For Maurice Tither VRD, a Sub-Lieutenant telegraphist on HMS Shearwater, a corvette in E-Boat Alley, (Channel and east coast of UK), Christmas 1940 was a bleak one. Action stations sounded. Cursing, we all closed up. Seconds later, we had an E-boat come dashing through the convoy. Then there was a terrific bang, the first ship was hit. When a torpedo strikes a ship, it's a tremendously loud noise as it reverberates through the sea surface then it goes dead quiet. A very eerie sort of feeling. A Dutch steamer called the Staad Maastricht was lying helpless, her hatch covers blown off with a gaping hole under the bridge. Everyone got away on one boat the whole crew of 20, including a woolly dog, all covered in soot. We took them on board and gave them food and clothes. Someone on shore with more rings on his sleeve than our skipper radioed that the ship MUST NOT be allowed to sink in the channel. All we could do was send for tugs and wait for Christmas. As a party took the towing hawser on board her, a rating found all these bottles of gin and whisky and turkeys in the chart room. A convoy sails through 'E-Boat Alley', seen from on board the corvette HMS Shearwater. In this narrow channel off the east coast of England, any sinking wreckage may snarl up the shipping lane completely. The chap in charge of the boarding party was a merchant service officer. Our skipper was straight RN, Dartmouth trained. The RNR chap shouted back to the ship, ‘There are all sorts of hooch and stuff over here'. Then a clipped Dartmouth accent came back, 'No loot please get the hawser aboard and get back here as quickly as you can.' So we left it but turned in much comforted, just knowing it was there. In the Atlantic, 1943, German torpedo boats go in for the attack on a convoy of British supply ships. Just when the folks on shore were sitting down to their austerity Christmas pud, the Staad Maastricht decided she'd had enough. She had slowly taken water and it became too much for one of the bulkheads. She just parted company like tissue paper. She sighed, wallowed and lurched, then down she went with all that stuff on board. Our Christmas dinner was corned beef between slabs of dry bread.