Down Below- Reminiscences of a WW2 Engine Room Merchant Navy Seaman
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Adventure and terror in wartime can shape one’s life story like nothing else.

In 1941 eighteen year old Welshman Ted Whitehead, with no nautical experience, found himself crewing on a Greek freighter, the S/S Lily out of Swansea, Wales. From his native home, Ted started making hazardous, convoy-protected journeys as a steamship engine room seaman on the North Atlantic corridor which was constantly menaced by German U-boats and bad weather. One British shipping official stated that 27% of merchant seaman died through enemy action and the angry ocean. The Lily some months later was torpedoed and sunk in frigid waters – a chilling introduction to the perils of war for a teenager who had to undergo a stay in a Canadian hospital. Revisiting his past, 95 year old Whitehead recounts how ships delivered him to distant harbours where his wartime odyssey was alternately dramatic and amusing, intriguing and reflective, filled with adventures and misfortunes. His voyages included vignettes in both North and South America as well as the shores of the Mediterranean and Africa, sailing on British, Norwegian and Greek coal-burning ships. Through it all Ted was always a solid seaman aboard ship but when chance allowed, he was also a bit of a lad ashore.

 

Genre Biography


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