Updated: 19 May 2009

MGB 357

On May 5th 2008, I received an email from Delia Palmer & Peggy Barrow - Peggy's husband Douglas, Delia's dad, died on 15th June 2007. This page is dedicated in his memory. Theirs was the generation where you suffered in silence.  However they also shared a great comradeship - which helped get them through. I think we owe it to them to remember them and I'm so pleased that there are people, like you out there who are helping to do just that - Delia.


MGB 357 - 1943

We're researching  information about our late father/husband's motor gun boat that he served on during WW11, mostly in the Aegean.  We haven't found any information about MGB357 apart from the information that we were able to glean off him and the few photos he had of that time.

Dad, Douglas Barrow, had always wanted to write a book about his experiences and those of the other young men he served with, but sadly he was struck down with liver ca last year and passed away on 15/6/2007. During his final few months Dad was constantly recounting bits and pieces from his life over the last 80 years and much of these, (by then disjointed snippets) were harking back to his wartime service.  He constantly referred back to the "Admiral being on board".

We know that this did actually occur but don't know all of the details.  The information we do have is that Admiral Turner  wanted to traverse the Corinth Canal and their MGB  was chosen. He (the admiral) was alone...no ADC and Dad, being the "sparks" of the boat, was his only means of communication. Dad reckoned MGB 357 must have been the smallest boat to fly an Admiral's Flag. Dad told us he was with the SBS (Secret Boat Service) and that they were involved in dropping off (and picking up) commandos.

I don't know why we can't find information on MGB 357 - unless maybe its missions were so covert that information still hasn't been released? Dad did subscribe to the Coastal Forces Association and corresponded with a few people who had also served on MGBs but I think he only found 1 person that he had actually served with, that being "Taffy" Lewis.  I believe that the story "Ill met by Moonlight was based on an actual mission that my father was part of.

I do know that 357 was a Fairmile class boat - we have had it suggested that it might have been called an MTB but Dad used to seem fairly adamant that it was an MGB (also, although I've read of others refering to these type of boats as "dog boats" that is a term I never heard dad use when talking of his boat.) I also realise that my father was obviously profoundly affected by the responsibility of his position of w/t op and that it was something that stayed with him the rest of his life. Anyway we would appreciate any information you might be able to find, especially about Vice Admiral Sir R.E. Turner being on board.

Doug wrote that they had delivered some SBS commandos to Crete and, in a jet black night, were unloading them onto a float: Delia, Doug's daughter, tells me, dad wrote - "How can I express the feeling of pressing a Commando's hand and saying 'Good Luck Mate' as he went over the side of our boat to carry out an operation.  It's a jet black night, the boat rolled one way - the carney float he was stepping into rolled the other way just as he stepped out - no sound except a little 'plop' - a young man's life had just been taken - 'NO TIME FOR TEARS'  a whispered order "next one over HURRY UP', I'm crying inside now - but who'd know?"

 
Crew with the SBS Commando's on the Bofors gun on their way to Crete


One of the late Douglas Barrow (Sparks) on MGB 357's Aldis lamp


MGB 357 Crew

Top left to right (back row): S/L Angus C. Adams, Stk Ellis, A.B. Lewis, W/T Op. BARROW, A.B. Mill; Stk 'ish' Kibbible, Lt Dongrey;
(middle row) A.B. Chant; A.B. Longman; A.B. Woods; A.B. Davies; A.B. Wilson;
(front row) E.R.A. Barnard; A.B. Hodges; A.B. Malloy; A.B. Jackson; Coxswain P.V. Worral (plus there was one other seaman - either Gunner A.B. Savage or A.B. Weaver
who only went on one trip).

Those not shown on the photo are: "Mush" Routledge, Leading Gunner (Senior Rating); "Ping" Lindsey (Watchkeeper) and "Sandy" Saunders (Chef).

MGB 357  Football Team

"Ish" Kibbible, "Bob" Mills, "Ping" Lindsay, "Mush" Routlage, "Blondie" Longden, "Sparks" Barrow (my Dad - Douglas) and "Taffy" Lewis. Front row (left to right) Cox'n "Wog" Warrell, "Yanto" Chant, "Wanker" Malloy and "Burglar" Ellis. These are the names my Dad had written on the back of this photo - apologies for some of the nicknames - but I guess lads will be lads and they weren't too politically correct in those days and circumstances. Dad had also written in the "reserves" (not pictured): Skipper Lt. Com. Dongray......too old; 1st Lieut Angus C. Adams....too slow, but a champion swimmer; Chief Motor Mechanic F. Barnard; Tubby Owens, Stoker; Geodrie Jackson, Flunky; Spuggie Alderson A.B.; Tug Wilson, A.B; Dai Davies A.B. (Poacher).

