"We sailed in this convoy, the ships composed mainly of tankers, which was what Jerry wanted. And he took three of these tankers like a blue flash, gone – ten thousand-ton ships."
When I first started, I was 16 with a nervous disposition. And that I remember vividly. I left school in 1942, July I think it was, and joined my first ship in Glasgow. As you probably have known, the Atlantic wasn’t a very healthy place. We were on watch, four hours on, four hours off. We met Jerry [the Germans], I guess halfway across. We were lucky; it took four or five ships, a torpedo. It just missed us. We were very lucky there.
Anyway, we got to New York after a lot of fooling around. And we berthed in the same quay that the [RMS] Queen Mary had used, Pier 93. And we were there for a while and then they had orders to go to Bayonne, New Jersey, to load up cargo. Which we did; they put 11,000 tons of high explosive aboard us. Nasty.
We left Bayonne and sailed on for Trinidad, a convoy of 12 ships with two American destroyers. And Jerry came up and took three ships, and the American destroyers buzzed off back to New York. We were on our own then. Got to Port of Spain, Trinidad. And we hung about there because we had to wait for convoys; we were there about three weeks I think. Eventually, they formed the convoy and we sailed in this convoy, the ships composed mainly of tankers, which was what Jerry wanted. And he took three of these tankers like a blue flash, gone – ten thousand-ton ships.
Eventually came D-Day, the invasion [of Normandy]. But before that, a couple of naval officers had come aboard the ship, wanting to know who wanted to stay with the ship or join another one [and volunteer for the Royal Naval Reserve, for D-Day], because it was considered to be dangerous. And we signed on and left. And picked up our cargo which was soldiers and all their gear, and went across to Sword and Juno beachhead.
Then we were running back and forth to the beaches between Tilbury in England and the beach. We made a couple of narrow escapes there because on one occasion, it was foggy. But we were on our way back to Tilbury, about halfway, when we heard these engines … And the boat came out of the fog and circled us around, pumping cannon fire into us; there were holes right along the ship.
And then they transferred me to the [MV] Dallas City. And we sailed and kept going. We spent some time in Antwerp [Belgium], in the Scheldt River where Jerry hit us with a V-2 [rocket]. It came down alongside the ship, bang. We went, sunk down by the head, anyway they patched us up and got back to London again.
And by that time, the invasion was going well. But these V-2s, they’d shoot them off a place called, what was the name of it, Peenemünde in Belgium [V-2 design, development and testing were carried out in Peenemünde Germany, and the rockets were also launched from various sites in Northern France and Belgium] and we were in direct range of these rockets all the time. That was the nasty part. And you never knew which was going to happen.