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A stoker's wartime career

Bill Horsley, a stoker, talking of his wartime career.

Read his story on this page or listen to it here.

"Well yes, we'd leave Liverpool and got to Ireland, more or less Londonderry. We'd arrive at Londonderry, oil, and get the odds and ends or whatever, pick up a convoy and we'd go off to Iceland, to Reykjavik in Iceland, you know. And maybe hang around maybe half a day or a day, maybe two days. And then we'd pick up an American convoy or a Canadian convoy, from Canada or America, then they'd join us. I can remember having 108 ships in one convoy, and I think the smallest convoy I'd ever been is was eight.

But you'd leave Rekjavic and then we'd go to Murmansk or Archangel. But from the time we left Iceland to say, two days out, it was murder. You'd get Jerry coming over and bombing you, you'd get the submarines coming up between the convoys and sinking, 'em, you know? And, I don't know how Jerry knew it, but he always seemed to know where the bloody ammo ship was.

But we never left Liverpool, Liverpool was our depot. We used either the Salthouse, this one, or the Brunswick, we were down there once or twice, the Brunswick. The Atlantic convoys, they weren't as bad as going to Russia, nowhere near. But they were always at us, there was always something going on, always a buzz, there was a U-boat hanging about. And there was always the chance of getting caught up with the raiders, you know, the big ships, there was always the chance of getting caught up with them. Luckily it didn't happen to us, always called in on the day. Either had oil or whatever, probably provisions like butter, because you couldn't get that here. There were no restrictions at our end at that time, you see, they could produce their own. But we had been in convoys were we'd been harassed, you know. We've lost maybe two ships in the night, or in the evening, and maybe first light in the morning, two more have gone or another one's gone."