Sketch by Jack Chalker

Swimming Tanks

The Americans had defeated the Japanese army and navy at the battle of Midway and Gwdar Canal and the Japanese were retreating back towards Japan. The next phase was to invade mainland Japan.

Enter Phil along with jack and Jim the intrepid trio are assigned to a Heath Robinson idea to have a ten ton valentine tank that could swim. The idea was to put a large flotation skirt around the tank to allow it to float, the idea worked with some flaws.  Sinking was a very real option, when it did float there had to be some sort of propulsion, months past as they tested outboard motors, larger tank tracks, screw propellers.

Each new idea meant men floating three to a tank waiting to sink, as soon as the tank moved forward there was a chance water would come over the skirt and it would sink the whole thing.  Volunteers were needed!  the tank had a crew of three, a driver a gun loader and spotter,  they would sit in the tank at the bottom of a large water tank, the water tank was flooded with water,  there was only one hatch So all three had to leave in an orderly manner. It was count to ten and then leave in an orderly fashion, first the spotter he was in the turret then the gunner and lastly the driver, dad being the driver he had to make sure they all knew how to leave. Now add in driving down a ramp from a tank transport into a sea swell, dad said this is madness!

Because he had volunteered he and the others were put to training tank crews for this madness, yet again he had the best job, as acting Sergeant he had ten rubber dinghies with outboard motors, they waited for the tanks to drive down the ships ramps into the water. In good weather without too much swell they floated.

When they started the propulsion and the waves came over the top and down they went, and the dinghies had to pick up the crews, the guy in charge said no problem we will fit a perspex screen above the skirts to stop the waves, after weeks of training they had an eighty per cent chance of reaching the shore.

Dad on left swimming tanks-tn

Dad on Left with Mates

Dad had a great time they would be flying about in the dinghies showing off to all the locals. The fishermen were very impress by the speed they could reach, the fishermen  would let them go fishing with them for days out, they caught fish so big that they were as big as a man, pictures of the wild boar all over again.

Mean while in Europe the war was going well with the allies at the gates of Berlin, the Germans surrendered in June 1945.  When the word came that the invasion of Japan was on, everybody was worried about the tanks sinking in rough sea.  They had trained hard and had heard that these swimming tanks had been used on the D day Normandy landing  without too many losses. Just before they were to leave the base to invade Japan,  the Americans dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, causing the Japanese to surrender.

No more swimming tanks it was home to Blighty, dad left India for England via the Suez Canal down the Med. a quick stop in Malta to refuel no shore leave, he could see from the ship the battering that the island had received, the constant bombing by the Germans meant  you could hardly make out one building, the exception was the largest church the Moster Dome it has the largest domed roof after St Peters in Rome.

In the worst of the blitz, up to one thousand people were in the church praying for safety, a thousand pound bomb came through the roof hitting the centre isle and skidded on the marble floor right up to the alter and just lay there, the bomb is still there to this day, it is known as the miracle of Malta.

The next port of call was Liverpool and back home World War 2 ended in 1945 four years after Phillip Parkinson left England.

This was not the end !


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[My Dad and Me] [Training for War] [Voyage] [Singapore] [Escape] [Columbo] [Bombay] [Swimming Tanks] [Ireland] [Next Step] [Sister Christine]


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