Joe Almond – 1948 to 1987
Joe, better known to his past students as “Nuts”, passed away on the 20th December 2003. Joe spent 39 years as an officer on the South African Training Ship “General Botha” and was highly respected by his past students who are scattered far and wide across the seven seas.
Joe Almond was born on 1 December 1917 in St Helens, Lancashire, England, and although in 1930 he won a scholarship to a secondary school, by 1934 he had decided to go to sea as a Boy Seaman in the Royal Navy. He was posted to HMS GANGES at Shotley for training and while there he represented the Junior Navy in cricket and rugby. At the end of 1934, he was drafted to his first ship, HMS DRAGON, and spent the next two and half years in the Americas and the West Indies, thereafter proceeding to HMS VERNON in Portsmouth, where he qualified as a torpedoman in 1937.
As the Spanish Civil War had broken out, he was immediately sent to HMS SOUTHAMPTON and spent several months off the coast of Spain, before SOUTHAMPTON joined the rest of the fleet in Scottish waters during the Munich crisis.
At this point he was hospitalised for a cartilege operation and then drafted to HMS CUMBERLAND.
On the day the Second World War broke out, he was at sea heading for the South Atlantic where CUMBERLAND joined up with the cruisers AJAX, ACHILLES AND EXETER. To Joe’s everlasting regret, the CUMBERLAND was in the Falkland Islands when the other three cruisers engaged the German Graf Spee, but even so, by dint of hard steaming, they were in at the kill when the GRAF SPEE blew up and scuttled herself.
In 1940, Joe arrived in South Africa for the first time while his ship was engaged in transporting three hundred captive German merchant seamen and, in July of that year, married Tina Dollman of Cape Town. Marriage had a bad effect on Joe’s wartime career because from then on he was in every trouble spot imaginable. His first assignment was the bombardment of Dakar, where he was wounded by a shell blast when an 11″ shell from a shore battery hit the switchboard near which Joe was standing and killed several officers and men.
After steaming 171,223 miles since the outbreak of war, CUMBERLAND was sent back to the United Kingdom in 1941 for a much-needed refit. Worse was still to come for in November of that year the ship was assigned to Iceland where she spent the next twelve months on the Russian convoys to Murmansk in North Russia. After just over three years in CUMBERLAND, in 1942 Joe was sent ashore to do a further course at Torpedo School, where he was once again united with his wife, who came over from South Africa to join him.
Almost immediately, he sailed in the “Queen Elizabeth” for the United States to join a tank landing ship. Off the coast of Bermuda the LST had a boat capsize, losing 11 men out of 25 crew, and Joe was promoted to Coxswain to replace a man lost. On arrival in the Mediterranean, they were attached to the U S forces and took part in the landing at Sicily, where, on the last day of the landing, Joe was wounded slightly. After Sicily, they took part in further landings at Regio, Salerno, Corsica and Anzio.
Four days before D-Day, Joe was taken off the ship for a twelve-month Torpedo and Electrical course. The ship was sunk returning from Normandy. In 1945, Joe qualified as a Torpedo Instructor – just in time to be de-mobbed.
After selling pressure cookers for a while, he decided this was not for him and immigrated to South Africa where, after a short spell as a construction electrician in Cape Town, in October 1948 he joined the S.A.T.S. “General Botha” at Gordon’s Bay.
The years brought promotion to Chief Instructor and in 1966 Joe transferred across to the new training ship, of the same name, in Granger Bay in that capacity. With the winding down of the training ship, Joe retired in 1987.
Joe and Tina had 3 children, Jim, Marilyn and Alan. Tina passed away in 1972. He subsequently married Lottie Scott and they lived for 5 years in Tokai. After Lottie’s death, Joe married Meg Dalton and they have been married for 24 years.
A tribute from a past student; “Joe was without a doubt a real Old Salt, a stalwart and a gentleman in every sense of the word. His seamanship knowledge and his excellent teaching skills were superb and I for one will always be very grateful to him. He had such a knack of getting stuff across to his students that everything he attempted to teach us just seemed to fall into place. He will be very sadly missed.”