WWII Memories
WWIIMEMORIES
Personal Histories of World War Two

Recollections of an Able Seaman - Enos 'Eddie' Fellows

This memoir was submitted in early 2011 by Gerry Brewis whose father-in-law, Enos 'Eddie' Fellows recalls his experiences in the Royal Navy during World War II.


Able Seaman Enos 'Eddie' Fellows
Enos 'Eddie' Fellows (click on image to expand)

A Record of the WWII Experiences in the Royal Navy of Enos 'Eddie' Fellows

HMS Tartar

Enos explains...

"By eight o'clock we were on the train bound for Devonport. On arrival we were told to start draft proceedings - pass the M.O., check kit, etc. About 24 of us (all strangers) were on draft to various ships on the Clyde. Myself and two others were to join HMS Tartar, a tribal class destroyer, built on the Tyne.

HMS Tartar
HMS Tartar (click on image to expand)

The date was Monday 6th September, 1940.

By now I was A.B. Seaman and made ship's painter. With the hope of my transfer coming through, I would then have promotion to P.O., I was also made ship's postman. I collected mail daily and took it to the wardroom where it was censored, then taken ashore by me.

After a couple of days we slipped the buoy and made our way out to sea, joined by five other tribal class ships in line ahead. Our next assignment was escorting two troop carriers to Canada (they had RAF personnel under training) a nice quiet trip for a change (as we thought!)."

Gunners at last!
Gunners at last! With shipmates/gunners on HMS Tartar (click on image to expand)
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The Sinking of The Bismarck

Enos relates...

"Wherever the King George V was, we were there, escorting her. K.G.V. was a Royal Navy Battleship, and the Tartar was a tribal class destroyer.

Rough seas again and we were out, ready to meet a Russian convoy in the mid Atlantic. K.G.V. was there, after we had escorted her to mid Atlantic, but K.G.V. could not go on the convoy. However, we then got a call to change direction, in order to chase the German battleship Bismarck. Four days out into the Atlantic, we heard on radio that the HMS Hood had been sunk by the Bismarck, which was heading our way.

American destroyers had taken over our job escorting the troop carriers. Tartar and HMS Mashona (another tribal class destroyer), then joined up with HMS King George V and HMS Rodney, as well as aircraft carriers, cruisers and half a dozen other destroyers. An additional force just as big, was also in the chase. We were told the Hood had been sunk by a lucky shot - from Bismarck - that had hit one of their magazines. We couldn't let 'Jerry' get away with that!

Gunners at last!
Gunner at last! Aboard HMS Tartar (click on image to expand)

With the K.G.V. we chased the Bismarck for at least a week. In fact, a large part of the Home Fleet were chasing after the Bismarck. It was a disgrace, I think.

Swordfish aircraft from the Fleet Air Arm were sent out from the aircraft carriers but nothing was seen for a couple of days. Fog was against the Royal Navy - at least that was the excuse. At last, one aircraft reported a sighting. Still a bit of fog, but the swordfish aircraft took off, carrying torpedoes. We steamed flat-out towards the Bismarck. It looked impossible for the Bismarck to survive - she had been hit two or three times by torpedoes and was reported to be on fire. It was incredible to think that hundreds of ships and aircraft were within range of sinking her, and we lost her.

The fog had lifted after a couple of days, and after hundreds of miles searching the Atlantic there she was, just 20 miles ahead!

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Gunners at last!
Gunners at last! With a shipmate/gunner on HMS Tartar (click on image to expand)

Still burning from stem to stern, she opened fire as the King George V closed in. A few sixteen inch shells were exchanged, some direct hits from K.G.V., and still Bismarck fought on. They were brave men.

At this stage a signal came through from Admiral Tovey (Commander-in-Chief of the Home Fleet), for Tartar to prepare for a high speed torpedo attack. We took off to do the torpedo run into her but the skipper said we unfortunately, hadn't the fuel to do it (for a high speed run, our vessel would use tons of fuel in order to do the attack and then get back).

Captain Skipwith (our Captain) knew with regret, that he had to refuse that request, as we hadn't the fuel left. He was a disappointed man, having to turn down an opportunity like that, but, being a great believer in safety for his ship and crew, it couldn't be carried out. We all knew, to do that, our oil fuel would have run out. The Commander-in-Chief (Admiral Tovey) of the Home Fleet was signalled, he understood and gave us the option whether to hang about, or return to base for another ship to take over.

Tartar and Mashona headed west towards Ireland at a very slow speed (about 10 knots) to conserve the little fuel we had, in order to get there. Twenty four hours after leaving the main force, we were called to 'action stations'.

