Wednesday, 10 September 2003

HMS Battler - Captain's speech prior to Salerno - September 1943


"I expect you have heard enough of my speeches by now. This is my final speech before the great operation timed to commence at 0330 tomorrow morning. That is the time when the first assault craft touch the sands in Salerno Bay - just south of Naples. Our first operation commences at 20 minutes before sunrise tomorrow when our first four aircraft are taking off for fighter protection for the landings. We shall continue throughout the day until sunset - a strenuous day but I know everyone will make it.

As I promised to you before, we are the Actors, with our young Fighter pilots the Stars, and the rest of us the Chorus. The stage is now set, all preliminaries are now over, and the curtain is about to go up. The audience is the world, and chief pride of place there goes undoubtedly to our Majesty King George VI, he sits in No.2 box. But in No.1 Box there sits the Greatest, and only God there is, and He will judge us on our performance tomorrow and the days to follow. He only expects each man to do his best - nothing more, and I feel completely confident that not a single one of us will be found wanting at this supreme moment of our lives.

I can do no better finally than quote the signal of the greatest sailor of all times - "ENGLAND EXPECTS EVERY MAN THIS DAY TO DO HIS DUTY" and I might add to that "WITH GOD'S HELP".

Good luck to us all and may we all meet again to celebrate a glorious victory in which "Battler" played her part.

We shall probably be slipping the two K.G.V. Battleships in the despatches, and then Force V (that is us) will proceed through the straits of Messina to our operating theatre, which is a square some 30 by 30 and some 30 to 40 miles off shore south of Naples. How long we remain there I cannot say, but it all depends on how long our Airborne Troops take to capture a very important aerodrome from which the Allies will then operate shore based Fisher patrols.

I believe we proceed to Gibraltar via Algiers on completion of the operation, but I cannot possibly tell you when that will be. That is all."-


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