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Those who Served
Flt Sgt. John James O'Neil Kennedy . Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve 77 Sqd. from Oxford)
(d.16th Feb 1944)
John was a bomb aimer on Halifax Bomber LW341. The plane was shot down on a mission to Berlin which left RAF Elvington on 15th February 1944. It crashed into the Baltic Sea, and John's body was never found. One member of the crew was buried on the Danish Island of Keppel. John was a member of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve and was just 20 when he died. He is commemerated at the Runnymede Memorial on Panel 219.Paul Kennedy
Lt.. Joseph P. Kennedy . United States Navy VPB-110
Lt Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr (older brother of the future president JFK) and Lt Wilford J. Willy each served in VPB-110 at Dunkeswell; their names are listed among the fallen of Fleet Air Wing Seven. They volunteered to serve in Special Attack Unit One (SAU-1) piloting PB4Y-1 drones loaded with high explosives for attacks against German V-weapons sites in France. They were lost during a mission in August 1944. Intending to bail out when their aircraft was under radio control, they were killed when their aircraft exploded prematurely. Each was awarded the Navy Cross posthumously.
I am a combat veteran of the Vietnam War, not WWII, but I am very familiar with the airfield at Dunkeswell, UK, dating to the three years I served at the U.S. Navy's European headquarters in London during the 1980s. I thought visitors to your site and those who have listed information would want to know that the citizens of Dunkeswell remember those who served at the airfield with Fleet Air Wing Seven.
In the nearby village church in Dunkeswell, a large brass plaque is mounted on an interior wall of listing the names of the 182 men of the Air Wing who lost their lives flying ASW and other missions from the Dunkeswell Airfield. A U.S. flag is displayed next to the memorial. The inscription above their names reads, "In Memory of These Officers and Men of the United States Navy Who Died for Their Country September 1943 to July 1945." Each summer, the pastor of the church invited a naval aviator assigned to the U.S. Navy staff in London to attend a memorial service for the fallen aviators. It was my honor to attend over three successive years. My wife and I became good friends with the pastor and his wife at the time, the Rev. Nick Walls. He has since retired, and the U.S. Navy relocated its European headquarters from London to the Mediterranean. I don't know if the memorial service continues.
Years later, while serving as the senior editor of the Navy League's Seapower magazine, I interviewed U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy. I told him about the memorial to the men of Fleet Air Wing Seven and the annual observance in the church. He showed me two framed shadow boxes hanging on the wall in his Senate office. One contained Joe Kennedy's Navy Wings of Gold and the gold buttons from his service dress blue uniform; the other shadow box contained JFK's dog tags dating to his wartime service in the Pacific theater as the skipper of PT-109. I would be pleased to share several photos of the chapel in Dunkeswell, the memorial, and scenes of the airfield as they appeared in the 1980s. A flying club was using the field at that time.Gordon Peterson
Greaser M. Kennedy . Naval Auxiliary Personnel HMS Forfar
M. Kennedy survived the sinking of HMS Forfar.
Thelma Kennedy . Land ArmyVivien Harvey
PO. William Kennedy . Royal Navy HMS Nigeria
My grandad served on Nigeria and Albrighton during WW2, his name was William Kennedy and I know that he was involved with signals and was a petty officer. He didn't really share much of his experiences with me as I was probably too young at the time. I know he was torpedoed twice and was also invloved in the Anzio landings. I have recently read with huge interest Jack Edwards "Twenty-Two Hundred Days To Pulo We" and recommend it to anyone else interested in HMS Nigeria during WW2. If anyone can help me by sharing info on links, websites, or anything else that would help me track down a record of my Grandads history in the Navy then I would be most grateful.Duncan Kennedy
Sgt Bernie J Kennedy. . RAF 12sqd
Douglas Kenny . 514 Squadron Royal Air Force (d.20th Feb 1944)
Doug Kenny was a rear gunner on Lancasters and was killed on 20th Feb 1944. He was my great uncle. I recently went to the Imperial War Museum and they have a database which told me the date he was killed. It prompted me to find out more about his service. I was born on 20th Feb 1964, and as my grandmother always told me I was very much like him, it compels me to learn more about him and his time in the RAF. If anyone has any information I would be really interested and grateful to hear about him and the squadron.Andrew Heaton
Sean Kenny .
