- HMS Penelope during the Second World War -
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H.M.S. Penelope was launched on the 15 October 1935, having been built by Harland & Wolff in Belfast, Northern Ireland. She saw active service through out the war.
On the 11th of April 1940 she was badly damaged when she ran aground off Fleinver in the Vestfjord, when she was on her way into Narvik to support the attack of British destroyers. She was towed clear by HMS Eskimo.
HMS Penelope was again damaged on the 18th of December 1941, as part of the British K force she, along with HMS Neptune, HMS Aurora, HMS Kandahar, HMS Lance, HMS Lively and HMS Havock encountered an Italian minefield off Tripoli. HMS Neptune and HMS Kandahar sank while HMS Aurora was badly damaged and HMS Penelope was lightly damaged.
HMS Penelope was repaired at Malta but was bombed during the repairs on 26 March 1942. She left Malta on 8 April 1942 for full repairs at the New York Navy Yard in the USA, setting sail again in September 1942.
HMS Penelope was nicknamed 'Pepperpot' by the crew.
If you can provide any additional information, please add it here.
Those known to have sailed in
during the Second World War 1939-1945.
- Abbott Alfred James. Chief Engineer
- Aird Walter George. Able.Sea. (d.22nd Nov 1942)
- Alford Horace. CPO.
- Beattie Cecil George.
- Billington George Wilfred. Marine
- Bolton George Sidney.
- Bowser Reginald.
- Bray A. H.. O.D (d.18 Feb 1944)
- Brindley George Abraham. (d.18th Feb 1944)
- Burton Wilfred. C.P.O.
- Butler Horace Henry George. AB
- Bywater Harry George. Able Sea (d.18 Feb 1944)
- Cheetham Elijah. Able Seaman.
- Cornish Jack Percival Thomas. Able Seaman
- Cox David. Acting Ldg Sea
- Crowther Norman Arthur. Able Seaman
- Cunningham Thomas. A/PO.
- Davies Lawrence. Stoker
- Elms Percy John. PO.
- Foster John Cecil.
- Friend George Albert. Able Seaman (d.18 Feb 1944)
- Frost William Henry. Leading Stoker (d.18th Feb 1944)
- Gibson Robert. Stoker (d.May/June 1942)
- Goldsbrough Albert Harry.
- Gosling Arthur Edward. Sig
- Green Kenneth. Ldg/Sea (d.18th February 1944)
- Guest William Frederick. Lt.Cdr.
- Hayes Thomas.
- Hildrew Steven.
- Holmes Douglas.
- Howard Robert Alfred. Gunlayer
- Howick Ronald Lesley.
- Ingram Lloyd.
- Jones Joseph Robert. Able Seaman
- Kerr James.
- Key James. AbleSea.
- Laird William. Seaman
- Laird William.
- Lake Stan.
- Larmour John.
- Leach Alfred. Ldg.Sig (d.18th Feb 1944)
- Lear Reginald Edward . Ord.Sea.
- Lever Kenneth Stanley. CPO
- Lever Kenneth Stanley.
- Lister John.
- Littleton John Earnest. Able Seaman
- Llewellyn Hubert Creighton. Lt. (d.18th Feb 1944)
- Marr Edward.
- Mason Donald Rex. CPO
- Mason Peter George. Cpl.
- Mason Peter George. Cpl.
- McLachlan Ramsey Alan. Stoker 1st class (d.18th Feb 1944)
- Morgan David John.
- Morgan John David.
- Nicholson James Beswick. AB.
- Noble Charles. CPO.
- Palmer Iain.
- Partridge Robert. Able Sea.
- Partridge Robert. PO.
- Phillips Dennis Dixon. Stoker 2nd Class. (d.18th Feb 1944)
- Pinnock Harry. ERA4. (d.18th Feb 1944)
- Pratt Ronald.
- Pugh Harry.
- Purdue Edward. Able Sea. (d.7th Oct 1943)
- Raper William.
- Richards Richard Patrick. CPO
- Rowley Joseph. C.P.O.
- Sams James Alfred.
- Sharp William Arthur. Paymaster Commander (d.10th May 1940)
- Short Don . Engine Room Artificer.
- Skull Frederick Herbert. Stoker PO.
- Stokes Leonard Joseph. Ldg.Sea.
- Strike Ronnie.
- stubbs Harould. ERA. (d.18th Feb 1944)
- Symmons Temple David William. Gunner
- Taylor Gelert Grafton. Stkr.1stCl. (d.18th Feb 1944)
- Taylor Reginald Charles. Able Seaman
- Templeman Allen. Boy
- Thompson Thomas. AB
- Topham George.
- Trigg George.
- Tully Andrew. AB.
- Weare Louis George. PO.
- Wilson Enoch. Gnr.
- Woakes Henry John.
The names on this list have been submitted by relatives, friends, neighbours and others who wish to remember them, if you have any names to add or any recollections or photos of those listed, please Add a Name to this List
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C.P.O. Wilfred "Tim" Burton HMS PenelopeI have, along with my son, been discussing HMS ĎPepperpotí with my 87 yr old mother. We have 2 family members (now deceased) served as Chief Petty Officers on Penelope during the 2nd World War. The strange thing is though that they had never met each other within the family. Wilfred (Tim) Burton from Nottingham, was my Motherís sisterís husband and Joseph Rowley from London was my husbandís father.Sara Berbank
C.P.O. Joseph Rowley HMS PenelopeJoseph Rowley from London was my husbandís father. My Motherís sisterís husband Wilfred Burton, also served on the Pepperpot, though they never met within the family.Sara Berbank
James Alfred Sams HMS PenelopeI am trying to find details of my Father serving on HMS Penelope. He had pretty bad scars on his body caused him swimming in the water with burning fuel oil.
It is my understanding that James Alfred Sams was a Chief PO or Chief Stoker. I am not sure whether he could be both. Unfortunately he died of a heart attack back in 1971, so I did not have too much of an opportunity to talk about his service days. He de-mobbed out of the Navy after seeing out the 50ís based in Malta. He then worked as a civil servant in Portsmouth dockyard in an accounts department until his untimely death. If anyone can remember him I would be obliged for any information.David De La Haye (Formerly Michael Sams)
Able Seaman. Elijah Cheetham HMS PenelopeMy brother Elijah Cheetham, served on HMS Penelope and was onboard when she was sunk on the 18th of February 1944. I was 8 years old at that time. Recent documentarion has come to light confirming his service record. He volunteered for the Navy on the 28th of July 1943, his service is listed as comencing on 17th of December 1943, his 18th birthday. However he began his training at HMS Raleigh on the 28th of July 1943, transferring to HMS Victory on the 5th of October.
He joined HMS Penelope on the 12th of November 1943 and served onboard until she was lost in Feb 1944. He survived the sinking and sent a letter to his mother two weeks later. Here are some extracts from that letter:
From Mess 1, Ferdola Barracks, Malta.
I'm terribly sorry I haven't written to you for the last fortnight, I have been rather ill in hospital. I am a survuivor of HMS Penelope. As you know we have been doing a lot of work on the 5th Army front and our rewards was as follows:
It was Friday morning Feb 18th and we were well on our way to Anzio to give Jerry another suprise packet, but it was us that received the suprise. All of a sudden there was a terrific explosion and everyone dived for the gangway to get on the upper deck to see what was happening. We had been torpedoed but the ship was not sinking, although it had listed badly to starboard. No one was in a panic because there were too many lads injured to start worrying about ourselves, so we did the best we could to get the injured lads to sickbay. Shortly afterwards there came two more explosions (torpedoes) and the ship split in two so it was everyman for himself. I didn't hesitate because before I knew where I was I hit the water fully dressed, including sea boots, stockings and overalls.
I tried to swim for it but couldn't because my sea boots seemed to be dragging me under. I kicked these off and my overalls. Much to my relief I was able to keep my head up even though the sea was rough. I swam about for a bit but I soon got fatigued and felt myself slipping. Family came to mind and I struck out with renewed strength. After three hours I was finally picked up and dragged aboard absolutley naked apart from my waist belt and ring. Three tots of rum sent me to sleep.
We were taken to a hospital in Naples and there I have been for the last fortnight. We were then drafted to this camp once more and I was told that I should be going home. The big nobs think otherwise. I haven't done enough time out here yet, so I must stay. That's how you get treated as a survivor. All we have been issued with is toilet gear and battle dress, so it looks as if I shall have to buy new kit myself.
There were 750 in the ships company and only 200 were saved. Terrible isn't it. I am pleased to say that Stan Lake survived. I couldn't write to you seperatley. I have had to smuggle this into the country, the ship hasn't been announced as sunk yet. We are not allowed to mention that we survived. Paddy is going home so I have asked him to post this for me in England. It doesn't get sensored there, but he insists on bringing this personally. I do hope he makes it becasue I know he will get a great welcome. Please try not to worry too much about me I'm ok now and believe me I'm willing to go back and give Jerry exactly what I received and more. Even though I'm not coming home I still have that consolation of squaring things up.
Cherrio and God bless you all. Your loving son Lidge xxxx.
Elijah joined the Black Prince in July 1944 and served onboard for the remainer of the war, he was discharged on the 8th of December 1946 as having served with very good character.Roy Cheetham.
Harry Pugh HMS PenelopeHarry survived the sinking of HMS Penelope, he served on her with my brother Elijah.Roy Cheetham.
Stan Lake HMS PenelopeStan survived the sinking of HMS Penelope, he served onboard her with my brother Elijah. Stan is mentioned in a letter Elijah sent home after the loss of the ship.Roy Cheetham.
