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Naval Incidents That Never Made the News

Tony Farr

Tony Farr speaking to the Salt Spring Historical Society on naval incidents that never made the news.
His experiences in the Royal Navy 1942 - 1946.

Accession Number Interviewer Salt Spring Historical Society Address
Date November 11, 1997 Location
Media cassette tape Audio CD mp3 √
ID 135 Duration




Unknown Speaker 0:03
Now, I joined the Navy in January 1942. Two months before I would have been conscripted. I didn't like the idea of going into the army at that time, and the Air Force was in a rather dangerous situation to be in. So I decided to go into the Navy and I enlisted under the Y scheme, a plan in which public school boys started at the bottom of the ladder, but their commanding officers were supposed to monitor their progress. With a view to officer training. I was interviewed by a roomful of admirals in London. I think it was six of them, who wanted to know about previous naval service of one's father or grandfather. I felt they were looking for men who had served under Nelson. But they approved of my father who had been an ordinary seaman in HMS row and deliberately. Though any relationship between one's parents and one's own potential, as an officer was hard to find. I reported to HMS Collingwood, a big training camp near Portsmouth on the 10th of March 1942. I was in class nine J, which was the 10th class since the camp had opened. Each class lasting 10 weeks. There were Yorkshire farmers fishermen from the Hebrides cockiness from London, kind of few who had an acquaintance with police work from the receiving end 30 at all. There were three divisions, nurses important named folks or four top and main top. And now these are masts and rigging of ships like HMS Ganges, the square big sailing ship. Each division had 300 men in it and there was also the gunnery division for the last three weeks of each course, and new people joined the camp every few weeks. The instructors were the best in the Navy officers and petty officers who had served in the South Atlantic chasing the Graf spay in Russian convoys and that Dunkirk the cap was half a mile square made up of hearts built around a parade where I'm 100 by 200 yards, that's a pretty big playground. Not painted in camouflage colors until May May of May the 22nd. They painted it way over then 1000s of men have gone through it then there'd be no error rates. Not directly on the cap. It was a very conspicuous square of blacktop. So the painted different colors of by May the 22nd when I was just leaving. Collingwood was surrounded by a chain link fence with barbed wire on the top leaning inwards. The intent was to keep the intent was to keep the sailors in while the key enemy agents

Unknown Speaker 3:13
know to reinforce this idea the whole cap was paraded at 715 one morning to hear a deserter from an earlier class sentenced. He got 90 days. So not many people try to escape from the camp after that. One of the many things we learned was swinging lead. This is not as easy as it may sound, one ship made shipmates object strongly to the metaphorical term. to swing the lead in practice, one needs a strong arm and a brave heart. A seven pound lead weight on the end of a rope is swung back and forth. This is a five and a half pound weight. And you swing it back and forth to the ship going slowly over the side of the ship. And as you finally get it up, you get it right over. Only this is it's very difficult to get it right over the seven pound weight on you hold it 10 feet from the end. And we found that it was so difficult and quite dangerous because the thing would go up to the top and then come down upon who's supposed to swing it ahead where it goes into the sea. And at that point as the ship advances it's strictly straight down as a bits of material in the cord which tells you how deep it is

