One of My Favorite Books: Escort, by D.A. Rayner – Part 2

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One can’t read this book or any other on the North Atlantic escort force without being astounded at the endurance demanded of these men. Their primary enemy, after the Germans of course, was the weather. Gale after gale. Waves often towering above their small ships. And not only towering but then crashing onto the decks with tremendous force which often swept away equipment of every sort – all of which was bolted down — including the ship’s boats, life rafts, deck railings, tool boxes et al.

During his command of the destroyer, HMS Warwick, he describes green water, meaning it isn’t just spray from wave tops but ocean water itself, three feet deep sweeping across the decks. In that storm, the weather was so violent it tore from the deck a 3 inch high angle anti-aircraft battery and washed it overboard. And this gun was bolted and welded to the deck.

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HMS Oakham Castle. While actually a “Castle Class Frigate” and not a “Flower Class Corvette” you can easily see the open navigating bridge.

What is even more astounding is this: on every Royal Navy warship of the era, the navigating bridge, where the officers stood watch, was open to the elements. Only a chest high wall of steel plating surrounded the bridge topped by glass panels to cut the wind. That was it. Photographs which accompany this post will show you what I mean. Snow, sleet, ice, gale or hurricane did not matter. The watch officers, bridge ratings, and captain stuck to their posts.

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Officers on the bridge of Canadian Flower class corvette HMCS Trillium circa 1940-1942.

Writing in Escort, D.A. Rayner on the Battle of the North Atlantic:

It was a long, cold, hard death-grapple, fought against the most cunning of enemies, under an almost continuous waterfall of salt-spray.

[Source: Escort by D.A. Rayner. Images courtesy of HMS Oakham Castle – Weather Reporter and Wikipedia.]

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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website: http://charlesmccain.com/

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