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ex-USS PCE833, ex-HMS Kilham, ex-Sognefjord, ex-Orion, ex-Orion II, ex-Corona, Orient Explorer /+ sisters

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    Dutch PCE Corvette

    Orionboy: You've come up trumps again. Your link

    relating to the Fret F818, shows a photograph of the guncrew of the 3" gun and portrays the various jobs. The person in the process of loading the shell would represent completely my father's job!, ie inserting shells into the breech.

    Also the 'Abandon Ship' drill photo is relevant, as that order was given on the Kilham when an oil tanker hit her at the stern and put a large hole in the hull. The crew spent about 3 days on a depot/supply ship to see if Kilham was going to sink or not.

    These photos are 11 years later, but I suspect if same drawings were used by builders, that there would be very little change in appearance.

    I think my father will be interested to see these.


      VE Day, Freetown, Sierra Leone

      I have discovered a delightful piece of direct relevance to the history of Kilham and shore leave of her crew.

      Having spoken at length to my father about life during his time on board, patrol duties were along the West African coastline, centred on Freetown. Freetown was a sort of central point, where they went to re-equip from the Depot Ship Philoctetes, which was moored in the harbour. My father and Kilham were based around Freetown right up until the close of war in Europe.

      Shore leave obviously was a great respite from the routine of patrols and mundane duties. My father's memories are limited, but the following is from a crew member of Philoctetes who is a similar age to my father, but who has a greater recall. All crew of Kilham would have shared this same experience. Enjoy (although a sad ending):

      "H.M.S. Philoctetes - Chas. A. L. Towell, by Leeds Libraries

      Contributed by*
      Leeds Libraries
      People in story:*
      Chas. A. L. Towell - Walker
      Location of story:*
      Freetown, Sierra Leone, West Africa
      Background to story:*
      Royal Navy
      Article ID:*
      Contributed on:*
      14 July 2005

      Tuesday, May 8th 1945 was, as usual, hot, humid and accompanied by the various odours of a naval ship moored in the open haven of a West African port. The ship was H.M.S. Philoctetes. The harbour was Freetown, Sierra Leone.
      That morning we had all listened to the fluctuating (short wave radio) sonorous tones of Winston Churchill announcing the end of hostilities in Europe and, more importantly (for some !) directing the Fleet to “splice the mainbrace”.

      I had not long turned 18 and so, was not entitled to draw rum until I reached my majority (21). Despite this anachronism, I was issued with two gin tickets , and six beer tickets which, accompanied by payment in west African money, could redeem at the canteen ashore at Kissy, the shore establishment.
      I dressed in the ring of the day (appropriate uniform) after cleaning up. Tropical duties were from 6am to 1pm — unless you were duty watch aboard.
      It is, perhaps, worth amplifying this here. In the Royal Navy, at that time, each ships’ company was divided into two 'watches'. One is the starboard watch, and the other, the port watch. Moreover, each 'watch' is divided into two parts. The 1st and the 2nd part. From this you will gather that, when Liberty Men 'piped' over the ship’s tannoy system. One part of one 'watch' remains abroad as a ‘skeleton’ crew, so as to operate all appropriate systems.
      The off-duty 'watch' would enjoy a more expensive liberty (shore leave) than that part of the duty 'watch' which was required to report back earlier. Officers only were allowed an overnight shore leave. Other ranks were required to return by midnight.

      Much bartering etc, led to many men obtaining much more than their statutory entitlement to both rum and gin and, to a lesser degree, beer tickets. I gave my gin tickets away, collected my beer at the expanded metal grille protected bar, and retreated to the rear of the canteen, which also doubled as an open air cinema.

      It was an open-sided structure with logs supporting a thatched roof — bar at one end, the other, tiered benches rising almost to the eaves. Carrying my beer bottles up these, I had a good over view of a hall approximately the size of a badminton court. I must mention here that my beer, Canadian Black Horse Brewery — Montreal, was quite strong !

