-H.M.S. Hood Crew Information-
I Was There! Where? The Autobiography of Alec Kellaway
by Alec Kellaway
Updated 06-May-2014

We are delighted that H.M.S. Hood veteran and H.M.S. Hood Association member, Alec Kellaway, has been generous enough to allow us to publish the complete text of his book, 'I Was There! Where?' which he wrote and typed himself. Alec passed away in March 2020 and is sorely missed.

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Coastal Forces

A few weeks were spent in Portsmouth doing various jobs and fire watching on duty nights. One fire watching evening I was given some forty or more ratings to take to various buildings in Portsmouth docks after detailing these men around the buildings I was left with the Naval museum as my fire watching area, what an eerie place to be in. On another night I took a detail to fire watch in Portsmouth’s Kingston prison, this prison was empty as all the inmates had been evacuated, this building was so large that with only about eight of us on duty in various sections we were all glad when morning saw us back in barracks.

I was then transferred to Stamshaw Camp just outside Portsmouth; this was a temporary set of buildings to take the overflow from the main barracks.

Here I became a big noise as all the other Leading Stokers were of acting rate and seniority was very important in the Navy. When we fell in for our daily instructions I was left until last, normally getting an easy number. One morning I was given about 10 or 12 masseurs to go and dig over a piece of land that the Wrens wanted to cultivate for a vegetable patch – dig for victory being the slogan. A look at the ground convinced me that it was too hard for men who had to massage injured personnel, I reported my thoughts to the regulating office and all I got was to try our best and that was that.

I was suddenly recalled to RNB as I was to be drafted. On arrival at barracks I had a quick medical and was told I would be leaving for Esher the next day. Puzzled about this I was told it was for an engine course for high-speed petrol engines. The trip by train was very short as Esher was near the Thames. The draft was taken to an establishment run by Railton Cars who were doing the instruction on this type of engine. The engines were American Hall Scotts which were being fitted into different types of Fairmile motor launches. These launches being fabricated and built in many yards around the world. These launches were very multi-purpose coming as motor torpedo boats, motor gunboats, air sea rescue and anti-submarine warfare, though there were many variations later on.

The trainees at Railton were given a fortnight’s course which was very intensive, giving the trainees the know how to maintain the running of the engines and carry out simple repairs. This stood me very well on my first motor launch. We trainees were also given information regarding the construction of the boats and knowledge about the water tanks and fuel storage. It was while at Esher that I heard about the loss of the Hood, 24th May 1941. A fine ship and a good crew lost in a few minutes. I felt very sad about this, remembering my early days on her.

At the end of this course I was recalled to RNB and put in charge of a draft going to Fort William in Scotland. The draft consisted of ordinary seamen and stokers. We were to be given instructions in each other’s disciplines. This was in case of an emergency there would be some knowledge of other’s work systems. This would enable a crew to survive; seamen could man the engines, stokers could man the guns and take the helm also simple wireless and signalling along with basic navigation. Most of the draft were men called up for hostilities only. I was probably the only time serving rating in the draft.

The journey to Fort William was long and tedious. Portsmouth to London Waterloo, Waterloo to Kings Cross, Kings Cross to Edinburgh and Edinburgh to Fort William. The train from Kings Cross to Edinburgh stopped at Crewe and there we managed to get a drink and sandwich. On leaving Crewe it was found that one of the draft was missing. This was a puzzler as I was in charge and had lost a man. There was nothing I could do until our arrival at Edinburgh, when I would have to report to the naval patrol office that I had lost a man. The train pulled into Edinburgh and to my amazement there was my missing sailor, he had caught another train from Crewe and arrive before us, a big sigh of relief.

At Fort William we were taken out daily in a motor launch and took over different boat operations to give us confidence in each other. There was no examination at the end. One thing that was missing was instruction in cooking. On ML’s and small craft the provision and cooking of meals was left to anyone of the crew who felt capable. It must be taken into account that the crew would be very small on any coastal force craft. On my first ML the crew consisted of two officers, one leading seaman coxswain, one leading motor mechanic, one leading stoker, two stokers, three seamen and one telegraphist. One of the stokers was very proficient in that he could help the telegraphist out with his duties. Myself, I could carry out the coxswain’s duties and assisted in gun maintenance. When it came to cooking we were fortunate in that our telegraphist whose secondary duty was to act as batman to the officers, was also a reasonable cook.

Anyhow to get back to Fort William, after two weeks the draft I took up was on its way to Brixham in Devon to pick up our respective boats. However there was a change of control in the draft, I was no longer in charge. It had been that the ordinary seaman I had taken to Fort William had all been uprated to Leading Seamen as they were going to be processed through King Alfred’s Naval establishment as Royal Naval volunteer officers. So a Leading Seaman, being senior to a Leading Stoker, I lost my charge.

If the journey from Portsmouth to Fort William was arduous the move from Fort William to Brixham was even more so. We had to change trains five times before arrival at Brixham. Lugging our kit with us. We arrived at Brixham in the early evening and then had to find someone who wanted us. After a lot of flapping around a naval officer was found who would be responsible while we stayed in Brixham. He had to then contact private houses that would take us in as lodgers. I was found a very comfortable digs with two elderly people and the meals were very good. Each day we had to present ourselves to the office for instructions. Each day we would be sent away to report on the next day. This went on a few days until one morning six of us were told to be ready with our kit to go by train to Appledore in North Devon.

We were met at Appledore by our future commanding officer, Lieutenant D. Booth RNVR, who told us that our boat was ML 279 but we could not live aboard at the moment as living accommodation had not been finished. We were to be accommodated in Appledore Town Hall, which had been taken over by the RAF as a billet for their air sea rescue launch crew. We crew members got on very well with the airmen, the food was excellent, every day the corporal cook would go to the nearby aerodrome and pick up the daily rations. On his return he would prepare very good meals. It was a pity that we would have to leave!

The day came when we could live on board our boat and it was a real surprise to us. The messes on the main fleet ship were really cramped but here on 279 we had good living space. There were enough bunks and mess tables for about 14 persons plus a double cabin for the coxswain and motor mechanic. The two officers were accommodated aft in a reasonable sized wardrobe, which also were their sleeping quarters. One of the main drawbacks was the supply of fresh water. The water tanks capacity was about 3 tons; this was adequate if the boat was on short journeys but proved inadequate for us at later dates. Our time at Appledore was spent in getting familiar with various aspects of the boat and we received very valuable assistance from the boat builders. The crew were astounded on our first sight of 279 it was noticed that the wooden hull was covered in copper sheeting, this told us that the boat was going into tropical waters. It was also noticed that there were five large tanks on deck. Two each side of the boat and one across the deck behind the engine room hatch. We were told that each tank could hold 500 gallons of petrol with our main tanks holding 1500 gallons. We could go a long way and we did!

