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Robin Hood Gardens completed 1972 designed by Alison and Peter Smithson – Photo The Victoria and Albert Museum
The demolition of Robin Hood Gardens has been the subject of much recent debate in the architectural world, the housing estate in Poplar is considered an internationally significant example of Brutalist architecture. However the building was refused protection by being listing, and will be replaced by a £300m redevelopment of affordable and private housing.
Robin Hood Gardens completed 1972 designed by Alison and Peter Smithson – Photo The Victoria and Albert Museum
Robin Hood Gardens was designed by British architects Alison and Peter Smithson and completed in 1972, it was based on twenty years of research by the Smithson’s into social housing and intended to be a new model of urban organisation.
Whether the building ever achieved these lofty ideals is unlikely but the building has been a familiar landmark in Poplar for 50 years. When the demolition is complete, little will remain of the building. However, part of the building will be making a trip to Venice to take part in the La Biennale di Venezia for the International Architecture Exhibition. In the Pavilion of Applied Arts, the V&A will present Robin Hood Gardens: A Ruin In Reverse, centred around fragments of Robin Hood Gardens. Concrete fragments from the housing estate will be on display. Altogether the V&A salvaged a three-storey section of each façade and the original interior fittings of two flats.
Robin Hood Gardens completed 1972 designed by Alison and Peter Smithson – Photo The Victoria and Albert Museum
In Venice, three storeys of the façade will be reassembled on a scaffold designed by ARUP, who engineered the original building The structure will allow visitors to stand on an original section of a ‘street in the sky’, the elevated access deck.
There will also be a new work by Korean artist Do Ho Suh who recorded some of the building and flats before they were torn down. Through archival photographs and specially recorded interviews, the exhibition looks at the vision and fate of Robin Hood Gardens.
Ironically in 1976, the Smithson’s contributed to the Venice Biennale where they displayed a billboard-size photograph of Robin Hood Gardens with the slogan ‘A building under assembly is a ruin in reverse’.
Interiors circa 1970 by Peter Smithson-courtesy of the Smithson family collection.
In many ways, Robin Hood Gardens illustrates how many of the social housing projects from the 1960s and 1970s came to a sad end. They often had good intentions to foster community spirit but the designs were often impractical and buildings were often not maintained by local authorities. With many of these post war housing projects being now demolished or redeveloped, the question of what kind of social housing should be built is still a matter of some debate.
Last week when it looked like Spring had finally arrived, I put on my walking shoes and wandered around Island Gardens and Mudchute Park and Farm. Arriving at Island Gardens it was with some surprise to see that the Calder Wharf development had started. The development has been the subject of some controversy due to its design which brings the property right up to the Island Gardens wall and dominates the dome where the foot tunnel is located. First impressions are not very good and the local community is still seeking answers to why the development has been allowed to go ahead without adequate consultation.
Better news was a flag that denoted that Island Gardens had been selected to receive a Green Flag award which is a national quality standard for parks and green spaces.
Wandering around the gardens it was easy to why the award was given, spring flowers were in abundance and the blossom was on the trees.
One of the most unique features of the gardens is the view across to Greenwich, this famous view is still one of the great views of London and has remained largely unspoiled for centuries.
We are very fortunate on the Island that we have Island Gardens and Mudchute Park and Farm. Spring is a wonderful time to visit the farm with spring lambs running around the field. Local children stood captivated as the different breeds of sheep showed off their young lambs. The lambs began racing each other around the field till it was time for a drink.
The sheep were not the only attractions, the Alpaca were enjoying the sunshine as were the various horses and donkeys.
It is remarkable that in the middle of an urban scene that you can watch sheep in the field and the various animals enjoying the more rural location.
If you suffer from some the strains of urban life, why not take a wander to Island Gardens and Mudchute and enjoy the wonderful surroundings.
At the start of each year, I try to keep readers up to date with some of the latest developments on the Island and Canary Wharf. Last year saw the completion of the new Novotel hotel, Baltimore Tower and the Dollar Bay development.