      I was joined by a drunken Leading Telegraphist, who white faced with alcoholic rage attempted to intimidate the coloured barman (a naval auxiliary) into providing him with more gin or beer.
      The frightened barman, eyes rolling with fear, kept repeating the mantra
      “No tickets, no drink, boss !!”
      The Telegraphist, fingers hooked into the metal grille, which were bleeding with the effort being exerted, was causing the grille to creak ominously. This drunken idiot, in immaculate ‘whites’ was later to stagger into a table, groaning with beer bottles at which a group of Stockers from a corvette in the F.E.F. (Freetown Escort Force) producing ‘Daily Mirror’ goalkeeper saves to reduce the potential spillage. Having restored some stability to their stocks, they proceeded to severely chastise the drunk. He was later to be found on the slimy floor of a native urinal, comatose. Many other horrific scenes occurred ………

      Belatedly, I now come to the point of all this ‘setting the scene’ so to speak. Having finished my beers and being concerned for my safety in the scenes I was witnessing, I left the canteen, and commenced to walk back to Kissy Jetty to catch one Liberty Cutters back to Pholoctetes. I passed a trio of Petty Officers supporting their middle member, who as so intoxicated that his toes (inside white regulation canvas topped shoes) were scuffing along the dirt road.
      He was, normally, an inoffensive chap called Walker, who came from Wallsend. I later learnt he had been in the Navy from the beginning of the War. He was a Petty Officer Motor Mechanic.

      At the jetty I quickly jumped into the rising and falling cutter, and took up a position on the “nettles” to the rear of the helmsman.
      From this position, I was out of harm’s way, and I could observe much of the amusing attempts to the board the cutter by returning Liberty men — some of whom, in particular, Walker were clearly inebriated. It was quite a pantomime, even with the assistance of both the Bowman and engineer.
      I should explain that cutters of this size can ferry up to a hundred men in comfort at a time. The current at this point runs at about nine knots, so that the helmsman must be experienced and keep the cutter engine racing to maintain station (position) alongside the jetty.

      Because of the steady stream of returning personnel, tying up and casting off was never adopted. Ultimately, a full complement, including all the drunks were safety aboard and off we went, out to Philoctetes.
      H.M.S. 'Philoctetes' was a converted Runciman passenger/cargo vessel of approximately 11,000 tons, functioning as a depot repair ship. Tied up to her starboard boom was a flower class corvette and a sloop. One of Philoctetes' boiler rooms had been removed. The space created was now a large machine shop which serviced the frigates, sloops and corvettes in need of repairs which formed part of the F.E.F.

      Down the starboard side of Philoctetes was the usual Jacob’s Ladder, with a level landing stage at the bottom, all of which was stable and supported from above in the usual fashion.
      Disembarking from the cutter was tricky. First came the list as everyone rushed to leave (all the while rising and falling) This was compounded by the cutter rising higher in the water as the personnel left. I had always jumped for the landing stage quickly running up the ladder and watched the ‘fun’ from the focsule some eighty to a hundred feet above. In the event, tragedy occurred of the cutter to the landing stage.

      Walker tried some three or four times to jump from the gunwale of the cutter to the landing stage. His last attempt even though assisted by friends' who would not brook interference failed. He slipped, and disappeared into the racing current. His blond hair a halo as he sank to the cries of
      “Man over-board !!”
      An officer of the corvette alongside, doffed his uniform cap and shoes, and dived in, with others, all coming up with out him. They were only recovered with difficulty — otherwise more fatalities might have been recorded.
      Walker was never seen again, his body never recovered. He left a widow and two daughters after six years of war!"


        Wow. (here I go again...can barely emit a "wow"....)

        Aside from marveling over the tale... just a side comment.

        So much of the history that is taught today consists of dry facts- dates, places, winners, losers. As a result, so many students- young and old alike-- "hate" history.

        But the real history-of course in My opinion- are tales like this. Not facts, not outcomes, but humans. I believe that if more stories were taught alongside facts, students would really learn the lessons history tries to teach us.

        Paul, I hope you carry around a mini tape recorder to record these memories of your fathers and his friends. They are so important.

