LEND LEASE LOVERS
"BACV6" towered above the shipyard of the Willamette Iron & Steel
corporation out on
the north front of the city of Portland in the state of Oregon, U.S.A.. It was the last day of
January. 1943 , and the cold wind across the flight deck reminded us that Oregon- its
mountains, mists, and men- was very Scottish.
The ships Company was mustered aft at divisions as Commander Meagher, U.S.N.R.
received the ship on behalf of the U.S.N. from the Vice President of Willamette's. So
ended the commercial contract. The U.S.Navy did not keep her long. Commander
Meagher promptly turned to Commander Godfrey C.Dickens of Lee on Solent who
graciously received her on behalf of the Royal Navy.
Lend Lease Lovers.
An international contract had begun. Actually, it was Lend-Lease. Indeed, everything was so lend lease that even the Ships Company, whose stay in Portland had not passed unnoticed, were known as the lend lease lovers.
In the softest of whispers, lest the enemy should hear, the ship was named by Mrs James Macdonald, wife of his Britannic Majesty's Consul. "Still" was piped by Chief Boson's mate Leslie J. Withenden of Watford, assisted by P.O.George Carr of Dover, and those honey-handed Stripeys A.B. (sails) Hardwicke of Kilburn and A.B.Vic Bonningfield of Bow. The hands came to attention, the guard presented arms, as Gunners Mate "Jack" Humble barked the orders, and the National Anthem was played by the U.S. Air Force Band, and sung at a different speed by the assembly. Slowly rose the White Ensign, and a large lump also rose in the throats of many. B.A.C.V.6 was H.M.S.Tracker, an Escort Carrier of the Royal Navy, pledged by her Captain "to all purposes of war".
This was the first time that the White Ensign had flown on the Willamette River. One Mother, Wife of a Doctor in the Indian Army, brought along her two sons, who were reluctant evacuees from blitzed Britain. They were anxious, she said to stand on British soil, so they luxuriated in the feel of the flight deck.
Taking for her crest the grim face of old Multnomah, Big Chief of a tribe of Coyote Indians who roamed the hills of Oregon, and proclaiming, in their words of an Old Indian motto, "Rerawira"-" I am on the War Path, H.M.S.Tracker cast off from the pier at St Johns Portland, on 27th Feb 1943. Her Seamen, who included some of the toughest and wildest elements in the Royal Navy- they shook a continent from Poskskill to Portland -had just shown they could shift other things besides beer. They had shipped 3,500 tons of zinc and paper pulp in half the time set them. As Tracker swung down the Willamette and into the great Columbia, cars of admirers chased down the Columbria River Highway with farewell toots and tears.
We looked in at Bremerton Navy yard, gave the engines a fullpower run in Puget Sound, and paused for breath in the Royal Roads off Victoria British Columbria. On the 12th March we weighed and proceeded on the first big trip, the 4,000 miles down the west coast to Balboa.
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