Whilst there are some major developments on the Island, most of the larger developments are around Millwall Dock, Marsh Wall and especially overlooking the South Dock around South Quay and the developments in Canary Wharf are taking place in the east and west fringes of the estate. Two major schemes are under development, New Phase (formerly known as Wood Wharf) and the Newfoundland development.
Both developments have made considerable progress with the buildings steadily moving upwards, the New Phase site in particular is taking shape with its residential tower clearly visible and other buildings in various states of development. When completed the New Phase site will have a mix of uses, including a residential area for over 3,200 new homes, nearly 2 million sq ft of commercial office space, and 335,000 sq ft of shops, restaurants and community uses.
At the other side of the Island, the 58-storey residential tower on the Newfoundland site is now well into construction with glass facades being added. If you think this will be tall, it will be dwarfed by the new development over the road from the Newfoundland site, it is based on the old City Arms site and is called the Landmark Pinnacle which will have 75 levels which the developers claim will be London’s largest residential tower.
This will eventually be part of the Landmark complex which is situated near the site.
Along Marsh Wall are the beginnings of the Wardian towers, there will be two blocks at South Quay Plaza, Galliard are building more towers which will be part of Millharbour Village and finally there is the beginnings of the Madison scheme.
It is remarkable that except for complaining about the various road and path closures and the disruption of lorries delivering materials, most people take very little notice of the various developments until they are completed.
It is worth noting that this is one of the biggest developments in the United Kingdom since Canary Wharf was built. Because most of the development has been concentrated at the top of the Island, there has not been widespread criticism, although many questions are being asked about coping with the increased population and the increase in workers coming into Canary Wharf to work. In the next few years, it is expected the population of the Isle of Dogs will be double that of 2011.
The history of the Isle of Dogs has been about change, however in the next decade; the whole skyline of the Isle of Dogs will change dramatically. It is part of the process that started with the building of Canary Wharf skyscrapers that seemed to change London’s attitude to tall buildings forever.
From Cuba Street to Buckingham Palace: The Remarkable Story of Harry T Waterman DSM (1917-1984) by Gerard Gilbertson – Part Two
From Cuba Street to Buckingham Palace: The Remarkable story of Harry T Waterman DSM (1917-1984) Part Two
Last October, Gerard Gilbertson sent a fascinating short history of his Grandfather John F. Gilbertson who was Mayor of Poplar between 1938 and 1939 which we published on Isle of Dogs Life. I am delighted to say that Gerard has written another piece which is published in two parts, this time about his uncle Harry T Waterman who was born in Cuba Street on the Isle of Dogs.
In the second part, Gerard gives a detailed account of the spectacular events surrounding the sinking of the Italian submarine Pietro Calvi in July 1942 and the subsequent award of the DSM (Distinguished Service Medal) to Harry for “bravery, skill and determination”. The investiture was by King George VI at a ceremony at Buckingham Palace in December 1942.
Harry’s award of the DSM, his injury, the end of his service on HMS Lulworth, and his return to civilian life.
The high point of Harry’s naval career was probably the action that led to his, and other crew members’, award of medals of distinction. This was the sinking of the Italian submarine Pietro Calvi in July 1942 to the west of the Canary Islands while on convoy escort duties heading for Liverpool. This event has been extensively recorded and documented, so we are fortunate enough to have a reliable picture of what happened.
Pietro Calvi was launched on 31 March 1935.The first war patrol was from Liguria to the Atlantic Ocean, and lasted from 3 July to 6 August 1940. After overhaul at La Spezia, Calvi sailed on 6 October 1940 for a second Atlantic patrol reaching Bordeaux on 23 October. Calvi suffered storm damage during its third patrol off the British Isles from 3 to 31 December 1940. The fourth patrol was between the Canary Islands and the Azores from 31 March to 13 May 1941. Calvi sailed on 1 August 1941 for a fifth patrol off the Canary Islands. During the sixth patrol from 7 to 29 December 1941 Calvi, Finzi and Tazzoli rescued sailors of the sunken raider Atlantis. The seventh patrol was off Brazil from 7 March to 29 April 1942. Calvi sailed on 2 July 1942 for its eighth, and what transpired to be final, patrol.
