- Contributed by
- Stockport Libraries
- People in story:
- Leslie Atkinson
- Location of story:
- Haifa, Palestine; Malta; Cyprus
- Background to story:
- Royal Navy
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 20 September 2004
This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Elizabeth Perez of Stockport Libraries on behalf of Leslie Atkinson and has been added to the site with his permission. He fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.
Leslie Atkinson served on H.M.S. Volage in the East Indies Fleet 1944 – 45, then he returned to the U.K.
On arrival at Portsmouth, leave was granted to the crew for Christmas and New Year. On returning to the ship we were told that a refit would take place and on completion the ship would be going to Malta as part of the “Third Destroyer Flotilla”. Before that, all the officers and about 80% of the crew would be replaced. I felt very lucky to be one of the few remaining on board for the new commission, and as a result of being one of the longest-serving members of the crew, I was given the job of engineer’s writer to the new officer Lt. Nash, an excellent job with no watch-keeping involved.
Leaving Portsmouth and joining up with the rest of the flotilla, we called at Gibraltar before arriving at our base in Malta. After a few days we sailed for Haifa in Palestine to begin patrolling the coast to prevent the landing of illegal immigrants, a boring task sailing along the coast just inside the three mile limit for days on end. We did manage to stop and arrest one such ship “The Katdiel-Coffe” and escorted it to Haifa, where the occupants were transferred to another ship for transit to a camp in Cyprus.
During one of our periods of relief from the patrols, we were anchored in Haifa, about a hundred yards from a large tanker. We were awakened at about 2300 hours by a loud explosion. Reaching the upper deck we were confronted by the nearby tanker ablaze from stem to stern. Some of the crew had jumped into the water and were swimming towards our ship. It was touch and go as the blazing oil was pouring out of the stricken tanker and threatening to catch up to the swimmers, with the help of ropes thrown to them, we got them on board. Lots of theories were quoted for the cause of the explosion, but there was no official statement. We had our own theory about it, as Jewish frogmen had been active in the harbour and had in fact sunk one of the ships used for transporting illegal immigrants to Cyprus.
When our stint of patrolling Palestine was over, we went on a visit to Alexandria (Egypt). We stayed a week, had a few runs ashore, then went on to Malta, more runs ashore, then we set sail for Naples, calling at Sicily. In Naples I celebrated my 21st Birthday and a good time was had by all. Back to Malta and a few days in harbour before setting sail for Nice(France) to provide a guard for a re-dedication of a statue destroyed by the Germans. After a week in Nice, it was back to Cyprus.
Our next trip was to Cyprus, where each watch was given seven days leave to a rest camp on Mount Troodos. Again we all had a good time and the Cypriots made us very welcome. On leaving Cyprus, it was back to Malta, to stock up on stores, then back to Haifa to resume our patrols. During this period I was informed my demob number had come up and I would have to leave the ship and go back to the U.K. and “civvy street”. I have to say that during this last commission life had been very good, because of my job I was excused all other duties and could go ashore every night when the ship was in harbour. As you can guess I had very mixed feelings about leaving the ship.
I was put ashore in Haifa and given a Palestine railway ticket for the journey to Port Said in Egypt. This entailed a trip of some length through the Sinai Desert to El Kantara on the East Bank of the Suez Canal, then a ferry across the canal and another train up the West Bank to Port Said. I stayed in Port Said for two days then literally jumped on board the aircraft carrier “H.M.S. Implacable” as it came up the Canal, it didn’t bother to stop. After two days on board, we sailed into Malta and I was again put ashore. Three days in Malta, then I was told that I was going the rest of the way to the U.K. via the Medlock route, this was by trooper from Malta to Toulon (France), then by train through France to Calais, ferry to Dover, then train to Portsmouth. Once in H.M.S.Victory Barracks I was thankfully given fourteen days leave.
When I arrived back off leave, expecting to be demobbed fairly quickly, I was surprised to be drafted to “H.M.S. Buchan Ness” up in Gairloch (Scotland). The ship was quite a new one and had recently sailed from the shipyard in Canada where it was built. I don’t have any idea why I was sent there other than to while away the time till they could demob me. At last after five months aboard “H.M.S. Buchan Ness”, I was put ashore and transported to an ex R.A.F. station at Kirkham in Lancashire to be fitted out with my new civilian clothes and sent home to Stockport.
In writing this description of my service in the Royal Navy, I have left out most of the boring details of the life of a stoker on board ship, the long hours battened down in the boiler rooms, watch-keeping, four hours on eight hours off. I also realise that I have been very lucky in my service as most sailors suffered some terrible experiences during their service. I consider I am a very lucky man to have seen so much of the world and taken part in so many adventures and yet avoided much of the horrors of war that so many of my ex-shipmates encountered.
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