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