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Please Read this, on the town of Wartime Barry
By Mike Kemble - Created 15 July 04 Updated: 13 April 2009
From Mike Smith. I was only a child born in 1940 however I have vivid memories of the war. Memories of standing on Sunderland station to meet Grandad coming home on leave. Packages all sewn into canvas, the 3 wheeled trike that he brought home from New Zealand in 1945 when I was the only kid in the street with a trike, the stories that he told (some true!). He was Master in the New Zealand Shipping Co Ltd which also owned all the Federal Steam ships as well. He was Master on the "Rangitiki" when the convoy came under attack and they ran for their lives. She had two blast injection diesels and they had been running at reduced speed for the crossing of the North Atlantic in a fast convoy. As she turned and ran for her life they were 'straddled' however they kept going and one engine had a scavenge fire. This meant reduced revs however it happened at the same time as the near miss so the attackers thought that she had been hit and switched targets! The scavenge fire went out after an hour and they ran like hell for home at 16 knots plus. Her sister the Rangitane was sunk by a German raider in the South Pacific. His son was an Electrician on board and survived and was put on to a deserted island along with many others and was rescued after a short period. The beautiful 'Rangi" sank.........
He was Master on 'Dorset' in March/April 1942 when they brought the AIF home to Australia from Egypt. I have a shell casing with an engraving on it from the Officers, NCO's and men thanking him for their safe return. 'Dorset' then loaded for home and on the way through the Caribbean running independent she surprised a U boat on the surface and chased the thing throwing depth charges every where. It is not clear who got the biggest fright, the U boat or the engineers on watch at the time! He left to go on leave and she was sunk trying to get through to Malta weeks later with heavy loss of life including the Master. 'Dorset' had a sister ship the 'Durham' which was a cadet training ship. When war broke out all the apprentices were moved throughout the fleet and she was then manned by normal crew. She too fought her way to Malta and got through and discharged her precious cargo. On the return voyage she hit a mine off Cape Bon and was reduced to 11 knots. While anchored at Gibraltar she was hit by two limpet mines and sunk in shallow water. She spent some weeks on the bottom with the water up to the tops of the engines. They refloated her and towed her home to UK and after 4 months she was back in commission and survived to be scrapped in 1965. I had the honour of serving on her during my whole apprenticeship from 1957 to 1960.
She suffered two broken crankshafts in 1958 and we were repaired in Galveston Texas over a 6 month period. The web site www.rakaia.co.uk covers the story in detail. Lessons are never learned and history repeats itself with monotonous regularity. Where is the Merchant Navy today? May be the world has moved on from those kinds of wars, maybe another like it will be all over in a flash. Thankfully I am too old now to worry and thankfully people like you are taking the time to remember those who did what they did when needed. I have to wonder if they would today. I like to think so. Regards Mike Smith. (Capt Retired).
It is the sailors book belonging to John Maddocks, who served in the Merchant Navy during and after World War 2. This is an email from his nephew Andy.
"Mike, really enjoyed your HMS Kite pages and Captain Walker stuff. Very poignant to me as my granddad Johnny Maddocks was in the navy throughout the second world war, he was on the arctic convoys and the Battle of the Atlantic, he was torpedoed twice once from the air and once from a u boat, I have his service record which inside says "duplicate, as original lost due to enemy action". This was the first torpedo attack off the coast of Ireland, He stayed on in the merchant navy till the 50s then went to work at Cammell Lairds, whilst there he took part in the Polaris trials. Of the crews that he worked with on the subs every man later died of a cancer related illness most of them died of Leukaemia, as did my granddad. I watched a documentary a few years back about the men who did the same trials down in Chatham dockyards and all the crews there died of the same cancers. These where civilian shipyard workers, who where working in radioactive conditions without any protection at all."
