Seaman Leonard Browne
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
remembers his time on the Firedrake
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
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.
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.
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
And to all those that were lost with the Firedrake in December 1942,
God Bless and Rest in Peace.