Veteran Stories:
Terrence Sawyer

Navy

  • Terry Sawyer on deck in the Mediterranean, 1941.

  • A formal photograph of Mr. Sawyer in his officer's uniform, 1940.

  • A photo of Mr. Sawyer taken while in the Home Guard, 1940.

  • Terrance Sawyer in his Petty Officer's coat, 1941.

  • Mr. Terry Sawyer in 1941.

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"I have never seen such bad weather in my life. We sailed from Greece to Malta in storm, in a complete storm."

Transcript

Well, it was quite interesting because they put us on a training course, which was for both education and actually doing the jobs, and all that sort of thing. It lasted for about two years. And then we were recalled to the colours [called back into the armed services], if I can use that term, and the promises that they gave us before we went into the service were neither followed by them. Although myself and there were about 30 odd people who were doing the same courses I was, and they, I don’t know how they felt about it, but basically, I thought one day we would feel rather contemptuously at the end because we didn’t commission until 1946. You have to go to sea and in the process of that, you can run into what I call good weather and bad weather. I have never seen such bad weather in my life. We sailed from Greece to Malta in storm, in a complete storm. The captain, who was a regular navy man, regular, without any signs at all, no radio, no sun to look at, sailed that ship from Greece, came out of the port there, I forget the name of it, and sailed us right out into the water, into the Mediterranean; and he got us back to Malta, within 10 miles of it. No navigational aids, just pure ability to sail that ship in the worst weather I’ve ever seen. And that’s the famous Mediterranean, everybody thinks it’s smooth. But the ship was completely broken down. The boilers had been allowed to steam on seawater and the equipment were not in use; they’d just drawn on seawater. And that, on a water-to-boiler, is disastrous. No question about it. And the ship was taking about, I should say about, 20 people to Australia because it was going to Australia. I don’t know if ever they got there, but they were in a hell of a bad way. I mean, I’m thinking about it now, and it was tragic. But they bought the ship, took the guns off and said, sail it. And they got the wrong crew on because they had to get people with certification. That’s one of the failures of the system. Whether it be any system, you cannot necessarily have people who are perfectly qualified to do a job and I know this from the service point of view.
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