My Grandfather was Leading Steward Joseph Albert Nye.
He was Admiral Phillips' valet on HMS Prince of Wales when it was sunk. My grandfather died on that day. I have recently been pleased to become the owner of his last six letters home and although these are mainly of family value, one does describe how he flew with Admiral Philips to meet Smuts.
Service record of Albert
Leading Steward Joseph Albert Nye joined the Royal Navy on 20 November 1914 at the age of 16 years 9 months as a boy servant. His initial training was at HMS Excellent where, on 15 February 1916 he became an Officers Steward.
Joined his first ship "Malaya" on 8 June 1916 where he stayed until 6 December 1919.
He was then at HMS Victory for a short spell then went to Osborne and finished there as an Officers Steward 2nd Class on 20 May 1921.
My grandfather then spent various periods at shore bases mainly at HMS Victory but also at Woolwich.
Then periods at sea on HMS Columbine, Seawolf, and Argus .
He joined HMS Concord on 9 October 1928 where he stayed until 8 December 1932 during which time he became Leading Steward.
Further service was with HMS Cormorant and then two spells on HMS Curacoa the longest being 12 August 1935 to 17 December 1937.
This was followed by service on HMS Aurora, HMS Maidstone, Victory and Collingwood.
His service record states that he was at HMS Victory from 21 October 1941 to 17 December 1941 but this is incorrect, for on the 25th October 1941 HMS Prince of Wales sailed from Greenock down the Clyde - my Grandfather was on board.
The family story is that Admiral Sir Tom Phillips asked ( or ordered?) Grandad to join him on the Prince of Wales as his valet. Where they had come across each other before is not known to me.
Here are some extracts of the letters he wrote on his last voyage. The spellings are his own.
C IN C OFFICE
THURSDAY 4 DEC.
My Own Darling
Well the lid is off at last & I can now tell you more about myself & what ship I am on. Though I think you should know all about us as the news was given over the wireless the other night & by the daily papers we are getting it seems that it must have been the head lines now throughout the world.
Well Darling since I joined the Prince of Wales I have just had some of the hardest work I have had to do. This ship as you know is one of our largest we got. The Admirals quarters when we are at sea is right under the bridge so it will give you some idea the walking & climbing I have to do. The Admiral is never in his after cabins while the ship is at sea every thing has to be carted & I can tell you it almost got me down. my poor old leg nearly let me down once or twice. Old age coming in old Girl though the Admiral don't think so. He still says I look to young for my age.
Well Darling since I have been at Singapore I am glad to say the work as eased up a lot. The weather is not quite so hot & at last I am able to get a free day without having to wash cloths ...are now able to send the dirty laundry ashore. I cannot tell you any news about if I shall be living on shore while we are in Port. The Admiral as got a house here & also a Chinese Staff. Whether we are going to take the house over from them or not remains to be seen. I expect if the Admiral should sleep in his house I might have to .....out at the same time these Chinese rating might look out for him. Any how I would love to go to the house. Ship life is not to bad & I have had quite enough of it. Their is so much routine to carry out before you can do anything. Though on the whole nobody interferes with me not even the Chief Steward . They just let me carry on with my work. Anyhow I do put in more hours that most of the staff & I never get any time off unless the Admiral is out of ship. Anyhow he was extra good to me yesterday,
He sent me ashore for 24 hours which I have only just back from. I landed at (1 o’clock?) yesterday So I went into town which is ( 14?) miles away We got a bus at the Navy expense Got into town about 2.30 after a lot of messing around. Done quite a lot of shopping for myself & the Admiral & then I try to get a bed to sleep in for the night. Any how my luck was out could not get one any where. I finished in the end by getting a shake down in a Sailor Mission Hall. On the whole old Girl I cannot say I enjoyed my trip into town. Their only one good thing I did get some decent food to eat the best since I left home. Matter of fact the food was so good I went & had a jolly good Dinner of soup, fish Entree Joint (Liver?) ice cream and fruit “coffee” It cost me about 4/8 But oh it was just grand - the cooking was of the best & I don't mind telling you I was going to start saving up my half pennies so I could repeat that feast , Drinks are on the dear side but as you Know drink do not worrie me much so I am O.K. their.
