Excerpt from “No Surrender” by W.E. Johns and R.A.Kelly ~~Exeter~~

picture-NoSurrrender-JohnsWe waited apprehensively at our silent action stations, powerless to retaliate against the shells that now fell more often around us. Then the order came at last, over the broadcast system that was still working, “Sink the ship.” Seacocks and valves were opened, charges exploded below decks to open holes in the ship’s bottom, and the Java Sea flowed in. A few minutes later, about 1135, Captain Gordon gave the equally terse command, “Abandon ship.”
Black smoke was pouring out of Exeter amidships as she began to list. As I came aft I noticed many rafts still aboard and stopped a young seaman about to jump over the side. I undid the knife dangling at his belt and began to cut loose what rafts I could see. I had just negotiated the ladder to the quarterdeck when a shell hit the superstructure of the officers’ cabin flat, just behind me, and the blast threw me to the deck and almost over the side.
I sat up and put my hand back over my shoulder to feel the wet patch. Yes, it was blood, and it was also certainly time that I left. I placed my shoes neatly under the ladder, blew up my lifebelt, lowered myself over the side, and let go.
Exeter still forged ahead at about five knots, listing more now and spawning in her wake a line of rafts, men, and boxes, followed by oil and flotsam. Only one boat was lowered; that was no more than a gesture, for the bottom had already been blown out while it was in the davits.
We floundered uncomfortably in a choppy sea, feeling the shock-waves as the shells exploded in the water around us. Bert Diggle recalls being flung head over heels under the surface by a salvo falling about twenty yards away.
Exeter heeled farther to port, but still moved ahead, smoke and flames rising from her, the turret guns pointing skyward. Then, from starboard, a Japanese destroyer approached at speed to finish off with her torpedoes. The enemy destroyers fired four torpedoes, one of which hit and tore open Exeter’s hull; I remember noticing that it was just below our mess. For a moment she straightened herself defiantly and heeled over to starboard. A few minutes later there was a tremendous upsurge of frothing water and she had gone.


1 Comment

Filed under Literature, Military, Non-Fiction

One response to “Excerpt from “No Surrender” by W.E. Johns and R.A.Kelly ~~Exeter~~

  1. William E Johns was Chief Ordnance Artificer on HMS Exeter, which met its fate on 1 March 1942.

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