Oswald E Longshaw [Oswald Edward Longshaw, I presume] – aka Ted Longshaw – was born on 13 April 1926 in south London. Leaving school at around the age of 14, he first worked with his father who drove a delivery van in Peckham. Volunteering to join the Royal Navy during the Second World War, Ted joined up on his 17th birthday in 1943, and may have first found naval life akin to a holiday! He did his basic naval training at HMS Royal Arthur, a requisitioned Butlin’s holiday camp in Skegness and, choosing to specialise as a Signalman, he was later in HMS Scotia, in Doonfoot, south of Ayr, another Butlin’s camp, learning the basics of his trade. So, as Signalman 1st Class by the spring of 1944, he joined the brand new W class destroyer, HMS Wager, fitting out at John Brown’s yard in Clydebank.
He served in this fleet destroyer for the next 21 months, being advanced to Leading Signalman sometime in 1945. He was thus part of a small team of signalmen, led by a Petty Officer called the Yeoman, who dealt with all the ship’s flags and with signals sent by flag, by semaphore and by Aldis lamp, mostly working on the ship’s bridge, bridge wings and signal deck, often directly for the captain, often in the open air in all weathers. Ted loved his work as a signalman, where one was ‘in the know’ unlike most of the ship’s company. He said how much he saluted the Royal Navy for its part in forming him as a man in the latter half of the war.
There followed the usual trials in a new ship. After commissioning, HMS Wager served first in home waters and in August 1944 was on the way through the Mediterranean Sea to join the East Indies Fleet based at Trincomalee in Ceylon. By February 1945 she, along with the other ships of the 27th Destroyer Flotilla, was part of the British Pacific Fleet (BPF) under Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser. The BPF worked closely with the US Navy over the months to the end of the war. HMS Wager, like all destroyers of the time (in the days before helicopters), was the workhorse of the fleet, carrying out despatch duties, escort work and picking up downed pilots, transferring them to aircraft carriers and so on. She was fortunate insofar as she was never the direct target of a kamikaze aircraft but Ted, and others on the bridge and upper deck of HMS Wager, would have seen such terrifying warfare at first hand, many a time.
Much of the HMS Wager story is on the website at www.hms-wager.org.uk. Ted had seen a BBC website about wartime memories to which Vince Savin had made a contribution, about his father’s service in HMS Wager. Vince and Ted met in around 2006 and, from that, the website was born. Perhaps a dozen sailors from the ship and her sisters have been in touch, as a result, all of them now in their mid-eighties or older.
Highlights of the ship’s time in the Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean included supporting the British carriers and the Fleet Air Arm’s raids on Sumatra’s oil refineries, run by the Japanese, in January 1945, visiting Sydney, NSW, where they had a marvellous welcome and hospitality, and refitting in Auckland in the early summer of 1945. There was a visit to Guam while escorting the flagship HMS King George V and she, and HMS Wager were present, with sister ship HMS Whelp (Prince Philip was second-in-command), in Tokyo Bay for the signing of instrument of surrender of Japan on 2 September 1945. Sometime in the summer of 1945, Ted was loaned to HMS Whelp for a fortnight, thus serving with the future Duke of Edinburgh.
After the war’s end, HMS Wager was involved in policing and humanitarian work, as the Allies tried to restore order in the Far East, visiting Hong Kong and Canton among other places. She returned to Portsmouth in January 1946 and paid off into reserve.
It was a de-mob (de-mobilisation) course in the late 1940s that set Ted on a very different path than that for which he was likely destined pre-war – his expectation was to be a van driver like his father. He worked in laundry engineering, setting up his own successful company and became Master of the Launderers’ Company, worked in the model car business with his son (setting up the International Federation of Model Auto Racing in 1979, becoming its Life President) and, only last year, became Captain of his Golf Club near Downe, in Kent, where he had made his home with his wife, Linda.
Ted Longshaw, naval signalman and entrepreneur, died peacefully at home on 6 September 2011. He was 85.