didn't take evasive action we would quickly suffer the same fate as the Hood. So it was "hard a starboard" and as fast as we could we got out of range. For us the action was now at an end. We had however in the last of our salvos managed to get a hit on the Bismark below the water line which caused an oil leak and that caused the German Admiral to curtail his Atlantic destination and instead make for Brest to get repairs. This was instrumental in altering the German Admiral’s mind to go further into the Atlantic and do some raiding on Allied shipping. Instead he tried to get back to Brest and get his ships damage fixed. Sometime later the oil leak was spotted by Catalina aircraft and her position was reported which was fortunate as the two Cruisers shadowing her had allowed the Bismark to give them the slip in the bad visibility.

We were now running short of oil and badly in need of repairs ourselves and having seen what the Bismark could do we were glad to cut and run. We buried the dead on the way to Reykjavik in Iceland, the nearest oil supply. Here we were to be humiliated by the crews of the destroyers who had been with us in the earlier part of the action but also had to break off due to fuel shortage. As we steamed up the Fiord with the destroyers on both sides we were subjected to boos and catcalls and shouts of "five minute battleship" and "rubbish" and such like derision.

After a few days in Reykjavik we steamed back to Rosyth for more permanent repairs. It was here that I got some compassionate leave as Father was dying of cancer at the age of 61, and it was also the time of the "prick" of tobacco incident and the period in the ships cells. Brother-in-law Fred was a pipe smoker at that time and he had asked if I could get him some Navy tobacco. So over and above the allowance of 200 hundred cigarettes I attempted to smuggle out in the lining of my greatcoat a 4 oz prick of tobacco. Unfortunately our small party of shore leavers were all thoroughly searched at the dockyard gate and I was rumbled. I was however allowed to proceed on leave and the charges were dealt with on my return.

A few days after my return from leave I was on the Quarter Deck with a Royal Marine Guard answering the charge "wilfully concealing on the 6th of June within the folds of his Greatcoat contraband and to proceed ashore etc, etc," … "14 days confinement, first three days on bread and water, on caps, 'bout turn, on the double quick march". Within minutes I was locked up in a cell in the Bows of the ship. I had only had time to sit down on the wooden bench when the door opened with a clang and a large lump of tarry rope was thrown on to the cell floor. Oakum is a tarry hairy mass produced by teasing out from lengths of rope and in the wooden ships of yore was used to calk the seams of the wooden ships decks and this was the task of prisoners in cells to keep them occupied. Not quite mediaeval, but just a flavour of an old navy practice. The first three days bread water part was a bit of a lark as the cells were immediately below a sea-mans mess deck and with the guard turning a blind eye to things someone would be sure to nip down the hatch way and slip the prisoner some spare food from their messing.  Most prisoners were guilty of trivial offences (in the eyes of the lower deck) and support was a matter of honour.

In the cell next to me, they was only 4 in the whole compartment, was a chap named Kennedy and he had the reputation of being the biggest "skate" in the whole of the Devonport Division. Skate being the name for a troublemaker with a bent for violence. Kennedy had from almost the day he had been conscripted schemed to get out of the Navy. General disobedience, thumping officers, absent with out leave and faking insanity had all been tried. He was the most violent case and although he was locked up securely and so was I, the time spent in the same small space was uncomfortable but worse was when we were let out to take exercise on the upper deck. Evan in the company of 2 guards this unpredictable mass of resentment was a worry.  He was later to "jump ship" in either Freetown or Cape Town when the ship made her trip to the Far East.

While we were in Rosyth having the Bridge repaired, the recent action was subject to an enquiry by the Admiralty. A large scale model of the Hood was brought onboard and installed in the Wardroom and a notice put up to the effect that anyone who had observed the recent action or even a part of it was to report to the Duty Officer to take part in the enquiry.  There could not have been much more than 20 or 30 pairs of eyes to have been witness to the action and some of them had been killed on the bridge and some of the wounded were still not back on board including my Divisional Officer the actor Esmond Knight who lost his eyesight in the action but regained it some years later.

The Bridge was in a real gory mess and the Pom-Pom gun crew had the job of cleaning up the carnage that was covering the many instruments on the Bridge and then repairs could be made to the communications systems. All had to be hosed down and washed away.

When the time came for the inquiry I had my story to tell. A lot of Admiralty Top Brass was there around the big table with the model six-foot long model of the Hood on display. I described the action as I saw it. How the first shells fell, and then the fatal third salvo. How I saw the flames spouting up from where they had entered the decking and the explosion that followed, the huge cloud of smoke and debris that completely enveloped the ship and how the ship seemed to still have some "way" on her and how the bows came out of the smoke and then slipped slowly down below the waves. I thought I had done a most excellent job of describing it all until one of the Officers asked me to point out exactly where the shells had fallen and to point it out on the model and at the same time handed me a pointer. "Just here Sir, on the Quarter Deck" and pointed to where the shells had fallen. To my horror and dismay he said. "That's the Fo'csle your pointing to", to which I had to make a quick shift of position which rather wrecked my beautifully explained dramatization of my eye-witness account. I was dismissed and left the room just hoping that they would take my account as valid and put the silly error down to nervousness and inexperience. How had I tripped up so badly with my performance? On addressing the model of the ship I had wrongly assumed that I was looking at the Starboard side of the ship as it was in the action and in my eagerness had pointed to the part of the ship aft of the super structure. How was I to know they had got the thing pointing the wrong way round!! Stupid Boy!!

