Ron Bosworth

The memories of a merchant seaman during the Second World War

By Ron Bosworth

Photo:Ron Bosworth, 2007

Ron Bosworth, 2007

Donated by Ron Bosworth

Photo:This is a photo of the paintings and models I paint and make of Bristol.  The medals are the ones I was awarded for service in the last war.  The ship in the painting on the left is the SS New York City sailing for Portugal in 1943.  On the right is the French Corvette that picked me up out of the St Georges Channel after the Port Townsville was lost in enemy action in 1942.

This is a photo of the paintings and models I paint and make of Bristol. The medals are the ones I was awarded for service in the last war. The ship in the painting on the left is the SS New York City sailing for Portugal in 1943. On the right is the French Corvette that picked me up out of the St Georges Channel after the Port Townsville was lost in enemy action in 1942.

Donated by Ron Bosworth

Photo:The commemorative stone for all the Bristol Merchant Seamen who lost their lives in WWII.  On the right hand side of this photo is where the sand dredgers Durham, Dunkerton and Camerton sailed with their skippers A Bosworth and Phillips.  The Durham was lost with all hands.

The commemorative stone for all the Bristol Merchant Seamen who lost their lives in WWII. On the right hand side of this photo is where the sand dredgers Durham, Dunkerton and Camerton sailed with their skippers A Bosworth and Phillips. The Durham was lost with all hands.

Donated by Ron Bosworth

Photo:Ron Bosworth with his grandsons

Ron Bosworth with his grandsons

Donated by Ron Bosworth

A B Seaman Ron Bosworth was a merchant seaman during the Second World War.  He joined the Merchant Navy at the suggestion of his father in 1938 at the age of 15, making his first journey to Jamaica on a banana boat just days after signing up.  He served from 1942-1946 on various ships giving support to HM Armed Forces and covered both North African and South East Asian waters. On six occasions he had to abandon ship because of either a hole in the stern or a fire on board as a result of having been attacked.  'It was just part of our job and we just went straight on to another ship to continue our work'.  In 2006, he was both very proud and surprised to be awarded the UK Merchant Seafarers Veteran's Badge.  He has given us this account of the ships on which sailed and his experiences on them.

British Fidelity: Tanker

I joined this ship on 8 January 1941.  To me this was one of the most dangerous voyages I took.  Tankers in those days were bad news for seamen.  At the time this ship was gas free.

We sailed from Avonmouth on the morning tide on 8 January 1941, heading down the channel after the Royal Navy minesweepers had done their job.  We were just passing Steep Holm, when there was a big bang.  I was on the forecastle head and it knocked me off my feet.  We dropped anchor and waited, but she didn't go down.  The engine room filled with seawater but she held.  Tugs came out from Cardiff docks and took us in tow, we slipped anchor and for two days and nights we fought to keep her afloat.  We did manage it and put her in dry dock on the far side of the River Taff.  Later she was transferred to Belfast for repairs.

We were given a piece of paper by way of a promise of a bonus and told to go back to our homeport and get another ship.  So off we went with our train ticket.  I was paid off on the 31 January 1941.

Port Townsville

I joined this ship on 12 February 1941.  On the 3rd March 1941 during a voyage from Bristol to Melbourne the ship was machine-gunned and bombed by German aircraft in the St Georges Channel, Pembrokeshire and because of this, I was paid off on that day.  I lost all my belongings.  I remember a great hole in the side of the ship and a fire inside No 3 hold.  We were put ashore into the Bethel and slept on the stone floor.  In the morning a man came with a suitcase full of clothing for us, and again another train ticket to get me to Bristol.  It took two days because of the bombing of the South Wales ports.

Port Dunedin

I joined this ship on 18 March 1941 and had three very good voyages, apart from natural mishaps.  For me this was a lucky ship, she went right through the 2nd World War without a scratch, except in a London air raid when a firebomb burnt her deck at No 2 hatch.  I sailed in her four times.

We did, at one time, cross the Indian Ocean on one propeller and lost a deck man at Cape Town in very heavy weather.

