With Merchant Navy Day being celebrated this week and Seafarers being thanked and remembered for their sacrifice I thought it would be appropriate to share this story. Many thanks to Brenda for allowing us to tell her story.
After placing an advert in the Sea Breezes magazine asking if anyone had sailed with my father on either the Stakesby or the Gloucester City, I was delighted to receive two replies.
The first was from George Crawley who lived in Hull. He said that if I came to Hull he would be pleased to meet me. We arranged to meet and he had prepared tea and cakes for my visit, just as his wife would have done he said (his wife was in poor health and was in respite care).
George told me that he and my father had been young officers on the Stakesby right at the beginning of the war in 1939. They were anchored in Newport Wales and had a drink on their off duty time and that my father liked a Guinness.
I had obtained the log book of the Stakesby with my father's name mentioned and had brought a copy with me. George recognised many of the names and he showed me photos of the ships that he had sailed on. He also had a beautiful ship's wheel and anchor in his garden. I expect when I had gone he spent more times with his memories and I was so pleased that the advert in the Sea Breezes had also given another seafarer pleasurable memories.
A few weeks later I received a letter from a Captain Petersen who lived in Cornwall. He had served with my father on the Gloucester City and told me that my father had a fine intellect and given to serve in the best tradition of the Merchant Navy. I was so proud to hear that.
It was Remembrance week when I first visited Ken, as I came to know him. We went to the British Legion for a drink and whilst there a young man heard us talking about the Gloucester City. He said he remembered her because his father used to load her as she was then taking ammunitions to France. We went to the dockside and one of the ships was leaving port so we stood and put our poppies on the water as the ship sailed away, in remembrance of my father's ship.
Ken told me in their off duty time they would go to a small cafe for a meal, he didn't think it would be there now, however we discovered it and although larger it was owned by a young couple. Ken told them the story about their meal there all those years ago and that they used to have a glass of Benedictine after their meal. The young man then produced a bottle of Benedictine and said we should raise our glasses to Mrs Harrison's father who should have been here with us. I thanked him for that lovely thoughtful gesture. I feel rather sad when I think of it.
Ken also took me to Fowey where the ship used to load up and I stood for a while where he (my father) would have as they loaded the ship.
He told me that they often went ashore in Brest and that my father spoke fluent French. Something else I learned about him. Like many thousands who have lost their dads I often wished over the years that I could have known him and been able to talk to him. Being only 6 yrs old when he died I never had that pleasure. However, thanks to the advert in the Sea Breezes
I at least got to meet those who knew my father and had only good words to say about him.