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
From 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 earlier
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
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 1947.
Mr G Ransome, Manchester, HMS Maori,
Sent me her movements from 1938 to
Mr Alfred G
Woonton OBE, Vice President, The
Royal Naval Association, HMS Maori
Yeoman of Signals on Maori from 1938
Sent me her career.
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
Mr Finch, Gloucester, HMS Maori
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.
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, temporarily blinded.
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 not identified
Mr Barker was invalided out in 1945, and registered blind in
1954. He never recovered from his own Charybdis experiences.
Mrs Julie Meyler, Winchester - HMS Charybdis
Fiancee was Ordnance Artificer Peter
Fisher, who was killed aged 20