History & Learning

Convoys Remembered

Garrett Plunkett Nally

Merchant Navy

Written by Peter Charleton (nephew).

My uncle Garrett Plunkett Nally, an Irishman, was radio officer on one of the vessels sunk on the Northern convoys. We called him Uncle Gorry and we knew him well from many trips to his home and from hunting expeditions he and I undertook, when I was a small boy. He first learned to fly but when the Second World War broke out, he was too old for combat flying. Consequently, he joined the US Navy. Prior to that he had been an officer in the Irish Army, it seems, but had been honourably discharged.

His vessel was one of those around the outside of the convoys bound from New York to Murmansk. These were called “coffin nails” as they were most likely to get hit by torpedoes. His cargo was aircraft parts for the Russians. He came from Kinvara, County Galway and on his mother’s side, as on my mother’s, came from a family that had always had officers in the British Army. They were all members of the Butler clan. He lived with his sister Christina, neither ever having married, in a beautiful stone cut house called ‘Thornville’ just outside that village. In his retirement, he hunted a lot and was great friends with the locals, one of whom was Lady Ampthill, of the famous Russell v Russell peerage case in 1916, which went to the House of Lords. I remember her well, even though I was only a child.

Uncle Gorry died without issue. His notebook came to me. After shipwreck off Iceland, he was rescued. He recuperated in the Bahamas. In the photograph with Wallace Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor, who was director of nursing there, he is on the extreme right. The shot of him being rescued is, I believe, from a subsequent shipwreck further south. He had two or three in total, but this one at least, on the Northern Convoys was in the service of the Allies.

His contribution to the defeat of fascism has not been acknowledged, but like many of your veterans, he would have expected nothing.

Click the link to download Mr Nally’s memoir, Some Ducks Get Through.



Click to expand photos