-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. Concord

H.M.S. Concord
Launched: July 1945
Commissioned: 1947
Two turbine engines 40,000 HP
Top speed: 34 knots though 38 knots had been recorded
Length: 362 feet
Beam: 35 feet
Draught: 10 – 16 feet
Displacement: 1710 tons
Armament: 4 x 4.5” guns and 4 x 21” torpedoes
A crew of 186 plus
I joined her July 1947 and left November 1947

H.M.S. Concord CrewI entered barracks on the 9th July and after some well earned leave found myself at Thornycroft’s ship builders at Woolston Southampton, where a new destroyer H.M.S. Concord was being fitted out the 26th July saw me join my final ship that would take me to the end of my twelve year engagement.

Concord was at the fitting out jetty and would take several weeks before she was ready for acceptance trials, the crews quarters were not ready for use so a skeleton crew were billeted ashore in lodgings or if local like myself living in nearby Eastleigh could use our homes for accommodation getting subsistence allowance to live on.

As I was the first Stoker P O, to be drafted to the ship the Engineer Officer, and the Chief Stoker who had been standing by the ship for some time assumed by my seniority and qualifications that I would be the senior PO. I was allocated as the Chief’s right hand man. For about two weeks I went about the ship getting to know all there was to learn to carry out my duties, when another PO joined the ship senior to me I was then allocated the engine room for my duties it being assumed that I was the next senior this went on for nearly a week and the ship was nearly ready for trials.

The final draft of the crew then joined the ship as all quarters were ready for use, with this draft the Stoker PO’s to make up the allocation of complement joined and one of these was again senior to me, this then had me removed from the engine room to engineer’s stores a position I held till I left the ship

If one looks at the duties of Stoker P O’s this is the tasks they carry out in harbour, when at sea six P O’s are normally required on watch keeping in the boiler rooms and the senior P O is on hand to assist the Chief in running the engine room stokers etc and keeping the water and fuel tanks in a state that the ship is always trimmed on an even keel. When possible in harbour it was the practice to shut down the boilers and use the diesel generators to supply lighting and heating a task carried out by Leading Stokers the P O s looking after the routine maintenance of the engine room department.

Anyhow the Concord was now ready for an inspection by the Naval authorities for service in the Royal Navy. On acceptance day the Engineer Admiral’s Engineer Lieutenant who would sign the acceptance of the ships total engine room department came aboard and when he came to my department, I realised that he was the chief in charge of motor boats when he and I were on the Hood we had a good talk about old times before he left.

Concord was duly accepted sailed for Portsmouth to completely take on stores oil fuel and ammunition before the main training of the new crew took place. In the next few weeks gunnery and torpedo trials were undertaken which brought us up to Christmas 1946 we gave a party on board for relatives and children which was a great success, my eldest son Bill attending really enjoying himself. Into the New Year the ship was nearly ready for sailing to the Far East there was only anti –submarine exercises to be done, which would take place at Portland Weymouth

On the morning of departure from Portsmouth it was decided that a full power run would be carried out at 9am after clearing the harbour. This was not a problem as I would be in the controlling boiler room at that time and I had taken part in many full speed runs. My mate Jacko though senior to me had never done a high speed run, had the flashing up watch but unfortunately missed the train from his home to Portsmouth it being left to me to flash up. Jacko relieved me at eight saying that he was apprehensive of doing a full power run I did say to him that as speed was increased he should give plenty of air when extra oil sprayers were used. I then went for my cup of tea, wash and clean up, sat down in the mess having my tea when there was a terrific shudder through out the ship. I left the mess at high speed dashing into Jacko’s, boiler room where he was having a problem, he had increased the air fans so much that he had blown the lower flaps open on the boiler, after a quick closing of these flaps and a reduction in air everything returned to normal, what had occurred was that the power run had started early and Jacko taking my advice put up the air supply to such a volume which caused the problem, anyhow things returned to stability the speed run was completed. We then sailed for Portland.

While at Portland we did the exercises and coming in on the last day of trials to anchor, one of our Stoker POs who was a South African waiting to be repatriated was on watch in the shutting down boiler room. On receiving orders to shut down proceeded to carry out the routine, now when a boiler is shut down the last thing to do after all valves are shut is to fill the boiler with water following this procedure, using the auxiliary water feed pump fill the boiler to the top of the gauge glass and then give sixteen strokes on the pump this would then give a normal working level in the boiler when the boiler had cooled down, but at this time our P O had lost count of the strokes and over filled the boiler this had created a water pressure in the boiler causing the safety valve to lift and the escaping shower of very hot water passed over the bridge and gave the personnel working on the fore deck a drenching fortunately the water had cooled down and no one was injured.

