Captain

George Davey

 

 

Capt Davey first went to sea as an apprentice with Blue Funnel in 1937, aged 16. 

 

Two years later, in 1939 he volunteered for the Royal Navy, and was assigned as a midshipman to HMS Kimberley, which was still being built. Once HMS Kimberley was commissioned, he was involved in convoy and defence duties in UK waters, including patrolling the North Atlantic between Britain, Iceland and Norway, on the lookout for returning German ships. He was involved in action at the second battle of Narvik in April 1940, and suffered permanent hearing damage during this engagement. He became a Sub Lieutenant in 1940. HMS Kimberley transferred to the Red Sea, where the ship was involved in convoy escort duty and in containing the Italian navy squadron based in North East Africa. In October 1940, HMS Kimberley was involved in the sinking of an Italian destroyer Francesco Nullo in the Red Sea, and was damaged by shore batteries at Massawa. After repair in Bombay, HMS Kimberley was again involved in convoy escort duty in the Red Sea, in the evacuation of Crete, and in support duties to the army fighting in North Africa. She was eventually torpedoed by a German/Italian?? submarine off Tobruk and towed to Bombay for major repair.

 

George Davey returned to the UK where he was assigned to the Aircraft Carrier HMS Unicorn, being built in Belfast. He was able to obtain his Mates certificate during delay in building. After a period commissioning and training with HMS Unicorn, he was transferred to a Q ship PC 74. This ship was attached to North Atlantic convoys to act as a decoy for submarines.

 

A short spell on the sloop HMS Black Swan followed, doing convoy escort work between UK and Gibraltar. In 1943 he was assigned to the corvette HMS Sweet Briar, on North Atlantic convoy duty. By late 1944 the naval war was winding down, and he was offered the chance to return to the merchant navy. He joined the McAndrews line sailing between UK, Spain, Portugal and North Africa. He recalls VE day happening as he was sailing in a convoy through the Bay of Biscay, and the ship leaving the convoy and going on alone.

 

He obtained his Masters certificate at the Liverpool School of Navigation in 1948, and left McAndrews to join British Rail in Holyhead as a Third Mate, just as London Midland Scottish Rail was nationalised. He served on the old Slieve Donard as 3rd Mate. He remembers that the ship was frequently breaking down. On one occasion the Chief Engineer rang the bridge as the ship was coming towards Holyhead, to say that the fire bars had melted, and the furnace had fallen into the ash pit. The advice was to go very cautiously, as the engine room could only raise a little steam, and stopping might have been problematic!

 

He served on the old Cambria and Hibernia, and on Princess Maud as second mate. He gained his first command on board Slieve Bloom in 1962.

 

He recalls being in charge of the Slieve Bloom on leaving Holyhead, when the ship inexplicably stopped responding to the helm. He managed to take the ship out of the harbour under the engines alone. The ship was anchored in the outer harbour to investigate. It became apparent that the rudder had fallen off, probably as a result of metal fatigue in the shaft! The missing rudder was recovered some years later during dredging operations in the harbour and can now be seen at Holyhead's Maritime Museum.

 

In August 1964, the Slieve More was involved in the salvage of a yacht 'Wild Venture', which had been stolen from the Menai Straits. The theft followed the escape of one of the Great Train Robbers from prison and there was speculation that the yacht was being used in the getaway. The naval destroyer sent to capture the yacht broke down. The Slieve Morespotted the yacht, and preparations were made to come alongside the Wild Venture, which was motoring west with no crew apparent. Chief Engineer Jack Sharp, who had yachting experience, was nominated to take charge of the boarding party, and he selected his team from the many volunteers in the crew. As the Slieve More went alongside the yacht, the lookout alerted Capt Davey to the submarine that had surfaced astern! It had apparently been monitoring the situation from periscope depth, but had been unable to board the moving yacht because of the submarine's hull shape. With careful manoeuvring the boarding party from the Slieve More was able to jump aboard the yacht from the cattle doors in the side of the ship. Rather than heavily armed bank robbers, they found two sleeping teenagers below deck! The Wild Venture sailed back to Holyhead under Jack Sharp’s command, and the two young men were handed over to the police. The incident caused some amusement in the national press, as can be seen from the cartoon. The crew of Slieve More eventually received a small amount in salvage from the insurers of the yacht.

 

Through the 1970s Capt Davey was regularly in command of the "new" Cambria and Hibernia and then latterly the Holyhead Ferry 1, operating from the new terminal at Salt Island. He retired from British Rail in 1978, and moved to the Highlands of Scotland. He built his own house for the fourth time in Ullapool, and later moved to Gairloch. In 1992 he moved to Nairn on the Moray Firth, to escape the rain and midges, where he lived until he crossed the bar in March 2015.

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