        I know my husband Alan has told me some of the WWII stories that my stepfather (who at 18 years old was a Captain leading a platoon of men in an artilllery batallion) has told him- my stepfather to this day will not tell my mom or me, but will to my husband, I guess because Alan can understand a little, having been a captain in the Army.... It's so important that future generations know real people, not just facts and remember that a man carved that particular gargoyle on the Freiburg cathedral, or that some unknown lady gave my daddy and his men food and a place to sleep at night....that someone looked at milkmaids and wondered why they didn't get smallpox....or a monk realized certain pea plants looked different...

        All the ol' soapbox....but, again, Paul--thanks so much for posting this...and making me think!!!!


          Freetown Fables - memories brought back to life

          Originally posted by ehp View Post

          Paul, I hope you carry around a mini tape recorder to record these memories of your fathers and his friends. They are so important.

          All the ol' soapbox....but, again, Paul--thanks so much for posting this...and making me think!!!!
          Elizabeth (and all that have been following the development of this thread), I have drafted out my Father's story and am going to post it here - just waiting while I scan assorted photos to supplement it. When I do, all will become clear why I felt the above tale to be SO relevant to my father's experiences.


            Smokey Stover's Wartime Story on HMS Kilham, part 1

            Like Professor Dumbledore from Hogwarts trying to prise memories from his victims for his pensieve, I have endeavoured to prise out my father's wartime memories. It has been some 66 years and memories fade, but once he was started on the reminiscence path he couldn't stop! Now, some of what I am posting will be fact, some will be incorrect due to the confusion of age, but I have tried to list details chronologically.

            In my desire to keep this true to my father's words I put a warning here now that what appears are HIS opinions based on his experiences, and I hope people do not take offence or exception to anything. I have tried to be careful in what I am including, but to sanitise things too much would, I feel, weaken his story.

            I will break it down into sections on different posts to allow the preparation of photos.

            Smokey Stover's Wartime Story

            The personal memories of a matelot from HMS Kilham

            'Dennis "Smokey Stover" Cobb, 1943, age 17. At end of basic training as, in his own words "My hat is at a jaunty angle, and certainly wouldn't have been at the beginning of training!" '

            Dennis Cobb, later known to all as 'Smokey Stover', applied to join the navy just before his 17th birthday in May 1942 after his cousin Billy Cobb lost his life on HMS Hood when it was sunk by the Bismarck. Not long after his 17th birthday he enlisted and served his initial training of about 6 weeks at the land barracks of HMS Raleigh at Devonport, Devon, UK. This was followed by some home leave back in Birmingham before seeing out the rest of his 15 weeks training at the land barracks of HMS Drake at Plymouth, Devon, UK.

            'Mess Mates at HMS Raleigh land barracks, Devonport, 1943. Back row, extreme left: Ted from West Bromwich. Front row, 3rd from left: Smokey Stoker. This photo was sent to his mother with a note: "Dear Mom, Just a photo of my mess mates. The one with the cross by him is Ted from West Bromwich. I remain your ever loving son, Dennis." '

            He was then amongst several thousand fresh matelots who were gathered together from various training bases and despatched to the USA on board RMS Mauretania II which had been requisitioned by the government for wartime troop transportation, painted battleship grey and fitted with 2, 6" guns and other armaments. They had no escort as, in Smokey's words, "The Mauretania was believed to have sufficient speed". They landed in New York and stayed in a hotel in Newark, New Jersey, for 6 weeks, where they drew much attention from local girls who had never met British sailors before. Boardwalks, beaches and girls seemed just the life to a lad who had never been out of the UK before!

            Around this time Smokey Stover, so named because of his chain smoking habit - cigarettes or a pipe, developed a close friendship with 'Speedy' Lowe from Mansfield. It was the done thing at this time to give everyone nicknames; nobody knew Smokey as Dennis.

