Table of Contents

Introduction by Malcolm Barton


The sources used in this account are five substantial volumes kept by Francis Barton from 1939 to 1946, supplemented by Molly Barton’s scrapbook, and surviving letters written during this time. He accepted the nickname of ‘Billy’ for most of his life and I have used that name throughout. The origin of ‘Billy’ apparently comes from the name of a horse called Billy Barton running in a race, a nickname which his Royal Marine colleagues could not resist.

I have been fortunate in being able to select what interests me but there is no substitute for reading the whole of the original text, as much has been left out. For instance a record was kept of all the books read and all the films seen and probably all the visits to the theatre during those war years including the programmes! The only difficulty has been reading the handwriting which takes some time to get used to. Unfamiliar place names have often involved turning to a detailed atlas or the internet. I have retained Billy’s spelling but have amended punctuation where it helps the reader.

Illustrations. I have limited these to the one wedding photograph and Billy’s unique Track Charts, for illustrations of all the ships and aircraft are readily available on the internet.

For those unfamiliar with this branch of the Barton family whose names appear, I give these brief notes.

  • Francis Christopher Barton, born January 17th 1916, last of the Bartons to be educated in Batten House, Haileybury, and commissioned into the Royal Marines in 1934. He became engaged to Olivia Mary (Molly) Darroll-Smith August 10th 1938. After the war he served in 40 Commando in Malaya and was mentioned in Despatches for gallantry and distinguished service. Commanded 45 Commando in Cyprus 1958-1960, followed by a further period of active service in Sarawak.
  • Father. Retired Missions to Seamen Chaplain. In poor health and died September 12th 1941.
  • Mother. Susan maiden name Thornton. There are mentions of her elder sister Nina and younger sister Gertrude.
  • Bernard, eldest brother married to Nancy.
  • Arthur, sheep farmer in the Falkland Islands and married to Dorothy Felton an islander.
  • Ray, headmaster of school in Kenya, married to Cecily.
  • Joy, sister, trained as a nurse and married to Reginald Bowesman,doctor.
  • Molly’s parents:- Reverend Henry and Mary Darroll-Smith.
  • Ted and Molly Barton. Ted (John Edward Broadbent Barton) was the eldest son of the Reverend Cecil Barton and Molly was born Mary Bushby.

Malcolm Barton 2011

[pdf version]



Telegram, October 3rd, 1939


STAND BY FOR WEDDING TOMORROW AFTERNOON OR DAY AFTER
WILL TRY AND PHONE YOU TOMORROW - BILLY

[There are few more ways of surprising your fiancée than the above which was sent to Molly’s parents, and it was not the way Billy had planned his wedding. An entry for Saturday July 15th 1939 reveals details recorded at a wedding when he was Best Man:]

The Wedding. I’ll put it down in detail so I can have something to refer to mine. I’d left the ring in the car of course so I had to go and fetch it. They had the processional hymn ‘Lead us heavenly Father, lead us’ to open the proceedings, and by the time we got to the middle of the last verse, the bride was still out of sight. However she eventually came alongside so to speak as the Amen was sung.

They had put two hassocks on the steps, and the aisle was so narrow that of course the choir boys tripped over them! Neither Jack or Mary had the slightest idea what to do, so there was a large succession of stage whispers from Bishop Blackie who was marrying them – a bad thing, I think. The Royal Sovereign’s band was supplying the music sitting in the vestry, and they were very bad, & the choir boys singing was worse, and there were two upstage locals damsels who tried to sing a descant which made things worse.

The very small part of the vestry left by the band was just wide enough for one at a time, so there was complete chaos while everybody was trying to get their helmets and gloves, I was trying to sign the register, & then get the procession into order.

Jack and Mary went back to the house by taxi, and then the photographers tried to take photos of the bridesmaids but it was a farce as all the relatives pushed through to try & get in, & he eventually didn’t take anything.

[When it came to the speeches Billy records,] The bridegroom’s health was proposed by Col. Iremonger & Jack gave a very short reply (N.B. for my wedding! If you are really stuck for something to say, propose the health of the Best Man, not that Jack did but it passes the baby on to someone else & gets you out of an awkward position.)

[Billy’s own speech involved reading out name of those who had sent Best Wishes telegrams. Some deserved special mention and he read out one from a fellow officer of the groom, needless to say from a Scotsman, who wishes them the best of luck & on which there is 7d to pay. (Loud laughter). In the event Billy’s wedding was to prove to be a different one from the one he had planned for the following summer and the reason for that was the outbreak of war.]


War


[The references in the diary to the events leading up to the War are particularly interesting as they stand alongside every day events, cricket, tennis, Billy’s car called Bacchus, his dog called Peter, and of course Molly. His last long leave finished on July 30th.]

July 31st, 1939 (Monday)


Back to Chatham again and I feel as if all my leave was finished this year with Molly, there’s nothing to look forward to now except cold days and weekends, and I don’t know when we shall see each other, as it depends so much on the international situation.

August 22nd (Tuesday)


Russia and Germany made a mutual non- aggression pact!! Now what the devil happens next?! Off to Deal by bus at 9.30 for cricket. Had a very good match and thrashed them up! We declared at 203 for 7 (self 10) and got them out for 161- nasty little man Boycott made half a century.

August 24th (Thursday)


The flap is really on now, and war seems completely inevitable. We have said that if Germany puts its feet in Danzig or Poland we shall fight, Germany has said that she is going to have Danzig & as far as I can see that is exactly what is going to happen. What our war plan is heaven knows because France & us can’t really invade Germany. The Dominions are with us anyway. Italy may leave the Axis as she seems very disinclined to war. Japan has been set flat aback at Germany’s pact with her great enemy Russia, & they seem to be tending more to us. All European countries have mobilised or nearly, Roosevelt sent a personal message to the king of Italy asking him to keep the peace. The Pope has broadcast an appeal for peace. In barracks troops go out as fast as you can see ‘em. I’m 2 i/c of E Coy now in addition. Parliament was recalled & met today, the P.M. gave a very depressing account of the situation.

August 25th (Friday)


Sitting quite happily in the office doing nothing in particular when the phone rang & Sgt Adams told me I was under orders for HMS Enterprise [HMS Enterprise was an Emerald class Light Cruiser built by John Brown at Clydebank and launched in 1919. In the 1930s she was fitted with a twin 6” turret which allowed her bridge to be fitted further forward and topped by a director tower, a new design copied by later Classes.] date of embarkation unknown! I started getting things ready straight away in case I should receive immediate orders. I put everything that wasn’t absolutely necessary in Bacchus & went home after lunch. I got there at 3.30 and of course Mother guessed what had happened. I put all my things away & had tea and a rather tearful farewell & then I got a man from Hollingsworth garage to drive me back to Chatham & take the car back to Hastings and put it out of action till further notice. Spent the evening feeling rather depressed, telegraphed Molly & then went to a flick.

August 26th (Saturday)


The war situation is pretty bad, but there are some bright spots notably the Soviet German pact, which has had the effect of infuriating the Japs & Spaniards, and the Italians are looking pretty well sideways. However Hitler still says firmly that he is going to march into Danzig, & we say that we’ll fight if he does, but he has put out feelers in the way of negotiations offers – provided he can have Poland of course!

[Billy reported to HMS Enterprise at Portsmouth on Thursday August 31st. His duties included being responsible for the Royal Marines detachment, for CBs (Confidential Boxes) which took up much of his time when he was in port and he was also appointed Sports Officer a position he held for three years.]

external image HMS_Enterprise_WWII_IWM_FL_005389.jpg

Found the ship lying in the basin near Unicorn Gate, went on board and met Guns who introduced me to the Pilot, PMO & 1st Engineer. Had a drink and talked a bit, found my cabin (‘Capt. of Marines’). The ship is only recovering from a D2 & the Dockyard are hastily patching things up, the whole ship is filthy of course. Had to turn in dirty because there was neither water or steam on! The ship hasn’t a hope of sailing till about the middle of September.

September 1st (Friday)


Hitler has marched into Poland & annexed Danzig at 0600 this morning. Fighting continues on the whole Polish front. Parliament met at 6.0 p.m. and the Prime Minister stated that the British ambassador was to ask for the immediate restoration of Polish Territory or he was to ask for his passport. So tomorrow or the next day we shall be at WAR. Rang up Molly this evening & arranged for her to come here as soon as possible & get married.

September 2nd (Saturday)


I was all set to go ashore & find a nice church and/or a registry office for Molly & I, when she sent a telegram, “Wedding Portsmouth legally impossible”. If I hadn’t been a fool, I would have realised it but as it was it set me back good and proper. I rang her up and we decided that nothing can be done.... Poor Darling, she sounded very cut up – so was I for that matter!

Barrage balloons are all round the harbour, & during the night 2 were struck by lightning & came down in flames.

September 3rd (Sunday), 9.00 AM


H.M. Government sent a ultimatum to Germany requesting them to desist hostilities against Poland & required an answer by 11.a.m. or ..... no answer so it is WAR, bloody war. Capt. addressed the Ships Co. & told us what had happened.

I hadn’t quite realised yet that we are at war because I have been so busy, but occasionally it suddenly dawns on me and I gasp!

September 5th (Tuesday)


Three letters from Molly arrived during the course of the day, one including her wedding ring which I had asked her to buy. Very depressing, but cheered up after a bath. After all it is going to be used at the first opportunity now, instead of having to wait for a year.

September 6th (Wednesday)


Guns gave me a little instruction in gunnery & the new spotting rules which are very different from the ones I used to know in Ramillies. [HMS Ramillies a Revenge class battleship was built in 1916. She was modified but was still slower than other vessels in the fleet. Billy was serving on her in 1937 and part of 1938.]

September 8th (Friday)


Getting in the rest of the ammunition, and only just managed to clear the lighter when we were taken out to Spithead. All the shells were strewn about the deck and I paraded Guard & Band between. Wrote to Molly and tried to convey to her that we were sailing to Scapa tomorrow!

[Molly’s Scrapbook contains some pages of code words prepared by Billy to cover possible destinations around the world. The code would read for example ‘I am sending a letter to’ with a name. Billy wrote out over a hundred, Scapa on the list being ‘Caesar’. The journey to Scapa was uncomfortable. Not only was there heavy seas with the ship plunging about ‘like a shuttle,’ but a scuttle had been left open and sea water a foot deep got into the cabins.]


Scapa, Orkney Isles


September 11th, 1939 (Monday)


We are anchored near the Rodney, Nelson, Calypso and Repulse. The Cornwall, Sheffield and two or three cruisers are about. The Iron Duke is the base ship and lies off Lyness Pier surrounded by destroyers of all shapes and sizes.

September 14th (Thursday)


The weather is foul, blowing nearly a gale all day & frightful squalls of drizzle which make watchkeeping unbearable. There doesn’t seem to be much news of the war in general. I saw a paper today for the first time since we left Pompey & the Germans seem to be steadily advancing into Poland, while there is no definite movement on the western front

September 18th (Monday)


Terrific flap in the evening – submarine reported by the flag boom, boats to be fitted with depth charges and go out on patrol. We got the pinnace all set and then we were told it was a false alarm! The Courageous [HMS Courageous, built in 1916 as a First Class Cruiser, was rebuilt as an aircraft carrier 1924 -1928 and could carry up to 48 planes. She was sunk by U-29 with the loss of 500 of the 1190 lives.] was sunk this morning by a submarine. The latest reports are that 450 men have been accounted for, but it is rather a disaster.

September 23rd (Saturday)


We go to Active stations at dawn every day now so cuts out a bit more sleep. I kept the forenoon, & it’s moderately interesting now as we found a couple of merchant ships and we dashed up & looked at them & passed them as correct.

September 24th (Sunday)


Boarded our first ship this afternoon - an innocent Dane.

September 28th (Thursday)


Left the patrol line at 1900 last night & we are steaming for Scapa and the mail, glorious mail! Unfortunately we kept running into ships which had to be boarded.
My first night in for then days but I had to wait up for the mail, & I got three letters from Molly, 3 from Mother, 1 from Reggie. Grand!

[The second patrol started on Sunday October 1st. Billy felt that Enterprise was far from being an efficient ship with inexperienced gunners but his mood improved on the following day when orders were received to make for Devonport.]

October 2nd, 1939 (Monday)


0405 – WE ARE GOING TO DEVONPORT – WOW!! We have definitely come off patrol. I got the signal on the other page, and am touching the ground in spots! Anyway we are cracking south with Effingham at 25 knots.

October 3rd (Tuesday)


Entered the Sound at 1830 and anchored there: couldn’t get ashore myself so the Pay took a telegram for me to Molly or rather I sent it to Mummy & Daddy. Poor Molly will get a bit of a shock, but heaven knows if I’ll get any leave.


The Wedding


October 4th (Wednesday)


Blooming well went and got spliced! The forenoon was entirely confined to making any excuse to get into the Captain’s cabin and my application foremost in his mind, as I’d been to see him & ask if it was possible to get married. He said he was going to see the Admiral at 11.00 so I had to possess my soul in patience till 1.30 when I could make a further excuse for going in, & this time he said “Barton, I think on grounds of a compassionate nature, for urgent private affairs, I can give you leave from 4.p.m. today to p.m. Friday”. Wow!!

The most I had hoped for was 24 hours leave with special permission to leave ....for 4 hours to get the deed done – but 48 hours and no restriction on my movements, blimey! Anyhow I just stuttered a Thankyou, & leapt for my cabin where I bundled everything I could think of into a suitcase, changed into my best blues, and sprinted over the gangway to the accompaniment of ironical cheers from the officers who were on deck, & the RMS at Quarter Clean Guns!

I rang up Cheriton. Molly answered, & after first asking me where I was (because they hadn’t put Plymouth in the telegram), she said ‘the wedding will be at 5.0’! She said she and Uncle Henry would come in and fetch me. I hadn’t really expected the wedding to be till tomorrow. We fairly skittled back to Cheriton which we reached at 5.0 dead. Daddy had already gone to the church, & Uncle Leonard was going to give Molly away, & I asked Uncle Henry to be my Best Man.

The church was just about full - the terrific telephoning work of Mummy directly she heard I was coming – and everything looked perfectly marvellous. Molly arrived with Uncle Leonard, & we sang ‘The King of Love’. And so the ceremony went on with Daddy holding the book in front of me for me to say my stuff.

At the Reception Uncle Leonard proposed our health, & I didn’t answer because nobody seemed to expect it & I was well out of it anyway! Then at 6.30 we packed up & I drove Molly out to Hound Tor in Daddy’s car which we had borrowed for our honeymoon...


HMS Enterprise, Atlantic escort duties, October 1939-March 1940

October 7th (Saturday)


Up at 7.a.m. said goodbye for goodness knows how long, and back to the ship.

We left the wall at 11.a.m. & went down to the Sound, & amidst great excitement an aeroplane was taken on board, & actually catapulted off without loss of life or limb!

[This was a Fairey Seafox which went into production in 1937. Designed to be launched from a catapult, it served as a spotter plane for gunnery and proved invaluable in the battle of the River Plate. Underpowered and with a maximum of 100 mph, the Seafox was replaced in 1943.]

October 8th (Sunday)


Found somewhat to our surprise that we are in company with Revenge, Resolution, Emerald, Caradoc, & a flotilla of destroyers. Also that our destination is Halifax, Nova Scotia! Also that we are carrying 1½ million pounds in gold bars in the shell room, and that between the Squadron we can amass 21 million pounds worth of gold. Wow! Far more to the point is the fact that we are heading for a storm and already this ship is rolling like a car and the upper deck is mostly awash. .. tried to sleep on the deck of the After Control, but she was shipping so much water that it started coming in & made life very miserable.

October 9th (Monday)


Well, this really is a storm. The 1st whaler has had her back broken in two halves & the two ends dangle from the davits, the 1st cutter has been lifted right out of the crutches & is holed, the gig has had the crutches through its bottom. We roll 30 degrees each side & waves come inboard as they please.

October 11th (Wednesday)


Heard that the Admiralty are granting Marriage allowance of 3/- a day for the duration of the war irrespective of age. Wow! Looks as if I got married just in time! Been married a week now, who’d have thought it?!

[Much of the diary concerns Billy’s duties and his lack of sleep, so arrival in Halifax Nova Scotia was welcome.]

October 16th (Monday)


Took the forenoon on watch, & spent the afternoon doing CBs, getting the Captain to sign papers and watching the disembarking of our gold with attendant Mounties hanging round. Had a long yarn with one of the Bank Officials who told me that about 25 ships had collected up harbour & were evidently waiting for a convoy, which looks as if it was us.

[Billy was able to look round the town have a steak at the hotel and go to a ‘flick’ but was generally unimpressed.] It’s a pretty boring town though & I sincerely hope we aren’t going to be based here for the rest of the war; the only redeeming feature is that they have no blackout.

October 18th (Wednesday)


Emerald & Caradoc have both left - the former doing convoy back to England (we should have done it but we’ve stripped a turbine, so we’ve got about a fortnight or ten days here for repairs), and the latter I believe to Vancouver.

[Billy was able to visit friends on other vessels, play football and even play a round of golf at the Halifax Gold and Country Club. The card records that he averaged over 6 shots for each hole, gave up on three holes and lost four balls during the round! His excuse was that no fairway was more than 20 yards wide and that they were edged with virgin forest, and his two friends lost a further nine balls between them. However it was a sunny day, and they played for free.]

October 22nd (Sunday)


If ever a day is guaranteed to produce a panic Sunday is the day! Needham woke me with the news that we sail at noon: what the hurry is I don’t know but sail at noon we did. Feeling very depressed as we are on a sort of patrol up and down the coast of USA guarding the arrival of ships for convoy from Halifax against, as far as I can make out, about four pocket battleships!

October 29th (Sunday)


Back to Halifax at 0830. I had a villainous day (14 hours duties)... added to which it was absolutely biting cold, & when we got in they said there was no mail for us! However all bad things have an end, and at 5 p.m. the joyous news arrived that there were 7 bags of mail for us. I got one from Molly, Mother, Bernard & Nancy, Aunt Esther (& a guinea), Aunt Ger (& 25/-) & Charles Sherwood.

November 2nd, 1939 (Thursday)


All our convoy of 30 odd ships sailed out from Bedford Basin & we followed them half an hour afterwards bound for England (& Plymouth at that!) home and beauty. Nice sunny day too – a good omen.

November 10th (Friday)


Still chugging along at making good 7½ knots. Bridge, Bezique, snap, poker, dice, general knowledge in the D.C.T.

November 14th (Tuesday)


Left the convoy in charge of the Local Escort in the early morning & cracked off to Plymouth at 28 knots. Heard later that our destination was changed to Portsmouth, but it doesn’t worry me very much as if I get leave I want to go to Hastings.

[It was not until Thursday that Billy heard that he would get a week’s leave. He met Molly and together they went to a musical comedy at the Kings Theatre Southsea called the Belle of New York. (Programme in the Journal). With other duties to carry out on board it was not until Saturday that Molly and Billy reached Hastings to find Aunt Nina, Reggie and Joy, and Miss Shipton (Nanny). The days were taken up with visits, hiring two bikes for the week, taking exercise, deciding to take a flat permanently in Plymouth.]

M is going to give up her job in Exeter as she can’t hold down a full time job if she’s always going to be running off to me, so she wants to take an unpaid job in Plymouth and make a home there. If my promotion comes along soon I shall be able to afford it all right.

On Sunday 25th M reported that she had had a letter from Dr Page the boss of her 1st Aid Post to tell her to return by November 23rd ‘or perhaps you would prefer a part time unpaid job’.

[On Tuesday 28th a day when Billy had work on board as Officer of the Day, Molly was able to come aboard and have supper.] It was pouring with rain so I rigged Molly up in my sea boots and mac. & she looked too cute for words & sounded like a herd of elephants in full war cry.

November 29th (Wednesday)


Ran into Charles Terry who congratulated me on my promotion, so I had a look at Orders & found I shall be a blinking Captain the day after tomorrow.