Apart from getting to know the boat there was very little for us to do apart from cleaning and discussing our future. An episode I clearly remember was taking our 1st Lieutenant in the dinghy across the River Torridge from Appledore to Instow. In itself not a difficult task; the crossing from Appledore was no problem but on the return journey the tide had started to ebb and with great difficulty I managed to reach the boatyard slipway many yards from 279. It was fortunate that I could walk around from the slipway pulling the dinghy through the water back to 279. In the first instance I had visions of being swept out into the Bristol Channel as the tide was ebbing very fast, but luck was on my side.

The time approached when 279 had her trials and our stay in Appledore was over. We then returned to Brixham for crew training in anti-submarine warfare and with much speculation among the crew regarding our destination. We had done our depth charge exercises, our armament exercises and it was now a waiting period when our CO came aboard said half the crew were to go on 7 days leave and the remainder afterwards. Still no idea where we were going. It fell that I was in the first batch for leave. I knew that our coxswain Tony Bostock had saved his rum ration and had about seven tots in a bottle – an illegal practice – I asked him if I could have this and I would let him have my ration on our normal return to duties. He agreed to this and I went on leave with his bottle of rum which I thoroughly enjoyed, but alas for Tony on the day I went on board after my leave I shook hands with him as he was leaving for his officers course and we never met again. Our new coxswain arrived and 279 was sent around to Oreston, near Plymouth to be raised out of the water for under water inspection.

To get our rations and stores it entailed travelling by road to Plymouth and it was necessary to get transport from the navy pool at Plymouth. The first trip to be done, getting rations and some engine spare which meant going into Devonport Dockyard, I was given a time to expect this transport. The transport arrived on time and to our surprise it was a big American Hudson limousine what luxury for common sailors.

One lunch time a few of us with nothing to do went for a beer in the nearest pub, this was without permission to leave the boat, on arrival at the pub we went into the lounge bar only to find our C O in there, this was a shock to us and we beat a hasty retreat into the public bar had a pint then returned to the boat. Not long after our return the CO sent for the coxswain and said “that we were not to leave a bar because he was there we were entitled to drink in the same bar as him while on shore”, our coxswain thanked him and we all breathed a sigh of relief we could have been put on a charge for being off the boat without permission.

We later left the shipyard at Oreston and went into the Devonport Dockyard to complete our storing and getting extra stores for our unknown destination. Life was generally very normal for us but Plymouth and Devonport were being heavily bombed by German bombers and suffered badly although all the drama missed us.

From Devonport we progressed towards our final destination by going to Clovelly, North Devon, to wait for another ML who was to be our flotilla leader. It was very astonishing that only moderate seas were encountered on all our journeys up to Londonderry, this was soon to alter. Our stay at Clovelly was very brief we were soon on our way.

Anyhow on our journey towards Londonderry a mine was noticed that had broken away from its moorings, it being a threat to any vessel that it may encounter. As 279 was nearest to the mine we were told to try and sink it. At first rifles were used to no effect, then machine guns, then our grenade thrower – which was a length of tubing with an air bottle at the base, fitted with a triggering device, a grenade with safety pin removed was dropped into the tube, the tube was aimed at a target, the trigger was then operated and a blast of air would send the grenade on its way. It was for defence against low attacking aircraft. Against this mine it was very unsuccessful. After that our 3-pounder gun on the forecastle was given an outing, no success. It was now realised that all our armament had been used and the mine still bobbed about.

Our senior officer who had been observing our attempts at mine destruction sent a signal to say your best attempt now would be to ram it! Then gave the order to carry on to Londonderry leaving the mine to bob along its merry way though warning signals were sent out.

The two MLs arrived at Londonderry and waited for other MLs to arrive. Within a few days two other MLs joined us and the four were ordered to take on food supplies, fill all fuel and water tanks for a prolonged sea trip. This was carried out and the four MLs sailed away from Londonderry. This little flotilla rounded Northern Ireland and sailed into the Atlantic where two Corvettes who were our escorts to Gibraltar met us. A journey that was to take seven days in very heavy seas. It was marvellous that we reached Gibraltar as only about two of us were not seasick.

The food en-route was very basic. We had taken aboard a case of 30 dozen eggs, a quantity of bread, fresh meats and vegetables. The meat was stored in our refrigerator, which was operated by a paraffin lamp. The lamp heated the gas, which was compressed into a liquid and on its way round the coils was condensed back to a gas reducing the temperature inside the fridge. In harbour this was very successful but when the sea was rough the little glass globe around the light flame broke and we were soon out of spare glasses. This dogged us all the time at sea so when in transit we had no fridge. On the journey to Gib one or two of us managed to boil some potatoes and those who did manage to eat just had potatoes mixed with raw eggs. Our bread supply soon gathered a green coat and cutting of this coat left just a small piece of available bread. We were fortunate that after about four days out one of the Corvettes called the MLs one at a time alongside and passed over some freshly baked bread. This was a hazardous occupation as the sea was still rough and it was with great skill by the COs that no damage was done.

The crew were in three watches during the trip, which is normal practice. The two officers had to divide their time on duty as best they could. It was a very tiring trip for them, as they had to share the watch duties and normal duties as best they could. In the engine room we had numerous functions to carry out besides watch keeping. The MLs were running on one engine per day to save fuel. The engine not in use had to be serviced, this entailed a complete change of the plugs, and a lengthy task as each engine had twenty-four plugs to be cleaned. It seemed very strange that we had no spare plugs. Each plug was capped by a screwed adapter that came on the plug leads from the distributor, this being screened to prevent any interference with the wireless system. Removing these screen caps took quite a while, then cleaning the plugs, refitting the plugs and caps added to the time. Plus there was the daily transfer of petrol from the upper deck tanks, inspection of the boats bilges and their pumping out if necessary. The engine room staff were kept fairly busy outside of their watch keeping duties.

Our telegraphist, the only person not watch keeping was gainfully employed for the greater part of each day, perhaps doing more hours than anyone else. He was not a good sailor though he did manage to carry out his duties very well. Besides taking the daily admiralty signals, looking after the two officers, tending the galley, providing hot drinks and being called to the bridge when signals were being passed around the small flotilla I consider he did a remarkable job taking into the fact his seasickness.

