William David Frank Slowley (1901-1961)

My father (k.a. Dave) joined the Royal Navy as a ‘boy’ in 1916 just after his 15th birthday. As a boy he began his career at the Ganges training ship, based ashore at Shotley, Suffolk. He quickly graduated to become a Leading Signalman and was posted on ships for the rest of World War One.  The photograph shows my father before and after he joined up.

His own father had died young and my father’s siblings were all sent to an orphanage. Luckily his mother took him to live with relatives in Abingdon where he did well at school, but despite good results he couldn’t go to the local grammar school because his mother couldn’t afford the uniform etc. So he opted for a life on the ocean wave, where he remained until demob in 1946. He told many humorous stories, and never said a word of hatred against the Germans or anyone else. He was a gentleman in most respects.

Whilst on board he taught himself violin and played in the fleet orchestra.

During the First World War he served mostly on HMS Furious, a battle cruiser, equipped with a fly deck to launch small aircraft for reconnaissance. Furious was part of the ‘Baltic plan’ to land troops on the beaches of Northern Germany and had several Sopwith Pups (planes) on deck.

He left the Navy with a small amount of money, which he spent setting up a printing press. He also worked as signalman on the piers of Avonmouth Docks, ‘talking’ the ships into harbour along with the pilot vessels. He was a compassionate and caring man despite several harrowing adventures, including taking part in the sinking of the Bismarck in World War 2.