The War at Sea The People Remember


The War at Sea

Wartime history series. Sophie Raworth and Andy Torbet surprise special guest Si King as he is presented with his late father's medal for wartime service.


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Transcript


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Hello. In this week of remembrance, we're at a former RAF base which is

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now an impressive museum.

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We're here to honour bravery, both on the battlefield

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and on the home front.

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We're paying tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

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This is how the people remember.

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Over the next five days, I'll be exploring

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some of the treasures here, with former Army officer Andy Torbet.

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And celebrities from the worlds of entertainment and broadcasting

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tell us the role their families played during the war.

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On today's programme, the war at sea.

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Si King from the Hairy Bikers

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shares his father's wartime stories with us.

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There's a big thank you for the military search and rescue teams,

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who've saved countless lives in the UK.

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I don't think you realise how much you

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really are appreciated by everybody.

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And two old shipmates are reunited after surviving

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the horrors of the Arctic convoys.

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Hello there! How are you? Oh, how lovely to see you!

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Hello and welcome to the Imperial War Museum Duxford.

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Now, it takes a special kind of bravery to head out to sea

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in times of war, but naval battles have long played

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a crucial role in safeguarding our nation.

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Britain's naval superiority has been tested many times over the years

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but never more so than in the Second World War.

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Our special guest today knows all about that.

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His father was in the Royal Navy.

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He is Si King from the Hairy Bikers.

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Thank you very much for joining us. Lovely to see you.

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Now, your father, he died when you were, what, just eight years old?

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Yes. But what he did during World War II has really had quite

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an influence on you and how you've turned out.

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Oddly, it has!

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Yes, Dad was on the Russian convoys, among other sorties of war at sea,

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but he was incredibly well travelled, obviously,

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and he used to bring really odd ingredients back from whichever

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port he was in and write them down about how he'd eaten them, you know.

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And he'd bring them home to Mam. And bear in mind, Mam was

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a fantastic cook but she was a cook that facilitated miners' shifts,

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you know, in a pit village on the top of a County Durham hill.

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So he'd bring stuff like star anise and that's in the '40s - nuts!

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So by the time I popped out, cos I was quite...I was the youngest

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of three, we had this amazing cuisine and all our neighbours

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complaining that what was coming out of me Mam's kitchen stunk!

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So there was all this kind of...

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So, yeah, no, Dad had an enormous influence.

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And he was a biker of sorts, wasn't he?

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He was, yeah, because he was injured sadly during the Russian

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convoys and he was put on dispatch to run between these land-based

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areas for the Royal Navy.

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So motorcyclist, loved food, by default.

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So that's the legacy that he's left me. I'm pretty fond of him.

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I didn't know him that well, but, you know, every now and then

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I'll go, "Thanks very much, Dad. You did us well there."

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Si, your dad was part of the Russian convoys, the Arctic convoys.

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That was an incredibly gruelling and dangerous operation

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to be part of.

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It was beyond comprehension.

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You're under extreme pressure because you had the wolf packs,

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the German wolf packs, submarines, that you couldn't see

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so there was just this atmosphere of anxiety constantly.

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Plus the cold. Plus not particularly that warm clothing.

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And, you know, that takes a pretty special type of person, I think.

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And it was... You know, and thank you very much for giving me

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the opportunity to honour all of those men, really,

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cos I think about them a lot.

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We'll be hearing plenty more about your father later on,

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but first, let's hear more about those Arctic convoys.

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The convoys were a vital lifeline for our allies in Russia.

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But the seamen involved had to contend with weather conditions

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beyond our imagination,

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and the ever-present risk of attack.

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Facing powerful waves and freezing temperatures, the Arctic convoys to

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Russia were described by Churchill as the worst journey in the world.

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The men who braved the deadly crossing experienced

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some of the war's most horrific conditions.

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This treacherous Arctic route claimed the lives of 3,000 men.

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It were cold, hard and frightening

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but it had to be done and we did it,

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and I still pray each day for those who didn't make it.

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93-year-old Austin Byrne was one of thousands of sailors who

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endured the icy seas to take vital war supplies to Russia.

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He was just 19 when he joined the Royal Navy to serve as a gunner,

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protecting the merchant ship, the SS Induna.

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You were really chuffed, you know.

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"I'm going to sea, I'm going to see the world," you know.

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They were talking about going down to Africa to the sunshine

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and then we found we were going to the Arctic to the cold.

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The weather was out of this world. Horrendous.

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You did four hours on watch, four hours off watch

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and in that four hours off watch you had to eat and sleep.

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The ice was about 4'6" thick.

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But those harsh conditions were the least of their worries.

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Every convoy was in danger of ambush by German planes

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and packs of U-boats.

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They were sinking merchant ships,

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like, you know, knocking them off like toffees, sort of style.

