Created: 3 March 2007 Updated: 5 April 2007
|In Memory of Norman Hine, Billy Webb & John Daglish, Peter Wilkie and all of those "spitfire's" of the sea|
In 2007 I received an email regarding my MGB page on this site from Wally Saunders, who served aboard MTB 694. I invited him to give me some recollections of his life on board, this is Wally Saunders story - in his own words. I have changed some of the spellings but not the text.
A FEW MEMORIES OF MY TIME ON MTB 694
53rd ‘DOGBOAT’ FLOTILLA
By Wally Saunders
They say you start at the beginning if you are going to tell a story so that is where I will start, it will give the reader an insight of the average London kid and almost certainly of any kid from a big industrial city in the UK at that time. I was born in Kings Cross about 100 yards away from the railway station on the 30th of July 1925 in a building that was condemned years before I was born I was the last of four kids. There were no water taps bath or toilet or kitchen just two rooms and a fire place for cooking. For water and toilet you went to a communal tap and toilet. So this was my start and that was considered normal in London 81 years ago. My Dad served in the Royal Navy, 12 years in the colours and ten on reserve, he was a stoker in the days of coal burning ships and had a very hard life, and I can remember him in his uniform. He also served again in the Merchant Navy in the Second World War; only this time as a Second Engineer he was very proud of his passing the exams, he was a very patriotic man like most misc in those days.
He lost three ships in the second war, I used to tease him, “I wouldn’t lend you my ship Dad” He was tough, sometimes too tough.
My eldest brother joined the army, and my second brother joined the navy, as a stoker and served on landing craft he landed on the beaches on D Day, I joined the navy on the 14th of January 1943. I was not allowed to volunteer until I was 17 and a half I had tried three times before and each time they said come back when you are old enough, I was eventually taken on March 23rd 1943 So I presented myself at HMS Collinwood a training establishment just outside Portsmouth for 12 weeks training in seamanship it seemed like 12 months and I hated it. I think our instructors all Chief Gunners must have sailed before the mast. Christ they were tough men, but they knew their job now 64 years later I remember things that I learnt there and that training was to stand me in good stead many times in the future when at sea in my own 47 foot motor sailer.
So I finished my initial training and volunteered for a torpedo course, another 12 weeks.
This time up to Fort William, the navy took over St Christopher Boys College. I passed that ok and not one to keep my mouth shut I volunteered for Light Coastal Forces, a small force of men I think 22,000 in all, Like the submarine service Light Coastal Forces was a volunteer service, if you were in it, you volunteered. I have no excuse at all I had some idea of what MTBs and MGBs were all about, I worked for Fairmile Marine who built MTBs I worked at Weybridge where all the boats that were shot up went to ( or the remains of them ) to salvage what we could from them. I remember a few things from there, like stripping down fuel tanks of rubber coating about one and a half inches thick (I think now) the tanks were full of holes. The rubber coating around the tanks worked ok, as I was again to find out first hand, I felt rather comfortable sailing in MTBs as far as this was concerned, as my position most of the time was on top of the petrol tanks or right along side them at my torpedo tube. Something that has stuck in my mind was a notice up on the notice board was a tea cup full of petrol ( octane 98 I think now) and an equal sign showing 5 pounds of TNT and along side that was a “no smoking abaft the bridge” sign. D- Boats carried 7000 gallons of petrol, and I know that when they explode there is really nothing left,
I did my operational training for MTBs at Fort William on ML 131 my first ship we dropped depth charges alongside Ben Nevis I wonder the mountain did not fall down.
And about half way up Ben Nevis could be seen the white bows of a Fairmile B class ML that had blown up. I think it was ML 133 in the same flotilla as my boat ML 131 she caught fire and blew up. That is all I know about it; it happened a few months before I got there. I looked for it again 43 years later but I couldn’t see it. There was more fuel tank explosions to come in the next couple of years.
