Royal Marines

Royal Marine Donald Thatcher Kings Squad 418

Donald is on the left of this picture.

The following pictures are from my wifes Granddads collection, he joined up on the 12th August 1942 and was discharged in 1955. His first ship was HMS Norfolk where he was responsible for guarding the U boat pens in Norway. He recalls one incident where himself and a mate were called to the bridge due a report of a U boat trying to escape, they were loaded in to the admiralty's launch with an officer and sent out to intercept. As he told me the story he laughed, he said it was like a scene out of Dad's army...three men in a launch armed only with rifles against a U boat weighing tons. fortunately he said with a grin the U boat surfaced and the crew came out onto the decks, he said they looked at us in the launch and laughed. He was also involved in the return of the Royal family to Norway and the Corfu Incident on the 22nd October 1946 where HMS Saumarez and HMS Volage were mined in the Corfu channel with the loss of 44 men and 40 injured.

These are pictures of Donald training with Kings Squad 418 in 1943 at Blarrick Camp, Cornwall. In some of the pictures you can see explosions.

HMS Norfolk

HMS Norfolk was Donald's first ship, which he was on for over a year from 30th June 1944 to 1st August 1945. The ports he visisted while onboard were Tronghiem, Bergen and Oslo

HMS Norfolk's ships mascot

HMS Aurora

HMS Aurora was Donald's next ship, which he served from 16th January 1946 to 10th April 1946. The ports he visisted were:- Malta, Messina, Haifa, Alexandria, Trieste, Venice and Pola

Donald just back from a route march with HMS Aurora in the background

HMS Ajax

HMS Ajax was Donalds next ship, which he served onboard from 20th April 1946 to 20th October 1947. He visisted numerous ports while on board:- Naples, Haifa, Trieste, Venice, Pharmagusta, Port Said, Suez Canal, Pola, Patras, Corfu, Argostoli, Salonika, Pireaus, Athens, Suda Bay, Canee, Limasol, Jaffa, Alexandria, Syra, Nauplia, Cape Arnauti and Aranci Bay (lets hope he didn't have a girl in every port!).

It would have been this deployment that he played his part in the Corfu Incident. There were various political issues going on before this incident but I will go straight to the day in hand. It was on the afternoon of October 22nd 1946 the cruiser HMS Mauritius leading the destroyer HMS Saumarez, followed by the cruiser HMS Leander and another destroyer HMS Volage were in channel with guns trained fore and aft, but with orders to return fire if fired upon due to HMS Orion and HMS Superb being fire on by an Albanian shore battery previously (no hit scored, May 14th 1946). The exercise was designed to show that ships could proceed safely in what were recognised international waters.

During passage down the charted swept channed between Corfu and the Greek mainland a violent explosion occurred forward of HMS Saumarez's bridge as she hit a mine, followed by a fire.

HMS Saumarez

HMS Volage took HMS Saumarez in tow but herself hit a mine which blew her bows off. Eventually all four ships returned to harbour, but there had been casualties, 44 men killed and 40 injured. HMS Saumarez was scrapped and HMS Volage had a new bow fitted. The channel was swept immediately and the swept mines were found to be brand new and not been in the water long.

At the time Albanian gold was frozen and they were oredered to pay damages by an international court. I believe there has still not been an official apology (I could be wrong).

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