HMS Diadem
HMS Diadem

the diary of signalman John Emrys Williams

Puzzles solved and other messages
CCO - "the Command and Control Office/Center on board a ship - today called CCC on American ships, at least" - Werner.

TDR - "probably TDD which is a destroyer - chases after submarines, smaller than a cruiser" - Werner.

- "an aircraft, usually a bi-plane, carried on ships which can launch them with a small catapult. Older ones would put them in the water with a crane first for a take-off on their floats; they are used for reconnaisance (looking for enemy U-boats and surface ships) and defense against air attacks." - Werner.

Liberia (?)
- "probably a Liberator (an American bomber flying naval patrol)" - Werner.

HF -
"might be Home Fleet" - Werner.

ATLZ - "sounds as if it refers to a signal flag being hoisted to indicate an Air Alarm. But I am not certain of that..." - Werner.

CSIO - " when I read CSIO I thought "Commander South Indian Ocean" (because it had to be something high enough to make him 2nd in command of the Home Fleet -- but that didn't seem to make any sense...) " - Werner.

Tracker - "an escort carrier (because of the low cost of such ships, mostly converted mertchant ships, known as "Woolworth's Carriers"), Kepplea destroyer etc. although I am surprised that Keppel and Starling have the same designation letters, because I thought that Starling was a sloop." - Charles Morton, ex M.N., Montreal, Canada.†

billet - "The word in general means a place where soldiers etc. were placed, often in private homes with room and board, when regular facilities were not available. During the war, householders were often ordered to take in military personnel whether they liked it or not and were paid a nominal sum for their trouble. (another example of billeting was the case of the†evacuee children sent out of the cities in case of air raids. Their foster homes were officially known as billets). In service parlance, Billet came to mean any place to stay; thus, when your grandfather is wandering around Portsmouth looking for a billet, he is just looking for a place to stay rather than return to his ship. There were numerous places for servicemen to get a bed in most cities (YMCA, King George's Service Clubs, Flying Angel Missions to Seamen etc.) but in places like Portsmouth and Plymouth in June 1944 when all the ports were crowded with servicemen, finding a vacancy at short notice would be very difficult.†Hence, your grandad found an air raid shelter (there were hundreds of them) where he probably slept on a concrete bench." - Charles Morton, ex M.N., Montreal, Canada.††

"I wonder if someone could help me in my quest for information about my
fathers service on the ship HMS Diadem during WWII?

My father (Ernest Ball) worked in the engine room (from what I can recall),
and I'm now trying to find out if there are any of his shipmates still alive
who may remember him?

Sadly my father passed away in 1994, and I must say that I feel quite
ashamed that I learned so little of his wartime experiences whilst he was
alive. I would like to make up for this now if posssible.

I do hope you can help me in my "quest". Best Regards" - Andrew Ball, Bolton, UK.

"Excellent work and a tribute to your grandfather. † My Dad also took part in Atlantic convoys on Free French Navy corvettes operating out of Greenock, into Murmansk and other places. † I will see if I can shed any light on your queries and also out of curiosity ask him if he knows which convoys he was on." - Edi Mouchel

"Brilliant site. I think it is so important to keep the memories from the War generation. I am currently teaching in a small junior school in Caerphilly. I've bookmarked the site as I intend using it in a few weeks when I intend covering the D Day landings. You may like to take a look at a site that I created to show my father's wartime memoirs?" - Philip Edwards

"A friend of mine who was a scout for the paratroupers landing on D-day is writing his memoirs and I just recently had visited him, I was curious if there was something of relevance to him mentioned in your grandfather's tale... :-) " - Werner.

"Smashing site, My old father-in-law, George Sargent, was on the following ships,
Badger ML168, Mantis, Attack, USCG Banff, Tana, Lamba?, LCT4039, Ben Lomond(Narvik), Charity, Yung Hao(Terra), Surf Pilot, Albion, Cavendish

And died two years ago, aged 82, I can tell you about "billet!" George
would say, about his car and car parking: "I want to get back in case
some bugger's stole my billet"! His place, or space; where he bunked on ship, where he kept his gear, all were billets.

If I can find out any of the others I'll let you know, thanks for the site, its an inspiration really, we're trying to find details and pictures of all the ships both George and his Dad were on." - Rex Bradley

"My father (Robert Edward Priest), served on Diadem also as a telegraphist during the second world war and was also involved in the Russian convoys. My father is still alive, he's 76 (born 11th Feb 1925), his service number was P/JX453268 and he served on Diadem during Dec 1943 and May 1944.
My Father, has not yet been informed about your web siteís latest addition but you can count on me as soon as I return home from visiting my girlfriend in Massachusetts heíll be the first to know.
Although my father can still remember the model number etc of the radio communication systems he used during his service days the Internet still dumbfounds him.
I would also like to thank you on behalf of my Father and Iím sure I speak for each and every one of the sailors and men who served on these fantastically daunting and heroic escapades, for making such a wonderful tribute which could and would easily have been forgotten.
The message posted from Andrew Ball in your message board highlights this fact perfectly; we all need to learn from those who have been involved and gain knowledge from their mistakes and tribulations. If you require any further details regarding my Fatherís exploits I would be happy to assist, perhaps we could, together, highlight some far forgotten stories of bravery never before known?" - Richard Priest Cmdr R.N. R.M. January 2002.

"i have just read john williams account of his time on board HMS granfather Len Breakspear also severed on the ship during ww2. it was very interesting to find out what those men went thro. i would be very grateful if u can send me any infomation u have regarding the time they spent aboard the Diadem. my grandfather passed away 3 years ago." - Richard Breakspear, December 2003

"My father's record of submarine detector shows him to have joined Diadem 18 Jan 1947 until 25 Feb 1948. This does not show the ship's final days as you inquire on your website but shows it still to be around in 1948. Also have a photo of a small liberty boat with the name Diadem on her mast." - Colin Dannatt, July 2004.

