Vincett remembers on the 1st March 1941, we were on patrol
off Gibraltar in thick fog, when suddenly there was a sickening crunch
and the ship stopped dead, just at that moment the fog started to
I couldn't believe it we were aground on rocks very close to the beach,
and on the beach was a very puzzled small boy also arriving on a bicycle
was a Spanish solider waving his handkerchief at us, in a get off
my beach type of manor.
Soon another solider turned up, he looked like an Officer and was
shouting the odds, we had a quick check on board to see who could
speak the lingo, as it happened I could speak a little Spanish and
Wiggy Bennett could speak some French. Photo right Wiggy Bennett.
Bennett had a go first with his French and made some head way, but
then came my turn I got the Spaniards to allow us 8hrs to get the
ship off the rocks, if we weren't off the rocks in that time they
threatened us with internment.
So work started at once on getting the ship off the rocks, using the
kedging anchor, we were lucky because it was low tide so we had a
good chance if we got our finger out.
Meanwhile quite a crowd was gathering on the beach, and some of the
lads were throwing sweets to the kids.
Photo right: Winding the ship off the rocks.
we managed to get the ship off the rocks, there wasn't any damage
to the plates, but we had lost our ASDIC dome and had a very distinctive
wobble which meant we had to go back to Chatham for repairs.
While we were in dry dock the Bismarck sank the Hood, so Force H went
out to get her, all the other F class destroyers were out there as
well, but Firedrake was still in dry dock so we missed that.
Furgusson remembers. I went into the Navy as a boy at 16, before
the war started, and have got lots of memories of my time on the
Firedrake, some too painful to talk about. I served on the Firedrake
till December 1942 then I was sent on a course so wasnít aboard
when she was lost.
Here is some of my memories, Narvik that was a terrible time we
were hit many times by shrapnel from the stuker dive bombers, how
we didnít get a direct hit a donít know, it can only be down to
the skipper, Stephen Norris, we were even being shot at from the
shore by German riflemen, the ship was covered in holes a very bad
time I donít know how we got through that, as soon as the holes
were patch up we were off to the Mediterranean we were very busy
out there too, we were always on convoys or patrols stopping merchant
ships, and having a go at the Italian fleet when we could.
nearly got hit several times by the Italian dive bombers, those
pilots were very brave they kept coming at us even though they had
been hit, I saw many crash into the sea, we were very lucky when
we got damaged by a near miss, if that bomb had have been 20ft closer
I wouldn't be talking to you now, then we went to Boston USA, to
have the damage repaired, it meant we could have a bit of a break.
we were in Boston we had a Leading seaman with us Ben Saunders,
who had been selected for upper yardman training and then to go
to Dartmouth for officer Training, but he met a girl fell in love
and got married, when the ship had had its repairs completed we
left Boston for Halifax, he never turned up and we sailed with out
him, to desert ship in war time is very serious we never saw him
again, that is till sometime after the war Iím not exactly sure
when, I was on guard at the gates at Chatham when he was marched
in and locked in the cells, I asked the guard commander who I had
known for years if I could talk to him, because we had been on the
same ship when he went absent, and I hadnít seen him since we were
in Boston, and wandered what had happened to him.
Guard commander gave permission for me to talk to him, and
this is what he told me, he got married to his girl friend, her
father was a rich business man with some influence who got him a
social security number, but by then America were now in the war
and he got called up, and ended up in the US Navy out in the Pacific,
and survived all there battles, so after the war he decided to give
himself up and face the consequences.
Courts Martial took in to consideration his service in the US Navy,
and gave him a dishonorable discharge so he didn't go to jail, a
very lucky bloke, I never saw him again I suppose he went back to
America a free man. I stayed in the Navy and served on many other
ships, finishing up in south Africa, but will never forget the time
and my friends who I lost on the Firedrake I think of them often.
left: The Firedrake in the Mediterranean.
When in Boston I used to visit the local church, the vicar asked
me if I had a photo of the Firedrake to put in his parish magazine.
So I gave him this one of Firedrake in the Mediterranean, the picture
was published in the magazine saying it was photographed in Icelandic
waters, the next time I saw the vicar I told him that there had
been a mistake, he said no there hadnít, he said he had to say the
photo was taken in Icelandic waters because his readers wouldnít
believe the Mediterranean could be so rough.
on the Firedrake was quite cramped with a complement of nearly 200.
You slept where you could, on the lockers or crouched over the table
anywhere you could get your head down, there wasn't enough hammocks
to go round, so you had to wait your turn to get one, and as far as
personal hygiene, you had a bucket to wash and shave in, there wasn't
any showers on the Firedrake.
Its a good job that every body got on so well, when at sea there was
water running through the mess deck and every thing was damp, clothes
and bedding were constantly wet, it was the same for every one so
we just excepted it and got on with our jobs, I can't remember anyone