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"I was a cypher officer for C-in-C, Admiral Cunningham, who has been called the greatest admiral since Nelson by the dean of British naval writers John Winton. I was close to him on many dramatic occasions. At the time of the sinking of the Barham, I was in the forward cypher office on the admiral's forward position on HMS Queen Elizabeth, the flagship, to be near him in case of an urgent message coming in.
He went straight to the main bridge up one deck to take charge of the fleet. I went outside on to the admiral's walk and saw the great battleship, looking so powerful and safe, beginning to start to list. We knew right then the the ship was done for. Then I saw the U-boat being blown to surface, which was unthinkable, and then dropping under the waves.
The great ship continued to go over. Men came running on deck and abandoning ship, showing coolness. Others standing still, undecided as to what to do. Being from Canada and used to paddling canoes, a picture came to mind that Barham seemed to be tipping over like a canoe. We were moving rapidly away from her and then she blew up.
It was all a horrible nightmare. We could watch the terrible scene no more and went back to work, which was difficult. For more on the sad story, see the web pages of my book.
| last updated:
13 July 2013