Memoirs of Iris and Fred Chilton
When the Second World War was declared on Sunday 3rd September 1939 I was nineteen years old and living in Liverpool with my parents and two sisters Thelma and Mavis. Thelma was fifteen and Mavis eight years old. I remember sitting around the wireless set with my family, listening to the Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, announcing that Great Britain was at war with Germany. I wondered what on earth was going to happen to us all and how soon it would be before our happy home life would be affected. I was soon to find out! A blackout was announced immediately, all the streetlights went out, no lights in shop windows were allowed and blackout curtains had to be put up in all houses and public buildings. Only dim blue lights were permitted on public transport. Woe-be-tide anyone who should show a light after dark! The Air Raid Wardens would soon rap on the door and tell you about it. We soon learned to carry a torch as Liverpool was plunged into darkness each night. Barrage balloons appeared in the sky over the city and trenches were dug in the parks and recreation grounds. Street air raid shelters were erected and Anderson shelters were provided to householders with space in their gardens. The council workmen delivered ours in pieces. It was made of corrugated iron and my father put it up with some difficulty, at the bottom of our garden and covered the top with old carpets and soil. We fitted out the inside with boxes to sit on and an old mat over the entrance. It was very cold in there in the winter and pitch black but it saved our lives on many occasions when the air raids started in earnest in 1940. The first few weeks of the war were fairly quite and we tried to carry on with our lives as usual but gradually things changed. We all had to register to prove that we were British citizens and given identity cards. People who were alien were interned. Ration books were issued. These gave everyone the same ration of foods in short supply such as butter, margarine, sugar, eggs, cheese, meat and tea. As the war progressed the food ration become smaller and smaller. Some things were hard to buy as the shopkeepers put them "under the counter" for their special friends. Items such as custard powder, sauce, coffee, jellies, and biscuits were rarely seen. Bananas and oranges disappeared for the duration of the war. Fresh fruit and vegetables were in very short supply in the cities as none were grown locally. We were told to "dig for victory". My father tried hard to grow vegetables but the Liverpool clay soil produced very meagre crops if any at all. We were forced to queue for vegetables at the greengrocers that opened for an hour or two each day and soon sold out.
Coupons were allocated to buy clothing, sweets and bread. The children at the local primary school were offered the option of evacuation to North Wales or Lancashire countryside. I will never forget the day they all went off with their little gas masks on string around their necks and their name pinned to the front of their coats. It was a very tearful departure with so many of them homesick and unhappy once parted from their families. My sister only stayed a short time and was so unhappy that she begged my parents to bring her back home. In the end they agreed. She had to suffer the trauma of the air raids but she would never consent to be evacuated again. After the children had been evacuated the place seemed very strange and lonely without the sounds of their voices playing in the street, coming, and going to school. Many of their fathers were "called up" for service in the armed forces whilst their mothers went to work in the factories making arms and war equipment. In 1940 just after my 20th birthday I too was "called up" and had to leave my office job where I was perfectly happy to work in an aircraft factory. I was trained to test "automatic pilots" that had just been invented and were being built into all the new war planes being so hastily produced at that time. The work was exacting, tedious and very boring. I had to stay there until the war ended in 1945. I worked long hours, often from 7am to 7pm, especially in 1940 to 1941. I must admit that I sometimes fell asleep at my bench after I had been kept awake the previous night by the noise of the anti-aircraft guns firing at the enemy planes. They made more noise than the explosion of the bombs and made the air raid shelter shake about. It was all very frightening. Although we had some daytime air raids, most took place at night. It was very difficult getting home from work, especially during an alert, as the tramcars stopped running whilst the driver and passengers took cover in the nearest shelter. Mostly I took the chance and walked the three miles home. With hindsight I should never have done so, as it was so easy to be hit with a piece of shrapnel and be killed. One night I fell over something in the middle of the pavement and grazed my leg. I couldn't see what it was in the dark but the next morning I went along the same pavement and in the daylight I saw that it was a machine used to slice bacon that had been blown out of the grocers shop by an exploding bomb. I remember that it stayed there several days until the council's men removed it.
