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15 October 2014
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Service on HMS ‘Taku’icon for Recommended story

by IWM_Launch

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Alec Wingrave
Location of story: 
North Sea
Background to story: 
Royal Navy
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
23 January 2004

Alec Wingrave was a chef in the RN Submarine Service during WW2. He remembers that, after five days, the bread would turn green and so he would have to cut off the edges, dip it in water and put it back in the oven. He never really felt nervous on the submarines, but if he heard the air raid sirens while he was on leave at home he would run to the nearest pub and seek comfort in a pint of beer. He felt safer in the pub than in a shelter! This is his story, as told to a group of volunteers at the Imperial War Museum and published here with his permission:

'I was in HMS Taku in the last month of the war we stored the ammunition to go to the Skaggarack. We intended to stop the Germans evacuating Norway to get back to Germany and Denmark. But the friendly Norwegians instructed Britain that the Germans were leaving all their equipment in Norway before the war ended. And so, after two days at sea, we returned to Blyth and de-stored and de-ammunitioned ship. It would have been murder if we'd gone in and sank all the small German and Norwegian ships, because all they wanted to do was get to the mainland - to go home without fighting.

We paid off Taku and joined Tactician to go to the Far East, but the atomic bombs were dropped and we took Tactician into Chatham for a refit before she was paid off.

I then joined HMS Token, a brand new submarine, and we had a glorious six months in Canada, then onto Bermuda for a month in the sun and home via the Azores. When we returned to Devonport, there was 20 feet of snow everywhere - Britain had come to a standstill. We were there until April 1, then paid off.

It’s Taku that I remember fondly, however. The Lincolnshire town of Spalding collected £3,560 during Warships Week in 1942 and bought HMS Taku for £2,056. This year the local council named a footbridge over the river Welland 'Taku', and only two of the original crew (out of 300 over four commissions) were able to turn up for celebrations with the local MP, the Mayor and his wife.'

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These messages were added to this story by site members between June 2003 and January 2006. It is no longer possible to leave messages here. Find out more about the site contributors.

Message 1 - Taku

Posted on: 06 February 2004 by Frank Mee Researcher 241911

A good story but it leaves a question, why was the Submarine called "Taku" had it some New Zealand ties. I have often wondered how some HMS vessels came to be named.
I have heard other stories of the combatants not opening fire on each other in the last few weeks of the war. One of my initial training instructors told me about a day he drove a scout car along a road in North Germany while what seemed half the German army fully armed marched the other way. He said he looked to the front clutched his buttocks together and kept going, very sensible I would have thought, war has its funny moments.
Regards Frank.


Message 2 - Taku

Posted on: 05 March 2004 by DaveHallas

The name Taku was given to commemorate the attack on the Taku forts in 1900, during the Boxer revolution.


Message 3 - Taku

Posted on: 05 March 2004 by Frank Mee Researcher 241911

Hello Dave,
Thank you for that information. I have often wondered how the Navy named their ships. The Admirals and sea lords or famous Captians were very obvious also those named after towns. Some of the names are not obvious unless you read history and Taku stood out. I have read the boxer revelution and stories of China but the Taku forts had not stuck in my brain, not a lot does now but we manage. Thanks again regards,

Message 1 - hms taku

Posted on: 11 August 2004 by delighteddavidpitt

My father also served on the Taku and i would be interested in contacting anyone else who did. My father's name was Arthur Pitt and he is deceased. I will check back at this site for any replies.


Message 2 - hms taku

Posted on: 14 February 2005 by interestedlizabeth

I had four brothers who served in the Royal Navy during WW2. My eldest brother was on the Taku and I remember that he spoke of Arthur or Archie Pitt who was, I believe, the Captain or Commander. I seem to remember that The Captain wrote a book which was serialised by a Sunday newspaper some years after the war. I would very much like to obtain a copy of the book, but don't know the title. My brothers name was Daniel Mahon.


Message 3 - hms taku

Posted on: 11 May 2005 by baldorso

The book was called 'Up Periscope'. My grandfather, Robert Ostler, (RN1916-1954) was engineering officer on Taku and awarded DSO for calming the men when they were under depthcharge attack by insisting that they play draughts with him. One of his old shipmates said that if my Grandfather was willing to sit there and play board games when everybody else thought they were finished then the crew thought perhaps things were better than they were!

Message 1 - HMS TOKEN

Posted on: 10 August 2005 by JOHNRMP


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