Interview with Joseph Thomas, 27 July 2009
Level: Category
Sound Archive
Level: Fonds
Level: Sub-Fonds
Oral History Recordings
Level: Sub-Series
Memories Exchange interviews
Scope and Content:
Interview with Joseph Thomas about growing up in Harwich and serving in the Royal Navy during the Second World War.

[Part 1] (31:03)
[Track 1:] Birth at Eastgate Street in 1918; remembers fire on the pier, about 1920 (1 minute 46 seconds).
[Track 2:] Went to Esplanade Infants School aged around 5; then to Junior School, boys-only, up to age about 11; then to Central School; discipline; writing implements (2 minutes 41 seconds).
[Track 3:] Play time on Harwich Green; played on crane when it was still in the naval yard (before moved in 1932); played on stone pier; swimming off the Quay; remembers paddle boats running to Ipswich [Suffolk] (4 minutes 12 seconds).
[Track 4:] Father worked as lightshipman for Trinity House [lighthouse authority]; had one sister, nephews were on the Hi-de-Hi! television programme (1 minutes 11 seconds).
[Track 5:] Played on [Earlhams] Beach; Patrick’s cement works, near rubbish dump (1 minute 48 seconds).
[Track 6:] Layout of childhood house; house divided into two, cousins lived in other part with shared kitchen; laundry and bathing; meals (2 minutes 23 seconds).
[Track 7:] Left school aged 14; became errand boy for greengrocer opposite Cliff Road; story of awkward customer (2 minutes 35 seconds).
[Track 8:] Then worked at Warner’s holiday camp, c. 1937-1939; Kindertransport children stayed at the camp, went with boys to camp near Ipswich; 1939: Army took over holiday camp; Kindertransport children moved; saw Germans leaving Parkeston later and gave them holiday camp badges (8 minutes 11 seconds).
[Track 9:] 1939: Called up to navy; sent to Skegness holiday camp, filled sandbags (1 minutes 43 seconds).
[Track 10:] Drafted to P&O liner ss Chitral patrolling water between Iceland and Greenland on contraband control; guns on the ship; civilian staff on board; on board until February/March 1940, then returned to barracks (4 minutes 30 seconds).

[Part 2] (07:14)
[Track 11:] Sent to John Brown’s Yard, Glasgow, as mine sweeper; different types of mines and ways of disarming them (3 minutes 38 seconds).
[Track 12:] Story of wearing crucifix from a rosary on his money belt, figure of Christ fell off; courting wife who came from Bromley, Kent; near miss of ship sinking before he was due to board it (interrupted by telephone) (3 minutes 36 seconds) [1 minute 3 seconds trimmed from middle when interviewee leaves room].

[Part 3] (21:52)
[Track 13:] Continued story of almost boarding ship that sank (HMS Corfield); then returned to barracks (1 minute 35 seconds).
[Track 14:] Then drafted to a destroyer at Sheerness [Kent]; sent to guard North Sea convoys, c. 1942; stories of time in service there (2 minutes 52 seconds).
[Track 15:] Used to stop at Harwich; Brightlingsea ferry picked them up from destroyer to take them ashore; dive bombing from air raids (2 minutes 11 seconds).
[Track 16:] Also in London during time of bad air raid; then working at Courage’s brewery (48 seconds).
[Track 17:] First time spent covering Arctic convoys from 1939-1940; also on minesweeper at Dunkirk; saw other boats being bombed; stoic attitude (2 minutes 16 seconds).
[Track 18:] More time on Arctic convoys, from Iceland to Murmansk, Russia; two friends drowned in bad storm; trips on shore in Iceland (5 minutes 36 seconds).
[Track 19:] Left Navy after Second World War; initially lived with his wife and her parents in Edgeware [Greater London] (2 minutes 12 seconds).
[Track 20:] Then moved to Sidcup [Kent], worked as scientific glass blower for KB Televisions; after retirement found accommodation exchange for upstairs flat in Harwich; lived there until they moved to current downstairs flat (4 minutes 18 seconds).

[Part 4] (6:27)
[Track 21 00:00:] Going to the Electric Palace cinema as a child; sneaking in with friends to avoid paying; once fell into the orchestra pit; silent movies; seating (4 minutes 7 seconds).
[Track 22:] Arrival of electricity; mother’s electric cooker; layout of parents’ house and alterations to it over time (1 minute 17 seconds).
[Track 23:] Death of his mother while he was in the Navy; helping with household chores as a child (1 minute 2 seconds).
Dates of Creation:
27 July 2009
66 minutes 35 seconds
Creator Name:
David Whittle
Admin History:
Joseph Thomas was born at Eastgate Street on 31 October 1918. He grew up in Harwich before entering the Royal Navy in the Second World War. He married and moved to Sidcup [Kent], where he worked as a scientific glass blower. He and his wife moved back to Harwich when he retired.
Custodial History:
The recordings were originally deposited as four files (listed as parts), but they seem to have been recorded as one interview.
Copyright of Mr Thomas transferred to Harwich Society; copyright of recording transferred to ESVA but contact Harwich Society prior to use for broadcasting on radio, television, or non-ERO website.
Physical Characteristics:
Digital MP3 files converted from original four wma recordings.
Originals Location:
Harwich Society
Related Unit of Description:
A photograph of Mr Thomas is catalogued as SA 49/1/2/15/4.
Not Available:
Essex Sound and Video Archive: use digital copy available on Soundcloud

Key terms

TypeKey termsDescription
Subjects Cinemas Interview with Joseph Thomas
Subjects Refugees Interview with Joseph Thomas
Subjects Schools Interview with Joseph Thomas
Subjects Second World War Interview with Joseph Thomas
Personal Names Joseph
Interview with Joseph Thomas
Document Types Sound recording Interview with Joseph Thomas
Institutions Great Britain and Ireland, Navy Interview with Joseph Thomas