The trip home from Iceland

In mid August 1940 I was ordered by the Admiralty to return to UK for the minesweeping course.

I and two retired R N Commanders were to take passage on an Iceland Merchant Ship from Reyjkavik to Liverpool Uniform was not I repeat not to be worn by any of us as S.S. Bruarfoss was a "neutral" ship. She would be fully floodlit at night and was often stopped and searched (and mail taken) by German U Boats..

Glad to be homeward bound, forgetting all the dangers that could exist, I turned in the first night out of Iceland hoping for a good nights sleep - no watchkeeping and no responsibility.

I had been asleep about a couple of hours when I heard the telegraph rang to stop engines. Within minutes one of the R.N. Commanders burst into my cabin saying "quick - U Boat alongside get down to stoke hold". Very soon the ships telegraph rant "full ahead" and the ship resumed her course to Liverpool.

The Master told us the next day that we have been VERY lucky indeed. A German U Boat no 99 Commanded by the U Boat Ace Commander Kretschmer, known as the Wolf of the Atlantic, had ordered him to stop whilst a boarding party searched the ship. They had put a boarding party aboard, had taken off all the mail and were about to search his ship, when the she was challenged by an armed merchant cruiser, on the horizon. The "Wolf of the Atlantic" withdrew his boardng party and went off in search of easier prey.

(I have an obituary of Captain Kretschmer of U.99 written in the Daily Telegraph of August 20th 1998)

The great question that cannot be answered is what would have happened had the three R N Officers been discovered aboard - prisoners of war or at worst - shot as spies (not being in uniform).

(Left) HMT Oku Flotilla Leader of the Dover Patrol Minesweepers 1940. Damaged by enemy aircraft in the autumn of 1940.

(painting courtesy of B.L. Moir)

After a minesweeping and aircraft recognition course at Granton, early in October I was drafted to H.M.T. OKU based at Dover and she was the Senior Officers ship employed on keeping the Dover Straits free of mines.

At that time Dover was constantly being either attacked by aircraft or shelled from the big guns of Cape Grisney. There was little or no peace and I began to regret ignoring the saying in the Navy "never volunteer for anything" to which I have previously referred.

However it all ended in November 1940 when, whilst sweeping five miles off Calais, we were attacked by 6 German MESSERCHMIDT planes firing cannons.

The ship was severely damaged but I was the only person WOUNDED. This put me in hospital for several weeks after which I got a shore job at Coastal Forces in Fowey Cornwall until the Autumn 1941 when I was appointed to a seagoing job again as 1st Lieutenant of HMS Tarantella. See Story "HMS TARANTELLA"

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

Also by B.L. Moir HMS Tarantella

Berkeley Moir Lt CDR RNR (Ret)
Nick Clark © 2001