Author: Edward Coleman
Publishers: Andrew Books (Self Published)
Publication Date: 1999
Recollections Of Navy Days By by Edward Coleman, CEng, MIEE. Published by Andrew Books of Budleigh Salterton in 1999. HMS VERNON, HECLA, VICTORY II, VENOMOUS, ANTHONY.
Contents : Joining Up; HMS Victory; Square Bashing; Technical Training; My First Draft; Air Raids & An Explosion; Off To Sea At Last; Why We Docked In Simon's Town; A Ship Restored; Back To Sea; I Attend A Famous Girls' School; HMS Anthony; Gibraltar; Stand Easy; A U-Boat Encounter; Back To Pompey; Scotland Again; Return To Depot; Pipe Down; Epilogue.
Edward Coleman was nineteen when WWII broke out.† He is now eighty-seven and wrote this book in 1999.† I have had the privilege of meeting Ted and discussed some of the matters contained in this book.
The author joined the Royal Navy because he wasnít keen on the Army and he believed in the war and felt at long last his country was going to do something about that idiot Hitler.† Although his intention was to serve during the duration of the war, he opted to sign on for twelve years, because his was a reserved occupation.†
He was fortunate that his standard of education gave him the opportunity to join as an Electrical Artificer.† I say fortunate, because once trained, Artificers were immediately elevated to Petty Officer and then enjoyed the comparative comfort of a Senior Ratingsí Mess and the enhanced pay of that rate.† Tedís vivid description of a 'wash-deck' destroyerís accommodation even for Chief and Petty Officers may not bear this out, but all things are relative.
He started at HMS Vernon, which was in fact the home of the torpedo and anti- submarine branch.† In my time it also housed the diving school where I trained as a diver.†
Tedís memory seemed clear apart from the odd detail such as calling South Parade Pier 'Southsea Pier' and at one stage calling the hotel opposite 'small'.† I recall my father being a chef there, it was in fact The Royal Beach Hotel and it always seemed to me one of the largest in Portsmouth.† Of course Ted may be referring to one near there.† His description of walking through Victoria Park brings back to me happy memories of days with my mother admiring the birds and animals in the park.
Although many years have passed, Ted still recalls that Officers had Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner, whereas Ratings had Breakfast, Dinner, Tea and Supper.† But he doesnít mention, 'Hands to Dinner, RPs to Lunch'.† However, I believe this would have been 'Hands to Dinner, HOís to Lunch' during WWII.† Later we hear that the future of his promotion to Warrant Officer is blocked by preference being given to HO Officers being offered permanent commissions as the electrical branch expands.
Ted has strong views on discipline and many other subjects as well, all of which he expresses very clearly and he often goes off on another tack for a paragraph or two.†
His first sea-going draft was to HMS Hecla, a Destroyer Depot ship where he joined the EA and OAís messdeck.† Hecla was built by John Brown on the Clyde.† En-route to Simonís Town, South Africa, she struck a mine and lucky for Ted he had packed up early, left the workshop and was on the heads when it happened.† His friend was not so lucky and died in the workshop.†
Once repaired and back at sea again, at 22.45 hrs on 11 November 1942, she was sunk by five torpedoes fired by U-515, 200 miles off Casablanca.† At least two other authorities I have consulted say that she was sunk by U-505, but I believe Ted is correct, since U-505 was captured by the Americans and is still on display in the USA and I am sure Ted would have been aware of this.† As a matter of interest, U-515 was depth-charged by the US Navy on 9 April 1944.† At the time Hecla was accompanied by HM Ships Vindictive, Venomous and Marne, the latter two being the Destroyer escort.
Ted vividly describes the attack and his subsequent action on leaving the ship.† He intended to swim to the Marne, but as he set off she too was torpedoed and he was eventually rescued by HMS Venomous, the crew of which he has nothing but praise for.† Whilst researching on the internet, I came across the story of George Male who was also a member of Heclaís crew and like Ted intended to swim to the Marne.† George Male says "I was swimming towards her and there was a swish in the water beside me.† It was a torpedo which blew the stern off the Marne.† She had a pattern of depth-charges set, they were thrown off and exploded around us.† Her ammunition went off and I decided to look for somewhere else".† George Male, like Ted was picked up the next morning in a Carley Raft.†
Ted begs to differ from the official Admiralty report, which claims that the fifth torpedo hit the starboard side, 'it didnít, it hit the port side, Iím not arguing about it I was there', said Ted, 'he (the Admiral) wasnít'.†
Tedís Naval adventures continue as he joined the Destroyer HMS Anthony, an old 'A' Class from WWI.† Tedís description of her reminds me very much of HMS Aisne in which I served.† You need to have served in a Destroyer to understand what a 'wash-deck Destroyer' can be like in a bad sea, but wait for it Ted volunteered!† It takes all kinds to make a world! As Ted rightly points out modern Destroyers are about twice the size.
What did surprise me was how the authorís wife was able to follow him about the UK, to be with him in various hotels and digs, Iím sure that this wasnít the norm.†
Ted seems to have a thing about pregnant WRENS in modern times being treated better than wartime personnel.† Little errors do appear from time to time such as 'Kingís Rules and Admiralty Instructions', which should read 'Regulations'.† Ted describes HMS Anthony and in doing so on Page 104 reveals the inadequacy of some wartime training, where we have a person such as he holding the rate of Petty Officer having to say, 'what and where is the tiller flat?'† Even a Boy Seaman Second Class would know the answer.†
The book could have been better proofread, eg on Page 107 we have a reference to 'X-Guta was firing'.† However it doesnít detract from the contents, although it might irritate some readers.
Ted did not stay in the Royal Navy and was in fact invalided out at the end of the war with a small pension of 57p a week, which came to an end after two years.
This book is exactly what it says, 'Recollections of Navy Days by a Veteran of WWII' written down just as the author recalls and to that extent it is a very good read which I personally enjoyed.† Should it be reprinted, it will need editing and proofreading and would benefit from some photographs and a nice dust jacket, then I think it would appeal even more to naval historians of WWII and other enthusiasts.
Sadly Ted passed away shortly after this review was published. I have no knowledge of any copies of this book; I know he had 200 copies left and people who attended his funeral were given copies.