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Kroon, Claude Atholl

    Date of birth:
    December 17th, 1922 (Cape Town, South Africa)
    Date of death:
    July 6th, 2010 (Salisbury/England, Great Britain)
    Nationality:
    South African

    Biography

    Claude Kroon left the General Botha in December 1938 as one of 6 (out of 120) selected for the Royal Navy (Reserve). In April 1939, he joined the Ellerman Hall Line as indentured apprentice officer & sailed to various countries, shipping cargos of all sorts. While at sea, WW2 broke out and, some weeks later on arrival in London, Claude was ordered to report for Royal Naval Reserve duty.

    He was allocated to the Royal Navy ‘Armed Boarding Vessel’ Camito (previously a Fyffe’s banana boat!) where he checked the cargoes of various merchant ships in transit. On May 5th, 1941, HMS Cavina (also an ‘Armed Boarding Vessel’ - previously also a banana boat) handed over a ‘prize’ Italian oil tanker ‘Sangro’ to the Camito, as the Cavina had already been at sea for one month. Shortly after the handover, at 0:2:40 on the May 6th, 1941, both the Sangro and HMS Camito were torpedoed. The Sangro went up in a sheet of flame and the Camito captain ordered most of his crew to take to the lifeboats. Claude, the captain and 5 others stayed aboard, with the idea of keeping afloat, but soon the ship began to sink and they launched a Carley Float and were adrift in the Atlantic for several hours, before being rescued by HMS Orchis (a corvette) and taken to Gourock (Scotland) as Greenock had just been bombed the previous night(!)

    After recovering from his ordeal, Claude was allocated to the 21st Destroyer flotilla based in Sheerness (Isle of Sheppey, Thames Estuary) where he reported to Captain ‘D’ 21. During his time with the 21st Destroyer flotilla, they had many a battle with ‘E’ and ‘R’ boats. In February 1942, they were ordered to join up with the 16th Destroyer flotilla at Harwich. After a few days of group training, they suddenly got a signal that ‘Scharnhorst’, ‘Gneisenau’ and ‘Prinz Eugen’ were making their way up the English Channel!

    And so, the 6 destroyers set off at 36 knots towards the Hook of Holland, to ‘intercept’ the enemy ships. Various attacks took place - involving ships, E-boats & aircraft - and according to Claude, some UK aircraft managed to attack HMS Worcester!!! Mind you (luckily) there was a lot of fog about, which also helped to protect the UK destroyer fleet from the German battle-cruisers.

    Claude subsequently served (also in destroyers) on convoy escort duties (to Russia) as Assistant Navigator. Later, he was involved in escorting tank and troop landing vessels to the Normandy beaches (June 1944). After the surrender of Japan, he was involved in escorting the first troopship into Singapore.

    Back in the UK, Claude worked his way up to Captain, with British Railways, becoming Marine Superintendent at the port of Harwich for about 3 years. He was further promoted to Shipping Services and Port Manager at the (Welsh) port of Fishguard. This also entailed being Area Manager BR Western Region, over 3 stations, 200 rail staff and many others.

    Claude eventually retired & lived mainly in the West Country (Cornwall, Devon etc.) till his death in 2010.


    Promotions:
    1st July 1943: Sub-Lieutenant;
    1st September 1944: Lieutenant.

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    Period:
    Second World War (1939-1945)
    Rank:
    Sub-Lieutenant (Sub-lieutenant)
    Unit:
    Plotting Officer HMS Campbell ('D 21')
    Awarded on:
    January 1st, 1944
    Action:
    Citation:
    "For gallantry or outstanding service in the face of the Enemy, or for zeal, patience and cheerfulness in dangerous waters and for setting an example of wholehearted devotion to duty, upholding the high traditions of the Royal Navy."
    Details:
    The following relates to events immediately after the destroyer HMS Campbell, commanded by Captain C.T. M. Pizey (Captain D.21 - later Admiral Pizey) had completed its action against the 'Channel Dash' German battle fleet, including Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Prinz Eugen, on 12th Feb. 1942. Claude Atholl Kroon (born in South Africa) was, on the day of the battle - which lasted several long hours - ‘Plotting Officer’, whose job it was to keep the Action Diary (see below**). The following is quoted from Claude Kroon’s account of what took place after the battle…:

    “One hour later we were recalled to our immense relief and from my Action Diary and plot details I had to make up the “action” chart with all the different symbols for different ships and coloured tracts, times, positions where torpedoes were fired etc. It was a real work of art and when Captain Pizey finished studying it, in conjunction with the full report of battle, he sent for me and insisted I sign it with my full name, rank and date. The full account and reproduction now appears in the “Destroyer fighting manual”. There were many awards for our battle and I was “Mentioned in Dispatches”.
    Mentioned in Despatches
    Period:
    Second World War (1939-1945)
    Details:
    Received with "FRANCE AND GERMANY" clasp.
    Atlantic Star

    Sources

    • Photo 1: L. E. Runcie
    • Photo: L. E. Runcie
    • - Family records
      - The London Gazette of 10th September 1943, Issue 36166
      - Supplement to The London Gazette of 31st December 1943, Issue 36309, dated 1st January 1944
      - The London Gazette of 13th October 1944, Issue 36746

    Photo