Arthur Hunt and Robert Batt

Arthur Hunt and Robert Batt

Seaman Boy Arthur Hunt (right) with Achilles shipmate Robert Batt pictured on their return to New Zealand, February 1940.

Hunt, who was 16 years old at the time of the battle, later recalled the tension of going into action aboard Achilles:

Whistles – clanging bells – shouted orders – and the clatter of hundreds of booted sailors rushing for their stations. This was the moment all our months of dreary training had led to. The whole ship’s company moved with precision, and every man knew that this time it was real, that the day of the mock battle was over ...

My action station was in the forward magazine and as I changed my boots for the felt slippers that reduced the danger of sparking the cordite, my foot clattered on the deck like a Morse key. Yet real fear, like delayed concussion, did not hit many of us until after the action.

As the doors closed behind us we realised that if a hit did necessitate sectional flooding of the ship we would drown behind the doors of the magazine …

Down in the magazine it was impossible to know whether each great shudder and muffled crash was an enemy hit or the snarl of our own guns. We went on loading and firing, loading and firing.

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