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Patrick James Roche

Leading Stoker
D/KX 91227

HMS Prince of Wales

 

Paddy was born in Macroom, Co Cork and was a Catholic.
His teacher called him ‘Patcheen you rat’ He remembered sweets being described as ‘two ay one dee’ (2 at 1d) in the Post Office Macroom. He walked to school barefoot, carrying his boots.
He was a bit of a tearaway – he used to balance on the bridge pillars and dance on one foot to frighten the old ladies. Later he handed the dismantled handlebars on his bicycle to a friend, on the back, as they hurtled downhill. 

1937
Paddy joins the Royal Navy as a Stoker for twelve years in Devonport (Guz) 
Service Number D/KX 91227

Paddy was aboard a ship with other cadets on Thursday May 20th for the Coronation Review by King George VI when 160 ships were reviewed, Paddy was not fully trained and just lined the rail to cheer

For some unadmitted misdemeanour by another recruit, all of the WC doors were removed, Paddy wrote a formal complaint and got into trouble. 

The training ship was coal powered, the stokers would emerge from the Engine Room exhausted and collapse around the hatch to sleep. The Chief Petty Officer was always going on about the old days and how none of these new recruits could handle the long-handled shovel. Paddy took lessons from someone else and surprised the CPO…oh you mean like this?

HMS Cornwall was in refit at Devonport from July 1936 and was Recommissioned on 8th August 1937. Paddy was posted to HMS Cornwall after her refit 


1939
15 September Paddy and Sheila marry at St Vincent de Paul, Isleworth, Middlesex Father Basil Barton PP. Paddy photographed with Cornwall on cap
Sheila remembered, married on a Friday, then Paddy off to sea on Sunday
They lived at 41 Boston Manor Road in London. At this stage Sheila started to collect The War Illustrated month by month, carrying the volumes around as she travelled between lodgings.

Sheila remembered that Paddy was posted to a Destroyer HMS Wallace for a while.

Paddy is posted to HMS Curlew - an anti-aircraft ship in 1935. His Action Station was as an ammunition handler for one of the AA guns


1940
Paddy is photographed with HMS on cap
Sheila worked in Trico manufacturing windscreen wipers during the day

April 8 Germany invades Denmark and Norway. 
Sheila recalls living in ‘digs’ with an orange box for a cupboard.

The Norwegian campaign leads to HMS Curlew's marines going ashore to fight and never returning. Paddy remembered that their battledress uniforms were still wrinkled from storage in their kitbag when they left the ship.

At his Action Station, Paddy was transfixed by a diving Stuka bomber, he could see the pilot's goggles but couldn't move, he was pulled into cover by another sailor.

HMS Curlew was sunk with the loss of 10 on Sunday 26 March
Paddy jumped put of his bunk and found himself up to his chest in Arctic water, he tried to escape through a hole in the hull. His face was badly cut and he became wedged but was pulled through by a Maltese steward who then tied him to a barrel and helped him to jump into the sea.

He was rescued and given rum, he objected since he was a Pioneer (a Catholic temperance organisation) but accepted the spirit as medicine.

On the train south through Scotland the survivors were treated as heroes but gradually began to meet Dunkirk survivors moving north (?early June) and received less attention. Sheila remembered that Paddy got six weeks ‘survivor leave’
As well as working at Trico, Sheila was a Fire Watcher at night in the Blitz 
The blackout was a great inconvenience for those living in London. Lots of people were sleeping in the tube (London Underground railway) after the last train had gone. Sheila's landlady didn't like the Tube or the Anderson shelter so they hid under the table

During the Blitz the house was burgled while Paddy & Sheila were in a shelter, his good suit was stolen.
Sheila remembered moving to Devonport in July 1940
2 November Paddy makes a Request for Leave HMS Raleigh Devonport 

1941
Paddy was sent to Birkenhead to serve as part of the completion of HMS Prince of Wales (completed 31 March 1941, by Cammell Laird). 
Sheila moved to Birkenhead so they could be together.

