Surviving the U boat sinking of the RMS Laconia 12 September 1942 — Broadsides – A collection of bits and pieces

What John doesn’t mention here is that he was a young schoolboy in Gibraltar in the 1950’s and has fond memories of his many escapades there. You can find further details on his blog and he also contributes, on Facebook, to Gibraltar Old Photos 2.

I lived in Gibraltar, as a serving Royal Signals soldier, from 1974 to 1976. I was a Corporal, and single when I first arrived, living in Governor’s Cottage camp. I was promoted shortly afterwards and move to the Fortress Sergeant’s Mess, in Town Range, just above the The Convent.

I returned home to get married in July 74, and my wife joined me in Gib, even though we had nowhere to live. We hopped from quarter to quarter when people were on leave in UK and then ended up in 263/7A Main Street, a very small flat that cost £14 per week.

Our daughter was born in October 75 and holds dual nationality, so Gibraltar, of course, holds a very dear place in our hearts.

Gibraltar:  British families, survivors from the RMS Larconia, torpedoed by German U-Boat on the 12th September 1942 RMS Laconica was originally commissioned as an ocean-going luxury passenger ship for the Cunard line. With the outbreak of WWII she was requisitioned by the Admiralty and fitted with eight six inch guns and two three inch guns. […]

Surviving the U boat sinking of the RMS Laconia 12 September 1942 — Broadsides – A collection of bits and pieces

Numbers

One is one and two is too

And so are three and four

Then comes five and six and seven

Then eight and nine and more

Our days are numbered: very few

In years three score and ten

Translated into days perhaps

you’d think a lot, but then

It is actually only twenty five thousand five hundred and sixty eight days

At approximately 8.20am today I was:

26,916 days old

645,984 hours old

38,759,040 minutes old

2,325,542,400 seconds old

Don’t waste a second!

Random facts and a little fiction

  • In 1964, 57 years ago today, I reported to Uniacke Barracks in Harrogate, Yorkshire, to begin a three year apprenticeship as an Electronic Engineer, thus beginning my Army career which lasted for 28 years and 151 days
  • After 22 years in the army I morphed into a military accountant
  • On Monday I watered a sparrow – she was asleep in a bush – I apologised
  • I have created a very small wildlife pond – it has been immediately colonised by mosquito larvae
  • My wife and I are somehow suffering from multiple mosquito bites

I’m happy and I’m shallow

but sometimes I am deep

I’ll often write best sellers whilst I am fast asleep

The annual check-up

Suppositories and cooling anal sprays

a salve to spread on painful bleeding graze 

Tablets, potions and who really knows

what ails me with that thing that slowly grows

.

This getting old oft has its benefits

but sometimes it can be the bloody pits

Some things grow whilst others swiftly shrink

I ask the doc what do you really think?

.

He’s often noncommittal and he says

What ails you I can only ever guess

His bedside manner is beyond the pale 

I only hope I live to tell the tale!

.

I say “It’s really good to be alive”

Same time next year he says – if you survive!

A first for me – The first of March 2021.

Is the patient breathing?

How very strange it is to dial 999 for the very first time ever, to be greeted with “Emergency, which service do you require?” and to be asked that question, followed by “Is the patient conscious?” when the patient is actually the one making the call and that patient is ME!


I then went through an obviously very well scripted and professional series of questions to ascertain, in the fastest possible time, just what the problem was,  what was required in the way of immediate assistance, and in the longer term.

I had to give my history of Hypertension since 2002, Angina since 2005, Angiograms in 2005 and 2012 and, meanwhile, I was reassured that an ambulance was on its way.


When I last spoke to my doctor she asked “How often do you have to use your GTN spray?” (an under the tongue spray, that I have carried since 2005, to alleviate angina pain by opening up the arteries)   I replied “Oh, I haven’t used it for years.  I carry it around all the time and replace it when the lid starts to fall off!”.

Silly me!  Not that I’m superstitious, but you do have to wonder.

