- Contributed by
- Herts Libraries
- Background to story:
- Royal Navy
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 20 May 2005
When it came to coming back after the 13th trip, who said 13 is not unlucky, it jolly well is, we met a force eight gale. Well force eight is quite something, waves about 15ft or more. Now with the benefit of hindsight what I should have done of course was to go very slowly, so that I went up each crest and down each trough, uncomfortable but safe. What I did do in my inexperienced youth. I went too fast, so I went from crest to crest and each time the bow hit the next crest a great shudder went through the ship, now I should have realised that, but I didn’t and before long I thought I’d done goodness knows how many hours on the bridge, so I might as well turn over to the midshipman now and have a bit of a rest, no sooner had I got down there when someone came in, stuck their head around the door and said the backs breaking. I looked out and my God it was.
The bow and the stern were moving independent and grinding and grating against each other with their metal jaggered ends. Finally we saw the bow sail away and haven’t seen it since. Now fortunately, they had what they called double bottom tanks, now the tank deck itself on which the tank is resting was made of metal underneath that a few feet and down 4-5ft was the bottom of the ship and between the 2 were these tanks and by machinery you could fill them with sea water or empty them according to what depth you were told to have because every bodies load was different and they were told you had to draw so many feet you pumped and sucked in order to get it right. When you came of the beach with no ballast at all the sensible thing and in fact we were told to do was to flood the two tanks just in front of the bridge. And this made a difference of about half dozen tonnes or more sea water in these 2 tanks, thank goodness I did they formed a counterpoise and she didn’t turnover as she might have done. That was one thing that I did right anyhow. Now we were swinging around for about 6-8 hours in a gale drifting towards a mine field that may or may not have been swept and there was I at the tender age of 20 with 16 lives in my hands. Fortunately, just as it was getting dark an enormous ocean going tug appeared on the horizon from Southampton, he had been sent out to assist another landing craft who was in one piece but with engine trouble and he decided that our state was worse then theirs and so what he had to do was this now in most cases the ship anchor is in the bows but in our case the ships anchor was in the stern the idea being that you drop it before you go onto the beach and you pull yourself onto the beach with it, the crew gathered on this anchor bed and the tug passed across a few at a time and a few of the sailors would jump from the landing craft onto the deck of the tug which was anything from 3-15ft according to what the sea was. Well we got them all off bar 4. There was the Midshipman on one side; there was the Electrician whose name was Burton Mann, a Stoker whose name was Green and I. Just as she was coming past the tug once again, she seemed to be momentarily steady, so he said jump for it and they did three of them, the Midshipman got off, and the Electrician well, he jumped with one foot first instead of both like everyone else, the tug lurched upwards and smashed his leg between the two. We managed to drag him back onto the anchor bed all the sailors who were on the tug lined the side and we rolled him over sideways like a carpet and left the landing craft to get on with it. I finally got off myself and left them to get on with it. The Skipper of the tug I heard him radio Southampton that he had a seriously wounded man onboard and what should he do about it and they said bring him in right away and he did. They took him to Southampton Hospital; he lost his foot but saved his knee. This man’s name was Burt Mann as I said and I kept in touch with him every year from that day 43 years on. When I came to Hemel Hempstead when I retired my Daughter who was then in her early 20’s, went to the wedding of her Brother-in-law, and she saw on the guest list Burton M, she thought I wonder, and so decided to ask her Brother-in-law who is this Burton M, to which he replied he’s my uncle, she thought I wonder could it be, she asked has he got an artificial leg, to which he replied how on earth did you know? She replied my Dad was with him when he lost it. It was! And we had a meeting about a fortnight later and my word how we yarned, unfortunately, he died of cancer about 6 months later but that was it. Compared to what the poor devils went through in Normandy and the Far East, I had a very easy war at least I knew where I was going to sleep the next night, which is more than the poor old soldiers did and I have every admiration for those who were in the Army and really went through it, my war was pretty easy, soldiers had to get there before they could fight, so I suppose it did rather worry me that we were entitled to wear the Atlantic Star, the medal, I didn’t like that because I thought no the Atlantic Star surely is for those poor devils who manned the conveys and I wouldn’t wear the Atlantic Star, I didn’t think it was right, I wore the France and Germany Star instead which I felt was a little bit nearer what it should have been, still that was my war, which is more interesting than some people, bit lesser that others but there we are.
I went to this base camp at Collingwood near Portsmouth, and we did about 10 week’s basic seamanship training. I discovered what they called the wise scheme, it meant that those who had a School Certificate or one or two other qualifications could go in under a different scheme whereby if you behaved yourself and worked hard you would be eligible for a commission, so I thought I might as well have a go at this, I had my interview in London, and someone previously had managed to cram enough mathematical knowledge into my thick scull to help get past the interview, and then I went to this camp and just at this time Louis Mountbatten was sorting out Command Operations a completely new arm of the Navy, with completely new ships that had never been seen before each of them needed 2 Officers, and he turned around and said I want X thousand Officers for my Landing Craft and the Army said sorry old boy we have got all we can do to keep our own Ships manned, if you want Officers you will have to train them for yourself, so he set up in the Highlands of Scotland at Lock Aylet a training camp for Naval Officers Landing Craft and of course Loch Aylet the Petty Officers loved to murders these things and they all called it lordy lot. Anyhow we learned a bit about basic training and about navigation and Lewis said look I don’t want these blokes learning about Battleships there not going to be on Battleships, they need to learn about Landing Craft, teach them how to manage those and he did. At the end of the course which was about 6 weeks we were appointed to Landing Craft, but the only consolation was that the sailors knew even less about it than I did, because what we didn’t know after 6 weeks, we had to jolly well find out for ourselves and we did, everybody you see was hostilities as they say, only there was no real Naval people, there was one or two in charge of a Squadron 36 craft, that had a Naval Lieutenant Commander everybody else was war time and this was war time, I was enjoying different crafts at different times and various Commanding Officers most were quite pleasant but one was a bit awkward but we got rid of him and life could have been a lot worse.
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