Dad titled this photo as being the Crew and Football Team M.G.B. 357 (Aegean 1944) and also that they played and BEAT 2nd team of H.M.S. DIDO (Cruiser) 2 - 1


Peggy Barrows' husband is far right. Having a bite to eat in the cabin.
 


Coxn Peter Worrell & Chief Mechanic Fred Barnard (possibly in Alexandria) on board MGB 357


Manning the guns on 357

Some of 357's crew, possibly in Alexandria, Egypt. (Doug is in the back row, 3rd from the right.)

December 2008: First of all my thanks to Margaret Barrow for the wonderful donation to the site. It will be put to good use come the Spring here in the northern hemisphere. Margaret has sent me something that her late husband drafted up in the undated past. I hope you like it:

Payback in Alexandria

by Douglas Barrow D/JX 340355

In 1943/44 the 42nd M.G.B. Flotilla returned to C.F.B. H.M.S. Mosquito, Ras-el-Tin, Alexandria. I was the W/T Op aboard M.G.B. 357. Our Skipper, the Flotilla S.O; had dispersed the remainder of the M.G.B.s and M.T.B.s before we left the combat area of the Aegean where we’d operated for 2 or 3 months, refueling at Kastelorosso and sheltering in Turkish inlets. By the time we reached base, the rest of the flotilla had been able to collect their pay and start enjoying well earned shore leave. The Tel off the M.G.B. alongside us came aboard and said “Will you be able to get ashore tonight?” “Yes” I said, “but we’ve not been paid yet.” He offered me a loan, which I gleefully accepted and off we went. It was a good night out - Feast at the Fleet Club, followed by a session of Tombola, a few drinks and a floor show. A beaut run ashore.

It was arranged we’d meet the next day at the same table where we’d played Tombola and I could repay my loan. The next day I made sure of our table and reserved a seat for my “oppo” with my gas mask. The place soon filled up and the only remaining seats were at my table including my “reserved”. Two 3 badge Hookies and a 3 badge came up to me and asked was I waiting for a mate? I said “yes, but I’d given up on him coming”, so they asked if they got another chair could they join me? That was fine by me, so we settled down to drink and play Tombola. Chatting, they soon knew all about me and, as soon as I mentioned Ras-el-Tin (C.F.B.), they didn’t allow me to buy another card or a drink (Stella Beer).

Time passed and I noticed that the glasses on our table were filled as soon as they emptied. I asked the Stripey sifting next to me “Where’s the beer coming from?” He put his finger to his lips and said “shush”. Behind us, I think it was part of the crew of either Turbulent or Truculent; they’d come ashore in a group, placed a load of tables next to each other and sat facing each other, must have been about 60 of them. They’d also stacked dozens and dozens of Stella under the tables and were drinking and playing away. Most of them must have been well “primed” even before coming into the Fleet Club. So there it was....my new ‘oppo’ old Stripey had been recognised by a fellow 3 badger from the tables behind us who’d said “you’d better help these poor sods out” and with that he’d been doling out their beer to us.

I’d just worked this arrangement out and thought it pretty good, when behind me there was a loud howl a matelot had suddenly realised what was going on. As he roared his anger, he jumped up, upsetting his table and chair. I spun round (I used to be quite a bit quicker in those days) to see him raising a bottle to crown me with. Instinctively I grabbed my chair and was able to thwart him by getting in the first strike. I’m sure that if he’d been sober I would have been history. As it was, my new friends bustled me out, saying “we’re dead if we stay”.

We heard ALL HELL broke loose after we left. Glasses, bottles, chairs and tables all becoming missiles as some 2,000 Servicemen sought to relieve their pent up nerves by instinctive survival reaction and settling of outstanding grievances. It was truly bedlam.

I returned to base, met my ‘Oppo’ the next day, repaid my loan and asked him why he’d not turned up the night before. He said he was late getting there and wasn’t able to get in. He said “I’m glad I didn’t because there was a big riot and police from all services were called in! Were you mixed up in it?” I told him the story.

