0ne day we saw that there was a new vessel moored. I discovered
that it was a Dutch Tug, "Thames", a vessel I had last seen in the
North Atlantic. She was towing the front half of a merchant ship
which had been torpedoed and which had broken off at the rear of
the bridge. We had approached her to ask if she wanted any assistance.
She said "no" but would we report her position. Now here she was
off the African Coast.
There were some men standing around her stern. As we approached
they hailed us in English and asked if we would like a cup of coffee.
When we replied "yes" they motioned us to a boarding ladder. As
we swam towards the ladder my mate said, "I've never drunk that".
I said, " Drink it, and smile". A good chinwag was held. They told
me that the ship they had rescued had been towed into Iceland and
after she had been made properly seaworthy was now sailing again
as they had seen and spoken to her. She had been towed to Glasgow
and had been fitted with a new aft-end.
They had noticed the little canvas bags that we wore around our
waists and asked what they were. We took them off and opened them
to show pieces of bread and butter. They smiled hugely and the mate
said "Throw them to the birds. You will get a proper meal today".
We certainly did. Those Dutchmen certainly knew how to eat.
During the conversation I accidentally mentioned that I had been
on board the Prince of Wales and was sunk on the Repulse. I had
never mentioned the subject since leaving Singapore, mostly I think
because the little yellow men had bested us. The Dutchmen were intensely
interested and questioned me closely. My friend was just as amazed
as he knew nothing either. Eventually, after saying our goodbyes,
we dived off the tug and swam ashore.
Two days later after a short swim we walked down past the can buoys
on our way to walk along the shore. To our horror we saw swimming
past the shadow of the buoy the shapes of what were undoubtedly
two sharks. As the nearest house was the Naval Signal Station on
the headland above us we ran up the slope. Bursting into the Station
we gabbled out our tale. The Yeoman in charge got on to the blower
and instigated what was to turn out to be a great hue and cry.
We slowly walked down and along the beautiful beach. Here we were
to encounter what was to be the second shock of the day. I noticed
a movement amongst the rocks. Bending down I saw a largish member
of the lobster family. I could see that this was one of the nipperless
ones. Without thinking I bent down and hauled him out of the water
before either he or I could react. It was a beauty - more than a
As I stood there admiring it (my mate wouldn't touch it) a native
suddenly appeared. He made a gesture which indicated that he would
love to have it. Thinking of his starving wife and family I handed
it over. In a flash he tore off the lower part of the carapace and
commenced to eat the wriggling body - my mate was nearly sick. The
native was all smiles and salaams - the wander along the beach was
A few weeks before, I had been wandering down the main street in
Mombassa when I had noticed a store sign advertising the dispatch
of food parcels to the U.K. When I entered the shop it turned out
the owner came from a district north of Bombay and that his family
owned two shops, with another one in Nairobi. He was a nice little
fellow and he sat me down to coffee and biscuits, and I saw him
one more time before leaving Mombassa.