We left Freetown for the UK August 1943.  We were on top of the sub at this period.  Escorts were strong and you had wandering groups not attached to convoys who went looking for subs.  He wasn’t attacking convoys so much, but going for the independent ship.  Just at this time he was using the Glider Bomb with some success.  The plane dropping this bomb flies about 3 miles away from it’s objective, let’s go of the bomb and directs it by wireless control to the target.  The plane itself is well out of anti-aircraft range, except for the guns of an anti-aircraft cruiser.  Fighters of course can drive them off.  The bomb comes at a fast speed, probably 200 miles per hour, but you can see it and you concentrate all your armourments on it.  Quite a large number were destroyed in this manner.  Actually I never saw one.

Things went quietly until we were about 3 days north of Gibraltar and owing to a series of events, we found ourselves short of coal and had to turn back on our own for Gibraltar for more bunkers.  We all thought we’d never get through.  A three days run in that area by a slow ship was asking for it.  As we turned away from the convoy our morale fell to a very low ebb, but after a few hours it rose again.  You take the view – well if it comes it comes and what can you do about it.  We had about 2 days on our own, saw and heard nothing, but very much on the alert.  An escort picked us up about 18 hours from Gibraltar and escorted us in.

We bunkered in Gibraltar and later left in convoy for home.  We had an anti-aircraft cruiser with us, but no carriers with fighters. Planes were always about, mostly our own on sub patrol.  We had an enemy plane snooping around, so we knew we had been spotted and expected trouble,  from above or below.  I remember one day the enemy plane hung around for a long time, encircling the convoy.  At one time we had one of our own planes on sub patrol on one side of the convoy and an enemy plane on the other.  We strongly disapproved and one escort fired at him, but he was too far away.  He got full particulars of the convoy and then back to Adolf.  We had several false alarms towards dusk when we expected air attacks.  The anti-aircraft cruiser had Radar and would pick up planes long before they reached the convoy.

In the centre of the convoy was HMS Erebus.  She was a monitor and was going home from Italy to get fitted up for D day.  Monitors are shallow draft vessels, capable of going close inshore to shell enemy positions.  They have heavy guns for this work, but moderately light anti-aircraft.  Whenever danger developed the cruiser would patrol out in front of the convoy.

The attack came just about dusk with the sky over cast.  Individual planes bombed us from above the clouds for about ½ hour.  No one fired except the cruiser.  We couldn’t see the planes.  The cruiser would be firing by her instruments and Radar.  Even in the excitement I couldn’t help feeling how lovely and stately the cruiser seemed as she slowly swept across the convoy from one side to the other, her guns belching forth as each attack was made. The Erebus in the centre was quiet until she must have detected a plane coming right over her and she burst forth with everything she’d got.  Streams of tracer bullets from all angles.  The raid passed off without damage or casualties.

The next day another cruiser joined us and at eventide we turned suddenly west and headed out into the broad Atlantic.  Now we often turn off our course if anything has been spotted ahead.  Sort of go around it.  But we persisted on this westerly course.  Well this put the wind up us proper like.  All we could think of was a heavily armed raider adrift in the Atlantic.  We went on all that night  and all next morning.  Then in the afternoon one cruiser left us and we immediately turned north again and resumed our proper course.  The most probable answer was, that having been spotted and bombed, the Admiralty decided to take us farther out from the French coast and make it more difficult for him to find and bomb us.  Anyhow we had no further trouble and proceeded home and round the north of Scotland to Hull to discharge.

We loaded mainly commercial cargo with a few Government stores at Leith and left for the Persian Gulf, leaving about the beginning of December 1943.Things were much quieter at sea at this period and to us, after the long years of continuous attack, it was almost like a picnic.  We were able to sleep at night with our clothes off (mostly), but there was still something to think about.  There were mines in coastal waters, air attacks all over the place and danger of engine trouble and straggling away from your convoy.  He was far from being successful in air attacks on escort convoys, so he was looking for easier meat, such as stragglers and independent ships.

On our outward passage as far as Gibraltar we had a Woolworth carrier with us.  Enemy planes would find it most unhealthy to attack the convoy.  Still they could spot us and report to their subs. Just after we got south of Ireland we saw a couple of planes take off and quickly disappear as if on an errand.  Generally they seemed to take their time.  About one hour later the Commodore signalled, “one enemy plane shot down”.  Radar no doubt picked him up and the fighters picked him down.  So he didn’t spot us and we had no trouble to Gibraltar.

Passing right through the Mediterranean was a new venture for us.  He was making some fairly heavy air attacks there, so we weren’t too easy, but we much preferred it to going round the Cape.  Off Algiers we were troubled by a submarine, but he didn’t attack us, and next day the Commodore informed us he had been sunk.  The hour before darkness  was the nasty time.  That was the time he attacked.  So each night at this time when in the Mediterranean we let off smoke floats and made as much smoke as possible.  It confused the enemy and although he knew the convoy was about, it severely hampered him, and especially in glider bomb attacks.  I think we all counted the minutes until darkness set in.  Fighters were up all the time, but at dusk it would be difficult for them to locate hostile planes.  Our worse time was passing the enemy held territory of Crete, only 150 miles away.  We were not attacked and arrived at Port Said safely.  From now on we were independent.


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