|HMS Conway 1859 - 1974
© Alfie Windsor 1998
"Abandon Ship! 1941
The following recollections were written by the then captain Superintendent, Captain Goddard.
In March 1941 the enemy commenced to drop parachute magnetic mines into the Mersey our anxiety increased for one lost accurate positions of them due to the strong tides rolling them along the bottom, and one under ours, in spite of our strong hull would, if it exploded, quickly bring to an end our usefulness to the country, for it well appeared that Conway has no watertight bulkheads. Conway, with her immensely strong timbers, could stand quick near misses from bombs which exploded on contact with the water. She shuddered and quickly settled down again when a stick of three bombs fell close to the starboard side and another occasion, one on the port side. The explosives were quite near enough to have started rivets in a steel ship.
In March 1941, thirteen days after returning to our moorings, two parachute magnetic mines fell into the Mersey, one ahead of the Tacoma City which was anchored abreast of us, and the other floating down slowly, its progress retarded by the parachute, just missed the Conway's main trunk and fell into the water about 12 yards abreast of our starboard gangway. The plane which dropped the mines was flying over Rock Ferry towards South Liverpool. This was just after midnight and as there was a strong flood tide running I hoped that the parachute would keep the mine from making the bottom until it was well clear of our stern. I considered the cadets and staff should be got ashore as soon as possible for I realised that if the mine exploded where she dropped or anywhere from there to the stern, the ship would sink in a very few minutes. I therefore gave the order to abandon ship and the Instructor called the hands Heave O, Heave O, Heave O, a mine is under the ship and will explode in ten minutes, Heave O, Heave O, Heave O.
The cadets were excellent, and for once were really quiet. They dressed quickly and went to the stations. Within 20 minutes from the time of calling, just over 200 cadets and staff including my wife's Siamese Cat, which made more noise than anyone or everyone, were on the Rock Ferry Pontoon, from where they made their way to Conway House, Royal Rock Hotel and the Royal Mersey Yacht Club House where they were kindly entertained and housed. Number 1 Motor Boat and crew remained alongside the ship.
At about 1.30 pm the Tacoma City was changing over her dynamos, little realising that the mine which fell ahead of her had drifted down with the tide and had grounded under her bottom. Unfortunately, she stopped a dynamo before starting up another and so for a moment the degaussing current ceased, but sufficiently long enough for the magnetic mine to explode, sinking the ship in a few minutes but happily with small loss of life. I saw the explosion and sent No. 1 motorboat, with Lt. Brooke Smith in charge, too the scene of the disaster and was able to pick up forty-five members of the crew. The other mine which dropped by the Conway's starboard gangway had drifted approximately under our stern and had grounded about fifty feet under our stern and slightly to port. At daybreak, I had reported the position of the two mines to the Officer commanding minesweeping flotilla, Liverpool, and was told that a minesweeper would be sent later in the day. At about 3 pm, my wife, against my order, had managed to get a passage off to the ship, and before sending her ashore I was giving her tea in the aft cabin when suddenly through the port after gunport, I saw a minesweeper lowering its wire sweep pass close by our stern from ahead. It was too late to get out of the quarters and so I told her that if she wished to see a mine explode she could see one now. At that moment it did and water from the explosion thoroughly washed down the stern walk. The old ship rose to the explosion and then settled down again with no damage done. I then recalled the cadets on board.
Arrangements were made with the headmaster of Mostyn House School, Parkgate, to accommodate the cadets for a few days. We were most grateful to him for it caused him a lot of inconvenience. The cadets took their hammocks and kit and in charge of Commander Monty Douglas stayed at Mostyn House for two days when it was decided to send the cadets home. Further discussions found that training could be better carried out in peaceful surroundings and so it was decided to send the ship to the Menai Straits where there was an anchorage off Bangor which would suit us.
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