Hubert Stanley Mollett WW2 1942-1945
After the sinking of the Viceroy and Dad's return to the UK there appears to be a break in his wartime service. Perhaps he had some shore leave or perhaps he did work on shore during that time but from his seaman's logbook he appears not to have gone to sea again until the August of 1943 – nearly a year after the sinking of the Viceroy.
We should remember that he had his first child during this time born in June 1943 so perhaps that might explain some of his time at home although his new baby would have barely been a month old when he returned to sea in Liverpool aboard the SS Aorangi. He does not seem to have spent very much time on this particular vessel as he returns to Greenoch in September of the same year. From the vessel's history she seems to have been somewhere around Casablanca at this time presumably taking troops to and from North Africa to help the allied advance into Europe. On this particular voyage Dad is a linen steward.
It's worth noting however that the Aorangi is not a P&O ship but part of the Union Steam Ship Co. and indeed it is a New Zealand boat, so maybe he had been on this ship for longer but somebody forgot to fill in his book? I'm also not sure that the Union Steamship Co. was not related in some way to the P&O anyway. Who knows? At right is a plaque that shows the Aorangi's war service. Dad may have joined her in 1941 when she was requisitioned by the British Ministry of War.
His next vessel is equally a short-lived stay aboard on the Monowai and I have not been able to find out really where Dad was at this time. On the convoy website there are no details for this particular vessel other than it left Liverpool in June 1943 and again in February 1944. Dad served on this vessel as a linen steward from November 1943 until mid-December the same year being discharged in Liverpool a week before Xmas. It was obviously a troopship as I found the photograph below showing it departing from Wellington with a shipload of NZ soldiers.
So perhaps he was lucky this year and was able to spend Xmas with his new family for a change. These moments must have been very precious for all of them a short time of normality snatched out of the stress and strain of war.
However in the New Year he is back at sea again this time aboard Empire Crossbow, as a canteen steward. I have not been able to decipher from his log book where in fact this was however after more research I have found out that a group of merchant seamen were sent out to the US to pick up the Empire Crossbow in Los Angeles. Dad once talked about travelling across America by train which I had always thought was after the war returning troops to the US but perhaps this was the trip he is talking of as indeed they did travel by train from New York to Los Angeles. The ship then travelled back to the Uk via the Panama canal and Bermuda, leaving Los Angeles in February and arriving back in the Clyde on 6th March 1944. The ship sailed round to the Solent where Dad has a short break being discharged in Southampton in May from that voyage but rejoining the same day. Did he manage to snatch a few hours with his wife and child – it would seem that he did as his new daughter was born in February of the next year!!!
June 1944 was the time of the D-day landings in Normandy. Mum recalled Dad coming back and forth but not really knowing why. In his seaman's book against his time on this vessel during May to October there is written “Special Operation for the Liberation of Europe.” The Empire Crossbow remained in convoy EWP.1 during this time in the bay of the Seine with Dad on board that is for two days presumably during the D-day landings. Actually according to the P&O Heritage site, the Empire Crossbow was the first British ship to arrive at Gold Beach (shown left) with soldiers. and presumably went back and forth a few times.
I have no further information for this vessel for during the time when Dad served aboard her until his discharge on 23rd November in Portsmouth.
This year he was not going to be at home for Xmas as on 5th December he joins the Strathnaver as a storekeeper and stays with her until June 1945. On the 16th December 1944 she leaves the Clyde in convoy KMF.37 with 4488 troops on board arriving in Gibraltar 3 days before Xmas. From there she sails independently to Aden. I have no idea how dangerous or not this would have been perhaps not so much so now that the allies were advancing across Europe. Anyway she arrives in Aden on 3rd January leaving again on the 5th for Bombay in convoy ABF.7 with 4353 troops on board – are these the same men who left England or have they been exchanged in Aden? On January 18th she is off again in convoy BAF.9 with 1902 troops on board bound for Aden, Suez, Port Said and Algiers arriving on 11th February the day before Dad's second daughter was to be born. Strathnaver leaves Algiers on 12th the day of my birth and arrives in Gibraltar the next day, where she joins convoy MKF.39 arriving in Liverpool on 20th February with 1921 troops on board. According to Dad's discharge book he is discharged in Liverpool on 22nd February but then rejoins again on 23rd so no time to see his new baby!! The ship joins convoy KMF.42 on March 31st and arrives in Gibraltar on the 7th April with 4178 troops on board and again it is the trip via Suez to Port Said and Bombay returning to Gibraltar on May 16th and returning to the Uk with convoy MKF.44 on May 17th. This time there are 4538 troops on board and 5654 items of mail, probably eagerly awaited by families in the UK. Dad is discharged from the Strathnaver on 28th June 1945 in Liverpool probably desperate to see his new family. During his time on this ship he is a storekeeper.
According to his seaman's book he does not join another vessel until 10th December 1945 so did he spend the intervening months with his family. If so this would have been the first time he has been at home for any length of time which must have been strange for all concerned.