Bolton Remembers the War Logo
Bill Brown - Royal Navy
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Bill Brown
HMS Indomitable



William Joseph Brown

22 June 2005

Bill was born in Bolton in1925. He lived in Dawes Street and went to St Patrick's School. His mother was a mill worker at Ormrod's on Great Moor Street and his father a carter.

When he left school he got a job as a pipe fitter on War work and first volunteered for the Navy at 16. He heard nothing and volunteered again saying he was 18. Bill describes his love of the Navy, his training as a telegraphist at the Marconi School of Wireless and Butlin's camps at Skegness and Ayr, and his service at sea - mainly in the Far East onboard the aircraft carrier HMS Indomitable, his 'home and happy ship.' Bill saw a great deal of action during the War years and witnessed the loss of many friends and colleagues.

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A Naval auction... mp3 sound clip - 254kA Naval auction... mp3 sound clip - 254k

A life on the ocean wave...

You couldn't sleep on a hammock, it was too hot and they had these things directing what they called “fresh air” but the lads used to fight to put them on their bodies, and you were riddled with prickly heat, and the prickly heat would go septic. Because the decks were steel and we used to curse them because we used to long for a wooden deck ship where you could take your shoes off and go in your bare feet - that was then - and if you touched any of the rails when you were going down because we were always stripped to the waist, just shorts at sea, and if you just touched a rail then you got a blister because it was so hot you just burned. So everything was mad hot and it was terribly uncomfortable and of course were reading now about the seas and the typhoons and the hurricanes and that was another enemy because she could be vicious the sea, you know, she could have us on our hands and knees praying when it got really rough. There was seventy foot to the flight deck out of the water and just thirty foot underneath, so when she rolled - she rolled , and... I got used, I didn't suffer too badly, but a lot of lads did. And when she pitched it was like going up in an express - I worked in the pits for a while and the cages go down very, very quickly, well it's like that, you used to go up to the top and then you'd come down very, very quickly and then she's settle in and then you'd feel everything come up and then...

A Naval auction...

The nice thing about the Navy was that when lads got killed - and lads do get killed - they used to take all their belongings... All the private personal gear was sent home to the parents. That was theirs, with a lovely letter saying how brave they'd died - something nice. But then all the Navy equipment that you'd been issued with, that was all taken up on a special day and it was auctioned, and they would auction a pair of socks one at a time, and lads who were getting 30 shillings, £2.00 a fortnight, would bid a pound for a sock. It'd have holes in, but they would pay a pound, and then when they got it they would give it back and say 'Auction it again' and those things were auctioned over and over again and it was nothing for £400 to be raised at an auction for that lad, and then it would be sent to the parents. Not as a gift - it's the sale of his possessions - and the parents knew no different, and I always thought that was a wonderful... That was the Navy for me.