MORE LIVES THAN A SHIPS CAT
BY JEREMY STOKE
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By any standard Mick Stoke’s experiences in the Royal Navy during the Second World War were remarkable. Aged just nineteen, he was Mentioned in Despatches and awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his courage under incessant bombing during the Siege of Tobruk in the Western Desert.
He survived multiple torpedo attacks, firstly serving on the cruiser Glasgow, which was hit twice in the Mediterranean; on the battleship Queen Elizabeth at sea and blown up by human torpedoes at Alexandria; and on the destroyer Hardy, struck and sunk in January 1944, whilst escorting Russian Convoy JW56B.
In 1942 he was serving on the anti-aircraft cruiser Carlisle during some of the most fiercely fought Malta Convoys including the famous Battle of Sirte. Later that same year he was awarded the MBE for outstanding bravery, resource and devotion to duty during very heavy bombing at the Algerian port of Bone during Operation Torch - the retaking of North Africa, particularly on the night of the 4th and 5th December, 1942.
He received accelerated promotion on the 1st May 1943 for ‘meritorious war service’ and went on to serve in the HQ ship Hilary at Salerno, the invasion of Italy, in September 1943; on the destroyer Hardy on the Russian convoys in early 1944; off Juno beach at D-Day in the 26th Destroyer flotilla leader Kempenfelt; and later in the Pacific on the escort aircraft carrier Rajah, liaising with the US Navy. In addition to his MBE and DSC, he was awarded the Atlantic Star, Africa Star, Italy Star, Artic Star, Artic Emblem, the Soviet Russian Convoy 40th Anniversary Medal and the Pacific Star. He was invalided out of the Navy in 1947 at the age of only twenty six.
It is a privilege to read Mick Stoke’s graphic accounts from so many important and famous actions of the Second World War, told by his youngest son Jeremy Stoke through the many letters his father wrote home throughout his naval service. Readers will readily appreciate and understand how he became ‘The Most Highly Decorated Midshipman in the Royal Navy’.