HMS Brilliant, previous Brilliants and present day usage of Brilliant



Ships Motto ES NOSTRA VOCAMUS" ("We Claim The Deeds of our Ancestors")

HMS Brilliant was the third of the new Type 22 frigates ordered by the Royal Navy and was built by Messrs Yarrow (Shipbuilders) Ltd at Scotstoun Glasgow.

Brilliant was launched in December 1978 by Mrs R J Daniel and accepted into service on the 10th of April 1981.

HMS Brilliant was the ninth Royal Navy ship to bear the name.

Her complement is 25 Officers 75 Senior Rates and 150 Junior Rates.

Displacement (tons)

3,500 Standard
4,400 Full Load

Dimensions (feet [metres])

430 x 48.5 [131.2 x 14.8]

Machinery

2 R-R Olympus gas turbines
54,400shp = 29+ knots
2 R-R Tyne gas turbines
8,200shp = 18 knots (cruising)

Armament

2 x 40mm AA guns
2 x Sea Wolf systems (GWS 25)
4 x MM.38 Exocet
2 x triple ASW torpedo tubes (STWS)

Aircraft

2 Lynx



 

 


Previous Brilliants

1. Six gun sloop captured from the French 1695

60 Tons crew of 30

2. Small sloop commissioned around 1730

3. Described as an armed vessel came into service 1755

Paid off in 1756

4. 36 Gun Frigate 1757

 

Brilliant 1759

Many thanks to Jeff

(www.warartisan.com) Historical wargaming

 

718 Tons crew of 240. She was very active against the French in the seven years war and captured many French warships as prizes. Intrpide 1757, Blond and Terpsichore 1760, and several privateers in 1762. She was also involved in the capture of of Cherbourg in 1758 as well as the blockade and bombardment of Le Harve in 1759 helping to destroy the flat bottomed boats and supplies which had been collected by the Frenchfor their planned invasion of England.

5. 28 Gun Frigate 1779

Launched at Bucklers Hard, Beaulieu in May 1779. She was 600 tons and carried a crew of 200. The ship was involved in both the American War of Independance and the Wars of the French Revolution and Empire, seeing action against the French, the Spanish and the Dutch. She was at the forefront of of the storming and taking of the French islands of St Lucia and Tobago in 1803 and also the capture of the Dutch colonies of Demerara, Essequib and Berbice in the same year.

Attack on Gibraltar Captain Curtis, HMS Brilliant, to Mr. Stephens

Gibraltar, 15 September 1782

 

At eight o'clock in the morning of the 13th, the ten battering ships of the enemy lying at the head of the bay, under the command of Admiral Moreno, began to get under sail in order to come against the garrison; everything was in readiness for their reception. At ten the admiral's ship was placed about one thousand yards from the King's Bastion, and commenced his fire. The others were very shortly afterwards posted to the north and south of him, at small distances asunder, and began their cannonade. They were all fixed to the stations allotted them in a masterly manner. Our batteries opened as the enemy came before them: the fire was very heavy on both sides; the red-hot shot were sent with such precision from the garrison, that in the afternoon the smoke was seen to issue from the upper part of the Admiral, and one other, and men were perceived to be using fire engines and pouring water into the holds, endeavouring to extinguish the fire. Their efforts proved ineffectual; by one o'clock in the morning the two before mentioned were in flames, and several others acutally on fire, though as yet not in so great a degree. Confusion was now plainly observed among them, and the numerous rockets thrown up from each of the ships, was a clear demonstration of their great distress: their signals were answered from the enemy's fleet, and they immediately began to take away the men, it being impossible to move the ships. I thought this a fit opportunity to employ my gun-boats, and I advanced with the whole (12 in number, each carrying a twenty-four or eighteen-pounder) and drew them up so as to flank the line of the enemy's battering-ships, while they were annoyed extremely by an eccessive heavy and well-directed fire from the garrison. The fire from the gun-boats was kept up with great vigour and effect. The boats of the enemy durst not approach; they abandoned their ships and the men left in them to our mercy; or to the flames. The day-light now appeared, and two felucas, which had not yet escaped, endeavoured to get away; but a shot from a gun-boat, killing five men on board one of them, they submitted. The scene at this time before me was dreadful to a high degree; numbers of men crying from amidst the flames, some upon pieces of wood in the water, others appearing in the ships where the fire had as yet made but little progress, all expressing by speech and gesture the deepest distress, and all imploring assistance, formed a spectacle of horror not easily to be described. Every exertion was made to relieve them; and I have inexpressible happiness in informing my lords, that the number saved amounts to 13 officers and 344 men. One officer and 29 wounded (some of them dreadfully) taken from among the slain in the holds, are in our hospital, and many of them in a fair way. The flowing up of the ships around us, as the fire got to the magazines, and the firing of the cannon of others, as the metal became heated by the flames, rendered this a very perilous employment; but we felt it as much a duty to make every effort to relieve our enemies from so shocking a situation, as an hour before we did to assist in conquering them. The loss of the enemy must have been very considerable. Great numbers were killed on board, and in boats. Several launches were sunk. In one of them were fourscore men, who were all drowned, except an officer and twelve of them, who were floated under our walls upon the wreck. It was impossible that greater exertions could have been made to prevent it, but there is every reason to believe that a great many wounded perished in the flames. All the battering ships were set on fire by our hot shot except one, which we afterwards burnt. The admiral left his flag flying, and it was consumed with the ship.A large hole was beat in the bottom of my boat; my coxswain was killed, and two of the crew were wounded by pieces of timber falling on her when one of the battering ships blew up. The same cause sunk one of my gun-boats and damaged another....A considerable detachment of seamen did duty as artillerists upon the batteries, and gave great satisfaction.The officers and men of the brigade of seamen under my command, in whatever situations they were placed, behaved in a manner highly becoming them.

Letter from Captain Curtis of HMS Brilliant to Mr. Stephens, dated Camp at Europa, Gibraltar, 15 September 1782, Annual Register 1782.

6. 74 Gun ship captured form the French at Genoa April 1814

Renamed Genoa

7. 38 Gun frigate fifth rate

Launched Deptford 1814 on the 28th of December. She was 1408 Tons and carried a crew of 284.In 1843 the umber of guns was reduced to 22.She stayed in the Royal Navy for nearly a hundred years; she became a training ship for volunteers in 1860 and in 1889 her name was changed to Briton. She was eventually sold in 1908

With thanks to Stuart Bolton a local Plymouth Artist

. H.M.S. BRILLIANT ON HER WAY OUT OF PLYMOUTH SOUND, WITH NISUS AND ANOTHER WARSHIP AT ANCHOR IN CAWSAND BAY

 

 

8. 8 gun cruiser (two six inch guns and six 4.7inch guns)

Launched at Sheerness 1891. She was 3600 tons and 9200 horsepower with a top speed of 20knots. From 1904 to 1906 she served as the Royal Naval reserve drill ship at Southampton She then served in Newfoundland Fisheries Service before being sunk as a block ship at Ostend in 1918.

Thanks to Terra Nova Greens for the postcard image.

I always thought that postcard was of a photo taken in St. John's harbour....the hills look similar etc. And it is a Newfoundland post card with a 1 cent Newfoundland post stamp. A green victoria penny, I believe.

Jason and Hedley (Canada)

 

 

Thanks to the people of Cupid for the photograph including crewmembers ofHMS Brilliants ships company

 


Built Sheerness Dockyard Launched 24/6/1891
In 1906 she joined the Newfoundland Fisheries service and remained on duty in Newfouldland waters until 1911
She was sunk as a blockship at Ostend Belgium 22/4/1918

Photo courtesy of Steve Johnson www.cyberheritage.co.uk

Postcard (Bill)

..........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

 

9. 1360 Ton Destroyer 1930-1948

Malta 1934

With Thanks to Geoff Mason www.naval-history.net (One of if not the best website for researching your Naval Ancestors )

D e t a i l s o f W a r S e r v i c e

1 9 3 9

September Deployed with 19th Destroyer Flotilla at Dover for Anti-submarine convoy escort
in English Channel and North Sea. Escorted BEF Convoys to French ports.
12th Damaged in collision with harbour wall at Dover.
13th Taken in hand for repair.

October Under repair.

November On completion of post repair trials rejoined Flotilla in continuation.

December Convoy escort and patrol in English Channel and North Sea.
(For details of 1939 naval activities in Hone waters see ENGAGE THE ENEMY MORE
CLOSELY by Corelli Bamett).

1 9 4 0

January English Channel and North Sea deployment in continuation. (See HOLD THE NARROW
to SEA by P Smith).
April

May
5th Escorted H M Auxiliary Minelayer HAMPTON with H M Destroyers KEITH, BOREAS
and VERITY during minelay in Thames Estuary (Operation DML9).
10th Deployed for demolition of port facilities in Dutch ports and the evacuation of allied
personnel (Operation XD - See above references).
12th Returned to Dover with over 200 refugees embarked.
15th Collided with HM Destroyer BOREAS when on passage to Hook of Holland.
16th Taken on hand for repair at HM Dockyard, Sheerness.

June Under repair
17th Joined 1st Destroyer Flotilla based at Dover.
Deployed for Channel convoy defence and interception patrol in English Channel.
(Note : Destroyer Flotillas had been re-organised because of heavy losses during
evacuation operations - references as above).

July Channel deployment in continuation.
25th In action with E-Boats attacking convoy in Straits of Dover.
Came under air attack by Ju87 aircraft off South Foreland after being ordered to
withdraw. Near missed in initial attacks but then hit aft by two bombs which did
not explode.
Ship settled by the stern and lost way.
Vessel lightened by jettison of X and Y guns as well as Depth Charges.
No casualties on board and two aircraft were destroyed.
Initially towed into Dover.
27th Towed to HM Dockyard Chatham.

August Under repair.
to Nominated for duty with Home Fleet. September
October Post repair trials and prepared for operational service.
15th On completion took passage to join Home Fleet.
16th Escorted newly completed battleship, HMS KING GEORGE V from the Tyne to
Rosyth.
18th Joined Home Fleet for screening of major units and patrol in NW Approaches.

November Home Fleet duties in continuation.
18th Escorted HM Auxiliary Minelayers AGAMEMNON, PORT QUEBEC,
MENESTHEUS, PORT NAPIER and PORT QUEBEC of 1st Minelaying
Squadron with HM Destroyers BEAGLE and BULLDOG during minelay in
Northern Barrage (Operation SN3).
(For details of all minelaying activities see Naval Staff History (Mining).

December Home Fleet deployment in continuation.

1 9 4 1

January Home Fleet deployment in continuation.
(Note : Deployment in Irish Sea as escort for military convoy WS5B on 12th
to be confirmed.).

February
6th Escorted HM Auxiliary Minelayers AGAMEMNON, PORT QUEBEC.,
MENESTHEUS and SOUTHERN PRINCE during minelay in Northern Barrage
with HM Destroyers ECHO, ELECTRA and INGLEFIELD (Operation SN7A).

March Under refit at Southampton.
(Work done included :
3in mounting fitted for defence against aircraft in place of one set of torpedo
tubes.
Depth Charge outfit increased to 60 weapons and two Oerlikons fitted.
Radar Type 286M (Modified RAF Air-Surface Vessel equipment) installed.
(These were interim modifications for use of a Fleet Destroyer as an anti
submarine escort

April Under refit
Nominated for Atlantic convoy escort duty based at Freetown.

May On completion of post refit trials rejoined Home Fleet at Scapa Flow.
12th Part of escort for HM Aircraft Carrier FURIOUS and HM Cruiser LONDON for
passage to Gibraltar.
19th Deployed with HM Destroyers FAULKNOR, FORESTER, FOXHOUND, FURY
and HESPERUS as screen for HM Battlecruiser RENOWN, HM Aircraft
Carriers ARK ROYAL and FURIOUS during cover for Malta aircraft delivery.
(Operation SPLICE).
(For details of Malta aircraft deliveries see THE BATTLE FOR THE
MEDITERRANEAN by D MacIntyre, ENGAGE THE ENEMY MORE
CLOSELY by C Barnett and MALTA CONVOYS by R Woodman.).
23rd On completion of Operation SPLICE deployed with HM Cruiser LONDON in
search for German supply ships in Atlantic.
(Note : This operation was based on ULTRA information. See BRITISH
INTELLIGENCE IN WW2 (HMSO) and BREAKING THE ENIGMA by
D Kahn).

June
4th Intercepted ESSO HAMBURG in South Atlantic which was scuttled.
5th Intercepted EGERLAND in same area which was also scuttled by ner crew.
10th Joined 18th Destroyer Flotilla at Freetown for Atlantic convoy defence and
interception patrol.
16th Joined military convoy WS9A with HM Destroyers BOREAS and HIGHLANDER off
African coast for Local Escort into Freetown.
18th Detached from WS9A on arrival.

July Freetown deployment in continuation.
10th Joined military convoy WS9B with HM Destroyers WILD SWAN and WIVERN, HM
Corvette ASPHODEL off African coast for Local Escort into Freetown.
13th Detached on arrival at Freetown.

August Deployment as Senior Officer's ship of 18th Flotilla in continuation.
27th Joined military convoy WS10X with HM Destroyers VELOX and WRESTLER, HM
Corvettes CLEMATIS and CROCUS off African coast for Local Escort into Freetown.
28th Detached from WS10X on arrival at Freetown.

