Wednesday, September 19, 2018
HMS Liverpool

Looking south from the garden of Rear Admiral Tom Bradbury’s house, set high on the Weald at Dallington near Heathfield in East Sussex, you can see a blue ribbon of the English Channel on the horizon.

Now aged 93, fit and active, he casually remarks that if a shell from a 15 inch gun from one of the battleships in which he served in World War II had been fired from here, it would have been capable of hitting a target at sea sixteen and a half miles away.

This modest and twinkle-eyed former senior naval officer, who went to school in Sussex and has lived in the county for over fifty years, was born in December 1922 to a workingclass family in South London. Tom Bradbury’s father served as a Lance Corporal in the Royal Horse Artillery on the Western Front in the First World War. “We had a happy family life in Walworth with my three sisters where the streets were the playground for many local children who went to the school nearby. On our street the most admired person was a bus conductor because of his smart uniform! When I was eleven I won a London County Council scholarship to Christ’s Hospital in Horsham, the independent Bluecoat School founded by Edward VI in 1552 which had a long tradition of educating children from poorer backgrounds”.

“It was here, as a member of the School Boy Scout Troop, that I and four other boys, thanks to the generosity of a benefactor, joined the contingent representing the UK at the Boy Scouts World Jamboree in Sydney, Australia. In November 1938 we sailed in the Aberdeen & Commonwealth Line’s steamship Esperance Bay on the five-week trip to Adelaide, calling at Malta, Port Said, Aden and Colombo”.

The return voyage from Sydney in January 1939 was in the same line’s Jervis Bay. It was this ship, when converted to an armed merchant cruiser and acting as the sole escort of an Atlantic convoy of thirtyseven ships, which was to achieve lasting fame by singlehandedly confronting the German battleship Admiral Scheer. Hopelessly outgunned and outranged, but in order to draw attention away from the convoy and give the ships time to scatter, Jervis Bay fought on until sunk, allowing all but five ships to escape. For this heroic action, Captain Fogarty Fegan, who went down with his ship, was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross.

“As a schoolboy in the 1930’s I was introduced, like many other boys of my age, to stories of derring-do in the British Empire or heroism during the recent World War. The Boy’s Own Paper, was required reading. I also particularly enjoyed the naval yarns in books written under the pen-name of Bartimeus who captured the everyday up and downs of life on board His Majesty’s warships. Although I did not appreciate it at the time, I think some of his stories may have had an effect on choosing my later career. One event that certainly did was on the return voyage from Australia. As the Jervis Bay left the Mediterranean through the Straits of Gibraltar, soon after dawn on 1st March 1939, we met coming from the west the combined Home and Mediterranean Fleets steaming into the Med for manoeuvres. We watched as lines of battleships, cruisers, aircraft carriers and countless numbers of destroyers sailed past. It was a magnificent and awe-inspiring sight of the pre-war Navy. With war only a few months away, it would never be repeated. It is something which remains with me to this day”.

“Although other historic events were rapidly unfolding, by the time the summer of 1939 had arrived I was more concerned with obtaining good results in my School Certificate, leaving school and starting work. Many of my contemporaries were destined for university, but as I was not particularly academic, I had obtained a post with Vestey Brothers, the long-established firm of frozen meat importers”. This form of internship with British firms who had strong colonial connections was a well-trodden path for boys leaving public school. After a short time at the firm’s head office in London they could expect to depart for every far-flung corner of the British Empire. To trading houses in Hong Kong, to tea and coffee plantations in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) or East Africa, to rubber plantations in Malaya or, in Tom Bradbury’s case, to the vast cattle ranches of Argentina. But with war being declared on 1st September 1939 his job with Vestey came to an end before it had hardly started. He was given five weeks pay for three weeks work and told he was no longer required.

“Fortunately Christ’s Hospital suggested that I should return to school for the winter term until I had sorted myself out. But as I was almost 17 I felt that I had to join something. The school thought that I should take the competitive Civil Service Examination. This was a means of entering all three Services as an officer. The age limits were 17 to 18 years 8 months. By December I was just eligible and sat the exam held upstairs at the Ship Inn, Brighton. I opted for the Royal Navy, but because I had specialised at school in Classics, the lack of Chemistry meant I could not join as a Seaman or Engineer. The only branch open to me was the Supply and Secretariat Branch, known then as the Paymaster Branch. Having passed the exam, the School arranged, as a final act of generosity, for the bill for my uniform, amounting to £150, to be paid by a charity. As a Paymaster Cadet I joined the Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth on 1st January 1940. My pay was one shilling (5p) a day”.