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You always worried.

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Just a few days into Austin's journey to Russia,

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his convoy was struck by a ferocious storm.

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That storm was the worst storm I was in in the five years at sea.

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The fierce weather split up the convoy, making Austin's ship

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an easier target for German planes and U-boats.

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After four days, his ship was hit by a torpedo.

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She shudders, and you know she's been hit,

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and the stern goes on fire.

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So I got out of the gun pit and went down onto the deck

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and the captain said, "Abandon ship."

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He said, "Go to your lifeboat station now, boy,

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"and good luck to you."

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Many of the crew were killed in the strike.

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Austin and a few others made it to a lifeboat.

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The sea was all burning where the tanks were busting,

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and then all of a sudden we were rowing and BANG!

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Another torpedo hit her and she just went...

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HE WHISTLES

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..boom.

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Then the sea were calm,

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and we all said, "Look, see if anybody comes up."

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But nobody came up and then it were a matter of row.

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We were in the lifeboat four days, three nights.

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And you daren't go to sleep, you dozed.

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And if he thought I were going off, "Waken up, Titch,"

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and if I thought he were going off, I used to say,

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"Don't go to sleep, Robbie,"

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cos if you'd have gone to sleep, the cold would've got you.

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They had limited food and water

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and Austin had to resort to desperate measures to stay alive.

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So I peed in a little cup. It tasted bloody horrible.

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It looked like whisky but it didn't taste like whisky.

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After four days adrift in the Arctic waters,

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a ship appeared between the ice.

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Oh, that were the thrill of a lifetime.

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And it came alongside and he pointed, "Hm, you, hm, hm."

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I was stood there waving, you know, shouting.

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Of the 66 men on the SS Induna,

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just 20 survived.

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16 of them lost limbs to frostbite.

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Austin was one of the lucky ones.

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I made it through because I had very, very good clothing on

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and I kept my feet moving and everything moving.

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It was good luck and prayers and determination to live.

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Every year on the anniversary of the sinking of his ship,

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Austin heads out to his garden

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to remember those who never made it to shore.

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Eternal rest given to their souls, O Lord.

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And let perpetual light shine upon them.

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It brings back all the men that I knew.

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But for some wonderful sailors, I'd be dead

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and it's the least you can do

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is pray for them and remember them each day.

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Freedom is an expensive thing.

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Well, we'll catch up with Austin again later in the programme

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when he's reunited with an old shipmate.

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But, Si, good luck, prayers and a determination to live -

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that's what he said you needed.

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Incredible to think your father went through something like that.

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It's made me quite emotional, that clip.

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No, I'm very proud of my dad, very proud of him.

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I'm very proud of what he did, and all the men.

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They were an incredible breed.

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One of the real issues there was the cold was almost as big a danger,

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if not a bigger danger, than attack from the enemy.

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I think that was an overwhelming thing that Dad used to talk about,

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was the cold, you know.

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Chipping frozen saltwater off the bulwark of the ship because

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if you didn't, it would become too top-heavy and topple over.

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I can't imagine that cold. No.

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We have a bit of a surprise for you, actually.

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In 2012, the Arctic Star was introduced, a medal for those

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who had taken part in the Arctic convoys.

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The first medals were awarded in 2013

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and Air Commodore Chris Bray is here and he will explain why.

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Very nice to meet you, sir. Nice to meet you, Si.

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Well, Si, I'm here on behalf of the Ministry of Defence

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and the nation, to present you the Arctic Star for your father's

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service on the Arctic convoys.

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Thank you very, very much indeed.

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That means a huge amount to my family. Thank you.

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Well, you've succeeded in getting a huge lump in my throat!

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I told you!

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Wow. Thank you very, very much indeed. My pleasure.

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It was a long campaign, wasn't it?

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The Battle of the Barents Sea was a particular part

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of the Arctic convoy war, if you like, the mini war,

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and your father, Graham, was serving on HMS Sheffield...

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Yes, he was. ..during that battle

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and it was a very important battle because Russia was

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fighting the Germans at Stalingrad. It was very important that

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the particular convoy got through... Yes.

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..and that was the convoy your father was on.

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Sadly, your father hasn't survived to be awarded the medal but I am

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very grateful that we can get you here today to award you the medal.

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Only a few people now have that medal.

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Well, I'm incredibly touched and I know my brother, my sister

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and all of my family will be...

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I can't... I'm lost for words, really.

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I'm incredibly touched. Thank you so much.

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And this is a legacy I leave my sons.

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Absolutely.

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As my father did for me. Thank you.

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The armed forces are well known for their heroics in wartime

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but they also play a crucial role closer to home.

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Right now, up and down the country, military helicopter crews

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are standing by to help those in distress.

