Home to Liverpool
After another 3 days the convoy sailed out of Freetown and I wasn't sorry to see the back of the place. Things weren't made very pleasant by the chap I went ashore with, 'Greeney' who treated the natives like dirt, when we were bartering goods from them. Out we went due west to the middle of the Atlantic, and then right up North, circling the whole convoy several times. It was lovely while the weather stayed calm, but it got rough as we sailed further North and of course a lot colder. We averaged about 18 knots, each wave hit the thin riveted panels of the ship with a tremendous thud, but noisy though it was, we didn't mind because we knew each one was a few yards nearer home.
We had one incident on this final lap. The gold ingots were stored aboard and guarded by a few Officers on watch at night carrying revolvers. Well we heard 3 shots fired, and one man who fancied himself as a cowboy had fired his revolver to try it out.
We oiled en-route from the battleship, as destroyers cannot carry enough fuel for 10,000 miles of ocean. The Coxswains of the two ships have to keep them exactly the same distance apart, they have to move at exactly the same speed, and the oil pipe has to be kept in exactly the same position the whole time. I had a grandstand seat in the wheelhouse for this manoeuvre, which lasted quite some time. The space between the two vessels was churned up sea like boiling water.
By this time we were approaching home waters and I was back in the wheelhouse on my zigzag duty with Bosuns Mate 'Bungay' Williams at the helm, he was a real old Welsh Salt, I said to him, "Where do you 'reckon we are Bungay?" Pointing to starboard, he said, "Cardigan Bay, my home's over there". Little did I dream that my home too would be there in 30 odd years time!!
Ships mascot,"A.B. Nuisance" & Jack Farrington
After waiting at the bar at the entrance to Liverpool, we were boarded by armed security men who took off the gold bullion. We were given a weeks leave. Some chaps had bunches of bananas a rare sight in England during the war, another had a mongoose which he had kept hidden. My watch was the first to leave and the 'Major' asked me to go and see his parents who lived in Handsworth if I could manage it, and tell them he would be home next week. That never happened because they told me very sadly that his wife had gone off with a soldier. Well 'C'est la vie', but I felt sorry for the 'Major' who was such a good friend to me.
Fortunately, I had saved some of my rum issue (tots), contrary to Navy regulations and took it home, and one afternoon gave Doris and Win, who happened to be visiting on her bike, a tot each and it certainly knocked them out! The Royal Navy issued neat rum daily to Petty Officers, about one third of a tumbler, other Ratings had twice as much water added. The rum was really powerful in more ways than one; firstly you could get almost any job done for 'sippers' dhobeying, ironing, mending etc.
All Ratings joining the Navy (not now though, Harold Wilsons' Government stopped it) were asked whether they wanted a daily issue of rum or three pence on their pay in lieu of the daily grog. If 'grog' like me, you attended at 11am 'up spirits' where a Chief Petty Officer, and a witnessing officer, measured out your ration of rum over a very highly polished barrel, with 'God save the King' emblazoned on the side. You were supposed to tip it back there and then. On one's birthday each one of your messmates gave you a sip of his rum, this could knock you over (it did me once!) and what a hangover! I always reckoned that if the Germans had attacked the British fleet at 11.30am they would have caught us with 'our trousers down'. Once I went on deck at sea straight after my tot, and my brand new cap blew off into the Atlantic never to be seen again. The fascist Navies were 'dry' ships and they lost the war. On the other hand, against that the Russians only had Cola or Goffa Bars.