For everyone with an interest in the town, people and parish of Shotts

William Morton Draft


A Life on the Ocean Wave


Fading recollections of War Service in the Royal navy

 19th August 1940 – 22nd May 1946

 William Morton





   A life on the Ocean Wave


Fading recollections of War Service in the Royal navy   !9th August 1940 – 22nd May 1946

It was a Government edict that all adults register for service in the armed forces prior to their 20th birthday. In confirmation of this I did so, prior to mine of 20th July 1940, and stated my preference for the Royal Navy. It was only after making enquiries in July 1940 that I was instructed to report to YMCA Halls, Motherwell for a medical which proved A1; that I was served Calling –up papers to report to H.M.S. Royal Arthur at Skegness on Monday 19th Aug 1940. On arrival, I discovered the establishment to be Butlin’s Holiday Camp. The following week was spent in Entrants procedure i.e. Medical, Kit issue, lectures, though Wed 21st August was highlighted by a bombing raid by 3 German planes causing some casualties and damage. The tragedy was the death of a new recruit in our company. It was reported by Germen media that H.M.S. Royal Arthur had been sunk with great loss of life.


“My introduction to war conditions”


Because of the condition of the camp, it was decided that all new entrants be drafted to Pwlleli, North Wales, to complete their initial training. This including manual work assisting in the building foundations. This establishment, when completed was known as H.M.S. Glendower, and after the war was taken over by Butlin’s. Our stay in North Wales was not very pleasant, as we found the people not very friendly. Our stay ended on 25th September, when we were drafted to R.N. Barracks, Chatham, known as H.M.S. Pembroke, where we were finally accepted into the Royal Navy, on receiving our official Service Number: C/K.X. 113335.

 The next three months was spent by being instructed in the Arts & Crafts of attending and supervising the workings of Boilers, theory and practical. It has to be noted that this was the Battle of Britain period and the bombing of London. During the day we had top view of the dog-fights in the sky, though a lot of our nights were spent in the shelters.

 On completion of the training we were informed of a draft to Scappa Flow for which leave was over the Christmas period was granted

 We travelled by rail from Chatham to Thurso, having meal breaks at Chatham and Perth. Our assigned ship was H.M.S. Maidstone, which was a Naval Depot ship. Prior to Scapa, she had serviced submarines in the Med. Her submarine flotilla had been decimated through war casualties that it was decided to return to the home-fleet and service destroyers engaged in the North Atlantic campaign and Russian convoys. Our task was to assist in minor repairs and boiler cleaning at Scapa, though there was the occasional trip to Rosyth to carry out this work, and grant leave to the destroyers crews who certainly needed the break from their hazardous duties. During one of these trips, the Hood was in dock only to leave shortly afterwards for her encounter with the German Battle cruiser Bismarck.


During the stay in Scapa, the Prime minister, Winston Churchill and apparently it was brought to his attention, that certain members of the repair and cleaning unit desired a more active role in the war and be assigned to Sea-going duties – His reply was “They also serve, who only stand and wait” – followed by his order to “Spice the mainbrace”


My sojourn at Scapa ended in November, and a return to Chatham, and because of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, was assigned a draft to H.M.S. Sultan Singapore. After embarkation leave, the draft proceeded to Liverpool for transport by troop ship, where the conditions were a bit primitive. While on the high seas we learned that Singapore had fallen, which meant our destination had to be changed. The draft was transferred to the Liner R.M.S Stirling Castle (luxury) at Durban South Africa. We stayed a week or so at Durban before proceeding to Colombo, to join H.M.S. Scout. Our duties were convoy and escort to keep supplies open to the armed forces stationed in that area . While on duty we learned that Colomba had been bombed by the Japanese and the ship stationed at our at our anchorage was bombed with loss of life and sever damage. This happened on Easter Sunday. During our patrols, we had alarms but no or contact with the enemy, mostly routine, which allowed time for study of engineering etc. and awarding of certificates.