Douglas Holmes HMS PenelopeDouglas survived the sinking of HMS Penelope, he served onboard her with my brother Elijah.Roy Cheetham.
Steven Hildrew HMS PenelopeMy Uncle Steven Hildrew was on the Penelope when it sunk. He was in the water for 3 days and was picked up by the Americans and taken to America. Can anyone provide any information to help with my family tree?Nora O'Brien
Ronnie Strike Aurora Penelope SpartanI believe my father, Ronnie Strike, who was a Radio Office "sparkie" sailed and was sunk on Aurora. Unfortunately he now has Alzheimer's. I can't be sure, but I believe he once told me that he sailed on: Aurora, Penelope, Spartan and (I think) one of the "Tonipandy Class." Does anyone know of anyway I can confirm this? Sometimes he can talk quite lucidly of his Royal Navy days.Ron Strike
James KerrI have just found out through tracing my tree that my Grandfather James Kerr served on the HMS "Pepperpot" Penelope. My mother always mentioned a story about the ship which mentioned my Grandfathers name in it. By doing some research I have heard of a book called HMS Pepperpot by Ed Gordon. If anyone has this book, or indeed has an information relating to my Grandfather I would love to hear from you, merely to see if he is actually named in it.Andrew Mackay
Iain Palmer HMS PenelopeMy uncle, Iain Palmer, was a survivor of the sinking of H M S Penelope off Anzio in 1944. Iain I believe was a signalman. He was born in Borgue, Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland.Ian Carruthers
William "Bill" Raper HMS PenelopeMy grandfather William Raper (known as Bill) served on the HMS Penelope during WW2. He was one of the survivors when she sank in 1944. Unfortunately I don't know what his rank or number was at this point.Annabel Smith
Able Seaman George Albert Friend HMS Penelope (d.18 Feb 1944)My uncle, George Friend,died on HMS Penelope when it was sunk.i never knew him but my father, Ronald,talked about what happened to him.i would like to find out more if anyone has any information.julie hadfield
John Larmour HMS PenelopeMy grandfather served on HMS Penelope he called it the Pepperpot his name was John Larmour he died back in 1992. He was deaf in his left ear from the oil in the water after HMS penelope was sunk. He was on watch when she was hit and said that this was the reason for him surviving, he was also classed as missing in action. I would like to find out more about my granda and the people on HMS Penelope and see what happened to anyone who knew himCiaran Carson
Leading Stoker William Henry Frost HMS Penelope (d.18th Feb 1944)My Grandfather served on HMS Penelope during World War 2 and was killed when the ship was torpedoed & sunk off the coast of Anzio on February 18th 1944. He was the leading stoker on the ship. I have a photograph of him with someone on board and would love to know if anybody the name of the man in the photo with him, and if he survived?Lisa Astbury
AB Thomas "Tommo" Thompson HMS PenelopeMy father Tommo Thompson, told me about his exploits aboard HMS Pepperpot during the war when he was dive bombed in the Fjord and torpedoed twice. He also talked about being in Malta. He was a Laundryman and a Pom - Pom gunner. He died some years ago before I was able to obtain detailed information about his service on this shipRobert Thompson
Stoker 1st class Ramsey Alan McLachlan HMS Penelope (d.18th Feb 1944)Ramsey Alan Mclachlan was my Great Uncle (my nans brother) he served on HMS Penelope during the Second World War he was only 19. He died on the 18th February 1944 the ship was destroyed. My nan used to tell me stories about him, it was such a sad loss at such a young age as of all the men that died serving in the war. I would love to hear from anyone who remembered him or knew of him as i never got to know him would love to know something about him. He served as a stoker 1st class. I have some photos of him and would love to add some memories to them. Reading the stories on this web site has given me some idea .Tania Toy
Able Seaman Jack Percival Thomas Cornish HMS PeneloperMy Uncle Jack Cornish served on the H.M.S Penelope during World War 2 on the Malta convoys (8.7.41-21.10.42). The nickname of this ship became H.M.S Pepperpot because of her many shrapnel holes due to enemy air attacks.David Morgan
Able Seaman Norman Arthur "Nobby" Crowther HMS PenelopeMy Dad, Norman Crowther, was a survivor of the sinking of the H.M.S. Penelope in 1944 and told us many stories of the good times he had with his shipmates, and the history of a much loved ship.
He went to the re-union in 1973 when the next H.M.S. Penelope was named, where he found out that some people he thought had perished had not and some he thought had survived had perished, you see he was taken to Malta after the sinking for some weeks, and lost touch with lots of his old shipmates. When he finally got back to England some weeks later he went to see some families in Walsall whose sons had not been so fortunate as him, he also got married to my Mom, and as he had lost everything when the ship went down he actually got married in an army uniform with just his sailors hat as it was the only thing he managed to retrieve.
My Mom told me that the first news of the ship going down was broadcast by Lord Haw Haw who apparently took great delight in the sinking of what was a very famous ship. My Dad then went on to serve on other ships until he was demobbed in the 1950s. We were very proud of him, sadly he passed away in 1983.Kathryn Bramley
David John Morgan HMS PenelopeMy uncle David John Morgan served on HMS Penelope. I have got photos of him on the ship making a Christmas pudding with the crew around them. I have also got photos of the ship covered in thick ice. I know that he was a great cook and they all look as if they are having fun. My father did have a salt shaker with HMS Pepperpot on but we cant are unable to trace it.Phillip Morgan
Cpl. Peter George MasonMy Granddad, Peter Mason served during the Second World War & Korean war in the Royal Marines on the HMS Penelope, HMS Belfast & I believe he served on the HMS London.Simon McGuinness
Edward Marr HMS PenelopeMy Granda, Eddie Marr was a Gunner on Pepperpot, I don't know much about him because he died when I was two. He was one of the survivors as HMS Penelope sank my Grandad swan and swam and swam.
I hope my Grandad has a great time in heaven and I hope he knows I will always love him.Adele Marr (aged 11)
Able Sea. Robert "Ginger" Partridge HMS PenelopeRobert Partridge is my Dad, he is now 85 and alive and kicking. He was part of the crew who nicknamed her "Pepperpot" with Force K.Amanda Thompson
Engine Room Artificer. Don Short HMS CairoThen came, after four years of being in the navy without a uniform, the great day when I had to report to R.N. Barracks to be kitted out, but what was even better I could now wear my No 1 suit which was bought for the big day. Before being sent to a ship it was felt that we should spend about six weeks in "square bashing", using a rifle, swimming test in full kit, and even boxing which I hated, the only bout that I won was when my opponent was disqualified for a low blow. I suppose, looking back that it was inexperience and lack of imagination that caused one to want to go to sea at such a time, but there was no turning back now, I was drafted to H.M.S. Cairo, originally a 5 inch gun cruiser but converted in 1938 in to a 4 inch anti-aircraft cruiser, primarily to be employed in the middle of convoys to protect them against air attacks.
Together with an old classmate I set out from Portsmouth Station complete with kitbag, hammock and suitcase to join my first ship H.M.S. Cairo at Devonport. It was then I discovered that being an E.R.A., (Engine Room Artificer) was a bit different from being in one of the other branches, I was very junior, still under training in fact, but on arriving on board I was met by the Chief and taken to the "E.R.A's Mess". In any of the other branches the living quarters depended upon ones rate but with E.R.A's we all lived together and made for a very close community, on Cairo an especially friendly one.
The early days under training were spent mainly in the boiler rooms, tracking systems, following pipelines, crawling in the bilges and even one day, for a change, I was allowed to refit the siren on the funnel. Whilst this was going on we were steaming in and out of Belfast doing convoy runs down the Irish sea calling into Bangor in Wales and on one occasion we were sent out into the Atlantic to escort the "Queen Mary" back to Liverpool, we met her but she had no intention of waiting for us, we turned but she soon left us far behind. Then came the big one, we called into Greenock and picked up members of a Russian Trade Delegation to take them home to Murmansk. What could have been a perilous task turned out to be a comparatively uneventful journey, we did see what we thought was enemy spotting planes a couple of times but the worst problem was the cold and the ice forming on the upper deck, it was nice and warm in the boiler room. We went alongside the jetty in Murmansk, we did have Russian armed guards at the bottom of the gangway but we were allowed ashore and that was certainly something different. The rate of exchange was such that it was not worthwhile changing pounds into kopek, the best currency was packets of cigarettes and bars of "nutty" (chocolate). Not that there was much to buy, in fact the shops did not have shop windows, it was a question of trying the doors but it was all a wonderful experience.
The journey back to Greenock was again uneventful, we took on fuel, stored ship and we were soon on our way to the Mediterranean. During my first few months aboard Cairo we had been operating as a single unit on specific projects now it was different, we had joined up with the big boys. The first few tasks consisted of acting as anti-aircraft protection and as escort to aircraft carriers ferrying aircraft to Malta, our job finished as soon as the aircraft were in fuel range. We used to call these "club runs", the carriers doing the runs were the "Eagle" and the big American carrier the "Wasp".
