McMillan, John (Oral history)

Catalogue number
  • 22616
Department
Sound
Production date
2001-09-03
Subject period
Dimensions
  • whole: Duration 480, Number Of Items 16
Alternative names
  • object name: Oral history
  • object category: IWM interview
Creator
Category
sound

© IWM

Purchase & License
Object description

British boy seaman trained at HMS Wildfire, Sheerness in GB, 4/1938- 7/1938; signalman trained at Signals School, HMS Pembroke, Chatham, GB, 1938- 1939; served aboard HMS Mashona in GB coastal waters, during Norwegian campaign and in Atlantic1938-1941 including sinking in Atlantic, 28/5/1941; served as signalman and Yeoman of Signals yeoman aboard HMS Ashanti in GB coastal waters, Arctic and Mediterranean, 1941-1943; served with Beach Signals Section, Combined Operations in GB, during Normandy landings and in Far East, 1943-1945

Content description

REEL 1 Background in Linwood, GB, 1921-1938: family; father's employment and military service in First World War; family home in tenement block including sanitary and utility arrangements; neighbours; leisure and religious activities; education; joining Boys Brigade and Salvation Army bands. REEL 2 Continues: activities with Boys Brigade and uniform worn; annual camps; family discipline; visit to Juvenile Court for stealing potatoes and turnips; employment as bank boy in carpet factory; pay; impressions of warship at Largs; employment as cabin boy with London Midland Scottish railway. REEL 3 Continues: Aspects of enlistment in Royal Navy in GB, 1938: reasons for joining Royal Navy; parent's reaction to enlistment; medical. Aspects of training as boy seaman at HMS Wildfire, Sheerness, GB, 4/1938-7/1938: reception; uniform and hammock issue; allocation of class leader and room; importance of hygiene; accommodation and messing arrangements; cleaning room and Captain's rounds; kit inspection; relations between classmates; punishments; daily routine. REEL 4 Continues: seamanship classes; education; drill and basic gunnery training; physical training; climbing the mast and role of button boy; contribution for present for senior instructor as end of course; treatment by instructors; ashore in Sheerness; homesickness; difficulty of buying out of service; contact with home; church services. REEL 5 Continues: age range of boy seamen; evening activities; pay parade; Sunday divisions. Aspects of period as signaller with HMS Pembroke, Chatham, 1938-1939: move to Chatham; accommodation; kit inspections; doubling up over parade ground; description of signals school; signals instruction; drilling to signal commands; training with Aldis lamp and flags; principles of signalling; training on Morse Code. REEL 6 Continues: flag signals; further details of Morse Code training; nature of signals training; difference between telegraphists and signallers; duration of course and contents of seaman's book. Recollections of period as signalman aboard HMS Mashona in GB coastal waters, Atlantic, during Norwegian campaign, 1939-1941 including sinking, 5/1941: drafting to ship; preference for destroyer service; character of destroyer; description of mess; messing arrangements; rum ration. REEL 7 Continues: further details of messing arrangements; ship's officers; responsibilities of captain; size of mess deck and importance of getting on with each other; daily routine; watch system; signal staff and duties; uniform and insignia; issue of bottle of beer on Christmas Day. REEL 8 Continues: tea breaks; weekend break for cooks; punishments; use of bells in Tiller Flat; raising flags; boats on destroyer; mail and censorship; piping on board; day and night exercises; awareness of approaching war; flotilla size and composition; introduction of radar to destroyer; preparations for war; reaction to declaration of Second World War, 3/9/1939; joining Home Fleet at Scapa Flow, 9/1939; searching for U-boat after sinking of HMS Royal Oak; lobbing grenades over side of ship. REEL 9 Continues: Christmas dinner, 1939; influence of traditions; escort duties in Atlantic; order of precedence for oiling and supplying; signallers' duties; role of destroyers and method of escorting aircraft carriers; escorting troopships to