Information about Welfreighter, Bob Quinn's recollections

(See the letter mentioning Welfreighter "Training bases for midget subs in WW2")

This continues here.

Dear Mac Gregory,

You asked for anybody connected with the Welfreighter to contact you.  My name is Bob. Quinn.  cnf. Photographs in A.W.M. P03810.001 and P03810.002, P00908.006 and P00908.005.  The captions on the photos will serve as an introduction.  I am eighty years of age and registered Blind.   I was a Leading Wireman in the R.N. and my number was pmx635648.  My number in SRD  was AKN144.

I am not very skilled on the Computer and rather slow.  If you want to hear my story and would be happy to take it in drifts and drabs please let me know.

Yours sincerely,
Bob. Quinn.

(Find these pictures on the
index of the Australian War Memorial website.Enter the picture numbers (P03810.001 and P03810.002, P00908.006 and P00908.005) as the search term.  You'll need to logon.)


I am delighted to hear from you, and sincere thanks for you taking time and the trouble to get in touch.

Your story would be welcome, and I appreciate it may take time to recount, but I am patient when a great story is about to come my way, and with your approval, we will put it up on AHOY, so that a wider audience may also read it.

Again, thank you, and I await the first instalment just when you are able to share it.

I am just in front of you age wise , I was 82 last February, but fortunately do not carry your burden of being registered Blind.

Does your RN Official Number, mean you enlisted at Portsmouth? I have lived at Pompey, when serving with the RN, and undertaking courses as an RAN Executive Officer.

Best wishes,
Mac. Gregory

Dear Mac Gregory,
Many thanks for your kind reply.  Yes , I am a Pompey man and my blood still marks H.M.S. Victory`s Parade Ground when I was called up in May 1943. From the Victory I went  to the Torpedo School at H.M.S.Vernon.   Pompey was dismal place then and the only place where we could get a bite to eat off duty was a place dear to the Matelot called Maggie Weston`s.  I believe that at some time a Destroyer was named after her.
My story is interesting but please don`t expect great stories of derring-do.  The Welfreighter was a wonderful craft and I have grown to love her and all connected with her but she was too late for active duty in the War.
I am legally Registered Blind ( i.e. permanently and substantially handicapped) but not cliniclly completely sightless.  I suffer from Hemianopia.   I have had a wondeful and full happy life.  I am a retired Local Government Officer here in North East Scotland for the last twenty years.  I am sending you a photo of yours truly in my beloved 16foot  open boat theStella Maris.  I don`twant you to think of me as a poor old blind sod.  Must stop for Breakfast.

Kind Regards and Best Wishes.
Bob. ( Photo following)

Bob Quinn

Bob Quinn

Dear Mac Gregory,

When I retired From Local Government in 1984 I bought a 14 ft open boat and lobster creels. I caught lobsters ,crabs, cod and mackeral. I kept the freezer full.

I started to try to put together what I remembered about  S.R.D. service and the Welfreighter.   Because of the tremendous secrecy surrounding the Welfreighter I realised that I knew very little.   I wrote to the Australian Army in 1984. A Major Fogarty replied that all files and documents re. S.R.D. had been destroyed at the end of the war.  I found out later on the Internet that this was done on the orders of General Blamey.  Major Fogarty was most helpful.  He sent me my S.R.D. number and confirmed that I had been on the strength of S.R.D........to be continued.  Please edit where necessary.


Dear Mac Gregory,

Checking the A.W.M. site I noticed that the "Quarter Deck" was well represented in photographs, but no mention of the "Lower Deck".

I wrote to AWM. and asked if they were interested. They  most definitely were interested and I sent them my photographs.  A few months ago The AWM contacted me and asked my permission for an American to contact me re. the Welfreighter.He is a retired Analyst with the American Government. He intends to write an article on the Welfreighter on behalf of a relative of the founder of the firm which had built the Welfreighter.He wanted to know everything I could tell him about the Welfreighter.I have told him my story and he has been most helpful and kept me up to date with his research. He is an astute and clever man and very good company, albeit on e-mail.

I completed my torpedo course at HMS Vernon at Portsmouth towards the end 1943 I returned to HMS Victory and waited for a draft to a ship. A request for wiremen volunteers for dangerous and hazardous duty in the Pacific was posted on our Messdeck notice board. I volunteered and was sent to the Frythe (Research Station IX of the SOE,) The Frythe was a country hotel requistioned by the Government. I was interviewed by the CO. and a civilian. The CO was Colonel J.Dolphin of the REME. I had no idea who the civilian was. I was asked about my background and why I had voluteered. The importance of secrecy was stressed. I was told that the unit was called The Inter Services Research Bureau. I was given three sketches of Wiring Diagrams e.g. Ringmain and boat and automobile wiring and asked to identify them.I was accepted and had to sign the Official Secrets Act..........


