Questions welcomed for two family World War two veterans

Discussion in 'Veteran Accounts' started by 281664, Mar 7, 2016.

  1. 281664

    281664 Active Member

    Hello everyone,

    I recently posted on a thread regarding living second world war veteran. I recieved some interest from members in regards to having my granddad and great uncle contribute to the forum in relation to their experiences.

    Back round of my granddads service:

    He is 92 and served on HMS Templar and HMS Tally Ho out of Trincomalee. He was in service from 1942 to 1948.

    Due to my great uncles age and experiences he is not very open about the war. So out of respect to him i will not press the issue. But if the moment presents itself i shall ask him any questions you put forward.

    He served in the BEF in 1939 and was captured at Dunkirk. He escaped whilst being taken to Germany. He fought with the dutch underground until 1942/43 and escaped. He then returned to Europe in 1944.

    This is an invitation to the forum members to ask relavent questions which i shall pass on to each family member.
    amberdog45 likes this.
  2. toki2

    toki2 Junior Member

    Your great uncle should be left in peace if he is 'not very open about the war'.
  3. 281664

    281664 Active Member

    Thank you for your response. I have never spoken to properly before about this topic. So this thread was in conjunction with him and on his terms. My phrasing was pre empting questions that he may not feel comfortable answering.
  4. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    You crack on with whatever you see fit and hopefully interesting info will come out
  5. Swiper

    Swiper Resident Sospan

    Any idea what units your great uncle was in, would help direct questions.

    The usual questions on food, training, entertainment, accommodation, equipment, perceptions on events, orale, relationships - what he thought of wartime films etc tends to be the real goldmine. If he's not happy to discuss other topic these should be safe and tremendously informative areas. May also lead to him opening up on other things.
  6. idler

    idler GeneralList

    As an escapee, your great-uncle would almost certainly have been debriefed on his return. There may well be some reports in the archives. Have you considered starting a thread in the POW section?
  7. amberdog45

    amberdog45 Senior Member

    Hi, I'd be interested to know if he kept in touch with any of the Dutch folk after the war. We came across letters from Belgium in my Dads army paperwork. I don't think my Mum appreciated my Dads continuing to keep in touch, but I very much doubt she could appreciate what it must have meant to the soldiers billeted with friendly people in the midths of all the horrors they saw as they marched through Europe. Cheers for now - Maria
  8. 281664

    281664 Active Member


    He comes from a dutch family so im sure he must of felt quite at ease fighting alongside them and even more so living with them.

    I shall pass your question on though.
  9. 281664

    281664 Active Member

    A link was provided for 'conscript heros' which i searched but could not find his name on there. His story was only loosely told so it will take some further searching to find out the specifics.
  10. Brian Smith

    Brian Smith Junior Member

    Just a couple of general issues with me which I find of interest.

    His call up, registration, decision on posting to which of the forces and did he get a say.

    His return home. Where did he end up with his last posting in Europe and how did he get back to the UK.

    As Swiper so rightly says the day to day issues.

    Many Thanks Brian
  11. 281664

    281664 Active Member

    Hi Brian,

    I will pass on the messege when i see him this weekend.

    But for now i'll paraphrase my grandfather as we had a conversation about why and how he end up in the navy and not the army like his dad and brothers.

    According to him a lot of the men in 1939 were TA (like his brother who was in the RFA and his brother in law who is mentioned above) or blokes who had been out of the army for a short period and recalled to the colours (like his father) and then ofcourse you had the regular men (who despised the part timers haha!)

    Interestingly enough on my great grandfathers service record he was re-attested on the 1/01/40 and was in france by the end of the week. Apperently ,like in ww1, there was just a great rush to get men over there to slow up the advance. So the new men (with a week or twos worth of training) very much depended on the regulars and the recalled veterans, in the field to teach them the basics to survive.