Norway; landing troops in Norway; German aircraft attacks during Norwegian campaign; bombardment duties; character of crew; duties of signalmen on bridge; changing of ship's numbers and membership of 6th Destroyer Flotilla; personnel on bridge in action; depth charging and firing of torpedo by orders from bridge; control of guns. REEL 10 Continues: effect of war on ships' routine; action stations/cruising stations; next of kin on record sheet; rivalry between ships; cleaning ship; clothing worn at sea; patrolling off Norwegian coast; transporting troops to Norway; evacuation of Norway; move to Iceland; relations with Icelandic civilians; reaction to seeing British ships sunk; ramming of HMS Sikh and subsequent leave; facilities for naval personnel at Scapa Flow; reputation of HMS Ashanti; modifications to ship and camouflage changes; lack of homosexuality. REEL 11 Continues: escorting HMS Rodney during Bismarck action, 5/1941; reaction to sinking of HMS Hood, 5/1941; bombing of ship by German aircraft west of Ireland, 28/5/1941; abandoning ship and rescue; sinking of ship by HMS Tartar; treatment of survivors. Recollections of operations as signalman and Yeoman of Signals aboard HMS Ashanti in GB coastal waters, Arctic and Mediterranean, 1941: drafting to destroyer at Wallsend; number of crew from HMS Mashona who joined ship; description of HMS Ashanti; signal personnel; move to Scapa Flow; participation in Lofoten Islands raid, 12/1941; promotion to Yeoman of Signals; duties and responsibilities. REEL 12 Continues: memories of Captain Onslow; opinion of officers and crew; ship and bridge layout; convoy escort duties in Arctic; convoy screens; role of convoy commodore; speed of convoy and difficulty of destroyer keeping to that speed; fire discipline when attacked by aircraft; staying aboard ship in Murmansk; lack of help received from Russian Navy; convoy losses; opinion of German aircrews; weather and seas; presence of CAM ships in convoys; signal duties during convoys and need to remain at action stations; incident of toilet door falling off when guns fired. REEL 13 Continues: return to Iceland with empty convoy; reception on arrival at Scapa Flow; meetings between ships' yeomen; participation in Convoy PQ17; convoy escort duties during Operation Pedestal in Mediterranean, 8/1942 and subsequent losses; return to Scapa Flow and Arctic convoys; attitude to convoy escort work; atmosphere on board; conditions during winter convoys; participation in Convoy PQ18; towing HMS Somali and her subsequent sinking. REEL 14 Continues: rejoining fleet; convoy escort duties during North African landings, late 1942; attitude to participation in North African landings; comforts sent to ship by American civilian; uniform worn at sea; memories of Coxswain and Captain Onslow; personal dress; reasons for being mentioned in despatches; question of importance placed on awards; impressions of Malta; paying off in GB, 5/1943; performance of hostilities only personnel. Recollections of period as Yeoman of Signals with Beach Signal Section, Combined Operations in GB, during Normandy landings and in Far East, 1943-1945: reasons for joining Combined Operations; drafting to HMS Dundonald in Scotland; attending Commando course; start of training for D-Day landings. REEL 15 Continues: move to Poole; role and duties with Beachmaster; description of LCA landing craft; signals equipment carried; reasons for loss of good conduct stripe; in sealed camp at Poole; exercises at Hayling Island; preparations for D-Day landings; embarkation on LST; issue of rations and rum; impressions of approaching coast and landings, D-Day, 6/6/1944; uniform and insignia worn and armament carried; beach landing at Ver sur Mer; role of Beachmaster. REEL 16 Continues: activities on beach at Ver sur Mer ; return to HMS Dundonald until 1/1945; preparations for sailing for Far East, 1/1945; voyage from GB to India, 1/1945-2/1945; impressions of Bombay, India; attachment to Royal Marine Commandoes; impressions of Gurkhas and Royal Marine Commandoes; end of war; return to GB for demobilisation and period on reserve. Membership of associations.

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