Eric Hollingshead

Photo:Eric Hollingshead pictured onboard ship in 1939.

Eric Hollingshead pictured onboard ship in 1939.

Joyce Osborn

Photo:Eric Hollingshead with navy chums.

Eric Hollingshead with navy chums.

Joyce Osborn

Photo:Map drawn by Eric Hollingshead, illustrating his travels on HMS Colombo.

Map drawn by Eric Hollingshead, illustrating his travels on HMS Colombo.

Joyce Osborn

Photo:Eric Hollingshead's National Identity Card.

Eric Hollingshead's National Identity Card.

Joyce Osborn

Recollections of service onboard HMS Colombo.

Joining HMS Colombo

A month before the outbreak of war, at the age of 24, Eric Hollingshead joined the HMS Colombo for ‘extensive training’. The crew received the news of the outbreak of war onboard ship whilst travelling to Gibraltar. After carrying out a number of missions in the Mediterranean, the ship escorted a convoy of twenty-eight ships back to Britain. Given 48 hours leave, Eric spent about 16 hours at home the rest being spent travelling. However, it was during his time at home that he got engaged to his sweetheart.

Interrupted wedding plans

Returning for service ‘we left Plymouth to start our patrols of the North Sea in the vilest weather ever. After a fortnight tossing around during which time I had wished myself dead a thousand times, I started to sit up and take nourishment without having to rush onto the upper deck and hang over the Guard rails’. The ship carried out northern patrols for three months before being sent for a refit in Plymouth. The crew were given 21 days leave, during which time Eric had arranged to get married. However, after 10 days Eric was told to return to the ship in Plymouth and the wedding plans were put on hold. But as luck would have it, Eric had only been recalled to take the ship up to Belfast for the refit and was able to return in time for the wedding with an additional 14 days leave.

A narrow escape

After the refit, the Colombo sailed to Singapore and later to Mombasa. It was in Mombasa that the ship ‘almost met its doom’. The ship was on its way back to base after an attempt to investigate an Italian port:

‘Most of the ships company were playing tombola on the upper, suddenly straight from out of the sun came an Italian bomber...dropping bombs so close that bomb shrapnel fell on the decks, and took quite a bit of paint from our portside, the plane was so low that it seemed as if it was possible to have aimed a stone at it’.

The Italian bomber disappeared before the ship had a chance to shoot it down.

To Chatham

Soon afterwards Eric was posted back to Chatham to train recruits, ‘so an eventful 12 months aboard HMS Colombo came to an end’.


Eric Hollingshead
Eric Hollingshead (51k)
To read more about Eric's wartime experiences please press the above link.

This page was added by Malin Lundin on 17/07/2012.