September Freetown deployment in continuation.
to
November

December
18th Joined military convoy WS14 with HM Destroyer HURWORTH off African coast as
Local Escort into Freetown.
21st Detached from WS14 on arrival at Freetown.
25th Sailed with WS14 for Local Escort from Freetown.
26th Detached from WE14 with mv ABOSSO for escort to Takoradi.

1 9 4 2

January Deployment at Freetown with Flotilla in continuation

February
26th Joined military convoy WS16 with HM Destroyers BOREAS AND WILD SWAN off
African coast for Local Escort into Freetown.

March
1st Detached from WS16 on arrival at Freetown.
6th Sailed with WS16 from Freetown with HM Destroyer WILD SWAN, HM Corvettes
JASMINE, NIGELLA and HM Sloop Bridgewater as Local Escort.
8th Detached from WS16 with HMS WILD SWAN and returned to Freetown.

April Under refit.
to (Note : Work included :
May After 4.7in gun in Y position landed an two additional 20mm guns fitted.

June On completion of post refit trials took passage to Freetown to resume Atlantic convoy
escort duties.
26th Joined military convoy WS20 with HM Destroyer BLACKMORE off W. African coast
for Local Escort to Freetown.
Part of Ocean Escort of Military WS Convoy to Durban.

July
2nd Detached from W520 on arrival at Freetown.
6th Sailed with WS20 with HM Destroyers BLACKMORE and WIVERN as escort for
passage to Durban. Ocean.
(Note : Escort for passage was provided also by HM Battleship MALAYA.)
17th Remained with VJS20 when HMS MALAYA and HMS BLACKMORE detached for
escort of part of convoy into Capetown.
HM Cruiser SHROPSHIRE joined escort.
20th Detached from W320 on arrival at Durban.

August Passage to Freetown to resume Atlantic convoy escort deployment

September Convoy defence duties in continuation.
Nominated for support of allied landings in North Africa.

October Passage to join Force H for Operation TORCH.
For details see ENGAGE THE ENEMY CLOSELY, RELUCTANT ENEMIES by A
Tute and Naval Staff History).

November Deployed at Gibraltar and prepared for support duties.
8th Part of escort for Assault Convoy.
Provided naval gunfire fire support during landings on Beach Y at Oran.
Sank Vichy French Sloop LA SURPRISE that attempted to interfere with
TORCH landings.
Rescued 21 survivors from French WARSHIP. See above references).
14th Transferred to 61st Escort Group at Gibraltar for anti-submarine defence of the
Follow-up convoys and patrol in Western Mediterranean.

December Convoy defence with Group in continuation.
Nominated for full conversion to A/S Escort Destroyer.

1 9 4 3

January Passage to Portsmouth.

February Taken in hand for Full Conversion by HM Dockyard, Portsmouth.

March Under conversion.
to Work done included
May Ahead Throwing Anti-Submarine Mortar (HEDGEHOG) fitted in place
of forward 4.7in gun mounting (A).
Centimetric surface warning radar (Type 271) installed.
Depth Charge allowance increased to 125.
3in AA gun removed and after set of torpedo tubes replaced.
(For details of development of anti-submarine tactics and new weapons
see SEEK AND STRIKE by W Hackmann).

June Post refit trials and prepared for operational service.

July Nominated for service with 13th Destroyer- Flotilla based at Gibraltar.
Carried out Work-up in Clyde area.

August Passage to Mediterranean to join Flotilla.

September Deployed with Flotilla for Local Escort and anti-submarine search duties.
to (Note :During this period increased A/S patrols in conjunction with RAF aircraft
November were carried out in Gibraltar Command area. See U-BOAT WAR IN THE
ATLANTIC (HMSO) and HITLER'S U-BOAT WAR by C Blair.)

December
12th Took part in search with US Destroyers EDISON, TRIPPE and WOOLSEY for
U73 which had torpedoed a ship in Convoy GUS24 off the coast of Algeria.
(Note : U73 was sunk later by US Destroyers by surface gunfire after attacks by
Depth Charges forced the submarine to surface.)

1 9 4 4

January Convoy defence and A/S duties at Gibraltar in continuation.
to
August

September Passage to UK for refit

October Under refit at Portsmouth.
Nominated for service with 1st Destroyer Flotilla.
November Joined Flotilla at Portsmouth and deployed in English Channel and SW
Approaches for convoy defence.

December Convoy defence duty with Flotilla in continuation.
24th Deployed as escort for troopship LEOPOLDVILLE during passage to Cherbourg
with HM Destroyer ANTHONY and two other escorts.
After troopship was hit by acoustic torpedo fired by U486 took part in rescue of
survivors with other escorts. Embarked 20 soldiers before ship sank.
(Note : Ship was carrying 2,237 men of US 66th Division and crew of 237.
1,673 men were rescued and 821 lost their lives.
For details see HITLER'S U-BOAT WAR by C Blair.)

1 9 4 5

January Channel deployment in continuation
Sustained major structural damage in collision with HM Canadian Corvette
LINDSAY during fog in English Channel.

February Under temporary repair at Portsmouth.
to Transferred to Antwerp for completion.
March

April Nominated for service as an Air Target Ship.
23rd On completion of repair at Antwerp took passage to Portsmouth for conversion.

May Under conversion.

June Deployed at Portsmouth.
7th Escorted HM Cruiser JAMAICA during passage to Jersey with HM King George
VI for visit to Channel Islands.
13th Passage to Clyde for Air Target duty.

July Nominated for detached duty as required for collection of surrendered U-Boats.
(Operation DEADLIGHT).
(Note : No evidence has been found for use as an Air Target ship for aircrew
training during WW2).

P o s t W a r N o t e s

HMS BRILLIANT was deployed for escort of surrendered U-Boats to Lisahally and Loch Ryan but did not take part in their destruction later. During November 1945 she Paid-off and was placed in Reserve.

After she had been de-equipped the ship was used for target trials and placed on the Disposal List in 1947. Sold for to BISCO for demolition by West of Scotland Shipbreakers on 21st February 1948 the ship arrived in tow at the breaker's yard at Troon in April 1948.

 

 

Launched at Wallsend on Tyne by Swan Hunter in 1930 She cost £221 668 and carried a crew of 143 men. Her armanent amounted to 10main guns 8 torpedo tubes. On trials she exceeded her design speed of 35.56 knots. She began service with the Mediterranean fleet at Malta but when the Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936 she was sent to Malaga as a guard ship to protect and evacuate British citizens. At the outbreak of the Second World War Brilliant was transferred to Dover for patrols in the English channel and also for cross channel escort duties. A collision with the Dover breakwater in September 1939 requirede 6 weeks of repairs. On 10th May 1940 the day the German offensive started in the Netherlands Brilliant sailed for Antwerp to evacuate British citizens and if necessary to deny the Port facilities to the Germans. Two days later she left Dover with her sister ship Boreas to take part in a similar operation at the Hook of Holland, but the two Destroyers collided and had to put in to Sheernessfor repairs.

On the 25th of July 1940 Brilliant and Boreas sailed to intercept enemy torpedo boats sighted off the French coast Brilliant engaged them with gunfire, closing to within 5 miles of Cap Griz Nez and coming under fire from shore batteries. The two destroyers were then dive bombed on their way back to the British coast. Brilliant received two bombs on her quarterdeck. Both failed to detonate but caused flooding of the steering gear and magazines. She was towed to Chatham for repairs. In 1941 Brilliant moved form the home fleet to the South Atlantic command to perform screening and escort duties untill 1942 when she was attached to yet another command - Force H for the invasion of North Africa. The invasion took place on the 7th of November and Brilliants task was close support of the landing at Beach, Oran, where she fired on Vichy French defenses. The Vichy sloop La Surprise attempted to attack the invasion force off Y beach but was sunk by Brillliant after a 14 minute gun engagement.From early 1942 following a major refit Brilliant assumed a busy snti submarine role until the end of the war when she was given the task of escorting the many surrendered U-Baots form various ports to Holy Loch where they were scuttled. Before that on May the 7th 1945 she was given the honour of escorting George the 6th to Jersey. She was sold on the 21st of February 1948 for scrapping at Troon

Photo Courtesy of Robbie Burns http://ships-badges.co.uk/home.htm

Brilliant shipmate 1983


Thanks to Mac holden for his account of his Naval Career and draft on board D84

MY DAYS IN THE ROYAL NAVY
At the beginning of the second world war, I along with my friend Edwin Jenkins
went to the Cutlers hall in Sheffield to volunteer for the Royal Navy, after a number of questions they said that as I worked at the local Colliery, I was in a reserved occupation. Edwin was called up shortly afterwards and went into D.E.M.S. (defensively equipped merchant ships).
A few months later they decided that I was no longer in a reserved occupation, and sent my calling up papers, along with a rail ticket for Skegness and orders to report to Butlins holiday camp. This had been renamed H M S Royal Arthur. We were then shown round the establishment, given our cabin and bedding and that was it for that day.
The following morning we were wakened early, did our ablutions and had to 'fall in' and form squads. Then came the morning exercise, double march round the buildings several times,(double march is a hidden meaning for run). We were certainly ready for breakfast when we had finished the run as, stretched out in a straight line it was a lot longer than we were used to running.
We were then taken to the equipment store and kitted out in naval uniform. Now that we had become sailors in a short time we soon learnt that , unlike being at home, you could not do what you wanted, when they said jump up, you jumped up but you did not come down until they told you, this action was a little difficult but it quickly sank in that they were in charge. They had their nice ways of letting you know who was in charge ,just little things, like run round those three blocks of buildings three times. Just to make it more interesting you can have a full pack and a rifle to keep you company. I am sure those petty officers had a mother and father, but we did not think so at the time.
After a fortnight ,I think, we were put in a railway carriage and left Skegness on a journey to the other side of the country to a place in another country,(anyway they sounded like people from another country),
Not one of them said 'nah then were's tha cum frum).so I knew that I was not in Yorkshire. We found out that it was Butlins new holiday camp in North Wales. No facilities just a hole in the ground and bell tents At this establishment 'if you could call it that' we spent a month on a so called a toughening up course and quite a number of injections , black water fever, yellow fever, and a number of other injections. At night we had the music of German bombers passing overhead to bomb Liverpool. During these raids we had to guard the main gate (if I remember rightly it was just a hole in the hawthorn hedge),the orders were we had to stop any traffic or pedestrians and make them show their identity cards, of course it befell me to stop the local doctor who was not very pleased, (they don't half speak funny when they get excited these Welsh people, I came from the parish of Wales in South Yorkshire, and no body speaks like that. After a month of this, it was decided that we should move once again,( I wonder who these people were who made these decisions), I was to learn much later that they were known in he navy as 'barrack stanchions' otherwise as having a quiet number somewhere away from all the action.

