History & Learning

Convoys Remembered

Owen Harry Chaplin

Owen Harry Chaplin
Written by Mark Chaplin (grandson).
Joining the RN in November 1935 on HMS Ganges, at the tender age of 15 years 11 months, Owen completed seamanship training and even achieved “Button Boy” on Ganges’ mast.


Owen shared memories of hacking at deck ice during WW2 convoys, illustrating the biting cold and tough work of his Arctic service. Removing the ice from railings and decks was a regular maintenance routine to reduce the upper-deck weight, to prevent capsizing in rough seas, and to free ice-choked gun-turrets.


No stranger to narrow escapes, after a munitions barge exploded near his ship in the Mediterranean, Owen spoke of being hit by a goffa (a huge wave) and sliding across the deck to certain doom in an icy sea, grasping last-moment to save his life before going under the railings. His wedding ring caught on a cleat, giving him the time to use both hands to save his life.


Another of his recollections: As he was a Gunner and Gunnery Instructor he was usually on the upper deck manning the anti-aircraft or main turrets for Action Stations, and during one particular enemy engagement, the Luftwaffe attacked the convoy, strafing his ship. As part of the gun crew, Owen was hit by a ricocheting German shell fragment – the shrapnel embedded in his chin for the rest of his days!

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