Lieutenant Commander Victor Fifield – Oral History

It is important for people reading this manuscript to remember that these are the personal recollections of Mr Fifield. Time and lack of resources have precluded the researching of facts to draw attention to any errors. The views expressed in this oral history are those of the interviewee only and not the NZDF, RNZN, and the Navy Museum.

This is an interview with Lieutenant Commander V Fifield MBE, RNZN (Rtd) at his residence 54 Whakaipo Avenue, TAUPO on the 19th April 1996. The interviewer is Commodore G.F Hopkins OBE, RNZN (Rtd).

Vic thanks for having me with you and it is good to see you again.

Our first question always is can you tell us you were brought up, where you went to school. Can you just tell us a little bit about your parents and what they did and what led you to join up with the New Zealand Navy which I think was in 1941?

My parents came from England, my father from Gloucestershire and my mother from Somerset. My father joined the Royal Navy in December 1914 and came out to New Zealand as a passenger in SS ATHENIC in May 1923, he was a Stoker 1st Class. He married my mother Winifred Mary Ellen Preddy in the Parish Church of Shirehampton on the 2nd of April 1923. He was sent to New Zealand to join HMS LABURNAM having volunteered to the New Zealand Station instead of being drafted to a “K” Class Submarine.

My mother came to New Zealand to join him in SS CORINTHIC. When she arrived at Lyttelton there was a telegram waiting to inform her that father was in Greymouth Hospital having had his left arm amputated as a result of a shot gun shooting accident.

He had already deserted from the Navy with several other ratings, mainly stokers and I think he was marked “run” March 1924 and was subsequently discharged, with the RN having no further claim on his services. At least one other son of those deserters joined the RNZN and became a Chief Petty Officer. The deserters made their way south working at the mines at Huntly, Opotiki etc.

I don’t know if you know Stoker PO Walker from the coast, his father and my father and two and three others set off together and from what I gather they came down to places like Opotiki and Huntly and worked in the mines. Then they went down to the West Coast where they thought that they would be out of sight I suppose. Anyway my father was out with Billy Walker’s father shooting and they had a shotgun and they saw a dog with its head in a tin and so they swung around to look at this dog and old Billy Walker had the shotgun and it went off. It didn’t take my father’s arm off, but eventually because of lead poisoning he lost the arm and so he settled on the West Coast. My mother then wrote to the Admiralty and had his name struck from the roll as it were and his “run” removed from his service certificates and the Admiralty wrote back to say that they had no further claim on his services and he settled on the West Coast.

I was born on the West Coast in a place called Ngahere, which is just out of Blackball and the family lived in Blackball, but the nursing home was over the river in Ngahere. I then went to school there, my father worked as a check weighman of the mine and because he had one arm during the Depression he was one of the first to lose his job I suppose and he finished up on the dole. He set out with 30 bob in his pocket that he had saved and borrowed and he set up a green grocery business with a draft horse pulling a great dray. The family moved to Reefton where the green grocery business had extended to, dad having hawked the produce to that town by horse and cart. We settled in Reefton in 1932 and I started developing a greater interest in the Navy

I suppose the reason why I joined the Navy was my father having deserted from the Navy was still Navy minded. With his few cobbers on the West Coast who had been in the Navy with him and occasionally with a Marine who had come from DUNEDIN, DIOMEDE or one of those, I would hear them all chatting and talking and I used to ask him all sorts of questions.

You were brought up on salty stories?

Yes I suppose so. He would tell us he was at the Battle of Jutland and he was 20 hours in the stoke hole without a relief in HMS TIGER and he was at Gallipoli in a fast destroyer HMS ADVENTURE. One of the things that stands out in my life is seeing a film called “Tug Boat Annie” where the tug boat is rammed and there is water pouring in. I suppose that also had some effect on me. I was reminded in LEANDER when we were tin fished because I was in the next compartment where the hole was and all this water was pouring in like that and I thought poor old Tug Boat Annie. That was the gyro room next to the transmitting station.