So I finished my non-substantive training and into Portsmouth HMS Hornet Coastal Forces base and within two weeks I was on my way to my first fighting boat. I was sent to Lowerstoft to join MTB 444 a short boat ( 54 foot) I was so thrilled I was on my way to war I, like every one just wanted to “get at em” and here I was about to join my first boat that could bring this wish about, I had all my gear kit bag, hammock, steaming bag, and everything I owned on my back or hanging off of me, where in the past couple of weeks I had been humping my heavy load about, now it weighed nothing I was on my way to war.
I saw her “all the fours” laying along side the jetty looking so deadly, so smooth beautiful lines on her, my ship I said to myself, as I asked the QM for permission to board.
I stepped aboard. There was another guy there just like me with all his gear just joining the boat, His face was familiar, at this moment the first Lieutenant appeared and said in his best authoritative voice who are you two? We announced ourselves and then the penny dropped I knew where I had seen that face before at the bloody torpedo school they had sent two of us, by mistake, the subby ( sub Lieutenant) was very quick to make a fair decision .who stepped aboard first, I didn’t say anything the other guy grunted, he looked at me and said “what is your name?” I said Saunders sir, well Saunders you go back to the drafting office and tell them we only carry one Torpedoman. So I left my first fighting ship with a very heavy heart I was just 18 I missed my mum very much and now I had lost my first boat, I think I had a tear in my eye as I walked back humping my heavy gear.
But the next day I got another drafting chit this time to a dog boat MTB 694 Lieutenant Com. John Colville RNVR the flotilla leader. Again I got my gear and was dropped off at the gate to the docks for the second time, not so far to walk this time and 694 was the first boat, I looked at her, God she was like a battleship compared to the short, I recall how I was so fascinated how can anything stand up against us she just bristled with guns she had a two pound Pom-Pom forward ( later changed to an automatic 6 pounder plus Rockets ) on the foc’sle, Twin Vickers 0.5s in Vickers electric turrets either side of the bridge Twin Oerlikon amidships (20 mm cannon) and a six pounder Breech loading Hotchkiss on the quarter deck (57 mm) Two 18inch torpedo tubes, two depth charges , and smoke making gear, and what I couldn’t see she also carried twin gas operated .303 Vickers, either side of the bridge. She also carried Hand grenades and pistols and a Thompson sub machine gun for boarding and landing parties. Lt Com. John Colville soon left us for promotion and Lt. Bill Foster RNVR took command with Lt Ian McMath RNVR the first Lieutenant. They were both from Scotland.
MTB 693 took over as SO flotilla leader, and we became tail arse Charlie, 693 did not have any torpedoes she was really an MGB but exactly the same boat as 694. As a seaman I had a basic knowledge of guns and indeed I fired guns much more than I fired torpedoes. I only stood by the tubes if we were going to fire them, I actually had two “action stations” the first one was always on the bridge the starboard twin Vickers were my babies I looked after them and I fired them. I would clean them faithfully and load the ammo pans the way I wanted them I would always load more tracer, about one in four to armour piecing rounds this way I got the fall of the shot a lot better. I practiced with stoppages and pulled the guns to pieces a hundred times so it became second nature if a gun stopped ( I never did have a stoppage) I was often told to cease fire as the skipper said he could not see the target for bloody tracer
I could see the target, and that is what I wanted, this would happen many times but after a few minutes I would be at it again empty pans I would throw anywhere as long as I did not fall over them. And at 900 rounds per minute I gave it to 'em when ever I could, this is what I joined for. For three years I had their bombing of my hometown an incendiary bomb actually fell on my bed I hated 'em they frightened my mum, and now she was all alone at nights as my sister worked night shifts in a munitions factory. I saw more bloodshed and death in that time than most men in the army or navy, I wanted it all to stop.
