Wednesday, 12 November 2014

HMS Ladybird

Sometimes life gets overfull and there is no time left in the day for the things I really want to do.  At last I’ve managed to slip away into the farm kitchen of my childhood memories hoping you will join me here. 

On 12 May 1941 I was in my favourite hiding place under the dining room table, when I heard the man on the wireless talking about HMS Ladybird, a ship I had always regarded as mine because I knew my name was inscribed on the inside of her bell.  I had been baptised on board in 1936 when I was six weeks old and the Ladybird was tied up alongside in Hankow so in accordance with Naval tradition the ship’s bell was used as the font.   The news reader said that German planes had bombed her, set her on fire and she had sunk but right to the very end while her guns were above the water even though she was sinking she had gone on firing and had brought down two enemy aeroplanes.  This was a very powerful message to a small person and has been part of my driving force throughout my life – never give up no matter how bad things seem to be, you never know what you may achieve even when all seems lost. 
HMS Ladybird was one of the little river gunboats that had sailed from the Yangtze to join the Fleet soon after the beginning of the war and so were involved in the Battle of Torbruk.  If you go to Wikipedia you can find the story of the sinking of HMS Ladybird including part of the report by the ship’s captain Commander John Blackburn; he tells how the sailors, gunners and officers, including the wounded with the ship burning under their feet and half the guns under water kept seeking his permission to ‘Carry on, sir, please.’  Only when the old ship was rolling for her final  plunge did John Blackburn give the order to abandon ship. ‘She went down with what guns we could still man, firing to the last.’
Next week another story from under the table.

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