Enemy aircraft were heading our way. 'Jerry' planes came over in wave after wave, dropping six bombs at a time, for fifteen hours. Again we owed the skipper for saving the ship and crew, because of his cool, calm way of dealing with the situation. He lay on his deckchair on the bridge and watched the bombs leaving the planes, then gave the order "hard to port" or 'starboard' as the case became clear - he never left the chair for the duration. Bombs dropped either side of us, in some cases missing us by only a few feet - we were too busy firing our guns to worry about it. After a lull, giving us time to clear mountains of empty cartridges (and having a 'cuppa') back they came!

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After about 10 hours, Mashona was hit by three of six bombs that had been dropped together. She listed rapidly to 45 degrees and she eventually sunk. We had to pick up her survivors as we were the only other ship there. The first two lads from the Mashona swam towards us and other men were seen stepping off into the water. Another brief lull, and we closed in on them with rope ladders and scramble nets, which were slung over our ship's side. Some climbed aboard, but others had to be helped. Some were past helping and we had to push them away to one side, in order to reach for the next ones who were still alive and to get them aboard.

It was a grim task. We even sent grappling hooks down the side of the ship, which we hooked onto the nets, then dragged the survivors aboard. Then one of our officers saw someone in trouble - on his 'last legs' and still trying to get to our ship - so he dived over the side and brought him aboard. Although we were trying to bring the lads from the Mashona in, we hadn't time to bring them all aboard, as there had been about 320 men on board the Mashona. I don't know how many we pulled aboard - we didn't have time to count.

One of the men I brought aboard, I found out later, was the Mashona's painter but he died later, on board the Tartar. Then they 'piped' for me ( I wondered at the time "what on Earth do they want me for?"). So I went aft, where one of the officers said 'we picked up a Mashona survivor, the ship's painter, who later died, but we kept the key to his paint shop!' ( I thought at the time, "What good is that to me?") - that ship had by then 'turned turtle' and was sinking fast! So I said at the time, "I'll take it as a souvenir if nothing else!" I kept it for years and eventually adapted it, to use on my locker back at my paintworks in Newcastle, after the War.

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We had hoped to pick up the dead later (for identification purposes) but 'Jerry' came back, and we had to get underway. We knew that some of those Mashona lads, floating dead alongside in the sea, must have got caught up in our screws at that time.

Back at 'action stations' Tartar's 'pom-pom' guns had hit a Heinkel aircraft, we saw him go down - but nobody bothered to pick anyone up (I think the bomber carried at least three crew). We looked around the spot where the Mashona lads were. She had turned completely over and just the keel was showing.

Anyway, we couldn't leave the Mashona as it was, so we had to sink her - as we couldn't leave her floating. After an attempt to torpedo it failed, we had to sink it by gunfire at point blank range.

A strange thing about firing the torpedo (it was funny how it happened) was there was a heavy swell and the torpedo was fired directly at her, but then the swell lifted the torpedo up and it went over the top of the Mashona. We could see this clearly, but we still couldn't believe it! The skipper said we would try a second one, but this one missed (how, I do not know). So anyway, that's how we ended up finishing her off with guns, and that was the finish of the Mashona, sunk off the Irish coast.

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'Jerry' planes resumed their attack for hours until dark. I think for the last couple of miles into dock, only fumes from our oil tank kept Tartar's engines ticking over! We had survived over 15 hours non-stop bombing and we had also brought the Mashona survivors back home.

We had not been allowed to land in the Republic of Ireland. Incidentally, we found out that the U-Boat that sunk the Carinthia was based in Ireland. However, we were headed for Northern Ireland and we were told we had about 10/12 hours still to travel, it was some distance still and so we had to go very slowly, in order to conserve the little fuel we had left. We just made it and we refuelled in a Northern Ireland port and then continued to Gourock on the Clyde. We took the survivors off there and moved on to Scapa Flow.

It was while we were at our base in Scapa Flow that we heard that the Bismarck had finally been sunk. We refuelled, stayed over several days and then went on a 'roving commission' (this meant the skipper could go wherever he thought we would be most useful). In fact, we just went out with 3 other ships including HMS Bedouin, another tribal class destroyer. We went out to Bear Island and blew up German wireless installations, as well as bringing back 'Quislings', as prisoners on board.

We blew up other wireless installations in the region and this was done by the ship's own demolition lads. We also set fire to several small coalfields on these islands. They had dug into the mountains for coal, which was used by some of the German ships for fuel.

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After getting rid of the prisoners, 'quislings' (8), at Scapa Flow we stayed there for a week loading provisions, as we were right on the bottom for food by then. These were obtained from a 'mother ship', then we moored at Scapa Flow.