In mid-June 1942 came the, what has become known as the forgotten operation, "Harpoon". With Cairo's Captain Hardy in command we left Gibraltar with an escort of seven destroyers and in the convoy six merchant ships, and very soon came the first of the air attacks. Then on the horizon were sighted two cruisers, at first we thought it was back up for our small force but as splashes appeared in the water around us and the sound of gunfire we soon realised that they were enemy cruisers and that we were under fire. Cairo received a hit from a 6" shell on the forward super-structure, luckily with little damage. The destroyers carried out torpedo attacks and one of the enemy cruisers was hit amidships, but two of our destroyers were hit by 6" shells and were stopped and eventually sunk. The Italian cruisers kept up the attack on the convoy and Cairo was again hit but by good fortune survived. The 6" shell ruptured the double bottom and penetrated the oil fuel tank ending up in the engine room but failed to explode. The Italian cruisers then rather surprisingly withdrew, especially as our heavy armament was 4" guns firing RDF and anti-aircraft shells, it appeared that the Italian admiral was under orders not to engage superior forces and he had mistakenly believed that the convoy was protected by two cruisers. From then on we came under continuous air attacks during which time we lost four of the merchantmen and it was a matter of concentrating on getting the two remaining through to Malta. Darkness fell with a feeling of relief as we neared our destination, a daylight arrival had been planned but when we arrived it was dark and so started the series of catastrophes which resulted in five ships falling victims to mines, one being sunk and four damaged. After days of fighting our way to Malta it was tragic that there was to be further loss of life through what was believed to be an error in one of the swept channel positions given in a signal to all ships from the office of Vice Admiral Malta.
It was nice to be in Malta but certainly not safe to stay too long, and after patching up the damage we were soon on our way back to Gibraltar and relatively more peaceful surroundings. It was not to last, when a number of ships began to assemble it became obvious that something big was about to happen, we were to become part of Force X, altogether comprising four cruisers, twelve destroyers and an ocean going tug and our task was to act as close escort to a convoy all the way through to Malta. The task was officially named "Operation Pedestal" and to the Maltese it became known as the "Santa Maria Convoy" because of the bedraggled arrival of the Ohio on the feast day of Santa Maria.
We left Gibraltar accompanied by an outer escort of two battleships, four aircraft carriers, three cruisers and twelve destroyers, this was Force Z. There was also Force R consisting of two tankers to replenish the warships escorted by four corvettes and another ocean going tug. Following further back was an aircraft carrier, which was to fly Spitfires off to Malta and escorted by eight destroyers. As wards of this strong escort there was the thirteen merchantmen and the tanker "Ohio" which was American but was captained and manned by a British crew.
We had left on Sunday the tenth of August, there had been spasmodic air attacks directed mainly against the aircraft carriers and on the Monday (what a way to spend one's birthday) during one particularly heavy attack a submarine penetrated the destroyer screen and torpedoed the aircraft carrier, she listed and sank quickly.
Tuesday, a beautiful day weatherwise, was a day of constant action, air attacks again directed mainly against the carriers and two more were badly damaged. Late in the afternoon we were shocked to see the battle-ships and the other ships of the outer escort turn around and steam away from us heading back towards Gibraltar.
We were now steaming through the Straits of Pentellaria, the most dangerous area for the convoy and it was here at dusk when the next heavy attack was launched, the enemy no doubt encouraged by the weaker escort and the absence of fighter cover. The first attack was by a pack of submarines, the cruiser " Nigeria" steaming alongside us was hit and slewed away listing badly, the tanker "Ohio" was hit but kept going and then it was our turn.
I was at my action station at midships damage control where I had spent many hours, in overalls waiting to take over my watch below in the after engine room when the torpedo hit us. I remember the ship shuddering and the lights going out, and the feeling of "at last", one seemed to be waiting, there was an air of almost inevitability. The stern had been blown off, we were listing but didn't seem sure of which way to go, there was nothing that could be done to save her, and yet as we made our way up to the upper deck, we had been ordered to abandon ship, tinged with relief that we were still alive, was the sadness of leaving what had been a happy home.
We gathered along the upper deck, lined along the guardrails, not wanting to jump but knowing that we would have to, when hardly able to believe our luck we saw a destroyer bearing down on us with the obvious intention of trying to steam alongside. We realised that there was no way they were going to stop so it was a question of waiting for the right moment then jumping for it. We had been lucky again and will be forever grateful to the captain of the destroyer "Wilton" who saw our predicament and even in the midst of the confusion, remained calm, and steered his ship three or four feet away maintaining a straight course parallel to our side.
The "Wilton" was carrying so many survivors, more than the number of her own crew, that she was withdrawn from her escort duty and ordered to return to Gibraltar. There wasn't any room to go below, not that one wanted to really, the weather was warm, they found enough food to feed us, there was a "tot" all round, it seemed that the enemy was only interested in the convoy, so it was time to sunbathe.
Back in Gibraltar, usually the place to buy the presents to take home, not this time - dressed in rather soiled overalls and boiler room boots and of course no money were soon on our way to joining H.M.S. Rodney and taking passage back to the U.K. The weather was fine but there was a heavy swell and in a mess which was right forward the movement of the ship was like a figure eight and for the only time during the whole time I was in the navy, I was seasick. Soon we were in sight of land but it was not going to be a quick call into Plymouth or Portsmouth, it was to be the long trek up to Rosyth. Whilst I was aboard Rodney I was given a duffle coat so at least on the train journey back to Pompey it wasn't cold and the train ended up right in the naval barracks itself, and it was a wonderful surprise to see my father there to meet me. So it was home again, meeting up with family and old friends and what stories to tell, it had only been about nine months, but we had survived an epic run to Murmansk, convoys in the Irish Sea, escorted a Queen across the Atlantic, escorted the carriers flying fighters off to Malta, met up with the Italian Navy when we tried to get six merchantmen through to Malta and then being part of the last and biggest convoy of the war.
Didn't spend much time in barracks, being kitted up again, such as it was, serge suits and boots, but we did get paid and soon we were off on "survivor's leave". That happy state of affairs was not to last long, I was recalled, told to be prepared to join the cruiser "Penelope" and it was a frantic few days arranging to get married before it was back to the old routine on a new ship.
Joined H.M.S. Penelope in Portsmouth and after a week or so steaming off Portland and where, incidentally was issued with cold weather clothing, so we had a fair idea that we would be going somewhere warm and we were right, we were soon to be back in Gibraltar and operating in the Med. It was the start of a new year, January 1943, and we became part of the 12th Cruiser Squadron based at Bone in North Africa, the squadron had been formed to act as a striking force to harass enemy convoys ferrying troops across to take part in the North African campaign.
By the 12th of May the whole of North Africa was in Allied hands, the war in the desert was over and that was the start of the partnership that was to be so successful between the "Penelope and Aurora". The captain of Aurora, Captain Agnew was promoted to Commodore and took over in command of the 12th Cruiser Squadron. We could leave Bone now from where we had operated and operate from Malta, a much better run ashore although there was not to be many of them. The other cruisers that made up the squadron were Dido, more about Dido later, Sirius, Cleopatra, and Euryalus with Orion and Newfoundland joining us in the overall task of capturing Sicily. But first we needed to occupy the small islands of Pantellaria and Lampedusa and in early June we were bombarding targets on Pantellaria. When steaming within six thousand yards from the shore we were hit by a shell in the forward superstructure but luckily the shell did not explode and there were no casualties.
On the 9th of June, with Orion, Euryalus and Newfoundland, and a number of destroyers we made one of the final bombardments before the landing due to take place the next day, this went on until noon when Flying Fortresses thundered over to add their contribution to the softening up process. It was then a quick return to Malta to top up with fuel and ammunition before resuming patrol the next day. Following a morning of bombardment and bombing the landing craft filled with troops zigzagged their way to the beaches. Then, early afternoon, it was reported that the signal tower was flying the white flag, the war was over for the eleven thousand troops, mostly Italian, who were found on the Island.
After another quick dash to Malta it was back the following day to carry out a night bombardment and after more heavy raids by Allied bombers the white flag was again to be seen, hoisted after only twenty four hours. On this occasion we had a BBC reporter on board and he reported on local radio that evening that Lampedusa had surrendered to HMS Penelope whose ship's company, keeping themselves fit had broken off doing their knee bending exercises to the tune of "Daisy Bell" to accept the surrender. It was not entirely unexpected that we would hear from the crews of other ships that had taken part but we did not expect to see the crew of Newfoundland, when fell in to enter harbour that evening, suddenly start to do knee bending exercises and singing Daisy. As we always felt that when we were bombarding in company with Newfoundland she was always further out to sea than we were it was no surprise that ashore in Malta that evening there were more casualties between the two ship's companies than there had been on Lampedusa.
Whilst in Malta the Aurora had been sent to Algiers to pick up King George VI and bring him back to visit Malta. As she steamed into Grand Harbour on that sunny Sunday morning of 20th June, it was a memorable scene with the Royal Standard flying at the masthead and the King standing on a platform that had been erected in front of the bridge. I had a particularly good view as my duty was to man the motorboat and cruise around the harbour in case we were needed, and of course the full white uniform was given an airing. It seemed that the whole Maltese population had lined themselves around the Grand Harbour cheering wildly and as the King landed the church bells rang out. There was one notable exception, the old lady who used to wave bed sheets to the ships passing, was missing, her waterfront bar was a heap of rubble.
The next job on the agenda was to be "Operation Husky", the landings on Sicily, programmed for 10th July. At the beginning we were part of Force H, which was led by the battleship Nelson, our aim to protect the landing forces in the event of the Italian fleet putting to sea but before the landings took place we were detached together with Aurora to carry out tip and run raids on Catania and Taormina. These raids were very effective, we lit up the area with star shells and followed with boardsides, the Italian search lights would criss cross in the sky followed by ant-aircraft fire, they did not seem to realise that the attack was coming from the sea. During these operations we did eventually come under air attack from the Italian bombers and on one occasion we were very lucky as a string of bombs fell between the two ships.
