"A few hours later, the Beagle was ordered to proceed down the river Gironde to secure the large oil storage facility, and prepare it for demolition."
My name is Ath Moxley. In April, 1940, after successfully completing training at the Naval Reserve Division in Toronto, I was commissioned as an acting Sub-Lieutenant in the RCNVR. I was then instructed to report to the embarkation office in Halifax, Nova Scotia, there to join a group of twenty-five other volunteers from various reserve divisions across Canada. We were being sent to England to serve with the Royal Navy.
We sailed in convoy from Halifax, arriving in England at the end of April. We started more intensive training at HMS King Alfred. Soon after, Germany invaded Norway and Denmark. With lightening speed they swarmed across the low country and into northern France. By the middle of May, the French defences had crumpled, trapping almost half a million British and Allied troops off the coast, near the town of Dunkirk.
On June the 2nd, the French government surrendered, leaving England to face the enemy alone. At the end of May, the Commanding Officer of HMS King Alfred was instructed to muster volunteers to help man the fleet being formed to rescue the men from the French beaches. Instead of being sent to Dover, where the rescue flotilla was gathering, I was ordered to the naval base at Dartmouth. There I would join a demolition party intending to land at Bordeaux and destroy the dockyard facilities there.
I arrived at Dartmouth the next morning, just in time to attend the briefing and help load demolition equipment on board the destroyer, HMS Beagle. Later that day, the Beagle proceeded to sea. By the next morning, we were secured alongside in Bordeaux, a few miles up the river Gironde. We had some difficulty rounding up enough French transports to move the men and equipment to the dockyard area. During this period, orders were received, telling us to delay the demolition project until further orders. A few hours later, the Beagle was ordered to proceed down the river Gironde to secure the large oil storage facility, and prepare it for demolition.
The French guards seemed pleased to see us, and offered no resistance. They were rounded up and locked up in their own blockhouse with a couple of bottles of scotch whiskey, which were donated by the Beagle's boardroom officers' mess. Then we went to work placing the two and a quarter pound charges of high explosive where they would be the most effective. The operation was well underway when suddenly orders were received to cancel the demolition project, recover our equipment, and return to Bordeaux. An apology was made to the French guards for the interruption.
The Beagle was then ordered to return to Dartmouth, and upon arrival I was discharged, returning to HMS King Alfred to continue my training.