The National Archives documents that Bob refers to are:

HS1/233. General and Personnel. Welfreighters, Welmans, SB's, and Country Craft, deployment of SOA at January 45. 1943-1945.

HS8/802. History of Welfreighter: Comments by Naval Section. 1944 January 01 1944 December 31.

HS8/803. Welfreighter trials: Development, trialsand operational role 1944. January01 1944 December 31.

To order a copy of any of these documents, please go to our Web Site at: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk?recordcopying/estimateoptions.aspx
Read instructions, conditions, fill in EstimateOrder Form.
Copying Department aim to complete your estimate in 10 working days of receipt of payment.


`I signed the Official Secrets Act and was introduced to the extraordinary life of the Frythe.   Quite recently while surfing the net.  I came across the website of a retired computer boffin.  Thus he described himself. He described his life at the Frythe while working there in the 60s and 70s.  He gives a detailed history of the Frythe which is quite wonderful and is obviously written with great affection.

Jeffrey has one heading `Wartime Secrecy` which serves as a good introduction to the work carried out ar Research Station Nine of S.O.E.  (Click  on History of the Frythe.)  It is interesting to note that in his his list of references at the end he cites` Welfreighter, building and operational use...ADM1/26903 in the Public Record Office.  He also cites Special  Operations Excutive papers in the Public Record Office.  Jeffrey mentions the immense water tank built where the terraces used to be.   Among other things that huge tank was used by divers using Davis Escape Apparatus to adjust and to practice fixing dummy limpet mines to appropriate hard objects.  I had to do one of those dives.  I had another personal  experience of the tank which fifty odd years later still gives me the odd shudder.

I was one of a squad to take turns at going down alone in the Welfreighter.  We were down four hours at a time keeping a wary eye on instruments and within reach of a telephone attached to our Chief at the surface.  Captain Taylor R.E.M.E. was our Boss and Sublieutenant Williams R.N.V.R was the Chief Engineer.  Both men can be seen on the Mark One Welfreighter in the A.W.M. photos to which I have referred early on in this story.

The Frythe of 1944 was an intense place but a good and happy place in which to work.  The ground was heavy with intense young graduates in spectacles, harris tweed sports jackets with leather patches at the elbows and grey flannel trousers.   Everyone was at ease with rhemselves and one another.  Nobody pulled rank.  Amazing things were done with what appeared to be casual ease and good humour.  Whether officer or rating, if you could not fit in , then you quitely disappeared back to your regiment or General Service.

One glorious summer evening a group of officers and squaddies and ratings raced around the buildings, huts and gardens on Welbikes.  The Welbike was a minature motor bike perfected at the Frythe.  I believe that the genius behind the Welbike was a chap by the name of Harry Fletcher.  I may be wrong with the name.  After the war I remember hearing something about Harry Fletcher going into partnership with Colonel Dolphin to prorduce the Corgi.  Years after the War, I remember sitting with a friend at the cinema when a news item flashed up on Pathe News. It was about Colonel Dolphin forming a company to produce a small family car. 
So the imagination and genius which was manifested at the Frythe during the War was still evident in the years after the War in peacetime.  And so may it continueI.  .....to be continued.

Before going on I think I should spend more time on some of the wonders produced at the Frythe. I can do no better than referring you back to Jeff Wragg and his section on War activity at the Frythe. 

1)  The Time Pencil - a small delayed ignition device that could set off a detonator. Jeffrey says that the delay was caused by a solution of copper Chloride corroding a thin metal wire.12 million of these were produced at the Frythe.

2) The Welbike. A collapsible 48cc. motor cycle with a top speed of 30 mph.  According to Jeff`s research it could be dropped together with it`s Paratroop rider.  Some 4000 were manufactured  in Birmingham by the Excelsior Motor Cycle Company. Some were used in the Arnheim campaign and the Normandy landings. Most were exported to the U.S.A. after the War. Apparently the Corgi Scooter was developed from the Welbike.  I have already mentioned Col.Dolphin, Harry Fletcher (?) and the Corgi.

3) The Welman, a 20 foot submersible with a range of 33 miles.

4) The Welfreighter. Jeff describes it as a small submersible freighter that could carry a ton of supplies to Agents.  With regard to specifics about the building and operational role of the Welfreighter please cfr. the Public Record Office Documents which will be posted soon on Ahoy. More in a moment about the Welfreighter and the wonderful firm which built it at Letchworth. 

