This newsletter refers to our activity during the two months from our previous Branch meeting (March) to the latest, held on 18th May.
A copy will be posted to all our Branch members and a courtesy copy sent to the Secretary of every active CFVA Branch—with our best wishes. We intend to keep in touch. A copy, together with a copy of other Branch Reports sent to us, will be posted on our Internet websites for the world to see.
Due to the absence on leave of the permanent author, Secretary Eddie Dibley, I was handed the short straw for this issue. (So, the major item of interest will be about me).
I have missed several Branch meetings but eventually the quack decided that my malingering had to stop. So I have now taken over from Vice Chairman Wallis Randall, much to the chagrin of the self-styled Stokers’ Mess—a bunch of mutinous dogs who need, and get, constant rebukes at our meetings. But Bless’em, they keep us all awake.
We are sad to have lost a popular shipmate George Heard, who died recently after a long illness. Although he was not able to attend meetings for several months, we kept in touch by telephone; but nearby shipmate Bill MacAngus was able to visit him during his illness. About 12 members attended George’s funeral and his coffin was draped with our White Ensign. A CFVA sea-lawyer informed us once that Naval veterans could not use the White Ensign for this purpose. But we intend doing so as long as the bereaved wish it. With the agreement of the family, shipmate Ted Else has written an obituary of George and it is already on the BMPT’s web site. It will be copied to our own web sites in June. May I remind you that Ted has performed this service on BMPT for several years and will continue to do so for any Coastal Forces veteran. So, shipmates, start drafting yours.
On a happier note, we enrolled a new member John Ahearne, a shipmate from one of the sunshine ML flotillas in the Med and Adriatic. Says he had “quite a busy time” from Algiers to Italy. John was a long-standing member of SE Essex Branch until its sorry end.
We discussed the provision of a wheelchair to enable disabled shipmates who find it difficult/impossible to walk from the car park and to the ship. One is available, thanks to Peter Bickmore BEM, and now we have to work out the logistics.
Our new Social Secretary Bill Fenton, has started at a cracking pace, to the bewilderment of us all, and is enquiring about a coach trip to the US Air base at Mildenhall, a visit to the Chelsea Pensioners’ Hospital (an eye to the future?) and a trip to Duxford.
I have also passed on the file covering the Grants of Lottery money kindly granted to us a couple of years ago.’Servicemen and we war veterans seem to be getting some sympathetic attention lately (and why not?), so I would recommend other Branches to put up a case.( I would be pleased to give advice)
We have been pleased to receive Reports from three Branches, HMS Midge and HMS Mantis (well done Les), North Midlands Branch, and Wales Branch.
These, with any others arriving will be read out and posted on our Notice Board at our next meeting. They always give us a warm glow, so largely for the sake of our isolated non-branch members who know of our Internet efforts and can get to a library computer, we will post the full detail on our web sites in June.
Our vice Chairman and ex CFVA Librarian Wallis Randall has decided to continue his web site royalnavycoastalforcesveterans.org independently and at his own pace. We will remember that it was Wallis who first proposed to our leaders that a CFVA web site be started. Especially sadly for our shipmates who do not enjoy the companionship of a Branch, Wallis’s proposals were turned down. Even this Branch did not heed his message until 2006.
Wallis had the vision of its value before any of us: he really was the father of the concept of a CFVA web site. His interest has led to our own limited effort, which is already receiving many ‘visits’ and an increasing number of enquiries about Coastal Forces veterans, in which we have been able to help. Meanwhile, Ted with some timely technical help from Kevin Costello, son of shipmate Jack Costello (MLs off the West African Coast) is progressing with our new website www.cfv.org.uk and hopes that it will then replace our temporary site on BMPT.
Our Coastal Forces Heritage Trust is planning to improve its own web site and Director Lt Cdr David Harris has suggested an informal meeting to discuss its progress. In a few more years veterans will ‘proceed to calmer waters’: it is our hope that CFHT, in addition to its many functions, will then be able to take over veterans' matters through its web site.
Our Meeting was then declared closed and, as usual, I led the rush to the bar in the ‘Captain’s Cabin’, leaving the faithful few to do the chores of sweeping up and leaving everything shipshape.
London Branch meets only every two months, and therefore we issue our own Branch Newsletter (and the Internet Newsletter) every two months. We are delighted to receive Reports from other Branches for inclusion in this Internet Newsletter. We (Ted) can record the number of ‘hits’ our Veterans Newsletter receives and the enquiries which are put to us. In our new web site, mentioned above, eventually Ted hopes to publish the number of ‘hits’ it generates and this will grow as we become known.
So, please Branches, give us your news, however short or roughly written, and I will be pleased to edit if/where necessary and, if there’s time, send you a suggested version before publication. I could even take a verbal report by phone if you are too busy to write!
Now, in the previous issue I said that I would be writing one short (half page) write-up of each of our new ‘distant’ members. This time I approached one lad from Lancashire and received Chapter 3, sixty foolscap pages detailing his life in the Andrew. He had written a book of his life (so far!) at the request of, and solely for, his family. I have found it a fascinating autobiography easily readable and charmingly honest and full of action in the Channel. I’m glad I did not serve in his boats. It is seldom that we find readable books about life on the lower deck.The detail in it leads me to suspect that he had kept a diary – an Admiralty crime that I thought was only ‘excusable’ for Commissioned ranks. It is difficult for me to give a half page précis of his account but already I have given you an impression of the bloke. May I now introduce you to Shipmate Ken Forrester, MID from Galgate.
In August 1941 and 20 years old, Ken was presented with a free travelling warrant to Pompey. After the usual enrolment bit in HMS Collingwood and CF training at Fort William he had a brief spell on HDML 1060 (which, some time after Ken left, blew up in Poole Harbour). His first shots in anger were made using a Lewis gun at a Heinkle III. He missed of course. He had a longer spell (14 months) aboard MGB 606 which he joined in June 42 as a gunner on portside twin turret .5’s. It was then that he joined in the war 'for real', he says, operating from Great Yarmouth in the 55th Flotilla, but in August 1943 he left the boat to attend a training course at HMS Ganges (MTB 606 was sunk by enemy fire with very heavy casualties some months later).
Now, as a trained Leading Seaman, Ken went back to the 55th Flotilla but as forward PomPom gunner on MTB 632 and remained aboard for about a year, seeing many fierce actions. The last one (July 44) resulted in the boat being so severely damaged by enemy gunfire that she had to be written off. Most of the crew (including Ken) transferred to MTB 771, where in Feb 45 she too was severely damaged and written off by the massive explosion at Ostend. That basically ended Ken’s Coastal Forces career, and he was drafted to ‘big ships’. Later he was awarded the Admiral of the Fleet’s Commendation for Bravery.
For more details of Ken’s exploits please read the entry on Leading Seaman K. Forrester within the BMPB web site.
Vice Chairman’s Notes
Wallis Randall reports that his contribution will wait until the next issue.