December 1st, 1939 (Friday)


Captain Barton RM salutes the world and glories in the wealth of earning 25/- a day just about time too, as finance was going to be a bit tricky.

December 3rd (Sunday)


Last day of leave. A lunch Picnic in a wood at Waterlooville until it rained. We caught a bus back and went to church at St Jude’s where a loverly curate gave a loverly sermon. [This was in contrast with a service at Hastings where Billy had described the sermon as ‘appalling’.] Spent the evening clearing up our various affairs and preparing for another long session of separation. For my farewell supper, my darling wife gives me tinned soup, TINNED fish, and TINNED fruit! Can you beat it?
[HMS Enterprise sailed to Portland for training exercises including gunnery and torpedo firing; she finally sailed for Halifax again on Friday December 8th. Rumours about a sea battle in the South Atlantic reached Billy on December 13th but details of what became known as the Battle of the River Plate were not clear until they reached Halifax on Friday December 15th.] All our fortnight’s mail arrived which was missing from Oct 12 – 26. Letters from Molly, Mother, Joy, Ted’s Molly, & £2.10 from Uncle Jack as a wedding present.

News of the war now – on land there seems to be static warfare Siegfried versus Maginot lines and nothing happens there. In the air there are frequent raids & battles in which, by reports, we usually seem to come off best. At sea merchant ships are being sunk far more by mines than submarines – the Germans are laying mines from the air by parachute & using the new magnetic mine, a lot of neutral shipping is being sunk & it seems to be apparent that we have mastered that menace. Russia is still attacking Finland.

December 17th (Sunday)


The Graf Spee sailed from Montevideo and scuttled herself three miles out, so that’s one menace gone.

[HMS Enterprise left Halifax on December 19th and Christmas Day was celebrated on board in heavy weather.] Sang While Shepherds watched in my bath & after breakfast opened two parcels from Molly & Mother. Molly’s was a miniature wax Christmas tree with candles and tinsel and Father Christmas all in colour – a perfectly lovely thing and though decorations are barred I took it in to the Wardroom and propped it up on the table and nobody seems to mind. Mother’s was a tin of Edinburgh rock. Church on the Seamen’s Mess Deck at 9.30 which ended with a magnificent climax with the King, we got as far as Happy and Glorious when a big one hit the ship & everybody disappeared into the scuppers. The noise of that occupied the next line, but as loud as ever came the final ‘God save the King’ and then there was some swearing!

December 30th (Saturday)


[Portsmouth] they announced 48 hours leave to each watch - three rousing cheers. Stacks of mail came on board & I got a pile about a foot high from Molly, Mother, Marjorie Aunt Esther, & so on. Met Molly at the station. I had to return on board to do a spot of work so Molly went on to the flat & I joined her again at 7.p.m. Molly knocked me all ways up by telling me that she was due for a brat on August 23 next year. Holy Mackerel!

January 1st, 1940 (Monday)


A forenoon’s work then went straight to the station and caught a 2 o’clock train down to Plymouth. Terrible journey & waited ¾ of an hour for a train on Salisbury station. Finally arrived at 9.45 instead of 8.50 & took a taxi home to 5 Beauchamp Villas, Peverell – the first home I’ve ever owned!

[Billy returned to Portsmouth having caught up on sleep and done some practical shopping such as buying curtain rods, and taken Molly to the ‘flicks’. He recorded in his Journal details of 26 films he had seen in 1939 and 12 books he had read. He was unable to read on the train from Salisbury because the compartments were only lit with a blue light. He sailed on Saturday January 6.]

January 7th (Sunday)


During the last dog which I had on watch, the phone rang and the T.S. reported ‘No 5 gun reports that the aeroplane has gone overboard’! And it had too! Nobody seems to have seen it actually go, but it must have snapped all its securing wires and simply lifted out of the cradle and dropped into the sea. I haven’t laughed so much for a long time!

January 8th (Monday)


Another entertaining morning watch with the storm still at its height. As it grew lighter we could see what damage had been done and watched it still being done. The 1st cutter was slowly being pounded into small pieces and by midday the thing had completely disappeared over the side. The 1st motorboat was stove in and all cabin work wrecked and so was the 2nd motorboat. The galley was in two bits nestling among the after torpedo tubes. The pinnace had been lifted off its crutches and hurled inboard against the steel supports of gun deck, lying on its side, stove in and useless except for lighting fires. ‘Tween decks the tale was the same, everywhere was flooded and all the focsle deck had sprung & leaked. Otherwise there wasn’t much wrong! Scudding produced a report on the storm in which he said that the recording of the barograph was similar to that for a tropical hurricane and the barometer reached an exceptional low level. The force of the wind was over 70 mph. The difference in atmospheric pressure was quite noticeable between the top of a wave and the bottom, and he estimated the height of the waves as over 50 feet.

[HMS Enterprise reached Halifax safely on Thursday January 11th and Billy met up with friends on HMS Malaya and went for a walk in the National Park in the snow and skating on Chocolate Lake.]

January 14th (Sunday)


Molly’s birthday – I wonder what she’s doing! Sailed a.m. for Bermuda to do a week’s working up.

January 17th (Wednesday)


Anchored in Grassy Bay at 9.30. Perfectly glorious day, hot sun, deep blue sea and everyone is completely taken aback by the change. The temperature of the water is 74 so if it weren’t for the sharks I’d be bathing this afternoon. It’s my birthday too, though I forgot about it till lunch time.

[There were opportunities for relaxation, expeditions, land drill and shooting practice during their time in Bermuda and they were sorry to leave for Halifax again on January 23rd. A few days followed before they accompanied another convoy as far as 30 degrees west (before returning to Halifax). This included the Aquitania, Empress of Britain, Empress of Australia & Monarch of Bermuda packed with the 3rd Canadian Division zigzagging at 14 knots.]

February 10th, 1940 (Saturday)


On arrival back at Halifax the ship was a glorious sight with a six inch crust of ice all over the decks, superstructure guard rails and so on.

[By February 15th it had started to snow hard, and visibility prevented the next slow convoy leaving. When the snow finished it was 2½ feet deep on the jetty with drifts up to 4 feet. However the convoy was able to leave the following day with 58 ships. HMS Enterprise had mast and condenser trouble and was badly in need of a refit, and further gales scattered many ships in the convoy so it was with relief that she arrived at Portsmouth on Saturday March 2nd and leave was granted as the ship was not due to leave for Halifax until March 15th . Billy met Molly when she arrived by train at 7.40 in the evening but as he was Officer on duty he had to return to the ship until midnight when he was relieved. On Tuesday March 5th they caught a train to Hastings and Billy gave his mother a birthday present of 20 lbs of sugar, a 4lb salmon and 2lbs of butter and bacon brought from Halifax. They took the train to London to stay in the Cumberland Hotel visiting the theatre, meeting Joy and having a dinner dance. They then journeyed to Billericay to see Reggie before returning to Portsmouth on Saturday 9th. The refit continued for a month which allowed Billy time for training his Royal Marine detachment at a firing range, a visit to the Darroll-Smiths at Cheriton where he read the lesson on Easter Sunday and even a visit to the Nursing Home that Molly was going into, before returning to his vessel at the end of the month.]

April 9th, 1940 (Tuesday)


Germany invaded Denmark & Norway this morning. Denmark was overrun almost by nightfall but only isolated German detachments landed in Norway – Oslo, Bergen. Trondheim, Narvik etc. Now there’s going to be some fun! Felt very depressed in the evening.

April 10th (Wednesday)


Reports that Norway were negotiating for peace were denied thank heaven. Lots of fighting in sea & air going on but nothing very definite has come out as yet except the Narvik episode. Bernard rang up in the evening from Southampton. He had had lunch with Mummy in Exeter.

April 11th (Thursday)


Great news today with all the ships sunk & reports that Bergen & Trondheim had been recaptured by British troops. Churchill spoke in Parliament in the evening and summarised the fighting. [Winston Churchill as First Sea Lord was the chief architect of the Norwegian campaign.] On our side the destroyers Glowworm, Gurkha, Hardy & Hunter had been sunk. Rodney had a bomb explode on her armoured deck which failed to penetrate. The Renown had been in action with the Scharnhorst & Kipper & after registering hits the latter had got away. The Bluecher & Karlruhe had been sunk by Norwegian forces, two more unidentified cruisers had been sunk by bombing, two destroyers sunk & six damaged, half a dozen troopships & ten store ships sunk.

At lunch time a flap started & I learned gradually that we were sailing any minute.



HMS Enterprise, Norway, April-May 1940



April 12th (Friday)


Supposed to sail with Effingham but she developed air compressionitis so we sailed alone. The Hereward joined us in the afternoon.

April 14th (Sunday)


Skipper cleared Lower Deck at 1930 & told us we were bound for Narvik to cover the landing of troops – what price glory now?!

April 15th (Monday)


Life is not at all pleasant. Working in two watches now..... Deuce of a storm last night.

April 16th (Tuesday)


Came up from the First Dog to find we’d turned into the West Fjord and just then (1900) we met up with one of our Tribals looking a bit battered, & up an inlet what looked like several destroyers and a merchant ship all aground – engines just stopped must go up & see what’s happening – exciting life! – much! Apparently we are still trying to find out if Narvik is in British or German hands & Punjabi (the Tribal) didn’t know, so we’re asking Penelope. We went on up the fjord to Narvik, still not knowing what was what & who was there. We then got a cipher from Admiral Cork telling us to meet him at Vaagsfjord 100 miles north up the coast.

April 17th (Wednesday)


At the end of the afternoon the fjord came out into a vast bay and we found the Aurora flying the Jack anchored off a small place called Harstad. Lovely sunny day though finishing cold, & it’s hell to think that these ruddy Germans are stopping us from a long walk ashore. Apparently yesterday we escaped with our lives by a couple of minutes – Narvik is in German hands – forts and guns all manned.

April 18th (Thursday)


Our first day of war! Just as I was turning in for an afternoon’s sleep aircraft were sighted & I heard a couple of bombs fall somewhere near – they fell about 200 yards from the Southampton which has just come in.

April 19th (Friday)


A peaceful forenoon and afternoon doing odd work & making out my will! Deuce of a snowstorm during the forenoon & two unproductive air raids. At 1600 the illusion was shattered and off we go back down the bally fjord back to the West Fjord – in preparation for a spot of bother around Narvik I think. A submarine had a pot at us this evening, we didn’t see the track but the torpedo blew up about a mile beyond us.

April 20th (Saturday)


The skipper put up a notice to explain the situation. Narvik is occupied by about 2,400 Germans with the defences pretty well intact and getting stronger every day. During the Last Dog a cipher came in saying we amongst several other cruisers & an odd battleship were to be prepared to land the R.M. detachments at short notice! Got on further with the organisation to the extent of filling all magazines.

April 21st (Sunday)


Skipper’s bulletin says we are to be prepared for ‘severe bombing attacks’. Feeling rather depressed – getting broody about this landing business, and I can’t get my thoughts off being killed or being taken prisoner and having to get on without my Molly for years & years. About time I got on to a more cheerful subject! We have air raid alarms & sight enemy aircraft about twice a watch usually flying parallel to the fjord & they make no attempt to come within range or bomb us.

April 22nd (Monday)


Had a bit of fun today. Left our patrol beat with Anna leading & escorted by Encounter, Escapade & Grenada steamed up to Narvik. The Aurora opened fire first & then we started our bombardment firing only 1 gun at a time with common pointed H.E. First target was what someone described as a pill box but it looked like a wooden hut to me and after a dozen rounds it got a direct hit & it was no more – later it seems that it was a navigation light!

[Other targets were store sheds, farm buildings, a railway viaduct and a silo. A Swordfish from HMS Furious was also brought down and the crew killed. There was some doubt as to whether the Germans had shot it down. The Enterprise padre went across to HMS Encounter to fetch the bodies that had been picked up. Snowstorms on the 23rd and 24th prevented any landings, but Enterprise was involved in firing at Narvik targets together with the much more powerful Warspite. The weather was clearer on the 25th and the bombardment was more successful and the 26th gave the crew a respite.]

April 27th (Saturday)


Had a fairly interesting forenoon watch watching Baker try to get his Seafox to fly. He wasn’t catapulted but was lowered into the sea & then tried to take off down the fjord & failed. She went up reluctantly at the third attempt. He flew about for a bit & we did height finding runs on him & than he came down very rapidly side slipping & looking as if he was going to crash at any moment. Apparently his engine had conked out & he had to be towed back to the ship.

April 28th (Sunday)


[Enterprise moved to Bogen in preparations for landings of Chasseurs Alpines and South Welsh Borderers, and on the following day they were landed south of Narvik at Skymnes.] As we approached the pier we could see a whole lot of people & they were apparently refugees. Anyhow the pinnace went off & landed without interruption & then we gradually disembarked the rest mainly in puffers [Puffers was the name given to small Norwegian fishing vessels] & in the pinnace & cutter. Latest news last night was that they had captured the power station and were as far as Narvik.

[The following day the troops were expected to be beyond Narvik but there was no sign of them.]

May 1st, 1940 (Wednesday)


News came through that Italy has invaded Jugo Slavia – this seems to be a race going on between Italy and Germany as to who can invade the most number of small countries... spent a lazy forenoon in the Director with the ship wandering slowly up & down. Anna & Effingham were doing a bit of firing off Narvik harbour.

May 2nd (Thursday)


A mail, glory be to Allah, came in via Anna, three from Molly and two from Mother. The S.W.B were advancing along the coastline and we had a grandstand view at a range of ¾ mile. We watched them advance across the open bits, men falling and stretcher bearers picking them up. We tried to locate the enemy as they were being cut up by machine fire but could only plaster likely spots. We went and anchored at Bogen for the night.

May 3rd (Friday)


I had the afternoon in the Director & about 1.30 we were mostly sitting on the Director edge sunning ourselves when I heard a drone a bit louder than the usual engine room fans. I looked round towards the bows and ‘Crack, Crack, Crack, Crack’ four bombs fell about a quarter of a mile off the port bow! We were ready for action in 2 seconds – Dickie (R.T.) moved so fast he did not know how he got there! I sighted the plane a Dornier flying boat but he was going away so we didn’t open fire. We went astern out of the fjord at some speed – it isn’t wide enough to manoeuvre in! The [Seafox] plane was wanted for something so we lowered it into the water but the bally thing would not take off so we hoisted it in again. It was while we were getting it in again that the shout went up ‘aircraft overhead’ and I just sighted them before the bombs dropped – one either side of the focsle & one just ahead & another five in quick succession going ahead. It was a very difficult thing to spot them as they came out of the sun and against the glare and blue sky they were almost impossible to see. However we had some fun! It looks as if they were turning their attention to us now and we can expect quite a lot of this.

May 4th (Saturday)


The forenoon watch started off well – “Aircraft green 170 and I got onto him but of course the whole Director was wooded by the mainmast & after funnel. He dropped his bombs, turned and disappeared red 170, so I never got a shot at him. I looked round after he had gone and saw the Polish Grom at the entrance to Rombaks (we are just off Narvik) fairly belching white smoke. She stayed on an even keel for two minutes while Aurora, Faulkner & ourselves dashed towards her and then her bows came right up & her stern went down, she stood on her tail & then disappeared – about 5 minutes all told.

151 of the Grom were rescued out of 216 so it wasn’t so bad as I expected. Our four casualties here got smashed bones. It’s not a sight (sinking of a ship) that I wish to see again however spectacular it may have been. Also in the afternoon three shells from shore batteries arrived one astern one ahead & one on the beam – a matter of 50 yards away. We thought the Germans were getting uppish but it subsequently proved to be the Royal Ruddy Artillery who have landed a battery or so at Skijennes and were trying to hit Narvik! We reported the fact and got a signal in reply, “Incident regretted. Gunners warned”!

May 5th (Sunday)


It is now 11.45 and we have just weathered our fourth air raid since midnight and seventh since Friday morning! There was one just after midnight which woke me up but I just thought I had been dreaming so I went to sleep again!

Just after I was having a bath there was another, though the bombs were a good 100 yards away. There was another half an hour later – big 500 lb ones this time & just now as I was getting this diary out there was a most appalling succession of explosions and shrapnel fairly rattled against the ship’s side – I flung myself on the deck.
Later. I don’t quite know what to say about the events of the last three hours. I had the most peaceful watch in the first dog that I’ve had since Thursday – no aircraft, no bombs, no alarms – and I came down congratulating myself. At 1815 I was sitting in the Wardroom watching Devonshire and Minett play chess when there came a shattering crash followed almost immediately by the alarm to Action. I dashed up to the After Control & found there a most ghastly sight – the Commander with blood all over his face down on the deck but merry & joking with a couple of men bandaging him, and in the corner Leedham slumped down on the deck with a hole in the back and front of his head. There was nothing we could do for him – he must have been killed at once. We laid on our tummies on the deck while the raids continued.

The ship is literally peppered with holes in the upperworks – in fact every bit of the ship above the waterline & aft of the midship funnel is holed.

It was a hellish business & the opinion in the ship now is that it’s just murder to stay up here – we’ve got nothing to defend ourselves with as the 4 inch guns are practically useless. We buried Leedham half an hour ago, and gave him a firing party. Last Post and Reveille. I must write to his wife. [William Leedham was one of the R.M Musicians aboard. Billy had over 70 Marines in his detachment]

May 6th (Monday)


A comparatively peaceful day.

Glory be to Allah, some of our own aircraft have arrived. The relief is something enormous. There were one or two details of yesterday’s episode that I missed – it all feels like a bad dream now. During the first dog we sank our first aircraft, but unfortunately it was our own! Baker was coming back from one of his taxi journeys and as he hooked on so the plane started swinging away from the ship & we were going forward slowly. There was too much slack on the purchase & Hooper was not quite quick enough taking it up with the result that the plane overturned & Baker was flung into the water. He was picked up straightaway of course and was none the worse for it but the plane was no more use though we managed to get it inboard. Anyway it was a great pity that the Captain reported the occurrence straight away, because in the big raid it was riddled with shrapnel and made entirely unserviceable.

May 7th (Tuesday)


Had a busy forenoon sighting our own aircraft right, left & centre. It’s incredible how the morale of the ship’s company has improved since the first of our aircraft were sighted. No longer do we brace ourselves every second for the crash of bombs, and nearly pass out whenever a door is slammed or somebody shouts.

I wrote to Mrs Leedham this afternoon – not a very pleasant job. Later. Our fifteenth air raid came at 17.00, and the Aurora took one on B turret.

May 8th & 9th (Wednesday & Thursday)


The weather was overcast. Nice rainy day again and haven’t sighted a single plane so far.

May 10th (Friday)


Germany invade Holland and Belgium last night – at least the wireless seems to think they haven’t sent any troops but they bombed towns in both countries.

I spent the afternoon lying flat on my back on the deck in the W.O’s flat while the German bombers proceeded to bomb us to their heart’s content. We had about nine separate attacks and 50 to 60 bombs were offloaded in our vicinity. We were making heavy smoke and zigzagging with the aircraft astern so the Director couldn’t see a thing. We embarked two companies of the Scots Guards to land them at Mo.

May 11th (Saturday)


On passage to Mo the whole day at about 4 knots – the Margot, merchant ship carrying stores and troops couldn’t make any more due to head wind. The officers were quite a chummy crowd although some of them got mal de mer. Anyway it was a day free from bombs which was one mercy.

May 12th (Sunday)


At about 2.30 we met Jackal and Javelin coming down & we all stopped & had a mother’s meeting in the middle of the fjord. (Having a bit of difficulty in getting this written, I keep having to stop because we are being bombed!)

[HMS Enterprise landed the Scots Guards unopposed but bombing raids continued most of the day.]

We streaked down the fjord at 30 knots pursued and bombed eight different times by the planes. Once again the skipper’s marvellous handling of the ship saved us & it needs some skill to send a large ship at 30 knots down their twisting fjords. Sunday is quite definitely a black day for Enterprise. Our own events have made me forget the political upheaval at home. The Norwegian withdrawal was so strongly criticised that Chamberlain resigned, & Churchill is now P.M.