The Italian submarine Pietro Calvi (http://www.wrecksite.eu)
The encounter of Pietro Calvi with HMS Lulworth is well documented in British, American, and Italian sources. For the purposes of this article, I am taking first an Italian source, which describes the event as follows:
“On July 13th, the Calvi received orders to seek a ship proceeding by itself and of the type “Andalusia Start”; the ship was not found. The day after, the boat received orders to attack, if conditions were favorable, convoy S.4. 115 from Freetown to Great Britain escorted by H.M.S. Londonderry, H.M.S. Lulworth, H.M.S. Bideford and H.M.S. Hastings. This convoy had been sighted by U.130 which, later on, had made visual contact with the Calvi.
At 22:30 the Calvi sighted one of the escort vessels, probably the Lulworth, and Captain Longobardo ordered a crash dive. Immediately after, in position 30° 07’N, 26° 07W, the Calvi was targeted with the launch of depth charges which did not cause serious damage. After a pinpointing maneuver, the Lulworth dropped a cluster of bombs, this time hitting the submarine. The boat began taking water in the forward compartment and the captain was forced to accept the inevitable duel with the surface units. Once surfaced, the Calvi received concentrated fire which it tried to avoid by running away at full speed. The Lulworth continued keeping the Calvi under fire, mowing down all the personnel on deck.
The last desperate act of the boat, a couple of torpedoes, was easily avoided while the British machine guns kept hitting the deck. Captain Longobardo, realizing the unevenness of the fight, ordered the crew to abandon ship and scuttle the vessel. Meantime, various officers and sailors, including Captain Longobardo, were killed by the enemy bullets and at the end the burden of sinking the boat rested with Captain E. Aristede Russo. Meantime, a boat from the Lulworth had approached the boat and a member of the British crew, T.V. (sic: in fact F.W.) North, came aboard and would be lost with the submarine. The U.130 arrived on the scene launching a torpedo at the Lulworth, but failing its target. Meantime, the Calvi went down and was followed, soon after, by a violent explosion. It is not believed that the German torpedoes caused this explosion; perhaps it was one of the depth charges which had been trapped on some part of the superstructure. Eventually, after about 4 hours, the British came back to the site of the sinking and picked up three officers and 32 sailors”.
Source: Laura K. Yost (http://www.reginamarina.net)
An English-language source gives much the same information:
“At 10.30 PM, Italian submarine Calvi and U-130 attack Allied convoy SL 115 (from Freetown, Sierra Leone, to Britain) 575 miles West of Tenerife, Canary Islands. Calvi is detected by British sloop HMS Lulworth….. Calvi dives but is forced to surface by depth charges from HMS Lulworth which then rakes Calvi with shells and machinegun fire (42 killed). The crew abandons ship and scuttles Calvi, just as HMS Lulworth’s boarding party arrives (1 British sailor is trapped on the submarine and drowns). HMS Lulworth is chased away by torpedoes from U-130 but returns after 3 hours to rescue 35 Calvi survivors.“ (Source:worldwar2daybyday.blogspot.de)
Harry Waterman (left) aboard HMS Lulworth.. Depth-charges are ready for release at right. (Undated, personal family photo)
HMS Lulworth, according to other documentation, also rammed and damaged the Pietro. These factual reports, of course, give no indication of the horrific nature of the events which took place on that dark night just before and after midnight, with a total of three submarines hovering around the convoy and HMS Lulworth firing multiple torpedoes, with depth-charges being dropped and exploding, with the Pietro being rammed and crew members being slaughtered. The horror of this wartime scenario is, all these years later, almost impossible for us to imagine.
It was for his role in this action that Harry received his Distinguished Service Medal. This is documented by an article in the Supplement to the London Gazette of October 20th 1942:
(Enlargement of photocopy of p.4550 of the Supplement to the London Gazette dated as shown above. Harry’s name appears towards the end of the list)
So we see that a total of 11 crew members, including the drowned member of the attempted boarding party F.W. North, received important awards for “bravery, skill, and determination” in this action.
Notification of the investiture at Buckingham Palace was sent to Harry by the Admiralty in a telegram of 25th November (leaving Harry less than a week to prepare for it!). As far as I know, the two guests he was allowed to take with him were his mother Julia and sister Kathleen. That was the small party of Watermans invited to attend the ceremony at which King George VI awarded the medals.
Telegram from the Admiralty informing Harry Waterman of arrangements for his DSM investiture at Buckingham Palace on Dec 1st 1942. The telegram is addressed to his home in Middle Road, Higher Denham, and reads: “From Admiralty: Arrangements have been made for your attendance at investiture Buckingham Palace at 10.15 a.m. 1st December. Service dress will be worn. Tickets of Admission for two guests to accompany you will follow”
The Distinguzished Service Medal, as awarded to Harry Waterman. The medal was silver with the embossed head of the reigning monarch on the obverse side, the ribbons were dark blue and white. It was established in 1914, but discontinued in 1993.
Harry in uniform in centre of photo, on leave at his new home in Denham in summer/autumn 1941. To his left: his parents Joseph and Julia Waterman, in his arms his nephew Gerard (the author of this article!!), to his right two of his sisters Margaret and Kathleen, kneeling in centre his younger brother Terence. (Private family photo). Julia and Kathleen were with Harry at his investiture at Buckingham Palace.
Harry’s service on the Lulworth continued until June 1943, when he was badly injured in an accident on board. It appears that someone violently closed a hatch that Harry was negotiating, and as it slammed shut his left hand was trapped – the three middle fingers were badly lacerated and had to be subsequently amputated at the terminal joint. He was immediately transferred to a land base (Pembroke), and in November of that year was sent on recuperation leave to Newfoundland in Canada..
Harry’s Navy service after HMS Lulworth
HMS Salisbury (I-52) was originally the American destroyer USS Claxton, transferred to the Royal Navy in 1940. She was lent to the Royal Canadian Navy in 1942 and sold to them in 1944. Harry was allocated to this ship Nov-Dec 1943
HMS Salisbury guarded troop convoys in the Atlantic until September 1942, when she was assigned to the Royal Canadian Navy. Based on St. John’s, Newfoundland, HMS Salisbury served on local escort duty until November 1943 when, with newer escorts available, she was placed in care and maintenance status at Halifax , Nova Scotia.
The “care and maintenance status” (i.e. as a hospital ship?) mentioned above must be why Harry was “stationed” on her from November until December 9th 1943 as part of his recuperation from his severe hand injury in June 1943. His wife Mavis tells me (personal communication) that he was “hospitalized in Newfoundland” after his injury.
HMS Salisbury (ca 1942), (Library and Archives, Canada)
Subsequently he was assigned to HMS Rupert on which he served from January 1944 to November 1945. In fact, as he had been in Canada/Newfoundland since Nov. 1943, he may well have been allocated to the original crew that brought this brand-new ship from the US to the UK in January 1944.
This ship was laid down as the unnamed U.S. Navy destroyer escort DE-96 by Bethlehem-Hingham Shipyard, Inc., in Hingham, Massachusetts, on 25 August 1943 and launched on 31 October 1943. She was transferred to the Royal Navy upon completion on 24 December 1943.
HMS Rupert (K561) No date/place (navsource.org). She was new when handed over to the Royal Navy on 24.12.43.
Simultaneously with her transfer to the UK, the ship served on patrol and escort duty. On 30th March 1945, she joined the British frigate HMS Conn (K509) in a depth charge attack which sank the German submarine U-965 north of Scotland.