            'Kitty, Speedy, Betty, Smokey, Asbury Park, New Jersey, 1943'

            While in New Jersey, their draft came through which saw them taking the train to Chicago to the brand new American built Patrol Craft Escort ship PCE-833, which had already been leased to the British Navy and was already bearing its new nameplate, HMS Kilham. Smokey believed that the Kil Class ships were built in a different manner to British ships. Unlike the usual rivetting, he relates that the Kil Class ships were pre fabricated in sections and brought together at Chicago dockyard to be welded complete. He believes that the ships weren't as strong as a result - even though the Kilham has disproved that by still being in service today. He had heard that two of the ships had broken up on their maiden journies across the Atlantic, but there doesn't appear to be any record of this fact.

            NavSource Online records that PCE-833 was laid down 26th February 1943 by the Pullman Standard Car Co, Chicago, and was launched on 2nd August. It was then transferred to Great Britain on 9th October 1943 where it was commissioned HMS Kilham (Z 07) and then reclassified BEC-7.

            First trial trip

            Some evidence of Smokey's belief in the lack of quality in the shipbuilding was proven in the ship's first trial under a British crew - the steering packed up and the Kilham collided with part of the shore. They struggled to return to Chicago dockside and as they came in to berth there were no longshoremen to take the mooring cables. Smokey, the youngest crew member on board was the sole volunteer to leap the 8' required to land on the dockside and take the hawsers to place on mooring bollards. As he was dealing with the third, the hawser pulled him and he had the end of his finger trapped between the hawser and bollard. Not being able to support the weight of HMS Kilham on one finger, he became the first casualty of Kilham's war exploits! He asked for permission to report to sick quarters and ended up in hospital for an operation as he lost the end of this finger and had a skin graft.


            As a British sailor, he was treated like royalty in hospital - and he has fond memories of the nurses! His recuperation coincided with the six-week repair of the Kilham's steering, so he had time to spend exploring Chicago with his mate, Speedy. On one shore visit they ended up in the bar of an American German who had lost his son in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Apparently they were pre warned of the ritual that this German man adopted every time he had a drink; he would have a drink poured then add a dollar bill to a picture frame in the bar. This picture was FULL of money. As they spoke to him, he told them that each time he had a drink he 'bought his son one, too'. They joined him in a drink and when he saw they were partial to whiskey, he took them for a stroll to his house where he went down to the cellar and brought them each 2 bottles of his finest whiskey which he gave them as a gift. They decided these had to be saved for some special occasion but their job was how to smuggle them on board. They did this by tucking one bottle down each of their socks, and then they concealed them in their lockers.

            A 'merry' Maiden Voyage

            Once the steering was repaired, HMS Kilham started her maiden voyage which took her out along the Great Lakes of Michigan, Huron and Erie to Niagara. They had a chance to see the Falls before negotiating the locks to take them to Lake Ontario and onto the St Lawrence River. Parts of the waterway here were so narrow that they were able to shake hands with passers by who threw cigarettes to them. The St Lawrence River took them past Montreal and Quebec and the ship iced up so much that every hand, including the captain, was out chipping ice off with hammers and axes. Any wave that splashed over the ship automatically froze.

            The river took them out into The Gulf of St Lawrence where they met extremely rough seas which gave the Kilham her first real test as she was pitched and tossed about. They proceeded down the coast and spent 24 hours in Portland Maine and then onto New York where they spent Christmas Day 1943. They left Boxing Day and followed the east coast down to Bermuda, where they were presented with a gift of 500 cases of Dow & Canadian Black Horse beer for the garrison at Freetown, Sierra Leone - their ultimate destination.

            The next stop was Trinidad, and then out into the Atlantic to cross over to West Africa. The Captain 'turned a blind eye' to 'samples' being taken from the cases of beer, but when they arrived at Freetown with the gift being short by over 200 cases, the Captain was removed from his post and sent back to the UK! They were then given a new skipper. Smokey never revealed if they followed an unintentional zig-zag course 'twixt Trinidad and Freetown!

            (to be continued...)
            Last edited by Paul Cobb; June 2nd, 2009, 22:44. Reason: Addition of photos


              Paul, I just want to say that i have greatly enjoyed reading the first instalment of your fathers story. It reminds me of when i was younger reading war time adventure books! You have written it very well indeed. Having seen pictures of the ship, and of your father when he was younger, i can visually imagine him getting up to some of the stuff you have mentioned!

