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A futile mission in the Far East


Zigzagging across the Atlantic
John Julius Norwich Writer
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I and one other boy found ourselves therefore on HMS Phoebe and we set sail across the Atlantic alone without a convoy. Looking back on it, it was pretty dangerous; there were U-boats all over the place. But I don't know, I was too unimaginative to see that. It was great fun. We had... every day we had gunnery practice, we had depth charge practice and we had torpedo practice and we had every other sort of practice you could think of. We were constantly being reminded of the dangers we were running. But somehow I think we seemed to know vaguely where the U-boats were and we did a lot of zigzagging. We took 16 days to cross the Atlantic instead of the usual five but we got there in the end. We got to Plymouth and I took the train along the south coast to Bognor. I was by this time 12. And there were my parents waiting to meet me on Bognor platform.

John Julius Norwich (1929-2018) was an English popular historian, travel writer and television personality. He was educated at Upper Canada College, Toronto, at Eton, at the University of Strasbourg and on the lower deck of the Royal Navy before taking a degree in French and Russian at New College, Oxford. He then spent twelve years in H.M. Foreign Service, with posts at the Embassies in Belgrade and Beirut and at the Disarmament Conference in Geneva. In 1964 he resigned to become a writer. He is the author of histories of Norman Sicily, the Republic of Venice, the Byzantine Empire and, most recently, 'The Popes: A History'. He also wrote on architecture, music and the history plays of Shakespeare, and presented some thirty historical documentaries on BBC Television.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Atlantic Ocean, U-boats

Duration: 58 seconds

Date story recorded: 2017

Date story went live: 03 October 2018