We then went to Spitzbergen, which was right up on the Arctic Circle. We had to get to Spitzbergen in thick fog, through ice floes 50 miles long and 15 miles wide, breaking through them night and day while they smashed over the ship's side. Tartar was bashed in a bit but stood up to the punishment (a present-day, welded ship would not have stood up though). As Tartar was riveted on each plate, she was built to withstand the conditions in that area, including the Murmansk run (and she was built on the Tyne!)

After the ice, then there was the jetty at Spitzbergen to contend with!"

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Enos continues...

"We were later told that on 21st October 1941, HMS Hood and HMS Prince of Wales had left Scapa Flow for Iceland in order to intercept German battleships Bismarck and Prinz Eugen at the Denmark Straits. The cruisers 'Norfolk' and 'Suffolk' were already there, shadowing the German ships. 'Hood' was an un-modernised ship and lead, whereas the 'Prince of Wales', which was new and untried, followed.

'Hood' was steaming straight on towards the German ships, initially, then turned in order to bring its own guns to bear, but was hit by an 8 inch shell from Prinz Eugen which hit ammunitions amidships and then by a 12 inch shell from Bismarck which hit the main armaments and broke the 'Hood' in two. She went down in seconds, taking over 1400 men including its Captain (Vice Admiral Lancelot Holland) to their deaths .[11] 'The Prince of Wales' had been badly damaged but returned to base for repair.

Later that year (see 'The ultimate Charter') and shadowed by HMS 'Tartar', the HMS 'King George V' carried Winston Churchill across the Atlantic to Newfoundland, where between 9th-12th July 1941, he joined US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, for the Atlantic Charter Conference, which emerged as the 'Grand Alliance' against the Axis forces. Later again, HMS 'Prince of Wales' saw action in the Mediterranean (Malta) and then steamed to the Far East in December when she was eventually sunk by Japanese bombers and torpedo planes near Singapore (on 10th December, 1941)."

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Enos continues...

"The next day we were back in Scapa Flow preparing for leave, along with survivors from the Mashona. I later had a well-earned rest, when I was able to spend time at home in Newcastle, during a fortnight's leave.

The Tartar was in the Clyde having its boilers cleaned (it was oil-powered) when we were surprised to hear that 'Tartar' had been presented with a certificate.

This was for being the first ship since the start of the war, to reach the ten thousand miles seatime mark, and she was the first ship to receive this record of wartime service."

One hundred thousand miles at sea - click on image to expand
One hundred thousand miles at sea - HMS Tartar's Wartime Steaming Record
(click on image to expand)
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Tartar - Half Leader

Enos explains...

"Scapa Flow was to be our base along with HMS Somali, Bedouin & Zulu (all Tribal class destroyers).

Back from leave, on the 10th September, the skipper ordered us back to sea. He had volunteered to go to Norway and within a few hours we were alone off Bergen and Stavanger, where we blasted the German shore installations. We nipped across there 2 or 3 times - this was better than us stay at Scapa doing nothing. On one of my first runs on Tartar, we had been one of the last to leave Narvik in Norway when we took several 'quislings' (conspirators with Germany) away to Britain.

Then we stayed at the entrance of Scapa Flow for two days at a time, listening on ASDIC for subs as well as on aircraft watch. We were outside the chain gate, when a big tug opened the gateway because a Navy ship wanted to enter. The entrance was the width of two ships, and had two jetties.

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We slipped anchor and quietly made our way through the boom defence mentioned previously. HMS Somali being the first on duty as boom defence patrol (which all in the flotilla had to take part in) we congratulated them as we passed.

Twenty to thirty miles out, we did a U-Boat patrol, the ASDICs searching the approaches to Scapa for U-Boats. Nothing was seen on this occasion. We learned that a depth charge which had reached a certain age had to be scrapped. So, over the stern two or three of these went. These explosions were different to the ones that had been dropped on us as they sounded louder when in the water. The lifeboat was lowered and the crew picked up as many stunned fish as they could. Fish suppers with chips were had by all the flotilla crews!

This happened sometimes twice a week. Now and again, two or three destroyers again slipped anchor and nipped over to Norway to bombard German coastal batteries or German shipping on the fjörds. Tartar's crew were sure our skipper (Captain Skipwith, R.N.) had volunteered for these trips, as had most of us, as we got sick of hanging around Scapa."

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A Trip to Murmansk and Archangel, 1941

The Russian Convoy Medal - click on image to expand
The Russian Convoy Medal
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Enos explains...

"Once again, Tartar was back at sea, this time escorting HMS King George V, along with two other tribal destroyers, as a shadowing force to a convoy from USA to Russia. We were to meet them in mid-Atlantic and escort them to the Russian ports. On the 1st January, 1941 we slipped anchor about noon, to call at Iceland (see photo12) to top up with fuel. We knew then that this was going to be a long trip.