May 13th (Monday)


Joy’s birthday and Whit Monday – and to think that last Whit Monday I was at Olympia with Molly, and I was sunbathing with her in a punt on the River Wey & then a picnic in Netley Heath! Off to Lavangs Fjord – thank heaven we aren’t going to Mo. Anchored in Harstad during the First.

May 14th (Tuesday)


Morning Watch & found a large mail waiting for me, three letters & films from Molly, two from Mother, one from Bernard & Joy. During the Last Dog I had eight ‘alarms’ the first was 2 Skuas, the second was the Southampton Walrus taking off, the third was a seagull, the fourth was a Norwegian seaplane and fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth were Skuas! [The Blackburn Skua was the first Fleet Air Arm monoplane to operate from aircraft carriers. Operating from the Orkney Islands Skuas sank the German cruiser Konigsberg in Bergen harbour on April 10th. They were later to suffer heavy losses attacking the battleship Scharnhorst. Effective against German bombers their relative slow speed of 225 m.p.h. made them vulnerable when attacked by modern German fighters. The Supermarine Walrus was an amphibious plane designed to be launched from cruisers by Catapult. It looked ungainly with its pusher engine (to keep water out) but was much better armed and heavier than the Seafox.]

May 15th (Wednesday)


We embarked the French Minister to Norway & 2 of his staff at about midnight and at 0700 we sailed for Tromso arriving there at noon. It has hardly been touched by the war. Devonshire was lying at anchor flying some admiral’s flag and looking very spick & span in new paint compared to our terrible state and full of shrapnel holes. Isn’t it grand actually to feel safe for a short time.

May 16th (Thursday)


It was a lovely sunny day & it was quite a pleasant keeping the afternoon in the director watching the Local Lovelies drifting round the ship in their boots and the matelots making matelot-ish remarks!

May 18th (Saturday)


We pushed off to Harstad. The news in this area hasn’t been too good just lately, Effingham struck a submerged rock near Bodo and is now sunk. We’ve had to evacuate the army from Mo too. The battle on the western front goes on with Germany throwing in everything she’s got for a rush victory. They have pierced the Maginot Line at Sedan & there’s a gap 30 miles deep and 50 miles wide. In Belgium we are retiring the whole time, though we have the Maginot line on the Belgian frontier to fall back on. Holland of course has gone under, though before the army surrendered they seem to have destroyed everything possible. The amusing thing is the reaction in South Africa of the invasion of Holland. Thousands of old Boers are rushing to enlist, & nothing could have been better from our point of view. We embarked the British Minister to Norway, some of his staff together with a large amount of baggage. Then we steamed straight back to Tromso. Just a taxi trip that’s all!

[A few days followed of the old monotonous peacetime routine. Boxing competitions, Tug of War, Whaler races against HMS Devonshire, a concert, and the Captain was sent off with ‘For he’s a jolly good fellow.” The troops had been longing to show him their appreciation for him for a long time – the last cheer was for the ‘man who saved us from the German bombers.’]

May 23rd (Thursday)


We embarked some £5 million of Norwegian gold & 3 Norwegian bank officials, so that looks like homeward bound. Lord Cork arrived just before an air raid.

May 24th (Friday)


[Back at Hastad.] Had a good many alarms and must have sighted about a dozen enemy aircraft , then at 7.30 got on to a large bomber coming straight towards us. We were secured to an oiler then & oiling rapidly so we were a sitting target. I watched him drop his bombs & gave the order to take cover and then what seemed like hours afterwards came the whine & screech of them falling. I was certain he had got us because the whine went on for so long, but half a dozen A-Ps fell in a line coming towards (us,) the nearest 20 yards away. Luckily he didn’t dump a dozen or he’d have got us plumb in the director! We finished oiling at 11.0 - a thousand tons in 3 hours isn’t bad, & shows what a hurry we were to part company!

We pushed off for Scapa and - who knows?! The Cairo and a couple of Gladiators accompanied us to the coast & there we said goodbye to Norway – I sincerely hope! It’s been a pretty foul time but it’s had its moments. We’ve been exchanging all sorts of complimentary signals with ships as they know we were bound for home.

May 26th (Sunday)


Arrived Scapa at 1800 & anchored near Rodney. Repulse, Renown, Warspite, Royal Sovereign, York & Suffolk were in too, so what with the shore defences & the barrage balloons we at last felt safe! Learned we were going to Plymouth – the last time I went from Scapa to Plymouth I got married. I wonder what will happen this time – twins I expect!

May 28th (Tuesday)


The Belgians have surrendered – on the orders of King Leopold & against the Government apparently. The BEF are being evacuated from Dunkirk. A cheering piece of news indeed! Now what’s going to happen with the Germans as far south as Boulogne? Anyway it’s going to take them a lot longer to cross the Channel than it did to cross the Skaggarak.

May 29th (Wednesday)


Arrived Plymouth 0515. At lunch heard that all night leave was being given so rang Molly and told her to come down to the Westminster Hotel. Ain’t life grand.

May 31st (Friday)

Back to ship to learn we were being given 6 days leave. [There followed picnics, Church, camping tennis, gardening, sailing, news of Dunkirk rescue, and news of Italy joining the war, ‘lousy little blighter’.]

June 14th, 1940 (Friday)


Been spending the usual time in harbour. Back to Molly & after having myself polyphotoed (two plates are req’d for the Identification Card when they arrive) & haircutted & tea’d, we crossed by the Cremyll ferry & bussed to Cawsand where we had a lovely bathe & picnic supper & then came back for an early bed. The news is very depressing. We evacuated Norway a few days ago & the Glorious, Acasta & Ardent were lost while doing so. [The 1940 Norwegian expedition is generally looked upon as a failure and it led to a change of Prime Minister. But the destruction of much of the German fleet during these operations helped the Royal Navy to retain control of the seas. HMS Glorious, an aircraft carrier, was sunk by the German battleships Gneisenau and Scharnhorst with the loss of 1200 lives on June 8th 1940. The destroyers Ardent and Acasta were also sunk in the same action but inflicted sufficient damage upon their much larger opponents to lead them to withdraw to Trondheim allowing the evacuation of troops from Norway.]

June 22nd (Saturday)


Today came the terrible news that France had capitulated & was seeking terms. So that leaves us against the ruddy Germans and Italians. All the BEF are coming back and we shall have to turn ourselves into a vast fortress. I only hope the French don’t surrender their fleet but I’m afraid that’ll be part of the conditions. Not a very pleasant outlook at the moment.

[Nevertheless Billy described this week as a very pleasant one. He had seen much of Molly, played bridge, and bathed at Cawsand again. When the Dry dock was flooded and Enterprise was moved out to a wharf, Molly was aboard. On Sunday 23rd Enterprise was being loaded with ammunition all day, and at the end of the day Billy listened on the wireless to the German terms to the French. On Monday there was a party on board and Molly met most of the officers, but on Tuesday when a visit to a ‘flick’ with Molly had been arranged, the ship was put on four hours notice and all leave was cancelled.]

June 27th (Thursday)


Down harbour at 1000 to the sound. Passed the Calcutta which had just come in. She rammed the Canadian destroyer Fraser last night & sank her – 92 killed. Back to the Sound for aircraft trials and oiling. Still no news of where or when.

June 29th (Saturday)


We got orders to raise steam and at 1530 our sailing orders arrived, & at 1600 we sailed for Gibraltar at 28 knots.

[On arrival at Gibraltar on July 1st Billy heard that Enterprise was part of Force H together with Hood, Valiant, Resolution, & Ark Royal & Arethusa and various destroyers.]


HMS Enterprise, Gibraltar and the Mediterranean


July 2nd, 1940 (Tuesday)


By 1800 Force H was at sea steaming west with the battleships & Ark Royal, Hood in the van, cruisers in line abreast four cables ahead, and destroyers screening – rather a fine sight & the first time I have seen a ‘fleet’ go to sea, even if it is a small one. Our destination is Oran – “to prevent the Germans or Italians taking over the French fleet”. What a thought!

July 3rd (Wednesday)


Yesterday [July 3rd] might be described as a day of some importance, a desperately tragic day, as well as a day on which I feel I earned every penny of my pay.

We steamed past Oran at a range of 18,000 yards and we could see a whole lot of enemy ships in the harbour – the harbour is little more than a breakwater on a fairly straight coastline. The Foxhound was sent in with delegates to see the Admiral but was refused permission to enter. The Hood then sent a long signal offering free passage to the French Congo, West Indies or anywhere in fact except stay in the Mediterranean, and that all French sailors who wished to could then return to France. The answer was again in the negative, and the Admiral then sent something in the shape of an ultimatum - the French then consented to see the delegates. Up till 1300 we had been steaming with the Battle Fleet though Arethusa had been detached to escort Ark Royal which was further north flying aircraft on & off.

The French refused the delegates’ terms and we were going into action at 17.30. We turned together 180 degrees to starboard and proceeded to bombard the harbour, the heavy ships taking the French ships and the cruisers the forts.

News came through that the Dunkerque [It proved later to be the Strasbourg] & six destroyers had broken out of the harbour (mining by aircraft from Ark Royal wasn’t very effective!) and were heading east, & we were chasing them. Arethusa and ourselves opened fire. I felt very sorry for them as time and time again I saw the big splashes of the Hood’s shells fall just ahead, our fire just over and the Arethusa’s six just short. About our seventh salvo produced a colossal flame on one destroyer & we claimed a hit. Our aircraft had apparently attacked the Dunkerque & got one torpedo home & she had gone into a bay further up the coast. It was a rotten sort of engagement: we didn’t want to shell them but they gave us no other way out & we quite obviously couldn’t afford the risk of meeting the French fleet manned by Germans. [Other parts of the French fleet had already sailed to British ports and surrendered. A French force at Alexandria submitted to the terms and jointly with the British fired against Italian aircraft during a raid. Vice Admiral Sir James Sullivan commander of the British fleet at Oran had helped to rescue 100,000 French from Dunkirk but his delegate was unable to persuade the French Admiral to comply with British requests. Churchill reported to the House of Commons that two of the finest vessels of the French fleet, the Dunkerque and the Strasburg modern battle cruisers were much superior to the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau] There were several enemy aircraft including French about, dropping bombs well off target, and much confusion and after nearly thirteen hours the crew of the Enterprise were so dog tired it would have taken a couple of torpedoes to wake most people up.

July 4th (Thursday)


Steaming in line ahead back to Gibraltar: had the afternoon [Watch] & as we closed the Rock the destroyers found a submarine & there was a lot of depth charging going on but I didn’t know if they got it. The big ships went in first & we followed last at 1850.

July 5th (Friday)


We are waiting for Valiant & Hood to come out before we steam for an unknown destination. Arethusa is with us & the destroyers of course but I don’t know if the Ark is coming.

July 7th (Sunday)


Divisions and Church. Still duty cruiser and one hours notice or something damn silly & no leave given.

July 8th (Monday)


Off to sea at 0630. Sailed in company with Force H at 17 knots to bomb Cagliari and ‘test the quality and price of ice cream’ as Somerville put it!

As I finished the First dog came the old familiar “Thump, thump, Thump” & at the same time I started my ‘bombing headache’. The Itis had arrived. That lot narrowly missed the Arethusa, same round the Ark & a salvo between us & the Hood. Nobody saw any planes shot down, & we were all asking where the Skuas were. We steered west at 8.p.m. & it looked as if we were running away.

[It turned out that Force H was acting as a diversion while the main fleet attacked the Italian fleet which had been tempted out. It had immediately turned away behind a smokescreen & disappeared.] The ice cream appears to have been rather runny!

[Leave was given on return to Gibraltar except when Enterprise was Duty ship. Vice Admiral Somerville came aboard to explain the recent excursions. Time during much of August was given up to meeting friends, to playing or refereeing hockey matches and water polo, aquatic sports, playing cricket in the sweltering heat which included an innings of 46 with three sixes and five fours, and later an unbeaten century against the Devonshire, bathing in the Dock, a climb up the Rock and some wild evenings. There was one excursion to attack shipping in the Gironde but en route it was cancelled.]

July 28th (Sunday)


Mail – one from Molly & another from Arthur with a wedding present of seven guineas. Most amusing letter.

July 30th (Tuesday)


Argus with four Hurricanes on her flight deck arrived with some destroyers.

July 31st (Wednesday)


Off at 0730 in company with Hood, Valiant, Theseus, Ark & Argus, Arethusa & 8 D.F. (8th Destroyer force) to transport 12 Hurricanes to a position where the Hurricanes could fly the 400 miles to Malta where they were urgently required. They were bombed frequently by Italians and once again it was impossible to reply with a mast in the way. Enterprise was employed on a diversion which involved sending out bogus messages off Majorca and they returned to Gibraltar at 29 knots. Italian radio reported that they had been sunk.

[Meanwhile the Battle of Britain was in full swing and the Times reported 493 Enemy aircraft shot down in the week ending August 17th]

August 20th, 1940 (Tuesday)


[There are times when the exhausting heat and tension got through to Billy.] A large mail most of it which we thought had been sunk. There’s some missing. They are an infernal nuisance these people telling us the mail has been sunk & then it turning up minus a few bits.

I was cleaning my teeth when Crump, crump, crump & a stack of bombs fell in the harbour on the starboard bow – shook the ship a bit. Almost at the same time the bomber was caught in the searchlights and every gun from 4 inch to Lewis opened up. I stopped cleaning my teeth on the deck to go and have a look & as I arrived up top there was the bomber in a vertical spin coming down over the sea – the first plane I’ve seen brought down. Everybody in the ships & on shore was cheering like mad!

August 21st (Wednesday)


Had to parade a guard & band for the Military Governor of Algeciras arriving to pay a social visit. Devonshire appeared & started giving me one of his infernal cipher messages. & I cursed him for getting in the light. He insisted on my reading it and it said “Pass to Captain Barton Enterprise. Susan arrived 18th August 11.p.m. 6 pounds both splendid love Granny.”!! I nearly passed out & then nearly jumped over the side! The guard went with a swing then & we gave the old Spanish boffin a salute that must have shaken him to the core. [Billy’s reply to the telegram is recorded, “Very good work. News arrived middle of ceremonial Guard. All my love to you both. Billy.”]

[There were further days of active recreation interrupted by an occasional patrol and bombing raids.] We were playing bridge at the time & went on playing bridge. It is rather different actually as a ship like Renown is designed for the offensive against aircraft, but we aren’t & if a bomb does connect with us it doesn’t matter where you are or what you are wearing.



HMS Enterprise, South Atlantic



August 30th (Friday)


Skipper cleared Lower Deck & told us we were going to Freetown and then to relieve Hawkins temporarily on the S Atlantic Station which means that either the Cape or the Falklands will be our base – it’ll be funny if I eventually do run into Arthur! What isn’t so good is the mail situation, and we’ll be lucky if we see any mail for two or three months.

September 1st, 1940 (Sunday)


Arrived in Freetown after an uneventful but very hot trip. For the first time in four months it poured with rain. We all wondered at the coolness because it was much cooler lying at anchor than it was at sea. Actually the rains are just ending & it is the coolest time of year. We overtook the Argus & followed the Ajax in – the Argus is carrying Hurricanes on her flight deck again.

September 3rd (Tuesday)


Sailed at 0830 for South American waters: presumably we shall go to Rio for oil.

September 5th (Thursday)


The Skipper has allowed us to carry out the Crossing of the Line ceremony so the whole day from 0700 to 1600 was given over to Neptune’s Court. A guard of old sea dogs (Officers) and Marines waited on the Q.D. and Neptune and his court assembled amidships and marched aft headed by the Band. I don’t know who wrote the script but it was quite good – they had about half a dozen initiates & started on volunteer initiates. I thought I would get it over quick but found out there was a warrant out for “disturbing my royal domain by holding Aquatic sports at Gib, and for being called Christopher (he called it Christophider) the saint of travel, & not, at his mature age, having visited my domain before”. I’ve forgotten what the sentence was but I was well & truly set on by the doctor, the dentist, the barbers. With my mouth full of soap and pills, my hair soaked a royal blue, & the rest of my body covered in soapy suds & a glutinous black mixture I was flung to the bears. Ducked five times in the first bath, I was thrown to the second for another six & then back to the first for another three, into the second again for more, & finally out on to a gym mat as a physical & mental wreck! They ran out of various brews, but everybody got a pretty good dose & it was very good entertainment. About 500 went through the mill. At the end I organised a gang of pirates and we put the whole court under water & had a general set to in the baths.

September 11th (Wednesday)


We sighted the Hawkins at 0800 today a few miles off Sao Sebastian, and we followed him into one of the many anchorages there are dotted about up and down this coast. It’s well outside the three mile limit for neutrality purposes and the oiler comes out to meet you.

The whole day was a bit of a panic getting in gear & generally fitting ourselves out as a flagship. Commodore Pegram arrived about 1500.

September 24th (Tuesday)


Steamed off down the coast and showed ourselves off Santos, which is still full of German & Italian shipping, in case they felt like making a run for it.

September 26th (Thursday)


Paraded Guard & Band at 7.40 to enter Rio de Janeiro harbour at 0800. I hadn’t the faintest idea what we were going to salute or when, and though we passed several forts nobody seemed to be very interested in us. It wasn’t till we got in to the inner harbour and were about abreast of the airport that we fired 21 guns to the Country. Then I saw the saluting guns on a shore station answering and as we passed we presented arms & played their anthem. It’s an incredible thing this anthem, rather like a Beethoven Symphony in Z Major & just about as long. Hundreds of people were packed behind railings watching us with interest. The Captain sent for me & told me to act as Press Officer & promptly landed three Brazilian reporters upon me. I gave them a sheaf of tripe to write about – Narvik, Oran and Heile Selassie chiefly. They each finished a packet of 20 Players & then I got rid of them. A colossal number of people were on board, all of the local British community and everybody was getting fixed up to go & sightsee or play golf, tennis, shop & so on. [Billy went ashore having been invited to a party with partners provided at the Casino Atlantico. There his partner Marion Summers pointed out a Nazi, the first he had seen since Narvik, and Billy could think of nothing more to do than look the other way!]] Marion was a good sort, not even her future husband would call her pretty as she had more freckles & a more turned up nose than anyone else I knew, she is a product of Buenos Aires, up here for 3 months secretarial training.

[Several fellow officers arrived but only Berenson’s wife and one other girl completed the party. Billy could not get the hang of the local dances at all most of which were a sort of double time quickstep, though they had tangos & rumbas and the occasional slow foxtrot. A programme of the floorshow is in the journal. The following day Billy went shopping for a sponge with great difficulty owing to language difficulties! At a second trip to the Casino Atlantico Bill learned more about the life of a Briton in a foreign neutral country from Marion and her friends.] There are a good many Germans in Rio all of whom are preparing for and boasting about the time when this is German. They have large quantities of goods on order from Germany in October when they will have won the war. There is far more anti-Italian feeling than there is German. As a whole the country is pro ally and there are innumerable charities, organisations like the Red Cross which makes the German community livid. [The evening was more successful as the group all had partners and Peggy taught him most of the local dances.] Almost felt like leaving England!

September 28th (Saturday)


Ye gods what a hangover! Up at 07.30 to take the Guard & Band for leaving harbour at 8.0. Quite a crowd to see us off & the Band played “All the nice girls love a sailor”.
[For several days Enterprise carried out her duties patrolling up and down the South American coastline.]

October 14th, 1940 (Monday)


Chugged into the muddy estuary of the River Plate and met the Broomdale for oiling. They gave us a colossal mail & I had 4 from Molly, 5 from Mother & others from Joy, Aunt Jessie, Aunt Ger, & Edgar Matthews. 3 of Molly’s were after Susan was born which she wrote reams about. Had bombs & air raids in Crediton too blast them. Father & Mother aren’t having any too pleasant a time in Reigate with bombs.

[The English in Buenos Aires went out of their way to entertain the officers providing hospitality, firstly at the official cocktail party for officers at the English club. A Mr Begg turned up with a couple who looked like film stars, daughters of an English rancher, and Billy and his new friends set off to a Nightclub.]

