Takaka veteran cheated death

Nelson Mail - - Front Page -

Ninety-year-old Bob Papps, of Takaka, is one of the few vet­er­ans of World War II who served in both the Mediter­ranean and the Pa­cific.

The Royal Navy ships that he helped stoke dodged Luft­waffe bombs off the Syr­ian coast and fought kamikazes while they shelled Ja­panese fac­to­ries at the end of the war.

He was spared from death sev­eral times dur­ing his years of ser­vice, most notably by get­ting a last-minute change of or­ders from the doomed HMS Nep­tune in 1940.

‘‘I was sched­uled to join the HMS Nep­tune in Alexan­dria,’’ he re­calls. ‘‘I got a last-minute trans­fer to join the HMS Le­an­der in­stead. Only a few months later the HMS Nep­tune was sunk off the Libyan coast and there was only one sur­vivor out of 750 men on board.’’

On the HMS Le­an­der Mr Papps made his way back to New Zealand pass­ing through the Suez Canal, up the Per­sian Gulf and back across the In­dian Ocean. He served on smaller ships es­cort­ing United States troops into Australia and Amer­i­can ship­ping lin­ers to Hawaii through­out 1943.

Later in the war Mr Papps served on the HMS Tui hunt­ing Ja­panese sub­marines around the Solomon Is­lands.

‘‘Our ships were not fast enough to get away from our own depth charges,’’ Mr Papps said. ‘‘When­ever we would throw a charge all the lights on the ship would shat­ter. We did sink one Ja­panese sub in the Buca straits.’’

His final post­ing of the war was on­board the big­ger HMS Gam­bia which as­sisted the US Pa­cific fleet and shelled the east­ern coast of Ja­pan. In Au­gust 1945, Mr Papps’ ship was the last to come un­der at­tack by kamikaze pi­lots and nar­rowly avoided dis­as­ter.

‘‘When the war ended we were there in Tokyo har­bour along­side the USS Mis­souri for the Ja­panese sur­ren­der,’’ Mr Papps said. ‘‘I will never for­get all that we went through to get there and all the men that died.’’

Bob Papps

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.