I already had a telephone appointment booked with the doctor in a couple of weeks’ time, a follow up from my tummy troubles that haven’t really cleared since before Christmas.  For a few days I “presented with a general feeling of unwell.” and just felt distinctly yuk.  I also had to use my spray several times!  On Saturday I felt really off and even, secretly, considered whether I needed to go to hospital.  Being a (stubborn old) man I didn’t!   On Sunday I suggested to my wife that I may have to phone the doctor on Monday to get an emergency appointment sooner.

Monday morning I spoke to the doctor and was told to phone 999 immediately, which I did!



Ambulance arrived, blue lights flashing, and I had 2 ECG’s, blood pressure taken several times, history and medication recorded.  All very efficient and reassuring. The ECG’s showed abnormalities, namely First degree heart block, (which I knew I had – and it sounds far worse than it actually is) and ectopic atrial rhythm.  I was allowed to walk out to the ambulance – a very reassuring sign – and was then whisked off to QMC (Queens Medical Centre) Nottingham, to A & E. I was assessed in reception, then moved to the Urgent Treatment Unit where I was given Paracetamol, pink tummy medicine, and liquid morphine.  

A very slick operation followed where I had 3 ECG’s, had my temperature and blood pressure taken about 10 times, had 2 lots of blood taken, a chest X-Ray, a scan of my tummy and bladder, saw 2 surgeons and 3 doctors, countless nurses and assistants, had a bite to eat and a cup of tea, and was eventually allowed to go home with new medication,  2 outpatient appointments booked,  and a collection of labels, gauze, sticky tape, and 10 sticky pads for ECG’s still attached to me. Souvenirs of an unexpected day out that didn’t cost me a penny.

Thank goodness for the NHS.

Travelling down the Rhine on a duck

Originally published on 25/10/2017, this is part of a series that I promised may take a while to complete. I was right!

In the Summer of 1962, at the age of 14, I travelled to Germany, with the Combined Cadet Force from my school, for a Summer Camp.

It was quite an adventure to get there. We travelled by military steam train, with the carriages being loaded onto the ferry for the channel crossing. It must have been very nearly the last such journey.

We eventually arrived at 2 Division Signal Regiment, in Bünde, West Germany, a Regiment I was later to be posted to as a regular soldier.

2 div.png

The Crossed Keys of 2 Division

 

 

There were still National Servicemen who had been conscripted into the forces for 2 years. These were the last of a dying breed as the last National Servicemen left the armed forces in May 1963.

I well remember that the soldiers took great delight in plying us with beer, probably at our own expense. That Summer, far from home, was the first time that I became extremely drunk, and extremely unwell.

We obviously overdid the cigarettes too. When I returned home I suffered, for a few days, with what was diagnosed as nicotine poisoning!

During our 10 days there we went out on exercise with the Regiment and did all sorts of, what was to us young boys, very exciting things. We helped camouflage vehicles, laid large capacity cables, helped put up radio masts, slept in abandoned barns and spent a day with the German Army.

It was during this “exchange day” that I encountered the DUKW (duck) that was to transport us down the river. (For the technically minded, more information here)

Ten very excited teenagers squeezed into the restricted space at the back and were driven down a ramp, into the water, where we progressed at a very sedate pace for 20 minutes or so, driving back up another ramp to dry land.

dukw

To be honest it was a bit disappointing, certainly not as exciting as the next half hour when we were transported at some considerable speed back up river, sirens wailing, in a fast patrol craft.

We then experienced a German Army lunch, for many, the first ever taste of “foreign” food. Tepid cabbage soup, cold würst, sauerkraut, black bread, and a strange pudding of yogurt. A new experience that was not repeated until it became more commonplace in the UK.

Postscript

In fact the river in question may not have been the Rhine. Memory being what it is, it could have been the Mösel, or even the Wëser. I have travelled on all of these, but, at the time, it seemed to be a very wide, and busy, river.

Part of the series Some things I’ve done that you probably haven’t!

Some things I’ve done that you probably haven’t.

This is a reblog of a series I started in October 2017. I thought I should resurrect it in order to attempt to get it completed. Perhaps it could take the place of my Lundi limerick series.

