Amica at Swan Lake
Foreign Service – British Merchant Navy – Served 9 years
Schooled until the age of 16, Harry attended Radio College in North Wales, and became a licensed radio officer. He then joined the Marconi Company and became part of the Civilian Service of the Merchant Navy. As Harry gained experience, he would move to larger ships as a Radio Officer.
He spent 9 years at sea from 1937 to February 1946. His duties included 8 hour “watch” periods of all radio communications, moving between frequencies on many different ships.
In June 1940, he was on a ship called Woodbury that was traveling on its own. The ship was torpedoed at 1:00 AM by a German submarine.
When Harry heard the boom, he knew they had been hit and it was his job was to throw the secret code books overboard in weighted bags. Then he began to make distress calls until the mast came down on to the ship. He woke up the Captain and he along with the Captain and 17 shipmates boarded the life boats. Forty-five minutes later, a submarine came up right beside them in the water. The U-boat captain, a German Naval Officer, actually assisted them by providing the course and distance to reach land. Clearly this German Naval Officer, could have made different decisions instead of providing safe direction.
It took them four days to reach landfall which was Southwest Ireland. They arrived at nightfall, and waited till morning to make landfall, as they were not sure of their exact location. Because of the tensions between Southern Ireland and England, they were not warmly welcomed. However, Harry and his shipmates were happy to be safely on land.
“Seventy-five years ago,” says Harry, “and still a very vivid memory.”