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Sound: a Merchant Navy seafarer looks back

Audio file

Looking back: Dan Bashall

Born in Collingwood, Golden Bay, in 1924, Dan Bashall went to sea as an 18-year-old in 1943, joining the old Shaw Savill coal-burner Themistocles as a trimmer. In December that year he sailed on the Ocean Gypsy in a convoy to Murmansk in the Russian Arctic. Dan later served as a fireman on the Fort Richelieu in the Mediterranean and took part in the Allied invasion of the South of France in August 1944.


Some of those trips in the Atlantic, oh my gosh. It was that rough, wasn't it? All those rafts, you'd come out the next morning, the rafts are all gone [washed overboard]. You know, they were held on with a pin, and you'd have a tomahawk, and you'd bang it, and it'd escape. Even that had broken away, with the rough weather. But I was lucky, I never had to get in the water. Some of us were lucky, weren't we? Because we all went through the other bit, there was always alarms and things like that, there was always that. But I still remember my mate's face, me and him down in the stokehold, and there's one God-almighty noise. It was a depth charge, but we didn't realise; a depth charge went off outside. And he looked at me; I can still see his face. 'Good God,' he said, 'I thought she was coming through.' You'd look at the coal dust was floating down off the rivets. You know, there's only the steel between you and the water, isn't there?

Dan Bashall

Dan Bashall, photographed during the war; note the Merchant Navy badge on the lapel of his boiler suit.


Dan Bashall collection

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Sound: a Merchant Navy seafarer looks back, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated