- Contributed by
- Olwen George
- People in story:
- FA Mason,The Hardy Crew
- Location of story:
- Horse Guards Parade
- Background to story:
- Royal Navy
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 27 September 2005
Winston Churchill inspecting survivors of HMS Hardy and other lost ships, Horse Guards Parade, London
We disembarked from Ivanhoe and ferried across to Thurso where we boarded a train for our journey to Plymouth, our home port.We arrived in Perth in the early hours, had breakfast, then on to the next stop - Preston. Our train pulled into a middle line just off the platform and we were amazed to see crowds of people there to welcome us. They were throwing coins and packets of cigarettes over to us, most of which fell on the rails and sleepers. What a collection for the railwaymen when we left! Apparently there had been a radio broadcast to say that the survivors of the Hardy were on there way and due in Preston at a certain time.
Then there was another suprise. The Station Master, dressed up in top hat and tails, held up a large sheet of paper which turned out to be a telegram from Sir Winston Chuchill, then the First Sea Lord, instructing our coaches to be diverted to London as he wished to inspect and welcome us! After what we had been through, this sounded like something out of a fairy tale book!
We arrived in London late on a Friday afternoon, I think it was either Euston or Kings Cross, and we were snowed under by the crowds there waiting to greet us. I can remember Tubby Cock, the Chief Buffer being overwhelmed by boisterous relatives, much to his embarassment. We boarded double decker buses to go to Horse Guards Parade but something had to go wrong - our bus broke down and a number of us got out to give it a push! It was no use, so we transferred to another vehicle.
As well as the Hardy survivors there were some other sailors from a Destroyer lost in the northern seas on the parade. Our First Lieutenant, Lieutenant Commander Mansell was in charge, he was dressed in a dark blue ski-ing outfit complete with a peaked ski-ing hat. He tried to dress us into some sort of a semblence of a straight line, but everybody was so eager and agog to catch a look at this great Leader of ours, that he wasn't very successful.
Then out came Sir Winston Chuchill himself, black homber hat clamped on his head and wearing a dark coat. (I can't remember if he had a cigar stuck in his mouth or not.) Mansell called us to attention and followed Winston along the ranks. He did not seem to be looking at us but at the ground. Part of his speech was - "When you lost your ship you did not hesitate but took up arms, leapt ashore and became the first British Expeditionary force to land in Norway!" I remember thinking - "Some force - we were more like drowning rats abandoning a sinking ship!" Reminising and remembering the pressmen, photographers and the propaganda of the occasion I think it was a good demonstation to boost up the country's moral. Later in the war there were dozens of heroic deeds performed by all the forces, often without a mention either on the radio or in the newspapers.
After the parade we jumped back on the buses and were driven to the Union Jack Club in Semphill Street where we had a sumptious dinner with lots of "gold braid" to attend to all our fancies and wants. What a change for a mere humble matelot of the lower deck! With dinner over we were told we were free to spend the evening in London, but had to be on Waterloo Station to catch the midnight train to Plymouth. London, here we come!!
We settled down in a hostelry and at first we were not recognised due to the fact that most of us were dressed as Norwegians. But soon the penny dropped and we became the centre of attention. The pub landlord called for free drinks for our little party of twelve torpedomen. Customers rallied and soon we were overwhelmed with all sorts of drinks and eager questions. I seem to remember Tubby Cock on stage at the Wiindmill Theatre at one point (the one that never closed).
By midnight we were assembled at Waterloo Station, a crowd of happy, cheerful, singing, half drunk sailors waiting to board our train. I don't remember anyone missing it which was truely remarkable considering the fuss that had been made of us and the booze we had consumed!
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