Heroes Return Blog – Stories from Second World War veterans’ trips

Richard Morgan’s story

Richard Morgan, 85, from Wallasey, Merseyside, travelled to Singapore and Thailand thanks to Heroes Return.

“It was a cruel war, which affected many troops psychologically”

Richard joined the Merchant Navy in 1941 and trained as a gunner with the Royal Navy on HMS Queen Charlotte. He served on a number of ships – not only British, but also Dutch and Norwegian.

In 1942 Richard went to Singapore (which had fallen to the Japanese) to evacuate troops, mainly Australians. His ship was followed by two others carrying civilian casualties, including women and children, and embassy staff. Both civilian ships were sunk by the Japanese and most people on them were killed.

“We were very lucky,“ says Richard. “We made it to Fremantle on the west coast of Australia. The troops from Western Australia were so glad to be home after more than a year in Singapore that even before we reached port they jumped over the side and swam to shore.”

After dropping more troops off in Melbourne and Sydney, Richard’s ship headed back to England via South America, the Falklands and the Canary Islands.

Crossing the Atlantic without an escort was perilous. Their course took them through a sector where German U-boats were notorious for their sudden attacks on convoys. But Richard’s luck held and his ship got back to England safely.

While Richard was in Singapore, his mother had received various telegrams saying that he, his brother and his father were missing, even though this wasn’t the case. After the war both Richard and his father returned home safely. But the family lost touch with Richard’s brother, who had chosen to transfer to the Australian Army and live in Australia after the war.

“I could see the war had changed my brother,” says Richard. “He was badly shook up. He had been on three ships that had been torpedoed and lost a lot of friends. He was lucky to get out alive through the flames and burning oil. But losing touch with him was really hard for my family.

“It was a cruel war, which affected many troops psychologically. Of course everyone was glad to go home, but after being in such close quarters with other men and being involved in intense fighting, it was a huge change in lifestyle. And other than a demob suit, one pay cheque and a train ticket home, there wasn’t much support.”

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