Memoirs from the servicemen of World War 2. Contains Foreword by Norman Wisdom.
SHANGHAI INCIDENT 1940.
On the day that Italy declared war on the allies, I was stationed aboard the river gun boat H.M.S. Peterel. At this time we were moored on the river Wangpoo Kiang in Shanghai. In view of the difference in time, the declaration had come during the night hours. I had myself taken a camp bed outside onto a gun deck, together with mosquito net, as the night was hot and humid. I was rudely awakened by one of my crew mates shouting words to the effect that; Italy had declared war on us, and that we ought to blow their gunboat, moored astern of us, out of the water. It was quickly pointed out that Shanghai was a neutral port and as such, must be respected. Excitement ruled out the possibility of any further sleep for the rest of the night.
At dawn, the next morning, we could see an Italian gunboat astern of us at the next mooring. It’s crew members observing us through their binoculars. As the tide was flowing towards them, one of our crew members had the idea of inflating a surgical glove, painting the face of Hitler on it and letting it drift downstream towards them, giving them something to think about.
This we did whilst being carefully observed by the ‘Japs’. This caused them to embark upon emergency action as the fingers on the glove must have given them the impression that they were the horns of a mine. Boats were lowered giving us much entertainment and pleasure. The Italian gunboat referred to, was the ‘Lepanto’, which later that same morning, moved to a mew mooring further downstream. During this process, she had to pass our gunboat. Much to our surprise, they blew a bugle calling the ship’s company to attention and saluted us as they passed. Possibly therefore, we must have been the only warship to receive a salute from the enemy in a time of war.