Friday, September 28, 2007

Number of lost lives in Italy

Do you agree with the figures I have found about Allied losses in Italy:
between 200,000 and 300, 000?
The figures vary depending on the sites.
The number of wounded I find is about the same.
Total British losses is evaluated 400,000 in WW2.
I am sure one of you gentlemen has accurate figures.
Thank you for your help.


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

“A far away country ….”

Overcoming tragedies that happened in 1942 and 1947:
Statuette presented to the Cumberland miners by the Czech miners (May 1959)
It commemorates the friendship between two  mining communities
Photograph courtesy of: 
"The Beacon Museum, Whitehaven (Copeland Borough Council)"
In late 1938, in the midst a growing crisis in Europe because of German territorial claims and an increasing threat of war, the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain flew to Germany to meet with Adolph Hitler and other European leaders. Adolph Hitler, the German Chancellor had been making demands about Nazi Germany’s right to annex part of Czechoslovakian territory known as Sudetenland which had a sizeable German-speaking population.

The result of this conference was the signing of the ‘Munich Agreement’ whereby the main European powers agreed to the German territorial claim for the Sudetenland. On 30 September 1938 Neville Chamberlain returned to Britain and speaking before cheering crowds and the newsreels he waved a piece of paper and stated that it was "... peace for our time".

Earlier, in a radio broadcast on 27 September 1938 Neville Chamberlain had referred to the growing conflict between Germany and Czechoslovakia as "... a quarrel in a far away country between people of whom we know nothing". According to Adolph Hitler, after the signing of this Munich pact Nazi Germany had no more territorial demands in Europe …. ..!

[For continuation of this story click on 'Comments' below]

Franz Werfel and ‘The Song of Bernadette’

In the summer of 1940, while attempting to escape Occupied Europe the Austrian Jewish writer Franz Werfel and his wife Alma Werfel (née Schindler, formerly Mahler) took refuge in the Christian pilgrimage town of Lourdes in the French Pyrenees, apparently staying in rooms in the 'Hotel du Louvre' (seen here).

While in Lourdes, Franz Werfel researched the story of a Lourdaise, Bernadette Soubirous, which he later used for his novel "The Song of Bernadette" published in 1942. In 1943, "The Song of Bernadette" was made into a film by Twentieth Century Fox and won four Oscars - one of them being the Best Actress Award for Jennifer Jones.

(For Further information click on 'Comments' below)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

social life

Hello gentlemen, I am back with a new aspect to explore:
In-between battles, did you have time for any social life?
We have been told of the cinemas and of the entertainers that
came to 'visit', what else can you add to the picture?
All of you young men must have wanted to have fun
whenever possible - if only to keep your minds off the
war. Please tell more about it!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Gentle Reminder

Could I ask you to read Q.18 in the FAQ? I am a Member and I have a long story to Post, is that acceptable?

The reason for this guidance rule is that it saves endless scrolling and makes earlier Posts more accessible.


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Jock Wilson MM

I thought you might like to see this, Jock being a gunner.
This was in last night's Edinburgh Evening News.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

All For An Extra Shilling a Day

Carrying on from my last post , I recently found another article written by Bertie Male.

Men of the Royal Naval Patrol Service were often paid an extra shilling a day (or 'Hard Layers'), this was additional pay due to the discomfort of being one of the crew of a small ship in the service.

In the article below Bertie describes the dangers and the discomforts of patrolling the North Atlantic seas during the winter months of WW2.

Above illustration of a RNPS man in his sea-going 'rig of the day' by Hedley Crago (HMT Saphire)

All For An Extra Shilling a Day (Hard Layers)

No amount, of the most extensive training ever devised can prepare your thoughts and emotions for the first experience of 'Action Stations'--time and time again you have been through alt the procedures and drills in endless practise runs, -but this is the real thing! -and it’s different!

On patrol in one of HM Trawlers, it is winter and in these Northern waters, hard weather, with the ship bucketing into a force nine gale, with driving snow and rain is the norm at this time of year and in this latitude. The watch has just completed a wearisome four hour watch on deck in the blackness of this violent emptiness, -the yearning for the last ten minutes of the watch to end is overwhelming, with the warmth and comfort of the hammock and its gratifying snugness now only minutes away. Every minute now seems like an hour and to add to these dragging seconds, your relief is late, and you cannot go below until, not only has he relieved you, but he has accepted that his eyes are now accustomed to the darkness!

