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    This title is currently out of print. It will be re-published shortly.


Sainfoin’s War
By W.J. Mitchell and Colin Buckenham

A/B Ray Self - Gunner

Like Walt Mitchell, I too joined H.M.S. Sainfoin at London Docks as a working party of Seamen. In charge of us was a Petty Officer John Kenny, a well liked and fair man, a good Seaman with ropes and wires, as the ship had a few miles of rigging onboard, lots of winches for raising and lowering the landing craft. Also several derricks including one `Jumbo Derrick' able to lift many tons. We were billeted on two paddle steamers, the `Plinlimon' and the `Worcester' moored at Shadwell Basin. All was very basic, the food was poor and not much of it. Although we were glad to sleep in our Hammocks, the place was over-run with rats at night. After my training at H.M.S. Ganges I was sent out to H.M.S. Pembroke, Chatham, where I was trained at the Gunnery School for several weeks.

After that I went to H.M.S. Wildfire, Sheerness, home of the 21st. Destroyer Flotilla, off to sea at last - Hooray - But I soon discovered that `Hunt Class Destroyers' were not built for comfort, always dashing about at speed - cold and wet, sometimes more water inside than out. However after a few North Sea patrols, I had an accident when a gun misfired due to faulty ammunition. This meant a few weeks in hospital and a stay of several weeks at the Sick Quarters, St. Marys Barracks Gillingham. After some home leave I returned to Chatham, there to be issued with thick woollen vests and Long Johns and joined a party to be sent by train to Rosyth Scotland. The Navy were losing men on the Convoys to Russia, you can imagine we were not too excited at the prospect of replacing lost crewmen. But not to worry, after a few days three of us were sent back to Chatham, where I eventually joined H.M.S. Sainfoin for two good years - well different years - until the end of 1946, when the old girl finished her spell with the `East Indies Fleet', S.E.A.C. South East Asia Command. We proudly sailed from Singapore flying our paying off Penant, but on arriving at Columbo, Ceylon, I and a few other ratings had to leave the ship, a very sad day for us. The next morning early I remember watching Sainfoin leaving harbour for home, we were all very quite for a few hours - no one seemed to know what to do with us for a few days. I eventually found myself and ten others formed into a `Mine Disposal Unit'. We had our own M.F.V. - Motor Fishing Vessel, seventy five feet long, and very comfortable. There was a C.P.O. in charge, he was a mine expert (he said) waiting for retirement. If the weather was good we leave harbour around 9am., off round the many islands around Columbo, sometimes we found mines (often not). Several weeks later we were given leave, into the hills of central Ceylon, a place called Diyatalawa. This pre-war was a hill station for Officers. I remember it had a fine Golf Course and our C.P.O., from Hunstanton in Norfolk, who was a good golfer, tried to teach us the game, but not with much success. After our leave we were sent to Trincohalee, based at China bay, and were left to get on with the job. The Chief was given almost a free hand, there was very little discipline at all. We dressed in shorts and boots, while on the H.F.V., as the deck got very hot, we usually found a bay, where we could strip off, stark naked for a swim. Life was good! We also had American K rations in wooden cases with beer. After about six months we heard we were going home, packing our kit the next morning in the harbour was what looked like a row of houses. H.M.S. Indefatigable, an Aircraft Carrier. The journey home was just over three weeks and we managed to get lost every day on board. On returning to the U.K. I had some leave, then back to Chatham, only to be posted to A.F.D.33, Admiralty Floating Dock moored off Roseneath on the West Coast of Scotland. The winter of 1947 was very bad and a Floating Dock off Scotland is no place to be, especially after two and a half years in the tropics. By late 1947 the Royal Navy decided it could manage without...

A.B. Ray Self. Gunner.