-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.

Chainbar divider
H.M.S. Loch Tarbert

H.M.S. Loch Tarbert
Commissioned: October 1944
Two reciprocating engines 6000 HP
Top speed: 19.5 knots
Displacement: 1400 tons
Length: 307 feet
Beam: 38 feet
Draught: 17 feet
Armament: 1 x 4” gun, several anti-aircraft weapons
Main attacking weapon: Squid Mortar bombs
Crew of 160 plus
I joined her February 1945 and left March 1946

Men from H.M.S. Loch TarbertAfter makers trials Loch Tarbert was accepted by the Navy and fully commissioned, I finding myself the third senior Stoker Petty Officer again, though the only one qualified for chief this was a minor problem in that the Senior P O always worked with the Chief Stoker yet when the Chief was indisposed I had to take over the Chief’s duties on this ship and my last ship. H.M.S. Concord.

My first department on Tarbert was in charge of the engine room and when required to do boiler room watch keeping. Loch Tarbert was built for anti submarine and escort duties with an excellent steaming range having two small boilers and two triple expansion reciprocating engines going away from the normal turbine engines.
One great asset for the engine room staff was that to get to their place of duty, there was no need to go on deck as the upper deck covered the entrances to all engine room departments unlike destroyers where engine room staff had to face the elements along open decks and many a man was washed over board.

The Loch Tarbert was a prefabricated ship most of her construction being made in various places around manufacturing areas, sent to Troon and then assembled in the dry dock this was a good practice under war time conditions, but she was not of sturdy construction as the Skate built in 1916.

After commissioning Tarbert proceeded to Tobermory for extensive crew training this training to get the crew alert to receiving and reacting to the necessary instructions required on a new ship.

While at Tobermory a regatta was held and on finals day, a Canadian destroyer took all the honours and quite rightly displayed a cut out of a Rooster at its mast head but the following morning this Rooster was found down on the mooring buoy this caused a panic on the destroyer as someone from Tarbert had during the night climbed the destroyer’s mast and placed the Rooster on the buoy without being detected by the night watch. It was always that the ships crew who won most rowing races would be Cock of the Fleet, hence the Rooster on the mast.

Before any enquiry could be made Tarbert had sailed to her operational base Liverpool. 0n the way the CO called over the Tannoy that if the person who removed the Rooster would report to his cabin the person would be given seven days leave this the CO honoured. Until V E day Tarbert was engaged on convoy duties from Liverpool into the Atlantic and always suffered from main bearing trouble, always having to have work done on these bearings on return to Liverpool, this default stayed with us for many months.

On VE night leave was given and the celebrations will always be remembered it was fantastic Liverpool was alive with thousands of people letting their hair down.

The next day Tarbert was again in the Atlantic this time rounding up U boats that had been ordered to surrender by Donitz the German admiral now Hitler’s substitute. Loch Tarbert entered dry dock for cleaning and inspection and the crew sent on leave in two watches.

After about two weeks in dockyard hands the ship was made ready for sea and ordered to sail with the Lord Roberts a monitor, for gunnery practice off the coast, during this exercise both ships were ordered to proceed south and after about four days arrived at Gibraltar the crew knew then that both ships were going to the far East to take part in the Japanese war. A monitor is a shallow draft ship normally with 15”guns and suitable for warfare in rivers.

During our stay in Gibraltar our engine bearings were once more repaired and after a few days the ship sailed for Malta. Staying for about four days our engine bearings being once again serviced only this time there was a surprise in that the Maltese engineer on hearing the history of our bearing trouble gave a quick examination of the engine and stated that the engine was out of line and should be realigned, this was done the bearings repaired and the big problem caused no further trouble.

Tarbert then sailed for Port Said where we stayed a few days with a few hours leave being given to each watch. It was on a Sunday morning during our stay and I had the morning watch in the forward boiler room just keeping steam for domestic use when about 9 o/clock the remainder of the crew were mustering on the quarterdeck for divisions and a church service. My stoker doing his normal turn of changing oil sprayers on the boiler for cleaning purposes, suddenly switched back to the dirty sprayer as a cloud of smoke drifted out of the ships funnel onto the crew all dressed in their white tropical gear the panic was over in seconds but there was a lot of washing to do. On inspection it was found that the earlier watch had cleaned the suspect sprayer and had left out a vital part that caused the hot oil to whirl and become atomised unfortunately the P.O of the earlier watch was reprimanded for not supervising the cleaning.

