LIFE OF THE TRACKER
Story of the escort carrier HMS Tracker 1943-1945




CHAPTER 4                        BATTLE OF THE ROLL
 
 

       Our three successive Squadrons, however, fought an even more perilous fight, the battle
       of the roll.

       Both Captain McGrath and Captain Huntley have commented emphatically on the
       excessive liveliness of the ship, and their vivid accounts of operations conceal beneath
       flashes of humour a grave concern for the lives of their airmen and the success of their
       enterprises. If the breeze freshened enough to lift an aircraft at the take off, the ship's
       rolling would make landing on , an epic of stunt flying, if the sea was calm enough for
       Tracker,you could bet your sea boots there'd be no flying- not enough wind to lift a
       butterfly, let alone a bedstead. When it is either too calm or too rough for flying, where
       are you? Well, we were still in the Gap, still receiving signals to patrol here and strike
       there, still pushing along with Captain Stalker & his Swoops, as budding author put it in
       the Tracker Tribune, the ship's paper that was born at this time. But I anticipate.

       At dawn on Sept 24th 1943 Captain McGrath mounted the bridge as we met Escort
       Group of four off Oversay, and began our operational career. Three days later we were
       switched to the famous E.G.2, under Captain Walker-he was in H.M.S. Wren at the
       time, as the Starling was refitting- and covered a convoy. Long sweeps by the swordfish
       augmented the patrolling of a Liberater. a westerly gale got up on the night of October
       2rd. Nevertheless-what a wealth of drama lies in that undramatic word in the official
       report!- "four aircraft were flown off at 0800." They returned in two hours to find the deck
       leaping and plunging. as one came in to land on, the ship writhed viciously, and the flight
       deck came up and smacked the aircraft like a bat striking a ball. the swordfish just
       missed the bridge and , falling apart disappeared in the swirling water. the crew
       scrambled out, and crowds on the flight deck watch the rescue drama. The Wren came
       over to pick up the men, and narrowly missed our bows as we lay hove to on the heavy
       swell. Unfortunately, the  sloop seemed to be carried right over the men in the tossing
       dinghy, and one of them was not seen again alive. He was the observer, S/Lt John Victor
       Stretton, of Worksop, Notts, a popular and incredibly cheerful member of the Squadron.

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