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Three days out and almost constantly 'on watch' or at 'stand by' or 'action stations', sleep was only to be snatched where and when we could. This was in the gun shield, under a tarpaulin or in our hammock fully clothed. Food was to be grabbed when you could. The chef had hot meals ready at all times, and supplied at regular intervals as well as 'Dixies' full of hot 'Passors Key' (5). I then assumed this 3000 mile trip was going to be a trip to remember.

There were about a dozen merchant ships and we circled the convoy all the time. There was eventually a refuelling ship which met us in mid-Atlantic. They fixed a rope line to us, which we hauled in and attached to a fuel line (sometimes a double line to fill two tanks at the same time) this went on for 24 hours to fill one tank. On one occasion, we heard an ASDIC 'ping' and we dropped a depth charge, but we didn't see any survivors from a sub. Another ASDIC 'ping' was heard right in the middle of the convoy. The merchant ships were ordered to disperse, but we never saw the enemy. Near Murmansk, enemy aircraft appeared, but there were too many destroyers, so they couldn't cause any damage to the convoy (we heard the enemy had a base in Spitzbergen). Some convoys went into Murmansk, ours went into Archangel. 'Jerry' planes then bombed and sank merchant ships. We learned a lesson from this, so the escort did not leave them next time.

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In Archangel harbour we were shown a merchant ship, but found it camouflaged. It had very big guns hidden under the covers ready to fire when dropped.

We went ashore at Archangel for a brief leave. The Russians offered us some vodka they had hidden, and some tea. There were Finnish prisoners of war working on the streets, clearing snow. Some had no boots, just cardboard tied on, and they wore rags. There were both women and men. I saw my first transport bus. It was a sleigh (double-decker) drawn by horses! The workers were clearing snow for this bus. There were maybe 10 passengers per deck.

After 2 days, we refuelled from the shore jetty and loaded food. Leaving, we moved outside the harbour and waited for a different convoy to reform (same escort ships, but different merchant ships). We escorted them back to the Clyde and then returned to Scapa."

Russian Convoys August 1941 - May 1945 - click on image to expand
Russian Convoys August 1941 - May 1945 (click on image to expand)
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Enos states...

"On the 19th December, 1941 the ship's fridge was full of turkeys, one for each mess, and Xmas 'puds' were stowed away. After these days at sea we were told we were on our way to Iceland. All was set for Xmas dinner in Iceland!

On the 24th December the Tartar began to roll. We were cutting through waves twenty feet high and waves twenty five feet high were lashing over the fo'c's'le, and A Gun was forever underwater. We were called off A Gun and had to shelter as it was too dangerous out there. The turkeys, which had been taken out of the fridge to defrost, were now floating around the mess decks in a foot of dirty seawater along with clothing and sea boots! Everything was loose and for Xmas dinner we opened tins of corned beef!

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We dropped anchor in Seydisfjördur, Iceland which is a small village at the base of a mountain, which was covered in three feet of snow. Thankfully, no Germans there. Ashore we went shopping in a small village store, where silk stockings ('Made in England' but couldn't be got there) were bought up by the lads!

Seydisfjördur, Iceland - click on image to expand
Seydisfjördur, Iceland (click on image to expand)
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On the 28th December, 1941 we received a signal to 'proceed immediately to assist HMS Acatches (see note 2) as she had struck a mine about 12 miles east of Iceland. Her fo'c's'le was completely blown off. Just the stern end from the bridge was afloat and 40 of her crew were missing.

Tartar took her in tow and brought her back to England, the Tyne of all places, to North Shields! Myself, the only Geordie, was allowed ashore for eight hours, to be back on board by 5pm as the ship was to leave at 6pm."

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Another Russian Convoy

Russian Convoys Medal Letter 1987 - click on image to expand
Russian Convoys Medal Letter 1987 (click on image to expand)
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Enos relates...

"We again shipped about noon. After about two hours we were well out to sea and land was just visible through a pair of binoculars. Although the time was only two o'clock in the afternoon, it was as dark as midnight. The first 'duty watch' was on deck and the gun crews were huddled up in the gunshield. We knew it was cold, but it was not until the first wave broke over the fo'c's'le and landed on the gundeck that we realised just how cold it was. The wave landed as one solid lump of ice and smashed to pieces as it hit the deck. Other similar waves followed and within a few hours the ship was coated with ice. Great chunks hung dangerously from the masts and rigging. No-one, except those on watch were allowed on the upper decks, as it was so slippery. The guns were practically useless, the ice jamming both training and elevating gear. These had to be thawed out by steam pressure jets, twice a day. Three days passed and by this time the temperature had dropped to 12 degrees below freezing.

