County Hotel Immingham
War and Mountbatten
The County Hotel, Immingham is well-known as being the temporary headquarters
of Lord Mountbatten during World War Two. Here, we publish some recollections
of the family who ran the Hotel during this period.
William Reid took over as landlord of the County Hotel, Immingham
in 1939 . It was a tough job. His son Bill recalled his mother telling him about the time
a French Destroyer was in dock. His father was stood at the top of the steps when a
Sailor came at him with a knif - swiftly disarmed by a kick to the chin.
Bill helped out behind the bar, while waiting to join the army.
"The walls of the bar were brown with nicotine. There was a big mirror in the
toilets, and one night I saw some squaddies walking off with it under their
arms. We got the navy to make them put it back. That was the way we handled
things. When there was trouble with the navy, we got the army to help out, and
when there was trouble with the army, we got the navy to help sort it out."
"I remember when the Navy had 9 O'clock leave. I opened the doors and 700
matelots came rushing in. I was carting boxes of brown ales upstairs from the cellar.
By closing time there were piles of empty cases up the wall. The old feller arranged
for Bacon (a butcher who also ran buses) to get them back on time. The buses were
full of sailors - they were even sat on top of the roof of the buses."
"The navy all came in for a drink after their drumhead service. At closing time, the naval
chaplain borrowed my bike and that was the last I saw of it - he rode it into the dock."
William Reid behind the bar of the Leeds Arms
In August 1939, Lord Mountbatten had been promoted to the rank of Captain, 5th Destroyer
flotilla and given command of HMS Kelly hunting U-boats in the North Sea. In December 1939
the Kelly struck a mine in the Humber Estuary, sustaining damage to the hull. While the
Kelly was moved to Tyneside for repairs, Lord Mountbatten took command of the Kelvin,
Moving into the County Hotel at his temporary headquarters. Although preparations for war had
begun sometime earlier ( the tram bridge was mined in case enemy forces stormed the docks
from the jetties), news was heavily censored and the new occupants of the hotel were a surprise.
"I'd been away for a couple of days and came back in running up the stairs. I turned the
corner and there was a Lewis gun pointing at me and sailor shouting," "stop, who goes there!".
They had to fetch the old man - 'He says he's your son' and he says, 'He would do. He is.'
"I'd been sleeping in Bedroom Number 1, but the First Lieutenant took that, and I had to move
into the staff bedrooms. Lord Louis took over the big corner room and the bathroom.
Norma and Dot went in to clean the bathroom and found Mountbatten in there.
He had an Egyptian terrier called Topsail. I used to take our little dog on the bowling green
and sometimes he asked me to look after his dog."
Bill Reid (back, 3rd from left) and his parents on their retirement
On April 29 1940, the refurbished HMS Kelly led an evacuation convoy from Scapa Flow, rescuing 6000.
Allied troops from Namsos in Norway. On May 9, while leading the flotilla against a mine-laying
Operation, the Kelly was torpedoed. Badly holed, the vessel was towed home by the destroyer Bulldog.
Both ships were rammed by an E-Boat and bombed by Stuka's, but managed to make it back to the ship's builders,
Hawthorne Leslie at Hebburn on Tyne.
While waiting for repairs, Lord Mountbatten embarked on other Destroyers such
as the Javelin, which transferred to 5th Destroyer Flotilla in June 1940.
On Saturday 31st August 1940, the Kelvin, Jupiter and Vortigern escorted a group of destroyers on
Minelaying duties off the Dutch coast. During the mission, the group was ordered to intercept
a group of German ships. At 11.07 pm the Express struck a mine off Texel. The Esk and Ivanhoe
moved in to help and also struck mines. The Esk sank immediately, and the Ivanhoe was so badly
damaged it had to be sunk. The Express was towed back to Hull on 1st September.
"Lord Louis went out in the Destroyer Icarus, I think. When they came back to the hotel, Mountbatten
and his staff were shattered. Mother was doing the cooking, and Lord Louis came down to the kitchen in his
overalls and said," 'Do you mind if we don't dress for dinner.'
As the war progressed, enemy forces continued bombing strategic sites. Bill remembered
standing with his father in the turret of the County Hotel watching the sky blaze across
the river as Hull was bombed. During air raids, the boiler room coal cellar served as a shelter.
Every night an officer went out to watch for bombers. If they got too
close he ordered everyone down to the cellar. "One night we went down to the cellar, and
it was full of sailors. Lord Louis came down and said," 'Out. Let the family in first.'
In September 1940, the flotilla transferred to Plymouth Command to protect convoys in the
English Channel. In December 1940, HMS Kelly was repaired and Lord Mountbatten moved on
to the Mediterranean.
The Leeds Arms, Cleethorpes
Bill Reid joined the Army soon after the Americans entered the war. He remembered
one benefit of the US forces coming to Immingham. His parents used to send him 200 cigarettes a month.
After the war, his parents moved on to the Leeds Arms in Cleethorpes. The Mountbatten connection
is still commemorated at the County Hotel by its Mountbatten Bistro.