5) The Welgun. A compact lightweight  submachine gun.  It was intended for use by airborne troops but never replaced the Stengun.

6)  Macuna - an itching powder derived from the beans of the plant Macuna Pruriens. It was known to be used to infect the uniforms of the enemy in Denmark.

6)  Limpet mines.These were used on such operations as the `Cockleshell Heroes` raid on Bordeaux in 1945.............to be continued

Before moving on from The Frythe to Garden Island, W.Australia I should mention that Captain Taylor and Sub-Lieutenant Williams put the Welfreighter through a test at the Staines Resevoir. From Staines we moved to Fishguard for more Tests and sea trials. The Fishguard Railway Station was closed and taken over by I.S.R.B. In peacetime Fishguard was a very popular jumping off place for holiday makers going on holiday to Ireland. It was closed to civilian traffic for the duration of the War.

We had private digs in the town. Apparently, with regard to amount and quality of the food and accommodation some landladies were more intent on making a quick buck at the expense of the mates lodged therein. I personally had no complaints and never went hungry as far as I can recall.

Colonel Dolphin and his staff were at the first Fishguard sea trials. Here I must give great praise to the firm which built the Welfreighters. Shevoke and Drury of Letchworth.They had no experience of building marine craft. In fact they built municipal utilty vehicles, milk delivery floats and so on. Some genius in Whitehall thought of S&D in Letchworth, and probably mentiond the idea to Mr. Churchhill over a very good dinner and a late night whisky or two. Who would ever think that a firm which built milk-floats could build a complete minature submarine! Well, it turned out to be an inspired and brilliant idea and the loyal and patriotic Mangement and Staff built a craft that was years ahead of its time. I think that they should have been feted with some public recognition at the end of the War.

I happened by chance on a Web Site run by Brian Carpenter. There is a history of S&D, and a wonderful collection of photographs, old and new utility vehicles. Studying and pondering over these wonderful  photographs of strong, reliable and tough workhorses I began to see the birth of an idea, and that idea matured into the Welfreighter.  By no stretch of the imagination could the Welfreighter be said to be a thing of beauty. But it is, or I should say was,strong, tough and exceedingly well built. I for one have grown to be very fond of her.For the promise alone that she brought to  us in 1944 we should be grateful. There was a promise of great things but the promise was not fulfilled because time was not on our side.        ......to be continued.

We were sent to Garden Island, W. Australia. The secrecy was so great that we knew only our Welfreighter and we knew nothing about any other freighters or working parties.  About six months ago the American Peter, whom I mentioned early on in my story was asked by Tom Colville if I had known his father.  Tom described the physical appearance etc.of his father. I pondered deep and long but I most regretfully could not remember his Father. I received a most charming E mail from Tom this morning asking if he could visit to share notes and information.  
Our party and the Welfreighter was sent to W. Australia by different routes. All to do with secrecy I suppose. I was sent on the RMS Rimutaka attached to the party of the newly appointed Governor General of Australia, the Duke of Gloucester. I was given a letter to take to Colonel Mott, 260 Domain Rd,South Yarra, Melbourne. We set sail for Aussieland through the Suez Canal. On Christmas 1944 I went to Mass in a beautiful little church in Valetta, Malta. It  was quite a scary journey! According to the Duchess of Glouscester in her Memoirs the Captain of the Rimutaka informed her to be prepared for any emergency because he thought that a U-Boat had been tailing us. It would have been a great coup for the Enemy if they sank the Rimutaka with the Royal Party   ......to be continued

Eventually we arrived at Sydney. We broke up and went our different ways. I spent a week or so at shore based H.M.A.S. Balmoral. A beautiful part of Sydney. There was a tough Aussie Chief PettyOfficer whom I remember with great delight. He had spent some time at the R.N. Legendary Gunnery School of Whale Island. His favourite expression which was invaribably on his lips was, you "Would`nt get away with that on Whale Islan". I chortle still! Major Michal , a member of the Duke`s party arranged for all of us who had been temporarily attached to the Royal Party, to have seven days leave. He shook us all by the hand and thanked us for our service. In all his contact with us he was always extremely courteous and kind. I should have mentioned that he had lost an arm in action......

..... Some years after the War I read in the Observer that the one-armed Major whose surname was Hawkins, had fought off two thugs who had attempted to mug him near his home in Chelsea.  A hearty`well-done `to the good and noble Major.  I spent my leave wandering the City and visited the Blue Mountains.  I read about Sir John Forrest and his trek across Australia in the previous century. What a wonderful man and what a beautiful and glorious country.

