Able Seaman Ted ‘Shiner’ Wright, HMS Fame

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Ted ‘Shiner’ Wright

EDIT OCTOBER 20 2013.
Comment from a member of Shiner Wright’s family;
Hi Ian just to let u know Ted Shiner Wright sadly passed away on 7/10/13 at home with his family with him he will be sadly missed God Bless Good Night Shiner Rest in Peace mike

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This is Ted Wright, known to his shipmates as Shiner Wright. He served on HMS Fame alongside my father during World War 2. I met with him and his family today (January 18 2013).

His family got in touch after seeing the photo of the crew. Ted was also able to help another family who had asked if anyone knew about the death of their relative after seeing the crew photo on Flickr. It turned out Ted had been with Able Seaman Robert Francis when he was swept overboard in heavy seas.

Ted recalled my Dad’s nickname – Bugs Burgess. “Not bugs as in dirty,” he said, “but because it went with the name, like me, I was called Shiner Wright” (like ‘Shine-a-Light’).

Over the years the details have blurred a bit and some of the things Ted told me sounded just like my Dad while others didn’t, so identifying who did what is difficult.

Not that it mattered at all. I was just delighted to meet an old shipmate of my Dad’s. In the photo the faces of about 35 men can be clearly made out, so for one of those men to still be with us, to get to see this photo 70 years later and to live within an hour’s drive is amazing!

The crew photo turned up while clearing my Mum’s flat after her death in 2011; my wife was flicking through some of Mum’s old books and the photo fell out. I had not seen it since the early 80’s, so it had probably been tucked in the pages for safe keeping and forgotten about.

Able Seaman Ted ‘Shiner’ Wright. Photo used with kind permission.

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Some of Ted Wright’s recollections of his time on the Royal Navy destroyer HMS Fame.

*Ted joined the Royal Navy in 1942. Originally from Leicestershire he settled in Liverpool after meeting his wife-to-be while on leave.

*Ted was able to firm up the details of things my Father had told me. For instance my Dad had said that when HMS Fame rammed a U-Boat (U353) with such force the impact split the bows of the ship wide open. I have since read, for instance in Max Hastings recent history of WWII ‘All Hell Let Loose’ that it was the side of the ship that was damaged not the bows. This detail was replicated somewhere else so I altered the version of events my Dad had told me. I should have stuck with him though, because Ted, without any hesitation, confirmed it was the bows of the ship that split open, causing Cdr Heathcote to take Fame back to Liverpool in reverse gear. Ted used to have some photos of the ship with the bows wide open, hence his good memory of it. “People were on the dockside cheering and waving to us as we took her to Langton Dock for repairs” he said.

*Once in the gloom a huge ship was spotted, he said. They thought it must be a German cruiser because of the size of it, and having been advised by Admiralty that there was no Allied shipping in that part of the Atlantic they were about to fire toredoes at the mystery vessel. But just before he gave the order, the Captain of HMS Fame signalled to the ship and the reply came; it was an American troop ship on its way to England.

*Ted confirmed what my Dad had said, that they used to use depth charges for fishing which was strictly not allowed! But because the use of just one depth charge would cause suspicion, a whole pattern of depth charges was fired off, which could then be put down to a false U-boat signal on the Asdic. Ted said that actually they used Asdic to find shoals of fish, and used to get loads from Liverpool Sound.

* Although Fame never docked in America the crew often went ashore at St John in Newfoundland which was where they met the convoys of merchant ships to be escorted across the Atlantic to Britain. At St John there was a US Navy canteen where there was the best of food and lots of it, but lots of fighting with American sailors too!

* Food was provided on board of course but often it was lousy, and Ted told me, they had to cook their own anyway. The sailors had a mess pot (called a fanny!) in which everything went, tins of this, tins of that. Often there was no label on the tins and that meant that anything, even tinned fruit, might on occasion get chucked in. If the food was really bad, there was a NAAFI canteen on board where they could buy stuff.

* The story my Dad told of how HMS Fame provided a U-boat screen for the battleship HMS Warspite on D-Day was confirmed. Warspite fired shells on gun batteries on a hill at Cherbourg as civilians walked along the promenade seemingly oblivious. By the time the Germans brought their guns up, Warspite had sailed down the coast, fired on some other shore batteries, then returned to Cherbourg for another go. The only damage done to Fame all day was a 3 inch hole in the funnel.