At last Gibraltar came into sight and shortly we entered harbour, tied up alongside the quay after a strenuous exacting trip. The first item on the agenda was to get fresh food and prepare a meal. While the meal was being prepared all spare hands went around making the boat tidy and clean. The CO went ashore for further instructions and on his return told his crew to get some rest, as we were to wait for further details.

Gibraltar had not altered much, the only difference being there was a greater naval presence than before and we berthed in a different area to where the Hood used to berth. We had been in Gib a few days when we were ordered to completely fuel up, taking on stores and essential foods, we were going to move on. However our four boats and the local ML flotillas sailed on a submarine sweep into the Mediterranean. It was an impressive sight, about twelve MLs lying abreast sailing to the east. The aircraft carrier Ark Royal had sailed into the Atlantic the previous day and in the dark hours of the following day returned past Gib into the Med where the MLs had done the submarine sweep. When the Ark Royal and her attentive destroyers passed us we all returned to Gib.

On our return to Gib all MLs took on fuel and went back to their respective berths. Shortly afterwards our four boats were given orders to prepare for sailing and then told to sail. We left Gib and turned into the Atlantic, turned to port and headed south down the coast of Africa. This time there were no Corvettes to escort us, we four MLs were on our own. The little flotilla had cleared Gib when our CO gave us our next destination, Bathurst, now Banjul in Gambia, saying that the trip would take six to seven days using our one engine a day routine.

On this jaunt south the sea was very moderate. Everything was so calm and quiet that if one did not know different you would think that it was a luxury motor cruise. Eventually we arrived at Bathurst. The four MLs tied up to the small jetty. The four COs reporting ashore for further orders. Our CO on his return called us all on deck to relay his orders. Our four MLs would come under the control of the Admiral at Freetown, Sierra Leone. Our anti-submarine patrols and escort duties would be on the West Coast of Africa. The Edinburgh Castle, an old Union Castle liner, was being used as our depot ship at Freetown in King Tom Bay. At this time in Bathurst it was decided that the five petrol tanks on deck could be discarded. The crew then set about the task of removing the tanks, pipes and fittings, though our CO only had three tanks removed, keeping one tank each side of the wheelhouse.

A few words about Bathurst; it was the capital of Gambia and was very small. The natives mostly Negro and though they had their own language English was a second language and freely spoken. It was noticed that Syrians owned many of the few shops and the local hotel. A problem that dogged the MLs was the provision of healthy foods. At Bathurst there was a small NAAFI and canteen but the supplies were limited.

The MLs were allocated food comforts in view of lack of canteen facilities. This consisted of the supply of tin meat per four persons, a tin of fruit for four persons and dry stores for making drinks. This allocation was super for us as the qualifying period for these food comforts was for so many hours at sea. To us MLs who were spending days at sea we qualified for an abundance of comforts. The problem for the crew was the lack of fresh supplies and it was still with the flotillas when I returned to England.

The first escort duty 279 did was to cover a Norwegian cargo ship to Freetown. This ship was carrying vital war supplies in her holds where crates of aircraft and other war material were stowed and on deck she carried four MLs going further east. Two thoughts entered our minds; what a valuable array of arms to be entrusted to one ML and why had our boats not been carried this way? As soon as we cleared Bathurst the reason why only one escort became apparent. The Norwegian captain kept his ship as near to the coast as possible and we sailed outside him doing our sonar-asdic sweep. It was stated when the war was over that no merchant ship escorted down the West Coast of Africa was lost when escorted by a ML though ships sailing independently were torpedoed. It would seem that the MLs were a good deterrent. Outside Freetown we met another of our flotilla who took our Norwegian ship onwards to Takoradi, a seaport of Ghana. From there another ML from another flotilla would take over escorting the Norwegian to its outward destination. 279 entered Freetown and moored in King Tom Bay, the trip having taken just over three days on the one engine per day routine.

Perhaps a few words about this one engine per day routine, to save fuel one of the two engines would be idle every other day. We could on one engine maintain the speed of our charge without stress to the running engine. The idle engine was able to disengage its propeller through a clutch in its reduction gearbox. Should there be an emergency this engine could be started up, the clutch engaged and the boat could if required work up to full speed in a matter of seconds. A practice that was carried out quite often.

While on escort or patrol duties the submarine detecting apparatus – sonar- was always in use. The operator would set the sonar up and the searching ping from the sonar would be related to the wheelhouse by microphone. Should the ping, which in normal operations echoed in a return ping change to pinga, then this indicated a foreign body below the ML, action stations were sounded and a defence attack state was in being. The sonar operator would take over his apparatus and hope to obtain a clearer contact with the unknown object. The rest of the crew would be ready to attack by depth charge if required. After an intensive search the pinga would have disappeared, probably it was a large fish or a shoal of fish, the boat would return to routine sea stations. The emergency routine occurred many times on our trips, but never did we need to go into attack.

To return to our entry and mooring in King Tom Bay, nearby was moored the Edinburgh Castle, our base ship, which would be our head quarters giving us supplies, mail and any comforts that were available. Not much really as we very seldom went aboard. Astern of the Edinburgh was the City of Tokyo, a large refrigerating ship that supplied meats and butter to the numerous ships that called into Freetown. At Freetown leave was given each day from 2pm to 6pm, when a walk into Freetown could be taken. This was by a short cut down by the stream where the mothers and daughters of the local population did their washing. These women folk would carry sailors over the stream on their shoulders for sixpence. This saved a long walk round the road.

Also at King Tom Bay was a beer canteen run by the NAAFI. Beer was rationed because the bottled beer came from Canada. The sailors’ version of NAAFI was “ No ambition and few interests”. Freetown itself was a widespread community. Had few shops and no places of interest.

A few days in Freetown and one was glad to get away. We lying at our mooring had little to do apart from keeping the boat seaworthy and waiting for sailing instructions. It was after this first trip to Freetown that we started to get problems with our engines. Until now our petrol supply had come from shore storage tanks but at Freetown we went alongside a tanker moored far across the river opposite Freetown. At first we did not have any worries and it was not until we were returning to Bathurst that a problem arose. 279 was steaming along on one engine when it suddenly cut out. The other engine was brought into use and the motor mechanic and myself made an investigation as to the failure of the other engine.