     I must stop now Mac Gregory for a breather, but I must finish this story before Friday, as my wife and I are off to Torquay, Devon for a two week holiday....all the best, Bob.

I just wanted to say thank you for all the effort you are putting in to your story for us.  
My web master Terry in Atlanta is just as pleased as I am , we both wait for the next pieces to come in from you.

I was pleased to have you mention receiving a charming E-Mail from Tom Colville. I had a note from him indicating that he would love to suggest that he visit you, but was worried about putting too much pressure upon you etc. I took it on myself to suggest that in my view you were very proud of your service with the Welfreighter project, and quite rightly so. I urged Tom to at least contact you with his suggestion that he visit, and you would make up your mind about it.
Forgive me please Bob, if I have interfered. I did add the surname of Hawkins to your piece talking about the one armed Major. I can recall his service with the Duke at Government House Canberra.  
By chance, I spent almost three years there over 1950/1953, as the Aide-de- Camp to his Excellency, Sir William McKell, Governor General.
Best wishes. 

Dear Mac. Gregory,

What a wonderful small world it is! I did not get the impression from the Duchess that she was enamoured with Canberra! I found her memoirs rather sad! Never mind. No sweat about Tom. I cannot manage to see him until afterour holiday. Delighted that you and your Webmaster are pleased. Great stuff !

All the Best.

Transferred to H.M.S. Golden Hind the new base re, the arrival of the Pacific Fleet as the War in Europe was drawing to a close. H.M.S. Golden Hind was a tented barracks on the site of Warren Park Racehorse. It was there that I saw my first `Whirly-Whirly` a sort of minature tornado of dust. A British Centre was opened either on the Domain or Kings Park. I think that it was Kings Park. Remember that I was still trying to get to Colonel Mott in Melbourne. I persisted and got my Travel Warrant to Melbourne. I arrived in Melbourne, jumped on a tram and presented my letter for Colonel Mott in Domain Rd. I was made welcome and given travel warrants to take me across the Continent to Garden Island, W. Australia. Each State had a different size of railway gauge and we had to change.......

change at each state line. What a great exciting journey but I have no time to go into detail now. Perhaps D.V. I may return at a later date. I spent a night at Fremantle Naval Base and then taken by R.A.N. cutter from Rockingham to Garden Island. See appropriate photograph on A.W.M. Gallery of Photographs. When I think of that extraordinary journey belonging to another age and now this morning I have just sat down at my desk and my message will reach you in seconds. Not a tram in sight! Great stuff.

Arrived a tGarden Island. Sorry that I am vague on dates. So sorry that I had to hand in my Australian Army Pay Book at the end of the War. Every detail of my life in Australia and Morotai is in that book. I have been advised that I can trace it in Army Records and check the date stamps etc. More about that later. ................

... It was good to be reunited with my Mates. I had been a long time on my own and had come halfway round the world, about 12,000 miles. At first, Garden Island was a little strange. The soil was sandy. Urinal funnels were stuck into the ground at various points around the camp. On my first night I was extremely tired . In the middle of the night I had to stumble half-asleep to a funnel. As I was doing my business a giant elephant jumped right beside me and added about a hundred years on to my life. I made a mess of the job in hand! It was no elephant but a bonny wee wallaby. The Island was full of them as the neighbouring island of Rottnest was full of tiny rodents of a kind ........

Would this St Pauls Shipwreck Church at Valetta happen to be the one where you attended Mass on your way to Australia?

St Pauls Shipwreck Church

If so, we will put this photo up on AHOY alongside your piece talking about here in Malta.

Dear Mac Gregory,



Yes, I believe it was. After Mass I visited the Chapel of Bones. Glad all is going well.




An aerial view of Perth

An aerial view of Perth, showing the position of Fremantle, Garden Island and Rottnest Island, Western Australia.
This is the area where Bob worked with his Welfreighter project in WW2.

Bob mentions rodents on Rottnest Island ( I will find this reference and E-Mail again where it appears in his text ) he was talking about small animals called Quokkas which roam the island, and a photo of a Quokka is attached.



Rottnest was named by the Dutch explorer who found it, Willem de Vlamingh, he called the island "Rotte-nest" meaning Rats nest, as he had mistaken the Quokkas for rats.



