The reminiscences of Air Mechanic (Engines) Don Mackay

 

Don joined MONAB VII, HMS Nabreekie at Middle Wallop and remained with the unit throughout its commission, he then joined M.R. 3, a part of HMS Nabsford. He returned home to the U.K. as part of 1850 Squadron, working passage on HMS Vengeance to Colombo and then the final leg in HMS Fencer.

 

 

I don't remember receiving any special MONAB training at Middle Wallop. I was packing up stores ready for going out, it wasn't heavy work, I don't think we ever did any heavy working the Navy, not whilst I was in there, it was like a glorified holiday. We used to go into Andover and Blandford, there was a bus right outside the camp gate. There was a very nice Salvation Army house in Andover you could sit in there and write letters, they supplied you with all the writing paper and stamps, tea and bread rolls and nice butter as well, it was a very popular place. Middle Wallop itself was pretty quiet

 

I was on guard duty one time at Middle Wallop and I was sick and happened to 'throw up', so I blew my whistle. The guardhouse was only just around the corner and the P.O. came round and said "What's the matter then?" I said look at this lot, "Christ" he says "get round to sickbay". I had a week in sickbay; I was the only one in there. That got me off guard duty for a while! The only time we saw the Captain was the commissioning, he gave a speech and we didn't see him after that.

 

The ship was split for the journey to Liverpool, half of us went by train, and half went by road transport in convoy. 'Map' (NAM (E) Albert Mappledoram) and myself went by rail; I think it was a Sunday morning that we shipped out. They lined us all up and gave us lunch boxes, and then we were taken by lorry to a siding just outside Andover it was like a halt station. We piled in the train there and then straight up to Liverpool non-stop. When we arrived it was straight off the train, across the courtyard and into the ship, the 'Stirling Castle'. My mate from Anglesey went on the 'Andes', there was a joke going around 'where's the Andes – on the end of your armies'. When we got on board there were all these ‘Aussies’ and ‘Kiwis’ there, repatriated prisoners of war, they had just been released from the German prison camps and were going home.

 

We went out through the Panama Canal. There was a concert party came on board to entertain us when we spent a night in the docks. We went through the locks the next morning and straight on then to Wellington. The journey was great; the 'Stirling Castle' was a beautiful ship. The food was very good, you couldn’t have asked for anything better. I can remember now, every day for breakfast they sent up these individual cottage loaves, piping hot, beautiful it was, couldn't have wished for anything better. I don't know if it was a P & O liner or the White Star line, but it was a big one, and it had got a dent in its bows. We had a couple of nights in Wellington. Luckily enough there were people on the dockside willing to take us to their homes for a couple of nights. Then we sailed on to Sydney, when we docked the old duke of York, King George VI’s brother, who was the Governor General of Australia at the time, came on board to welcome the repatriated prisoners.

 

It was about a six-week journey out, and then we spent a short while at Newcastle racehorse under canvas. We had no work routine whilst under canvas, just role calls every day and making a nuisance of ourselves. There were o guard duties or anything that I can remember, although there might have been a bit of PT going on.


It was quite funny there, we were under canvas, about 8 or 10 of us in a big bell tent, and you used to go to bed with just one of your blankets over you. You would wake up in the early hours and have to put all the other blankets back on because it was white with frost then. In the morning you would see the racehorses training, we were right in the middle of the racecourse itself, I don’t recall them holding any races though.

 

We hadn’t been there long before we shipped out for Brisbane, it was early August, so we were there in time to take part in the Victory parade for VJ day. We travelled to Brisbane by rail, in cattle trucks, all wooden slated seats, I forget how long it took us to get up there but it was a long old journey, something like Brighton to Aberdeen I should think, about twelve or thirteen hours. I think we had a couple of stops on the way, you couldn't use any toilets on the train; there weren’t any corridors.

