NEWSLETTER 1/2003 - JANUARY
It seemed very strange to be sitting writing a welcome you into the New Year when in reality it was
still only mid-December. Since Margaret and I were going to be spending Christmas and the New
Year a bit further south and, hopefully, a bit warmer in Spain, I was trying to get a lap ahead to make
sure that you all get your reunion details and booking forms in plenty of time.
However, now it is back to real time and on behalf of the President, George Toomey, and myself, your
Secretary, may I wish you all a very happy and prosperous New Year.
But before proceeding further, a word from our President.
Once again we are heading towards our reunion at the Burlington Hotel and, as always, the organising
group have been working hard to ensure that all is in place for you on the day. Many thanks to them,
especially for turning out on a very cold 11 th January for our meeting at the Burlington. I would like
though to specifically thank some members for the effort they put in for the Association over the past
First, to George Bye, Alan Edinborough, Peter Hampstead, Doug MacQuillin, Brian Lambie, Lobby
Lunn, George Philpott, Philip Remnant and Les Taylor who turned out to represent the Association at
the Remembrance Day Parade at the Cenotaph on 10th November. They braved very cold and wet
weather, including standing around for many hours waiting for the start.
Next, David Hawkes, an Associate Member, for his effort in making sure, late at night, that all the
items belonging to the Association or left to the Association by the late Alf Price were recovered from
Alf's flat before it was cleared. Not easy to carry a four foot model of HMS Cossack in a glass case
down to his car in the dark.
To Eddy Gillam who cleared his garage, again lat at night, to store the model etc. and is looking after
them until we can make other arrangements.
And last for the moment, Brian Hibbert who, as far as possible, has always been there with the Cossack
standard, wherever in the country, to represent us at a Shipmate's funeral service. Well done Brian.
Back to the reunion. With this newsletter you will receive the necessary forms to book your rooms at
the hotel, dinner tickets, etc. Please send your booking form off to the hotel as soon as possible.
It would be appreciated too if the Payment Form (to be sent to Peter Harrison) could be used to
purchase your Cash Prize Raffle tickets rather than leaving it until the reunion. It will save you time,
save me time and will allow the sellers to concentrate on sales of tickets for the main draw of donated
items. You will still be able to buy more tickets at the reunion though as I shall have a fixed sales desk
near the bar which I will man at various times on both Friday and Saturday.
The annual subscription will fall due on 1st May and it would help a great deal if those could be sent in
with the Payment form too, rather than queuing up to pay them at the reunion. A proposal will be put
to the AGM in April that our remaining few members who served in L03 should be given free Life
Membership. This proposal had already been agreed by the organising group so, in anticipation of
approval by the members, L03 shipmates should not send in subscriptions.
I will again be in the car park to repel locals from taking your spaces - but no I will not be selling you
raffle tickets in the car park.
Can I please make a plea to all of you who attend other functions, to try to find others who served in
the Cossacks. We need to find as many new members as possible, particularly those younger ones
who served in the later commissions. If you do find anyone, please pass their details to me or to Peter
Harrison so that we can contact them.
Finally, please continue to send in your stories and items of interest for the newsletter. Without your
help it can be very hard going.
Oh. Nearly forgot. I think Peter has mentioned later in this newsletter about tips for the Burlington
staff. All of them work hard in their own way to make our stay a happy time. The lower deck of the
restaurant, kitchen and reception are taken care of by a very good tip given by the Association to the
Manager for distribution. However, the bedroom staff rely upon you personally so please remember
them when you leave. You are at their mercy for tea bags, sugar, etc.!
I look forward to meeting you at the reunion for a chat.
Edna Doring died peacefully on Sunday 15th December. As you will remember we lost her
husband Reg in September 2001. Edna, his wife, had always been a member of the
Association in her own right and remained as such after Reg's death. Soon after though she
had a return of cancer and also suffered a broken pelvis. She spent some time in hospital and,
although she returned home briefly, she was unable to take care of herself and moved into a
nursing home. She had lived for Reg and had little interest in life after he had gone. Let us
hope that they are now together again.
Edna's funeral took place at Chelmsford Crematorium on 30 th December 2002, with a nearly
full chapel of friends and relatives to say farewell. Keith Batchelor attended and represented
Lt. Cdr. R.C. Maynard, RNVR
We had gathered at the Burlington Hotel for our meeting when a phone call from Ron
Maynard's long time companion, Kit Pugh told us that we had lost yet another of our
dwindling band of members who had served in HMS Cossack (L03). Evidently, Ron's son
John had tried to contact me previously but I had of course been away.
Ronald Caleb Maynard joined HMS Cossack as an Ordinary Signalman, RNVR in October
1939 and was a C.W. candidate, ie earmarked for a commission. He was aboard during both
the Altmark Incident and the 2 nd Battle of Narvik, after which he left to do his courses for
promotion to Paymaster Sub-Lieutenant, RNVR. After the war, during which he was
promoted to Paymaster Lt. Cdr., he returned to his studies and qualified as a Solicitor, the
profession which he subsequently followed for the remainder of his working life.
Ron passed away on 27th December 2002 after suffering a probable heart attack following a
fall. Ron has acted as the Association's Welfare Officer for a number of years and in that
capacity has given free advice to many and has written many, many letters of condolence to
the widows of members we have lost. He was a very compassionate and understanding man.
Ron was a man of many parts. He was a gifted organist, a member of the Guild of Church
Musicians and served as its Secretary for many years as well as being their Honorary
Solicitor. He was a Freeman of the City of London, and, resulting from another of his
passions - cricket, was a member of the MCC and a member of Middlesex Cricket Club
The funeral took place at Ruislip Crematorium on Monday 13 th January and was attended by a
large number of his family, including his son John and a daughter. The coffin was covered by
our White Ensign and Shipmates Peter Harrison and Peter Marchant and Peter's wife Sheila
attended and also represented the Association.
Rear Admiral A. Davies, CB, CVO
Anthony Davies who died on Tuesday 14th January at the age of 90 served in the Royal Navy
from January 1926 until January 1963 and rose from Cadet to Rear Admiral.
Specialising in Gunnery, the ships in which he served included BARHAM, DANAE,
DESPATCH, DUNCAN, REPULSE, COSSACK, INDEFATIGABLE, TRIUMPH and
PELICAN. He spent various spells at HMS EXCELLENT, the Gunnery School, where he
was at one time the Commander and, for a short period, the Captain (C.O.). Other
appointments he held were Fleet Gunnery Officer, Mediterranean Fleet, Deputy Director of
the RN Staff College, Greenwich, Captain of the Fleet, Far East, Deputy Director of Naval
Intelligence and, his last RN appointment, as Head of the British Defence Liaison Staff,
As a Lieutenant he survived the sinking of HMS COSSACK in October 1941 sustaining only
minor burns and injuries and concussion. He always spoke fondly of his time in Cossack
and, from its inception, attended all the Cossack Association reunions until prevented from
doing so by ill health.
Anthony Davies is survived by two sons, Michael and James, and a daughter Joanna. He will
be cremated at Swindon Crematorium after a family service in the chapel there on the
morning of Wednesday 22nd January and a service of thanksgiving will then be held in St.
Michael's Church, Aldbourne at 2 pm. The thanksgiving service will be attended by
members from the Swindon Branch RNA, of which he was the President for many years, and
by members of the Cossack Association.
MAY THEY REST IN PEACE
We have lost two members but, since the last news letter, have gained two new members. They are:
Shipmate F.W. Cooper D57 1955 - 1956 L(M)E
Shipmate A.J. Childs D57 1955 - 1956 Ldg. Sea.
We have much pleasure in welcoming them aboard and to seeing them at the reunion. Our total
membership now stands at 258, made up of
24 full members who served in L03 (including 1 Life member)
165 full members who served in D57 (including 2 Life members)
66 Associate members
3 Honorary members
Items for the agenda for the AGM which will be held during our reunion in April 2003 should be sent
to me, the Secretary, as soon as possible. As mentioned previously, a proposal will be put forward at
the AGM for all those members who served in Cossack L03 to be given free life membership. Since
not all our members are able to get to the AGM it would be appreciated if those who are against this
proposal would let the Secretary know by the 15th March.
Ron Maynard was our Welfare Officer and as a result of his death that post is now vacant. Names of
volunteers to take up the position would be appreciated.