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On the sixth night, we were wakened by what we thought was gunfire, and could not believe it when we were told it was the sound of ice breaking. We were cutting our way through an ice-floe twelve miles wide and must have been at least a foot thick. On the following day, we cut through another ice-floe fifteen miles long. You could not see any water. It was 'like crossing a ploughed field in a trolley-bus!'

It was on the eighth night, (I couldn't say, in fact if it was day or night, as we hadn't once seen daylight during this time) we only saw one hour's dusk every twenty-four hours, caused, I think, by the reflections of the Northern Lights and I was beginning to feel like a cat! Anyway, on the eighth day six lights were sighted off the starboard bow. Within a few minutes we were called to 'action stations' and revved up to 30 knots, towards them. Time and time again we challenged them in vain, as a quarter hour, then half an hour passed (seemed like years to us). By this time, lights were surrounding us and the captain tipped us off that we were in the middle of a convoy but he didn't know if it was our own or the enemy's. However, a few ships did not worry us, as we had sunk several before, so guns were loaded and starshells were fired, lighting the ships up. Almost immediately one of the other ships 'flashed' that they were British. This was lucky for them as in another few seconds they could have been blown out of the water!

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Another couple of days went by and once again we were called to 'action stations' as this time a submarine had been sighted. After loading guns and standing by for 'ramming stations' this again turned out to be a British vessel.

On the eleventh day our destination was sighted and here we parted company with the convoy, they going to one part of the Russian fjörd, us to another part.

A few hours later we were tied up alongside the jetty, topping-up with fuel oil, when we received a signal stating two of the convoy had been sunk by a German submarine just outside the anti-sub boom.

On the twelfth day, still alongside the Russian jetty, I went ashore for a few hours. It amazed me to see whole battalions of Russian soldiers speeding down the mountainsides on skis. In the distance I could hear the roar of guns (Russians told me these guns were at the 'Russian Front' said to be only 25 miles away).

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I was struck by the way the Russians envied us as we had smart uniforms and fur coats, and also by the way they made us welcome in their homes. They themselves we were told, had to queue for a little food at the food centres, and yet seemed disappointed if you refused to join them for a cup of tea. The local trolley-bus was an eight-seat sledge drawn along by reindeer! Another pathetic sight was the groups of Finnish prisoners-of-war who were working on the roads, clearing away snow and clad only in rags with sugar sacks round their feet instead of boots. Although the temperature was now 23 degrees below freezing, at the time we didn't seem to feel the cold.

The Northern Lights and the snow created a wonderful effect, lighting the place up considerably for a few hours each day, enough to see to walk about."

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Back With The Convoy

"Back with the convoy again it was on the following day that we set out on our return trip. The snow and ice had been chipped off the ship- as well as paint and broken rigging (caused by the weight of the ice) and it was repaired. The temperature on that day was 24 degrees below freezing.

Three days went by, during which time the whole ship's company (officers and men alike) were kept busy ensuring the guns and gun-decks were kept clear of ice. It was on this third day of sailing that I reported sick, as my face had got a touch of frost bite. It wasn't much, just enough to show me just what frost bite is like.

On the fourth sailing day, we picked up a signal stating that a 'U-Boat Nest' was operating near our course. Had we been on our own, we would have intercepted it, but we had to take care of our convoy.

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We immediately altered course, revved up to 30 knots and circled the convoy. All was well for an hour or so, then the ASDIC picked up a 'ping', just ahead of the convoy. We heard 'action stations' and 'prime depth charges'. I, along with other 'torpedo ratings' and following orders from the bridge, released 6 depth charges, four were over the stern, one to port and one to starboard. These catapulted from the mountings on the quarter deck.

Return home on leave 1941 - click on image to expand
Return home on leave 1941 (click on image to expand)

We circled the position for half an hour looking for survivors (not that there would be any in this freezing water), but no-one surfaced. What a sight it was seeing six depth charges going off in pairs seconds after each other. The Tartar shuddered from the explosions- so we doubted whether any U-Boat would have survived.

Two nights later we had another U-Boat scare. We picked up a reading from the ASDIC and immediately proceeded to the position which was shown on the ASDIC screen, and at the same time were called to 'action stations'.

To our amazement a U Boat surfaced dead-ahead of us, no depth charges needed this time! 'Stand-by for ramming stations', we heard and at an estimated 35 knots we headed straight in for the kill. They must have seen us as they immediately crash-dived and we felt the crunch as we ripped apart the conning tower and the hull must have almost been cut in two by Tartar's bow and keel plates.

