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Leading Seaman K. Forrester. P\JX 295085

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johnk View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote johnk Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 January 2007 at 3:55pm

Hi there,

 

Just read the latest extract from Mr Forrester's book, what an experience and as he says, he was very lucky to survive. Thanks again to him and for allowing us to read them, and to Pioneer for getting them on the net.

John

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote S R Wilson Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 January 2007 at 11:00am

Good morning All,

Thanks to Mr Forrester for sharing his experience with us. The Gods must have been with him that day. What a fantastic man.

SRW
"Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy" WSC.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Pioneer Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 January 2007 at 3:58pm

The devastation caused by the explosion at Ostend was singularly the gravest disaster to befall Coastal Forces during WW2 - 64 Servicemen and 5 civilians lost their lives with as many seriously injured. 5 ‘Short’ boats of the Canadian 29th Flotilla were destroyed – the Flotilla then being ‘paid off’. 3 other ‘Short’ boats and 4 ‘Dog’ boats plus 2 other craft were also totally destroyed.

Ken’s MTB 771 was to return to the UK for repairs (eventually to end up as a Sea Cadet base for the Southend Sea Cadet Corps in 1946) while Ken returned to Portsmouth Barracks.

 

“The loss of life would have been much greater had it not been for those sightseers at Brugge.  My post war friend Ken Owen (ex Sub Lt) was unaware of the disaster until about two miles out of Ostend, they saw a torpedo at an angle of 30° sticking out of a house window…’

…MTB 771 eventually arrived at Brixham, South Devon, where most of the crew were sent on leave while the powers that be decided what to do with the damage. The skeleton crew who were not on leave, lived in lodgings but came down daily to work on the boat. 

V.E. day came and everyone went wild with thankfulness and excitement.  I was unlucky, I was seconded to Brixham Police Station to work with the police trying to keep order amidst all the hilarity and drink.  The only drink I got was tea. 

Soon after I was on long leave, which kept getting extended by telegram.

 The war in Europe behind us, the war in Japan in the Far East, was still causing grave concern, not least with those at sea.  The kamikaze pilots were playing havoc with our ships, on land fierce battles were being fought but gradually making inroads recapturing lots of territories that initially had been overrun.

There was a small nucleus of MTB’s, MGB’s, ML’s and HDML’s left in the Japanese war zone, these were used for mopping up the small bands of fighters who remained holed up in the many creeks and rivers sometimes long after the cease-fire had come into force.

So it was back to barracks for me, this being the Royal Navy Barracks at Portsmouth, where I was soon to become a Corporal of the Guard, in charge of posting sentries and the duties that went with it.

It was late July when my name appeared on the draft list.  I had to have my kit ready after breakfast next day.  Taken on a truck to Portsmouth town railway station with a rail warrant to Stranraer in Scotland, it was on this train I met my cousin Clifford, he was in the army and going on leave.  Thence by ferry to Larne, Northern Ireland then by rail to Belfast, where in Harland and Wolfs shipyard the American built escort carrier “Trouncer” was being given a last going over before sea trials off the Giants Causeway.

“…It took quite a while to get into a big ship routine, I was in charge of number one mess, a large table on the left as you entered the mess deck.  Usually food arrived to the table in large mess tins and containers and the Leading Seaman was responsible for each getting their fair share, likewise afterwards the washing up and storing of utensils and generally keeping everything clean and tidy.  But this ship was different, we did not have plates.  For the main meal followed by sweet, each rating had to look after himself by going to a bar and picking up a stainless steel tray with numerous shapes stamped out in it, where you queued up and moved along the bar, whereby a number of chef’s were side by side and as you moved your tray along depending what meal it was, each chef put a spoonful of whatever in one of the impressions in your tray e.g. at dinnertime you would have soup in one, potatoes and gravy in another, veg in another and your pudding in yet another.  At breakfast it would be porridge, bacon, egg, fried bread, bread, marmalade all on the one tray.  The trays were machine washed as was your mug that had held your tea. 

My quarters were situated right forward in the bow (front) of the vessel, there were twelve of us, you got all the movement of the ship and for good measure in rough seas the anchor locker was just beneath us and the anchor chain weighing many tons “crashed” up and down, it took sometime to get used to. 

I was to be captain of the Bofors gun, just abaft the Island (Bridge and Control rooms).  When at action stations, I was also the Cox’swain of the portside pinnace and duty cox’swain of the starboard sea boat (a whaler) propelled by five oarsmen.

HMS Trouncer was in the command of Captain Rotherham, a tall, distinguished looking man.  In addition to the many Bofors – her armaments also included Oerlikon guns and two five inch short barrelled naval guns that we mounted on two blisters each side of the stern of the ship (when these guns fired, the “crack” was ear splitting, my ears have never been subjected to a sound anything like that).  I can’t remember how many aircraft we carried, I know we had one sea otter, a flying boat with a pusher engine (unusual) for rescue.  We carried Grumman “Hell Cats” as fighter planes and “Vengeance” bombers, these were all kept in a hangar below the flight deck and were brought up on special lifts.  The “Hell Cats” – Vengeance and five inch guns were all American.

