Dusty Miller -  ex PO Seaman wrote on 29 January 2009


There is an old naval saying ďMy last ship was my best shipĒ Which is true because you always remember the good times, and quickly forget the bad, but in this case it is not true. CARYSFORT will always be my best ship.

My name is Dusty Miller I was a PO Seaman on the last commission 1966-1969.

If you will bear with me I will try to relate some of my fond memories of this commission and I hope it will bring back some to you.

I will start with the day we all assembled in the Drill Shed in Guzz Barracks and marched down to the ship (that was the done thing in those days) I was in the aft POís mess next to the greenies mess, I remember thinking these messmates donít seem a bad lot.  Little did I know what I was letting myself in for!

We had our commissioning ceremony in Guzz dockyard and some of the families came on board. The Captain was Commander Bates and I think it was a J.MEM who cut the cake with the Captainís wife.   I hope I can find a photo of this.

Next was our work up at Portland and of course the Torrey Canyon incident.  What I remember of it is as follows.    It was a Sunday and one watch was on W/End.  Our Yeoman, Vic Cornwall had a mate on one of the other ships whose birthday it was. He came over at lunchtime for a wet and we made arrangements to go ashore that evening at 1900 (because in those days that was opening time on Sundays).   I think it was myself, Jan Eddy, Tom Bristow, and the Yeo went and picked up his mate and went into Portland.  By about 2100 birthday boy was getting a bit legless so we decided to get him back onboard.  When we got to the dockyard gate we knew something was amiss with so much activity going on.  We got him back to his ship and were told they were getting ready for sea and we neednít laugh because we were going as well.  When we got onboard it was chaotic, with people joining from other ships.  The duty PO was one of the S&S department and they were getting the upper deck ready for sea so I think he was very relieved to see us. After a while we got it sorted out the best we could. The Buffer and the rest of the seamen POís were on w/end.  Soon the pipe was made close up SSD then we realized the Coxswain, Jock Cameron, was not onboard so I drew the short straw and had to do it.  I hadnít taken a ships wheel for over 5 years and although you donít forget how to do it, you donít want to be thrown in at the deep end. The Captain then called down to say he wanted to be first out of the harbour so he didnít want to waste time turning inside. Instead he would go out astern through the harbour entrance.  I was told to keep it steady and he would tell me when were passing through.  I felt like saying ďdonít botherĒ. Anyway we made it and were the first ship away. When SSD fell out we mustered all the seamen on the Iron Deck to see who we had and who had joined from the other ships.  We decided to chop them into 4 and said from left to right first, middle, morning, and forenoon watch, now away you go and get your heads down. Of course nobody knew who was who so when it came to watch change over it was chaos again.

Within a few hours we were in the Lands End area and we were the first RN ship on station.  We didnít know it at that time but we would be the last to leave. One of the ABís who had joined from Osprey said to me the next morning ďHow long do you think I will be on here because Iím getting married next weekĒ I think he would have made it as all the rest of our crew were bussed down to Falmouth within the next couple of days.  We stayed around the area and had now been joined by other RN ships maybe about 6 in all to keep the area clear of shipping and to plot the oil slicks.  By now the air was full of the smell of oil and detergent.   IT WAS FOUL.

Within a couple of days it was decided to bomb the wreck to try and burn off the oil in the tanks. 

Prior to this, Commander Bates and our Navigator  - Lt Simon McCaskill, had gone over in our sea boat to have a close up view.  We were stationed about 1 to 2 miles off while the bombing took place on 28 March 1967.  The 1st pass was a miss but on the 2nd it was a success.   Buccaneer aircraft from 800 Squadron based at  Lossiemouth were used and they dropped 42 1,000lb bombs followed by RAF Hunter jets with drop cans of aviation fuel.  The actual flames were about 150 ft high at least, and we had a grandstand view of this. Later on Sea Vixens from Yeovilton and  Buccaneers from Brawdy as well as more RAF Hunters with napalm joined until the wreck was declared free from oil.  In the days that followed all the RN ships returned and we stayed on to take charge of the mop up at sea We managed a couple of runs ashore in Falmouth and one in Newlyn (Penzance) then it was back to Guzz for a cleanup and back to Portland to finish off the work up.

