There was now little fear of surface raiders.  Our only trouble now would be subs or planes.  We had a strong sub escort.  Still our excitement was not all over.  It was misty and we had an alarm with depth charges and of course doing the usual emergency turns.  Suddenly right close to us we heard a bang and a grinding sound, we couldn’t see what was happening, it was too misty.  In the mist and emergency turn one ship had rammed another, right in her stern and killed 13 of her crew.  Both ships although damaged were able to proceed.  They were next in line to us, so later we saw the damage on both of them.  Collision in convoy was always a danger, especially on fog.  Then we didn’t blow our sirens.  Later, I suppose, finding the risk of collision greater than that of giving our position away, decided that ships could use their sirens.  The leaders of columns sent a blast if they thought anything was coming too close.

Submarines at this time would try and get into the centre of the convoy.  A very nice position for them, but not for the convoy.  Thus when available, there would be an escort in the centre of the convoy to welcome him.

One evening misty and (with) poor visibility, the next abeam flashed over – sub sighted astern, inform escort.  Our Skipper sounded the siren to attract the escort’s attention and then flashed the message to him.  Escorts swung astern to tackle same.  Suddenly, tracer bullets started to fly at an object in the water and the centre escort fired some heavy stuff.  They all stopped.  They were firing at a ships fog buoy.  In misty weather each ship trails a buoy at the end of a long line.  The next astern endeavours to keep this in sight all the time and thus knows he is in position.  The escorts could find or hear, nothing and resumed position.  The ship giving the original alarm was one involved in the previous nights collision.  Also he was the ship who picked up the 5 lone survivors from one torpedoed ship.  We think they were a little bit jumpy, probably saw something, log or some derelict, but not a sub, although later, the skipper was still emphatic that they had sighted a sub.

We arrived in Lock Ewe without more to do and had a night’s comfortable rest.  London was our destination, with the prospects of planes, E Boats alley and mines.  There were a variety of mines.  There was the ordinary floating and moored mine which went off when struck by the ship, there was the magnetic and the acoustic mines.  These were the main ones; I believe there were others.  The acoustic mine was set off by the rotation of the propellers.  The routes round the home coast were swept every day and the loss from mines was small.  There’s no doubt in any of our minds, of the value of the work, or the courage of the crews of the mine sweeping flotillas.  What’s more, they are still doing it and often get blown up.  We went in convoy round the coast to Methil, in the Firth of Forth.  On that stage of the coastal convoy you had anti aircraft cruisers.  Air attacks were less frequent then.  From Methil downwards you would have an outside screen of fighters.  You wouldn’t see them, but they were there.  Not very numerous at first, but grew and grew, until air attacks became very rare.  We had one Jerry plane around, off the north east of Scotland but he didn’t attack.  In coastal convoys you are in two long lines, whereas in ocean convoys, each column is composed of about 4 to 5 ships.  E Boat alley is off the Norfolk coast and being in easy distance of Zeeburge was a favourite spot for E Boats.  It was misty all the way from Methil to London.  One escort did a little depth charging right alongside us.  They don’t half shake a ship up.  We all rushed out with tin hats and lifebelts, thinking we were being bombed.  There was no sub, but the ASTIC or ASDIG, I forget which, had picked up something and the Navy takes no chances.  ASDIG means ‘Anti Submarine Device’.  It picks up objects under the water and takes bearings of them.  It will pick up a shoal of fish.  It became a common saying when we heard depth charging during daylight, “escort short of fish again”.  A depth charge amongst a shoal of fish brought many dead fish to the surface.

The Commodore was aboard the Clan Macbean.  The Commodores like Clan ships and we very often had them round the home coast.  We haven’t the spare accommodation for him and his staff for deep sea.  Clan feeding is good and there’s a drink for those that like it.

As we neared the E Boat alley area an enemy plane flew low right down the centre of the convoy and attacked the rear of the convoy.  He did no damage.  We couldn’t fire on him: we should only have hit other ships.  Plenty of anti aircraft firing later developed and in the darkness some ships were even firing at sounds of planes.  In fact it was ridiculous and the Commodore was wild about it.  He said, “Thank goodness this ship hasn’t opened up”.  He’d hardly finished this statement before somebody opened up on the Macbean.  He was peeved.  To try and hit sound is ridiculous.  By the time the sound has reached you the planes are miles away and were most probably our own.  Later things quieted down and we arrived in London safely.  An outward convoy shot a plane down in the Thames Estuary just after we passed them.  We heard the action going on but could see nothing.


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