On the Monday we set sail through the Suez Canal for Aden, just before setting of we took on a Lady passenger who was going on war service to Aden. Now passing through the canal is a monotonous journey as there are only the two banks of the canal to look at, but there was a little excitement when we passed a group of natives standing on the right hand bank among this group was one man who stood out in that he was taller than the rest and completely nude his private parts being tucked between his legs out of sight until he saw our passenger he promptly pulled his privates out and shook them in the ladies direction – a fairly large piece of his anatomy – our lady just ignored his gesture and went into the cabin put at her disposal, -not much excitement in a days steaming.

We arrived at Aden taking up a mooring along side a destroyer to refuel and take on stores. Fuelling at Aden was done at the mooring the supply being pumped from shore tanks. We and the destroyer were taking on fuel at the same time, now the control of supply was organised through a series of signals –flags by day coloured lights by night –the shore personnel would control the fuel supply in response to these signals.

Now there is a difference in the way a destroyer fuels to a frigate in that a destroyer can remove its tank tops giving better visibility to the intake of fuel where a frigate has to rely on the sounding by dropping a tape into a tube and continually taking readings, this in itself was no problem to us as when the oil fuel was entering the tanks air would be expelled through the vent pipes. However on this occasion the destroyer, on completion of fuelling did not signal ashore that they were shutting down and closed their intake valve, and in doing so we took the full force of the supply which gave us such a volume of oil that oil was forced up our air vents to spread over the ships decks and over the ships side, after frantic signals being exchanged pumping pressure was stopped leaving us with a cleaning up problem while the destroyer made her way to sea.

The unfortunate outcome of this mishap was that a local trader had tied his boat along side Tarbert and the gushing oil fuel cascaded into his boat completely drowning his fresh fruit and souvenirs with oil fuel, this saved us because the oil going into his boat did not go into the harbour which saved a cleaning up operation in the harbour, but to the trader a disaster.

Anyhow after refuelling taking on stores we sailed for Ceylon now (Sri Lanka) arriving at Columbo the capital to take up our escort duties in the Far East War

On the way to Ceylon a notice was put on the ships notice board asking for three members to run the Bingo sessions, I put in for this and was selected, this proved very profitable, when Bingo was played on the quarter deck there were over thirty sailors taking part and those who won always gave the odd coins back. When two other ships were tied up along side we would get around a hundred sailors playing Bingo, this was very rewarding, the monies returned being shared with us three committee members.

It was also asked on the notice board if there was any one who had experience in hair cutting who would become the ships barber, two of my mess mates volunteered and were both accepted. The First Lieutenant who gave the permission for the application said he would be the first customer, the haircut made his head look as if tufts of hair had been torn out. The barbers improved in time.

We did many convoys into the Indian Ocean operating from Columbo and Trincomalee. One day we had taken up our position in a large convoy consisting of many war ships, troop carriers and merchant ships it was being said that we were going to land an attacking force to liberate Singapore, but on approaching the landing area it was signalled to the task force that Japan had surrendered. This was a great relief to all in the invasion force knowing that hostilities had ceased. Now we were engaged in taking small units of army personnel to areas where the inhabitants were causing unrest against the countries that had been the colonists before hostilities had been started. .

The Loch Tarbert using Singapore as a base visited Port Sweetenham, Penang and Palembang on what might be said as police duties protecting Japanese personnel. During one of these visits we were tied up to a jetty and preparations were being made for leaving harbour and there appeared to be a problem on the forecastle the CO called over the Tannoy ‘’F------ where are your infernal brains?’’ To which came the reply, "all gone foreward sir" – this was considered very humorous to the ships company – where a little light relief was welcome.

At those ports we visited, limited day leave was given though, it nearly always fell my turn to do shore patrol. I did manage to get ashore at Port Sweetenham and visit Kuala Lumper the capital of Malaysia, where the inhabitants were returning to normal and setting up their markets, showing a vast array of clothing, foot wear and local produce consisting of fresh fruits, meat products and spices, it made one think where did all this produce come from seeing that the country had been under occupation.