Unknown Speaker 4:49
if the if the weight is not going fast enough, it takes the shortest route to the deck where the swing or is standing. We found that a good swing on the lower part of the arc was enough a lot safer. Several appeals were made for volunteers for submarines in the fleet era. Nobody in my class offered but to volunteered for a radar cause one of them went ashore on his last night in our heart. When he came back his bed and pillow had been filled with stones. The handle of his locker had been shoe blacked, and his his his mug floor wax. When he came back, he was offered a bunk filled with soft soap, of all taken from the dining hall. But he ate it and no does nothing wrong with it. After the stones had been removed, he went to bed and woke up a few minutes later foaming at the mouth. He went stiff and moaned, then went unconscious for 15 minutes. He was actually having an epileptic fit. Someone found the sickbay and they said, Bring him along in the morning with two witnesses who saw what happened. Believe that, that's what it was. He was normal the next morning but have no memory of the night before. On June the second I left Collingwood for HMS Westcliff Manning depot for combined operation. Several streets were in Westcliffe were fenced off the home. Several blocks. The furniture removed from all the common den houses and bunk beds put in. I was not there very long before I was on a train load of sailors sent north to Troon in Scotland. Here we settled in HMS dinosaur and other camp of huts in the sand dunes. I found that not much of my training was an abuse sailing in the tank landing craft air to the all of our after three weeks I went to my first ship, a new tank landing craft at Rochester in Kent. We sailed up the Thames to Tilbury I have a note which says after tea we caught jellyfish and buckets over the side. Our captain or sub left Tennille Troy feeding them on potato LCT one for two that was the ship had two pounds of guns on each side of the bridge. Now they follow a shell like a large cigar and a little bit bigger than that. We sail down to share this at the entrance to the Thames and went to the local base to learn how to maintain them. We stripped down a similar goal at the base that neither we nor the instructor could get it back together and we all gave up. In August we sail on a special assignment testing every river and Creek from Boston on the East Coast round to Ramsgate on the south coast. For possible use for loading tanks. The flotilla from which we were detached went off on the deep raid, where some craft was sunk. A Breitling see. Now this is on the east coast just by heritage to see him and rode on a life raft to find worms for bait for fishing. They were stopping about in the mud at the shore. When a police boat came by and called out no landing there oysters. One night everyone went to show up at me who was left in charge. I sat down on the deck. This was in August, and must have dozed off when they came back in the dark. Because I woke up to match angry shouting. They had tied the dinghy up at the seawall went ashore to a dance. But while they were sure the tide had got out, they had to roll up their paths and drag the boat across 50 yards of black mud. They came aboard in a terrible mess. I got a week's number of lessons combined confines of the shift on our last evening at Breitling see acted out in the channel. The skipper and First Lieutenant came back very very at 11 o'clock. Number one the first left teller stripped and dive overboard for a leak swim while the skipper also stripped and began doing physical training exercises on the quarter deck. He had taken off his clothes his collar and tie it in the basis Liberty boat and the boat School found them and came back in the middle of his PT. A Boston we tied up to the dark wall. That's the furthest we went north up the east coast. But as the tide went out the ship settled on the murders an angle sliding away from the dock about 12 feet. So we found a long plank which made the satisfactory good same way. The first lieutenant came back at 4:30am. Having had several drinks. He must have tried to crawl across the plank, but slipped in the watchman hurt and calling for help, or hanging underneath open alleviated slows. Then we moved down to Gravesend to a private dock belonging to a telephone cable company. We loaded five miles of heavy hollow cable in the tech space and sail with it along the south coast round lands in to Swansea in Wales. That was a lovely trip because it was Christmas Day when We made it. And the sun was just like this, who sat on the deck like cruise passengers. There it was unloaded with cable laying ship, which later laid it across the Bristol Channel to Devon. It was the first test of Pluto pipeline under the ocean, which carried gas from England to the troops in France after the day. After that, I passed a course for leading sea when in Argyle in Scotland, and then was drafted to an LC G. Now that's the landing craft gunnery. And it's just like a tech landing path except that there's a deck across the tech space, and two guns are mounted on a tube right up to the top and 4.7 they follow a fairly hefty shell two Oh 4.7 guns were mounted on the deck manned by 35 World Marines, who lived in what was left of the hole after the gun supports and the ammunition locker has been installed. There's not much room. I joined the ship a potluck in the London docks. We sailed down the Thames to Chatham in Chatham berets, each bear was a su tropical rig. Because we were told that we were going naturally, along with shorts and white t shirts. We got countless duck trousers and jumpers, which was so stiff, we couldn't wear them who have stood up on their own. Then we loaded all the food that would keep without refrigeration at Falmouth, Cornwall, and sailed in a large convoy for defaulter. After a week at sea, we got a message to turn back. Apparently, a force of German destroy us a new boats and sail from France to interceptors. We had an escort which we never saw, but it seems the Germans did too. After day we turned south again. We were out of fresh food by the time we reached a bolter and we appreciated getting crisp white bread and veggies and meat. After two days in dip, we went on to Algiers, which was full of Allied troops of every kind and color. So they just were not friendly. As I found when returning to the ship alone one night I was within the dock yard, which was supposedly under naval control, with a half brick came flying out of the shadows and landed with my feet. Next, we moved 150 miles along the North African coast to jelly. Nobody's ever heard of jelly and nobody wants to. It's just a bit of a duck. village with a fair sized harbor. We were there some weeks getting adjusted to the heat. It was made it was 90 degrees Fahrenheit most afternoons that's liquid fist and I wanted to get a closer look at what Martello Tower. We have seen a couple of miles to the west as we came in. Now these were towers built in Napoleon's time to light fires as a signal for military action against the coast of Southern England to execute. One afternoon, we set off but the tower was further inland than we thought. We found a track leaving the coast road in the general direction of the tower, but it climbed a ridge and veered away from the tower. Since the brush was too thick to walk through, he stayed with a trail to the crest of the ridge. There we looked down into a valley and on the next which was a group of rounds, thatched huts inside a hedge of prickly pear. There was a scene from darkest Africa only a mile from the Mediterranean. But the bottom of the valley was a stone Well, we're gonna have about 70 was drawing water in a larger lesson where

