Veteran Stories:
Alexander Hall

Navy

  • Young Alexander Hall, shortly after enlisting. He was 19 years old when this photo was taken.

  • Mr. and Mrs. Hall with a World War II-era motorcycle and side-car at an VE-Day anniversary celebration in 1995.

  • Church service held aboard the Queen Emma the day before the tragic landings at Dieppe. August 18, 1942.

  • Before the war, HMS Queen Emma was a Dutch passenger ship. For the war the ship was converted to a landing craft.

  • Some of the crew of HMS Queen Emma. 1942.

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"After my time in hospital, my next step was to go back to Portsmouth, and then I was sent to re-commission the HMS Queen Emma."

Transcript

My name is Alec Hall. I was born in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1921, and I volunteered for the Royal Navy at the age of nineteen in January 1940. I did my training in England, and I finished my training the week before Winston Churchill passed, inspecting us. He asked me my age, and I don't think he believed me. I told him I was nineteen.

After my training, I was sent to Portsmouth, and from there to Campbelltown, Scotland, which was a submarine base, attached to the "Terge-2". We made a 'run' from Scapa Flow to Murmansk and Odessa in Russia. After our return to base, I put through for promotion to become a Leading Seaman and I passed my Leading Seamanship badge. After that, I was sent back over to Halifax to take up fifty World War I destroyers from America. In my opinion, America should have kept them.

Anyway, I came home on the U.S.S. 'Charlston', and later they used this ship to blow up the submarine base at Narvic.

After that, I was sent on a destroyer, doing escort duty, and we were sunk in the Mediterranean. I spent four days with seventeen other survivors.

After my time in hospital, my next step was to go back to Portsmouth, and then I was sent to re-commission the H.M.S. 'Queen Emma'. This was a Dutch passenger liner that was converted to a Mother craft to carry invasion craft. After we commissioned it, we were sent to the north of Scotland to train the 4th Commandos in doing some raids.

We left there in February. We left Scapa Flow with our sister ship, the 'Princess Beatrice', and five other destroyers as escort.

We did what they called the "Operation Claymore". We went to Norway, and we were commanded to blow up factories that were full of fish oil, which was used to make glycerine for munitions. Everything went well except the weather was foul and most of the soldiers were sick until the time came to land. A lot of the Norwegians volunteered to come back to Britain to join the 'Free Norwegian Forces'.

Back home again, we went this time to blow up some radar stations on the coast of France, with the Commandos again. One particular raid was called 'Bayonne'. Two ships were disguised as Spanish trawlers, with tubular scaffolding and tarps painted. Everybody was sworn to secrecy until the war was over. This raid didn't come off because they miscalculated on the entrance to the harbour. They had put barriers across the opening.

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