We then started our 1st home leg of our commission.  There are a few things that I remember.  First being our visit to Kiel for Kieler Woche (Kiel Week) and the trip along the Kiel canal.  Kiel week is the German equivalent of our Cowes week and we were berthed at Tirpitz mole along with around 6 different nations warships.  Each day we were invited to different functions. The two that come to mind were the visit to Berlin to see the wall and the last night Banquet.  About 20 members from each  ship were invited and it was held at the Town Hall.   If I remember correctly we all mustered in the ante room for drinks. After a while we realized the numbers were getting less and then it was only Carysfort left.  We were then escorted on to the stage in the main hall and we had to sing for our supper. We gave them a rendering ofĒ My body lies over the oceanĒ which always seemed to go down well with the Germans.   The meal was good and the drinks kept flowing.  When we left Kiel we visited Stavanger which was a quiet run ashore.

We then carried out Guardship duties at Cowes which was not up to the Kiel standard.  After this we then carried on as Guardship for the Royal Yacht, an old ship of mine so I had done this trip before.  When I did it the last time Prince Charlesí B13 for Prince of Wales had just come through so we called into Cardiff to get him rated up, but this time I think we called into St Marys Isles of Scilly for half a day then on up to the Western Isles before dropping them off at Aberdeen for Balmoral.  Next we did Guardship duties at Dartmouth Regatta, again still not up to Kiel standard.  When we left Dartmouth we were to be one of the attractions of Devonport Navy days - a ship entering harbour.  The Captain decided it would be a good idea to make it a sea day for the families.  A coach was ordered to bring them up to Dartmouth from Plymouth but somehow the driver got lost on the way and was a few hours late getting to Dartmouth so the sea day out for the families was a quick dash down to Devonport but at least they got into Navy Days free.

Next we had Guardship duties at Gib.   I think we had a mess banyan W/end to Tangier by MFV, and then back to Guzz for leave before we deployed for the Far East.

Our Far East employment started well.

When we were about 24 hrs from Gib we were ordered to increase speed.  We arrived after dark and anchored in the bay.  We woke up the next morning to find half the Spanish navy anchored on their side of bay and we stayed like this for a couple days just watching each other before we were able to go alongside. An MFV was provided and manned by a duty crew.   I think it was 1 officer 1 seaman PO a couple of seamen a MEM and a chef.  We had to live on board for 24 hours.  We were stationed in the dockyard and had to go out and cross the bay every 4 hours.   I think this is when Smokey Joe came about but I may be wrong.  Smokey Joe (real name Nervion) was the small Spanish boat doing the same thing as us on the Spanish side of the line and black smoke was always gushing out of his funnel when he was underway ,we use to wave to each other when we passed.


Our main armament was one 303 rifle. I donít know what he had maybe he was thinking he could make enough smoke so we could not see him.  We stayed in this position for some time which covered the Xmas period.   I know our mess found a good watering hole in the RAF Sgtís mess down on the Airfield.   Gin was 2d old money but the tonic was 6d!   We staggered  back across the Airfield many times after midnight.  I donít know how it came about but our mess was talked into taking part in a Boxing Day swim by the Dockyard Club for charity.   You think not a problem!   A swim in the Med,  but I donít think I have ever swam in such cold water.  Mind you we were well replenished with Rum to make up for it.

We sailed from Gib mid January and called into Freetown for a couple of hours to refuel and pick up mail but didnít get ashore.  We then carried on down to Simonstown.  On the way we had our crossing the line ceremony.  I think Ken Beales had something to do with this if I remember.  He was a big lad.   I hope I still have a photo of this, if not maybe somebody else has.