One morning I missed my usual bus to work and I was fifteen minutes late clocking-in. I was stopped thirty minutes pay. Being up all night in an air raid was no excuse for being late! As the roads in and out of Liverpool from the suburbs were constantly being bombed the tram service was badly disrupted. Hugh craters in the roads and the entanglement of tramlines often meant no trams. So the factory were I worked used open-backed lorries to pick up people at certain places along the road. We would have to clamber up the tail end and sit on the floor all cramped together. Hardly an elegant way to get to work but we had to accept it and get on with it. The air raids reached their peak in 1941 when in April and May the City of Liverpool docks, railways and suburbs were bombed night after night without let up. I will never forget it if I live to be one hundred. Street after street of little dockside terraced houses were flattened. Buildings just vanished in clouds of smoke. Familiar landmarks I'd known all my life just went forever. The centre of the city was almost completely destroyed in one week. Big department stores disappeared in a pile of rubble. Incendiary Bombs left others as blackened burnt out shells. Schools, railway stations, churches, shops and houses were all reduced to a heap of bricks. People were evacuated to the countryside and housed in army tents hastily erected in the fields. Some of the people lost everything; their homes and all their belongings. But most people just stayed put and hoped for the best. Although I lived five miles from the docks I could see the huge fires burning as the warehouses and factories along the dock road were set light. The glare in the sky light up the city and the stench of the burning soap, sugar and cloth from the factories was dreadful. A black pall of smoke blotted out the sun and turned the day into night. In one week alone hundreds of people had been killed and thousands more injured. Hospitals were overflowing with the casualties and even they had been bombed causing death and injury to doctors, nurses and patients.
My father, who was a Liverpool city policeman and nearing retirement age, was on duty when the raids were at their most ferocious. He had to stay at the main Police Station and sleep in the cellar whenever he could. At one time there was a complete breakdown of public transport in and out of the city because of burst water mains, huge craters in the road and falling debris from bombed buildings. He just couldn't get home and with no telephone in our house we didn't learn for several days what had happened to him. Then one day he came home rather grubby-looking from all the dust and grime, with his arm in a makeshift sling. He had dislocated his shoulder when a blast from a nearby bomb explosion had thrown him against a brick wall. He was lucky to get out of that devastated city alive. Meanwhile, I spent long hours with my Mother and my two sisters in the Anderson Shelter while it seemed that the world was coming to an end. The ground shook beneath us as the bombs exploded one after another until I was sure that the shelter would collapse on top of us. The noise from the anti-aircraft guns that were only about one hundred yards away was ear splitting. We could hear the shrapnel hitting the top of the dustbin and the concrete yard. A stick of bombs fell hitting the house opposite. All the windows of our house and every other house in the road smashed. A bomb went in through the top of our neighbour's house and crashed down the gardens in our road were it exploded killing two people. A second fell on another house reducing it to a pile of bricks and killing four members of a young family. The third fell in the road making a huge crater, "big enough to put a horse and cart into" as my father said afterwards. The family of six who lived in the house across the road was sitting down to supper when they heard the bombs falling. They all ran into the street, something we were told never to do but it saved their lives. All the furniture and ceiling from the upstairs of their house fell onto the table were moments before they had all been sitting. Strangely, the house roof was still intact although there was a gaping hole right through the house. It took us some time before we could clean up all the dreadful mess. We had to have all the broken windows boarded up again. It had not been long since we had repaired them from the previous bomb damage. Then we had the blast from a landmine that fell onto an underground shelter. It killed nearly everyone in it, including some of my friends.
Our house was very badly damaged that time. When we eventually emerged from the shelter when it became day light, we could see that all the windows had been blown in again, the kitchen back door was blown off it's hinges and was halfway down the hallway. The front door was in the front garden and all the banisters up the stairs had been broken to bits. All the dishes in the kitchen were smashed, as were the mirrors, pictures and photographs in glass frames. The food in the kitchen larder was covered in grey dust and the beds were the same and sprinkled with plaster from the ceilings. The furniture downstairs was covered with soot from the chimneys and had shards of glass stuck in the upholstery. The whole house was one grey dusty mess. There were no lights to switch on that night and no curtains to draw across the windows as they were in shreds, so we all went back to the air raid shelter and tried to sleep there. Once again we had escaped physical injury and were thankful for that but it was something I'll never forget. I remember seeing a tramcar on end in a huge bomb crater outside Lime Street Railway Station in the centre of Liverpool. The back end of the tram was pointing straight up towards the sky together with the tramlines. When shop fronts were blown out the shopkeepers would just board-up the windows and open up the next morning with the sign "Business as Usual" chalked up on the boards. Liverpool people never lost their sense of humour throughout the hard times. I once saw the words "Cauliflower's for sale - Hire Purchase Taken" chalked on a board outside a greengrocer's shop. That tickled me. They were in such short supply and so expensive that many people could not afford to buy them. Despite everything we still went to work, queued up for food and tried to carry on life as best we could as a family. It wasn't all gloom and doom. Throughout the air raids we still went out dancing and to the cinema. If it became too dangerous we took shelter then resumed when the "all clear" siren sounded. We had picnics in the parks in the summer and trips to the seaside, over the River Mersey on the ferryboats. Some of the beaches were mined and had big notices to say that it was a prohibited area but some were quite safe to use.