On 27th April 1945, the German submarine U-1105 detected three British frigates in the North Atlantic Ocean 25 nautical miles (46 km) west of County Mayo, Ireland, and fired two G7es – known to the Allies as “GNAT” – torpedos at them. Fifty seconds later, the first torpedo struck the frigate Redmill, followed a few seconds later by the second, together blowing 60 feet (over 18 meters) of her stern off. U-1105 evaded counterattack. Rupert stood by Redmill and rendered assistance, and Redmill managed to remain afloat and was towed to Lisahally, Northern Ireland. Harry was still a member of the crew of the Rupert at this time. (navsource.org)
Sierra Leone – Harry in middle. ( Private family photo, pre-June 1943)
Harry’s release from the Navy
Towards the end of 1945 Harry was again assigned to the land base Pembroke, where on January 15th 1946 he was released into civilian life. In the family records there is a letter of April 1946 confirming he had been awarded a gratuity of twenty pounds (wow!!!) by the Admiralty in recognition of his award of the DSM. Back in civilian life he worked for many years for the Martin-Baker Aircraft company in Denham. He died in retirement in 1984.
Harry (centre, foot raised) with gunnery mates. Name of ship on cap is not legible. (Undated, unplaced, but probably on board HMS Lulworth, alternatively on training vessel during initial training at the start of his service in 1940/41; personal family photo).
I never heard him talk of his brave but horrifying war service – recently, his widow Mavis wrote to me that he very rarely spoke about it at all: “people were so glad the war was over, all they wanted to do was forget it”, she said. The memory of gunning down fearful and fleeing crew members of the Pietro cannot have been one he would have wanted to conjure up very often.
This article is by no means intended to be a glorification of WW2 and its events, quite the reverse. But I do feel that, as is the case with the extremely young RAF pilots in the war years, the equally young and brave sailors in the Navy deserve to be remembered.
Harry Waterman, born and bred in Cuba Street, Millwall, was one of these.
Harry Waterman as a young boy, extreme left in second row, St. Luke’s School on the Westferry Road, Millwall, ca 1927/28 (Photo: Island History Trust).
Many thanks to Gerard for sharing this story with our readers.
Eighty Not Out: The Memories of Ernest Edward Loades 1890 – 1976 (Part Three) Chrisp Street Market and a Holiday in the Country
When Ernest Edward Loades was eighty in the early 1970s, he wrote about his eventful life which started from humble beginnings in Poplar before he worked in service to some members of the aristocracy before leaving the UK for the sake of his health to live in Australia.
In the next part of Ernest’s ‘memories’, we find him entering the world of work in Chrisp Street Market and sees the other side of life by meeting some of the aristocracy on a summer holiday in Somerset. I have used some postcards from the period to give some idea of the market and Maiden Bradley.
When I was about 12 and a half, I got a job – Friday nights and all day Saturday – at one of the biggest provision shops in our local market (Chrisp Street, Poplar)- Coppen Brothers. We got a big lump of cake and a cup of cocoa for supper on Friday nights; dinner, tea and cake again on Saturday, and the wages were one and sixpence a week, for the long hours of 6pm till 11pm Friday night, and 8am till midnight on Saturday.
I had a reasonable good time, and all 8 or 9 other boys had to do was to look after different stalls – bacon, eggs, cheese, fresh and salt pork, poultry etc and pass goods up to the men on the scales . I finished up on the bacon stall working with the leading hand- Charlie Shaw. He was a good friend as the following story will show. The shop was owned by two brothers – Frank who did the buying, and Walter who ran the shop. Walter was a very decent sort of bloke, but Frank was a real pig. Perhaps he had been buying and working among pigs so long, that he had grown like one.
He never knew one of the boys names but if he shouted out: “YOBO!”, you were supposed to run to see what he wanted. If you were an “also ran” in the race to get to him, he would sarcastically ask why you were not at your stall looking after things.
Now, down the back of the shop was a big cold room and the boss decided that if anybody had to work in it they were to keep the door closed because the ice was costing too much.
After working in there for 10 minutes things got pretty cold and you were glad to get out, but that was nothing to “Uncle”. He had a big sign put on the doors: “Anybody leaving this door open will be dismissed”; and another: “If you find this door open SHUT IT”.
