|Coastal Forces Training|
Thursday January 8th 1942 Rod was transferred to HMS Collingwood on a special block for CW candidates. In mess E 8. Rod's brother Jack got married on same day, the 8th. Rod phoned Jean in Folkestone (in the morning) on Friday the 9th telling her to send a telegram to him saying that Jack was GETTING married. When the telegram arrived Rod took it and himself before the Divisional Officer and the Training Commander, requested and was granted leave to attend the forthcoming marriage of his brother. By 15.30 Rod was on the bus to Folkestone! Rod returned to Collingwood on the Monday. On Thursday 15th January Rod left HMS Collingwoodfor Fort William Scotland. The start of his association with Coastal Forces was about to begin. The war time train journey from Chatham in Kent to HMS St Christopher in Fort William took two days. HMS St Christopher was based at the Highland Hotel. While at Fort William Rod sailed on a number of different Motor Launches (ML's), Rod was drafted to ML 133 to complete his Coxswain's training. During his stay Rod also sailed in ML 136, ML 276 and ML 369. He was rated Leading Seaman Coxswain on February 20th 1942.
The Fairmile "B" Class ML'shad a displacement of 73 tons and were 112ft long. Their beam was 18ft 6ins with a draft when fully loaded of 4ft 9ins. They were propelled by two Hall-Scott petrol engines each developing 1,200 bhp, they could achieve 20 knots and some were armed with 1 - 2pdr or 3 pdr, 2 - 303' machine guns. Some had a 40mm forward and some a 20mm Oerlikonaft.They also carried depth charges.
The ML shown below is ML 345 moored at Inverness Scotland, the photo was taken in 1943.
Rod remained at HMS St Christopher until 21st February. The train journey to HMS Nemo at Brightlingsea took two day to complete. In his diary he records :- "Met at station by truck - to barracks. Now beds not hammocks! Bought two "Hooks" (badges for Leading Seaman) - worn on left arm, Coxswains badge on right arm. Had tea then to Navy Club stayed all evening boozing and dancing - Dead Hole! Home 23.30."
Monday 9th of March Rod was Detailed for ML 345 in the 8th ML Flotilla. Rod's first sighting of 345 took place at Teddingtonon the Thames, she was moored alongside the towpath. On Friday 13th March ML 345 was commissioned. At 13.30 she slipped moorings and made way to Westminster Bridge.
ML 345's first attempt to become one of the 8th ML Flotilla on the 18thMarch when she completed her Admiralty Acceptance Trials. After the trial a large part of the day was spent shipping Guns, Ammunition and Depth Charges. There were problems with one of the shafts, so more trials were needed before officially becoming part of HM Navy! The next day's trials showed that a shaft needed replacement. "So back into Dockyard Hands - on island - Thames Conservancy at Sunbury."
Rod's 21st birthday was spent partly on board 345 and partly on home leave. He states "Sippers and Gulpers in am" "Leave piped 15.30 arrived home 20.30, down to Norfolk (Hotel in Sandgate) for drink, eventually reached home 0200".
The entry for 31 March celebrates the acceptance of 345. Now properly part of the 8th, S/O L/Cdr Rankin.
The complement of ML 345 was the C/O - S/Lt, 1st Lt - S/Lt, 1 Coxswain - L/S, 1 AB Gunner Layer, 1 AB Gunner Trainer, 2 OD's Lewis guns, 1 TM Asdic, 1 TM Tel & WR Steward, 2 OD, 1 MM CPO/PO, 2 Stokers. A total of 16 crew in all.
"Some names associated with ML 345 during my 9 months on board were the C/O S/Lt Priestley, the Jimmy was S/Lt Paul Johnstone, CMM Jack Jolly, PO MM's Dick Oakes & Dick Kilby, AB Gunners Paddy Allen, Jack Dunphy, Jack Westall, Bywater Turnock, Nobby Clark; OD Bob Allwood, AB Asdic Tubby Watts, Stoker Kirby, OD Gunner Wings Hawkins, OD Shiner Wright and PO Cox F H Bennett who took over from me." Rod recorded in his Journal.
As Coxswain part of Rod's duties were to dish out the Grog! He lists the designations ratings had in the ships books for the drawing of Grog, These consisted of UA- under age and not entitled to draw grog, G - over age and drawing grog, T - over age but not drawing grog but receiving 3d per day in lieu. Rum, drawn daily at 11.30, consisted of an eighth of a pint per man. Water was added at the dilution of 3 parts to one of rum. The CO had given permission to have "Neaters" neat rum. Rod was allowed "Spillages" at the rate of one tot per Jar (a wickerwork covered glass jar containing 64 tots). Seamen gave "Sippers" or "Gulpers" to others, occasionally "Grounders" the lot! was given but only on very special occasions such as birthdays.
Please use this link to the ML 345 page for more about the C/O and the ship's bell.