Then on the 20th the two ships again together with six destroyers were off on another 250 mile trip to make a night attack on the port of Crotone, in the Gulf of Taranto. After over a thousand shells were fired it was reported that the harbour area and the chemical works were well alight we turned and headed back to Malta without meeting any opposition. It is strange that we all felt a lot better and safer when we were with Aurora with Commodore Agnew making the decisions than when we were left with our own captain.
The only escape route for the enemy troops on Sicily was across the Straights of Messina and it was here that we patrolled to strike at shipping and rail traffic using the coastal routes. We did have a diversion by calling in to Augusta for a quick run ashore after its capture. It was incredible that we were able to stroll along the road picking oranges from the overhanging boughs and to call into the local bar for a wine or two, the locals seemed to be quite pleased to see us.
During the time up to the withdrawal of Axis troops from Sicily which was completed by 17th August we bombarded selected targets up and down the Italian coast up into the Bay of Naples, into the Bay of Salerno with a good view of the Isle of Capri and as far back again as the Gulf of Taranto. The next excitement was a dash to Bizerta on the North African coast, together of course with Aurora, to join up with Dido, Sirius, the fast minelayer Adbiel and the US cruiser Boise and to embark nearly five thousand paratroopers and land them at Taranto by 9th September. On that day the Italian warships were due to leave Taranto to surrender in Malta and also the allied armies were due to land at Salerno so it appeared to be a good opportunity to capture the important port of Taranto. We had on board six hundred and forty paratroopers, wearing their familiar red berets, with their commanding officer Brigadier John Hacket.
We left Bizerta late afternoon and were soon doing thirty knots and whilst we were at sea it was announced on the radio that Italy had surrendered. On arrival at Taranto on the 9th we anchored outside the harbour and watched the Italian battleships Caio and Andrea Doria, two cruisers and a destroyer on their way to Malta escorted by the two battleships HMS King George V and HMS Howe.
In the early hours of the following morning, whilst we were all at anchor in the harbour, there came a shattering explosion from Abdiel whilst her paratroopers were being ferried ashore. A brilliant orange flash from the ship lit up the harbour, she had swung with the tide whilst at anchor and struck a mine laid by German E-boats the previous evening, the explosion then detonated mines in the ship and in minutes she was listing badly, broke into two and sank quickly.
Returning to Bizerta many of the wounded were cared for in our sick bay and on arrival were transferred to a hospital ship in the harbour. During this time more of the Italian fleet led by the battleship Conte di Cavour were on their way to Malta to surrender and on the 11th September the signal "Be pleased to inform their Lordships that the Italian Battle Fleet now lies at anchor under the guns of the fortress Malta" was made by Admiral Cunningham. A few weeks later he was promoted to First Sea Lord.
From Bizerta we had steamed back to Taranto with more of the "Red Devils" who had been held in reserve and then with Aurora on to Augusta but there was no rest, on the same day we were ordered to steam at high speed to the Gulf of Salerno where troops had landed in the early hours a few days previously but were now in danger of being pushed back into the sea. We joined up with the monitor Roberts and other cruisers and destroyers bombarding set targets, the return fire was spasmodic but it was difficult to manoeuvre freely to avoid bombs where the fighter bombers and JU88s made their raids. With the situation ashore still critical we were joined by the old battleship Warspite whose eight fifteen inch guns had been most successful but was put out of action by a radio controlled guided bomb down her funnel the next day and she was towed back to Malta. The shelling continued and with the help of the Allied bombers the German counter attack was repelled and so began the long push north and the continuing bombardment of targets along the coast. On 26th September, having run out of ammunition we, with Aurora, left the area for Malta, we had been promised a rest period which really meant boiler cleaning, changing gun barrels, making good defects and painting the ship, but who cared? A few bottles of "Blue" and a glass or two of "Ambete" the sailors' favourite Maltese red wine and the cheapest and all was right with the world again.
On the 4th October together again with Aurora we were on our way to the Aegean to join the 12th Cruiser Squadron, British forces had already taken over some of the islands such as Kos and Leros but the big one Rhodes was still in German hands. Our first task was to reinforce Leros, destroyers were to land troops and supplies at night, with two cruisers operating as anti-aircraft support, then the squadron, still under cover of darkness would make a hasty retreat to Alexandria mainly because we had little or no aircraft cover. We were in trouble from the beginning before the first patrol had started. Aurora from Malta and Dido from Alexandria were to rendezvous and proceed together with destroyers on the first patrol, but not only did they rendezvous, they collided and as Dido bounced off she left half her anchor embedded in Aurora's bow. So we, separated from our 'chummy ship', and at the mercy of our own Captain's decisions joined with Sirius and set off as replacements on the first patrol, steaming at full speed to intercept a convoy of German troops on their way to recapture Leros. This part of the exercise was very successful, we sank an armed anti-submarine trawler, blew up a German freighter carrying ammunition whilst the destroyers rounded up the landing barges, we left leaving hundreds of German troops in the water. The rout had only taken an hour but having waited for the convoy to appear the dawn had come and gone and we were left in broad daylight, with no air cover, at the mercy of the Luftwaffe and they were well and truly ready to pounce. The first attack by Ju88s lasted about an hour and was concentrated on us and at the end of it, when presumably they had to return to base to refuel we had our steering motors out of action and our tiller flat flooded. With steering difficult we were still able to increase speed but the second attack was not long in coming, Ju88s kept coming, diving out of the sun and culminating in a concentrated blitz by diving Stukas. We suffered a direct hit which went through the quarter deck, the wardroom and lower compartments hit the port outer propeller shaft and ended up in a fuel tank but thankfully didn't explode and was followed by two near misses. They were thousand pound bombs and although they didn't hit us they caused much damage and had the damage control parties working overtime. We lost ten killed and fifty six wounded, one wonders if it was worth it, staying on in daylight inviting air attacks and taking such a risk of losing the ship and with the consequent loss of life, maybe it is worth a mention that the captain was awarded the D.S.O. for that decision.
We arrived back in Alexandria early the next day steering by main engines needing, of course, examination by divers to ascertain the full extent of the damage. The Egyptian divers did not spend a lot of time looking, they surfaced and pulled away in their boat, reporting that the bomb must have hit the shaft and gone back up into the tank. It was just as well they were proven to be mistaken, but it was agreed that we required a new shaft fitted and this meant that until one could be transported to Alexandria we were of little use as a fighting unit so we were ordered to make our way as best we could to Haifa where we were to wait until full repair could be undertaken at Alexandria. It was a great relief to be alongside the wall again and in comparative safety and after being in constant action to be able to visit such places as Bethlehem, and those which were just names that one had read about in the Bible, even spending the night in a ramshackle old coach that had broken down crossing the Plain of Armageddon on the way back to Jerusalem.
Too soon it was time to return to Alexandria, into dry dock, and fitting the new shaft together with all the work necessary to bring the ship back to a fighting unit. Whilst we were there the entertainer George Formby was entertaining the troops in Alexandria and he was invited aboard, we were out in the harbour at anchor at the time so he arrived by ships boat, stepping aboard he made his way straight to the wardroom, probably for a few pink gins, anyway he left the ship without contact with the lads and they didn't think much of him and a few of them around the 'spud' locker on the upper deck decided to throw a few of the overripe ones at the boat as it was leaving, of course the culprits disappeared quickly leaving a very angry Captain who promptly cancelled all leave for the whole ship's company, he probably thought that they would be taking a few more 'spuds' along to the NAAFI where he was performing that evening.
Back to sea again, and at this time Mr Churchill had been meeting Mr Roosevelt in Cairo, he had gone on to Bizerta but had expressed the wish to board Penelope and as we all hoped, to take passage home, but it was not to be, he was taken ill with pneumonia and so it was no trip back to U.K. for us. Instead we spent Christmas Day and Boxing Day in a stormy Atlantic, in the Bay of Biscay searching for a German freighter and her destroyer escort, we heard later that she had been sunk by a Liberator bomber. By early January we were back on familiar ground, we were back in Malta, this time to take part in the landings at Anzio. After the early landings, which had been very quiet, with no sign of enemy troops, came the long struggle to maintain a footing in the face of fierce enemy resistance and counter attacks. We spent our time bombarding enemy positions along the coast and when the air raids became so intense we were forced to move out to sea at top speed to have a chance of manoeuvring and dodging the bombs. After almost continuous bombarding, on 17th February we withdrew at dusk and made our way to Naples to replenish with oil and ammunition, we were due our well-earned forty eight hour rest period.
I had kept the first watch, eight o'clock until midnight, it was a great relief going off watch, having a shower, a quick look around on the upper deck, we were alongside the wall and then after weeks of being closed up at action stations with short snatches of sleep, to be able to get into my hammock and within minutes I was in the land of dreams dreaming that I was at home in bed.