HMS Liverpool
Tom Bradbury, Tobruk As it was wartime, officer training was severely curtailed. After just one term, Tom was appointed to the Town-class cruiser HMS Liverpool. In the Far East at the beginning of the war, Liverpool had by then been deployed to the Eastern Mediterranean and troop reinforcements had to be sent the long way round via the Cape. A fast convoy of ships, including the former transatlantic liners RMS Queen Mary, the Mauretania and Aquitania, all converted to troop carriers, had been assembled in the Clyde. Using their speed and zig-zagging to avoid attack by U-boats the convoy left Greenock on 25th June 1940 via Freetown and Capetown for Trincomalee in Sri Lanka. Here reinforcements for the Mediterranean were transhipped in British India line ships to Suez, thence by train to Alexandria. The convoy then sailed on to Australia to collect Anzac forces to bring them to the Middle East. Tom joined his ship Liverpool on 28th August. He was promoted Midshipman on the first day of September 1940.

“At that time Alexandria in Egypt, universally known as Alex, was the base for Allied naval operations in the Eastern Mediterranean. The harbour was crammed with every type of ship imaginable. This included the French Naval Squadron disarmed and immobilised following the fall of France in June. The Commander-in- Chief Mediterranean Fleet was Admiral Andrew Cunningham and Liverpool was part of the 3rd Cruiser Squadron together with Gloucester and Kent”.

“Within days we were at sea escorting convoys to Malta and took part in an action in which three Italian destroyers were sunk. In another action south of Crete on 23rd October we were attacked at dusk by Italian torpedo bombers. Without radar it was a complete surprise and our anti-aircraft guns had no time to fire before one torpedo struck forward on the starboard side. At first there seemed no major damage, but twenty minutes later, 8,000 gallons of aviation fuel stowed there for our two Walrus seaplanes, exploded. Rushing onto the upper deck I had the unforgettable sight of giant tongues of flame shooting hundreds of feet into the night sky. The bows of the ship forward of ‘A’ gun turret had disappeared and the turret itself was completely destroyed”.

Read the rest of this article with additional pictures in Sea Breezes Magazine - June 2016 Issue
Click here to subscribe

Subscribe Graphic

Latest Issue - Look Inside!

Nexus

Most Popular

  • LNG Not the Driver for New Ferry Orders +

  • Big Boost for Liverpool Container Services +

  • Tall Ships at Liverpool +

  • Royal Navy Commissions New Survey Ship +

  • Rolls-Royce Marine Sold to Norwegian Group +

  • 1
  • 2

Top 10 Books and DVDs 2017

Maritime Log

  • Bridge Sections Transported on Giant Barge +

    Lowestoft Barge One of the largest barges ever handled at Lowestoft was safely moved out of the port early in July on Read More
  • Tougher Penalties for Laser Misuse +

    Phil Buckley Tougher new penalties for the misuse of laser devices has been welcomed. Read More
  • Rolls-Royce Marine Sold to Norwegian Group +

    Rolls-Royce Autonomous Ship The UK-based major engineering company Rolls-Royce is selling its Commercial Marine business to the Norwegian technology group Kongsberg Gruppen ASA. Read More
  • Launch of New Ship For Antartic Work +

    The launch party Shortly after noon on July 14, the new polar research ship Sir David Attenborough was launched at the Birkenhead shipyard Read More
  • Barrow Takes Port of the Year Title +

    Barrow Port Barrow has won the prestigious Port of the Year Award at this year’s 10th annual UK Ports Conference in London. Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

North America

  • Cleaning Up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch +

    Garbage System 001 This month, a new floating clean-up system to tackle what is known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch was due Read More
  • Panama Canal Ban on LNG Ships to Go +

    Panama Canal On Oct 1, the Panama Canal Authority will lift its daylight and encounter bans on LNG vessels to offer more Read More
  • Setting New Standards on Hawaii Service +

    Daniel K Inouye What is claimed to be the largest container ship to be built in the United States was named at a Read More
  • Wartime Wreck Checked For Oil Leak +

    Coimbra In mid-June, the US Coast Guard carried out a special survey to see if a fully-laden tanker sunk by a Read More
  • LNG-Fuel Ferry in Service +

    Spirit of British Columbia The BC Ferries’ Spirit of British Columbia returned to service on June 6 after a major mid-life upgrade which included Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Asia-Pacific

  • Wreck of Cruiser From 1905 Battle is Located +

    Kea Trader The South Korean company Shinil Group said it has found the wreck of a Russian cruiser that was sunk 113 Read More
  • Ship Salvors Recover Debris From Reef +

    Kea Trader A new independent bathymetric survey of the wreck of the container ship Kea Trader, 24,720gt, on a reef in New Read More
  • Final Hurdle Overcome in COSCO Takeover +

    COSCO The Chinese line COSCO Shipping Holdings has been given permission from the Chinese anti-trust authorities for its proposed US$6.3bn takeover Read More
  • Giant Collier Third to Trade With Japan +

    Port Kembla The first liquefied natural gas import terminal in New South Wales, Australia, is to be built at Port Kembla by Read More
  • ONE Commitment Enters Service +

    ONE Commitment The first of the magenta-coloured container ships of the Ocean Network Express (ONE) entered service in May. Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Naval Focus

  • Royal Navy Commissions New Survey Ship +

    HMS Magpie British News The latest survey vessel to join the Royal Navy was commissioned into service at her homeport of Devonport Read More
  • F-35 Stealth Fighters Land in UK +

