- Contributed by
- Elizabeth Lister
- People in story:
- Maurice Williams Hedges
- Location of story:
- At Sea
- Background to story:
- Royal Navy
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 05 August 2005
This story was submitted to the People’s War site by a volunteer from BBC Radio Berkshire on behalf of Maurice Hedges and has been added to the site with his permission. Maurice Hedges fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.
I was called up at eighteen and a half years old. I reported to Reading Office and chose the Royal Navy. I left my family on 23rd June 1942 for Fareham, then HMS Collingwood for three months training. I was given a medical, identification book and uniform. There were thirty of us in a hut, then inspection and training. Portsmouth was bombed frequently throughout.
After some leave I was drafted to HMS Striker in 15th September 1942. We got the train to Greenock, Scotland then boarded the Queen Mary, converted to a troop ship. We sailed along the Clyde en route to America — a dream come true.
We arrived in Boston on 7th October 1942 and attached to HMS Asbury (Striker) until the ship was commissioned on 27th April 1943. We spent fourteen days in Boston, then got the train to New York, went on to Peekskill (New York State) and then to a British naval camp — very cold. I went to New York several times for a meal and a show — all free.
We got the train to San Francisco to join our ship — five days and four nights through Rocky Mountains, Nevada and the Grand Canyon. The ship was not ready so we spent six weeks at the US Naval Base. HMS Striker laid down as a merchant but converted to escort aircraft carrier under lend lease. After the trails we went down the West Coast of USA, through Panama Canal, then joined the convoy to UK from New York — not operational. We arrived at Liverpool, then went on to Chatham for a complete refit and more trials.
My first operational duty was escorting convoys to and from Gibraltar, followed by convoys to Russia and back (very cold). In March 1943, the King inspected the Home Fleet at Scapa Flow. We and our sister ship, HMS Fencer, escorted the fleet to Norway and then went back to Greenock for repairs.
After patrolling the entrance to the Channel in May, 1944, we returned to Greenock, were planes on both ships were replaced with Beaufors. We were unaware that tropical clothing was taken aboard. At sea, we were told that we were to join the British Pacific Fleet via the Suez Canal, and escort the Fleet Train.
After crossing the equator, we arrived in Melbourne on Christmas Eve, 1944 and met very friendly people who invited us for Christmas dinner. I was promoted to Able Seaman on 31st December, 1944. My mate, Jack and I made friends with a Welsh family who had emigrated to Australia — we have kept in touch.
Back to war and the Beaufors were replaced with US Corsairs and Wildcats and it was off to Sydney. We spent long spells at sea to and from Sydney. We were at sea when we heard that war in Europe had come to a successful end. Pacific Fleet and Fleet Train were attacking Japan when told that the US had dropped an ‘Atom’ bomb in Japan with thousands killed. After another bomb two days later, Japan surrendered unconditionally. Thank God it was over, but we and HMS Fencer left the fleet to go to Hong Kong.
We soon realised that we were to transport Australian POW’s back home — I cannot describe their state. A tumultuous welcome on returning to Sydney. After restocking, we returned to Hong Kong to collect Australian Internees, men and women. Their reception was quieter, but they sent a cable to thank us.
The captain held an open day where we could invite Australian friends, and our special ‘Aussie’ family came. Between operations, Jack and I had two weekends which we spent in Katoomba in New South Wales. Off to sea again to be decommissioned at Hong Kong, then back to the UK via Singapore, through Suez and back to Scotland.
On 17th January 1946, I left HMS Striker to return to Portsmouth, and was given 2 weeks leave at home in Reading before being discharged on 12th June 1946 under class ‘A’ release.
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