Harry Gatman

Royal Navy

 

 

 

 Harry Gatman RN Colourised By Ourselves

 

Harry and his new Wife. Colourised by Ourselves

 

Royal Navy Service Record

Raleigh 9/12/42

Eaglet 4/5/43

Roberts 26/5/43

Roberts 8/9/44

Valkerie 28/6/45

Heron 8/9/45

Drake1 14/10/45

 

HMS Raleigh Training Establishment

HMS Raleigh is the largest Royal Navy training establishment in the South West. Today it’s made up of a 239-acre main site, a maritime training centre on the River Lynher, and satellite bases for leadership and team-working exercises on Dartmoor and the Rame peninsular.

HMS Raleigh was commissioned on 9 January 1940 as a training establishment for Ordinary Seamen following the Military Training Act which required that all males aged 20 and 21 years old be called up for six months full-time military training, and then transferred to the reserve. It continues on that tradition of training todays Royal Navy Seamen.

Harry would have be trained in all aspects of Seamanship and what was expected of him at sea. His disciplinary record speaks for itself as he has nothing recorded on his so called Rap Sheet.

HMS Eaglet

In 1939 HMS Eaglet became the Base Ship for the Royal Navy in Liverpool, and for the duration of the war flew the flag of C-in-C Western Approaches, Admiral Sir Percy Noble and later Admiral Sir Max Horton. The RNVR merged with the RNR in the late 1950’s and in 1971 Eaglet moved ashore to a purpose built HQ at Princes Dock. Throughout the post war period crews from the Mersey Division of the RNVR and then the RNR manned a Minesweeper attached to the Division as for training.

It would seem that Harry was sent here prior to a Ship becoming available which was to be HMS Roberts.

HMS Roberts

HMS ROBERTS-Class Monitor ordered on 16th March 1940 from John Brown at Clydebank and laid down on 30th April 1940 as Job Number 1572 (Yard No. 572) The ship was launched on 1st February 1941 as the 2nd RN ship to carry this name which was previously used for a 1915 Monitor sold in 1936. Build completion date was 6th Oct. 1941. This ship was fitted during build with radar for aircraft warning Type 281, for surface warning Type 272 for main armament fire control Type 285 and Type 282 for Anti-aircraft Armament. These were replaced by improved equipment before the end of WW2. The warning radar equipment enabled the ship to be used for air defence as well as in her primary role for naval gunfire support.

 

 

B a t t l e   H o n o u r s

DARDANELLES 1915-16

NORTH AFRICA 1942

SICILY 1943

SALERNO 1943

MEDITERRANEAN 1943

NORMANDY 1944

WALCHEREN 1944

H e r al d i c   D a t a

Badge: On a Field Blue, a Field Marshall's baton and a sword in saltire Proper pommel and hilt Gold enfiled with an antique crown also Gold and in chief between the baton and sword blade an estoile also Gold.

When Harry joined Roberts she was had just undertaken a major refit at Birkenhead and was to be deployed to the Mediterranean. Harry was to spend two years aboard Roberts and it that time he would have got to know the ship and his shipmates very well. In June after all trials were completed she was made part of Operation Husky of the Sicily Landings.

Operation Husky

On July 5th 1943 we find Roberts sailing from Algiers to join Convoy KMS18 during passage to Sicily along with HM Monitor Abercrombie, HM Cruisers Newfoundland, Mauritius, Uganda, Orion, Carlisle and Colombo all with a destroyer screen. All provided Gunfire support with force Q during the landings of XXX Corps, XXX Corps being the British 8th Army tasked with landing at Sicily under Lieutenant General Oliver Leese and because of the Royal Navy shelling made the landings a success for the 8th Army. An extract of action is shown here with the shelling from the RN frequently mentioned.

04.00 No shelling as yet. Intensified bombing still in progress. Range approx. 4000 yards.

04.25 All guns loaded with reduced charges. Exchange of fire between MLs and machine gun posts. Still closing with beach. Range 3500 yards.

04.30 Prepare to fore on machine gun posts from which tracers are pouring. Range 1000 yards. Dawn is now breaking. Troops still pouring in.

04.35 Manoeuvring for covering fire and bombardment. No sign of any action against ships yet.

04.40 Heavy smoke screen covering island. No shots fired at us as yet. Rocket ships fired salvos and cleared machine gun posts.

