An astonishing sight greeted me as about ten men suddenly appeared
from the surrounding scenery, mostly armed with rifles. She then
explained that I had been taken for an escaped Italian P.O.W. and
their instructions had been to shoot me on sight if I made a false
move. They all, including some blacks, came up and introduced themselves
with many sheepish smiles and then she gave me an enormous meal.
Drink was not short either - none of them had seen a sailor before
and they were fascinated by my tales of North Atlantic gales and
In the end, as the afternoon was wearing thin, I was asked how
I had ended up out there and I told them about the Prince and the
Repulse. They seemed to be stunned and shortly afterwards, amidst
many invitations to come and stay, a lift was arranged and I was
back at the hotel, but I told no one about what had happened.
A few days later I was on my way back to Mombassa, enjoying the
long train journey and the hospitalities of the Nairobi ladies before
steaming across the bridge to the barracks. Of course the lads wanted
to know how I'd got on and particularly how Jock's suit had managed
- I think they were a little chuffed it had gone so well.
Life seemed to have settled down when suddenly one morning I was
told that I had a draft. It was to be one of the D's of the D and
C class Cruisers, due for Bombay where she was to be dry-docked.
These were seven-inch gun cruisers, more or less confined to the
Indian Ocean, the only part of the world that held seven-inch ammo.
That afternoon we were all taken down to Kilindini harbour where
we were marched aboard. These "D" cruisers were built well before
the fourteen/eighteen war and they showed it. This one was crowded
and dirty, but I would say that it was almost impossible to operate
under the conditions in which they sailed. This one was so crowded
that I slept on the Boat Deck under the stars whilst the messing
was done in shifts. I never approached the Bridge and was, as far
as I know, never asked for.
A long queue of ratings formed once a day outside the washroom,
under control of a Jaunty and only open for a quarter of an hour
per day during which it was jam-packed with men - try washing yourself
with your arms tight against your waist and then imagine what it
was like to shave! I never went down below to the mess decks but
spent all my time on the upper decks. She had three Seven Twos and
a number of A/A guns but how she could have fought with that rabble
on board I hate to think. However, I managed to eat and sleep and
strike up a few friendships before at long last the long voyage
was over - Bombay was in sight.