At long last you can fight your way from the bridge to the fo'ard messdeck hatch dodging the seas as they fill the welt deck waist deep in surging water. Using an upward surge of the vessel the warmth of the messdeck is gained by using only the handrails with which to slid down into the shaded snug of your living quarters and its pot bellied coal burning stove. At once you are aware of the stench of wet oilskins and over ripe sea boot socks.

The noisy creaking of the ship as she toiling plunges onward, - this and the hypnotic swinging of the cocoon like bodies in their hammocks, all seem to be in concert and you take great care in your efforts to strip off your wet deck gear, not to disturb any of their contents.

For all but the security lights the messdeck is darkened, and quietly lest we disturb our sleeping messmates we move to hang our dripping oilskins in the smelly lobby, then stripping off our wet clothes we don a dean boiler suit (pyjamas) and with the utmost sense of relief swing gratefully up into our own cocoon.

Sleep is not hard to come, but with only half an hour of the deepest slumber the jarring strident racket of the 'Action Stations' bell Jolt us back into life. Your training has you out of your 'mick' and already dropping into your well-placed sea boots, you grab a duffel coat and what ever else is to hand and in great trepidation dash up the companionway, only so recently slid down and back into this hostile bitter night.

Having only seconds before leapt from the warmth and comfort of your 'mick' and only yet half dressed, we met on this wet and plunging deck the full effects of a northern Atlantic storm ridden night, already doused by icy spray our teeth are chattering, - we mount the vertical ladder to the 4" gun deck! - not wanting for some reason to be the first to do so, but at the same time the compelling fear of not wanting to be the last drives us on. The quarter deck is awash as she plunges downwards and as she wallows and slides in this fearsome sea, she misses her step and a rouge sea envelopes us up to our knees and so we wait on this bucking deck with a shell 'up the spout' sodden wet, sea hoots full of water numb with the cold, with water from the woollen scarve so kindly knitted by a well wishing Ladies guild, now allowing water to drip down the spine, Frightened, never so utterly cold and miserable, my fleeting thought said, "What the hell am I doing out here, 1 should he at home and in bed"

It seems we have been awakened from our slumbers by an unidentified vessel NOT answering our challenge, -we feel the ship alter course! -towards the enemy? and only now is our total vulnerability beginning to dawn on us!! - our imaginations take over could it be that our Trawler with its peashooter gun might be challenging the mighty 'Bismarck? The order comes to change to 'Star Shell’ and into this ferocious night we illuminate the darkness!

Thankful there is no 'Bismarck' out there and the falseness of the alarm only adds to our discomfort. We secure the gun and hasten back to the dubious comfort of the messdeck, not without a stream of invectives being flung at the bridge and who ever was responsible for this escapade. We climb wearily back into our 'mick' and with now only at best two hours of sleep left before we again don our wet hard weather gear for another four hours stint on this bitter deck.
The last conscious thought before sleep was, "Just suppose there had been a 'Bismark' out there? -And all this for an extra shilling a day!

Bertie Male

Monday, September 03, 2007

The HMS Cocker incident

With reference to my last post and comments regarding the controversial depiction of a depth charge attack on a suspected U-boat in the classic film 'The Cruel Sea', I have attached below, the letter sent by the Commanding Officer of HMS Cocker.

In this letter the C.O. of HMS Cocker states that a U-boat attacked them when in fact it was established after the war an Eboat (Snellboot) had actually sunk the vessel. The C.O. also finishes his letter by recommending 'Coxswain Male' for an award or perhaps a mention in dispatches. An award never materialised and Bertie once joked with me saying that 'his medal must have been lost in the post!'

I hope the following letter is of interest.

Subject:- Loss of H.M.S'. "Cocker" by Enemy Action on 4th June 1942.
From: Commanding Officer H.M.S. "Cocker"

To: Captain Local Patrols, Alexandria. Copy to S.N O.I.S.Date: 7th June 1942

On 4th June 1942 while on Escort duty from Tobruk to Alexandria with convoy "Sapper", in position 32-06' N. 24-12' E.

