Convoy to England

 

Eventually we left New York up the Hudson River, passing the skyscraper skyline and the Statue of Liberty waving to us departing to an evening at sea in a misty drizzle in the Atlantic. Just the weather for radar I thought, as we had to meet a large convoy at midnight.  But much to my surprise about 11pm the Captain came into the darkness of the radar office and asked me if it was possible to pick up the convoy with 'that machine' as he called the radar.  I replied politely that it was perfectly capable of indicating large ships at a distance of 20 miles.  I said I would inform the bridge as soon as contact was made.  Within half an hour we picked up a large number of echoes, which I calculated would be our rendezvous convoy, so I informed the bridge, and the Skipper came down to look. Then I showed him the 'bleeps' on the screen at a range of 15 miles.  He said "How do you know these white 'blobs?"  I replied if they were large aircraft they would move a lot quicker across the screen, and if they were small islands they would remain stationary, and I said there are over 20 of them moving slowly, so they must be ships at sea!  He was convinced and as pleased as punch and he went back to the bridge saying, "Do not switch 'that machine' off unless I give the order!"  I was very pleased at his change of attitude, what a convert!  And now my three radar operators and myself (I was chuffed that they called me 'our PO') would be doing our proper job and were part of the action again.

 

We caught up with the convoy eventually.  Its speed was 5 knots, all sorts of ships, cargo etc.  zigzagging with a variety of escorts, corvettes, destroyers, and armed merchant ships.  I was ordered to keep station on the radar at a distance of 800 yards, and this we did from the Commodore's ship, but a lot of stragglers, probably without radar, got out of range during the night and had to be rounded up, which slowed us all down.  Next day our passengers had a whale of a time in our dry dock, playing basketball, football etc. They even rigged up a boxing ring, and we saw some excellent events, one black man said he was a cousin of the great Joe Louis, the idyllic heavyweight champion of the world.  We eventually reached Liverpool safely.  Each of our passengers got an American medal just for entering the European War Zone.  Our Captain was complimented by the Commodore on his position keeping in the convoy during the Atlantic voyage, due in no small way to the radar set he previously said was not required!  A number of Americans kissed the soil when they landed.

 

On that long slow voyage, Eastway's  ships company learned to their horror, that a large flat-bottomed ship as ours with a very wide beam would roll much more than an orthodox ship, we reckoned she would roll on wet grass!  This was not very pleasant but like most things in wartime you had to get used to it.  But of course everything on board had to be well and truly secured.

 

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