Story of the escort carrier HMS Tracker 1943-1945

CHAPTER 16                    DESTINATION CLYDE

       And then it came. A clear Lower Deck that this writer will never forget. It was his
       Birthday and what a present to receive. "Before you go ashore after this spell at sea"
       began the Captain , gravely, "I must warn you that I shall believe all that the shore
       patrols say about you. The war against Japan has a long way to go. There is much to be
       done. I shall give you our next movements..." The hush was death like "We are staying
       here for four days, storing ship. Then we shall proceed to the Panama Canal, make two
       calls on the East Coast, and then HOME to U.K.! The cheers of frenzied enthusiasm
       smote to the hangar roof. The Commander's order of dismissal was swept away in the
       tide of jubilation.

       Another chapter was ended. We had ferried 300 aircraft and 100 passengers, and had
       sailed 36,000 miles. Incidentally, the Commander and his Seamen had not idled away
       these Pacific hours. The interior of the ship looked finer than at any time in her
       commission, every inch having been newly painted.

       Some heroic members of the ship's company received draft chits to H.M.S. "Atheling"
       just before we sailed. They relived those due for release from Service, for the Age  &
       Service Release Scheme was now beginning to affect even the men of the Royal Navy.
       These draftees took their profound disappointment in fine spirit.

       So on Friday 13th we sailed from San Diego. Balboa saw us again in eight days. We
       swept majestically through the now non combatant Caribbean, with all lights blazing,
       ports open, letters uncensored. What a contrast to that first Caribbean trip , preceded by
       a pep talk to look outs! We reached Norfolk on 27th July, stepping ashore to gather the
       rabbits, and those who had money left did the same in New York on July 30th. Here we
       left eighteen good men and true, the last of the "Newflies" grand fellows all They were
       bound for home leave, and probably demobilisation.

       During the first forenoon of August, the statue of Liberty faded astern. Once again the
       faithful "Tracker" turned her bows to break the Atlantic rollers. Many strange sights had
       the old ship seen- a spaniel looking for his master on the bridge, a Pigeon [P.O.
       Walker's Peppy"] landing aft.But now women and children stroll happily through the
       hangar, and schoolboys chirrup in the Ready Room. For we are bringing home evacuees,
       and American wives of British Naval personnel. There are a hundred members of a
       F.A.A. station in New Brunswick also with us.

       As I write, the once familiar Clyde - blessed river - lies 1'000 miles ahead, and our E.T.A.
       is August 9th. By that time H.M.S."Tracker" will have sailed 103,000 miles since day
       this story began. For all of us, re-union with home is waiting, For some, it is the end of
       the war, peace, civilian life, career... But for the "Tracker" for those who will sail again,
       who knows?

       Nearly three years have passed since they barked the name "Tracker" over the speakers
       at R.N.B.Chatham. At least  she will have helped us in the learning of life's most
       important lesson, the art of living together. I have said little about the way we lived
       together. Both the life of the ship and the men who lived it, the interplay of varied gifts
       and personalities, the endless store of character, humour, and paths sandwiched
       between these welded decks, could make a whole book. Perhaps it will be written one
       day. At Least I've made a list of the names!

       If a man is as old as he feels, a ship is as happy as ordinary Seamen John Smith. And
       what does John Smith say? He is busy with his rabbits now. But ask him in ten year's

                                                           The End.

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