A SECOND World War Royal Navy veteran has been recalling his days of service ahead of the 75th anniversary of VE Day.
George Ricketts, 95, who lives at Longmoor Lodge Care Home, in Sandiacre, Derbyshire, served during several pivotal campaigns in the War.
He was aboard destroyer class ship HMS Urchin during the invasion of Normandy and later heavy cruiser HMS Sussex during the South-East Asian conflict.
George joined the Royal Navy in 1942, when he was 18 years old, three years after the start of the Second World War.
He was posted to HMS Urchin following its launch in March the following year and, as a seaman, his primary duties were to look after the captain and his cabin.
The crew undertook training in Scapa Flow, in the Orkney Islands, before joining the Mediterranean Fleet in December 1943. They sailed towards Naples and joined the Northern Attack Force to support the landing of 1st British Infantry Division at Anzio.
HMS Urchin remained in the Mediterranean for several months before returning home in May 1944 for the subsequent Allied Invasion of Normandy in June. HMS Urchin escorted the convoy of troops across the English Channel to Gold Beach. On D-Day, it participated in the fire support of the English troops and patrolled in the sector until 25th June.
Once again, HMS Urchin was deployed to the Mediterranean Sea from July until October, patrolling the East Coast of Italy, near Rimini. During this time, George was hurt during an attack and suffered shrapnel in his knee. He returned to Liverpool for treatment and was then posted to HMS Sussex after he recovered.
George was on the Sussex when it left Malta in 1945 and headed for Alexandria, then Port Said and then through the Suez Canal for Columbo and the base of Trincomalee.
While HMS Sussex participated in the bombing of targets in Burma, George recalled witnessing HMS Squirrel, a mine sweeper, hit a mine and sink. He was also aboard during kamikaze attacks, one of which left an imprint on the side of the ship.
With the end of the War declared on 14th August 1945, HMS Sussex entered Singapore harbour, where the Japanese commander of the garrison was brought on board to sign the formal surrender of the army.
The Sussex later sailed to Indonesia to drop troops and help liberate several cities, including Surabaya, Batavia and Semarang.
George was eventually dropped at Tanjong Priok, where he stayed for a year, before returning to the UK via Singapore on HMS Salvage Duke in 1947.
George said: “I really enjoyed my time on both HMS Urchin and HMS Sussex and I am very proud to have been a Royal Navy seaman.”
George’s daughter, Helen Huyton said: “When I was a little girl, I used to dress up in a Chinese or Japanese Kimono, which I loved, and we had a small tea set that dad had brought back from the War.
“Mum thinks that dad always wished he had stayed in the navy but he came home as his mum was alone after his dad had died. He always talks very fondly of his time there. We are all very proud of him.”
Sarah Day, activities coordinator at Longmoor Lodge Care Home, has been discussing George’s career in the Royal Navy with him, as well as showing him photos and videos from the era.
She said: “It has been an absolute pleasure speaking to George about his past and his career in the Royal Navy during some of the most pivotal moments in 20th century history.
“It felt fitting to take this walk down memory lane with him on the 75th anniversary of VE Day.
“Everyone at Longmoor Lodge will be taking part in the two-minute silence and I’m sure we’ll be watching the re-broadcast of Winston Churchill’s speech, which will bring back memories for several residents, as well as the Queen’s address to the nation.”