Sgt G. Kensall . RAF 428 Sqd
Sgt Kensall flew as a Mid-upper Gunner. His aircraft was shot down on ops to Frankfurt on 20/21 Dec 1943.
Sergeant George Kensall . RAF 428 Squadron (d.20th December 1943)
Halifax LK928 Squadron 428 Operation Frankfurt Date 1 20th December 1943 Date 2 21st December 1943 LK928 was one of two No.428 Squadron Halifaxes lost on this operation (the other was EB252). Airborne 1614 20Dec43 from Middleton St.George. Cause of loss not established. Crashed at Glees some 7 km NNW of Mendig. Burials are reported from Glees 27Dec43; their graves are now located in Rheinberg War Cemetery.
The brother of Sgt Jessiman, William Herkis Jessiman, was also KIA. F/S Tycoles survived the crash as his death is reported to have taken place at Reserve Lager Maria Loast 24Dec43.
F/S J.L.Keighan RCAF PoW Sgt George Herkis Jessiman RCAF R/68645 KIA age 22 F/O Keith Maxwell Mosher RCAF J/21553 KIA F/S Elmer Lawrance Tycoles RCAF R/128073 Inj Sgt John Patrick Slater RAF 1516173 KIA age 29 Sgt George Kensall RAF 1052337 KIA age 22 Sgt Thomas Stanley Roy Dagnall RAF 1600759 KIA F/S J.L.Keighan was interned in Camps L6/357, PoW No.1463.
Pte. William Kensall . British Army East Kent Regiment (The Buffs)
My uncle, Bill Kensall, was a POW. I believe he was captured during the retreat to Dunkirk in 1940 and remained a prisoner until 1945. I think he was in a POW camp in Poland.Raymond May
G Kent . Navy HMS Nigeria
I have a photo of H.M.S. Nigeria with lots of signatures on the back. It says Torpedo Division 1945 and is dated 19th September 1945.
The names are:
R G Stocker Geordie Burns Ronald J Harris G Kent P Rayment W Wheatley D Chapman H J Fisher D P Sweeney A ?? Whithead H Lockear Blimp Palmer G. Kent J Arnold ~(Sussex) A Chapman James Robertson(Jock) R E Fisher D Mercer R E Riley W L Gilbert F J Fulcher (Wind Bo'sun 1st class) D Hughes TGM G L Bowers E Ticehurst F C Welch G W DownesJo Russell
G Kent . Navy HMS Nigeria
I have a photo of H.M.S. Nigeria with lots of signatures on the back. It says Torpedo Division 1945 and is dated 19th September 1945.
The names are:
R G Stocker Geordie Burns Ronald J Harris G Kent P Rayment W Wheatley D Chapman H J Fisher D P Sweeney A Whithead H Lockear Blimp Palmer G. Kent J Arnold ~(Sussex) A Chapman James Robertson(Jock) R E Fisher D Mercer R E Riley W L Gilbert F J Fulcher (Wind Bo'sun 1st class) D Hughes TGM G L Bowers E Ticehurst F C Welch G W DownesJo Russell
Sgt. H. M. Kent . 97 Squadron
Asst.Steward John Kent . Merchant Navy SS. Athenia
Capt. Leon Kent . United States Army from Beverley Hills, CA)
In the first desperate hours of the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944, a young Army lieutenant was given an order that seemed impossible: stop a fast-moving column of German tanks from advancing.. The three soldiers assigned to the lieutenant were not trained in anti-tank warfare. The only artillery piece available was designed to bring down airplanes, not tanks. And the firing position provided no cover if the tanks returned fire.
A battlefield dispatch from the Associated Press described what happened: "Anti-aircraft gunners, who stayed behind when the infantry withdrew, played a vital role in preventing a major German breakthrough in Belgium. … One battery, commanded by Lt. Leon Kent of Los Angeles, knocked out five tanks, including one King Tiger tank, in two hours."
The three soldiers received Silver Stars for bravery. Kent, who stayed beside his men during the fight, was meritoriously promoted to captain. He was supposed to receive a Silver Star, but the paperwork was lost. In 1998, at the nudging of a congressman, the oversight was corrected and the award bestowed.
"What Capt. Kent showed was extraordinary leadership," retired Army Maj. Gen. John Crowe said before a 2011 ceremony at the December 1944 Historical Museum in La Gleize, Belgium. "He wouldn't ask his troops to do anything he wouldn't do himself. That's the kind of leadership that inspires troops."s flynn
Roy Kent . Royal Canadian Air Force pilot 419 Sqd.Murray Morgan
Sgt. Kenworthy .
