Getting Started


These are my father's rough notes of his war time experiences. It is safe to say he would never have expected them to appear one day on a website! But he did toy with the idea of publishing something, and once he asked if I would help.

Introduction: -

Date of joining Navy, St. Vincent, 7th. November 1939. Age 18 1/2.

Already had been offered a short service Commission which was cancelled when war broke out. I was given the option of waiting until I was called up or joining St. Vincent as an ordinary seaman. I joined No. 9 course which was the Anson course. We spent a month at St. Vincent learning knots, semaphore, Morse code, Sea Nav. parade bashing etc. - and forget about flying, you are in the Navy. There were 62 on the course mostly young school leavers.

2 failed this course and the rest of us were divided into two groups. One went to Sydenham in Belfast and the other to Castle Bromwich in Birmingham. E.F.T.S. At Sydenham we flew Miles Magisters and our Instructors were all R.A.F. personal - Forget you are Navy. For the next 6 months you are in the R.A.F. So we completed our E.F.T.S. at Sydenham and those who passed went on to Peterborough to F.T.S. training. Here the two groups joined forces again and we flew Hawker Hart variants and Fairey Battles. At the end of the course the survivors went to Abbotsinch in Scotland for Advanced training and this is where we returned to the Navy. After this course I was posted to Arbroath where I flew Skua's, Roc's, Sharks all Blackburn a/c, but I also flew a Gloster Gladiator. What a marvellous airplane.

I was then posted abroad and told to report to the S.S. Salween in Gurrock. This turned out to be a small Indian boat smelling of curry but full of Navy and Marine officers. Just before we sailed I was told I was being transferred to another ship as I was the most junior on board and room had to be found for a Marine officer who had just joined. I was hustled aboard a Lighter and taken to this wonderful great Liner the Scythia, which had just come off the American run. It turned out I was the only Naval Officer taking passage so I was given a four-birth 1st class cabin to myself. The rest of the ship was taken up with Army and R.A.F. personal. That was some journey, but I won't bore you with it now.

On arrival in Egypt, three months later, I was posted to a holding squadron at Dekhalia [Dekheila], just outside Alexandria. Squadrons used to disembark here from Carriers. I was posted to Illustrious, she was damaged off Crete. I was then posted to Malta to 830 Squadron. I was told to report to No.3 gate and report to the C.O. H.M.S. Cachalot, which was one of the largest submarines in service. At that time she was being used to carry fuel and passengers such as myself to Malta. The prospect did not please me at all. However we duly sailed and I spent the next 7 days and nights in the Wardroom in my underpants and sleeping on the padded bench round the table. It was a pleasure to go up in the conning tour on watch.

We duly arrived in Malta and I reported to my Squadron to be greeted with 'Oh good. Go and air test your A/c, you are flying tonight.' My first opp. I was told to follow my flight commander and do as he did. (Describe opp.------)

We were supposed to fly 2 nights on and 1 night off. This we seldom did as a result of casualties we often flew 3 & 4 nights in a row. Most of the time we were searching out and attacking Convoys with torpedoes or dropping mines off Tripoli or bombing selected targets in Sicily. Our tour of duty was 6 months. If you survived you would receive a medal. No medals during the 6-month period.

In November I had completed 5 months. On the 11th. a large convoy was reported by our Bowler Hat man [ie intelligence, probably Enigma] to be steaming off Pantelleria. Two of us had already flown on opps the previous 4 nights, and one pilot was required as a new aircraft had been delivered. We tossed up I lost. There was a howling gale blowing when we took off. 9 aircraft, the leading aircraft was the C.O. an Observer.

Reduce, concentrate on Escape.

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