Then we moved over to Christchurch, my father saying when I was ready to go to High School that there was not the opportunity on the West Coast. My brother and I were ready to go to High School and so they moved over to Christchurch and bought a property in Christchurch and we set off and I went to West Christchurch District High as it was then, it is called Hagley High now. I went to Christchurch South Intermediate School, I was number 11 on the roll down there when it opened, which was an experimental school in Christchurch and then onto Christchurch Technical College where I was at the beginning of the war. I actually started off with an engineering course there. My father said that if I wanted to join the Navy, I was to go as an artificer, no son of his was going to join the Navy as a boy. He used to tell me horrible tales about boys bathing on the upper deck and Chief GI’s chasing then around with lumps of rope and all this sort of thing and was out to discourage me. He was encouraging me to go and take a trade and join the Navy as an artificer, which I wasn’t all that keen on. In the meantime I had joined the Sea Cadets in Christchurch, STEADFAST, Neville Peach was in STEADFAST with me. We had two or three wonderful people there. One was a chap by the name of Ernie Collins who had been Coxswain or Submarine Torpedo Coxswain on the Submarine E11 at Gallipoli when Naismith won his VC and he was a great inspiration. We had another guy there who was Hugh Anderson who had been Navigator in NEW ZEALAND in the RN and he was from Anderson’s Engineering Works in Christchurch. He became the CO there after Commander Harding left, I think that was Richard Harding’s father who was taken by the Navy to be the Director of Recruiting and he had come from the Sea Cadet Unit there. We did all sorts of things there. At the beginning of the war we learnt to do wire splicing for Bren gun carriers for the winch that kept the tracks up and we had built a mine watching station on Lyttelton Harbour.

This is the Sea Cadets?


I can remember when we used to go and land in a whaler and wade ashore and take all the material in the whaler. We had it set up on one side of the harbour with a great brass pelorus made by Anderson’s so that in the event of air raids we could take bearings where the mines dropped and so forth. Of course there were great things going on down there like the shore battery trying to identify the local fishing boat as it came in, telling it to stop so it could identify it. It didn’t stop, so they fired a shot across its bows and killed a guy who was having a sleep in the foc’sle. I then sneaked up to see the Naval Recruiter in St Asaph Street in the RNVR Headquarters in the top of the brewery in Christchurch. The recruiters’ name was Master at Arms Tommy Hughes. I spoke to Tommy and he said, “Fifield”, he said, “Is your father Billy Fifield, Stoker”, I said, “Yes, he was”. “Oh I know him”. They were run ashore oppo’s down to the Esplanade when they were in CHATHAM. I said I wanted to join the Navy as a boy and my father wanted me to wait until I could go in as a tiff and all that sort of thing. He said, “Why don’t you ask your father to come up and have a cup of tea with me”. He said, “I can’t offer him a beer now because I belong to the Salvation Army.” The reason he belonged to the Salvation Army was that he, my father and some others were coming back from the Splade one night and CHATHAM was in dry dock, but fortunately there was water in the dock. As the Jaunty, Tommy Hughes was going on board he fell off the gangway into the dry dock and a Salvation Army lassie rescued him and he married her and so he finished up carrying the banner. When I used to go and see him after I had joined the Navy, he used to say, “Well I can’t offer you a beer or invite you to have a beer”, but he used to give me half a crown to go and have some afternoon tea. Anyway my father went up to see old Tommy Hughes. When he came back old Tommy Hughes must have said, “It is different now Bill” or something similar. My father said that evening, “Okay if you want to join the Navy as a boy you can join the Navy as a boy”. My father told me he put his age on and joined as a stoker when he was 16 in 1914. My father said, “There are no back doors, if any anything goes wrong or what not, don’t come to me, you do it yourself.” Away I went and got the papers. My mother was a bit upset because she had had my father away all the First War and she didn’t like the idea of me being away particularly at my age.

Presumably the war being two years on almost when you joined and the war news would be pervading life generally.