I would write to my mum and tell her that we would soon win that we were knocking hell out of em. She would write back and always tell me the same, “be careful wont you love” This story is not about great actions we all had a share of those I was inspired to write these words by the sons and nephews who wrote to this web site whose dads and uncles were on MTBs and MGBs it is about who they were before they went in and what they did every day, the bad weather , the engine failures, the disappointments, the monotony of a patrols when nothing happened, sitting down below for hours rolling your guts out on the Hydrophones when stopped on position, getting wet through and the cold , and often hunger at about 3 or 4 in the morning, and of course the biggest demon of all that affected many, sea sickness you don’t talk of sea sickness how can you be a sailor and be sea sick? It is not easy to go to sea especially on MTBs in the Channel or North Sea. I was sea sick for nine months but I always did my job, once while proceeding to a location a three hour trip we were given 2 on and 2 off for the trip my watch was fortunate enough to get the first two hours off I was as sick as a dog and I went to “guns” and ask him if I could lay in his protected surround on the coach deck he had the twin 20 mm Oerlikons it was the only place I could lay without being washed overboard he agreed and I fell asleep at once being completely worn out, only to be shocked into reality with his two cannons going flat out and the empty cases falling on me and the smell of cordite and then star shell bursting overhead, I think that was one of the times I thought it was the end and just for good luck “guns” was walking on top of me great sea boots on the head and other more vital parts, we had come upon something that was fast for it was soon gone, this happened a lot of times, probably E-Boats they did not like to mix it with us unless they had the numbers and they nearly always went in packs of 9 and we were never more than three boats a flotilla is 8 boats in the RN but I have never been out with 8 boats , our patrols only ever went in threes, often two as one would return with engine troubles.
We would attack 9 E boats without thinking about it twice, and some times we would be well out numbered…. at times I thought our SO ( senior officer) was mad, a couple of times I have said to myself no I wouldn’t do that if I was in command I wouldn’t do that, it is bloody madness.
But the Royal Navy KNOWS who to put in command , and I have to say not withstanding the words I have just said that I would go any where they led me with full confidence, The navy knows how to pick their leaders, that is why our history is so glorious “He who Dares”.
In the lead up to D Day our work grew to almost nightly patrols where we would normally only go out three or four times each week. We would run into something almost every night sometimes we would have three or four sorties (contact with the enemy) a night, mostly our engagements were short, E-Boats were not out to fight MTB or MGBs they wanted bigger fish than us ,and whats more we used to give em ( read the TIGER exercise) a hiding, it was very hard going and one can now see the wisdom of the navy in making an age limit for our boats to 35 years and that was senior officers. We had a guy on board we used to call Pop, Pop Rowan was 30 George Smith was another old bugger, he was 28 so it was a young mans navy mostly teenagers Unbelievable when you see some of our kids today but if called upon they would serve like we did and do just as well. Perhaps I should enlighten my readers if this sounds different to your Dads stories maybe it is , but then we know that your Kin was not on Dog Boats for we lived full time on our boats where the ‘shorts’ went to shore base for accommodation and food, we did all our own catering and cooking just like a big ship We did not bake bread , We got our supplies from pussers naval store and NAAFI we were allowed ten pence per day to feed the men if we spent more than that we were supposed to pay, we never had to pay them. I know I complained about the food we ate and guess who they gave the job of cook to?? yes me I did not do so well it seems for the first few days there was complaints so I said I can only cook what you give me ..so they changed the caterer .guess who was appointed caterer?? But I enjoyed that job especially later when we operated out of Ostend and Flushing I was the only one allowed ashore into town for the first few months. I did all right but I will not go on with that one.
Another thing I complained about was the Mail……yes I was the postman too….
It got to be that a normal day for us was Breakfast at 7:30 fall in on the foc’les the front of the boat, for about two minutes fall out and clean ship or work ship, gunners would check their guns ( I still had to do this and prepare lunch) I did not clean ship but I had to look after my guns and the torpedoes and depth charges the latter did not need very much maintenance I would go ashore every day for fresh bread and veggies and meat
We did not have a refrigerator when in Lowerstoft this was not a big job only about 500 yards away. So my day was fairly full and then we would “pipe down" at two in the afternoon and at five we would prepare for sea. We would leave about six and have two hours off and two hours on watch working two watches. ..this was kept strictly to Port watch and starboard watch as you can see the last watch to rest might not get two hours if we run into something .action stations go and that is it for the night being fast boats we are only three or four hours away from the enemy coast. Then we would be there on action stations for the rest of the night cold and miserable we would dress well.
