The crew of the San Demetrio re-board their ship

Oil tanker San Demetrio

A shell had entered the port bow just above the waterline, exploded, and splinters had holed our collision bulkhead, resulting in our fore-hold making water, which was settling the vessel by the head. The bridge and all midships accommodation was a mass of twisted steel, the main deck under the structure was buckled with heat from the fire, which had been so intense that the brass and glass of the portholes had melted and fused, resembling icicles. Part of this mess was still burning. The main deck abaft the bridge had a number of splinter holes, and the petrol cargo was flooding from this as the ship rolled. All the after accommodation on the port side had been destroyed, also the decks. This area was still on fire. These fires were attacked with fire extinguishers and buckets to begin with, and with fire hoses when the Chief Engineer raised sufficient steam to operate the pumps. The fires were extinguished in about five hours.




Captain Fegen wins the V.C. on the Jervis Bay

Jervis Bay merchant ship

Captain Fegen, in His Majesty’s Armed Merchant Cruise Jervis Bay, was escorting thirty-eight Merchantmen. Sighting a powerful German man-of-war he at once drew clear of the convoy, made straight for the Enemy, and brought his ship between the Raider and her prey, so that they might scatter and escape. Crippled, in flames, unable to reply, for nearly an hour Jervis Bay held the Germans fire. So she went down: but of the Merchantmen all but four or five were saved.




HMS Revenge bombards Cherbourg

One of the 4.7 inch guns on board HMS JUPITER firing on the night of the 10 - 11 October 1940, when heavy and light forces of the Royal Navy carried out a bombardment of the enemy occupied port of Cherbourg, where a concentration of enemy shipping had been detected.

One hundred and twenty rounds of 15-inch and 800 rounds of 4-7-inch shell were fired and very heavy fires were started. It would appear that the shore defences at first mistook the bombardment for part of the air attack as the only response to shells falling was a marked intensification of anti-aircraft fire, including flaming onions and multi-coloured tracers of all descriptions. After the bombardment had ceased a battery of heavy guns (estimated up to 13-15 inch) to the east of the town opened fire.




Clyde shipyards and HMS Sussex bombed


I was ordered to help the firemen by guiding them around the ship and assisting with the hoses. It was a long, dirty and scary night. The plates were buckling with the intense heat and black slippery oil was everywhere.

Quite a few, including Navy men, were sent to the Western Infirmary with severe burns. It was then noticed that the torpedoes in the tubes were getting very hot and would probably explode with the heat. Although we tried to pull them out it was a hopeless task, and all we could do was to spray them with water to keep them cool!




British fleet sails into the Mediterranean

The aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal with Fairey Swordfish torpedo planes from No. 820 Squadron Fleet Air Arm.

‘Operation Hats’ consisted of the aircraft carriers HMS Ark Royal and HMS Illustrious with the battle cruiser HMS Renown and the battleship HMS Valiant supported by three cruisers and seventeen destroyers. For the first time the fleet was defended by all round radar, based on four ships covering different sectors. Although the fleet was spotted by Italian aircraft, the Italian Navy did not attempt an engagement.




Portsmouth bombed, battleship Bismarck commissioned

The Bismarck starts sea trails following commissioning

In the words of the ancient poets during the wars of liberation: “Only iron can save us. Only blood can set us free.” Today, we are being endowed and entrusted with a new and awe-inspiring weapon made from steel and iron, our new ship. Today, it will be brought to life by our young crew which is empowered to blend iron and blood into a powerful symphony of iron-willed devotion to duty and conviction, and with red-blooded vigor and fighting spirit the highest military goals shall be achieved.




USS Indianapolis torpedoed – 900 men in the water

The U.S. Navy heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis (CA-35) underway in 1939. An Omaha-class light cruiser and several Clemson/Wickes-class "flushdeck" destroyers are visible in the background.

By then we were in very bad shape. The kapok life jacket becomes waterlogged. It’s good for about 48 hours. We sunk lower down in the water and you had to think about keeping your face out of water. I knew we didn’t have very long to go. The men were semicomatose. We were all on the verge of dying when suddenly this plane flew over. I’m here today because someone on that plane had a sore neck. He went to fix the aerial and got a stiff neck and lay down in the blister underneath. While he was rubbing his neck he saw us.




The British fire on the French at Mers el Kebir

The French destroyer Mogador on fire

FOXHOUND’s signal, summarising Admiral Gensoul’s reply (vide paragraph 37 above) and indicating the apparent intention of the French ships to put to sea and fight, was received in HOOD at 1227. Orders were then given to mine the entrance to the port and the Admiralty informed that I was preparing to open fire at 1330. A signal was also made to FOXHOUND asking Captain Holland if, in the light of his discussions, he saw any alternative to opening fire with main armament.




HM Ships Glorious, Acasta and Ardent sunk

world war 2 aircraft carrier at sea - hms glorious

The escorting destroyer [HMS Ardent] on the port side of the battleships continued her torpedo attacks and tried, extremely skilfully, to avoid the effective defensive fire of the battleships’ medium armament by means of constant alterations of course. Finally this destroyer also opened fire on the battleships. She fought with outstanding resolution in a situation that was hopeless for her. The destroyer received numerous hits and finally went down, her bow armament firing to the last and her engines apparently in order and driving her at high speed. The final range was about 5 miles.




US planes sink Yamato – world’s largest battleship

Yamato under attack. A large fire burns aft of her superstructure and she is low in the water from torpedo damage.

The captain is out in the open in the antiaircraft command post overlooking the whole ship. Two ensigns attend him and plot on the maneuver board the torpedoes coming from all directions, indicating them to him with pointers. The navigation officer sits in the captain’s seat on the bridge; acting as one, the two men operate the ship. Coming over the voice tube, the captain’s orders deafen me. His is a terrible and angry voice, biting off the ends of words. Bombs, bullets focus on the bridge.