    Unit designation wise was very much based on skill in 1939, if you had no trade you were generally push into the infantry. My great grandfather was a cabitnet maker after his first stint in the army so he was put in an artesian works company even though he had been a medic in ww1. There were apperently posters put up saying 'join the army and do your civi job in khaki' but funnily enough my great grandad never got round to making many cabinets at Dunkirk.

    On the other hand my grandfather remembered seeing how much more submariners were paid than the army and infact most of the navy! So he and his best mate went down to porstmouth and joined up. The recruiting officer failed to mention that he'd be under the sea for 20 hours of a day for 2 weeks at a time.

    I tried to be a brief as possible for you but ofcourse theres a lot more to share.I shall obviously get my great uncles opinion as soon as i see him.

  12. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Apologies for arriving late to the show; real life intervened.

    First, and most generally, as few of us have any experience of either Navy life or a being on a naval vessel at sea, it would be really interesting if your grandfather could sketch a typical day on each submarine in as much detail as possible, including duties and recreation and describing his friends and comrades, officers and their relationships. Too often, I find, veterans think that the wider world will be more concerned with the 'historically relevant', but that's mostly available in books; I'd like to hear more about what they were doing and how they felt about it - stories with names and faces.

    More specifically, a quick search tells me that both HMS Tally-Ho and Templar spent most of their time in the Far East. It would be great if your grandfather could say a little about the places he found himself - at shore and at sea - and his impressions of the places he saw. It might also be interesting to hear his first impressions on joining the navy.

    Finally, perhaps a few enquiries about 'action'. What were his responsibilities and what are his recollections of being involved in attacks? I see from Wikipedia that both vessels attacked Japanese and German warships - do any engagements stand out? What were the thoughts of an average sailor about the enemy(s)?

    As to your great uncle, if he is happy to discuss it, the whole story sounds fascinating!

    There's a potential book in those four sentences - we'd love to hear the synopsis.
  13. 281664

    281664 Active Member

    Well once again I shall paraphrase as he isn't a particularly eloquent speaker and it takes some effort to find out exactly what he mean sometimes. So i will use his version of events and also quote some facts to help give some perspective.

    PART 1:

    'My Grandfather joined in late 1942 after his 18th birthday, he travelled down to Portsmouth and joined the Navy with his friend. He remembers that he wasn't overly keen for the submarine service after the Thetis sank in 1939 and all hands were lost, but was soon brought round after he was told submariners were given what he calls a 'danger pay' and also mean't he wouldn't be stuck in a ditch in a country that he didn't care much for. He went through his very fast basic training and recalls one defining moment when they were being instructed on how to secure a submarine and escape if she was hit. Generally they each room sealed themselves off if hit until the damage was confirm and they were given the order to abandon ship. When they tried to escape via the the escape tube he says that it was so awkward and a tight squeeze that as a general rule only one man at a time could escape safely. When of the trainee sailors attempted to escape he panicked and nearly drowned , so with a crew of 60 blokes the odds of escaping were small and that's if you could swim well. From then on everyone realised that there was very little hope of surviving a hull breach and even if they did they might never be picked up.

    He next went up to barrow in Furness which at the time was one of the main submarine building ports in Scotland and i think in the UK. This was where the Templar was built and the new crew were inducted to her and prepared her for her sea trials. He thinks this was early 1942/1943, by January 1942 they were at sea and testing her to her limits in the Irish sea. In march they faced their last test which was a trip to Holly Loch from where they would go on to Lerwick and join the 3rd submarine flottila. From Lerwick they deployed to the north Atlantic tasked with hunting shipping and engaging enemy submarines. In April She was declared fit for Far East operations and returned too Holly Loch for fitting and admin.

    In may after some leave and final preparation they sailed from Holly Loch to Gibraltar with H.M.S scimitar and joined a convoy. They reached Gibraltar on the 7th of June from which they deployed for a Special Mission on the South of France.'

    I shall carry on with the second part later on and also address your questions as i write everything.

