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A Twist of Fate

by ateamwar

You are browsing in:

Archive List > Royal Navy

Contributed by 
ateamwar
People in story: 
Kevin Kelly (of Bootle, Liverpool) on behalf of Mr Hennessey and Mr George Smart
Location of story: 
Greenland, The Atlantic and Singapore.
Background to story: 
Army
Article ID: 
A4445912
Contributed on: 
13 July 2005

Mr Hennessey — deceased

Mr Hennessey lived in sheltered accommodation of Edge Lane. He was in a destroyer named H.M.S. Griffin and witnessed the sinking of H.M.S. Hood, or the ‘Mighty Hood’ as she was known, off the coast of Greenland on May 24th 1941. The Hood was the pride of the British Navy and considered to be unbeatable. The Hood was firing on the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen when the battleship Bismark fired one Salvo and just one shell, which penetrated the armour deck of the Hood and hit the main magazine, exploding Hood’s ammunition. The action was over due to this single blow from Bismark. Hood blew up and sunk in just four minutes with the loss of 1,416 lives. Only 3 of the entire crew survived.

Mr Hennessey went on to be torpedoed twice, the second time he was in the Atlantic with just a life jacket for 18 hours and had resigned himself to the fact he was bound to die, when he heard a rumbling sound. A U-boat surfaced almost next to him and picked him up. He was not locked up, but was given new clothes, fed, given schnapps and a tour of the boat. A few days later the U-boat commander spotted a number of lifeboats through the periscope, he surfaced and put Mr Hennessey aboard one of the boats. He gave them food and water, then dived his boat and slipped away below the waves. Mr Hennessey swore he would find his rescuer after the war, but never did. The U-boat was lost with all hands.

George Smart — deceased

Taken prisoner at the fall of Singapore in February 1942. All the fine colonial homes had been abandoned in the panic and George had ‘found’ a stamp collection. He was incarcerated in the infamous Changi Prison. In the early days of his imprisonment George was paid a visit by a captured officer of the Indian Army who had heard about the stamp collection and demanded George hand them over. George refused and the Indian officer threatened George by telling him that unless he handed over the stamps then he would see to it that George’s name would go ‘on the board’. Those whose names went ‘on the board’ faced almost certain death because these were prisoners who had been selected for work on the Burmese Railway. Sometime later George’s mate told him that his name was on the board. George immediately took the stamps to the officer and gave them to him, his name was then taken off the board. George always says that these stamps saved his life. He lived next door but one to me and died in about 1996 — 1997.

"This story was submitted to the People's War site by BBC Radio Merseyside's People's War team on behalf of the author and has been added to the site with his / her permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions."

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