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Shipmate gunner on HMS Tartar - click on image to expand
Shipmate gunner on HMS Tartar (click on image to expand)

We hung around the area for a considerable time, but no debris or survivors were to be found, although our skipper Commander Skipwith, said it had been a gamble, and it had paid off. Two 'probable kills' on just one trip wasn't so bad. The chief engineer reported the damage to the Tartar. Keel plates were leaking badly, the bilges were flooded, but the pumps were keeping the water at an acceptable level.

The ASDIC Ratings reported 'ASDIC dead'. "Not as dead as those Germans", we all commented, and I felt revenged for the sinking of our previous ship, the Carinthia.

The convoy was met by US destroyers and escorted back across the Atlantic. They were relieving us so we could return to our base at Scapa Flow, where Tartar was put into a floating dry dock.

There we got to know the extent of the damage, apart from plates gashed and twisted, our ASDIC dome had been ripped off. That explained the 'dead ASDIC'.

After 14 days leave per watch ( totalling a month) Tartar was repaired, her boiler cleaned, a new ASDIC dome fitted, and painted ready to return to sea."

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Capturing a German Weather and Wireless Ship/Station

Enos relates...

"On the 6th March, 1941 we were sent on a 'mystery trip'. Naval intelligence informed us that 'Jerry' was receiving weather reports from inside the Arctic Circle from a ship, Tartar had to find it. It was the most fascinating trip I had experienced.

The weather was perfect for a few days, no U-Boats or enemy aircraft to be seen. We even topped up with fuel oil from a British tanker based in a Norwegian fjörd. It was breathtaking to see the sheer walls on both sides, hundreds of feet high. Ice and snow covered with every pastel colour you could imagine. This tanker had been there for five months, unknown to the Germans.

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Two days after leaving the fjörd, we cut through ice floes miles wide. Some were covered with seals and seabirds. Suddenly without warning, we ran into dense fog. A screen was rigged at the peak of the fo'c's'le for 'iceberg watch'. Each lookout was only allowed ten minutes at a time with only eyes uncovered. Every seaman on board had to do a ten minute watch, including midshipmen. Ten minutes was more than enough of this punishment, but when an iceberg loomed ahead, you knew you weren't standing there for fun. It was exciting, but it was up to you the lookout, to get the message to the bridge quickly. Visibility was no more than 200 yards. The burg itself helped, it seemed to shimmer light through the fog.

The icy-cold fog cut through the clothing I had on, and eyebrows and lashes just froze solid. Suddenly, again without warning the fog lifted and ahead 4/5 degrees to port, we could see what this trip had accomplished.

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We went alongside, at 'action stations', what was seen as a floating wireless station which had no guns of any kind. A boarding party went aboard and rounded up the crew, about eight of them - true Germans, but friendly. The Naval Intelligence had been right about this, and to put us 'right on target' thousands of miles away, we thought was clever when at that time Radar was in it's infancy.

The skipper decided to blow up this ship, but got us to remove the prisoners' personal gear and any other equipment we could pick up (remove or dismantle). Our quarter deck was piled up with gear. I got one of the ship's clocks. Depth charges were placed on board and fuses set at 11am. That gave us half an hour to shove off. On the way home the prisoners were well fed and looked after."

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The Ultimate Charter

Enos remembers...

"Within two days back off leave, Tartar was once again at sea, to rendezvous with what was to be the biggest convoy to Russia. We took over from the US escort in mid-Atlantic as usual, and headed north. Unknown to us, we were to rendezvous with the HMS King George V, with Churchill on board. The K.G.V. steamed up and down the ranks of merchant ships, crews cheering as K.G.V. passed - what an opportunity 'Jerry' missed!

Tartar was then ordered to leave the convoy and proceed with K.G.V. We took up our new position as leader of the destroyer escort, requested by Churchill, we presumed.

The Atlantic charter was held a few miles from Newfoundland, Churchill went aboard a US ship to 'pow-wow' with Roosevelt. After about four hours, he was back on board K.G.V. and we headed home.

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We visited Iceland (Reykjavik) where Churchill transferred to Tartar for his journey to Scotland. We were to keep out of sight, unless on watch, but he told us to "carry on as usual" and to treat him as 'one of the lads'. Some of the lads were seen scrabbling for his 'cigar dumps', and he knew it. He was often on the bridge, or visiting the gun crews, on the two-and-a-half day trip to Greenock on the Clyde.

We then left him and made our way back to Scapa Flow."

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The Lofoten Islands Raid

Lofotens Islands Raid, Svolvaer - click on image to expand
Lofotens Islands Raid, Svolvaer (click on image to expand)

Enos remembers...