Remembrance Day Parade
We were rather disappointed by the TV coverage of our Cossack contingent in the Remembrance Day
parade at the Cenotaph. We had a contingent of 9 and, although at the request of the BBC we gave
details of the two ships which our Association represents and of those taking part, there was no
mention by the commentator. According to Alan Edinborough, as they went past the commentary
position the assistant who was supposed to give the commentator the details was in a right old mess.
Consequently, Dimbleby just said "There are too many ships to name them all". Had it not been for a
lanky George Bye holding our poppy wreath in a prominent way to make sure the ship's badge was
seen, I would probably have missed them all together. However, on a re-run I was then able to
identify Alan Edinborough, Lobby Lunn and George Philpott as well.
Well done all of you who took part and thank you for representing us. Incidentally, we have already
been asked whether there will be a Cossack contingent in the Remembrance Day parade in 2003.
This really depends on whether we get enough support. We didn’t actually make the 10 we needed
for a separate contingent. It is obvious that if we want to get ourselves mentioned we would have to
have a much larger contingent. Please let the Secretary, Peter Harrison, know if you want to march.
S/M Lunn has asked if we can get any information about attending the Remembrance Service, etc.
which is held at the Albert Hall. Are any others interested? Please tell the Secretary.
A notice appeared in the December issue of the Navy News as follows:
The BBC is producing a series on the Navy, and one programme will look at the record of
HMS Ark Royal. Anyone serving in the carrier, ship's company or air crew, or anyone in
Force H, the Malta Convoys, Gibraltar, the Norway campaign and the action against
Bismarck, should write to White Ensign, Room 4150, BBC White City, 201 Wood Lane,
London W12 7TS or ring 010 8752 6741, or e-mail email@example.com
Over to you!
In the last newsletter we brought to your attention the fact that there was an item on Channel 4 Teletext
page 173 called Service Pals. Those of you who tried probably didn't have much success. Just about
the same time as our newsletter went out the TV company changed things around. Service Pals is now
on Channel 4 page 462.
Lots going on at Explosion! The Museum of Naval Firepower at Priddy's Hard, Gosport, not least of all
at the RN Submarine Museum. From April 2003 there will be a new temporary exhibition Invincible
- Treasures from the Deep, an exhibition of underwater archaeology revealing the secrets of HMS
Invincible the battleship which foundered in the Solent in 1758. From May until October 2003 there
will also be a special photographic exhibition on The Battle of the Atlantic.
If the shoe fits, get another one like it
The next reunion will be held at the Burlington Hotel, Eastbourne on 4 th, 5th and 6th April 2003.
Booking forms for the hotel are enclosed with this newsletter. The Manager would obviously
appreciate it if you would send your bookings off to the hotel as soon as possible.
Numbers booking for the Friday night as well as Saturday last year were lower than expected and as a
result we shall not have the hotel exclusively to our Association on the Friday. There will be some
Wallace Arnold guests in the hotel too although they will be departing on the Saturday morning,
leaving the hotel for our exclusive use on the Saturday. This may have a knock-on effect in that rooms
may not be ready for those arriving early that day. Please bear with it and, if necessary, stow your
cases somewhere and make sure you attend the AGM.
As you will see from the hotel booking form, the prices for this reunion are slightly up on those for the
last. The prices are as follows:
Three nights (Friday, Saturday & Sunday) £83.90
Two nights (Friday & Saturday or Saturday & Sunday) £66.50
One night (Saturday only) £31.50
To cover the additional costs which will be incurred by the Association there will also be a charge of
£5.00 per dinner ticket which will be payable directly to the Association (see the Payment Form).
However, to compensate for the increase in these prices and to encourage more to attend the reunion,
two Cash Prize raffle tickets will be allocated free for each dinner ticket purchased. This will give you
the chance to win up to £100 cash.
Those who live locally and do not want to book into the hotel but nevertheless want to attend the
Saturday evening banquet dinner can do so by booking with the Association (not the hotel) on the
Payment Form. The charge for dinner only will be £10.00, with entitlement to the free Cash Prize
Raffle tickets of course.
The Committee met on 11th January and decided that the format should be the same as for last year and
on that basis is detailed below. Should there be any subsequent change details will be sent out
together with the dinner tickets in due course.
Those of you who attended Reunion 2001 will remember that on the Saturday afternoon we evacuated
the hotel as a result of a fire alarm, which fortunately turned out to be false. However, there is
nothing like such an alarm to concentrate the mind onto the problems that can ensue. We are all
getting on in years and some have more difficulty than others with stairs, which are the only method of
escape in such circumstances. It is essential that each and every one of you makes him/herself aware
of the nearest escape route. They are clearly signed within the hotel but a few minutes spent making
yourself aware of them on arrival at the hotel could make all the difference if their was a real
emergency. Should we be so unfortunate to have another alarm, please note that after leaving the hotel
everyone should gather in the car park to the rear of the hotel so that a name check can be made by the
staff to ensure that everyone has been accounted for.
Enclosed with this newsletter is the payment form for those of you who will be attending the reunion
dinner on 5th April. This form should be used to pay
a) £5.00 per person surcharge which covers for the extra costs which we incur for the
b) £10.00 per person for the banquet dinner if not staying at the hotel on one of the
standard packages. The surcharge at (a) above in included in the £10.00.
(c) Cash Prize raffle tickets. As required - £1 per ticket.
(d) £5.00 Membership annual subscription for 2002/2003.
The payment form should be sent back as soon as possible to Peter Harrison, Secretary, HMS Cossack
Association, 31 Wood Lane, Fleet, Hants. GU51 3EA, cheques being made payable to HMS Cossack
Association. Remember, the detail on the payment form is used to prepare the seating plan for the
banquet dinner so please make sure guest details are filled in.
Membership subscriptions for the year 2002/2003 will fall due on 1st May 2002. It may therefore be
convenient for you include them on the payment form with one cheque and save queuing up at the
reunion or sending them separately later. Those of you who have already paid for next year will find
their new membership card attached to the payment form. Please detach it before sending the payment
form back. Those who pay their subscription with this payment form will receive their membership
card with their dinner tickets if they are attending the reunion, or separately if not.
Each dinner ticket will entitle the holder to entry into the draw for the Door Prize. The tickets, which
will be individually numbered, will be sent out on receipt of payment forms and cheques but must be
produced as proof on the night to collect the prize. So, don't leave them at home.
The very successful Cash Prize Raffle will be run again this year. The First Prize will as usual be
£100, the Second Prize £50 and there will be four Third Prizes of £25 each. The raffle tickets for this
draw will cost £1 each. Tickets will be on sale at the reunion for several fixed periods only so why not
stake your claim by ordering them on the payment form. This raffle is open to you whether you will be
attending the reunion or not and it is worth remembering that as many prizes have been won over the
last two years by those not attending as those that did. The draw will take place on the Saturday
evening after dinner. Winners present will be paid by cheque there and then and winners not attending
will be sent theirs by post. I hope that the prospect of the free raffle tickets for purchasing the dinner
ticket will not discourage you from purchasing some. Think of it as adding to your chances!
Tickets for the main raffle of donated items, to be drawn on the Saturday evening will only be on sale
at the reunion, although the sellers will be after your money from early Friday evening onwards. The
appropriate number of winning tickets (depending upon the number of donated items) will be drawn in
one go in the ballroom and the winning numbers will be posted on a board in the foyer immediately
afterwards. Check your tickets against the board and, if you are a winner, collect your prize from
either Les or Jean Taylor. Please ensure that you check yours. Last year some prizes were not
claimed and these will now be included in this one.
The programme for the weekend will be as follows
Friday 4th April
A busy day for settling in, setting up and, of course, for renewing old friendships. Our local
members, Eddie Gillam and Dave Hawkes, will no doubt have done a great deal towards getting set up
before we get there but willing hands are sure to be welcome to help during the afternoon. Please
make your number with George Toomey, Alan Edinborough, Keith Batchelor or Peter Marchant and
one of them will advise how you can help.
Arrangements will have been made for Reception to take charge of donated raffle prizes.
These are very much appreciated and enable us to raise funds which then allow us to keep the annual
subscription down so that the less well off can afford to remain as members.
