|Ordinary Seaman Jack Dorrington (Dorrington family collection)
On this Remembrance Day, it is fitting to publish the story of one of the many hundreds of thousands of ordinary men and women who served their country during the Second World War. Happily, Jack Dorrington, the subject of this article survived the war to lead a long and happy life in peacetime but we should also remember the many thousands who were not so lucky and who made the ultimate sacrifice. The piece below is the result of the sort of typical family history research that we are able to undertake. If you're interested in learning more about one of your wartime ancestors, please contact me either via the main website or by leaving a comment below.
Both ships were ‘Captain’ Class Frigates, designed primarily for anti-submarine convoy escort work but these two vessels had been earmarked for conversion into Headquarters Ships for the forthcoming Normandy invasion, so their usual anti-submarine training at Bermuda was omitted, which was to have repercussions later on the voyage to the UK. All ships of the class were named after famous Captains and Admirals of the Royal Navy, mostly from the Nelson era and HMS Lawford was no exception, being named after Captain John Lawford, commander of HMS Polyphemus at the Battle of Copenhagen in 1801.
|Royal Navy ratings repairing buildings in London damaged by V-1 attacks (IWM)
Following the end of this work, Jack was drafted to HMS Dolphin at Gosport on 16 September 1944. This was another shore establishment and was until 1999 the home of the Royal Navy Submarine Service. Jack’s Service Record shows that he underwent submarine training here, which would have included escape training. The current Submarine Escape Training Tank dates from 1954 but similar training was given in wartime, designed to simulate escaping from a submerged submarine using breathing apparatus and other life-saving equipment. On completion of his submarine training, Jack was drafted on 29 October 1944 to HMS Adamant, the submarine Depot Ship for the 4th Submarine Flotilla, based at Trincomalee, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). So far, it has not been possible to ascertain how Jack reached Trincomalee from the UK, but he would almost certainly have taken passage in a troop ship, or perhaps on board another Royal Navy ship taking up position on that station.
Torbay had enjoyed continued success against the Japanese in the Far East and had sunk several transport vessels as well as a patrol boat. The battle weary submarine sailed for the UK on 10 September 1945 via the Suez Canal and arrived at Gosport on 22 October following an uneventful passage. She was later moved to Briton Ferry in South Wales and it appears that Jack formed part of the crew which delivered the submarine to the scrapyard located there on 16 December 1945. He was once again drafted to HMS Pembroke at Chatham from the following day, when he would no doubt have been granted Christmas leave at home for the first time since 1943.
The Captain Class Frigates in the Second World War - Donald Collingwood, Leo Cooper - 1998
Dorrington family reminiscences
RMS Queen Mary log extracts - National Archives BT 380/1202
HMS Lawford log extracts December 1943 - National Archives ADM 217/313
HMS Lawford report on sinking 8 June 1944 - National Archives ADM 267/117
HMS Wolfe log extracts January-July 1945 - National Archives ADM 53/122516-122522
HMS Torbay log extracts September-October 1945 - National Archives ADM 173/19946-47