During a refit in Colombo dry-dock to upgrade Asdic and Radar equipment, I picked up the malaria bug and spent some time in hospital at Galle. To assist in my recovery I was sent up country to a Service Rest Camp at Diatalawe in the tea plantation area. While out walking with a South African “Oppo” we met the district medical officer (a Ceylonese), who must have taken pity on us, stopped his car and took us on a tour of the area. We were invited to visit him at a later date for tea, and during the conversation, informed me that had studied at Edinburgh for some time and had been well received.


Because of my intended upgrading of rank, I had become superfluous to ship’s compliment, and was drafted to H.M.S. Danae on July 1944 which was homeward bound to join the home fleet, which turned out to be preparation for “D” day. On arrival at Rosyth, I wrote to “Joey” and arranged to meet her in Edinburgh and presented her with a solitaire diamond ring, which I had purchased in Durban, to confirm our engagement.


The Danae joined other ships in various exercises in practice for The Day. Our duty on the “D” day was to bombard the area around Caen, to clear the areas where the air-borne troops would be landing. We later learned that H.M.S. Danae was expendable. Our duties lasted 2-3 days, as the army and R.A.F. seemed to be in control of the situation, Danae was ordered to return to her home port at Portsmouth, I returned to Chatham, I was drafted to join H.M.S. Liverpool and after Christmas leave proceeded to Rosyth, where the Liverpool was being repaired and refitted. She had suffered severe damage and loss of life while on duty in the Med.


During my stay on Liverpool, the advancement to leading hand was confirmed and backdated to July 1944. The back pay came in very handy as Joey and I were married in Calderhead Church by the Rev Mc Connacher On 19th June 1945. I was granted embarkation leave and destined for the far east as the war in Europe had ended. We spent our honeymoon in Dunoon. In August the war was over, the draft cancelled and I was returned to Chatham. It was really now a matter of waiting for demob. My demob number was 32. I was then drafted to H.M.S. Leeds Castle


The Leeds Castle was a Patrol-Corvette, whose duties covered the West Coast between Weymouth and Glasgow. Code 32 arrived while at Weymouth. I had to report to the army barracks at Edinburgh to receive the necessary civilian documents and cloths. The official Order of Release from Naval Service (Class A) Mem. Dated and stamped Captain H.M.S. Osprey 18.05.46, when it could be said my Roving days were over.


Money may not have been too plentiful, but life had been seen and my outlook had been broadened.

Royal Naval Establishments  

H.M.S. Royal Arthur (Skegness)

H.M.S. Pembroke (Chatham)

H.M.S. Lanka (Ceylon)

H.M.S. Osprey (Portland, Weymouth)




H.M.S. Maidstone

H.M.S. Tyne

H.M.S. Scout

H.M.S. Danae

H.M.S. Liverpool

H.M.S. Leeds Castle



Joan Lees (Morton) 1940 Carried this picture throughout the war. Engaged 1944 Married 19th June 1945









William Morton (1940) Enlisted as Stoker II Royal Navy 19th Aug 1940

Released from service

22nd May 1946 as Leading Stoker






Family (part) photo summer 1941 on leave from Scapa Flow   Self, sister Elizabeth, Father. Nephew, sister Helen, Brother Robert


ON honeymoon at Dunoon (Celtic Lodge) June 1945   On embarkation leave Destination Japan



H.M.S. Scout, Light Destroyer Escort ship.

Looking aft on Port (Left) side of ship





H.M.S. Scout,Christmas Day 1942Returning to Bombay after convoy escort to Karachi Dinner, Corned Beef & Biscuits and “Tot” of Rum




H.M.S. Scout“Mess-mates H Burge (West Country) & Self

J Anderson (Glasgow)

Buster Brown (London)



Tea Plantation Bungalow (CeylonO



Ted Husted, @Ladysmith’ South Africa   at Diatalawa



Scenes of up-country




Must be seen in colour

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