I REMEMBER IT
late 1956, about 150 sailors were milling about the platform ready
to board the night express to Glasgow.
Order was gained by petty officers' shouts and, with kits and
hammocks stowed in the guard's van, we were off.
Some men were with old shipmates, many others hadn't spotted
anyone they knew and, among them, were youngsters like me fresh from
6 weeks training and a couple of weeks in Pompey Barracks - hardly
used to navy routine.
Royal Navy is the best club in the world and, it wasn't long before
men were comparing notes on past ships, old shipmates and ports of
call. We ODs or
ordinary seamen, were soon absorbed into the crowd and, when the
train arrived in Glasgow next morning, we'd learned a little about
seamanship; how to play cribbage; which were the best pubs in town
and a few new words. No-one worried that our collars were dark blue, while the
collars of old hands were Air force blue.
We would work on washing out the colour quickly, then no-one
would know how green we were on our trips ashore.
keep the men happy - feed them. First, load all the kits and hammocks onto trucks and us into
buses to a handy naval air station for breakfast and a wash and
through the suburbs, past the shipyards, it seemed very grey.
The Clyde was not an appealing place at all.
Occasionally someone would point out some place of interest
and, I think, we were all a little surprised to see the aircraft
carrier, HMS Illustrious, towering over the sheds of the yard where
she was being rebuilt.
turned off the road into the Yarrows shipyard.
At the time, I had never heard the name, but I now know that
it was one of Britain's foremost destroyer builders.
Out of the bus and into the noise -
metal cutting, metal drilling, riveting and cranes grinding
along tracks. The noise
must have been far worse when ships were riveted throughout and not
welded. We had to be
careful where to walk as there were so many things to trip the
unwary - look down at your feet, look up for your head.
Great plates of steel were being swung through the air above
us, all fashioned and cut to shape for a ship on the stocks.
marched round the end of a shed to the water's edge and just a few
yards up the wharf of the fitting-out basin was what looked like a
brand spanking new destroyer. In
actual fact she had just been rebuilt and modernised.
She had originally been built in 1944 by Samuel White, the
famous racing yacht designer. It
was reputed that all the ships he built for the Royal Navy, were
finished to the same high standard.
sure the sun shone on her for a minute, even the pussers grey seemed
was HMS Carysfort and she was everything I had ever thought one of
Her Majesty's destroyers should be.
I knew she'd be a good ship.
We all trooped aboard and a rating at the end of the gangway
asked each for name and number - Holt PJ 966217.
Righto Tim, along you go under the break, then right forrard
to 3 mess. For the rest
of my time in the Navy I was Tim.
one found the mess deck it became obvious that space was at a
premium. When you found
a bit of room, you either sat on it or slung your hammock in it. We had 3 messes in the focsle and here 31 men would
relax, eat and sleep until the commission finished.
The allotted space per man used to be 18 inches square but
whether or not we had a bit more I'm not sure.
The leading seaman, the killick, got us all sorted. Our killick, a chap probably not much older than me, gave
everyone a job to ensure the mess area was always clean and tidy.
Even the old 3 badgemen who knew all the dodges had to pull
a few days, in which we were sorted and put into watches, day jobs,
etc., the commissioning warrant was read to us.
This was the first time we'd all gone into divisions in our
No 1 uniforms. Next
day, we were off down the river towards the sea. Since the season was early winter, it was pretty chilly.
were based at Greenock for our working up.
The guns blew bits off the Isle of Arran, frightened tugs
towing targets for us to hit, shot holes in drogues being towed
overhead and brought down several unmanned drones. While this was going on the inclement weather sorted out the
weak tums. It can turn
quite nasty in December in Scotland - sleet, snow, gales and fog. We had them all. It
was a relief to fire torpedoes in a nice quiet loch.
It kept the boat's crews busy towing back the spent weapons.
After chasing submarines and trying to sink them, we berthed
alongside the depot ship HMS Maidstone for Christmas and embarkation
leave. Well, most had
leave but a quarter of us had Christmas amid ice and snow. We had our leave later over the New Year while those back
from leave took the ship down to Portsmouth to prepare for sailing
south - Suez - we heard.
Channel and the Bay of Biscay gave us a parting shot,
but the ship behaved like one of the builder's racing yachts.
It was always nice to hop into your hammock just to save
having to hang on to something to stay upright.
A bit like a demented lift, which changes its movement while
unexpectedly corkscrewing. Gibraltar
was a welcome sight.
the sun, hot sun in January. Hard to believe. Fantastic
place. So much crowded
into a small area and shops selling things we'd never heard of in
England. Outdoor cafes
with Spanish ladies dancing on the tables and that great big rock
towering over everything. It
didn't look much like a lion until a day or two later when I looked
back as we steamed towards Malta.
how I remember meeting the ship I spent most of my time on in the
Royal Navy. She took us
on a wonderful paid Mediterranean cruise.
We called it the cruise of the Carysfort.