All those who know me well, will confirm that I have a deep fascination for tales and memories from the war years..indeed, my interest could be the main reason why two of the plays I’ve written were titled..”The Day War Broke Out” and “WAR... and pieces of Milford.”

So, when Brian Hearne recently gave me a collection of stuff to use, I was thrilled to find that one of them was a terrific article, written by Annere Martin, which included incredible tales of naval valour and wartime horror, as remembered, and recounted by two local men.

“It was New Years Eve in 1942 when the renowned destroyer, HMS Onslow, braved a two hour battle in the Barents Sea off Norway. Tom Jones, of St David’s, was a stoker on board the warship when she was badly hit.

Fourteen British and American merchant ships, carrying vital supplies to Murmansk, were blown south of their course by a gale and were sighted by a German U-boat, and its position reported to the naval base at Altenfjord.

Captain Robert Sherbrooke, who commanded the British destroyers from the bridge of HMS Onslow, ordered his five vessels into action to protect the convoy.

The destroyers fought brilliantly, keeping the bigger ships away from the convoy by virtue of the amazing courage of the men involved.

At the height of the two hour battle, the top of the Onslow’s funnel was hit with an eight inch shell, splitting it in half, as though it had been hit by a giant axe.

Splinters of the shattered tunnel rained down on to the bridge like flying spears, and Captain Sherbrooke was struck in the face. His left cheekbone was smashed and his eye badly injured.

The main aerials and both radar sets were destroyed, the engine room was holed, the two forward guns were put out of action, and fire raged in the fore-superstructure and on the mess deck.

Seventeen men were killed in the ferocious attack, but the Onslow maintained its position between the convoy and the German attackers.

HMS Onslow sailed more than a quarter of a million miles guarding merchant ships in the Atlantic, the Arctic, and the Mediterranean.

After the Barents Sea battle..following which Capt Sherbrooke was awarded the Victoria Cross..the Onslow was involved in further major action when, on Boxing Day 1943, her convoy was attacked by the cruiser Scharnhorst.

A combined effort between the various escort forces ended with the Scharnhorst being sunk, with the loss of some 1400 men.

Throughout the war Onslow participated in many convoys across the 2000 miles of sea between Britain and North Russia, and intercepted German vessels before they arrived in Norway.

She was also prominent in hunting U-boats in the Atlantic and escorting a convoy to the besieged island of Malta, as well as taking part in the D-Day landings.

Another local veteran, Mr Walter Phillips, of Priory Rd, Milford Haven, recalled the day when he joined the warship as a chief engine room artificer, at the time of the D-Day invasion.

“The ship was full of holes,” he said, adding “She had been hit by an aerial torpedo and shrapnel, and had to go into dry dock to be repaired. During the D-Day landings, our job was to pick up the survivors, even though most of them had drowned by the time we got there. I remember trying to get to the bathroom, but it was full of dead bodies.”

Early in 1945, the Onslow was in action again off the coast of Norway, when British destroyers crippled several Nazi supply ships.

On one of her missions, in Feb 1945, the Onslow had to contend with the worst weather ever experienced by a Russian convoy, battling against force 8, force 9, force 10, and finally force 12 storms from Kola Inlet to Scapa Flow, where she was based as part of the Home Fleet.

Many men lost their lives falling overboard and underneath the ship, explained Mr Phillips. He remembers seeing a young airman parachuting down from a damaged plane into the icy sea, and not being able to do anything to save him. HMS Onslow was eventually sold to Pakistan in 1949.

Here are snaps of the destroyer, plus Mr Tom Jones, and Mr Walter Phillips.

Now I have to apologise to all TRM teaser addicts for last week, I forgot to include the new one..I didn’t realise until I found it on my desk..but, by then, it was too late.

Never mind, I’ll use it when I’m back in a fortnight, when there’ll be more from the

town’s trawling history, and whatever else TRM’ish that comes along.

Stay safe. see you soon.