I was going down the yard one day and there was the door wide open and to save some poor devil getting the sack, I pushed it too. About a half hour later I of course was back on my stall with Charlie when through the shop came ” Uncle” roaring like a bull swearing that he was going to cut somebody’s heart out, and he had the knife in his hand to do the job. He was making straight for me when Charlie said, “Run boy, he’s after you!”
I didn’t wait to find out what it was all about. I ran up the street with ” Uncle ” in full pursuit, first turn to the right to get to the back gate of the shop.
Only the little gate was open. That was big enough for me. I went through at a run and shut it behind me. The boss was outside and he nearly blistered the paint with his language. I went back to my stall and asked Charlie what it was all about. He was laughing his head off and said I had shut “Uncle” in the cold room. Other men also were enjoying the joke. The boss was making sure I did not get a chance to run away the next time he tried to get me. He crept up behind me and made a grab, but Charlie saw him and pulled me out of his way. He told the boss that I had only obeyed his own orders and he was at fault for not closing the door. Of course he said I was sacked. He would have put me off then, only he wanted to get his money’s worth out of me and we were only half through the day. When Walter paid me that night, I said “goodbye” to him. He asked the reason. I told him that I was sacked.
He said, “You come back next week. It served the old So and So right. It might teach him that what was right for the men should be good enough for the boss”.
I worked there till I got a permanent job, but I do not think the boss ever loved me.
When I was 13, I came in contact with the aristocracy for the first time. It came about this way. There was a charitable organisation called the Fresh Air Fund whose activities were to give children from the towns a fortnight’s holiday in the country during the Summer (August) holidays.
You had to pay according to your means. If you were too poor, you got the holiday for nothing. Mother paid 8 shillings for me. This included all travelling expenses and board at cottages or farms. Well, I was sent to Maiden Bradley, Somerset which was part of the estate of the Duke of Somerset, in fact one of his big houses was at Maiden Bradley. I was placed with three other boys at the cottage of one of the hot house gardeners at the Dukery. This couple also had a son who was a footman at the Dukery and practically all residents – 200 or so – were connected with the estate. There were also quite a number of farms which were included in the Ducal properties.
The people made us welcome and materials for sports and games were available at the Rectory. What with good walks, and watching the hay-makers at work (doing a little bit ourselves – voluntarily of course) made the time go by quite nicely. One day the Rector, got most of the boys together and told us we had all been invited to the Dukery for tea on Saturday and deputed us to let the others know. Now some of the boys had been billeted at a farm some four miles out. He asked if some of us would go out and tell them. Four of us started. I was the one that finished and then they refused the invitation saying it was too far for them to come.
Of course it had not been too far for me to come with the invitation. Oh well, just one of those things. The incident was closed as far as I was concerned but, on the Saturday afternoon the Rector took me to the Duchess, told the story and the Duchess most graciously thanked me. As I had heard that people in that position would hardly speak to poor people my impressions were changed and later confirmed when I eventually worked among the Gentry.
On arrival at the Dukery, the whole 20 or more boys were formally introduced to the house party. Most of us were very shy and a bit out of our element. One old gentleman came to the rescue to put us at ease. He said, “Can any of you boys run?”
There was a unanimous yell of “Yes!”
“Right o”, said the old sport, ” All line up here”.
Then he called to another gentleman. “Go and stand down near that tree”
This was 60 yards away.
“Now”, said the old gent, “when I say go, run round that tree and the first boy back gets this”, and he held up a golden sovereign.
When he said “Go” did we run! I was an also ran, but the ice was broken and for the rest of the afternoon we were all good friends together. We enjoyed ourselves belting tennis balls on the court (no Davis Cup strokes), trying to play croquet under the guidance of these nice people, and various ways that they had devised to entertain us.
Perhaps the highlight of the afternoon was the spread that was put on for us and served under the trees at the edge of the lawn. The Ladies and Gentlemen (mostly titled) waited on us and would not accept “No” for an answer until we had the biggest feed for most of our lives.
They say first impressions are best. For my part, I think I was sold to the upper class from that time on.