After checking through our emergency procedures it was evident that water had entered the petrol system and the engine had stalled. On the after bulkhead of the engine room there was a dual fuel supply system and in each fuel line was a glass separator. It was designed so that the petrol passing over the top of the glass dropped any foreign particles into the glass bowl, which gave a visual view of any alien matter. On removal of the glass bowl it showed that it was full of water and water had got into the carburettors, which caused the engine to stall. The carburettors had to be stripped down and cleaned out, this was quite a task as they were under the induction manifold and the unit was very large as the engines were very large, 12 cylinder engines, designed for marine work. With the movement of the ML through the sea it was an awkward task for two men who had to straddle the engine to remove the complete unit, clean it and reassemble.

During my time on 279 this operation was carried out several times. The fuel system was completely checked for any leakage, as the water, which stopped the engine, was definitely salt water. There was no way that this water could penetrate our tanks. It could only be surmised that the tanker had given us water with our petrol when we last refuelled. This was confirmed when we returned to Freetown to refuel at the tanker. It was normal practice for the tanker when empty of fuel to fill her tanks from the sea; this gave her ballast for her journey and also eliminated any petrol fumes from the tanks giving the tanker a safety factor against any unseen accident. The only problem for the MLs being when the tanker pumped out her tanks prior to taking on a fuel cargo some of the water remained in the bottom of the tanks and was pumped to us when we took on petrol. We did however manage to live with it. On 279 we kept a watch on our glass filter bowls and we worked out a system whereby we changed filters every half-hour, cleaned out the glass bowl and within reason this did help us.

A problem that did arise that could have had disastrous effect if the man on watch was not alert. The engine oil pressure was round about 45lb per square inch and was easy to maintain with a good high class lubricating oil. By the time this problem came on the scene through our engine oil changes and normal consumption we had used our reserve of oil and had to get replenishment from the tanker. This new supply was not as good as the oil used before and with the temperatures in tropical waters being in excess of United Kingdom waters the oil soon deteriorated. It was necessary to have an oil pressure of over 10lbs per square inch at the end of the camshafts. On the end of each camshaft was a fuel pump to the carburettors, which worked at 10lbs per square inch. Any drop in the oil pressure allowed petrol to pass along the camshafts and drop into the engine oil sump. The man on watch had to regularly check his oil levels and should there be an increase in level this was because of the petrol entering the sump. The sump was pumped out and re-topped with clean oil. An excessive amount of petrol in the sump could have caused an explosion, which could have been fatal for the boat. This was the problem when ML 301 blew up.

The engines were also inherent to another problem. The high speed engines which were cooled by salt water being pumped around the water jackets and cylinder blocks, was a good system but any sudden change of water temperature and the water jacket made of cast iron would crack. This would put the engine out of action, as we carried no spares. Many a ML returned after an operation with only one engine running. This happened to several MLs and it happened later to me when in the UK.

Escort duties up and down the coast were our main employment. Though on arrival at Bathurst on one trip we were in harbour for a few days when one evening we had to go and light one of the channel buoys as a destroyer was due to enter harbour and this buoy was essential to navigation. On nearing the buoy our CO realised there would be difficulties. There was quite a heavy swell rolling in from the Atlantic, which made the lighting of the buoy very hazardous. After a while we did manage to close to the buoy and light the lamp. However as we were moving away a heavy roller threw us up onto the buoy and damaged 279’s ship side. An impact of metal to wood. We returned to harbour and next day it was decided that 279 would have to go on slipway to have her damaged planking repaired. 279 was on the slipway for several days as repairs to the double diagonal timber entailed extensive work. It was decided to give a full hull inspection and a bottom scrub at the same time. In due course we were returned to the water and moored to the jetty awaiting orders.

At slack tide the crew would take advantage and swim in the river. We would run along a jetty and dive in. On one of these runs our motor mechanic, Bungy Williams, had a splinter of wood penetrate his foot and a medical examination decided he should be sent to a hospital ship anchored out in the river. From the hospital ship a message was passed to say that Bungy was being kept on board for further treatment while 279 was ordered on escort duties to Freetown.

As out motor mechanic was hospitalised it was left for me to take over his duties, this put us in a position of being one man light for our duties. This was no big problem as myself and the two stokers shared the watch keeping and general maintenance. It was not long after 279 arrived at Freetown that the hospital ship arrived having steamed from Bathurst on her own under Red Cross protection. The crew of 279 was then given the outstanding news that Bungy had died. This was a shock to us all as Bungy had been a great shipmate and very well liked. A little later we attended the funeral at Freetown and said goodbye to a great shipmate. Our CO sent for me and said that until a relief for Bungy came from England the two stokers and myself would have to carry on running the engine room. As I had been on the engine course at Esher I was conversant with the requirements of the mechanics’ duties which brought with it one and six pence per day charge money. Shortly after this I was rated up to Acting Stoker PO, my name having reached the top of the PO’s roster.

Later 279 was sent on escort duty to take an American cargo ship to Monrovia, capital of Liberia, a neutral country established for the freed slaves of America. Our escort duty was for us to escort the ship to Monrovia and while the ship discharged her cargo we had to do an anti-submarine patrol off shore. This duty took us more than 7 days and we ran out of drinking water, bread and vegetables. Our CO took us alongside the cargo ship and requested for water and anything in the line of food available. He was told there was no water to spare but we could have some bread and that was all. We were now in a predicament, what was to be done? The American had discharged a fair amount of her cargo, which allowed her to move further inshore and safe from submarine attack. This enabled 279 to enter neutral waters and try to get waters and stores. The CO went ashore and contacted the British Consul who arranged for a supply of water and a limited amount of food stores to be delivered to us under international law. We were only allowed to stay in neutral waters for a limited period. Extend this period and the boat and crew would be interned, thank God this did not happen. Shortly after the CO returned a barge being rowed by about 8 or 10 natives pulled alongside 279 with our supplies.

The food stores were taken on board but the water supply was in 6 old 50-gallon drums which had contained oil. The top of the water was swimming in oil which made it unfit for consumption. 279 was now waiting orders for moving away from Monrovia because the American was safe from attack. It was fortunate for us that there was a large black cloud approaching which heralded rain. We turned the canvas cover of the dinghy into its bottom and waited for the rain. When this came it was so heavy that the dinghy was soon filled with water. The crew stripped naked and had a good shower in the rain. We now felt and had a limited supply of drinking water. Our skipper received orders for our return to Freetown and as we had about 8 hours spare the crew were allowed to go ashore for a few hours, split into two groups. I went with the first group; we went ashore in our dinghy after our rainwater had been stowed away, it had to last about two more days. It could only be used for drinking, washing etc., was out.