Liverpool in wartime was the headquarters of the Naval Western Approaches Fleet and the base for numerous Royal Navy ships therefore the city was full of young sailors. The dance halls and pubs were their favourite haunts when shore leave provided a short respite from the dreadful times they were having at sea. German U-boats were sinking so many ships all around our coast. In the Atlantic Ocean, where the convoys of merchant ships were trying to bring vital supplies of food and war materials to England, it was especially bad. Large convoys only had two destroyers to protect them from the enemy and the slow moving cargo ships made easy targets. The U Boats were so successful at sinking our ships that by the spring of 1941 food was running so short we only had a few weeks supplies remaining. The food that did get through was stored in the dockside warehouses awaiting distribution but these were frequently bombed and all the food would be destroyed. The U-boat aces where national heroes in Germany, much decorated, young and arrogant. They thought that it was just a manner of time before we would be beaten into submission. But then things changed dramatically in March 1941. H.M.S. Vanoc (H33) and H.M.S. Walker (D27), two old WW1 destroyers, were escorting a large convoy of merchant ships from America bound for Liverpool when they located two U Boats very near to them in waters off Iceland and they went in for the kill. My husband, Fred Chilton, was a young sailor aboard H.M.S. Vanoc on the 17th March 1941 and this is his account of what happened.
Personal Account of Convoy Life
"H.M.S. Vanoc and H.M.S. Walker were part of an escort group of naval ships that were escorting a large convoy of merchant ships from mid Atlantic to Liverpool. From 12th March onwards the convoy was attacked by a pack of German U-boat submarines. Many of the merchant ships had been torpedoed and sank with a heavy loss of life. The senior officer of the 5th Naval Escort Group was Donald McIntyre, captain of H.M.S. Walker. After consultation with Commander J.G.W.Deneys, captain of H.M.S. Vanoc, he decided to leave the convoy with the other escort ships and go to hunt the U- boats that had caused such havoc. I remember on the night of 16th March, Jackie Oldfield, our leading telegraphist, coming into the wireless office and suggesting that we didn't change our clothes when we turned in. He thought that we should be ready for "action stations" as the Vanoc and Walker had steamed away from the convoy to search out the U-boats. The next thing that I remember, in the early hours of the morning of 17th March, was being called to action stations in the wireless office. Apparently, the Vanoc and Walker had ASDIC contacts with the U-boats that appeared to be in close proximity. The two destroyers circled in the water, taking it in turns to drop depth charges in the area were the submarines had been located. I was in the wireless office, which was on the deck underneath the bridge, so I could not see what was actually happening but I knew that our ship was dropping depth charges. (This was actually the first successful "radar" sinking - overcast conditions meant that radar found the U boat and not lookouts - mk).
The next thing I remember was a terrible crashing noise and everyone in the wireless office was thrown about. We all thought that the Vanoc had been torpedoed as the ship toppled over at an alarming angle. However, the lights stayed on and after some time the ship gradually righted itself. Meanwhile, Petty Officer Walter Edney had already started to put the confidential papers into the weighted bag ready to thrown overboard if needs be. My instant reaction was to inflate my life belt that we always wore on the body when at action stations. After the ship had returned to an even keel I could hear a lot of noise and commotion coming from the upper deck and on the bridge so I went out of the wireless office to see what was happening. I could hear men in the sea shouting and calling for help. Our searchlights were scanning the water trying to see them in the blackness. Our crew flung nets over the side of the ship to try to help the German sailors in the sea to climb up the nets to safety. I realised by then that the Vanoc had rammed the U-boat. While the survivors were being picked up the Vanoc was stationary and it was very vulnerable from attack from other U-boats in the vicinity. The Walker circled around us to try to offer protection from attack. It was very difficult to pick up survivors and we only managed to save one officer and five ratings from the sea. I learned later that the submarine that we had sunk was the U100, captained by the famous 29-year-old U-boat ace Joachim Schepke.