              I thank you greatly for sharing this information with us all. What more could we ask for, brilliant true life stories from someone that was actually aboard HMS Kilham on her very first voyages! This is just like going back in time. Fantastic stuff, I look forward to the next chapters!
              Your charts, your radar, your eyes and ears - if all 4 agree, you may proceed with caution.


                Smokey Stover's Wartime Story on HMS Kilham, part 2


                The main duty of HMS Kilham was to patrol the coastline of West Africa, U-Boat hunting. They would spend up to 28 days at a time out at sea patrolling between Dakar in Senegal, past Bathurst in Gambia (now Banjul), Freetown and Takoradi in Ghana down to Lagos in Nigeria. They would run their food and water supplies down very low on these trips, down to the last few biscuits and tins of sardines, and the water would be foul. Sometimes their number increased as they picked up downed air crew or survivors from other ships.

                Fortunately for Smokey, the loss of Dakar by the Germans meant there were no suitable ports for their submarines in West Africa so they saw no hostile action as the U-Boats were generally involved in the War being fought in the North Atlantic or Med. Fortunate, as Smokey reveals that the Kilham was packed to bursting with munitions, both on and below deck, and had they been shelled or torpedoed he reckons they would have been blown apart, as was The Hood. However, another Kil Class ship, HMS Kildwick (Z 06), picked up 57 survivors from the British merchant Silvermaple on 26 February 1944 after she had been torpedoed and sunk by the German U-66 about 130 nautical miles west of Takoradi, and HMS Kilmarnock (Z 11) helped sink U-731 with depth charges on 15th May 1944 in the mid-Atlantic near Tangier, assisted by HMS Blackfly and 2 US Catalinas.

                One intriguing mission for HMS Kilham involved the transportation of a load of boxes from Takoradi in Ghana to Dakar, under armed sentries. Smokey was told the boxes contained GOLD, but wasn't privey to where they were bound or what became of them once they had done their part.

                After completing a patrol, they would head back to Freetown to replenish their supplies and munitions from the massive depot ship, HMS Philoctetes (F134), which was moored in Freetown Harbour. This ship was, apparently, as large as - if not larger than - The Mauretania. Freetown had been badly bombed on one such return and a number of ships were sunk, with just their funnels visible out of the sea. Refuelling was often done from refuelling jetties, the fuel itself being supplied by tankers.

                'HMS Kilham moored at Freetown, Sierra Leone, 1944-45. This photograph is the most famous in existance as it was obviously taken professionally, then, as Smokey relates, "copies of it were sold on board". Kilham regularly returned to Freetown for re-equipping from depot ship HMS Philoctetes'


                On one particular night while about 15-20 miles out to sea off Freetown and heading back to the depot ship, Smokey was on Starboard watch. Captain no 2 was 'incapacitated' so a junior officer was on call. Smokey reported seeing green lights to starboard heading their way and continually reported them. The officer apparently dithered in making a decision on what course to take. Steer port? starboard? what to do? Suddenly a huge tanker came straight at them out of the darkness. Smokey said it dwarfed their own ship and collided with their stern, putting a 20' hole in the hull, near their after steering mechanism. The order was given to abandon ship, and due to the uncertainty of her fate most of the crew spent 2-3 days on board the Philoctetes, sleeping in hammocks, which Smokey reckons allowed a fantastic night's sleep! When it became apparent she wasn't sinking, the decision was taken to get her repaired.

                The normal steering had been destroyed, so it meant crew going down through a hatch at the stern and standing in 3' of water adjacent to the gaping hole through which seaspray was blowing, and hand manoevering the rudder by turning the wheel of the after steering. It took them 6 days steering in this fashion travelling up to Dakar Dry Dock for repair, which laid the ship up for about 2 weeks. Much time has passed, but Smokey recalls that was the end of Captain no 2, who was also sent back to the UK. Queue skipper no 3!