The first group going ashore landed on the beach and walked into the native village. We turned the corner to go towards the small shopping centre and outside one of the huts was a coffin, inside was a native body dressed in top hat and tails, quite a contrast to the local inhabitants usual dress. We arrived at the shops but there was little to purchase though we did manage a few beers at the local bar. The group returned to the boat and after the second group had been and seen 279 sailed for Freetown. Going alongside the tanker to take on petrol and fresh water. Three tons of water for the crew in more than three days at sea, but that was all our water tanks could hold. We left the tanker and returned to our moorings in King Tom Bay, our CO in a furious mood reporting to the Admiral’s office. I don’t know what he said but he came back with an Admiral’s commendation to the crew for the operation and personal thanks from the Admiral.

279 did frequent trips to Bathurst, Freetown and Takaradi and on returning to Freetown from Takaradi a suspected submarine was heard. The alarm was given to stand by to attack. Now we were on one engine, the second engine was started in a matter of seconds but the increase of speed of the boat was too much to get the trailing clutch engaged on the second engine. I had by this time entered the engine room and after unsuccessfully trying to engage the engine to its propeller had to report to the bridge the failure. It was very lucky that the submarine contact was a false alarm. We carried on to Freetown, did our fuelling and stores routine then moored in King Tom Bay. I had to strip the trailing clutch for repairs. This clutch was in the centre of the reduction gearbox and allowed the engine to be disconnected from its propeller. The reduction gearbox was mainly two elliptical gears, one small and one large, and it was found on inspection that the smaller gear had been damaged when the clutch was operated and would not mesh with the larger gear. The dismantling of the gearbox was an awkward task but eventually the small gear was removed and it had to be taken to the Philocetes, a very large cargo ship that had been converted into a repair ship. It was possible to get most repairs done on this ship as her workshops were like a factory. You name it she could do it.

The gear I had removed was taken to 279’s deck and wrapped in sacking. I waited for the duty harbour launch to take me with my damaged article to Philocetes. Going alongside the ship I was met by an engineer who was going to process the repairs. Now from the launch to the deck of the Philocetes it must have been about 16 feet or more. I was prepared to take my damaged gear up the companion way but the engineer said no problem; he would get the crew to lift it aboard by block and tackle. The block was lowered into the launch and my piece of gearing was slung for hoisting inboard. The crew were given the order to hoist and up went the gear, how ever, the block and tackle was being hauled up by about eight men, my piece of gearing weighed just under a quarter of a hundred weight, it was so light that the block was going up fast and the men hauling away let go one by one until only one man was left pulling up. He found it so easy that he relaxed his grip on the rope and the gear ran away down towards the launch, missed the launch and went into the river. The rope was pulled up and on the block clearing the water it was noticed that the piece of machinery was missing, it had stayed on the bottom of the river. The diving team was called out and my gear was salvaged, taken aboard and repaired. Shortly afterwards the gear was returned to 279 and after a great struggle the gearbox was reassembled and 279 was operational.

On one of our stays in King Tom Bay our dinghy was tied alongside when a barracuda fish jumped out of the water and went straight through the dinghy’s bottom. Now in normal circumstances our hand-operated davit would lift the dinghy easily, but with the dinghy waterlogged we could not raise it even an inch. We waited until slack tide, the tide of the river flowed at about 13 knots, we managed to lift one end of the dinghy until the hole in the bottom was partly out of the water and with extra effort brought the dinghy clear of the water end on. Then came the struggle to get the dinghy on an even keel for landing on deck. We did manage it. The dinghy was taken away and we were supplied with a replacement.

Returning to Freetown from an escort duty one of the engines was playing up. The shore staff decided that there was valve trouble. The cylinder heads were removed and one head had loose valves seats. Now the recommended procedure for valve seat replacement was for the cylinder head to be heated by immersion in boiling water and when hot a new valve seat that had been frozen in a freezer would be placed into the cylinder head and the sudden change in temperature between the two metals would result in a perfect fit of the valve seat. This could not be carried out on 279 as we did not have the facilities so the next best thing was tried. The valve seat was placed in the fridge, the cylinder head was heated by blowlamp, and the valve seat was then inserted in the block, a nice sharp tap, a cooling off period, success! The engine was then built up, finely checked over, the OK given, and attempts were then made to start the engine but with no success. After many attempts and many checks it was decided to take 279 into the river and at high speed on one engine try to kick-start the other engine. No luck whatsoever, back to the mooring. The engine would have to be stripped down to find out the fault. The first parts to be disconnected were the two large exhaust pipes. As soon as these were separated from the engine the reason for our failure to start appeared; the joints between the two surfaces had been renewed by one of the stokers, these being cut from a large sheet of heat resisting material, but he had not cut out the centres. Thereby stopping any escape of exhaust. These centres were cut out, the pipes re-connected and the engine started up right away. It is surprising how a little slip like that could cause so much work and frustration. Any way back to operational duties.

After one escort duty and 279 was along side the tanker our seaman gunner lined his three pounder gun on a battleship that was anchored near the Edinburgh Castle and carried away with enthusiasm pulled the trigger forgetting that he had not unloaded the gun, fortunately for our gunner the shot missed the battleship and no one noticed the fall of shot. The battleship was the Queen Elisabeth, she gave tremendous service during WW11, she had survived from the Great War had been given a complete overhaul and it could be said apart from the new battleships joining the fleet she was the most up to date of our ten battleships.

I had by this time gained my engine room motor certificate and the relief for Bungy had arrived. The CO called me to the wardroom after his return from the main office to say that on ML 209 there were difficulties between the motor mechanic and fellow crew members. It was decided that the motor mechanic should go to the shore base, this could only happen if I agreed to take over as mechanic on 209. As I had now gone back to number two on 279 I took the offer of 209 without any hesitation and I was transferred over.

Now 209 was slightly older than 279 and did not seem so well built. This showed the difference in boatyards. However she was very seaworthy and the engines were exactly the same. I did however share the cabin with the coxswain, which I could not do on 279, as I had not been her official mechanic. The crew greeted my arrival on 209 with enthusiasm and I was nicknamed PO EAK. EAK being my initials.

The CO was different to Denis Booth in that he was very uncommunicative and kept himself aloof from the crew. Several escorts were done to Takaradi and back with no major problems and on one return to Freetown we found our moorings had been shifted up river to a new base in a more sheltered bay. The only problem there was the canteen was about 2 miles away, but transport was provided.