We arrived at Chatham during one of the many air raids, so, we soon learnt that all those planes did not go to bomb Liverpool. As we were late in arriving at the barracks nobody seemed to know what to do with us, so into the church we were herded and given a blanket each, have you ever slept on a parquet floor with only wood underneath you and a blanket over you, I can assure you it was b****y cold. They, these people who gave these orders must have had a lot of confidence in the structure of that church, or the good Lord kept the bombs away from us. The following day we were taken to what was called the barracks (I think) anyway this was the part that housed the trainee engine room people, so I was informed that I was to become a stoker. The following day we were marched down into the dockyard to several piles of pebbles and a few boiler fronts. The petty officer in charge of us told us to learn to throw pebbles into the pretend boiler, I stood there leaning on the shovel not doing anything, up came the petty officer and said come on that means you as well, I said but I know how to shovel petty officer ,the remark was oh! one of these clever boys eh! he replied get on with it, I was standing about five or six feet from the boiler front and shoved the shovel into the heap and straight into the boiler they went six good shovels full straight through the boiler front. Oh he said, get out if sight till we fall in to march back to the barracks. I did not inform him that when you work at a coal mine one of the things you become proficient at, is shovelling.
We then did some parade ground work, up and down the parade ground for what seemed to be hours until we could march in something like a straight line across the parade ground ,which, I can assure you was not easy. These days I have nothing but admiration for the troops that take part in the trouping of the colours it takes a lot of hard work and time to march like that. One time we had a lot of marching to do preparing for one of the royal family coming to visit the barracks. On the day of the big event we were all lined up for ages and ages ,and then some cars swept past, up on the road above the parade ground , you can imagine the mumblings and grumbling that went on , all that time marching up and down for just a whoosh and they had gone.(to the ward room for a 'snifter' I suppose).
During this period I managed to get an occasional week-end leave. On the way home we had to go through London on the 'underground' the people of London had their beds on the platform so they could get a good nights rest away from the bombing, I have a lot of admiration for those people, they always made me feel embarrassed when you walked by they always gave you a cheer. Then the day arrived that over the public address system came the announcement, stoker Holden report to the drafting office in the drill shed. The report to the drafting office meant that ,when kitted up you had to return to the drill shed with kit bag and hammock, this meant crossing the parade ground with hammock on your shoulder and kit bag (full) at the double, it was difficult to run with all that weight but none the less you had to do it or else, I am sure that the gunnery chiefs and petty officers were on the look out especially for any engine room ratings waiting for just that opportunity. The draft was to join HMS Brilliant a destroyer. Then we went to the pursers to draw more kit, lifebelt, whites, ( tropical clothing ) and one or two other things. The next move was Chatham station where we caught a train,{ a good place to catch a train you may think, but in those days of the Blitz, you never knew if the lines were open the morning after an air raid), to make our way to Glasgow. On our arrival we did not stay at St James hotel which I think was the naval headquarters for that area, but in a tatty old run down club in Govan, fully equipped with cockroaches, bugs etc, fortunately only for a four days stay. HMS Brilliant was on her way to Rosyth escorting a submarine, she received orders to return to Scapa Flow and had to turn round at Bass rock and return to Scapa Flow.
A day or so later when we reported to St James and they gave us the orders that we had to catch a train from Glasgow Central station to Thurso at 17.30 the next day. I do recall in the early hours of the morning waking to the clanking of milk churns and some one shouting PERTH ,where the train had been all that time I do not know (probably via Bristol) We were the last train to get through for several weeks owing to the amount of snow on the railway lines,(no such things as the wrong type of snow in those days, it was a case of open the throttle and keep going).We finally arrived at Thurso at 10 am the next morning, not bad for a journey of about 250 miles. We were taken by service transport from Thurso station to Scrabster where we boarded the ferry to go to Scapa Flow. It was the first time in my life that I have seen snow falling horizontally, anyone who has experienced the winds up in Caithness area will know what I mean. On arrival at Kirkwall we were taken by boat to board the Edinborough Castle which was a liner that was being used as a depot ship. One of the sailors told me about the wonderful things that the cadets had made on the deck below, being the a nosey sort of a bloke I went down the companionway to a compartment that was lit by a 40 watt bulb, as my eyes became accustomed to the dim light I could make out rows and rows of coffins, I think they were for the bodies that from time to time surfaced from the Royal Oak. I came up that companionway faster than if they had piped abandon ship , of course the (b*****d) person that told me the story had disappeared, lucky for him Two days later we were transferred to the love of my life HMS Brilliant.
It was not long before stores ,water and fuel were taken in and I was on my way to doing 18 months of escort work from as far away as north of Iceland to Durban (of course the ship and about 170 other people were with me). We took part in several convoys half way across the Atlantic, commonly known to us as 29 degrees west. The reason that we only went half way or 29 west was that, we only carried enough fuel for that voyage and could not make the full crossing. We also took part in the big north Atlantic sweep escorting HMS Nelson, HMS Rodney, I think HMS Ramiles three big battleships and wall to wall cruisers and destroyers. I understand that this was to show the enemy what power we had over the North Atlantic, I can tell you that it was not half rough, it was so rough that we could not see a lot of the fleet because when we were on top of a wave they were down in the trough. Another escort job that we had was escorting two minelayers to a position north west of Iceland .One of the minelayers was HMS Manxman, I am not sure what the name of the other minelayer was, I understand there was three of the same class We were told to cover a certain area whilst they laid the mines, the reason being that we could only do about 35 knots and they laid the mines at 45 knots, just imagine about 5,000 tons or more of steel travelling at 50 M.P.H, I was pleased to be clear of them. For the first four days at sea I was seasick, the only time I felt well was when I was flat on my back or up on the upper deck in the fresh air. One day Leading Stoker Smith brought my tot of rum up to my little cranny on the upper deck and ordered me to drink it or go and see the engineer officer ( nobody wanted to see 'Paddy' only at a distance ,so down went the tot of rum, `5 minutes later 'smithy' came up with my dinner, and every little bit went down and I kept it there,( good 'old 'smithy) I was never seasick again.( I wonder who drank my rum ration when I was sick ?} One day whilst feeling sick, tucked a way in my little cubby hole I glanced over the ships side and there floating past was a mine, about 2 metres from the ship, probably the lookouts were asleep or maybe it was 'stand easy' the thought passed through my mind, that had we been a little bit more to starboard on our course it would have cured my seasickness. Not long after that a body floated past, so some poor soul had 'bought it' as the saying goes.
I can assure the person that said the navy was in Scapa Flow when they expected the Germans to invade this country, was a long way from the truth, yes we were in Scapa, but we weren't idling about , we were escorting merchant ship bringing food and supplies to this country for the people and also munitions for our fighting men. We were lucky to get to the canteen in Liness for a few hours, then back to sea again.
After one particularly rough trip someone found a crack appearing across the deck about amidships, we then had to make our way down the Irish sea, on the way to Southampton, we had to go into Milford Haven to shelter from the rough seas because of the crack across the deck which might have spread, The following day quite a number of the lads did not feel very well. I can assure you it was not the Welsh food that made them ill, it was the beer inside a real pub instead of Liness canteen, where the rig of the day was overall suits and sea boots. While we were in Milford haven we lay out in mid stream, we were taken ashore in a drifter, you can just imagine a drifter full of sailors ,three parts of them drunk, we had to wait till a certain time before we left the jetty so, it turned into a 'sods' opera, anyone in earshot would certainly have heard a few sea shanties, some of them not for publication even in these times Then on to Southampton to go into dry dock for a refit.,
As we crossed the Bristol channel we came across a small dinghy with four German airman on board ,their aircraft had been hit and they had to ditch it in the sea, one of the airmen gave me a medal from the edge of his uniform jacket and a ribbon to go with it, it is tucked away in my attic somewhere and I haven't seen it for years, the medal I mean not the attic. The airman told me that it was the Iron Cross second class, to me it seemed like a small monal metal tick, not very big at all.
After we tied up alongside in Southampton and the boilers were shut down one of the jobs to do was to put the funnel covers on. These covers were made of 'pursers' canvas which when wet weighed a quite a lot, first we had to remove a man sized plate from the side of the boiler to enable us to get into the funnel 'I should say here that 'we' meant Dave Sage a lad from Forest town near Mansfield, and of course myself. Having lugged the funnel cover up the ladder inside the funnel we then had to unroll it ,not easy stood on a narrow grating, then came the job of spreading it over the top of the funnel, that was easy you would think except we did not alow for the strong March wind that was blowing and that you should always put the windward side of the cover on first. Yes it happened, the wind picked up the cover and blew it over the side of the funnel , no it did not fall very far just over onto the cable that sounded the ships fog horn. There was just enough steam left in the other boiler for the fog horn to emit a long low groan. As I looked over the side of the funnel there was the chief stoker waving his arms and I can only guess that he was swearing. We managed to hang on to a bit of the funnel cover and pull it back over the funnel and then secure it. It was a job to dodge the chief stoker for the rest of the day. While we were up on the funnel I said to Dave what is the date today, he said that it was March the ninth I said oh! I was twenty one on the sixth, so I missed my tweny first birthday. A number of air raids took place whilst we were in dry dock, one stick of bombs straddled the ship but luckily she stayed upright. It was a dangerous position to be in as the only thing that kept the ship upright was what looked like telegraph poles, if the bombing was a near miss it sometimes shook these poles and when they fell out the effects of the bomb caused a fire on board with disastrous results
One of our particular haunts in Southampton was the Bannister club for the dancing and of course the other things that 'Jack' went ashore for, the bombs never stopped us dancing or chasing the girls. One particular night we were at the dance when a heavy bombing took place. On the way back to the docks after the dance, the shops that we passed on the way up the town we climbed over them on the way back, as they were spread right across the road, but we never let it interfere with our dancing,( Talk about strictly come dancing).
It was very nice to get some leave and see my family once again before we went to sea .The day came when we said goodbye to Southampton and headed south for Gibraltar. On the way to 'Gib' we had to drop one of our stokers off in Ponte del Garda in the Azores owing to a bad attack of pneumonia, I often wonder if Phelps got over the illness and did he have a good time, as we sailed into the harbour across on the other side of dock basin was a U boat, there was a few shouts of ,we will get you as you come out of the harbour, but I bet they gave us a good start before they went to sea.

Crossing the line court

After a few days in 'Gib' once again out to sea, this time to the west. A few hours steaming and the report of HMS Hood being sunk came over the radio, I can assure you that the crew really felt this loss. We took a southerly course heading for Freetown and ran into some very nice weather quite a change from the north Atlantic. On our arrival off Freetown I was amazed at the length of the boom defence that protected the Sierra Leone river, it was miles long, and the river flowed out at about 10 knots. The ship had to anchor out in the stream, as I was stoker in the motorboats crew I can tell you that boom across the entrance to the river doesn't half seem to be approaching fast after the engine decided it would have a rest in between the ship and dry land, come to think of it the motor boat coxswain was pretty smart with the signal lamp, because rescue always arrived before we hit the boom. Engines have been my hobby and my living since the age of 11 years and I am now 85 years old but that was the most awkward engine I have ever come across in my whole life. it was a Ford v 8 engine and when it was good it was very good but when it was bad it was a b*****d, we finished up blanking one of the cylinders off when a piston broke and wore through the cylinder wall and ran it on 7 cylinders. There was no starter on the engine only my right arm, hence all the bad language, swearing did not make it start any better. In all fairness I must admit that we were the fastest launch in Freetown until the store ship and headquarters ship H M S, Philoctetes arrived she carried a launch with two ford v 8 engines.( as they say in Yorkshire that is probably why that our engine had the 'tup' on it ) because it was no longer the fastest boat on the station. On one of our trips out the chief engine room artificer decided that the motor boat engine could possibly need decarbonising, 'yes' I got the job. So out came the ford V 8 engine and was put on the deck behind the searchlight platform. This stood about twelve feet above deck level so it provided shelter from the tropical sun. The only thing wrong with this was that we had no special tools required for the job, these were a special shaped tool for taking out the valves and valve guides and the suction disk to fasten on to the valves to grind them in, I manage to solve this problem by using my fingers on the top of the valve and then getting hold of the valve stem with the fingers of my other hand and twisting round and round at the same time. What should have been a mornings work took two or three days to accomplish, When it came to scraping the carbon from the cylinder head I thought, I am not crouching down to do this on the floor so I noticed a convenient steel box on the side of the searchlight platform and it was just the right level, so up went the cylinder head and I was working away nicely scraping and bumping on the box when one of the torpedo men came along the deck. He said wait a minute Mac while I get well forward out of your way, so I said what's wrong with you, his reply was that the box contained fulminate of mercury that they used in the torpedoes and that it would explode just with the touch of a brush and he didn't want to be near when it exploded, I removed the cylinder head from that box very carefully, nobody told me that was the reason it was painted red, we didn't have that sort of thing in the engine room, did we? You talk about wet pants.

HMS brilliant looking Aft...........................................................................................Torpedo leaving the tube