Dear Mac Gregory,

What a wonderful Aerial view of Perth. I have happy memories of Scarborough.! Carry on the good work.!




full of life.... Then we were flown to Morotai, an island in the Halmahera group in what is now Borneo but was in the Dutch East Indies in 1945. There was great uncertainty about what was happening in the War. We could not see a quick end to the War in the Pacific. The Japanese were certainly on the decline after Midway. The writing was on the wall for them. We thought that they would never give in or surrender and that we would have to drive them them out of thousands of islands one by one and that could cost thousands of allied lifes. Then the Atomic Bomb was dropped. When news of the Japanese surrender came through we went crazy with delight and thanked the Good God. I have just read on Ahoy the letter from Truman and his long deliberations with Churchhill about whether to use the Bomb or not to use it.

..or not to use it. The Theologians call it the Principle of One Cause and Two Effects. That is, there is one cause ( the dropping of the Bomb) and one evil effect (the killing of thousands in the targeted cities) and the Good effect i.e.the end of the War and the saving of thousands and thousands of allied lives. Certain conditions must be met. There is a perfect example of the principle in that magnificent british film.`The Cruel Sea` There is a U-Boat lurking beneath the Corvette, The CompassRose`. A ship in the Convoy has been hit and there are survivors floating in the water all around the `Compass Rose`. The Skipper has to decide whether to drop his depth charge ( killing all the men floating in the water) but if he sinks the U-Boat then he wll save the whole convoy. In the Movie, Jack Hawkins drops the Depth charges.

The Japanese Cruiser was the Takeo.
Here is the photo of Ian Fraser with his VC.

Ian Fraser with his Victoria Cross

I am asking Terry by his copy here to use this page where you talk about this attack, and the dropping of the Atomic bombs. At that time in 1945, I was a Lieutenant RAN in HMAS Shropshire, we were expecting that our next operation would be in support of the US landings on the homeland of Japan. No one could have been more thankful for President Truman's decision to unleash the Atomic Bombs and bring the Pacific war to a close than me. We had not lost a man to enemy action in Shropshire, had been in everything all the way to Japan, survived Leyte Gulf, the Battle of Suriago Straits, the invasion at Lingayen, bombarding Corrigidor, all the Kamikaze attacks, and entering into Manila Bay unscathed. Our sister ship HMAS Australia always within 600 yards of us had collected 6 Kamikazes with great loss of crew members.
I thought Truman's decision both a courageous and timely one, it saved us from possible losses, as it also saved many thousands of young US lives. I will forever be thankful for that, just leave the morality of it all well aside for me!!
Goodnight to you Bob, we love what you are telling both of us, as I am sure our wider audience would agree.


Dear Mac Gregory,


Good night and God Bless. I agree with all you say about the dropping of the bomb.You certainly know what you are talking about.The tale of your ships is like a line-map of the Pacific. I take my hat off to you and your shipmates living and dead.

I joined .S.R.B. for adventure and action. Adventure I did get but no action. Life can be funny! As a young teenager I saw more than enough action when I was caught in both the London and Clydebank Blitz. Such is ..life!.... Bob.

The dropping of the Atomic Bomb saved many allied lives. Some weeks ago Lieutenant Ian Fraser R.N.V.R. was being interviwed on T.V. In 1945 he and his co-driver Leading Stoker McGuiness drove their X Craft beneath and alongside a Japanese heavy cruiser Takeo, and crippled her. They were both awarded the Victoria Cross. When they returned to their mothership the H.M.S. Bonaventure they were ordered to return and finish the job and sink her. In the interview Lieutenant Fraser mused that the chance of success on the second attenpt was very small. He mentioned in passing how the Japanese beheaded the men of the Rimeau Operation on their capture and it was not a very happy situation. They were all prepared to go and the Atomic Bomb was dropped and all was well. ( Incidentally it was interesting to note that the reason Lt. Fraser picked McGuiness was that he was an electrician.) In the modern Submarine electricity is essential.

Dear Mac Gregory,

My wonderful wife Cynthia has discouraged me from trying to finish this story before we go on holiday on Saturday. I am under orders to go at a steady pace and carry on when we return. Anyway, fresh thoughts and ideas keep springing up which I wish to pass on to you and your readers. Lying in bed last night I  made a quick flash back of all that I told you so far, and looked for anything that I may have missed out.

Cynthia and I returned to Portsmouth a few years ago, to visit the `Mary Rose` which has just been recovered from the bottom of the Solent. It was fascinating and most interesting to see the ship and all the artefacts ( arrows, bows, spears, money and there was even a Crown and Anchor Board. )  Not much really changes, especially in the Andrew! We also visited the Naval Museum which was tremendously interesting. We  made the mandatory visit to Nelson`s Victory and the first iron-clad, H.M.S. Warrior. We both love and enjoy the living signs of our island history.

