Ex-sailor relives torpedoed ship and POW camp terror
FROM telegraphist in the Second World War to working at GCHQ, life was always a covert mission for 90-year-old Ernest Glanville, from Hatherley.
The former sailor was on his way to Malta to help the war effort in the Siege of Malta when his ship, the HMS Manchester, sunk off the coast of Algeria.
After reading the Echo’s story about the West Branch of the George Cross Island Association (GCIA) last week, the telegraphist shared his story for the first time about the months he spent as a prisoner of war under the Vichy French.
Members of the West Branch of the GCIA met at the Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester to remember those who did it make it off the Mediterranean staging point alive.
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For Mr Glanville, making it to the island was an impossible mission when the ship was torpedoed.
HMS Manchester took part in Operation Pedestal, an operation by the Royal Navy to supply the besieged island of Malta.
On August 13, 1942, she was torpedoed and disabled by two Italian motor torpedo boats and scuttled with explosive charges.
HMS Manchester was the biggest ship sunk by motor torpedo boats during the Second World War, off the coast of Tunisia.
Shipwrecked, his crew and him floated to Tunisia, where they were made prisoners of war in Algeria and forced to work.
He said: “It was very difficult. I can still remember what happened when the ship was hit.
“It was quite scary, and everything just blurred when the ship started rocking.
“There was a lot of shouting and I jumped into the sea to get away from the ship. It was quite an experience, one I will not forget.”
As a 14-year-old , he left school to work as an apprentice as a furniture maker, before joining the Navy in January 1941.
After training as a wireless telegraphist, he was then assigned to HMS Manchester at the start of 1942, which had ported at Portsmouth.
He was a prisoner of war for six months until he was released to the Allied forces when they arrived in North Africa.
Sent back to Winchester, he lived out his days working as a telegraphist at a secret military installation in Scarborough.
The unit soon joined up with the Ministry of Defence, and became part of Cheltenham-based GCHQ.
“I can still remember all those years during the war.
“I came to Cheltenham and I have absolutely loved it here,” he said.