Ocean Vision

I joined this ship at night during an air raid, on 5 May 1942, but wished I had not.

New York City: Cargo Freighter

I joined her 20 August 1943.  She was a very old tub.  Mr E Pengelly, a Cornish man, was the 2nd Mate.  A very good shipmate.  Travelled to Lisbon, Portugal.  In the course of the journey we were bombed in the Bay of Biscay by German 4 engined aeroplanes, luckily they missed, as we were full of munitions for Portugal.  We eventually lost our anchor.  We were checked for limpet mines by the Royal Navy in Gibraltar and declared safe.  Our cargo home was port wine. The journey home took us around the North of Scotland, through the Pentland Firth.  Fortunately the enemy was very quiet.   Then down Bomb Alley to London Tower Bridge where we discharged our precious cargo.  Then off we went to Paddington station and home to Bristol for a spot of leave, November 1943.

The Jamaica Producer: Cargo Freighter

I joined this fast, 21-knot ship on the 21 December 1943.  We sailed out of Halifax Nova Scotia in convoy for England.  There were fifty ships in all.  Jarvis Bay, auxiliary cruiser, escorting us.  Up pops an enemy surface raider, the escort, which was its job, heads at her (no hope), but it allowed us all to get away.  Signed off in Cardiff on 31 January 1944.

Kaipaki: Cargo Freighter

I signed on 18 February 1944.  This was a very good, well built ship.  The accommodation and bedding was brilliant.  I sailed in her for five voyages until 12 February 1945.  By this time it was time to get ready the material needed for the invasion.  We had already brought across T I D tugs and Ducks.  These are invasion barges, and we landed them in Liverpool.

Carare

I was a member of her crew for fifteen voyages.  In that time we had assisted the SS Salmon Pool in a heavy storm, sailed into Hamilton, Bermuda and Santa Marta, South America.  On these voyages on the homeward bound we passed through the Bermuda Triangle.  After passing Turks Island and after Sombrero Pass we dropped anchor at Port Royal, right on top of the old church that disappeared in the earth quake in the eighteen hundreds.  Some say you can hear the church bell ring.  Well, that's what Bosun Higgins used to say after a tot of Jamaica Rum!

Fort Island: type Victory

This one I joined 2 March 1945 but was taken ill and was put ashore on the 15 March 1945.  So the next ship would be MV Loch Monar.  I signed on the 16 May 1945 and signed off in Liverpool on the 26 June 1945.  By this time V E Day had come and gone so I went off to the Shipping Office, but the Officer said, 'You've had enough, go home'.  But, 'No, I will take another', I said.

Highland Brigade: Passenger Cargo

I signed on 5 March 1945 for two years.  Well we sailed first for Gibraltar Island with troops, no pick up.  Then down through the Mediterranean Sea to the Suez Canal, then down the Red Sea to Aden to pick up troops.  Then Colombo, Ceylon, then to Madras in India.  We then went to Rangoon, to the Irrawaddy River with Sikhs and Punjabis, to form a convoy.  (Called Tiderace.)

We headed down the coast of Malaya and hit Singapore, but luckily the Yanks dropped the A-bomb.  The remainder of our time was garrisoning the East Indian Islands and taking the ex prisoners back to Australia and the Indians to Madras. Unfortunately we struck by a mine in the Malacca Straits but they repaired the ship and sent us to Bombay to return back troops to West Africa.  We then went back to Gibraltar then home to Tilbury, London, where I was paid off in Victoria Dock on Thursday 25 May 1946.  So V J Day had passed.  I was discharged from the Merchant Navy on 25 June 1946.

This page was added by Iris Capps on 09/06/2009.
Comments about this page

My father joined the Port Townsville on the same day as the writer joined, (12.2.41) and was discharged on 3.3.41. I was born on the 14.2.41, so he got home to see his son earlier than he thought. He then joined the Port Dunedin for 4 voyages. He finished his war service 28.9.45. Sadly he survived the war for only 2 months, when he died of a brain haemorrage. His name was AB Tom Milner.

By j.milner
On 14/06/2010

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