The sinking of the Hood had shook the whole country and the Navy especially as she was the very symbol of power and strength. It greatly worried the Admiralty  that the ship had been found not to be able to withstand battle conditions and to have vanished in practically three minutes. Several ships had been sunk in the First World War in similar conditions and the Hood had been built and served at that time but had supposedly had extra work done on her with regard to deck protection and for this to have been found wanting was their dilemma. 

We must have spent about 6 weeks in Rosyth getting the ship back in working order and by the first week in August we were on our way across the Atlantic taking with us the Prime Minister Winston Churchill to meet up with the U.S. President Roosevelt. This was to be the Famous Atlantic Charter where the U.S. would unofficially assist the U.K. by patrolling their side of the Atlantic and generally declare solidarity between the two countries. After this meeting the navy started to get some sort of a Fleet together to go to the Far East to challenge the bellicose Japanese. Roosevelt did well to bring this about as the American  in general were not interested in getting involve in another war and although the Charter was signed in August they did not come in to the war until Japan bombed  Pearl Harbour in December.

We dropped anchor in Placentia Bay in Newfoundland on the 9th of August and the next day the U.S. Augusta came alongside and with a gangway slung between the two ships the U.S. President came aboard. The fact that Roosevelt had been crippled since the age of 40 some 20 years earlier had been kept from the public both in America and the world at large. So it was a great surprise to see him aided by his on and another aid to move him about with the help of sticks. It's truly amazing how the general public was able to be kept in ignorance of what was going on in the world. The Charter was signed on the 14th.

After the conference had taken place and the commemorative photos had been taken, a gift to all the crew was made from the President. 200 hundred Lucky Strike cigarettes, an apple and a piece of cheese!! Visits to the U.S. ships were then made on an informal basis and I recall visiting one of the Destroyers and I recall visiting the Mess Deck of one of the Destroyers and being amazed, as all the Royal Navy chaps were at the Iced Water freely available on tap and the lashing of ice-cream that was served up with the Midday meal. We had descended on this particular mess before the U.S. sailors had found time to clear their finished meal away and within minutes anything left on the mess table in the way of food was well and truly scoffed by our lads. It was not that we were hungry; it was just to be part of the American experience to eat what they ate.

The Atlantic Charter having been signed we then steamed back across the North Atlantic and after a couple of days out we came across a large convoy of Merchant Ships and Escorts. Churchill ordered that the ship steam right through the middle of them whereupon all the ships in the convoy were hooting and the crews were cheering Churchill to the skies, a great sight.

Once back in Home Waters we then took part in what was to be called "Operation Halbert". This was a desperate attempt to get supplies to Malta. For company we had the Battleships Nelson and Rodney and the Aircraft carrier Ark-Royal, 5 cruisers and 18 destroyers. A major Naval operation to get desperately needed supplies to the beleaguered island. About a third of the way through the Mediterranean we started to get attacked by aircraft but these were fought off successfully and at least 2 Italian torpedo bombers were shot down but tragically one of the Ark Royal fighter planes was shot down as he had been following too close to the enemy. The P.O.W. and Rodney tried to find the Italian Navy which was supposed to be in the area but we could not local them, so naturally we assumed they did not want to be found!!

Malta was under constant bombardment from both German and Italian planes as it was the only base we had to harass the enemies supply lines getting troops and materials  to the North African campaign. The people on the island suffered greatly from lack of food and supplies as the enemy tightened his grip but the convoys always got through but not without many ships being lost. The most famous and heroic convoy was Pedestal.This was a do or die operation and consisted of 44 navy ships taking 14 merchant shipping with vital supplies of fuel for the few planes that we had flying there at that time and food for the starving Maltese people. Several navy ships went down and of the 14 merchant ships only 4 made it including the Ohio petrol tanker which was towed in finally.

This was our second piece of action and we felt we had come out of it with some credit. We needed some boosting up as we were still suffering from the verbal pasting we had got from the Home Fleet about having to quit the Bismark scrap. I suppose some leave was given when we got back to U.K. as the next thing we knew was that we were at sea again and travelling in a Southerly direction. There had been a number of rumours abroad but it was only when we had been steaming for 24 hours that the announcement was made that we were to proceed to Singapore with a mission in Churchill's words to "have a paralysing effect on the Japs"!!

