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WW2 - People's War

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A Russian Reindeer for King George VI

by ATC Crawley 19 Squadron

Contributed by 
ATC Crawley 19 Squadron
People in story: 
David Davis, Miss Wainwright
Location of story: 
London, Russian, Japan
Background to story: 
Royal Navy
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
09 March 2005

This is David Davis's story - it has been added by a Volunteer from Crawley 19th Sqdn ATC, with permission from the author, who understands the terms and conditions of adding his story to the website.

At the outset of the war, I was on holiday in Ramsgate and when I returned to London, with a large label tied on me saying I was not an escaped evacuee, I found that the whole of my school had been evacuated. I convinced my mother that the war would only last two weeks so she agreed that I could stay at home. This was the time when I earned more pocket money than ever before running errands, working on the milk float and the wood rounds. After nine months, the education authority realised that there was a few boys around not being educated. They organised a retired teacher to teach us in our own homes in small groups. My teacher was a Miss Wainwright who was the double of Margaret Rutherford in the film blithe spirit complete with bicycle.

I then spent a few months as a bicycle messenger during the London Blitz and after this I applied for and was accepted as a boy seamen in the Royal Navy. After initial training I was drafted to HMS. Kent an 8 inch gun cruiser who was on the regular Russian and Atlantic convoys. I was in Murmansk for my 16th birthday. One of the odd things that we had to do was to transport a large reindeer which was a gift from the Russian people to King George VI. We managed to get it back to Scotland still alive. One of the trips was to escort the Queen Mary back from the USA with Mr. Churchill onboard, we had to keep up with the Queen Mary to such an extent that four of our boilers collapsed. We went in to the Azores to self repairs and we managed to buy bananas and pineapples which we brought back to the UK. It was a lapse of security that we got away with because nobody was supposed to know where we had been.

My next ship was a River Class Frigate - HMS Tay which was on Atlantic convoy duties. This frigate was fitted with one of the first head throwing anti submarine devices called the ‘Hedgehog’. This was a devastating weapon against the ships who used it if you fired into a headwind.

Then it was on to HMS Constance and on the way to the Pacific War we arrived two weeks before the Japanese War ended. We had a never ending amount of sea time policing the waters around Japan and China. One of the experiences was to walk around Hiroshima and Nagasaki some eight weeks after the Atomic bombs were dropped. Nobody warned us about radiation effects however, I have survived so far! It was an eye-opener on the standard and size of the rations that the Americans enjoyed compared to our tinned potatoes, butter and whatever we could scrounge

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This story has been placed in the following categories.

Childhood and Evacuation Category
Royal Navy Category
London Category
North Atlantic and Arctic Category
Pacific Ocean Category
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