All the Best,

Bob is given some orders.
A Crown and Anchor Board is an illegal board game, used for gambling amongst sailors.
The Andrew, slang for the Royal Navy, the term stems from a very zealous Press Gang Officer, Andrew Miller, of whom it was said, he pressed so many men into the Navy, it was practically his own property.


... So there we were on Morotai when it all ended. All the ` high head yins' both Allies and Japanese gathered together to sign the Instrument of Surrender. We were all invited to the ceremony and presented afterwards with a copy of the Instrument of Surrender.  After our holiday I will get my Angel of the Computer, to send you a copy if you like.  I don`t trust my own skill or lack of it in sending photos.

The Instrument of Surrender

The Instrument of Surrender

At the signing ceremony thousands of Aussie and Allied vererans S.R.D. men included, stood waiting in the tropical heat ( as you well know Morotai was on the Equator) for the official party to leave their post prandial gins and sign the b.....! paper. We had been promised that the great Joe Louis, Heavy Weight Boxing Champion of the World would give sparring exhibitons.  After waiting about for hours Joe and his heavy gang of minders appeared to wave vaguely in our direction and then disappeared in their jeeps.  I hope that you can imagine some of the pertinent Aussie benedictions aimed at the unfortunate Joe and the idiot who had arranged this thoughtless farce.............

..farce.   I have just returned from my daily walk to the Harbour. A wonderful time for quiet reflection.  I mentioned to you early on this morning about thousands of young  men being killed before their time.  Such a one was my Uncle killed on the Western Front, France four weeks before the Armistice in 1918. Uncle Charles was in the first battalion Irish Guards. Through the excellent War Graves Commision ( they have the names of all Allied men in War Graves In France on line) I traced him to Douchy-Les-Ayettes  near Arras. The first time that my wife  and I visited his Grave in this beautifully cared for Cemetery we found it to be  most memorable but very emotional. A young man of twenty cut down before he knew what life was all about. When I wrote to the Irish Guards at Wellington Barracks in the late 70s, to find out what this young man had been like, they were most helpful. The main picture I got was that of a trustworthy, reliable young man who loved life and was an excellent football player, who supported Glasgow Celtic Football (Soccer) Team. Charlie was caught in a mortar attack and was buried alive!

Private Charles Quinn of the Irish Guards killed in Action 1st. Sept. 1918

Private Charles Quinn of the Irish Guards killed in Action 1st. Sept. 1918.
I believe that my father took this Photo of his youngest brother when he was on Guard Duty at Buckingham Palace in 1916 or 1917.
If Charles had survived he had intended to join my father in the City of Glasgow Police.

...buried alive.Four old men (each man was well over 100) sat in wheel chairs) at a ceremony at the Cenotaph, Whitehall, London last week in honour of  their late comrades of W.W. 1.It was to be the last ceremony of its kind.

I hate War and its terrible stupidity and the killing of innocent life. But I do respect and honour patriotism, love of one`s country, service to that country in time of need.  I think that this present War is a complete and utter disaster especially to the women and wee bairns of Iraq. However, enough of that for the moment!

After Peace had been declared 15th. August,1945, we had a great deal of time on our hands waiting for everything to wind down. I spent as much time as I could as a helping hand on a Broome ( i.e. from Broome, W.Australia) Pearl Lugger, owned and skippered by a one-armed wonderful Aussie in his sixties and perhaps even older.  I should point out...

Broome is way up on the northern segment of the Western Australian coast, Broome was the centre of diving for pearl shell, and the pearling industry. The pearl industry now is all performed synthetically, with an irritant inserted into the shell at Pearl Farms to produce a pearl. The pearl shell was in great demand for the manufacture of pearl buttons for clothing, until the advent of plastics, which effectively killed off the pearl shell business. Denise and I have twice been to Broome, it had the most wonderful stretch of pristine beach I have ever seen, just miles of gorgeous sand. In the evening all the visitors will gather on the cliffs at Broome to witness the amazing sunsets, as the sun finally sinks into the Indian Ocean, there is nothing but miles and miles of ocean here, all the way to the west until one hits East Africa.


Last two Pearl Luggers in Broome Western Australia.