Lt Cmdr. James Henry Newton Kenworthy RD. Royal Naval Reserve HMS Forfar (d.2nd Dec 1940)
My father, Sub Lt Broadhurst, had written beneath the picture: Lt Commdr J.H.N. Kenworthy RNR. A grand old sailor, a staunch supporter of the merchant service and the RNR. Revelled in Naval tradition, was serving in the cunard at the outbreak of war.
He refused to leave the Captain, who in turn refused to leave the upper bridge and so died. Navigator of the Forfar.
He was 39 years old, son of John and Maud Kenworthy and husband of Sybil Caldwell Kenworthy, of Crewe, Cheshire.Adrianne Steffen
A. A. Kenyon . Royal Canadian Air Force 419 Sqd.
F/Lt. Bennett Ley Kenyon . Royal Air Force 419 Squadron
I met Ley Kenyon in the Chelsea Arts club in the 1970s when researching images for a book on WWII escapes. He was an artist, and was ordered to record the building of Harry. The drawings were hidden in Tom Tunnel at the forced evacuation but were returned to Ley after the war; the whole experience was so traumatic for him however, that he had barely looked at them since until I came along. He expressed some annoyance that the character in 'The Great Escape' mainly based on himself was depicted as showing fear and even cowardice while carrying out the task of recording the tunnel, which he vehemently denied.
A number of the drawings Ley Kenyon made of Harry Tunnel can be found online at The Great EscapeS L Waterson
Stkr. Frank Keogh . Royal Navy HMS Lapwing from Eltham, London)
(d.20th Mar 1945)
Frank Keogh enlisted in the Royal Navy at Great Malvern, Worcestershire on 25 January 1943 aged 17. He followed his elder brother Richard into the Navy. He started out as a Stoker 2nd Class initially on HMS Duke Anson Division (the Royal Naval shore establishment based in Great Malvern). His brother was also a stoker.
During May 1943 he was on convoy support services in the Atlantic onboard the destroyers HMS Milne and HMS Onslought. July 1943 saw Frank off of the Norwegian Coast onboard HMS Manhratta (Destroyer), where he was involved in diversionary offensive sweeps (this was the same time as invasion of Scicily was ongoing). In August 1943 Frank was onboard HMS Oribi (Destroyer) and was present at the Royal visit by HM King George VI to the Home Fleet at Scapa Flow and he also took part in demonstrations with ships of Flotilla on the following day.
Following further training in Scapa and Plymouth, Frank was promoted to Stoker 1st Class in January 1944. He subsequently joined the newly commissioned HMS Lapwing (a Black Swan Sloop in March 1944 and was deployed in the Western Approaches for convoy escort. In May - HMS Lapwing was nominated for service with the 111th Escort Group in support of the allied landings in Normandy, based at Plymouth, but joined the Group at Milford Haven in June for escort of Convoy EBP1. Although the operation was delayed by 24 hours until the 5th, whne they joined Convoy EBP1 with Group in the Bristol Channel.
Frank and the Lapwing arrived on the beach head on 7th June with EBP1 after passage through the swept channel. They then returned to Plymouth with Group in order to continue escort of follow-up convoys. After termination of Opeation Neptune, the ship remained in the Channel area for convoy escort and anti-submarine operations. Before transferring to 8th Escort to Group for convoy defence in the North West Approaches. In October 1944 - HMS Lapwing was detached for Russian convoy escort duty with the Home Fleet and was deployed for Convoy JW61 during passage to Kola Inlet. In November she took part in anti-submarine operations against U-Boats assembled off Kola Inlet before returning with Convoy RA 61. Although she suffered severe weather damage during the return and had to go into Clyde shipyard for repairs.
