We had about 10 days in Gibraltar with the usual nightly depth charging.  We loaded empty drums and aeroplane casings.  Very nice cargo.  Keep afloat a long while unless torpedoed in the engine room.  We had a lovely run, home to Glasgow.  The weather was perfect all the way and we weren’t molested.  Planes from France were very active about this time and between Gibraltar and home was a warm spot, but as I have said, all was quiet for us.  We arrived in Glasgow the beginning of March 1943.

Here we loaded once again Government stores for Algiers.  No octane this time, but plenty of ammunition, including 500 and 100 lbs bombs.  We left the end of April 1943.  We had with us this time two ships with a fighter each.  These ships were ordinary cargo ships with an iron run away fitted forward.  The fighter plane was catapulted off.  When out at sea away from shore fighter protection, these planes would take off at the sight of enemy planes.  After the action if he had enough petrol, the pilot would endeavour to make land, otherwise he would come down into the sea in hopes of being picked up.  He couldn’t land back on his own ship.  Healthy job, wasn’t it?  Later we had the Woolworth Carriers.  These were small aircraft carriers with proper flight decks for planes to land or take off.  Some of these vessels carried cargo.  Others were purely naval craft.  I suppose they had about 20 planes.  These Woolworth Carriers did a lot of escort work.  They were able to cover the wide-open spaces where shore based aircraft couldn’t reach in their search for subs.  Our fighters did not have to go up.  In the Mediterranean of course you had shore-based fighters.

Our voyage to Gibraltar was quiet, though I seemed to remember one long depth charge spasm.  We were playing Nap and it seemed each time we got a big “kitty”, bump would go a depth charge.  We were torn between the urge to see what was happening and a desire to keep an eye on the “kitty”.  After 2 or three times of this, we ignored the depth charging.  Our sordid souls were more interested in money.  Had we though there was anything really doing outside, our souls would have been cleansed and we should have been more interested in the open-air sports.

Between Gibraltar and Algiers, in almost the same place and same time of day as the previous trip, we ran into trouble.  Off Cape Tenez, about 4 pm beautiful afternoon, we heard two nasty bumps.  Two ships had got it.  One sank rapidly and the other drifted astern and eventually made Algiers.  She was hit in No 2 hold and all her bombs were blown out onto the deck, but she didn’t go up.  Very remarkable and neither ship had any loss of life, we heard later.  Cape Tenez seemed a favourite spot for subs and ever after that we approached the Cape with marked respect.

We had a quiet time in Algiers, except the last night, when we lay at anchor in the bay waiting for dawn, when the convoy left.  Algiers was raided that night.  One plane flew very, very low over us.  He may have been hit, or may have been flying low to avoid anti-aircraft fire.  We felt sure he would hit us, or straff us, or both.  Number 3 threw himself on the floor.  I suppose he thought there was less chance of having his head chopped off by the propellers.  I stood rigid and shut my eyes hoping for the best, or more likely in a state of suspended animation – waiting for events.  Our friend passed on, ignoring us and we came to.  That was a long few seconds.

From Algiers we went to Takoradi (West African Gold Coast) in ballast.  Ballast is more or less light ship.  You have to have some weight in your holds to give the ship stability.  Modern ships have large tanks they can fill up with water.  We had store ballast.  We were escorted all the way and the voyage I think uneventful.  We discharged our ballast and went to Port Harcourt (Nigeria) about 600 miles away to load coal for Takoradi.  We were escorted part of the way as subs were operating around this quarter.  We had a quiet run, saw and heard nothing.  Back we came again most of the way independent.

We were once again very lucky, for two our three subs were operating around and three or four ships had been sunk, but again we saw and heard nothing.  We discharged our coal and then loaded general West African produce – ore, cocoa beans and other stuff at Takoradi and Accra.  At Accra we lay in the Bay and loaded.  We were open to sub attack, so had an escort looking after us all the time we were loading. 

We were escorted from Takoradi to Freetown to pick up the home ward convoy.  The only excitement occurred when one of our natives’ went loco and cut his throat.  We got the doctor off one of the escorts and he sewed him up and he got better and resumed work.  Later, when we got to the UK, he showed signs of going again, so they decided to send him to hospital.  O’Bryne, the Chief Steward, and Tommy Haliday, the Second Mate collected handcuffs, tanks, cannons, rifles and any arms they could find and went stalking around the ship, ready to pounce on him and throw him into the waiting ambulance.  They searched and searched but couldn’t find him.  He was quietly sitting in the ambulance waiting for it to go.

We weren’t troubled by planes from Dakar now.  After France fell planes from Dakar used to come over and take account of the ships in the harbour (Freetown) and note when the convoy left.  These planes were French, probably manned by Germans.  They never attacked.  For a long time there were no fighters.  The day the first one went up, was the finish of air reconnaissance from Dakar.  Our fighters shot every one down that came over.


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