                Whilst at Dakar they were allowed shore leave. The usual procedure was to sell some English cigarettes (which were highly prized) to the locals which would provide more than enough Francs to spend the evening in a bar. However, on this one particular shore visit, Smokey and Speedy decided to spin their Francs further by buying some cheap booze they thought was cognac, from a shanty shop rather than a bar. One swig of this apparently poisoned wine was all it took to render Smokey Stover unconscious. He was carried back to the Kilham where he had his stomach pumped and he remained ill for some time. He relates that Senegal was a French Colony and was run by Vichy French who did not particularly have a love for the British. On many of the shore leaves British sailors had to be continually on their guard against devious actions and muggings by locals!

                Smokey's sister had had her first child back in the UK, so on one visit ashore he bought some baby romper clothing for his new nephew to give on his eventual return to the UK.

                Life on board

                The number of crew initially was quite low, ie under 40, but Smokey remembers this rose later to nearer 70 ratings. (Some sources give the complement of the Kil Class ships as 98.) He didn't know the engineers as they kept themselves to themselves, but the rest of the crew mixed together, playing card games. They slept in swinging bunks which were stacked 3 high. Those that could, swam - diving into the sea from the ship. Smokey learnt many colourful 'navy' songs at this stage of his life!

                The long standing naval tradition of daily tots of rum were continued on board Kilham, though these were diluted 3:1 with water for fear of what drinking 'neaters' would do to the crew. During the war years all sailors only showed 'HMS' on their hat bands for security reasons, ie no ship names were shown. When ashore all crew had to wear decorative lanyards, on pain of a long spell in 'the brig' if caught without. On board ship rules about uniform were far more relaxed, eg jumpers were allowed instead. However, if visitors were expected, strict uniform wearing was enforced.

                'Crew members on board HMS Kilham, 1943-45. Back row, extreme right: Dennis 'Smokey Stover' Cobb, youngest member of the crew'

                The navy had a tradition, practiced on some ships (including the Kilham), whereby on Christmas Day the captain and the youngest rating on board would swap roles for the day. Christmas 1944 was spent in Freetown and the youngest crew member just happened to be Smokey, so he and the captain switched hats, jackets and Christmas meals and the captain had to sit with the ratings and carry out Smokey's orders - to the merriment of the crew. Neat tots of rum were only allowed on special occasions - including Christmas, so Smokey ordered 'neaters' to be issued all round. He then asked an officer to send a message to the other 2 'Kil' Class ships that were also moored at Freetown inviting their captains to join him on board Kilham to celebrate Christmas. Both actual captains obliged him and turned up by boat for drinks.

                'The ship's whaleboat crew alongside HMS Kilham. The curved portion behind the men is a canvas shelter, 1944-45'

                (to be continued...)
                Last edited by Paul Cobb; June 5th, 2009, 18:44. Reason: Addition of photos


                  Smokey Stover's Wartime Story on HMS Kilham, part 3


                  These were many and varied for Smokey, from the menial to the dangerous. Regular work consisted of continual painting and cleaning of toilets and wash basins for the crew. Officers had their own toilets which were dealt with by stewards. The ship's cook prepared meals, but menial jobs like peeling spuds was another of Smokey's tasks. When on lookout duty, the usual procedure was to spend 2 hours at the wheel and then 2 hours on lookout.

                  'Ship's cook and Smokey on shore leave'

                  When they were berthed or in dry dock, duties included armed sentry work and ensuring all foreign visitors to the ship were signed in.

                  Even though they didn't experience hostile action, while on patrol they would have to continually practice and test guns. Smokey was a member of the gunnery crew for the main 3" gun at the bow. This was an American gun and used American ammunition. He was the 'loader' and he would be passed shells which he had to load into the breech and ram them home with his fist before closing the breech, ensuring it didn't slam on his fingers. He is very critical at the quality of the ammunition as a significant number of the shells he was passed separated in his hands from their cases; these had to be thrown overboard. There were hedgehog weapons along the side of the ship and Smokey also had to ensure the hedgehog bombs were loaded onto the firing poles. He had no involvement with depth charges, however, as these employed their own crew.

                  Smokey, not being an engineer, had no involvement with the engines or mechanical side.

