A letter from Mrs Ray Freeman

18 09 02

Thank you for your letter about the Compton Castle. I have made enquiries among those knowledgeable about ships on the Dart at the time it was there. The fact is that all who served on her are now dead, though the ship herself is still remembered. Dave Griffiths, son of a former harbourmaster, who was a lad here during the war and now runs the motor boat ferry out to the castle, told me that the names of the Captain and chief officers were Steer, Rundell, Bowcombe and Thorne, but they had all now died. However only last week he carried as passenger on his castle ferry a lady who told him that she was an evacuee to the town in the war and had been billeted with the Steer family, whom she remembered with affection. However, as this was before I phoned him, he did not take her name or address. However he tells me that he has a photo of the crew of the Compton Castle taken just before she left the Dart, and if you would like to have a copy you could write to him I also spoke to Brian Ridalls, now 76, whose father was a river pilot for many years and he confirmed that none of those who served on the Compton Castle were still alive.

Talking to Dave Griffiths

“I was on the River Dart Steamboat Company; spent a couple of years as skipper. The engineer lives in the same village.”

"Is that Tom Williams?" I inquired.

"No, Tommy's died. Tommy was sort of overall foreman, worked on the refits and everything. Super guy, in subs in the war running petrol from Alexandria to Malta."

"Thatís interesting. I knew a chap who was on the Welshman. He told me his story not so long ago. Very fast boat. I'm not sure what type she was.Ē

"Minelayer. There was the Welshman, the Apollo, the Manxman, and another."

"Fast, weren't they?"

"About 40 knots plus. On your boat, if I get anything more, I'll let you know. The more people that have got info, and itís documented the less chance of the history of being lost."

"I think she deserves to be remembered."

"Aye, I agree with that, and I was with the company in her last year, but didn't take too much notice of her then. You don't at the time do you?"

"She was a lovely looking boat."

"Yes, she's pretty. Sad thing is things get lost. Chap who's only 15 miles from me sent me some very valuable, well at least to me, stuff, and it got lost in the post. When I sent those photos to you I thought gosh I hope they don't get lost, but they didn't."

"They were wonderful."

"Yes, interesting weren't they? And the big chap stood behind the skipper, the mate, he spent the whole war on HMS Furious which was an aircraft carrier, converted from a merchant ship. He was a batman; Harold Rundle. By the way Tom had some stuff I think. Maybe his son Graham's kept it. Mind you, Iím not sure you'll find much more, after all she just paddled up and down from Dartmouth to Totnes and back again mostly . In the old days they used to drop in it at Dittisham and take a few boxes of Victoria plums, put them on the train at Totnes, then went up to Billingsgate and places like that. Dittisham used to be a famous village for Victoria plums, very famous."