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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
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.
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.”