Veteran Stories:
George Green

Navy

  • George Green joined Combined Operations in late 1943 upon his return from serving in the East Indies. The anchor represents the Navy, the rifle the Army, and the wings signify the Air Force in combined operations.

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"It was a very adventurous, very dangerous time. We were just lucky to get away with it."

Transcript

My name is George James Green, and I took my father's name Jim after many years. I joined the Navy in 1938 as a boy seaman. It was a year of horror in the training in the Royal Navy in those days. As a matter of fact, somebody said we were the slaves of the Royal Navy. And we went through all kinds of hell in the training. Punishment was severe, the discipline was severe. And then in June, I left the boys' training establishment, and I went to a ship called HMS Calcutta. Sixteen years of age, there were fifty-three boys down there on the fore lower mess deck.

We went to Scapa Flow, and then when war broke out, we were out the same afternoon. We were on patrol in the North Atlantic, and also down the east coast of England to snatch the freighters that we'd find. And I was on a gunners' crew, which was very unusual. It wasn't easy - it was a real rough life.

I joined a ship called HMS Columbo afterwards, and we finished off the patrols in the North Atlantic. Then we went out to the Far East. Actually speaking, we were on our way to Australia, because the Australian Navy wanted back-up ships. Just as we saw the coast of Australia, we had a signal to turn around, so we went back to Singapore. And from there we did a patrol of the straits of Surabaya - Sumatra, around there. There were some German ships in the harbour there, and we were just waiting for them to come out so we could capture them. It was the Dutch East Indies at that time, and they said: "No, no, no, no." They were very strict, you know, the Dutch at that time. They had a cruiser patrolling and aircraft flying over the three mile limit, and we couldn't get nowhere near the people. Anyway, the story was they scuttled themselves in the harbour.

And from there, we did all the convoying up the east coast of Africa for the troops to go to the desert campaign. Day after day, month after month - I got the Africa Star because of the amount of work we did to get those troops in by convoy. We never lost a ship.

After that, I went home, September, 1942, and I joined Combined Operations. And that's where the trouble starts. That was one terrific, horrific life, that was, because we were cramped up in these landing craft. Eleven men in a tiny space. They had two sixteen cylinder diesel engines going all the time. Can you imagine what the noise was like?

We did all the landings. We did something in North Africa. We did the landing on Sicily. We did the landing in Italy. We did the landing on Salerno. We were doing little jobs for the Army, the British Army. And we did jobs for the Canadian Army. We did jobs for the American Army. We were all over the place. We became like a freelance landing craft, away from our flotilla. As a matter of fact, we didn't have any pay or nothing for a while.

It was a very adventurous, very dangerous time. We were just lucky to get away with it.

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