The ships of the Navy in Wartime were full of a great mix of all types of people from clever intellectuals to the dregs of the slums of the Glasgow Gorbals and the like. The effect of conscription was to tap into every level of society whereas the time serving regular were very much from a certain type of working class type that wanted to make a career out it and so was a steadier type of chap. That isn't to say they were dull, far from it. Every ship has its share of odd characters. The Repulse had on board a three-badge stoker who had finished his time but the War meant that he had to carry on past his 22years service. He had served in all the Naval Stations around the world, Far East, the Med, Bermuda.  And in his time had collected a quite bizarre set of curios and knick-knacks from his travels around the globe.

He had served on the Renown in 1935 when she took the Duke and Duchess of York to Australia for a state visit, the Duchess being the present Queen Mum. His job was to keep the Royal apartment clean and tidy. Every Sailor has two jobs, one is his action station position which he is continually being trained at and the other is his job of keeping the ship as spotless as possible.

The story goes that one-day he was cleaning the "heads" which is the Navy term for W.C. when he fished out a "floater" which he swears belonged to the Duchess. After a suitable amount of drying out time he had it varnished and then mounted on to a choice piece of oak from the "chippy's" store and then a plaque attached with the words "Duchess of York's Turd, circa 1935". This could be viewed on special days along with all sorts of other wonders for a small piece of silver or in exchange for your tot of rum. After the Abdication in '36 when the Duchess was elevated to Queenly status this had to be altered so was now "The Queen's Turd, 1935". Whenever the ships company was given a holiday and shore leave not possible the stoker and others who had something of interest to show would be on the upper deck and a line of "matelots" would line up to have their curiosity satisfied.

We had on board the P.O.W. a chap named Johnny King who was the Manchester born reigning British and Empire Bantamweight Champion. By then he had been in the ring far too long and was a real case of a punch-drunk boxer and we all thought it was quite reckless for him to have been in charge of a Lewis Gun on the Upper Deck. He was inclined to play up somewhat if given any instructions that he was not to keen on carrying out.

Among the 1500 men and Officers on the ship were 180 boy seamen who could have been anything between 16 to 18 years of age. These would be time serving ratings and midshipmen destined to take up Officer rank later on. One of these Midshipmen was the Son of Paymaster Wheeler who as soon as he found out that his Son had been drafted to the same ship as himself put in a request to get the boy put on another ship. This was granted, as the Navy did not encourage members of the same family to serve on the same ship, although my messmates the Bidewell brothers served throughout the commission and survived the sinking.

The voyage to Singapore took 6 weeks to complete, calling first at Freetown on the West coast of Africa, the on to Cape Town for 2 days where the ships company were able to enjoy the by now famous Cape Town hospitality. Here the people of the town would be lining up at the dockside in their cars to take out for the day any rating or Officer that cared to avail themselves of this wonderful generous hospitality. Desertions occurred in both Freetown and Cape Town. I could understand the latter but not Freetown. We took on an extra 39 hands in Cape Town all of whom were deserters from previous ships having been caught and jailed and now dragged back in again. They were all pardoned by the Captain and although their record was stained their deeds were not held against them provided they toe the line from now on.

At Colombo, Ceylon we had more shore leave and I recall going ashore with some ship-mates among whom was a veteran of the Spanish Civil War, he was a fervent Communist named Geordie Thompson. He was quite put out by the locals habit of always addressed us as "Master", "Yes Master", "No Master" and so on. Geordie gave them a good talking to, saying "we are all brothers now" and "you must cut out all this Master rubbish", but all that he got back for his noble efforts was "yes, Master" and "of course Master" complete with this curious swivelling shake of the head which was always to amuse us.  Geordie gave up trying.

Singapore was our next and final, very final destination arriving on the 2nd of December. We were a bit disappointed by the lack of welcome by the Europeans, the lower deck that is, the Officers were feted of course. This was symbolic of the attitude of the Rubber Planter / Ex-pat type of Brit of that era.

In less than a week we were at sea again, the task this time was to investigate reports that Japanese ships were landing troops on the coast of Malaya and although the location was beyond the range of out protective aircraft screen we were to take that risk and so put the Fleet in jeopardy. By the most unfortunate bit of bad luck we were spotted by a Japanese Submarine and they alerted the Jap Air Force.

We were attacked at about midday on the 10th by both torpedo bombers and high level bombers some times separately sometimes together both the P.O.W. and the Repulse being the targets, the Destroyers were not attacked at all. 

During this action which lasted about 2 hours my action station being the Pom-Pom guns experienced plenty of smoke and noise but when we got hit by the first torpedo the electrics failed and the guns were not able to be trained by power and by hand was too difficult as the list that the ship had developed made that too difficult so we were no longer able to train on the incoming aircraft and add to the general confusion. Two thirds of the ships crews were lost in this action. 513 were lost from the Repulse and 327 from the Prince of Wales. A total of 840 lost from the two ships. 

