You may recall in the last @HOME newsletter, we reported that Leeds AJEX member & Stonegate Way resident Bernard Moss had been notified that he was to receive an award ‘Le Legion d’honneur’. Bernard who is 91 years old, was a stoker in the Royal Navy and his ship – the HMS Antwerp, along with many other Royal Navy Vessels, helped to liberate France from Nazi occupation in 1944.
LjHA interviewed Bernard to hear about the events that led to his honour:
In 1942, Bernard, joined up as a volunteer aged just 17. He travelled to Chatham Docks located on the River Medway in Kent, where he had trained for three months as a stoker aboard the MV Durban Castle, a troop ship built in 1938. He embarked at Glasgow and disembarked in Alexandria, Egypt four months later whilst Bernard waited to be allocated to a regular ship.
“I went along every day to the draft office and asked where I was going to go’ said Bernard. ‘Nowhere today’ was the usual reply.
‘This one day in February, I went along and was told I had to join the HMS Antwerp. I was very inquisitive to find out about ship life’ said Bernard. They told me ‘You will find out when you are on board!’”
The HMS Antwerp was an armed merchant cruiser with anti-submarine detectors. “I didn’t know what it was all about” Bernard told us. “I’d only been on the ship three hours, put my belongings away and hear across the tanoy Prepare for leaving harbour – And I was told to go along to the engine room.”
The reason for the quick departure he later discovered, was that three submarine’s had escaped from Piaraeus, and the adventure began. Various operations were completed throughout the Mediterranean, and then “we were moved to France to ‘speed up’ the war” Bernard revealed.
“On D-Day in 1944 we had to support the landing craft, clear mines and make sure there were no submarines in the area. We set sail to Corsica, and as I looked around there were hundreds of landing crafts all around. Then we sailed to France, and took all the landing crafts in, we were like Mother Goose with all the baby ducks” recalls Bernard.
Bernard continued his parable, by telling LJHA how the ship travelled to Naples, to complete provisions and get reports.
The Ship anchored in Naples – when Bernard heard “Away Motor Boat Crew, Away Motor Boat Crew” over the tannoy, he rushed and got on the motor boat where they took six petty officers to report into Naples. Bernard spent a lot of his time in the motorboat engine room with his head tucked away, whilst he tended to the engine – little did he know this would be the place that saved his life. On this particular day – the motor boat tragically hit a mine, leaving Bernard as the only survivor of the explosion. “there was a huge explosion, I didn’t know what had happened, I saw lights and flashes but I knew I had survived”
Bernard was taken to 65th British General Hospital, then in October 1944 was transferred to his hometown, Chapel Allerton Military Hospital to recuperate. Then in January 1945, he was finally demobbed. Bernard had a change of career and opened a Garage – Moss Motors and met his late wife Ruby and wed in 1947.