As I have already said the whole country side around Maiden Bradley was owned by the Duke Of Somerset. Once a year, there was a flower show and garden competition for the village. The week previous to the show, garden experts went through the Village and awarded the points for the competition. The prizes were not in cash awards, but if you had the best all round garden your prize was a whole year’s rent free.
And so it went on. There were prizes for so many things that you could perhaps get a week’s rent free for the way your hedge was cut. We know that all the upper-class were not as generous as this, but those that were not did not enkindle the same feelings of respect and veneration as did the people of Maiden Bradley.
One other little story about the holiday at Maiden Bradley. All visiting boys were under the watchful eye of the Rector who invited us to go to Church and Sunday School on Sunday after breakfast. Having nothing to do, I strolled around the Sunday School, arriving actually before the teachers. When they came they took me in and made a great fuss over me and just before starting proceedings told me to ring the bell. I had no idea why I should do so and on inquiring was told that the first boy to arrive had the honour of ringing the bell.
Had I stirred up trouble? When I got outside after Sunday School, half the village boys got stuck into me for spoiling one of their mate’s record, and I was getting the worst of it when the Superintendent came to my rescue, broke up the scrap and did he tell those kids off! Moral, don’t be early if going to a strange place.
Many thanks to Sharlene Jones-Martin from Brisbane, Australia for sharing the memories of her great grandfather.
From Cuba Street to Buckingham Palace: The Remarkable story of Harry T Waterman DSM (1917-1984) by Gerard Gilbertson
Last October, Gerard Gilbertson sent a fascinating short history of his Grandfather John F. Gilbertson who was Mayor of Poplar between 1938 and 1939 which we published on Isle of Dogs Life. I am delighted to say that Gerard has written another piece which will be published in two parts, this time about his uncle Harry T Waterman who was born in Cuba Street on the Isle of Dogs. The following piece by Gerard reminds us that in times of war, young men and women were often asked to undertake dangerous tasks on a regular basis.
Harry Waterman was born in 1917 at no.3 Cuba Street on the Isle of Dogs, attended St Luke’s School on the Westferry Road , and together with his parents and many brothers and sisters lived in Cuba Street until almost the whole extended family moved to Denham in Buckinghamshire shortly after the start of WWII. He saw service in the Royal Navy from October 1940 until January 1946. During that time he was on convoy escort operations primarily in the North Atlantic and on Arctic runs. This article gives the background to the spectacular events surrounding the sinking of the Italian submarine Pietro Calvi in July 1942 and the subsequent award of the DSM (Distinguished Service Medal) to Harry for “bravery, skill and determination”. The investiture was by King George VI at a ceremony at Buckingham Palace in December 1942.
Part One: Harry’s early Navy career.
Harry joined the Navy in October 1940, starting his training at two land-based “ships”, HMS Collingwood and HMS Pembroke. Here he received intensive training in gunnery, and joined the crew of his first real ship, HMS Lulworth, in June 1941 as a gunner, a posting he retained until June 1943.
HMS Lulworth had only recently been allocated to the British Navy under the Lend/Lease Programme. Originally she had been cutter #45, the Chelan, of the US coastguard, and a total of ten such ships were loaned to the British as anti-submarine escorts. These were the Banff-class sloops. She was named after Lake Chelan, built by Bethlehem Shipbuilding Quincy, Massachusetts, and launched on 19 May 1928. She had performed Bering Sea patrols and international ice patrols. She became HMS Lulworth on 2 May 1941 and sailed to England with convoy SC 31. Harry joined the crew almost immediately afterwards on June 10th 1941. These loaned sloops were initially used to escort eastern Atlantic trade convoys between England and Sierra Leone, and one was sunk while so employed. It was on these runs to and from Sierra Leone that Harry saw much of his early action.
Pre-war photo of HMS Lulworth, at that time still USCG Chelan. (Photo: http://www.jacksjoint.com)
HMS Lulworth. Late 1943 in Atlantic. (Photo: http://www.ww2aircraft.net).
