- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Mrs Gracie Walton, Stanley Walton
- Location of story:
- Essex, London, Germany
- Background to story:
- Royal Air Force
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 27 July 2005
This story was submitted by CSV Vol on behalf of Gracie at BBC Radio Bristol
I was just 16 when war broke out and being a boy scout I was delegated to be a ARP cyclist messanger during the air-raids of Bristol. This was a hazardous job having to cycle through the roads damaged by bombs which had ruptured drains, water pipes, gas and sewerage services. Being a senior messenger I was picked to meet reinforcements of ARP services coming into Brisrol from other towns and directing them to where they were needed. I finished up in a crater which had occurred after I had rode down the very same road only a short time previous.
As soon as I became 18 volunteered to join the navy and did my initial 6 weeks training at the old Butlins camp of Skegness. From there I was sent to Aberdeen to train as a wireless telephonist, but only to discover that the bomb blast I had received had damaged my hearing in my left ear, so I was retrained as a “Coder”. I returned to Devonport barracks awaiting a draft in either a ship or shore based.
I was always a keen table tennis player and spent many hours playing whilst on ARP duties, so I always had my bat in my kit bag. The naval authorities became aware of my skills and I was invited to represent Devonport barracks in a game against other depots and other services. On one occasion I was selected to play against a team from Portsmouth Barracks and we were taken by lorry to a very big house on Plymouth Hoe. On returning to Devonport I was aware of something not being right. I was taken to the Regulating Petty Officer (RPO office) and was questioned as to where I had been as then had been piping me to join the ship in Plymouth. When the RPO was satisfied with the explanation of me playing table tennis for Devonport he then told me how very lucky I was, as the ship was attacked by German “Eboats” in the channel and was sunk with no survivors remaining. As I came out of his office I kissed my table tennis bat and vowed never to be without it.
I later joined the Duke of York at Scapo Flow and was in the SCHORNHORST actionoff the north coast of Norway whilst covering a convoy on its way to Murmansk. I was fortunate enough to decode the message of congratulations sent to Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser on the sinking of the German battleship from the King George (Rex)
Needless to say I carried my bat to all our ports we docked at, Rosyth, Liverpool, Glasgow , where the chiefs of war - Churchill, Eisenhower, Truman etc held a council of war, whilst we were docked on the Clyde.
Because of my hearing problem, I was invalided from the Navy when the war in Europe was over, but before coming out, I was sent to Fareham awaiting medical discharge, as I was not allowed to go with the ship to the Far East. Whilst staying at Fareham I founf a services club where I started to play table tennis again and the club officials asked me if I could muster up some service men and women to have a competition at the club. I did this and we had some wonderful evenings competing against each other but sadly no ladies took part.
Modesty will not allow me to say who eventually won the tournament but in the end I kissed my bat again and shortly afterwards I was demobbed.
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