- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Chief Petty Officer Norman Nation R.N. and Alan Nation R.N.
- Location of story:
- The Far East and North Atlantic
- Background to story:
- Royal Navy
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 04 June 2004
My uncle was a Chief Petty Officer on HMS Prince of Wales. "PoW" and "HMS Repulse" were sunk by the Japanese airforce as the two great warships steamed to Singapore to bolster the defence there. It was one of Churchill's greatest setbacks.
Of the few who survived the sinking of the PoW and the Repulse, my uncle was one of the even fewer who evaded capture and imprisonment by the Japanese. These men who escaped managed to commandeer, in the Indonesian archepelago, a rusty freighter which they named "HMS Endeavour", as so many RN ships had been in the past, including Cap'n James Cook's ship that discovered so much of the southern latitudes, including Antarctica. They also called it that because, as he used to say in his Somerset accent "We wuz endeavourin' to escape!" They made their way from island to island, navigating by night to avoid detection and heaving to by day, covering "Endeavour" in branches. When coal got low, they trekked inland on the islands and carried coal in sacks out of the jungle from abandoned Dutch trading posts and settlements. This dangerous and arduous tactic was eventually successful and they were reunited with British Forces. I don't know where or under what circumstances. My uncle and his comrades were redeployed in the R.N. and he survived to return, after the war, to the village in Somerset where he and my father and their younger brother grew up. My uncle named his cottage "Endeavour Cottage". If anyone recognises any of this and/or remembers my Uncle CPO Norman Nation, please write in.
His brother, my uncle Alan, was not so fortunate. He was killed, aged 19, along with all but 39 men from the combined compliment of sailors on HMS Glorious [a pre-war cruiser converted to an aircraft carrier], two destroyer escorts [Ardent and Acasta]and the RAF fighter unit they had collected from the disastrous Norway campaign in 1940. The ships unfortunately were happened upon by Gneisenau and Scharnhorst, two of the German navy's most formidable warships.
For a picture of "Glorious" and a detailed account of one of the Navy's most dreadful WW2 disasters, paid for by the loss of 3 ships, many aircraft and over 1500 men, see the website "Loss of HMS Glorious" by Capt Vernon Howland.
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