Gifts poured on board the whole day, ducks, oysters and fruit, books and magazines. [Billy was taken to Harrods to buy Molly silk stockings.] Joan & Pam the two daughters came aboard and caused much attention; Pam being very typical stuck her nose into everything that interested her. She even made tracks into the Seamen’s heads but came out with a resounding shriek. Even Joan descended into calling L/S Waters “perfectly Sweet”! It was some journey and Devon & I have established a reputation amongst the troops that is going to take some time to live down!

Truly an incredible 48 hours! I gather that Enterprise as a whole was very popular ashore, we heard nothing but praise of the Ship’s company wherever we went so much so that the Commodore sent the Captain a note... Very proud to be wearing my broad pennant in your ship.

October 26th (Saturday)


Off to sea again going north. Saw an odd mast or so of the Graf Spee which is all that remains.

November 3rd, 1940 (Sunday)


Reports came though on Friday that a German ship had taken sail out of Rio Grande, so we started searching. White [the Seafox pilot] had a field day doing three and a half hours flying. The only thing he saw was a British Minesweeper who sent out a panic signal of “Enemy aircraft”! White made friends to him and when he left was given three toots on the siren! It must have shaken them to see a crate like the Seafox coming out of the blue five hundred miles from land!

November 13th (Wednesday)


Very good news today with the FAA beating up the Italian fleet. A few days ago a N. Atlantic convoy ran into a pocket battleship, and we’ve been waiting for the news. HMS Jervis Bay, the AMC (Armoured Merchant Cruiser) put up a damned good fight for two hours apparently & was sunk. 29 of the convoy of 38 ships have already reached port. So it isn’t too bad.

November 20th (Wednesday)


A week of usual routine. Today there is evidence that a raider is close to us, & we’re all wondering if we are going to bump into the Scheer.

November 21st (Thursday)


Was woken at 2.45 by the Alarm Rattlers – the first time they’ve been used at night. It was a most unpleasant feeling as one scrambled into a duffle coat & shoes, grabbed gasmask, helmet, glasses, lifebelt and rushed up expecting the first shell to land any minute. When I got to the After Control I could see the darkened ship away on the stbd. beam. As we got closer she seemed too big for the Scheer & then word came through that it was the Queen of Bermuda. Went back to bed again.

December 3rd, 1940 (Tuesday)


Anchored in the Plate at 1600 and the Borrowdale arrived soon after from Monte.

December 6th (Friday)


Met the Carnarvon Castle at 0930. This [armed liner Carnarvon Castle] had had a bit of hammering in a battle with a German raider. [The British Press had reported wrongly that ‘the fast cruiser’ HMS Enterprise had engaged the raider in a battle (which Molly would have read.)]

December 13th (Friday)


[Entered Montevideo harbour at 1400. (after fifty days at sea.) Celebrations ashore were similar to those in Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro. Billy records that several people said that they always hoped ships arriving on the station would go to Monte first because there were so spoilt at Rio & B.A. One incident at the English Club was unusual. Billy was introduced to a girl]] & I danced with her but she was rather like a cab horse. At one corner I saw a bit of a peach talking to the Benares, so I made an excuse to my partner & went over to talk to them to connect with the peach. As I approached, the ‘peach’ advanced and said, ‘Are you Francis Barton?’ Luckily I was fortified with alcohol & answered ‘Yes, please,’ so she said, ‘I know your brother very well’.

She was Anne Henniker-Heaton [Rose Anne the elder daughter, born in 1914, returned to Britain to volunteer for War Service and in 1945 married Norman Cameron who had served in the Coldstream Guards in the War and they returned to run the family sheep farm at Port San Carlos in 1946.] daughter of the Governor of the Falkland Islands, so we had a long yarn about them. She was all dressed up & going in a boiled shirt party with the Commodore, so there was no hope for me.

I got involved with a Mrs Pinner who was really rather nice & my hopes began to rise again, until a squint eyed weedy individual rolled up to be introduced as her husband, and took her home. That finished me.....

December 15th (Sunday)


Got rid of another 40 air Mail letters which cost 46/- more than I collected. [Arranging for the posting of mail was one of Billy’s tasks which could be time consuming when there were 500 men on board and it was also not unusual for him to be out of pocket. Air Mail was very expensive from South America to Britain.]

December 16th (Monday)


Found we were anchored a little way off the Arndale who had the Cumberland alongside her. She is relieving us on this station. The Commodore made a farewell speech followed by the Captain who thanked him & gave him 3 cheers. Then he & staff left to hoist his pennant on the Cumberland & we were one more a private ship on our way to Capetown at 15 knots for 7 days self refit.

December 25th (Wednesday)


Christmas Day 1940 started for me with the Morning Watch and then after breakfast we had H.C. on the quarterdeck and very pleasant it was too being my first open air HC. The temperature was 85 degrees then but there was a cooling breeze which kept the heat off – it also tied the vicar up completely with his surplice & the wafers.



The Middle East, May 1941


[The diary for this year is not available. However a very long letter closely typed on 13 pages of octavo to his mother survives and is dated 28th May 1941.]

I’ll go back to the night of 1st/2nd May to start the story. We were then steaming aimlessly up and down a mythical line looking for goodness knows what and kidding ourselves that we were serving our King and Country in time of war when we received orders to proceed to “—“[The name was omitted because the letter would be censored. It was Fao in Iraq, better known now as Al-Faw a marshy area on the Shatt-al-Arab which is still in dispute with Iran and a point where Iranian forces invaded Iraq in 1986.] with all despatch. One can hardly call “—“a place because you can’t see any land however hard you look, but the land isn’t very far off actually.
On Sunday May 4th at 0615 a messenger brought me a signal, “Enterprise is to land a Party consisting of ... under command of Captain, Royal Marines. Boy oh Boy, did I leap for joy! I hadn’t the faintest idea what it was all about but to do a bit of soldiering for a bit was just my idea of heaven at that particular time. The signal said, “Take rations for 7 days”. The ship [HMS Cockchafer. An Insect Class river gunboat launched in 1916.] that was ferrying us to our destination didn’t arrive till 1000 and by then we were all set for the big Event. It was a two hour trip so when I’d got all the men settled down under an awning eating a dinner of bully beef and dog biscuits, I went for’d with Anson the only other Officer in our party and the skipper explained what was happening. I never got any orders until I had been there two or three days... by the time I got them I had already down everything – and a good bit more besides. It was great fun having no orders as I simply did exactly as I pleased.

[The Landing party of 120 men was going to a depot for ships working on the river. The Officers and management were all English, but the locals had deserted and the party was tasked with protecting the base and persuading the locals to return to work]

“Fao“ did not look like a place that I would like to spend my honeymoon in. The river was dirty and just stank, the Village was all mud huts and looked as if it stunk and the sun just blazed down and reflected off all the mud and muddy coloured buildings, the iron decked pontoons burned straight through your shoes, and it was impossible to stand on them for more than ten minutes. [Mr Shoosmith the Superintendant showed Billy round and he found it was better than he first thought, with bungalows, trees, a Club, and a swimming pool. He had just sufficient men to defend the Depot only.]

I learned afterwards that the Locals had all got their plans taped, each part of the Depot had been apportioned to some man and his family to loot, everyone had his pet and particular European to torture, in fact they were going to have a great time, when some blazing idiots of Marines walked in an upset the entire organisation.
There was a man there by the name of Roney. He has been sent down by S.N.O. (Senior Naval Officer). He had the great advantage of having been an ex-superintendant of the place and now holds the rank of Lieutenant in the R.N.R. I asked his advice on everything that I did before I did it. The situation could be divided into three distinct parts – defence of the Depot, getting the natives back to work, and getting the ships out to work. I left the working of the ships [using 30 men for each ship to do the work of 90 day and night] to Anson, Roney and Shoosmith and I concentrated on little plans for getting the natives back to work. I’d like to have taken my chaps out and combed the village and brought everybody in at the point of a bayonet, but Roney said it was no earthly good as they’d all die of fright.

That evening Roney gathered a crowd of them outside the main gate and addressed them from a genuine soapbox. They hadn’t been paid for the month of April, so he promised them half of that if they came back to work the next morning and a bonus of 10/-. We treated them as if it was an ordinary strike, but in other parts of the same country we were fighting their troops with ours!

The normal population of the village was about 3000 but the vast majority had packed all their belongings into a bus or a boat and gone up river.

[Billy largely dealt with the Government official for the area (the Mudir, with his three underlings (Mukhtas) together with a “Station House Officer” (Policeman), and two Jews who acted as interpreters.]

Our quarters were really quite good. The troops varied theirs very much depending on the arrivals and departures of various units. My R.Ms started in a large corrugated iron shed with a concrete floor. Then I moved them up to the balcony of the Club for a few days and then finally to an empty furnished bungalow where they enjoyed life thoroughly. We got beds and mosquito nets from the Depot hospital, but unfortunately the latter didn’t keep out the sandfly, and we suffered unmercifully from their bites. The shade temp. reached 114 one afternoon but even so it was nothing like the heat we’d been used to in the ship.

Tuesday the 6th saw a lot of reinforcements arriving to swell my force, to wit a large number of Gurkhas. A Sec. Lieut. Wilson was in charge and when I got to know him he was a very interesting chap. He joined up as a ‘Hostilities only’ and this was his first job since completing training. He knew considerably more than I did about all the latest tricks of the trade of soldiering as learned from the Germans, because he was trained on books that had been produced since the war began. I learned to respect the Gurkhas because of their reputation but I was very disappointed in them. They have a very bad habit of not quite carrying out your orders to the last detail. Of course the sight of these tough little chaps put the fear of God into the local populace, and with their rifles, bayonets and kukris they certainly looked the N.W. Frontier type.They had been trained to see and not be seen, to hear and not be heard. If you happened to approach their Sentry Post at night, all you heard was a very low and hoarse “Halt” from out of the air. The only trouble was that provided you knew that you only had to answer “Friend” to his “Halt” even Hitler himself would have been let pass. They didn’t know any more English than that.

About noon that day I received my first orders since being told to land and that was a signal saying that General “— “ [General Fraser] had directed that I was to command all forces ashore at “—“. I promptly styled myself ‘N.G.O.C. Imperial forces at “—“ ‘ – the ‘N’ standing for “Nearly”. The Commander sent me a complete Brass Hat’s outfit in cardboard!

[That evening an offensive plan to get the natives backed to work was worked on. By 0500 they were set for the big day.]

Shoosmith and I went along to fetch the Mudir to join our party so as to give the villagers at least the impression that our party had the official sanction of their Government. We went up to his house but he wasn’t there but Shoosmith had suddenly sighted Public Agitator No.1 standing just outside the Gate watching us. We beamed at him and said what a lovely morning it was, wouldn’t he like to have a cup of coffee with us; he seemed to think that he didn’t want a cup of coffee, but by that time I had got through the gate and was between him and the Village. I pushed my revolver into his sternsheets and murmured the accepted “Get moving”! He moved. It was an outstanding bit of luck, and it went a long way towards getting the natives back to work.

The next morning, the 8th, I was told that during the night the Mudir, the S.H.O., and all the remaining Police had deserted. In a way it didn’t matter much because the Police were broken reeds anyhow, but it meaned I had to take over the protection and policing of the Village.

Friday the 9th. Was a big day as some 200 of the locals came pouring back to work. Why I don’t know. [On the following day some of the police returned and Billy disarmed them following orders which he had finally received. By the 11th he had sufficient number of locals available to man two of the ships which were dredgers, and half the Marines returned to the Enterprise...] very sorrowfully. We had a warning that German aircraft might be expected down our way at any time. I had some sort of AA defence worked out, but as there was nothing much to do now I concentrated on getting little posts set up with L.M.Gs. [Light Machine Guns.]
Thursday 15th was the day when things started to go wrong again, and I heard that 5 of the Customs Police had walked off. The S.H.O. came and told me and I gave him a blast for not controlling his confounded police. He just shrugged his shoulders in the accepted manner.

Saturday 17th the blighted S.H.O. and two of his Police walked out on me. He went up to the town to try and get some money to pay his Policemen with or so I am told. He probably walked off with all the money or else he was roped in by the other side. Anyway I never saw him again.

It was about this time that the big Man in the big City [it was on May 10th 1941 that a fatwa was issued against the British by Rashid al-Gaylani who was a pro-Nazi nationalist leader, the coup having been instigated by Mufti Mohammed Amin al-Husayni and they received support from Germany, Italy and Vichy France. British troops seized back control within weeks] issued a proclamation to the effect that any chap who continued to work for the British would be punished very severely – just a few legs and arms and ears lopped off – and if they couldn’t catch him they would take it out on his family.... I am afraid that it would affect all our Workmen badly and fully expected them to pack up and go, but actually there were very few who did. – just one or two here and there elected to jump over the fence on to what subsequently proved to be the wrong side of the fence.

It all started early on Sunday 18th when the Sgt. of Police rolled in to say that all the rest of the Police had walked off. I got all their gear collected in again, and decided then that I would have to run the blinking village. I sent out my chaps as Police Patrols, and I imposed a curfew and issued a Proclamation on May 19th. At 9 o’clock that evening I received an urgent signal – Wilson and all his Gurkhas were to be relieved and were to be ready to embark in an H.M. Gunboat by midnight! I nearly passed out on the spot. I met the new Gurkha officer – name of Murdoch. He did not even belong to that Company or even that Battalion, he had just been told to take them over. Murdoch spoke less Gurkani than Wilson and his Jamadar could not speak English!

[Billy did his best to brief Murdoch and took him round and then received another signal ordering him to withdraw his Royal Marines and take command of the detachment of the Gurkhas.] At 1700 one or two officers from the H.M. ship came ashore for a bathe and were rather surprised to see me still there, so I told them that I had been ordered to stay... “Oh no you haven’t. The signal said you were to ‘turn over command to the “Gurkha Detachment Officer.’” I didn’t know whether to sigh with relief or feel annoyed, in actual fact I did both. I felt very sorry for Murdoch. There he was, knowing next to nothing of the people or the place and now he had to take over Proclamations, Police courts, conferences, Deficient Police, Mentally deficient villagers and goodness knows what else.

I said goodbye to all the dredger crowd and felt very sorry at leaving. I was just getting to know some of the Villagers and when I walked through the Village I used to sing out Good Morning to “George” and “Alphonse” in the coffee shop, “Albert” in the grocery store and “Tommy” in the scrap heap and so on... I came back to a ship that was absolutely bored to tears, the only form of recreation being fishing. We were out of sight of land but that didn’t stop the invasion of Brigades of mosquitos. No fresh food or fruit of any sort. It really was the most frightful time we have ever spent in the Ship, and how the chaps stuck it out for 7 weeks without any break I don’t know.

[Finally on June 12th Enterprise left the area and was at Colombo on Christmas Day. The track chart between pages 44 and 45 indicate the places visited to the end of that year.]



The East, 1942


January 23rd, 1942 (Friday)


[The new Journal starts on Friday January 23 1942 with the ominous words, “Still no bombs, what a marvel!” Where was HMS Enterprise?]

The convoy entered Bankha Strait [Bangka Strait takes a little finding on a map but it separates Java from Bangka Island about 250 miles south east of Singapore]. It’s a muddy sort of strait about ten miles wide but a very narrow channel. We were supposed to have aircraft fighter protection but I haven’t seen any!

January 24th (Saturday)


Left the convoy to look after themselves in the Roads. We branched right and went up the Singapore Straits to the Naval Base – and still not a sign of an aircraft. As we approached the Naval Base the alarm went and almost at the same time a drenching torrent of rain came down for an hour which blotted out everything. Later we learnt that at that precise moment over 100 Jap aircraft were all set to bomb the convoy but they had to jettison their bombs in the sea.

January 25th (Sunday)


[Ashore Billy contacted Neville Spencer secretary to the Captain.] He told me that on the whole they hadn’t been having too bad a time with the Japs, the British & Indian troops had done magnificently in the line although they were absolutely flaked out. The island had only a few fighters at the start & they were Buffaloes which were hopelessly outmanoeuvred by the Japs. It was only about a week ago that 50 Hurricanes had arrived, & now when the Japs came over they could no longer saunter about overhead finding their targets, in fact the Hurricanes were getting scores of up to 20 a time.

Incidentally the Hurricanes went up as we passed up the Johore Strait & it was the first time that I had seen one. He showed me the various places in the Base that had recently been bombed – the Shore Accommodation, & Naval Club were a nasty mess & one or two near the Workshops. It wasn’t at all blitzed but the trouble was that at the first bomb all the coolies- Chinese, Malay & Tamils – had vanished into the jungle & there wasn’t a soul to do any work there, so as a base Singapore simply doesn’t function.

As the sun set we watched about 30 Wildebeest bombers go off to bomb the Japs, but you could hardly call that bombing. [The Vickers Wildebeest was an open cockpit biplane designed to drop torpedoes but hopelessly obsolete. 100 squadron equipped with them were wiped out completely by the Japanese Zeros a year later.]

January 26th (Monday)


We steamed the wide ocean again. We took with us about 100 bags of mail for Colombo and nine officers (Singapore is evacuating most of its administrative staff). It was a nice sunny peaceful day till 1400 when we were well clear of Singapore when ‘Crump Crump’ and the ship bounced like a ram. One ruddy Jap bomber with nothing better to do had dropped four bombs on us, two right under the stern & two midships starboard side. We didn’t open fire because it was too late. But it was rather amusing that our only bombs in all that time came as we left!

January 27th (Tuesday)


Came through Bangka Str. last night & Sunda Str. this evening. Just outside Sunda we met a convoy of four large liners and two other large ships on their way to Singapore, carrying, so I hear, the American contribution to the war effort.

February 1st, 1942 (Sunday)


Suddenly after a quiet trip we were suddenly ordered to Trinco instead of Colombo, and here we arrived to find the Revenge in harbour.

We picked up a colossal mail – 4 from Molly, 13 from Mother, & others from Joy, Charles Sherwood & Nan.

Heard today that all our troops have evacuated from the mainland to the island of Singapore, so I’m glad that we weren’t where we were a week ago today!

February 2nd (Tuesday)


Indomitable, the brand new aircraft carrier came in last night with Nigeria, Napier & Nestor, 3 of the Nelson class boats. Emerald and Abdiel came in today so we are quite a fleet. Indom. has Sea Hurricanes too. I think this has now proved the efficacy of the carrier and the uselessness of the battleship. [The Battleships HMS Repulse and Prince of Wales without the protection of HMS Indomitable, which was damaged at the time, had both been sunk on December 10th 1941 year by Japanese torpedo bombers with major loss of life. HMS Nigeria was badly damaged in Operation Pedestal a Malta convoy in August 1942.]

February 6th (Friday)


Suddenly got orders to raise steam that evening & at 10.30 we pushed off for Colombo.

February 7th (Saturday)


Down to Colombo at 24 knots. Two vast American transports are in, the West Point (“America”) [Originally the Cruise liner America, converted to a troop carrier and renamed the West Point. She sailed to Singapore and in the deteriorating situation evacuated large numbers from there. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour on December 7th 1941 had brought America into the war] being one. The Empress of Japan too & the harbour is crammed with shipping.

February 8th (Sunday)


I thought we were staying here today but found we were due to sail at 1200. A launch full of Royals in full war paint rolled up to be embarked. A company of them & about 11 tons of stores & ammunition! We embarked them all by 2.0 and shoved off for Rangoon.

Rangoon is in a pretty tight spot at the moment & Johnson and his braves are going to do a bit of cutting out up the Irawaddy, a damned exciting job if a trifle dangerous! We shall be lucky too if we get away with as little bombing as we had in Singapore. [Rangoon fell to the Japanese on March 8th 1942 but the Burma Army escaped.]

February 11th (Wednesday)


We entered the Irawaddy estuary early this evening & embarked a pilot and came upstream pretty fast. It was quite the muddiest river I have ever met – the mud content must have been about 70%! We secured eventually to an oiling jetty a few miles short of Rangoon which we could see quite well. We disembarked the Striking Force and oiled and left again at 1400 – back to Trinco now.