For those staying at the hotel, dinner will be served in the dining room and those partaking
should be seated between 19.00 and 19.30. If you are likely to be late arriving and will miss dinner,
please let reception know and they will arrange for something (probably sandwiches) to be available
The bar will be open of course and music for dancing and, with luck, easy listening
throughout the evening. Take the time to relax and catch up on old times and latest happenings with
your friends in the comfortable surroundings of the Burlington lounge. Thanks to Keith Batchelor the
display boards with our photographic and other memorabilia will be available for browsing and I'm
sure that Les & Jean Taylor will be in the same room with their slops items displayed for you to make
your purchases. There may be some new items on sale this year so please take a look.
Please take time too to look at the Seating Plan for Saturday's banquet dinner to see where you will be
sitting. The board will be displayed in the foyer.
The bar will remain open as long as required. There will not be a Happy Hour this year but the hotel
will have a promotion with beer being sold at a special reduced price.
Saturday 5th April
The main day of course, and we hope that we shall be as lucky with the weather as we have in
previous years. After breakfast take advantage of the prom to blow the cobwebs away, have a look at
the pier or the lifeboat museum but make sure you are back in time for the AGM at 11.30.
Up Spirits will be piped on completion of the AGM. Wine will be available for the ladies. Snack
lunches may then be ordered at the bar or, of course, you can take advantage of the delights of the
many eating places in Eastbourne. The afternoon will be free of organised events but no doubt those
of you who will have your partners with you will be organised, with your wallets, to keep Eastbourne's
shopping economy going.
Members and their guests should assemble in the bar lounge for pre-dinner drinks at 18.30 and take
their places at table in the dining room at 18.55. The President will process in with our special
guest(s) for the evening to take their positions at the top table. All should remain standing until grace
has been said. Dinner will then be served. Wine will be provided with the dinner on the basis of three
bottles (2 white 1 red) for each 12 persons. Additional bottles of wine, etc. may be purchased from
the wine waiter, those staying at the hotel will be able to sign for it as a charge to their room.
Remember to have sufficient left for the Loyal Toast at the end of dinner. The Loyal Toast will be
taken standing (not seated as is allowed in HM ships).
The loyal toast will be taken after coffee has been served and will then be followed by a (short?) speech
from our President followed by our special guest, who this year will be Mr. J.F. Allaway, the Editor of
the Navy News. On conclusion of the speeches the guest will be asked to draw the winning ticket for
the special door prize. The President will then escort the special guest(s) to the lounge followed by
others from the top table. Other members and their guests should then leave the dining room.
Music for dancing and/or easy listening will be available in the ballroom area and during the course of
the evening the Cash Prize raffle draw and the main raffle of donated items will take place.
The beer promotion should still be running with its reduced price. The bar will remain open until
midnight as long as there are customers.
The menu for your dinner, agreed by the organising group, will be as follows:
Prawn Cocktail or Fruit Juice
Cream of Asparagus Soup
Breast of Chicken in a white wine sauce
served with a selection of vegetables and potatoes
Strawberries & Cream (or Ice Cream)
Fresh filtered coffee & after dinner mints
There will be a vegetarian alternative to the main course. Any one who has a problem with any of the
items on the menu and wishes to request either the vegetarian alternative or a specific replacement
must do so by writing their requirements on the back of the booking form. The hotel reception cannot
accept such requests by telephone.
Sunday 6th April
Those who will not be staying on for another night in the hotel are requested to clear their rooms after
breakfast and before leaving for church. Should you need to retain the room in order to change before
departing later, please ensure that you clear this with reception.
The church service at Holy Trinity will commence at 10.30 and, as usual, we shall be joining with them
in their normal family service. Attendance is of course entirely voluntary. A bus will be provided to
take those with walking difficulties to the church and will leave the hotel at 10.15. The bus will not
wait after 10.15 so if you require a lift, please make sure you are aboard before that.
On completion of the service, those members taking part in the parade should make their way to the
Lifeboat Museum from where the march will begin. There will be a bus laid on to take the standard
bearers from the church to the assembly point and it will also take disabled members from the church
back to the hotel.
The parade will take place along the promenade, from the Lifeboat Museum to the Pier, with a saluting
base set up opposite the Burlington Hotel. The Eastbourne Scottish Pipe Band will lead the parade,
with the standards, our platoon and some Sea Cadets also taking part. It is hoped that those disabled
members who are unable to march in the parade will take positions at the saluting base too.
As those who took part in 2002 will know we were able to arrange for two policeman to control the
pelican crossing, near the pier, so that we could march across after the salute has been taken. It is
hoped that the same arrangements can be made although it can't be guaranteed. It will obviously have
to be played by ear on the day and it may well be that we shall have to fall out in front of the pier and
make our way independently. In the event of bad weather and the Parade having to be cancelled, it is
expected that the Eastbourne Scottish Pipe Band will give a demonstration in the hotel ballroom.
The bar will be open in the hotel on our return and the buffet lunch will be laid out, probably on tables
on the dance floor.
There will be no organised Association activity for the remainder of the day. Dinner will be served in
the dining room at 19.00 and there will be the usual entertainment put on by the hotel in the
ballroom/lounge area during the evening. The bar will be open of course.
Reunion - General matters
Getting there. A map of Eastbourne has printed in previous newsletter and the majority of you who
will be attending will have been before and will know the way well. However, should anyone who has
not attended previously require a map please write a note to that effect on the Payment Form and one
will be sent to you with your dinner tickets.
Car Parking. The hotel has a small car park situated on the other side of the small road which runs
behind the hotel. Please be aware that the road is one-way and can only be entered from its west end,
ie from Terminus Road which is on the left of the hotel. Providing cars are parked properly there
should be enough room for most of ours. Please remember when leaving the car park that Burlington
Road is one-way and you must turn left. Please beware too of traffic from the left on reaching the
junction with Cavendish Place. Other car parking is available in the local area if none is left in the
hotel car park when you arrive.
Dress. The accepted dress for the banquet dinner will be blazer and flannels, or lounge suit. Ties are
expected. As stated previously, medals may be worn.
For the parade on Sunday those who wish to march in the platoon should, if possible, wear blazer,
flannels, tie and beret. However, this is not mandatory although we would like the platoon to be well
turned out and smart.
Tips. The Association will as usual be giving a good tip to the hotel to be shared amongst the Dining
Room and Kitchen staff. Individuals will be responsible for gratuities to those who take care of their
Checking out. The hotel management would appreciate it if those who are leaving on the Sunday
would settle their bills and, if possible, vacate their rooms before leaving for church. If you wish to
retain your room in order to change before leaving please clear this with Reception.
I hope that has covered everything. If not, I'm sure you'll let us know. See you all in April.
Remember - the success of the reunion depends on you being there.
It was recently discovered that research causes cancer in rates.
We left Peter Day story about his life in the R.N. with him having just completed the third part of his
Sub-Lieutenant's courses, Gunnery and Parade Drill at Whale Island. Now on with the story.
PETER DAY ROYAL NAVY 1938 - 1967
When we reached our Torpedo Course in April 1941, H.M.S Vernon at
Portsmouth being no longer operational, we were almost the first course to be
appointed to Roedean School for our Torpedo and Electrical Course. This was,
and still is, a very well known school for Girls (the girls had been evacuated
before we, and the sailors, had arrived!!). I am therefore a Roedean Old Boy. I
gather there were some 31,000 Naval Officers and Men who did either a short
or long course there between 1941 and 1945.
I have a book about the history of Roedean which includes the time when it was taken over by
the Royal Navy. A true story is that when the Navy took over the school early in April 1941, above
every girls bed in the dormitories there was a bell push and a notice beside it which said “Press the
button if you need a mistress for any reason during the night”. Obviously these notices should have
been removed when the girls left and before the sailors arrived.
It is questionable whether another story is completely true or not. Anyway it struck me as
being rather amusing. When the Navy arrived to take over the establishment, there were a few sixth
form girls still in the school. The R.N. Captain insisted that these girls should leave before his sailors
arrived. The Mistress in charge said, tapping her forehead, “Don’t worry, Sir, my girls will be alright,
they’ve got it up here”. His reply was “Madam, it matters not where your girls have it, rest assured my
sailors will find it”. Whether or not it’s true, it’s a nice story.
