The Med Fleet 1945 - 1948
memories have been supplied by members of the Association and have been collated
Shipmate Gordon Green.
The ship was built at Henry Robb's Shipyard, Leith (Edinburgh) and was launched on 28th December, 1944, by Lady Erskine-Hill, MBE. After being fitted out the ship was handed over to the Admiralty on 25th June, 1945
Memories of the first commission
officers Lieut Cdr J. Aitken DSC
Cdr C.D.Maud DSO DSC
June 1945 to October 1946
Ken Edmond (Ord Seaman)
joined the Navy in 1944 and spent a year at an air station on the Mull of Kintyre.
I then returned to Devonport for a new draft. Eventually a lot of us were put
on a train and sent north. We did not know where we were going and we were not
allowed off the train (nobody told you anything in the war!). In due course we
got to Leith (Edinburgh) and saw the brand new 'Cardigan Bay' alongside shining
with new paint. We had to stand on the jetty in the freezing cold for two hours
while the accommodation was sorted out, then we were allowed on board. Everything
in the mess was new and it smelt like a new car. All of the crew were new to this
type of ship and we had a lot to learn. Our first movement took us into the Firth
of Forth under the Forth Bridge. From a distance I did not think we would get
under it, but when we reached it it was way above us. When we got to Rosyth the
Captain intended to go in slowly, do a 180 degree turn and berth starboard side
to. He gave the order 'hard a-port,' but unfortunately the coxswain had had too
many tots and went to starboard. The ship hit the wall, but luckily did little
damage. The whole thing was hushed up. That night we went on a looting expedition
and found a compound full of galvanised buckets. One of the lads went over the
fence and threw some over. Consequently, every matelot on 'Cardigan Bay' had a
dhobi bucket. Mine lasted for the whole of my naval career and earned me a lot
of favours. When we left Rosyth we sailed round Scotland, through the Pentland
Firth, to Gourock where we had the hedgehog fitted. After that we went to Tobermory
and were joined by a 'work-up party.' We had two weeks of hell - no sleep, constant
'Action Stations', thunderflashes going off and no proper food. After this we
sailed for Gib and when we got there we saw BANANAS - we
had not seen them for years.
Lowe (Leading Telegraphist)
I joined the new 'Cardigan Bay' at Leith as acting Leading Telegraphist in charge of the WT office. Our first CO was due to be Lt.Cdr.Peter Scott (son of Scott of the Antarctic), but he came on board to address the crew and tell us that he was resigning his commission to stand for Parliament (he failed by just 432 votes). Scott later became Sir Peter Scott, artist, and several of his earlier paintings hung in the ship's wardroom. The first lieutenant, Lt.Cdr.J.Aitken took command of the ship. We left Scotland bound for the far east to fight the Japanese, but when we arrived in Gibraltar VJ day had been confirmed. We were then dispatched to 'show the flag' in Venice, Trieste and Pola. I remember going ashore in Venice, taking an extra issue of tobacco in my seaboot stockings and exchanging this for a watch. As the war was over the local girls were most forthcoming and one or two ratings who went ashore had a very good time! I remember an incident whilst lying off Malta - I sent a message for food supplies in 'plain dress' instead of being recoded. This resulted in a blast from Vice Admiral Malta - I was not looking for promotion! As the ship was to become Flotilla Leader (F5) in January 1946, I had to leave in December (as did the CO) and I was replaced by a PO Tel. I was drafted to 'St Angelo' in Malta and I was eventually demobbed in July, 1946.
Some of the communicators (Jim Lowe marked 'x')
There were five of us who went out to the Mediterranean to join the ship in March, 1946. We had to chase around and eventually caught up with her in Malta. We sailed to Gibraltar for a refit and half of the ship's company went to the camp of the Royal West Kent Regiment for a week (and the other half the next week). Later we took the West Kents to Morocco.
I remember one incident when AB Smith was arrested by the Shore Patrol for threatening somebody with a stool in the Long Bar in Gibraltar. He was brought to the ship from the cells the next day to face the Captain. The patrol came on board and said "We ran in from outside, down the Long Bar and took the stool from Smith." "How long is the Long Bar?" asked the Captain. When told he said "If you can run that fast you should be in the Olympics. Case dismissed."
Later I was caught by the patrol for not wearing stockings (I had been to hospital). When I told them the name of the ship they let me go saying - "We are not going to that ship again".
I had a white alsation whilst on board, but it was alleged to have bitten a Spanish Docker (it had no teeth!) and I was fined. The next day the army vets came on board to put the dog down. I left the ship soon afterwards.
Entering Venice - (The black mark indicates position of the gash chute)
Kerr (Able Seaman)
One incident I remember was being alongside in Rhodes harbour. AB Taffy Hughes was on guard duty at the gang plank on the quayside. A storm came up and we lost all lines to shore. We ran around closing all the portholes. The ship's screws were damaged on the rocks, but we made open sea and sailed into Turkish waters for a few days. We came back to pick up AB Hughes, who was still there with his rifle! Our second CO, Commander Maud, took over as Flotilla Leader (F5) in January, 1946. (He was beachmaster at Sword Beach on D Day). He had his own personal motorboat which was usually moored to the boom astern when we were at anchor. One day a storm blew up while we were anchored and the motorboat slid under the stern of the ship. All that was left were bits of timber. Cdr Maud was very unhappy - I don't think that Cardigan Bay was a lucky ship for him. I also recall an incident when we were acting as escort to a carrier. We lowered the ship's whaler whilst under way. The deck crew let the falls go and all the gear was lost overboard. Cdr Maud was not amused and we had to retire from escort duty.