    In regards to my great uncle he was apparently approached by the bbc to make a program regarding some of the men he fought with but he refused.

    best wishes,

    dbf and Charley Fortnum like this.
  14. 281664

    281664 Active Member

    Hello again,

    Here is part two. I should be able to give a more in depth account this time.

    PART TWO (Attacking a U-boat and the Invasion of Sicily):

    After completing their cloak and dagger mission near Marseilles they returned to port in the Algiers by the 30th of June 1943 and OC 5th Submarine flotilla orders the addition of the Bathythermograph to HMS Templar for forthcoming operations in the Mediterranean to test is suitability on operationally active vessels for us against Anti Submarine craft. Templar receives orders to prepare for the upcoming Invasion of Sicily,their role will be aggressive patrolling to the north of Sicily and intercept any troop ships or naval vessels but their second objective is to rescue any downed airmen.

    My Granddad remembers being him and the crew being briefed by their CO (Lt Beckley) about how it could get quite hot under the collar with all the air activity from main land Italy and South France as well as the U-Boat threat and the heavy concentration of Ships N/E of Corsica and Sicily but also because this patrol will most likely mean engaging with the enemy for the first time. The anticipation for a scrap was so much so that they loaded extra 4inch gun ammunition (HE and Armour piercing) into any spare storage areas they had (not many on a T-class!).

    Templar set off from the Algiers on the 12th of July and travelled for 3 days until they reached the North coast Corsica and began hunting for U-boats. On the 21st they engaged a U-Boat at 42.35N 08.38E. My Granddad remembers this first engagement for the Templar ,which although they had some pre war blokes, most were effectively 'fresh meat' being pushed into the grinder and hoping they came out ,intact, the other side. He says that as soon as action stations are called , all hands rush too their posts and prepare for action. After 2/3 minutes it would go dead quiet as it became effectively a game of cat and mouse and silence was of the utmost importance. The biggest problem (in terms of keeping discipline during attacks on targets) was the fear of 'will we hit them before they hit us?'. A lot of men suffered from heat exhaustion which under normal times the heat was acceptable but under times of action/stress made completing tasks a lot harder (especially in the engine room, where in the far east one man died from HE) . In this instance Templar fired 4 torpedoes at a 2/3m spread from 3000 yards out, none hit and they lost contact with its target.

    For the rest of the patrol they moved from the West of Corsica to the N/E where they spotted many fishing vessels , L.S.T's (too shallow of a berth for torpedoes) and a hospital ship but they had to much air cover for a gun run. Overall 147 Ju88's were seen travelling S/E towards Sicily but no friendly pilots were downed in Templar's AO. They returned to port, angry at their lack of action, on the 2nd of august and were given orders to moved to Trincomalee (Ceylon) to join the HMS Adamant which was part of the 4th flotilla.

    Best wishes,

    dbf and Charley Fortnum like this.
  15. Brian Smith

    Brian Smith Junior Member

    Will, interesting stuff and looking forward to more, thank you Brian
  16. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Thanks very much for posting and sharing.
  17. 281664

    281664 Active Member

    No problem gents,im collecting the facts about my great uncle and then i shall post his story in the same format.

  18. 281664

    281664 Active Member

    Hello everyone,

    I shall have the next part up by tomorrow,the last week/two has been taken up with work!

  19. 281664

    281664 Active Member

    I haven't forgotten about this. Reality sometimes gets in the way!

    Here's a short story whilst i prepare the next war patrols account.

    The one man he talks about the most is Lt Cmdr Bennington, it is possibly the only time he speaks about someone with pure admiration. In his own words 'Bennington was a lovely man,he knew us all by name from AB to PO he knew each man. He went after anything,civilian liners to destroyers with no fear like a man possessed, this earned him the respect of every man which made us as good as were and how Bennington earned his reputation at home and in the service. Hence why the crew knew him as 'The Terror of the Eastern sea is our very own Mr B'.
  20. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    If your great uncle escaped from Europe I will probably have a copy of his escape and evasion report, and his units war diary and possible the units missing men file. Whats his name?

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