My Father’s War Record (Part Two)

Dad's medalsYesterday I posted my research and thoughts on Dad’s war years up to his leaving the HMS Howe on 11th November 1943. On 12th November 1943, Dad rejoined the Victory in Portsmouth until 14th December, when he joined the Sabre. At least I think it’s the Sabre. It’s quite poorly written, and is spelled “Saber” on the record. In fact at first I thought it was Baker, but there isn’t a Baker!

HMS Sabre According to, the Sabre was an Admiralty S-Class destroyer ordered in April 1917 from Alex Stephens at Govan, Glasgow and launched on 23rd September 1918 as the first RN ship to carry this name. After end of WW1 she was transferred after launch for completion by Fairfield shipyard in Govan. Build was completed on during 1919 and the ship commissioned for Fleet service. By 1938 she had been de-militarised for use as a target ship but brought forward for service in 1939 despite her age and unsuitability. Before Dad’s time on board, in 1940, the Sabre was one of the vessels at Dunkirk, evacuating 1500 men. For the two months Dad was with this ship (until 13th February 1944), she was part of 21st Escort Group based in Iceland, deployed for convoy defence in the central Atlantic for support of anti-submarine operations including RAF Coastal Command aircraft. Again, I think I did know that Dad was in Iceland at some point during the war. This must have been it.

From 14th February to 6th July 1944 he served on the Caroline. This seems quite an odd posting. The Caroline was launched in 1914 and survived the Battle of Jutland. From 1924 she was in Belfast as the headquarters and training ship for the Royal Naval Volunteers’ Reserve’s Ulster Division. But in the Second World War she became the Royal Navy’s Headquarters in Belfast Harbour which was used as a home base by many of the warships escorting Atlantic and Russian convoys including Captain-class frigates of the 3rd Escort Group. She served as the last afloat training establishment in the Royal Naval Reserve. Today she is listed as part of the National Historic Fleet, Core Collection, and although no longer capable of making way under her own steam, she remains afloat and in excellent condition. I wonder why he was transferred to the Caroline, and what he would have done there? It was during this time, on 10th May 1944, that he was awarded two War Service chevrons.

This is where Dad’s war history gets very fragmented. He seemed to spend very short times in all (bar one) of his remaining postings. I wonder why? There is no suggestion that he was in any way “difficult”! All through the war his character is marked as “VG”, and his Efficiency Rating is “Satisfactory” (on a scale of Superior – Satisfactory – Moderate – Inferior). From 7th July to 10th August it was back to the Victory, and then two months, (11th August to 16th October) to the Marlborough, which I think was another training establishment, this time in Eastbourne, specialising in Electrical instruction.

Then it was the Victory again (17th October to 3rd November) and then to the Pembroke. I think this was yet another shore barracks, at Chatham. This was just for a month until 2nd December, and then the Victory yet again until 28th December. Then it was the Flycatcher from 29th December to 31st January 1945. This, yet again was not actually at sea. This was the Royal Navy’s Headquarters for their Mobile Naval Air Bases which supported their Fleet Air Arm units. This was at RNAS Ludham in Norfolk.

HMS NabsfordAnd then, right at the end of the war, came his second longest ever posting, from 1st February 1945 to 23rd February 1946 to HMS Nabsford. In that February, the Royal Navy moved its Transportable Aircraft Maintenance Yard No.1, known as TAMY 1, to RAAF Station Archerfield in Brisbane, Australia, and Nabsford was the name given to the new Royal Navy base there. Dad in Australia Here (above left) is a photo of a plaque commemorating it and the British personnel who served in the Pacific theatre, which can be viewed in the old administration building along with plaques from the RAAF and the US 5th Air Force. I always knew Dad went to Australia! But I always thought it was Fremantle. Maybe they called at Fremantle on the way.Pacific Star I’m fairly sure this photo (above right) was taken in Australia, so this must have been during this time. He’s the one standing at the back. I think, from what I can remember, that Dad was pretty happy on this posting. I’m really glad for him! I’m guessing this was how he got the Pacific Star.

Dad at Nabsford This photo on the right looks very much like it was taken by an aircraft, so maybe this is also from his Nabsford days. On 9th February 1945 he was granted a Good Conduct Badge/Medal (1st class) and he also got his WSI (3) – that’s the War Service Increment, and on the same day in 1946, it was increased to WSI (4).

1939-45 Star 24th February 1946, the war now fully over, and Dad being a veteran at the age of 22, his next transfer was to the Golden Hind, just to 4th March. This sounds like this should have been some historical romance type of ship, but in fact it was based at what is now Warwick Farm racecourse in Sydney, and was a Royal Navy manning depot. I guess this may just have been a temporary relocation post before returning back to Britain, as the last posting on his record is once more to the Victory in Portsmouth from 5th March to 13th August 1946.

Africa StarIn addition to his Pacific Star and Italy Star, he also has the 1939-45 Star, which was awarded after six months training and at least one voyage made through an operational area; the Africa Star, which would have been for his service on the Howe in 1942 and 1943; and the Atlantic Star, awarded for at least six months’ service afloat during the course of the war, and with a France and Germany emblem, which was awarded if you were otherwise entitled to a France and Germany Star – uniform regulations did not allow the awarding of both. Atlantic StarThe France and Germany Star was awarded for operational service in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Germany from 6 June 1944 (D-Day) to 8 May 1945. The qualifying sea area is the North Sea south of a line from the Firth of Forth to Kristiansand (South), in the English Channel and in the Bay of Biscay east of longitude 6° west, provided such service was directly in support of land operations in France, Belgium, the Netherlands or Germany. And this is where it all gets very curious, because I can’t see from his war record, why he was entitled to this emblem. Maybe during his time on the Flycatcher he went out into the North Sea on some operation I don’t know about.

War Medal 1939-45As well as those stars, he also has the War Medal 1939-45 and the Defence Medal. Looking at the criteria for being awarded the Defence Medal I again can’t quite see how he was eligible, so maybe there was something additional I don’t know about. Just another secret about the war he took with him!

Defence MedalSuffice it to say I am enormously proud of him for what he experienced at such a young age and nothing will ever prise me apart from his medals, wartime photos and his war record! I really know very little about him after the war. I know he met my mother in the mid 1950s, they got married in 1958, had me in 1960 and we were a happy threesome until he unfortunately died of a brain tumour on January 1st 1972.

Please, if anyone has read my account of Dad’s war record – the ships he was on, his medals, the events he may have witnessed – and you have any further information about them, I would be very interested to hear – just leave a comment.