This page contains a Flash digital edition of a book.
HISTORY


servicemen had clambered aboard at Calais. He was then given ‘guidance’ in clear naval language that more would be coming on. The boat sailed with more than 500 men on board. He said the weight of the men made the ship quite unstable. Robert returned twice more. By the end of the evacuation, 2,716 men clambered, tired and frightened onto his ship for the journey home. He said the scenes at the beachhead were, in typical naval understatement, ‘rather unbelievable’. He was ‘Mentioned in Despatches’ for his efforts. On its way to its next engagement,


Scimitar stopped in at Dartmouth. As it was moored at Sandquay, a dogfight between a Fleet air arm Fighter and a Heinkel plane was seen above the town. The German plane shot down the allied craft, which was seen to crash-land in the sea outside the harbour. Word reached Robert who instantly took the ship on a rescue mission. By the time it reached the harbour mouth, the ship was travelling at 20 knots and tore through the submarine nets placed there to stop a crafty invasion by a U-Boat! The mission was a success - the pilot was recovered alive – and Capt Robert Franks passed into Dartmouth folklore. But there was to be no rest


for Robert – he was next off to Londonderry where the Scimitar would become part of the fleet that protected the North Atlantic convoys as they were harried by U-Boats. ‘The Battle of the Atlantic’ as it became known was one of the pivotal fights of the war – with supplies to Britain from America being vital to our chances of standing against the Germans. One night in June 1941 a U-Boat sunk a ship in Robert’s convoy with the loss of all hands, but revealed itself in doing so – the Scimitar crew sent down 14 depth charges and sank it. A command on a larger vessel fell through after this, and he was, instead, sent to Burma on another incredible


Robert Franks on the left just before D-Day


mission: he was to take 20 sailors and use gun boats to harass and hopefully destroy Japanese placements along the Mayu River. Sleeping, hidden, by day and raiding by night, Robert led his sailors on a very successful mission. So successful, in fact, he was told to come home. The Navy didn’t want the


Robert was on the bridge with his Captain when the mine struck, and they were both thrown in the air.


boats back, and the sailors were commanded to scuttle them and come back to Allied-held North India through the jungle, over the mountains in enemy-occupied Burma. More than this, the guns they had been using were considered vital, so robert had to find 18 mules to carry them as they walked through the hot, humid and mosquito filled jungle. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for “courage, leadership and resource in operations against the enemy”. However, he contracted blood poisoning in this jungle trek and nearly died. This illness meant he had, again, missed out on a promotion to a full command.


On D-Day he was appointed Staff


operations officer on board hms Largs that oversaw operations at Sword Beach. He served so well he was again ‘Mentioned in Despatches.’ After this he was attached to the Canadian Army as Naval liaison officer and navigated their amphibious assaults up the Scheldt estuary against spirited German opposition - for which he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. After the war he was stationed in


many places, including Malta and even helped defend the new nation of Kuwait against Iraq in 1961, in one of his last actions in the Navy. After his naval career had come to an end. Robert moved to Dartmouth, where he had built a home in 1956, at the suggestion of his sons. He managed to create an ideal second career taking command of newly constructed warships on sea-trials. He became a stalwart of the Dartmouth community: he was a town councillor, one of the instigators of Dartmouth in Bloom, was Commodore of the Yacht club and was an ever-present force at Regatta for many years, starting the highly successful Regatta tennis tournament. He passed away in 2008 at the grand old age of 95. •


71


Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40  |  Page 41  |  Page 42  |  Page 43  |  Page 44  |  Page 45  |  Page 46  |  Page 47  |  Page 48  |  Page 49  |  Page 50  |  Page 51  |  Page 52  |  Page 53  |  Page 54  |  Page 55  |  Page 56  |  Page 57  |  Page 58  |  Page 59  |  Page 60  |  Page 61  |  Page 62  |  Page 63  |  Page 64  |  Page 65  |  Page 66  |  Page 67  |  Page 68  |  Page 69  |  Page 70  |  Page 71  |  Page 72  |  Page 73  |  Page 74  |  Page 75  |  Page 76  |  Page 77  |  Page 78  |  Page 79  |  Page 80  |  Page 81  |  Page 82  |  Page 83  |  Page 84  |  Page 85  |  Page 86  |  Page 87  |  Page 88  |  Page 89  |  Page 90  |  Page 91  |  Page 92  |  Page 93  |  Page 94  |  Page 95  |  Page 96  |  Page 97  |  Page 98  |  Page 99  |  Page 100  |  Page 101  |  Page 102  |  Page 103  |  Page 104  |  Page 105  |  Page 106  |  Page 107  |  Page 108  |  Page 109  |  Page 110  |  Page 111  |  Page 112  |  Page 113  |  Page 114  |  Page 115  |  Page 116