At 0105 Hs. While zigzagging on the Port beam of "Katie Moller" as ordered by "Gloxinia", H.M.S. "Cocker" was struck by torpedo from U Boat on the Port side below the Bridge. A second explosion followed almost immediately, presumably the magazine.
The ship sank in two or three minutes after being struck.
The Officer of the Watch between 0000 Hs. and 0400 Hs. was Lieutenant M.Galiup, R.N.V.R. I left the Bridge at 0015, after making out the Night Order Book and leaving verbal instructions concerning disposition of Convoy, going down to my Cabin.
The force of the explosion must have rendered me temporarily unconsciousas I "came to" in a dazed condition to see the Signalman and Telegraphist climbing through the starboard porthole in my cabin, needless to say I followed them.
On reaching the Signal Bridge I observed that the vessel was laying on her Port beam with everything forward of the bridge disintegrated, and on fire between the Funnel and Engine room. As I could find no one in sight left on the vessel, and her stem in the air prior to her final plunge, I dived over the side. In the water, which was thick with oil from the burst Fuel tanks; I heard L/S Stewart calling out that he had a Carley Float, the Signalman, Telegraphist and myself swan towards and hung on to it.
Coxswain Male next joined our party around the float and hearing calls appealing for assistance he promptly swan towards the callers and assisted, in turn, four men to the float. Meantime two other members of the Crew joined us making eleven in all around the float.
"Gloxinia" was seen steaming towards us and when within hailing distance she fired two single Depth Charges from the Throwers which caused two men around the float injuries.
Sometime later "Gloxinia" passed near us again and although we all "Yelled" to them and they were heard to reply, "We are coming back," no effort was made to render assistance to "Cocker" survivors.
Later "Gloxinia" and "Katie Moller" were observed heading Westward, again passing quite close to us but we called for assistance again without reply.
Two other survivors joined us around the float before daylight now making thirteen.
When dawn broke Engineman Brunton was seen on another raft a short distance away, and the Coxswain with the L/S. swam towards it and towed it towards the Carley float, we secured the two together and endeavoured to paddle shorewards. Lieutenant Bloor R.N.V.R. and A.B. Yeoell were observed on another raft a little closer inshore, no one else could be seen in the vicinity M.L. 1048 and an M.T.B. picked us up at 0645. Hs. And were taken to Tobrouk where the injured were medically treated and food and clothing provided for all. Total survivors from H.M.S. "Cocker" were found to be sixteen out of a compliment of thirty-one.

Coxswain Male for the fine example shewn and complete disregard of personal safety in assisting his shipmates to the safety around the Carley float. Leading Seaman Stewart in assisting the Coxswain in the above work.
All survivors of H.M.S. "Cocker" behaved in a most exemplary manner and in particular S/D J. Trubshaw, who though seriously injured was cheerful and uncomplaining, also Engineman Brunton for his unfailing cheerfulness anduntiring energy.

May I suggest in the event of an Escort Vessel being unable to rescue survivors, she should at least release Cariey Float or Raft with a calcium Flare attached.
Lieutenant R.N.V.R.

If you would like to read the original story about HMS Cocker, that was sent to me by Bertie Male, you can find it on my web site by going directly to

Sunday, September 02, 2007

HMT Dalmatia, October 20th, 1940

The Actor John Gregson better known for his starring roles in such films as 'Whisky Galore', 'Angels One Five', 'Genevieve and The Captain's Table', served during WW2 with the Royal Naval Patrol Service.
One of his first drafts was to the converted armed trawler HMT Dalmatia and below is a letter he wrote to his sister Stella in Liverpool whilst serving with the minesweeper.

The letter gives good insight into the dangers faced by the RNPS crews sweeping enemy mines. As the war progressed these mines were becomimg
more sophisticated and dangerous to render 'safe'. Added to this problem minesweepers were always under the treat of attack from e-boats or enemy aircraft while carrying out their duty.

H.MT. Dalmatia, October 20th, 1940.

Dear Arthur (his brother-in-law, Stella’s husband),

The 3/6d more than covers the damage and is guiltily but gratefully received. The stuff was meant as a gift actually but if you feel better sending me half-a-dollar as a kind of counter-gift – well, O.K. But remember 2/6 is ample for half a pound of ‘tea.’

To ease your mind, there is no censorship of my letters. Say what you like and how you like – it’s O.K. with the navy and with me. Since we now pull into Newhaven and are granted leave, it is the easiest thing in the world to post packages ashore. At Portsmouth one has to take a risk. Dozens of special police give you the once-over when you walk out the gates. They look at your gas –mask for any ‘ominous bulge’ – they’re a suspicious bunch – I can’t think why-!

