Dates of Service
RICHARD E. ROE
Captain | Royal Navy
You thought the leaden winter would bring you down forever
But you rode upon a steamer to the violence of the sun
- Clapton & Sharp
Days after Lieutenant Roe joined the crew of HMS Intrepid, she was nominated for escort duty in the last home bound run in the first series of convoys in the Arctic ocean area. The convoy, the fifteenth in its series named QP-15 for the number and direction, ran from Kola Inlet to Loch Ewe. The Intrepid joined in the frigid waters on November 20, 1942 and for the next six days provided protection for the merchant vessels. Arctic duty was tremendously dangerous but essential for the supply and commitment to holding close ties with the Soviet Union.
It was not the first convoy escort duty for Roe who had prior experience for over a year in the mid-Atlantic after the outbreak of the war. Predominantly around Iceland, HMS Burwell traveled as far as Boston for maintenance before returning the United Kingdom in August 1942 at which time Roe debarked for further training. After Arctic service, the Intrepid sailed for the Mediterranean at the end of June the next year.
The viridian expanse of the Mediterranean was warm and welcoming, a severe contrast to the bleak and foreboding glacial waters the Roe had just come from. By early-July the Intrepid was patrolling from east to west and just off the Sicilian coast, crushing any interference by the Italian Fleet and providing gunfire in support of the invasion that began the Italian Campaign. The conditions would have been pleasant had it not been for the threat of attack from above or below. Richard bronzed beneath the summer sun as the balmy month of August passed with continued escort and support operations.
September began with the bombardment of the Italian mainland to soften the coast for the landing at Salerno on the 9th. After the Italian Fleet surrendered on the 10th, the Intrepid moved to the Aegean Islands where she sank submarine chaser UJ-2104. It was a victorious month, morale was high, the escort duty filled the rest of their days until an air attack at Port Laki on the Greek island of Leros.
Intrepid was moving troops onto the island when JU88 bombers began their attack. The first run hit on target and caused severe damage to the boiler rooms, effectively disabling the ship. She was able to limp to a safer location and drop anchor, but it was fleeting. A second strike hit aft and obliterated the Intrepid's stern. Richard feared another bombing and the loss of all hands, but the order to abandon ship sent the crew scrambling overboard before the ship capsized and met her fate on the ocean floor, taking fifteen souls with her. It was only the first day of the battle for Leros and the Germans ultimately took the garrison after relentless attacks.
Years later, Richard was in Far Eastern seas doing much of the same patrolling, blockading and bombardment. Though the war in Korea had settled into fixed positions by 1952, HMS Cardigan Bay was constantly on alert and sailing up and down the west coast. Rapid advances in technology introduced the age of the jet, and the Cardigan Bay was often swept by Russian MiG fighters screaming overhead. Volatile weather ranged from sweltering heat far less pleasant than the Mediterranean waters to winters cold enough to challenge those in the Arctic. In the first decade of his career, Lieutenant Commander Roe had sailed across the world, fought in two wars and been decorated for action in both, and set the foundation for a distinguished career in the Royal Navy.