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BBC Peoples War Royal Navy 2

BBC Peoples War Royal Navy 2

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Published by Graham Moore
True Life story world war 2
True Life story world war 2

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Published by: Graham Moore on Aug 25, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Recollections of World War II by Lt.Cdr.W.P.Edney
RECOLLECTIONS OF WORLD WAR 11 by Lt.Cdr.Walter Edney, 1918-2003Cdr. Edney was twice mentioned in DespatchesThis is an extract from his Autobiography written in 1993It was May 1940 and although we had been at war for six months, by and large it had been very quiet throughout the winter. The only naval action of any significance had been the Battle of the River Plate in which three of our cruisers sank the Graf Spee – aGerman armed raider who had been freely roaming the North Atlantic, sinking our shipping at will. German U-Boats had also been quite active in the North Atlantic inan endeavour to cut our life line with the US and Canada. To minimize this, our merchant ships were formed into convoys of up to 100 ships and escorted zig-zagacross the Atlantic by destroyers, but we had insufficient destroyers for the task. TheGermans began a spring offensive in no uncertain terms in April and quickly invadedHolland, Belgium, Luxenbourg as well as Norway – they were unstoppable, the hugeGerman machine just rolled forward. So, at the age of 21, I was allocated to HMSVanoc to be the leading Telegraphist in charge of the ship’s communications.HMS Vanoc was a World War 1 destroyer of the V+W class, built in 1917. Althoughclassed as a destroyer, in those days she would not be a match for the present day patrol boat. Her displacement was in the order of 800 tons with one 4 inch gunforward and one aft, 6 torpedo tubes and depth charge throwers aft. Top speed 27knots. The total crew, including officers, was about 70. The wireless office, of which Iwas to be in charge, was situated on the lower part of the bridge and consisted of tworeceiving sets and a very ancient arc/spark transmitter which jammed everyone elsewithin a radius of 20 miles when used. My original communication complement was just 3 telegraphists.When I was appointed to Vanoc she was in Norway doing her best to assist our armystem the German offensive but in the main, evacuating our soldiers who had been cutoff. On 8th June, after most British troops had been evacuated, we sailed for SullomVoe, Orkney Islands. On the morning of 9th, about half way between Norway and theOrkneys, we were attacked by a German Bomber - a Junkers 88 who straddled us withhis bombs, doing little damage except to blow away our aerials. Our stop at SullomVoe was brief, enough to refuel and reammunition, and then it was off to St.Nazairein Northern France. The British Army were taking a battering in France with the
heavily armed Germans pushing forward on all fronts. Our job was to evacuate asmany of the British troops we could and get them aboard for return home. At the sametime, in the English Channel, a mass evacuation was taking place at Dunkirk, where amiracle was achieved in getting the majority of our troops home. We had justcompleted loading one troopship with some 100 or more soldiers when she was bombed and sunk by German Aircraft – I believe one bomb went straight down her funnel and blew her to pieces. How many survivors there were I do not know but notmany I suspect. The job was completed by 18th June when we returned to Plymouth. Nothing much happened until September when the German Luftwaffe attempted totake control of the air. The Battle of Britain was fought and won by the few. In themeantime it was our duty at sea to prevent landing craft crossing with troops to landalong our South Coast. So on 8th September we were assigned to the Anti InvasionPatrol in the English Channel. By 28th September the invasion scare was over and Isettled in Portsmouth awaiting next instructions to sail. By now I had passed myexaminations for 2nd Grade Wireless Telegraphist, the qualification I needed toadvance to Petty Officer Telegraphist.In January, whilst in harbour, bombs were dropped close to the ship and on 10th wemoved out to Spithead. It may have been a lucky escape as the Air Blitz onPortsmouth took place and the town was still burning the next day. A new transmitter and RADAR had been fitted on the ship and on 5th February we departed for Liverpool and sailed with our convoy on 9th. These convoy trips lasted about 10 days,we would stop at Londonderry to refuel. The speed of the convoy was that of theslowest ship and at best was 6 knots on an irregular zig-zag course to avoid torpedoesfrom U-Boats. The weather was often rough, uncomfortable, cold and unpleasant butthe job had to be done to keep our island fed and clothed. The respite in harbour varied between 2-3 days to a week, depending on what maintenancewas required to bedone on board.On 7th November 1940 I was promoted to Acting Petty Officer Telegraphist on the basis of the examination I had passed in August. I was just 22 and not far from myultimate ambition of Chief Petty Officer, with 18 years yet to serve. At this time itwas almost unheard of for a rating with less than 8 years of service to be a PettyOfficer, but the war had helped and I did it in 4 years. I was moved from the sailorsmess deck in the bows of the ship to the Petty Officer’s mess which was much morecivilized and completely separate. It also meant that I could now partake of my daily
issue of rum, neat (without water added)!Rum was a daily issue to all seamen not of commissioned officer rank, over the age of 21. For the sailors it was diluted – 3 parts of water to one of rum and had to beconsumed on the spot of issue, 12 noon daily. Alternatively for those who did notwant a rum issue they could be paid 4 pence daily. I found the concoction insipid andelected for the extra pay. However, as a Petty Officer with neat rum available I chosethe rum which was ‘lifting’ to take and, although illegal, could be bottled as it wouldkeep. Mostly I drank mine daily.Another concession of the Navy was a monthly issue of tobacco or cigarettes. Thisamounted to one pound of tobacco, either pipe or cigarette, or 500 previously rolledcigarettes. There was a small charge for this, but it was negligible as it was duty free.There was also an issue of leaf tobacco in lieu, if required. This was the plain tobaccoleaf, which the old salts rolled tightly and bound with tarred hemp, what was knownas a ‘prick’ and was subsequently cut in thin slices to smoke in a pipe. Guaranteed tomake any normal youngster violently sick! It was a dying art, none of the navy couldtake that. For my part I did not bother drawing my tobacco issue, sensibly knowing itwas no good for me.The following week I met my future wife – on a blind date in Liverpool. Theattraction was immediate and our second date was at the local cinema where we satthrough a heavy raid on Liverpool and then had to walk home all the way from LimeStreet in the centre to Stoneycroft, a distance of 5 miles. There was no transportrunning and more than once we had to drop flat on our faces on the pavement as the bombs dropped. We always made it back uninjured. Thelma and I were married for almost sixty years before she died in January 2003. We had four wonderful childrenand twelve greatgrandchildrenThe next convoy began quite peacefully, like the others, in very calm sea toLondonderry for the usual refueling. Little did we know what was ahead of us. Wewasted little time in Londonderry and sailed again at almost full speed, 20 knots, to pick up the convoy. During the night of 14th, although we had not met the convoy, itwas reported that one of their number, a tanker, had been torpedoed. We finallyreached them on Saturday 15th in mid Atlantic and joined HMS Walker to bring theconvoy home. During the night that followed, 4 more ships of the convoy had beentorpedoed by midnight and it became clear that U-Boats were operating among thisconvoy, surfacing and firing torpedoes at will. What use could two First World War 

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