Paddy was interested in photography and was given permission to be on the upper deck out of uniform (in boiler suit) to take photographs.

On 24 May 1941 Prince of Wales and Hood engaged the German battleship Bismarck and heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen. Paddy, at his Action Station in the Engine Room, remembered being afraid that the steep angle of the hull (when the ship turned away) meant that she was sinking. One hit from Prinz Eugen bounced around inside a 5.25'' turret and exited through a vent.
Prince of Wales returned to Rosyth for repair when an unexploded shell was found as the dry dock emptied 'you've never seen dockyard mateys move so fast' he recalled. There are some of Paddy’s photographs still around of the aftermath of this action.

At some stage Paddy visited Valetta when Prince of Wales was part of a Malta convoy escort

The Prince of Wales subsequently transported Winston Churchill to Ship Harbour, Placentia Bay, Newfoundland to meet President Roosevelt for the Atlantic Conference from 9-12 August 1941. Paddy remembered entering the bay with PoW in complete wartime blackout

In the early afternoon of October 25, 1941 Prince of Wales left Greenock naval base destined for the Far East. By November 10th Prince of Wales had reached Freetown 
On November 16 the PoW docked at Cape Town before meeting Repulse. On December 2, 1941 the force entered the Straits of Johore and docked at Singapore's naval base

Japan declares war on December 7. At 1735 hours on December 8, 1941 Prince of Wales and Repulse in company with the Destroyers, Tenedos, Electra, Express and HMAS Vampire left Singapore naval base

On 10 December 1941, in the South China Sea, the Japanese attacked.
Paddy's Action Station was in a Damage Control centre between the two propeller shafts

The result of this initial strike was severe vibrations caused by a damaged propeller shaft which had been buckled so that all of the watertight shaft seals had blown, in a short while as direct result of the stern torpedo hit the Prince took on more than 18000 tons of water. The 'wall' of Paddy's control centre began to buckle inward from the pressure. A rather dim rating continued to take measurements of condenser efficiency, 'Here Hooky, we're making a cloud' whereupon Paddy decide they should leave (their officer had already left his Action Station)

On the upper deck, he was lucky to be able to jump for cover between the rails used to move the Walrus aircraft from its hanger when he saw a bomb dropping, he survived but others were killed. After he emerged from between the metal rails, he decided that he should go back to his Mess to collect his personal effects, letters, photographs and the Bisley shooting medal. He went below but there was no electric power, all was in complete darkness, the deck was sloping and as he edged down the passageway and felt the water rising up his legs, he decided to go back up to the upper deck.

His Station for Abandon Ship was to man the scrambling nets near the bow (in the famous photograph) and to release them before the ship went down. He misjudged this and became entangled in the wire cables after diving in. He was pulled down by the sinking metal cables and describes the water becoming cold and black as he sank, dragged down by the scrambling net. Just before he was forced to breathe out he struggled free of the scrambling net and swam to the surface.

Paddy was rescued by one of the Destroyer escorts and, with the other survivors, returned to Singapore but on 8 December the Japanese land on the Malayan peninsula


1942
A few of the Force Z sailors escaped before the fall of Singapore (15 February). Paddy was lucky. In 1937 he had learned how to handle an old fashioned coal boiler and was now able to serve on an old steamer as it left Singapore with civilian and military evacuees before the surrender

On 9 February, the steamer was stopped in a Dutch East Indies port and Paddy visited the cinema, Globe Bioscope receipt in Dutch Pendar?Per?

20 Jan Royal Bombay Seaman's Society meal Receipt
13 March Sheila is living at 9 Alma Street, Inverkeithing and working in Bernards Naval Outfitters, Dunfermline. On the 30 May, she received a telegram from Australia asking 'please send me eight pounds'


 

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Andy Wade (Webmaster)

Information provided by

James Roche (Son).






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