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HMS Parret- hunting U boats

by morpethadultlearning

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Contributed by 
People in story: 
John Main
Location of story: 
Indian and Pacific Oceans
Background to story: 
Royal Navy
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
20 July 2005


DOB: 29 March 1908

Telegraphist T.O.
C/JX 359 892

Date enlisted with Royal Navy:
17 August 1942

(River Class Frigate)
in Montreal, Canada when it was commissioned at Canadian Vickers on
31 August 1943

My name is John Main. I was born on 29 March 1908 in Sunderland.

I was married on 8 June 1940 to Charlotte and we had two children, Ian, born on 19 April 1944, whilst I was at sea, and Martin, born on 14 April 1948.

I joined the Royal Navy as an ordinary Telegraphist on 17 August 1942, when I was 34 years old. Before I joined the Royal Navy I was employed by the Central Electricity Generating Board as District Clerk. I learned Morse code at a local wireless college in Newcastle before I joined the Navy as I knew I wanted to be a telegraphist.

After doing square-bashing at the Royal Arthur I was sent to the signal school at Edinburgh to do a 28-weeks training course to be passed out as an ordinary telegraphist. When they discovered I could read Morse I was immediately transferred to HMS Victory at Portsmouth to take a 10-weeks intensive training course to qualify as a telegraphist (a telegraphist was a rank higher than an ordinary telgraphist).

From Portsmouth I transferred to Cookham Camp in Kent from where I was transferred to HMS Parret in Canada in August 1943, sailing from the UK in the troop ship, Mariposa.

After working up at Bermuda the HMS Parret sailed for Halifax in Nova Scotia.

After briefing, the ship joined the escort supervising a crossing of convoy to Great Britain. This proved to be the first convoy crossing the Atlantic without losing a ship, in the course of which it was reported that 17 German submarines had been sunk. After reaching the western approaches, HMS Parret left the convoy and sailed into Londonderry.

After further examination I was promoted to Telegraphist TO (trained operator) and continued to do duty on different watches.

Leaving Londonderry under the command of Thomas Hood, Commander, RNR, we escorted the Queen Elizabeth (the battleship) and various other ships into the Mediterranean where the ship took part in the Mediterranean Campaign, particularly with the army landings in Sicily and Anzio, where we covered the landings by dropping small depth charges at ten-minute intervals to keep out enemy submarines.

The ship eventually docked at Aden through the Suez Canal, via Alexandria and operated escorting oil tankers through the Arabian Sea to the Persian Gulf. The Parret next proceeded to Bombay where, before shore leave was granted, the Captain decided that the three dogs and two cats (already acquired as pets on board the ship) were enough, and the First Lieutenant posted a notice stating that no more dogs or cats could be brought aboard the ship as pets. When I returned from shore leave that evening, the ship was like a menagerie, with parrots, parakeets and budgies flying all over the place. Ducklings were in the Mess wash tin. Lizards were all over the place, there was also a cockerel and hen and I turned into my hammock that night accompanied by a lovely chameleon! At least we all obeyed the order not to bring cats or dogs on board!!!

Our next visits were to Colombo and Trincmalee before going to Madras. We were then ordered to the Maldive Islands, south of Ceylon, to search for a submarine which was in the area. When we were north of the islands, the submarine was reported as being south of the island, which involved us in chasing it and entailed crossing the Equator five times in one day!.

We were then moved to East Africa where a German submarine and its crew were captured and the submarine towed to Durban.

We then proceeded south to Port Elizabeth for a refit in November 1944.

On Shore leave in Johannesburg, I met up with my Aunt and Uncle who lived there.

We left Port Elizabeth and sailed for the Indian Ocean where, with four other escorts, carried out a ‘box’ search and eventually sank a German submarine.

We returned to Colombo and then sailed for Aden where we were allowed only four hours to take on supplies and fuel and we were instructed to proceed to a submarine sighting where a ship had been sunk in an area about 2,000 miles away. On reaching the area several days later, the carriers Shah and Begum carried out dawn patrols and on the second dawn a submarine was sighted about 200 miles from where HMS Parret was. The submarine was eventually located and sunk. We then proceeded to Darwin (Northern Australia) where Darwin had been evacuated on account of the Japanese advances. We then proceeded to Brisbane before going to our new base in the Admiralty Islands.

An American ‘Liberty’ supply ship was reported to be in difficulties in a position which was given as south of New Britain. A search carried out there proved to be negative and the ship, the SS Russell H Chittenden, gave a position now 200 miles away and in urgent need of fresh water and medical supplies. On reaching the position we found that the ship had ran onto a reef (on 13 March 1945) and broken its back. The crew were on a nearby island which had fresh water, and the crew with an adequate supply of alcoholic drinks!! The crew were picked up and taken to New Guinea and the Parret returned to its base in the Admiralty Islands.

The ship then reported to the Gulf of Leyte in the Philippine Islands. We were then instructed to proceed to Madagascar for minor repairs to the ship’s underwater stabilisers.

After returning to the Admiralty Islands, we joined the Pacific Fleet train which was made up of the King George V, and an American Battleship, accompanied by the necessary cruisers, destroyers, their escorts, oil tankers and supply vessels to enable the battleships to do raids on the Japanese home islands at three-day intervals. We then escorted empty oil tankers to our base in the Admiralty Islands.

On completion of hostilities with the Japanese in August 1945, we proceeded to Hong Kong to take over from the enemy. After two weeks in Hong Kong we sailed for home, having been on HMS Parret from August 1943 until January 1946 (the only time I saw home during this period was when I had a week’s leave, the ship being tied up in Londonderry). HMS Parret was eventually returned to the Americans in Brooklyn Dockyard, having been on lease-lend to the Navy.

The HMS Parret was adopted by the people of Penge.

Some of my old naval mates on board HMS Parret were Ronnie Oats of Halifax, Johnny Bushell from South Shields, Edgar Dyke of Colne (Lancashire), ‘Slob’ Watson from Gateshead, and Jock Hadfield from Scotland! Officers on board the ship included Petty Officer Leslie Levermore from London, and Sub-Lieutenant Keeble.

I was demobbed from the Royal Navy in February 1946 and returned to my old job with the Central Electricity Generating Board the same month.

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