Although a lot of guys would not wear the heavy seaboots and wet weather gear, we had long underwear, seaboots, stockings, a singlet and our navy blue jumper and a white frock which was knitted by some kind soul. It is not a frock of course as we know it but a white jersey like the submariners wear very heavy pure wool, and over this we wore issue wet weather gear which was called a “goon” suit it was a one piece kapok filled suit like a boiler suit or flying suit…they were very warm and helped to keep you afloat if you went over. You would wear a balaclava and a sou wester hat over the top, and a big long scarf from “comforts”now all this kind of slowed you down a little and for me when I was at my tubes waiting for a shot with the fish I had a bullet proof vest that weighed a ton , I reckon it would stop a shell…. but I was the only person on board that was fully exposed on deck, and I wore it most times although funny thing when we got into a stouse we all took our gear off bit by bit. with me the first thing was the bullet proof vest I couldn't move fast enough with it on. And if it was not to be a torpedo attack and they were short of someone on the old girl ie the after Hotchkiss 6 pounder I would go aft, the guns crew had an arrangement of their own when it looked like it was going to last for a while the arrangement was that the gun would be continually pointing at the target The guns captain and his number 2 would keep the gun on target at all times and forget about anything else I became the layer I would load the gun and fire it by rip cord and we were to keep doing this as fast as we could , I had three able seamen trained men without substantive rating they would be running the ammo from below one would pass it up and pass it to the next guy who would pass it to me I recall one night it was really on it was just after D Day and Jerry was getting out of Cherbourg the “shark boats “from Felixstowe ( I think now ) were out,' Hitch’ (Lt. Robert Hitchens RNVR) and someone else We were told to stop the evacuation of Cherbourg.
We went in, a fairly dark night just our three boats, the other boats were approaching from a different direction, it was quite calm the weather was good we were going on silent engines ( one muffled engine) I felt that it was on tonight and we were not to wait too long for that…. the first thing we knew was that star shell exploded directly over us we got to know what to expect next, shore batteries with very big guns that frighten us , and of course it happened we immediately went to full speed blue lights were flashing between the boats giving orders WT (radio) silence of course was always imperative in these actions.
We headed straight to where the enemy was a convoy of ships leaving Cherbourg with a escort of M Class mine sweepers as soon as we got near the convoy of course the shelling stopped we fired star shell which showed a convoy of ships, I saw about 10, there would certainly have been more. The M Class mine sweepers started immediately with their 88mm, I think it is fair to say none of us liked the M Class sweepers we almost dreaded them, they had some good gunners, but then the Jerry seemed to be good at gunnery…. they seemed to do a bit better than us a lot of times. We went straight into a torpedo attack and as soon as the fish have gone we then become a Gunboat I went aft to the six pounder we had about ten boxes of ready use ammo around the gun six rounds in each box, and it was only a few moments before the order to fire was given, well it all happened at once we just kept going and going we could see our shots telling and creating fires oh if only we had bigger guns we were not really meant to sink big ships with our guns but we did, during a lull in the firing the Jimmy came aft to see how we were for ammo and we discovered that we were almost completely out of six pounder shells all the shells from down below had been brought up. he gave instructions that we retain ten shells in case we needed to defend ourselves on the way home. It was a fantastic time for us personally We do not know just what damage we do, we do not go in and have a look usually aircraft will tell you in the daylight hours what has happened, It seemed that between the Felixstowe boats and us 7 ships were sunk or burning on the surface. It was claimed a big success in the news papers I had the report for some years but they have gone now. We did not need the shells we saved, we brought them home.
