Father's Military Service

Surviving the Convoys

"...if your ship was hit, you were on your own."

"He was called up in June of 1942. He, you know, it was late in the war really. But of course he was an older man. He was 40, or 39 and six months, when he was called up. So you know, they called up the young men at the beginning of the war. And they worked up the age scale as the war went on.

He left. He sailed from Greenock, Scotland, which is a port just west of Glasgow on the River Clyde. And they went out, joined up in a convoy. And in those days, any convoys—if any ship got sunk from the convoy—others were not allowed to stop and pick up any survivors in the water. They had to keep rolling. So if your ship was hit, you were on your own.

Anyway, eventually they turned off east and went through the Straits of Gibraltar into the Mediterranean. And when they were only sixty miles from Algiers, which is Algeria, they got hit by an aerial torpedo. And the boat holed, and it went down fairly fast. My father had to slide down a rope hanging down the side of the ship into the water and swim to a raft. But of course the convoy moved on. There might have been one or two others, I’m not sure. But the convoy moved on. So he was bobbing around in the Mediterranean on this raft with other men, of course. But, the British Navy had some destroyers circulating, and he was picked up after about an hour of being on this raft. And was taken to Algiers, which was their original destination."