The memoirs of a War time Sailor
By Bert Wynn and Alan Matthews.
Foreword By Alan Matthews
I first spoke to Bert "Yorky" Wynn in late 1995, he'd replied to an advert I placed in a well-known naval newspaper. The purpose of which had been to try to locate ratings who had served onboard the battlecruiser HMS Repulse during the Second World War. After a short conversation I was pleased to be informed that he remembered my father from the time they both spent onboard this warship.
Shortly afterwards I began to write a book about the wartime history of this ship and also six men who served on her during that period. The longer my conversations with Yorky, the deeper my convictions that the accounts of his war time years were truly remarkable. I planned to approach him at the Repulse and Prince of Wales annual reunion held at Plymouth in May 1996, with a view to including his story alongside the recollections retold by his old shipmates.
Tragically fate played a hand; shortly before the reunion Teresa, his wife and companion for almost fifty-four years, sadly passed away. Understandably he was devastated, having no contact with my father or myself for several months afterwards. Eventually his great strength of character came through and the phone conversations of his wartime years gradually resumed.
Our paths crossed once more at the Association's 1997 reunion in Scarborough; I will always cherish the memory of one particular evening I spent in the company of Yorky. He held my attention for hours without seeming to pause to draw breath. I was finally convinced that his story had to be told.
When I read of recent conflicts throughout the world and the subsequent books that have been written by participants in these short lived actions. I feel in many cases the publicity sought by those persons to be in direct contrast to the humility shown by people such as Yorky when they talk of their own personal exploits throughout the six long years of World War II.
My contribution to this book is in tribute to the thousands whose stories have never been told. It is also in recognition of the degradation and hardships they suffered, which enabled future generations to live a life of relative freedom and happiness.
Dedicated to the memory of Teresa