at HMS Ganges
seaman Dennis G. Andrews who was 20 years old when he was lost with
HMS Firedrake in December 1942.
Earlier that year Dennis was on board HMS Cornwall when it was bombed
and sunk on April 5th 1942, he was rescued after 36 hours in the sea
(see attached telegram reporting him missing and the cable from Dennis
saying he was OK after his rescue).
He was married that same year (see attached photo) and was on leave
when he was called to serve on the Firedrake due to a crew member
He was lost with HMS Firedrake when she was torpedoed and sunk in
above: The telegram reporting Dennis missing with HMS Cornwall.
above: The cable sent by Dennis saying he was OK when HMS Cornwall
above: Dennis and Barbara on their wedding day soon after he had survived
the sinking of the Cornwall.
above: The telegram reporting Dennis missing when the Firedrake was
name is Bert How, I’m the one in the middle of the photo
on the left, Knobby Clark my mate survived the war but passed away
in February 2001 after a long illness, but poor Nazzer he went down
with the Firedrake in 42. Anyway I joined the Navy as an HO (Hostilities
Only) at Royal Author Skegness in April 1940.
And then to Chatham for more training, I joined the Firedrake in the
August as an Asdic rating, she had just come back from the second
battle of Narvik there were shrapnel holes every where, but it wasn’t
long before we were off on operation Hats the reinforcement of naval
personnel to the Eastern Mediterranean with Force H and Admiral Somerville.
We saw action at the battle of Spartivento, the battle with the Italian
fleet, we were at the shelling of Genoa and we did several convoys
to Malta and to the UK, we had some very close calls the Italian and
German dive bombers came in very close.
the Italian submarine Durbo after taking her crew prisoner. We stopped
a couple of merchant ships and searched them for contraband and did
a lot of patrolling.
In the March of 1941 we ran aground off Gibraltar while on patrol
in thick fog, we manage to get the ship off the rocks by using the
anchor and winding the ship back off the rocks using the capstan,
I was one of those who had to work the capstan, there wasn’t much
damage but we had lost our ASDIC dome so that meant we had to go back
to Chatham for repairs, we soon returned to the Med for more convoy
the July we were on operation Substance a convoy to Malta, when
we got badly damaged by an Italian bomb that just missed us, good
job it did, the damage was immense there was a massive hole in our
starboard side and stopped our engines, we had some very tense moments
trying to get the engines running again, we got a tow by the Eridge
for part of the way to Gib, but it was slow going, on the way back
force H passed us on there way back to Gib after delivering the
convoy to Malta, Admiral Somerville had issued an order to all the
ships in the force to cheer the Firedrake as they went passed, which
they all did with all there ships company’s on there decks it was
a great site, when we got to Gibraltar we had temporary repairs
done then made our way to America for major repairs and refit.
docked at Boston Massachusetts. We got a lot of time off while the
repairs were being carried out, the Americans had a scheme running
that enabled the civilians to report at the dock gates and take a
couple of us home or out for the night or a couple of days we used
to call them the Barons, we got to go to shows that we wouldn’t have
been able to afford otherwise.
One of our lads Douglas Farren ended up on the stage singing with
Diana Durban, who was a very big star of stage and screen, he was
a very musical chap and could make a tune out of any thing, he used
to play the spoon’s, he was a very good singer. Sadly Douglas was
lost with Firedrake a year later.
photo above right: was taken in Boston over the Christmas period
1941 at one of the houses of the Barons who used to welcome the
In the December of 1941 the Japs bombed Pearl Harbour which bought
the Americans into the war. We left Boston in January 1942 and went
to Halifax to start work again with B7 escort group, escorting convoys
to and from the UK and America, on our first trip we had one of
the four stacker American destroyers with us which was on lone to
us, the Belmont we weren’t long out of Halifax when there was a
massive explosion we made speed to were the explosion and the Belmont
had been, but there was nothing there, not one survivor I found
out after the war that she had been torpedoed and sunk by U82.
We did several more convoys but in December 1942 I left the ship
to go on a S. D. course at Dunoon while I was on that course the
Firedrake was torpedoed and sunk with heavy loss of life by U211
while escorting convoy ON153 back to America.
many good mates and often think of them today. I then joined HMS
Musketeer and was on Russian convoys, I stayed with that ship till
the end of the war. Bert
How remembers staying with two families in Boston Mr & Mrs Cotton
and Mr & Mrs Smith, after the war Mr & Mrs Cotton came over
to visit Bert at his home in London.
Aldous that's me the handsome one on the left, with two of my
I joined the Navy on 29/4/40 at Royal Arthur shore base Skegness
as an H. O. Hostilities Only, then in June I went to HMS Pembroke
Chatham for more training, that’s where I joined HMS Firedrake in
I was with her for two and a half years, I left in December 1942,
to go on a S. D. course ASDIC training at HMS Osprey at Dunoon in
Scotland. Then I joined HMS Harrier on 1/5/43 till 9/12/44, I did
another S. D. course then joined HMS Calder (Frigate) 10/1/45 till
1/4/45, then I joined M. L. 915 till the end of the war, then returned
to HMS Osprey and was demobed 26/1/46.
I was with the Firedrake I saw action in the Atlantic, North Sea
and Mediterranean where we sunk the Italian Sub "Durbo". We were
at the battle of Spartivento against the Italian fleet , shelled
Genoa, and ran aground off Spain, was badly damaged by Italian bombers
when on operation substance a convoy to Malta which meant we had
to go to America for repairs.
Americans looked after us very well, and used to take us to shows
and wined and dinned us, I was there when the Japanese bombed Pearl
harbour, up till then the Americans would have preferred to have kept
out of the war, but at the same time of the Japanese attack, the Germans
declared war on America so they were in it whether they liked it or
Firedrake was repaired we resumed convoy duties again across the Atlantic
with B7 escort group out of Londonderry to America and Canada, Halifax
St Johns, Newfoundland. I wasn't on Firedrake's last duty, I was on
another S.D. course. So I was drafted to HMS Harrier (Fleet Mine sweeper)
her duties were mine sweeping on Russian Convoys to Murmansk and Archangel
and sweeping invasion troops ashore on D-day after the invasion we
were kept busy clearing mines from around channel ports.
then joined HMS Calder for three months on Atlantic patrols in that
time we contacted and sunk one U-boat, by this time we had got on
top of the U-boat threat and were winning the war in the Atlantic.
Then I joined M.L. 915 and moved into the German port of Coxhaven
and patrolled till the army arrived, I stayed with ML 915 till the
end of the war, being demobed at HMS Osprey 26/1/46.
Cutting on the left: was cut from a Boston News Paper by Bill
when he was in Boston with the Firedrake
having the bomb damage repaired in 1941.
John Lawley photographed on Barking Road, Canning Town, East London,
John was the eldest of eight children, two of his brothers also served
aboard ships in world war two, one in the Navy the other as a marine.
John made friends with the Stanley family in Boston U.S.A. when the
Firedrake was there for repairs in 1941. John was drafted to another
ship in 1942, and survived the war, but sadly died after emigrating
to Australia in the sixties.
Taken in Halifax Nova Scotia, January 1942. Names below from
left to right.
Niger was lost with the Firedrake.
2. Charlie Ireland P.O. Cook from Sherringham Norfolk was also lost.
3. Name unknown a torpedo man I think.
4. Ernie Read was transferred to another ship so survived.
5. Jock D.B.Christison Ldg Steward was also lost. He was head waiter
at St Andrews Golf Club Scotland.
6. Fred Pope was also lost. He'd been Mentioned in Dispatches when
Firedrake sunk the Durbo.