It was only when we found ourselves with nothing to do that a bit of a panicky feeling began to show up. I was suddenly conscious of the fact that the metal lockers that we had been happy to sit on these past months drinking our cocoa and yarning away were jam packed full of high explosive shells and our now useless gun was also packed with shells. It seemed imperative to me that as another wave of Jap bombers were coming towards the ship again that some distance was put between this menace and yours truly. I shifted position from Port to Starboard but the scene was an exact replica of the place I had just left. The Destroyer Express was still alongside taking off non essential personal and important papers and documents but the ships list was getting greater with the danger that men trying to get from one ship to another were in danger of falling into the gap.

"Abandon Ship" came as a relief from all this agony of hesitation and indecision and I made my way for'ard and found a spot where I could get over the side without dropping down onto the shipside and perhaps breaking a leg or some crippling damage.

Now I'm in the water with plenty of other people who were all in the same boat/sea and I'm thankful that all the time I had spent swimming in the sea at Blackpool had not been wasted. For a while we were swimming in oil and made an attempt to get away from this nocuous stuff and into clearer water until someone shouted out something about sharks so we all swam back into the oil again. A large wooden spar had been thrown overboard for anyone to cling to and this was useful until some idiot decided to climb on to it and try to straddle the thing. This had the result of it turning round and round in the water and all the various protuberances affixed to it where quite likely to give one a nasty dig in the ribs so I abandoned that and just trod water till the Electra came in amongst us and we were hauled up and inboard. The decks were crowded with survivors in various states of distress.   

I recall climbing on to a metal locker that could not have been more than 15 inches wide as there was no space on the deck to lie down and then falling asleep. It must have been a quiet run back to base at Singapore as I was still there when someone gave me a shake as we were steaming up the Singapore Straits and back to safety. We now spent some time in the drill sheds giving our name and number to officials which would start the process of informing our next-of-kin that we had survived one of the Second World War's most devastating reversals, the pity of it was that the Admiral in Charge was living in the past and didn't think that aircraft were a match for modern Battleships, he died knowing better but took a lot of good men with him. This action finally convinced the power that be that the day of the battleship was over and aircraft were the master. Of the King George V class The Prince of wales was the second to be lain down and commissioned followed by Duke of York who was involved in dealing with the German ship Scharnhorst. Anson and Howe were built in ’42 and helped with the Russian convoys. Aircraft carriers were to take place of the out dated big ships from now on.

For some unknown reason my folks received the dreaded telegram saying I was Missing and it would be two weeks before they got the second saying that I was safe and on the survivors list. After a couple of weeks in the shore establishment H.M.S. Sultan while the Japs continued their relentless march down the Malayan peninsular towards Singapore and while I observed a couple of our chaps go quietly mad, (no counselling service in those days) I heard with great joy and relief that a number of our names had been called out over the tannoy system on the Parade Ground and that we were to board a ship tomorrow going to Ceylon.

The route we took brought us into the Java Sea and then to go in between Sumatra and Java and pass the volcanic island of Krakatoa, which had blown itself apart in 1883 but there were plenty of explosions going on in the sea around us. We had been lucky to get these first 6oo miles without incident; the next 2,000 would be in the lap of the Gods also. We had very little defence, maybe a four pounder on the stern and no sub detection gear and totally on our own. Our pitiful slow speed of 9 knots would make us an easy target for any enemy craft.

We got the impression, true or false that Jap Subs and Destroyers were loose all over these seas and I don't remember going below decks once through out the whole trip and when I settled down to sleep at night on deck I would put my hand on the deck besides me and just pray that I would be there in the morning.    

As this vessel was intended to carry Indian Troops it was primitive in the extreme. The toilets were a broad plank, sufficiently wide to walk on and this was suspended over the stern and with a taut rope to hang on to. So while one contemplated life's rich pattern one could observe the ship's screws going thump, thump, thump as the ship slowly made her way across the Indian Ocean and the Shite-Hawks made off with your contribution. We could have been a week of 10 days on this escape trip, it naturally seemed longer. The cooking facilities were three big iron pots about 3 feet across, one was for tea, one for rice and the third for stew of curry stew mainly as our bowels didn't need exciting. Tied up on the upper deck were a few live goats and on the other side some live chickens. We had left Singapore on the 29th of December and it would be towards the end of the first week in the New Year when we made Columbo Harbour. It was good to be done with the journey of the S.S. Erinpura and its infamous cockroaches and set foot on Ceylon where I would remain out of danger for the next two years.

We were first billeted in the Barracks belonging to the Celon Naval Reserve right on the sea front and not too far from the famous Galle Face Hotel although I am sure that this would have been out of bounds to the ratings. At the rear of the building with its pleasant front had been built a series of huts hade out of timber and thatch and used as dining and further sleeping accommodation. All the cooking was down by Singhalese locals and I have fond memories of the Banana Fritters that used to be served up at meal times as a sweet course. That was H.M.S. Lanca.

As more and more survivors arrived on the Island from the area of troubled Singapore a much larger holding establishment was sort, this time it was a large boys college at the back of the town, St Josephs College. The building was dominated by a large central tower with a big clock. It was a feature to be remembered by me as when coming back from a nights carousing in the Town, the night often pitch black and possibly no moon, to look directly at the clock face one would have great difficulty in making out the time but to look ever so slightly away and into the blackness of the night the shape of the hands could be made out quite well.        