At the end of November she joined the Russian bound convoy JW62 arriving in Kola Inlet on 7th, starting the return on the 10th with convoy RA62 follow more UBoat sweeps The next convoy for Russia was Convoy JW63 arriving safely and starting her return on the 11th with Convoy RA63 although it was an exceptionally stormy passage which forced the convoy to take shelter when North East of the Faeroes, and again causing more weather damage repair work in the Clyde shipyard. The 3rd February 1945 Saw HMS Lapwing joining Russian Convoy JW64 arriving in Kola Inlet on the 15th, but only after HMS Denbigh Castle had been torpedoed by U993 and sustained major damage from which she eventually sank. Following heavy and sustained air attacks during the passage with one escort. The ship was deployed with other escorts to carry out anti-submarine hunts assisted by Russian aircraft to attack U-Boats assembled outside Kola Inlet and during these operations U425 was sunk by HMS Lark/HM Alnwick Castle. Although HMS LARK was subseuently hit by a homing torpedo from U968 and abandoned and HM Corvette was also sunk by U711 using the same type of weapon, with only 12 survivors. They commended their return convoy on the 19th February after dispersal by very heavy weather and sustained air attacks which were driven off by AA fire from escorts and aircraft from HM Escort Aircraft Carrier Nairana. On the 23rd Hurricane force winds again dispersed the convoy which was reassembled, but eventually RA64 arrived back in the UK.
On the 11th March Frank and HMS Lapwing commenced their final trip to Russia, joining Russian Convoy JW65 to Kola Inlet. On the 20th she was hit amidships by a T5 homing torpedo fired from U968 off Kola Inlet in position 69 26N 33.44E. The ship broke in two but the stern section remained afloat for 20 minutes which enabled some survivors to be rescued, but unfortuanately Frank was not amongst the few. There were 61 survivors and 158 men died. Upon his return from this trip, Frank was due to be best man at his elder brothers wedding.
Last year my mother applied for the Atlantic Medal on behalf of her brother Frank, it took a long time to arrive, but was finally delivered the day after she had passed away.John Orchard
Frank Tom Kerle . Army Dorset Regiment
My father, Frank Tom Kerle, served with the Dorset Regiment from approx 1939 to 1945. When alive he often reflected on his sentry duties and Wyke Regis and along the Kent coast. He took part in the D-Day landings and helped as a stretcher bearer and was injured undertaking these duties. I would love to find more details about my late father's war years.Peter Owen Kerle
Flight Sergeant K W Kermode . RAAF 59 SquadronLorenzo del Mann
Lt G. E. Kernohan . Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve HMS Forfar
Lt Kernohan was one of the survivors when the Forfar was sunk on the 2nd of December 1940
Robert Kerns . RAF 166 Squadron from Alberta, Canada)
My father, Robert Kerns, a Canadian from Alberta served with 166 Squadron from 1943 to 1945. Dad was a navigator, did his 'tour of ops'and then was promoted to flight sargent with Jim Dunlop's crew. Dad is almost 97 years old and we think the last surviving member of his crew. In south central Alberta, in a ranching town called Nanton, some people hauled an old Lancaster built in Alberta into town in 1985. Since then, the Nanton Lancaster Museum of which we belong, has grown into a world class museum dedicated to Lancasters. We dedicated a plague with a photo of Dad's crew to Nanton. A replica of the noseart from "Beer Barrel," the plane they flew and in which did 118 ops, was painted on a six foot piece of Lancaster 'skin.' When the new wing of the museum is built, this noseart will be hung along with the plagues we gave Nanton. We are endeavouring to preserve the memory of those who flew for the 'freedom' we so casually enjoy today. Thanks for listening. Rose BalcomRose Balcom
Flight Sergeant Robert Kerns . RAF navigator 166 Squadron from Nanton, Alberta)
My father, Robert Kerns, a Canadian from Alberta, Canada served with 166 Squadron from 1943 to 1945. Dad was a navigator and did his 'tour of ops' then promoted to flight sergeant with Jim Dunlop's crew. Dad is almost 97 years old and we think the last surviving member of his crew. In south/central Alberta, in a ranching town called Nanton, some people hauled an old Lancaster built in Alberta, into town in 1985. Since then, the Nanton Lancaster Museum to which we belong, has grown into a world class museum dedicated to Lancasters. We dedicated a plaque with photo of dad's crew to Nanton. When a new wing is built, replica nose art from "Beer Barrel" the plane they flew in which did 118 ops, painted on a six foot piece of Lancaster 'skin' will be hung along with the plaques we gave Nanton. We are endeavouring to preserve the memory of those who flew for the 'freedom' we so casually enjoy today. Thanks for listeningRose Balcom
C.S.M. "Geordie" Kerr . Army 1st btn The Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders
Midshpmn. Allan Kerr . Royal Naval Reserve HMS Forfar
Thursday, 12th Dec. 1940.
