Naval Life in 1940

The Changes WW2 Wrought On The Royal Navy 2 Once it had dawned on the Government that the war would not be over in a month, and Dunkirk reinforced this thinking, people were inventing new, and improving existing weapons and systems. fast, resulting in a constant state of change within the services. New categories of ranks were created, space had to be found for the new equipment and what was generally more difficult, for the men to operate and maintain it. I was one of those men and, to complicate it, I held a seaman’s rank, was educated to the level of a Petty Officer and dressed like one, without the gold-braid. I was a Leading, Wireless Mechanic later to be called Radio Mechanic, responsible for the maintenance of the Radio and Radar transmitters and receivers on the ship. The Chief Bosun, the Lower Deck mover and shaker, was at a loss where to put me, especially as the ship was crowded already. Unfortunately I finished in the Chief and Petty Officer’s mess, resented for my age, inexperience, being a Hostilities Only rating, and not having had to earn such an august place. Day and daily I paid dearly for that decision because I was resented by most of the members of the Mess.

We collected convoys at the mouth of the Thames and took them out into the North Atlantic to join other ships, and shepherded other ships home from the Atlantic to the Thames. From somewhere off Lowestoft, right up and beyond the Tyne minesweepers cleared a path for us and our charges, and buoys marked the cleared path. Over this stretch we were generally at action stations, especially at night. Then Jerry thought up a new strategy. He had fast torpedo boats we called E Boats. They were made of plywood and effective. They would tie up to the buoys in the dark and when the radar had an echo, initially it was ignored, thinking it to be the buoy. Then after a few ships had passed, Jerry would flash into the middle of the rest and sink a few, causing chaos. That stretch of water was called E Boat Alley. The Admiralty then inducted German speakers, who sat up at night listening for the plain language between the skippers of the E boats. What goes around comes around. Having to find accommodation for them, a new Engine-room artificer, a Gunnery-artificer, the two German speakers and someone else, they took a small compartment 3.5m square and made a Mess for specialists, a place where we ate, slept, and lived when off watch, I was included and swapped my durance vile for overcrowded camaraderie.

Categorized as Royal Navy

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