By Pierre Kosmidis
Photos submitted by Victoria L. Short and used by permission
History is written by millions of young men, individuals who gave their all and fought for their ideals during World War 2.
One such case is Leslie Wilfred Dodge, who served as a stoker on HMS Whelp.
Leslie Wilfred Dodge passed away in 1993, but he left a log book, from the moment he first stepped on the newly built W-Class destroyer in April 1944 to the end of his time in the Pacific, in February 1946.
Leslie’s grand daughter Victoria L. Short wrote a book, based on his log book, which puts us in the shoes of a sailor during WW2, what maneuvers and operations they did and basically life on board ship and all the antics on shore leave.
Victoria L. Short is now working to find out the names of the crew and any surviving crew members, to add to the forgotten story of HMS Whelp.
How did it all start for you, what made you research the story of HMS Whelp?
When I was young, growing up with a love of reading my granddad would read me his log book, which was my favourite book to listen to. I would sit on his lap as he went through his book telling his stories. My granddad died in 1993 and over time I forgot about his book (now passed down to my Uncle) and stories in the Pacific.
I love all types of genres, but my favorite films are related to WW2.
I watched every WW2 film or TV series, such as Band of Brothers, Saving Private Ryan, Hacksaw Ridge etc.
It started to get on my nerves that the British hardly ever got mentioned, especially on the TV series Pacific, which we played a huge part.
When speaking to a lot of people about the war over in the Far East they say ‘what? We the British were over there too’? then I explain.
So over the last couple of years I adapted my grand dad’s log and made it into a book, but still kept it as a diary.
You are the author of a book on HMS Whelp, can you please tell us more about it?
The book starts from when my granddad first boarded HMS Whelp on 17th April 1944, till January 1946.
Leslie Wilfred Dodge records his time as a stoker aboard HMS Whelp as she made her way across the seas to fight against the Japanese in 1944, with HRH Duke of Edinburgh as his second in command.
Recalling friendships, adventures and harrowing experiences, Les offers a revealing first-hand account, one which serves as a reminder that the Americans were not alone in the Pacific WWII battle for the Far East.
History becomes truly personal, based on individuals’ accounts, just like your grand father. Why is it so important to tell their story and what is the message you wish to convey?
The men and women from Britain and our commonwealth countries had no welcome home, no battle of honour like the American Navy got after Okinawa was won.
The army in Burma was thought of as forgotten, but The British Pacific Fleet have never been remembered.
We were only one task force but we played a huge part and it was a joint effort not only in Europe but in the Far East too. I want this generation and our next to know, so the BPF doesn’t get lost in history.
Books I have read about the Pacific war are very technical and sometimes a little boring, but this short story is light and easy to read. My granddad loved his time on board Whelp and I also wanted to show the camaraderie between the men and also their antics on shore leave and not just the fighting.
What is the most touching memory you have of your grandfather, related to his service time, based on his accounts?
His bright ideas when they were on shore leave, he was one of the youngest men in the stoker crew (22 men in total) and he always had a good idea, but didn’t always work.
If you could go back in time and meet the crew members of HMS Whelp, what would you tell them?
That I’m proud of them and I promise to get their story heard.
What are your future plans regarding HMS Whelp?
Along with my friend (she is script writer) we have penned a pilot episode and we hope to turn this book into a ten part mini series.
Why do you want to find any surviving crew members?
So they can be interviewed on camera and have that interview at the start of every episode before the opening credits.