I could add a footnote to that story it is customary to call out “fire “ when you fire the six pounder to give misc warning and since it was me who fired by cord I called out each time as a result I had no voice for days it seemed the cordite had not done my vocal chords much good. The German shore batteries were pretty accurate and a rumour said that they were operated by women, I won't go into it here but we used to plan what we would do with them when we caught them.
Another time just before D-Day we were operating out of Portsmouth and just off the French coast, the weather was atrocious what the hell could we do in weather like this.
Of the three of us two boats had to return with engine trouble so we thought good show we get to go home but someone had other ideas we were told to join up with HMS Retallick K555, a new frigate just out from the states so we found our frigate and fell in astern of her it was all we could do to keep station with her, When all of a sudden we got a WT message from the Frigate that E boats were in the area and with that the frigate applies full speed and turns away from us we at that moment are attacked by what appeared to be a strong force we did not like this at all I don’t know why we got separated from the frigate maybe I can now see that it may have been sea conditions.
You cannot turn a very fast boat into a head sea without expecting something rather tragic to happen and I have stated that the seas were very heavy our boat just should not have been there….. there were E-Boats lots of 'em using the bad weather to escape so they were desperate men we were looking at and we are alone we reduced speed I would now estimate our speed at about 10 knots, when again another event is about to be played out, I was on the bridge at this time and could hear what came over the radio so I was pretty well filled in as to what was happening. Above the noise of the weather a number of voices reported a ship dead astern of us all heads turned and I know my heart stopped a German Destroyer is about to run us down guns firing…. the only gun that could fire at 180 degrees was the six pounder and it didn’t fire. The “ Jimmy” told me to prepare to depth charge the Ship. I had best explain that you can sink surface ships with depth charges, if you have special drums attached to them to stop them sinking at a fast rate. The idea is that you put yourself in front of the enemy and drop your charges and hope that the ship would be over the top of them when they exploded. We had such devices on our two depth charges I rushed as fast as I could and on hands and knees I set the lowest depth setting and held onto the key on both charges, of course the skipper had given full speed ahead but the distance did not change very much We are not having a good time I am aware of the boat being hit and I am scared I waited for the order to let the charges go and if it came I would not hear it, impossible to hear it over the engine noise and the guns, so what do I do? (the charges could be released from the bridge also, I was a back up if the release failed ) the rotten thing it’s bows as big as a house I could almost touch it, was almost on top of us. It was plunging up and down like some wild thing intent on eating us. If I let them go now I couldn’t miss I could hear the thuds as we were being hit and I am on the open deck I was thinking I had to make up my mind to let them go when the ship turned away from us and we reduced speed. I crawled back to the bridge to discover the ship was “all the fives” our Frigate HMS Retallick K 555 who thought we were an E-Boat. (I received am email from Kevin Collis, whose father was on HMS Retallick at this time. He tells me that 694 failed to use the "safe lanes" and their IFF was not operating. They also failed to respond to the challenge of the day. HMS Retallick thought 694 was an E boat - mk - Wally's reply below).
It was the first time their 3inch for’ard gun had a stoppage and they could not clear it in time. (fix it) Someone was really looking after us. I always said a silent Thank you Lord.
The Retallick sent us a Christmas card and added in hand writing that the gunners send their regards that we would almost certainly have been blown up had their 3inch gun worked, I smiled when I saw the card. There could have been two big bangs that night. Their mistake cost us a man a young guy who did not see a thing of what was going on, our sparks, a cannon shell hit the back rail of his chair. When he went I was back to being the youngest on board again.
