S S Toone
This account of my five years conscripted service in the wartime Royal Navy is written to illustrate how the peacetime life of a newly married accountancy assistant, in the public service Electricity Supply industry, with safe employment, enjoying life in a lovely house in a pleasant suburb of Birmingham, came to be changed so completely.
Also how, at the age of 25, I had to adapt to circumstances never even dreamed of in peaceful Britain. I was playing cricket and football, gardening, commuting 6 miles by bus each day to a 9 to 5 job, had friends galore, and was looking forward to a happy future, with a marvellous wife (and perhaps children to come), with devoted relations living nearby. I had heard the elder folk talking of experiences in the Great War 25 years ago, and I never believed it could happen again to my own generation, and also that I was to be directly involved in the greatest invasion in history.
But happen it did! With disastrous consequences for the armed forces and civilian population, with bombs and lethal weapons being used.
Even before I had donned the Royal Navy uniform it seemed that the Nazi Luftwaffe knew my intentions, because a German Heinkel Bomber dropped a stick of bombs near our house. One 250lb time-fused bomb went into the ground 3 feet from our lounge French windows. After a week's evacuation, the brave Royal Engineers Bomb Squad dug it out with nobody harmed.
I was married at Ward End Church with my call up and medical 'passed' papers in my pocket, knowing that any day I would have to answer the call to military service. Life was on a knife-edge for all of us, the bombing of cities had started with terrible devastation. France, our only ally had capitulated without a fight.
Our small army was pushed to the beaches of Dunkirk, only to be saved by a miracle rescue by the Navy and a small fleet of part time sailors. The impregnable Maginot Line of defence collapsed, and France and the Low Countries were occupied by German troops.
This left Britain to stand alone, with only the gallant R.A.F. 'Battle of Britain' boys keeping the Nazi Bombers away in the air, and the Royal Navy bravely defending our shores, and still bringing in much needed food and equipment.
Events will show that right always prevails. The loss of life and property was terrible, but the whole British nation fought with a will led by their wonderful leader, Winston Churchill, and withstood the terrific German onslaught.
The title to this story may be puzzling. Pre-war my initials gave rise to a nickname 'Steamship Toone', but never did I remotely think I would serve in one of His Majesty's fighting ships, in which I was called 'Lofty' at first, then 'Radar', which stuck until the hostilities ceased in 1945.