Burma Star Association
Burma Star Association

Percy Smith's Memories

Percy joined the Merchant Marine on June 13th 1942 in Trincomalee, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). 

 

After training at Bombay, Percy served on several ships – M/V Cromwell, S/S Empire Record, M/V Ryle Queen and S/S Empire Viscount. Among his port's of call were Trincomalee, Cocos Isle, Colombo, Bombay, Aden, Abadan, Port Said, Algiers, Gibraltar, Southampton, London (Tilbury docks), Cardiff, Glasgow, Freetown, Capetown, Port Elizabeth, Durban, Andaman Islands, Rangoon, Penang, Djakarta, Christmas Isle, and Singapore. 

 

In 1943 Percy was sent to Glasgow to board the Chemong bound for Murmansk taking a load of ammunition - over 2000 tons of it. They never realized the danger they were in as they were used to carrying all types of war material. With the Germans bombing almost every night, the drill was to move the ship from dock to dock before dark. From four to six crew were assigned as fire watchers, with hoses hooked up and fire extinguishers at the ready. A lot of good that did ! 

 

On the night before the ship was to sail, Percy and some of his mates were given shore leave. As usual Jerry was back that night, and sitting in a pub he heard a massive explosion. It was the Chemong that had taken the hit. 

 

Out of a crew of 47, many died, but Percy never found out how many or who they were. Lady luck was with him that night but as he says "one way or another it was a death sentence" -  if the bombers hadn't got that ship, the U­boats probably would have.

When you go home

tell them of us and say,

For your tomorrow,

we gave our today

Lt Gen Slim at Fort Dufferin, Mandalay, in March 1945 Lt Gen Slim at Fort Dufferin, Mandalay, in March 1945
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