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For more than 50 years,

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those teams have been run by the RAF and the Royal Navy,

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but the UK's search and rescue services are being privatised.

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To mark the end of the military's involvement,

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we've been looking at the valuable role they play.

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They're on call 24 hours a day, every day of the year.

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For over 50 years, they've been patrolling the land and the sea

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from the skies, saving the lives of those lost and in danger.

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It was a frightening situation,

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and thank goodness a helicopter turned up.

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You realise how very, very lucky you were.

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On the far western edge of Britain,

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at the very tip of Cornwall,

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is the largest helicopter base in Europe,

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with 75 aircraft and 3,000 people working here.

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This is Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose,

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home to south-west England's search and rescue operations.

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Andy Watts is today's duty commander of 771 Squadron.

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We have the aircraft prepared. It's pretty much like a car.

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The door is open, the keys are in the ignition,

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first gear is selected.

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So these aircraft are always available at 15 minutes' notice

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during the day and 45 at night.

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There's an engineer behind me at the moment just doing some

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final checks on this duty aircraft, to ensure that we're ready to go

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at that moment's notice.

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And when the call comes, the duty crew spring into action.

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Pretty much an immediate, really, cos he's being dragged now.

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He's being dragged out to sea.

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Lieutenant Commander Andy Murray is one of the pilots.

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He's known in the Squadron as Tank.

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He's clocked up over 8,000 miles of flying time.

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We don't know what's going to happen till the phone rings.

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You get airborne then you pretty much make it up as you go along,

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as you would in a combat scenario.

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You have to deal with the weather that's there, the conditions there.

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Every single job is new and different.

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You don't know what's happening until you're doing it.

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They carry out around 250 rescue missions a year,

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and can be called out anywhere within 200 miles of the base.

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Simon Daw is the navigator.

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He knows how quickly conditions can change.

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The Cornish coast is a particularly rugged coastline.

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We are the first stop for those big North Atlantic swells,

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so the weather can play its part as well.

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We're just about to approach the village of Boscastle.

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There's the harbour, built along a very narrow

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valley leading from the coast up into the Cornish countryside.

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The picturesque Cornish village of Boscastle is peaceful today,

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but in 2004 it hit national headlines.

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Heavy rain caused a flash flood which engulfed

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the village at terrifying speed,

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putting hundreds of lives at risk.

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771 Squadron were the first to be called to the scene.

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When we got there, the first aircraft

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were already there, rescuing people off the roofs.

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We were detailed to go out into the bay,

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where all the stuff was getting washed out to sea.

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Checking cars that had gone past, guys that were in the river,

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to see if anybody was stuck in them, cos the cars were floating out.

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We also checked to make sure nobody had been washed out,

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nobody clinging to bits of tree trunk that were floating out.

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Later on I picked up a lady

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who'd had a heart attack and took her to hospital.

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It was a very big one, yeah.

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Probably the biggest number of casualties,

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or civilian people in need of rescue that I've done.

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Around 100 people were stranded in the fast rising waters.

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Among them was Rebecca David,

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the manager of the Boscastle Visitor Centre.

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There was an almighty rush of water.

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A huge amount of water suddenly came.

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It was like a big wave coming towards the visitor centre.

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And the doors just buckled

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and the water just flew in.

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A huge crack came and a huge ash tree

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just came and hit the visitor centre

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and took three quarters of it away and just left the little bit that

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we were in still standing.

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And, at that point, panic did start falling in.

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I then thought, "Crikey, there's no way we can get out of here,"

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because we were like an island, cars whizzing past

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and everything else so we were completely isolated.

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Rebecca was trapped with two families

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and there was only one place left to go.

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One of the fathers went right up onto the top

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of the visitor centre roof

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and I think he had three or four of the children

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and then eventually the helicopter did actually arrive, thank goodness!

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One by one, they were lifted from the roof of the damaged building.

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I absolutely hate heights.

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Being put in the winch and going up, I was clinging on and trying not to

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think about what was going on.

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And to be pulled actually into the helicopter

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and know everybody was safe was a huge, huge relief.

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Incredibly, despite the devastation, not one life was lost.

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You sort of go through

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and you realise how very, very lucky you were...

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..that everything was OK.

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Here's one of the heroes from Boscastle.

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Rescue 195 pilot Lieutenant Commander Andy "Tank" Murray.

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Hello. Pleased to meet you. Nice to meet you.

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What was so fantastic was you all coming in

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and rescuing us.

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The relief I felt when I was pulled off and taken up

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and I knew I was safe, that was such an amazing feeling.

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And that, to me, is absolutely amazing.

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You're very welcome. It's what we do.

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We train for it every day so...

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It's what we do. You're very welcome.

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I know but I don't think you realise

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how much you really are appreciated by everybody.

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Cornwall really appreciates you, I'm sure.

