Malcolm had the difficult job of speaking after Havard Phillips about
his father, John Malcolm, and his wartime service in HMS Vanity.
They were both RDF operators and were in the photograph of Havard's
shipmates and in the same Mess but were not on the same watch. John
Malcolm looks very young in the photograph below but was two years
older than Havard. David Malcom does not have a record of what he said
at the meeting at Winteringham in September 2017 but he has provided
this short account of what he knows about his wartime service.
Asdic team which tracked U-Boats underwater and the RDF (Radar) team
which tracked them on the surface reported to the Anti-Submarine
Control Officer (ASCO)
Radar could track E-Boats and U-Boats making surface attacks on convoys
HMS Valkyrie, the RDF Training School on the Isle of Man
"My Father was
born in 1923 at a small village outside St. Andrews in Fife, Scotland.
After he left school he got a job as an apprentice plasterer with a
small local firm in St. Andrews. When war was declared in September
1939 he was too young to join up so he joined the Local Defence
Volunteers, the forerunner of the Home Guard. Some wags at the time
said that L.D.V. stood for Look, Duck, Vanish! They were barely
organised and had few if any weapons but they felt that they were doing
something and doing something was better than doing nothing."
When Dad was
eventually called up he was immediately sent to Butlins! Butlins,
Pwlheli on the Gower Peninsula, which by this time was no holiday camp.
It had been taken over by the Navy and turned into a basic training
camp called HMS Glyndower.
After basic training there, he was selected for Radar training on the
Isle of Man. The Douglas Head Hotel had been commandeered and re-named
HMS Valkerie. The
trainees, however, did not live in the hotel, they were billeted in and
around Douglas and had to run up and down the hill every day for
training. His training officer at the time was the actor Jon Pertwee.
When he was drafted to the Vanity
she was undergoing a major re-fit in Rosyth dockyard, so he was given
leave and sent home. Since home was less than an hour's train ride
away, he went back to his old job and got paid twice. Once from the
Navy and once from his old boss, he was in the money! Havard told
me that the Radar screens were not of the circular variety with the
sweeping dial like the ones we have today. You had to look down through
a tube at a thin green line and try to pick out any anomalies that you
thought shouldn't be there. This put an enormous strain on the eyes and
they used to get really bad headaches because of it. They escorted the
convoys up and down the East Coast through swept mine field channels.
These channels would be marked with buoys. At night German E-Boats
would lie up along side these buoys and wait; they were very difficult
to spot with Radar and they really had to be on their toes to catch one
before it got them. If they did run into an E-Boat they couldn't
depress their bigger guns low enough to hit it. The best they could do
was to put themselves between it and the convoy and try to fend it off
with their smaller guns. Not much fun, Havard said.
In December 1944 Vanity was quite badly damaged in a collision in thick fog with a merchant ship SS Apex
as described by Havard and was sent to Antwerp for repair. At that time
the city was under constant attack from V1 and V2 rockets and Dad
described how one could see and hear the V1's coming so had a chance to
take cover but with the V2's there was just a loud bang and complete
devastation. Soon afterwards Vanity
was sent to Norway - see below. We still have a few of the souvenirs he
brought back, a pair of clogs from Antwerp and a silver spoon and cup
from Norway. All bought and paid for with the international currency of
the day, cigarettes!
After the war my Father went back to his old job and tried to forget about it. He was lucky, the Vanity
and her crew survived the war relatively unscathed. Had he been posted
to another ship, we might not be having this conversation.