After we dropped anchor, the stores boat came alongside and all the natives were wearing thick pullovers and balaclavas, they told us that it was winter in Freetown, there we were wearing as little as possible, always avoiding sunburn as this was considered a self inflicted wound and you was put on a charge in front of the Captain, 'Off caps' as the saying goes.
The duty that we had to perform was convoys out of Freetown , 7 days north, then another escort came out of Bathurst, this was known as the ocean escort and took over to take the convoy to U.K and we went into Bathhurst on the Gambia river to take in stores, water and fuel, lying just astern of us was a river launch which we were told that this was the launch that was in the film Sanders of the river, if this was true or not, I do not know , and then back out to sea again to relieve the escort of a southbound convoy so that they could go in to Bathhurst for fuel stores etc and they would wait for another convoy going to U.K These convoys carried supplies for the middle east. Although some of the ships carried fighter aircraft foe the middle east which were assembled and flown across Africa to the Middle east this was carried out somewhere on the Gold Coast, probably some R.A.F personnel could tell you where After a couple of days rest for the troops in Freetown and then out again until we said goodbye to them south of the equator. Our shore leave was from 13.30 pm until 16.30, if we were lucky, which was sometimes once a fortnight. If you were watch- keeping, it was called four-on and four off, this meant four hours on and eight hours off, owing to the dog watches it went something like this, afternoon-12 till 4.o clock, the First 8 till midnight, then the forenoon 8 am till noon-- ( yes eight hours sleep not counting getting up washing etc) --last dog 6 till 8 --morning 4 till 8 am-- first dog 6 till 8 pm--and middle midnight till 4am. Then back to the afternoon watch again, if you had the afternoon watch it was your duty to clean the mess deck and prepare dinner then take it up to the galley for the ships cook, after he hade made it edible we hade to fetch it from the galley take out our meal, drink our tot of rum, eat your dinner, and then down below on watch for four hours This went on for twelve months. One good thing about watch keeping was that during the middle watch we used to go to the potato locker and take a few potatoes (illegal of course), tuck them under the insulation on the turbine throttles and three and three quarter hours in that position they were cooked perfectly, one morning just before we were due to go off watch a pair of white overall covered legs appeared down the ladder from the upper deck, now only one person wore white overalls, it was 'Paddy' the chief engineer a mild panic took place as the potatoes smelt lovely, we thought we were in real trouble, Paddy' walked up to the throttles took out a couple of spuds and said " have you made the porridge yet",. You would think I have never kept watch in a 'bloody' engine room before and walked away laughing. So we only had one potato each instead of two. No Saturday or Sunday off the only respite was when the tubes in the boilers needed cleaning, this was a four day job, one of the things that we did in Freetown was to form a racing whalers crew and we had competitions with other escort vessels somehow or other I was made stroke oar, you may think how did we train with a ten knot flow of the river, well, if the tide was slack we could let go of the painter and row round the ship, if the tide was running we just got into the whaler pulled like mad and never even slackened the painter, one thing with that we never had to row back to the ship we just climbed out of the boat and up the ladder that was fastened to the boom . We also had a cricket team and any strange ship that crossed the boom we immediately challenged it to a game of cricked, one of the ships that we challenged was either the PRINCE OF WALES or The REPULSE, they were sorry that they could not give us a game of cricket as they did not have a cricket team. Imagine that a battleship that did not have a cricket team and I would think they had about 1000 members of their crew. One of our regular opponents was the team from the Hospital ship, I think it was the Dorset shire, it was always a good game as they had a Yorkshire fast bowler playing for them, they did not always win, ( they were a tough lot on the BRILLIANT.) So with a bit of luck we used to get ashore in Freetown twice in 14 days, I can not recall, but I think it was twice during the twelve months that we had to have the boilers cleaned.
I must have a little moan about the BBC, program 'war at sea' this was the worst, ill advised program I have ever seen on television, The producer obviously only knew about escorting ladies, and not supply ships, the only escort ship that was shown on the program were three destroyers doing a hard-a-port manoeuvre into a line abreast formation and this was three destroyers painted for the gulf war, so come on if you are going to tell a story of the Western approaches get someone who has been 'on the job, not on the Serpentine, and please send the U boat proper gander film, back to Germany they may need it. .
Phew that's got that of my chest, I have been wanting to do that for a long time, it makes me feel better already .Now where was I, oh yes, after boiler cleaning it was back to sea again.
My thoughts on the Merchant Navy, as far as I am concerned ,Mount Everest would not make a monument big enough for the lads who lost there lives saving their country. Believe me, I have seen the suffering that they went through. If and when we came across any of them in the water or in life boats, over the side went the scrambling nets (these were made of thick rope and looked a lot like several rope ladders joined together) those who had the strength climbed up and helped there shipmates , they always made sure that the sick and injured were pushed or carried up the scrambling nets first so that we could hoist them inboard, many of them were covered in fuel oil and if they had breathed any of this into their lungs, you knew that it would not be long before they were sewn up in a hammock with a shell for a weight and a service was held for them. Whist I served aboard HMS Brilliant we were fired on by 9" shore batteries at Oran or Merser el Keber to be more correct, bombs, torpedoes ,machine guns but I don't think we had it as bad as those lads.
After about twelve months we had the misfortune to collide with a whale, which broke away some of the steel plates that covered the rudder. After a few more convoys some more of the plates came away, so it was back to UK for repairs and another refit, this time in Chatham dockyard. The only problem was coming through the straits of Dover and the danger of 'E boats' by this time we had no means of steering, so the ship had to alter course by the use of main engines, which meant that to turn the ship you had to go ahead on one engine and astern on the other one
which made it a busy time in the engine room, what a relief when we approach the Medway and into the dockyard. It was a lovely sound to hear the telegraphs signal 'finished main engines'.
The main trouble in a Naval Dockyard was the dockyard mate. .Sailors and dock yard personal never seemed to get on well together, I think it was mainly the unions that was to blame. On one occasion we needed a leak welding up on one of our lubricating oil tanks, it was only small leak and needed about two inches of welding put on it. The chief stoker sent me to the welders shop to ask for a welder to do the job, the only problem was that the welding shop was on the other side of the basin that we were alongside, so it was about half a mile walk which did not suit my sea legs, anyhow with the chief stoker, it was a case of he who shall be obeyed ,so, off I went muttering to myself and asked in a very nice manner if they would come round to the Brilliant and do the job, they reluctantly said yes, so back I went to report to the Chief that they were coming to do the job. After about half an hour later along came a man ( I nearly said gentleman then) pushing a two wheeled barrow with all the welding equipment on board, the welder was walking alongside the barrow pusher, ( Oh no it was against union rules for him to push the barrow, so he had a mate to do that for him).After much huffing and puffing the equipment was taken down the engine room hatch, down a grating walkway between the two main engines to the rear of the engine room. As soon as the welder saw the job he said that he could not do the work until the pipe fitters had removed a pipe that was in his way. The pipe fitters were in the same shop as the welders, so, yes, you guest right, round to the pipe fitters I had to go, with a very big cloud over my head and my blood pressure rising very fast. All right we will be along shortly they said, maybe it was tea time or if it was a union regulation that half an hour had to elapse before they attended a job I never found out. When they arrived the welder told them what was required, they took one look at the job and said we cant touch that pipe until the fitters have moved this grating. I looked at the Chief stoker and started to shake my head and said, no Chief I am not going round that basin again, don't these B******S no there is a war on, and if they do not take out the four bolts holding that grating I will, and the union can go and get 'stuffed'. Don't they know there is a war on or what. Funnily enough the job was done very quickly by dockyard standards. Could it have been my doubting their parentage.

After ammunition supply Battler, Morris, Crockford, Stumpy and Bill

After the refit we partly re-commissioned with a new crew, then off once again this time up the East coast with a convoy, it was quite a change to be with a convoy that some of the ships had barrage balloons on them, no doubt to stop the dive bomber attacking them, it seemed to work ,as we were not attacked at all. I had been taken off watch keeping and put on day work, this was eight o clock in the morning until sixteen hundred hours with a break at lunchtime and a ten minute break known as 'stand easy' for a cup of tea. My job was to check the temperature of the stern tube (where the propeller shaft goes out of the hull of the ship) as the bearing had been repacked to stop water coming into the ship, this needed to be checked for overheating, until it had been run in. I had to take up the hatch cover in the wardroom flat into the magazine through another hatch down to the stern tube, as the bearing had been packed with tallow soaked rope ( I think) It was a little bit warm but it was not over heating. So a quick dash up through the magazine, I put the hatch cover on the magazine and then the wardroom flat cover and along the upper deck down the forward boiler room and straight to the bucket, that stink in the after compartment was terrible. No I was not seasick , it was the terrible smell down at the stern tube, possibly , stern was the correct term for it. When we rounded the north coast of Scotland the Skerries was in a very bad mood, but the old girl did not mind (well she was laid down in 1931 so you could call her old ) was well up to the job, do not believe that with land on both sides of you that it has got to be a smooth passage, of all the times we were in the western approaches, I have never known it so rough. B guns crew had to be sent to the galley flat as the sea was breaking over the gun and they were liable to be washed overboard, the officers and bridge crew were getting wet through and they were a good 30 feet above sea level. A good friend of mine who I met when my son went to live in Helmsdales took me to sea in his trawler and he assured me that when they went through the Skerries or the Pentland firth whichever you want to call it, they had to stay very close to land or they would have the engines going flat out and be going astern, they really have some bad weather up there. The guns crew were nearly all first time at sea, and when I went to the galley flat to go down the forward boiler room the guns crew were all lying on the deck being seasick, what a mess. Down the boiler room and straight to the bucket I went, Jack Cooper the petty officer that I kept a lot of watches with ,said to me sailors Ive s**t em, so I said go up and have a look in the galley flat there is no need to leave the airlock just look over the hatch, he came flying down the ladder in the boiler room straight to the bucket and called me all the rotten sods that he could lay his tongue to. All I said sailors was sailors Ive s**t em and got clear of the boiler room as fast as my legs could carry me.
Round the north coast we went down the west coast and up the Clyde to Gourock where I had the pleasure of seeing one of the 'Queens', I am not sure but I think it was the Queen Elizabeth all ready to carry troops.
The next few weeks we spent getting the new ratings accustomed to life on a ship First we went so far down the Clyde, to where it widened out ,there was a lighthouse there, so that was the only the only land mark that I can recall, we had to drop anchor in the middle of this stretch of water while a yacht sailed round and round us at a distance setting up our radio direction finder. Next we went to a submarine base ( I forget the name) a submarine went out with us and for a while we played hide and seek with it, this I can only think was training for the new Anti-submarine ratings to get hands on training. We then went across the Irish sea to Lough Foyle, just outside Londonderry. A few days later sailing orders came aboard and we were once more under way, this time on an escort job, the biggest convoy that I have ever seen made up of merchant ships and troop ships, apparently they came from Glasgow, Liverpool and I believe either Belfast or Londonderry. You talk about wall to wall shipping this was it, as far as eye could see the ocean was full. We were told that it was the 17th or14th army I just forget which. Two of the Orient liners were in this convoy, if I remember correctly they were the Oronsay and the Orontese also the Louis Pasture, somewhere in the famous attic of mine there are photographs taken as we herded our flock, we were close enough to see the soldiers lining the decks, I suppose the soldiers were enjoying a close look at one of their many guardians, for some reason we were very close, they might have had a message to pass, you cannot listen to a message over a radio when it is shouted through a megaphone, so it was probably an important message.
Once the convoy had formed we headed South, just off Gibraltar a cruiser came out and refuelled our ship, then onwards due south until we reached our old stamping grounds Freetown, here the convoy and the troops were given a few days rest. Amongst the convoy was a hospital ship, on board was one of the officer's sister who was a nurse, early evening the bosuns mate 'piped away motorboats crew', this was to take some of the officers to the hospital ship for a party. It always felt a bit dodgy going past other ships who had a lookout on the forepeak of the ship who called out 'boat ahoy' and if you did not call out your ships name if you were going to that ship or passing if not, they had orders to shoot and believe me they had itchy trigger fingers . On one occasion we did not hear the challenge and a shot range out and the bullet was too close for comfort, I am sure they heard our reply all over the harbour after that close call. About 11 pm it was away motorboats crew again, it was nice to be able to tell our officers to keep quiet so we could hear the sentry challenge, that shot was too close for comfort.

