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Thread: "Volunteers' for dangerous service

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    Default "Volunteers' for dangerous service

    During the late summer of 1940 the Admiralty, under pressure from the Air Ministry (aka the Met Office) chartered two steamers, the SS Arakaka and SS Toronto City, for weather reporting duties in mid-Atlantic. Crewed by Merchant Navy officers and men, the ships sailed under the Red Ensign and were effectively unarmed. They sailed in rotation transmitting 3-hourly weather reports within a predetermined area. Each voyage lasted three weeks. For the first voyage there were two meteorologists on each ship, one Royal Navy Officer and one RAFVR officer. The Admiralty then removed the RN officers and their places taken by two RAFVR Corporals. At the end of May 1941 the met complement was increased to three with the addition of two LACs.

    The two RAFVR officers, pre-war Met Office personnel, had/were 'volunteered', but it is the situation of the ORs that interests me. I appreciate that the movement of servicemen depends, for the most part, on the exigencies of the service and for the RAF a posting usually between land stations, albeit some to more dangerous locations than others. However, the situation described above was clearly far removed from 'normal' conditions of service - three weeks alone at sea under constant threat of attack from submarines and weather and no respite.

    I'd appreciate any advice/thoughts how the ORs might have been selected in this unusual instance; one of the LACs was 33 with a 6-year old daughter. Would they have been asked to volunteer or would they simply been posted? Their service records show there were no sweeteners such as promotion.

    Both ships were torpedoed between 22 June and 1 July 1941 with the loss of all hands.

    Brian
    Last edited by Lyffe; 4th January 2017 at 12:07.

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    Hi Brian
    Have you tried looking into the conditions for RAF personnel who serviced the Hurricanes on the CAM ships. It sounds as if there could have been parallels in the service terms
    Regatds
    Dick

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    No, I had not thought of that, Dick, and I take your point. However, the two steamers were alone and completely unprotected, whereas the CAM ships sailed in convoy and at least had some protection from the RN escorts which were equipped to detect and attack submarines. I think a letter to the AHB is called for.

    Brian

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    In case the question ever arises again, the AHB's advice was that as far as could be determined there were no special regulations in the circumstances described. Quote, after explaining the searches made, "I have to conclude that the men were posted where and when desired".

    I must compliment the AHB on the rapidity of its response (24 hours).

    Brian

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    Well done, AHB. Immaculate service!

    "And they came back from the NAAFI and found they'd volunteered for dangerous service . . . . . . . ". T'was ever thus!

    HTH
    Peter Davies
    Meteorology is a science; good meteorology is an art!
    We might not know - but we might know who does!

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    Having spoken to surviving WW 2 Bomber Command Veterans, the words "never volunteer" and "never volunteer, our job was dangerous enough" ring in my mind.

    Not much of an official answer.

    Mark

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    I have reviewed the files containing the paperwork for the two ships again and find the decision to withdraw the RN officers was made on the 18th October, two days after the Arakaka returned to port. The Arakaka's replacement RAFVR Corporal did not actually reach the ship until it was literally slipping its moorings for the next voyage on the evening of the 25th - just 7 days later. Certainly not enough time to trawl for volunteers.

    I guess I should have deduced the answer to my original question myself, but it is useful to have it confirmed by AHB.

    My thanks again to all.

    Brian

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