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




CHAPTER 7                      HOME FOR CHISTMAS
 

       On Christmas we ran into that scotch mist once again. What a Christmas gift- 86 bags
       of mail! A branch of the G.P.O. opened in the parachute packing room, and a deep
       silence of contentment settled on the ship as we digested our mail. This was seen
       followed by an even deeper contentment, as we digested our Christmas dinner. The
       festival was also celebrated by rollicking ship's concert, at which the "Tracker Follies"
       were hilariously born. Up went the hook again on Dec 29th and we sailed out to fly off
       Squadron 816 for the last time. in great style they soared away from the ship that broke
       so many kites but failed to break any fliers spirit. Lt. Cmdr. {A} F.C. Nottingham D.S.C.
       R.N.V.R., who never once had a prang himself, led the Squadron to fresh adventures-
       and a crop of decorations- protecting Russian convoys from H.M.S. Chaser.

       The Squadron had already helped "Tracker" achieve nation wide fame, thanks to the
       impressions gained on the Argentia run by war correspondent {and author} A.D.Devine.
       who gave us a most vivid and gratifying write up in the national press. Many photographs
       were subsequently taken by admiralty staff, and there soon appeared the book "Escort
       Carrier"  by Lt. Cmdr. John Moore. Here was the inside story of life in the old Tracker
       herself, and though the name was not given. Her officers and men however, beam
       handsomely from the pages of photographs  All the country's papers carried a picture of
       the flight deck inclined at a routine angle, and upon it the sea dogs themselves doing
       P.T. after Evening Quarters.
        The captions captained references to "Sea legs" which gave us an extra yard of flannel
       when we went ashore, and suggested to the Greenock buoy swingers that they get
       some time in.

       Enter 1944.

       The new year brought us a new Captain, a new chief, and a new Squadron. Captain
       McGrath went eventually to the command of H.M.S. Albatross, an invasion repair ship
       which did valiant work under enemy guns. Captain J,H.Huntley, R.N., who also came
       from Destroyers,Rapidly won the confidence and affection of the ship's company.
       Lt.Cmdr. {E} Ferguson was succeeded by Lt. Cmdr, {E} Frank McKee {an Essex man}.
       Formerly "Chief" in the "Searcher", he has sailed through every known form of crisis in
       the Tracker engine room, and he probably knows as much about the internal workings of
       Escort Carriers as any man living. Rumour has it that he makes two pilgrimages to the
       bridge every 24 hours, one, by day, as professional Engineer, to report the defects
       below, and the other, by night, as amateur astronomer, to survey the effects above.

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