Stokers Stumps, Alex Simpson, Mac, Ben bolton, Tubby Boothby

After four days in Freetown , 'Hands to station for leaving harbour, all men out of the rig of the day clear the upper deck' which was a polite way of saying all you engine room crew get your scruffy looking selves out of sight, and we were once more at sea with the convoy, heading South again. I suppose quite a few were looking forward to the crossing the line ceremony, but we had crossed it so often that Neptune use to wave to us, The convoy kept on a southerly coarse while we went into Point Noire to oil and take in what ever was needed ( I could never understand why , whenever we were going into a strange harbour, I was always down below on watch and never saw these new 'to me' places). We never had a run ashore so it was a case of in and out. It did not take long to catch up with the convoy as they always travelled at the speed of the slowest ship. Some of the Captains of the faster ships, got up to all kinds of tricks to leave the convoy such as slowing down to secure the deck cargo, one of them had a deck cargo of two full sized railway engines and he said he had to make them more secure. These people somehow or other missed the convoy and arrived at their destination a day or so earlier than the convoy, and sometimes they arrived at the wrong end of a torpedo, U boats sometimes trailed behind the convoy for this reason. The submarine detector lads were smart lads, even if they did go a little bit funny with the continuous pinging of the equipment, but the subs knew how good the rest of the crew were with the depth charges and a 10 pattern of depth charges over a submarine must have given them more than a headache. One of the flashbacks I do get, is the sight of a U boat coming to the surface after an attack and then the nose pointing to the sky and she slid straight down, these days I often think of this attack and think of the people who I helped to kill, probably they no more wanted to go to war than we did.
There is no glory in killing people for gain, or any other thing. The people who decide these things should make up the first line of the action, maybe they would not be so keen to go to war, it is all very well sitting deep down in a bunker saying go on lads give it to them, as the saying in the Navy goes ' I'm inboard shove the boat off Jack' or 'fully aware as I am of your plight, I am doing very nicely Jack'.
Enough of being serious and back to the more pleasant things. One of the most beautiful sights that I ever saw whilst at sea was one evening at sunset, the sun was blood red and the we must have been in the doldrums, the sea was just like one huge sheet of aluminium foil without a ripple or a break in it, it was just bending without a break at all, occasionally a very large ray would leap out of the sea , turn a somersault and flop back in again, that was the only break in the surface of the water as far as eye could see. The reflection of the sun on the water was breathtaking, why is it that you never have a camera with you on these occasions and very often when you tell anyone about it, they look at you as though you are away with the fairies One of our old timers always went up on deck first thing in the morning especially when there was a bit of wind, the reason was to collect the flying fish that had landed on the deck, that was his breakfast, no he would not give you a taste. I only saw this while we were in the tropics. One thing that was sometimes a bit frightening was the porpoise, they used to come straight for the ship just like a torpedo and at the last minute dive under the ships bottom. One day I was standing right in the forepeak of the ship known as the bullring and when I looked down at the bow there swimming about a foot or so from the bow were three of these beautiful fish, and I can assure you that we were not idling along, it makes you wonder just how fast can these fish swim when they are at full throttle.
On and on we sailed due south until it was decided that we needed more fuel to get us to Cape town, so turn left at the next but one wave and go into Walvis bay for oil, Walvis bay is an old German whaling station on the edge of the Namib desert ( I think), for once I was not on watch ,we went alongside an oil tanker and they hadn't got the screw fitting that we needed to accept their plate fittings on the end of the hose, the reason for this was that it was what is known as a tanker and not an oiler, the oiler was used to fuel smaller ships. The tanker can only go into very deep harbours .We then had to rig up a rubber washer with timber sprags under the oerlicon gun platform, and so we managed to oil ship without making a mess on the ships deck. The second in command of the ship was always grumbling at 'Paddy' our engineer officer, about the least bit of fuel on 'his' deck, I must say it was horrible stuff to get rid of if you got it in the wrong place.
Next stop was Capetown, we went up to the naval base at Simondstown for a couple of days then back to sea again heading for Durban. As we entered Durban ,of course, I was once again on watch in the engine room and did not see the lady that used to sing at the harbour entrance to welcome convoys of troops. We went straight alongside the oiling jetty to refuel, the guard that looked after the jetty was an old Boer and he detested the English, every time you passed him he used to spit on the floor and mumble something about the English, of course the lads used to wind him up something cruel.. At last we got a run ashore, and it was there I witnessed the my first view and sound of a pipe band, the Black Watch were marching up and down in front of the town hall, you talk about the hair standing up on the back of your neck, the people would not let them stop, they must have been tired out by the time they finished. After a while two of us fancied a rickshaw ride so into a rickshaw we got ( a good place to have a rickshaw ride you would think) well the fellow pulling it was dressed in a full tribal chief outfit, he took the balance of us and set off, with having the correct balance his feet were lightly touching the floor enabling him to take eight or ten foot strides, quite a sensation I can assure you, a pleasant one at that.
I had the address of a girl that used to live next door to me when I was a school lad, her name was Elsie Bloxham she had married a member of the Coldstream guards and he along with Elsie were stationed in Egypt, as the fighting got nearer they evacuated all the wives to Durban to a place called Rosborough and I had this address. The trouble was that we had no money having sailed from U.K. our pay slips hadn't caught up with us so we were allowed a sub. After five pm, travel was free on the buses, so on a bus I got with just a few coppers in my pocket and Elsie's address, I found my way to this big house (don't ask me how, as I don't remember) it must have been a big house for all those wives to live in it. I knocked on the door, someone came and I asked to see Mrs Jowel, and explained who I was, she shouted Elsie there is a Mac Holden to see you, the next thing I knew was a pair of arms round may neck, you might think that was very nice, it was, but for a young lad who has been at sea for weeks with only male shipmates for company, some queer thoughts pass through your mind. Elsie said that whenever a troop convoy came into Durban they gave a dance and a buffet for the troops, as she was one of the people that was helping out did I mind going along with her.
Well it wasn't a buffet it was a feast, tressle tables were bending with the weight of food of all kinds, cream pastries, meat sandwiches, food of all kinds, by the time the soldiers and the one sailor had finished there wasn't a lot left on the tables, you talk about salivating we couldn't wait to get at all that lovely grub, don't say the Coldstream guards wifes can't cater. After we arrived back at the house I was shown my room, ( I know what you are thinking, but I was alone). I knew I had to be back aboard by eight am for two reasons, one was that I had no bus fare and the other was that my leave was up at eight am. At that time we were wearing whites, white hat, white shoes and white duck suit, when I was getting dressed the next morning I noticed that my hat and shoes were missing, I thought I shall have to go on the bus barefoot and no hat, with the thought of being on a charge for going ashore improperly dressed. As I opened the door there outside the door was my hat and shoes and they looked like new, I could not get them as clean as that, no matter how I tried They told me that the servants had cleaned them, what a relief. Elsie insisted that I take some money from her and some cigarettes, even when I said that I did not smoke and that I was alright for money (a little white lie) .The cigarettes were a fifty box of Gold Flakes, being a Yorkshire man I had to smoke them and continued to smoke after that.. I managed to get back on board before eight o clock (you had to pay on the bus after eight am). So it was a good run ashore and it did not cost me anything (always a good thing for a Yorkshire man).
We left the convoy in Durban and returned to Simonstown for boiler cleaning and the prospect of a good run ashore. It was a common thing for the people of Capetown to take sailors on leave into their homes for a few days rest and relaxation. One letter asked if they could have ratings that were teetotal, of course nobody wanted to go. Two of the older crew members said ' oh we will go we can always slip away for a drink, and that you could not fling kindness in their face for the sake of a drink. So as usual they were to be picked up at the gangway, up came this great big car and the driver got out and introduced himself to our two lads. Just as they were getting into the car the driver said just a minute, we might as well have a drink before we leave and went to the boot of the car, when he lifted the boot lid inside the boot was a well laid out bar. The two old 'salts' assured us that they were hardly sober the whole time ashore. One of these two sailors was called 'Smithy' (not leading stoker Smith another one),old Smithy had quite a few tales to tell about that shore leave in Capetown, I think he only told the tales just to try to wind us up. It was at this visit that I had the pleasure of meeting up with the famous 'Nuisance' the famous great dane dog that lived in Simonstown naval base and the Union Jack club, he had his own bed in both places. The story is that he became such a nuisance through looking after drunken sailors. Nobody dare touch a drunken sailor while he was around., if any civilian was sitting down on the train and a sailor was stood up he would growl at them until they got up and let the sailor sit down. At one period it was decided that he had to be put down, owing to his guarding of sailors, this almost started a civil war over the problem, and he got a reprieve. The first time that I saw him he was asleep in the Union Jack club, of coarse on his own bed and believe it or not his head was on the pillow and his tail was hanging over the bottom of the bed, he was colossal. It was said that he could drag a drunken sailor along the railway platform by the sailors collar, an stand over him until another sailor helped the sailor onto the train, so you know why the sailors were up in arms about him. After all that talk about having him put down when he sired some pups, they fetched an enormous price. What a dog?/
After the boiler clean it was out to sea again, to our surprise it was back to Durban. On arrival we oiled ship, tormented the old Boer at the oiling jetty and took in stores, fresh water etc. Then we went alongside the Battleship Ramilese ,
Were we spent a few days and a run ashore to see the sites. Then people started coming aboard and leaving, so we knew by experience that we would soon be at sea again. One thing that a lot of the crew that included the engine room branch had to do, was take inboard these boxes made of inch thick teak they were about a foot long by five inches by five inches, now I was a big strong lad in those days and proud of my fitness but I could only just manage to carry one of those boxes. Once at sea we were told that the boxes were gold bullion, I often wonder how much each box was worth, I suppose that was the most valuable thing that I ever held. It makes me laugh when I see these television programs were they are throwing boxes of so called gold about like rugby balls.
After we left harbour we waited outside for quite a while, then out came HMS Ramiles. We got under way at a very slow speed and we thought that we would pick up speed once we cleared the harbour, It was when we had been moving for about an hour that a notice went up on the ships notice board that the 'Ramiles; had been torpedoed off Madagascer and had been fitted out with a patch over the hole in her ships side while she was in Durban. Owing to this patch she was only making three knots and we were to escort her sweeping ahead of her doing five knots. The thought of a long boring voyage lay ahead, or so we thought
but we did not allow for the weather, as we approached the Cape the weather turned worse, I thought the weather round the Pentland firth could be rough, but compared with this, that passage was a flat calm. We were overtaken by a 'crack' American liner ( The Santa Elena was her name) which was making fifteen knots and I saw one third of the ships bottom as she road the waves, just like a rowing boat at the tides edge. A wire rope about half an inch diameter was stretched from the fo'csale to the ward room this was near the stern of the ship. on this rope was manropes with a large knot at the bottom. These ropes were about two foot long with what else but this knot known as a manrope knot, which in rough weather you grabbed hold and ran as fast as you could before tons of water came cascading over the fo'csale. This you had to time exactly or you got a dousing or were swimming after the ship. So I grabbed a manrope timed the waves, after a cascade of water had come over the bows of the ship and over the fo'csale you had to follow the water along the deck as fast as your legs would carry you, before the next wave came over the bows. After a spell of four hours down below on watch, I decided that a drop of fresh air would do me good, so grabbing the lifeline I waited my time and then started to run, I managed to get to the after gun platform which was on top of the wardroom about ten feet above deck level, so I was well clear of the seas that came inboard. What an amazing sight it was, in all my time at sea I have never seen anything like those waves. One minute I was looking up at the ships bridge and thought it was coming over he top of me and the next minute I was looking down at the officers and crew on the bridge, when you realise that the bridge stands or floats some forty or fifty feet above sea level it was frightening, I think these single handed sailors that go round the world are stark staring mad. We were told beware of the seas coming over the bows as seven feet by seven feet by seven feet of water weighs a ton and I had no intentions of testing this theory.
On we went sweeping ahead of the battleship wallowing astern of us, after rounding the Cape the weather started to improve as we sailed north west. This went on until we neared the Ascentian Islands.

It was time to say goodbye to our charge as she was to make her way across the South Atlantic to the USA for repairs. We sailed north to our old stamping ground Freetown, were we did more convoy work for several months. On another occasion we left Freetown along with HMS Exeter and steamed westwards, it was a pleasant voyage until suddenly the Exeter fired a salvo from her main armament, 8 inch guns, I think, we were looking to see where the shots would drop when we spotted on the horizon what looked like a merchant ship. The signal came that we were to go and see what it was, by this time we were told that it was a Bismark supply ship,

with the thought in mind that some of these ships had 6 inch guns with covering round the guns which they dropped if they had to go into action, as we only had 4` 7 inch guns we were wondering if this was true, nonetheless in we went, by this time they had opened the sea cocks and she was starting to settle down in the water. We picked up all the survivors and fired a few shells into her to help her on her way, we had about seventy

German POWs

German sailors on board. One of the German crew could speak English and we told him that we would get another one tomorrow, but we had no idea if there was any more German ships about or not.
Anyhow the next day the very same thing happened, Once more the Exeter opened fire, the signal lamp flashed and away went the Brilliant, just the same procedure as soon as the Exeter fire the salvo she kept well out of range of any guns that the tanker had to fire back with. We once again picked up all the survivors then it was our job to sink the Esso Egaland

German Tanker Esso Egarland

so that she did not become a hazard to shipping, This prove to be quite a task as somehow or other she would not sink, we dropped depth charges right along side her to try and break her back, finally she rolled over and a few rounds of 4`7 inch shells punctured her ships bottom, one of the shells must have hit an oil tank, as a jet of oil well alight shot out over the sea, goodness knows how long the jet was but I can assure you it was a long way. There we were with 170 Germans on board and a ships company of 160. As dusk fell the Germans were transferred to HMS Exeter. We were talking to the German who spoke English and we said what about it now and he shrugged his shoulders and said " why should I worry ,the war has finished for me , it will be at a prisoner of war camp in South Africa and a holiday , (I wonder if he managed to get his holiday) Terry Edley who was a marine on board HMS Exeter managed to meet up and had quite a good natter, Terry married Dorothy Clark from Kiveton Park. Then we sailed north, this time to Gibralta . On arrival in harbour we tied up opposite a frigate that had just come from the UK and the crew were over the ships side having a lovely time in the sea which to them, was rather warm so we asked the officer of watch if we could have hands to bathe, he warned us that we had been used to the water temperature being a lot warmer than the sea at 'Gib', but we begged some more until he asked the CO if we could have a swim. Along came the Bosun mate piping 'hands to bathe', as we were already in swimwear it was straight over the side into the lovely water and back to the gangway as fast a we could swim, that water was so cold to us that you would not believe it, the officer of watch was having a good laugh at us and said" I told you so".

