This post first appeared on my blog at Expat in Bacolod.


“Hands off cocks put on socks” is an expression I first heard when I was a rookie cop in Kirkby, Liverpool when I was 19 years old. I was learning about the “ways of the world.”

An older worldly-wise cop was the source and was fond of saying it. He was maybe 10 years older than me, also a rookie, but had served in the British Royal Navy before joining the police. He explained to me that it was the barked order from the ship’s Petty Officer (PO) at reveille time designed to encourage ratings to get up and stow the hammock.

Those words are likely to be the title of my next book.

All plans have changed since reading a fellow blogger’s post. I did intend the next book to be a first novel based on my undercover cop days. Possibly I need a break from all things police and undercover? I think the truth lies elsewhere. Maria’s blog, Health from one Heart to another, which covers “Health, Baby Care, Art, Travelling & Historical Subjects” sparked me into resurrecting an older idea to write a book about my paternal grandfather.

hands off cocks

Accrington Observer 13th December 1941

That’s him in the newspaper article above, A.B. Fred Bentley, the same name as my father. [Note: A.B. is an Able Bodied Seaman]

As you gather, his ship HMS Prince of Wales was sunk by Japanese torpedoes off the coast of Malaya (as it was then called) in 1941. This is a YouTube video I found right now that encapsulates the basic story of the sinking of not only the Prince of Wales but also the Repulse:

That short video mentions “no air support.” That’s something my father used to say many many times in a clear reference to his own father’s experiences.

Why so formal when writing about my grandfather? I never knew him. I met him once when I was a child of about eight or nine. My father took me a few yards down the street from my maternal grandmother’s home to where “Granddad Bentley” lived.

There was a history there that led to father and son (Dad and Granddad) becoming estranged. I feel emotional writing that as I (selfishly) feel that I missed out on something. Yet, my father often spoke about his father’s experience of being a survivor of the sinking of the Prince of Wales. I wish things had been different. I wish I had a first-hand account of the sinking, how he was rescued, how he convalesced in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka).

So although the new book will be based on the truth and on my grandfather, it will of necessity be a work of “faction.” I intend to dramatize and fictionalize some parts of the book while paying the utmost respect to all the men and women who served their countries during WW2. It is part of history that should never be forgotten and I hope such a war is never repeated.

My interest and fascination with this era is purely in a historical context and an expression of awe at what our forebears endured.

Maria was right. She urged me to finish the research and also wrote this in the comments section of her post:

Thank you so much Steve. I hope you will do that book too Steve and please blog post on your family stories from WWII. When you have heard them live you have an obligation to write them down. And thank you for the friendship and for reading my posts.

That was after I had told her I still recall memories of my mother and her family recounting the stories of watching the skies light up during the Luftwaffe bombing raids on Manchester and Liverpool.

So many memories, so much history.


Note: If anyone reading this post can assist with my research then I would be grateful.

In particular I need information/articles on the life and experiences of a “boy sailor” at any of the training establishments at Devonport, Plymouth between 1900 and 1920.

I do have access to an eye-witness account of the sinking of the Prince of Wales and the Repulse. But any other sources would be welcomed. The source I have is the account in the Force-Z archives.

Any sources of material in connection with the experiences of the Prince of Wales or Repulse survivors in the immediate aftermath are welcome.

Finally, is there anyone out there who can shed light on why British Navy sailors would be photographed in Germany in 1945 apparently engaged in some kind of construction work. What were they doing? And why?

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