Last two Pearl Luggers in Broome Western Australia

Captain Gregory's Lugger Fleet at Broome in bygone days. ( no relation to me )

Captain Gregory's Lugger Fleet at Broome in bygone days. ( no relation to me )


When I use the term ` Aussie` ( use it quite a lot in this story and it is one of affection.) I love the Australia I knew all those years ago, ` Anzac Day` `R.S.L` and the `mateship` and the lot. But I recognise that today Australia is a modern vibrant powerful country more than holding its own within the brotherhood of nations. Having said , that I can sit back and enjoy such masterpieces of the young Australia as depicted in Peter Weir`s `Gallipoli`. In the 50s. H.V.Morton my favourite` Writer` Travel in his `In Search of Australia` described Melbourne as a ` staid comfortable broad-bosomed old lady. I revisited Australia in the 60s and what a change within twenty odd years! A great country.

To continue with the Aussie onearmed skipper from Broome. He had a Malay crew of two. They worshipped him. Before the War his men dived for Pearls off Broome. He was a well known and respected character through the whole of W.A. I cannot recall his name. After the War I read in the papers that he had been made Commodore of the Perth Yacht Club.

...Yacht Club. I spent a lot of time fishing and reading. I read History and Biographies. I also helped out on as many S.R.D. boats as I was able. I made two or three trips on the Krait. These trips were unofficial. I did not have anything to do with the wonderful work described by D.C. Horton in hs `Ring of Fire`... Published 1983. It describes Australian Guerrila Operation Against The Japanese in World War Two, beautifully written and a pure gem. I am beginng to get crosseyed and making more mistakes. I must take a breather. My trips were purely unofficial recreational trips with mates on days when time hung heavily.

At Garden Island, near Perth, a memorial commemorates the dead of the men of the Services Reconnaissance Department, better known as Z Special Unit, a secret commando group. One of this group's operations was the daring and successful attack on shipping in Japanese-occupied Singapore Harbour in 1943 -- code named Operation Jaywick. The 14 men involved, posing as Japanese or Malayan sailors, managed to elude the ensuing search, and sail their little ship, the Krait, back to Australia without loss.

Z Special Unit Memorial, Garden Island, WA

Picture of the Krait, used to raid Singapore Harbour and sink Japanese Naval ships

Picture of the Krait, used to raid Singapore Harbour and sink Japanese Naval ships
Read the
Ahoy article on Operation Jawick

I forgot to mention that while we waited hours for the Surrender ceremony the usual two-up schools broke out everywhere. A lot of money changed hands!

Good Night.

Two Up is an Australian Game using two pennies, they are placed on a flat piece of timber, tossed high in the air. Bets are made whether they land either odds or even, ie two one head, one tails or two heads or two tails. It is not legal. but on Anzac Days when all ex Servicemen march through our cities and towns, the police tolerate TWO UP games. An old Austrailan servicemen's tradition.


Dear Mac Gregory,

Good Morning and thanks for everything. I did not know why we called the R.N. the`Andrew`.! Great stuff! Did you get the Photos re. H.M.S. Speaker which I sent last night? Today will be my last `writing` day until we return in two weeks time. I have been to Broome twice and I fully agree with you about the Beach and ths sunset. For the last fifty odd years I have been building a beloved formidable library. Although I am not a Tory I added to my Library last year the "Memoirs of Alistair McAlpine" (ex. Tory Chairman) mainly because of his passion and love for Broome. I believe that he is a partner in a Pearl farm there! I first visited Broome in 1945 when we flew up from Perth and broke our journey somewhere in that direction. You mention the Kimberleys in your Diary! Also in my Library is "Kings of Grass Castles" by Mary Durack. Wonderful reading about tough days in W.A.....

H.M.S. Speaker

H.M.S. Speaker. 1945 Hong Kong. Red X Hospital Ship in background
When we returned to General Service from S.R.D.
We did four trips to Hong-Kong bringing back to Australia ex. P.O.W.s who had been held captive by the Japs.
You can see a Red Cross hospital Ship in the background. Our Hanger was packed with beds.
After the 4th. we sailed this Lease-Lend back to the Yanks at Norfolk Island. Virginia


Planes dumped from Spaeker

Planes dumped from H.M.S. Speaker


H.M.S. Speaker

H.M.S. Speaker

The sea and the love of the sea is the link in this odysessy. It is not the story of the Welfreighter i.e. its construction etc. but I am certain that Peter, my American friend will do a magnificent job in his forthcoming article on the famous craft and show us just what made it tick!

From Morotai I was flown back to Sydney and H.M.S. Speaker. She was a Lease-Lend Carrier. Please see my photographs. We made four trips to Hong-Kong to bring back Australian P.O.Ws. Then we sailed to Norfolk Island,Virginia. U.S.A. and returned the ship. I was demobbed 1946 and worked as an electrician until 1949.The U.K. Government had a similar deal to the G.I. Bill for the Americans and Australia to enable returning servicemen to undertake full time Higher Education leading to qualification. I was accepted in 1949 and began another wonderful adventure. I qualified in Mental Health and Generic Social Work. I worked as a Probation Officer and Social Worker and entered Local Government. I open my old tool box from time to time and do all my own repairs ... It saves a lot of money.! I still have to tell my tale of travel across Australia.........

