Life in the RFA
Living on the Dingledale for 10 months was and did have its funny and interesting moments. We left the UK at Xmas time, which as you know can be a bit chilly, our cabin quarters were quite small, in fact of the many ships I had sailed on these were the smallest but nice and cosy in the colder weather, BUT when we got into the Caribbean our cabins became sweat boxes. Conditions got even worse when we arrived at our Manus Island base, some of us did manage to get some hammocks from our navy friends, so from then on we tied up said items on the after boat deck, and we also slept fully dressed when at sea, just in case we had to abandon ship.
Living on the Dingledale for 10 months was and did have its funny and interesting moments. We left the
Manus Island was to be our base where we would team up with other ships, those carrying ammunition, water, food and fuel, but we were the only vessel carrying aviation fuel, 600 tons of it, all these ships would go out in convoy to meet up with the Battleships, all this transferring of supplies was done at sea, our re-fuelling was done whilst cruising at 8 knots, we would have say a Cruiser plus most times, 2 destroyers on the port side and a Battleship plus a couple of Corvettes on the starboard side, we would always re-fuel Aircraft Carriers astern, sometimes the carriers flight deck would be only yards away from our rear gun mounting. During these manoeuvres we had to shut down the galley, we would perform this operation once more before heading back to Manus, where we would tie up alongside an American tanker and have its load transferred to us overnight. The yanks were always happy to see us as we would swap our beer for their ciggs.
I was injured during one of the refuelling operations,, I was on the catwalk when a ship we had alongside fired the gunline across, in those days this was done using a .303 rifle, the rod which the line was attached to hit me in the calf muscle and I had to be taken aboard the ship for treatment, the ship in question was HMAS Warramunga.
At another time, whilst we were on refuelling duty, there was a Kamikaze alarm and the ship that we were attached to didn’t wait to unhook the fuel hoses, they just broke away and we all got sprayed with oil before we could close the valves.
A little about the ship now, she was 12,000 tons and had a crew of 71, mostly Scots and I was the only Englishman, though I did share a cabin with the only Irishman aboard, four of the engine room crew were from the Isle of Skye and only spoke Gaelic, so kept to themselves.
Regarding food onboard, just about everything was in 4 Gallon tins in a dehydrated condition; potatoes, carrots, onions, cabbage and a product called KLIM, a powdered milk, but one got used to such food and it made the meals we had on the American tankers a real luxury and of course we were their only source of beer, so we were made very welcome on board.
As we were ship-bound for such a long time, we took to walking up and down the catwalk during our free time, we could rack up quite a few miles and the only time we had any sort of entertainment was when we were invited to ships that had movies like the Aircraft Carriers. We also played lots of card games and as we had no money to use, we used to gamble with cigarettes, after a good night one could go back to his locker with 10 or 20 cartons of Lucky Strikes.
One other item that broke the boredom was when we had gunnery practice at sea, an escort ship would tow a large target astern (a long way astern!) and we would attempt to hit it. I did my gunnery training at a rather large dome on the banks of the
During our tour in the Pacific we visited other Islands such as Ulithi in the Carolinas, Leyte in the
We called into Okinawa on our way to Japan, just a brief stop to pick up some people to take to Japan, as we sailed into Tokyo Bay the hillside was covered with white sheets, unfortunately we were in danger of being fired upon by the yanks at this point as they did not recognise our flag (blue ensign with a gold anchor), we were there four days before the official Japanese surrender and a highlight of our stay in Tokyo Bay was the fact that we were anchored just off the Port side of the USS Missouri,
and we were invited to a picture show onboard her the day before the big brass got together to sign the surrender documents, we were lucky enough to be close enough to see the ceremony from our ship.
Our stay in
A couple of other interesting stories, the first concerns our Captain who had a rather large thirst for Gin, all he would eat most day’s were prawns and rice washed down with Gin. On one trip we were running short on several items, so he got a message to one of the Destroyers for some supplies to be sent across when we got the line across, what came over was two boxes of Gin, things got to the point where the crew were talking mutiny (a bit ironic as the Captain’s name was Blyth).
The second story concerns our Chief Steward who dived off the upper deck amidships on our way to