Unknown Speaker 14:51
we went on down does to an English, French and German if there was a path to the tower that she did not understand. Then, she left her job and went up to the huts. Next minute, several men rushed out and started down the hill. It seemed wise to retire which we did at a fair trot, reaching the road and a few minutes. While the warm and disappointed at not achieving our objective, we began to walk back towards the jelly. But soon out of nowhere six unfriendly looking arrows appear. Walking in single file and the dry ditch three on each side of the road. A little bit behind us. We looked for how many truck to give us a lift. There was a truck every half minute or so. It all going a long way. As it began to get dark we had to decide whether the flag down a truck will be absent without leave, or the carry on. We chose to increase our pace and carry on. As we reached the first lights of the town, unwanted escort faded away. After that German cons ahead seemed less unpleasant than our lives behind. At the end of June we moved further east to Bizerte were large force was assembling. While we waited an anchor. The two Marines assigned to the galley made up Gooding out of ships biscuits and raisins. biscuits were made by sprouts the bulk biscuit people's result was well heavy. Someone who is pushing over the side we're a seagull eater. For half an hour the birds strapped around on the water unable to take off. On July the eighth the whole fleet sailed for Cicely fighting a full day of the next day. But though an hour late, we did have on Barton to the beach, then move it moved aside and anchored for a week. The water was cold and very clear. So you could look over the rail and see the empty tins the cookie cutter dropped overboard 40 feet below, plus the odd knife and fork the result of careless dishwashing backup deserter, we sailed into a huge 10 mile diameter harbor and promptly grounded on the shoulder not shown on the charts. A French toast came and offered to pull us off. We gave him the end of a white horse, wealthy steamed at full speed. We all die for cover. But luckily the wire parted nearer his end than ours. We declined his offer to try again. We sat there for a week and you have a whole US Seventh Fleet coming and going we just sat there looking at all we were doing something. Then one night about 2am The watchman cried we're floating resumed our routine. Pushing on again to Tripoli. We began rehearsing the next amphibious landing. This involved in early morning start on the leading Stoker was still in his hammock when the capsule was needed. The capstan was turned by a steel shaft to the deck linked by gears to a horizontal shaft from the engines. The Stoker tied one end of his habit to this shaft as it began to turn slowly but with enormous force. The habit was gently from the sagging position. Have a straight line and then the candles ripped apart, possibly cutting the occupants suddenly on the deck. from Tripoli, our squadron went to Tomini on the north coast of Sicily. The next slide you got the saliva was not the picnic we had experienced in Sicily. We did our beach bombardment for the Hampshire regiment. The idea is to detonate mines on the shore not to hit any particular target. We do that for the Hampshire regiment Which Princess Diana was later colonel in chief and moved down the coast. While waiting a quarter mile from the beach, we suddenly found ourselves under fire from low bushes just above 188 millimeter shell hit the bridge killing the first left Teller and wounding seven others one of whom died in hospital. Another was hit in the foot and Vita had his foot amputated. And 88 millimeter shell is the size of a beer bottle. But it can do a lot of damage. The skipper was hitting the back of the near that action with a piece of the same shell that kept going for an hour of all before seeking attention or hospital share. When he returned to the ship a month later, he used the bottom half off that shelf as a paperweight