When we arrived at 'Gib'we did not know what our duties would be, but we soon found out that we were to join the thirteenth destroyer flotilla known as 'H' force this was a job of escorting convoys to Malta, not a very happy job. One day we were sent westwards along with three 'V and W' class 1914 destroyers the Vansittart, Velox and an other ?,besides the Brilliant. After steaming westwards we met up with a big American fleet A battleship maybe more, I did not count, aircraft carriers, cruisers and destroyers along with what was the invasion force for Casablanca. Before we left 'Gib' we took on a rooky signalman, poor sole it was his first time at sea, he happened to be on watch on the bridge when we met up with this invasion force. It so happened that the yeoman of signals was talking to the Captain, the yeoman was the big boy of the signalmen and wireless telegraphy people, another one of the 'He who shall be obeyed crew' .He said to the captain will you excuse me sir but my new signalman is having trouble taking a signal and I had better go and help him out. The captain said 'yes yeoman by all means go and help the lad out'. What followed was a lesson in don't try to be too clever, the yeoman said to the signal man grab a signal pad and move over, the young signalman was having to keep sending repeats to the American ship as they were sending too fast for him. So according to the other members of the bridge crew , the signal was where is the rest of the escourt.
The yeoman told the captain what the signal was, and the captain 's reply was tell them it's all here what we need. The yeoman took over the signal lamp and according to the people on the bridge the yeoman's hand was just a blur as he sent the signal ,he was so fast the American signalman couldn't read the signal, so the yeoman made him repeat about six times and them very slowly he sent the signal. Talk about silent contempt, I bet that American never sent another signal that fast again. We stayed with them until all their ships had refuelled and then it was back to 'Gib'.
Our stay in 'Gib' was short lived, once we had taken in stores, water and fuel it was back to sea again. This time to escort what seemed to be an assortment of ship, a liner ( which we were to learn later on was The monarch of Bermuda), also some what seemed to be oil tankers with structures built on the decks to crry landing craft. It was not long before we found out what it was all about. We took the convoy close into shore in a bay to the East of Oran then at 0001hours all hell broke loose and we found ourselves in the middle of the North African invasion. The structures on the oil tankers carried landing craft for the American ( I think) soldiers. There are a few tales to be told about the next few hours, but they are best not to put in this story. The next morning around the headland came this Vichy French destroyer and we went immediately into action. I am pleased to say we won that round and sank the other ship, we picked up all the survivers from the French destroyer and went close inshore to transfer them into landing craft, as the landing craft came alongside the nine inch guns on the heights above the 'Arzew' decided that we would make a good target for them. It is the first time that I have heard shells whistling overhead and I can assure you that it is'nt a very happy sound. The last of the injured French sailors were just dropped down into the landing craft injured or not, 'Jimmy the one' ( second in charge of the ship) was shouting up to the bridge " all clear the iron deck Sir, the captain kept on calmly filling his pipe ,then calmly gave the order 'Full ahead both engines', not until his pipe was well and truly lit, I can only think he was timing the seconds or minutes between the round of the gunners up on the heights, I swear to this day that the last but one salvo went between our funnels, because the next salvo landed in our wake as we got under way. I think the lads on watch in the engine room had an idea what was going on, you did not go from a stand still to full ahead very often, and with sixty eight thousand hose power pushing you along, you certainly could move when necessary. The captain was called A.J Poe and he was a cool customer. He was senior pilot on an aircraft carrier before he joined us The Monarch of Bermuda had received a 6in shell in her side as she was unloading troops so she had to move out of range of these guns, meanwhile we had to sweep inshore and get rid of these guns with a few well placed rounds of 4-7 shells, I must say we hade some good gun layers in our crew, so when it was a case for action stations and you were down in the engine room it was a nice feeling that the lads on the guns were pretty good at their job.
After the fighting moved towards Lybia Lord Lois Mountbaton's office and headquarters ( a ship that had been converted to Headquarters) sailed into Algiers and a meeting was held of all Captains of R N ships had to attend. The Brilliant had been given a berth at the mole in the middle of the harbour entrance so it was once again 'away motor boats crew to take our captain over the other side of the harbour so that he could attend the meeting. It was while we were waiting for the captain that we started talking to some American soldiers who were waiting for transport to somewhere when one of the American soldiers came up to the side of the motorboat and said to me "have you got any 'Tiklers' ( naval cigarette tobacco) on you Mac, I was amazed as I didn't know any Americans, then I recognized him he was a British sailor who I knew when in Barracks. He told me that they had dressed them up as American soldiers ( how degrading for a member of the Royal Navy} and they were landed to take care of the harbour instillations and having done the job they were waiting to be taken away.
While we were in Algiers we got a run ashore, it was one of our stoker petty officers birthday, Jack Cooper was his name, Well by the time we had all given him some of our rum ration, he was fast asleep resting on his arms when the other petty officers shook him, doused him with water to wake him up to get ready to go ashore, A petty officer each side of him holding him up they waited until the officer of watch went inside and then quickly hustled him ashore. He managed to stagger up the dockyard towards the lift that went up into the town, on the way we came across a horse and dray beautifully laid out with vegetables so we all crowded round buying grapes etc. we were all so interested in the fruit that we didn't notice Jack picking up the largest carrot on the dray, I happened to turn round and see Jack with the horses tail held high and just about to insert the carrot into the horses backside, I grabbed jack and the carrot just in time or we would have seen the fastest horse and cart in North Africa, I must say it caused a laugh but it could have been dangerous had the carrot hit its target.
Anyhow we left them to it and Dave Sage my 'oppo' and I got on the lift and went up into the town. We were crossing the market place ( I don't know if it was the one in Old Algiers or not) as we walked along three R A F lads were coming in the opposite direction, just as we passed each other one of them turned round at the same time as I did, he said Mac just as I said Charlie, it was Charlie Powis who lived across the street from me and we went to school together. What a strange coincident meeting like that, after a bit of a natter we parted and we made our way up this street, on the way we saw a lot of forces personel going up this alleyway so we turned left and followed the crowd. A short way up the alley it stopped and a lovely pair of oak studded doors were opened into what looked like the foyer of a hotel with a large model of a sphinx in between some large pillars with a four deep queue right round this foyer, so Dave and myself joined the queue. After what seemed a long time stood waiting I said to some soldiers in front of us is this a Naafi canteen or some thing, the soldiers laughed and said NO it's a brothel. I looked at the queue and said to Dave come on I'm not that hard up. And we were back down that alley like lightening, at the bottom of the alley we turned left and kept on walking we did not know at the time that we were walking down the Casbar but those natives chewing betal nut weren't half good shots a they spit the juice onto your lovely white shoes you did not say a word but just kept on walking as the knives they had in their belts looked too fearsome. Shortly after that the Casbar was put out if bounds. the story was that some of the Americans had gone into a brothel that had German prostitutes in it and that they were knifed while having sex. I'am not sure that it was a very nice thing to do, to take a man at the height of his pleasure.
After the North African landing we then had to do more convoy work to keep the troops supplied as they advanced towards Libya, along with some Malta convoys and also escorting the aircraft carriers. This was one of the escort jobs that you never heard much about, according to the story that we heard, also the action we took part in, was that Spitfire aircraft were stripped of guns and ammunition filled with just enough fuel to get them to Malta and then the 'carriers' and escort steamed to the Straits of Pantalaria where the spitfires were flown off, ( I should have said flopped off) because we were told that the flight deck crew wheeled the planes right to the rear end of the flight deck where they then held the aircraft back until the engine was at full revolutions or they could not hold on any longer, then they would let go and the pilot had to hope that he had enough revs ton keep him clear of the sea when he flopped off the front end of the flight deck. Having to act as crash boat which we did on a number of occasions, we then had to rescue the pilot as we trailed astern of the aircraft carrier. Always when the carriers were flying aircraft a Destroyer usually had to act as crash boat, not a very pleasant position to be in as the aircraft came in pretty low and seemed to only just clear the top of our mast, I'am sure those pilots used to do it on purpose just to put the wind up us.
On one of our returns to 'Gib' we had a visit from the Royal Artillary concert party whose job was ack -ack work defending 'Gib'.It was a glorious concert attended by all the Captain and all the officers, the Captain was so pleased by how much they had cheered us up, we were all a bit down with the 'Bashing' we had received on the last number of convoys that we were engaged in He asked if they would like a trip to sea when we next had a short journey, they all said yes, so he told the officer who came with the concert party that if they would get permission from their commanding officer we would let them know when to come aboard. An escort job came up which was to escort the cruiser Aurora to Oran, she was carrying a V I P on board. It was a lovely crossing almost flat calm, the only incident was that the V I P got washed overboard just outside Oran ( don't ask me .did he fall or was he pushed} all I know is that it was a calm sea.. So we had to sweep outside the harbour looking for him, sorry to say we never found him. We then went alongside the fleet supply ship whose name was' I think' The Brown Ranger or the Green Ranger. As we were taking in oil I saw one of the engineers come out on deck so I asked if I could go down in the engine room and see the engine{ a good place to see the engine), he came inside with me and I got the shock of my life it was the biggest diesel engine that I have ever seen. There was two or it could have been three flights of stairs down the side of the engine. The rocker gear was exposed, the valve springs stood chest high and the rocker arms were at least six feet long with rollers on top of the valve stems about twelve inches in diameter.As we stood talking we were alongside a thing that was higher than myself an about three to four feet round, I said to the engineer what is this thing for and he said 'oh' we always carry a spare piston. Then we went down onto the engine room plates and looked up, what a sight, it was colossal At the bottom was a series of water tight doors in the engine, I looked at the engineer and he said to get into the sump you undid the 'dogs' on the doors and walked into the engine. I am sure that I did not dream this, my hobby from the age of eleven years old had been engines and surely this was the pinnacle. I have seen and worked on a lot of engines in my life but this was definitely the biggest. I am not sure but I think they told me that it was made by Mirrlees. To this day I'am now eighty six years old and I still love the sound of a nice engine, I hasten to say not these howling buzzing things but a long stroke engine.
After oiling and taking in stores we left Oran thinking that the next stop was 'Gib'. As we cleared the harbour we thought we would be steering North west but to our surprise we turned to the East and joined a convoy and took up stations. We told the concert party that they were in for a longer voyage than expected All went well and we were joined by more merchant ships from Algiers. After shuffling the extra ships into formation we moved on. Then it started, I was stood outside the wireless office talking to a friend when he said that isn't one of ours, apparently our aircraft had a radio that gave out an identification signal and the enemy aircraft didn't. He reported it to the bridge and all hell broke loose, the action stations buzzer was sounded and the concert party found themselves on ammunition supply. This went on for four days, we asked for air coverage a number of times before we had a response, then a squadron of Beau fighters arrived the decided to show their arrival by flying down the middle of the convoy, by that time every gunner pulled the trigger on anything that moved above deck level we were all so bomb happy, we were told later that a couple of the planes were shot down. This low level attack was one that the enemy fighters used as you could not fire at them at this low level for fear of hitting the ship opposite. I think that the signal from the senior captain was to tell them to go forth and multiply. During these convoys the German bombers were the ones that were the deadliest at high level bombing, but, the Italian torpedo bombers were the most effective at low level attacks..
When we arrived back in 'Gib' after the trip with the Artillary soldiers on board we asked them if they enjoyed there short voyage to Oran, which finished up taking supplies to the first army in Philipville which was just forty miles from the first army's front in North Africa, one of them said I shall never go to sea again, when my time comes to go home I am going to walk through Spain, I wonder if he did ?.
As soon as we got into harbour we oiled ship, took in water and stores, it was funny how we nearly always arrived in harbour at meal times, as soon as we got alongside it was a case of taking in the oil pipe from the tanker and start pumping , after we hade started to take in the oil two of us stood by the hose while the others went below for their meal, just as I finished my meal they piped for the motor boats crew so I got out of the pot washing job. We took our captain round to the jetty and then we went back to the ship, as we tied the motor boat up to the ship and climbed aboard I was told by the Chief stoker to go up onto the fo'csl and I would find out the reason when I arrived there. All the engine room staff were up there, and when I asked what was wrong they said that all the seamen had mutined, the reason was that every time stores were taken in they called for' both watches of the hands' to take in stores. It only needed duty part of the watch to do the job, it had happened so many times that the seamen were fed up and when they piped for them to take in stores nobody moved, Nothing was said beforehand they all just sat there and refused to move.
I keep hearing about aircraft carriers doing convoy work in the Mediteranean, the only time I saw aircraft carriers were when they were carrying spitfires for Malta, otherwise it was up to the escort vessels to get the supplies to Malta. The aircraft carriers that I can remember was H M S Furious, H M S Eagle and HMS Argus {I think} and one of the newer aircraft carriers, which one it was I can't remember
I do remember one time we were coming hone and we were escorting the aircraft carrier H M S Indefitegable, We were coming back to UK and the Bay of Biscay was having one of its rough days, and I saw her sticking her nose into the waves and she was shipping the seas onto her flight deck, when you see the height of these ships in harbour it is hard to believe these stories, but nonetheless it is true.
Just before we left 'Gib' an Admiralty Fleet order was put on the notice board asking for engine room branch to change over to Motor mechanic so I asked for a trade test so that I could stay with 'my' petrol and diesel engines. We 'paid off' in Devonport and I went back to Chatham barracks and then was sent to Gosport to do a trade test on H M S Sultan an old galleon converted into workshop, I was accepted so they must have been desperate for motor mechanics because the test was to make a magnet shaped piece out of a piece of bent metal that hat a slot burnt in it with a oxy-acetylene torch, the file wasn't very sharp and the steel was very hard , but I must have made a reasonable job of it as they passed me.
We did quite a number of courses on different types of engines. It was on this course that I met up with some new mates one of them was called 'Panther' Platt, that was the name he used to wrestle under, one evening he said have you ever done any fencing Mac so I said no, so he said come on into the gym and I will teach you. All went well for a while then he said you are letting your left hand creep forward when it should be held back, that is the last time I shall tell you, the next time I will show you what happens. Off we went again, then suddenly I felt this pain in my left hand as his rapier flicked across my left fingers. The next second my rapier was on the floor and the rest of my fencing kit followed and I told 'Panther 'what a naughty boy he was, all he did was laugh, and said I told you didn't I. There and then the fencing lesson ended. Although I had done a little bit of wrestling before I went in the navy there is no way that I would go into the ring for a go at 'Panther', once bit twice shy. After a few more courses on different types of engines it was back to Chatham barracks. We were then put into different uniforms instead of the bell bottoms and a large blue collar it was a peaked cap and a buttoned jacket with a collar and tie. A few weeks later I along with some more ratings were given a draft to HMS Squid, which turned out to be a shore base at Southhampton. Our duties there were to prepare landing craft ready for the invasion, at that time we did not know that is what we were working for, The job entailed thousand hour overhauls and engine changes , to change the engines we had to take up a section of the deck to lift the engine out with a crane, these engines were Paxman Ricardo V 12 diesels with a 7 inch bore and a 7 inch stroke and they weighed three tons each so you can tell they packed quite a punch. They seemed to be the general type that was fitted to our landing craft so I thought until I was sent up to a place called Redbridge, which was a little bit further up the Solent from Southampton , there was a party of mechanics and stokers totalling fifty along with an Engineer :lieutenant. A Chief Engine room artificer, and a chief stoker. First I had to go and see the Engineer officer and I walked smartly into his office wondering what was to take place. I was a little surprised when he said shut the door and sit down ( very unusual in the presence of an officer.) Now then I will tell you what the situation is, first and foremost myself the chief E R A also the chief stoker know 'bugger' all about diesels so it is all up to you, just imagine 50 ratings that had only just been called up and knew very little about marine engineering and three officers above me that knew nothing about diesel engines. The reason was that they were men that had been on steam all the time they had served in he navy, and had been called back up after they had served their time. We had a meeting the four of us and they said you tell us just what you want and we will organise it .We did a couple of engine changes, I split the party into two groups which meant that some had to watch while the others looked on. and so the learning curve went on until I could go from craft to craft making sure that the job was done properly. Then one day a tug came up with a landing craft alongside, on the deck was two sheets covering what turned out to be two Merlin engines , the dockyard people had taken out the old engines ( what a mess) and they hade sent them up to us to fit the new ones. No problem I thought and I had the sheets taken off the engines, imagine my surprise when I saw these two Merlin petrol engines , I thought they only fitted them in aircraft and tanks/ None the less it was a case of get stuck in and get them fitted, it was a little different to put it mildly but we managed. One problem was, when we started them up they were backfiring badly so a lad from Sheffield called Charlie Parkin ( a silversmith by trade)and myself spent nine hours setting up the ignition. You might think that was a long time but when you consider that they were twelve cylinder engines and they the had dual ignition which meant each cylinder had two plugs with four points on each plug that had to be set. And the distributor points as well. We gave the engine a short tick over, and then I said to Charlie, go and tell the Captain that I want to run the engines at full speed for twenty minutes, somehow or other he wasn't very pleased to be woken up at that time and told Charlie to tell me what to do with the engines, so I did , absolutely flat out , 'if I am awake everybody else should be'. we told the sailor that was on watch that everything was alright and that we were going ashore. I never saw that craft again so things must have worked out right.
My next move was back down to the Old docks were our base was , I was then put in charge of the team or seven lads who were keeping the 'Trot' boats running. These boats were twenty five foot open launches manned by a crew of WRENS ( lady sailors) and I mean ladies, one of them was 'Ros' Piereponte whose mother lived at Thoresby Hall, it was only by accident hat I got to know this , one of the other Wrens who worked opposite Ros was going on about her running out of petrol when she said about where 'Ros' came from , otherwise none of the girls that worked from the town quay said anything about each other so you never knew who you was tearing a strip off. The duty of the 'Trot' boats was to keep the landing craft that was lying out in mid stream just off the new docks supplied with stores and other materials and also to take the men going on shore leave from the craft to the New docks. As one of the seven lads working under me had to do a stand by duty each night in case of any breakdowns it meant that them being on duty the same night every week ,so I said that I would do one night on stand by and this would make it that the standby night would change round. Our transport to get us down to the Town Quay was an old fashioned 'sit up and beg' bicycle the same as the police used to ride, so if you got called out which happened most nights it was a mile ride down to where the boats were on this 'boneshaker'. The wrens were stationed in the Royal Hotel in the middle of town, but when they were on duty they slept in the café on the town quay. The Wrens did not take very kindly to doing the last run from the quay round all the landing craft lying off shore, you can imagine what it was like when the lads had a few pints and were alone on the launches with just three Wrens, we had some very unusual break downs just before the last liberty boat went on their last trip at night, I can not remember one night when it was my turn on stand by than I wasn't called out. The Wrens that were on duty lived and slept in the café on the town quay , I remember one night when I was called out , I road down on the old 'boneshaker' not very pleased with the Wrens for calling me out late on at that hour when I should have been getting ready for lights out, so I wasn't in a very good mood. On arrival I hammered on the door of the café, a voice said who is it ,and the reply was 'its only Mac' and the door was opened and I was invited in, as there were several crews in various states of undress I didn't know what to say except in a very squeaky voice ( I don't think I blushed ) who has broken down. There was one Wren who I think had designs on me because she always called me out when it was my duty night, I remember one night in particular after the ritual of the door knocking ceremony I said come on lets go and see what is wrong with the boat, as we had to try and get it going otherwise one of the other boats had to do the last run for them. This Wren was a very nice Wren but she was married that didn't stop her at all. Anyhow the engine was under what looked like a dog kennel and the top and sides were removable, I took the covers of the engine and then got down on the bottom of the boat to get to the magneto which I had to do as there was no spark to the plugs. It was difficult holding the torch with one hand whilst checking everything, this lovely girl said I will hold the torch for you while you have a good look to see what the fault is and before I knew what was happening she was lying on top of me, Weeeell things were about to get serious when a voice like the voice of doom shouted down 'will you be able to get it running Mac, I didn't know if she meant the boat, or the Wren on top of me. As the saying goes that put the clapper on things. I hurriedly assured her that the magneto was wet through and that they would have to tow the boat round to our workshop in the morning and we would take the magneto off and dry it out, which we did. We removed the magneto next morning and put it alongside the stove that kept our workshop warm. One of the lads had been to pick up some spares and was away a couple of hours or so, when he walked back into the workshop he said "come on who has p*****ed on the stove". So you guess was it sea water or was it *******. The Wren who was holding the torch for me,' said when they came for the boat next day was 'that it was a pity about last night wasn't it Mac we could possibly have fixed it if the 'cockswain' had not come along '. I have no doubt at I would have fixed it for her, the engine I mean of course.
Shortly after that episode we woke up one morning to the sound of a lot of engines, it turned out to be tanks and aircraft, it was D day and all our work that we had been doing was about to be tested. It was a very strange feeling seeing all those lads going down to the docks to go aboard the landing craft, all that day it was a lonely feeling because we had nothing to do all day. After a while we decided t go down to the town quay where a concrete hard had been put down , which was a large concrete pad that went into the water from the road, the landing craft came onto the hard and dropped their door at the bow and in went the tanks, lorries, jeeps etc! , there was a company of Canadians with Bren gun carriers waiting for the landing craft to come onto the hard and they were playing a wonderful game, they were gambling on how many times they could spin the Bren gun carriers on the wet hard which was not very wide , but I think the winner spun it round six times.
Taking about Canadians , one day when we were going to a craft in the outer basin in the old docks, I saw, was I I think, it was two landing craft infantry, this was well before D day , and the troops were being piped aboard by someone playing the bagpipes, so I thought it was a Scotch Canadian company and ever since I have wondered if it was the raid on the Lafoten islands, or what were they going to attack I wonder how many returned.
We were at Southhampton for a few weeks after D day, our job was repairing landing craft and getting them back to sea again, one Landing craft Captain came back up the Solent with the back half of his landing craft towing the front half , what a man and what a crew. The only thing we could do was to run it up on the beach opposite the New docks and take of it what was wanted to keep other craft afloat, there was a few that came back that were damaged too badly to go to sea again so they were all beached. It was our job every day to cross to the other side of the Solent and ' canibalize' these landing craft. It was strange how the compasses were always broken and the alcohol hade run away. Is anybody listening ? Diluted with a little brown sugar put in the bottle , the 'yanks' would pay two pounds a bottle for it. Who me ? No I wouldn't do such a thing, it was naughty.

