Christmas in Archangel

A memoir of life in the Merchant Navy 1939 - 1946

by Ivan Hall



Book Details

Language : English
Publication Date : 8/31/2009

Format : Softcover
Dimensions : 6x9
Page Count : 244
ISBN : 9781425119706

About the Book

The author went to sea at the age of sixteen in Jan.1939. He describes the everyday life, work and routine aboard the Saint Merriel, a cargo ship trading between Europe and the ports of South America. The various characters on board who taught the young apprentice the skills of seamanship are brought to life. Subsequently he learned the art of navigation and the duties of a deck officer. Then came the war. On the second day a ship was sunk twenty miles astern of them, at a position they had passed through two hours previously. The crews now had to learn to keep station in convoy and how to operate armaments and new defensive weapons (some quite absurd). They faced the dangers of mines, submarines, aircraft and surface raiders. Home on leave he met Edna who was to become his wife of fifty nine years. Sent on one of the early Arctic convoys taking munitions to the USSR, his ship became frozen in at Archangel for the duration of the Russian winter of 1941/42. Upon becoming qualified as a watch keeping officer, he sailed on a succession of ‘replacement’ ships, to the invasions of North Africa, Sicily, Italy and the South of France. “Canada and the USA built replacement ships for us, both to a similar design. Their names had the prefixes Fort and Ocean. There is a tendency to denigrate these ships as being quickly built, cheap and nasty. They were nothing of the kind. (Built using revolutionary methods there were bound to be a few problems). These ships saved the free world; it’s as simple as that.” When the European War ended he married Edna and they lived in Liverpool for a few weeks while he took the examinations for First Mate. Edna was pregnant when he joined a small tanker at Falmouth as navigating officer. Although Japan had by this time surrendered they set sail for the Far east and got as far as Colombo before being stalled and sent back to the UK.

About the Author

The author grew up in the Industrial Midlands – ‘The Black Country’ – but at the age of sixteen he gained parental permission to go to sea in the Merchant Service and was indentured to the B and S Shipping Company of Cardiff, known as ‘The Saint Line’. Then followed the adventures described in this book. During the war he left the Saint Line and registered with ‘The Pool’, joining crews taking different ships to various destinations and war theatres. By the time the war ended he had married and become a father and decided to ‘swallow the hook’ and change career. He left the sea and qualified as a teacher, teaching in secondary schools in Lincolnshire and Shropshire, and at colleges of education in Staffordshire and Manchester. He retired from Manchester Polytechnic to live in Shropshire. “I enjoyed my life at sea, it was where I grew up from a boy to young manhood. I was doing something I liked, something I was good at and certainly something useful. I do not claim these experiences as unique. There were thousands of us all in the same boat – or perhaps I should say convoys. I survived.”