Unknown Speaker 20:07
having no more ammunition

Unknown Speaker 20:16
yes, we've cruised up and down the coast firing up these bushes, which we couldn't see the weather guns were posted but we sailed up there each time turning towards the coast inside on the inside and inside to we almost on the beach and we fired somebody five rounds per gun, which was quite a lot. But there was no more shells coming back when we finished. Having no more ammunition we returned to the desert where the US supply ships so our flag at half mast and our guns with this debate and offered us a chicken dinner with potatoes and stuffing. I took I took two seamen over to collect it. This was in Perry Hill, which is a harbor within the harbor, which is Tenma harbor circle of desert as a harbor in inside variabile. When asked how many men we had in the clue, I said 38 But the SEMA whispered say 46 numbers before so. After we had eaten the delicious dinner the Marines poured out their bottles of rum, illegally, hoarded, taught by top got drunk. They came and grabbed me and threw me overboard. I could just reach the edge of the deck but they jumped on my hands. Then the left tenet of Marines the only officer left the captain had gone off to his knee attended to in the post octiline had been killed. He was hit in the back with a piece of his shell fell on the bridge. He came on deck and ordered the mentor desist promising to put in irons anyone taking part in what was really a mutiny. I climbed aboard put on dry clothes and that was the end of it. We moved alongside a British repair ship the former Cunard liner Antonia for repairs to the corner of the bridge where the show was hit. At 6am Next morning, the crew of the Antonio were washing their dead lifting hose running over the side, which towered above us. The spot happened to be above our wardrobe and the ventilation shaft goes open. So the new temporary Skipper the read officer took a morning shower while still in bed. Then we move westward to Jelly again, to find all the 18 lcgs in the Mediterranean assembled. Of these 12 were to return to England and six were to stay in the bed for the winter. We were one of the 12 however, before leaving we were told to cross the harbor to a fueling as we backed away from the dark, the seamen handling the lie that had been cast off from the shore a little slow in holding it in and the end got hooked on the starboard propeller found several turns around the shaft and pulled them tight enough to stop the engine. One of our boys dive down with an axe. But looking for 30 seconds of the time was not enough.

Unknown Speaker 23:34
well suited diver was brought in but he too failed. So another ship took our place and sailed for home.

Unknown Speaker 23:44
But of the 12 ships that left and subsequently survived D day nine was Uncle Falco an island in Holland supporting a Landy without his support as promised in November of 1944. Germans had eight inch guns and we were trying to land on that code. And they never did get a shot. We made our way back to meet way to Naples, where the USA f the United States Air Force if I did the skipper now return but limping the spin Christmas at the Ireland country, which was an Air Force rest camp. The entire crew was invited to and we sell over a Christmas Eve. a two hour voyage. The weather was beautiful. It was a magical island with a funicular railway from the beach up to the town. I visited Gracie Fields house Consoli Del Mar A Song of the Sea closed up in a lovely spot high above the sea. Also the ruins of the subtle palace of the Roman emperor Tiberius on top of a 2000 foot cliff He didn't. He had guests he didn't why people always drop over the cliff. Then we took part in the landing at NCO and returned to Naples the same day Anzio was very quiet, there was no opposition. At the time that was the actual landing took place. A cup next year around the toe of Italy to Porto Vecchio, before we sail, with a small force of 3000 troops to land on Elba, Admiral Trubridge, who was in charge came aboard to inspect our Motley Crew. Addressing a small Seaman called shorty who wanted nothing more than to get back to being a length Lincolnshire Poacher. He found he asked what are you a sweeper? Now sweepers are found only in battleships and cruisers, and show if you've never heard the term, the skipper whispered say yes, it shows he did discovered later that the job involves keeping the decks tidy. Invasion of elbow should have taken one day, but it lasted three days because of enemy guns placed on the cliffs at the harbour entrance. There was no other place for a landing. We spent the winter wandering up and down both coasts of Italy. Messina Bari, Macedonia, while letter for Dizzy Porto Vecchio, with occasional excursions to Malta. Then came the south of France invasion. This was slightly AFTER D DAY in the north. We made our usual Bob Bob into the beach and waited. It was the seventh stage since we had sailed from Corsica and we were out of fish food. We sold the battleship rebel is nearby and moved close enough to send a signal by oldest lab. Can you spare some bread the fly was Go away I am in action