The U-boat was about 1000 yards from the Vanoc after the depth charges were used and it was forced to surface when it was badly damaged. It was then located by the ships new radar system and the order was given to make full speed ahead and to ram. The Vanoc hit the submarine at full force in the middle by the conning tower. The men near the conning tower were flung into the sea. When the Vanoc rammed the U-boat the captain was standing near the tower and he was unable to get away before the Vanoc's bows crashed into his boat at right angles. He had both his legs severed and his body fell into the sea. The U-boat then sank with the rest of the crew still on board. The six survivors were made prisoners of war aboard Vanoc and they considered themselves lucky to be alive. A short time later the Walker received another ASDIC contact with a second U-boat and Vanoc was ordered to join Walker to locate the submarine and to drop depth charges. Before long the depth charges found the target and badly damaged U99 surfaced. This time all but three of the crew were picked up and taken on board HMS Walker. The U-boat sank and the German sailors were made prisoners of war. The captain of the second U-boat, was Otto Kretschmer, another U-boat ace, young and much decorated by Hitler for so much success in sinking merchant ships.
In one memorable night, 17th March 1941, two of Germany's ace U-boat commanders were put out of action. One killed and the other taken prisoner for the duration of the war. The Vanoc and Walker rejoined the convoy of the remaining merchant ships and smaller navel ships and reached Liverpool a few days later without further incident. As we drew up to Princes Landing Stage we were welcomed by a group of high ranking naval officers from Western Approaches Headquarters that was based in the Liver Buildings (This is incorrect - HQ Western Approaches were in Derby House nearby - mk) overlooking the River Mersey. The German sailors were taken ashore and sent off to prisoner of war camps. The five ratings on the Vanoc had slept and ate with us in our mess and were able to converse with one of our men who could speak a little German. They were treated well and were no trouble. When they left the ship we gave them a small package of chocolate each. As they left the ship and walked down the landing stage they turned and waved farewell to us on board. The one officer turned and made the nazi salute. They were all convinced that Germany would win the war in a matter of months but as we all know now they were very wrong. They would have spent many years in a prison camp before being allowed to return to Germany at the end of the war.
As the bows of the Vanoc were badly damaged when it rammed the U-boat we were all given four weeks leave when she was repaired in dock. After our leave we rejoined the ship in Liverpool and continued to do convoy duty in the North Atlantic for the rest of 1941."
Captain Walker's Statue. Nearby, on Liverpool's Pier Head, is
the Merchant Naval Memorial (below) for all the lads lost at sea.
News Item From The Ministry of Defence
The lifeboat was in the water 175 miles north of the Russian coast for four days. The seas were mountainous and blizzards swept in from the Arctic. The air temperature was an average 10 degrees below freezing. On the first day there were 35 men alive in the boat. By day four, there were 17. They were licking ice to stay alive. Bill Short was one of the survivors. When a Russian minesweeper stumbled across the lifeboat and the men were hauled to safety, they found ice crystals had formed in his stomach. The men who had drunk whisky, believing it would keep them warm, instead felt even colder. Some had fallen asleep as fatigue and cold mixed with the alcohol and died where they sat, knee deep in water. Now 84, Short remembers the day in 1942 the U-boat torpedo hit the SS Induna when he was serving in the Arctic convoys in one of the Merchant Navy ships that kept Russia supplied with a lifeline of aviation fuel, aircraft and kit.
With Germany rampant in Europe, a victory in the east would have allowed Hitler to concentrate all his forces on the western front. Next year is the sixtieth anniversary of the final Arctic convoy and the Government, weeks ahead of the D-Day commemorations, faces embarrassment over what has become known as the forgotten campaign. Russia will hold a commemorative ceremony in Murmansk and Arkhangelsk, where the men who served on the convoys are still welcomed as heroes. They will be awarded a medal for their work, the third from the Russian government. From the British Government, there will be nothing. 'I don't consider myself a hero,' Short said. 'I was just one of the many who kept that route open. All we want now is recognition.' Short was so badly infected with gangrene when he made shore in Murmansk that both legs had to be amputated. In a procedure known as a 'guillotine', his legs were sliced from his body with no anaesthetic. Short passed out from the pain and was delirious for three days. He stayed in the stinking hospital, overwhelmed with casualties from the eastern front, for months.
