11 March 2009


During the Norwegian campaign in World War 2 during April 1940, the Royal Navy destroyer HMS Echo was repeatedly attacked by Luftwaffe bombers. As anti-aircraft weapons could do little against the agressors, Echo's signalman devised his own plan to put the enemy off his work, as the ship's captain, Commander S.H.K. Spurgeon, later told Imperial War Museum chroniclers:

Echo's Yeoman of Signals was a very efficient companion on the bridge; his name was Yeoman Paul and well knew what effect this rather gruelling endurance test had on the morale of the ship's company, because there was always the chance that the next bomb might score a hit. One day Paul suggested that, whilst the aircraft was making its approach, he would like to make a signal to its pilot on the very bright ten-inch lamp, of a rude four-letter word repeatedly. This would, he said, be a useful lesson for the ship's company to polish up their Morse and, in addition, would give the pilot of the aircraft an opportunity of knowing exactly what we thought of him. Paul had a good vocabulary and, from then on, the silent suspense of the bomb drop was broken by laughter; he assured us later that the not uncommon complaint of belly ache amongst them has been cured. This then was Echo's unusual method of maintaining its high standard of morale.

Echo later sank a German U-boat and ended its days having been transferred to the Greek Navy.

- Quoted in Harry Plevy, Destroyer Actions: September 1939 to June 1940, Stroud, Gloucs., 2006

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