After conducting some research for Grosvenor ‘Grove’ Dove’s Arctic Star presentation1, I came across an old website, and a blog that Grove had written a number of years ago. As an active member of Huntingdon & District Branch, it was an honour to be asked by the Deputy Lord Lieutenant to read a citation describing Grove’s days in the Royal Navy, and of course, his part in the Arctic Convoys — that were finally recognised in 2012 with the award of the Arctic Star.
Grove’s story is one that many who have served can relate to; I felt that his was also one that should be shared with our shipmates, and guests, visiting this site. So, with some minor editing (by permission), is Grove’s recollections of his naval life entitled:
HMS Queen: Navy Days of Grosvenor Dove…As remembered some sixty years on
We can go back to the very beginning of 1943 when, whilst in the Sea Cadets, I got interested in the Morse Code class held once a week at Southend on sea, Essex. I had been introduced to the Sea Cadets by one Charlie (Curly) Gray. Having got my speed up to the requirement necessary, and reaching the age of 17 years & 5 months, I (along with other ‘Bounty Boys’) was sent to Worcester for a month’s training to increase speed — which, in turn, would enable me to join the Royal Navy.
So, at Royal Arthur on 16th April, I began my Life in the RN.
My first sea time was on the Queen Elizabeth, on a short voyage from Southampton to New York, and where I got my first “10 days number 11’s” (I had dozed off while Guarding the Confidential Books down in E Deck and came-to with the officer of the watch standing above me); it resulted in me spending time each day with a rifle over my head while running up and down on top deck. On reaching New York, we were taken to ‘Asbury’ Newark, New Jersey, and installed in one of two hotels for naval personnel in transit (this was about an hour’s run by train from New York). This was where I completed my 10 Days number 11’s by running around the Quadrangle again with a rifle over my head. And guess what? During the three months we were at Asbury, I got another 10 days (for the same offence) so had to repeat the same consequences – I’m glad to say, they were the last throughout my time in the navy.
After about three months stay in New Jersey, I was given a week’s leave and travelled up to New York to spend it there, and on my first night, I enjoyed a visit to The Radio City Music Hall to see Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra playing Rhapsody in Blue.
The next day my leave was cut short and I had to return to Asbury to be taken to Miami for 2 weeks to learn about the American Transmitter and receiving equipment, which would be installed in the Ruler Class Escort Carrier, HMS Queen, the ship I was to join.
As I remember, it was a very pleasant two weeks. HMS Queen was at Seattle, Washington, and that meant a 5 Day journey by Pullman train across America from New York to Washington, and so, by early 1944, I had my own bunk in the communications mess — aboard the ship in which I was to spend the next year and nine months.
After HMS Queen was made shipshape and ready for sea, we had our trials in the English Bay, Vancouver Island. A good start for the ‘Queen’ because we scraped some rocks and returned to Dry Dock for repairs. Once fully shipshape again, we commenced our maiden voyage to the Panama, and for a young lad of eighteen from Southend, entry to a new world of names previously only seen in the cinema, such as The Doghouse Bar 10th & Bottle Alley Colon, in the Republic of Panama and where I sampled the delights of the brews from the local hop dispensary.
The next few months also took me to Casablanca, Freetown, and Gibraltar picking up and taking supplies — before finally taking up position around Loch Ewe where the convoys to Russia were formed.
Being an Aircraft Carrier, as you would expect, our main cargo was aircraft and they were secured all over the Flight Deck and Hanger Deck.
Before the Russian Convoy run, there was an operation off the Norwegian coast where our Aircraft were involved in the bombing of the Submarine Pens — with some success, however, some aircraft were hit with Flak (but returned safely).
So you could say my time onboard HMS Queen was eventful, even down to my part in the singing group which formed onboard and where our singing was received in a friendly vein. This also included the people ashore when we visited to perform our well-rehearsed renditions — I used to sing the melody.
How surprising that you can condense a year and nine months to a few brief sentences!
After departing HMS Queen, I was sent back to Chatham Barracks for a short time before picking up a draft to HMS Tourmaline, a Danlayer in the 42nd Mine-sweeping Flotilla. This was in February 1946 (I had left the ‘Queen’ just two weeks before).
There were only two W.T. ratings on board and one petty officer, I am sorry to say that I cannot remember one name — well it was nearly 6o years ago!
My time on HMS Tourmaline ((Photograph shown below is Copyright of the National Maritime Museum photo TFF-1. Available from: http://www.navsource.org/archives/11/02130.htm [accessed 21 July 2013].)) was relatively quiet, sweeping the minefields off Reykjavik Iceland; they were a very polite people, but a little anti-British I found. After Iceland, we went over to do a bit of ‘sweeping’ off Londonderry, N. Ireland.
While on board, and at sea, my co wireless operator and I managed to get some ships funds from our ship’s ‘number one’; I went ashore to get a supply of music records and rigged up a record request programme for the ships company; it was very successful and after all, the war was over by then. While in Dry Dock at Millwall, East London – apart from being able to get home to Southend to see Mum – I had the job of being ship’s postman. That meant travelling up to central London daily for the lads post and passing it over to them — I found that I was a popular fellow.
I left the Navy on August 15, 1946.
One final thought: having served on ‘Big Ships’ and ‘Small Ships’; did I prefer sleeping in bunks, as in big ships, or Hammocks, as in small ships. Well the hammocks won every time.
Grove does not say a lot about the Arctic Convoy he took part in. I was quite interested when researching the details for his presentation on Sunday 21 July 2013.((See: Karl Webb (2013) Arctic Star Presentations Take Place at ‘Sea Sunday’ Service, 2013, [online] Available from: http://rna-community.com/arctic-star-presentations-take-place-at-the-huntingdon-sea-sunday-service-2013 [accessed 22 July 2013].))
On the 30th April 1945, Germany announced that Hitler was dead, all U-Boat Commanders were ordered not to attack the Arctic Convoys. Nobody knew if these orders would be obeyed or not. It was decided that one more convoy would take place, and so, on the 12th May 1945, Convoy JW 67, comprising of 26 Merchant ships being escorted by eight Royal Navy escorts, set sail from the Clyde to the Kola Inlet.2 This was the very last of the Arctic Convoys, and although they arrived safely, the dangers faced were very real. Every convoy was as important as each other, the veterans are well deserved of their recognition with the award of the Arctic Star.
After nearly 70 years, veterans from the Arctic Convoys finally receive the recognition they deserve. Former sailors Jack Millard and Grove Dove were honoured by the Community of Huntingdon and District, 21 July 2013. Well done shipmates.
- See the post on Sea Sunday 2013. Karl B. Webb (2013) Arctic Star Presentations take place at the Huntingdon ‘Sea Sunday’ Service, 2013, [online] Available from: http://rna-community.com/arctic-star-presentations-take-place-at-the-huntingdon-sea-sunday-service-2013 [accessed 21 July 2013] [↩]
- Convoy Web Organisation (nd) Convoy JW.67, [online] Available from: http://www.convoyweb.org.uk/russian/convoy1.php?convoy=JW.67 [accessed 21 July 2013]. [↩]