Honouring Merchant Navy
10:01am Thursday 17th October 2013 in Letters
I ATTENDED the unveiling of the anchor at Barry Waterfront, put in place to honour our Merchant Navy boys that were in the convoys during the Second World War. I stood in the wind and rain, remembering some of the stories my father, Terry Holley, had told me about his trips away in the convoys.
Like the story of being docked in North Africa, on a ship with a cargo of Jerry cans filled with petrol for the Army, where he witnessed enemy planes flying in to bomb the ships in the harbour. He was only 21-years-old at the time, and had been at sea for two years. On realising what was taking place, my father grabbed a young cabin boy's hand, a boy from the Orkney Isles, and made him jump off of the back of the ship into the water. The ship was blown sky high. The noise blew the young boys ear drums and he went completely deaf. Once they made it on to dry land, they then had to walk hundreds of miles across Africa to find a ship to bring them home. The majority of the journey they made on foot, but did manage to acquire a couple of donkeys for part of it. They faced many hardships on their journey, and were even chased by hundreds of starving cats! They eventually made it to a distant port, and found a troop ship full of wounded soldiers that brought them back home. My father still continued in the convoys until the end of the war, and in the Atlantic his ship was torpedoed! He, and his fellow survivors were in a life boat on the water for a number of days before being picked up by a passing ship. He was torpedoed twice during the war as far as I remember, but it could have been three times, but I have no way of checking.
He saw many of his friends and ship mates blown up and die by his side, people that were never to return to Barry again. He could never believe that he survived when so many died, and he always said that it was the best men that were lost. My father didn't talk about it often, and I often wish that I had written it all down when he was still here. I am extremely proud to wear his medals as a reminder of what has past, and the sacrifices that the men of Barry and the Vale made, serving their country during the Second World War.