Unknown Speaker 27:08
the admiral in memoryless had seen as we had an anchor transport come at the far from hidden pasture is another message followed for sea to engage battery. This caused some panic on our part. For the operation plans showed this battery to have eight inch guns. We stay in towards the battery for half an hour. When are signalman happening to look back to the families for miles or stone spotted a flashing lab with a message come back I am sending a cruiser to do the job. We sunk away vegetable for lunch of rice and chips biscuits now we turned our attention to the Dalmatian coast in Yugoslavia. A destroyer bought in a motor schooner to found the drift. It contained clothing ammunition on for donkeys. So we had donkey rides around the beach just like in when we left for for Dizzy we were towing a 20 foot cabin cruiser on behalf of a brigadier The Seagull got rougher so we let out more cable but the weight of the cable pull down the bow of the boat which went straight down until it was directly below us. We had to cut the cable to release it while the skipper thought up a reason for the loss of post of a coil of wire. What the Brigadier would have done with the boat have we got it to Invisi we had no idea. In warzones money loses its value in the main objective is survival. On the island of molest I recorded we bought seven chickens from from a man in a boat. He wanted flour, but we paid in dried peas in the end, thus getting rid of our spare ammunition. A Marine who said he knew all about it as I took the neck ringing with after he was seen flapping around until the fighting fell hanging on to his head. Someone else did the job in two seconds. That night suffer was more of a post mortem than a meal. Identify the leg a few feathers and assorted bones on my plate. The men who got her neck of course because of Mr. Churchill's famous words, some chicken some neck. Then half the coup got a week at the shuba hotel in Tomita insistently, which was heaven compared to shipboard life with private bathrooms and good food. It served the German army also as a rest camp, and everything was the best including stunning views of Mount Etna. back on the ship, I found the why scheme had come to life. I was to return to England for officers cause by way of Malta. The course was for two weeks of the caravan a small difference of village. But they didn't really want officers at that stage of the war, and only one student was accepted for further training out of a class of 25 for the side of local puzzles Excellent.

Unknown Speaker 30:27
After that, I was drafted to Portsmouth. An ancient red brick barracks was harsh peacetime discipline is now 1946.

Unknown Speaker 30:43
It was now in January of 46. I got out of the barracks routine for a month by volunteering as a guide on Nelson's flagship the victory. The ship sits in a dry dock with concrete poured around. During the big waves of 1941. A bomb had fallen between the ship on the side of the dock blowing a hole in her timbers, which I see February winds into the lower deck for the place ourselves, so as to hide the sign which were no gratuitous.

Unknown Speaker 31:23
On March the third 1946 that was sent to see again with the whole fleet on its first post war cruise. We called it Gibraltar where I volunteered as one of nine sailors to go as guests of the magazine illustrated on a tour of Tangier. This is one occasion that did make the new we went to the CASPA which is much cleaner than the Algiers CASPA and we're entertained by British artist in his old Moorish house. He showed us an ancient fig tree in his inner courtyard, under which Samuel peeps had sat when Tangier was under British control. He wants to snake charmer supposedly charming to forefoot snakes, but one tried to escape. Then onto the Sultan's palace now a museum where we will serve mint tea on the native band played Moorish music on weird instruments. I noticed that it sounded like Ravel's Bolero only worse. Leaving Gibraltar we sailed along the coast of Spain to Lisbon and Portugal. As we arrived we fought a 21 gun salute, little saluting clap downs and Portugal. This was listed in daily orders as Operation hubcap. On a train ride to central some 25 kilometers from Lisbon, on a third class ticket, which entitles me to fight for a place on a wooden seat. In a rocking four wheeled coach. I noticed how impressive the public buildings were. If you see something like Buckingham Palace, it's probably in the village school. On our last morning in Lisbon, the Marine Band would guard perform the ceremony of colors on the dark instead of on the quarter deck as usual, to accommodate to recording unit. Colors was broadcast on Lisbon radio that afternoon, including my performance striking eight bells on the ship's bell, which I discovered was solid silver and weighed about 100 pounds is 3:30am when we are anchored at Spithead, outside Portsmouth, the officer of the watch proposons meet the couple of the gangway, the quarterdeck messenger and is quartermaster all swatting mountain electric fire at the end of the quarter deck with a large dish of sausages sizzling on it. We were as far away as possible to keep the smell of cooking out of the commander's cabin. Those sausages plus enago to tomatoes, like beans, bread and cocoa made quite a pleasant little watch. That was my last watch because before going ashore for good. I was given a D mob suit of a pair of shoes. The suit was poorly made that the shoes were very good last 20 years