We then left for Penang where it once again fell my lot for patrol duty. We then sailed for Singapore and after a few days a detachment of Indian soldiers came aboard we were ordered to proceed to Surabaya in the Dutch East Indies where there was fighting between the Indonesians and Dutch authorities, the Dutch people hoping to take over as before hostilities, this was the start of the return of countries from colonisation.

We arrived at Surabaya where mortar firing was going on thankfully missing us as we tied up to the jetty, landing our detachment of troops who silently vanished inland while we took charge of the dock area which was at one time a naval base now completely deserted. The next day our CO went to liase with the British Army commander who had arrived before us and whose small troop of Indian soldiers were about to take the airfield now in rebel hands a task they achieved the next day. Loch Tarbert staying at the jetty waiting for orders.

On the second day mortar shelling continued and thick smoke was seen coming from within the dockyard area. I was sent with about six ratings to investigate and if possible put out any fires, on arriving at the source of the smoke it was found that a mortar shell had ignited some bundles of crude rubber, as there were no facilities for fire fighting all we could do was clear an area around the smouldering mass so that the fire would not be extended, heap sand and earth onto the rubber pile leaving the fire to burn itself out. When we sailed several days later the rubber was still smouldering.

While I and my makeshift fire party had been away the ship was suddenly met with about two thousand women and children who had been confined in their village during the Japanese, occupation. Their men folk having been taken away for internment. The majority of the elder women were of Dutch descent with many Dutch Indonesians. There were also some very young children who had been sired by the Japanese troops. It would appear that while the men had been interned the women were allowed to remain in the village but had to endure the invaders unwanted intentions.

The arrival of these displaced persons presented Tarbert with a massive problem as the needs of these people had to be attended to, food had to be the first item, this was achieved by giving the CO’s bath an extra hygienic clean, make a coil that would be supplied with steam running through it then many tins of vegetables, meat and water were placed in the bath steam was turned on and a large stew was produced. While this was going on our chefs were busy baking bread.

Our next consideration was shelter and sleeping arrangements with sanitary facilities, shelter was found in a building of about four storeys that showed signs of heavy damage by bombing, this building was made reasonable with the efforts of our crew working with our visitors. The provision of water to the building was partly restored to the first two floors by using our portable fire pump, supply water to the upper floors could not be given as our pump would not give enough head of water to that level.

One thing in our favour was that the weather was dry and not exceedingly hot, I must make reference that the water supply to the building was for sanitary use only drinking water being obtained from the ship .All in all a tenable situation was made available for our visitors.

These arrangements lasted several days until shipping was made available to take our visitors to Singapore. We did in the evening provide cinema shows using the side of the ship for a screen, which brought some relief to a difficult situation.

During this period mortar shells were still fired in our direction though they did not land near us. On one day during our stay a motor boat was seen drifting towards the ship and as we were in unfriendly waters our motor boat went to investigate finding that the unknown boat was a Japanese suicide boat fortunately it was unmanned and not fitted with lethal equipment. The boat had broken away from its moorings up river, it was surprising to find that the boat’s engine was an American Chrysler engine probably purchased prior to Japan starting hostilities.

Later we returned to Singapore where we stayed several days limited day leave being given to different watches of the crew. Our stay in Singapore was soon over Tarbert being sent to the Seychells patrolling the area in case any civil aircraft ditched in the sea as civil aircraft could not fly over Indonesia while the conflict was on.

We were relieved of this duty sailing to Trincomalee a naval base in Ceylon there to await further orders, at that time ships were being returned to England as a large fleet was not required any more. On our way to Ceylon I was called to the seaman’s heads, a room that contained about eight toilets which had become blocked, it normally was a simple exercise to clear this blockage just a matter of connecting a fire hose to a pipe that ran under the toilets increase the water pressure and the blockage would disperse, but alas this day nothing happened until there was a shout from the upper deck saying that everything was being blown out of the air vents and coming back inboard .It could be said that I was the man who covered the ship in effluent, however the toilets were cleared but had to be put out of use until the ship could be dry docked and an under water valve could be attended to.
I was always having my legged pulled over this incident.