Suddenly, what was happening? I was awakened by - was it noise or unusual movement of the ship? Why didn't someone switch on the lights?, it was obviously time to get up, and fast. Overalls, torch, lifebelt were all handy and looking around the mess one could see the same puzzled looks, all hurriedly dressing and because it was the natural thing to do, rush to close up at action stations, but first what was the time? One's action station changed depending on the watch one was on last, I couldn't believe that it was gone 7 o'clock, I had slept solidly for seven hours but it was no dream now. My engine room watch keeping chum and I decided that we should get right aft and we hurried out of the mess which was forehead under the forecastle, through the marine's mess deck and out on to the port waist. We were hurrying aft, still unaware of what was happening and couldn't believe our eyes when we discovered that we were no longer in the comparative safety of Naples Bay but out at sea, in the distance we could see snow capped mountains. Halfway along the waist we met two of our mess mates squelching along, their shoes and overalls oozing oil fuel; they told us that they had come up out of the after engine room as it flooded up and that the after flat was flooding fast, that was where we were making for, they went down the hatch in the cross passage to go to the bathroom. Suddenly there was a huge explosion I fell back against the superstructure, I lost sight of my chum as he disappeared through the cross passage. Then just in front of me I saw a rope dangling from a boat's davit, I clutched at it and hauled myself up to the ship's side, grabbed the guardrail, I remember how it was so difficult to get over it, and slid down the side as it was moving over and upwards. As this was happening I saw the funnel just fall over the side, it seemed in one piece. I suppose I expected to fall straight into the water but somehow I was laying face down in the bilge rail, that contraption built into the ship's side, then, suddenly and so thankfully something or somebody landed in the middle of my back and over I went into the icy sea. As I had been hurrying along the upper deck I had tied my lifebelt on but now it was a question of getting some air into it. I tried hard to get away from the ship but in no time at all the bows seemed to be towering above standing vertical and then it slid slowly out of sight. Then spars, which must have been stored on the upper deck came shooting up out of the water and rose high in the air before crashing back into the sea, with them came large bubbles which burst scattering oil fuel everywhere. Eventually I was thankful for one of the spars, our Chief G.I. who was a strong swimmer pushed one over to me, which I was pleased to hang on to and was able to put some more air into my lifebelt. He swam off I am sure to help any one he could and I was left as far as I could see all lone and for nearly two hours in water which seemed to get colder and colder. I didn't see or speak to anyone, and then it seemed quite literally from out of nowhere there was a landing craft almost alongside me with scrambling nets over the side. The sight could not have been more welcome but getting aboard would have been impossible but for the invaluable help of some of the crew who had jumped in the water themselves to help those like myself. Carried on board we were given blackest, a bunk to rest in and a most welcome tot and for the second time had cause to thank a crew for their thoughtfulness at such a time and to thank God for the umpteenth time for still being alive.
After a check on numbers a signal was sent back to Naples giving details of survivors and injured, when I had been asked and guessing that the survivors would be sent back to Malta I said that I would be fine after a clean up, but when we arrived back in Naples and I tried to stand up they quickly had to find room in an ambulance and I was on my way to hospital, later I was to learn that I had suffered a fractured spine and ankle. I do not remember a lot about my first couple of days in hospital except that they must have cleaned me up, I had been soaked in oil fuel and now I was in a nice clean bed and I do remember being wheeled on a hospital trolley down a long passage with a priest alongside and some nuns chanting. Back in the ward I was encased in plaster, which was to remain with me for many months to come. And of course I remember the Salvation Army lad who gave me pyjamas with odd trousers, the hospital or at least the British part of the hospital didn't seem to have any, the hospital was divided into three - British, Italian and American, of course the American patients could be seen parading around in their new dressing gowns but they did share their cigarettes and "nutty". The Salvation Army did great work out there in places one would least expect to find them and I have never failed to give to the Salvation Army since that time.
Whilst I was in hospital I was interviewed by a naval investigation team, I think I learnt more from them than they did from me, how we had been torpedoed by a U-boat, initially on the stern and whilst lolling around unable to move we had been hit again midships and the ship had gone down in less than a minute. Their questions had been mainly about the Captain, had I seen him in the water? Had I spoken to him? I was not to learn until much later the significance of such questions.
It was after a matter of only a few days that the Germans launched another counter attack and as there was the possibility that they might reach Naples it was decided to evacuate the hospital. Very hurriedly, one night, we were put on stretchers, put into ambulances and taken to the airport to board a Dakota and take passage to Tunis. It was pointed out during the flight that we were flying over Etna, at any other time I suppose it would have been very interesting, but just then we were not very comfortable and all we wanted was to get a bed somewhere a little safer. We soon arrived at a very modern Italian hospital in the middle of Tunis with first class facilities, it was being run by the Americans so we did not want for anything. I was able to take on a very interesting job, to pass the time away, working with a young American doctor sorting out and matching glass eyes and as we were next to the American Broadcasting Station, our requests for records were always met so there was lots of Frank Sinatra played.
All good things must come to an end and after two or three weeks of luxury we were back on stretchers and loaded on to what looked and smelt like cattle trucks to make a long journey to Algiers, eventually to reach the British General Hospital. What a difference it was any army hospital with army discipline even the bed one occupied depended upon one's seniority, I was lucky, being Navy, I was different and being a chief, I occupied bed No 1 but everyone seemed just content to be away from the war. It was not long before a hospital ship the "Amarapoora" arrived to take us back to U.K., sailing with all lights blazing, a few hearts beat a little faster when we were "buzzed" by a German U boat on our way back across the Bay of Biscay but luckily they accepted that we were in fact genuine. Docking in Bristol I was transferred to Barrow-Gurney Hospital which was a general services hospital, quite comfortable, and by this time I was more mobile, I was in a small ward with five others, no television to watch in those days, so it was listening to the radio and playing cards mostly but we were allowed out of the hospital, unfortunately for me it was a bit difficult because I was still encased in plaster, I could only stand up or lie down and as the plaster didn't show I got some funny looks when I continued to stand when there were plenty of seats on the bus to Bristol. The other problem of course, I still didn't have any clothes to wear except the blue hospital trousers and coat and we were not allowed to go into Bristol like that. On one particular occasion I borrowed the uniform of a fellow patient, it didn't seem to matter much that he was a Royal Marine and it was just unfortunate that when in Bristol I should happen to pass a Marine Officer, I saluted him without thinking that the marines did not salute in the same way as the navy. He stopped me and after my explaining he saw the funnyside and we ended up having a pint together. One of the other patients in the ward was a young lad of nineteen, very outgoing and full of self importance, whatever anyone else had done had had done it, wherever anyone else had been he had been there so when we read in the paper that Joe Loss would be appearing with his orchestra at the local theatre in Bristol it was no surprise to hear him say that Joe Loss was a friend of his. That being the case, we said that he ought to go into the theatre and ask Joe Loss to pay us a visit in hospital and maybe bring his band. Off he went in to Bristol and on his return informed us that he had spoken to his old friend and that we were to prepare the hospital for a visit by the band later that week. We thought that this time he had gone a little too far but imagine our surprise when later that week a coach arrived and out stepped Joe Loss and the band, and that was not all, he announced that our young know all had been a vocalist with him before joining the Navy, lots of red faces.
From Barrow Gurney I was sent to a large house in the country in its own grounds, owned by Lord and Lady Rose, which had been taken over as a recuperation hospital, patients to use the house and part of the grounds whilst the owners took over the Lodge. It seemed to work alright, the old boy liked to come into the house to talk with the lads but his wife kept herself very much to herself. Whilst here I was able to take part in games even playing cricket of a sort as much as being in a plaster jacket would allow but came the day for the jacket to be removed. They brought out the sheers and cut the jacket up each side, lifting the top half off, I saw my stomach for the first time in over six months. What I didn't expect was, after being so active, with the top half of the jacket removed I was helpless, unable to move at all, so began the long road to build all the muscles back up, tying the top back on and gradually, day by day, removing it for short periods whilst doing gentle exercises. It was a long business but eventually came the time to join the working Navy again although on seeing the Surgeon Captain before leaving he had given me a certificate to ensure that I would be on light duties and unfit for sea for a further six months. That was to prove very useful, as soon as I returned to barracks and had been kitted up fully I was drafted to a corvette, thankfully that was cancelled but only after a struggle.
It was during this time, home again in Portsmouth with my wife that when we were out one evening, actually in a queue going to the pictures that who should walk by but a young sub-lieutenant, also a survivor from the Penelope so it was cancel the pictures and lots of talking in the nearest pub. It was from him that I learnt why I had been questioned in the way I had at the enquiry in hospital in Naples. It appears that the Captain was seen resting on a spar as the L.S.T. came in sight and swam strongly towards it, although still wearing his thick reefer jacket but after being assisted on board was examined by a crewman who exclaimed "He's dead". This obviously caused a lot of speculation and as far as I know the result of the inquest has never been published.
The Board of Enquiry into the loss of H.M.S. Penelope was held on board M.V. Winchester Castle at Naples on 20th February 1944 some of the findings being that the first explosion occurred at 0700 while the ship was proceeding from Naples to Anzio unescorted at 26 knots, after the second explosion at 0716 the ship listed heavily to starboard and sank in less than a minute. After further detailing of the extent of damage it makes a point:- "It is considered inadvisable that hands should be sent to action stations in an emergency of the type that will not require the ship to go into action. The consequent opening of doors giving access to magazines etc. is as undesirable as placing the men in a position from which escape is very difficult" Penelope's former commanding officer Captain Nicholl, as Director of operations at the Admiralty commented after reading the report on 1st May 1944; 'There seems little doubt that the Ship's Company was closed up at action stations contributed to the heavy number of casualties'.
There are questions which are difficult to answer - Why let a cruiser steam unescorted in such dangerous waters? Why was the order "Abandon Ship" - not given when it was obvious that with the stern hit, no power, and a sitting target a second and maybe a third torpedo was certain? I have gone past asking why but would mention that the Captain was given a "Mentioned in Despatches" for his part in the action at Anzio. I wonder what was mentioned?