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Every year, Duxford attracts nearly half a million visitors

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and they come for lots of different reasons.

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We've been speaking to some of the people here today.

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I was purchased a wing-to-wing flight with the Spitfire

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for my 80th birthday and I managed to get a flight today

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so it all went very well. Excellent.

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Duxford was where I spent, probably, like many others,

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the happiest time of our young lives.

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I came here raw, young, naive

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and I realised that there was much, much more that I could achieve.

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It just changed my whole view on life. It was brilliant.

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It's fascinating to see what was done during the war,

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pay respects to the guys at the memorial

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and the ones who fell in Afghanistan, obviously.

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It's quite impressive how they managed to get all of these

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planes into this one place.

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Still to come on today's programme,

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Dan Snow sails to Dunkirk

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on the 75th anniversary of the evacuation...

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..I explore one of the more unusual exhibits

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in the museum's collection...

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..and a special performance

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from the choir of the Duke of York's Royal Military School.

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One of the more impressive things on display in the hangar is this.

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But is it a boat or is it a plane?

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Well, in fact, it is both.

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This is a Sunderland flying boat

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and it was nicknamed the porcupine by the Germans

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because of all the guns sticking out of it.

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Well, with me here is Carl Warner who's a historian at the museum.

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It's extraordinary in here, and it's also so tinny, isn't it?

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It is. You know, it's got to be built to be light,

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so you don't want huge chunks of metal in here.

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What role did the Sunderland play?

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The Sunderland as a flying boat was part of RAF Coastal Command

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so that's the part of the RAF that's responsible for guarding

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the sea lanes that are coming into the UK

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and, of course, all over the world in the British Empire.

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Particularly in the Second World War, of course,

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its most important role

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was during the Battle of the Atlantic, when it was a submarine

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hunter. So Sunderlands would be flying for huge swathes of the ocean

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looking for submarines and when they found them they would attack them

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with depth charges, bombs and of course their machine guns.

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If it was being used to attack submarines from above,

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why did it need to be like a boat as well?

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Why did it need to be able to land on the water?

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Well, the other important role that it had

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was as an air-sea rescue craft.

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Sunderlands rescued crews of ships, they rescued downed airmen,

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so airmen from other aircraft that had parachuted into the sea,

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and, of course, they had to get onto the ocean in order to do that.

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And it really does, when you're in it,

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it does feel like you're in a boat, doesn't it?

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You've got your kitchen here, which was obviously packed away.

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Can we have a look down here? Cos you can't really appreciate

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the size from in here. It feels very cramped.

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And the noises when you're

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just walking through here are extraordinary.

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What it must have been like, though, to have been flying here,

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to have been flying up in the air!

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Yeah, cold, deafening.

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The crews, they were a ten-men crew usually.

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Could be even more people if they'd rescued

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some downed airmen or sailors.

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And they very much thought of themselves

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almost like the crew of a ship as much as the crew of an aircraft

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cos they were up for so long.

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One Sunderland captain said they had three enemies -

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the weather, the sea and the Germans, and it was in that order.

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So it was quite an environment to fly and fight in,

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let alone be up there for that long.

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It's amazing to have this flying boat on show here at Duxford.

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How did it come to be here?

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It's one of the more interesting acquisition stories in that, after

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it was in RAF service, it was with the French armed forces and then

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it was actually beached in France and used as a bar/nightclub.

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A nightclub! So, yeah, all of this fit was taken out

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to make room for the bar,

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to make room for all the accoutrements of the bar.

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Of course after that, when the bar closed,

0:23:100:23:12

it was brought to the Imperial War Museum.

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They must have had some good parties in here.

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Lovely to see it. Thank you very much for showing us around. Thank you.

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This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Dunkirk evacuation,

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when hundreds of ships crossed the channel to save

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Allied forces from being killed by the Germans.

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The One Show's Dan Snow joined one of the boats

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making its way back to Dunkirk.

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6am, Ramsgate Harbour.

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A flotilla of little ships is preparing to sail.

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It is painfully early here but there's a great air of expectation.

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We're all about to relive one of the most historic moments

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of the Second World War.

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May 1940.

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French and British troops were surrounded by the Germans.

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Trapped on the beach at Dunkirk,

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our 200,000-strong Army faced annihilation

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as shallow waters stopped rescue ships from reaching them.

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A desperate plea had gone out

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for small boats which could get closer in.

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One of them was Elvin, now owned by Hywel Bowen-Perkins.

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Elvin. Elvin, yes. How are you doing? A very fine looking vessel.

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Have you got room for one more volunteer? No problem at all.

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Welcome aboard. OK, thank you.

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Known as the little ships, 700 of them sailed to the rescue.

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Today, 48 surviving boats are returning.

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The one I'm on was crewed entirely by volunteers.