In February, 1946, we went to Alexandria and loaded some metal drums of cement. We made our way to Gavdos (Greek) Island where the Italian troopship 'Gradisca' had run aground. A tugboat which had been helping had also sunk and both crews had gone. Some of our seamen went ashore thinking the island was uninhabited. However, in the centre was a volcanic depression with cultivated terraces and a village of primitive huts. The inhabitants thought our lads were Germans and did not know that the war was over. Eventually we transferred the cement to another tug which had arrived and collected the crew of the tug which had sunk, one of these having been injured. Two of us got permission to row across to the 'Gradisca' and we climbed aboard. Looking over the side we saw it was resting on two huge flat slabs of rock near the shore. No one was aboard so we took 6 wine glasses each as a 'prize'. I have still got one left.
T.T 'Gradisca' stranded - 'Cardigan Bay' (marked x) standing by.
Ken Taylor (Able Seaman)
I remember when we were entering harbour at Alexandria and in the entrance there were lots of boats fishing. The officer of the day blew the siren to warn them and the ship slowed down; no one moved so Commander Maud said "Bugger them. Full ahead" and we steamed straight for them. You have never seen a sight like it - men, boats and fishing gear all tangled up together. As our crew cheered, so the Arabs waved their fists and shouted threats. Luckily we did not go ashore to find out what they would do to us.
Ray Thursfield (Able Seaman)
One thing I recall was the fo'csle PO, Tom Sherratt, devising covers for the upper deck door clips using Oerlikon shell cases. These were filed, lapped and polished in the ERA's workshop. AB Jack Wigmore and myself pushed them on to the clips and surmounted them with turk's heads painted red (port) and green (starboard). They looked really smart and the idea was copied by some sister ships.
When we were in Trieste I saw an alsation dog on the quayside. He was friendly and fond of sailors, so much so I discovered, that he was in the habit of stowing away on any ship which would take him (with the collusion of the crew) as he was assured of getting fed. I saw him again in Malta and Port Said and I heard that he had been seen in Rhodes.
We were involved as a support ship in the Corfu Channel incident in October, 1946. The destroyers 'Volage' and 'Saumarez' were sailing on the first fleet cruise after the war. The Albanians had mined the Corfu Channel and the destroyers ran into the mine field. 'Volage' had her bows blown off and 'Samuarez' was badly damaged amidships. Forty-four young sailors (many conscripts awaiting demob) were killed and over 40 were injured. When we arrived on the scene all of the ship's company were ordered on deck. A skeleton engineering watch was sent below and we were ordered to circle the minefield. Everyone was on edge, but we survived. The 'Volage' towed the 'Saumarez' (both ships stern-first) back to Corfu where the fires were put out and the casualties evacuated. Eventually both ships were made seaworthy and returned to Malta. I attended the funeral in Corfu of the ten men whose bodies were recovered. There was a large contingent from the fleet with 40 men in the firing party. The streets were lined with 'professional mourners'. The whole thing was a very moving experience. Over the years I have visited most of the Med, but I have never wanted to go back to Corfu.
Part of the Ship's Company - Malta 1946
Cdr Maud on left, Lt Hayward (First Lt) on right
Geoffrey Barwell (Able Seaman)
I joined the ship at Malta in March, 1946, as a radar operator. One day the POGI told me that I was to be the Captain's runner, a job I did not really want. However, I was told that the Captain had three Maltese staff and also that he would make a voluntary donation to me as was customary - so I agreed. My duties included scrubbing his white string-covered telescope each morning, polishing the brightwork in his day cabin and sea cabin and looking after his bathroom. On my first day I knocked on Cdr Maud's door, said "Good morning sir" and went to his bathroom. He was engrossed at his desk and did not reply to my greeting - in fact it was almost three weeks before he even spoke to me! He had a full set and he would wring his beard when he was annoyed, particularly at 'Defaulters.' He treated officers and ratings alike and was often quite lenient with his punishment for first offenders (which he emphasised). In my opinion he was a wonderful man and I owe a lot to Cdr Maud's attitude, especially when in later life I became a Magistrate.
By popular request I was often elected mess caterer and had to feed 14 bodies on one shilling and eleven pence farthing per man per day. We had no refrigeration, so after about four days at sea our 'fresh' vegetables had to go overboard and we ate mainly dehydrated potatoes, spam, American soya sausages, 'Chinese wedding cake' (rice with currants), Manchester tart, suet pudding, plum duff and bacon roll. Provided a fanny of pusser's peas was put up to soak every evening, I could usually give each of my messmates ten shillings mess savings to spend ashore at the end of the month - hence my popularity!
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