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North Atlantic Incident

by threecountiesaction

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Archive List > Royal Navy

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Thomas Coster
Location of story: 
North Atlantic
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
10 January 2006

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Graham Lewis for Three Counties Action on behalf of Mr Thomas Coster and has been added to the site with his permission. Mr Coster fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.

In January 1943 I left Greenock, Scotland aboard the RMS Orduna to join a convoy heading into the North Atlantic.

Rumour has it that we have 5,000 troops on board and the crowded conditions make this very believable. We do know that there are several hundred Royal Marines, of whom I, recently 19 years old, may be the youngest.

It is impossible for everyone either to sling his hammock or find space on the Mess Deck (tables or floors). I choose to bed down near the lifeboats on the Upper Deck (icy cold).

By break of day we form up and take our place in a huge convoy. There are as escorts an aircraft carrier, cruisers and numerous destroyers and frigates.

We soon sail into a storm-laden area of ocean; 20-foot waves soon reduce almost everyone to abject sea-sickness.

Behind us an American-built Liberty Ship, designed by a man named Kaiser, is plunging deep into the waves and then rising like a cork. These ships are of welded construction and are built in a very short time. They are desperately needed to replace the vast number of ships being sunk by ‘U’ boats.

The bad weather turns out to be our good fortune as we have no ‘U’ boat alarms during these first few days.

We are well out into the North Atlantic when the convoy turns southward.

Almost immediately our ship starts to falter and slow down, eventually dropping out of the convoy, which sails on, leaving our ship with a solitary destroyer to guard it.

For several anxious hours we wallowed in the heavy seas while the ship’s engineers worked on the problems.

Finally the engines began to come to life, to everyone’s intense relief. Some 24 hours later we caught up with the convoy and enjoyed once more the protective arms of the Royal Navy.

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