Our South African PO was always looking out for articles to buy and one only had to bring something to light and our friend would say “ do you want to flog it” an expression that gave him the nick name, “Wanna” this was his name until he was relieved before we left Portland.

Concord had by this time carried out her training schedules and duly sailed for Gibraltar staying a few days took on fuel and stores then sailed for Malta doing war exercises on the way. It was normal practice for exercises to be carried out while in transit from one port to another.

We stayed in Malta a few days took some time doing routine repairs fuelled and stored ship then sailed to Port Said through the Suez fuelled at Aden then on to Singapore fuelled and then sailed to Hong Kong to join our flotilla the 8th destroyer flotilla our leader being H.M.S. Cossack a destroyer named after the ship I had served on in 1940 –1941 which had been torpedoed and lost with many of her crew after I had been returned to barracks.

It was thought by myself and messmates that we would be involved in flotilla exercises but the only other boat in our flotilla we were involved with was H M S Comas, though this was only now and again. We did at one time get an inspection from our leader and his Engineer Commander for damage control exercises. Concord stayed in Hong Kong for several weeks during which time afternoon and all night leave was given to the non-duty watch, this gave us ample time to see the high lights of Hong Kong. Anyone staying ashore over night could get a sleeping place in the Fleet club.

One night several of us using these facilities were returning to the docks and had to wait out side the gates until the local workmen were allowed to enter, it was while these men were waiting that there was a disagreement between two of them and in next to no time there was a minor explosion of all the workers suddenly fighting among themselves a situation that had to be brought under control by the police, it was surprising how quickly this uproar started.

One day Concord was ordered to raise steam and stand by, as it was reported that a hurricane was approaching the island and if necessary we would have to assist in taking some of the numerous Chinese junks to shelter, we stood by for this emergency but the hurricane passed us by.

A little while after this we were told that the ship was going to Kure, in Japan to work with the American naval forces. In due time the local customs boarded the ship and gave a thorough inspection of all quarters, it would appear that the Chinese caterers we now employed would try to take contraband into Japan what this was I never found out though one of our caterers was taken ashore because he had various amounts of foreign currency, he had not returned to the ship before I left.

We sailed from Hong Kong doing our usual exercises, before arriving at Kure, once a navy base for the Imperial Japanese navy and as we entered harbour we could see all the sunken ships and damaged buildings caused by Allied bombing. Concord was berthed at a jetty away from the main dockyard it being a long walk through the dockyard into Kure.

Limited leave was given and it was surprising the amount of goods that could be purchased from the local shops, cameras, china coffee sets, canteens of cutlery and many items of good quality if it was not for the damage that could be seen one would not know there had been a war. Leave was allowed until six in the evening though there was a NAAFI in the dockyard that was used to late at night.

While at Kure we did a boiler clean Japanese labour being employed it astonished the engine room staff that the labour turned out to be women under a Japanese male supervisor.

One evening it fell to be my duty for P O in charge of the canteen patrol this entailed me with some seamen and stokers to ensure there was no unruly behaviour in the canteen really a quite number. The personnel using the canteen were with the patrol taken across the dockyard by the ships motor boat the easiest way to go and on last orders would be returned to the ship by boat a very simple means of having a few beers. I presented myself to the canteen manger who said that I should put my patrol in the ratings canteen use his office to stay in and just visit the ratings and senior rates canteens now and again, this I did and all was well until closing time when the bars were shut moving everybody to the jetty to catch the boat back to the ship I noticed that some of my patrol were under the weather having been given drinks by their shipmates, this I had warned then against.

When all leave men had been seen into the liberty boat it then remained for me to get my patrol back, the coxswain of the boat said he would return for the patrol as he had a full load but I said not to bother I would go back through the dockyard, looking for any ratings who may have walked back to the ship, I thought to myself a quick march back through the dockyard about two miles would help to straighten out my patrol, this did work for as we went aboard and I reported to the officer of the watch my patrol stood up to inspection very well. The patrol were dismissed every thing and everybody returning to normal.

Concord’s next port of call was Sasebo a Japanese naval base now being used by the Americans as a destroyer base; the ship did very little sea time as we were under American control we just lay at anchor. Leave was given to off duty personnel for a few hours per day, there was very little to do or see ashore but we could use the American P /X –Post Exchange- the equivalent of our NAAFI. This however was a problem that only P/X money could be used, we were paid in Japanese Yen. A solution to this problem was soon found as the American sailors were only paid in P/X money, an exchange of monies was arranged between the service men British and American this then gave us currency to use in the P/X.

