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15 October 2014
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Royal Navy Stoker

by actiondesksheffield

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Contributed by 
People in story: 
Thomas Arthur Russell
Location of story: 
Mediterranean, North Atlantic, Norway
Background to story: 
Royal Navy
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
06 May 2005

Royal Navy Stoker

Thomas Arthur Russell

I hear that you wanted to have World War II veteran's stories passed on; I expect its all history now.

Anyway I’m in my 85th year, born November 11th, 1920. I served in the Royal Navy as a stoker. My first ship after joining on a 12-year engagement was the battleship HMS Ramillies. I joined her in Alexandria.

We operated in offensive sweeps in the Mediterranean and bombarded Fort Cappuso. We had a run in with the Italian Battle Fleet off Cape Spartivento, but could not bring them to a decisive action. I remember being in the forward damage fire and control party, and being near the forward 15” gun barbette on the seamen’s mess deck, we fired a salvo at extreme range. We thought that we had been hit, but it was the concussion of our own main armament, which rolled the ship slightly on to her beam-ends.

I remember the Italian bombers flying at high altitude, being pretty good but not good enough, I remember the old HMS Eagle who carried Gloucester Gladiators Bi-Planes, vanishing behind a wall of spray, raised by these bombers with no damage caused.

We left the Med. and I went on leave for 4 days to Sheffield, just after the Sheffield Blitz, I remember the smoke and steam rising from the bomb damage, streets blown in causing the bus home to go on a round about route.

I served in the North Atlantic on convoy duty, where the German heavy cruiser ‘Hipper’ tried to intercept one of our convoys, she slunk away in the fog before we could bring our main armament to bear. This was in February 1941, well this is just a small part of my service, I served in the Indian Ocean, was torpedoed in the Madagascar campaign, served in destroyers, in operations in the Sicilian and Italian campaigns, loosing many comrades in the mining of HMS Quail. I was in the destructive bombing of Bari Harbour, Eastern Italy when we were unarmed, having been stripped of AA response due to the mining , I was on skeleton crew.

The USS John Harvey carrying mustard gas bombs blew up, so we were exposed to smoke carrying chemicals. Not many know of this, and I can prove it, the harbour next morning was covered in oil with bodies floating in it, some just torsos, a terrible sight, I could tell you so much more.

My war did not really finish in 1945, I went to Norway in May 1945 in HMS Venomous, to take the surrender of the Germans at Kristandsand, I have a scroll from the Norwegian Government, giving thanks for the liberation.

Along came the Palestinian troubles. I was in the flotilla leader HMS Saumares. We patrolled and captured Jewish immigrants trying to get into Palestine.

Then the Saumares was mined in the Corfu Channel again. I lost 32 of my shipmates; this occurred October 22, 1946. Our next in line ‘Volage’ lost 12 to another mine, as she tried to take us in tow, so my war wasn’t really over. The Albanians laid the minefield.

So much more I can say but I could write a book I guess.

Ex-Stoker Mechanic D/KX100469 Thomas Arthur Russell holds the following awards:
1939-45 Star, Atlantic Star, Africa Star, Burma Star, Italy Star, Defence Medal, Victory Medal, Naval General Service Medal, And Malta Medal.
Also the Greek War Medal ant the Diploma Norwegian Scroll.


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Message 1 - HMS Venomous

Posted on: 15 November 2005 by Bill Forster

My father, Lt(E) William Redvers Forster (1900-75) was the "Chief" (Engineer) aboard HMS Venomous when it went to Kristiansound to receive the surrender of the German forces in 1945.

I would very much like to hear from Thomas Russell in order to ask whether he remembers him. And also in case he can contribute to a new edition of "A hard fought ship: the story of HMS Venomous" by Bob Moore to be published in 2006.

My father was commissioned in the RAF in World War I and in the Royal Navy in World War II. He was a marine engineer in the Merchant Navy between the wars and until his retirement in 1961.

I am writing a short account of his life for publication and am especially interested in hearing from Thomas Russell and anybody who may have served with him in the merchant marine or the Royal Navy.

I can be e-mailed direct at:

but live in England!

Bill Forster

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