"Germany occupied nearly all of Norway by this time and HMS 'Tartar' was involved in the evacuation of Narvik. British Navy vessels took Norwegian volunteers to join the British Navy, with no opposition.' Tartar' was the last navy vessel to leave Narvik, and the Lofoten raid happened some months later.

A landing craft carrying 200 commandos was escorted by Tartar. The Germans were taken by surprise when Tartar opened fire on their oil installations and the German ships in the harbour, which were loaded with glycerine (for use in manufacturing explosives and were to be transported to Germany). The commandos landed, and within half an hour, all factories were blown up or on fire.

Lofotens Islands Raid, Svolvaer newspaper article - click on image to expand
Lofotens Islands Raid, Svolvaer newspaper article (click on image to expand)

Hundreds of German prisoners were taken aboard troopships and destroyer escorts (including Tartar). No British ships were sunk or even damaged."

Chasing the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau

Enos says...

"This was to be another trip I will never forget and the last for the Tartar's crew that I knew.

The Scharnhorst, which was another 'pocket battleship', and sister ship to the Bismarck, was heading up the English Channel. Once again, the best part of the Home Fleet gave chase. The K.G.V., half a dozen cruisers and of course, the Tartar, along with other tribals as escort.

HMS Tartar View of Fo'c's'le - click on image to expand
HMS Tartar - view of Fo'c's'le (click on image to expand)

After a couple of days heading northeast, a storm, such as I had never experienced before, had us 'head-on'. A 60-80 m.p.h. gale-force wind was blowing.

Tartar cut through waves that I reckon were 70-80 feet high (to be seen to be believed) and at times we were on deck at the top of one looking down, then at the prow at the bottom looking up. This went on for a full day and night.

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A and B gun crews ( A on fo'c's'le and B f'ard of the bridge) were not allowed up there. The after gun crews managed to get to their guns, by hanging onto a toggle rope and line, stretched from the mess deck to the quarter deck. At times the f'ard gun crews had to relieve them. It was a test of nerves as you had to hang onto a toggle while waves ten feet high swept you off your feet, then you were left dangling from your toggle rope with nothing but water beneath and then the deck comes up to meet you. By the time the watch was over, you were dry, but getting back was worse; you were head-on into it.

HMS Tartar view of bridge/lifeboat - click on image to expand
HMS Tartar - view of bridge/lifeboat (click on image to expand)

Hanging on for grim death, you reached the mess, only to find it was awash and flooded with no chance of drying off. Trying to rest or sleep under these conditions was hopeless. Nevertheless it was exciting to know we had another of 'Jerry's pocket battleships' on the run.

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The weather stayed as it was for days. It was now 12.30pm and I had just come off the morning watch when it happened. We thought we had struck a mine. Tartar shook from stem to stern, the forward mess decks were flooded and waves were still coming in. There was no deck-head there to stop it. Half inch steel plates that were once the fo'c's'le deck right from the bows to A deck guns were lifted and turned back 'like a milk tin lid'.

HMS Tartar view of quarterdeck - click on image to expand
HMS Tartar - view of quarterdeck (click on image to expand)

Deck bolts and everything else was just ripped apart by the sea. Even the A Gun mounting had been moved by two inches. On the mess deck 4 inch round steel stanchions were bent 'like hairclips'.

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It was unbelievable, but there it was, the fore part of the ship was filling with water. This was the North Atlantic, and although the sea was not frozen yet, it was very close to it. The whole of our mess deck was opened up and of course, the water was pouring in. They had to stop engines and reverse the whole ship then come stern first instead of trying to plough into the waves. The skipper ordered watertight doors to be closed and at the same time signalled Commander-in-Chief, Admiral Tovey, that Tartar would have to pull out and return to base. The answer was that it was 'imperative that you stay with us'.

Commander Skipwith rightly told him where to go, and gave us the instruction to "make way for base". We were then nearly flooded and we continued stern-first, and a few miles from Scapa we were met and escorted, not to the Tyne, as I had hoped, but ended up in dock on the Clyde.

HMS Tartar overall view from crow's nest - click on image to expand
HMS Tartar - overall view from crow's nest (click on image to expand)
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There, after a few weeks and much to our sorrow, Tartar was 'paid off' (decommissioned). Commander Skipwith went into naval intelligence, and his crew went back to Devonport, where we were split up one by one.

Myself, after a week in barracks, I volunteered for 'anything', to get out of that lot, and ended up in the Commandos. We were told later that the Scharnhorst had been sunk by the Fleet Air Arm.

Back to Devonport again, before signing up for 'hazardous service'."

