Surviving Hitler's Wolf Packs

(Diaries of a Merchant Navy Radio Officer, 1939-45)


Of the 185,000 merchant seamen and women who served during 1939-45, 1 in every 6 was lost.

First-hand illustrated account  of the 

North Atlantic Convoys & The Battle of the Atlantic.

 WWII's longest running campaign was what came next after being introduced to the rigours of Antarctic whaling which, despite its hardships, did not prepare the author for what lay ahead.

On the Brink of War

Antarctic Whaling

Nth. Atlantic Convoys

On the brink of war

"It’s early 1939. The nineteen-year-old son of a local schoolmaster graduates Dundee Wireless College. A gruelling six-month Antarctic Whaling Expedition followed, but barely prepared him for what lay ahead."

 Dundee Wireless College Class of 1939

Crescent House, 40 Windsor Street (site of Dundee Wireless College) in later years.

(Courtesy of "Arthur.vintagent", Ships

Antarctic Whaling (1939-40)

"However, the fact was, we were now facing the oncoming waves and the gale head-on, so we could not make any progress whatsoever. It was, for me, a dreadful experience that I would never wish to repeat. The height of the waves was unbelievable, and I had to try and jam myself into the chair at my desk as best I could. It was a nightmare. One minute I would be looking through my forward-facing porthole at the heavens above before shuddering momentarily, and plunging down with a crash into the seemingly bottomless trough of the wave."

North Atlantic Convoys (1940-45)

"When daylight came there were four ships missing from the convoy. I had washed and shaved, and was lying on my settee at 10 a.m., when I heard yet another explosion, followed by gunfire. I rushed out to our port side and saw an enemy bomber quite low in the sky. Our escorts were putting up a barrage of shots in defence. One ship was on fire with fierce flames and escaping steam pouring from it. We then saw its lifeboats leaving the ship."

The Author

Alexander (Alex) Anderson

2nd January 1920 - 14th February 2000

How it all began ...

"Born, Alexander (Alex.) Anderson at Spittalfield Schoolhouse, Perthshire, Scotland in 1920 to School Headmaster John Blair Anderson and his wife Janet (Plenderleith). Educated at Perth Academy before attending the Dundee Wireless College, the author graduated in 1939 with a Postmaster General’s Certificate in Radio Telegraphy (1st class). Employed firstly by the Christian Salvesen shipping company of Leith, Scotland, he left home aged 19 years to take up the position of third R/O on the New Sevilla Whaling Expedition, 1939-40 Season." 

The nature of the maritime war was such that, moving great distances between continents brought almost surreal contrasts. From ice floes and high seas to wolf packs in thick fog, shark fishing in Sierra Leone to ship collisions, aerial and U-boat attack to entertainment on-deck. Life was lived by the day. Such experiences became, not only the stuff of memories, but also the contents of the diary entries taken at the time supported by the images and items collected along the way. 

This new and personal first-hand account sees a very raw 19-year old 3rd R/O leave his Perthshire home, to return a very grateful 25-year old 1st R/O 'Chief Sparks' for the new life that lay ahead of him.

The Reminders ...

The Future ...

"In total he would serve on seven vessels, four of which were subsequently lost to enemy action.  Discharged from War Service on 28th November 1945, he set up home in Crieff, Perthshire where he ran a successful Radio & TV business and later a B&B guesthouse with wife Betty. His final wish was the publication of his manuscript which, although only representing six of his eighty years, became his life’s work."

Check out the, 'Ships', 'Antarctic', 'N Atlantic Conyoys' and 'Crew' pages via the buttons below, at the top header of each page for more information & images, or send a message via 'Contact Us' ...


Convoy image courtesy of, T&G Jones (