It might be an idea if I told you that all our guns had safety rails around them to prevent us from blowing our mates head off in the heat of battle. The rail would either elevate your barrels to miss someone in the way, or somehow prevent you from shooting into the boat. Imagine if the after 6 Pounder could fire directly ahead, it would blow the bridge away
These memories of my time on MTBs is not in any chronological order they are things that just come to mind as I write. We operated out of Ostend after the occupation we would go out on patrol spend the night at sea and return to Flushing in Holland and then out that night and return to Ostend. A lot of boats operated out of Ostend we had good facilities there in Flushing we had nothing. We would operate with the Canadian Flotilla. . The Canadians or one of them always complained of water in his tanks, we knew this, he would say it in clear language over the radio, for his tanks to be changed would be a big job and take the boat out of service for a month maybe, the poor fellow every time he got a “jig” ( radar image ) and went to see what it was he would have an engine or two misfire and not only was he useless as a fighting unit it was very dangerous for the crew who deserved more consideration than they were getting.
We would see them return unhappy men and tie up in the next berth.
We were happy we were to return to England from our next patrol and go on leave none of us had been home for about six months. So it was really good all went well a quite night and back to Blighty in the morning, and as soon as we took the boat up the broads and left her in charge of the slipping party we were gone. I remember clearly Grapes were plentiful in Belgium, but about 30 shillings a bunch in the UK, and my mum loved grapes so I had several bunches of grapes in my bags suitably protected, Only two hours and I am home big hugs from mum a few tears from both of us. And a knock on the door and the dreaded policeman was outside, our hearts stopped again I went to the door telling mum to stay where she was, He said Able seaman Walter Saunders I said yes I have some bad news for you …..who is it my dad or one of my brothers….I don’t remember what I said…. he said Wally you have an immediate recall to your ship I know you have just got home but you have to return it is urgent.. ….I was just stupid for a moment I said thank you very much yes I shall return I was so happy it was not what my mum and I thought it was. I said to mum I will go back and if it is for nothing I swear I will desert, I was back in four hours from getting home I saw my Jimmy (all first Lieutenants are called Jimmy) I said I just got my feet under the table and the copper called. He said you were lucky they pulled me off the train, he lived in Edinburgh. the skipper also, they were together on the train to Scotland. Our beloved 694 was back in her home berth brought down the river by the base crew. We were back in Ostend the next morning. And tragedy waited us. To my knowledge this story has never been told officially, I cannot vouch for the exact truth but I believe what I am going to tell you.
The CO of the Canadian flotilla got sick of being refused to have new tanks and pumped his tanks out in harbour and some one lit a smoke….obviously not knowing about the tanks being emptied…. every man who goes to sea in a MTB would not dare to smoke if he knew …. 12 boats went in a couple of minutes and 90 men dead.
What a terrible waste of life. Among the boats to be lost with all hands was “all the fours” MTB 444 which was to be my first boat. I felt awful. I wanted it to stop. They were in the very berth that we had left only a few hours before. This tragedy was not to leave us for as long as we stayed in Ostend, for every time we started engines we would bring up a bloated body or two, I think if I live to be a thousand I will never forget our Jimmy calling the tower on the PA system…. tower tower tower we have a….. Charlie-Oscar-Roger-Peter-Sugar-Easy alongside would you please attend to it. A working party would bring down a Robertson stretcher, lower it under the corpse and lift it to the jetty and take it away. It got that way that we did not want to look over the side any more and when we left harbour we tended not to look, it was a very sad affair so close to the end of the war in Europe. The biggest loss of life and boats by our own hands. Such is life.
I will not talk about D-Day so much has been written about that, it was as bad as you have read and it must have been terrible on the beaches, For us it was a very busy time we were out almost every night ,and we were all so tired we had not had any leave for months, the boat needed a good overhaul we had patches all over it which we were proud of at first but soon got sick of the look, we all preferred a “tidderly “ boat. Our day was made up of returning from sea to refuel and re ammo ship which could take 3 or 4 hours depending how many were if front of you, during this time we had no electricity, so we didn’t get a cup of tea and sandwiches were the order of the day………real good after a rough night at sea…. I did make tea if I was allowed below just before we entered harbour but that was not always. then we would go to our berth and clean ship and eat get our head down until about 5 pm and then prepare for sea, for me I had to go to the stores and get food and the mail and I had to get something hot for the guys to have before we went out, I had to do just the same as the other guys for sure I didn’t clean ship when I was getting food and mail and cooking.