One day 209 had just returned from escort duty, the CO had made his report to base and on his return brought with him a motor mechanic. He then said to me to show this chap around the boat then to get my gear together as I was to go to the Edinburgh Castle for return to the UK. I queried why the hurry as normal procedure was for at least to have a day or two together. The skipper then said that the three stoker POs in the flotilla had to be returned to the UK immediately and that was that. Of the three POs I was the only one doing mechanic’s duties.

Edinburgh Castle was an old liner though her size made her an excellent base at Freetown, which was a very busy place with ships of all types moving in and out at various intervals. In fact Freetown was a mustering place for convoys and warships of all classes came into refuel during their movement around the Atlantic. Accommodation on the Edinburgh was spacious, the meals were good and in the evening we had cinema shows. During the day there was very little we could do but wait for a ship to take us to the UK. So much for our hurried departure from the flotilla. The three of us were called upon to do canteen patrols ashore, this was only from 2pm to 6pm. After about two weeks we had to collect our gear for transport to the ship taking us back.

The motor launches were loaded with the kit of various personnel and with kit and persons would take us to the ship taking us home. What a surprise we had when we neared the ship, she was one of the scruffiest ships I or my mates had ever seen. Anyhow she was to take us back to the UK so who cared? The ship was a French vessel that had been converted to transport Italian prisoners of war and was now on her way back to the UK being used as a troop ship. Her name was the Cuba. The accommodation was cramped, the mess arrangements were no more than could be expected of a prison ship. We three POs were allocated mess arrangements with the travelling naval ratings. As we were entitled to our own mess and a messman we had to make representations to the transport officer about this. After discussion he realised that we should have the same privileges as sergeants anyway as there were no cabins left, we three agreed to stay with the ratings but our meals would be in the dining room provided for the sergeants. The Cuba sailed away from Freetown and sailed unescorted back to England taking about eight days, making detours to avoid the known U-boat areas, she made black smoke all the time her boilers were fired by pulverised coal which appeared to lack proper combustion.

There was not much to do on the journey back, impromptu concerts were held in the dining room. Fresh water was for drinking only. In the toilet areas all water was salt water, we had special soap for showers or washing. Our rum ration ran out after two days, in all the thought only of returning home made the trip bearable.

Our arrival in the Clyde brought us in the hands of His Majesty’s customs, there were many of them and after they had done a token vetting of the hundreds of soldier, sailors and airmen we were free to report to our respective transport officers. We three POs were taken ashore to the nearest train station and dispatched to the Coastal Force base at Portland near Weymouth. The journey to Weymouth was very uncomfortable, trains were packed and there were no facilities for a meal or drink. On arrival at Kings Cross station in London no transport had been arranged to take us to Waterloo station. We had to carry all our gear up and down and through the underground train service to Waterloo.

At Waterloo we did manage to get a few sandwiches and a tin mug of tea provided by volunteer ladies in their makeshift canteen. Arriving at Weymouth we were met by the naval patrol and given transport to H.M.S. Attack on Portland Hill, there we had a late meal and just signed in until the next day. We had a quick medical were allocated to the POs mess before seeing the Engineer officer in charge of all engine room personnel. The engineer I recognised as being the officer in charge of new entries when I enlisted in 1936, I mentioned this but as thousands of engine room personnel had passed through his hands he could not remember me from so many faces.

He briefed us to his intentions to keep us in coastal forces though we should be returned to our depots for fleet use. He went on to say that he was short of experienced staff and that we would be given boats of our own when we had completed the power operated gun turret course that took about three days. On the next day we were taken to a classroom, introduced to the motor mechanic instructor who said that the course would start the next morning and that we could do what we wanted until then.

The following morning we attended the class and were put through the operation and maintenance of power turrets. By the end of the day the instructor had been over the same subject so often that we three along with the newly enlisted mechanics were bored to tears and there was still another two days to go. Anyhow on the second morning the three of us did not turn up for the class, just moping around the base.

The third morning we presented ourselves in the classroom, as it was examination day and we had to take the exam, the instructor who was junior in seniority to us questioned why we were absent the day before and on being told our reason for skipping class said that if anyone of us failed the exam then the three would be put on report. The exam was taken and us three came out 1st, 2nd and 3rd. A good indication that the course was too long.

From there we went back to wait for our draft and hoped that it would be a good one. A few days later we were given our orders for joining our respective boats. While we were waiting to go one evening I was given a patrol in Weymouth. On reporting to the officer in charge I was told to take the patrol along the seafront in Weymouth and to visit each public house, making myself known to the landlord as a contact should there be any drunken behaviour. This was a very good idea because in most pubs visited I met someone who knew me and against regulations I was plied with a few pints. At the end of the evening after the pubs had been cleared the patrol was given night accommodation and it was very lucky for me that I did not have to report to anyone. I was slightly unsteady on my feet.

The next day the patrol was returned to base and I was told that I would leave the following day for Felixstowe in Suffolk to take over ML 100 as motor mechanic. That day my two mates and I were put on the train, I going to Felixstowe and my two mates to Yarmouth, Norfolk. We journeyed so far together and I had to change trains. On saying our farewells we parted never to meet again.

Launched and commissioned 1940
Three Hall Scott petrol engines
Top speed: 25 knots
Fuel capacity: 1450 gallons
Length: 110 feet
Beam: 17.5 feet
Draught: 4.6 to 6.6 feet
Displacement: 57 tons plus
Armament: various small calibre guns
Mines carried: either 6 sinking or 8 surface mines
A crew of 12 plus
I joined her in January 1943 and left August 1943

On arrival at Felixstowe I was taken to H.M.S. Beehive, a shore base for coastal forces, there I was told that I was a replacement for a motor mechanic who had fallen overboard and drowned. I was also told that ML 100 was at Ipswich on the River Orwell, getting overhauled and I would take over ML 105 as their mechanic was on leave and I would stay there until his return.

Now this small flotilla of MLs, four in number, were the first type of MLs (A) produced and had three engines. There were only ten of this class built, one of the main reasons being that the B class only required 2 engines, thereby saving many engines of the type used.

Though ML 100 had been built for anti-submarine warfare she and others in the flotilla had been converted into mine layers, laying their mines in enemy coastal waters. The area our boats operated in was mainly around the Hook of Holland, a very busy area for German conveys. My stay on 105 was extended more than the motor mechanics leave period as he was taken ill and my boat having extra electrical instruments being fitted did not need my presence.

