HMS Firedrake
HMS Londonderry

Leonard Browne AB
Able Seaman Leonard Browne
K.I.A. 17.12.1942
HMS Firedrake
Leonard from Waterside Londonderry, Northern Ireland, was the youngest of 10 children of Catherine and John Browne, five girls and five boys, one of his brothers had a reserved occupation, the other three went into the Army.
When Leonard was a lad, he and the Chief Constables son, built a raft, and floated it on the river Foyle, sailing under the bridge watched by a large audience, apparently they both returned home covered in stings, from the nettles they had hidden in, until it had got dark enough for them to sneak home.
Memorial at Londonderry
Later he enjoyed going to dances, and fancied him self as an Irish Bing Crosby. His elder brother Bobby had been a Leeds United and Irish international footballer. Leonard had joined the Navy as a regular, before the outbreak of war in 1939, and had served most of the war on HMS Londonderry, the Londonderry was in Belfast in December 1942 being repaired.
When the Firedrake was preparing to leave Lough Foyle with convoy ON153, she was short of crew, so Leonard was drafted to her, this was Leonardís and the Firedrakeís last duty. Leonard was married with a son Albert.
40 U-boats at Lisahally.
U-boats at Lisahally.
Lisahally today.
At the end of the war 40 U-boats sailed into Lough Foyle and gave them selves up at Lisahally, about 3 miles downstream from Londonderry. These three photos are of Lisahally then and now. Left, this photo shows 40 U-boats tied up to the landing quay at Lisahally in 1945. Centre, this shows a U-boat just arriving at the quay. Right, this photo shows the quay at Lisahally today
King and Queen in Ireland
In 1946 the King and Queen were welcomed to Northern Ireland to meet the families of whose who had been killed in the second world war.

This photo left, shows the Queen talking to Leonardís father John Browne.

The photo right is the memorial in the grounds of City Hall Belfast, to Able Seaman Magennis who was awarded the V.C. the Victoria Cross.
AB Magennis Memorial in Belfast.

HMS Firedrake
George Dougal T.G.M.

George Dougal in overalls
George Dougal T.G.M.
From West Ham, joined the Firedrake in April, 1940 photographed on the right in overalls with two of his mates onboard the Firedrake back in 1941.

When the Firedrake returned to active service after being repaired in Boston USA in February 1942, a large proportion of the crew were sent for upgrading in the UK, George being one of them, the Firedrake had been under repair for about four months and many of the crew needed upgrading.

The ship had been damaged in the Mediterranean in July 1941 by an Italian 500kilo bomb, when on operation "Substance" a convoy to Malta, with Force H, George had been very close to the explosion but wasn't injured. After upgrading he was drafted to another ship so was not aboard when the Firedrake met her end.
He lost lots of his mates including Tommy Noble from Dagenham when the ship was sunk in December 1942, and he will never forget the good times as well as hard time on the Firedrake, he enjoyed the comradeship and sportsmanship of the crew and played in the Firedrake football team in 1941, George is seen standing second from the right in the photo of the football team. Photo below left is the Firedrake in dry dock at Gibraltar July 1941.

Firedrake in Dry Dock
The Firedrake football team

PO Spillett & PO Andrews.
Stan Humphries & friends.
The football.

Some more photos of the crew taken in America, above right an enlargement of the football with the writing Firedrake 1941 on it, above left is Petty officer Harry Spillett and his shipmate Petty officer Andrews, at Mowhawk Park, and above center is Stanley Humphries and a group of his shipmates and friends photographed in Boston.

Able Seaman
David Cowland
remembers his time on the Firedrake

Able seaman David Cowland
I joined the Firedrake at Chatham in March 1941.
The Firedrake was in Chatham for a refit after running aground and losing her ASDIC dome off Spain in thick fog, I soon got in the swing of things and made some good mates in three mess, my job was on 'B' gun I often think of them, mates like Underwood, John Lawley and Calagarie, Underwood's nick name was Austin for some reason, Calagarie was a real character he was always making us laugh, and he was very musical he could make a tune out of anything, he often played a tune with the spoons.
John lawley was a mate from back home he lived in Canning Town and often came to my home and met my folks he survived the war and went to live in Australia, sadly he died out there in the 60s.
I enjoyed my time on the Firedrake, inspite of nearly being blown up in the Mediterranean by an Italian bomb that blew a massive hole in our side, and many Atlantic and Malta convoy escort duties with force H.
When the ship was damaged in the Med we had to go to America for repairs, we had been in Gibraltar for weeks having temporary repairs done and we thought we would be going back to Chatham, but as soon as we had set sail the skipper announced we would be escorting the Manchester, which had also been damaged at the same time as us to America, for a complete refit in Boston, so that was that for about three months, the Americans were very good to us, taking us to shows and really making us feel at home in December the Japs bombed Pear Harbour and soon America was also in the war.

Ark Royal under attack Convoy under attack Another attack on the convoy

Three photos showing the intense bombing the convoys had to face we in the Firedrake were very lucky several times, with bombs and torpedoes just missing us by feet. After the refit in Boston we were put on convoy escort duties again, this time on the north Atlantic run between America and the UK.
On one of the convoys we were escorting two large troopships full of RAF personnel that had completed their training in Canada back to the UK, there was only two of us escorting these troopships ourselves and an American lend lease destroyer the Belmont not long out of Halifax in thick fog there was a violent explosion abeam of the convoy this was the Belmont, she was lost with all hands not one survivor, we found out after the war she had been torpedoed by U82.

In August 1942 I got married to Peggy her brother was to be best man but was killed when the ship he was coming home on was torpedoed and sunk, Peggy was very lucky one day, she worked at the Woolwhich Arsenal weapons factory when it was attacked by a flying bomb, a V1 fell on the work shop that Peggy was working in, all her work mates were killed and she was buried, the rescue services dug her out and saved her, that was on the Thursday afternoon, the next Monday she reported back to work.
I left the Firedrake in June 1942, and started training as a torpedoman and eventually became an instructor myself.
I often think of my time on the Firedrake, I had some good mate's on her and would love to know what happened to my mate Calagarie I believe he did survive the war, but I haven't been able to trace him.
And to all those that were lost with the Firedrake in December 1942, God Bless and Rest in Peace.
David Cowland and Peggies wedding August 1942.

Other Pages Below

HMS Firedrake Page 1 The history of HMS Firedrake. The history of HMS Firedrake. HMS Firedrake details. Survivor Donald Coombes Survivor George Walker Joe Curbishley and John Bridge Bert How & Bill Aldous Topsy & Scouse Cliff Vincett, Wiggy Bennett & Reg Furgusson. Stanley Humphries and Henry Timpson. The Coxswain and the Chrysanthemum Memories from the Sunflower Some of Firedrake's last crew. Some more of Firedrake's last crew. Robinson, Waliker and Liberty. Capt. S. Norris. DSO. DSC. and Comm. E.H.Tilden DSC. RN. The Mailli Breze Tragedy and J. Wallbank. Adopted by Tynemouth. Edwards, Sym and Pattison. The U39 and Durbo story Dr John Aldren's story Peter Kelly Remembers Lt D.J.Dampier. Survivor The "F" Class Destroyers Ken Neale OBE. FSA.