While we were at Roedean, just outside Brighten on the Sussex Downs, we 13 Sub Lieuts on
course lived just up the road in a single flat of a block called Marine Gate Flats, and walked to the
school for our instruction and meals. I’m sure we must have learnt something about Torpedoes and
Electrics but what I remember most vividly is all 13 of us going one evening to the Brighton
Hippodrome where we saw a revue called “Black Vanities”, on tour before it went to London. In the
show were Flanagan and Allen and Zoe Gail whose main song was “When the lights go up in London”.
Anyway we (I don’t remember which one of us was ‘we’) invited the three stars back to our flat. We
had a rollicking good evening even if we didn’t feel too much like work the next day.
At the end of this course I was appointed as Acting Sub Lieut to H.M.S. Cossack, a Tribal
Class Destroyer and joined at Dartmouth on 16 th May 1941. Duly arriving by train in Dartmouth in the
afternoon I was informed that the ship would arrive sometime that evening, so I sat on the jetty, with
my ‘bag and ‘ammick’ to wait for her. I didn’t really know what I was expecting - I remembered
hearing about ‘Vian of the Cossack’ and some connection with the Altmark affair back in 1940, but my
knowledge was limited by my cruising in small or large circles round the South Atlantic in H.M.S.
Cumberland since the war started.
The ship came in alongside, almost opposite where I was sitting and I made my way onboard.
By the Officer of the Watch I was handed on to the First lieutenant (Lieut Bill Rose) who said that as it
was nearly supper time I’d better make myself at home and see the Captain in the morning. My cabin
was small but pleasant, below the upper deck aft and whereas up to this point at sea I’d always slept in
a hammock, here was a bunk of my very own. The next morning I was wheeled in to meet the skipper,
Captain Philip Vian, a fearsome man if ever there was one, yet the entire ship’s company would have
gone through hell fire with him. I started off with a Rocket - ‘When did you arrive onboard?’- “Last
evening, Sir” - ‘Why didn’t I see you then?’. At that point I handed over the answers to the First
Lieut. Anyway thereafter we got on quite well together one very new Acting Sub Lieut and one very
fiery four ring Captain. Cossack was Leader of the 4th Destroyer Flotilla, eight ships though most of the
time we were just four ships working together - Cossack, Sikh, Zulu , Maori and occasionally the
Polish destroyer Piorun. As we were (D) we had onboard something like 10 Lieutenants (including
the extra Flotilla staff) but only one Sub Lieut ( me ) We all had quite a full life for the five months I
was in the ship, taking part in a number of U.K to Gibraltar convoys, two Gibraltar to Malta convoys, a
bombardment of the Island of Sardinia, the sinking of the German battleship Bismarck and finally our
own sinking. All these events have been written about many times so I won’t add yet another version of
these stories. Except that when we were quite close, between 4000 and 6000 yards ( 2 - 3 miles ) to the
Bismarck carrying out a torpedo attack, jet black night and a violent sea running, a 15 inch shell from
her shot away our wireless aerials. I have first hand knowledge of this because my Action Station was
at the after end of the Bridge in charge of searchlight and starshell . These aerials could not have been
much more that 10 feet above my head and if you have a 15 inch shell wizzing past your head about 10
feet away you are fully aware of it. Bismarck was finally sunk by a salve of torpedoes from the cruiser
Dorsetshire, a ship similar to the Cumberland that I was in before as a midshipman.
This episode was followed by two convoys to Malta (code named Operations Substance and
Halberd ) both ‘hairy affairs’. The passage from Gibraltar to Malta, rather over 1000 miles, was Action
Stations practically the whole time. For almost all the voyage the convoy and escort were attacked in
the daytime by Dive Bombers from Sicily and, particularly at night, by ‘E’ Boats (German or Italian
Motor Torpedo Boats) from the Island of Pantalleria.
After all these fun and games, Captain Vian was promoted Rear Admiral and was relieved of
his command. Captain E.L.Berthon DSC took over as Captain (D) of the 4 th Destroyer Flotilla and as
Commanding Officer of Cossack.
We are now in October 1941 and we sailed from Gibraltar about teatime on the 22 nd. The
previous evening we had been berthed alongside H.M.S Legion, an ‘L’ class destroyer slightly more
modern than us. I have an account of the sinking of Cossack from the Navigating Officer of Legion (a
young Lieut B.G. O’Neill later Cdr OBE RN Retd) and I quote his words. “The night before sailing
from Gib. (21st Oct) the wardrooms of Cossack and Legion had a convivial party together in Cossack
under the overall direction of Lieut Bill Rose (No 1 of Cossack) a remarkably charming and competent
Officer. It was Trafalgar Night so we drank a toast to the Immortal Memory of Lord Nelson and got to
know one another. This was only too poignant as little did we know that two nights later we would be
picking up survivors among the very heavy casualties Cossack suffered.”
I was at my usual place for Special Sea Dutymen on leaving harbour as O.O.W on the Bridge.
This is the last I remember for twelve days and the rest of this story is all hearsay, second or third hand.
We joined a slow convoy back to the U.K. ( HG 75 ) as escort with Legion and a number of corvettes,
and I understand that at 2337 or so on the 23 rd we were torpedoed for’ard of the bridge by the German
submarine U 563. We had been at Action Stations and had just stood down to two watch Defence
Stations. Both for’ard 4.7 inch magazines for’A’ and ‘B’ turrets blew up together with the Small Arms
magazine. We lost most of the personnel on the Bridge, ‘A’ and ‘B’ guns crews and everyone for’ard
on the upper deck and below. 158 including the Captain and 4 Officers out of a total of about 250
I was still at my Action Station at the after end of the Bridge. Very fortunately I was thrown
aft, not for’ard into the fire, nor to port or starboard overboard, but down on to the upper deck.
Realising that the ship would very likely sink, the order was given to abandon ship and this was duly
carried out, everyone for himself. I apparently was left lying on a red hot deck by the break of the
foc’s’le port side. As the ship did not sink for another two days, a party came back on board early in
the morning of the 24th and found me lying where I was, I’m told very close to the new waterline where
the ship was bows down. By this time the entire foc’s’le, from the bridge forward, had dropped off and
the ship was kept afloat by the engine and boiler room bulkheads.
I was picked up unconscious, (maybe someone in the rescue party tripped over me and I said
‘Ouch’ or perhaps a much stronger word,) and suffering from a broken leg (presumably when I had
taken off from my position on the bridge), a fractured skull and concussion (probably when I landed on
the upper deck) and multiple burns from lying on a red hot deck for some while). I was a lucky fellow.
I was transferred to the Legion for some days, helping amongst many other wounded to make a real
mess of their nice blue Wardroom carpet. The Wardroom became the Sick Bay and I gather we were all
laid out in rows round the deck. 1 believe this carpet eventually went to the bottom of the ocean when
Legion was sunk later in Malta Dockyard in March 1942. I would like to put on record my sincere
thanks and congratulations to the young Doctor of Legion, Surg. Lieut E. James RNVR and his small
sick bay staff who coped with us all and looked after us so well.
We had about five days at sea before Legion was able to return to Gibraltar when I and many
others were transferred to the R.N Hospital there. I must have woken up after arriving in Gibraltar
because I remember being in a Neil Robertson stretcher and being hauled up from a boat on to the jetty.
Obviously I was lashed in the stretcher very tightly and I came to with a severe pain in my back,
probably only a minute or less but I remember it. After that again a complete blank. Though I have 12
days complete loss of memory, I still have my wound certificate which I signed, rather shakily, on 3 rd
Nov 1941. I spent 2 months in RNH Gibraltar then was brought home in the fast minelayer Manxman
in the company of Paymaster Lieutenant Geoffey Craven DSC RNVR. He had been awarded his DSC
as a German linguist as part of the Altmark boarding party in 1940 and was now suffering from a
wound to his foot after we were torpedoed. We were now to spend a further 2 months in Barrow
Gumey Hospital near Bristol. This for me was followed by 1 month’s Sick Leave and then three
months shore service spent at R.N. Camp, Glenholt (an ex Butlins Holiday camp ) near Plymouth. I
must have been slightly crazy for while at Glenholt I volunteered for service in Submarines.
Presumably I thought I could get my own back at THEM.
