Over The Bar

Ray (Rocky) Tebble

PO  /X4774

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Ray 1945 in Hong Kong

............Was born on 12 August 1922 and spent most of his early life in Croydon. He joined the sea cadets as a teenager and, at the age of 17 and a half, joined the Royal Marines in February 1940, in boys time as his service engagement of 12 years with the Colours would not start until he was 18.
............With nine other recruits he arrived at the Admiralty in Whitehall, where they were given a medical, sworn in and given the King’s shilling. After a miserable meal they were issued with railway warrants and instructed to proceed to Chatham.  They were met by a Marine Sergeant who was wearing dress blues and the long green/khaki greatcoat which was winter dress. They were then led up to Melville Barracks and into a hay loft; were given bales of loose straw and told to fill their linen mattress/palliases covers. They were then sent to the barber where Ray at least was given a Mohican.  Their first meal was tripe which he could not stomach so he went hungry.
............Eventually Ray was sent to 386 squad and his two drill instructors were QMSIs Keeble and Smith, about whom the least best said. To young recruits they were menacing forms.  Finally, in July, they became the King’s Squad and in August were passed for duty. After 7 days leave the Squad entrained for Eastney Barracks, Southsea, Portsmouth (Pompey) for sea service training.
............During the course of gunnery training Ray qualified as a Quarters Rating Third Class. One day during a shooting at the range a number of German bombers flew over and their bombs dropped on Fort Cumberland.  The squad was then doubled across the range to the fort where they were handed crowbars and shovels and organised into rescue parties.  They retrieved a few people, some of whom were not alive, and the squad suffered other air raids on Pompey and became accustomed to death and unpleasant sights.
After completion of sea training in April 1941 nearly all Ray’s room mates were drafted to HMS Hood whilst he was posted to the RM detachment of HMS Ramillies. However, on arriving in Greenock on 19 May he was sent aboard HMS Rodney to journey to Halifax Nova Scotia as Ramillies was supposedly in dock there.  His Mess corporal was Corporal Laver, who later became one of the Cockleshell heroes and was executed by a German firing squad. The ship had a complement of about 180 Marines. When the Rodney went into the action with Bismark Ray was sent to well below the water line to X turret magazine, where he and others were ordered to maintain supply of cordite charges. At 0600 the next morning the skipper announced over the tannoy that the ship would be engaging Bismark and he said “he knew we would do our duty and wished us luck.”  Shortly afterwards the ship’s Padre gazed upon them from the overhead hatch, and after a short address pronounced a blessing (last rites) and the hatch was firmly closed.  All they knew of the subsequent action was the muffled roar of the big guns, but they were given permission to go up on deck after Bismark had already slipped under the waves.  Rodney then returned to Greenock to restock ammunition and fuel and then proceeded to Boston; via Halifax Nova Scotia, where Ray disembarked.
............Ramillies was not in dock so Ray was sent to HMS Repulse, for which he still had his ticket in 2015.  Fortunately, Ramilies arrived an hour or so before the Repulse was due to sail so he was sent to board it.
............Whilst aboard Ramillies Ray took part in the landing at Diego-Suarez for  Operation  Ironclad in May 1942, for which he transferred to HMS Anthony. After the operation, whilst still in harbour, Ramillies was torpedoed by two midget Japanese submarines and was badly damaged.  The ship returned to Durban and then to Plymouth where it was repaired.
............Ray was then drafted to Combined Operations on 2 November 1942 where he joined the inshore fire support squadron, devised after the experiences of the Dieppe Raid, and the problems faced by attacking forces landing on an enemy defended coast without adequate fire support.
............Consequently he was aboard LCG(L)2 at Salerno in September 1943, where he was awarded a Mention In Despatches.  On returning to England he was transferred to LCG(L)18:  the inshore fire support flotilla was named the Support Squadron Eastern Flank (SSEF) for Operation Neptune at Normandy. Returning to England in August he was again stationed at Eastney barracks where he applied to join the RM Commandos.
............On 31 October he was called to the transport office and told he was leaving for Ostend to replace an RM on LCS(L)252. When he arrived the RM was still aboard, for whatever reason.  They sailed for Walcheren overnight and subsequently LCS 252 was blown-up 50 yards from shore.  Of the twenty five crew Ray, we understand, was the only survivor. He was pulled from the sea, still wearing his lifejacket, given copious amounts of rum, and returned to England.
............He subsequently underwent commando training at Towyn in Wales, and at Achnacarry until 2 December 1944.  On 5 January he sailed to India for jungle training with X troop 44 Commando; was sent to Burma and Singapore, and was bound for Malaya again when the war in the east ended.
............He was then posted to Hong Kong where he spent time working with the local police, and was made up to Acting Temporary Sgt on 14 January 1946.  He was then subsequently posted to Malta where he was stationed at Imtafa barracks.  44 Commando was renamed 40 Commando whilst Ray was stationed in Malta until 30 September 1947. He then returned to Eastney via Palestine in 1948, when he applied for discharge which he took at Chatham on 26 April.
............His family emigrated to Australia in 1950 and Ray joined them in 1951, having spent the years since his discharge sailing the world as a crewman aboard merchant ships, including the Aquatania.
............In 1959 he travelled from Queensland to Melbourne where he met Wendy, married in 1963, and had two sons. Ray and his young family returned to live in England in 1978, but made frequent return trips to Australia over the years.
............Wendy and Ray also began revisiting areas where Ray had seen service, including the Amalfi coast south of Naples, site of Operation Avalanche in 1943; the Normandy coast; and Walcheren.
............Wendy began researching an MPhil at the Department of War Studies, King’s College in 1992, in which she was seeking to establish the history of inshore fire support craft, and copies of this thesis are lodged in the RM Archives at the RM Museum, and in the library of the Imperial War Museum.  In the course of her research she visited the archives of the Grenadier Guards, and to her surprise was offered a voluntary position working in its the archives at Wellington Barracks in 1993, under the direction of Major Peter Lewis, a wellknown figure in the Guards family.  Ray was also to start working there with Wendy in 1994, two days each week for the next six years.
............Ray was diagnosed with lung cancer in July 2013, and again with prostate cancer in March 2015, which was then found to have moved to his bones.  He was still mobile when Jim Ellard arranged for him to take part in an ITV interview aboard HMS Bulwark on 2 June 2014, as part of the Normandy commemorations. He only resorted to a wheelchair in April 2015, and was only sent to hospital on 29 June because of a leg infection.  On 7 July he developed pneumonia but was pain-free and conscious until the end.  Wendy was with him until the end of afternoon visiting hours on 12 July, and their sons Nick and Adam were on their way to Ealing Hospital for the evening visiting hours. Ten minutes after Wendy left at 5.30pm Ray suddenly stopped breathing and the family was told that he had no pain and no distress of any kind.  For Ray it was a wonderful way to end his life.  The Royal Marines coloured his entire life and he was incredibly proud to have been a member; and he lived to the full their motto Grace under Pressure.