- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Derry Peek
- Location of story:
- Mill Hill, Scotland
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 02 December 2005
This story was submitted to the People’s War Site by Three Counties Action, on behalf of Derry Peek, and has been added to the site with his permission. The author fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.
For the first few years of WW2 I was in a Reserved Occupation working in the office of a firm making corrugated and cardboard containers for munitions. By my 19th birthday I was restless and keen to join the WRNS. I got permission to be released and in September 1942 was sent to Mill Hill for initial training. On completion I requested to be posted to the south of England so, of course, they sent me to the west coast of Scotland! The Isle of Bute, Bannatyre and Rothesay were the nearest places to HMS Pembroke, the shore station. I had been a Sea Ranger and had some knowledge of the Morse code and signalling. I found I had been sent to Loch long which was the home to our submarines, HMS Cyclops and HMS Forth being the mother shop. Instead of one of the usual trades I was called ‘Mobile’ — mostly this meant I was a postie and messenger amongst whichever ships were anchored in the Loch each day. The WRENS lived ashore at what had been a Hydro Hotel. I remember that, although we used the regulation five inches of water, the baths in the basement were gigantic.
Soon I was restless again and bothering my Divisional Officer with requests to be transferred to Boats Crew. She said ‘you’ll drive me mad soon if I don’t!’ Eventually she managed to get me transferred and staying at the same site. I joined a launch called Sancta Brigida in April 1943. This boat had a crew of five Wrens under Leading Wren Christine Munroe. We lived on the boat but also had shore hotel rooms in the village of Loch Goilhead, which was used for off-time and baths, etc.
The crew tied submarines up to buoys and signalled with an Aldis lamp. ‘Silent Running’ was the order of every day and we were told not to make any noise, as nearby sailors were glued to their Asdics. This was on of the happiest times of my life.
By November 1943 I was made a Leading Wren and posted to HMS Quebec at Inverary. My job was Captain’s Coxswain and this role included piloting the boat and managing the ford 8 engine and making sure both me and the crew carried out our delivering work and ferried the Captain and officers to and from ships in the harbour. Many a Sunday I could not relax like the other WRENS, but was piped to go on duty as the Captain’s Coxswain. Towards the end of the war I remember two Sub-Lieutenants in the miniature submarines, setting out to do their duty … they both got VCs, so brave.
I have two memories that stand out — one occasion we had to take the Captain over to a Russian ship. We were entertained to a marvellous meal in the seamen’s mess. This was accompanied with regular swigs of schnapps! We were alright until we came up on deck to leave and it was a distinctly woozy crew that took the Captain back to shore. I remember being at the wheel sweeping far too fast towards the dock and seeing the Officer of the Day cover his eyes with his hands as he looked in horror at our fast approach. I came to a sudden halt perfectly alongside the quay, and said ‘I couldn’t have done that if I’d been sober’. The officer said ‘Don’t ever do that to me again’. The Captain just answered my salute, shook his head and smiled, but said nothing.
The other memory was when I was just going on leave dressed in No.1s, when a delivery boat dropped a bag of onions overboard. These were precious and they all tried to pick them up. I leant over the rail which had not been fastened properly and went overboard too. A sailor fished me out with a boathook, to many comments from the lads. The next day in borrowed clothes, with my leave postponed, I had to attend Defaulters. The charge — ‘Leaving ship without permission’. M T got a reprimand, not a punishment, and went on leave!
I was discharged in August 1945 and married an ex-sailor.
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