|Wensleydale was built on The Clyde by
Yarrow's, of Scotstown, Glasgow. The ship was ordered on 24 August 1940,
laid down 28th July 1941, launched 20th June 1942, commissioned in
September 1942 and completed on 30th October 1942.
The man chosen to Captain the ship was Lt John Aylmer McClure (see below for further details).
On 4th of November 1942 the ship left for Tobomory on The Isle of Mull. It was here that vessels were sent to be 'shaken up' in exercises devised by the famous admiral Stevenson.
One crewmember remembers that whilst at Tobermory, five or six of us from the same mess went ashore and investigated the whiskies and beer in the numerous pubs that stood either side of the town's one road. "the amount they could put away staggered me, and it staggered them also for soon enough they was vomiting in the gutters, slumping against walls, lurching down the pavement, and making a careful way back to the ship".
On 16th of November Wensleydale was ordered to Scapa Flow in The Orkneys for sea going trails and training exercises. The ship arrived during a gale and it took two hours to secure to a buoy. Wensleydale left Scapa Flow on 17th December 1942, and was to escort a merchant ship down to Milford Haven
The ship called at Liverpool on it's way. Unfortunately, Wensleydale appeared to lose contact with the ship during the night and arrived at Milford Haven on the 19th without the ship it was supposed to protect. All the crew was put to work painting the ship's side and before the paint was dry, the ship was ordered to sea to be one of the escorting ships for convoy Kx 7A from UK to Gibraltar. The convoy consisted of Delilian, (BR)Houston City II (BR), Kafirstan (BR) and Manchester Merchant (BR). The escorts were Slazak, Starwort and Wensleydale. The ship went well out into the Atlantic to avoid U-boats. One man on board recalled that for the first (and hopefully the last) time in his life he experienced 40 foot high waves. On 29th of December 1942 the Rock of Gibraltar appeared. The crew were allowed shore leave. On board the ship at this time was ordinary seaman Francis Huxley. One of the sons of Sir Julian Huxley (the first director of UNESCO), who himself was the grandson of T.H. Huxley, who was said to be 'a giant among Victorian scientists' A fellow seaman who went on shore leave with Huxley recalled that as they climbed 'the rock', Huxley named all the plants, trees and flowers, adding rather modestly that he had no great knowledge of the subject, it was his brother who was the real botanist. Huxley joined up, before he was called up for the Navy. The advantage being that after a spell on the lower deck, he'd be made a midshipman.
It appears that the ratings had a merry time in Gibraltar. It was rumoured that some of the local brew was wood alcohol. Whatever it was, it certainly had an effect on the men as a number returned to the ship in various states, with brawls breaking out all over the place. When the crew fell in next morning, half the crew looked like bare knuckle prize fighters. The ship left Gibraltar with convoy MKS4Y on 1.1.43 and arrived in Londonderry during a severe gale on 9.1.43.
JOHN AYLMER McCLURE was born in Entebbe, Uganda, where his father was serving the colonial administration as a civil engineer. He joined the Royal Navy, entering the Britannia Royal Naval College as a Cadet at the age of 13. Served as a Midshipman and Sub Lieutenant on the China Station in the cruiser HMS CUMBERLAND. He returned to China in 1937 as First Lieutenant of the gunboat HMS FALCON, based at Chungking on the river Yangtse. In 1939, on the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War, it became impossible to sail downriver to Shanghai and the crew of the FALCON were forced to abandon the vessel. They made an epic overland journey, by lorry, to Hong Kong, under the constant threat of Japanese bombing, via what was then known as Indo-China. In Cambodia the 'Falcons' rendered assistance to the passengers of a train which had been crushed by a collapsing tunnel; for his part in the rescue John was awarded a splendid 'gong' by King Norodom Sihanouk - The Order of the Imperial Lion of Cambodia, the rarest and most ornate of his medals. The Second World War had started, and soon after his return to Great Britain, in considerable luxury aboard a P & O liner, he joined HMS ECLIPSE, a destroyer, and spent a gruelling two years in the Arctic, escorting convoys to Murmansk, in Northern Russia. His ship took part in one of the most illustrious actions of the Arctic war, the Battle of the Barents Sea. For his gallantry in the battle he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, his Captain receiving the DSO. With characteristic modesty he seldom talked about this incident and said that he was much more scared when being bombed in Devonport when his ship was in dock being repaired. He spent the rest of the War in destroyers, whose main role was to hunt down enemy submarines, exchanging the icy waters of the Arctic for the more pleasant climes of the Mediterranean. His last sea command was HMS ACTIVE. After two happy years accompanied by his family, from 1947 to 1949, in a shore job in Ceylon as Staff Officer Operations, Trincomalee he returned to Britain and a desk in the Admiralty. His last sea appointment was as First Lieutenant of the cruiser HMS GAMBIA. On leaving the Navy in the rank of Lieutenant Commander. He was awarded the MBE in1959. (extracted from documents obtained from Ian & Lydia McClure.
RIGHT: Christmas card issued to all crew in 1942
(C) David Allen, Nov 2006