    F-35 British News The first four of Britain’s next generation F-35 Lightning supersonic fighter jets touched down in the United Kingdom Read More
  • Upgrade Planned for Russia’s Only Aircraft Carrier +

    Admiral Kuznetsov Russian News Russia’s only aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, will be refitted to prolong the warship’s operational life. Read More
  • HMS “Astute” in Cat-And-Mouse Pursuit by Russian Ships +

    HMS Astute British News Ahead of the American led missile strikes against suspected chemical weapon manufacturing plants in Syria in early April, Read More
  • Busy Period for Japanese Navy +

    JS Asahi Japanese News It has been a particularly busy period for the Japanese with a number of new vessels being accepted Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Ferry World

  • Victoria Of Wight’s Voyage Home +

    Victoria of Wight Wightlink’s new £30million flagship Victoria of Wight sailed from the Cemre shipyard in Yalova, Turkey on 16 July for the Read More
  • Greek Ferry Sector Steps Up in Fire Tragedy +

    Paros Jet The Greek ferry sector was in the news during the wildfire tragedy that swept the coastal area near Athens during Read More
  • LNG Not the Driver for New Ferry Orders +

    Stena E-Flexer In the last issue of Sea Breezes, I wrote of the breathtaking development of Irish Sea ferry operations over the Read More
  • Condor Looks to the Future +

    Condor Clipper Condor Ferries has faced some speculation in recent months as its owner, Macquarie European Investment Fund 2, winds down and Read More
  • W.B. Yeats Further Delayed +

    W.B. Yeats The delivery of Irish Ferries’ new €144 million cruise ferry W.B. Yeats from German shipbuilder Flensburger Schiffbau-Gesellschaft (FSG) has been Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Sail Review/Coastal Comment

  • Sunderland to Esbjerg Race +

    Oosterschelde On the north east coast of England, it was Sunderland’s proud claim that more ships had been built here than Read More
  • Tall Ships at Liverpool +

    Belem At the end of May, a Tall Ships fleet met at Liverpool. Read More
  • New Bridge Challenges Melissa +

    Melissa The organisers of the charter barges working from Ipswich are worried by plans to build a road bridge across the Read More
  • German Schooners +

    Thor Heyerdahl Two German schooners based at Hamburg are regularly making voyages under sail with general cargoes across the Atlantic. Read More
  • RFA Pearleaf +

    RFA Pearleaf Thanks to Orkney Image Library for this view of the RFA Pearleaf. Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

From the Lookout

  • Naming Ceremony for Forth Tug and Pilot Boat +

    Forth Puma and Craigleith In my Message From The Bridge in the August edition of Sea Breezes I highlighted the Firth of Forth. Read More
  • SMS Avonmouth Relocates to Bigger Premises +

    City of Cardiff In my long-ago deep sea days with Blue Funnel, Avonmouth was an occasional port of call before heading to our Read More
  • Big Boost for Liverpool Container Services +

    Port of Liverpool More positive news from Peel Ports Group. Read More
  • Kerne Preservation Receives Queens Award for Voluntary Service +

    Steam Tug Kerne I was delighted to hear that in the Queen’s Honours List, published at the beginning of June 2018, the Merseyside Read More
  • UK P&I Launched Safety Competition +

    UK PandI Logo UK P&I Club, a leading provider of P&I insurance and other services to the international shipping community, has launched its Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Cruise News/Superyacht News

  • Turnkey Explorer Yacht +

    Explorer 67 An exciting opportunity for an owner looking to build one of the finest explorer yacht projects available has presented itself. Read More
  • Great Perseverance +

    Meira Behind the construction of every great yacht there is a story and in the building of Meira, it is one Read More
  • Keel Laid for Hapag-Lloyd’s First Expedition Cruise Ship +

    Hanseatic Inspiration A keel-laying ceremony was held on June 20 2017 for Hanseatic Nature, the first of two expedition cruise ships being Read More
  • Superyacht Season - Cannes +

    Numarine 26 XP Loved and hated in equal measure by those who exhibit at the Cannes Yachting Festival, as it is correctly known, Read More
  • Superyacht Season - Southampton +

    Targa 43 OPEN The season begins with Southampton, now celebrating its 50th year which, following the demise of the London Boat Show becomes Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Ships, Ports and Places

Largs Bay

One Voyage Too Many - The Last of the Bay Boats, 1957

Largs Bay, a twin screw turbine steamer of some 14,000 grt, had a long rather complicated history after being built Read More
Galeb

"Galeb" - From Banana Boat to Presidential Yacht

One day in October 2017, I sat at an outside table at a restaurant on the fringe of the harbour Read More
  • 1
  • 2

Companies, Events and Other Features

Peter Crawford

Peter’s “Scillonian” Life on the Ocean Wave

Peter Crawford, is relief captain and first mate of the MV Scillonian, the sturdy little ship which is an essential Read More
HMS Lincoln

HMS Lincoln and Her Unusual Defensive Weapon

A “run ashore” the night before going to sea the following day is very much part of a seafarer’s life. Read More
  • 1
  • 2