Do they still make Officers like this.

In this day and age of Health and Safety and Risk Assessment let us hope the RN Officers of today are made of the same steely eyed character

This is an extract from “Lost Voices of the Royal Navy “ By Max Arthur and was given by Lt Cmd. Roger Hill RN the Captain of HMS Ledbury a Hunt Class Destroyer. The ship was a close escort for the convoy to re-supply Malta in Operation Pedestal. Ledbury had spent most of her time escorting convoys to Russia including the of ill fated PQ17.

It is 7.30 am on 13th August 1942 SS Waimarama had just been bombed and exploded in a fire ball. SS Melbourne Star 600 yards astern had no option but to steam into the flames. Many of her crew abandoned ship thinking she had been hit because of the intensity of the flames.

------- Quote ---------------

The Admiral made to me, “Survivors, but don’t go into the flamesâ€. Now you’ve got to realise that I had been on PQ17, a convoy to Russia which had been ordered by the Admiralty to scatter because they thought the Tirpitz was about to attack. I was close escort of that convoy but the Admiral signalled to us and told us to take up station to protect him against submarines. We queried this and flashed at him, â€Could we go back to the convoy?†but he said, “No, take up your stationâ€. So we left the merchant ships at high speed and it was simply terrible. Something I have never ever got over in my life, not even now, That the Navy should leave the merchant navy. The merchant ships were nearly all sunk. And it was the Arctic and if a man was twenty seconds in the water he was dead.

My crew had felt just as badly about this as I did. So when we were going with this convoy to Malta I said, “As long as there’s a merchant ship afloat we’ll stay alongside it and to hell with any signal we get from anybody.†And I got all sorts of signals telling me to go back to Gibraltar and to do all sorts of things, but I just threw them over the side. I was determined to stay with these merchant ships. When the Waimarama blew up and I went into these flames I felt I was redeeming myself for the disgrace of leaving the ships on the Russian convoy.

So we went towards the flames, I did not think anyone could have survived but as we approached there were heads bobbing about in the water, black with oil. I put down a whaler and she stayed outside the flames and picked up all the people she could find. I spoke to those we passed through a loudhailer, saying, “I must get the ones near the fire first†they shouted back, “That’s all rightâ€

I took the ship into the flames,. The fire was spreading outwards over the sea, even to windward, and it was a grim race to pick up the men in the water before the flames reached them. When we got into the flames you couldn’t see very much in all the fire and smoke and the heat was tremendous. Even on the bridge I had my hand over my beard because I thought it would catch on fire, I wondered how long my ship could stay there without blowing up. There was the odd survivor in the water and my sailors put a strap round their waists and jumped over the side and pulled these chaps into the landing nets. Terribly burnt, some of them. They were rushed along to the sickbay where the doctor looked after them.

-------End of quote-----------

After a further circuit of the flames where another man was picked up they returned to the whaler having picked up between them 49 survivors from the Waimarama and Melbourne Star.


An outstanding book. Difficult reading at times I'll admit, with the rather stoic approach at many points.

What I found most difficult was the mention in several of the memoirs of an incident in which my great uncle won a DSM.

What was interesting was the diversity of experience of some who appeared at several points in the timeline, including Hill.

Thoroughly recommended
I hope they do Nutty!

And did anyone read this week that the majority of teachers do not think that patriotism should be taught, almost as if we have nothing to be proud of in this country. With men like that in our History we have plenty to be proud of.

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