I was accepted for a submarine course and from July to September 1942 was appointed to
Blyth (Northumberland) and H. M. S. Dolphin (Gosport). Up in Blyth part of our training took place in
the submarine H.34 , a very small boat rather like those of the E Class from the First World War. Two
months didn’t seem very long to learn all about submarines - in fact it seemed mighty short. On the 9th
Oct 1942 I flew out British Overseas Aircraft Corporation (B.O.A.C.) in a Sunderland Flying Boat to
join H.M.S/M Taku at Beirut. H.M.S. Medway - the Submarine Depot Ship at Alexandria had recently
been sunk on passage by an enemy submarine and the 1 st Submarine Flotilla had moved up hurriedly to
Continues with Part 3 in the next newsletter
when Peter Day joins HM S/M Taku
The Pope Meets His Maker
The Pope dies of old age and suddenly he finds himself at the gates of Heaven - it's 0300 hours. He
knocks on the gate and a very sleepy-eyed angel opens the gate and asks, "Can I help you?" He
replies, "I'm the recently deceased Pope and have done 63 years of godly works and thought I should
check in here." The angel checks his clipboard and says, "I haven't got a message for you to be here.
You seem to be early. Just bring in your stuff and we'll sort this out in the morning. In the
meantime, we'll put you up in transit accommodation."
They go to an old World War II "H" hut-style barracks. The Pope is shown an open bay on the 3rd
floor. All the bottom bunks are taken and all empty lockers have no doors. The Pope frowns, stows
his gear under a bunk, climbs into an upper bunk, and drops off to sleep.
The next morning he awakens to sounds of blaring trumpets, cheering and clapping. He goes to the
window and sees a flashy Jaguar convertible parading down the clouds from a mansion. The cloud
walks are lined with saints and angels cheering and tossing confetti. In the back seat sits a Fleet Chief
Master-at-Arms, his medals glistening on his chest, a cigar in his mouth, a can of beer in one hand, and
his other arm around a voluptuous blonde Angel with magnificent halos. This really disturbs the Pope
and he runs downstairs to an archangel and says, "Hey, what gives? You put me, the Pope, with 63
years of godly deeds, in an open bay barracks, while this Fleet Chief who must've committed every sin
known and unknown to man is staying in a mansion on the hill and getting a hero's welcome. How
can this be?"
The archangel calmly looks up and says, "We get a Pope up here every 40 or 50 years, but we've never
had a Fleet Chief Master-at-Arms before."
Every so often I receive by post a copy of Flagship - The Newsletter of King Georges Fund for Sailors.
I was very pleased to see the following tribute under "South East Events":
We have received the sad news that Alf Price, a stalwart of the Eastbourne Committee, has died aged
71. Alf was, for many years, a keen supporter of the Fund and in that time made many collections on
behalf of KGFS. Alf served in the Royal Navy and was a member of the famous HMS COSSACK
Association, the wartime destroyer his father served in. He was also a model boat enthusiast and used
this hobby to raise funds for KGFS. He will be much missed by his colleagues on the KGFS
Some while ago the late Alf Price showed me a diary that he had kept as a young boy about his travels
with his mother to join his father where ever he travelled in HMS Cossack after her commissioning in
1938. I suggested that he should put it together with some information about his mother and father
with a view to it being published in our newsletter. Alf thought though that he could raise some
money for the King George's Fund for Sailors by selling copies. In the event, I put it together for him
and printed a number of copies. You may have seen them on sale with a collecting box beside them at
our reunions. Maybe you bought a copy.
What struck me about it was what an indominitable woman his mother was. Few people had travelled
much before WW2 but what she did in 1939 was amazing. The story brought tears to my eyes as I
typed it for Alf. I apologise to those of you who bought a copy but I think it's a story worth re-telling
to a wider audience. Remember, this was written by a young lad and no attempt has been made to
correct his spelling or grammar. It will probably take several issues of the newsletter to cover it but
here is the first part.
The Childhood Memories of
1938 - 1941
Alf age 4 Alf, age 14
Petty Officer Charles Price
Alf and his mother
In June 1938 my Father, serving in the Royal Navy, was sent to Malta on a Commission
aboard H.M.S. COSSACK. Mum went to make a home for him and I was sent to a boarding school
The grounds of the school were lovely and we could play football or cricket. In the evenings we went
for walks along the country lanes and played games in the woods. On the golf course there was an
ancient iron circular table and seat. There was also a quarry. The boys told me a Knight had killed a
dragon and put it in a hole in the quarry years ago.
St. Marys Church where I used to go on Sundays had their annual outing to Hereford. We all went in a
bus and had a long ride. We went to a picture house to see George Formby in "I See Ice" and then we
had tea in the Cafe and another ride back to the school.
In the village is a large Hall where Exhibitions of the work done at our school are given. We also had
a flower show there. The school gave a concert and I was chosen to be in one of the plays. The one I
was in was held at Malvern in Wales so we had a long ride in a bus. When the concert finished we had
some refreshments and it was eleven o'clock at night when we returned to the school. We had had a
good time and were tired.
I stayed at the school for a year and then my Mum came home from Malta to take me back with her. I
was so excited and soon had my clothes packed. One of the older boys saw me safely in the train at
Stroud for London and, although it was a two hour ride to Paddington, I enjoyed it as Mum was there
to meet me.
We had a few weeks wait while arrangements were made for the journey back to Malta so we visited
relatives and friends. First we went to see my Grandma at Greenwich. My Cousin John took me into
the park to see the Observatory where the time is made. My Aunt Mary took me to the museum where
there were painted pictures of historical people. I also saw the clothes that Lord Nelson wore and
some models of H.M.S. VICTORY. We stayed at Greenwich for a week, then we went to see my
other Grandma at St. Albans. From King's Cross coach station we went as far as St. Albans on the
Luton Bus. On the way I saw the place where Dick Turpin hid with his horse on his way from London
to York when the Bow Street Runners were after him for robbing stage coaches. I am sure he was
I am now nine years old. When I was six I went to school at St. Albans which is an old Roman city.
It was so named after the first British martyr who was beheaded there and a cathedral was built with the
ruins of the Roman city in memory of St. Alban. The old city was known as Verulanium, the river is
called the Ver. There are woods near and an old boat house the Monks used. I have been told that
there is a subterranean passage from the boat house to the old Jail and from there to the Curlew Tower
in the centre of the Market Place. It is now known as the Clock Tower. There is also a fountain in
front of the Tower erected in the memory of Queen Eleanor. My Mum and Dad were married at the
Abbey Cathedral in February 1928. I did not want to stay at St. Albans very long as I was anxious to
start my journey to Malta and see my Mum and Dad and the ships and lots of other things. It was my
turn for adventure.
However, we went to Portsmouth where the final arrangements had to be made. Of course we had
many friends to say goodbye to as I used to go to school in Southsea, at Cottage Grove. Mum had one
special friend whose name was Mangion and her husband was serving on board H.M.S. HOOD. The
ship was at Portsmouth at the time so I was looking forward to seeing it and going aboard if there was a
chance. We used to go down to Southsea common to play miniature golf. Mum and Dad are keen on
golf and I wish I could play on a big course too.
Well at last we were invited for lunch on board H.M.S. HOOD so my chance had come to go on the
worlds most heavily armed battleship. Our friends called for us in their car and we drove into the
Dockyard and to the side of the ship. At last I was going to see the big guns. It was exciting but I did
not see half the things I wanted to see. The sailors told me when I am older I can join the Royal Navy
and then I will be able to see anything I want on the ships.
H.M.S. HOOD was in dry dock and looked enormous. We had lunch on board with Mum's friends
and I almost forgot I was on a battleship. We went on deck and had to climb up steel ladders after we
had a look round below decks. There were many other big ships in the harbour and tugs and also
barges being towed along. As it was a Sunday many of the sailors were having a sleep on deck. I had
another look at the guns before we went ashore again. They were very interesting and I thoroughly
enjoyed my time onboard. I left hoping to go again. A few days later the King and Queen sailed from
Portsmouth aboard the EMPRESS OF AUSTRALIA for Canada. First they drove through some of the
main streets of Southsea and Portsmouth. The streets were crowded with people. The Princesses and
other members of the Royal Family were waiting to bid their Majesties Bon Voyage. The ship was
escorted by H.M.S. GLASGOW and REPULSE. My Mother and I walked along Southsea promenade
and watched the ship sailing away down the Solent. We could see the King and Queen waving to us.