I mentioned earlier that I would refer to 'Dido' again, we took her place during the action in the Dodecanese because she had been in a collision and needed to return to harbour, now again when we returned to Naples she had been due to relieve us after her rest spell but on her way to the beach head she collided with a landing craft which necessitated her return to Naples and of course we had to return to Anzio right away. This is why we were alongside the wall when I turned in and miles away at sea, unescorted, when the German U-boat put an end to Penelope.Don Short
Chief Engineer Alfred James "Chiefy" Abbott HMS PenelopeMy Dad, Alfred Abbott was in the Royal Navy, he was a chief engineer, at some point served on HMS Penelope, but we have no records. He was born in warwickshire lived in the midlands, then manchester and spent time at the and of the war in Pwephelli in North Wales. Anybody knowing of him please contact.Nick Abbott
Paymaster Commander William Arthur Sharp HMS Penelope (d.10th May 1940)I know that my uncle William Sharp was an officer on HMS Penelope because I have his name in the souvenir book for the ship on its first commisssion 1936-39. My father told me that he was killed in the war and I have always assumed that he went down with the Penelope when it was torpedoed in Feb 1944. However, I can't find his name on crew records at this time.
Editors note: Cmdr Wiliam Arthur Sharp is commemorated on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial, his date of death is listed as 10th May 1940.Jonathan Sharp
Henry John Woakes HMS PenelopeI believe my dad Harry Woakes served on HMS Penelope when she was sunk in 1944. I would be pleased to receive any information ragarding this. Sadly my dad died in 1999.Liz Westwood
Seaman William Laird HMS PenelopeI was serving on HMS Penelope when she was torpedoed by a German U Boat and sunk at Anzio on the 18th of Febuary 1944. I was firing a pom pom gun at the time and didint realise that we had been hit. I survived by the Grace of God I now live in Lanarkshire, Scotland and I will never forget the men who served with me.William Laird
William "Wullie" Laird HMS PenelopeMy friend Wullie Laird was on HMS Penelope when she was torpedoed and sunk at Anzio on the 18th of Feb 1944 he was still at the the pom pom gun when she was going down. He only realised what had happened when the ship was hit by the second torpedo and it started to fall over on its side. He jumped and slid down the side of the ship and into the water and found himself swimming for his life. There were hundreds of men clinging to anything that was floating and he managed to cling to a pole with other men. Lots of men were grabbing on to any space that was available and a young sailor who couldn't swim threw himself on top of it.
Wullie was only 21yrs old himself and managed to persuade the young sailor to cling on to the side of the pole so that others could grab a space on it and stay afloat. There was a lot of shouting and swearing and screaming all around and he said at one point he felt himself drowning and managed by some miracle to stay afloat. We were in the water for three hours he said and the oil was killing lots of men.
Wullie joined the navy at the young age of 17yrs and 6 months and his first ship was HMS Penelope, and it was always in the thick of it. He survived the war and is still living in Airdrie in Scotland. He is a friend to be proud of and has a great sense of humour. He is a gentle man from the old school. We all love Wullie he has a heart of gold. We can never repay the people who who gave everything for our future and we should never forget.JHorn
Cecil George Beattie Sonar Op. HMS PenelopeGeorge Beattie was my Uncle. He died when I was 12 and I only met him on a handful of occasions. He seemed to be a jovial man always laughing or smiling with my father [his younger sibling]. Regretably I never got to talk to my uncle about his wartime recollections and all I know is what my father told me. Sadly he too died ten years ago and there is nobody left to ask. My father said that his brother suffered terribly with his nerves after the war - apparently as a result of serving in the bowels of the ship working the sonar. My cousin has shown me what I can best describe as "coloured in" card on HMS Penelope on the right side with the typed words "With all good wishes for Christmas and the New Year" to which my uncle has written his own message. The date is not recorded. I wonder if anybody remembers him? He was born in 1912 and lived in Ealing london.Mike Beattie
Stoker Robert "Hoot" Gibson HMS Penelope (d.May/June 1942)My father's brother, Robert, followed my grandfather into the Royal Navy in 1939 much against my grandfathers will as he was sure war was about to break out. Robert had served his apprenticeship on Tyneside as a Turner but was determined to join up. He consequently joined the ship's company of HMS Penelope as a stoker.
Very sadly Robert was mortally wounded in 1942 of Malta and although brought home never recovered and died in Newcastle aged just 21. If anyone remembers Robert whose nickname was "Hoot" after the cowboy hoot Gibson! Please drop a line or email. My father would love to hear from you I'm very sure.Ian Gibson
John Cecil Foster HMS PenelopeMy dad served on the HMS Penelope. I know he served on her during the bombing of the Grand Harbour and then spent some time in New york when she was being repaired. He served with the Marines. However I am not sure if he was on the boat during the sinking and would love any information. I do have a photo of the HMS Maori being bombed in the Grand Harbour taken from the Penelope.Sandra
Gnr. Enoch "Nick" Wilson HMS PenelopeMy grandfather, Enoch 'Nick' Wilson served onboard HMS Penelope from 1942 to 1944 as a gunner. I remember him telling me about the convoys to Malta and bombing of the Penelope while docked in Valetta, Malta and of the sinking off Naples. My grandfather was one of the survivors and was picked up by a ship and taken to Alexandria in Eygpt. Just wondering if anyone knew my Grandfather Nick Wilson RM? He kept a scrap book of the Penelope and had many photos of her and her crew.Nicole Wilson Thackray
Able Sea. Edward Purdue HMS Penelope (d.7th Oct 1943)Edward Purdue is my grandfather's younger brother who served on the HMS Penelope. I had always assumed he died when the ship sank however it appears he died a year earlier.Mike Purdue
Stoker 2nd Class. Dennis Dixon Phillips HMS. Penelope (d.18th Feb 1944)Dennis Phillips was the son of George and Annie Phillips, of Wiverton, Nottinghamshire. If anyone has any information or tales please let me know.Chris Woods
Ldg.Sea. Leonard Joseph Stokes MID HMS Penelope, HMS Rifleman, HMS BoadiceaLeonard Stokes served on HMS Penelope, HMS Rifleman and HMS Boadicea.John Stokes
Ldg.Sig Alfred Leach HMS Penelope (d.18th Feb 1944)In my youth I can remember my father talking about his younger brother Alf Leach. He died on the Pepperpot. Does anyone have any further information about my uncle Alf?Andrew Leach
Able Seaman Joseph Robert Jones HMS PenelopeI have a book called "Our Penelope" pubilished in June 1942. It has lots of info and pictures of The Penelope. I also have photographs.
My late father served on her from 8th July 1941 until 28th Nov 1943. His name was Joseph Robert Jones his number JX175911.
I also have a newspaper cutting telling about when she arrived in Gibralter to have at least 1,000 shrapnel holes repaired.
I would like these items to go to a good home as the family do not want them. If you would like them please get in touch.Stephanie Steanson
Able Seaman John Earnest Littleton HMS PenelopeMy dad Jack Littleton, worked in one of the rear 6 inch gun as a gun aimer on HMS Penelope. He told me they took a hit on his turret (gun) and it threw him across the turret and blew one of his eardrums out he spent time in hospital in Malta then rejoined his ship, he lost good friends of his in that attack. He told me his Captain was a good decent man. He was also involved with special operations (Commando). He named my second oldest sister after the ship. He was based in Egypt for a while. My Dad's brother George Littleton was also in the Royal Navy on Cambletown and I think Kelly. He survived the war to. As a little boy he told me various stories, I would like to think all true, how one night how Penelope sunk many other ships. He was on board when in force K. He left the ship at the end of the war I believe.Kevin Littleton
AB. James Beswick Nicholson HMS PenelopeA friend of mine tells me her Dad, James Beswick Nicholson, served on the "Pepperpot". As a result one of her sisters is named Penelope. He served 1942 to 1945.Steven Montgomery
Lt.Cdr. William Frederick Guest HMS PenelopeMy Father, William Guest served with the RNVR on the HMS Penelope and was a crew member when it was torpedoed in Valetta. Malta. He was also part of the Russian fleet. My Father did not talk about the war but I know he was badly affected and I was named Penelope to commemorate his survival.
