Welcome to the homepage of former British Merchant
Dennis M. Crosby.
In May 1944, at the age of sixteen,
Dennis became a "Vindi Boy" when he began his
merchant seaman studies aboard the
training ship, the
In the following story, Dennis writes about his experiences aboard the SS Samlorian, his first ship after graduation from "Vindi". Like all the other British merchant ships which were given the prefix "SAM", Samlorian was an American-built Liberty Ship which had been transferred to Britain. The "A.B." mentioned in Dennis' story stands for "Able-Seaman", and is the next level up from an "Ordinary Seaman" or "O.S.". A Third Mate is a Third Officer. "Newfie" was a nickname for someone from Newfoundland, a British colony which became part of Canada in 1949. The Anglo-Indian Fourteenth Army fought a gruelling and costly campaign against the Japanese in the jungles of Burma (now Myanmar). (Please Click Here for Map). The city of Karachi which was a vital sea-port and supply center for the Fourteenth Army, is now in Pakistan. The cities of Bombay and Calcutta are now known as Mumbai and Kolkata, respectively, and the country of Malaya has been renamed Malaysia. (Please Click Here for Map). Dennis begins his Homepage with a FOREWORD in which he tells the intriguing story of just how he became a Merchant Seaman.
by Dennis M. Crosby
Upon reflection today, wonder why they did not simply paddle my backside! I must have brought about a certain amount of unhappiness to my Parents at that time. Naturally, as their eldest Son, they not only were concerned for my wellbeing but had no desire to see their Son go off to war, well before he was required to do so! However, wanting to become an active part of the war, I began to achieve my aims by sulking! I would come home each day from my work, but only speak if I was spoken to. I showed my respect to my Parents but it was very obvious that I was not very happy. Finally, my Grandmother, who had lost her only Son in the First Great War, told my Parents, "If he is so unhappy, then let him go!" After some time, they finally agreed! I had in the meantime made application to perhaps be accepted as a Junior Engineer, however was turned down because my Electrical experience was not enough to satisfy the requirements. After applying for the necessary forms which my Parents finally signed, I was accepted into the Sea School, T.S. Vindicatrix.
I departed Manchester by rail on the morning of 8th May 1944, finally arriving at Sharpness docks at 5 pm. A bus awaited us at the station and approximately 80 to 100 young boys were driven to the Vindicatrix camp. After all of the necessary paperwork, we were housed into several newly built huts, perhaps 25 to a hut. We were all strangers and I made friends with a young fellow who had arrived from London where he had been driving a taxi. We were informed that we had three days to accept our new mode of life. If we did not wish to continue, we could just quit and go home again. However, after 3 days, this option was no longer in effect. My new found friend decided after three days that nothing was up to his expectation, and so he quit!! To be perfectly honest, I too found conditions not to be up to my expectations. However, there was absolutely no way that I could quit and return to my home after being such a pain in the backside and causing so much misery to my parents to obtain my wishes. It was simply a case of "Grin and bear it"! After a month of living in the huts and marching each morning down to where the ship, Vindicatrix was moored, our intake was eventually moved onto the vessel itself.
Vindicatrix was an old hulk, from days
of yore and
devoid entirely of any forms of comfort. The bed deck was
formed of probably 100 to 150 bunks, the two classes of
Catering (Stewards, Galleyboys) and
Deck (Junior Ordinary Seaman, Deck Boys).
I being in the Deck Dept was formed into one of the watches.
I particularly remember being wakened at 3:45 am by the light
of an oil-lamp for my 4-8 watch. The fellow who woke me placed
the lamp upon the deck to allow me to dress. When I looked, the
whole deck was absolutely alive with thousands of cockroaches!
Upon me arriving at my post by the gangway, I looked across
to Sharpness docks to find it to be completely empty!! The
evening before, it had been crammed with vessels. Later, about
6am, the radio announced that D-day had
arrived! All of those ships had left to become a part of the
Invasion. Twenty days
later I became 17 years of age and at the
end of June finished my course at the
returned to my home in Manchester. In spite of my Parents trying
so very hard to prevent me entering into the war, it was very
obvious that they were extremely proud also.
by Dennis M. Crosby
My first ship after leaving T.S. Vindicatrix, was a brand new Liberty ship, the Samlorian, which I joined in Manchester in July 1944. After sailing in convoys to many different places we were in Karachi, India for the third time in April 1945. We had then been away for eight months. My friend on the ship was Stuart, also from Manchester. We had been in the same intake on the "Vindi".
This particular evening, we went ashore to see a movie. While walking through the dock gate to return to the ship later, the cook and one of the A.B.s were also returning from a night drinking. They were both pretty tipsy and arguing with each other. As we neared the berth where the ship was tied up, the cook suddenly pushed the A.B. -- a "Newfie" -- and he fell off the dock and into the water. The cook stood there in stitches laughing, but the poor fellow in the water was spluttering and thrashing. He went under the water twice and it appeared that he was going to drown. I was eighteen years at the time -- nobody else appeared to be considering helping this guy and so I jumped in and grabbed a hold of him.
By this time a crowd of Indian dock workers appeared on the quay and threw a line to me.
After Karachi, our next port was Bombay, where we spent a week offloading various wartime cargo. On the Sunday, my shipmate Stuart and I decided to make our way to a place named Breach Candy, where there was a large
The following day, the ship sailed bound for Calcutta, about a 10 day journey away. After about 5 days I began suffering from very severe ear aches, perhaps related to the palm frond incident -- I never did find out. Upon arrival in Calcutta I was sent to the University Hospital there to have my ear examined and was given a penicillin injection, this being a fairly new drug at the time. After being given the injection, I was instructed to go and sit quietly in a waiting room for 10 minutes before departing. My Friend Stuart was waiting for me across the street outside and I considered myself to be O.K. to leave. Wrong! As I walked across the busy street, I suddenly blacked out and the next I knew was that a crowd of jabbering Indian people were all gathered around me. However, nobody offered to help me up from the ground! I managed to rise and stagger across the street to Stuart. Thinking back now, many years later, I expect that I was thought to be perhaps intoxicated? Who knows?
After discharging in Calcutta, we sailed to the port of Mormugao, Goa which at that period of time was a Portugese Territory in India. The interesting thing about Mormugao was that lying in the centre of the harbour were three
During our time at Mormugao, maybe a week, it was my turn to be Night Watchman, 7pm-7am.
After sailing from Mormagoa, we sailed South to the island of Mauritius, and the city of Port Louis.
Our cargo was destined for Durban, South Africa, perhaps a week's sailing from Mauritius. Durban was a really beautiful port and our stay there was a wonderful experience before loading and heading North to a port in Sudan.
With the war over, we next sailed to Madras where it was my turn to become Night Watchman again. We were loading cargo for Singapore when at about 3:00 am I became quite ill with stomach pains. The next day a doctor was brought on board to examine me and he decided that I should be taken into the hospital. So I was "Paid Off" and the ship sailed without me -- this after I had been on board her for sixteen months!
While I was in hospital, in the next bed to mine, was a young ship's apprentice. He had fallen into the water in Karachi and had been attacked by jellyfish. Several fingers on one of his hands
Dennis' pages are maintained by Maureen Venzi and they are part of the Allied Merchant Navy of WWII website.