In May thousands of ex-servicemen are expected in London for a demonstration demanding that the surviving members of the Arctic convoys, many of whom were teenagers fresh from school, are awarded a medal from the Ministry of Defence. A petition signed by more than 30,000 people will be presented to Downing Street. Of the five major sea campaigns during the Second World War, only those who served in the Arctic have yet to be officially marked. Veterans blame Cold War politics for the Government's unwillingness to recognise Britain's help to the Soviet Union. 'A lot of high-ranking politicians could not stomach recognising that we had helped a country that had so quickly become our enemy,' said Commander Eddie Grenfell, 84.
Prime Minister Tony Blair has now said that he will review the situation, offering a glimmer of hope to the 2,000 remaining veterans of the Arctic convoys. Graham Allen, the backbench Labour MP, is leading a growing number of MPs demanding that a medal is awarded. 'We were successful in getting the Suez boys their medals, and hopefully we can do the same for the last remaining big group of lads awaiting recognition,' he said. Hundreds of convoys left Liverpool and the Clyde ports carrying supplies. In all, 22,000 aircraft and 13,000 tanks were taken to Russia through the treacherous seas north of Scandinavia. The boats often had little protection from fleets of U-boats patrolling the Barents Sea or from the Luftwaffe. Convoys of between 30 and 40 would be escorted by a few British destroyers.
During the worst attacks more than half the boats in a convoy would be sunk. Because many were carrying aviation fuel, a strike from a torpedo would create a huge fireball, leaving men with little hope of escape. 'It is so unjust that the British Government has not acted,' said Grenfell. 'At the time, when Russia had its back to the wall, it was a vital route. We helped them keep back the Germans, which meant that they couldn't deploy the whole of their vast army to the Channel coast. The Arctic convoy was the most important campaign of the war and it has been ignored by the Government.'
When the convoys finally landed in Murmansk and Arkhangelsk, they were less than 20 miles from the front line. The British injured were often treated in horrific conditions alongside casualties from the Red Army. 'It is bloody abysmal that nothing has been awarded,' said Jock Dempster, 74, who joined the convoys when he was 16. 'Successive governments have promised they will act, but they never do. They have let people down.'
In June, Britain will rightly commemorate the D-Day landings. But we should not forget that it was the efforts of those who sailed north through treacherous waters that made it possible for the Allies to retake the European continent. Yet these very men have never received proper recognition. Medals have been awarded in each of the four other major sea campaigns - the Pacific, Burmese Waters, Mediterranean and Atlantic. But those who braved the Arctic have not yet been accorded the same honour. The Government should rectify this injustice as soon as possible.
I was reading a book by Paul Kemp entitled "Convoy! Drama in The Arctic." (1993). Some interesting points are coming to light. One such is that although the Arctic convoys received a lot of publicity and are quite rightly recognised as highly dangerous, the worst enemy was not the Germans based in Norway, not their aircraft nor their capital ships, but the weather. Ships capsized due to the overbearing ice forming on their decks and rigging. Ships were scattered by the horrendous gales that lashed these northern seas, many succumbing to disintegration due to the conditions. But so saying, very few ships were actually lost to enemy action. Convoys on the Malta runs sustained 50% casualties in one case whereas convoys on the Arctic runs to Russia - Of 41 convoys (PQ) that made the trip, 30 made the passage unmolested whilst of the 34 homeward bound convoys (QP), 24 returned without loss.
15 July 04: Received this email today. Mike, really enjoyed your HMS Kite pages and Captain Walker stuff. Very poignant to me as my granddad Johnny Maddocks was in the navy throughout the second world war, he was on the arctic convoys and the Battle of the Atlantic, he was torpedoed twice once from the air and once from a u boat, I have his service record which inside says "duplicate, as original lost due to enemy action". This was the first torpedo attack of the coast of Ireland, He stayed on in the merchant navy till the 50s then went to work at Cammell Lairds, whilst there he took part in the Polaris trials. Of the crews that he worked with on the subs every man later died of a cancer related illness most of them died of Leukaemia, as did my granddad. I watched a documentary a few years back about the men who did the same trials down in Chatham dockyards and all the crews there died of the same cancers. These where civilian shipyard workers, who where working in radioactive conditions without any protection at all.