I would be so glad to have any information about him from anyone who has photos or memorabilia from this frigate.Penelope Anne Guest
Acting Ldg Sea David Cox MID HMS PenelopeMy father served on HMS Penelope from June 1941 until she was sunk by enemy action in February 1944. He was mentioned twice in Dispatchs, first in 1942 following the siege of Malta where he served as a naval air gunner on Penelope and then later when he saved the lives of two shipmates when they spent between 24 and 48 hours in the water waiting to be picked up. Dad told me of the horror when the American rescue ship came in too close to the survivors, killing some with their propellors. Following the sinking, my mother received a telegram telling her my father was missing presumed drowned whereupon she gave up her flat where she was living with my brother then aged 2 and returned to live with her parents. Imagine the shock when one dark night the door bell rang and my father was standing there! In April 1945, my father joined HMS Nelson and was at Penang for the surrender of the Japanese and then one month later, he was at Singapore and the liberation of Chiangi jail which held many British POWs. Dad was in the advance party that entered the jail and he said that they entered full of high spirits at setting their countrymen free only to be met with suspicion and distrust as these poor men had learnt to trust no one and nothing. This could only have been another trick of their captors! Dad was demobbed in February 1946 and returned to civvy life with the same dedication and good humour he had shown during active service. He was a reservist for many years and I can remember his kitbag residing in our understairs cupboard until after I started school and I wasn't born until 1947, 2 years after the war ended. My father died in 1975 aged only 54 and I have little doubt that his war service contributed to his early demise.Barbara Compton
CPO Donald Rex "Rusty" Mason MID HMS PenelopeMy Dad, Donald Mason left the Penelope just before she was sunk and went to HMS Glendower. I was the last of my parent's children and am proud to be named after the ship.Penelope Penney
George Abraham Brindley HMS Penelope (d.18th Feb 1944)My Grandfather George Abraham Brindley was killed on 18th February 1944 when HMS Penelope was torpedoed and sank. My Grandmother, Mary, already had my mother Gladys, Mary and George were to be married on his return home. There is no record of George having a daughter during his war service. I would dearly love to see a photo of my Grandfather, as apparently my younger brother looks very much like him.Rose Smith
Albert Harry "Goldy" Goldsbrough DSM & Bar HMS PenelopeMy father, Albert (Goldy) Goldsbrough, hated his given name & was always known, certainly in civilian life, by his Nick Name of Goldy. He joined the Navy during the mid 1930s and for a time was on HMS Suffolk in the Far East. Amongst other ships he served on was HMS Penelope, including her time in Malta and subsequent escape to Gibralter and the States. I believe that it was for actions during this time that he received his decoration. I believe he left the ship when she reached the States for her refit, if not before, following the damage she received in Malta. He may at this point have been suffering from health problems, but I believe went on to serve in other ships until the end of the war, when he was invalided out of the service.
He spoke little of his service experiences, and as a young boy I took little interest in recent history. My sister was named after HMS Penelope, the sinking of which, I believe, deeply affected my father, as presumably even though he was not part of the ship's company at that time, would have known many of those killed. After the war he became a teacher, but was also involved in training at the Nigeria Marine establishment Quorra, near Lagos in the mid to late 1950s. He eventually died, following heart problems, in the early 1970s. Should anyone have further information on him I would be pleased to receive it.Edmund Goldsbrough
Thomas Hayes HMS PenelopeMy Grandad Thomas Hayes survied the sinking of HMS Penelope. He didn't talk about the war and the ship due to him loosing alot of friends throughout.Daryl Jellyman
Gunlayer Robert Alfred "Tungy" Howard HMS PenelopeMy Dad, Robert Howard served aboard HMS Penelope as a gunlayer. One story he used to tell us was of how he had to ditch overboard a misfire, carrying a glowing cordite charge up the ladders and along companionways in order to dump it over the side. Everyone was sent out the way and wished him good luck! Brave man!Peter Howard
AbleSea. James Key Torpedoman HMS PenelopeMy Uncle, Jim Key, served on HMS Penelope through the Malta convoys and the sojourn in the US until the fateful sailing for Anzio when he was sent on a course. I cannot find any mention of him so far in the records and wondered if anyone knew of him.Garry Key
CPO. Horace "Nipper" Alford HMS. PenelopeMy Father, Horace Alford, was serving as a C.P.O. on H.M.S. Penelope when she was sunk off the Bay of Naples. He survived and went on to serve until the 1950's with 30 years of service. He often spoke of the brave men on the Penelope. He made a rug with the ships crest on it. This was presented to the crew of the new H.M.S. Penelope in the 1970's having been displayed on my mother's bedroom floor for many years previously. As a child he told me the legend of the godess Penelope. Every Armistice Day he would salute and honour those that went down on the ship.Susan Dacombe
PO. Louis George Weare HMS NelsonMy Late father, Louis Weare was on the Nelson in Pompeii Harbour in 1939. He joined the Royal Navy in 1938, like his father & grandfather before him. RN like the other forces were very big employers. My Dad was from Portsmouth, altho' my other forebearers hailed from Bristol. Dad said 'it was a helluva ship, because they had an admiral on board, altho' none of this hard discipline came his way, it did for others, in particular he mentioned too many stokers in the clink'
The Nelson struck a string of mines in Pompeii Harbour - now he knows it was a magnetic mine, dropped by a German plane. The damage was big, he said the big guns were bent and the train wheels skidded on the rail with their weight. So Dad spent time on shore... during the blitz! As he said - You just couldn't get away from it.
After this he joined the Penelope which also got hammered, and after the war HMS Mauritius. As he got older he became quite a hippy, and anti war. A real gentleman and not impressed at all with present day UK. He died in 2007, aged 90, had four children. He lost all his mates in WW2 and never made a close friend after that. God Bless you Dad, love you wherever you are.gordon
CPO Kenneth Stanley Lever Sick Berth Attendant HMS PenelopeMy Father was taken into the navy as a sick berth attendant, but was actually wanted for his background in engineering. At the time the Navy had quota's and the officer recruiting him said he would obviously be retrained given his background education (he was later a P/O trained as a diver, and CPO articifer serving on HMS Montclaire in the Pacific)
However, he was onboard Penelope in Malta as a sick berth attendant whilst the ship was in drydock. She was constantly being bombed and most of the crew were ashore sheltering. During the many raids the ship was running short of antiaircraft shells, my Dad strapped on a shell carrier and brought ammunition from ashore for the 5 inch HA guns. The gunnery officer had him recommended for a "mentioned in despatches" This was sent by the captain to the admiral in Malta, who forwarded it to London where it was conveniently forgotten, or disallowed. In the book 'Our Penelope' his name has the asterix mentioned in despatches, but only in the book given to the crew. The same book on general release the mention is omitted.David S Lever
Ldg/Sea Kenneth Green H.M.S Penelope (d.18th February 1944)Kenneth Green was my uncle. He died at the age of 21. His service No.P/JX 161047. Son of Emily & Joseph Green of Leeds, Yorkshire.
My Nana never got over Kenny and told me some lovely tales about him as a boy with his older brothers. Harry was in the Royal Air Force in WW2. Eric was in the Army in WW2. Both came home safe...My Mum loved all her brothers. I wish I could have met my Uncle Kenny but I am very proud of him and he will always be rememberd as a brave young man.Janet Davies
George Trigg HMS PenelopeMy Uncle, George Trigg, served on HMS Penelope during the Malta convoys.He changed ship after the convoys. He came from Etruria, Stoke on Trent and survived the war. He remained a bachelor and died in Etruria in the early 1980s.Steven Trigg
AB Horace Henry George "Lofty" Butler HMS PenelopeMy father Horace Butler was a H.O. rating - joining HMS Penelope in New York 9th August 1942. He was wounded in action on 7th October 1943, in the Mediterranean. He was subsequently hospitalised in Alexandria, Egypt. Failing to recover in time to rejoin his ship, which was sunk in 1944. My father's action station was in a gun turret (presumed 6" turret). Whilst under attack he left a small wooden seat within the turret, when a shell penetrated the turret and hit the wooden seat which my father had been sitting on moments earlier, the shell failed to explode, but flying shrapnel wounded my father, resulting in his hospitalization. My father saw no further action prior to being discharged in 1946.Tony Butler
Kenneth Stanley Lever HMS PenelopeKenneth Lever served as a Sick Berth Attendant on HMS Penelope.Peter Lever
Able Sea Harry George Bywater HMS Penelope (d.18 Feb 1944)My Uncle Harry Bywater went down on the Penelope. I have a photograph of him in uniform and a handkerchief sent to the family with the Penelope crest on if anyone would like to see them.Sandy Wilson
PO. Robert "Ginger" Partridge HMS PenelopeMy father will be 90 in April, 2013. He was part of Force K and hopes that The Malta story will one day be told in more detail. A recent documentary leads viewers to believe that the ships in Force K were sunk, still fully loaded. In actual fact my father was one of the crew who blew the bottom out of one of the ammunition ships to save the ammunition from bombing raids. This was successful. Food had also been unloaded in time before the ships were sunk.
My father has many facts and is not (thankfully) suffering from memory loss, in fact you would think he was 60. It's hard to get him to talk of the War but if anyone could, his facts would be crystal clear. Vine was a Captain he admired.Kalki
AB. Andrew Tully HMS PenelopeMy father, A/B Andrew Tully, was on HMS Penelope during the big actions in Malta in 1941. My sister had been born in December 1941 and my mother used to tell us that my father had purchased a christening shawl for her in Malta. During the attacks on the ship, when Penelope was in dry dock, my father would shove the christening shawl inside his jumper while he ran to his action station. We still have the book "Our Penelope" in our family. I remember my father telling us that when Penelope eventually made it to Brooklyn Navy yard, the ship's company was taken to a place called the Stage Door Canteen in Manhattan to see a show. In the 1990's, when walking through Manhattan, I actually walked past a small doorway on which a sign said "site of the Stage Door Canteen."Derek Tully
Cpl. Peter George "Bandy" Mason HMS PenelopeThese are a few of the stories that my Grandfather, Peter Mason told me of a few events that happened to him during his time aboard the HMS Penelope. The specific details are a little fussy as I was only about 10 or 12 when I heard them and that was 20+ years ago.
