William Gill’s poem

The Dunedin

By William Gill, RM, 24th November 2007

She had seen better days
But we were used to her ways
With boilers not too good
She was asked to do more than
She could
But she did it

Northern waters being so cold
It was really too much for someone so old
But better days were to come
She sailed west into the sun

Then home again to glorious Devon
To be in Blighty was just like heaven
Bombs were falling but that didn’t matter
We were home with near and dear to have
A good old natter

Then off once again we went
Never knowing where we we’d be sent
Then lo and behold
There was this rock big and bold
If you didn’t know where you were
Then you oughter
This was Gibraltar

Then further south to smelly
Freetown, getting a lot sweatier,
The less said about that place the better
And so we patrolled north, south, west
And east
Searching for the Nazi beast

A German ship came into sight
And we captured it without a fight
It was the Lothringen with a relief U-boat crew
The ship and crew were sent into captivity
And we carried on with our designated activity 

We patrolled up and down the Atlantic Ocean
Luckily without too much commotion
Until Monday 24th November
A date we shall always remember
The afternoon watch had settled in
And we all carried on with the ship’s routine

Then came the bang, the ship gave a shudder
The Officers’ quarters got it
And we lost the rudder
The lights were down when the second bang came
And we knew this was no practice game

A U-boat had seen us
And fired her torpedoes
Two made a score
We didn’t need any more

As the ship tilted
So our stomachs just wilted
But discipline kicked in
And training took over
We got up top
But were not in clover

The starboard deck was under the ocean
And all movement seemed to be in slow motion
The Carley floats were slipped overboard
And we all followed, in one accord

The water was deep
But there was no time to weep
With relief we climbed on the floats
Twas a pity there weren’t any boats

There she was the poor old “D”
Lying on her side in the unforgiving sea
The stern went down first
Followed by the brow
And we began to wonder
What happens now 

Then our adversary came to the surface
And some thought perhaps they might shoot us
But no they dived and were gone
And we were left all alone
Men and floats clung together as one
We were now all the same under the sun

It is right to mention
To relieve the tension
We sang “There Will Always Be An England”
But wondered, would we ever see
That place so grand as home again?

The rafts were full, the sea a bit
Rough, we didn’t need that sort of stuff
We were often tipped out
And that caused a rout
But by helping each other
Were able to recover
Our place for survival
Although not too desirable

We were half naked and soaking
It was no good croaking
So with many a frown
We just settled down

Night came, with its cloak of darkness
Which left us all with our thoughts
And sadness
All through the night
We looked for a light
That might be our saviour
But no such luck
We were all out of favour

Then dawn broke to bring another day
For us to hope and once again to pray
So the day were on with a relentless sun
Burning us all like King Alfred’s bun

The fishes did bite
And the jellyfish sting
While the sharks swam around,
Waiting
To have their fling

So night followed day and we had
Some rain
But our searching for help was
All in vain

As time wore on
It was clear
That some of us had gone

Hours passed by and our numbers had
Dwindled
Too numb to think we had been swindled
Out of life so precious to all
But we will meet again in God’s hall

Thursday 27th came
With hope fading fast
But later that day our prayers
Were answered at last
The American ship Nishmaha
Came into view
And we were saved, the lucky few

A word we must declare
Of the kindness and care
That the ship’s crew gave us
And being so generous
With clothes and food
Which may us all feel so good
Our bodies and minds
Got rid of the pain
Thanks to the Americans
We began to feel human again

We sailed away to safety
But too hasty
As we thought of the heroes we left behind
Alone, for God to find.

In memory of HMS Dunedin and her Men