Here are a few thoughts from Robin Gainsford - Sub Lieutenant Correspondence, Diving, Helicopter Control and Quarter Deck Officer 1966 – 1968.

I was lucky enough to serve under two Captains - Martin Sands and Dickie Bates but the one Jimmy,  Peter Martin and finish one commission, do the refit and then work up at Portland and start the next Commission. It was a great privilege to serve in a ship with an open bridge and really feel the elements of wind and spray. I was there to get my Watch Keeping ticket and Ocean Navigation certificate before joining the Fleet Air Arm as a Fixed Wing Pilot. I have very fond memories of my time onboard and I certainly saw a lot more of life after my sheltered existence in a Boarding School. It is so sad to see so many brother officers and shipmates RIP and I do so hope their families are coping. I have a friend in Pembrokeshire and he knows Martin Sands who lives locally he is married to a very talented artist and and I will try and get an update. I do see Dickie Bates regularly as we play Golf with the Fleet Air Arm Association. I went to his OBE party recently expecting some investiture but it stands for Over Bloody Eighty party.

Here are some unrelated memories in no particular order.

Beira patrol:  I had a standing 12 to 4 merchant navy style - I think it was a ploy to keep me from the Gin but I remember getting very bronzed in the afternoon and the middle watches were heaven as there were no interruptions from senior officers. In the afternoons the Captain MS liked to fish off the quarterdeck and if any tanker hove over the horizon then it was a devils own job to get them to retrieve their lines and chase after the tanker which we weren't allowed to stop anyway! Complete waste of time as someone has already said.

Kiel Yachting week was magnificent and I returned 10 years later in HMS Norfolk. Sailing up the Kiel Canal is one of those golden moments in life. I remember attending a function onboard a chummy German destroyer and they knew no English and of course we knew no German but after half an hour with a few glasses down us we were all talking eloquently especially to the females. All we had to say was “Down with DeGaulle” with thumbs down and they loved that. They went a little silent when I recounted that I had lost my uncle a tail gunner in a Lancaster bomber over Kiel 24 years previous!

Refit in Guzz, Jimmys minivan as our main transport, chasing the girls at the Groin Exchange, I was still very much a bachelor.

Commissioning and what a smart lot we all looked - those were certainly the days as you will see from this photograph.

Commander Richard John Bates on dais reading the Commissioning Warrant.  You can just see  the First Lieutenant's left arm showing behind the Captain (Lt Cdr Peter James Martin), then L to R:  GO Lt James Victor Kidd, SO Lt Peter Charles Dudley Norman, WEO Lt Leslie Edward Ayling, TASO Lt Roger Walker, Corro SLt Robin Gainsford, MEO Lt Stephen H Bovey & AGO SLt Howard Jock Mitton.

Work up at Portland which was blood sweat and tears as always.  It is fun now to sail from the Marina at Portland and forget all those FOST serials and remember when the harbour was full of warships.

Torrey Canyon was the start for me in a career which has involved oil pollution throughout. I left the RN in 82 and joined the Sultan of Omans Navy and was involved in a major tanker accident off Muscat which led me to doing a BP course and returning as an Oil Pollution expert to the Oman Government. This helped me to become County Emergency Planning Officer for Dorset then Director of the Marine Pollution Control Unit in the Coastguard Agency.

I remember Boarding Torrey Canyon with the Captain and Pilot before they started their bombing runs. We were very poorly prepared as a country for this type of incident and we got it all wrong. The detergent we used to spray from the quarterdeck was highly toxic and killed off all life on the shoreline far more effectively than the oil. Bombing and trying to set fire to the oil only gets rid of the light ends so the heavier elements sink and damage life on the bottom of the ocean. Nowadays they use dispersant which is highly effective and far far less toxic and we sprayed from DC3 aircraft then DC6s. However I had specific orders from the Jimmy to use up the detergent as quickly as possible so we could get in to Falmouth and give everyone a run ashore and to make sure we did it twice so both watches could get ashore!

Bay of Biscay - do you remember us crossing that escorting a minesweeping Squadron form Gibraltar to UK in a Force 8 - 10 and there being an SOS which we had to go off and offer assistance at full speed? I remember the aft of the ship being cut off as the upper deck was out of bounds.

Finally I left the ship in Gibraltar having navigated from UK and gaining my Ocean Navigation certificate with the old sextant. We arrived at 1000 and I was flying back to Blighty late afternoon so i went and said my good byes in the POs Mess where I knew 4 POs well so I downed several tots and made my departure - I did get home but lets say I have never touched rum ever since!!!!!!

I have very fond memories of the diving team and PO Topsy Turner who I suspect is no longer with us, Helicopter Controlling never to believe that a few years later I would be an Observer in a Sea King helicopter, dealing with the paper work which fortunately I had excellent staff to deal with but I did in the end do the Staff Course at Greenwich and did improve.  Quarterdeck operations always baffled me but I do sail in Croatia every year so I must have learnt something and can tie a bowline.

We had a lot of fun onboard capped by Roger Lomax's farewell in a bath of champagne - he went on to be very successful as a Foreign Navies teacher before the big boys got involved.

I now live in Briantspuddle in Dorset having lost my first wife 6 years ago but remarried to a Lecturer in Arts and Design in London. I have 3 children and 1 step and 4 grandchildren and 3 step. They live in KL, Spain and Germany so we travel a lot to see them.

Hoping to play a lot more Golf and more Sailing as well as visiting exotic spots around the world.

Robin Gainsford

10 January 2011