HMS "Pearl" T22 was formerly the "Dervish" of Hull, a 600 ton distant water trawler, coal burner, designed for a crew of 12, but now with over 40 aboard. She was one of those brought into the Navy during the Abyssinian crisis, hence "HMS" instead of "HMT", and "T22" instead of the "FY" Pennant. Now though, like all ex fishing vessels, she was Royal Naval Patrol Service "Harry Tate's Navy" as it was popularly known and based in Plymouth. The "Gem" Class trawlers were fitted out as convoy escorts, not, as in so many cases, for mine sweeping. When I volunteered for the RNPS I'd been expecting to go to a sweeper of course, but wasn't all that keen on the job, so this was a bit of luck. Being a Bristolian, so also was being based in Plymouth,

    4" gun up on the whaleback (most trawlers only had 12 pounders), an Oerlikon on either wing of the bridge (increased to twins later), twin Vickers .5" machine guns down aft above the wardroom, (later, twin Browning machine guns on either side of the well deck forward). Lewis guns on the top bridge, plus PAC rockets. These were small rockets sent up trailing a length of piano wire to deter low flying aircraft, and were fired by pulling lanyards along the deck head of the top bridge ( Lanyards removed after the Officer of the Watch accidentally fired one at exactly the wrong moment. We'd been warned of E Boats ahead, and he was going to signal a change of course by siren that was the other lanyard !) There was also an incredible weapon called a Holman Projector, supposed to hurl hand grenades and flares, which operated off steam from the boiler ! As befitted an anti submarine trawler, she carried Asdic and depth charges, these on rollers right aft, or thrown from projectors on either side of the Galley. Even more exotic, she boasted a radar set (then known by its proper name of RDF). This was of the earliest, most primitive kind, but required three more ratings to man it. It often scared us by picking up "contacts" which were in fact wave tops. With all this additional top hamper, "Pearl" pitched and rolled in away that had to be seen and felt ! to be believed. There were three of us Wireless Operators, and the Wireless Room 12' x 3' just behind the steam steering engine contained a very good Marconi TW12 transmitter/receiver, and a "B" set in reserve. This one operated on plug in coils, almost identical to the ones I had wound on slitted cardboard discs for my father's home made wireless sets when I was 4 ! There were two Mess Decks, stokers and some seamen in the Forward one, 22 more of us in the Main, which had been the fish hold, and aft of this the cupboard which was the PO's Mess Coxswain and Engineer. The cheap sports jerseys Wardroom, with a Lieutenant and Sub Lieutenant, was right aft, while the Skipper a Lieut Commander RNR had his own cabin under the bridge. In the Main Mess Deck there were two tiers of bunks around the sides, held up by chains at each end. They could be lifted up out of the way, and also hitched up at an angle so that the occupant wouldn't be thrown out in rough weather, and below them were wooden lockers for personal kit. In the middle were two more bunks in a steel frame, and several hammocks slung. Once again I was lucky, inheriting a top bunk right aft on the starboard side. There were two long tables, a cupboard and an anthracite stove, while the steep companion ladder had heavy canvas curtains, sandbag weighted, at top and bottom. There were no portholes, only artificial light. The Forward Mess, being triangular, was even more cramped, and also far more lively in rough weather. The Galley, which consisted of a coal range and oven, was right aft on deck. There was no below deck communication, so all meals had to be collected from the galley porthole a large one and carried along the open decks and down the steep ladders into the mess decks. A hazardous performance in heavy weather, particularly for the food, and always a wet one, since a trawler had very low freeboard amidships and there was usually some water swirling over the side decks. In really rough weather, seas swept aboard and put out the galley fire just when hot food and drink were most needed. On the whole we did feed quite well though, in spite of the conditions. Our Liverpool Irish cook, Fred Monaghan, did absolute marvels with his primitive and erratic equipment (for which we forgave him many of his distinctive personal characteristics). He could provide fried eggs on toast, or poached eggs on fried bread, but not the conventional pairings, and baked beans and tinned tomatoes ("cowboys and red lead") figured prominently on the menu, as did excellent soup. The problem was that, frequently, by the time you got back to the mess deck, soaked through, the fried bread had blown off the plate and the soup contained salt water. We also had unlike civilians large quantities of excellent cheese in the mess deck. This was, for some reason, spurned by some of the crew I ate quantities of it ! Up under the whaleback, right forward, were two toilets one for POs and three metal wash basins. These last were used only in harbour. With her very large crew, a trawler was always short of fresh water, so washing was just not possible while at sea. Being a coal burner, and the coal being dumped on deck before being shovelled down into the bunkers, we went out covered in coal dust, which adhered to every surface, due to the permanent coating of sticky salt. You got used to it. At sea, we seldom wore regulation uniforms, the crew sporting a wonderful assortment of coloured and decorated jerseys, made by or 'borrowed' from wives, girl friends and mothers. The seamen, lining up fore and aft as we entered harbour, hastily pulled blue jumpers and square collars over whatever they happened to cheap mlb hats be wearing, and so looked "pusser" from a distance. Of course this meant that our issued uniforms lasted well and the 6d. per day "kit upkeep allowance" could be used for other things. I've still got the "tiddley suit" with gold wire badges which cost me 3 in Aberdeen. (3 weeks' pay !) Sea boots, though, were issued to the ship, not the individual sailor, and "Sparkers" were considered as below deck ratings and therefore not eligible. Perhaps they were so in a big ship, but certainly not in a trawler, and I was forced to acquire a pair of my father's old rubber gardening boots. The Admiralty did, in fact, recognize the problems of life in such ships, and we were paid extra "hard lying money" but only when actually at sea. This was ninepence a day with an Ordinary Telegraphist' s standard pay at only 2/6d per day though, it was a valuable addition. Our crew well, I've got to be a bit careful here, as there's a reunion every year. This is held at Padiham in Lancashire, the town which raised an incredible amount of money in a "Ship Adoption Week" in 1942, and 'adopted' us. Of course, all that sort of thing was soon cheap wholesale jerseysrsey forgotten after the war was over until a reporter on a local newspaper came across a reference to it in the records. He wondered if any of the crew could be brought together, and as a result we found ourselves meeting old shipmates again after 45 years and more, and since then it's been a yearly affair. In general terms then, it was composed mostly of Londoners, Scotsmen, and Geordie Dt5FW6a9x fishermen, with a sprinkling of Liverpool Irish and a number of unlikely characters "hostilities only" ratings, such as myself. We had a University graduate "Bunts", a Scottish Bank Manager seaman, an enormous stoker from the Western Isles who hardly spoke any English, and Dick Scott, the senior "Sparks" was an ex postman. The Skipper was a former Merchant Navy officer from Yorkshire, No.1 had been a clerk, while the Sub Lieutenant was director of a woollen mill. In fact we were the sort of men so perfectly brought to life in Kipling's poem "The Changelings" . There were some real characters, of course, such as the already mentioned cook, Fred, and, in direct contrast, the huge Hebridean stoker, Malcolm, the mildest of men. At depth charge practice he gave the Stokers' team a distinct advantage over the Cooks and Stewards, since he could lift a depth charge onto their thrower single handed, but fortunately he never lifted a hand to anyone else. This then, was HMS "Pearl", my home and my life for the next two years and more and I had made the right decision. http://zg129.wixblog.com/#/Article/How-to-Become-a-Dental-Hygienist-in-New-Jersey/75287

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