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Archie Buchanan was ex-Royal Navy,

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they had a Lowestoft longshoreman,

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they had an Aberdeen fisherman, a writer of yachting stories,

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and they got together and headed off to Ramsgate.

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I mean, they were just civilians. They were indeed.

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They just volunteered and decided they would do their bit.

0:25:030:25:07

Guys like you and me. I doubt we would... Well, who knows?

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They were told they were too small, they couldn't go,

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but the long and the short of it was they decided to go anyway.

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Brilliant. That's amazing. That's the Dunkirk spirit, right there.

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Absolutely that.

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They could see the fires over Dunkirk

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and headed for the fire and went straight into the thick of it.

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Extremely brave men. Yeah.

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There was a lot at stake.

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If our Army was captured, Britain would be vulnerable

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and could lose the war.

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On arrival at Dunkirk, the little ships found chaos,

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and desperate men up to their necks in water.

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Well, that morning on the third

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was one of the heaviest bombing raids by the Luftwaffe.

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The town was on fire, the Germans were in the streets.

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They loaded 25 French troops, picked up eight Brits.

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They sailed across the minefield and back to Ramsgate.

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Wow.

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Joining us on the crossing is crewman Archie Buchanan's

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great-grandson Angus, aged 15.

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We're on your great-grandad's boat,

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following in his footsteps on the 75th anniversary. How does it feel?

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It's good cos I've heard the stories about it but it's nice

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to be actually on the boat doing the same journey as he would have done.

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That's him in really late life.

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He looks like a man who's seen a bit of life, doesn't he? Yeah.

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Amazing the idea that those guys he was rescuing weren't much

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older than you. Yeah.

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But it's bad for the people that were left on the beaches, though,

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cos there was just not enough room to carry them all back.

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It must have been tough for him, leaving a load of guys behind,

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knowing there were more out there.

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It must have been horrible cos there was people swimming

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out to the boats just as they were leaving and stuff.

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They just had to leave them cos otherwise all

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the people on the boats, they wouldn't have got back either.

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Very tough.

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The evacuation lasted for ten days

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until Dunkirk was overrun by the enemy.

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40,000 men had to be left behind.

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But 338,000 were saved.

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The papers called it a disaster turned to triumph.

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This boat clearly means a lot to you. Where did you find her?

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In Portugal.

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She was going to be broken up and they were just selling her engines.

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She was going to be smashed? She was going to be broken up, yeah.

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So you saved her. You brought her back from the brink.

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I saw her on the internet on the Sunday, flew out on the Wednesday,

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and agreed to take it off their hands and bring her back home.

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Well, it's a special thing to own, isn't it? It is, yeah.

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It's a privilege. Really is.

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I feel humbled that we should be celebrating a day like today

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because, to them, it was life and death.

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It's an emotional moment as we approach Dunkirk.

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Where once the little ships braved bullets,

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today they are greeted with music.

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today they are greeted with music.

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75 years on, they haven't been forgotten.

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Thousands owed their freedom and even their lives to these

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little ships and particularly to the brave men who sailed them.

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Men with Dunkirk spirit.

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Si, your father was also part of the evacuation of Dunkirk.

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Yes, he was. He was on HMS Kellett and he did three trips.

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And I'm not sure whether it was one of those trips where Dad was

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actually sunk and he held on to a bit of wood that was floating

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cos he couldn't swim.

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He couldn't swim? He was in the Royal Navy and he couldn't swim?

0:28:330:28:36

No. No, he couldn't, which was apparently really quite like my dad.

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He just thought, "I'll give it a go." That's what he did!

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He died when you were so young

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but how much did he talk to you about what happened to him during the war?

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To be very honest, he didn't talk to me very much.

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And I think as well, Sophie, they were a stoic kind of generation

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and they didn't because they just got on with it.

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And what happened during that time clearly has fascinated you,

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and you went very recently didn't you, just this year,

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you went to one of the Nazi death camps, to Treblinka? I did.

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And that was for Northern Exposure, your Hairy Bikers film.

0:29:070:29:10

Yes, Dave and I went to there as a mark of respect, really.

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Well, let's have a look because we've got a clip from that programme.

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This is the former site of the Nazi extermination camp Treblinka,

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where nearly a million Jews were systematically murdered.

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It is beyond horror.

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It is. It is beyond horror.

0:29:380:29:40

Have you seen where

0:29:440:29:45

the Jewish people put stones on instead of flowers?

0:29:450:29:48

Everybody's equal. Everybody has their own spark of life.

0:29:530:29:57

How dare somebody else dictate

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that they're not even entitled to survive?

0:29:590:30:02

Even that their history wasn't worth anything.

0:30:030:30:07

No, no. Thousands of years of culture.