But I did not get very much consideration for being cook, and the ward room used to think they were at some hotel ordering this and that when they felt like it. The galley was right next door to the wardroom and they had a hatch they would slide open and give their orders, some times when one of the guys would come in for some hot water I would say in a loud voice that “room service is off for the night’ I know they heard me.
Some times we would go out and walk straight into one or two sinking ships, their convoy had been attacked by U-Boats… tankers on fire were always a spectacular sight at night. I remember one in particular the oil was very thick on the surface and the whole sea glowed in its reflection it was almost an eerie feeling we got in as close as we dare we could see men on deck some were in the water some on a carly float. We put the scrambling nets over the side and a couple of us went down them one arm hooked in the net like a vice and with the other helped them up the net, these men were all in shock you could tell by their faces, and of course some were injured, we helped them as much as we could and that was very little we had morphine and hot tea, hot water to wash their face, one I can see now as I write jumped from about maybe 20 feet up off some structure.
and he landed a leg each side of the guard rail, I wasn’t the only one looking as there was a gasp from our men as he hit…I pulled that guy in by his hair, strength comes to you when you need it, I remember putting my hands on another guys hips and handing him up a hatch way as if he was a baby, and I was a skinny kid about 8 stone 7 pounds, Some of the poor buggers died before we could get them home, it was all so sad. I wanted it to stop. Some times we did a bit of cloak and dagger stuff and we would carry a war correspondent who would write about the night. We did not like taking passengers no boat did …..it was unlucky… sailors are very superstitious and you know.. someone almost always got hurt, it might have been that the skipper wanted to make a good impression for the press and took a chance that he might not have otherwise done. But we did not like it.
Another time we were out and got a report of some activity about 50 miles away and was directed to join with all speed. Fast runs are good we all like them and when the conditions are right it is pure enjoyment, this was one of those days, we were cracking on at about 32 knots we forgot the war and started to enjoy the ride. Sure enough we could see smoke ahead of us it looked like a convoy. but whose convoy theirs or ours.??? Unfortunately it turned out to be ours again we picked up survivors… heaps of men we passed to larger ships. It is worth mentioning that our POMM writes a report each time we return to harbour for the Engineer Officer and presents this to the office on how the engines performed now we cruise at 1800 rpm and top speed is 2400 rpm and if you are getting out of something that is not good for your health 2800rpm is not uncommon.
The Engineering Officer was not amused to read our report it stated that the starboard outer was ‘lagging’ at 3250rpm. I cannot swear that this is absolutely true but if you knew our motor mechanic you would believe it.
There were many others including the landing at Walcherren Island Holland in November. That was reported as being the most ferocious fighting of all the landings, it was only small compared to D-Day but the report of the day said 5 out of every 6 ships were sunk. And more ‘stuff ups’ and we were told that there would be no single engine aircraft in the landing…. It was the invasion of Holland really….so any single engine aircraft could be assumed enemy aircraft, about the first aircraft to come in pretty low over the top of us were Spitfires and Hurricanes…and all the hours we spent at aircraft reconnaissance saved some mothers and young wives heart ache , for we at once recognized them as any Brit. Would. Some of our biggest battles were off the Hook of Holland and Ymuiden Harbour. I think during this period we were all very tired we had been at sea a lot, and we got no proper rest, nerves were at the limit, officers were edgy if you didn’t look at them the right way you got a rocket. And we were in no mood for rockets it did not make for a happy ship. Someone else must have noticed this for without any warning we slipped one day for Weymouth Bay and dropped anchor, we were on a weeks rest. We got our good gear out and dressed up and headed for the nearest pub, and I for one was introduced to Weymouths ‘scrumpy’ We all got awfully drunk, scrumpy had a kick like a mule and we were a sorry looking lot who got into our dinghy to return to the anchorage.
