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Len Ackroyd

Len Ackroyd’s Journal, HMS Wager 1944 – 1946

This is a replication of a journal kept by AB (R) Len Ackroyd whilst serving in HMS Wager.

Len Ackroyd

The original photos of the journal are below:

High Seas and Seasick Signalmen


Leading Signalman Ted Longshaw writes, after viewing the clip of a stern trawler and the French Primauguet Class frigate, seen in this video.

Rough Seas

This clip of very rough seas brought to mind a recollection of my Wager days. I can tell you it is no worse than we experienced when being sent to look for a downed pilot in the North Sea. The ship’s bridge was awash as both A and B gun decks were cutting through the waves, while the ship was trying to make 18 – 20 knots. All the ship’s watertight doors were fully closed with all eight clips on.

I was sea sick!

Bob Cadman seriously injured in accident as HMS Wager patrols Sakishimo Gunto

Robert Cadman writes:

Bob Cadman

HMS Wager was on patrol at a place called Sakishimo Gunto, which is near Samosa in the China Seas. During a manoeuvre at full speed, Wager hit a wave head on and my father and another crewman were crushed by the water near to A Gun – the other man was only saved from being washed overboard because his leg got caught in the side railing wires. My Dad tells me that as a result his one leg was shortened and he was invalided out of the Navy. Dad cannot remember his name at the moment but does however remember where he lived – in Wolverhampton!

My Dad was really badly hurt, they found him covered in blood with part of his head ripped off (he still bears the scars under his hairline). He was taken to the Captain’s cabin where Surgeon Lt Gayman sewed him back together. He was later told by members of the crew that he looked so bad they thought he would be going over the side wrapped in the Union Jack!

Bread and Sugar

Able Seaman Len Ackroyd had this recollection after seeing the below photo of the pilot being transferred back to the aircraft carrier HMS Indomitable by breeches buoy:

Pilot Transfer

When returning pilots to any of the carriers a message would be sent to whoever was in charge at the time that they couldn’t have the pilot back unless they sent a couple of sacks of bread and bags of sugar in return; treats really for the sailors. There was never any bread on board the Wager whilst at sea as there was no bakery; however, it was baked daily on the carriers.

When the planes took off for operations from the carriers it was Wager’s job, as with all escort destroyers, to pick up any downed pilots or ship survivors. One young pilot’s plane was shot down into the sea very close to the Wager and remained afloat. The boy tried to throw a suitcase out of the cockpit first, which he managed to do, but the plane went down before he had another chance to get out so he drowned. It was terrible to see. We did recover the suitcase and found it full of clothes.

Orders for Surrender Ceremony

Leading Signalman Ted Longshaw writes:

These 2 pages relate to the Victory Parade held in Hong Kong. I was on duty in the signal office when the instructions arrived, and I delivered the other copies to the Captain, and kept these. The pages were produced using a roller and an ink covered jelly in a tray as a copier. I remained in the signal office and did not witness the event.

Orders for Surrender Ceremony
Orders for Surrender Ceremony

The video below shows historical footage of the Japanese surrender signing aboard Battleship Missouri Sunday Sept. 2, 1945.

Landing Party at Spitzbergen – HMS Wager’s first operation

Leading Signalman Ted Longshaw writes:

Aldis LampOur first proper operation, in June 1944, was to re-supply the radio station at Spitzbergen, an island north of Norway in the Arctic Ocean, as escort to a cruiser, which had most of the supplies. The cruiser and HMS Whelp stayed outside the fjord (Isfjord, perhaps?), while HMS Wager, the junior ship, went in to ensure that the station had not been secretly taken over by the enemy. I had to go ashore with a landing party, led by a junior officer, and four other ratings, armed with ordinary rifles, in the motor boat, and then signal back with the Aldis lamp that everything was okay. Oh what fun it all was!

Click here for more information on an Aldis lamp.

Basher Watkin – and Basher the dog

Leigh Gayman, son of Temporary Surgeon Lieutenant G R Gayman RCNVR, the ship’s doctor, writes from Vancouver, BC:

Both the captain of HMS Wager, Basher Watkin, and Tom Trowbridge, the first lieutenant, at different times visited my father and mother in Canada when on vacation.

Lieutenant-Commander Watkin visited my parents when I was about ten or so. I recall that he was called Basher, though I don’t know why, and that he often fell asleep while sitting down. So, when we subsequently got a new puppy, who did the same thing, we named him Basher!

In their travels, my parents several times visited Basher Watkin in the Isle of Man.

While Flag Officer Royal Yachts (sometime between 1970 and 1975), Rear-Admiral Tom Trowbridge invited my parents for lunch on board HM Yacht Britannia, while she was alongside in Vancouver awaiting the Queen. Sadly, I was not invited!

Basher Watkin

Water Polo

Lester May writes:

My father was Able Seaman (LTO) Wally May – known to some as Stripey May, as he was a three-badge AB, and had joined HMS Wager, on 16 Jun 44. He was 38 in July 1944 and had been in the Royal Navy since 1923 during which time he had boxed for his ship(s) and been a goalkeeper in football matches, although he was only 5’7″ (170cm) tall.

Competitive sports between ships and flotillas were encouraged by captains, and any sport in, or on, the sea was, of course, the easiest when in a safe anchorage with other ships in hot climates. Indeed, often ‘hands to bathe’ would be piped, affording the opportunity for jumping over the ship’s side for a swim and a lark in the water.

My father also played water polo, a seven-a-side game obviously suited to these circumstances. He told me that, while in HMS Wager he had played in a friendly – but competitive! – match of water polo against a team from sister ship HMS Whelp, with whom they were often in company.

Apparently, kicking an opponent further under the water is used to gain an advantage over the other team, and Dad told me that he had kicked down ‘the Greek Prince’ who was in the other team. This, of course, was Lieutenant The Prince Philip of Greece RN, who was First Lieutenant of HMS Whelp throughout the ship’s time in the Pacific. Prince Philip went on to become Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten RN and then, in 1952, Admiral of the Fleet His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh. My father did not end up in the Tower of London!

I had always thought that this water polo match had taken place in Tokyo Bay, around the time of Japan’s signing the surrender document on 2 Sep 45, but it may have taken place at one or other safe anchorages in 1945, such as at Manus Island or Guam.

HMS Wager – a Happy Ship

From oral reports given by members of the ship’s company and Clive Stewart-Lockhart, whose father had told him about HMS Wager:

The captain, Lt Cdr ‘Basher’ Watkin, a big man with a bushy beard, was a larger than life figure. It appears that he ran an efficient ship and, moreover, a ‘happy ship’ and, certainly, for the young officer, Sub-Lieutenant Kit Stewart-Lockhart, HMS Wager gave him his happiest time in his wartime naval service.

A Happy Ship
The open bridge of HMS Wager, with the bearded captain, Lt Cdr R C (‘Basher’) Watkin RN. Kit Stewart-Lockhart can be seen standing to the right of Lt Cdr Watkin.