-H.M.S. Hood Crew Information-
The History of My Life, the Autobiography of JR Williams (1916-2002)
By JR Williams
Updated 06-May-2014

JR Williams served as the Chairman of the H.M.S. Hood Association throughout the 1990s and into the 21st Century. He held this important post until May 2002, when he had to retire due to very poor health. He passed away on 31 August 2002.

JR was highly respected and very much loved by those who knew him. He is deeply missed. This article, was given to the website by JR himself in January 2000. It was expanded somewhat since then. Like many of those who saw service in Hood he moved on to smaller ships and convoy work when he left her. Through these words, you will see that JR led a very full life. You can also see his zest for life and wonderful sense of humour.

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Photo of JR WilliamsI was born in Aldershot, Hants 1916. My father had been in the Royal Flying Corps serving under Col. Lawrence of Arabia and I still have a photograph of him on a camel. I went to West End Boys' School at Aldershot and on leaving school joined the Royal Navy as a Boy 2nd. Class; my pay being one shilling (5p) a week On completion of training I was made up to 1st Class Boy and my pay increased to one shilling and Sixpence per week (7.5p).

I was drafted to H.M.S. "Suffolk" and spent two and half years on the China Station during which time I attended the funeral of the Japanese Admiral Tojo. I was made up to Able Seaman and then passed for Leading Seaman.

On return to the U.K. drafted to H.M.S."Sabre" a First World War Destroyer. Our duties included chasing around after the aircraft carrier "Courageous" in case of her flipping any of her aircraft into the sea. I left "Sabre" to qualify as a Torpedo Man at H.M.S "Vernon". On completion of that training I was drafted to Malta to join the 1st Submarine Flotilla.

On being made up to Leading Seaman came my draft to H.M.S "Hood". I arrived in the U.K. in Hood during January 1939. After a short refit we proceeded on North Sea patrol from Greenock after having had degaussing gear fitted round "Hood". My duties on "Hood" were electrical maintenance and, although I did not like the main guns of the ship at all, my action Station was in "B" Turret 15 inch dealing with electrical functions. There was a tube that fired each gun and, in the event of a problem, if the gun did not go off I would have to come to the rescue with my 20 volt lamp which I connected between the tube and earth. I also had a stand-by generator to bring into action in the event of the turret having to switch to local fire control. Something that sticks in my mind from those days is the sound of our Captain HTC Walker making his way into the turrets. He had a hook in place of one of his hands and you could always tell when he was on his way in by the warning "clink" made by the hook as he climbed the ladder to come in.

I passed for Petty Officer whilst on "Hood" and left her on Promotion at the end of July 1940. I was initially drafted to the Royal Naval Barracks, Portsmouth then to the P&0. Liner "Stratheden" where I was put in charge of Naval Draft of two hundred ratings to be dispatched at all ports as far as Hong Kong. On arrival at Singapore we had just six ratings left for Hong Kong. I reported to the Senior Naval Officer on shore who instructed me to put them on another ship sailing for Hong Kong. l was then drafted to the the "Empress Of Britain" to return home. Soon though, I received a signal to return to "Stratheden" which was lucky for me as the "Empress of Britain" was sunk on her way home.

Photo of JR Williams
JR receiving a police escort in May 2001

We sailed from Singapore for Australia and visited all ports there including Tasmania. We sailed from Sydney with Australian forces onboard. These were drafted at various places on way home, and I returned to R.N.B., Portsmouth.

Next came a draft to H.M.S. "Carnation" a Corvette as Chief Bosun's Mate. My duties included in charge of the seaman on deck, the boats' crews, duty watches etc. later I was drafted from "Carnation" to H.M.S "St. Vincent" to qualify as a Torpedo Coxswain. When I qualified I was drafted to the destroyer H.M.S. "Worcester" to relieve the Coxswain who was sick. Following this I returned to the Royal Naval Barracks again and, after three months, as acting Chief Petty Officer was drafted from R.N.B. to H.M.S "Bluebell" as C.P.O. Coxswain. At first we were on Atlantic convoys. Then one day when we had returned to Gladstone Docks, Liverpool the Skipper came back to say that he had volunteered. The crew on the quarterdeck cheered him - at least until he clarified that it was the ship and all of us he had volunteered, not just himself. There was often friction between the skipper, who was RNVR and the First Lieutenant, who was RNR and had been in charge of a P&O Liner before the war. Before going on the Russian runs we had a spell in support of the North Africa landings, then it was on to the Russian Convoys. These were the worst days of my life and life was very short for a lot of people. We were bombed night and day from the time we left Iceland. I did four Russian convoys including PQ18. At one point we were iced in at Archangel for 3 months. On one of the return convoys the weather was so bad that individual ships made their own way back as best they could. "Bluebell" was the last ship to arrive back at Iceland and our arrival was greeted with much to the relief by those there waiting for us. During my time on the Russian convoys I was the coxswain of "Bluebell" which involved taking the wheel whilst the ship was at action stations or coming into and leaving harbour.

I left "Bluebell" for hospital in Glasgow and then returned to the Royal Naval Barracks with both ears burst. I was put sick at R.N.B. and attended the Royal Naval Hospital at Haslar.

In 1946 after the War had ended I was drafted to H.M.S. "Concord" for passage to the China Station, but my ears broke open again and I was returned to R.N.B.

On leaving the Royal Navy I joined H.M. Customs and Excise so I was to see out the whole of my working life in uniform of one sort or another. I worked at Gatwick airport and, whilst there I came to know the brother of Admiral Jack Tovey who had been Commander-in-Chief of the Home Fleet when "Hood" was lost. Tovey's brother lived in Surrey and used to service cars.

I retired at 64 years and now I am known as a geriatric!

Rest in Peace JR- We shall certainly miss you