Just before Christmas I received a copy of my father’s World War 2 Royal Navy service record which covers the period between 13th October 1942 when he enlisted to 17th June 1946 when he was discharged, both at HMS Drake shore establishment in Plymouth.
I knew of course about his service on the Combined Operations Headquarters ship HMS Largs, about which he told me a lot of stories, as well as on the frigate HMS Nith, although I didn’t realise that was after the Largs. So after a little bit of further delving in Wikipedia here’s some more information about the rest of his time in the Royal Navy that I wasn’t aware of!
HMS Cabbala (4 months) shore establishment at Lowton, Warrington, a Royal Navy signal school. I remember seeing a photograph of my dad with his best friend in the Navy “Bogey” Knight out on the town with two Wrens. Nothing remarkable you may say except that the two men were dressed in the Wrens’ uniform and vice versa!
HMS Keren (2 months) a Landing Ship Infantry. I remember that dad around this time was offered a commission but like his future son (me) he turned it down. On my part it was just after graduating in Physics with Astrophysics and going to the Army Careers office who suggested a 3 year short service commission in bomb disposal… On my father’s part he would have been in charge of a landing craft and I remember he told me the casualty rate was appalling, thank goodness he refused or I might not have been born!
HMS Saunders (1 week) was the shore naval base of the Combined Training Centre (CTC) Middle East at Kabret, on the Egypt’s Little (Small) Bitter Lake. It was the first Combined Operations Training Establishment located outside the United Kingdom. Its purpose was to train RN personnel in the operation of landing craft and together with the troops of many Allied nations, to practice amphibious landings prior to operations against the enemy in the Mediterranean. I remember dad talking about the “Bitter Lakes” but it’s only through researching this blog I’ve found out where it is!
Force “S” (6 weeks) H.M.S. Largs was the Flagship of Force “S” controlling the landings on Sword beach the most Easterly of the five beach-heads on D-Day. Dad told me the stories of Largs nearly being hit by torpedoes launched from German E-boats as well as the arrival of the X23 might submarine alongside that had been reconnoitring the beach earlier that day prior to the landings.
HMS Mayina a Royal Navy transit camp five miles from Colombo in Ceylon. I’ve seen photos of my father in shorts and nothing else looking very tanned and slim lounging around the beach there… I remember one story he told me was about a litter of puppies that was born in his hammock that they tried & failed to smuggle on board ship.
Their mother was a black coloured stray adopted at the camp who he called N*****, the same as Guy Gibson‘s dog of dam buster fame. I don’t think my father was overtly racist but it was terminology commonly used at the time that is not acceptable today.
Rather naughtily Alex, James & Emma knew about this story and so whenever Grandpa came to visit they’d ask him in company “what was the name of your dog grandpa, during the war”? Debbie & I would try and shush his reply up as best we could while the children smiled “innocently”…