A week ago today, I was one of fifty-nine survivors of H.M.S. Forfar to be landed at Liverpool. At noon on the same day a party of eighty-seven were landed at Oban by the cargo steamer Dunsley and on Saturday 7th a final batch of thirteen were landed at Gourock by H.M.C.S. St. Laurent, thus bringing the total of survivors to the all too slender figure of one hundred and fifty-nine.
On Sunday night, 1st December, I kept the first watch (8 p.m. till midnight). At eleven o’clock that night I entered in the log “2300 – parted company with destroyer escort”. We had received a wireless message giving the position of a torpedoed vessel and had altered course to the Nor’ard to keep clear when we got another message from Admty. telling us to keep well to the South’ard. By eight bells we had made our second alteration of course and everything was running smoothly. I turned over to my relief and best friend Mackay, and his “Cheery-night” is the last word I heard before going below.
It was a black night, with no moon, and the fitful starlight occasionally obscured by cloud. I undressed, said my prayers and turned in quite happily. My sound sleep was soon broken by a terrific crash! Immediately I was awake. “Torpedoed” flashed through my mind and just as quickly I prayed and switched on my light. Never will I forget the eerie silence that prevailed. The engines had stopped and the lights were dimming rapidly. “Action Stations” was sounded on the klaxons, but this seemed to drain the last few dregs from the dynamo for it petered out and all went black.
I pulled on my uniform and an old jersey on top of my pyjamas, a scarf, cap and raincoat as well as the all-important lifebelt. I can still distinctly remember being annoyed when one of my shoe-laces broke as I pulled on my shoes.
I had an electric torch in my raincoat pocket and by the aid of this light I made my way to the bridge. In the lower chart-room I was able to assist Mr. Broadhurst who was holding a light for the navigator, Lt. Cdr. Kenworthy whilst he (the navigator) plotted our exact position on the chart. This was 54? 19’ N, 19? 54’ W. We should have met our convoy in about 40? W so we had got barely half-way. Broadhurst said, “I suppose it was a torpedo, sir?” and Ken answered, “Oh! Yes.” Well, the position having been ascertained I proceeded out on deck to find out what was happening. I was told that the order had been piped “Proceed to boat stations, turn out boats and stand-by.”
I accordingly proceeded to P3, my boat and the lower of the two (P2 & P3). P2 was swung outboard, when it was remembered that the plugs were not in. Meantime, there being no-one, neither officers or men, for P2, I went below to the Prom. deck in search of same. While here I saw the Bos’n and asked his advice on throwing overside the rope-ladders. With the help of Bos’n’s-mate McPhail we payed out one, then A.B. Smith (Corpl. of Gangway) helped in getting the after one over. During these operations, as the ship rolled in the moderate swell, the rush of air up the engine-room ventilators was quite unnerving. It roared up in a screaming crescendo and I had to take a firm grip on myself to prevent my shuddering. I saw Chief Skipper Ladley at this point, with a bag which he told me contained “a bottle o’ w’iskey and a bottle o’ brandy.”
I next proceeded back to the boat deck and there still being no officer in sight, in charge of P2, I went off to the C.B. room in search of Mr. Ascroft whose boat it was. I found him, in shirt-sleeves, packing the surplus C.Bs into Joe’s (Mid. Ormerod) suitcase. I asked him to come along to his boat as the order had now been given to lower same and stand-by the ship. He asked me if I was P2 and I said, “No sir, P3”. He then gave me a small case containing his personal papers, Master’s ticket etc., told me to take charge of P2 and to get going. On returning yet again to the boat deck I found Lt. Machin in charge of P3. He saw I had a torch so he told me to get into P2 and see that the plugs were in. Two seamen and myself were doing this when at 0345 (0445 G.M.T.) there was a crash seemingly right below us and P4 boat, not 10 ft. away, was smashed.
