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The Royal Naval Patrol Service - A Very Special Service Indeed
Henry James McGarry
Henry James McGarry Telegraphist with the Maria Elizabeth, HMT Wastwater and HMT Fuday.
In 1942 Henry was determind to get into the Navy.
From Sea Cadet to Sailor

HMT Fuday   HMT Wastwater
HMT Fuday   HMT Wastwater

I joined the sea cadets in 1942 mainly because all my friends were in it, and because everyone else seemed to be in a uniform of some kind at that time. I found I enjoyed it and when my papers arrived to report for a medical for military service, I was determined to get into the Navy. I passed A1 and produced a letter from my cadet officer recommending I be accepted for the Navy. You had to pass A1 at the medical for the Navy or you didn't get in.

Shortly after my medical I received a travel warrant and was to report to HMS Glendower a base in north Wales, I was there for 3 months of basic seamanship training and finally selection. I decided I wanted to be a DEMS gunner on merchant shipping mainly because one of my mates was one! (oh! to be young) but the powers that be decided that as I could read and write I was ideal for telegraphy, so they put me down for wireless operator training and off I went to the Isle of Man "HMS Valkyrie." The boarding houses we stayed in, in Douglas were quite nice but down the road from us were housed German and Italian internees. You had to feel sorry for these people many had lived in England for many years and had been up rooted from their homes and sent to live on the Isle of man at that time they had no idea for how long this was to be.

Gold Beach Normandy 1944
Heavy German coast artillery shell falls between USS Texas and USS Arkansas - June 1944  

High praise for the British, from the captains of American battleships sent to shell Cherbourg:
From U.S.S. Arkansas, to the little ships that swept the sea of mines and laid the smoke screen ... "Thank you for supporting us excellently and taking all the slugging today. Had we been alone, some of our vessels would have been sunk." From U.S.S. Texas: " You did not flinch. Well done to all."
- From a press cutting ( Courtesy Bob McGary)

German coast artillery shell falls between USS Texas, in the background, and USS Arkansas during the bombardment of Cherbourg, France, 25 June 1944.

After training I was sent down to Chatham for a couple of weeks which was good for me as my Nan lived in Nelson Ave at Minster on the Isle of Sheppy, so I got to visit her before I went to war. My first ship was the Roxano. I arrived in Scotland to pick her up, but when I arrived the skipper asked me who and what I was … so I introduced myself as his new wireless operator. He looked at me a bit bemused "why" he asked, "Would he require a wireless operator when Roxano didn't have a wireless." Need less to say my first ship lasted all of one day and I was soon settling in on the Marie Elizabeth it was now early June of 1944 we set off for Normandy with 5 pioneer corps aboard to man a smoke screen generator, we arrived off Gold beach on the 12th of June and anchored just outside the mulberry harbour and set to work with our smokescreen . I celebrated my 19th birthday there, sat through that terrific storm that did so much damage to both harbours and saw my first casualties of warfare mainly dead American service men floating on the surface. After the storm there seemed to be more, probably dislodged from sunken vessels.

We left Normandy in September and were paid off in Fleetwood. The Marie Elizabeth had an interesting picture on the Bridge it was of Hitlers face on a mine and it had a bullet hole through it, the story goes that a previous skipper got drunk one night and shot it! He also just missed a crew member who was the other side of the wall.

I heard later that the picture ended up in a seaman's club in Fleetwood but I don't know if it did for sure?

Brazil 7 Wastwater 0!
HMT Wastwater football team  

After a bit of leave I picked up the troop ship Andes which took me down to Freetown on the west coast of Africa. There I met my next ship Wastwater who had just returned from Rio the crew were full of stories of their time in South America one being the ship's football match against a group of locals calling themselves simply Brazil.

The final score was about 7-0. Brazil who went on to greater things!

Once in South Africa Wastwaters main task was to protect cable laying ships around the coast and up as far a Mozambique. The Americans would often remark on the ships strange name and mispronounce it Wastewater on purpose I'm sure.

One incident that I remember very clearly was whilst on leave. The crew were swimming off shore when this chap screamed for help some people near to him got him out of the water only to find he had had half his leg bitten off by a shark! I finally left Durban on VJ day And headed for home, we stopped off at Gran Canaria and being an industrious sort, I thought I would by a load of green bananas to sell when I arrived back home and you never know, make a small profit. Some of the other lads bought canaries and even dogs!

Well we set sail for home but the skipper got wind that there were dogs and canaries aboard. The order came down that the dogs and birds would have to go over the side as we wouldn't be allowed to take them ashore back home. There was much debating on how and who was going to do the dispatching. Then as luck would have it, (for the canaries and dogs at least! Not my green bananas!) We were ordered to return to the Canaries to pick up some internees and take them to Gib. Once in Las Palmas the lads who bought the dogs and birds tried to sell them back to the traders, but the traders wanted more money to take them back anyway they didn't get back aboard and another ship had already taken our prisoners. Next stop was Gib but my bananas were a bit ripe by now.

Back home in Pompy

Back home in Pompy (Portsmouth) minus the bananas, I met my last ship HMT Fuday. Our job was sweeping our own mines around the coast. I was acting quarter master and one of my duties was to raise the ensign at dawn. One particular occasion, feeling a bit groggy from an evening ashore, my friend offered to raise it for me. Imagine the skippers rage as he drove down into Portsmouth, there was his ship with the ensign upside down and at half mast!!! Needless to say I got in a bit of trouble over that one, but not as much as another fellow. I think this chap was called O'Brian, one night he came aboard three sheets to the wind and declared that we wouldn't be going back to sea in the morning, With that he got a steel from the galley and smashed the compass. The next day there was hell to pay and O'Brian was soon found out, mainly because he had told everyone what he had done! He was taken off ship and the last we heard he had been given 2 years hard labour.

Anyway, our trip into Belfast was a one off, a local air base had needed spares for some of their planes (mostly Barracudas) and the Fleet Air Arm base near our home port of Campbeltown had some, so we provided the transportation of the same. The crew didn’t mind, it meant that most of them had got a night out in Belfast. It was a chilly morning and at 8am the crew were having breakfast. On deck the Killick (Leading Seaman) was heading for the Seamen’s mess to roust the lads on deck as the ship would be heading out for her home base directly. It was at that moment that an R N lorry  stopped at the gang plank leading aboard. The driver hailed the Leading Hand to say that he had cargo for us to take aboard, he handed over a chit which was taken to the Skippers cabin. The Coxswain ( Chief Petty Officer who more or less ran the ship) went ashore to check the cargo. It turned out to be twenty odd crates of Whiskey and Gin which were to be delivered to our base back in Scotland, we were quite interested until the driver seeing our eagerness to get it aboard told us “there’s two Marines here to go with it”.
Ckick to read   Read the Naval telegraphs that signaled the end of the war with Germany received by Bob McGarry himself.
Although the War was now over, my own War started in 1946 at the age of 21 I developed pleurisy and spent 2 months in Haslar Hospital having fluid drained from my lungs. The doctors said it was due to the conditions I had lived in for so long, it wasn't that uncommon for the mess decks to be under a couple of inches of water and we were always drying out clothing. I was medically discharged from the navy, but things then got worse. I developed TB and spent the best part of a year in Preston Hall trying to recover. It wasn't until 1955 after another year in hospital and many more bouts of ill health, That I had one lung removed, and finally gained good health.

Henry James McGarry 2007