We had some very happy times at Portsmouth before we finally left for Malta. There were still friends
Then at last we were off. We were to go overland via Folkestone, Boulogne and Marseilles. We went
to London from Portsmouth to get the boat train. At Folkestone we went aboard the Channel steamer
Maid-of-Orleans. The Channel was clear and calm and we were soon across to France where the Paris
Express was waiting at the landing stage. We had sleeping berths because we had to spend the night in
the train and we reached Paris in six hours. Then we went on to Marseilles but as we went in the
Express I did not see much from the train. We reached Marseilles in twenty three hours from London.
The railway station La Gare St. Charles was crowded with people. I did not see much of Marseilles
either as we went in a taxi to the harbour and aboard the S.S. Mohammed Aly-El-Khebir, the that we
were going to Malta on. As we sailed out of the harbour I noticed a very small Island and was told
that was the Island where Monte Cristo was imprisoned. There was an iron grating I could see and I
expect that was where the prisoner escaped.
I was not feeling very well at first but when I got used to the ship moving I was alright and enjoyed
games with other passengers on deck. We were two and a half days getting to Malta. The ship did
not go alongside the landing stage so we had to go ashore in a little boat called a Dhiasa, nice brightly
coloured and the boatmen were very dark skinned. Our luggage had to be examined at the Customs,
then Mums friends took us in their car to our house in Amery St. at Sliema. We passed through Pieta,
Ham-Run, Miseda and along Rue-de-Argens up Savoy Hill. We passed Holy Trinity the English
Church. I noticed many funny looking mules pulling two wheeled carts. The buildings were all very
white and so were the roads. Mum gave me some sun glasses to wear as I could not see much without
them. We expected to see my Dad when we arrived but found his ship H.M.S. COSSACK had gone
on Spanish Patrol so we had to wait for it to return before I could see my Dad and tell him all about my
journey from England.
My Mum had been to Malta twice before so she knew many people and places to show me to pass the
time until my Dad came back. The Governor of Malta Sir Charles Bonham Carter was in residence at
his Palace in San-Antonio. We had friends there so we went there to tea. The gardens were beautiful,
all the trees had coloured flowers. There were hundreds of Orange trees, breadfruit and lemon trees.
There were trees in the gardens that I had never seen before and flowers, beautiful palms and pretty
coloured creepers. Inside the Palace is a very Ancient Church. There are no windows that I could
see. There was a door to enter from the courtyard and another to enter from the Palace. It was very
cool inside the Church and everything was very old. I intend to spend more time inside the Church
when I go again. The Governor had a private garden I was permitted to go inside one day. There was
a bathing pool, tennis courts and a huge orange grove. The flowers were marvellous. I had never
seen such large Chrysanthemums, sweet peas, gladiolias and geraniums but they had very little smell,
so I prefer the English flowers.
I did think how nice it would be if we English people could go out into our own gardens at home each
morning and pick oranges or grapefruit for breakfast, but of course I realised the climate was different
The official residence of the Governor is in Valletta. There is a large square opposite and the Army
band plays there most Sunday evenings and on special occasions the Retreat is played. The Maltese
people always crowd round the square to hear the band and every Sunday they parade up and down the
main street, Strada Reale, from the Palace Square to the Port-de-Bombe which is at the entrance to the
City of Valletta. Buses are not allowed in Valletta at all. They run to all the little villages on the
Island, having to start and finish their journey outside the City or at the Castile. There is a fine view
from the Barracha Gardens overlooking the Grand Harbour and a lift, a kind of cage affair, to take
passengers down 150 ft. to the customs office and landing stage. The lift saves a twenty minute
journey by road. It is very interesting to sit high up above the harbour in the Barracha Gardens and
watch the tourists disembark from the Liners, and to see the Warships go out with the Sailors all lined
up round the deck of their ship looking very happy to be going somewhere on a cruise.
My Mum and Dad sang in the choir at St. Pauls in Valletta so as I liked singing I joined the Choir too.
It was always a treat for me to go to choir practice. We had to go from Sliema where we lived on a
ferry across Sliema creek where the flotilla of Destroyers usually tie up when they are at Malta.
H.M.S. COSSACK tied up there too when in harbour and that was always interesting to me as that was
the ship my Dad was on and I wanted to go onboard every time we passed on the Ferry boat. I wanted
to see her guns but of course I did not get the chance. When we arrived the other side of the Ferry at
Marsa Muschetto we had to go either through a tunnel or up a winding road and about a hundred stone
steps to the Church. The Choir master was very kind to the boys. It was very difficult to get boys for
the Choir. That was why so many Ladies joined. Most of the English people lived at Sliema and the
boys did not like the long journey as the attractions. I did not mind going because my Mum went too
even when my Dad was away in the ship on a cruise.
As I said before, My Dad had gone on a cruise when we arrived at Malta, and I had done quite a lot of
exciting things before he came back. I was looking forward to his coming as I knew he too would
come and sing in the choir. The Admiral of the Fleet Sir Dudley Pound had a son aboard H.M.S.
COSSACK and there was a good deal of excitement among the members of the Choir as the son was to
be married at St. Pauls on the 12th of November. My Mum says she never could imagine a more
charming wedding or more brilliant scene. The Church was full of Naval Officers and their Wives,
there were beautiful flowers and a full choir. The members of the choir wear a white Surplice and a
blue Cassock. The boys also wear a white frill round their neck. Every Sunday morning the
Governor comes to the Church and it is always full. He is very popular everywhere and of course the
Service people go too.
I went to the Dockyard School, as it was summer and we only had to go in the mornings, but we had to
get up early and get there by seven o'clock. We had a special school bus and most of us were picked
up at our own door. We had about three miles to go in the bus and were home again in Sliema just
after mid-day. I liked that very much because we could go for a swim and stay on the rocky beach to
sun bathe as long as we liked. It never seemed to get dark until very late at night and the sky always
seemed to be blue like the sea and I could never tell where the sky joined the sea. The Naval ships that
were in Malta used to have yacht races nearly every evening and there always seemed to be ships of
different kinds coming in at all times. So there was always lots to see on the beach, or from the roof of
our house. My difficulty was that I could not swim, so could only go in the children's' bathing pool,
because the water was very deep at Sliema side of the Island , but Mum knew a bay at the other side of
the Island near the Seaplane base at Calafrana where there was a sandy beach and we could walk a long
way out. This place was called Burze-bugia and was about eight miles from Sliema so we always had
a long ride there and back. We used to go in the evenings and take sandwiches and coffee, then came
home about ten o'clock, but when my Dad came we stayed later. The Maltese were very keen on
water-polo and played every evening during the summer. As Malta is a Naval Base there are lots of
sports grounds and always games for us to watch. My Dad plays football and water polo for his ship,
and he goes sailing with his friends. There are also a number of clubs, and I sometimes go to the P.O.s
Club at the Queens Hall where they have ships concerts and Tombola. Everywhere there seems to be
whist drives at night but I am not allowed to go to them but I like to watch cards played very much.
I went to a children's party. It was a Maltese Party really but there were a few English chums of mine
invited too so it was great fun. We had games before tea and lovely thick chocolate ices. We did not
sit down to tea like we always do at home. We walked round and round the table and were helped to
anything we fancied from the table. There were all kinds of marzipan sweets and nutty fruit cakes and
more pretty coloured ices. There were iced minerals to drink but no tea at all to drink. After tea we
sang lots of songs and an English girl dances for us. We were all very late home that night, but
nobody seems to go to bed early in Malta.
We had a garden and orange and lemon trees, also a grape vine and a fig tree and flowers, called
passion flowers. There were also quite a lot of lizards and cockroaches in the garden. They would sit
for quite a long time without moving. One day I saw a two foot long snake in the garden but it
slithered away when anyone went near it. We had to be very careful not to leave any crumbs of food
about or stale water. There were always mosquitoes and millions of ants about. They come in from
the garden and they follow each others trail. On the stone floor they looked at first glance just like a
thick black line all around the floor. Sometimes the ants go up the wall in just the same way. The
floors never seemed to get dirty as they are all tiled but whenever I touch the floor it always feels as if
it is gritty and covered with a white powder. The only time it is not dusty is early in the morning after
the woman has scrubbed out. She always puts paraffin in the water. She told me the paraffin makes it
shine and is to keep the ants out too, but we found it made no difference. It is the mosquitoes that I did
not like and the cockroaches, they were awful, some of them are as big as a small bird. I was told the
brown ones that fly are quite blind, and really believe it is so because one day, when it was just getting
dusk, one caught me in my face and they fly indoors if we leave the shutters open in the evening. My
Mum could not bear cockroaches of any kind and the mosquitoes always bite her and make big lumps,
but they never bite me at all.
