Long time passing- gone to fighting everyone- Part Three
“He was on leave from the Navy for 4 days. He phoned on the Sunday and we were to be married by special license in the little church on the Ridgeway , Mill Hill on the Monday.
What a day for a wedding France had surrendered and our guests were more concerned with the war news”
After the reception we left Roy’s home to “go away” Where? we had no idea.Uncle Jack had kindly lent us the Humber. As he stood at the door waving us off he said: “You look such a couple of kids no one will take you in” I was silent as we sped along the great North Way – this was June and the last time I had seen Roy was the previous Christmas when we became engaged”
After two days my father left his bride – she continued to work for the Ministry of Information and his new assignment found him gone for two years-
July Deployed with Home Fleet at Scapa Flow.
August -Transferred to West Africa Command for support of escorts.
Passage to Freetown.
September -Deployed as Base Repair Ship at Freetown to December
1 9 4 1 Freetown support duty in continuation
1 9 4 2
January- Freetown deployment in continuation to September
October – Nominated for transfer to Oran for support duties after allied landings in North Africa (Operation TORCH)
November – Passage to Oran -Joined HM Destroyer Depot Ship HECLA escorted by HM Destroyers VENOMOUS and MARNE west of Gibraltar. (See HITLER’S U-BOAT WAR Volume 2)
12th Avoided torpedoes fired by U515. During a series of attacks HMS HECLA was hit by three torpedoes and sank with heavy loss of life.
HMS MARNE was seriously damaged after being hit by another torpedo.
My father was one of the young men deployed to repair the engines etc as they limped into Freetown .
I remember once in my flippant youth being a “know it all” about the war during my “Peacenik” days – my father was furious at my attitude. It was one of the rare times he spoke about his personal experiences.
I remember being shocked as he told me of the ship in the convoy being torpedoed- how it was dangerous to pick up survivors because of the U boats and your ship being lit up as a target in the flames. The men covered in oil and fire screaming in the water. He told me of how ( not being on duty) had been ordered to help the Dr. and medics with the wounded as they were brought on board. He was shown how to give the fatal dose of the drug. Those with no hope were triage to him and those without medical knowledge. He spent the last moments of men’s life with them – giving a cigarette and comfort to one chap who had no lower body , his blood stopped by the quarterizing of the fire he had been in. The smile remembered as he said “you ‘ll be home for Christmas mate” whilst giving him the shot that would end his nightmare. A 23-year-old who as my mother had written
“I guess half the charm of Roy was his inability to take anything too seriously . He laughed a lot and lived for the day only .”
Is it any wonder that the next time my mother saw her husband after that 2 year absence had aged beyond his 23 years?
” I imagined Roy would arrive with his hair bleached golden from the West African sun with beautifully tanned skin. When he stepped from the train I barely recognized him. His naval case was battered, he looked weary, tired and half frozen- I went to the nearest telephone box, where I stood like stone and inspected him without his knowing. I decided I just didn’t like him. He looked expectantly up and down the platform, blowing on his cold hands for warmth . Finally all the passengers disappeared over the bridge, there he stood alone and lost – looking- I reluctantly left the safety of the telephone box and walked toward him, his golden curls had turned grey and he had lost nearly thirty pounds since I had last seen him.
Roy was being directed to a new ship the HMS Bellona, for what waters or convoy he would be guarding we knew not……..
To be continued……………….