Every day the hands would be mustered to be given some job to fill in the day. This is where I had fun with a P.O. who couldn't get my name right. "Smelly", he would call out to which I wouldn't answer, again "Smelly" but louder this time, then I would say "Could that be Smalley, Sir?. After a few of these sessions he managed to get it right in the end. He did turn out to be my lucky P.O. however as one day he detailed me off to join a working party to help a group of Divers in the Dockyard.

On Easter Sunday '42 the Japs raided Colombo Harbour with Bombers and sank H.M.S. Tenedos with a small bomb amidships. She sank in about 25 feet of water and managed in going down to partially block the entrance to the Dry Dock, which was of vital importance as it was the largest dry dock in the Far East. The Navy had drafted in a team of Navy Divers to deal with this problem of moving the ship away from this spot and getting the dock operational again.

The job with the divers in the beginning was to help with any heavy work and wash down the gear when the days diving was done. Before long however I was given the job of tending the divers lines and getting instructions about the few signals that are standard for divers. One tug on the line for "come up" and two to "go down", or from the diver "more air" or "haul me up" and so on, nothing complicated. It was turning out to be a very interesting job. There were explosives to learn about, oxy-acetylene under water burning gear for cutting through the ships plate, a complete new world. I recall the pleasant thoughts on waking up in a morning that this was the first time in my life that I had something of real interest to do in the coming day.

Before long I was doing some diving myself and what is more I was getting paid for it, two shillings and three pence an hour for the first 33 feet and extra if you went deeper. The diving gear was simplicity indeed, just a service gas mask fixed to a length of air hose and then to hand manned pump in an 18-foot diving boat and a lead weight slung over the shoulder to help get you down. In the beginning we had 3 qualified divers, Petty Officer "Joe" Forrester, P.O. "Soapy" Watson and Chief Petty Officer Smith who was a very short fellow who rarely went ashore, never spent any money and everyone said he was trying to save up to buy a street of houses to boost his pension when the time came when he had to quit the Service after his 22 years.

When I joined the job they had got the for'ard section afloat with the aid of pumps to keep the compartments dry and these had to be kept going night and day otherwise she would be on the bottom again. The next job was to try and cut the ship in half with the cutting gear or to use explosives to get the floating part to be towed away from in front of the dock.

We had two diving boats with a pump in each giving a maximum capability of 4 divers working at any one time. "Joe" was in charge of "the book" and would make sure that enough time was booked so that we all had extra money in our pay packets. What Joe, Soapy and Smithy got we never knew but this operation was to be a "nice little earner" for the next 12 months despite urgent signals from the Admiralty to get the ship move. The work dragged on and on!!

I hadn't been long on this job when we were joined by 3 young Navy divers who had been working in the Middle East getting mines out of the Suez Canal and the Red Sea. They were, Sam Dooley, Harry Vaughan and Bruce Elsby. What was interesting and had a touch of glamour about this trio was the fact that they were allowed to wear civilian clothes, it was written in their papers. This came about from the fact that had they found themselves ashore in a neutral country around the Gulf area they would not have been turned over to the enemy. However if that wasn't glamour enough they were allowed to live in the town at one of the Hotels in the namely The Globe or it could have been The Bristol. They would take their meals in the Hotel Dining Room and their rooms would be cleaned by the Hotel staff, what a lark!!

It must have been an oversight on the part of some department to allow this jolly time to continue for so long but it came to an end in a most unfortunate manner. The three "Musketeers" managed to buy themselves an old car in which they used to trundle of up country at week-ends for a jaunt. One day they were bowling along the Galle Face road in the dark after one of these little runs with Elsby driving when they felt a bit of a bump. It wasn't the kind of bump that a brick or something hard would have made and Elsby realized that he had hit somebody who perhaps had been sleeping too near the road or in an Arak induced stupor had just dossed down in the road. Elsby was a nice kind of guy, intelligent Grammar School type and a bit of culture about him. I recall just after the War when he had got a job at the Seibe Gormans Diving Equipment factory in Carshalton or thereabouts we went to a Ballet Concert with his girl friend.

Elsby slammed on the brakes with the intention of going back and investigating what had happened. Dooley was made of different stuff, and to-day you would call him at least "street wise". "For Christ Sake, lets get out of here" yells Dooley and attempts to get at the controls. Too late, by now in those few minutes people had appeared from nowhere and there is a crowd round the car. Brown faces everywhere, nothing for it but to get out and see what can be done. The poor victim was helped into some shelter and medical assistance alerted but the Police were not called and neither were the Naval authorities. THe boys eased their way out of the situation by giving the injured man some money but if they thought it was going to be a one off payment they were mistaken. When the chap came out of Hospital he would visit the boys at the Hotel and squeeze a little more cash out of them, the threat of disclosure was always left hanging over them. Something of all this must have leaked out however as before long the "civvy" privileges came to an end and they found themselves in St Josephs with the rest of us.