A Lady we used to know in Portsmouth came out to Malta and had a flat in Milner St. just near our flat
at Sliema. She had a top flat so she could see the ships coming into the harbour from anywhere in her
flat. When I knew that my Dads ship was coming I used to go round to her and wait for it to pass the
breakwater and then come back home and go up on to our roof as we could see right inside the
dockyard, also the Creeks where the Destroyers tie up. When Dads ship was tied up safely I went with
Mum to meet my Dad as He always comes home at night when the ship is in port.
I had been in Malta nearly ten weeks when my Dad went to Turkey on his ship and as we knew he
would go to or call at Alexandria on the way back, it was decided that Mum and I should go to
Alexandria and wait for him if we could get a passage on a troopship. We were lucky as the troopship
Dorsetshire was going to Haifa with troops onboard. Of course I was very excited to be going on a
troopship and with troops too. We hired a Dhiasa and went out to Dads ship to tell him we were
leaving a few hours after him and would see him as arranged at Alexandria. Then, as his ship was
already under way, we stayed in the Dhiasa and escorted the ship H.M.S. COSSACK as far as the
breakwater. Then we went back to the landing pier and in a taxi to our flat to finish our packing. We
only wanted a few clothes as we were only going to Alexandria for a holiday. The flat was tidied up
and locked up and then we took the key to a friend so that she could look after our things should there
be a War before we were able to get back.
Follow the story in the next newsletter when Alf and his mum go to Alexandria
One of our members had a book drawn to his attention at his local library. It was titled “Sink HMS
Cossack”. He sent the details to George Toomey and, as a result, we obtained a copy. Having read it,
I was appalled. It wasn’t until it arrived that we realised that it was fiction. About the only similarity
to the events which actually occurred was the ship’s name! According to this book, HMS Cossack
was sunk by torpedoes fired by a U-boat just as it was about to be rammed, in an operation in the
Mediterranean off the North African coast. It portrays the men aboard in a very poor way and
demeans the memories of those who fought and died in Cossack.
Can you help?
An e-mail from Mike Varley asked whether any of our members can provide any information about his
father, Lt. Cdr. P.D.M. Varley, who died in 1997. From information previously provided to me by
Lieutenant Hugh Walker, Peter Varley served in D57 on its first commission 1945 - 1947 as the
Can anyone from that commission remember any special incidents which occurred involving him?
Have you ever served with him elsewhere?
According to Hugh Walker’s notes, Peter Varley had been promoted from the lower deck and was very
much the typical Whale Island Gunnery Officer. Hugh finished his RN service in 1947 but they met
again in the 70’s when Peter Varley had also left the Navy, had read English at Balliol College, Oxford
and was then enjoying teaching at a prep school.
Any information you can give will be much appreciated by Mike.
2003 Tribal Reunion
Information just received from Canada gives bare details of a Tribal Reunion to be held in Hamilton,
Ontario 27th August to 1st September 2003. They are hoping for good representation from both the
Royal Navy and the Royal Australian Navy Tribal veterans.
At that time they will be welcoming HMCS HAIDA to her new home. At present she is undergoing a
refit which is expected to last until July. She will then be towed to her new berth at the Royal Naval
Base at Hamilton where she will be a floating museum.
Further details are expected in due course but, in the meanwhile, will anyone interested please let the
Secretary, Peter Harrison know.
Trawling through my computer files I came across one of John Batty’s stories about Life Down Under
which I had not used. At a time when Australia is suffering appalling fires, we here are suffering
floods, we only need a plague of pestillence to provide all the ingredients for a biblical end to the
world. Enjoy this last bit of JB’s before we go!
Life Down Under
By John Batty
''Guess what dad'' challenged my older son, John, as he stood watching my facial expressions.
As I was up a ladder in the dining room, struggling with a length of wet wall paper he soon realised
that the particular expression that I was wearing, meant that he could be more helpful if he went far, far
away; so that I could release all the words that I'd told him over the years were only used by naughty
Unsticking the wallpaper from around my neck, realising how unfair I had been,I called him
back, tripped on the end of the paper, slipped off the bottom rung of the ladder, gritted my teeth and
asked, 'Well, - What?'
''The scouts are having a father and son weekend in two weeks time, and 'cos Kevin (younger
son) is in the Cubs, he can come too. I have to telephone the Scout Master as soon as possible if we
are going.". Still wondering why nobody had ever produced a velcro backed wallpaper to save pasting,
I offhandedly gave my permission. Knowing that I would gain a bucketful of Brownie points from
Joy, because Edna, my brother's wife, wanted her company on a shopping expedition to Melbourne that
particular weekend. Why not? Melbourne is only 500kms from Adelaide.....
John Jnr. returned to tell me that we were all booked in with the Scoutmaster and ended his
report with, "And guess what dad----Carl and Clifford are coming too, with Uncle Ron".....
It was a miserable two weeks, I spent most of the time wondering IF or HOW Ron had
contrived this whole business. Eventually the Friday arrived when we would be travelling out to
Tailem Bend.. Where the heck was Tailem Bend? No need to worry, even though I lived in Adelaide
and didn't know, Ron, who was only a visitor, knew where it was, ''We had all better go in my car he
said, the roads are unsealed and it's quite a distance. We'll throw the tents into your trailer." Tailem
Bend was three hours away, over roads which were not metalled and badly needed grading, It's a
wonder how the car springs lasted out. The sun was a brazen ball about six inches above our heads (or
so it seemed). The air conditioner broke down after we'd travelled about four miles. With six of us in
the car, we soon had all the windows open, which immediately helped to take some of the dust off the
road, Unfortunately it made itself comfortable inside the car. Roll on the scout campsite.
After the worst bush drive I'd ever experienced up to that point, I was brightened to see a vast
expanse of water which turned out to be the 'Mighty' River Murray. Famous amongst fishermen for
it's massive Murray Cod. It meanders for miles, starting in the Great Dividing Range, later joined by
The Darling and Murrenbidgee rivers, twisting and turning along the N.S.W. and Victoria border.
Splitting Albury--Wodonga into two separate towns, through Echuca, an old loading base for the
mighty paddle and side wheelers which had traded up and down the river in past years.. The Murray
Queen, following an extensive re-fit after lying neglected for several years, once again paddles up and
down the river with tourists instead of timber, wheat and other goods.
Sometimes paddling between broad flat lands and at others under huge jagged cliffs, the river
follows the borderlands, providing life to thousands of acres of grain country plus the cattle paddocks.
The mighty Murry finally ducks under the 734metres long Swanport Bridge at Murray Bridge and on
to Tailem Bend, soon to feed Lake Alexandrina and Lake Albert before losing itself in the Southern
The scout camp, which, consisted of an old stonebuilt four roomed cottage in a five acre
paddock with frontage to a Billabong which joined the river at both ends. appeared to be deserted.
Well, I thought, eyeing the cottage, at least the dads don't have to camp out... Wrong. !!! 'The scouts
and cubs will use the house in case of colds, sleep walking near the billabong or lively snakes. The
dads would camp out'. This and other information was passed to the assembly which was
held immediately the last car entered the gate, gasping and spluttering.
That first day, or what remained of it, was used as an introduction to camp life and initially
each family found their own plot of land. Ron, who had been a scout, many, many years ago, suggested
that as it was now 1300hrs, (very technical) the boys could cook a meal. Strangely , the boys were no
longer behind us. So I decided to make the firebox and Ron could do the cooking.--- ---Wrong again.--
-..Ron wanted to make the firebox ! "One that will last all weekend," he boasted. I busied myself with
emptying the trailer until he called out that all was ready for the food. I gathered it together, placed it
near the firebox and realised two things. The fire wasn't lit yet and even if it were, I didn't know how to
use a firebox. I had envisioned something like my mothers kitchen range, fire, oven, grill and kettle
hob all conveniently placed juxtaposition. This one was a series of boxes cut out of the clay on the high
bank of the Billabong, built on two levels, much too complicated to describe without a drawing,
Finally, I worked out, just in time for Ron to return with kindling and larger dead branches, that the fire
was supposed to be lit in the bottom box. This I did, trying to be as nonchalant and knowing as
possible. I then unpacked bacon, eggs and bread. Now I faced the second problem......I figured that
the bacon and eggs would go together in the top right hand box, but what went in the top left??
