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Thread: Rescued by a German U-boat and handed a brandy.

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    Default Rescued by a German U-boat and handed a brandy.

    VIA: Old Barry & The Vale

    The fascinating tale of a Swansea Valley WW2 sailor rescued by a German U-boat and handed a brandy.

    Bill Parton was just 21 years old when HMS Hunter sailed into a Norwegian fjord at midnight on April 10, 1940 as part of a flotilla of five British destroyers - Hardy, Hunter, Hotspur, Havock and Hostile - to engage with five German counterparts.

    A ferocious sea battle ensued and Hunter was lost with just 48 of the 159 servicemen on board surviving the cold waters of the fjord to be picked up by the enemy and eventually forced to march, in freezing conditions, over the mountains into internment in Sweden.

    Bill Parton’s story is perhaps the most incredible as he was saved from almost certain death by a German U-boat.

    His full story, complete with his eventual repatriation and return to his Pontardawe family farm, is told by former Royal Navy seaman turned author Ron Cope in his latest work, Doomed Destroyer, (Clink Street Publishing) with help from Mr Parton’s daughter.

    Mr Cope, who has previously published a book on the Battle of Narvik called Attack at Dawn, said: “It all started with my father, Cyril, who was a torpedo man on HMS Hardy, which was also sunk. The story of the battle was renowned throughout the family when he talked about his experiences.

    “My father set up the Destroyer Flotilla Association of Narvik of which there were around 200 members.
    In the 1970s he was interviewed by the Imperial War Museum and was on television and radio; he had lots of information and almost had his own museum in the garage.

    "When I looked through it all I just knew that I had to write the story for future generations.”

    Mr Cope’s newest work, which will be available from Clink Street Publishing and Amazon next month, focuses on the fate of HMS Hunter and contains references to several men from south Wales.

    Mr Cope said: “During the time of the Second World War men in Wales who joined the Royal Navy did so out of Devonport. Hunter was a Devonport ship and so there were quite a few south Walians in the crew.

    “There is an interesting account of a surviving Hunter crew member, that of Seaman Bill Parton, from Pontardawe .

    "He was 21 years old and his first language was Welsh. Prior to enlisting he was a plasterer. He was lucky to survive and under extraordinary circumstances.

    “Many years later, he told his daughter Christina, that he had been picked up by a German U-boat.

    "He said he had been given brandy and was well looked after. From the information I had, this was of interest, as it was the first time a U-boat had been mentioned in picking up any Hunter survivors.

    “They turned into a bit of a nuisance to the German navy so they decided to inter them in Sweden. This involved marching over the mountains in the freezing cold.

    When they arrived they were initially housed in a church hall surrounded by barbed wire. The Royal Navy didn’t like to see them in rags so they issued blazers, trousers, shirts and ties. There is a group photograph of them in the book.”

    Mr Cope added that Mr Parton had joined his father’s association.

    He said: “Bill’s daughter Christina, married name Tomkins, accompanied her father and mother in the 1970s to the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla Association of Narvik in London and later to the German veterans’ reunion in Bremerhaven.”

    Mr Parton’s daughter was kind enough to contribute to the story.

    She said: “My father was 21 at the time of Narvik but didn’t speak much about what had happened. My grandparents received the news that the Hunter had been sunk and that my father was missing. My grandmother was told by a spiritualist that my father was still alive and she believed it was the case.
    “My father told me there was little food and that is why they were sent to Sweden. When they got there my father worked on a farm.

    "I remember him talking about Charlie Swales, also a seaman from Newport, South Wales, who met a Swedish girl and my father and Charlie kept in touch.

    “My son Julian was told by his grandfather that he was repatriated to Scotland by plane and then travelled by train to report to the appropriate naval authorities.

    “Another story my father told me is that immediately on arrival, when spoken to in English he replied in Welsh. He must have been really disorientated. Welsh was his first language and I think in his own mind he thought he was nearly home.

    “I think he must have returned to UK in 1942, but I am not certain. He then went straight home to Pontardawe, there were no telephones in those days. He just walked in the back door. You can imagine my grandmother’s reaction.”

    Mr Parton’s adventure lives with his family to this day.

    His daughter added: “My parents went on holiday to Sweden in the 1980s and met up with Charlie Swales and his wife. I know he thought Sweden was a great place. They then went on to Narvik and visited the nearby graveyard where some who had died were buried.

    “My father had a copy of the commemorative plaque produced in Devonport. He had it framed and it was displayed on the wall of my parent’s living room until my father passed away in 1998.

    “I can believe that the lads were popular with local girls. My son now has a picture of his grandfather taken when interned in Sweden. He was on skis and looked very dashing. I often wondered whether he had a Swedish girlfriend.”

    Other individual stories included in the book include that of 19-year-old seaman Jack Tucker, who sadly lost his life, and another Swansea man who survived, Petty Officer Stoker Jake Keswell.

    Without giving too much away Mr Cope said: “Jake was lucky because when the torpedo hit he was on a repair party and not below with the rest of the stokers, who were killed.

    “He was one of the first to escape from Sweden and get back to the UK, via Russia, the Black Sea, Bulgaria and a ship home from Gibraltar. It took him around three months.

    “It was particularly risky because when they got to Sweden the Germans made them sign a document that said that if they escaped and were caught again then they would face the death penalty. A few of them were caught and had a nervous four years as POWS praying the Germans didn’t realise who they were.”

    Last edited by Doc Vernon; 22nd July 2021 at 09:45 PM.
    "Our veterans did not forget about us .... Let's not forget about them." From Michael Levesque

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