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16 October 2014

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By Sue Norey
May 2003, Caerphilly
A digital story from Capture Wales

How a roast saved a sailor

During World War II, Sue's father's ship was bombed. He clung onto wreckage in shark-infested waters...

"I knew my dad had been in the war but that was all I knew...until one evening when I was 35 and we were in the pub. He had almost died and he didn't survive because a medal in his breast pocket stopped a bullet and he didn't cheat death because a tin helmet protected him from harm. No, it was a Sunday roast that saved his life!

It was the 5th April 1942. Easter Sunday. My father was 19 years old; a young sailor in the Indian Ocean. A Japanese plane was shadowing the ship and the crew were closed up at action stations. Having just had his Sunday dinner, Dad returned to his station - the gun turret - to have a kip on the deck. It was ten to two on that scorching afternoon when the boat was hit by six bombs and took just six minutes to sink. (Background noise - water lapping) Of the 800 men on board, around 500 of them went into the shark infested ocean. The bows towered up almost vertically behind them. The suction ripping their clothes off as they swam away.

So there they were in the ocean, naked and completely black from the ship's oil - which was in fact a blessing as the oil slick kept the sharks at bay. Around 25 men heaved themselves up onto a boom and sat astride it to stay up in the water. Dad recalled seeing the heads and shoulders in a dead straight line. If one man fell asleep, passed out or passed away, then the whole lot would keel over and there would be a mad scramble then to get back on.

The scorching hot afternoon turned into a freezing cold night. The men huddling together to keep warm in the oily calm. Many men died in the water from their injuries and there was nothing the others could do for them but to push them away.

Finally, after 30 hours of being in sea, exhausted, oily, naked, hungry and thirsty, they were spotted by a sea plane and rescued. Sadly for some, this came too late.

This story amazed me and left me thankful for the roast dinner that had sustained my Dad in the water that Easter Sunday.

Saved by the roast, he lived to carve again."

Please tell us a little about yourself.
Sue Norey...mother of 3, wife of 1! I work part time in a project bringing IT to the community and full time trying desperately to manage the household. I love horse riding and playing netball.

What's your story about?
My story is about my father who was adrift in the Indian Ocean for 2 days and a night, as a young sailor in the Second World War.

Why did you choose to tell this particular story?
I think that it's a poignant story that needs to be told.

What did you find most rewarding about the workshop?
I just loved it all - from the first meeting to the film show at the end.

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