After a while Concord in company with two American destroyers sailed for Yokohama doing on route war exercises, our CO was second senior officer and that put the ship when sailing third in line on a follow the leader style. This proved a very good position to be in for had we been in the middle there was a possibility we could have been rammed. It happened just after 4 am while I was on watch in the only boiler room in use the ship was steaming at economical speed using one boiler, suddenly pressure was lost on the fuel pump which in turn reduced the supply of oil to the sprayers, steam pressure dropped and the ship speed was reduced if there had been a ship following us there may have been a collision.

On changing over to the stand by fuel tanks I regained fuel pressure and in a matter of minutes steam pressure was normal and speed to the ship regained a very near disaster averted.

An investigation to the incident could not find the reason for the loss of fuel pressure though I did find a solution on doing my own investigation, that at the time the fuel supply to the pump failed the engine room were shutting down the evaporator and the fuel supply valve –which could be operated in either the engine room or boiler room –was shut by mistake, to me, there was no other answer. The real dismay to the situation was that the CO issued an order that when at sea both boilers would be used, this then meant that more watch keepers would be required whereas only half the watch were wanted before.

We arrived in Yokohama staying about three days limited leave being given to off duty men. Jacko and myself hoped to take advantage of this leave to visit Tokyo but found to our misfortune that the time would not be sufficient to do the round trip we then decided to have a stroll around Yokohama. The docks were only a short walking distance from the town there did not appear to be any war damage.

As Jacko and I walked into the shopping area we passed a large building something about the size of a large department store this was clearly marked P/X now this was a chance for us to use our P/X dollars. We went to the front door of this establishment to enter and were met my a very large American marine who placing his rifle with fixed bayonet across our chests said 'No admittance Limies' this left us with no option but to keep walking. Further along the street we found an American Servicemen's canteen just right for a few beers we thought, going to the bar we purchased two cans of beer sat down at the table to enjoy these when an American naval patrol man came up and said drink your beer and leave we had no option but to go.

Thinking that this was unreasonable we wandered away meeting some of our fellow crew members who stated that if we hailed a taxi we could get to a NAFFI canteen down near the docks. Jacko and I found a taxi to take us to the canteen at pretty low cost and behold on entering found that over half of the personnel were Americans proving that British seamen were more sociable than our war time allies.

A few days later Concord sailed for Shanghi in Nationalist China where we stayed for a few days. It was surprising that all night leave was given to the non-duty watch. One evening quite a few of us senior rates went ashore to have a look around Shanghi but as it was getting late we spent our time looking round the massive shopping centre later in the evening visiting a night club.

At this time inflation was running very high a newspaper costing hundreds of Chinese dollars and a meal many thousands we were lucky in that our Sterling attracted a very high rate of exchange this gave us a reasonable evening at low cost. It was noticed that in a jewellers that a Rolex Oyster wristwatch cost over 4 million Chinese dollars slightly beyond our pockets.

There was NAAFI canteen were about twenty of us visited having a few beers and a singsong, later in the evening we split up several returning to the ship and the rest going on to a night club. The entertainment was very good the Chinese singers gave a night of modern songs in perfect English, It then occurred to Jacko and I that we had made no arrangements for sleeping, the last liberty would have gone the next boat being in the morning after talking to a waiter he said that any rickshaw boy could arrange somewhere to sleep we then left the club to try our luck. Outside the club were many rickshaw boys one who we approached spoke very good English he took us to a very clean house where we had a twin bedroom, a cup of tea in the morning and the rickshaw boy took us to the jetty in time to get the liberty boat a very good service.

One afternoon before we sailed an entertainment party of Chinese jugglers came on board and put on excellent show one act was out standing, it was a young girl who balanced spinning plates on bamboo rods this was made more difficult by the movement of the ship as she moved side to side in the wash of passing ships, it was appreciated by a very large number of the ships company.

It was not long before we sailed for Hong Kong and on arrival fuelled ship before going to anchor I was supervising the fuel intake to the starboard tanks when a messenger said would I report to the administrative officer right away, wondering what was in store I arranged to be relieved from my fuelling duties and reported to the officer. I was told get my gear together as I would be transferred to H.M.S. Cockade which would be sailing in the morning for England and I would be required to steam her home.

