A living legend reveals all



To Galway to interview grand old man of the sea, Golden Globe circumnavigator Bill King, 97. This man is a real living legend who survived the whole of World War II as a submarine commander. During a period of sick leave in Harwich, Essex his sub, Snapper, was commanded by another who steered her into a German minefield. The sub and her crew were never seen again. ‘They were the flower of the land,’ he said, pausing briefly to remember them.

How can anyone find the courage required to go back to war in a submarine after that? I wondered. Bill replied: ‘In this world of fuss and bother two things stand alone. Kindness to those in trouble, courage in your own.’

His late wife Anita, a cousin of Winston Churchill who was known as ‘pull’ for his ability to influence matters, got Anita access to Hitler’s bunker from which she stole his personal note paper.

Once Bill drove to Churchill’s home at Chartwell, Kent, for lunch so that his son, Tarka Dick, should meet the great man. When they arrived they found Lord Mountbatten was there as well. Just before driving away, Mountbatten said: ‘This car has seen better days,’ at which Tarka smacked him on the bottom. ‘Mountbatten was not amused and as we drove away Tarka – who sensed he had done something wrong, said: “You didn’t tell me he was important too”‘, Bill told me.

He knew Chichester as well: Francis was a good chap. I was once having lunch with him when a wee leftie lass said to him ‘You don’t know what it’s like being a miner’. He then rolled up his sleeves and showed her the blue, coal dust scars he had on his arms from his own youthful mining experiences.

See Yachting Monthly October 2007 for the full interview.