Although it mainly touches upon post war, it gives another small insight into the hard lives of these men.
The USS Steelworker was sunk in
WW2 in the Kola Inlet. In the early 90s, Russian divers recovered this telegraph
and inscribed it and presented it to
Dunbar Castle lies in the English Channel, victim of a mine. Possibly 152 people lost their lives. 9th January 1940.
On a forum for "Scousers"; the people of Liverpool, I found this post and it refers to a song about the Merchant Sailor. I do not know what "tune" it is sung to but it reflects the hardships and stress that our civilian sailors went through in world war two and is very appropriate. Its origin is unknown but my thanks to "Ben Boat Jim" for bringing it into the light of day for us all.
OWEN WILLIAMS who sailed on board W.B.WALKER
The W.B. Walker was a 10,468 tonne oil tanker with a crew of 41. In January 1941, she was in convoy HX101 heading the 8th column (SC19) sailing out of Halifax, Nova Scotia bound for Liverpool, England, with a full cargo of aviation fuel. On board was crewmember Owen Williams, who was my Mothers brother, my uncle. Owen was the third youngest of thirteen children born to Daniel and Ann Williams. He was also one of five of siblings to serve in the Second World War. Sadly he was the only one not to return home. Daniel and Peter joined the Army, Harry joined the Navy with Owen and their sister Joan also joined the army as a mechanical engineer. Daniel was a Prisoner of War in Japan, and was not found until 1947, when he was rescued and brought back to England. Harry was a deep-sea diver and acetylene welder, often repairing holed ships whilst they were still at sea. He had joined the Royal Navy, but was invalided out due to a hearing problem, weather this was caused by a previous bomb blast or not I am not too sure. What I do know is that Owen then joined the Merchant Navy and was accepted as a crewman on the W.B.Walker. German U-Boats attacked the convoy on the night of 29th January 1941, and U-Boat U93, who was to claim four ships in the convoy that night, struck the W. B. Walker amid ships at 03.55 hours. The tanker stayed afloat, even though she was very badly holed. All who were alive were taken off the ship and rescued. Only four crewmen lost their lives, and Owen Williams was one of those lost at sea that night. An account by a Liverpool man, James Griffith was broadcast on T.V. about five years ago (2000), and was also recorded in the book “Battle of Atlantic” published in 1993 by Picton Press. (No longer publishing) In his account he recalled volunteering to re board the stricken vessel, to try to salvage her, and her precious cargo of aviation fuel, which was much needed by the aircraft here in England. Much of the fuel had leaked out of the ship and the cruel sea had already taken its toll on the vessel, making any attempt to tow her home impossible, and they again had to abandon her. Soon after she was to break her back and sink to the bottom of the ocean, in an area known to shipping as Rockall, location 56N/15.23W.
October 2009. UK TV Channel 4 recently ran a series of documentaries on the Battle of the Atlantic. And never has such drivel been written about this than anywhere else! According to the programme makers the Americans deciphered Enigma (Tell that to the scientists at Bletchley Park from where we passed on all relevant intercepts to the Americans. Also the Americans invented the Hunter Killer Group and, along with the Canadians, won the Battle of the Atlantic!!! Mind blowing rubbish! Captain Johnnie Walker RN, not even mentioned in the programme, was the successful 'inventor' of this concept. He operated this highly successful Group whilst the Americans sat on their fun fairs on Coney Island, eating their hot dogs, being watched by the very U Boat commanders, loitering offshore, on the surface, that the Americans had supposedly vanquished. Indeed, it was Bletchley Park who warned the USA that several U Boats were now en-route to the Eastern Seaboard to attack US shipping, the Americans did nothing! And 500 ships and crews were lost as a direct consequence. If this programme is an example of the Channel 4 researchers, they should be sacked as completely trivialising the role played by the Royal Navy, The Merchant Navy and our own Code Breakers. The whole programme was a complete fabrication from beginning to end.