It was necessary for me to see the CO before I left as there was a matter of a missing boiler cleaning motor to be investigated, I hoped this matter would be solved as the motor was my responsibility as I was the store keeper. Our Engineer and myself went to the CO’s cabin and after a long discussion it was agreed that the fault was mine, – now this could be a costly mistake, it being that if one lost equipment one had to pay for its replacement -, however the CO said that though there were two motors supplied by the ship builders the manifest quoted only one by Admiralty instructions this then left me in the clear, what a relief.

The CO then wished me good luck on my return to England where I was about to complete my twelve-year engagement. I left Concord for Cockade after lunch she sailing for Singapore the next morning. The journey was uneventful we arrived took on stores and fuel then proceeded to Aden.

The journey to Aden was quite normal until the night before our due arrival I was called for the 4am watch only to find that the ship had increased speed something not normal as all navy ships sailed at economical speed to running costs. I was informed that there was rioting in Aden and we were going to assist the military authorities and act as guard ship.

Cockade arrived in Aden about twelve hours ahead of schedule our CO reporting to the military for consultation and briefing on the situation. It was decided that we would remain until as such time we were relieved providing if necessary patrols. The main trouble was around Quater but Aden was under nightly curfew, to help in enforcing this curfew Cockade supplied patrols. The stay in Aden lasted about three weeks we supplying nightly patrols the only members of the crew allowed ashore. We just spent those weeks at our moorings no leave was given.

Eventually we were relieved and proceeded through Suez Canal briefly calling at Port Said then on to Malta staying a few days with night leave being given to the non duty watches after fuelling we sailed for Gibraltar just taking on fuel and stores.

Our CO announced over the tannoy that the Admiralty had decided to increase all annual leave to navy personnel and we would be getting this extra leave and he added that might compensate us for our stay in Aden, stating that if we had arrived in England on time we would have in all probability had our leave before the starting date of the new entitlement.

Cockade left Gibraltar steaming at economical speed reaching Plymouth her navy base early on Boxing day 1947 berthing alongside H.M.S. Vanguard the navies latest battleship. It was not long before HM customs boarded the ship and after them leaving it was announced that all ratings in transit would leave about noon to be returned to their respective depots. We then got our gear together and awaited transport to the rail station.

While the customs had been aboard and we had collected our gear the supply staff with the canteen manger had presented the mess bills, it was then left for each mess member to pay his share this was no problem I being the senior PO had to collect the monies, it then dawned on me that nobody had checked no seniority if they had done I would not have been watch keeping, anyhow, it was all behind me now.

Transport arrived and we were taken to the rail station to find that a reduced service was being operated, it being a bank holiday it left us quite along time waiting for a train to Portsmouth when one did arrive the journey took ages as rail repair was being done us travellers arriving in Portsmouth early evening.

I entered barracks reported to admin who sent me to the P O’s mess telling me to report to my divisional office in the morning. Having the rest of the evening free I decided to go home until the morning living at Eastleigh made this possible. I arrived at Eastleigh and enquired about trains to Portsmouth in the morning only to find that a reduced service was in operation, this meant that I had only about an hour to go home before I had to leave catching the only train to get me back on time. I got indoors getting the wife out of bed had a quick chat a cup of tea and away again. On entering barracks I went to the mess and because my gear had been locked away I had no sleeping gear I then went to the lounge trying to sleep in one of the chairs until morning.

At about 8am I retrieved my kit did my ablutions had breakfast then reported to my divisional office who gave me documents to get me on leave which would take me into April as I had so much leave entitlement. The next step was to go to the emergency pay point to collect wages and subsistence allowance, people getting an emergency payment presented their documents at the pay point their names with entitlement were entered on a list when this list was full the pay officer would make payments, but as the list had to be filled I asked the PO writer if things could be hurried up. I explained to him that two persons were travelling north and with the limited rail service in operation they might not get home to day. I finally talked him into seeing the pay officer who on hearing that were difficulties with trains immediately paid all who waited.

I went home and after my extended leave reported back to barracks to be demobilised. This was a very quick exit returning of naval equipment a quick drop trousers cough in front of the medical officer go to the regulating office for my discharge papers and I was a civilian once more.

At the regulating office I met the divisional officer who was my chief on the Hood and the inspecting officer for Concord who now tried to get me to re-enlist for a further 10 years saying that my chief’s rate was through it would be silly not to re-engage but my mind was made up, I went to the demob centre and left the Royal Navy, end of my story.