0:30:070:30:10

Si, it's unthinkable what happened there, isn't it?

0:30:340:30:37

But it clearly had a huge impact on you going there.

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It did, it had a huge impact on us both.

0:30:410:30:44

I think Dave and I haven't spoken about it since.

0:30:450:30:48

We're constantly astounded at man's inhumanity to man.

0:30:490:30:53

We have a responsibility to learn from history.

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As we move forward with our existences and our civilisations,

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we have a responsibility to look back and to remember.

0:31:000:31:05

Not just to remember our dead

0:31:050:31:06

but to remember the society that they were fighting against

0:31:060:31:12

and fighting for.

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And there you are now, today, with your dad's Arctic Star medal,

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newly received.

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I mean, it must reinforce what your father did,

0:31:190:31:22

his part in the war and why he was fighting it.

0:31:220:31:26

There comes a particular time in anybody's life that has lost

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somebody, a parent or where they reflect, and what they did becomes

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incredibly important and this is a...

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..this is an incredible legacy that Dad has left.

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Si, thank you so much for coming to talk to us today.

0:31:450:31:48

Not at all. My greatest pleasure. Thank you, Sophie.

0:31:480:31:51

Now, although Duxford is well known as a former RAF base, in its role

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as a museum, it includes hundreds of exhibits relating to the war at sea.

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I'm in the Air and Sea Hangar, and this is fascinating.

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It's a one-man Nazi submarine.

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They were intended to strike fear into coastal shipping.

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With me now is one man who served on British submarines

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during World War II, Commander John Lorrimore.

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John, thank you very much for joining us.

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Now, the submarines that you served on were much bigger

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than this little chap, weren't they?

0:32:220:32:24

Oh, yes. They were four-man submarines,

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50ft long and a diving depth of about 600ft.

0:32:270:32:31

John, what was the atmosphere like in one of those submarines?

0:32:310:32:35

It was very...humid.

0:32:350:32:39

I don't know how the atmosphere was. One was so busy

0:32:410:32:44

you didn't have much chance to really think about your chums.

0:32:440:32:50

I mean, how dangerous was it?

0:32:500:32:51

This was when the technology was in its infancy.

0:32:510:32:54

You were experimenting with new gases, new equipment.

0:32:540:32:58

We were, and it was exciting.

0:32:580:33:02

You didn't know what was going to happen next.

0:33:020:33:05

Some of the things that you discovered,

0:33:050:33:07

like the use of oxygen...

0:33:070:33:08

Oxygen under pressure, yes.

0:33:080:33:10

Exactly. Things that I used myself when I was a diver in the Army

0:33:100:33:15

but we have safety protocols that are based on

0:33:150:33:18

the work you did back in the 1940s.

0:33:180:33:21

Well, we made the safety rules. There weren't any when we started!

0:33:210:33:25

I believe you were involved in the disabling of a very famous ship

0:33:250:33:30

that was en route to attack the Arctic convoys.

0:33:300:33:33

Yeah, we had an attack on the German battleship, Tirpitz.

0:33:330:33:38

It was broad daylight at 2am, and we could see her.

0:33:380:33:43

And we just got through the gates of the anti-submarine net, and

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through the gates of an anti-torpedo net, and laid our charges.

0:33:480:33:53

Then managed to get out?

0:33:530:33:55

Well, we reckoned we weren't going to blow ourselves up

0:33:550:33:59

so we surrendered.

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We were lined up to be shot, because they wanted to know how many

0:34:000:34:05

other submarines were there,

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and a German admiral said,

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"You can't shoot these people, they're prisoners of war."

0:34:080:34:11

So I love the Germans!

0:34:110:34:13

And what happened to you then?

0:34:140:34:16

In a POW... Well, 90 days, interrogation,

0:34:160:34:20

then the rest of the time in a German camp.

0:34:200:34:24

John, thank you very much for sharing some of your memories with us. My pleasure.

0:34:240:34:28

Now, earlier in the programme we heard from Austin Byrne

0:34:330:34:36

about his experience on the Arctic convoys.

0:34:360:34:38

Today, there are very few survivors of the treacherous crossings left,

0:34:380:34:42

but we managed to track down one of Austin's old shipmates

0:34:420:34:45

and this is what happened.

0:34:450:34:47

Austin Byrne's getting ready for a special reunion.

0:34:500:34:53

He's heading back to the Merseyside docks

0:34:530:34:55

where so many of his voyages began.

0:34:550:34:58

I like Liverpool.

0:34:580:34:59

I ran in and out of Liverpool many times and it's a great city

0:34:590:35:03

and there's some great people.

0:35:030:35:05

The Liverpool docks are almost unrecognisable since the time

0:35:060:35:10

Austin set off from here as a naval gunner on the Arctic convoys.