04.45 Dawn has broken. Everything is clear. Destroyer fires two salvos and then withdraws. Battery opens up at us. A large number of ships on the horizon. Still training guns on target but still no shelling. Shots straddle ship and make it shake. Enemy shore batteries firing at LCGs.

04.55 Begin firing in reply to enemy guns. Enemy guns silenced. Bridge reports ammunition dump hit. Clear daylight, action well under way. Expecting next shot to hit us. LCG firing closer to beach. LCAs standing off beach. Troops pouring in. Shelling growing strong.

05.20 LCG 9’s gunfire effective.

05.30 Not much reply from the enemy, must be engaged by troops. Odd shots dropping by craft. Many of our planes visible. Enemy battery silenced by us. Complimented by craft coming alongside. Fires starting on shore, landing craft standing off. Troops pouring in – 8th Army.

Note the 0455 entry.... Counter Battery Salvos silencing the enemy guns.

Throughout September Roberts had been nominated to for support duties for the anticipated Landings on the Italian Mainland and throughout all of September she was engaged in bombardment duties.

September

               2nd         Bombarded coast between Reggie Calabria and Pessaro with HM Monitors

                                 EREBUS, ABERCROMBIE, HM Battleships VALIANT, WARSPITE,. HM Cruisers ORION

                                And MAURITIUS.

               3rd         Provided naval gunfire support during landings by British XIII corps near Reggie

                               and Villa San Giovanni with HMS ABERCROMBIE, HMS EREBUS, HMS ORION,

.                              MAURITIUS, HM River Gunboats APHIS and SCARAB.

               9th       Joined Northern Attack Force (TF85) for support during Salerno landings.

                              Operation AVALANCHE

               13th      Provided gunfire support during German attacks on bridgehead with HMS    

                                 MAURITIUS, HMS ORION, HMS UGANDA, HMS AURORA, US Navy cruisers USS

                                 PHILADELPHIA, USS BOISE and RN destroyers.

                          

In December of 1943 Roberts was deployed to Home Waters where a bigger Operation was just around the corner as HMS Roberts was nominated for bombardment duties in Operation Neptune.... the Allied Landings at Normandy.

Roberts would have been stationed off Sword Beach the far right of the Normandy Beach Landings. The Houlgate Battery is located just above the scale on the map.

 

 

A newspaper cutting of the time showing a sketch of HMS Roberts at Normandy and how the Gunnery Officers knocked out targets further than her range using the roll of the ship. As she rolled the Gunnery Officers at the just the right time fired her 15” guns as the elevation was greatest. She knocked targets out one by one using this system

 

Roberts Nominated Targets at Normandy were Houlgate Battery off SWORD beach or Gomeville Sur Mer as a Secondary Target.

June

               4th         Operation delayed 24 hours.

               5th         Joined HM Battleships WARSPITE and RAMILLIES, HM Cruisers MAURITIUS,

                              ARETHUSA, DANAE, FROBISHER and Polish ORP DRAGON comprising Bombarding Force

                              D off Portsmouth.

                              Passage through swept channel with Force D.

              6th         On arrival off SWORD Beach took up bombarding position.

                              Provided gunfire support in accordance with fire-plan.

                              Right-hand 15in Gun burst jacket.

               7th        Returned to Portsmouth for repair, and replenishment of stores and ammunition.

                              Resumed support deployment in Eastern Task Force area.

               26th       Provided naval gunfire support for British Army attacks in Caen area with HM    

                               Battleships RODNEY, HM Cruisers ARGONAUT, BELFAST and DIADEM.

 

An idea of the size of the Guns used on HMS Roberts. 15” The right hand side Gun is an actual HMS Roberts Gun. A piece of tangible evidence of Roberts outside the Imperial War Museum.

 

 

 

Roberts had come through three Allied Landings successfully, she had done her job with proud efficiency and could hold her head high when on Fleet duty’s. For the rest of 44 and into 45 Roberts went about her normal routine.

July                           Gunfire support to land operations in continuation.

                 11th          Provided gunfire support to land operations with HMS BELFAST.

August                       After release from Post NEPTUNE support remained in Home waters for support            

                                   of Planned allied landings.    