                  'Dennis 'Smokey Stover' Cobb in tropical uniform'


                  On one occasion at Freetown during a practice session, a shell became jammed in one of the Bofors guns. There was a set procedure for removing a jammed shell which involved using rope to haul it out backwards from the breech. However, 2 of the crew amazingly used a ram to try pushing it through the FRONT of the barrel. The shell exploded; one man was blinded, the other lost his arm, which landed at Smokey's feet who then helped apply a tourniquet to the wounded crew member.

                  'Crew mates Smokey and Fearless Fred (back) with Kiddy and Speedy (front), taken in Lagos, Nigeria'

                  Another incident involved Smokey's mate, Speedy. On one occasion when they were in port at Takoradi in Ghana, it was Speedy's turn to do shore patrol. The difference between being on shore leave and shore patrol was in the wearing of gaitors. The ship's liberty boat took the shore party ashore, and patrol members would be last to leave the liberty boat and be last back onto it. When it was time to return, Speedy, who couldn't swim, tripped over a hawser cable on the dockside and went into the sea. It is believed he grasped at the underwater rocks lining the quayside in desperation and some fell onto him. He never resurfaced. The next morning some divers found him pinned down. A funeral was arranged and Speedy was buried under a tree at Takoradi.

                  'Smokey on shore leave at Takoradi, Ghana - the site of the grave of his pal, Speedy'

                  All his belongings - including his bottles of Chicago whiskey - were auctioned off, and the proceeds were sent to his parents back home in Mansfield. Smokey wanted to go and see his parents on his return to the UK, but he was strongly advised against doing it for fear of 'opening up old wounds'.

                  After this episode, Smokey struck up a friendship with another matelot. However, one of his precious bottles of Chicago whiskey that he had been saving and the romper baby clothes disappeared from his locker - and he discovered them in the locker of this new 'friend' who said "I didn't know they were yours."

                  (to be continued...)
                  Last edited by Paul Cobb; June 3rd, 2009, 03:48. Reason: Addition of photos


                    Smokey Stover's Wartime Story on HMS Kilham, part 4

                    War end

                    As the war drew to an end, Smokey received notification that one of his brothers was due to get married and he wanted Dennis to be his best man if he would be back in time. News of VE Day came through while they were still in Freetown, and in saving his 2 bottles of whiskey for special occasions, he used one to celebrate the official ending of the war. In due course, HMS Kilham set off for the UK. They stopped off in Madeira on the return where he bought a hank of bananas to take home, which he kept in a pillowcase, and his own personal memento, a small polished wood rum barrel with a lid that he refers to as his 'tot'. Normal military routine didn't cease even though hostilities had ended. His menial painting and cleaning and gunnery practice continued.

                    They eventually docked at Sheerness, and half the crew, including Smokey, were given 7 days' leave. With the urgency of his best man duty, he was allowed to be the first man off the ship. He was laden down with kitbag and his pillowcase of bananas, but he was more concerned that his remaining bottle of whiskey should not be confiscated, so he hid it down his trousers in case he was searched by customs. Via 2 trains and taxi he successfully got himself, the whiskey and the bananas back to Birmingham by 2am on the day of the wedding - just 12 hours before the ceremony. His mother had gone from having a head of black hair to being completely grey in 3 years. He presented the baby romper clothing to his sister, only to find that his nephew was now 3-4 years old, and on removing the bananas from the pillowcase found they were all totally black! They were distributed to local kids who had never seen a banana and who didn't know they weren't meant to be black!

                    'Best Man, Dennis, at the wedding of his brother, Arthur (RAF uniform) to Gladys, summer 1945'

                    Smokey performed his best man's duties wearing his navy uniform - bell bottom trousers ironed with 7 creases, representing each of the seven seas! At the reception, he opened that last bottle of Chicago whiskey and shared it among all his brothers. He returned to the Kilham at Sheerness where the other half of the crew then took their leave. On their return, the crew were paid up and told to return to their original barracks, HMS Drake in Plymouth in Smokey's case.According to records, other Kil Class ships also returned to Sheerness. HMS Kilbernie (Z 01) was laid up in June '45 and HMS Kilkenzie (Z 07) in July '45.