Peter's pondering

I had this random thought that I have done a few things in my life that the average person will never experience.  I thought I would write a post entitled:

“Ten things I’ve done that you probably haven’t.” It developed a little like this:

TenElevenTwelveThirteenFourteenFifteenSixteenSeventeenEighteen Nineteen Twenty things I’ve done that you probably haven’t

I arranged them in reverse alphabetical order, just for the sake of it! Then I thought of an added one, or four. So, here we have:

Some things I’ve done that you probably haven’t

  1. Travelled down the Rhine on a Duck
  2. Transferred between Royal Naval ships at sea by Jackstay
  3. Transferred between Royal Naval ships at sea by helicopter
  4. Spent time in a prison cell
  5. Sat in a Harrier Jump Jet
  6. Rowed in a coxed 4 at sea
  7. Regularly travelled to work by helicopter
  8. Qualified as a helicopter…

View original post 174 more words

A little bit of Dad

In my final Lundi limerick yesterday I used the hamlet of Acton and linked it to the fact that it played a large part in my Dad’s life.

In the process of digging out a bit of real life background, rather than the normal wikipedia, or google sources, I rummaged through the suitcase that I brought away from Dad’s house after he died at the grand age of 96.

Mum had died nearly 11 years before and everyone expected Dad to follow fairly swiftly after. He was, after all, a hard working farm labourer, who had relied on Mum for meals, clean clothes, and a welcoming home. We had all, of course, forgotten his hard upbringing, his determination, and his adaptability.

Within a couple of weeks he had bought himself a microwave. “I’ve always wanted one of these but your Mother would never have one”, he said.

He went on to cook his own meals, wash, dry, and iron his clothes, vacuum the house, and thoroughly enjoy the whole new leaf that he’d turned over. My little sister (three years older than me), who lived a few miles away, kept an eye on him, had him over for Sunday lunch and, over the coming years, gradually helped him more, according to his needs.

Anyway, this isn’t meant to be a definitive history of Dad, purely an extension of the information about his link to Acton.

The suitcase I mentioned earlier has quite a few Bibles, and other books, in it, each one has a story to tell. Dad was a Methodist Local Preacher from the age of 20 until failing hearing, and health, caused him to retire, although he remained ‘on the books’ until his death, and received several certificates of Long Service, even up to 75 years service! It just could not be done nowadays!

Dad was a marvellous preacher. Inspiring, knowledgeable, plain speaking, always linking to everyday life, articulate but never verbose. In everyday life you would never dream that he was a gifted and effective preacher. He was a quiet, mild mannered man whose goodness shone out for all to see, always willing to help, support, and encourage all that he encountered.

First out of the case is a School photograph from 1922 when Dad was 12
How smart they all are, and I love the bicycle parked around the corner! Dad would have done a couple of hours work before going to school and would have many jobs to complete when he got home.
Sunday School prize that Dad received from Acton
Note the Superintendent was John Matthews, an uncle
and a 19th birthday present from an Auntie
A present from the Local Preachers Association on his recognition service as a preacher (Oct 14th 1929)
21st birthday gift to Mum
An article that appeared in the Local Preachers Newsletter after Dad died

Lundi limerick #105

Thinking of Acton I’m glad

so special to Mum and to Dad

It’s where they first met

and their future was set

Such a wondrous life they both had.

 

There is not a lot to be said about Acton,  a small hamlet in Staffordshire. You could so easily drive through it without knowing and yet, without its existence, I may well not have existed!

The one building that is there, an old Wesleyan Methodist Church that closed in 2003, is where my father, Charles Matthews, went to Sunday School, then to Chapel. Where he met my mother Irene Lily Matthews, née Talbot. Where they first started courting,  all very prim and proper in those days. Where Dad first qualified for his  75 years as a Methodist Local Preacher.

I will add some photographs to a later post, and give a little more detail. I thought it appropriate that for the last of my two years worth of Lundi limericks (Lundi being french for Monday, for those who hadn’t noticed!!) I should write about somewhere extra special.

Thank you Acton. Thank you Mum and Dad.