[At Trincomalee there was a short opportunity to relax with a swim, a sailing race against HMHS Vita (The Hospital ship Vita was based at Trincomalee, and on April 9th 1942 rescued nearly 600 survivors from the loss of the aircraft carrier Hermes and HMS Vampire), and high jinx in the wardroom with some visiting Dutch officers, before sailing on to Colombo. There they waited for convoy duty from day to day.]

February 24th (Tuesday)


Sailed at last at 1715 taking the American troopship Mount Vernon [originally the liner SS Washington, she was carrying 6000 British troops the majority of whom were to be captured by the Japanese and would spend the rest of the war in prison camps]// somewhere or other – bound to be an unpleasant destination though.

February 27th (Friday)


Left the Mount Vernon last night but instead of going back to Colombo we’ve been ordered to pick up a convoy from Australia & take it back to Colombo with us.

February 28th (Saturday)


Sighted the convoy at 1630 and closed. The U.S.S. Phoenix had brought it so far. She is a brand new flush deck cruiser with five triple 6” turrets and 8 aircraft in a hangar in the stern. She certainly looked a lovely ship. She left to go to the Sunda where the Japs have just started a landing in Java.

March 5th, 1942 (Thursday)


Arrived Colombo 0800. Found the harbour absolutely packed with shipping and about another 20 ships in the examination anchorage.

[While in Colombo Billy visited friends, played ‘riotous bridge’, danced into the small hours, had a ring made up for Molly – tourmaline and zircons, – saw an excellent film ‘Pimpernel Smith’, and played hockey against HMS Glasgow and swam.]

March 10th (Tuesday)


The Japs have now collared the whole NEI [Netherlands East Indies] and we have evacuated Rangoon. Backwards and backwards.

March 11th (Wednesday)


A large mail arrived with two from Molly, more from Mother and three from Joy [Mother was then of course suffering from pleurisy & pneumonia & finally lung trouble.]

March 24th (Tuesday)


Duty Day. Apparently we are waiting for our Oerliken to be fitted before we do any more steaming. Admiral Somerville has now arrived and we are now Eastern fleet. We are gradually gathering together a fairly good fleet out here with most of the ‘R’ Class Warspite, Renown, Indomitable, but I don’t know what cruisers we’ve got apart from the ’D’s, Emerald, Dorsetshire & ourselves. The situation hasn’t changed much lately, Libya is static, the Russians still advance slowly, the Americans still hold out in the Phillipines, and the Australians in New Guinea. The American General MacArthur has taken over Allied Command of Australia. We still hold the road to Mandalay in Burma.

March 25th (Wednesday)


Big cricket match against the Dragon which we won fairly conclusively by 39 runs.

March 29th (Sunday)


Church with the vicar of the Formidable officiating – a good bloke too. I intended to go ashore at 1315 but at 1310 the Captain came off from shore & cancelled all leave as the fleet had been put to 2½ hours notice.

March 30th (Monday)


Sailed as per programme in company with Warspite (flying the flag of Sir James Somerville C in C Eastern Fleet) Formidable, Cornwall, Caledon, Dragon, Paladin, Panther, Scout, Arrow, Hotspur & Express. That’s the first time the Eastern fleet has put to sea as a fleet, & the first time Colombo has ever seen a fleet sail. We’re off to Addu Atoll [Addu Atoll is at the southern end of the Maldives archipelago lying to the west of Colombo] to RV with the remainder of the fleet. Apparently there’s a buzz that the Japs are on the way to invade.

March 31st (Tuesday)


[There the Eastern Fleet at the Rendezvous numbered thirty in total including two Dutch ships, and were divided into Force A with HMS Enterprise on the left wing of thirteen ships and Force B comprising the remaining seventeen vessels, easily the biggest fleet that has put to sea this war.]

Somerville made a cracking general signal to Eastern fleet saying ‘I am delighted to see you all. Some of us are not in our first youth but there’s many a good tune played on old fiddles’!! We are steaming in the general direction of Calcutta and whether we meet anything remains to be seen.

April 1st, 1942 (Wednesday)


In the afternoon Dorsetshire turned up to join the throng – makes a total now of five battleships, 3 aircraft carriers 2 8” cruisers, 5 6” cruisers and 13 destroyers.

April 4th (Saturday)


Carried out a few air exercises. About 16.30 a signal came through that a Jap Fleet had been sighted off the south of Ceylon. General panic! Everybody oiled as fast as they could & Force A pushed off to sea at 19 knots at 23.30.

April 5th (Sunday)


Easter Sunday & what a day! No H.C. as no parson & no forenoon service as on watch! Still steaming madly ENE to try and cut off the Jap force. Colombo had its first air raid this morning when 75 carrier borne Zero fighters carrying 2 – 250 lb bombs raided the harbour and Ratmalana [Ratmalana lies on the coast south of Colombo and close to Mount Lavinia which Billy had visited]. They did little damage and 25 were shot down by fighters, 2 by AA & 25 more damaged! Not a bad effort by the RAF. About 1600 we were supposed to rendezvous with Dorsetshire & Cornwall [Dorsetshire & Cornwall were 10,000 ton cruisers. They were delayed in joining the main fleet as they were oiling] to complete our Force but they hadn’t turned up when we suddenly closed up at Action Stations and turned to steam west. Information had at last come through that one of Formidable’s aircraft had sighted the Jap fleet steering 230 doing 24 knots and they were 96 miles to the north of us! We were closed up to Action Stations the whole night. The A.Cs (aircraft carriers) were flying off single aircraft all night but they never sighted the Japs again even though if the latter kept to their original course they would pass 18 miles ahead of us at midnight! Meanwhile the Dorsetshire & Cornwall who were RVing with us from Colombo hadn’t been sighted or heard of since Dorsetshire reported being shadowed by an aircraft.

April 6th (Monday)


No contact with the enemy all day but report after report came from the Bay of Bengal from Merchant ships that they were being bombed, & shelled by battleship or aircraft. In fact the Japs had really got us well & truly on the hop. Still no 8” cruisers and at 1430 we were detached with Paladin & Panther to a position where yesterday our aircraft had found wreckage in the approx position where the cruisers should have been. We went off at 27 knots and at 1800 sighted rafts. As we closed we could see hundreds of men clinging to them and one motor boat. Every boat went away and at 1930 we had picked up 27 officers & 533 men from the Cornwall, the Panther 450 odd from the Dorsetshire and the Paladin a few men – a total of 1118 out of the two Ship’s Companies of 750 each. They had been sunk at about 1400 yesterday when 40 or 50 Jap aircraft dived out of the clouds and dive bombed then and torpedoed then before they had a chance to let a gun off. They reckon that in the Cornwall 29 bombs were aimed at them & five torpedoes, & only 1 bomb missed its mark! They sank in 8 minutes! After they had sunk the Japs flew round in a circle and made off. They had only been in the water for 26 hours and most of them were hale and hearty though indescribably filthy with oil fuel. Some 20 or 30 were seriously or lightly wounded and two died during the night. When we’d collected everybody in the ship was a complete shambles with discarded oily clothing everywhere.

April 7th (Tuesday)


Regained the fleet p.m. & got a pat on the back from C in C and then with Paladin went on ahead to Port T. Buried 3 of the survivors who passed out.

April 8th (Wednesday)


Entered Addu Atoll and started immediately disembarking wounded, some ashore & some to the depot ship Hai Tan. There were about 40 stretcher cases and 60 walking wounded. The remaining survivors were all split up between the ‘R’s & the left in batches with roars of cheering.

April 9th (Thursday)


Sailed at dawn with Force A. Don’t know about our intention but Trinco was bombed this morning & the Hermes was sunk off SE Ceylon this evening [The Aircraft carrier Hermes was attacked by 70 Japanese when her own aircraft were ashore so she was defenceless. She and her escorts were sunk and 590 survivors were picked up by the Hospital ship Vita], so the Japs are still going strong and it looks as if they intended to land in India or Ceylon. BBC announced the loss of Cornwall & Dorsetshire.

April 12th (Sunday)


The general opinion is that Force B has been sent off out of station as too old and slow, and we are getting strong reinforcements. Plenty of cruisers I hope.

April 13th (Monday)


Arrived Bombay and anchored in the harbour full of shipping. Newcastle, Coventry & the Greek Georgius Averoff. [Averoff was a Greek armoured cruiser built in 1910!]

April 18th (Saturday)


Tennis and bathing. Ball boys in the rig of the day & gorgeous Indians with tankards of lime juice after every game!

The troops meanwhile were being entertained by various kind hearted damsels and a band in such gorgeous uniform that I thought they were ADCs. [In the evening Billy was introduced to his Excellency and attended a formal dinner.] I was drinking white wine and at the end of the dinner I got rather seen off because I’d finished my glass and we suddenly had to drink a toast to the King Emperor. However the ladies left soon after and we remained for about half an hour. I had noticed in front of HE a largish black cigarette box so I was rather surprised when the cigarettes were being handed round in a different box. His Excellency opened the large box, turned a switch & listened to the BBC news!!

April 20th (Monday)


Sailed as per programme, going south to Colombo. Exercises.

[In Colombo Billy saw some of the damage the air raid had done and heard some of the stories and who had lost their lives in the Hermes.]

April 24th (Friday)


Pouring with rain & sailed at 0600 taking Alaunia [HMS Alaunia was an armoured merchant cruiser. She was a white Star liner and had been requisitioned by the Admiralty] with us to Mombasa via Seychelles. Pelted the whole day & wandered up & down off Colombo waiting for some of Indom’s aircraft to fly back from Ratmalana but the weather was too bad.

April 30th (Thursday)


Arrived Seychelles about 1000 and all ships oiled. Took the mail over to Alaunia as she went off at 1400 straight to Mombasa, & then I went onto Warspite for CBs [Confidential Boxes]. Sailed at 1800 for goodness knows where – but evidently not Mombasa.

May 6th, 1942 (Wednesday)


We’ve been patrolling up & down off the NE of Madagascar covering a force of ours [Operation Ironclad. Hundreds of British soldiers were killed in this operation] which has landed at Diego Suarez on the N tip of Madagascar. They’ve got Ramillies, Indom, Illustrious, Devonshire & Hermione. They landed at 9.0 yesterday forenoon & met opposition but they seem to have been fairly successful except that on the news tonight they were finding “heavier opposition”. The ‘Old Crocks Force’ of 3 old destroyers, Dragon, Caledon, Emerald, us & Reso left the remainder of the fleet this evening to go to Mombasa & refuel.

May 8th (Friday)


Arrived Mombasa about 10. Before we had even secured I was given a signal addressed to myself from Surg. Lt Barton, HMS Birmingham! Michael Barton [Michael Barton a son of Guy Douglas Barton and a year older 1915-1962] – who I don’t think I’ve met since we were page boys at Marjorie’s wedding! [Marjorie the daughter of Dr Frederick Barton who married the Reverend Lionel Howe] I went over to Birmingham at 1830 & met Michael & had a very good evening discussing both shop & the family. They went to the Falklands twice, but try as he could he couldn’t get hold of Arthur except by cable!

May 16th (Saturday)


[Billy arranged and refereed a Fleet Boxing Match. Programme is in the journal.]

Refereeing was a hard job because you could not make yourself heard & the crowd there must have been 1000 strong, well filled sailors cheering parties.

May 20th (Wednesday)


Went into a place called Manza Bay [Manza Bay is south of Mombasa today just in Tanzania].The Fleet had split up & the main parties went to Zanzibar, the Cruisers to Tanba & we got what was left – sea, sand, palm trees, tree rats & land crabs!

[HMS Enterprise returned to Mombasa the following day. There Billy was offered a shore post of Provost Marshal, Sports Officer & Assistant FRMO. Billy planned to ask for Molly and Sue to be sent out, but no relief officer could be found for him and the Commander in Chief ruled that a more senior officer was required.]

May 30th (Saturday)


Took over the convoy from Resolution at 1400. Consists of a dozen ships mainly troopers including the Capetown Castle & Dutch Nieuw Zeeland [This Dutch Cargo steamer of 11,000 tons was torpedoed and sank later in the year]. Part of the convoy is going to Aden but we take the rest to Bombay.

May 31st (Sunday)


We had a party all the forenoon using the ‘loud hailer’ - a new toy for us. Steamed up the convoy lines with the band playing & thus talked to the Commodore.

June 1st, 1942 (Monday)


Good news on the wireless tonight. We sent 1000 bombers to bomb Cologne the night before last!! The Germans reprisal was to bomb Canterbury with 50.

June 7th (Sunday)


Arrived with complete convoy in Bombay this morning. War news continues to be good.

The US fleet knocked hell out of the Jap Fleet off Midway Island & sank 2 possibly 3 aircraft carrier, damaged 1 possibly 2 more, damaged 3 battleships & four cruisers & sank 4 transports! They haven’t told the full tale yet not published their losses.

June 11th (Thursday)


Shifted billet & went inside the basin to have our Oerliken platform fixed. Secured alongside Dunedin Star at first. Went ashore and after supper I walked to the Metro to see Judy Garland & Mickey Rooney in Babes in Broadway. Not too bad a flick but the joy was that it was an air conditioned cinema & it was simply marvellous in there. The contrast when we came out at midnight & got hit in the face outside the door by a wall of foetid, torrid, atmosphere was ghastly.

June 16th-25th


[Colombo. Although Enterprise was officially at six hours notice to leave, Billy saw a number of his friends at parties, played cricket for the Colombo Cricket Club and made 79 runs, and HMS Enterprise was able to go into dock to have her bottom scraped.]

June 25th (Thursday)


We’re going to Aden for some unknown reason & taking an unusual route to see if we can catch the odd raider on the hop. It’s going to be damnably hot in Aden.

July 1st, 1942 (Thursday)


A bleedin’ awful trip – the weather got steadily worse & worse until we had to reduce speed and haul back to Atlantic days – rescuing the cutter from a sticky death, shoring up of the pinnace & so on. Water, water everywhere, and very unpleasant but fairly cool thank heaven. Directly we got in the lee of Socotra it calmed down and as the waves fell the temperature rose. News outside is not so good. About 3 weeks ago Rommel attacked our troops in Libya & a first class battle ensued. Suddenly we gave and started falling back. Not only did Tobruk fall in 24 hours but we went back through Sallum without a murmur. Now Rommel is within 70 miles of Alex! The battle of Alex is on now and going full blast and if we go down then we lose Alex & Suez & God knows what else. Churchill has been answering questions in the House & he says that we had superiority in Libya in every department, but one day 300 of our heavy tanks walked straight into a trap & 70 came out & since then we haven’t been able to compete! When we came into harbour today we found Newcastle, Birmingham, Hotspur, Napier & Nizam. They had been up the Med. trying to get a convoy through to Malta & it makes a good story. They got so far & then they met the whole Iti battle fleet & about 200 bombers. Every ship had casualties & Hermione, Hasty, & Nestor were sunk. Newcastle got an E’boat’s torpedo right through her bows. They had to turn round & come back.

July 3rd (Friday)


Sailed at 1330 for Mombasa & very pleased too.

July 4th (Saturday)


Woke up & looked at my watch which said 7.30, broad daylight streaming down the hatch so I thought I’d overslept Dawn Action again. Went up on deck & found various people lying around & discerned that we had been ordered back to Aden, & the clocks had not been advanced at 0330 as they were going to be, so it was only 06.30 & there hadn’t been any Dawn Action! Everybody feeling depressed at going back to that hell on earth. Arrived 1530. No whys or wherefore that I know of yet, but we seem to be waiting to escort somebody south.

[Billy was able to play some hockey, do some shopping for Molly and take some of his group to a shooting range near the RAF aerodrome except] it wasn’t a range at all actually – no butts, no firing & only one makeshift target. However there was 300 yards of perfectly good desert to fire over & then the sea so it was magnificent for automatic weapons. We zeroed the Vickers & then everyone had half a belt, Harris did some very good instruction & then we went along to the Swimming Bath which is RAF property presumably.

July 9th (Thursday)


Sailed at 1430 and met the Monarch of Bermuda about 30 miles out who we are escorting to Kilindini (Mombasa) arriving on the 14th. She’s the bird that we’ve been waiting for all this time but I don’t know who or what she’s got aboard to require an escort in these waters.

July 13th (Monday)


Uneventful trip. M of B is carrying Italian prisoners apparently. Had one pretty rough day & the temp dropped 20 degrees in 6 hours.

July 14th (Tuesday)


Kilindini. Went ashore to get our mail. A letter from Molly & one airgraph from Mother in it. Thank God.

July 15th (Wednesday)


Joining a convoy tomorrow to take to Bombay again – so much for the start of our homeward voyage!

July 16th (Thursday)


Big convoy mainly liners with troops – Otranto is the Commodore.

July 23rd (Thursday)


Arrived Bombay. Had a magnificent mail though it’s only part of what is owing us. 6 from Mother, an air mail from Molly, others from Joy & Arthur.

July 25th (Saturday)


Captain’s Rounds for the first time & he took 1½ hrs to complete! [There was a change of Captain at this time, and the previous Captain J.C. Annesley gave Billy a formal reference which is in the Journal with a date of 14 July 1942. ‘This is to certify that Francis Christopher Barton has served in HMS Enterprise from the 2nd day of March 1940 to the 14th day of July 1942, during which period he has conducted himself to my entire satisfaction. He has kept the detachment up to the mark under difficult conditions. He possesses plenty of initiative and is an excellent type of officer. He has performed his duties as Confidential Book Officer conscientiously and with ability.’] Had the finals of the Boxing after tea.

July 26th (Sunday)


Had Division & church & the Owner walked round for the first time – his bête noir below decks seems to be pumice stoned scuttle rubbers, and above decks seems to be holes in clothing.

[Return to Mombasa. Billy found a far sized mail for the ship’s Company but a vast Confidential Book mail for which he was responsible. HMS Enterprise Sailed for Durban at 20 knots on August 5th an uneventful trip which gradually got colder and entered Durban harbour in tropical kit in temperatures that reminded him of Halifax Nova Scotia.

Durban gave Billy an opportunity to relax, attend parties, play hockey against the local girls’ School team winning 6 – 0, sit next to the headmistress who could only speak in a bellow, dance late, play silly games and laugh a good deal, for some days.]

August 19th, 1942 (Wednesday)


We’ve had a marvellous [time] with everything morally, spiritually & physically as different from chalk to cheese as Colombo. No nonsense, no divorces or people falling in love, just plain good fun. It was grand.

August 20th (Thursday)


Sailed at 0800 with death in our hearts! We’re taking a convoy of three US ships with a special oil cracking plant up to the Persian Gulf calling in at Kilindini or Seychelles to fuel on the way. What a thought!

August 23rd (Sunday)


Back into tropical rig and high time too. Doing silly dog watch drills & nonsense & closing up every time we see a ship. Alaunia, Duncan & Cyclamen are with us a pretty mixed bag. [In size! HMS Duncan was a D class destroyer. HMS Cyclamen was a corvette of the Flower class. However she had played her part off Freetown in the previous year when she had rescued over 400 after Addo was sunk. After the war she was sold and became a whaler!]

August 28th (Friday)


[Back in Kilindini. Although it was war time, exercises were still an important part of training.]