* There were some tragic events too, such as the occasion when a merchant ship in a convoy had been sunk by a U-boat and there were survivors in the water. The men on HMS Fame cheered at the prospect of rescuing them but then to their horror, the destroyer sailed through the men bobbing in the water and fired a pattern of depth charges right into them. The men on the deck shouted at their Captain, “You murdering bastard!” but the Captain later explained that there was a U-boat sitting right under the survivors in the water, waiting to pounce on the destroyer. It should be noted, this exact scene is played out in the book and 1953 film ‘The Cruel Sea’ so whether it was an error of memory on Ted’s part or whether a it was a fairly frequent occurrance author Nicholas Monsarrat used, is unknown.

* On Ted’s birthday one October, he took advantage of the tradition of Gulpers and Sippers whereby sailors would give their shipmate a gulp or a sip of his daily rum ration, depending on the favour owed or the occasion. Shiner Wright had a skinful and was quite drunk as he took up his duty as the masthead lookout (the crow’s nest) and promptly fell asleep. He didn’t get into too much bother though, just had his rum ration stopped for a week. The leading hand got into more trouble for allowing him up there in that state in the first place.

* It was interesting to hear about how difficult it could be for sailors to get a drink while ashore. I always imagined sailors getting drunk in Liverpool pubs but as Ted told me, most pubs had very little beer and what they had was saved for regular customers. “You might get lucky,” he said, “and find a pub that might sell you a couple of pints, but generally you had to go from place to place looking for beer. In Plymouth they’d sell you scrumpy cider but not much beer.”

33 comments on “Able Seaman Ted ‘Shiner’ Wright, HMS Fame
  1. Gizzardtreedude says:

    Absolutely brilliant!!! Inspiring. Magnificent fella 😀

  2. Mustang Koji says:

    I bet you got a bit choked up, Ian… This was wonderful. Truly wonderful.

  3. Ian D B says:

    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/reflectionsreturn] Cheers Mark!
    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/p47koji] Thanks Koji. You and your family came up in conversation today, Ted’s family had visited Nagasaki and I mentioned your family’s history in Hiroshima.

    Dad's Family in Hiroshimaimage0-59

  4. nondesigner59 says:

    Excellent.. These stories should not be lost..

  5. Mustang Koji says:

    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/maycontaintracesofnuts] If I remember correctly, that print is the one you took great lengths to restore, yes?

  6. cgullz says:

    very stoked you got to meet this gent and his family Ian. a wonderful outcome from all the good work you do, i hope this reaches more people and brings more stories or photos to the fore. an interesting read, must have been quite humbling a meeting. i’d be awed!

  7. GaryJS â„¢ says:

    Nice to fill in some gaps in your own story I bet! Thanks for sharing it!

  8. mick cooke says:

    brilliant ian , what a great story,
    very interesting
    take care

  9. janano2010 says:

    So pleased that you were able to meet and fill in the gaps. Those gaps become very important. Ted looks remarkably young !

  10. rob of rochdale says:

    Brilliant stuff Ian.

    Wonderful, fascinating info and it must have been magic to meet Ted!

  11. Ian D B says:

    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/p47koji] Thanks Koji, yeah I spent some time cloning and copying bits of the photo to make it look reasonable. There are still flaws but it probably looks now the way it did 70 years ago.
    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/janspencer] Thanks Jan, it is important to get these details recorded while we can. The opportunities to do so diminish with the passing of every day.
    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/longsidepies] It was Rob, really good to have that connection with my Dad and to listen to his stories anyway, even if that connection wasn’t there.
    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/mick_cooke_wildlife] Thanks Mick
    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/garyjs] Cheers Gary
    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/angwickham] Ang yes if this inspires anyone to do anything it would be that they speak with their older relatives, research what they did, get a record of what they went through during the war or the period afterwards and get it written down, blogged, photographed, whatever. Not just ex-servicemen like Ted, but also people who were kids during the war and remember the Blitz and rationing, women on the home front, working as Land Girls etc. The internet is magic, it means something to share the info, as evidenced by the family of Able Seaman Francis who knew nothing of how their uncle died until getting in touch with Ted after seeing that crew photo and asking.

    And I keep saying this I know, but now really is the last chance to see and speak with this generation of people who were adults during the war.

  12. Verfain says:

    Are we not Blessed by having these photos to share.
    Thank you Ian and Ted ‘Shiner’ Wright.
    My father was Hugh ‘Bungey’ Williams,
    He did not serve on HMS Fame.

