COLLISION AND THE END
On the night 20/21st of November 1944, Wensleydale left Sheerness to take up an anti E-Boat patrol line on the Dutch coast. However, because of adverse weather it was decided that E-boat activity was unlikely. Therefore, Wensleydale was ordered to anchor for the night, off Southend. During the night the ship was rammed on the port side. Water flooded the engine and gearing rooms. The port side and upper deck plating from frame 88 to 98 was indented, buckled and fractured to a depth of six feet on the upper deck for nearly half her length. This damage was caused by the Royal Navy operated LST 367 (Landing Ship Tank)
The danger from surface and air attack had gone, and Wensleydale was showing her stern lights. Radar mechanic Robert Benson was asleep in his hammock when he felt an almighty crash. Two people were on watch in the engine room, but were uninjured.. However, water had damaged the dynamos and put out all the lights. When he got up on deck, Robert Benson found there was only 6" between the deck and the water. Jack Rodway Judd also felt the collision and rushed up on deck to see this towering vessel above Wensleydale. His first thought was that the ship was about to sinkThe Captain came over the loudspeaker and explained the situation, followed by stand by your abandon ship stations. The canteen manager rushed round the crew dishing out all the cigarettes. However, Wensleydale did not sink; and the canteen manager naturally wanted his cigarettes back. This point was put to the captain, who dismissed him and told him to put them down as 'lost at sea'. Tugs came with the appropriate equipment; and the ship was towed back to Sheerness
At around this time, a youth called Hilton Wallace had just joined the Wensleydale. (The following extract is taken from the BBC's People's War web site. Story by Hilton Wallace)."The ship was waiting for our orders to set sail again. I was in charge of naval stores and had not been on the ship for long. I had just completed my training. I joined when I was 17, and was only allowed to go to sea when I was 18. There not being much to do while at anchor, a number of us were sitting in the mess deck, playing cards, or reading books, or just chatting, when the post was brought in and distributed. I was happy to receive a letter from my grandmother, Fanny Riding, who had been very fond of since I was small, so it was a treat to hear from her. I opened the letter and started to read it when a part of it seemed so horrible that I must have gone white. "You probably must know by now that Geoff (my brother) has been KILLED IN ACTION!". But I didn't know - no one hah told me! And I burst out sobbing. "What's up?", someone asked, sitting next to me. I gave him the letter, because I couldn't speak for some time.After obtaining permission to go on compassionate leave, I took the train to Cheltenham, Glos, to visit my mother. When I arrived home, my mother, sister (Noreen), and my brother David, were there. Also Geoffrey's lady friend, Kit, and her daughter, Molly, fathered by Geoffrey. The next day, Kit had tried to commit suicide, was taken to hospital and recovered. Geoffrey John Wallace had joined the Glosters when he was called up. He went to France on D-Day, but in October, 1944, was killed in Holland and buried near Roosenthall, Holland".
The collision caused the heating onboard ship not to work. This caused damp and condensation. The result was that an outbreak of scabies occurred. The source was found to be damp duffel coats. The SBA (sick bay attendant), Ralph Massey was sent to Chatham for a Winchester (1 gallon bottle) full of a jelly-like substance, which was applied to the infected hands of the crew. However, before application, the hands had to be scrubbed to break the skin and expose infection.
At least one member of the crew enjoyed the time in Hartlepool. Every day fresh bread was brought on board the ship. The bread man also brought money with him. These were the days of the black market and a certain member of the crew had access to the food stores. The bread man left the ship with corn beef, tea, salmon and suger etc. Needless to say this was illegal, and the local police were told to 'watch that Wensleydale', as they thought something fishy was going on.
As a result of the collision the ship was reduced to catogary "C" reserve on 17 December 1944; and declared a Constructive Total Loss. However, on 28th Febuary 1945, she was upgraded to catogary "B" reserve which suggested that the intention was to repair her. Nine months later on 8th of November 1945 she was approved to scrap. On 6th March 1946 she was again reduced to catogary "C" reserve at West Hartlepool and three months later on 29th June 1946 she was placed on the sale list to a scrap yard. On 25th Febuary 1947 Wensleydale arrived under tow at her final resting place; the yard of Hughes Bolckow, in Blyth; where she was broken up for scrap.
On March 1st 1945, the crew held a mock funeral of HMS Wensleydale. A coffin was carried around the ship, followed by the remaining ship's company; and slipped over the side.
LINES SPOKEN AT FUNERAL AND SEA BURIAL OF H.M.S. WENSLEYDALE
MARCH 1st 1945.
AT THE SERVICE
We're gathered here this wintry morn, with heads bowed down and hearts forlorn. To bid a last farewell, to one who's served us bastards well.
When asked for speed she never failed. At enemy she never quailed. And even now, the Hun goes pale, when someone whispers "Wensleydale"
No more she'll plough the ocean deep. For here in Hartlepool, She'll sleep. Tended lovingly day and night, by Jarrett, Hill and Knocker White.
Then to destroyers heav'n she'll go, to that celestial Scapa Flow. Where we may meet again someday, when death has taken us away. No more to fight - no more to sail
Farewell to you - dear Wensleydale. Ashes to Ashes - Dust to Dust. Boilers to Boilers - Rust to Rust
AT THE COMMITTAL
We commit this body to the deep. And hope that old King Nep will keep it safe from harm and battle's din - Right-Oh boys, heave the bastard in.
(C) David Allen Nov, 2006