HMS Nabob

HMS Nabob
John J Kavanagh

John J Kavanagh

I’ve been trying to piece together some of my late father’s experiences from old photographs – not an easy task, as he rarely spoke about his wartime experiences as he found it too painful (he lost a good many friends). He certainly served on HMS Nabob, which I think was one of the so called “Liberty Ships” donated during WW11 by America. His primary role was as an Air Frame Mechanic, working on a variety of aircraft, including Swordfish.

A reasonable history of the ship can be found on the link below. I know that he joined the ship firstly in San Francisco, was aboard her when she was torpedoed whilst on a convoy. At some point he was at Murmansk, but I am not sure if this was aboard HMS Nabob. I will try and dig out out a photo or two of the Tirpitz, which Nabob was involved in attacking (Operation Goodwood). He was with the ship at this time.

The photo below was taken after Nabob was torpedoed, and she can be seen to be listing to starboard. She managed to limp back to Scapa Flow, but with extensive damage she was taken out of action for the remainder of the war

HMS Nabob

HMS Nabob

14 Responses

  1. Ben Taylor CANADA says:

    My father also served on the Nabob – as a gunner. The Nabob flew Wildcats and Avengers. The Nabob did serve on the Murmansk run. She was topedoed of of iceland and limped back to Scapa Flow with a skeleton crew all the crew that remained on board were volunteers (even the padre left)My father found out at a reunion some 50 years later that if the Nabob could not make steam in a given period of time she was so be sunk with all hands by her own convoy.After making steam she was being followed by the sub that torpedoed her – aircraft were scrabled and catipolted from her deck – these planes sunk the sub – they could not land back on Nabob and had to ditch in the ocean – airmen where picked up by the Nabob. Crewmen killed in this action are buried at Scapa Flow.

    • Peter De Witt CANADA says:

      My father also served on the Nabob at 17 (he lied about his age) Eric De Witt from Victoria BC. He was a gunner and told us about how he was strafed by a bullet on his forehead as a gunner. There is a picture of him with a bandage around his head and he had a scar there. He passed away in 1999. He didn’t like to talk about the war but he did attend the rememberance day memorials in Vancouver. He was such a character and went on to serve as an RCMP officer in Vancouver.

  2. JohnK UNITED KINGDOM says:

    Ben, I’m really grateful for that information, which is not contained in any available documents. I’ll dig out a few more pictures shortly and add then onto my blog under HMS Nabob.
    Reading some of the information on the web, I was also interested in the so called ‘mutiny’aboard Nabob en route to Canada. Mine you, with a Captain called “Horatio Nelson” it was not surprising that conditions of service might have been ‘behind the times’.

  3. John Kav UNITED KINGDOM says:

    A special thanks to Ben. I have just received a copy of ‘ “Nabob” The first Canadian Manned Carrier ‘ from Andy Lucas, one of the few remaining survivors of HMS Nabob.The author of the book is Betty Warrilow, published by the Escort Carriers Association. This book is indeed a rare treasure, which will in time be handed down to my son. My thanks and best wishes to Ben, Andy & John Lucas, and of course Tony Madonna in Arizona

  4. George Billing NEW ZEALAND says:

    Joined Nabob in Brooklyn, New York Jan 1944. Paid her off in Rosyth Dry Dock in August/September 1944. Only three of us paid her off – 4-Ring Captain RN, Ldg. Storesman, and me Ldg. Writer. Was the very last naval man to leave her after completing the decommissioning paper work. Strangely Betty Warrilow’s book only mentions Canadian Personnel, not Royal Navy Personnel, ie. the Fleet Air Arm Pilots and support Ratings, and me. I was the only non-Canadian Crew Member having been taken on to handle the pay and records of the U.K. guys.
    A few of the “facts” you have are not absolutely accurate, ie.
    only one plane flew off the search for the sub., piloted by the Flight Commander and he landed back on the sloping flight deck, but hit the crash barrier of the end of the flight deck, because the arrester wires were unoperable. By the way, if you go into the “drink” up there, you don’t survive. I am now 86, but have vivid memories of it all.

  5. LIndsay Kenyon says:

    Thanks for putting this together . Unfortunately I’m writing this one week after my father’s passing. My father Frank Kenyon was on the Nabob as well and in the last few years shared his experiences, esp. around the day it was torpedoed.

    I appreciate all this info and will share pics, stories when I have it more organized.
    Thanks again for this info. it is great to read especially at this time.

    • JohnK says:

      Hi Lindsay. My condolences to you on the passing of your father. There are but a handful of ex-HMS Nabob survivors left. Their memories are precious, and the part they played in earning the freedoms we have today is immeasurable.

      If you come across and further information or photographs they would be very much appreciated.

      With regards John

  6. LIndsay Kenyon says:

    Hi John,

    How can I upload a pic to you. I would like to send you one, that will show you how amazing either one of us are here to exchange emails.


  7. jim says:

    my uncle was lost aboard the nabob he is buried in scotland David MELROSE jr he is remembered on the cenotapah of his home town collingwood ont. canada any crew pics available thanks

    • JohnK UNITED KINGDOM says:

      James, thank you for your comment. I am always searching for more images, and may have a few more in my possession that I have missed. I will add them soon.

      Quoting from my main source of information ( “Nabob” The first Canadian-Manned Aircraft Carrier , by Betty Warrilow. ISBN 0-9693438-0-9 . Published in Canada by Escort Carriers Association. c/o Curator Percy Warrilow, R.R. #Owen sound, Ontario, N4K 5N8 . Printed by Stan Brown Printers Ltd, Owen sound, Ontario ) ;-

      Melrose, David, A-5395, AB; Roman Catholic: next of kin: Father, Collingwood, Ontario; ****; D>D>22:08:44. David was born 16th february, 1919, at Leith, Scotland; was a sailor on the Great lakes in Canada prior to joining Nabob.

      Don Mc Neille wrote: “I was aquainted with David Melrose. How this came about I cannot remember but we used to talk together whwen we met. I was able to identify David when he was brought up from below in a blanket and placed in a casket…

      In 1970 my wife and I had a trip home [to Scotland]…{At the cemettery where the Nabob men are buried} we were able to find all the members of the ship. David was facing the cross…

      david’s siter, Mary (Melrose) Ford, Terrace , BC, was a child at the time of his death. Her search for her brother’s friends and shipmates has been very helpful in this history’s research”

      James, It is significant that your message comes at this time. Today is the 11:11:11, and in one hour I will be standing in silence, remembering all those who have given their lives in order that we enjoy the freedoms they earned to this day. I can only pray that mankind will find a peaceful way of resolving our differeneces, and that the world becomes a more tolerant place. Please let us learn the lessons of history.

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