I didn't think that Ron was taking much notice but as I stood there a little undecided, he said,
without looking up, ''The toast goes in that one'' . ''I, know, I lied, "I was just wondering whether to put
it all in at once or a couple at a time." No answer, Ron was awake to my fib., had lost interest and,
breaking the first rule, "No strong drink on camp", unpacked a couple of Tooey's Old. I must admit
that I was more than ready for one. With the food in the fire box, (All the toast at once) I sat back and
enjoyed the ice cold liquid.
"Ahhh,' Quoth my younger son, "haven't you had lunch yet"? all four boys had approached
from behind without being heard. "No," growled Ron, 'You are just in time for it" A little muttering
amongst the boys, then Clifford, Ron's youngest and youngest of the four, gabbled, "We went in the
camp bus to the town and had a pie, chips and lemonade 'don't think that I could eat anymore.". A true
son of his father!!
Ron and I sat on the river bank, slowly plodding through enough toast, bacon and eggs for six
people. Luckily we had plenty of Tooey's Old. The boys were sitting on the far side of the billabong
with bent pins and strings, we weren't, at that moment, a happily bonding family. It was dark before
we realised that the boys had disappeared into the house and then we both remembered together. We
hadn't erected our tent!!
The following day, the family bonding was extended to include every other scout and dad on
the camp. Ron was off like a shot before it was even light, about 7am he returned to our tent, boasted
about the free tea and toast breakfast I had missed in "The Den"and urged me to hurry because he had
organised a Flying Fox competition. As an ex sailor, I was supposed to know something about pulling
on ropes and sliding down them etc. ""None of the other dad's know anything about it and the boys are
relying on you"" I swallowed it, hook line and sinker!! I won't enlarge, sufficient to say that by noon,
my hands were red raw, my back felt broken, and I was ready to crawl into my sleeping bag... No such
luck, the boys had vanished again and I was the duty cook!!
So it went on until the last morning when somebody had volunteered my name in the canoe
race. 4 canoes, (I could have sworn they were skiffs) but, (what do I know about boats, I was a
sparker) each with a crew of four. Not only our four delinquants were missing at ''Start'' time, most
of the other scouts were out of sight too.
Wearily, we dad's found a place in one of the canoe/skiffs and after about fifteen minutes
playing at dodgems, were able to mover up to the starting line. That was when I saw Ron, clean and
smart, on the banking, holding the starting pistol.....
Ron fired the pistol and the crews' showed their skill, some paddles were used like oars, others
were used as poles to try and push the canoe along using the bottom of the Billabong, My paddle was
still at my feet, a big fellow was sitting on it after sliding off his seat. I didn't mind. (I'm a small, quiet
chap, not given to argueing). A scuffle near the bows and a big splash. I didn't think that we would win
this race. The fellow who had taken a swim, grasped the side of the canoe/skiff and tried to haul
himself on board. As my head ducked under the surface, I knew that we wouldn't win the race.
Leaving the boat ,( be it canoe or skiff,) to it's own devices, the crew scrambled as best we could, to the
shore. We were in time to see the winner, with a two man crew, and two in the water, pushing from
astern, crawl their way past Ron, standing on the bank, waving a scout flag.
With everything packed up and stuffed into the trailer, the kids packed into the car, we
dragged ourselves home. The ladies still in Melbourne for another day, failed to see Ron's great
surprise! He insisted on unpacking the trailer by himself, and eventually staggered into the kitchen
hugging a three feet long Murray Cod. Ron dropped the cod and opened two bottles of Tooey's Old
before he answered my unasked question....''Some of the dads brought nets. You would have enjoyed it
if you hadn't insisted on doing the cooking and kitchen chores all the time" !! It was useless for me to
murmer, "Netting the Murray is illegal''. He was already gutting the fish on top of a tarp spread out on
the garage floor. I had to silently admit that there would be enough Cod Cutlets to last a month even
after giving some to the neighbours.
Somehow, I could never bring myself to attend another Father and Son Weekend. After
losing his right hand man (Me) Ron also retired from scouting.
Josing Fjord - The Song
Ron Maynard's recent death reminded me about a photo-copy of a piece of sheet music that he sent me
over two years ago. It was "The Song of Josing Fjord". He told me that it had been advertised in the
Daily Mail in 1940, soon after the Altmark Incident.
Since a few of us were going over to Norway to take part in some commemorations of the incident I
decided to take a copy of the music with me and presented to Finn Nesvold of the Sokndal local history
society. Jokingly I suggested that the next time we went over we would expect them to have learnt the
words and music sufficiently to give a concert!
In September 2002 I received an e-mail from Finn in which he said that on the previous Saturday
evening they, the history group, had invited local senior citizens to a concert. There an English singer,
Sybil Richardson, who was born in Liverpool but now lived in Oslo, had berformed a Vera Lynn-type
programme. She also sang the Jossingfjord song, which was very popular with the audience.
Subsequently a journalist in Sokndal wanted to give the song and its history a presentation in the local
paper and asked if I could find out more about it. If fact the journalist found out more than I. Both he
and I wrote to the Daily Mail - he got a reply, I didn't. The Daily Mail sent him a photo-copy of pages
from the 19th February edition of the paper which reported on Cossack's rescue of the merchant
The words from the song originated as a poem by Gordon Bushell and was published as such in the
Daily Mail under his psuedonym "Bee". It was set to music by Gerald Carne and the sheet music was
then advertised for sale in the Daily Mail.
Ron Maynard was then able to provide a little more information. As far as he knew, the only public
performance given was by a singer named John Ellery in a hall in Willesden High Street, in March
1940 he thought. John Ellery was Ron's father-in-law and had obtained the music via the Daily Mail
advertisement. Ron happened to be at home on a short leave from HMS Cossack and, even then an
accomplished musician, accompanied his father-in-law during the performance. Which of course is
how Ron came to have the music. Subsequently, it came to light that it had been sung by Dennis
Noble on Henry Hall's Guest Night programme on radio.
Eastward we sailed from the Falkland Isles
And Westward to the Plate;
We searched the waves for a ship of slaves
With a ceaseless, burning hate.
South from the Caribbean -
Northward the white wakes scored,
And the set of the sun brought vengeance
At night in Josing Fjord.
Yonder she lay, the prison-ship
The Norseman had let her go.
A floating hell on the night-tide’s swell,
With Britons locked below.
And thirty men on the Cossack
Waited the word to board
From the hidden lights in London
To the stars in Josing Fjord.
Grappling irons and then attack -
A fight in a frozen sea …
When thirty men came back again
Three hundred men were free.
For Drake unslung his hammock,
And he stepped once more aboard,
And he fought again beside us
That night in Josing Fjord.
Gordon Bushell (Bee) was a sub-editor on the Daily Mail and was the Daily Mail’s wartime poet
laureate from 1940 to 1943. After the war he wrote a series of children’s books on a character called
The Norwegian journalist, Asbjørn Hegdal. Was able to complete and publish his piece in the local
paper and I received a copy from Finn Nesvold. However, since it is in Norwegian I won’t inflict it
upon the readers of this newsletter. Asbjørn was kind enough to send photo-copies of what he
received from the Daily Mail and I’ll try to get it displayed at the reunion in April.
To finish off - a few more facts from that long file that John Batty nas compiled:
My mind is like lightning—one brilliant flash and it’s gone!
It is hard to understand how a cemetary raised its burial cost and blamed it on the cost of living.
We are born naked, wet and hungry. The things get worse.
The 50-50-90 rule: Anytime you have a 50-50 chance of getting something right, there’s a 90%
probability you’ll get it wrong.
It is said that if you line up all the cars in the world end to end, someone would be stupid enough to try
Laughing stock - cattle with a sense of humour.
You can’t have everything. Where would you put it?
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