Halcyon Class Minesweepers HMS Speedwell - Crew
Jack the Dog
Frances Knowles
Jimmy Green
Jack the Dog
Family & Friends



Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar/stories/27/a4292327.shtml

This story has been collected and transcribed by Mark Jeffers with permission from the author.

No mention of the Speedwell, a particularly happy and fortunate ship, would be complete without reference to an extra member of the crew. Jack was a mongrel, part Labrador; he joined the ship at Christmas 1939, having being picked up as a stray in a pub in Hull or Grimsby. Once onboard he settled down for good until his demob in 1945. He never missed a trip and never overstayed his leave. It was almost unthinkable that the ship should sail without him.

Jack belonged to the ship and not to any particular individual. Our Tanky and Postman, Able Seaman Kesby, saw to his welfare onboard and took him ashore when he went to collect mail. He also went ashore with the signalman to collect signals from the local naval offices, wherever the ship was based.
Since Kesby and the signalman, R.W. Hickling, were great walkers to some distant pubs they always took Jack with them.

Jack was never sick or sorry and in the six years never needed the services of a vet. He was not a glutton and with careful feeding and plenty of exercise kept his figure.

He was never sea sick despite the violence of Speedwell’s motion. In harbour he slept in the central store with Tanky, but the store was battened down at sea and he then slept with the seamen in the forecastle or, if the weather was bad, he moved to the Wireless Office where the ship’s movement was felt least. He would also retire to the Wireless Office when the ship was in action, since the noise of the guns was less due to the soundproofing. He was however a most useful look out and would give warning of approaching enemy aircraft, which was most valuable, particularly in low cloud conditions. His more acute sense of hearing gave him this advantage and he didn’t like what he heard since it probably meant gunfire, so he growled and barked, looked towards the directions of the aircraft, then made full speed for the Wireless Office.

Jack could climb up and down any ladder in the ship. It took him quite a time to master the one from the wheelhouse to the bridge, as this was almost vertical, but he eventually made it. If he was in real difficulty he would tug at the nearest person’s trouser leg as much as to say “Help me up mate”.

He was always first in the motor boat when it was going ashore and never failed to know where to pick it up when waiting ashore to return onboard. He usually went on leave with Kesby or Hickling or his Stoker friends and settled down wherever he went, as if he had known no other home. He travelled all over England and Scotland by train and never had a ticket. He would leave whoever he was with outside the ticket barrier, dash onto the platform and then quietly wait until his master of the moment came through, then joined him to board the train. The manoeuvre would then be repeated in reverse on arrival at the destination. No matter how big the crowd he never got flustered, nervous or lost. On the train he would lie on the floor of the carriage and disappear under the seat at the Inspector’s cry of “Tickets please” remaining hidden until given the all clear.

He was an uncommonly intelligent animal and was in general on the side of the ratings other than the officers. If a little gambling was in progress in a messdeck Jack would be posted to give warning of the approach of the Officer of the Day and the night rounds. When Jack heard the boatswains pipe, which precedes the rounds, he would bark furiously and by the time the Officer of the Day reached the messdeck he probably found a harmless game of whist in progress.

When the ship was based in North Russia Tanky made Jack a set of soft leather boots so that the frozen snow and ice did not affect his paws. In the cold climate his coat grew very long and it was very amusing to see this shaggy dog, complete with boots, cavorting with half-wild Russian husky dogs on the quayside at Polyarnoe, near Murmansk. He would also accompany us on the ski slopes where he would slide at great speed on the hard packed snow.

Jack was a very clean dog and would always manage to get to the upper deck for his toilet, however bad the weather, but he always had an escort when it was really rough and the deck was washing down.

He was a fine dog and much more than a mascot. He was the symbol of the luck that was Speedwell’s and was, I am sure, the longest serving dog at sea in the wartime Navy, just as Speedwell was one of the few ships, possibly the only one, to be at sea for the duration of the war without paying off her ship’s company at any time, and to have a good proportion of her crew who served with her for the whole period of that six year commission.

At the end of his service Jack was demobbed to a village near Aberdeen, with a friend of one of the crew, where he had spent an occasional leave, and went to see no more. He was truly a seadog of the highest order and we all loved him.



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This site was last updated 17 Januar 2012