I suppose my stay on 105 stretched over 6 weeks in which we did about two mine laying operations. During this time there should have been a mess bill for the supplies we purchased from the NAAFI, which was nearly a daily routine, however there was a negative bill from the NAAFI and this should not be. After inquiries into the circumstances it would appear that the rating obtaining the supplies would on getting the goods retrieve the demand note without the Naafi's assistants knowledge so there was no record of purchase. The rating denied any knowledge of this activity and as there was no proof of evidence against him he was not charged but returned to his main depot. This suited him nicely as he was a naval pensioner recalled for war service and would because of his age not have to go to sea again.

Eventually ML 100 was brought down to Felixstowe and I took up my duties, meeting the CO a New Zealand Voluntary Reserve officer and his second in command a Royal Navy Voluntary Reserve officer. I was presented to the crew who except for the leading seaman coxswain were either hostility only ratings or reservists recalled for war duties. It was very peculiar that the CO and I did not get on very well all the time I was aboard 100, though we had a good relationship regarding my duties which could not be faulted. My engine room staff consisted of a Leading Stoker and two stokers, the three of them all reservists, had been on ML100 from her commissioning day. While on 105 I was told sarcastically that 100 was not likely to do any operations as every time she was due to go out she invariably broke down with some engine failure or other. I thought that this was stretching the point a bit and was determined to make sure that there were no engine failures on my part. I could not understand why the boat had this reputation but it was known throughout the flotilla that she was a jinx

H.M.S. Beehive, our base, was a very large establishment that catered for about thirty two boats consisting of Motor Torpedo boats, Motor Gun boats and us MLs, who were a pain in the neck for the German shipping. Many a night would see anything up to thirty boats out on operations over the Dutch Coast. The torpedo and gun boats were a nuisance to the residents of Felixstowe in the winter, as the water cooling system was fresh water the fresh water being cooled by sea water, this meant that the boats engines had to be started up every so many hours to ensure that the fresh water did not freeze. This was not so bad during the daytime, but at night the starting up of many engines caused quite a din.

The dock area used by the boats was by the flour mill and the mill was supplied with flour by the Thames sailing barges that made regular trips to and from the mill. There was an area kept clear so that the barges had free access to the mill. The four MLs were berthed near the barge area, while the other boats were on the other side of the dock near the main buildings, one reason for this being that the crews of the MLs lived aboard, the other boats crews were accommodated in the main building as the living space on these boats was very limited and the crews only went on board for routine maintenance and sea duties.

The main building also accommodated the Royal Air Force staff who flew and maintained a flight of Catalina flying boats

There was quite a difference between the shore base at Freetown and H.M.S. Beehive. At Freetown the shore staff only came on board to assist in major problems where as Beehive’s shore staff did almost every check up throughout the boats. This left the crew with only daily routine work to do. All my engine room checks were done by the shore staff, it was only left for me to ensure that my duties kept the engine room compartments sea worthy and to do everything possible to any failings at sea. Unlike the sea duties at Freetown where we would be at sea for three days or more our operation at Felixstowe took us from six PM one day to eight am the following day.

This operation was carried out only on specific nights and was performed on information supplied from intelligence quarters. In all I only did carry out ten mine laying operations during my stay at Felixstowe. Though on many occasions the boats went out to lay mines but the operation was cancelled and a couple of times the operation was aborted due to some defect on one of the flotilla. One such time being that my centre engines sustained engine main bearing trouble.

It was normal routine when leaving for mine laying, that my three staff would each man an engine for leaving harbour with me in attendance, on clearing harbour two of the staff would leave the engine room and myself plus one would stay and man the engines until we had cleared the coast and the boats were heading towards Holland. It was generally the procedure for the three MLs in the operation to clear the harbour, turn to port and proceed towards Great Yarmouth which took about one and half hours and opposite Yarmouth turn to starboard heading towards Holland, at this point I would leave the engine room after checking that everything was in good working order. My three staff would then work between themselves to cover engine room duties. I would go and get my evening meal until about ten PM when the boats would be entering enemy waters. I would then return to the engine room until about one am when the mines would have been laid and we were leaving enemy waters. My staff would operate the engine room until we finally entered harbour.

To return to my centre engine troubles on that specific night, I was entering the wheel house which was above my cabin, when our flotilla navigator whose responsibility it was to ensure that the mines were laid in the exact designated area, said to me that he was having difficulty getting a reading on the depth recorder. It would appear that the electric pulse being transmitted to the seabed was being vibrated out of line by some unknown vibration from within the boat. He did state that we were nearing our laying area but that if he could not get an accurate depth reading the operation would have to be aborted so could I try and locate the interference. I immediately went into the engine room and the first thing I did was to check all the instrument panels; I noticed that the centre engine oil pressure gauge was reading 15lbs per square inch instead of 45lbs per square inch. This indicated to me that the main bearings of the engine were damaged and would be causing the vibration. I then checked the engine pressure control unit and found that this was loose, I reset it and tightened the locking nut, the oil pressure returned to normal but the damage was done, it only remained to shut the engine down and report my action to the bridge. The mine laying operation was called off and the boat returned to port

I could not under stand why the operation was aborted, it was possible to stop the centre engine and run on the other two engines, we could still have power for three quarter maximum speed, should there be any trouble from German boats there were our gun boats in the area to give protection.

I did have time to talk to the stoker who was on watch at the time and he had noticed the pressure drop about one and half hours before I went to investigate. This one and half hours was so accurate to define as the recordings in the engine logs were made every 15 minutes and in the centre engine log it was recorded that six entries showed a decrease in oil pressure. Had the stoker called me on the first of the readings it may have been possible to save the bearings and the operation.

The outcome of this was a full enquiry as to the abortion of the operation and the failure of my stoker to call me when the oil pressure first dropped. My stoker was put on a charge of neglect of duties and was given the option of taking the base commander’s punishment or a court martial. He accepted the first. At Commander’s defaulters the stoker pleaded guilty but could offer no reason why he had not called me. The Commander on going through the stoker’s records said that in his opinion the stoker, who had been on ML 100 since the early days of the war, had become so aware of recording the engine readings every 15 minutes of operation that he had been mentally blinded of the fall in pressure and, therefore, it had not registered in his mind. However the seriousness of the situation warranted a punishment of 14 days stoppage of leave with extra duties. The Commander also arranged for all engine room staff who had been on the ML since the start of the war to be returned to their main depots, this meant a complete change of my stokers and leading stoker. The failure of my centre engine was the only time an operation was aborted whilst I was in charge of the engine room department.

