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




CHAPTER 5                            NATURE VERSUS MAN
 
 

       There were two "Star Trips", and No 2 was one of them.

       It was the epic of the Gale. When we weighed anchor at Meville, Northern Ireland, on the
       night of October 18th, we did so, because, with a S.W. gale and a strong ebb, it was too
       dangerous to lie there, and when we reached Argentia, Newfoundland,on the morning of
       Nov 12th. we did so because, with another S.E.gale howling astern, we could not put
       about. As for the intervening three weeks... We covered a convoy, again with E.G.2 and
       carried out the usual Anti- submarine patrols. After ten days of this, we were ordered to
       the west, where U Boats were said to be lurking. The change of course in a full S.W.
       gale caused a tremendous roll- the angle was officially 52 degrees- and we had to heave
       to. Turmoil had broken out in the hanger. A swordfish, giving chase to Chief engineer
       Ferguson, ploughed through neighbouring aircraft. Another charged the ship's side, burst
       a hydrant, gave a nasty impression of the sea sweeping in board, and aroused the valour
       of the commander, who nobly sat on the hydrant. Valiant work was done in the hanger
       by Lt " Bats" Urwin and the Squadron, but at the end of the roll only three aircraft were fit
       for flying. Not many will forget Nov 1st. 1943. Quartermaster of the watch was "Ginger"
       Walker, then A.B. He kept his head as well as the ship's, but was of the opion that one
       more heavy sea at that precise moment, and... However, the next [pipe did not indicate
       panic. It was "one hand  from each mess muster at the galley with tea urn...stand easy!

       This S.W.gale blew on the 1st. A N.E. gale howled on the third. So the Swordfish took
       off on the 2nd. The courage of each trio was all the finer for its being mere routine.
       As they clambered into their flapping roaring "Kite" they knew perfectly well that, even if
       the weather allowed them to take off, it might have changed for the worse by the time
       they wanted to land on. and the take off was no picnic.
       Crowds lined the catwalk to see the show, very much in the spirit of dirt track crowds. It
       is in fact that everyone of those spectators made sure he had somewhere to dive to if the
       ship or the plane should stage a surprise move. Here she comes. Commander Flying
       has given the affirmative. Ships steady into the wind and the sea. Louder roar. Past the
       bridge. up up ...yes she's airbourne... Did you see that dip? Just missed by 40
       Millimeters. Watch out. C for Charlies landing on. Bats is doing his stuff. Down port
       Steady now. Down starboard. Ship's pretty quiet, Lower now. Here she comes, down,
       down. This is going to be a lovely threepoint. Right out. The dirty ... Ship suddenly
       dropped her stern then. Twenty five feet. Poor old Stringbag dropped like a stone, and
       spreadeagled her undercarriage. Prang No. 3. Fall in maintenance. Another nights work.
       She must be up tomorrow.

       Tomorrow's another day.

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