I sent a parcel home last week – going out one day with a parcel of dirty washing and leaving it in cold storage in the sailors’ home, then going out the following day with a half-bottle of rum in my sock and packets of ‘tea’ stowed about my person. When the cop looked at my card and said ‘O.K. Jack!’ I felt like saying ‘That’s what you think.’ I got the parcel of washing out and, wanting to add the ‘milk’ and ‘tea’, I took the darn thing to the only place possible to do the packing in secrecy. Well, while I was sitting there with socks, cigs, rum, matches and shirts all about me, a guy pulls open the door and when he sees me his eyes nearly pop out of his head with astonishment. ‘That’s O.K.’ I said, ‘I always do my washing down here.’ He beat it.

How am I doing?’ you ask. Today – not bad at all,- it’s Sunday, I’m ashore in Pompey, I’m going to have tea soon and then see a movie (bang goes your 3/6). Tomorrow we put to sea and then starts the fun. There is a lot, Arthur, that I do not put in my letters to mother. I will not tell her of the body (not the first) we picked up yesterday – it had been in the water a long time. When a body is found we are supposed to identify it – search for papers, etc. – the seamen do the dirty work. This fellow was a German pilot – he was headless and limbless.

Nor do I tell of this new mine menace – we picked two mines up yesterday, an hour after sinking the body – they’re a new type entirely – he’s using a lot of new mines – some they call acoustic mines – the sound of propellers is enough to explode them.

When we left Newhaven on Friday night the Skipper ordered everyone on deck with lifebelts – five mines were in the harbour but we got out O.K.
Last week two trawlers were sunk on this patrol by German destroyers and another trawler is missing completely.

Gerry got to know that Eastbourne is an open(?) town – whilst laying off there each day we were subjected to about three raids a day, on one occasion being bombed by what we took to be a British seaplane because he dropped our own recognition flares. When, however, he dived and dropped a bomb by our bows, we knew we had been mistaken. I shall never forget the Junkers that let fly with a whole stick of bombs – you could see them leave the bomb rack, hear the awful screech and then see the great spouts of water that shot skywards. We are a hard target. So it’s not all beer and skittles.
Tuesday evening - at sea.
I meant to mail this last Sunday or Monday, but the Navy decided otherwise.
So here I am feeling quite weary after two days ‘sweeping’ and another two days to do ‘ere hitting harbour. Actually the sweeping is being done by the other five trawlers – we follow up and lay the dan buoys – marking the course swept – then we pick the damn things up again. Sounds easy but it’s the hardest work I’ve done since I left the good old A.T.M. Quite a change. I’m certainly not overburdened with work on this ship. It’s just a series of monotonous watches – standing and looking at the sea for hours on end or maybe holding onto the wheel for the same period. The air raids liven the proceedings somewhat and although we have seen no action for a week now, we certainly had our share of bombs during those days off Eastbourne.
It was that bloody bell. The first week back from leave when the blitzkrieg started in earnest was pure hell. Until we got used to being awakened by that alarm bell we were all a bundle of nerves. The funniest thing was when we got ashore. I was in a pub with the gunlayer – a bell rang and we both jumped up – just shows the way it gets you!
That’s too much about me – it’s not really a tough life – it’s easy, dead easy – the only thing that occasionally gets me is that there is no escape from it. When I try to imagine what five, six, ten years of this sort of routine will be like! Hell! Of course the commonsense thing is to develop an ‘artistic outlet’ – a hobby. I wish I was crazy about astronomy or fishing or knots. Too bad the only thing that held my interest was acting – not much chance of doing any of that now. I had thought of becoming a kind of recluse, living in books studying drama and dreaming of the days to come when the war is over and I’ll be all loaded up with so much knowledge that it’ll be a push-over. But it doesn’t work out that way – or does it?

When I return to harbour, Stella’s letter may be awaiting me – I hope so. She mentioned on a sheet of your own letter that she intended taking the children to Greenbank Park and it strikes me as being a good idea. It’s a good idea for everyone to get into the country these days as much as possible. The other day I took a walk from Newhaven to Lewes. I can honestly say that I forgot the war for that one day – it was grand. It took me ‘right out of myself’. So did the film I saw last week - the funniest film for a long time. Title – ‘THE GHOST BREAKERS’. The story doesn’t matter but the stars are Bob Hope and a negro called Stepin Fetchit.
Now that’s all for now – I’ll send another half pound of ‘tea’ soon. Tell me – does the potato keep it fresh? I’ll probably send the next lot in its original tin.