The journey home
Our homeward leg began on Monday 12th January 1942, arriving at St. Johns
Newfoundland on 16th January where we spent a tedious two days refuelling
and taking on stores. It was bitterly cold now and I remember the ice on
the bulkheads - inside the mess! From there we returned to the UK, arriving
in Greenock on Sunday 25th January. It was here that we picked up our new
thirty five year old skipper - commander H G Walters DSC.
The poor old Harvester and Highlander were in need of urgent repairs and
left us for major refits in Dundee and London respectively. They were both
out of the war for many months.
Lightning now had an overdue boiler clean and I was granted 48 hours home
leave (the first in eight months). I did not realise it at the time but
this was the last time that I would see my dad. As I left home in the evening
of the last day of January 1942 I said cheerio to my mum and dad and minutes
later, just as I was passing the Byker bridge, a heavy air raid broke out.
I hurried on towards the station to catch my train back to Greenock with
bombs falling all around and I could hear loud explosions from all directions.
It was in this air raid that my dad was killed, although I was not to hear
about it for a further fortnight because we slipped for sea shortly after
I went aboard.
We left the Clyde on February 1st 1942, bound for Gibraltar, and were accompanied
by two US Destroyers. We hadn't been out long when they had to turn back
as the Irish Sea was very rough and they were shipping too much water. This
caused much delight amongst our crew as we ploughed on into the worsening
weather - and it evened a few old scores. Lightning was becoming a true
And so, after a two month long trek right around the Atlantic we eventually
arrived back in the Gibraltar pens on the 4th of February 1942. What a tale
we had to tell in the boiled oil shops!
Official records show that the Duke of York, with Churchill and entourage,
arrived at Annapolis Maryland on 21 December 1941. Reports of the journey
show that most of the dignitaries were very sea sick due to the severe weather
encountered - they were in good company! In the Duke Of York's letter of
proceedings mention is made that the waves were breaking over the compass
platform - which was 75 feet above her waterline!
No sooner had we arrived in Gibraltar - than we had to leave again to escort
a beleaguered convoy in from the Bay of Biscay, and then we returned to
the Clyde this time with our sister Laforey, arriving on 13th February.
As soon as we had tied up alongside I received a telegram from my brother,
Weldon, telling me that my dad had died. I was heartbroken. The skipper
was very good to me and granted me 48 hours special leave so that I could
return home and see my mum and brothers.
My father was only fifty seven and although a dockyard worker he had been
in the Royal Navy during the First World War. When I wanted to join the
regular navy before the war he would not allow me to, as he thought that
it would be too hard a life for me. That is why I joined the RNVR - to see
what it was like - and I found out.