So the end came in Europe and we disbanded, we were sent on leave and had to return to RNB Portsmouth it was the finish of Coastal Forces for us we were back in General Service, we didn’t really get time to say goodbye to each other, I saw one of them before I went out to Australia I joined HMS BERWICK a County class cruiser as a crew member but I was really only on her for passage, I disembarked at Sydney and within a week I joined HMS KING GEORGE V a battle ship 2997 complement 600 torpedo men and no torpedoes….it was our job to do many things, all the electrics, telephones, rewind electric motors, mines, depth charges, demolition, and many other things. The ship would not run without torpedo men. The war ended in Europe, I was so happy. As I joined the ships so they were being sent home and I was taken off and put aboard another I had three Aircraft Carriers including HMS Vengeance, I had four months on her before she went home and I got a Woolworth carrier HMS Ruler I was pleased to be sent to the shore base HMS LANKA in Ceylon ( Sri Lanka) I enjoyed it there I had a servant to do the dishes and to make my bed and to clean my room, I often wondered why I volunteered for MTBs when this was going on, AND I learnt to swim in the beautiful tropical waters, previously I had always reported sick when swimming tests were going on. At Weymouth Bay it was all hands to swim….and I didn’t do it… the Jimmy said Saunders why aren't you over the side , I replied I cant swim sir he said well over the side.
I said I will die if I get in there, he said I am ordering you to test your life belt, and he left …...it was time for me to do some cooking anyway…..And now in Ceylon I am really enjoying myself I spent about 6 hours a day in the water, I eventually was sent home and demobbed. I had my 21st birthday at home, the last one was my 17th I found a girl and married and in 1951 I left for Australia. I had a lot of ambitions I had five kids. I always said that I would retire at 40 buy a Rolls Royce and then become a millionaire. Well I didn’t retire at 40 but I never worked for any one after I was 40, and I got my Rolls and I have had a few good seaboats, the sea was in my blood, I might have been a millionaire.
Wally is still sailing on the waves. Here is his boat.
June 1944 - D Day Roles of The MTB's etc
British MTB flotillas 14, 35, 53 and 64 were given pre-D-Day training by Lt. M.G. Duff, RNVR, who organized the entire training program for British Coastal Forces craft in Portsmouth. The British MLs were trained in Portland. At this stage in the planning, MTBs and MLs were allocated as follows - the British 51st MTB flotilla to Newhaven, the 29th (anti-W-boat & E-boat) to N.C.E.T.F., the 53rd and 35th to work on the western flank, the 63rd, 1st SGB and U.S. MTB RONS 30, 34, and 35 to work from Portland under N.C.W.T.F. and the British 13th, 14th and 64th to work on the westwall when not required for mine laying.
Recognition and Identification During This Period
http://members.cox.net/klcother/ptops03.htm - Obviously an American site as these boats were not "PT" Boats as defined in the original site!
April 2007: From Wally, in reply to statement about the friendly fire of HMS Retallick.
I cannot say now if a challenge was ever made by Retallick, or if it was, if we replied. I can say that we had our fighting lights on and that IFF was not turned on because the enemy had the reply to our IFF (indication friend or foe); as for "lanes" I have never ever heard of such a phrase, in peace time there are such things as "traffic lanes" in very busy (or sometimes dangerous areas) where shipping is required to keep to a certain area. The fighting lights were there just for that reason every allied ship carried them and the moment someone shot at you on they went.
The captain turned them on himself, and they were very bright two on each side of the mast, and to avoid any confusion with navigation lights, the two lights were on the opposite side of the mast to navigating lights. The very second a shot is fired in anger those lights go on.
Of course navigation lights were never turned on in war time in enemy waters. Mike the comments do not worry me, but if the relatives of the young guy we lost ever read the story they may feel grieved to think his captain might have been able to prevent this friendly fire had he done his job.
April 5th 2007: Wally, having problems getting emails through to you. I have answered all, but they are getting kicked back.
10th July 2014. Still no word from Wally. I fear the worst.