My Own Searches
I was always aware of the death
of my father, stories told about him and the terrible
impact on my mother all her life, but never went further.
Post-war life had to be lived, education and jobs found,
own family established. Anyway, I thought it would be far
too painful for my mother. Then in my 40's, having taken a
new direction in life - walking out of industry to
eventually find a more satisfying life, I realised I
wanted to know more about him, and even more, discovered I
needed to mourn him in my own right. My mother had lost
her husband, but I had lost a father. I knew the broad
details of his naval career and the loss of HMS Charybdis,
but wanted to know more - what was he doing in the English
Channel off the coast of France in late 1943 at this stage
in the mightiest of human conflicts.
Up to that time, I thought I
knew a lot about World War 2 and the sea from my avid
reading as a kid, but watching the film "Battle of Midway"
realised just how little I did know. I started researching
and ended up writing a book covering all the major British
warships lost, and the military and political background
at the time, and laying it out across four geographical
areas, month-by-month. The result was "The War at Sea:
Royal & Dominion Navy Actions in World War 2"
published by Ian Allan in 1989, and from which the
Naval-History.Net website developed.
this, I learnt just how truly vast and complex was World
War 2, how many British and other ships were lost, and how
many men died on each side. My father and Charybdis were
tiny, tiny parts of the jigsaw, very important to me, but
now seen in perspective. Having found out more about the
war, I wanted to discover more about him from others who
might have shared his experiences and even known him. A
request for information in the "Over To You"
section of the January 1994 edition of "Navy News" brought
a number of gratifying replies, but I start with an
Parker, Cardiff, HMS Maori
Met him in c 1985 - served in
Maori. He was on the range finder during the Bismarck and
the Italian cruiser sinkings, and described how huge
Bismarck looked. After Maori was sunk in Malta, he dived
for the duty free cigarettes on board.
Taylor, Somerset, HMS Excellent, Whale Island
Ex-Ordnance Artificer, also
diver. In 1937, trained with my father at Whale Island. My
father was an ex-apprentice, outside entry, and a good
swimmer and diver. Remembers on one trip out from Whale
Island, my father making a spectacular dive from the 10
meter board. Heard he had also become a naval diver, and
described him as a very pleasant man, with a terrific
sense of humour.
Mr Taylor went on to serve in
China from 1938-June 1939, transfered to destroyer
Wolverine until March 1941, and later HMS Hasty. Spent
rest of the war as a salvage diver in the Med. Left RN in
G Ransome, Manchester, HMS Maori,
Sent me her
movements from 1938 to 1940.
Alfred G Woonton OBE, Vice President, The Royal Naval
Association, HMS Maori
Yeoman of Signals on Maori from
1938 until 1942.
Sent me her career.
Tommy Smith, Altrincham, Cheshire, HMS Maori
Mr Smith joined as a Boy in
1932. On Maori from 1938-42, then into Coastal Forces.
Ordnance Artificer maintaining the guns.
Maori completed in 1938, sailed
for Malta, and onto Marseilles, Cyprus etc. In Alexandria
when war broke out. Convoys through Suez, and in October
1939 sailed for Portland, arriving the day Royal Oak sunk.
At sea 99 days during Norwegian Campaign, bombed and
damaged at Namsos on 2nd May 1940. Remembers my father as
on the slim side, an Ordnance Artificer in the PO's mess.
Mr Howells, Magor, Gwent, HMS
Served on Maori in
Communications Branch from December 1938 until her sinking
in 1942. Sailed on 3/1/39 from Portland for the Med; based
at Malta for 8 months until 8/39. Working-up trials out of
Malta. In August, sailed to Instanbul, then on to
Alexandria, guardship there on 3/9/39. Later returned to
Portland for patrols in Icelandic waters, East convoys,
and Norway convoys. In May 1940, off Norway - mainly
Namsos. First attacks by Ju87's and Ju88's. Sister ship
Afridi and French Bison sunk, Maori later damaged.
Doesn't remember my father as in
different branch and not in PO's mess.
After Maori sunk in 1942, Mr
Howells spent 12 months at Malta Signal Station, then
cruiser Orion at Sicily and Salerno, Russian convoys in
Bulldog, then later to Colombo and India for invasion of
Malaya. Left RN in 1946.
Mr Finch, Gloucester, HMS
In June 1940, relieved my father
as Hostilities Only Ordnance Artificer on HMS Maori just
after Norwegian Campaign. George had recently made CPO,
and as a regular, his experience was wanted elsewhere.
Spent a month taking over. Main duty was mechanical
maintenance of main armament 4.7's. Needed cleaning,
repairing, and de-rusting all the time because of sea
damage and corrosion.
Believed Maori had just arrived
at Scapa Flow from Liverpool. Went out on a couple of
trips, including to help rescue a damaged sub. Mr Finch
went on to serve in Maori until she was sunk in Malta.
Described my father as tough and
strong, full of energy, and forthright, got his point
over. Recounted story of 400lb depth charge breaking lose,
and my father taking charge of the lashing down.
Barker, Derbyshire - HMS Charybdis
Born 1922, served in Charybdis
from Nov 1941-Oct 1943, just before she was sunk. He had
suffered eye damage from flashback in the Med, and was in
Stonehouse Hospital at the time of the sinking,
Charybdis had an original
complement of 6 (later expanded) ordnance staff - one each
for A, B, X and Y turrets, secondary armament, and a
warrant officer on the bridge. My father was responsible
for A turret, including the ammo hoists and Mr Barker for
Y turret. A and B were manned by RN, X and Y by RM's.
Charybdis had one of the best radars, with 15 minutes
warning of aircraft attack, hence the bat in her crest.
All the 4.5's were controlled by main director.
CPO's were Ordnance Artificers 3
(OA3), PO's were OA4, and Leading Seamen were OA5.
Originally CPO's and PO's were in own messes, but because
of resentment at young Hostility Only OA4's, they all
later messed in a separate Artisans mess. Knew my father
as an older, knowledgeable man. OA's action station was
with their turret, ready to sort out any problems, and
carry out repairs eg hydraulic power, ammo hoists etc.
Chances are my father was on
deck during her last action, and got over the side. Sadly,
few men survived the night - eg one carley float started
with 60 men holding on, and ended the night with six
because of the heavy swell and cold English Channel in
October. Dad may have been washed ashore - many were - but
Mr Barker was invalided out in
1945, and registered blind in 1954. He never recovered
from his own Charybdis experiences.
Julie Meyler, Winchester - HMS Charybdis
Fiancee was Ordnance Artificer
Peter Fisher, who was killed aged 20