March 1941, London


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Months had passed and it was now March 1941 and the repair of the ship had progressed slowly. It is worth mentioning that a cable was installed right around the ship and was meant to demagnetize the ship to prevent the magnetic mines from working. This was called a degaussing cable  The end of March saw the restoration completed. Every bit of equipment in the engine room was tested and a trial run was made. When all went according to plan we left the Hotel and started living on board again. My mate and I got terribly bored with those night watches all these months and were happy to pick up our normal life. This included standing your watch just the same as we were doing before and this seemed more normal to us.
As much as possible we were doing sea trials. I can not remember where this was done. We were just waiting for our departure but that took time because an acceptable convoy had to be arranged. In the meantime our urgent requests for weapons produced a real machine gun. The secrets of its operation were entrusted to a mate (maybe the first or second mate). It was a Lewis gun, the type they always showed in crime movies. Also we received something we had never seen. It was a tube pointing upwards that could rotate in all directions. On the top of the tube a piece of T- iron was welded which pointed upwards at an angle. That was the direction finder. On the bottom was an air-bottle  in which high pressure air of 30 atm was forced from the compressor in the engine room. The whole contraption was a sort of mortar where at the top you drop a grenade and when this reached the bottom it would be shot out of the tube with a bang.   We had to use hand grenades with the pin pulled and put them in a type of cigarette tin. The idea was that once in the air the cigarette tin would open and the grenade would explode after the count of six.
What a situation! But that was all there was at the time!
We left London to form a convoy outside the Thames that sailed under the protection of a corvette along the East Coast to Scotland. During the trip we tested the Lewis gun. A sailor was allowed to try to fire five shots. The recoil of the gun nearly threw him backwards which was the reason further trials were stopped for fear of hurting our own crew. We never thought of trying the hand grenade gadget.

Near Edinburgh we turned into the Firth of Forth and found a spot on the wharf of the little town of Leith. A good opportunity to visit Edinburgh which was very different from ravaged London. Yet during our stay in Leith we had a bomb attack where  among other things a whisky distillery was destroyed between Leith and Edinburgh. This caused great indignation and was talked about for some considerable time.

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1 Response

  1. Peter says:

    This mortar like granade thrower was probably a Holman projector:

    According to the movement card from the Britisch National Archive, Abbekerk was also armed with a 4″ poop gun at this time (and not a year later, as my dad describes.)

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