Attended a conference in Reso in connection with a big exercise that is going on. All Kenya & Tanganyika are up in arms and we are to provide a spot of trouble for them. We’ve come in at the last minute so they have given us a sideshow of a diversionary landing which ought to be rather fun. Spent the whole of the rest of the day getting out an operation order and making arrangements generally. All very secret of course so I couldn’t get any help from the S/M. [Sergeant Major]

August 29th (Saturday)


We sailed at 0800 for exercises & a full calibre shoot. Then we split into our various forces – Warspite to attack Zanzibar, Valiant (&) Reso to attack Dar es Salaam, Enterprise to attack Mjunwema a point six miles south of Dar es Salaam, Gambia to attack Tanga, & the 4th CS to attack Mombasa, Illustrious providing air support. I got 1½ hours sleep & then -

August 30th (Sunday)


One hour’s sleep before Dawn Action & preparing to land. We anchored in Mboaji Harbour and embarked in the pinnace & cutter and went in shore. No sign of life except for natives & we made an unopposed landing. We had landed a few hundred yards to the S.E. of our objective so I advanced & occupied it and then patrolled the whole area for a depth of two miles. We lit fires, Mr Newcombe with his demolition party made colossal explosions and broke a couple of windows in a house but it was no good. The troops occupied themselves in cooking dinner the whole time, & I just wandered about just exploring. The villagers were rather frightened but quite peaceable, & there was a European who was captured but he gave me damn all information! Before we re-embarked at 1600 Jackson, the umpire, & I went & saw Mr Foster & he produced a bottle of beer. He was down on holiday from Uganda, & thought we were the Japs as we came in!

September 3rd, 1942 (Thursday)


Absolutely flat aback with work and I’ve at last got rid of Sports officer on to Arthur Palmer with the Commander’s approval. Stuff just pours in & I haven’t even read half of it yet far less understand it.

September 5th (Saturday)


Sailed at 1430 taking a convoy to Colombo or Bombay or somewhere. Four ships carrying the 29th Independent Brigade. Albatross [Built in Australia, Albatross was a seaplane carrier and joined the Royal Navy. In September she was employed in aerial surveying during the landings in Madagascar.] is with us but I don’t know what she thinks she’s doing.

September 6th (Sunday)


Heard the news that this lot were going to take another part on the W. coast of Madagascar , but us, poor saps, are going to be relieved by Birmingham, Erebus & Illustrious for the actual operation.

September 9th (Wednesday)


Diego Garcia. No marks of violence visible except for four merchant ships sunk in the harbour. Left at 1300 to take a convoy to Bombay.

[In Bombay Billy despite the heat played rugger, and soccer for the “Not Much Longer Now” cup! There was time to relax too.]

September 24th (Thursday)


Had a very amusing party in the Wardroom after dinner telling silly stories and generally acting the fool we were drinking Starboard Lights & then someone gave me a whisky & sola so I mixed them together to everyone’s horror, but it at least drowned the taste of the whisky!

September 27th (Sunday)


Sailed at 1100 taking an 8 knot convoy of eight ships to Aden arriving on the 6th. Blimey! We’ve got four lakhs [100,000] of rupees on board too which I had to get from the Bank in Bombay with an armed guard.

September 29th (Tuesday)


We waddle along so slowly that we might even get out and walk. We snuggle in the middle of the convoy because there are lots of reports of S/Ms about.

October 3rd, 1942 (Saturday)


Still tottering gently along at a steady 8 knots & we only deviate at all to fly off and recover the aircraft which does a daily dawn and dusk patrol. Saw whole flocks of whales yesterday. Our chief interest in life is the deck quoits competition.

October 5th (Monday)


Aden. Band got a great reception from several troopships lying in the harbour!

October 6th (Tuesday)


Skipper cleared Lower Deck in the forenoon and told us we would be home by Christmas! Good show!

October 11th (Sunday)


Full calibre shoot at 0720. Rotten shoot as we never found line. An aircraft towing a sleeve target flew above us for about an hour but as the Director never got on to the sleeve no rounds were fired! Entered harbour (Kilindini) at 1030 and 18 bags of mail awaited us - 3 from Molly, 4 from Mother and 4 from Tim!

October 13th (Tuesday)


Sailed at 0630 to take some liner as far as Socotra on her way to Bombay. They’re changing a few officers before we go home & I expect all officers & Ratings who haven’t done 2 years out here will be relieved before we go home. Due to return to Kilindini on the 18th.

October 20th (Tuesday)


Kilindini. Wandering about the QD at 1100 with nothing much to do & wandered into the commander to ask for 48 hours leave up country with Ray. To my amazement he approved it but said he’d have to ring the Captain ashore & get permission. We went ashore together & rang up & the Skipper approved, so I returned three some things into a suitcase and waltzed off. Got a free Warrant from the Maintenance Captain, sent an urgent telegram to Ray & caught the 4.30 train. Very comfortable travelling & slept like a log.

October 21st (Wednesday)


Arrived Nairobi at 9.0. Cecily & Nina met me at the station & we drove up to the Lodge at the Prince of Wales School where they live – about 5 miles outside Nairobi & a very pleasant spot. Ray came in looking much fatter but otherwise the same at 1130 & we yarned. Nina aged 4 is an attractive child.

We looked at the Chaplaincy at Keimbu and into the church & had tea. Then on to a Mrs Macdonald’s bungalow who was thrilled to see us & see Molly’s photos of herself & Sue.

October 22nd (Thursday)


Got a telegram from Sparks “Remain on leave till further notice” so remained! Went up to the Nairobi Broadcasting Station with Ray who was announcing that night.

October 24th (Saturday)


I intended to return to the ship anyway this evening & at lunchtime got a telegram from Sparks telling me to return by 0900 Sunday, also another telephoned chit from Naval Office saying something about staying on till further orders which I didn’t pay much attention to. Travelled down on the 1700 train.

October 25th (Sunday)


Noticed from the train that our berth was vacant, but took a taxi to the jetty in case we had shifted, but sure enough no ‘Prise’. Went to the CS4’s office. Heard that there had been a raider scare – Devonshire, Mauritius & Enterprise to Seychelles to fuel – then to patrol so & so and so & so till Nov.1 then to return to Seychelles to fuel & then back to Kilindini about the 3rd!! I had missed the ship well and truly. There was nothing for me to do in Mombasa so I made arrangements to go back to Ray again. It was all a bit tricky because my leave was illicit and as we were at six hours notice I shouldn’t have left the port. I gathered from an official note the Captain left me that I was on “convalescent” leave but he omitted to say what I had been suffering from! I gathered later that I was in an “exhausted state”.

October 26th (Monday)


Cecily & Nina met me and I did some shopping to extend my very limited wardrobe. [During his second visit Billy was able to go riding, umpired a cricket match at the school and did some cricket coaching, gave a lecture to fifty boys about a Royal Marine’s life and met a number of Ray and Cecily’s friends. He picked up a cold owing to the damp conditions but Ray had a bout of probably malaria with a temperature of 104 from which he had recovered before Billy set off by train again.]

November 4th, 1942 (Thursday)


This time I saw the Ship lying in her old billet from the train & after collecting transport & confidential mail I returned on board. Everybody trying to wither me with scorn but refused to be withered! No trouble at all & they’d had a very uneventful trip! Buckets of work for me of course & a rather lousy mail with nothing from Molly.

November 5th (Friday)


Situation about going home almost a certainty & we sent off some 90 chaps who haven’t been out very long, to other ships & collected about 50 in return.

November 6th (Saturday)


Sailing for Durban this evening. Somerville came aboard and gave us a grand goodbye - he didn’t say we were actually going home, “but had had a buzz from the Warspite’s galley that we might be parted from each other for quite a long time”! He is a magnificent chap & is the only reason why I would ever be sorry to leave this station.

November 9th (Monday)


Having quite a peaceful trip so far but a lot of shipping is being sunk round the Cape and they estimate that there are 6 U boats operating in the Mozambique Channel, so I’m glad we’re not going that way. Jumbo Annesley (previous Captain) was sunk in the Orcades a few weeks ago. He was picked up but lost about £300 worth of stuff he had bought in Durban to take home.

The news has been almost too good to be true. We started an offensive in Egypt a few days ago and after three days fighting broke through the German lines & got them on the run capturing 6 Italian Divisions in the process! – but two days ago we heard that a combined Anglo American force had captured Casablanca, Oran and Algiers!! Roosevelt has publicly announced that it is the intention of these troops to capture Tripoli and clear the Hun out of N. Africa for good and all. Just the news we wanted to speed us on our way home!

November 16th (Monday)


[Billy’s arrival in Durban gave him a chance to see his dancing friends again; he went to the Stardust to dance and returned on board by the light of the dawn. It was not until Saturday November 21st that] HMS Enterprise set sail again on a fast trip all the way home and should arrive in three weeks. Wow!

[HMS Enterprise called at Cape Town embarked about £3 million and] sailed for Point Noir a hole in French Equatorial Africa that nobody’s ever heard of.

November 28th (Saturday)


Point Noir. Judging by the colour of the sea the Congo must be a particularly dirty kind of river! The place seemed rather more civilised than I expected. It’s the only port in French Equatorial Africa that will take ocean going ships. The Phoebe was in harbour recuperating from a couple of fish in her guts. – she picked them up 4 miles outside the harbour and had 59 killed. There seem to be an unpleasant lot of S/Ms about & and I don’t fancy spending any more than 9 hours in Point Noir!

December 2nd, 1942 (Wednesday)


Freetown. Went ashore to the Naval Office and came straight back as I remember the lousiness of this place from two years ago! Had a most glorious mail – no less than 8 letters & two AGs (Airgraph forms) from Molly, but only one from Mother so what sort of a mail it is I don’t quite know! Molly’s letters have got such a different tone in them that it’s hardly the same person writing! All the letters are from the Millhaven flat and she’s just loving every minute of it, except that the Urchin has whoops! Felt so happy & excited that I nearly burst. Only another ten days to go – don’t be silly, we’re taking a convoy to Bombay of course, we can’t possibly be going HOME!

December 4th (Thursday)


The shore wallahs calmly sent us 130 bags of mail to take home! Bless their little hearts! Sailed at 1700 & good riddance to the place. We go to the Azores to refuel arriving on the 8th and then for the last and final stretch. I gather our refitting yard is the Clyde which isn’t so good but anywhere is good enough for me! The Azores is a place where you find yourself fuelling one side of the jetty and a U-boat the other!

December 8th (Tuesday)


Arrived off Ponta Delgada at 0700 after an uneventful trip. It’s rather a picturesque place with houses & cottages clustered together rising straight out of the harbour like a Cornish fishing village only ten times the size. Our hopes of fuelling & leaving by midnight were shattered and we don’t leave for England till 1700 tomorrow now but we may still make England by the 12th.

December 9th (Wednesday)


A really black day. Started off all right with the morning watch & watching chaps coming back from shore with hangovers, but at 10.30 I wandered up top to see if anyone was going ashore shopping and I heard a buzz that we were sailing at 1.0 instead of at 5.0. Went down with fear in my heart to find out what it was all about, and true enough, we’d been given a job – two liners had been sunk by U-boat some 800 miles to the WNW and we had to go and search for survivors. That meant reducing speed from our 27 knots for 3 days to 17½ for five or six. We put to sea at 1400 actually and started off in a first class gale. At 1900 the stunning blow fell, “Admiralty to Enterprise – Proceed and search area to the limit of your endurance, then proceed to St Johns” – St Johns New - flaming- foundland. It’ll be the 19th before we reach St Johns & there we shall disembark the gold and then take a slow convoy back to England, arriving, if we are lucky, on New Years Day. So bang goes Christmas Day for the fourth time, and everything else as well for another three weeks. Lots of other things can happen of course – getting fished ourselves I expect! – and as we are steering plumb into this perishing gale, rigging and boats are carrying away right and left and we shall probably go into dock at St Johns before we can move. Quite probably they’ll then decide to refit us in America, and we shall get iced up in St Johns. It really is a damnable trick.

December 10th (Thursday)


A very nice line in gales blowing and during the Middle Watch it was coming solid over the DCT.

December 11th (Friday)


Reprieved! We search till nightfall and then go on to England – three rousing cheers! The wind and sea got up again and we had to plough northward into the teeth of the gale. Shocking night with not a wink of sleep.

December 12th (Saturday)


Continued to blow like hell. Shambles on the Upper Deck - both M.Bs (Motor Boats) and Pinnaces in splinters, both cutters likewise, guardrail in the focsle hanging in tatters, all the QD depth charges and smoke floats over the side. Buckets of water in the Messdecks and flats. Grand fun.

December 13th (Sunday)


Bitterly cold. Went into 2 watch HA/LA defence at 1400 – in Focke-Wolfe range now. Skidded past a U-boat last night apparently by W/T report.

December 14th (Monday)


A simply wonderful day! We are steaming 10 knots away from England! It blew up during the afternoon with a wind on the beam and keeping the Last Dog in the DCT I was scared stiff the damn thing was going to fall over the side we rolled so much. Chaos below and above decks of course with lockers and everything breaking loose.
Had supper off a plate standing up – table had given up the unequal strain. When shall we get home I wonder.

December 15th (Tuesday)


Going the right way at last and weather eased considerably. The only topic was whether we would make harbour tonight - and we did. At 1959.15 we passed the boom at Greenock and were Home Sweet Home. It’s a wonderful thought, but it’s raining like hell and cold as be damned! What would I give for Colombo with a nice warm swim at Mt. Lavinia? (nothing)

December 16th (Wednesday)


Sent Molly a cable and went ashore to try and ring up. Bussed to the Bay hotel at Gourock & waiting 45 minutes to use the phone. I was told there was a 2 hours delay. It was no use me booking as I had to catch a 2200 boat. Tried the phone once more (3 hours delay)

December 17th (Thursday)


My goose was cooked when I heard that I couldn’t get rid of all CBs till we get into dock. I hear we are going up river on the 21st so I shall have to wait till then.

December 18th (Friday)


We don’t go up river till the 24th! I went & saw the Captain & asked if I could go on leave for 15 days & come back to get rid of the CBs, as I’m damn well going to have Xmas with M. He approved so that’s all right.



Home

December 19th (Saturday)


Went ashore with some CBs – the Admiralty are still sending them in by the bagful & I’m returning them by the ditto! Also fixed train & transport for tomorrow.

December 20th (Sunday)


We organised ourselves into luggage stowing party and seat procuring party. So we got to Glasgow. I managed to phone Grenfell. M wasn’t there, but she wanted to meet me in town & stay overnight so we arranged to meet at Euston the next morning. The train which was supposed to come in at 8.0 left at 9.30. The procuring seats party had got us 3rd class seats so we found an empty 1st class carriage & shifted in there - & nobody else bothered us!

December 21st (Monday)


Slept very fitfully. Woken up at 6.30 by the ticket collector & he said we would be up to an hour late so I went to sleep again. Woke up just after 8.0 to find the train stopped in Euston station. Then I went to the hotel and not finding Molly, rang up Grenfell. Found that M had been prevailed upon not to come up too early & would arrive at L’pool St. at 10.10 giving me time to make myself respectable.

Hurried along to the suburban arrival station, heard a rush of feet behind me and there was Molly.

Descriptions of feelings after that moment are of course useless, but we eventually found ourselves in the station cafe consuming coffee & steak pie and still definitely unconscious of the outside world! Then went to the Cumberland and by a fluke managed to get a room for the night. Glorious! It was while we were yarning over tea that I suddenly realised I was really home & the ugly face across the table was really & truly Molly! Lovely sort of warm, happy & contented feeling subject to fits of wanting to jump through the ceiling. Went for a walk through Hyde Park & evidently trespassed because a static bobby showed us the gate! Back for dinner & found they were dancing as well which was just marvellous – and we did so. Dance much better with M than with any other of the various women in the last 2½ years!

December 22nd (Tuesday)


Cumberland rooms are so very comfortable. Surfaced respectably at noon and lunched across the way at Stewarts then by tube to Harrods for M. to run amok and off to L’pool St. to catch the 1504 to Billericay. Arrived B’cay, made our way by instalments to Millhaven, & there I met Sue. Miss Shipton was looking after her till we arrived and promptly effaced herself when we arrived. Attractive little urchin but she’s hardly “my daughter” as yet! We had tea together in our flat, & a very nice one it is too - much more comfortable & bigger than I expected. Shippy came back about 6.0 to put Sue to bed, & we went off to Grenfell to meet Mother (in the kitchen!).

December 23rd (Wednesday)


Getting down to domesticity – lighting the fire, peeling the spuds, & then round to Grenfell for elevenses and shopping. Fairly quiet day unpacking all my stuff, letting Molly choose what she wanted and deciding on Christmas presents.

December 25th (Friday)


Our first Christmas Day together though it doesn’t really matter if it’s Christmas Day or Shrove Tuesday! M & I cycled out to Little Bunstead to church (me on Joy’s bike!) and we met the rest of the family there. I read the lessons. We stayed onto HC after Reggie had taken all the brats out. Then back to Grenfell for a Christmas dinner at Grenfell followed by presents. Ate too much! Lovely day.

[Billy fell into a domestic routine. The weather was bitterly cold with snow. He and Sue caught a cold. Billy and Molly returned to the Cumberland for New Year’s Day and some shopping for their wedding presents, followed by the theatre Jack Hulbert & Cicely Courtneidge in “Full Swing”. Billy, with Molly, met up with some of his Enterprise friends to celebrate for a New Year’s Eve Dance and they sang their way on the Tube to Richmond arriving at 00.02 Jan 1 1943! Then the party really started.
Celebrations continued with a dance at the Savoy, a further visit to the theatre, (“The Man Who Came to Dinner”), a meeting with Ted & Molly for lunch at the Trocadero before returning to Billericay.]

January 4th, 1943 (Monday)


Left at 16.30 to go back to the ship. Highly unpleasant this parting business even though it’s only for a few days! Had a frightful scramble for a seat when the train came in at 8.0.

January 5th (Tuesday)


Started the terrible business of finding the ship. Took a bus to John Brown’s but found I had to go still further in a tram. Neither the driver or conductor could help me much. I made my way down a road to find the ship which was lying in Dalmuir Basin.

[Billy worked on CBs and took them up in a van on Thursday 7th. He took the overnight train on the 8th which arrived late on the 9th. He reported to Chatham barracks in the afternoon where a Major Sillitoe told him to see the Commandant on Monday & then went off on weekend leave. Billy arranged for Molly to join him at Chatham for the weekend.]

January 11th (Monday)


[Billy saw the Brigadier at 9.30 who was quite non-committal but Billy applied for and got 35 days leave.]

January 12th (Tuesday)


[They packed up and set off for Exeter. Not too bad a journey.] Sue wanted attention all the time with books, dolls, puffers & everything else.

[Cheriton Bishop. Billy and Molly walked & cycled and reported that he ate like a pig] but it’s a heavenly life with not a care in the world. It’s fun being married.

January 17th (Sunday)


27 today! HC at 8.30 & Morning service. Read the Lessons.

[During the following week they visited friends and relations in Exeter, Taunton and Melksham.]

January 22nd (Friday)


I picked up The Times to glance through it last night & the first thing I saw was Bernard & Nancy having a 3rd son – on the 18th – so I sent him a telegram, “Cheer up, Boys will be boys.”

January 23rd (Saturday)


V.G. news these days. The VIIIth Army occupied Tripoli today. The 1st Army is stuck in the mud outside Tunis & Bizerta. The Russian are still advancing & they should take Rostov soon. Our air raids on Germany are still going strong & Berlin got a thrashing two nights running. Germany made a small raid on London a few nights ago - the first for months. We’re increasing our activity in Burma & the American & Australian are taking back an island or two in the Solomons. The war should be over this year.

[They returned to Billericay via London.]

January 30th (Saturday)


Took Mother to the local flickhouse to see the Spitfire film, “The First of the Few” excellent. M being attacked rather heavily by Jonah [The nickname adopted for the child to be!]. Lousy brute. Leave extended to Feb 14th – thank God for small mercies.

February 6th, 1943 (Saturday)


Been very social. Joy & Reggie to supper on Thursday, Shippy to supper yesterday. Mother to tea & lunch today. Raymond & Dermot were to have come to tea but Raymond suddenly produced chicken pox! Of course Sue was well contaminated and in quarantine and great discussion as to whether she was going to be allowed in, & to stay there while M & I go to Chatham in Monday.

[Billy and Molly moved out of their Billericay flat and found a rented flat in Denmark House Rochester which involved days of packing up and moving, Sue being left in care of Boughty until the final journey was made.]

February 22nd (Sunday)


[Sue succumbs to chickenpox together with a cough and a cold.]