Dooley, Elsbey and Vaughan would now join us on our morning run down to the Docks in the little private bus that would be driven by a Singhalese driver working the foot controls with his bare brown feet. One of the peculiar habits of the people of that part of the world is the way that everyday greetings are made. The head appears to "wobble" from side to side along the axis of the shoulder line, it isn't shaken or nodded it just "wobbles". It was always a source of great amusement to the bus load of us as we would be going down the hill to the docks to see these hundreds of coolies responding to our Wobble" with theirs and this sea of wobbling heads would ripple away up the hill.

By now we had been joined by "Lofty" Melitas. "Lofty", I can't recall his first name, but over six foot two and with an Adonis like figure complete with a huge tattoo right across his chest, the feet of Christ almost down to his naval.. He was an impressive looking fellow and although he was only just an Ordinary Seaman having not long joined the Andrew he had such charisma and leadership qualities that he almost naturally mixed it with the P.O.'s and C.P.O.'s rather than us ratings. When he went ashore he was always to be found drinking with Joe and Soapy, he was of course a married man with 4 kids and more their age anyway. The P.O.'s and C.P.O.'s had the privilege of “messing" in a large Bungalow outside the town at the back of the Football ground and Lofty would often be invited round to have a meal and join them for drinks. Dooley, Elsbey and Vaughan continued to use the "Bristol" Hotel Bar in the evenings. We would join them at the Hotel for a drink and take in the atmosphere of a Far East Colonial Hotel setting and then perhaps go out into the town and maybe see a Movie, a very apt name "Movie" in that latitude. As well as the movement on the screen there could be movement going on in the cane seat you were at upon ---BUGS. Why cane seats? They were a positive haven for these pests and unless these seats were given a good bang on the floor to dislodge these devils the backs of ones legs would be one continuous line of itchy bumps on leaving. We were of course only 6 degrees from the Equator so it was hot and fans would be whirring overhead all the time.

To get away from the heat we would sometimes take a weekend trip up-country to Kandy. I recall a week-end by train to Kandy with a ship-mate, Don "nobby" Clarke where we paid a visit to the "Temple of the Tooth" (Buddha's Tooth we suppose) and paying a little cash for some Buddhist Text on Papyrus taken from a book by one of the Yellow Robed Priests.

In the Monsoon Season it was a visual treat to see the heavy weather coming across the sea towards the shore in a great dark curtain of water heading for land together with a drop in temperature. Around the Town one could see signs of the Betel Leaf chewing habit which produces a blood red juice which is then spat out on to the pavement and the white lime paste that went with it would also be found wiped of onto the walls of the towns building at shoulder height.

Our non-European labour was the crew of 2 small coastal boats who had managed to get away from Hong-Kong. One was the S.S. Louise fitted out with a canvas awning aft manned by Malay Indians and the other was the ancient Kia Song with a Chinese crew who happily did not have the Betel habit. What they did have was an addiction to the game of Mah-Jong. They also had on board a member of the crew who was "Gay", the term not being currant at the time. He came in for a good bit of leg pulling by our crowd and he would get quite "huffy" which only amused us all the more.

We used to go back and forth to the Dockside in a small skiff which we used to scull with the aid of an oar stuck in the single rowlock at the rear of the skiff and with a one-handed swivelling motion from side to side we would get along at quite a pace.  After months of un-qualified diving it was decided to set up a proper Diving Class. A Warrant Officer arrived to run the class and the three un-qualified divers set about the lessons to get Qualified. These were "Lofty, "Jock" Christie and myself.

Christie was a Glasgow tear-away and bad tempered and un-couth with it and would take delight in kicking or thumping a native just for the sake of it.  He was sandy haired and with a skin that couldn't cope with the Tropical Sun, the tops of his shoulders were burnt to a crisp with a succession of blisters which didn't help his temper. We had to take in the theory of decompression and practice "blowing up" from down below and finishing up on the surface like the "Michelin Man". Then we would have to work out decompression times. Jock Christie wasn't too bright and the theory of the course began to get him down  and he would loose his temper and behave aggressively . This kind of temperament did not go with the job of diving and he never qualified.

Lofty Melitus on the other hand was not the type of guy who threw his weight around, he didn't need to, it was all too obvious looking at him that he could handle himself. Before joining up he had worked in the steel mills in the Darlington area, a tough job and while he wasn't aggressive in manner, he was quite conscious of his size and stature and would never let an opportunity go by without pulling the shoulders back and pushing Jesus Christ forward into someone's face.