  13. Richard Tierney says:

    I could not agree more about the need no duty! to speak to this fading generation soon. You know how a chat with my Mum put us onto the crash sight of that P40 right in the middle of Bolton, the Zepplin raid in WW1 on Bolton… The time as a lad sitting spellbound talking to my then "boss" who flew in Stirlings, Halifaxes and finally the Lancasters in 617 The Dambuster squadron as a replacement crew for a crew lost on that famous raid. I used to sit there utterly spellbound enthralled. My Mum telling me all about civilian life during the war.. sure one can read about this in books and watch documentaries but nothing will replace hearing it from on who had been there, seen and lived it. I go to a air shows at iconic ex WW2 airfileds, I can remember talking to an American at Duxford, base for American 8th Air Forve P47 and P51’s how as an 18 year old he was taken up in the back of a P51 by a pilot only a year older… The next day he took off with his mates and never came back… Its only when you sit with a person in their 80’s and 90’s that these pieces of history come to life and you can really, really understand history.

    Fabulous work Ian as always… You have highlighted a serous need to gather this information together or just have it imparted by a living soul, so the rest of us know what happened and how much a debt we owe these people.

    Thank you…..

  14. **PhillR** says:

    Great Story

  15. Dalesman2012 says:

    I can only echo every single comment above !!!
    = Make no apologies for the lengthy insertion of the "Very Personal" account of the life and times of "Shiner" above – I and I am sure that many others will have been both touched and amused and above all enlightened by the candid and very personal telling of the first hand "Reality" of times which whilst are of another age are in reality not so long ago.
    = Of the above Your Presentation is just right !!!
    = Long may You keep up the good work !!!

  16. Steph C Kay says:

    I was riveted from start to finish Ian. What a fantastic thing to have been able to meet up with Shiner. We have stories too from those on land, family members who had amazing experiences and near death experiences during WW2 in the UK. Wonderful that you have been able to record all these things for others to read. I love this type of history. Thank you for doing this.

  17. GreyCopse says:

    Lest we forget. These old boys deserve our full respect.

  18. And who am i says:

    As all of the above.
    Great stuff. Think Dalesman said it all.

  19. And who am i says:

    As all of the above.
    Great stuff. Think Dalesman said it all.

  20. stiemer says:

    Brilliant Ian, very interesting, can’t wait for more!

  21. Benoit Foisy says:

    Great and touching story, Ian. Thanks for sharing.

  22. salfordlad1 says:

    Fabulous story telling – masterful.

  23. amyrey says:

    Fascinating…. you may have peaked for 2013 already Ian – don’t know how you can improve on this in the rest of the year.

  24. Highy says:

    Fantastic stuff mate, well done for getting these memories down. It must have felt quite strange hearing some of your dads stories from another man.
    Respect to them and their generation indeed.

  25. crusader752 says:

    I echo Al’s [http://www.flickr.com/photos/highy] comments Ian. What a wonderful chance turn-up and I’m sure Mr Wright and his family will be forever indebted to you 🙂

  26. cgullz says:

    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/maycontaintracesofnuts] ‘now is the last chance’ YES! i really should do more towards getting some family history down.

  27. jr55 (John Richardson) says:

    Wonderful story and details, I’m pleased for you that you got them. What a generation they were.

  28. m bailiff says:

    Hi Ian just to let u know Ted Shiner Wright sadly passed away on 7/10/13 at home with his family with him he will be sadly missed God Bless Good Night Shiner Rest in Peace mike

    • Ian D B says:

      Hi Mike,

      Thank you for letting us know. It is very sad to learn of Shiner Wright’s passing. I am chuffed to have had the opportunity to meet with and talk with him and to record some of his memories.

      Kind regards to you and your family,

      Ian

  29. Glen Dobson says:

    Im glad you met up with my grandad ian and he was able to tell you stories about your dad what he never got the chance to tell you. Rest in peace grandad x

    • Ian D B says:

      Hi Glen,

      Thanks for your visit. It’s now a little over a year since his passing but it’s good to remember him and my dad. They belonged to a unique generation!

      Best wishes to you and your family,

      Ian

      • Linda Langlands ( Maiden Name ) Eldest Daughter says:

        I am looking for any photos of my Dad Albert Victor Langlands
        who served on the HMS Fame 1940 Service No DSSX16883. I live in Australia but cannot get any info. If someone out there has any old photos it would be appreciated.

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