Well Darling with the best of luck this letter will go to England by Air Mail & ...?... one luck it will be there just before Xmas
So my Darling time to wish the children & yourself a very merry xmas & hope you all will have a jollie good time. If Dave & Maud are with you also Jean tell them I do send them all my love and good wishes . You know Darling how I shall be on Xmas day . I will be thinking of you all hoping I was at home with you to enjoy the fun. But some how Darling I got
an idea I shall not be out here long. The Japs I am sure are not daft enough to join the war. Their up against to much . Anyhow Darling their no need for you to worrie over me . Things could not be better for me here The safest job I have ever had Good Bye Darling for now . I send all my love & kisses to you all & God bless you
C in C OFFICE
c/o GPO LONDON
I am sorrie I did not write while I was at Cape Town, But truthfully I did not have time because as soon as we got their I had to go with the Boss to Pretoria & that is some thing like 800 miles up country. What I saw of Cape Town was very little & was in a motor car. But any how I must say I did have quite an interesting trip to Pretoria. We went by “plain” & it being my first time in the air was quite a thrill. We left C.T. at 7.30 & by 11.30 we was their. So you can see we did not waist much time. Well Darling I must say when I was told what what a trip in a plain was like I did think it was not going to be a joy ride. Still I was not at all nervous & I am glad to say my first trip in a plain was very much to my liking enjoyed every minute of the trip. But oh what speed that plain went. I think we must have done 250 miles an hour over some parts of the way & being 2 or 3 thousand feet up in the sky is quite a nice feeling. Darling I cannot tell you all I did see while I was travelling as things went to quick for me. Any how when we did get there we stayed at the residence of a very distinguished gentleman & oh what a lovely time I had. Ever thing was just grand & I was treated just if I was the Boss instead of being his valet. Bedroom & bath room all to myself & my boots cleaned for me and as for the food well I tell you all about that when I come home. Any how I must say these folks out here are not short of any thing. Their is tons of every thing especially food & drink. In the house their was an English Cook & Maid & you can bet they look after me alright. But oh they just would not stop talking about England & how they would like to get back to it. “What silly people “ & I think they did not know what England was like in war time. Any how Darling we was only their for the night much to my regret. Would liked to have stayed their for at least a week. Still the afternoon I was there I was took for a 3 hour motor trip round the countryside & I enjoyed it very much. Saw lot of interesting places Any how I will tell you all about it when we are together again. Our trip back from Pretoria took us a little longer than going but every thing was OK all I got was a head ache & a little buzzing in the ears but it worked it self off when we had been on the way a little while. I was hoping dear when we got back to C.T. I might be able to do a little shopping but it was not to be. Had to get back to the ship as we was due to leave. So darling i will try again at our next Port of Call “where ever that will be” All I can tell you old girl though I have been on the move now about 5 week. I cannot say I have got tired of it . The only thing that worrie me is its a little bit hot for my liking. Still time is going very quick. I suppose it because I got quite a lot of work to do. Still it not hard work mostly washing white suits etc Getting quite a good hand at it now.
Well Darling I often wonder how you are all getting on & I am longing to get some news from you not had any much yet. So you can gess I get a little home sick at time. But never mind Darling their is happy days in store for us & I am sure they are not farr off. I must say bye the bye for now. love and kisses to you all at home and hoping the children & yourself are all well.
Note: the full date for this letter was 27th November 1941.
The “distinguished gentleman” in the above letter was Field -Marshal Smuts
“(Admiral)Phillips did meet Smuts, but only briefly at Pretoria where Phillips flew by air with his secretary and valet”.
Ref: Chapter 5 in the book “Battleship” by Martin Middlebrook & Patrick Mahoney published by Penguin Books.
A very brief letter from Lady Phillips when the Nye family were trying to find out what happened to Joseph Nye after the sinking of the Prince of Wales.
It was I who put the announcement in the “Times”. Leading Steward J. A. Nye was my husband’s steward, & both my husband & I had a deep regard for him. The only information I have been able to get was from my late husband’s Coxswain Chief Petty Officer Saysells (Home address) Sunnycroft Lea Lane Rustington Littlehampton Sussex, & from Chief Petty Officer Steward W. R. Fincher c/o Vice- Admiral Second. in. Command Home Fleet
I am sending this to Vice -Admiral Monroe D.S.O & am asking him if there is anything further, he can very kindly add.
I wish I could help more
Gladys M Phillips
Lady Tom Phillips.
As far as I know there is only one document that throws any light on what happened to my Grandfather.
There is a letter from C.P.O. Steward W.R. Fincher which Lady Phillips must have sent to my Grandmother. It says:
" .... the account I heard of him up to the loss of the ship was that he was attending the wounded and somewhat smothered in blood but whether his own I cannot say, and I feel he would not leave a fellow man in the lurch and if not attending others he would not leave the bridge until the Admiral did , and its my belief the Admiral never did leave the bridge.......................
...............I have the greatest admiration for the late Admiral Phillips and for Nye and Saysell. The last I heard of Nye he was on the bridge giving aid to the wounded such was his temperament and inclination, he was always a man prepared to give a helping hand and to tell less experienced people how to go about their jobs, if advice were needed. He was wrapped up in his job as a Valet to the Admiral and I had no occasion to interfere, so he rather lived a life "unto himself" as it were."
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Information provided by
David Nye (Grandson)
NYE, JOSEPH ALBERT
Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Leading Steward
Regiment: Royal Navy
Unit Text: H.M.S. Prince of Wales
Date of Death: 10/12/1941
Service No: P/LX 22462
Additional information: Son of David Charles and Ann Nye; husband of Elizabeth Alice Nye, of North End. Portsmouth.
Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
Grave/Memorial Reference: Panel 58, Column 1.
Cemetery: PORTSMOUTH NAVAL MEMORIAL