Provost Jim Todd visited Rosebank Centre recently to spend the afternoon with fellow Royal Navy seafarer and war hero, Daniel Friels.
97-year-old Danny was a stoker and deep-sea diver during World War II. He had enlisted in 1939, aged just 18 years, and served his engineering apprenticeship on the battleship HMS Barham that protected convoys in the Arctic and served on HMS Dido, an anti-aircraft light cruiser, in the Mediterranean.
Danny volunteered to become a ship’s diver and once qualified would be called on to carry out extremely dangerous subsea repairs including welding or freeing a propeller from ropes or fishing nets. His deepest descent was 112 feet or 34 metres, a dive that would have been hazardous with the diving equipment available at the time.
Danny lives locally with his daughter Anne and attends Rosebank two days a week. His short-term memory has been affected by dementia but he is full of life and enjoys talking about diving and his experiences as a young man.
Provost Jim Todd said: “I was delighted to meet Danny, a fellow Royal Navy stoker and ship’s diver, and talk to him about his experiences below ship and as a diver. I have so much respect for him, for the bravery he has displayed and the important role he played during WWII protecting other troops and ensuring convoys could reach their destination.
“Understandably he doesn’t talk about the horrors of war and the action he was involved in but Danny talks about diving and the peace that the deep waters could bring at really difficult times.
“It was really grounding to talk to Danny and to spend time in his company. His daughter Anne brought in a model that he had made of his diving suit and equipment.
“The diver’s helmet was made from a bednob that he had pinched, and he’s still laughing about it, and the rest of the material had been purloined, a good Navy term. The model is phenomenal and was accurate right down to the driver’s telephone, torch and knife. It is a real heirloom.
“I really enjoyed my visit to Rosebank. The staff are wonderful and it is a fantastic facility for our older residents. It provides them with the opportunity to socialise, enjoy games, arts and crafts and a good singsong together.
“Danny is lucky; he is surrounded by a loving family but loneliness and isolation can be terrible for some older people. I would urge anyone who has a couple of spare hours a week to sign up to our befriending scheme.
“Talking to Danny was a real highlight for me. Everyone has a story to tell if you just take the time to listen.”
To find out more about befriending or volunteering call 01563 576354 or look online
This British Pathé film from 1939 shows what the equipment was like for divers like Danny.