I crouched low while the debris was flying, realised that I was alone in the boat, took fright and jumped out, into P3 directly below. I heard Ashdown sing out that his boat (P4) was smashed and that his crew would just have to muck in with us. I clambered back into P2. At this stage the 3rd torpedo struck, Port side also, deluging us with water which came spewing out of the engine-room vents. etc. Having survived the previous one, we just crouched low and survived this one also, although now thoroughly soaked. The plugs now being in, one seaman manning the for’ard fall and myself the after one, I gave orders to lower away. I bawled out to ’vast lowering as we came level with the Prom. deck. The ship now had a slight list to Port because we hung about 3 ft. out from the ship’s side. I yelled into the blackness of the Prom. deck “Anybody here for P2?” There was no answer as the deck was deserted. I bawled to the lowerers to carry on lowering and we were soon in the water. The after fall unhooked itself as we rose on the swell and we lay alongside made fast by the painter to the Prom. deck.
Men now came down the rope ladders and as she settled some even jumped from the Prom. deck right into the boat. There would be nearly 20 men in the boat now and I was trying to slip the painter when someone in the water screamed my name. I was dripping with oil fuel even now, as the painter was thickly covered in it, however I got good grip of the young fellow who I think was Radio Cadet Fraser. Another chap and myself were endeavouring to haul him inboard when with a shattering roar we went sailing into the air. The fourth torpedo had struck directly below my boat blowing us right out of the water.
I thought this was finish. I can remember being down under and striking out mechanically for the surface. Just previously I had seen a Carley float for’ard of the boat. I swam to this to find the Postie, P.O. Lazenby and L/S Frank Mayo already “on board”. There were many others inside and all round so I just hung on for a while. Even in these circumstances the lads had to laugh at my appearance. Now capless, with hair and face coated thickly in that treacle-like oil I am sure I was an odd sight. While hanging there, Ken Fisher, a coder, came along and he was in a similar state. The time of the 4th torpedo striking us was approx. 0353 (Zone Time).
Two minutes later the 5th and last torpedo struck, again on the Port side. This was the final blow as the ship broke in two owing to the after magazine blowing sky-high. She was well down by the stern now and I remember the ghastly cracklings as the after end bent inwards crushing the decks like matchwood. She heeled quickly over on her Sta’b’d side, the after end disappeared, and as she settled, she turned right over and sank slowly and steadily by the stern. We had paddled like mad to get well away, but as there were twelve of us and only 2 paddles we did not get very far. However, as she turned over on her Sta’b’d side, she went away from us and there was little suction owing to the slow speed at which she finally settled. As the bows slid away for the last time I said, “Well boys, there goes the last of the old Forfar.” I don’t know why I should make such a melodramatic statement, but it didn’t seem right to me that she should make her last exit unannounced.
We could now see many Carley floats all round and men swimming in the water. We managed to paddle clear of the dreadful oil. I now managed to haul myself onto the float so that my chest rested on the side thus taking the weight off my arms. I kept kicking my legs slowly all the time to keep up the circulation.
Some hours had passed, but it was still dark, when to our great joy we heard a steamer blowing. We could dimly discern her lines and we made a big effort to get alongside. I smelt the cooking from her galley and promised the boys food and sleep. Well, paddle as we might we could not make it, but drifted past her bows and off to leeward. We spied our cutter (the Sta’b’d. one) which had a good number on board, and bellowed at her to give us a hand. She came alongside, took two fellows off (O’Brien and McIvor) then pushed off saying she would come back for us.
In attempting to board the cutter, other two of our number lost their lives. By now we were pretty numb with the cold and could do nothing to help them. One fellow had a leg inside the float and the rest of him in the water. L/S Mayo reported this to me, and on ascertaining that he was beyond help we just had to disentangle his leg and push him overside as his weight was a heavy drag.
We hung on and as it grew light we could clearly see the steamer S.S. Dunsley of Whitby, 3,860 tons, owned by Headlan and Sons of Whitby as she steamed around picking the lads up. We were patiently hanging on awaiting our turn. It was springing up blowey now and we tried to keep the float head to wind, then we tried to keep as near the steamer as possible. This however did not prove a task for which we were able in our present state so we drifted further and further away.
What I think would be three hours after we first sighted her, the Dunsley pushed off. It was a most sickening feeling to see her go. Some of the boys would not believe she was going and brave Mayo, although knowing the truth in his heart, informed us that that she was just picking up more of the lads who were “over there”. I too realised the truth but said nothing.
We all felt thoroughly miserable now seeing our only hope steaming away over our horizon. We did not know that the Dunsley had sighted the destroyers away in the distance and was going to enlist their help. I reckon the time then was about 10.30 a.m.