Oerlikon 20mm gun operators on convoy escort duty in WW2 (Photo: Imperial War Museum, no date/place). This was the job of Harry Waterman while assigned to HMS Lulworth on West African and Atlantic convoys. The idealized and propagandistic nature of this photo is clear: sunny weather, calm seas, an alert gun crew, no enemy vessels or planes anywhere in sight, and an orderly and safe convoy!
Harry Waterman (left) and fellow gunner relaxing on HMS Lulworth. (Pre-June 1943, private family photo). Probably while on convoy duty from Freetown, Sierra Leone.
There were several notable events involving HMS Lulworth while Harry Waterman was a member of the crew, and with Lt.Cdr. C. Gwinner as Captain. Some of these involved rescue operations of other ships’ crews from the sea. They include:
27 Aug 1941:HMS Lulworth picked up 27 survivors from the Norwegian merchant Segundo that was torpedoed and sunk west of Ireland in position 53°36’N, 16°40’W by German U-boat U-557
23 Sept 1941:Lulworth picked up 42 survivors from the British merchant Niceto de Larrinaga that had been torpedoed and sunk the previous day by German U-boat U-103 South-West of the Canary Islands in position 27°32’N, 24°26’W.
24 Sept 1941 Lulworth picked up 5 survivors from the British merchant St. Clair II that was torpedoed and sunk west-northwest of the Canary Islands in position 30°25’N, 23°35’W by German U-boat U-67.
Harry on look-out duty on HMS Lulworth. (1941/42, personal family photo). Probably on a North Atlantic or Arctic run
11 Jun 1942 HMS Lulworth picked up 20 survivors from the British tanker Geo H. Jones that was torpedoed and sunk by German U-boat U-455 north-northeast of the Azores in position 45?40’N, 22?40’W.
Author of „Das Boot“: Lothar-Günther Buchheim in 2006 (wikipedia)
The submarine U-96, author Lothar-Günther Buchheim, and the novel/film “Das Boot”
As part of the 7th U-boat Flotilla, stationed in Saint Nazaire, on the French Atlantic coast, U-96 conducted 11 patrols, sinking 27 ships and damaging four others.
During 1941, German war correspondent Lothar-Günther Buchheim joined U-96 for a single patrol. His orders were to photograph and describe the U-boat in action for propaganda purposes. Over 5,000 photographs, mostly taken by Buchheim, survived the war. From his experiences, he wrote a short story, “Die Eichenlaubfahrt” (“The Oak-Leaves Patrol”) and a 1973 novel which was to become an international best-seller, Das Boot, followed in 1976 by U-Boot-krieg (“U-Boat War”), a nonfiction chronicle of the voyage. In 1981 Wolfgang Petersen brought the novel to the big screen with the internationally critically acclaimed film Das Boot. Readers of this article may remember its extremely successful and popular serialization on BBC TV in the mid-1980s.
In October 1941 this U-boat was attacked by HMS Lulworth off the west Irish coast while escorting convoy OS 10, but was not damaged, as reported here:
October 31st , ,1941 – At 10.47 AM 400 miles West of Ireland, U-96 sinks Dutch SS Bennekom (5 crew and 3 gunners killed, 46 survivors picked up the next day by British sloop HMS Culver). U-96 is attacked by a British sloop with 27 depth charges (U-96 is not damaged).
Author Buchheim adopted this depth-charge attack by HMS Lulworth as background to dramatic scenes in his novel and film.
(Sources for the above textual details include uboat.net/allies and worldwar2daybyday.blogspot.)
U-96 berthed at St Lazaire in France in March 1942 (Photo: wikipedia fr.). The author Buchheim’s experiences on board this submarine in 1941, including being depth-charged by HMS Lulworth, resulted in his best-selling novel and film “Das Boot”, as well as other factual books and articles.
Part two of this article deals with the specific action leading to the award of Harry’s DSM, his injury , the end of his service on HMS Lulworth, and his return to civilian life.
Many thanks to Gerard for sharing this story with our readers.