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  WWII Royal Navy Career

Of

Alfred Miles

These pages are dedicated to my father Mr. Alfred Miles of whom I am justly proud

  

Newspaper Account of the Sinking

 

 

 

Dad was born in Camberwell London February 1919 and joined the Royal Navy in October 1939 shortly after the outbreak of war. His service number was P/JX168400 and despite having a recommendation to continue service he decided to pursue a civilian career as an electrician, which he had learnt in the navy. On first entering the navy dad went to.

Leading Seaman

 

 

Crest used by kind permission Royal Arthur Assoc

 

HMS Royal Arthur

Was a training establishment in Lincolnshire in fact it was the old Butlins holiday camp at Skegness, temporarily taken over by the navy, from there he went to

HMS Victory

Was the main Royal Naval barracks at Portsmouth,

from victory dad went to his first ship.

 

HMS Patroclus

The picture below is of the Patroclus painted by a sailor during quiet times a few months before her sinking in the North Atlantic It is signed and dated the name is R Hayward the picture is dated 1940.

 

 

The Patroclus originally was a part of the Blue Funnel Line's Fleet and was converted to an armed merchant cruiser. Patroclus was torpedoed and sunk on November 3rd 1940. While rescuing seamen from HMS Laurentic also an armed merchant cruiser which had been torpedoed and was sinking. Both ships were sunk by U-99. The captain of U99 was Otto Kretschmer the top U-boat ace with the highest tonnage to his torpedoes.

 

 

Dad's job at sea was as an armed guard there was twelve armed guards in three groups of four. If while on patrol they found a ship that the captain thought might be carrying contraband, the men of the Armed Guard would board her with an Officer. If it were found to be carrying contraband the Armed Guard would stay aboard her until she reached an English port. At which time the Armed Guard would be sent on leave for about two weeks or until their ship came back This happened twice before dad was sent to board a ship and as luck would have it dad's group had to return to the Patroclus

When in "hazardous waters" the Armed Guard were used as extra lookouts their position was on the rangefinder platform where the Lewis guns were placed. The Patroclus being a coal burning ship they sometimes had to call in other ports including Gibraltar to get refuelled and to take on other supplies..

 

 

 

 Dad on lookout duty on board the Patroclus picture. You may wonder why Alf is not wearing his naval collar that's because they were not obliged to wear them at sea after four o'clock in the afternoon.

 

Arthur Morris & Alfred Miles

  Dad writes, "On the night we were sunk we were watching as we picked up survivors of the Laurentic. When someone shouted "TORPEDO!" we looked up and sure enough we could see coming toward us a line of white foaming water, at that we all ran to the other side of the ship and then there was an enormous bang which rocked the ship. We were all trained in what to do in the event of a mine or torpedo attack, to go to the appropriate station (The boat deck). Which we did and were then addressed by Lieutenant Commander Martin, who was the captains second in command.

He told us what had been happening that other ships had been sunk and that was probably the U-boats last torpedo. Almost as he said it, another torpedo hit us and another enormous bang; a great big sheet of flame flew up. In the light of the sheet of flame you could see debris flying through the air. Not wishing to be hit by any of the flying debris I ran and crouched by the bottom of the funnel.

 

 Things were getting serious then and we were told to go to our "Abandon ship" stations This in my case was the portside after well deck. When we got there the Petty Officer in charge told us to scout round for anything that would float and throw it overboard, hatch covers, wooden fenders, anything that would float. We were fairly close to the after gun position where I knew the guns crew had wooden forms that they used to sit on when they were on watch. I told Arthur I was going there and he came with me.

It was while we were rooting out these wooden forms and stuff that the third torpedo hit us .At that I thought it was time we got back to our "Abandon Ship" positions. We did and there was no one there, I looked over the side and saw them disappearing in a boat, I also saw an empty carley float about to pass by and decided it was time to go. I called to Arthur to tell him I was going and I jumped, I didn't dive because I was wearing an inflatable lifebelt at the time and wasn't sure whether diving would injure my neck.

Having jumped in I then had to reach the "Carley Float", swimming in my uniform, with boots on and wearing a duffle coat was difficult but I managed to haul myself aboard. The carley float soon filled up there was about twelve of us altogether with our combined weight it was partially submerged and we were all sitting on it waist deep in water. Some of the others thought it was a good idea to sing but that didn't last long. We just sat there in the dark.

About 2 o'clock in the morning a destroyer appeared (I knew it was 2 o'clock because I had wristwatch on and I always carried a torch with me.) we all shouted and cheered, we felt a great relief, then it disappeared again, I never felt so down in my life. We sat in the water again for another five hours until the destroyer came back and picked us up. I never saw, or heard of Arthur again since that night on the port side after well deck."

Read Joe Clarke’s Story Also a Survivor

Sadly Arthur Died With these Brave Men

 

HMS Achates

 

After seven hours (all night) sitting in the water up to his chest on a carley float. The destroyer HMS Achates picked up dad. HMS Hesperus and HMS Achates picked up the crew of both stricken ships. A more detailed account of the sinking of these two ships can be found if you follow the link. After the customary 14 days survivors leave dad was then sent to Scapa Flow to join

 

 

HMS Dunluce Castle

Which had seen service in the navy before. In 1914 she served as a troopship and took part in the famous six-ship union-castle convoy, which brought 4000 troops to Europe. In 1915 she was commissioned as a Hospital Ship and saw service in Gallipoli, In1939 she was sold for breaking up but acquired by the Admiralty for use as an accommodation ship for small vessels. She first served in the River Humber and then at Scapa Flow.