Nearly all the time I was at Felixstowe we laid magnetic mines. These mines, around 6 foot in length and about 18 inches in diameter, of which each ML carried six, were laid in a set pattern and on being released from the ML sank to the bottom of the sea. A soluble pellet would dissolve and release the timer on a time clock which was set for a pre-determined date after the mine was laid. The German mine sweepers would sweep the channel and declare the area safe, but our mines would not have been ready for detonation until after the channel had been swept. Any ships passing over the mines at a later date would in all probability be damaged or even sunk. One time the MLs took out a batch of conventional pimple mines, each ML carrying eight mines. These were released from the MLs and would sink to the bottom of the sea where the mine was released from its mooring to float up several feet below the sea surface suspended on its wire from the mooring. These mines were contact mines and a vessel running into them would be in trouble.

Anyhow on this only time we sailed with this type of mine on board, we were going up the coast towards Great Yarmouth when my port engine cracked a water jacket, this then put the operation out for that night and the three MLs put into Lowestoft for repairs to my engine. Our CO went ashore for orders and on his return said that the operation would be carried out the next night. We could go ashore for leave but under no circumstances should we mention our cargo of mines. The next morning we had to go up river to refuel, this meant that to refuel we had to pass through the swing bridge that spanned the main road with traffic held up while the bridge was open. There were many people watching the three MLs passing with their mines fully exposed for anyone to see, so much for security emphasised the night before. That night we carried out the operation as planned.

Shortly afterwards ML 105 went into dockyard hands for routine maintenance and her motor mechanic was told to stand by should ML 100 have to go out on an operation as I was to go on leave for seven days. I had only been home about three days when I had a telegram recalling me. Now this was perplexing as I could not understand why the recall. I soon found out when I reported to the CO. During my absence ML 100 had to cross from Felixstowe to Harwich and it was left for my leading stoker to run the engines on this short journey. One of the engines developed main bearing trouble, the leading stoker on reporting to the CO said that the trouble was there before I went on leave, hence my recall. I had to give a written report to the CO and with evidence from the shore based engineers there was no way that the defect was there prior to that short journey. That dealt with the situation but I never got the leave I lost.

On checking with my leading stoker and stokers I found that the leading stoker on starting up the engines revved them up to a high speed before the lubricating oil had a chance to circulate. Unfortunately a main bearing on one engine failed. I could have reported this but I left things as they were.

It was surprising that though the CO and I did not get along as individuals, he would ask my advice on matters regarding naval rules and regulations and never did he criticise my running of the engine room department. After we had completed one mine laying operation, in which we had been harassed by German naval units and I had to lay a smoke screen to enable the MLs to take evasive action, the CO when we were clear of the area gave me a bottle of rum to share around the crew. This took us all by surprise as it did not seem to be the CO’s nature. On returning to harbour I did tell the chief supplies petty officer of the CO’s gift and the chief supplied a replacement of rum to be given to the CO who much to our surprise told me to share it among the crew.

It may be wondered how I an engine room rating was doing a request from the CO which would normally have been done by the seaman coxswain. Our coxswain was on compassionate leave and there was no replacement available from the shore base. As I was the senior hand aboard the regulating of the crew was left to me.

Life on board was very monotonous, after the daily routine there was little to do. We would have our mines loaded on at Harwich and we would return to Felixstowe to wait orders. The MLs would wait around many days before orders were given to carry out the operation. Each day the COs would report to the base for orders and around about 4 PM would say yes or no to an operation. I believe in my 8 months on ML 100 I only completed 10 operations. As each operation took about 14 hours one can see that we had a lot of idle time on our hands. If there was no operation on any specific evening the crew were given night leave. One trip we were approaching Great Yarmouth when the operation was cancelled. The boats put into Yarmouth and stayed for about a week before we sailed to lay our mines. This will give you some idea of the time lag.

After completing one successful operation and the boats were returning to base one of our gun boat escorts had been rammed by another boat and was in a very bad way, as the bow of the ramming boat had sliced into the engine rooms and put the engines out of action. It was decided that ML 100 would tow the damaged the boat towards the English coast until assistance arrived from base. After the towing gear had been rigged and the 2 boats moved ahead at very reduced speed I then noticed that the engines were not running at a speed to allow the dynamos to cut in. This meant that the main batteries were supplying the necessary electricity to keep the engines running and supply the boats’ electric requirements.

In itself this would not be a problem as there was a two-stroke auxiliary petrol engine that could charge the batteries. But alas this engine would not start. On examination of the two-stroke engine it was noticed that seawater had entered into the engine through its exhaust pipe and the engine was now useless. The CO was informed of the situation and it was considered necessary to try and increase the towing speed allowing the dynamos to just supply enough current to maintain the boat’s needs. It was realised that should the engines be stopped for any reason it would not be possible to start them again. An order was issued stating that only in an extreme emergency should the engines be stopped.

The tow proceeded slowly on its way, which at normal times would be about 5 hours from base, but at the speed of the tow more likely nine to ten hours. Suddenly it happened, something went wrong with the towing gear and it meant that to protect the propellers the bridge ordered the engines to be stopped. There was a dimming of all the electrics around the boat and there was no way that the engines could be restarted on batteries.

The CO and I discussed the situation and I said that it would be possible to take the radar batteries from their storage and transfer them into the main batteries storage. This would take some time as the main batteries would first have to be removed to allow the transference. This was agreed and my stokers and I did the necessary work. It was fortunate that the batteries were the same size, though the radar batteries were connected to give out 110 volts where the main batteries when connected gave out 24 volts.

After the transfer the engines were restarted, the towing gear having been sorted out and the boats proceeded towards England. I was able to charge up the dead batteries after they had been placed in the radar battery storage by using the other auxiliary engine which charged at 100 volts. The tow continued on its way and around about
10 am a tug arrived from the base and took over the tow. We then increased speed to arrive in Felixstowe in the afternoon.

It was decided by the base that ML 100 should be taken out of the water for a routine check and we sailed across river to Harwich and were hoisted on the slips in to the boat yard. The routine check turned out to be a more prolonged affair as the boat’s underwater fittings had to be completely overhauled and the brackets supporting the propeller shafts had to fitted with new bearings. This extra time in the boatyard was a godsend as the crew were sent on seven days leave. On returning to Felixstowe it was not long before we went out to lay mines an uneventful trip, we laid our mines and thankfully returned safely to base undetected by German forces.

ML 100 had been back in Felixstowe for about three days when the CO told me that I was to be returned to barracks. He did say that this was nothing to do with him but all Stoker Petty Officers had to be returned to their respective depots. I left ML 100 the next day after having spent a remarkable eight months with good wishes from the boats’ crews and the base staff as I passed through the gates to return to Portsmouth and new adventures.