Captain William Joseph (Bill) Hartley 1905-1999 The Rescue Ships


August 9, 2013

Brenda Shackleton peter.shackleton1@virgin.net

Found your site via the Merchant Navy. I was so delighted to finally, read something about the Rescue Ships and their gallant crews. For YEARS  I have tried to get the ' Powers that be' to recognise this unknown and largely forgotten Service. So often the focus is on lives lost at sea.

"The disaster that was PQ17"  is a favourite topic. 153 men lost their lives on that Convoy to Russia in 1942 and that is truly tragic.

However, we are never told that the three Rescue Ships, RATHLIN, ZAMALEK & ZAAFARAN ( later sunk) saved the lives of 504 seaman on that same Convoy.

The 70th Anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic has been remembered in many places this year. In the Atlantic the Rescue Ships saved 2,784 in that theatre of War alone.

I hope that in the British Legion Festival of Remembrance this year in November they will, at the very least, mention these brave Merchant Navy Officers and men of the Rescue Ship Service.

I have asked many times. This year I hope that it will happen.

My late father, CAPTAIN WILLIAM JOSEPH HARTLEY D.S.C ( 1905-1999 ) was First Officer on the 'BEACHY' which was the first Rescue Ship ~ not HONTESTROOM.

She  (Hontestroom ) commenced her first voyage on 10th January 1941 the day before BEACHY was sunk. As a survivor my father knew at first hand what it meant to be at the mercy of bombs and torpedoes.

In August 1942 he was given his first command of COPELAND, sailing to the Arctic on PQ18; the most heavily attacked Convoys of the War. In 1944 he took command of GOODWIN and crossed the Atlantic over 40 times.

There is a proposed Russian Arctic Convoy Museum to be built at Loch Ewe in Western Scotand, where the Arctic Convoys gathered before sailing to the Russian waters. My husband and I were priviledged to be there this year and see Arctic Veterans finally receiving their Arctic Star medals ~ 70 years late.

The link below is a piece that I wrote for the Museum. I hope that it gives you some further insights into the Rescue Ship Service. Captain William Joseph (Bill) Hartley 1905-1999 The Rescue Ships

Yours sincerely 
Brenda Shackleton ( Mrs ) neé Hartley
Captain William Joseph (Bill) Hartley 1905-1999 The Rescue Ships


Thank you for your mail, indeed the RESCUE Ships have long been unheralded when they gave such sterling service operating at the rear of convoys making them in their rescue capacity very vulnerable.

Best wishes.

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