Shrapnel Soup. During an engagement with the enemy (possibly the Italian Navy), my grandfather was located high up in the sighting tower giving bearings and ranges for the main guns. Along with the man with him, he carried on with his duties as clangs and bangs, rattled away around them. As the battle went on the tower he was situated in, took hits from either shrapnel or small calibre rounds that sliced through to small room. The lighting was smashed in the fusillade of metal that filled the room, plunging him and his crew mate into pitch darkness. He felt a sudden impact to his head and was flung to the floor. Warm fluid pouring down his face and neck. Thinking that he had met his final minutes, he said a few words to himself and waited the end. Head still aching, the minutes crept by and suddenly light was thrown into the room as the hatch door was flung open by another crew mate that had been sent up to look for survivors or casualties. With fresh light on him, he was asked why he was lying on the floor looking like a mess, by the searcher. To his relief and finally amusement, the fluid that was slowly soaking through his uniform was green and actually smelled of vegetables. Looking around, the room wash splattered with the remains of the contents of the flask of pea soup, that he had brought up for his shift and left on a shelf above him. The impact was presumably the burst flask that had taken a hit and the fluid he thought was his last was the gooey remains of his soup leaking down on him!
Almost Aboard. This remembered story is, I think, during a very short stay in Malta. In a rush HMS Penelope had tied up at the harbour and was rapidly taking on additional supplies and ammunition. My grandfather was assigned the task, along with many others of the crew, to man haul supplies on board ship via a gang plank from ship to shore. Whilst on one trip back to ship with cargo in arms, the harbour was attacked by dive bombers. As he was going up the gang plank a nearby explosion, whether in the waters of the harbour or nearby on land, managed to dislodge the plank. Himself, and I think, a few others plunged into the watery gap between ship and dock side. A dangerous place to be at any time with a large ship liable to rock about in normal circumstances let alone with an attack happening all around it. Finally once the attack had finished, it was only after repeated shouts from him and others in the water with him, that they managed to get the attention of fellow crew mates up above. They had thought the men that had disappeared of the the gang plank "gonners" and had assumed them killed. Finding them still alive and stuck between ship and dock, a ships crane was quickly used to fish them out and back up onto dry land.
There is also a colour pencil picture my Grandfather drew during this time, that I still have of his recollection of an engagement at dusk or night with the Italian Navy, when they and their fellow ships near enough decimated the enemy ships. He recalls that all across one horizon all he could see was the blazing remains and explosions of damaged, hit and sinking enemy vessels.David Mason
Stoker Lawrence Davies HMS PenelopeMy grandfather, Lawrence Davies, is sometimes listed amongst those who had perished at sea after the sinking of the Penelope off Naples in February 1944. He was in fact among the survivors of that sinking, and lived out the rest of his life back home in Australia, raising two daughters and several grandchildren before finally succumbing to cancer of the lungs in 1986. He did not like to talk about the war, and so I have only recently begun to piece together some of his personal history, but he was always very proud of his time served aboard the "Pepperpot" as he always referred to her. I would very much like to provide some photographs and personal anecdotes some time in the near future.Corin Leigh Spencer
O.D A. H. "Donkey" Bray HMS Penelope (d.18 Feb 1944)My mother had a photo of "Donkey' Bray among her memorobilia. How often she talked of this warm and caring young man. It seems he had no family and accompanied my dad on leaves home welcomed among our family in London. Cheerful and resourceful, my mother and aunt remembered him into their 90's. So I'd like to leave a remembrance of him. He went down on 'Penelope' but has left traces of his life with me.Claire Hewitt
PO. Percy John Elms HMS PenelopePercy John Elms was my grandfather. He was one of the survivors of the sinking of HMS Penelope. My mum, Ann Long, Percy's daughter, wrote the following:
A Memory of My Dad
Percy was serving in the Navy when I was born, a dedicated sailor he became a petty officer at the age of 21 years, which was quite an accomplishment in those days. He served on several ships as a gunnery officer. Whilst serving aboard HMS Penelope ('pepper pot'), he was unfortunate enough to suffer a torpedo hit which ultimately sank the vessel, he was in the water for some four hours whilst awaiting rescue, during this time he experienced watching a fellow young sailor drown because he was unable to keep afloat, this most distressing trauma never left his memory throughout his life and he would relay to his children how at this point when eventually rescued he began to smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol. He helped his shipmates when they had been rescued, when he saw there was no more he could do he got blind drunk, and was in this state when Senior Officers were inquiring as to who had been instrumental, in helping, therefore his efforts were never rewarded. But in our eyes he was a War Hero.
Written by Ann LongTim Long
George Topham HMS PenelopeMy father George Topham served as a Royal Marine Bandsman on HMS Sheffield and HMS Penelope among other ships. I remember him telling me when they were looking for the Bismarck our own planes tried to torpedo the Sheffield thinking it was the Bismarck. My Father died many years ago.
Ronald Pratt HMS PenelopeMy Dad Ronald Pratt served on HMS Penelope during WW2. He rarely ever spoke of his time in the War. He was onboard when the ship went to USA for refit and I recall she held a very important place in his heart. I think he said the Captain suffered from Sea sickness also. I have a photo of my Dad and some other crew that got Christened or Baptised in the USA.Lynn Day
George Sidney Bolton HMS PenelopeSid Bolton was my first cousin and the family story was that he had joined the Royal Navy in WW2 and served on the HMS Penelope. He survived her torpedoing in 1944. He returned to England and eventually ran The Cock pub. Sid was born in 1920,died in 2002 and is buried at Harlow.Jimmy Bolton
Lt. Hubert Creighton Llewellyn HMS Penelope (d.18th Feb 1944)For Hubert Creighton Llewellyn
A time to remember.
I never knew my father. No warrior, he. But he, answered his nationís call to arms. To defend the country, he loved, And protect its freedom, for Mum and me. I never knew my father. A Welshman from the valleys, A doctor, who loved life. HMS Penelope, his destination The sea, his battlefield to be. Reluctantly, he left Mum and me. I never knew my father. The war went on and on, the land screamed with the pain of soldiers, the sky turned red with the blood of airmen, And the seaó the sea, submerged the bodies of drowned sailors, And raged in fury at the folly of men. We feared for him, Mum and me. I never knew my father. And, it was not to be. The knock, the telegram, the cacophony of grief. He had died fighting for us, his King and Country. A black and white photograph of a laughing, happy man, Life had changed forever, for Mum and me. I never knew my father. The fighting did stop, Surrender did come, The armistice was signed, and humanity wept with relief, But, all this came too late for so many, many, more, Than, just Mum and me. I never knew my father, The decades pass, peace and forgiveness prevail Happiness returns and life goes on. When, on a grey November day, as a nation mourns its dead, a laughing, smiling shimmering face, and time stops still. An old black and white photograph has sprung to life, Resurrection, perhaps? Too late for Mum to see, but there, for me.Julie Cadle
CPO. Charles Noble HMS PenelopeCharles Noble, was semi-adopted by my grandmother and raised by her. He served as a Petty Officer then Chief Petty Officer on HMS Penelope and HMS Formidable during the 2nd World War.
I would like to obtain more information and photos if possible relating to his war service in the Royal Navy. I'm compiling a family history and would appreciate any further information.Charles Keighley
Marine George Wilfred Billington HMS PenelopeDad, George Billington was on several ships including the Cardiff and Newcastle I believe. The story I remember was his being on the Penelope and somewhere off Malta in an engagement and being injured on a large gun by being thrown against its interior after an explosion. He ended up in hospital in Malta and while there German fighters machine-gunned the hospital, killing the man opposite dad's bed, apparently because we had sunk a German hospital ship by mistake. Penelope left and Dad stayed during the heavy bombing.
When he was discharged from hospital he eventually boarded a ship going to India before managing to get home as there was no other means of getting off Malta. He went back there with my Mum on holiday in the 1980s, but it was a mistake as it brought back too many memories. Dad died aged 86 in 2003. He was a good man with a wonderful wife, my mum. He was very lucky, a lot of people were not, and we all need to remember how much we owe them.P Billington
A/PO. Thomas Cunningham HMS PenelopeMy father Thomas Cunningham served on HMS Penelope from 17th August 1939 to 3rd October 1943, starting as an Ordinary Seaman and working up to Acting Petty Officer.
On 13th of September 1943, securing a line whilst anchoring, my father caught his left foot in the capstan. As far as I know, he was hospitalised in America and did not rejoin the Penelope.Andrew Cunningham
ERA4. Harry Pinnock HMS Penelope (d.18th Feb 1944)I didn't know my Uncle Harry, but I learnt about him from my mother, his sister. Harry Pinnock was an engineer who volunteered at the outbreak of war. He did his naval training at The Royal Naval College, Dartmouth. Harry served as an ERA4 on HMS Penelope and he died when the ship was lost on 18th of February 1944.M.E Wilcox
John Lister HMS PenelopeMy father, John Lister, served on board HMS Penelope during the war, as part of "K" Force in the Mediterranean.Simon Lister
ERA. Harould stubbs HMS Penelope (d.18th Feb 1944)Harould Stubbs was my hubbies great uncle there are no winners in war just heart ache. His poor mum never got over it , when my hubby was a boy she would sit him on her lap and cry, singing all the old songs . He died on HMS Penelope on the 18th of February 1944 he was an engine room artificer, he didn't stand a chance, he was 23. RIP Harould and all aboard that awful day.Pamela Mather
Stkr.1stCl. Gelert Grafton Taylor HMS Penelope (d.18th Feb 1944)Stoker 1st Class Gelert Taylor served on HMS Penelope (The Pepperpot). He was born in Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire in 1904. My grandfather, Gelert, died when HMS Penelope was torpedoed on 18th February 1944. He was married. His wife Ivy and their three children Phyllis, Mary and John, found it difficult to deal with their loss living through the blitz in Portsmouth. Gelert's wife Ivy lived to a ripe old age and she always spoke about him with love and affection.David Braiden
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