Dunkirk Evacuation - Ship Captain Tom Woods OBE amazing memories

Discussion in '1940' started by paulcheall, Nov 26, 2014.

  1. paulcheall

    paulcheall Son of a Green Howard

    I would like to draw forum members' attention to some new pages on my web site. A relative of Captain Tom Woods has sent me various papers, letters and photos which as well as being of historic interest, also allude to a conspiracy theory of sorts about a mutiny amongst some members of ships crew aboard the ferries which were evacuating large numbers of troops. The ship in question is the Lady of Mann, who rescued my Dad from the beaches so it's fascinating for me personally to hear about the rescue from a different angle. But for me the crew and captain are to be regarded as heroes and indeed Tom Woods was awarded the OBE for his services not just at Dunkirk but in other theatres too.

    The material includes letters home, a report to his bosses, photos and historic telegrams containing orders. Go to http://www.fightingthrough.co.uk/#/lady-of-mann-dunkirk-ww2-1/4587204488 to learn more.

    Meanwhile, here's a few pics to whet your appetites


    Steve Mac likes this.
  2. Steve Mac

    Steve Mac Very Senior Member

    Very interesting thread, Paul. Capt. Woods was aptly rewarded for his service.

    I recalled reading something about the mutiny of some MM crew at the time of Dunkirk and found this thread; link: http://ww2talk.com/forums/topic/28522-personnel-vessel-crews-refused-to-sail-to-dunkirk/?hl= lady mann - Messages #25 to 28 refer.

    There was also a separate thread about the 'SS Tynwald'; link: http://ww2talk.com/forums/topic/24952-ss-tynwald-and-the-jewel/?hl=tynwald One of the contributors was forum member 'Ivor' = Ivor Ramsden, Museum Director, Manx Aviation & Military Museum/Museum of the Manx Regiment, who I am sure would be very interested in your thread.

    I note that your dad was lifted from Dunkirk on 31 May 1940. My dad's oldest brother, who also served with 50 Div - 72nd Field Regiment, RA. - and ten (10) other men of his unit were drowned that day trying to get to a ship stood too off Bray Dunes. This leaves me with mixed feelings about the behaviour of the mutineers; on one hand I do understand their actions, on the other they let down men like my uncle and his 10 colleagues.


  3. paulcheall

    paulcheall Son of a Green Howard

    Thanks for those links Steve - I'll follow them up. Funny how these stories expand! There is a Lady of Mann pub in Liverpool somewhere.
    I don't think the crew deserting caused any deaths or delays. It was only 15 of them and they were replaced pretty quickly. They left the ship in England of course. We should remember that the ship came to Dunkirk twice during the period and on both occasions it had to leave empty because the central organisation wasn't up to the task somehow. I think it was partly down to berthing space cos I don't believe there was any shortage of troops. But given the whole area was somewhat a ships graveyard it must have been incredibly disconcerting for the crew.

  4. paulcheall

    paulcheall Son of a Green Howard

    Just re-read the comment about your uncle being drowned near Bray Dunes. How utterly tragic. Dad arrived at Bray Dunes and spent a night there before marching to the East Mole at Dunkirk.So I guess that could have been him drowning!
  5. paulcheall

    paulcheall Son of a Green Howard

    Steve I think the links you gave say it all really so I'd recommend people follow them - plenty of debate going on so no point in starting another one here I guess.
  6. Steve Mac

    Steve Mac Very Senior Member

    Hello Paul,

    There were a couple of 'family folklore' stories about the death of my uncle when I was a youngster, which originated from his rescued mates. One was that he was killed in action at Bulscamp, which was 50 Div's last action with the BEF. The other was he drowned trying to get away at Dunkirk.

    I did the research about three years ago, CWGC analysis, War Diary - the latetr which luckily had a good analysis of the 'killed, PoW, missing', etc. and I know exactly what happened to him and where.

    My dad's other older brother, Joe, who served in the later stages of WWII (and also in the Royal Artillery), still to this day considers that Fred's Commanding Officer is to blame for his death (and so those of his 10 mates), as he insisted they wore full kit, carried their weapons, wore their tin hats, etc. - all of which resulted in them not being able to swim.

    My 'mixed feelings' about the behaviour of the mutineers is this... People like Douglas Gray and your dad fought all the way through. They probably hated it all, were terrified some of the time, saw their mates killed and mutilated, never thought they'd get home, etc. Most of the 50 Div originals were Terriers, part-time soldiers before the war started. Most probably joined the TA for the extra money, never thinking they would have to fight; but fight they did and many paid the ultimate sacrifice. Put that alongside the behaviour of the mutineers... Their actions may not have caused the death of one soldier, but there again it could have - it was at the very least selfish, when the boys on the beaches in France needed them to be selfless.

    Thank god for people like Tom Woods, Douglas Gray and your dad!


    dbf likes this.
  7. paulcheall

    paulcheall Son of a Green Howard

    Hi Steve - It's interesting how these rumours start about how someone gets killed. I have come across this several times, finding that how Dad thinks someone was killed differs from the official account. For instance, at the battle of Wadi Akarit in 1943, pal John Bousfield was killed by the (not-so) friendly creeping barrage, yet Synge suggests he was in a building that was shelled by the enemy. I think the authorities make things up sometimes to protect the feelings of the close relatives (fair enough) and sometimes to cover up incompetence - as in your example above.

    But I'll leave you with the last word on the mutiny - thanks for your input.

  8. Hugh MacLean

    Hugh MacLean Senior Member

  9. Roy Martin

    Roy Martin Senior Member

    Can I add a little to Hugh's post #17?

    Many of the crews were older men and for those over forty this was their second war. The ratings had no form of occupational pension; they or their dependents would only receive whatever the state dispensed. The officers were little better off, their contributory pension only started in 1938, so any payments would not have been enough to keep a ship’s cat alive.
    Their main grouse was that they were exhausted and no reliefs seem to have been arranged. An armed guard was put on one of the packets, the Malines. When she returned from France the authorities sent a doctor down to the ship: they must have been most disappointed when he declared the whole crew unfit to continue.
    Almost as important to the crews was the military’s unwillingness to put any form of defensive armament on ships for the outward voyages: even any Bren guns that the evacuated troops brought with them were taken off on return to the UK.
    The packets and coasters went on to rescue troops from Le Havre, Cherbourg, St Malo and Brest. They also evacuated all those who wanted to leave the Channel Islands and maintained a scheduled service to the islands until two days before they fell.
    After Brest they handed over to the deep sea ships of the Merchant Navies; their bunker capacity was often inadequate and the ships were only licenced and insured as Home Trade ships – so Brest was their western limit. In all the merchant ships saved about a quarter of a million people from France in the three weeks after Dunkirk ended. This included nearly 140,000 British servicemen and over 45,000 Allied troops.
    They supported all the landings in the Mediterranean and from 6 June they were back in France again. There many of the packets were equipped as Landing Ship Infantry. In all the Merchant Navy supplied and manned forty of the 73 ships of this type, including a number of much bigger ships. The Canadian soldiers called them the mother ships. While the crews were civilians the small LCA’s that they launched were manned by the Navy; for good reason.
    Hugh MacLean, Rich Payne and Drew5233 like this.
  10. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    Nice post Roy. Hows the saying go 'Walk a mile in the man's shoes....'?
  11. Roy Martin

    Roy Martin Senior Member

    Hello Andrew,

    I haven't heard that one; but you know I can't keep my mouth shut on this subject!

    Best wishes,


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