March 3rd, 1943 (Wednesday)


We had our first Air raid last night when a crowd of Huns came over at 2200 & again at 0400. They were on their way to London but apparently didn’t have much effect. We had a lot of gunfire & two were brought down quite close. Very nice firework display and every imaginable noise from every conceivable type of gun & projectile! Didn’t bother to shelter or anything but it wasn’t exactly pleasant!

[Gardening was Billy’s main source of work at this time although he did play some hockey and rugger.]

March 28th (Sunday)


OC Church Parade today & all went well. Molly brought Sue down on her bike & she behaved passably well.

March 31st (Wednesday)


The VIIIth army have broken the Mareth Line in Tunisia & now they’re all streaming northwards towards Tunis – the Germans have got a “Dunkirk” coming to them before long. Our air raids on Germany are going on every night now with usually 500- 1000 aircraft taking part.

April 6th, 1943 (Tuesday)


Yesterday had a flat out day with Orderly room session till 11.0, two courts of Inquiry, A Divisional A/T battery arriving in Barracks & attaching itself to G. Coy, & a detachment for Phoebe who were turned down by the Brigadier for being disgracefully turned out!

April 9th (Friday)


Brigadier told me today he was going to put me in charge of a 2nd Lieut’s course” coming on the 19th. Later – Col. James to me before dinner, “I hear you’ve got a Ship Barton”. Temperature 90 degrees below zero!

April 10th (Saturday)


Sent for by B/M, “Look at this” & gives me a chit – “To Commandant from A.C. – understood from G.O.C. R.M.D (General Officer Commanding Royal Marines Depot ) that Capt. Barton applied to C.O. 3rd R.M. for a job ..... strongly deprecated & will not countenance .... Beat his bottom.” B/M goes on, “You’ve been appointed to HMS Nigeria.” [HMS Nigeria had been on the famous Malta convoy Operation Pedestal when struck by two torpedoes from an Italian aircraft. Her place was taken by HMS Charybdis and she was escorted back to Gibraltar for temporary repairs before being taken to Charleston for a refit] Temperature two thousand & 69 below zero. Hauled before Brigadier & given official blast. B/M apologised and said he’d explain the whole story to Brig. Feeling like hell & livid with rage – who’s the rat behind it. Nigeria is refitting in the States, due to complete end of May & return here to recommission. Detachment formed up here a week ago. Decided not to tell M till weekend was over.

April 12th (Monday)


Lousy day. Very oh hell. Finding detachment & checking names. Back to lunch to find Sue with temperature of 102 but nothing seems radically wrong. Discussing ways & means, flats & houses, Sue & Jonah, ships & dates, what a life!



Away

April 19th (Monday)


What a strange thing can happen in four short days. I have now been aboard the liner “Pasteur” due to sail for USA at any minute!! The story starts at about 1500 on Friday when I was all set to start for Sheerness in the morning and just about to go home at that moment. Billy heard that Brown had received Admiralty orders to go to USA to fetch the Nigeria. I cursed because I wanted him for the Tactical Training course, so I went along to see the Brigade Major. When I got there I got a rude shock – the orders were for him and me although there was no indication of what the orders contained. As he told me this, a Wren came in with a signal that the orders for Brown were cancelled – they were only to apply to me! Worse & worse. At 4.45 I heard the worst – I was to be on Princes Landing Stage Liverpool, at 9.30 a.m. on Monday the 19th! I had exactly 48 hours to pack up and get out. I kept the news quiet till M & J had had supper & when we had recovered from the shock we started making plans. We rang up Grenfell & they said they’d take M & Sue on Sunday for as long as they liked. On Saturday I reported to the Brigadier & I was very pleased to hear that he was livid about my sudden shift & he had protested strongly to the A.G. about it – but protests didn’t help much of course.

We were so tired that night (packing up) that it was almost too much to do anything about but laugh about it- there was an air raid too I believe! On Sunday I went down to Barracks on Molly’s bike (having sold mine for £3-5-0!) with three suitcases attached to it, & finished off all packing & said goodbyes.

The Pasteur is a French liner taken over by Cunard White Star & converted into a trooper. The accommodation is absolutely packed. Eight tiers of three berths in each cabin- “First class accommodation has been arranged” say my orders! There must have been 200 officers & 3 or 4 thousand troops on board. Officers all sorts but mainly Canadian. Had a yarn with the Commander of the Phoebe – Phoebe detachment draft was cancelled & it wasn’t the Brigadier’s stopping them because they were badly turned out! I’ve been appointed Sports & Entertainments Officer! Hope we get a move on, I want to bring my ruddy ship back as soon as possible!

April 21st (Wednesday)


Nobody knows our destination yet the betting is a New York or Halifax, the buzz goes that we are taking a northerly route & judging by the temperature they are correct.

April 24th (Saturday)


Life continues to be boring but we’ve had a few entertainments to pass the time away, and it’s been quite rough too – this tub got more skittish than I thought she would and she fairly lurched about in a sea that would have reduced Enterprise to about 16 knots.

April 28th (Wednesday)


Should have arrived late this evening but instead we broke down & lay stopped in U-boat infested waters for about 5 hours with just 1 Catalina circling round with us as ‘escort’. We steamed in eventually.


America

April 29th (Thursday)


New York. I got my instructions to take the Nigeria draft straight down to Charleston by train.

April 30th (Friday)


I met a “Railroad Man” as he called himself & we went off together to look at the train & then marched the troops to the platform. They’d given us five coaches & a baggage van – each coach with 68 ordinary chair seats so I put about 40 in each coach & then got the luggage aboard. I dozed fitfully most of the time being woken up two or three times by a conductor asking for my ticket. I finally broke surface at 6.0 when we were standing in Washington. There we were shunted on to the stern of a U.S. Navy train.

[Billy found that no arrangements has been made to feed the party on the long journey to Charleston and that the conductor in the U.S. Navy section of the train had only sufficient for their own. He gave the conductor a message to be passed to the stationmaster at Richmond to provide food for 220 British Naval Ratings arriving at 9.30.]
We arrived & the first person I saw was the Stationmaster who said he was giving us a dining car. Stout Fellah! They gave us quite a good breakfast & lunch. As the day wore on it got hotter & hotter until it was as bad as Bombay before the Monsoon.

We eventually arrived at Charleston at 1915. Rather as I expected there wasn’t a soul in sight so I got everything and everybody unloaded. We rang up every conceivable number we could think of but nobody was interested, so I jumped into a taxi & went down to the dockyard & walked to the Ship lying in a basin astern of the Arethusa (newly arrived with a fish in her). [HMS Arethusa a light cruiser built at Chatham in 1933 was badly damaged by torpedo on a Malta convoy sailing from Alexandria losing 156 men in November 1942.]

[Billy finally met the Commander and lorries were sent to fetch the party.]

Apparently the Ship has got another month to 6 weeks here & then another two months in England, the latter part of which is a good show.

May, 1943


[Billy found himself in a round of parties with some of his Arethusa friends, meeting the locals, somewhat expensive visits to nightclubs where the dancing (the Jitterbug for instance) was not to his taste, and being wary of one or two ‘merry widows’. Exercise included some hockey and riding. The month also included news of the conclusion of war in North Africa.]

June 3rd, 1943 (Thursday)


Back from a very good four days in Washington – on duty! Clive Macintyre & I went up by the midnight train (the “Champion”) to collect the ships set of CBs which has been rusting in Ottawa while the ship refitted. We boarded the train to find that no one had reserved our berths for us – or they had been sold again – a fairly common habit with the Atlantic Coast Line. However a benevolent conductor unearthed a couple of upper berths for us & we turned in. We arrived at Union Station only half an hour late which was also something of a record. We found rooms had been booked for us at the Lee Sheraton hotel. We got a taxi & went down to the British Admiralty Buildings off Constitution Avenue. There we met Mr Woodfield the CB officer, and learned that he had a present of 58 bags of CBs for us! We had expected about a dozen. To do 58 was impossible as for one thing his office was jammed to the ceiling & there was nowhere close to check them. So we quite easily decided to leave them to themselves & take them as they were when we left, spending the remainder of our duty on leave! And it was so!

[Billy and Clive Macintyre took advantage of the time to do some sightseeing, and thanks to an introduction, to attend a cocktail party followed by dinner. They met a Mrs Vogel the ‘Queen Bee of Home Hospitality’ who had a lovely house on the hill above Washington. The guests included some RAAF boys, the daughter of the Peruvian ambassador, a Polish Count & his wife, and most of the cast of the play ‘Flare Path’. The lavish programme for the show is in the Journal which they attended free on the following day. Despite congratulating the whole cast they were not invited to stay on to the after-show supper which was a blow! The following days they were shown the sights, taken to Art Galleries, visited the Supreme Court and Congressional library which included the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and attended a debate in the Senate. One evening they attended a night baseball match which was much enjoyed but in which they were the only two whites in a crowd of 10,000. Eventually the 48 CB bags had to be collected and taken back to Charleston, where it was unusually hot and working on the CBs was as bad as any time in Colombo.]

June 8th (Tuesday)


Started a series of three farewell cocktail parties to locals. The first today was all official – all admirals & officers who had helped us in the refit. Terrific scrum of over 100 in the Wardroom & as hot as hell. Played bridge in the evening but there’s a lousy selection of bridge players aboard.

June 26th (Saturday)


A week of work and heat, swimming, two games of cricket, two shopping expeditions and one party!

June 30th (Wednesday)


Been to sea for the first time in HMS Nigeria. We tore ourselves off the gin bottles early on Monday forever and proceeded to do runs over the D.G. Range off Charleston itself – backwards & forwards under the Cooper River bridge! Then we went & anchored off Fort Sumter for the night. Yesterday we went out of the harbour and fiddled around testing all the smaller guns – Oerliken & four four & doing a bit of speed. It was very shallow water so doing revs for 27 knots we made 22 through the water with the quarter Deck under water and a stern wave as high as a house.

external image HMS_Nigeria.jpg

July 5th, 1943 (Monday)


Had a final run ashore yesterday as we sail tomorrow for Norfolk to work up. Telegram from Molly the other day saying she’d taken a house at Saltash starting Sept. 29 – so we’ve got a house of sorts at last. What’s the betting we go to Rosyth?!

July 11th (Sunday)


We left Charleston on Tuesday forenoon and arrived off Norfolk about 10.0 the next morning. For a try out we kept 2nd degree of readiness the whole time & I was in two watches ADO with Clive & kept the first and morning – some jolt after no watch keeping for six months! Test firing followed for three days. On Saturday we went alongside the Norfolk Navy Yard and collected a few more passengers, a doctor (permanent) and 14 small boys - evacuees returning to England.

July 15th (Thursday)


We arrive in the Clyde on Sunday and disembark passengers and stores, then on to Chatham for final overhaul – Chatham of all places! And I might still be in 10 Paul Crescent with the ship coming to our front doorstep! It’s going to be a nice run from Glasgow round the north to the Medway! E – boat alley.

July 21st (Wednesday)


Had an uneventful but interesting trip down the North Sea and arrived at Sheerness at 1600 this evening. It was after we had passed through the Pentland Firth (sighting Scapa Flow but blowing raspberries at it!) that we started sighting convoy after convoy, hundreds of ships of all sizes. I never dreamed that so much shipping used the Channel & North Sea. The route was all down a buoyed channel one or two miles wide , and as we cleared the Thames estuary we saw what we first thought was the USS South Dakota on top of a couple of battle practice targets! It was an astonishing silhouette. It turned out to be in fact on a couple of pylons, mounting a couple of 3.5 AA guns & Bofors etc. When we anchored off Sheerness it was pouring with rain! The buoy we were moored to has a shore telephone so I rang up B’cay last night & had a yarn with Molly.



HMS Nigeria, Chatham


August 3rd, 1943 (Tuesday)


Rather a gap but I’ve been (a) too busy and (b) had far better things to do than write up this perishing screed.

[Billy managed to meet Molly at the King’s Head in Chatham. Lovely evening yarning and fixing up plans and hearing about the house she’s got at Saltash. He caught a train to Sheerness in the morning but went ashore again for the night to find that Molly had all ready fixed up a flat in old Brompton behind the Gun Battery.] I go on second leave starting the 16th which is excellent and till then work Duty C.O. alternate days which isn’t half so good.

Joan brought Sue down on the Monday so now we’re all a family together. Sue has grown largely and talks far too much.

In the world of war the invasion of Sicily has been a great success and we hold the entire island except for the north east corner around Mt Etna where the Germans are putting up a stiff resistance. The Italians are practically finished, Mussolini resigned three days ago & the Fascists are mostly removed or in prison. Riots are going on all over Italy and the only reason why they haven’t all ready asked for peace is the efforts of the Germans to keep them in it. Bombing of Germany on a colossal scale is still going on & Hamburg got it five nights last week with a total of 8,000 tons of bombs! What an eye opener for the Germany who did their damndest to wipe London off the map.

August 7th (Saturday)


Molly came aboard for tea & supper & did some useful work in the BB line! I’ve been moderately busy with CBs & the new Detachment.

[The refitting of HMS Nigeria took many weeks and Billy was granted leave on Monday August 16th which gave him time to go down to Exeter. The time was filled with visits to families, furniture moving, shopping and other domestic chores. Plymouth is described as a ghastly sight – not a building left in George Street nor in Old Town Street, rubble & destruction everywhere. Jonah put up with the travelling although Billy records that he had a few heart attacks that Jonah might put in a premature appearance especially after the ride in the furniture van, but all is well, & the sooner the she pups the better!

On September 1st Billy records that he has served nine years in the Royal Marines and with the landing of allied troops on the mainland of Italy on September 3rd, the baby might be prevailed upon to arrive.]

September 5th, 1943 (Sunday)


Reggie hammered at the door at 0045 and congratulated me on another daughter! I went round to Grenfell for breakfast and then Reggie drove me to the Nursing Home. Molly was as fit as a fiddle and thoroughly sitting up and taking notice. Sally looked a revolting specimen of womanhood and incredibly small – 5 lbs 10 ozs. She slept soundly but it was rather fun and definitely incredible to think that Molly had produced that small mite.

September 8th (Wednesday)


Back on board by 11.00. Situation remains the same & we don’t seem to be any nearer the sea. Had a yarn with the Captain who said that he intended to have a period of intensive training before granting any more leave - courses and so on. A few officers have come & gone but the whole ship stinks of decay and dockyard, bugs, rats & cats abound & it’s all very depressing. What isn’t so depressing is the news that Italy has surrendered.

October 2nd, 1943 (Saturday)

Been doing a damage control course in London all the week at 46 Collett Gardens behind St Pauls School. The course was extremely good value with Lectures from experienced officers and finally a film – two of Malta convoys and one of the Barham sinking & exploding – an incredible & ghastly sight. [HMS Barham a battleship built in 1913 was struck by three torpedoes from a U-boat and sank with a loss of 841 men in the Mediterranean on November 25th 1941]



October 16th (Sunday)


Haven’t written for some time but life hasn’t been particularly eventful.

October 29th (Friday)


An uneventful 7 days. Been getting here most days as the Commander has been looking out for me. Thoroughly enjoying life but getting a bit screamy about CBs, - even talking about the bally things in my sleep!

November 21st, 1943 (Sunday)


Decidedly a long gap but I’ve been on leave – working! Lots of new officers joining & our departure postponed till about the New Year! – Hooray!

November 24th (Wednesday)


Been doing an aircraft recognition course at the Naval Barracks all this week. Talking of aircraft Berlin has had it three times in the last week – the heaviest one on Tuesday night when 2,300 tons of bombs were dropped.

December 1st, 1943 (Wednesday)


We had Sally christened on board. Daddy arrived up from Cheriton the afternoon before & than he came on board & I showed him the Chapel & took him round a bit of the ship. Joy had brought the 100yr old christening robe with her. The Captain, Commander, several other officers and nine children were present. Daddy took us through an extremely nice christening service – Sally never murmured a word throughout. After the service we all tramped along to the Captain’s cabin where Big Eats were all laid on – and a marvellous cake with the Globe & Laurel in icing sugar. The Band started playing at 4.30 to keep the brats amused, & later Brown came on dressed up as Daddy Neptune to distribute little golliwogs that M had made - incredible woman! Finally we played ring a’ ring roses two or three times & then packed up.

December 25th (Saturday)


A very Happy Christmas. H.C. at St Augustine’s. Sang ‘While shepherds watched’ before breakfast. Christmas time presents before tea, very wartime decorations but Sue was thrilled – and Sally! Sang Gilbert & Sullivan & Gondoliers. Memories of Gt. Holland!

December 29th (Wednesday)


In the Scharnhorst battle Norfolk, Sheffield & Belfast sighted her & kept her off a convoy & led her down to the Duke of York with Jamaica who polished her off. More naval news today in that that perishing old Enterprise and Glasgow went and finished off four destroyers in the Bay of Biscay! Must have been old E’s first trip after her refit.

So ends 1943 and a damned good year it has been – victory in sight and I’ve had 9 months with Molly.




HMS Nigeria, 1944

January 4th, 1944 (Tuesday)


Out into the estuary to anchor & test 4” guns & then back to Sheerness again.

January 6th (Thursday)


arrived Scapa, uneventful trip.

January 8th (Saturday)


Went ashore to play golf on as wild a course as anything I have played on.

January 15th (Saturday)


Working up all last week. [Not all the exercises went well and much of the weather was appalling which resulted in exercises being cancelled. They did not get a full practice in until February 8th.]

February 10th, 1944 (Thursday)


Nigeria is operational. Pushed off to sea with a fleet at 10.30. Anson, Richelieu, Iroquois, Oribi, Athabaska, Raida, Impulsive, Onslaught and Serapis as leader. Apparently we go and beat up shipping off Bergen with the use of Furious’ Barracudas. [The Fairey Barracuda an all metal monoplane succeeded the Swordfish as a torpedo bomber] Very strange to be at sea with a fleet, haven’t done that since Easter 1942.

February 11th (Friday)


A/c flew off at 0900, 10 Barracudas with bombs and 12 Seafires as fighter escort. They were back by 1100 and could only find an already beached 5000 ton merchant Ship with a repair ship alongside, and 5 ME 110s, of which they scored one certain & lost a Seafire. Turned for home then but with alarms & excursions all the time all of which proved friendly.

February 26th (Saturday)


Today the Captain cleared the lower Deck and told us we were going to return all our warm clothing. Later he sent for me about CBs & told me we were going to finish up at Colombo. So bang goes any chance of seeing Molly for a couple of years. It really is damnable to have to go back to that hell hole again.

February 27th (Sunday)


Sailed from Scapa at 2100 and I never thought I should be sorry to see that place disappear over the horizon!

March 1st, 1944 (Wednesday)


Greenock. Shocking day with snow squalls & had to collect 100 bags of confidential mail from Gourock Pier. Didn’t finish till 8.0, so just as well Molly wasn’t here.

March 3rd (Friday)


[Nigeria sailed at 0200 with a convoy for Gibraltar to refuel.]

March 11th (Saturday)


A C.B. Officer’s nightmare came true! A bag of current & subsequent Tables floating in the ocean!! F.O. Gib. had given us two bags of SPs one for Athene & one for Begum. The Captain decided to transfer them. As they were in ordinary flimsy sacking I put each in an official eyeletted and weighted bag for the transfer. The frigate ‘Shiel’ [HMS Shiel was a frigate built in Canada in 1943 for the US Navy but transferred to the Royal Navy under the Lend Lease programme] came alongside & the bags were transferred on a grass. The bottom tore out of the second bag. So the weight went to the bottom of the ocean and the bag of SPs floated on the ocean! Luckily it continued to float & Shiel was able to recover it intact, but I had some bad moments until they came up & told us so.

March 24th (Friday)


[Nigeria arrived at Colombo after calling at Alexandria and Port Said.] Place is much the same but fuller.

March 27th (Monday)


Arrived Trinco. - the fleet is out at the moment but depot ships and small fry just litter the place. We secured ahead of the old Woolwich [Family Note: Sally Barton nee Aldred was christened on HMS Woolwich in Grand Harbour, Malta in June 1937.]. There was time for bathing and when the main fleet returned, for cricket and seeing old friends.