"Hi there, don't know a lot about the Diadem, my father was Chief Petty Officer second artificer in the engine room, his name was Charles Frederick Hughes, he passed away in 1981 sadly missed, according to ex navy that I work with the Diadem was used as a navy training ship for some years unfortunately that's all I have on her, hope that is of some use to you. sorry no dates." - Robbie Hughes, July 2004

"My Father, Hugh McGilvray served on the 'Diadem' during the Second World War from the time of her sea trials to his demob in 1946. As you probably know she was built by Hawthorn Leslie at Hebburn on the Tyne. There is nothing left of that Yard today I'm sorry to say. Unfortunately my Father is currently in Hospital in Haddington East Lothian following a couple of minor strokes. I guess he must have been one of the youngest officers to serve on HMS Diadem. He has just celebrated his 83rd Birthday.
One of his chums, Rodney Gear Evans also served on the 'Diadem' Rodney sadly passed away just before Christmas. They both joined the Diadem in Hebburn in 1943, I think. My Father seldom talks about his wartime experiences. Rodney spent most of his life after the war in the far east, retiring to Canterbury, Kent. He called me out of the blue, as I am the only McGilvray listed in our local phonebook about 19 years ago. Rodney was very interested in Naval reunions and attended a few of them. He even persuaded my Father to attend one of them.
The 'Diadem' was sold to Pakistan in the late Fifties early Sixties and became the flagship of the Pakistani Navy. I have a very old copy of Janes Fighting Ships somewhere, circa 1964, that has a photograph of her. Presumably the Pakistan Navy scrapped her. If you are interested I will dig out the Janes Book in question and photocopy the appropriate page." - Fraser McGilvray, January 2006.

"Sadly,my father (Godfrey Edward Phillips, stoker 1st class) died in 1989 but looking at his service record it shows that he served on the HMS Diadem from 11 Nov 1944 to 11 May 1946. It would be nice to learn if there are any men who served at that time who are still alive and might remember him.Probably a long shot given the passage of time but would appreciate any info.Many thanks." - Tom Phillips, July 2006

"My father-in-law, Jack Coultous served aboard HMS Diadem during WW2. Does anyone remember him?, he would like to get in touch with anyone who may remember him. Many thanks." - Paul Pybus, September 2006

"I've just found your site on HMS Diadem as my dad, who served on her in 1945, has recently discovered the internet as a way of looking for old memories and friends. He would be very interested in getting in contact with anyone you know who was on board around that time. He was on board during her voyage from Copenhagen up the Norwegian coast - and still has friends in Norway that he made while painting the side of the ship in Oslo Fjord!

"I've another reason for writing as well though. I've been married to my wife Helen for two years now. Her family come from the North East, although we met in Manchester. More specifically they originate from Hebburn, and her great uncles worked for Hawthorn and Leslie, the yard that built Diadem, during the war.

"Although we have no direct evidence they worked on her, I think it's a fantastic story that 50-60 years after the fact I meet and marry someone whose relatives probably helped build the ship my dad served on!

"My dad has read the diary on your site as was intrigued by the story of what his ship went through before he embarked, he didn't know any of it previously. If you have any extra info or contact details he'd be delighted to hear about them.

"His name is Dennis Fisher, he had been trained as a coder and he served on the ship in 1945 and helped to man the officers'/duty boat for the ship.

"He initially joined Diadem on a six-month posting to do his six-months seatime for his 'CW' course, but while he was on board they changed the rules so that he would have sign up for a further three years in order to continue on the course. Not wanting to take that step at the time he left the course and completed a whole year on Diadem, working as a seaman on the officers' motor launch. After that he left the Navy to join his father's firm of solicitors in the City of London.

"Interestingly the very motor boat he worked on has recently been restored by the British Military Powerboat Trust ( and is intended to go on show in Poole, Dorset, in the near future." - Keith Fisher, 16 November 2006

"I have recently been sorting through some of my late Father's belongings and came across his old sea ditty box. Inside I found information on his War Service and found he served on the HMS Diadem from 17th December 1943 til June 13th 1945. His name was Albert George Singleton and his position on the ship was A/Leading Coder. He survived the war and moved to London where he worked for the Shell Oil Company for many years. On retirement he moved back to Merseyside where he originated from. Please feel free to add my Fathers details to the web site. When I get time I will send photo and scan his Naval record as well. I don't know if any surviving crew would be able to verify these following stories my Father told me. Prior to D Day my father who was a linguist (graduate Liverpool University French and Spanish) was sent for training at the Naval Intelligence base HMS Ferret. He was dropped along the French coast at various times to liase with the local resistance groups to pick up or give information. On one occasion he had to hide in a barn under floor boards with rats running over him as a German patrol was searching underneath him. On another occasion he had to kill a German Guard on a beach in order to escape by cutting his throat. After the war unsurprisingly he suffered a mental breakdown. My Father was a volunteer with the Red Cross in Spain during the Spanish Civil War. He also lived in Paris after Spain and when the war broke out, while drunk he joined the French Air force however when they found out he was British he was discharged. He had to escape Paris as the Germans approached in 1940." - Yvonne Clayton, February 2007

Many thanks to all who've written. If there's anything you'd like to add, please let us know.(

For example...

  • if you have any stories about the Diadem
  • if you served on the ship and remember John Emrys Williams
  • if you know of anything else that may make an interesting addition to this site

NEW: Image gallery


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