Part IV

 

Demobilisation

 

HMS Collingwood

 

The eagerly awaited procedure for all armed forces, who had served in the British Uniform during the long war was released, published in all the national newspapers.  The results seemed very fair.  First in, first out - as it should be.  Where possible the releases were to begin immediately.  Everyone was given a number depending on length of service and age.  For instance, our Frank Rumney who had just completed his 12 years regular service in the Navy as War started, and was kept in, and now aged 40, was allocated number 1.  My number was 26, this apparently was the largest batch, because of the greatest conscription intake at that time.  Of course nobody knew how long or when his release would be.  But there were some well calculated guesses.  Mine was December 1945, and turned out to be accurate!

 

We were all very sorry to see Frank go (he wasn't as you might imagine).  He had been a marvellous friend to us all, and given us the value and help of his experience without question.  But when our Captain, Commander Fletcher RFR left us, no tears were shed.  We carried on with our sailing of the ship to different ports in UK at the same time looking forward to being 'demobbed'.  I know I had been very fortunate in my five years service, but nevertheless I was anxious to get back to my lovely wife and baby daughter, and the home and life I had wanted so much during those dark days of war.  Also I had a job to go back to, which most of my shipmates hadn't, and a lot of them did not know what the future held.

 

But an element of surprise cropped up during that autumn spent mostly between the Tyne and the Clyde.  We had a new Captain join HMS Eastway and after about a week on board, he sent for me, and pleased me by saying he had good reports of my operation and maintenance of the American radar set etc.  He added that it would be difficult to replace me, with three years experience and knowledge of the ship, and even though I was to be released in two months time, I should stay on the ship which was going to the Japanese Theatre of War to retrieve landing craft left out there.

 

I thought, here we go again!  But you can't argue with a four ring Royal Navy Captain.  So I requested to be released before sailing to the Far East.  He added that it would be an experience for me, and promised I would be sent home on my 'demob' date, believe that I could not.

 

He could see that I was far from keen (just like the Captain of HMS Express was) to serve a further period out there, and luckily enough a week later he told me that my replacement was joining the ship, and I was to show him all I could, then I would be returned to HMS Victory for demobilisation.  Never have words been so sweet, and so welcome.

 

Of course I was delighted, and within a week, a Petty Officer replacement was on board and took over where I was quite willing to leave off.  I suppose I was a little bit sad leaving HMS Eastway, after all three years is a long time on one ship, and my friends, and experiences, and the numerous places we went to, not to mention 'rolling on wet grass!'  But it had all come to an end in a very pleasant way.  After all it was Eastway who took us across the English Channel with that greatest armada of ships ever known, together with the finest armies, tanks, fighting equipment, from all the harbours on the South coast to free Europe from the German war machine, and what is more important, brought us all back safely and successfully.

 

So I entrained on the long journey from Newcastle to Portsmouth, this time with two seamen off the Eastway under my charge, (and ten shillings, 50p, each for victuals, so generous) one seaman was for 'demob', and the other who had mixed with the wrong type of girl, and was bound for the Royal Naval Hospital (Rose Cottage's as that type of treatment was known in the Andrew) we had a good journey, but missed the connection in London for Portsmouth.

 

I spotted a restaurant outside Waterloo Station, with a notice 1/6 pence steak and chips, so in we went and enjoyed our meal.  Coming away from there I found I had left my gas mask on the chair.  So I dashed back, and recovered it, when I noticed a poster in the window saying 'Only the best horsemeat served here'.  I kept 'mum' about this, after all we had eaten it now!  After spending the night at the London 'Union Jack' Club, we caught the train to Portsmouth arriving at HMS Victory at midday.

 

After discharging my two seaman responsibilities, and duly reporting my presence, I did not want to miss my 'demob' which had suddenly become so close.  I was driven in a lorry to HMS Collingwood, a large training establishment a few miles away at Fareham, medically examined as per routine, and allocated to the Petty Officer's mess.  I was given no station car, or watch duties, which they had overlooked, but meant I had no pass to get out.;  As long as I didn't have to go out rounding up drunken sailors in the town at night, I didn't mind.  I hoped I would be in there only a few days.  So instead, in the mornings I used to visit the dentists which I had not been able to do for the past few years, and finished with the best and most polished teeth in the depot!  I also had one or two medical check ups, to pass the time.

 

In the afternoons I played snooker with a three badge regulating Petty Officer, who told me he would like to catch those Petty Officers not watch-keeping!  Little did he know that he was only a few red balls away from one!  Beating him at snooker I was thinking 'you can beat 'em and join 'em'.  He never twigged though.

 

I also met my old friend, Bernard Betts who trained with me for the first twelve months.  I had not seen him since the first drafts were being given out five years ago.  He told me he had spend the whole time on HMS Shearwater patrolling 'Gun Boat Alley' in the dangerous North Sea.  No rest there, and little sleep.  We had some good long chats during the evenings waiting our release, but strangely enough I never saw him again although his home was in Birmingham too.

 

Then came one of the nicest moves, to Cosham for Demob!  This was a huge place, with long tables holding civvy clothes galore of all sizes, where ex Naval Ratings were kitted out for civilian life.  A couple of nights form filling, and medical approval, and our motley crowd marched out of Naval gates forever.  As we approached the gates, one Able Seaman was so overjoyed that he could not contain himself and in his jubilation threw his hands in the air, took off his cap and jumped on it!  The stupid man was taken back to calm down.  In the clothing store they had everything, and a bag to put it in. Burtons must have had a bonanza!  I opted for grey flannels, sports jacket, trilby hat and brown shoes, very good.

 

 

Demobilisation Papers

 

Demobilisation Papers

 

So off to Waterloo Station I went by bus, all the time like being on Cloud Nine.  A free man at last, with my suitcase, and bag of civvies, still in Naval uniform.  When I arrived at the station to my dismay there was a really long queue, soldiers in Burma hats, RAF, sailors, Wrens, ATS, etc.  But my luck was still in, when an Army lorry pulled right alongside me "Euston mate?"  I could not believe my luck and for five packets of 'Duty Frees' I found myself homeward bound, to a lovely home and family really for keeps!  It was wonderful.  No more HMS, just SS.  And better still, 'Mister', not 'Petty Officer' and no more Mae Wests round your chest to blow up and light up in case you found yourself in the sea instead of on it, and those cumbersome gas masks that nobody ever used.

 

But of course a marvellous experience joining the Navy and seeing the world, and it all happened to me!  I was so much wiser, so knowledgeable, so I thought.  But with a fuller understanding of my fellow men for sure, knowing that anything can be achieved by working together as a team, and always treat your colleagues as you would wish to be treated yourself.

 

 

"This is my story, this is my song,

We've been in this Navy to blooming long,

Roll on the Nelson, Rodney, Renown,

HMS Eastway, this two funnel dock ship,

Is getting us down."

 

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