Not long after D day when we were no longer needed to repair the landing craft we were called back to Chatham barracks If I can remember the Duncan block was the engineering block, so into the Petty Officer mess to have my first tot of rum for quite a long time. I joined the queue after they piped 'Up Spirits' as it was the first time I had neat rum I had to watch and follow suit. Up to the barrel which had an optic measure, there was several ways in which you could drink it, either neat or with a little drop of water or fill the glass up with water and down it went, so, as the three in front of me knocked it straight back so did I, there were several billiard tables in the room where they served the rum, and I can assure you that they were all a blur, it was like dynamite, I had to go and sit down before I fell down. I'am sure it would get the rockets up into space a lot easier than rocket fuel.
While we were in Barracks this time we had a little scheme worked out so that we could go up to London every other night. When we went home on weekend leave with a free rail pass, we were allowed three in a year. The train back to London left Sheffield station at midnight, it was packed full of sailors, solders and airmen, we stood shoulder to shoulder in the gang way, the compartments were full, some slept on the luggage racks. There was no chance of a ticket collector even getting on the train let alone check tickets. On arriving at Kings Cross station in London at six o'clock in the morning they pulled the train into the platform next to the road that runs up the middle of the station. You can just imagine several hundred of the armed forces pouring out of the train and all running to get on the tube, it was a bit like the charge of the light Brigade. We had to cross London to get the train to Waterloo station. Before eight o'clock it was possible to get a work mans return to Chatham for one and nine pence (almost ten pence today). This allowed you to keep your return ticket from Sheffield for another weekend. So you then had to find some one who wanted to go up to London for the night, he could go on the return ticket back to London that night, then the next morning he would get a work man's ticket back to Chatham, so it worked that we were up in London every other night dancing to bands like Harry Ross, Joe Loss, Ted Heath, Ivy Benson's All Girl Band at Covent Gardens. Harry Ross and Ted Heath played at Streatham Locarno and Hammersmith Palais I am not sure which was which but they were lovely bands to dance to. All the bombing was taking place but it did not seem to worry us at all, I am sure we must have been mad. The thing that brought a lump into your throat was to see the people of London that were sleeping in the Underground away from the bombing they were the people who should have been given the medals. To see the children playing on the platforms around the beds was something that you had only admiration for. When we got off the Underground train the people used to cheer and clap us and shout "go and give it to them lads." It was embarrassing when you realise what they were going through yet they could find some thoughts for you.
My next move was down to Devonport, along with some other ratings we were called Naval Party 1770 and dressed in Khaki with Royal Navy flashes on our shoulders (according to my service papers I was on HMS Philipa goodness knows what ship this was) we were then put into a large school above Devonport, the name of the school was Higher St. Beaudeux. We were in this school on VE night a lot of the lads went to the local pub to celebrate the order round to the navy was to " Splice the Main Brace" which meant a tot of rum for all Naval and Marine ratings. I did not drink a lot at the time but I think I had two tots, the reason was that a lot of the lads had gone to the pub and the old sailors said it could not be returned, so they were going to see it off as the saying goes. To this day I cannot recall how I got to the pub, but I do remember drinking Scrumpy Cider out of jam jars, and somebody must have pointed me or carried me in the right direction as next morning I woke up in my bed, a little bit under the weather, I managed to get dressed alright but when I came to put my boots on someone had used one of them as a urinal, one or two of the lads swore that I had done it, but I would not believe them.
I think a few days later we were put on a train for Edinburgh and then onto Rosyth Naval Base, where we boarded a landing ship (infantry) to take passage to Copenhagen. Just after we left Rosyth one of the crew came down onto the deck where we had been put and said has anyone done any engine room watch keeping, I was a bit wary of this and asked why, he said one of his engine room staff had not returned from leave and they were short staff, I said that I had done some watch keeping and would stand in on one condition and that I would be victual led with he crew, along we went to show me what it was that I had to keep watch on. Down into the engine room we went and there was eight two hundred and twenty five horse power General Motors two stroke diesels four on each propeller, this meant quite a bit of noise as one thousand hose power makes a lot of noise. Something that I had not come across before was that there was no gearbox, we had to feather the propellers to go astern just like an aircraft use to feather their propellers.
This time I managed to be off watch as we went down between Sweden and Denmark, so I had the pleasure of seeing the lovely Amelionborg Castle (I think) with its lovely green roof tops, Which I understand is caused by verdigree. We then carried on to Copenhagen where we disembarked. We were stationed in the naval cadet hall. Having settled in we decided to have a look around and got completely lost, as we stood swearing and using a good deal of naval language, a voice in perfect English said " are you gentlemen lost?" (Never believe that when in a strange country no body speaks your language) anyway he told which way to go to our base. Flushed with our success or failure of the previous night we decided to make for the famous Tivoli Gardens. On the way we were walking down this street and some shots were fired, I made a perfect dive into the nearest doorway, I suppose this was through being a little bomb happy, the first bang and it was dive for cover. After the firing stopped we carried on to the Tivoli Gardens, we were talking to some English speaking Danish people (it was surprising how many people could speak English.) They told us that the firing was the Freedom Fighters who were killing the Quislings. We quickly made friends with the youngsters that came outside our quarters and also with some of the older people. At times it was a little embarrassing when children came up to you with an autography book for you to sign then said "Tak for Alt" which is thanks for everything in Danish, such polite children. I think it was their parents who sent them, it seemed to embarrass me as I had done nothing in their country. It was a good thing to have some cigarettes you could get most things in exchange for a packet of Senior Service cigarettes, I managed to get a Spanish Astra pistol that had lead bullets, just imagine the mess that would have made if you shot somebody with that, it was possible to cover it with one hand it was so small, I only had two bullets so I have no idea why I bothered with it. After that I managed to get a Lugar automatic pistol to carry in place of my service revolver, this gun fired 9mm ammunition the same as that used in a Sten gun, so there was no shortage of ammo for this gun. We were moved to some buildings alongside a dock that had an old four masted grain ship alongside, as the officers lived away from our billets we decided to have practice shots on board this hulk, we lined up a row of bottles on one of the lower decks and lined up, there was a marine with a Sten gun, another with a service rifle I had the Lugar and the others had a number of various fire arms. Right someone said "Safety catches off "FIRE" it was just like the Alamo except for one thing out of all the nooks and crannies and other hiding places ran hundreds of rats! You should have seen the evacuation, we were down the gangway like lightening even though we had enough fire power to blow the rats to kingdom come. We made friends with a family in Copenhagen, there was mother and father and two daughters, one Ethel who was married to Knuth and a son who was a commercial artist. One of our duties was to take over the German stores. The things in that store were unbelievable, there were just about everything you could think about, furniture, stationary all kind of things, as it was Gier's birthday he had several shoeboxes of different grades of pencils for a birthday present. When we gave them to him he was sitting at his desk, he picked up a wax crayon and in no time at all there was a drawing of him with piles of pencils all around him and he had a long, long beard. It just goes to show that you don't need to speak the language to be understood. Gier was a commercial artist and said he would like to draw some of the lads, I think that I was the first to have my portrait done and a very good one it is, so the lads told me, I have still got it but never framed it, maybe I aught to get round to doing just that.

 

 

Thanks to John (Jack) Todd. Stoker

One Year spent on Briliant during his time in the Royal Navy 1943-1947

 

 

A personal account of life and conditions in the
Royal Navy during WW11


Stokers and Seamens messes were separate,they did not mix..POs and Chiefs also had their own mess.
There were probably 20-30 Stokers in the mess,where we ate and slept etc..Beds were hammocks..no bunks in those days and no pyjamas!

Two or three of the ratings were detailed off each day to prepare the veg etc..for meals,these were then taken to the Galley to be cooked and,once that was done it would be fetched and brought down to the mess and served up.In those days the allowance for mess catering was about 1s.6d per rating,per day..that's the equivalant of 8p a head in todays money.