We stayed in Simonstown for a few weeks and I think everybody had a good time.   I know the ship had a shooting match against the SA Navy.   I donít think we outshot them but we won the drinking match after.  Wally the Seal use to visit the ship around the stern every day.  I think it was just to make sure we were still there. We had couple of shore runs into Capetown but apartheid was still in force so you had to watch what you were doing ie sitting in the right compartment on the train. While we were here we were asked to take out the ashes of an expat to sea for burial.  The ashes were in a wooden box and Jim Greer the Shipwright had to drill holes in the box and put some lead pellets in to make sure it sank and not stay on the surface.    In the end it went off OK.  

We then sailed up the East coast of Africa to carry out our turn of Beira patrol.  Not very exciting.   I donít think we ever saw any ships so not much chance of boarding them.   I think I remember a couple of sods operaís on the Quarterdeck.  I suppose the most exciting thing was doing a RAS for stores or fuel.   I think we were there for about 3 weeks then we then had a trip to Mauritius for the Independence day on 12th March 1968.  All I can say about Mauritius is very nice beaches and if anybody says they are going there for a holiday you can say ďBeen there done that  and got the T shirtĒ  We called into Gan on our way to Singapore. I have a feeling we then had a SMP and we moved into Terror so it was tropical routine.  Work on the ship during the forenoon, back up to Terror for lunch and a couple of pints of Tiger Tops then out on the golf course to do a Tiger Woods or whoever it was at that time.  Not a bad life. I think Commander Bates left the ship at this time and Commander Chapman joined I think we were all a bit sorry to see Commander Bates leave but Commander Chapman did a good job.    