0:35:100:35:14

But one landmark remains.

0:35:140:35:16

I remember standing on the upper deck and seeing this

0:35:160:35:20

church, and all it really was was four walls and a hut inside.

0:35:200:35:26

It had been bombed.

0:35:260:35:28

Incredibly, the structure survived, and after the war it was rebuilt.

0:35:280:35:32

Now this maritime church is home to the ship's bell from HMS Liverpool.

0:35:340:35:40

It's beautiful.

0:35:400:35:41

It's the ship which brought Austin back from Russia after he survived

0:35:410:35:45

four days adrift in a lifeboat when his ship was sunk by a torpedo.

0:35:450:35:50

My feet were sore, my fingers were numb,

0:35:500:35:52

I were aching all over and you were frightened of getting hit again.

0:35:520:35:57

I was glad to get home.

0:35:570:35:59

It's lovely to see that bell

0:35:590:36:01

and think of the people who I met on that ship.

0:36:010:36:05

Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, amen.

0:36:050:36:10

There are less than 400 veterans still alive

0:36:100:36:13

from the treacherous Arctic convoys.

0:36:130:36:16

But there's one merchant seaman left who sailed alongside Austin.

0:36:160:36:20

Len Dibb-Weston has come to Liverpool to see his old shipmate.

0:36:200:36:25

We knew where we were going, but we didn't realise the dangers, really.

0:36:250:36:30

But we survived it.

0:36:300:36:32

Austin was Royal Navy and he came on as a gunner on the ships.

0:36:320:36:36

I remember him as I think he was the smallest gunner on the ship.

0:36:360:36:40

A little chappie.

0:36:400:36:42

Really looking forward to meeting him again.

0:36:420:36:44

I think he owes me ten shillings but don't remind him about it!

0:36:440:36:47

HE LAUGHS

0:36:470:36:48

Hello there! How are you?

0:36:560:36:58

How lovely to see you!

0:36:580:36:59

Long time, no see.

0:36:590:37:00

Yeah, long time, no see. How are you?

0:37:000:37:02

Very well, thank you. You're looking good.

0:37:020:37:05

And you are.

0:37:050:37:07

Here, which is the King's Medal? Is that the Norwegian one?

0:37:070:37:10

No, that one.

0:37:100:37:12

Len and Austin served together on just one voyage.

0:37:120:37:16

But friendships last a lifetime

0:37:160:37:18

when they're made in harsh, Arctic conditions.

0:37:180:37:21

All the merchant ships were always the targets,

0:37:210:37:24

because they had all the cargo and that.

0:37:240:37:26

Sink a merchant ship and you'd save a lot of German lives, really.

0:37:260:37:31

They were dropping the depth charges between the ships

0:37:330:37:36

to keep the U-boats down. Frightening.

0:37:360:37:40

The convoy was sighted by a German plane, but the weather turned bad,

0:37:400:37:44

so we only had to really worry about U-boats and destroyers.

0:37:440:37:48

We were very lucky, really.

0:37:480:37:50

23 of the Arctic convoys left from Liverpool,

0:37:520:37:57

a city which still holds on to its strong maritime history.

0:37:570:38:00

I fancy that's the old dock and that were the warehouse.

0:38:000:38:04

I don't remember that.

0:38:040:38:06

But I don't remember this part of it.

0:38:060:38:08

Oh, no, it's all new, isn't it?

0:38:080:38:09

Was it nine miles of docks or seven miles of docks in Liverpool?

0:38:090:38:13

But they've all gone. Full of ships.

0:38:130:38:16

It's great to see him again.

0:38:160:38:18

Mind you, he's aged a bit since I knew him

0:38:180:38:21

but that was quite a few years ago.

0:38:210:38:23

There's nothing like a shipmate,

0:38:230:38:25

because you've been through so much together.

0:38:250:38:28

I mean, let's face it. When you were on that ship

0:38:280:38:30

you could have got killed at any time.

0:38:300:38:33

This memorial was erected in memory of the 3,000 seamen

0:38:330:38:37

who lost their lives on the 78 Arctic convoys.

0:38:370:38:41

For two of those who lived through it all, it's vital

0:38:410:38:44

the sacrifices of those who served are never forgotten.

0:38:440:38:47

It's our generation.

0:38:470:38:50

If we hadn't done what we done,

0:38:500:38:52

this country would never have been like it is now.

0:38:520:38:55

We weren't all heroes but we were survivors,

0:38:570:38:59

and we're British and we're fighters.

0:38:590:39:02

It's important that they remember everyone who died.

0:39:030:39:07

Because freedom is the dearest thing in the world, and if you

0:39:070:39:10

give your life, no matter where you give it, you've given all you can.

