Sunday, January 21, 2007
(Photos of HMS Daffodil afloat in 1945 and as a sunken wreck on the seabed close to Dieppe harbour in Northern France.)
The kids are working on school history project centred around World War 2, so in order to help them get original material I googled up some of the details of my father’s WW2 service. He was in the navy from 1939 till 1945, and saw action on European waters and all over the Mediterranean; he was involved in three shipwrecks.
He died aged fifty five when I was nineteen, while I was in an “out of order” portion of my life. We were not as close as I’d have liked (or as he’d have liked) and he seldom spoke to me about his navy exploits on minesweepers and auxiliary craft during the war years. Looking back now I am starting to appreciate what, for him as a twenty year old, it must have been like to be caught up in a war, which for him was long, unglamorous and unrelenting.
His best friend and over a thousand other men were killed in the sinking of HMS Hood some where up in the cold North Atlantic. I don’t think he ever really got over the loss and like many of his generation remained tight lipped about his feelings. Often, when I’m moaning about some trivial incident in my life, I’m stopped in my tracks by the thought of how he must have been affected by the loss of the Hood and as it turned out, the Daffodil.
HMS Daffodil was a converted Channel ferry; a real rust bucket built in 1917 and used as an allied transport for D Day and beyond. On March 17 1945 at 11pm she struck a mine just north of the harbour wall at Dieppe, she sank the next day at 5am. Nine men from the Daffodil’s small compliment lost their lives. Thankfully my father survived, retaining his own quietly held memories of the incident and what was no doubt a night of horror. He had already survived an earlier sinking in the Channel when a crew member on the “Vindonia”, a trawler converted for mine sweeping. Records are vague but I think that one foggy night in October 1944 she was cut in two by a large American cargo ship. He was also involved in another similar sinking incident earlier in the war but I don’t know any of the details.
The wreck of the Daffodil is now popular with divers as she is apparently relatively easy to find and safe to explore, sitting 20 - 24m deep on the seabed outside of Dieppe harbour. Her sister ship “Train Ferry 2 “ (T.F 2) lies a few kilometres away at Point de Ailly following her destruction from a shore bombardment sometime in June 1940. These ships were built in Fairfield’s Yard in Govan, Glasgow between 1914 and 18.
Yesterday we visited the "Anne Frank + You" exhibition in Kirkcaldy. Ali’s sister (Kate Brown) has been busy behind the scenes of this event, coordinating and organising what is a stimulating and thought provoking look at intolerance and prejudice then and now. The display and tableaux on the death camp at Auschwitz, featuring testimonies and many photographs, is particularly touching and disturbing. The viewing made me remember once again the friends of my father who sacrificed their lives on the Daffodil in WW2 and how they were playing their own small but vital part in securing a future for my generation and beyond.