We did a big exercise with the Americans off Subic Bay after this we were on our way for a visit to Japan and Hong Kong when the signal came for us to detach and make our way independently to Tonga for the signing of the 100 year Friendly Treaty.  We were all a bit sad at first for missing out on our run ashore in Japan but what followed made up for this.   We didnít have to be there for a couple of weeks so we made our way slowly calling into numerous islands on the way.  Two memories come to mind. The first was we had anchored off an island and it must have been a weekend and we were staying for 24 hrs so one watch was allowed to go ashore in the morning and the other in the afternoon for a swim on the beach.  I went in the morning with a dozen or so.  After we had a swim we thought it may be a good idea to have a look around so we followed a track and noticed some empty Fosters beer cans at the side.  We then came to 3 totem poles so carried on a bit more still seeing beer cans. We then walked into a clearing and saw a native village and to one side was a village shop run by an Aussie and he sold Fosters beer so of course we tucked in. The beer was warm but we drank it anyway.  I must admit it was just like you see in the movies.  When we got back on board the news got round so more than double went in the afternoon but we had more or less cleared out his stock in the morning so they dipped out.  The second thing that comes to mind is we were off another island and the Captain went ashore on a courtesy call.   Iím not sure if it was a hospital or an orphanage run by a religious order.  Anyway they asked him if about 20 of the crew would like to come ashore late in the afternoon for tea.  It was nearly a detail off job to get enough people to go.  We were dropped off by boat on the beach.  The place was staffed by Aussies, both male and female.  After a while all the nuns and monks disappeared and it was ďup spiritsĒ.  Out came the Beer and Spirits and it was drink what you could for an hour or so.   I know we had a job getting some back into the boat.  Shortly after we called into Fiji for a few days  then it was on to Tonga.   I remember the main watering hole was The International Dateline Hotel.   I donít think there were many other places to drink but I remember there was a small bar but it didnít stay open very late.  My memories of that one was we were in there all dressed in our whites.   I canít remember who it was (one of our mess) went outside to look for the heads.  He couldnít find them but there was a pigsty full of pigs.  He leaned on the gate which gave way and then fell in face first.   We all had a good laugh before the barman gave us a hose to wash him down.   I also think we had a Rugby match against the locals.  Donít remember the score but Iím sure we didnít win. We then went back to Fiji for a few more days.   I remember having a good meal in a Restaurant on the beach.  Cost a fortune but it was very good.  While we were in Fiji on one of the mess runs ashore we were in one of the local bars and Tom Bristow got talking to the locals who suggested we try the local brew called Kava. It should have been firewater.  Anyway it came in an enamel like washing up bowl with a tin cup.   It looked just like Pussers cleaning paste in water.  The ritual was you all sat round the table and took turns in drinking it.  You had to clap your hands, dip the cup into the bowl and get it down in one, then pass the cup on to the next person.  The more it went down the bowl the thicker it got.  I think the idea of clapping was to make sure you were still alive. That night on our way back to the ship we saw some frogs crossing the road - the jumping kind not our friends across the channel.  It must have been the Kava because I was sure they were the size of Kangaroos.  I never want to try that again.  Then the good news came not to go back to Singers but to go down to Auckland and work with the Kiwis in preparation for a joint exercise which was coming up.  On the way to Auckland we called into Nelson on the South Island.  Not a bad run ashore.   I think we drank the British legendary (or what it is called in New Zealand) dry.  When we came to leave Nelson we did not have much room to manoeuvre so the Captain  said he would come astern slowly on the back spring and when the stern was clear of the jetty to hold it so the bow would swing out to port. The Buffer came down to the QD to see me and said watch it because if we come astern too quickly we would not be able to hold it.  Of course he was right.  We could not hold it so I gave the order to drop the wire and clear the QD but we were lucky. As the eye of the wire ran down the deck it caught over an eyebolt  in the deck and held the ship just long enough for the bows to move to port before the wire parted.   I suppose we did what was wanted but we were lucky no one was injured.  We arrived at Auckland and were alongside in the dockyard in Devonport. We started work with the kiwisí who knew how to do it.  We used to go to sea on Tuesdays and back in on Thursday afternoon so they could go on W/end on Friday. We stayed doing this for a few weeks and didnít get over to Auckland very often as we had a job getting passed the watering hole by the ferry terminal.  Canít remember the name of it? We drank many jugs of beer in there and it was very easy to stagger back to the ship. We then had a trip over to Sydney.  While we were there we got free tickets to see a football match between Cardiff City who were on tour and NSW.  Donít remember the score but think NSW won then it was back to Auckland.  This is when we ran into the storm in the Tasman Sea and it was a good one.  I donít think anyone was able to get from forwíd to aft on the upper deck.  For 2 days we lived on ships biscuits as it was too rough to cook in the galley and anyway we wouldnít have been able to get scran from there.  Eventually we got back to Devonport and a reporter came onboard from the local newspaper because  everyone was talking about it.  He got hold of one of our mess members, Rip Kirby who was a PO REL.  I know he maintained the nav radar and was always getting called out.  He used to blame it on Jan Eddys operators and Jan would blame the maintenance.  This went on all the time so we got used to it and it passed the time away.  The Reporter asked Rip how tall the waves were Rip replied ďyou see that mast well they were twice that highĒ I know they were tall but not as tall as Rips stories.  He didnít live that one down for months.

At last it was time to leave Auckland and we had another trip over to Sydney.  Lucky for us, the Tasman was calmer this time.  From Sydney we went north and called into Townsville.  All I remember of Townsville was it reminded me of a town in a western film all wooden sidewalks and dusty roads.  We then carried on up north. For part of it we were inside the Great Barrier Reef.  What a sight.   I have never seen so much sea life and we were getting it all for free.  No wonder the tourists pay a fortune to see it.  Next stop was Darwin.  Hot and dusty.  The seamen and the stokers did not have a very good time here as the tide drop was over 50 feet at least so the duty watch of seamen were up on deck every hour either letting out or shortening in the wires and the engines had to remain flashed up. On the way in I was closed up on the bridge.  We saw a native in a boat with what looked like a rifle. The Captain asked the Pilot who was bringing us in what he was doing and he said shooting crocodiles so that put off any thought of swimming.