After a brief stay in harbour we were dispatched to Cochin in southern India where a flotilla of small fishery boats were waiting to be escorted to Trincomalee these boats displacing about forty tons each. On the way back one of these boats started taking in water through the hull and as the bilge pump was not working the boat being in danger of sinking. It was decided that the boat would come along side Tarbert who would place an Engineer Artificer, myself and a Stoker aboard to see if the bilge pump could be repaired

We were duly placed on board, the boat taking up its position in the convoy, the three of us from Tarbert going into the engine room to survey the situation. At this time a very heavy sea was running and most of the boats small crew were sea sick and our Artificer joined them, it was left to the Stoker and I to attempt repairing the bilge pump, the pump was part of the main engine and could be clutched in or out as required but it would not hold a head of bilge water after it had taken suction the cause of the trouble being distorted King Horn valves which were allowing the bilge water to return instead of being discharged over board. The two of us stripped down the pump fitting new valves.

On being reassembled it was necessary to try out the pump our stoker with one of the crew went on deck where there was a three way valve that allowed the pump discharge to be pumped either over the ships side or on to the boats deck the valve was set for the deck discharge and the pump then clutched in, on a call from the upper deck that all was well I disengaged the pump asked the two on deck to put the valve to over side to discharge. It was shouted to me that the valve had been changed over and it was safe to start pumping on which I engaged the pump and heard the pump sucking from the bilges, then there was a minor explosion the air vessel on the pump shattered that put an end to our salvage work. The two on deck had shut the valve off instead of discharge.

Unable to find any way we could repair the pump it was just a matter of time before the boat sank it was not possible to go along side Tarbert as the weather had deteriorated. It was just seeing which came first entrance to harbour on the boat sinking unfortunately the sea won, another boat came and took everyone off and going along side Tarbert we had to do a quick jump aboard to save any damage to either vessel.

We arrived in Trincomalee and for several weeks lay at anchor the authorities deciding that our crew should be given time off in the rest camp at Dietalawa up in the hills this was done over two weeks all the crew getting rest. There was little to see or do at the camp, we were billeted in comfortable huts catering and cleaning being done by native labour, there was a fairly large N.A.F.F.I where entertainment was provided by visiting artistes. During the day football matches were arranged between different huts but it was really restful. Over the period the ship was in port there had been a general clean and paint up of the ship everything returning to normal.

Tarbert was then sent to sea to investigate an S.O.S this proved to be a false alarm we proceeded to return to harbour. Our C.O. decided that there should be a lifeboat drill this meant that the nearest persons to the boat manned the oars I being one of the nearest had to man the boat. This procedure meant lowering the boat into the water then pulling away in the direction of the emergency. The officer in charge of the boat decided that I being the senior rating in the boat should be stroke oar this was good for me considering my limited training back in 1936 I could set the pace, anyhow after pulling some distance from the ship we were recalled. We then found out it had been an exercise.

We returned to port and as we were getting low on fuel it was decided to flood the ballast tanks, Tarbert was so designed that to give stability when oil fuel was being expended two ballast tanks were built in which could be flooded to ensure that the ship was not top heavy, the foreward tank was flooded but when efforts were made to open the after tank valve it would not open, this then stopped the tank from being flooded which in turn made the ship bow heavy. After many attempts to open the after valve with no luck it then remained to pump out the forward tank to level the ship it was a good thing that the sea was very calm.

Tarbert arrived back in port taking up her allotted anchorage, evening leave was given to the none duty watch the rest of the crew relaxing at a relaxed state of readiness as there were always impending orders for the ship. While in this state of relaxation the engine room staff were doing minor repairs to make the ship a first class unit but as it was not possible to free the jammed valves the ship would have to be dry docked to achieve this. The engine room staff were just keeping the auxiliary plant in operation to maintain lighting, distilling fresh water when the steam dynamo suddenly went haywire, the controlling governor disintegrating causing the steam engine to accelerate out of control and with the restrictions applied by the dynamo electric resistance the coupling connecting the two shattered both being unrepairable. This then made Tarbert useless as a first class escort vessel.

After a few days it was decided that the ship should return to England as she was no longer a fighting unit, this then caused much speculation among the crew as to who would be taking her home and who would be transferred to other ships. At that time it was a priority that all personnel who had been called up for war service should be returned for demobilisation, therefore preference had to be given to these people for passage home

When men had been moved from ship to ship Tarbert had her sailing orders proceeding to England via Aden, Port Said, Malta, Gibraltar and finally arriving in Portsmouth where the ship was laid up for scraping not much to say for a fairly new ship. I being discharged to Portsmouth barracks and then on leave.