It was just before the Italian landings that several Landing Craft Tanks (LCTs) were brought into Belfast to be fitted out as Landing Craft Guns (LCG’S). They were in several of the dry-docks, and the work was so urgent all the trades were working together, so there was controlled chaos, which meant that I had to work at night when thing had quietened down. The modifications to the LCGs consisted of making living quarters in the centre of the ships which would house the gun crews of Royal Marines and would also act as the support for the 4 inch guns they proposed to use for shelling the shore before the landings.
To enter the dry-dock one passed through huge wrought iron gates, at least twelve feet high, supported on Gargantuan pillars. The gates were most impressive and were opened every morning and closed and locked every night. When I had finished work at two one morning, I found the gates were closed. It was dark, and no street lights due to the blackout. With a torch I managed to see enough to tie all my tools, meters and equipment, together with a length of flex. Wrapping the flex round my wrist I climbed to the top of the gate, hauled the gear up one side and down the other, and finally clambered down the gate, safe and sound – just – it had been a hazardous experience. The jolt came later. As I was walking back to the hut I found the walls on either side of the gate had been blasted away in the Blitz – I could have walked round the pillars and out of the dry-dock. I was l told the unions insisted the gate keeper was an essential part of security and he was to be retained. to continue opening and locking the gates morning and night. Such are the rocks of precedent upon which our war effort was buil
When I arrived back at the hut I was too tired to put up the blackout, instead I put on the electric fire and crashed out on the couch. After a while I woke thinking I was taking the flu, coughed, turned over and went to sleep again. I awoke twice more, but on the third occasion I lifted my torch to see the time only to find the beam of the torch was no longer than two feet, the room was filled with a white choking smoke. Immediately I went to the door, I was both sick and dizzy. It transpired that someone had leaned a coil of rubber-covered telcathene cable against the fire and it was burning. I am convinced if I had gone to sleep just once more I would never have awakened