Next day I was told to report to the Skipper. Full of apprehension I duly reported and the Skipper invited me in to the Wardroom, put me at ease and said “Sparks, how is it you’re the lowest paid man on board this vessel? Why is it you’re still only an Ord/Tel?” I explained I could only be advanced in rating by sitting a W/T examination conducted on a major ship or bases with adequate facilities. I had never had the opportunity because on completing my initial training, I volunteered for Coastal Forces, where I took a radar course aboard H.M.S. Attack, from there a course on Motor Launches, then a toughening up course at Fort William. On completion I was drafted to M.G.B. 326 as a trainee operator for about 6 months doing the “Z” patrol in “E’ boat alley and the occasional Cloak and Dagger run as well as escort to M.L. mine layers around the Channel Isles. I lived very rough on 326, my only bed was a mess deck table, the only chance of a bunk was when its occupant was on watch, on leave or sick. In all this time I never had the opportunity to apply for an examination.

1. I didn’t know how to apply.

2. I was never in the same place long enough to find out.

3. No-one thought of telling me.

The Skipper, a volunteer, by occupation was a Solicitor and a very respected yachtsman, heard my tale of woe, asking the odd question now and then. Before he dismissed me he asked when would I like to sit an examination. I answered “Tomorrow would be fine sir.”

The next morning I was told to report to H.M.S. Canopus, the main R.N. Base, at 9 am. I don’t know how he managed it, but in 24hours he’d arranged a W/T exam for all Ord/Tels for advancement to Telegraphist. With 20 other ratings, who I didn’t recognise, I fronted up to the C.P.O. Tel who took the exam. He explained the procedure etc, then said “Right boys, go to it, you’ve got 2 hours, you can leave when you are satisfied, then this afternoon we’ll do the Buzzer Test.” It was at this time I noticed he’d got a beaut black eye.

I picked up my paper and my heart sank, in all honesty I don’t think I could have answered one question. It was all about Fleet Procedure and types of different radio, receivers and transmitters. In fact it was advanced stuff I’d struggled with in my first training days. Since those days I’d only had small ship procedures and coding etc.

So I wrote my name and details on the paper.. put 2 heavy lines through the paper, re-read it, then walked up to the C.P.O. Tel and handed it to him. “Why this?” he asked, so I told him. He nodded his head and looked at me very hard. Then he said “you were at the Fleet Club the other day?” I said “Yes.” “So was I” he said, and pointed to his eye! and it’s all your fault! So go and sit down ‘til everyone else is finished.”

Eventually I got back aboard and requested to see the Skipper. I told him what had happened (not including the Fleet Club bit). The upshot was, the C.P.O. Tel. had agreed it was not a fair test for Coastal Force Ratings and he would recommend that a Special Test for C.F. Base Tels should be arranged. My Skipper must have been happy with my work, because I was immediately given the Telegraphist Rating, and next time in Alex I sat the special test and was promoted to Tel.T.O. having excelled in Flashing, Flag signaling and recognition of hoists as well as passing with V.G. in all aspects of W.T. work and procedures including use of Special Coding.

So in my own way, I title my tale:

“PAYBACK IN ALEXANDRIA”

• I only wanted to repay a loan

• The Jack who swung the first blow only wanted to repay the thieving of his beer.

• The Rating who slugged the Chief P.O. only wanted to repay his hatred of chiefs in general.

• The Chief P.O. Tel only wanted to repay the Tel. O.D. responsible for all the above.

This he did with sympathy and understanding, and my admiration for men like him has never diminished, and never will.

Those men were the backbone of the Navy

It certainly wasn't "Ice Cold in Alex" on that particular trip was it? - mk

A memoir of SIM Doug Barrow DIJX 340355 Tel To M.G.B. 357

See also: http://www.worldnavalships.com/forums/showthread.php?p=53248

Some Family Shots


Peggy & Doug                                                       Doug Talks to HRH Prince Phillip                                                              


Family photo


Doug Barrow - not the 357 in the image, but shows conditions sometimes met


This is the ML 357 st St Orsyth, near Clacton on Sea. I am unsure if she is the same vessel just mislabelled as ML instead of MGB
She is on this site here

http://www.simplonpc.co.uk/Fairmile-B_ML357.html