HMS Diadem
HMS Diadem

the diary of signalman John Emrys Williams

Here's a message that arrived via email from a WWII Naval reseach specialist called David Verghese. He's been able to shine some light on and provide context to some of the parts of the diary that seemd unclear...

"I read your website of "The Diary of Signalman John Emrys Williams" with
much interest. All credit to your grandfather for finding the time and making the effort to keep a record of his observations, experiences and feelings during this part of his wartime service. It is well known that most people who served in HM Forces in World War II often did not speak to their children and grandchildren about their experiences of war, and this is both understandable and to be respected.

The legacy of those who kept diaries, wrote memoires, retained letters and photogrphs is a lasting one for those of us in the subsequent generation, such we may not forget their hardships, personal sacrifices and the collective debt we owe them.

I can see from some of the correspondence generated on your site that a number of people with loved ones as your grandfather's shipmates found the diary a valuable resource.

I can help clarify some of the queries that you listed with a ?.

1. CSIO; entry of July 26, 1944

In fact this may have been written in your grandfather's diary as CS10, and refers to the Flag Officer commanding the 10th Cruiser Squadron. This was Vice Admiral Sir Frederick H.G. Dalrymple-Hamilton who came aboard HMS Diadem on 14 July. He had been promoted from the rank of Rear Admiral on the 15th of June. On the 20th July this fine officer was also appointed as Second in Command Home Fleet (HF), at this time the latter commanded by Admiral Sir Henry Moore. The 10th Cruiser Squadron was an important command and Dalrymple-Hamilton was to fly his flag on board the Diadem quite a few times in connection with Arctic Convoys, Bombarding Force E at Operation
Neptune, Operation Kinetic in the Bay of Biscay and Operation Urbane which was an anti-shipping strike in Norwegian waters in December 1944.

2. Fencer Activity, 20 odd TDDS; entry of April 19, 1944

HMS Fencer was an Attacker Class Escort Aircraft Carrier built in the US but transferred as one of eight such vessels to the Royal Navy under Lend-lease by the U.S. Govt. She was returned to the U.S. in late 1946. HMS Activity was previously a merchant ship converted to an Escort Aircraft Carrier in April 1942. On the return leg of this convoy, designated RA59, in atrocious weather conditions, Swordfish aircraft from HMS Fencer sank 3 U-boats, one Martlet (ex Grumman Wildcat) aircraft being lost. The US merchant ship William S.Thayer was sunk by U711,192 of her complement of 235 being rescued by HMS Whitehall. The outward force from Scapa Flow headed by HMS Diadem, included besides these two Escort ACs descibed above, 20 warships and one personnel ship (Nea Hellas). This latter ship had been tasked to bring back 1336 crew of the USS Milwaukee and about 1400-1500 Soviet naval personnel required to man RN ships being sent to the Soviet navy in lieu of surrendered Italian warships.

The Nea Hellas had to retun to Scapa with defects shortly after sailing. The 20 ships your grandfather refers to in this operational theatre were in fact 16 Destroyers (DDs) and 4 Canadian frigates. At the risk of being boring (hope not) but in tribute to the crews of these ships who sailed in these perilous waters, they were: HM Destroyers Beagle, Boadicea, Inconstant,Keppel, Marne, Matchless, Meteor, Milne, Musketeer, Ulysees,Verulam, Virago, Walker, Westcott, Whitehall and Wrestler.
Royal Canadian Navy frigates Cape Breton, Grou, Outremont and Wakesieu.

Regards - David Verghese, Naval Researcher WWII, Bradford on Avon, May 2010.

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