Interview with Thomas Phillip
Edward King of HMS Sharpshooter
Imperial War Museum, Accession No. 006973/02
Chamberlain made that declaration that
Britain was at war with
Germany. Can you remember how you and the people that were
around you reacted to that?
TK Yes. We were at
Scapa Flow on the Sunday and
it was lunchtime when the speech was made. Of course, being at a
young age these things never register so much as they do when
you get older. I suppose, if it would be now, it would be a
different kettle of fish. But I can truthfully say that myself
and the men around me, we just thought "Well, it'll be another
day". We didn't realise what we’d got to come. But you was
always sort of prepared in the Navy, this is true, even though
the Navy wasn't ‑ well it was brought up to its full strength.
But you was always taught in the Navy that you was always ready
and ready we were. But myself, there was never any fear as such.
Was there any enthusiasm for the declaration of war were people
enthusiastic about it?
wouldn't say enthusiastic about it because again, you were
always taught never to underestimate your opponent and we said
“"Well, this is it".
people think about Germany at that time ‑ did they think that
Germany was a. powerful opponent or not?
Yes ‑ you're going on to public opinion as a whole. We didn't
have a lot of time to see the public did we? Because we [were]
tucked up in Scapa Flow with the main fleet, and it was only us
leaving Scapa Flow for boiler cleaning at Aberdeen that we
managed to get ashore. They did build a sort of canteen in Scapa
but in the first part of the War at Scapa it was very hard and
we never had a lot to do with the public so you couldn't
honestly and truthfully say what their opinion was.
you ever come across anybody who was opposed to the War?
No, honestly and truthful.
They all thought that we should fight Germany?
What did you personally at that time think about Germany and
Right from even a small boy the Germans were always dominant in
the world, even after the First World War. but say from the end
of the First War to the beginning of the next one there was
always that at the back of your mind ‑ the Germans, it was just
one of those things ‑ they were sort of feared shall we put it.
IWM When war
was declared how did that affect you personally? Did it affect
your duties at all?
Not really, because the ship that I was serving on was a
minesweeper and you could only sweep mines during the daytime.
You couldn't sweep mines at night, so at night we always came
back to Scapa Flow in the evening. We went out in the morning to
sweep the main channels for them at the Fleet going in and out
of Scapa Flow, but the routine remained more or less the same.
What was the name of the minesweeper?
The name of the minesweeper was HMS SHARPSHOOTER
What kind of ship was she to serve in?
It wasn't a bad ship. It was quite comfortable for a sloop
because they were only 750 tons.
I n what ways was it quite good to serve in?
Well, we'll say, a small ship in the Navy was always preferable
to serve in to the big ship. There was more comradeship in a
small ship, but on these minesweepers everybody done their job,
and of course, there was a certain intake of the chappies that
were called up for the War, hostilities only. And they were
Did they fit in with the regular seamen?
They fitted in very very well. I was an active service rating as
you know but all ‑ in all the time I served during the War I
always found that the hostility ratings worked into the Navy
very well ‑ how shall we put it ‑ came into the groove.
Was H.M.S. SHARPSHOOTER a very seaworthy ship?
TK Yes. It had to be because the north of' Scotland – when
we first went to Scapa Flow they told us that the enemy up in
Scapa Flow would be the weather.