V Turner, (Topsy) thatís me in the photo, I served in the Firedrake
from January 1937 till January 1939.
In 1937 Firedrake patrolled off Spain when the civil war was on. Once
when we were escorting food ships with the Hood, through the blockade
we were fired upon by the Spanish battle cruiser Almirante Cervera.
We cleared for action and there were some frantic flag waving going
on between the Hood and the Almirante Cervera, the whole convoy stopped
and waited, it was very tense, then the message came through from
the Hood, proceed so we did, we escorted the food ships, the Hamsterley,
Stanbrook and the MacGregor in to Bilbao, I took a cutting from the
Daily Express April 24th 1937 showing the action.
left: The cutting from the Daily Express.
Photo below: The Spanish Battle Cruiser 'Almirante Cervera' who
fired on the Firedrake when escorting food ships through the blockade
with the Firedrake was a very memorable one, we were all very fit
we played lots of sport, because it was peace time we had lots of
competitions between the other ships.
We won the Windsor Baton in Gibraltar a competition with ships of
the 6th flotilla, and numerous other trophies, the Firedrake was a
very happy ship.
When the Firedrake was lost with 168 of her crew in 1942 I was very
sad, I new a lot of the crew, even though I had left the ship 2 years
earlier, there were still a lot of the lads that I had served with
When I was aboard the Firedrake I used to keep track of the places
weíd visited, I wrote it all down on the back of a post card of the
Firedrake, starting January till March 1937 Gibraltar, Palmas, Marseilles
and Barcelona. From April to July, St. Jeandelus, La Pallice, Coast
of Northern Spain, Portsmouth, Portland, Bristol, Torquay and Sandown.
From August to November, Gibraltar, Balearic islands and Oran. In
January 1938, we went to Portland, Gibraltar, Oran, Cartagena and
Chatham we were there till the end of April, then we were off again,
May till June, Portland, Weymouth, Torquay, Penzance, the Clyde, Cape
Wrath, Scapa Flow and Lerwick.
September till November, From Chatham to Rosyth via the West coast
to Invergordon and Scapa Flow, on the card I had written CRISIS this
referred to the troubles in Europe and the threat of War.
above: The post card that Arthur had written all the places visited
when he was with the Firedrake. Pictures below: the crew of Firedrake
and the (F) class on exercise in the Mediterranean.
Simmons, Thatís me or scouse, as I was known on the Firedrake
on the left with my mate Topsy Turner, sorry its not a very good
photo but it isnít exactly brand new, you know.
the Navy in 1934 at Chatham as a regular, after training I was assigned
to HMS Calcutta, a "C" Class cruiser, and went out to the China
Station, Wei-Hai-Wei, after about a year I was transferred to the
Cumberland for a short time, then the Cornwall, and about a year
after that transferred to the Kent.
In 1936 we bought a tiger back to Chatham, we kept it in a large
wooden cage we had built on the upper deck, leading seaman Hollis
was the keeper, but when he went ashore I was left in charge, so
I had to feed and water it.
Hollis was a great bloke, he was leader of the ships mouth organ
band, they once played for Charlie Chaplin and Paulett Goddard on
the Empress of Japan at Singapore.
May 1937 I joined the Firedrake as a torpedoman, I had some very happy
times on her, she had a great crew all good lads, I had two very close
mates Topsy Turner and Ginger Prandy, Ginger he was famous, he was
the Navyís featherweight Boxing Champion for 1937.
He survived the war, and married the daughter of a manager of a cafť
in Portsmouth and settled down.
Topsy I havenít seen him since I left the Firedrake. In 1937 we were
on patrol duties off Spain, when the Spanish civil war was on, Firedrake
had come under fire from the Spanish cruiser Almirante Cervera when
escorting food ships through the blockade in April just before I joined
her. The Firedrake had a very fit crew, we won the Windsor Baton at
Gibraltar a competition we had between ships of the 6th flotilla,
we had football, rowing, swimming, and boxing competitions, we also
played darts and snooker matches, when playing football for the Firedrake
I broke my leg, and was taken to the hospital ship HMS Main.
I was fit again I was assigned to the Shropshire as the Firedrake
had gone back to the Home Fleet station at Scapa Flow the (F) class
destroyers were now the 8th flotilla getting ready for war with
never saw the Firedrake again, I served on the Warspite for a time
before she left for Norway, and then on the Liverpool on Russian
and Malta convoys till we were torpedoed on a convoy to Malta, we
had temporary repairs done at Alexandra, then went back to Rosyth
to have the damage repaired and a refit.
I moved on again, this time to minesweepers and finished my time
on coastal duties.
served in the Far East, North Sea, Atlantic, Mediterranean and the
Norwegian and Barents Seas.
I served on HMS ships: Calcutta, Cumberland, Cornwall, Kent, Firedrake,
Shropshire, Warspite, Liverpool and several minesweepers.
The picture right: Is of the HMS Liverpool with the Bow blown off
in Alexander harbour, waiting to be towed back to the UK for repairs.
I was drafted again this time I found himself serving on a minesweeper.