Dalesman November 2010: recalling HMS Wensleydale

Dalesman this month has a bumper collection of articles relating the courage and sacrifice of countless people during the War. Like my editor, I feel it is right to pay our respects and remember these people, who gave so much to protect us.

I visited Dave Allen, who is trying to find everyone who served on HMS Wensleydale. It was a lovely sunny day when I visited, but he told me tales of dark days. He’d met people who’d told of the difficulties of pulling shipwrecked crew from the dark, oily water. The race wasn’t just to rescue the men before the sea killed them: it was also a race against the return of the enemy. One man, says Dave, told him that they didn’t know if the people they were picking up were alive or dead.

Although HMS Wensleydale was involved in harrowing events, there were better times too. Once, they were sent to find two Spanish fishing vessels that were suspected of supplying information to the Germans. Dave says, “They escorted two fishing vessels back to Penzance. They turned out not to be what they were looking for – but there was a good stock of fish in Penzance.”

“Also, when they practiced their depth charges, there would be dead fish everywhere, which they picked up and ate on board.”

Dave heard about practices for D-Day; about making bread on board ship; about how the Americans tried looking for U-boats with searchlights (deadly, they soon learned);and about an operation so disastrous, it was later used as an example of ‘how not to run a raid.’

HMS Wensleydale was a Hunt Class Escort Destroyer, built to protect convoys. Dave says, “In all, 84 Hunt Class destroyers were built, all of them named after foxhunts.”

Dave discovered the HMS Wensleydale Association, for crew members and their families. He says, “They always met at Hawes.” The Association is now disbanded, and Dave says, “I only met them once – even then, they were in their 80s. I wrote down exactly what they said.”

Dave continues to collect information, often from sons and nephews interested in their family history, and delighted to share their findings with Dave.

You can read all about Dave’s researches at his website, www.hmswensleydale.co.uk

And, of course, read the full article in Dalesman Magazine, www.dalesman.co.uk

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