One day a week (weather permitting) was detailed for 'make and mend',this was for the sewing and darning of kit.

A tot of neat rum was issued daily but thanks to Mr Wilson and his Labour Government this was stopped,much to the disappointment of many a men..me included!If you didn't want your rum,or 'Grog' as it was called,you got 3d (about 1.1/2p now).If you were in a shore establishment it was '2 and 1',that's 2 parts water,1 part rum.

My pay was 25 shillings a week,out of which I allowed 10 shillings per week to my Mother and the Navy put 10 shillings towards it.This left me with 15 shillings per week for myself..these days that would be 75p!

Any clothing we needed we had to buy ourself.If we werelucky to go to our Depot there was a 'Dead mans Store',this was where one could buy gear (clothing etc.).The name of the store speaks for itself.It was a Benefit Fund for the dead mans relatives.

Punishment was either 10a (Shore Establishment),this entailed 'doubling' round the parade ground with a rifle held above the head for about an hour each evening for so many days punishment..(I remember it well!!).Other forms were stopage of shore leave or stoppage of pay.

For 'Good Conduct' badge - 3d a day.
Permission to grow a beard - 3d a day
For not accepting a rum ration - 3d a day

I would imagine discipline was stricter then than it is today!

Navy terms and slang

Seamen .................................................. Dabtoes
Stokers .................................................. Dustmen
Shoes .................................................. Pussers Crabs
No 1s Suit ............................................... Tiddly Suits (Made to measure £4)
Engine room Artificer ............................... Tiffy
Signaller .................................................. Flags
Writer . .................................................... Scribes
First Lt ..................................................... Jimmy The One
MidShipman ............................................ Snottie
Captain ................................................... Skipper or Old Man
Shipmates .............................................. Oppo

Goods and Cost

Ticklers Cig Tobacco ............................ 2s.6d per 1.Lb*
Ticklers Pipe Tobacco .......................... 2s.6d per 1.Lb*
Leaf Tobacco ..................................... 3s.6d per 1.Lb*
Duty Free Cigs ...................................... 6d for 20
Beer ....................................................... 6d per pint
Pussers Dhobi Soap ............................. 3d per 1.Lb bar

* 2s.6d = 12.5p decimal
* 3s.6d = 17.5p decimal

Pipe or Chewing Tobacco


Strip veins out of leaves
Treat with a tot of rum
Wrap in canvas and lash round with string,when finished it should like a small hammock..about 10" long.
Leave for about 3 months.
Turns out 'Solid' and 'Pitch Black'
Some used to chew this



Memories of Eric Secker
email: esecker@microd.com

 

Left UK on board HMS Coriolanus on which I was a signalman and port bridge machine gunner. I think sometime in August in company with HMS Juliette and HMS Brilliant, escorting a seagoing tug towing a floating crane. Went 1500 miles west, turned South to Gibraltar, took 3 weeks, at 4 knots. Later we all proceeded to Freetown Sierra Leone, without incident. Spent a few hairy days with a Post office cable laying yacht the Lady Dennison Pender cutting telephone cables off Dakar, dodging a French destroyer in and out of fog banks, then to Gib, and invasion at Oran.

Oran Nov ? 1942 aboard HMS Coriolanus. Swept the bay for mines prior to invasion, then proceeded to patrol entrance to the bay for subs.. SS Monarch of Bermuda and HMS Brilliant anchored in bay. At first light a Vichy French Destroyer appeared around the Western point and opened fire on us, HMS Brilliant slipped her anchor opened fire on the enemy crippling her steering and then proceeded to sink her. Great grandstand view. Later the fort above Oran opened fire on all ships with heavy guns. This continued for some hours with no hits until a British battle ship appeared on the horizon and with one salvo [over our heads] took out the fort.

HMS Coriolanus


Article taken from the Arizona Star

GI Spared a deadly WW11 Ordeal

BONNIE HENRY

A cup of coffee and a doughnut probably saved his life.

On Christmas Eve 1944, close to 800 American troops - out of 2,200 - died after their troop ship, the Leopoldville, was hit by a German torpedo.

The men, part of the 66th Black Panther Infantry Division, were on their way to Cherbourg, France, to reinforce troops in the Battle of the Bulge.

Two-hundred yards away sat another troop ship on its way to Cherbourg, the Cheshire, filled with more than 2,000 men, also from the 66th.

"We couldn't get any closer. They were fearful of more torpedo attacks," says Elmer Nicholson, who was a 20-year-old staff sergeant aboard the Cheshire that cold December night.

By all rights, he should have been on the Leopoldville.

On Dec. 24, the Leopoldville and the Cheshire were nestled close to each other off the docks of Southampton, England.

Just after midnight on Christmas Eve morning, the men of the 66th started filing onto the Leopoldville, a Belgian transport ship, and onto the Cheshire, a British transport.

"There were long lines to get to the ships. There was all this confusion," says Nicholson, a Tucsonan since 1967.

"We were supposed to go on the Leopoldville, but they were serving coffee and doughnuts on the docks and our captain said we were not going on the ship until we got our coffee and doughnuts."

Instead, F Company took their place, says Nicholson. Six survived, 153 perished.

"We had twice as many men on board as the ship was supposed to carry," says Nicholson, who was wearing a heavy overcoat and full field pack.

At 9 a.m. both ships pushed off, escorted by four destroyers, for the nine-hour crossing. They were five miles from Cherbourg when the Leopoldville was hit just before 6 p.m.

"We were all in the hold when we heard an explosion," says Nicholson, not sure if it was the enemy or just depth charges released by the escort destroyers.

When he and the other men scrambled up on deck, they saw spotlights shining onto the sinking Leopoldville.

Some 300 men were killed instantly. Despite individual heroism, 500 more died due to blunders and miscommunications.

Because of the Christmas holiday, potential rescue ships at Cherbourg were lightly manned and offered no initial help.

Contradictory messages went out over the Leopoldville's loudspeaker. Finally, the captain ordered the crew to abandon ship.

Not only did the crew quickly flee the sinking ship, they left the troops aboard with no guidance on how to lower the lifeboats.

One of the escorts, the HMS Brilliant, came to the rescue, pulling up to the foundering ship while its passengers desperately leaped 40 feet down to the decks of the Brilliant.

Some of the men were crushed between the two ships as they crashed against each other in swells of 12 to 20 feet. Others quickly died in the frigid waters. Nevertheless, the Brilliant did rescue more than 500.

Meanwhile, other craft from Cherbourg harbor were finally dispatched to pick up those still floating in the icy channel.

"After we landed the next morning, we saw all the stretchers on the dock," says Nicholson, who fought in Europe until war's end.

It would be decades before the full scope of the tragedy would be known and recognized.

"For years, I never knew what happened," says Nicholson. Today, he still keeps in touch with an old Army buddy who was also aboard the Cheshire that night.

"Every Christmas Eve we call each other up and talk about the old times," says Nicholson. "But those guys on the Leopoldville, they were the real heroes."

* Bonnie Henry's column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Reach her at 434-4074 or at bhenry@azstarnet.com or write to 3295 W. Ina Road, Suite 125, Tucson, AZ 85741.

Lecture on board Brilliant Photo by Steve Harper


 

Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps Brilliant

Thanks to Lt J R Turcotte

Sea Training officer Regional Cadet Support unit.

My connection to the ship was as a Sea cadet and as an officer with RCSCC BRILLIANT located in North Bay Ontario, Canada.

BRILLIANT is the name of a Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps that has been active since 1942. The corps took its name for the then serving HMS BRILLIANT.

We have had an on and off relationship with our name sake over the years. In May of 1993 we received a message form the Ship congratulating us on our 50'th anniversary.

The present CO is Lt(N) Dennis Dowdall, CD in North Bay. BRILLIANT has the same badge except that on the bottom of the badge there are three red maples to signify RCSCC.


 

Training Ship Brilliant of the Hong Kong Sea Cadet Corps
http://www.geocities.com/Pentagon/Quarters/1128/eindex.html

Introduction of T.S. Brilliant
History
Training Ship "Brilliant" of the Hong Kong Sea Cadet Corps was established on 1st July, 1996. Before the formation of T.S. Brilliant, there was only one unit, T.S. Ark Royal that held training at Saturday in the Seaman Training Centre. As the Hong Kong Sea Cadet Corps was expanding in Tuen Mun District, in order to fully utilize the facilities of the centre and coup with more cadets, T.S. Brilliant was formed and have training at Sunday. At the early stage after her establishment, the unit's first Commanding Officer, Lieutenant YU Ka-wa and First Lieutenant, Sub-Lieutenant Anthony CHENG Sui-kwong had run a series of training to the eight newly-promoted instructors and set up it's administrative system. In January 1997, the unit have it's First New Entry Cadets Recruitment, and training starts at March, while passing-out at September. Now we have already organized Five New Entry Cadets Training Course during the past years.

The unit's weekly training and activities include Footdrill, Discipline, Naval Custom, Seamanship, Communiction, Sea Survival and Fire Fighting. In the past years, the unit had partcipated several Community Services, including flag-selling raffles, Community Chest Walk for Million and Community Chest Bauhinia Day; and in summer, representing Hong Kong Sea Cadet Corps to participate the International Exchange Programmes at Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Australia and the United Kingdom.

The total strength of T.S. Brilliant currently: 1 officers, 6 instructors and around 20 cadets, and routine training is helded every Sunday afternoon (1400-1800) at Seamen Training Centre, Tai Lam Chung, Tuen Mun.


The Tunbridge Wells Unit (No. 340) of the Sea Cadet Corps
Training Ship Brillaint

www.tsbrilliant.com

The Tunbridge Wells Unit (No. 340) of the Sea Cadet Corps was founded in 1935 by the late Captain W.A.Cable, of the Royal Indian Navy. His medal ribbons and epaulettes are on display in the Wardroom.
The Unit became very successful and built up quickly to a membership of 100 boys. The original Unit Headquarters building located to the South of the town, soon proved to be inadequate and an appeal was made for funds. Largely through generous donations, enough money was found and the present Unit Headquarters building, formerly a Church Hall, was purchased for £1000.
During Warship Week in 1942, The Borough of Royal Tunbridge Wells adopted HMS BRILLIANT, a destroyer of 1360 tons built in 1931 and serving with the 18th Destroyer Flotilla in the South Atlantic. This name was taken by the Sea Cadet Unit, which has been known as TS BRILLIANT ever since.
The Unit has constantly striven for the highest standards and maintains a strong link with the Borough and local community, taking on our role at civic occasions with pride. The Unit has attended every Remembrance Day Parade in Tunbridge Wells without a break since the Second World War. Presentations are given at local schools for recruiting and the Unit has put on displays at School Fetes for many years. Over a long period the Unit has also supported The Royal British Legion on it's Poppy Appeal and also the RNLI.
The Girls' Nautical Training Contingent was started in 1971. Female membership has continued to flourish right up to the present day, when boys and girls are fully integrated into the Sea Cadet Corps.
The Unit's first affiliation was with HMS SCYLLA, a Leander Class Frigate based at Chatham. This association came about because the brother of one of our cadets at the time was the helicopter pilot on board. This very fruitful and happy affiliation continued through the 1970's with many cadets enjoying their first sea experiences on her. The link effectively ended with the closure of Chatham and the move of HMS
At the Queen's Silver Jubilee Concert in April 1978, our former Unit Chairman, the then Mayor, Councillor Commander W.R.Symon RD RNR, introduced as his guest the First Sea Lord, the late Admiral Sir Terence Lewin. He announced the construction of a new HMS BRILLIANT with the words " We are building her for you" The Borough resolved to renew it's affiliation and this was approved by the Commander in Chief Naval Home Command in January 1980. After a period of 35 years at long last the Unit had a namesake once more.
Following the Falklands War, where HMS BRILLIANT served with distinction, she was awarded the Freedom of the Borough of Royal Tunbridge Wells. At that ceremony and all subsequent exercising of those rights, the Unit was privileged to play a key part in the proceedings. The Unit enjoyed a long and happy affiliation, with cadets taking passage on homeward runs from Gibraltar and Sardinia. We also supported the ship in Plymouth Navy Days and took part in many sporting and social events. The Ships' Company were regular visitors to Tunbridge Wells and the Unit. Both were equally saddened by the decommissioning and sale of our illustrious namesake to the Brazilian Navy in 1996.
The Unit attended a two week camp at HMS ROOKE in Gibraltar in October 1994 and whilst there conducted the Sunset ceremony on Trafalgar Day and took part in the Remembrance Parade in Gibraltar Cemetery. This was also the first year that the Unit was awarded the Stephenson Trophy, reaching runner up spot in the Canada Trophy competition and winning the Thomas Grey Memorial Trophy. The Unit won the Stephenson Trophy again in 1995. In 1998 they won the Canada Trophy - for the best unit in the country. Again in 2002 they won the Stephenson Trophy.
In addition to involving itself fully in all aspects of training, the Unit places great importance on maintaining a high public profile on behalf of the Sea Cadet Corps. The Unit display teams have been performing locally for many years and on the wider stage have visited our twin towns of Wiesbaden in Germany and Lambersat in France, the band has taken part in the Royal Tournament and Navy Days as part of the Sea Cadet Massed Band on several occasions, the National Trafalgar Day Parade in London, plus the International Festival of the Sea at Portsmouth in 1998. In 2004 our band was runner up in the National Sea Cadet Band Competition.