April 16th, 1944 (Sunday)


Instead of a nice quiet day, we sailed in company with the whole fleet to go & have a crack at the Japs in Sumatra. We are Force 69 consisting of Q.E. Valiant & Richelieu, Newcastle, Gambia, Ceylon, Tromp & us, and nine others.

April 20th (Thursday)


Quite an amusing day yesterday. Tuesday night had come and it was almost certain that the Jap had not seen us. At 0500 on Wednesday morning we went to action Stations and an hour later Illustrious & Saratoga flew off 60 bombers (Barracudas) and 15 fighters (Corsairs) and they went off and played merry hell with the small naval base of Sabang on the northern tip of Sumatra. Somerville had made a signal previously about the op. saying we were going to bomb Sabang that we hadn’t been shadowed and that the “Jap is regular in his habits we hope to catch him with his kimono up”! During the whole op we didn’t lose a single plane. For the rest of the day we sat about at Action Stations awaiting enemy attack.

We were going to fall out at 1915 but five minutes before that time three separate echoes appeared on the Scan – & we had just flown off all crew a/c. The echoes closed and evidently sighted us because for the next half hour we fired blind radar barrages & Brock’s benefit wasn’t in it! They came in chiefly from the post side and as we were starboard wing cruiser we couldn’t join in much but managed to get off a few on the starboard echo. Quite a successful day & much more interesting than the Norwegian raid.

April 21st (Friday)


The BBC had the Sabang business as 5 minute headline news! Awful tripe being talked considering a maximum of only 30 tons of bombs can have been dropped. Back into harbour today.

April 22nd (Saturday)


Some good stories of the Sabang raid. - The only bomber which was brought down landed in the sea off Sabang, an s/m [Submarine] which had been watching the fun popped up to rescue him. Three Able Sailors expecting to have to drag a half dead pilot on board leaped into the water to help him out of the dinghy at exactly the same time as the pilot jumped on to the s/m very hale & hearty! The s/m then had to make a circuit to pick up the ABs.

[Nigeria returned to Colombo to get her bottom scraped and there they discovered something wrong with her rudder. Billy recorded that of the past twenty months Nigeria had spent sixteen in dock so the usual routine of work and sport continued. The only change to routine involved a signal and map reading exercise in the jungle.]

May 29th, 1944 (Monday)


When we arrived at Gulbode we made a bivouac area in a strip of jungle by clearing all the undergrowth (& the leeches) away & making shelter of saplings & branches. Nobody slept that night much & it poured with rain most of the time. I did a Signal exercise & the rest went on a march which was not intended to be more than half an hour but which turned out to be quite a long march to a ridge where we did some map reading than a compass march back to Camp. The following morning we had just got the fires going when the rain came down in torrents & washed them all away, so we started a long march on rainy sardines & wet biscuit! We climbed a mountain by road and struck off to attack a village 2 miles away – marching by compass of course. In two hours we met the Maratoa River. Then we went on and on and on, up & down hacking our way through, ploughing knee deep through the most evil smelling swamp I’ve ever met. The chaps were getting more and more fagged and I eventually discarded any idea of an attack on a village. I just wanted to get there to bivouac before anyone flaked out! At about the umpteenth stream we crossed we lost Deakin: he had called out that he had got cramp in his stomach. I eventually found him but he had prepared to try a night in the jungle by himself! At last we found a path which led us to the village. There we bivouacked to the intense interest of the native & his family. We were all in a filthy state, covered in dirt and sweat & just lousy with leeches.

The following day was terribly hot. After a couple of hours chaps started feeling a bit queer & Cpl Jacobs started getting light headed. Then we came to a river, the Muratan 50 to 60 yards wide & an 8 knot current. Make some tea & build a raft was the order, & we did. By the time we finished the raft I was wondering how much longer I was going to be able to stand up! We decided to take the raft downstream to cut off some of the march. Se we started. We hadn’t gone 400 yards before there was the hell of a gefuffle astern and I saw the raft coming on with only about 3 chaps & practically no equipment & the rest going for the bank. Manning, a non swimmer had lost his head & the raft had upset! I got everybody the other side; the native divers started diving for the equipment. The natives proved the acme of kindness & dished us out of with tea & so on till the truck arrived. Sgt Irwin then reported sick & he had obviously got a dose of malaria. So the truck took him & the equipment to the Camp, & the rest of us marched back singing all the way!
Back on board looking like thorough Chindits. Ate a small meal but it felt like lead! Very good fun on the whole & the chaps thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It taught me more things than that!



Remainder of 1944


[Billy wrote nothing more during the remainder of the year until the last day when he made a summary of the bright spots.]
I think that 1945 may be a more interesting year (from my point of view) than the thoroughly dank dismal monotonous bore of a year that 1944 has been.

June 21st, 1944 (Wednesday)


[An air strike on Port Blair Andaman Islands.]

July 25th, 1944 (Tuesday)


Working up for bombardment of Sabang and spent three days doing FOO (Forward Observation Officer) had a wonderful picnic time.

August, 1944


Took a convoy to Freemantle.

September 5th, 1944 (Tuesday)


Arrived and had 22 glorious days of fun, good food, and a cold climate. Dancing, shopping, six days leave riding, rounding up cattle, and parties.

October, 1944


Return to Colombo and then to Trinco.

November, 1944


Hikes through the jungle.

December, 1944


Still at Trinco. 4 days at sea in the last three months! Christmas was the lousiest yet.



HMS Nigeria, 1945

January 23rd, 1945 (Tuesday)


Force Wellington embarked today and we set off (Newcastle, Kenya & us) to take an island called Cheduba. [Cheduba belongs to Burma.]

January 27th (Saturday)


The “Battle of Cheduba” occurred today – total casualties 2. We plastered the shore with H.E. for ¾ of an hour. There were 8 Japs on the whole island the size of the Isle of Wight.

February, 1945


We returned to Trinco early in the month and then swung round a buoy for 3 weeks looking forward to our departure to S. Africa for a refit.

March, 1945


Arrived in Simonstown on the 7th via a refuelling stop at Mauritius. Very pleasant too. Given 14 days leave. SAWAS organised a place in Johannesburg but after arriving we found that we’d been parked on one Mrs Carleton-Jones, President of the Johannesburg Navy War Fund, wife of All The World’s Gold in the shape of Mr Carleton-Jones – his second wife, her third husband! I had been taken for a Captain R.N. of course. So the next fortnight was occupied in cocktail parties, social calls, dinners, lunches, and dancing with old women of 40 and over until 4 in the morning. Personalities - Mr C.J., nice type but completely run by his wife. Mrs C.J. terrific personality, caustic, cynical and a tongue like a viper if you kept her on the right side, owned 9 Pekinese.

Left Johannesburg on the 26th & not at all sorry – the most terrible leave of my life.

May, 1945


Called in at Diego Suarez for oil and then to Addu Atoll for a draft and reached Trinco on the 12th. Sailed immediately to join the fleet operating off Sumatra and the Malacca Straits where a Jap cruiser was sculling around. It was a destroyer who caught her & sank the 8” with torpedoes. One or two air attacks on the way back but nothing very exciting.

Back to Trinco. Flew down to Colombo to see the General about my getting ashore for a change. Says he’d fix me into 42 Cdo. & returned to the ship to wait & hung around for the whole of June.

Left the ship on 16th going to the Depot to await a draft chit to 42 Cdo.

VJ day was spent at Trinco and then we embarked in HMS London to go and occupy Sabang.

September 2, 1945 (Sunday)


Sabang. Japs all left and we proceeded to occupy the place. Ruddy awful start in a Barracks by the aerodrome lousy, maggotty and swarms of mosquitoes, no light, plank beds, and camp rations.

An SNO (Senior Naval officer) arrived in the shape of Cdr. Hamilton. We shifted from the aerodrome down to the town and I lived with Hamilton. Had a very pleasant six weeks exploring and charting the defences of Sabang for an intelligence report, but then there was never a dull moment. Alarms & excursions from the mainland where 2000 Japs and a few million Indonesians were living together. We finally got orders to sail in the LST 3017 for Trinco on November 23. [LST 3017, a tank landing ship built in 1944, and used for general purposes before being handed to the Australian navy in 1946.]



Sabang Island, September 1945


[An extract from a long letter written on September 6th from the once Japanese occupied camp at Sabang gives a more detailed idea of Billy’s ‘Never a dull moment’ time on Sabang Island where Billy was able to show his abilities and initiative.]

Another hectic day and the electric light is only just strong enough to see the other end of the room, so I’m writing by torchlight, and that can’t last long because torch batteries are precious. I spent all this forenoon in Camp as everybody was down town on stores collecting parties except for the cooks and signallers and 5 others, so when I’d got a chap to clean out the 3 huts, I had 2 left so together we took picks and laid into the water-filled, mosquito ridden fox holes and dugouts in the Camp and filled in several of them. Then after lunch I went round the various outposts and patrols and also searched for two 4.7”” and two 3” guns that I haven’t yet located. I failed to find them in the afternoon, but after about two gallons of tea, I found the right road. The road led straight up the mountain and time and again my motorbike would not take it and I had to get off and run beside it. However at 700 feet up I found my two 4.7” gun positions completely concealed and camouflaged in the mountain side – don’t ask me how the Japs got them there, they must have dropped them by parachute. Exploring further I found a whole network of trenches and emplacements all day 10 feet down and into the mountainside and then a track led further up the mountainside. I climbed another 500 feet and found an AA battery of 3” and 25mm guns! All complete with magazines and what have you. I give the Japs the best, though I strongly suspect that all these gun positions were built and burrowed by coolie labour. And then I came back again – bottom gear and both brakes hard on. And it doesn’t make it easier when the roads are made purely of boulders.

(Fri 7.) Fun and games last night all right. At one of our outposts guarding a food store they caught two Chinese boys looting it – stealing a couple of sacks of rice to be precise. So they pushed off to gaol and tomorrow I’ve got to sit on a Court Martial and try them. If we find them guilty then they get shot, just like that. Fun isn’t it! But last night this outpost caught two more, and bound them hand and foot waiting for transport to take them to gaol. But the Marines’ knots were not all that seamanlike and they got loose and made a run for it. So the sentry opened up with a sten gun and shot one of them very dead: the other got away.

Today I did more exploring on my motorbike and after visiting some of our posts, I struck down to the south of the island. The road stopped short some 2 miles short of the coast so I got on my two legs and started off along the footpath. It was as good a jungle track as I’ve met anywhere and as I’d forgotten my revolver I was exceedingly frightened most of the time! I flushed a herd of wild boar, several swarms of monkeys, two (a sort of alligator but smaller and far more frightened of you than you are of him) and three snakes – smallish jobs but I wasn’t sorry to see them go! In fact in the ¾ of an hour that it took me to reach the coast, I saw more animals than I’ve seen in any jungle parties in Ceylon. Having got to the coast expecting to see a nice 4.7” gun sitting waiting for me to look at, but nothing so helpful happened. Instead I found a footpath running along the shore equally well worn both to the west and the east. I tossed up and it came down east and for once in my life I was lucky as a mile along found the emplacement and Barracks and everything else. I even found a telephone that worked and when I rang up, the exchange operator in Sebang answered. It was only a matter of ten miles of course, but I was so completely isolated from any human beings that it almost felt comforting to hear his voice. I removed various locks and breeches from the guns to render them safe and then started back. But I didn’t meet any more animals and eventually arrived back on my motorbike fair dripping and extremely thirsty. This afternoon I had fun with the water bowser which has twice supplied us with 200 gallons of water. It has an extremely rusty engine and, like me, prefers going downhill to up. It was up here at Camp empty, so Walker and I got cracking and after half an hour got it started and drove it down to the old Barracks where it is filled from an ordinary tap through a long and complicated Heath Robinson affair of rubber tubing and 4” hose which David Evans had rigged up. Filling it like that is a matter of 6 hours of more of course.

The big thing about today is that our present ‘tender’ is leaving and being replaced by another. I don’t know what this Captain is going to be like, but he can’t be worse than the last – he got everyone’s backs up, including his own officers. The new Captain [Captain Hamilton R.N. Paymaster of HMS Phoebe] came up to see round the Camp this evening and I took him round and showed him specimens of lice, maggots and mosquitos (the first of which are now almost extinct). Then another great event was the starting of the water supply, the pump was in working order yesterday but of course I couldn’t find the native driver. But he rolled up today and we got plenty of water for the first time. They’ve got magnificent concrete baths in all the huts in which you can swim about. So we all ‘swam’ top our heart’s content and got rid of six days of dirt and sweat. But I haven’t yet fathomed the pipeline system with its stopcocks to be able to regulate where the water goes, and there’s a large amount being wasted going to Barracks further down the aerodrome where broken taps and suchlike leak to their hearts content... Sunday... Our first spell of rest today for a whole week, so I only spent the forenoon working out the week’s work, going round all the huts in this Camp, all the latrines, foxholes, an dugouts and working out how we are going to accommodate another 150 men up here at the beginning of next week. Far from leaving here, we are being reinforced as this appears to be the main Japanese arsenal and stranglehold in the Netherlands East Indies area.

Then I started a fire to burn down some of the waist deep grass that is cluttering up the whole area. It burned all right, but started getting out of hand, so I hastily had to summon the chaps and put it out. A very sweaty and dirty operation so I’ve had a bath and now I can settle down to some writing.

The Court Martial


Yesterday had its more interesting and unpleasant moments. Boots was the President, Mackenzie and I were members, Furlong was prosecutor and a Lieut Sani, who is Dutch civil Administration at the moment, defended them. In addition we had three village headmen in attendance to listen to the proceedings. There were two lots of two to try and though the first two spoke Malay, the other two only spoke Chinese. Sani spoke Malay of course and did most of the interpreting, but at times one of the Village Headmen had to interpret Malay into Chinese and then back again. In fact at times it got quite complicated. There wasn’t much to either of their stories - they had ‘found’ the sacks of tinned food lying under a tree, but there was no doubt at all that the food had come from one of the food stores and they had swiped it either direct, or at second hand. In fact they had looted and we found them guilty and had no option but to condemn them to death by shooting. The old cup of tea didn’t go down so well after that, but Boots had to have our sentence confirmed by the Senior Naval officer present, i.e. the Captain of Phoebe, and in both cases we had recommended them for mercy. So the Captain remitted the sentence to one of penal servitude for three years, subject to revision when the Civil power was in full operation. So I expect they’ll do about six months and then get away with it. But the looting problem is an awfully big one. There’s just stacks of stuff lying about in sheds all over the countryside; all that stuff belongs to the Government and of you pinch so much as a brass button, you are looting and liable to be shot. Two sailors the other day took off two Japanese caps the other day to the London – and got punished with 14 days in cells. To a certain degree we turn a blind eye to it and call it “appropriation for use by the military occupation”- and under that heading we’ve brought in all the pigs, hens, chickens, horses etc. that were left sculling about the Japanese camps and we ate either them of their eggs. Similarly we get vegetables out of the gardens. That helps us along a bit with our only available food which is compo rations of tinned food and hard biscuit.

Camp duties at Sabang


I told you that the London has sailed and Phoebe has taken her place. The difference is enormous. The first person ashore was their Paymaster Commander, who came straight up to our Camp, and as we shook hands said, “Now tell me what I can do to help you.” with the result that in ten minutes he had promised to send me 40lbs of bread per day, currants, raisins, flour, cigarettes, soap, razor blades and anything and everything that we were short of. We never even got a canned half sausage out of London. Binnie Hale (Ex Ramilies) is their Commander so I’m off to supper and film with them this evening.

The transport situation gives us more aches and pains than anything else here. The Japanese left about 35 lorries and 20 cars, as well as a few petrol and water bowsers and small run-abouts. But they were all in appalling condition and at the start only 10 trucks and 12 cars worked. All these have been used all day, either taking people round to see the various places, food dumps, batteries, etc. and the lorries to collect in the various food stores, so that the Civil people can ration it out to the natives. You couldn’t expect a brand new lorry to last more than a month’s hard going on these roads, so these ramshackled four wheeled things of ours break down regularly, brakes give way on 1 in 3 bends and you run it back into the mountainside and ditch it to save you going over the precipice the other side. Some trucks will only work in one gear, others need filling up with water every mile, none of them have any self starter and usually fail to reply to the starting handle, so wherever you go you make certain you stop on a hill - a fairly easy thing in this island as it’s all hill. Some have got footbrakes but no hand brakes so you have to remember to take someone with you to chock up the wheels while you hold the car! It’s all very entertaining if dangerous – but nobody has been killed yet and a team of engineers from the ship have done wonders keeping a certain number of cars and trucks on the road at all times. The latest transport to be organised is a team of pack ponies – the Japanese left all their officers’ ponies behind, so we’ve collected them in and we’re going to use them to get the food form inaccessible! Our outlying patrols have all managed to collect in a pony each and use them on their patrols too!

Life would be just too grand if it wasn’t for the scourge of mosquitos. They’re big purple jobs with a very faint buzz and you’ve only got to take your shirt off for a couple of minutes at midday, standing in the sun, and you’ll get half a dozen bites. Some places are worse than others, but they are so bad everywhere that we’ve had to insist on everybody wearing long sleeved shirts and long trousers all the day whatever they are doing. The troops don’t go much on that of course, as it doesn’t help towards coolness, but it’s the only way.

It might amuse you to hear what I’ve jotted down in the way of essential work which has got to be done next week. Make an incinerator to burn our own tins and refuse; dig and construct a 12 seater latrine; make ‘secondary’ latrines outside each hut; fill in the heads in the huts and their adjacent cess-pits; clear out three store rooms of their bags of rice and grain in the Camp; clear out and clean 6 more huts ; overhaul water supply and run electric leads to the new huts; clear all drains from huts as necessary; burn down a large area of grass and tangled weeds and growth; collect in a large number of bottles which are lying about in all the huts, some of which contain paraffin (I can’t think what was in them or what the Japs used them for); collect in all spare beds and bed boards; collect in all the timber that has been or will be cleared out of the huts so that we can put it to our own use; collect in all the sheets of corrugated iron that are lying around also for our own use; DDT or oil fuel spray all living quarters and stagnant pools of water; fill in the remaining 50 odd fox holes and dug outs; burn down three more Jap latrines; and of course the ordinary duties of maintenance and feeding. – And for all that I have 3 NCOs and 12 men! All the rest of our total force of 122 chaps are engaged on outlying patrols, town guards and patrols and food collecting working parties............



Homeward Bound, 1945-6


Back at Trincomalee. Appointed O.C. Transit Coy., but not required. 17th was told I’d go home in the Nea Hellas hold baggage to be sent that afternoon. [Nea Hellas 16.000 tons, was built for the Anchor line a subsidiary of Cunard as the Tuscania in 1922 and sold to the Greek line in 1939 when she was renamed. She was requisitioned for use as a British troopship during the war]

Got aboard about 11.00. Quite comfortable, sleeping five to a cabin. Found she was almost an RM ship – 900 RMs, 200 RN, 100 Army, 100 RAF, 200 Wrens and about 200 civilians.

December 17th, 1945 (Monday)


Arrived at Aden – not bad going really. Been getting on very well so far, very good crowd on board and the time’s passing fairly rapidly. Even Christmas Day was good fun. Danced from 8.0 to midnight – chugging around with a vivacious blonde at the moment; she’s all right except that she drinks neat whisky! Running a bridge tournament now. Tuesday January 1 1946. Arrived at Suez yesterday & after hanging around for a while started down the Canal & came through it by night. New Year’s Party was due to finish at 0005 but was ignored and at 0200 there was no slacking in the fun. Arrived at Port Said in the early morning & sailed at noon non stop, so I believe, for Glasgow which we reach on the 8th. Good oh!

January 10th, 1946 (Thursday)


We got to Glasgow and sailed up the Clyde and got away that night in a special train for London. Then went down to Chatham. I saw the Brigadier got 28 days leave & went up to town to meet M at Paddington. The world was very good.