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Memories of Service in the Royal Navy

by Barnsley Archives and Local Studies

Contributed by 
Barnsley Archives and Local Studies
People in story: 
Gordon Normanton
Location of story: 
Escort Duty on Malta Convoys
Background to story: 
Royal Navy
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
19 April 2005

"This story was submitted to the People's War site by the Barnsley Archives and Local Studies Department on behalf of Gordon Normanton and has been added to the site with his/her permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions."
I was 18 yrs. old when I joined the Royal Navy.

In June 1943, after six months initial training at Bristol Naval Base, I was posted to Portsmouth Barracks and then to Liverpool. I was billeted in the Gordon Smith’s Institute for Seamen and with about 29 other men I became part of the “advance party” with the job of “storing” the ship, “Stuart Prince”, lying in the Albert Dock.
We left the billet each morning and travelled by overhead railway to the ship and worked each day there, getting the ship ready for the ship’s company to join us. Our mid-day meal was delivered to us by someone from the Institute.

My job on board was “bosun’s mate”. I ‘piped’ all officers on to the ship and all hands to stations for leaving the harbour. I also worked on steering the ship from the wheelhouse on the bridge. I worked 24 hrs. on duty and 24 The 24 hrs. ‘on duty’ were worked on a 4 hrs. on, then 4 hrs. off, basis.

We escorted hundreds of convoys to Malta and back to Liverpool or Greenock in Scotland.
The voyage took 10 days each way. I don’t recall losing a single ship from any of these convoys.

During the Normandy landings we escorted hundreds of landing craft onto the beaches. Afterwards I returned to Portsmouth and I joined the Naval Police. I was posted to Ceylon, now known as Sri Lanka. Our group of 30 consisted of equal numbers of Navy men and Marines.

We used to spend one month in Ceylon where the temperature was 110 in the shade, then a month in the Nigri Hills, 1100 ft. above sea level with the climate much like that of England.
In the village was a dance hall where they held tea dances. I was fond of dancing so I went quite regularly. There I made friends with an Army Officer and his wife and their two daughters and I danced with all three ladies. This lovely family invited me to their table and we became very good friends. I was told that they returned to London but I never saw them again.

When we travelled up to the hill station it took us all day — we would set off at 7 a.m. and travel until 11 p.m. Our billet was separate from the barracks and we enjoyed the freedom, having no one to boss us about.

In 1946 I came back to Portsmouth for demobilisation. I was kitted out with civilian clothing and a travel warrant to get me home to Barnsley, so ending my career in the Navy.

After a brief spell I went back to my old job at Wood Brothers’ Glassworks, as a sorter and I stayed there a number of years until I got a job as a traffic warden. I had to go on a training course at Wakefield and then worked for a while patrolling Barnsley town centre. Later on I was posted to Cudworth, where I lived. I reported at Cudworth Police Station each morning and covered Mapplewell, Darton, Staincross, Royston and Cudworth areas, sometimes doing School crossing patrol duties but eventually I went back to my old job at Woods as a glass sorter.

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