Anyway, there were a number of floats still about, so we didn’t feel too bad, as long as someone else was in the same plight. We attempted to paddle towards what we thought was a boatload of men, but what turned out to be several Carleys lashed together. Then I definitely did see a boat, the now abandoned cutter. For this we paddled and paddled and paddled. Sometimes we seemed a little nearer, I always encouraged this line of thought at any rate. I remember a shower of rain came on and we smiled a lot of twisted smiles, thinking aloud, had we not already had enough? At about 3.30 p.m. a Carley float overtook us in the race for the cutter. I could see that one of the four occupants was my friend John Morrison, who was still wearing his peculiar little Sou’wester with the bow on top.
We hailed them, saying, “If you get to the cutter first, bring her over for us, and if we get there first (what a hope) we will do the same for you.” They waved a cheery acknowledgement and the four of them, with a paddle each, seemed to whizz off like a speedboat. Before long we saw them tumble on board and we saw that someone else had got there too.
Then we espied an aircraft. This also proved very tantalising as she seemed to fly around the horizon and indeed, to do anything but fly over us.
I wondered if she saw. Anyway I cheered up my mates by assuring them that she did. I now believe such to have been the case, for about an hour later what was our joy as she came close over us to be followed by a destroyer. This was quickly followed by the appearance of a second destroyer and we knew at last that our salvation was at hand. How we thanked God, and shouted, one of us jeopardising the lives of us all by standing up and waving a paddle.
By now we were much nearer the cutter whose mast had been stepped and from which hung a signal of distress in the form of somebody’s scarf. To make the rescue work of our destroyers easier, we made a final big effort and at Mayo’s suggestion, manned a paddle between two. Thus, and by dint of counting up to ten many times, we made the cutter, whose occupants, having fed and rested, got out the oars and met us halfway.
Willing hands helped us tumble inboard and presented us with the oiliest, filthiest but most delicious bully-beef and biscuits which I have yet tasted. This we washed down with equally oily and delicious whiskey which was passed from one eager mouth to another with most amusingly audible enjoyment. From other Carleys we now collected Sub. Lieut. Rogers, Engineer Sub. Lieut. Askin, P.O. Gaskell whose leg was broken and who had received a cut on the head. In the company of these and other grinning “coloured gentlemen” we made further inroads in the iron rations and completely drained the whiskey bottle.
We now sat quite happily watching the destroyers as they picked up some of our less fortunate mates, then the great moment arrived when H.M.S. Viscount came alongside, threw us a line and one by one, took us all on board. It was like heaven. The kindly faces and ready, welcoming hands. We staggered along for’a’d where I was taken charge of by a jovial bloke name o’ Woolcock, L/S. He tore the clothes off me, gave me an amazing and scanty assortment of dry ones and proceeded to wipe my face down with a piece of waste soaked in kerosene. I must have been some sight, judging by the colour that waste became.
I was then given a great mug of hot tea, during the consumption of which I learned that “Joe” (Mid. Ormerod) was also on board. As soon as I was dressed I went to seek him out. I found him arrayed, like a Red man, in a blanket. We were both overjoyed at our meeting and stuck together till we finally parted in the station in Liverpool, where we were landed, three days later.
On board the destroyer we were treated most kindly and have many happy memories of our stay there: the sleepless nights with Joe’s elbow in my ear and Donald Lusk’s knees in my stomach, occasionally being trampled by the none-too-small but happily stockinged feet of Big John Connolly. These disturbances together with the “screwey” motion of the ship gave us much to think about, and to discuss!
I mourn the loss of so many splendid men, but I thank God for them, for their grand example and for their memory which I shall always cherish.
Allan W Kerr.
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Help us to build a database of information on those who served both at home and abroad so that future generations may learn of their sacrifice.
Celebrate your own Family History
Celebrate by honouring members of your family who served in the Secomd World War both in the forces and at home. We love to hear about the soldiers, but also remember the many who served in support roles, nurses, doctors, land army, muntions workers etc.
Please use our Family History resources to find out more about your relatives. Then please send in a short article, with a photo if possible, so that they can be remembered on these pages.
The Wartime Memories Project is a non profit organisation run by volunteers.
This website is paid for out of our own pockets and from donations made by visitors. The popularity of the site means that it is far exceeding available resources.
If you are enjoying the site, please consider making a donation, however small to help with the costs of keeping the site running.
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