 

We used to go into Archerfield by lorry every morning; you had to clock on for work there, in the hangers, on and off every day. We used to have a lunch break but I don’t think we went back to camp at lunch time, I think we used to work through then ate at night. We did have a break, probably half an hour to an hour and of course the NAAFI van used to cone round and there were one or two shops on the perimeter of the field itself so you could nip up to there if you wanted anything. It was a very nice camp at Rocklea; we used to drive from there in wagons through Brisbane to get to Archerfield, at the time there was a road strike on. There was no transport at all in Brisbane, we used to go sailing through, people were walking to work and the streets were crowded when we used to go through.  We left Rocklea between 8 :00 to 8:30 in the morning for about an half hour drive so we started work about 9:00 and be back in the camp by about 4:0 I think, but it wouldn't have been later. You could go ashore unless you were on duty; I don’t think we ever did get any duties whilst we were in the camp there because there was a detachment of Marines there as well.

 

We had been out with a marine driver one time, I forget what it was for, but I know coming back it was dark and he had a spare driving mirror on a long pole, he was hanging out of the window with it. I said "what are you up to?", he said "teaching these bloody Aussies to dip their lights, the buggers won’t dip," he says '"so you just reflect the light back at them".

 

I was picked to play goalkeeper in the football team, they wanted a goalkeeper so I said I’d play goal for them. I forget who it was against, anyway, we got out on the field I took up my position in goal and then the heavens opened up; it flooded the field and that was the end of the match. If you get a tropical storm out there everywhere is drenched in next to no time, lightening and thunder, it just teems down. On the Christmas that we spent there, temperatures just topped 100 degrees in the shade as we sat down to turkey dinner.

 

 Brisbane was a nice city to go to. I picked up with a girl there, and used to go to her house, two or three times, but nothing serious. What happened was, after the victory march in Brisbane we were all congregated  outside the civic hall, there was a whole crowd of us there-you couldn’t move, it was like peas in a pod. One of the girls fainted, her, mate started screaming so we got her to the back in a clearing and brought her round. I took up with one of these girls for a few weeks but I wasn’t that bothered, we were only youngsters, only 19, some of us may have been 20, but we were all boys out for a good time really, and that's what we had.  In Brisbane, I don’t know if it was the same in Sydney, but you didn’t get a pint of beer, you asked for a Schooner of beer, that was between a half pint and a pint, it was in a glass with caved in sides – it was more like a flower vase! A lot of pubs in Brisbane had swing doors, it reminded you of the Wild West, although it was a modern city the pub doors used to swing open and shut just like in the cowboys.

 

The bloke we had most contact with was a Petty Officer by the name of Rogers, very nice he was too, do anything for you, any problems you go to him and he'd sort them out. Being engine mechanics we were fitting engines into the Seafires, the engines came out in packing cases, the Seafires were shipped out with no engine in you see. But after we were there a bit that stopped; these engines were loaded straight onto open backed lorries, when they were stacked up on there we would pile in and we drove out to a river in Brisbane. I don't know which river it was it was, probably half an hour’s journey away from the aerodrome. We manhandled these crates of Rolls-Royce engines straight into the river. They said it was cheaper getting rid of then that way than what it was shipping them back home. So if you can find that river you can do some excavating of Rolls Royce, Merlin, or they could have been Griffin engines, because either Merlins or Griffins powered the Seafires.

 

We all had a weeks leave while we were there. I went up to Rockhampton, that’s out in the bush, more or less just in from the coast. We already worked with HMS Nabsford before the decommissioning, then after the 5th of November, which was the decommissioning of Nabreekie, we became Nabsford M.R. 3. We were told, "Address your correspondence to HMS Nabsford" and that was it. I don’t know what happened to our Captain. The change didn’t affect us in any way; we just carried on as usual. I joined Nabsford M.R. 3 on November 6th.

 

We had the choice before we left Australia, of coming home for our demob via Colombo, transferring to the Australian navy or taking our demob in Australia. Of course we were only youngsters, we all wanted to come home so that was it. I left Nabsford to come home 24th February, joining 1850 squadron on H.M.S. Vengeance on the 25th February. We were on the Vengeance until the 27th May when we put into Colombo. We were put ashore to Katakurunda.

 

We sailed for home on board H.M.S. Fencer, and arrived on the 2nd of October, I think it was Gosport where we were demoded. We were only there two maybe three days before we all walked out with our little brown boxes.

 

 

Don Mackay

 

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