0:39:100:39:14

Well, that's almost it from us this morning but we're joined

0:39:180:39:21

now by the choir from the Duke of York's Royal Military School

0:39:210:39:24

in Dover. Rachel, you're 15 years old. Tell us about the school.

0:39:240:39:28

We have students from military backgrounds

0:39:280:39:31

and students from families who aren't from military.

0:39:310:39:34

So lots of your parents, your fathers

0:39:340:39:36

and mothers are in the armed forces. Yes.

0:39:360:39:38

So what are you going to sing for us today?

0:39:380:39:40

We're going to sing Soldier, Soldier.

0:39:400:39:42

It was written by a local Kent woman.

0:39:420:39:44

She sent the words to the school and we composed the music.

0:39:440:39:48

And...yeah.

0:39:480:39:50

Well, good luck, we'll leave you to it.

0:39:500:39:53

# Did you read the letter to you

0:40:060:40:10

# From your girl across the sea?

0:40:100:40:13

# Did she say Come back home safely

0:40:130:40:17

# As you charged across the field?

0:40:170:40:20

# Soldier, soldier, soldier, soldier

0:40:200:40:25

# When you heard the whistle blow

0:40:250:40:28

# On the fields of fallen soldiers

0:40:280:40:32

# Where the scarlet poppies grow

0:40:320:40:36

# Soldier, oh, soldier

0:40:360:40:39

# As the tears filled your eyes

0:40:390:40:44

# Through the dust that drained before you

0:40:440:40:48

# Did you say your last goodbye?

0:40:480:40:51

# Goodbye, soldier, soldier

0:40:510:40:55

# Goodbye to those you know

0:40:550:40:58

# Goodbye, soldier, soldier

0:40:580:41:02

# On the fields where poppies grow

0:41:020:41:06

# Did you hear the bugle calling

0:41:370:41:41

# Did you hear it on the breeze?

0:41:410:41:44

# Did you hear the thunder roaring

0:41:440:41:48

# As you fell onto your knees?

0:41:480:41:52

# Oh, soldier, soldier Soldier, soldier

0:41:520:41:56

# As you lay there on those fields

0:41:560:41:59

# Amid the cries of fallen soldiers There on Flanders Fields

0:41:590:42:07

# Soldier, oh, soldier As the light left your eyes

0:42:070:42:14

# Did you reach out to hold her

0:42:140:42:18

# Did you say your last goodbye?

0:42:180:42:22

# Goodbye, soldier, soldier Goodbye to those you know

0:42:220:42:29

# Goodbye, soldier, soldier

0:42:290:42:33

# On the fields where poppies grow... #

0:42:330:42:38

BAGPIPES TAKE UP REFRAIN

0:42:380:42:43

# Goodbye, soldier, soldier Out there on Flanders Fields. #

0:42:450:42:52

APPLAUSE

0:42:570:42:59

Wonderful. Well, thank you very much

0:43:010:43:03

to the Duke of York's Royal Military School.

0:43:030:43:05

That is it for today's programme.

0:43:050:43:07

Si, it's been wonderful having you with us telling us about your father

0:43:070:43:11

and, of course, your new medal. Yes, thank you.

0:43:110:43:13

Coming up on tomorrow's programme...

0:43:130:43:15

Journalist John Sergeant shares his fascination

0:43:160:43:19

for wartime aircraft with us.

0:43:190:43:21

Wow! I'm actually flying a Spitfire!

0:43:230:43:27

Back in the air after 70 years -

0:43:290:43:31

the pilot who delivered fighter planes to the front-line.

0:43:310:43:35

I hope I shall feel all right. I've got to climb up on there.

0:43:350:43:39

I think I can manage that.

0:43:390:43:41

And we hear from a woman whose father's Lancaster bomber

0:43:410:43:44

went missing in Germany.

0:43:440:43:46

I've been waiting a long time to see this.

0:43:470:43:50

I didn't think I'd ever see it.

0:43:500:43:53

But from all of us here at the Imperial War Museum in Duxford,

0:43:560:43:59

goodbye. Goodbye.

0:43:590:44:01

Antony Gormley is the creator

0:44:380:44:40

The People Remember returns with a second series honouring heroes of war, both on the battlefield and on the home front. All week, Sophie Raworth and former army officer Andy Torbet present from the Imperial War Museum in Duxford, Cambridgeshire.

There is a big surprise in store for special guest Si King from the Hairy Bikers in this episode, as he is presented with his late father's medal for his wartime service on the perilous Arctic convoys.

Andy meets the last survivor of the midget submarine crew who assisted in crippling German battleship the Tirpitz, and two veterans from the Arctic convoys are reunited seventy years after serving together. There is a tribute to the military search and rescue helicopter teams from a Cornish resident who was rescued during the Boscastle floods. And there is a moving performance from the choir of the Duke of York's Royal Military School in Dover.


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