The Bungalow bunch had quite a good life away from the general strictures of the main establishment, the only time they went there was to draw their pay. They were looked after by a retinue of servants, cook, a driver, sweepers, someone to do their dhobying and a gardener, all in the Pre-War style of Officers abroad being cosseted by the local minions. The weekends would be devoted to the usual rounds of drinking and occasionally someone banging out a tune on the old piano. One night things got badly out of hand with a fight braking out between Joe Forester and one of the other Chiefs. I can't remember the cause but it finished up on the football pitch in the early hours with these two trying to knock "seven bells" out of each other. Joe finished up very much the worse for wear being the smaller of the two and found himself in Hospital with a broken arm and a bad gash on his nose. This incident had to be covered up in some disguise so as not to alert the Officer Commanding to the wild carousing at the bungalow. The story was put out that Joe had been called out late at night to deal with a fault in one of the pumps in the Tenedos and had tripped over in the dark down the hatchway to the pump site and had been found there when he failed to return.

Whether this story was swallowed by the "Office" I couldn't say but no action was taken and the whole was allowed to dissipate. We visited Joe in Hospital while he was recovering. He was very popular with the crew and had the happy knack of always being able to raise the troops moral by concocting some story that would get us all excited and up-beat again. One of his yarns was to inform us that he had heard a "buzz" that a cargo ship was in some sort of trouble in the port of Panjim in Goa, the Portuguese territory on the Indian Coast just below Bombay. This would mean that we would have to be supplied with civilian clothes and all service identification would have to be left behind. Here we are with this wonderful vision of "civvys" again. This would keep us lively for weeks.

Some time in '43 the "City of Marseilles" bound for Madras got a bit too near the coast just off the small town of Batticaloa on the East side of the Island. To look at her as you approached from another ship you would think she was just stationary in the water perhaps waiting for a Pilot boat to come alongside but she was badly holed after hitting the coral reef and well and truly stuck there. We were given the job of getting all the cargo off her and if possible to recover her ships screws which as they were made out of Phosphor-Bronze were judged to be valuable.

The cargo consisted of machine tools packed in wooden barrels, Barrels of crockery, steel tubular scaffolding and most precious of all, a hold full of Whitbread Pale Ale. The whole ship below decks was flooded so the engine room power had to be supplied by having another ship alongside. We then had steam for the winches and electrics to supply the galley and cabin lighting. All the accommodation was in first class order, the weather was wonderful and we had endless supplies of beer so we could keep this job going nicely as long as nobody complained too loudly. By strange co-incidence the job came to an end when the beer dribbled to an end!! At the end of each working day someone would go down and bring up sufficient cases to supply the various working parties, the two ships alongside, the "City's" officers and ourselves.

The method of getting the contents of the holds was to lower a three sided wooden tray about a metre square which was attached to a wire from the winch and with the diver to weigh it down descend into the gloom of the hold and fish around for anything that one could lay hands and with a tug on the signal line up it would go and over the ships side to the waiting cargo vessel. When one was working at the extreme ends of the hold the winch wire would be at quite an acute angle because of the hatch coming and on giving the signal to haul away one would be "wooshed" along in complete darkness on the bottom of the hold just hoping that you didn't bump into anything.

It was an idyllic situation, only a mile from the shore with its palm trees waiving in the breeze. For recreation we would swim in the sea and study the tropical fish and be astounded at the Barracuda type of fish that which would attack the smaller fish swarming near the waste discharge from the ship. Some times we would go ashore to see what the other side of the palm trees looked lie and walk into Batticaloa for a sweet glass of tea. There didn't seem any hurry and in any case when we got through this job we still had the dear old Tenedos to go back to in Colombo.

One night when the ale was flowing good and frothy one of the Artificer P.O.'s made the grave error of saying that Lofty's job back in U.K. was an unskilled job. Lofty's job back home was that of a "wire drawer" and Lofty was glad to have been in that position which according to his lights was THE most important job in the foundry. A big scap developed over this innocent observation that had to spill out into the gangway, as the cabin was choc-a-bloc with guys and glasses. No permanent damage was done and I suppose the main characters in this little drama felt justified in the morning.

These evening sessions were eagerly looked forward to. We had gathered into our group one of the crew of the "City" who styled himself as the 2nd mate. I suspect he didn't have much in the way of qualifications but what he did have was the gift of the gab. Back in U.K. he had been a habitué of Soho. He could have quite easily been a prostitute's ponce or something on the shady side of London nightlife. He was a never-ending fund of the most bizarre and hair-raising stories which went on and on into the night and used to keep us on the edge of our bunks. The original slippery "wide boy". I saw him some years later after the War on the beach at Torquay where he had latched himself on to a couple of middle aged women --- still getting a living from pleasure!!
The beer finally stopped flowing and the holds were at last emptied and so after about 10 weeks in this amazing place we pushed off to do a bit of surveying of some ships that had suffered a worse fate than the "City of Marseilles" having again struck the reef and sunk. A couple of them were near Trincomalee a big natural harbour at the top of the island. On both of these we would try in vane to get the ships screws off. From memory they were held on with huge nuts about 5 inches in diameter but we could never get enough purchase on them so this precious phosphor bronze had to be left.

