Doug belongs to: Royal British Legion Seaman's Mess
Doug was born in South Shields in 1919. He joined the merchant navy at 15 with great ideas of adventure. During World War Two Bill was in the Arctic convoys and at the D-Day landings dropping off armaments.
Doug was interviewed by Kylea Little on 15 November 2005. The interview took place at South Shields Royal British Legion and lasted 55 minutes and 5 seconds.
"Joan Horsbourgh’s father, he worked for the News of the World, back in 1936"
Joan Horsbourgh’s father, he worked for the News of the World, back in 1936. And her father was a friend that belonged to Whitley Bay, originally. Her father was a friend of John Robinson, the ship owner of the Stag Line, called the Robinson, the Robinson family that owned the Stag Line. And with her father’s influence, Joan was able to get a berth on our ship. But she was only 22 when she joined the ship. Prior to that she had been cub reporter on the South Shields Gazette, and, but she wanted to spread her wings so she went freelance. And that was her idea- she wanted to write about something unusual for that period in time. She wanted to find out what life was at sea aboard a tramp steamer. And her father got her a position on this ship and she joined the ship down in Cardiff where we were loading coal for America.
And it’s starting from there that she joined the ship. And we went from, no we didn’t load coal for America, we took the coal to Port Said and then from Port Said to Russia where she went ashore and but you weren’t supposed to be ashore. The Russians, the Russian Intelligence Service at that time knew everybody and everything about the ship and they knew that that she was a news writer so they came aboard, banned her from going ashore, confiscated her typewriter and all her writing materials but it exposed the mental thinking of the Communist regime at that time. They confiscated her typewriter and all her writing materials but there was nothing to stop her getting writing materials from the crew, which she did. She did everything by hand. She got her typewriter back when the ship sailed but the captain had strict orders that she could not go ashore.
But as she said in her book she did go ashore, she swam ashore. She was a close friend of the second mate on the ship who was just a young man and they became very close friends. She arranged for him to go ashore with her dress tied round his waist and a pair of shoes in his raincoat pockets and the harbour was a U shaped harbour-the ship was lying at one side and the town and beach were on the other side of the harbour and he walked ashore, around the harbour, around the U to the town and to the beach and she arranged to meet him on the beach.
All ships that were tied up in Russia in those days had an armed guard on the dockside at the bottom of the gangway. They inspected everybody’s shore pass. And she got one of the sailors to put a pilot ladder over the ship’s side, on the outward side of the ship and slipped into the water and swam across the harbour. Eh, which was about a quarter of a mile. And she met the second mate on the beach, put her dress on, put a bandana around her head, and she was a short dumpy young lady and short haired, she could pass easily, she could pass off easily as a Russian girl. Her looks, no make up, just a plain dress on, took off her wet costume and she walked all round the town taking notes in her mind of what she could see and then she came back to the beach and swam back to the ship, fooled the Russians. If she had been caught, we would never see her again.
Doug has 20 memories in the memorynet:
Doug's memories with a Danger theme:
- Swimming with sharks
- Joan Horsbourgh
- The Spanish Civil War
- The Spanish Civil War part two
- The Russia convoys part one
- The Russia convoys part two
- The D-Day landings
Doug's other memories: