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"A Signal man travels to Canada and beyond"

by nottinghamcsv

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Archive List > Royal Navy

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Hughie Sharpe
Location of story: 
Canada, South Africa and the Atlantic.
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
27 September 2005

"This story was submitted to the People's War site by CSV/BBC Radio Nottingham on behalf of Hughie Sharpe with his permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions."

I am 85, and was just 21 when the following incident happened. As the Royal Corps of signals man posted abroad, I was aboard the liner Warwick Castle in a convoy en route for the Far East when on the night of August 6th 1941 our ship was in collision with another troopship in the convoy, the Windsor Castle. Our ship was too badly damaged about its prow to continue at the speed of the rest of the convoy which had, of course to sail on. So we were stuck alone in Mid-Atlantic, a sitting target for the Germany Navy. But as we were limping very, very slowly towards Canada, a United States cruiser came to our rescue and shepherded us in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Luckily the ocean was calm. The US was not in the War at that stage (it was five months before Pearl Harbour). We cheered when the cruiser appeared on the horizon with a huge banner on its side reading 'United States of America' to warn off German marauders. When we docked in Halifax and were musteres on the quayside, we saw how badly damaged the prow of our ship was, it kept afloat thanks to its strong bulkheads, the sailors told us.
We had a wonderful time in Canada. They took us to a town called Kentville, Nova Scotia where the locals gave us splendid hospitality (wonderful food after UK war-time rations), as did the Canadian Army where we were billeted.
The P & O liner Stratheden (then a troop ship) called at Halifax to pick up the ship load off the Warwick Castle, and we sailed on September 27th, we sailed first down to Trinidad, and then across the South Atlantic to Cape Town where we were allowed off ship, and where some chaps deserted. They were recaptured and taken to the next port of call, Durban, and put back on ship. But because of the desertions at Cape Town, no one was allowed leave to go on shore in Durban.
We finally reached Suez in Mid-November (the 14th my diary says) having been en route since sailing from Greenock on July 29th. I was in the North African campaign until 1943, and then over to Italy. They told us that had we stayed with the original convoy, we would have gone tothe Far East. So maybe that collision saved us from the Japs!

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