We then started our trip back to Singers.  We had a few stops on the way.   New Hebrides, New Caledonia, and Efate to mention a few.   I think Efate was governed half by the British and half by the French so everything was written in English and French.   We didnít stay very long in Singapore before we started on our way home via Beira. Before we left, Tom Bristow who was now Mess Pres and Jeff Jeffery who was the Bar Manager (could do wonderful things with figures which could confuse anyone the mess officer didnít stand a chance) decided we needed to get on some extra cases of beer to complement the draught beer because it was a long trip.  Our beer was stowed in the gland space below the mess.  We never had any proper Beer storage spaces in those days.  All was well to start with but it was very damp down there.  OK for the metal barrels but not for the cans in cardboard crates.  After a short while the damp got into the cardboard and all the beer cans were down around the prop shaft.  The ship had to stop engines for about an hour while we went down to retrieve them.  We were not top of the pops for some time.

Our second Beira Patrol was like the first. Nothing to write home about.  We had a couple of Race meetings on the iron deck and the after POís mess decided to record a programme to broadcast over the ships SRE. It was all done in good fun.  We tried to take the wee wee out of as many people as we could.  Nobody was spared.  The first ditty was about Nutty Nutcott (may he rest in peace) I canít think what it was about but I know the first line went ďNutty Nutcott up in oneĒ.   Jimmy Green who had been rated up to PO and been moved into our mess gave a rendering of his party piece WORMS!  I canít remember the words I should do;  he used to sing it every time he had 2 pints.   Sorry Jim it was 3.  What a character, you could never forget him.  The S&S Department of PO Wtr John Willis and POSA(S) Don Loveridge did a sketch of the Captain and his secretary giving and taking notes.  The punchline was ďRight Sec now get off my lap you are creasing my trousersĒ. Tom Bristow and PO GI Sticky Leach did one of the Jimmy and Buffer - not sure how it went. The POSA(V) Shady Lane did one on the weather forecast.  Canít remember it but I think it was a good laugh.   Myself and Jan Eddy gave a rendering of our party piece ďUnderneath the archesĒ. The whole programme was about half an hour long I think.  It went down well and I know we had a great time making it.

After our Beira patrol we went south to Simonstown for about a week then started on the way back to Guzz.  Once again we called into Freetown.  Some members who had not got their rabbits took the opportunity to buy some from the Bum boats who came out.  The main ones were Bongo Drums but within a couple of days the Drums were playing themselves.  The hide on the top was full of insects and they had to be ditched over the side.   We called into Gib for a couple of days and some were able to replace the ones that had gone over the side.   I think the Carysfort pub in Gib was the London Bar.  We arrived back in Guzz for leave which took us over the Christmas and New Year.

The only visit I think we had after that was to Liverpool.  We berthed on the south side of the Mersey at Port Sunlight.  This was coincidental to me because I did the last commission on HMS Comet in 1957 and the last visit was Liverpool and we also berthed at Port Sunlight. I think the ships company had a good run ashore then it was on our way back to pay off.  On our last Channel night the mess made a cardboard coffin.  We took it up to the Wardroom and invited the Officers down to the mess for a drink.  We had 4 pall bearers to carry the coffin, with us all following on behind including the wardroom.   Shady Lane POSA(V) was the Vicar leading.   I canít remember why we didnít ditch it with reverence over the stern but we did it down the gland space in the mess with the words - ASHES TO ASHES,  RUST TO RUST, IF THE NAVY WONT HAVE HER ,THEN THE SEA MUST.

Before I finish I must relate the tale of the Gnashers I will not say whoís they were but someone in the CPOís mess had to have a new set of gnashers.  Somehow the old set came into our mess trophy case and it became a ritual whenever we had a visitor, after the second drink they always ended up in the bottom of their glass.

I think that is all I can put to paper only to say I was very sorry to hear of the death of my old bosses the Gunnery Officer, Billy the Kid - I didnít mind his whistling- and the Buffer Jerry Knott.  What Jerry  didnít know about seamanship was not worth knowing.  My oppo Jan Eddy died of a heart attack while playing Squash about 1985.

I hope my memories have brought some back to you       

Regards to you all.