“… We sailed for the Far East sometime in August very soon after VJ day which was a relief in itself.  We sailed through the Bay of Biscay calling in at Gibraltar where I got into my first trouble.  I had been detailed to take some documents to the shore establishment, it was my first duty with the Pinnace, on entering the harbour I saw some RAF rescue launches moored nearby, I drew up alongside one of these and delivered my documents to the correct place.   On my return to “Trouncer” I was called before the Officer of the Watch and asked how long had I been in the habit of mooring alongside RAF boats when entering a Royal Navy base.  I got away with a “Chalking off” but learned the lesson.  Next port of call was Malta “the George Cross” island, it [really] was badly battered with the bombing raids. After a short stay our next port of call was Port Said, however just before we arrived a distress call was received.  We changed course and off Haifa we came across a large ship on fire from stem to stern, it was called “Empire Patrol”, it was carrying Greek refugees, mainly elderly and a large percentage female.  There were many hundreds of them, we were the only ship in the vicinity, when we arrived everyone was trapped either in a small space at the bow or stern of the ship the rest was blazing red hot. I was detailed to take my motor boat and rescue as many people as possible I made many trips loaded with survivors back to Trouncer, which was stood off around two hundred yards away.  We had other of our small boats helping too, and it got hotter and the screams got louder, my boat was getting overloaded and the sea was quite bumpy.  I was engaged under the stern where the old people had to be lowered by ropes, probably thirty feet, some could not grip, I had one old lady let go half way down to my boat, she crashed down completely smashing my boats canopy, breaking her leg and arm in the bargain.  As the fires got worse, everyone was jumping in the water and we were doing our utmost to fish them out before they drowned.  Some were clinging for dear life on pieces of wreckage.  It was awful.  It was now getting dark and finding these poor people amongst the waves was bad enough in daylight, but darkness was by following pleas for help, it was the twenty ninth of September 1945 when this happened. 

We stayed in the area until next day when we were joined by other vessels.  We rescued many hundreds in fact the aircraft hangar was absolutely crowded with survivors, many injured and burned.  Then came the sad part, burying the dead at sea the sailmaker Able Seamen Pink had the unenviable task of placing the dead bodies in weighted canvas bags and sewing them up, he told me the last stitch was through the nose.  The reasoning being if they jumped as the sailmakers needle passed through, they weren’t dead.  I will leave you to decide if he was telling the truth.  Once all the bags were laid out at the stern, the burial service was carried out with their own Priest or whatever religion it was, but there was lots of bowing and wailing as each body was put on a board which was raised at one end and the poor deceased person slid into their final resting place at the bottom of the sea.  All other survivors were landed at Port Said…”

We crossed the Equator on our journey to South Africa. 

I proudly possess a certificate for the crossing ceremony duly signed on the reverse with the names and addresses of around fifty of my fellow sailors who hail from all over the British Isles.  The proclamation reads:-

“Whereas by our Royal condescension we decree that our trusty and well-beloved – Robert K Forrester - has this day entered our domain and been rightly and duly initiated with all form and ceremony as our subject.  We therefore declare to all whom it may concern that it is our Royal will and pleasure to confer on him the freedom of the seas and to exempt him from further homage and should he fall overboard all sharks, dolphins, whales, mermaids and other dwellers of the deep are to abstain from maltreating his person.  And we further direct all sailors, soldiers, airmen and marines who have not crossed our Royal Domains to treat him with the respect due to one of us.  Given under our hand at our court on board HMS Trouncer on the Equator and in longitude 75° - 09E on this 19th day of October 1945.

J J Gower

Scribe to his Imperial Majesty

O V Toamsend

Neptunus Augustus

Oceanus Rex

(in short “ducked” in sea water in the middle of the Indian Ocean)     

 

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Pioneer Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 January 2007 at 4:00pm

MTB 606 Gt Yarmouth 1942. Ken Forrester can be seen - middle row second from left (immediatly in line with Port Hole).  



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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Pioneer Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 January 2007 at 4:10pm

A very 'fuzzy' image of MTB 771 taken just before the incident at Ostend



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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote dgray Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 January 2007 at 4:12pm
Hello Pioneer,

There is a story from a Leading Seaman Herbert Bunting  in the BBC Peoples war. He was also on H.M.S. Trouncer  and was in the water helping to rescue people from the “Empire Patrol”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar/stories/84/a7765284.shtml

Perhaps Mr Forrester and he could get in touch...

Regards
Don


Only a number, not even a name. How shall posterity hear of thy fame?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Pioneer Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 January 2007 at 4:26pm

Thank you Don

I shall certainly let Ken know when I next 'ring him -

Best Regards

Ted 

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Pioneer Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 January 2007 at 5:02pm

Another 'fuzzy' image of MTB 771 with Ken Forrester identified as being seen alongside the Semi Auto 6 Pdr



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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote dgray Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 January 2007 at 5:19pm
A web search said that 33 people died from the “Empire Patrol” and 450 were saved.  A remarkable feat in itself.

There is a nice article
on the career of her Captain, Geoffrey Alexander Rotherham. It's at: http://www.navalandmilitarymuseum.org/resource_pages/chars/r otherham.html

It is written by his wife and well worth reading.  He published an autobiography, "It's Really Quite Safe" (1985).

Don


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Chris Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 March 2007 at 11:33am

Fascinated to come across this site. My father Stan Coppin served on both 632 and 771 as Leading telegraphist and was awarded the DSM in 1945 . He never spoke a great deal about his experiences and spent some time in hospital  at the end of the war . He died in 1987.

As a family we have been keen to find out , if possible , more about this traumatic period and what the medal was actually awarded for and it has been quite moving to read Ken Forrester's memories. We have a shield showing the names of the 632 crew under Lt.Ford with Ken the Leading Seaman.

We are therefore wondering if it would be at all possible for us to be put in touch with Mr Forrester privately to help us with our enquiries as the official records seem very poor.

 

Chris
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