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Letters to David Irving on this Website







Unless correspondents ask us not to, this Website will post selected letters that it receives, and invite open debate.

Peter Eastman of Brighton, England is following the history of his grandfather, who served at sea with Mr Irving's father


A photo, presumably in 1931, from the Oxford Mail

Your father captained the Scorebsy?

I WAS most interested to read on your website, and with reference to your father, the fact that he was involved with the Discovery II expedition, and was the commanding officer of the RRS William Scoresby.

My wife's great grandfather was the chief officer of the RRS William Scoresby from 1927-1932, and also from Southsea. I suspect that he and your father must have known each other and served together. David Roy, my wife's great grandfather, is believed to have served at Jutland in the Royal Navy as an engineer officer, and after a lengthy career in the RN, served as Chief Engineer officer on the RRS William Scoresby, probably at the same time as your own father was the chief engineer of the Discovery II.

I was fascinated to further read that your uncle was the commanding officer of the RRS William Scoresby at the time. I know you didn't know your father for most of your life, but I wondered if you had any journals, diaries, or other reference material regarding the expeditions to tag whales during 1927-1932 that made any reference to David Roy.

My wife is trying to track down information regarding her great grandfather, with the specific intention of locating his Polar Medal awarded for service whilst serving aboard the RRS William Scoresby, which has been missing from the family for many years. Any assistance or information you can provide on this matter would be most useful in our quest,

Peter Eastman


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David Irving comments

I will let my sister answer this, as she is older than I and better informed on our parents. Paraphrasing what she said,

"The material on the website is partly allied to my own detailed research into the Discovery II expeditions in Antarctic waters from 1929-1933.

I did come across mention of a Mr Roy, Chief Engineer in the RRS William Scoresby: especially in 1931, when it appears that crew, officers and scientists aboard did not always see eye to eye. This is not so surprising when you consider the type of craft and the tasks carried out by the Scoresby. Unlike her newer custom-built mother ship, the RRS Discovery II, the Scoresby was a comfortless berth with cramped accommodation. Small and fast, the ship was at sea for long periods in all kinds of Antarctic weather while the scientists aboard carried out a study of whales and their foodstreams for purposes of stock conservation. So there were squalls both outside and inside the ship. In fact there were four different captains in the Scoresby over the four years from 1929-1932!

There are no journals or diaries in my possession, apart from a brief night-orders book and some verses by my father. But these do confirm that in 1931 David Roy, aged 53, re-enlisted as Chief Engineer in the William Scoresby, giving his origin as Forfarshire and his address as 82 Devonshire Avenue, Southsea. (He may well have been with the ship for some time prior to that date and continued to serve with her; but my interest covered only 1929-1933.)

Clarifying titles in small merchant vessels can be difficult, especially where ex-Navy men were concerned (of which there were several in both ships, including both captains). Normally the captain or Master commands such a vessel; the First Officer is next in line; and the Chief Engineer is answerable for his part of the ship. Unfortunately, all three posts are sometimes referred to as "the Chief", which complicates research.

In 1931 my father John Irving was captain, Mr C A Milward was First Officer; and a Mr Ellison was Second Officer; with Mr Roy as Chief Engineer.

Several officers in both ships had served in the First World War. Like Mr Roy, my father was at Jutland, serving as a midshipman aged 18 in Ajax. After leaving the navy in the early 1920s, he concentrated on writing and sailing until he was appointed in 1929 as First Officer to the RRS Discovery II under his brother-in-law Captain Peter Carey, also ex-Navy. The following year, John Irving took command of the Scoresby.

To try and trace the missing medal, the best bet would be to contact the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge, who may also be able to provide more information on Mr Roy. The Public Records Office at Kew also has data on the expeditions, under their "famous ships" category.

© Focal Point 2004 David Irving