 

Dunluce Castle 1904

 

This was the main mail-sorting depot for the fleet and also a submarine depot ship. Occasionally submarines would tie up alongside. Then for the few days that they were visiting the sub's crew would use the mess set aside for them, to give them a break from the cramped conditions of their own "ship". It was while on Dunluce Castle that Dad requested to do the course for Seaman Torpedo man. This was granted and on 7th November 1941 dad went to join.

 

 

 HMS St Vincent

Was at Gosport the other side of Portsmouth harbour and started life as a boy's training establishment but was converted in July 1940 to the torpedo school training men. Dad completed the course and was rated seaman torpedo man.

In 1946 the school reverted to training boys and is now a well-respected college.

 

 

 

HMS Vernon

At Brighton was called Vernon (R) the R denoting that it was Roedean the well-known Girls school. Vernon R consisted of the main building of Roedean school, The building of St Dunstans a little further along the coast and the basement garages of the Grand Hotel at Brighton as extra lecture/instruction rooms.

Yes my dad went to Roedean

 

Dad returned to victory to await posting to a ship, it was while waiting that dad requested to do the course for leading seaman this was granted so dad then did the course and achieved Leading Seaman

 

 

HMS Forester

Was the next ship to have the pleasure of dad's company but I'm not sure how pleased he was to be on the ship in weather as seen in the picture below. I know that I would be very sick and more than a little green around the gills.

 

 

The caption under the picture above reads.

"What wind and water can do to a ship of 1,375 tons: A roll of 48 degrees experienced by HMS Forester during bad weather at sea. Her ships company thought she was going to turn turtle, as she was over the halfway mark, but she recovered-and went on to complete her 200,000 miles of steaming since the beginning of the war." The picture above and those below are copied from a news magazine called "Sphere" printed in March 1943.

 

 

The caption for the picture opposite reads.

"Two pictures from the northern convoy where it is winter all year round. The scene on the deck of a British Cruiser where the ice forms feet thick and where the "chipping parties" have to work continuously to keep the guns free."

 

 

Full summary of Forester's war service

In 1946 HMS Forester was handed over to the British Iron and Steel Corporation for scrapping.

Battle Honours awarded to the Forester are:

 

Lowestoft 1665

Guadeloupe 1810

Dogger Bank 1915

Spartivento 1940

Normandy 1944

Sole Bay 1672

China 1856-60

Atlantic 1939-44

Malta Convoys1941

English Channel 1944

Martinique 1809

Heligoland 1914

Narvik 1940

Arctic 1942-43

 

HMS Vernon

Again to do a course for Leading Torpedo Operator after completing the course he qualified as L.T.O and for some reason known only to the military mind was sent to.

 

HMS Blenheim supplying warships

 

HMS Blenheim

Originally called Achilles this ship was built for the Ocean S.S. Co and made her maiden voyage June 1920. In December 1926 she was used to transport 1000 troops and horses to Shanghai during the China Affair. In August 1940 she was sold to the Admiralty, As the Royal Navy already had HMS Achilles she was renamed

 

HMS Blenheim and became a destroyer depot ship that was used to supply other ships in the waters of the North Atlantic and based in Iceland. This ship was also sent to the Mediterranean in October 1943 to Alexandria in Egypt and so suffered from the cold and the heat. I have been informed that due to the efforts of a radar operator called Les Tricker the Blenheim was the only ship in the Royal Navy to have film shows that were shown using two projectors so the films could be shown without the interruption of changing reels. While serving with Blenheim dad was qualified for Petty Officer and was sent back to Vernon.

After war service HMS Blenheim was broken up in 1948.

 

 

 

Radar Operator Les Tricker

 

 

In July 1944 Dad took the course at Roedean to become Torpedo Gunners Mate when he qualified the rank was also known as Torpedo Instructor After which he was sent to

HMS Royal Albert

Based in Berlin and working on bomb/mine disposal .It seems that he travelled a little between Berlin and Lubeck as his records show Royal Albert/ Royal Caroline, and with the help of our friendly museum at Chatham HMS Royal Caroline was at Lubeck

 

Then dad came home and was discharged from the navy with a Good Service Stripe, War Service Medal, Victory Medal the Atlantic Star and more recently dad was awarded the Arctic Star.

Due to contacts made through this web page it seems as though dad should have been awarded the Russian Medal for his time spent on the Russian Convoys.In November 2009 Dad was featured on The One Show on BBC1 and shortly afterwards Due to the efforts of myself Dad received The Arctic Star for serving time north of The Arctic Circle.

He has applied to the M.O.D

On November 28th 2002 Dad left Buntingford for the day to receive along with several other veterans the Russian Medal from the Russian Ambassador Grigory Karasin at the Russian Embassy in London

Dad on the London Eye May 2000 Sad to say my father passed away on Saturday 16th January 2010 Aged 90 Just six weeks before his 91st Birthday.

 

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Any shipmates would like to contact me please do

 

The Links in case you missed them

Royal Arthur____Patroclus____Otto Kretschmer

 

  Joe’s Story____Arthur Died____St Vincent

 

 

Dunluce Castle____The War Graves Commision____ MLLP_

Connemara Community Radio___Achill Island

 

Friends of the Royal Navy

Net Ring Hosted by Barry Miles

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