HMS Tartar's full crew 1940 - click on image to expand
HMS Tartar's full crew 1940. Enos is pictured 6th row from back, 7th from the right, 2 from right-hand gun. (click on image to expand)

Biography by G.D. Brewis © August 2010

Enos Fellows

  • Born 6th February, 1919 In Kirk Street, Byker, Newcastle-upon-Tyne
  • Died 23rd March, 2003
  • Married: 18th April, 1942 to Margaret Westgarth (Banns read by L. MacManaway, Chaplain of HMS Tartar on 11th, 18th and 25th January, 1942)
  • Children: One girl born 1st July, 1946, Sandra (wife of G.D. Brewis, biographer)
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Certificate of the Service of Enos Fellows

Sets out the following record of training and service:

  • Date of volunteering 5th June, 1939
  • Commencement of time 6th November, 1939
  • HMS Royal Arthur - 6 November to 11 December 1939
  • HMS Drake - 12 December 1939 to 16 February 1940
  • HMS Carinthia - 17 February to 7 June 1940
  • HMS Drake - 8 June/6 Sept to 17 December 1940
  • HMS Tartar - 18 December 1940 to 31 March 1941
  • Tyne (Tartar) - 1 April 1941 to 1 April 1942
  • Drake - 2 April to 21 August 1942
  • Quebec - 22 August 1942 to 31 August 1943
  • Cofta - 1 August 1943 to 5 December 1945 (released in Class A)
  • N59 Order for release from Naval Service (Class A) was dated 5 Dec 1945 while based at HMS Copra, Largs, Ayrshire and signed for C.O. at HMS Westcliff.
  • Enos received a War Gratuity & Post War Credit of Ratings Wages of £71.07s.06d
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Decorations

Campaign Stars. Clasps and Medals - click on image to expand
Campaign Stars. Clasps and Medals (click on image to expand)
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Enos' awards granted for service - click on image to expand
Enos' awards granted for service during the war of 1939-45 (from Secretary of Admiralty). Pictured in 1995 (age 76) with Peg (age 74). (click on image to expand)
  • Atlantic Star
  • War Medal 1939-45
  • Clasp/emblems: Battle of Britain
  • Orders: 1939-45 Star, Atlantic Star, Africa Star, Italy Star
  • Note: Letter received in acknowledgement of Russian Convoy service, regarding the issue of Soviet Medal, issue of which unfortunately ceased before this letter was sent in 1987, from former USSR Embassy (see picture 15)
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References

Website sources:

  1. www.history.navy.mil
  2. www.bbc.co.uk
  3. www.wikipedia.com
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Timeline

  • Early 1940 - HMS Carinthia in Gibraltar and Casablanca
  • East coast of Africa - South Africa - Durban, West Coast Africa, Suez
  • 6th June, 1940 - HMS Carinthia sunk by a torpedo
  • July-August 1940 - Devonport Barracks, Admiralty guard duty, Bath
  • 6th September, 1940 - joined HMS Tartar
  • Early 1941 - (Tartar) Evacuation of Narvik, Norway
  • 3rd March, 1941 - (Tartar) Vestfjörd, the Lofoten landings, Spitzbergen, Bear Island
  • 1941 - (Tartar) Murmansk (4 trips - Russian convoy escorts)
  • 28th May 1941 - HMS Mashona sunk by German Luftwaffe
  • 26th-28th May, 1941 - sinking of the Bismarck
  • 18th October, 1942 - (Commandos) Invasion of North Africa (with American forces)
  • 6th August, 1943 - (Naval Commandos) Siracusa, Sicily
  • 1948 - HMS Tartar broken up (launched 21st October, 1937)
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Invitation to All Readers From The Biographer

I hope you found this biography as interesting to read as I have in writing it. If you would like to read more of the biography please visit my website, or if you would like to add some additional relevant information and/or constructive comments, please contact me via my email address.

Biography by G.D. Brewis © August 2010


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Correspondence About This Testimony

On 1 December 2013 we received an email from Mr Billy Marks, the son of William Marks who also served on the same ship as Eddie Fellows, HMS Tartar:


I was drawn to this story about Enos 'Eddie' Fellows because my father William Marks served on HMS Tartar at the same time and I believe he was a gunner too.

I am also in possession of that group photo of Tartar's company and my Dad is in it too I'm not sure exactly where though, here are some photos.

I know that the broadcaster Ludovic Kennedy was an officer on Tartar at that time also.

I have a Christmas card my Dad sent to his Mum from Tartar dated 1941.

Regards,
Billy Marks

You have been sent 4 pictures.


The pictures are published below:

Tartar's company with Billy Marks' Dad in it ... somewhere
William Marks, who also served on HMS Tartar, pictured bottom-left?
William Marks during active service
William Marks in later life, a Navy veteran
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