Both these ships had been sunk some time past and the seas had yawed and twisted their plates and where gaps had been opened up the swelling sea would move in and out and so would shoals of lovely tropical fish also move back and forth. On this particular run there were only 4 of us and the Navy had charted a Dutch vessel. It was crewed by Dutch Officers and Javanese crew. We had our quarters with the whites and ate in their mess but ate Javanese food cooked to suit the Dutchmen. The meals would be served up by the Javanese stewards and our cabins would be cleaned by these small smiling chaps, quite a novel experience for us. What impressed us was the immaculate state of the ship; everything that could be polished would positively gleam and was a delight to see. In these last few days in this paradise of wonderful weather and idyllic working conditions something happened that put a rift between Lofty and me, I don't recall the cause, it's possible that we just got on each others nerves but I found myself out of favour and seeing the rough side of his character. However it all evened out when we got back to Colombo and drew our pay which had of course mounted up to quit a tidy sum after being away for three months.

We then resumed work back on the Tenedos. We had with us at this time a C.P.O. Diver name of Tom Cox. Tom was a great believer and advocate of the practice of Yoga. he would praise its powers and how one could tackle unbelievable tasks if you were of a mind to. I recall that we suggested that he don a diving suit and go down and we would stop the pump for say 5 mins!! Needless to say the topic was dropped for the while.

Later in '43 a murder was committed in one of the bungalows that skirted the lake at the edge of the town. The murder weapon, a knife, was thought to have been thrown into the lake so a search had to be made. Three of our party including Lofty was detailed off to try and find this grisly item. It was a nasty, muddy, murky job feeling about in and among the rotting tree stumps and vegetation and I'm glad wasn't part of it but Lofty revelled in it but I don't recall the weapon ever coming to the surface.

During '43 I contracted a bout of dengue fever that everybody called "dingy" fever. I spent some time in the hills in a convalescent camp recuperating and while I was there a big effort was made to shift the Tenedos away from the Dry-Dock. A large salvage vessel was brought in to do the job called the "Salviking". The idea was to pass a couple of thick wire hawsers underneath her and strapped to the side of the Salviking they would then pass out through the harbour entrance and dump her outside out of harms way.

The skipper of the Salviking was a small stocky, cocky guy with a Captain Kettle like beard and he was forever shouting orders. I seem to recall he was Irish, we had done one or to jobs with him previously and he was always strutting about like a little bantam cock. Always immaculate in his clean whites everyday, he really was in love with himself.

They got all wired up and then started to move away from the Dry-Dock area, quite slowly at first as the Tenedos was dragged out off the bed she had been settled in these last 18 months. Then slowly towards the harbour entrance and the water becoming muddier still with the mire that constitutes the bottom. As both ships get into slightly deeper water the wires begin to twang and bang as the tension comes on to the hawsers and the slight list that the Salviking had increases. They are approaching the harbour entrance now and the list has got much greater and alarming everyone connected with the operation. Capt Kettle had had the foresight to station two blacks near the wires with oxy-acetylene burners and as it became obvious that the stability and buoyancy of the Salviking was not a match for the weight of the Tenedos he gave the order to cut the wires. With a might bang the wires parted and dear old Tenedos slipped down to the bottom again, this time in a much worse position than before. Right in the Harbour entrance now, all very humiliating, Capt Kettle wasn't so cocky for a few days.

The state of play now was that explosives would have to be used, something that the Harbour Authorities had been against up till now. But now it was urgent, nothing big could get in or out of the harbour. Ships were moved around in the harbour and some small ones went outside until it was all over. Charges were laid and after the explosions the Tenedos bits and pieces were picked over and dumped out at sea. So that was the end of the good ship Tenedos.

My time in the East was coming to an end now, I had been away for two years or more so it was back to Blighty. I arrived back in U.K. in the spring of '44 and was stationed in the main barracks at H.M.S. Drake for a while. What made me put in for a Torpedo-mans course I really could not say. I had no ambition to be an electrician which would have been the advantage of the course to civilian life in fact I had no clear idea what was going to happen after the War except that I did not want to go back to being a Grocers Assistant. The course was of 3 months duration and to my surprise I came out with sufficiently high marks that allowed my to proceed on to the next grade, the Leading Torpedo-mans course. This meant another 3 or 4 months study and all this time the War is managing to proceed without me being at the sharp end of things. By the time all this study was at an end D-Day had been and gone and the Navy's role in the War was getting less demanding. The German subs could no longer operate from Brest and things were getting easier.

Brother Cyril back in London was in his phase of spooling up Ex R.A.F. aircraft film into amateur films and when I would go on leave to Acton I would return with a small suitcase full of films to sell to the guys in the depot. Not necessarily a major contribution to Hitler's downfall but it brought a smile to many a sailor's face when I opened the case and set up my stall. This bit of "Boodle" from the film sales plus the War Service Gratuity which from memory was about £70 together with the money "earned" from the diving escapade amounted to about £400. At that time a Milkman’s wage was £5 a week so that was the equivalent to a year and a half's wage for the average working man and that would enable me to eventually set up in business on my own but that is another story.