September               Nominated for support of British landings at Walcheren.

                                    Operation INFATUATE

October                  Joined HMS WARSPITE and HM Monitor EREBUS.

               31st          Passage to Walcheren with ships of Bombarding Squadron.

November.

              1st            Provided gunfire support with Squadron during assault at Westkappelle.

               2nd         Provided further support with HMS EREBUS.

                            

December             Deployed in Home waters for support duties if required.

1 9 4 5

January                   Nominated for duty in British Pacific Fleet and prepared for Foreign Service in

                                Support of planned Operations                                

The end for HMS Roberts was long and degrading, she was not required for service with the British Pacific Fleet after VJ Day and returned to Devonport with a call at Malta on 5th November 1945. The ship was Paid-off and reduced to Reserve status after arrival on 27th November and then used as a Turret Drill ship until the need for training on 15in guns had lapsed. She was then placed on the Disposal List and although sold to BISCO to be broken up she was retained for use in Devonport as an Accommodation Ship. During the period up to 1965 she was in fact rented from the nominated shipbreaker, T W Ward. When no longer required she was laid up in the Hamoaze and finally left for the breakers yard at Inverkeithing near Rosyth on 19th July 1965.

Harry, sometime in June or July 1945 left the ship and was posted to HMS Valkerie a shore based training establishment which would of been part of his demob and wind down to Civilian life. HMS Heron being a shore based establishment where Harry only spent a month. Last on the list is Drake 1 another shore based establishment that Harry would have been demobbed from, with a firm handshake and thank you for your service he would have been dressed in civvies and with a train ticket in his hand he would have been on his way back to Hull.

 

Grandad, What did you do in the War ?

A Question I wished I had asked my Grandfather many many years ago, all the family knew was something to do with Subs, it turned out that he was a Sonar Operator hunting the Wolfpacks in the Atlantic and it is a story I have heard many times, I wish I had spoken to him when he was alive for that knowledge dies with the individual if they have not been cajoled into giving up their secrets.

But all is not lost and many surprises are thrown up when you delve a little deeper and know where to look. My Grandfather a miner dug coal, went off to war in the Royal Navy and hunted Submarines as a Sonar Operator, returned to dig up coal, a strange story indeed.

Harry it seems to his record was also a surprise, I thought at first he had been a Deck Hand and indeed we see clearly from his records that he gained the EDH qualification which was Efficient Deck Hand, but it was the Non Substantive RDF, RP3 RD2 codes that caught my eye which are as follows.

RDF = Radio Detection Finder.

RP1 = Radar Plot 1st class.

RP2 = Radar Plot 2nd class.

G1 – I think is a proficiency badge

Now going back to the description of HMS Roberts you will remember this “HMS Roberts was fitted during build with radar for aircraft warning Type 281, for surface warning Type 272 for main armament fire control Type 285 and Type 282 for Anti-aircraft Armament. The warning radar equipment enabled the ship to be used for air defence as well as in her primary role for naval gunfire support. So it is very safe to say that Harry was not just a Deckhand running around supplying ammunition or Firefighting or administering First Aid he was actually plotting for the Guns of the ship and laying on Targets for the Anti-Aircraft Guns to fire at.

When we think where the ship had been and that Harry was on it during those times he would have been clearly responsible for bombarding the Italian and Normandy Coastlines and placing shells onto targets that he was plotting and as a Radar Plotter 1st Class it seems he was very good at it.

A Radar Plotter at Work during WW2

 

Harrys actual Campaign Medals.

The Italy Star

 

The France Germany Star

 

The 1939-195 Star

The Defence Medal

 

 

Authors Notes

The similarities I have seen with Harrys Service and Veterans I have interviewed and spoke with is amazing in some contexts. On our Website we have an oral interview with a Royal Engineer who was on Sword Beach on D Day and he tells of the Destroyers out in the English Channel Bombarding the Land, at some stage he says “we were always mindful that one of those bloody shells didn’t drop short on top of us.” Harry was targeting those very shells. “They went on and on for hours and hours….” My own Grandfather Royal Navy AB William Hawkins was at sea that day protecting the destroyers from Submarine attack. It’s a small world and I have nothing but respect for these men.

Andy Gwynne

 

Rest Easy Harry, Remembered Here Today...........