History & Learning

Convoys Remembered

Eric Peter Molyneux


Information and photo provided by Carl Irvin (grandson)

My grandfather, Eric Peter Molyneux served as a Stoker with the Merchant Navy during the Arctic Convoys, he served on a ship called HMS Alca, a former banana carrying boat that had been converted to carry mines! Here is some memories written by my grandfather…

“After several lessons in London, Dock Street on turning on taps in ships engine rooms we spent one afternoon shovelling granite chips through a hole, and then shovelling back again.

A few days later I was sent to Scotland to find HMS Alca, which was loading coal!

However here I was looking at a former Banana carrying boat loading coal, and I had very recently been practicing with granite chips in London! I was now a Stoker, but someone had to move the coal from the bunker to put it in reach of the stoker’s shovels.

That was the job of the Firemen. I just cannot remember details, except being embarrassed and simply apologetic about my inexperience and incompetence. I remember being shown our sleeping quarters in the bow of the ship, and the hammock I should sleep in.

Later I found hammocks were the most comfortable way to sleep when a ship is pitching and tossing at sea.

I am sorry I cannot remember the arrangements agreed on duties, but very soon afterwards the Alca set sail through Pentland Firth, and I was violently seasick! This lasted for a day or two even while we were midship near the engine room but continued when I returned to forecastle until I clambered into my hammock.

But I was still covered in coal dust and had to wash myself on the lower deck between my vomits!

Sometime after we arrived in Londonderry, the Alca crossed the Atlantic to as I remember Halifax, then down the coast to the Panama Canal and up to San Francisco where we picked up mines and took them to Akurari in the north and Seydisford in the south of Iceland. I celebrated my 20th Birthday in Iceland.
Trying to keep warm was a real problem when we started to go on the convoy, because the temperature was absolutely below zero most of the way, so you kept warm by having Arctic clothing and when you went on watch, you had to dress up in all this Arctic clothing, some of which you didn’t discard once you were off duty because it was such a problem to get it on.
Once we got the Arctic clothing on, we kept warm enough. We were never very warm and some of the things we had to do on board ship were in very exposed places, some of which were very cold indeed.
After we joined a big convoy to take mines to Arkhangelsk (Archangel) and Murmansk in Russia, we returned to Akurari where I was informed, I should get my kitbag and get a lift to Reykjavik to return to Mersey in Liverpool.
Having overcome my seasickness and enjoyed watching others suffering it was again very upsetting to find I was seasick again travelling in a small fishing boat from Akurari to Reykjavik where a large liner, La Companie brought me back to Britain very comfortably to join HMS Mersey.
My service on the Alca was backbreaking work, but a great experience and I have re-lived some of the memories over the years with visits to Panama, Iceland, Sicily, and three trips to Russia. There are photos, itineraries, guides, and reports about places I had completely forgotten were in my travels.
During one visit to Russia after the war on a Social Services group trip, we went on a frozen lake to watch a competition between Russia and Finland fisherman who had dropped their lines into holes bored in the ice.
Someone in our group mentioned I was on a Convoy carrying mines to Murmansk during the War, and suddenly I was being hugged by a big, burly man who lifted me off my feet, then invited me to hold a long flag. Imagine me proudly holding one end of the hammer & sickle red flag!
Memories I’ll never forget”.
My grandfather later transferred to a ship called HMS Prince Charles and served as a Petty Officer, he was involved in the D-DAY Landings, his ship took the 2nd and 5th Ranger Battalions and landing craft to Omaha on the morning of June 6th, 1944.
After the war he was issued medals which he would sadly go on to lose over the years, but his grandson Carl reunited his grandfather with his medals in 2019, they consist of…
1939-1945 Star
Atlantic Star – France and Germany Bar
Arctic Star
Africa Star
Pacific Star
Italy Star
Defence Medal
War Medal 39-45
2021 awarded the Légion D’Honneur
And also in 2021 the 75th Anniversary medal from Russia for his involvement on the Arctic Convoys.
My grandfather passed away on the 30th of May 2023, several months before his 100th birthday.
A truly remarkable man, he will never be forgotten.

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