RC Lambe - Private 1st Battalion 1st Parachute Regiment Brigade 1942
As mentioned on page 107 of the July/August issue of Motoring@Leisure over 60 years on.
I too was on the Strathallan when she was torpedoes during the Second World War. I was 16 years old when I volunteered for the K.R.R’s having put my age up. After completing my initial training I volunteered for Para’s who trained at Ringway Manchester Airport. After being “toughened up” by the Para’s we were told we had orders to join our unit abroad, obviously we did not know where that was.
We embarked onboard the Strathallan, I was on “D deck”, I remember being sea sick for two whole days. Finally we settled down for what was to be a routine trip.
At about 2am <Date> we were woken by a terrific bang, the ship shuddered and all hell let loose. I recall jumping out of my hammock and searching for my boots and not finding them. I then followed the rest of the lads out of the mess deck, after a while we finally made our way to the upper deck. The ship by now was listing badly; some nurses were trying to get into the lifeboats others were already in the water with life jackets on.
We stayed on deck helping where we could and eventually things quietened down somewhat. We stayed on board because the watertight doors had been closed earlier, however the list was getting worse.
Daylight at last, but that was all we saw. There we were on this ship with a great big hole in her side with an ever increasing list and no friendly ships in sight!! With me not being a swimmer and having a natural aversion to water (that’s another story) I was not looking forward to the thought of having to take my first swimming lesson in the near imminent future. Somebody must have heard me praying for suddenly out of the blue a Destroyer came onto view, it was H.M.S. VERITY.
She pulled up alongside ready to take us over to her decks. Boarding her was though was another matter though. There was by now a bit of a swell so the ships were pitching quite a lot. The VERITY crew put soft padding on the deck for us to land on. We had to time our jumps to coincide with the swell, not a time to close your eyes and hope for the best. Anyway we made it thanks to the VERITY ships company.
May I at this time give my thoughts and prayers to those who died that day.
On returning home after the war I was visiting my brother <name> <date> socially, his friend <name> was also paying him a visit. My brother being ex RAF and his friend being ex RN whilst I was ex ARMY the conversation soon came round to the war. His friend <name> had bought some photo’s with him one of which was a photo of a ship, would you believe, it was the STRATHALLAN sinking. It turns out that he was one of the crew from the VERITY that took me off the stricken STRATHALLAN that day. What a small world.
R.C. LAMBE – February 2005