Abandoning ship after Nazi attack

Albert Littlewood
Albert Littlewood
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Sheffield-born Navy telegraphist Albert Littlewood was 19 years old when his torpedo boat was attacked by Germans and he was flung into the ocean.

After hours in the water he was plucked out by Nazi sailors, and spent a year as a prisoner of war. Now 86, Albert lives in Barlborough, near Chesterfield, with his wife of 66 years Kathleen, also 86.

He has two sons, four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

“I was born in Moor Valley, between Frecheville and Mosborough, and my family moved to Beighton when I was a child,” he said.

“I used to go to the Sea Scouts on Pomona Street in Sharrow and I learned how to be a telegraphist. I was pretty good at it.

“When I was called up I joined the Coastal Forces and was based at Lowestoft with HMS Mantis.

“I worked as a telegraphist on Motor Torpedo Boat 666. They called it the Devil Boat.

“In the summer of 1944 our job was to prevent German convoys from taking supplies in by sea. It was about a month after D-Day and we were patrolling near German waters.

“On July 4 we were trapped by on-shore batteries. They shot the engine out and we abandoned ship.

“I used to keep my lifebelt on my telegraph room but someone had pinched mine. Somehow I managed to find another one at the front of the boat, and went into the water.

“There were 34 crew on the boat and we all went in.

“I was in the water for a long time. Eventually the Gerries plucked me out - I had been there for hours.

“They picked quite a few of us out of the water and put us in a cattle truck and took us to a prison camp.

“I spent months in captivity near Bremen, quite a lot of it in solitary confinement. It was a difficult time and I got quite ill. I was there until May 8 the next year.

“I came home with a war hero who was due to get an award.

“I was in Brussels waiting to go home and he was told he had a flight back home - he was being summoned to Buckingham Palace. But he said he was only going to take the flight if the rest of us went home too.

“A few months later, on October 13, 1945, I married my wife Kathleen, who I had met before the war.

“She worked as a ladies’ hairdresser. A few weeks ago we celebrated our 66th anniversary.

“I stayed in the Navy until the end of 1946 but I had real kidney trouble.

“I spent a year at Wharncliffe Hospital in Middlewood and then I got a sedentary job as a wages clerk in Sheffield.

“We settled in Gleadless, and later moved to Intake, then Marsh Lane in Eckington.

“In 1970 we moved to Barlborough.

“We struggled for a long time - I was not given a war pension until 1990.”