Why my grandfather joined the Royal Navy

My grandfather owned a book ‘Warships of World War II’ (H.T. Lenon & J.J. Colledge, price 35/-) that provided me with untold hours of statistical wallowing when I was a lad. I inherited the book in adulthood and it’s one of the few that travelled with me when I joined the ranks of expatriate Englishmen. It’s here beside now while I sit overlooking my wintery garden, drinking my umpteenth cup of morning coffee and thinking of times past.

My grandfather annotated the book with slips of paper that are filled with his neat copperplate handwriting. I’m looking at one where he notes his decision to join the Royal Navy.

Iron Duke. I went aboard this ship when a Territorial gunner in City of London Battery on weekend training at Southsea, Victoria Barracks, Hants, during 1936. It was this visit which decided me to enlist in the Royal Navy if war should come. The ships company’s food was far better than we were getting as gunners, and of course, cigarettes were duty free. I was aged 23 at the time.”

As you can see, my grandfather was a purely practical man with an eye on good food and cheap tobacco.

Oh yes… a family of patriots, one and all 🙂

As for what the book says about Iron Duke:

The IRON DUKE had been de-militarised as a Gunnery Training Ship and had her boiler power mutilated and speed reduced, here main belt armour removed and two turrets (“B” and “Y”) taken out. Deck and internal armour and the second battery were left intact and varying lighter calibre guns were added and removed from time to time for instructional and experimental purposes. Owning to severe bomb damage received early in the Second World War the IRON DUKE was grounded at Scapa Flow but continued to serve as a base ship.

Anyway, war came and my grandfather and his brother motored down to Portsmouth on a BSA motorbike to enlist in the Navy.

Here he is in Malta in 1943, already switched from cigarettes to a pipe (future tobacconist’s shop no doubt in his mind).

My grandfather in Malta, 1943

My grandfather in Malta, 1943

He was the SBA on HMS Rye. The stories about that can wait for another day.

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