Mitchell, Don

Don Mitchell was born December 19, 1924 in the Tower Hamlet of Poplar, in London, England.  He was an only child, as his parents had lost an older child in the aftermath of the Great War, when conditions were still poor.  Don’s father was a veteran in that conflict, having served with the artillery, though he did not speak too much about it to Don.  Don was with his parents when Neville Chamberlain declared war on September 3, 1939, and he remembers well all of their feelings.  The Blitz began not long after this, and as the Luftwaffe rained bombs on the city of London Don and many of his friends were involved in the ARP, spotting bombs and fires and doing whatever they could to minimize the destruction.  In 1940 Don on his 16th birthday chose to enter the Royal Navy, and he commenced training, learning the technical crafts of telegraphy and later radar.  He would go on to serve on several vessels, including the HMS Matchless, and he spent a lot of time on the convoys of the north Atlantic and Arctic, dealing with the U-boats and weather and boredom.  In the Arctic runs in particular Don remembers well the gales and the ice that were an ever-present danger.  Don was also part of the British attack on the German battleship Scharnhorst, where they succeeded in sinking that worrisome ship.  By war’s end, Don was on a Mediterranean convoy, and he happened to be in Malta when VE Day occurred, and that is where he spent the final months of the war.  On one of those days he wrote his girlfriend Margaret a letter, where he proposed; she responded yes via letter as well, and the two were married on his return, and they built their life together in postwar Britain.  Don Mitchell was interviewed via zoom at his home in Yorkshire on February 4, 2023.