Hello GailAmazingly - this has motivated dad to reveal a photo diary of his time in the RN! It has pages of carefully catalogued photos - examples of which I have tried to attach but not having much luck. He relates snippets which I try to write down (as above) but I hope I may just be able to sit and chat and record our conversations. Hopefully this may help others trying to do research.
SHIPMATES MEET IN OXFORD
I had never met Bill Last in person before, although we might have passed or seen each other on the jetties, at Malta, Augusta or Maddelena. Bill was Chief Motor Mechanic on MGB 658, and I was an AB. AA3 Gunner on MTB 636.
On the 14th October 1943, three ‘D’ boats left Maddelena for a patrol to the Piombina Straits between the Island of Elba and the Coast of Italy. MTB 633, MTB 636, and MGB 658. Before long MTB 633 had engine trouble and returned to Base. MTB 636 took on the roll of S.O.'s boat, we had already taken on board Lt Cdr. Green Kelly and his entourage, then proceeded on patrol with MGB 658 following.
It was about time to return to base when we first sighted the enemy and now this was the chance to show what the ‘Ds’ could do, so Lt. Fred Warner our Skipper on 636 set course for the enemy with Lt. Cornie Burke following in 658. There were three lighters and a flak ship, but we soon knew they had seen us when all the ‘muck' came flying towards us.
On the run in we lost our port torpedo (it was set off too soon by the port Torpedo Rating) we carried on but missed with the remaining starboard torpedo.
The two ‘D’ boats met up again, and after a little consultation Lt. Burke on 658 thought we could finish the enemy off with our guns, so we duly went back in to engage with guns. Both boats had taken different courses to engage, and it was then that 636 met 658 coming out, and through a misunderstanding of signals or what, 636 was riddled by gunfire all along the port side by 658, putting all our guns out of action and setting us on fire. We lost seven of the crew of 28 that night.
After 44 years and on the night of the 17th November 1987, I met Bill Last in a pub in Oxford. This meeting with Bill and I had been arranged by another shipmate of mine Bernard Cox of Oxford. What an enjoyable reunion we three had, quite a few tots were swallowed, but Bill and I related to each other our own comments and story about that fateful night of long ago.
After that meeting with Bill Last, I was a bit sorry to have missed out on the reunion of the 56th Flotilla which had been held in London early on in the year, but we hope to meet up with each other again sometime.
In recent correspondence with Sir Derrick Holden-Brown, C/O of MTB 655, he quoted an interesting experience when his boat was selected to be fitted with the (very secret at that time) PPI Radar. The radar dome was fitted on a pedestal high above the bridge, replacing the existing hand rotating directional aerial.The photos are interesting, in that in you original enquiry MGB 658 was fitted with what has become known as PPI Radar hence the dome near the bridge, at that time it was a very secret and was fitted to selective boats about AUG 1944. This may be a clue to your latest photo showing no Radar dome in the photo, and I would suggest the photo is of 2 boats including MGB 658 under going a refit may be Malta to have the new Radar installed.
The fitting took place in Brindisi (Italy) on returning from a brief spell in Zadar from the 20th–22nd of December 1944. Soon after fitting we sailed for Malta to join other boats of the flotilla. The dome having been fitted and the set installed, we did not have time to "swing the ship" for compass deviation before we set off for Malta on December 23rd. That taught me a lesson, we ran into bad weather off the heal of Italy. The main compass was many degrees out and all we could do was keep going south westerly in the hope of arriving in the East Coast of Sicily sometime after dawn. We were down to slow ahead on two engines, and realized that I had done something really irresponsible. Come the dawn and soon afterwards we saw the Sicilian Coast ahead, above Augusta, I think the wind eased off, we turned south and reached Malta about mid-day on December 24th. Great rejoicing as we joined MGB 658 and others, but that experience has remained with me and has always been on my conscience. As for MGB 658, I am pretty certain that she had not been fitted with the PPI Radar by Christmas 1944, so it was probably Jan–March before it happened. Incidentally, our Radar Operator Frank Allen was a wizard with the Type 291, but was never happy with the PPI set, which was often defective.
Thanks for that confirmation Admin. My father was a telegraphist on MTB 670 at the time.These photos were in his albumThe three boats and their officers would have been:
MTB 634 (S.O. Lt.Cdr. T. Bligh DSO, DSC)
MTB 651 (Lt. W.E.A. Blount DSC)
MTB 670 (Lt. E. Hewitt, DSC)
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