Dear Mac Greg,

I believe that the luxurious Transcontinental trains of today are simply wonderful. When we crossed the Nullabor during our seven day trip from Sydney to Perth we stopped at some one-horse town or shack and lifted down a 1914-18 vintage type cooking boiler. The Cooks lit a fire under it and cooked our meal. At every State line we had to change trains because each State had a different gauge. I believe that it is all one gauge now. We played Poker right across Australia. Black deuces were Wild cards. The make-do card table consisted of a ground sheet or coat being slung across knees. Oh, happy times!

Bob asked how he might find his Pay book records. By chance I had been to the Australian Archives yesterday to look up the Canberra Board of Inquiry that I had to attend on my return after being sunk. I picked up a brochure laying out how he should go about getting his details and scanned it for him.


23 August, 2004

Dear Mac Gregory,

First of all, thank you kindly for the scanned Form re my Paybook with the all important dates enclosed therein. Cynthia and I have just returned from our tour of Brixham and Plymouth. We had a wonderful and most interesting break. Naval week is coming up soon and the Port was packed with Warships from all over.

Cynthia and I are going down to London on 31st. inst. for few days to visit old neighbours and to ferret around the Public Record Office, Kew re. the Welfreighter. On our return I will send you all relevant information.....to be cont.


....information. Please let me know if I talk too much and off the subject in hand. I will not be offended! Cynthia says that once I start talking I never stop! So, I won`t be offended if you give the order to `Pipe Down`. I don`t want to over-stay my Welcome on your most interesting and valued site.

Incidentally, I was fascinated to read in your Travel Diary about your travels to St.Petersburg and beyond on the Samarkand trail and beyond! My Daughter Fiona returned last year from Mongolia where she had spent two years working for V.S.O. trying to establish a pedagogical nursing base. In her E Mail diary to us she raves about many of the

places you mention............


Welcome back, we have missed you. Do not worry about talking too much, go for your life whenever you are so inclined. I think that the digressions that take us down different pathways always add to the main subject in hand, I add something, and away we go in a new direction. So don't stop!!

The trip by bus and train over 33 days across China/Asia was some experience, and in hindsight, Denise and I often recall some small item, and have a reminisence about that journey.

Best regards,

Dear Mac. Gregory,

Thank you for the kind words! How nice! Great stuff! In spirit I agree about ignoring old age but I`m not so sure about the body.! From Aberdeen to Plymouth we did 1400 miles by coach and yesterday I was walking around like Charles Laughton as Quasimodo in the Hunchback of Notre Dame!

With every kind wish,

.....Fiona`s account of her `Back-Pack` journey on the Trans Siberian Transcontinental Railway reminded me in part of the `Nullabor` all those years ago. I get vicarious satisfaction from her description of places that I will probably never see now. Fiona says that we are too old for the Gobi. But you never know! We shall see!

With every kind wish,

Dear Mac. Gregory,

Thought this letter I wrote in 1982 may be of interest.  The Gordon Highlanders is the great family Regiment of the North East of Scotland.  There is great pride in the Regiment! The Letter is in two parts.

Kind Regards,





Tuesday, September 07, 2004 15:49

Dear Mac Gregory,

Good Morning to all on this bright, bonny day! By all means pass on all to Terry. He is a treasure!

Please tell me what you think about the following idea. When I retired twenty years ago a chance inquiry about St. Ninian in the Michell Library started our Hebridean travels in the footsteps ( with back pack and stick) of the great Celtic saints i.e.Columba, Aidan and their wonderful companions. It has taken many years but it has been a wonderful voyage of discovery. They were wonderful sailors and the sea is always there. But I`m not sure if such tales would be right for `Ahoy` and your readers? The starting place is usually Iona or Lindisfarne! Please let me know what you think. Thanks for the Perth E Mail.

With every kind wish,


Your travels in the steps of the Great Celtic Saints sound quite wonderful.

If we have exhausted the Welfreighter story, ( Terry there are some more detalis that Bob shared with me that you have yet to ctach up with, they will be on their way shortly ) then we should roll over to your Hebridean Travels ( stick and all )

Press on whenever you are ready Bob.

I totally agree on your comments about our mutual Treasure in Terry of Atlanta Georgia!!

My best wishes,

This continues here.

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