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Veterans of the Arctic Convoys 1941 - 1945

My first two years were spent aboard minesweepers in the Mediterranean. HMS Bagshot based at Alexandria. The British Army had been pushed back to the border of Egypt, a difficult situation developed. We remained in Alex, now under siege, from 1 June until 25 October 1942. Talk about HMS Hardship! One had to experience it. This vital port was not entirely blitzed as Rommel needed it as much as the Allies, for his own offensive plans towards Cairo, but he kept the pressure on. Our presence was rewarded by witnessing the opening barrage on display by Montgomery’s 8th Army.

 



Stan Douglas : HMS Javelin : My Story

 After the victory of El-Alamein the theatre of war changed dramatically. I was drafted to Malta to join the more modern minesweeper HMS Speedy. Malta had so far withstood the siege but the Port Valetta was in a shambles. We made St Paul’s Bay our anchorage. This enabled the Sweepers to make a fast exit for the continuous work of keeping the harbour approaches clear. This was a never-ending task, aircraft from the nearby Italian bases being a constant threat. Operation ‘TORCH’ altered the scene. The allied landings in North Africa brought the winds of change that swept us back to the UK in September 1943.

My next draft from Portsmouth was to the J Class Destroyer HMS Javelin. After working up trials, Javelin joined the Home Fleet at Scapa Flow. Convoy work, escorting the Carriers, plus patrolling the sea off Norway and Iceland. The reason behind this arduous task was the German Battleship Tirpitz. Anchored in the Norwegian port of Narvik, it remained a constant threat to the shipping lanes to the Atlantic. This priority was not an easy task, but necessary. We would leave Scapa for a patrol which lasted about 12 days at a time, our endurance was tested to the limit. The most urgent need was to refuel etc. This brought a welcome respite.

HMS Javelin formed part of the covering force for the Fleet in OPERATION VERITAS. The attack was to verify that the Tirpitz was no longer a threat to the planned invasion of Europe. On the second attack by the Fleet Air Arm, the Javelin was in a position to retrieve any downed pilots. This mission brought us into the Land of the Midnight Sun. A most rewarding experience. The ship covered in a mantle of snow looked dramatic and dangerous. On our return to Scapa the late King George VI paid a visit to the Home Fleet. This was a rare occasion, but the buzz on the mess deck was that we had been earmarked for the upcoming allied invasion of Europe, ‘OPERATION OVERLORD’. This designation would be replaced by the more common, D-Day, 6 June 1944, a Tuesday.

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