                    Being a plumber, which was one of the trades being urgently sought after in 'civvy street', he applied for a 'Class B' release, was paid £28, given a demob suit and sent on his way! Sheerness had been his last time on board HMS Kilham. He can't be certain, but he believes after leaving Sheerness, she was due to travel to Scotland.

                    Not all the crew were demobbed; those that didn't have preferred trades were sent via troop ship to the far east as the war with Japan was still underway.

                    NavSource Online records that the Kilham was returned to US custody in December 1946 and struck from the Navy Register in 1947. She was then sold to S/A Investment, Bergen in 1949 where she was converted into a passenger ship and renamed M/S Sognefjord in 1950. The rest, as they say, is history!

                    Transcribed by Paul Cobb, son of 84 year old Smokey, from his recollections.

                    May 2009

                    '84 year old Dennis Cobb - no longer a 'Smokey Stover' - 30th May, 2009, left with his memories of life on HMS Kilham'
                    Last edited by Paul Cobb; June 3rd, 2009, 04:09. Reason: Addition of photos


                      Absolutely and amazingly ... ehh... how should I say this the best way: interesting.... wonderful read.

                      With stories such as this, the ship comes alive and suddenly I'm draw into fascination about the ship, it's people and story. This was by far the best read I have had in a very long time, thoroughly enjoyed reading every single word of it!
                      With best regards from Jan-Olav Storli

                      Administrator and Owner of CaptainsVoyage.
                      Main page:

                      Surround yourself with positive, ethical people who are committed to excellence.


                        hms kilham

                        Wow...Amazing to read all those memories.Since my father bought the m/s Orion
                        i was thinking its war was it, now finally after 22 years i can read about it!Im so happy i found this forum,because i know plenty of the ships history, but the early years of this grand old lady´s life was not so familiar to me.Now the circle is starting to be complete.My dream is to collect everything about the ships history and to do book about it.Im so happy that the ship still exists after 66 years with its original GM-engines.If i only could get back on the ship where i spend my that ship so much.And it would be great to see old sisters (Kristina brahe and Orient explorer)together after 12 years.


                          m/s orion and m/s kristina brahe

                          removed personal photos
                          Last edited by orionboy; July 30th, 2010, 23:25.


                            hms kilham

                            I want to give big thanks to you Paul and of course to your father ,about sharing the memories with us.Thank you!

                            One thing that is missing is the launch photo of PCE 833, what i think exists , because i found one photo of launching the PCE 827 (hms kilbernie,m/s haugesund)
                            And it would be nice to read some memories from norwegian times when sailing as m/s sognefjord (some pics i have ,but personal stories are more intresting)

                            This photo is from Lars Helge Isdahl


                              Brilliant photos orionboy, and i must admit that after reading Pauls posts i find myself looking at this vessel in a different light. I now find myself looking at these photos and thinking 'Wow'. Pauls fathers accounts have really brought home just how old she really is, and just how much history is behind her. It was just brilliant hearing the accounts of someone who walked her decks so long ago during the second world war. Fantastic stuff. Im sure if her current owners read this thread they will surely want to say something.

                              Onething i would like to say, incase it helps out other readers of this thread. I have noticed that i need to be logged in in order to be able to view orionboys photos. I dont know if it's just something to do with my PC, but for a week or so i was watching this thread, reading the posts and comments about orionboys photos, while all the time not being able to see them myself. Eventually i looked at the source code for these posts and noted that for a lot of them the photos were stored on the CV forum itself. So it would seem that if your not actually a member, or your not logged in, then possibly the photos will not display. This is not a problem for photos stored on sites like photobucket. Once your logged in you can log back out and still see the photos, so i imagine the PC pulls them from the browser temp files.

                              But anyway, like i say, it might just be my PC, but if anyone else experiences this in the future, all you need to do is log in. And if your not a member, it's a darn good reason for joining!
                              Your charts, your radar, your eyes and ears - if all 4 agree, you may proceed with caution.


                                m/s orion

                                removed personal phpotos
                                Last edited by orionboy; July 30th, 2010, 23:25.