I can remember for instance when I was at tech we used to have speech competitions and I won one. There was a book that was published on the Battle of the River Plate, I have got a copy of it here now, Churchill’s speech was in there and I took all the plums out of that like “great annals of our naval history”, and all this sort of thing. The other thing was there used to be a lot of these patriotic things going on and being tied up in the Sea Cadets and with the Navy League we were tied up with patriotic concerts and all the parades.

Was there a bit of geeing up between the cadets?

No I don’t think so. We used to listen to the tales of old Ernie Collins and those people, but I don’t think that any of those people, but I don’t think any of those people acted as recruiting people. It certainly wasn’t, “You have got to join the Navy”, and hopefully and I think because I was Sea Cadet area officer, Christchurch for sometime, they still do not do that. We used to go and march in all the ANZAC Parades and you are pretty well indoctrinated I suppose. I don’t think that we had a high number who joined from there, we had some who joined the Merchant Navy.

What sort of procedure did you have to go through, did you have to sit exams and interviews?

Yes I understand there was over two thousand who applied to join as boys when I applied in 1941 and they were recruiting 25 boys. When I look back at it, the size of me compared with the size of the guys that were there and some of the guys who had greater educational standards than I had because I had only had about 18 months at High School when I left. To follow my father’s wishes I went to become an apprentice with the Railways, with a view to going in as a tiff. I was only there for six months. I don’t think that the Sea Cadets tried to recruit us, but I think that perhaps as I had been in the Sea Cadets and had a letter sent to the recruiter, Also the fact that the Director of Recruiting was Commander Harding who was the Head of the Recruiting Board had some effect. We went to Wellington on the ferry, down steerage and went to the Railway Office in Featherston Street that they used to do the medical exams and things as a recruiting office. There was Commander Harding, the doctors, all the others, it was quite similar to what recruiting has been since. I came away from there and waited until we heard whether we had been accepted or not and I would think that was probably in October `41.

Was there a long wait to hear, was it the same day or the next?

Oh no it was some weeks before it came out, because my father used to say to me, “You will never get in you have got flat feet” or something like this, and I would think “Oh God.” It was well before the end of the year I suppose we heard and may be November or something like that. The intake that we were sent for was 14th May 1942 and so then we had that long wait. An interesting thing was that I had to go and have my teeth done at my expense before I was finally accepted.

They were very keen on that weren’t they?

I had to go to the dentist Mr Helliwell. I went to the Christchurch Hospital where they took two out and then I went to the local dentist Mr Helliwell in Christchurch and had some filled. I had to get a ticket to say that I was dentally fit before they would accept me. Although there was a war on, you had to be up to the standard before they would accept you. They didn’t take you in and say, “We will do these teeth when you get there.” I have got an idea that Doctor Hellmore who later I came across him in TAMAKI, was the Surgeon Lieutenant Commander and might have been on the Medical Board in Wellington. We just had to sit it out then until May and mine came through and I am not sure whether we had to report to the RNVR Headquarters or the recruiter, I think they might have just given us our tickets. I went across on the ferry. I met up with another guy from my class, Mervyn Smith and we found that’s where we were going. We then took the train up to Auckland, which was a great adventure and arrived at Auckland to be picked up at the station in a truck and taken down to Admiralty steps and taken across to PHILOMEL.

This is May 1942?

May 1942, the 14th of May is the day that we stepped into PHILOMEL we went into what is now part of the galley, one of the lounges there where we all stood up and took the oath and then went and got our kit. We had a further medical before taking the oath.

Twenty five or twenty six of us went to TAMAKI to join. After we had been there for a few days or weeks, a couple of weeks maybe, one of our number a chap Luke Warnes was really homesick and didn’t like the place and decided that he would go home, he would escape. There was a dingy on the beach and he and somebody else got in this dingy and when it came to the bed muster at 9.30 at night or whenever Luke was missing. They sent out a search and turned out all the ships company and the HO classes to look for this person in case he fell over the cliff and all sorts of disastrous things could have happened. He was sighted rowing this dingy in the bay where the jetty is towards Auckland. A good job that they sighted him because he hadn’t put the plug in the thing firmly. He came back and did his training down there. He went to the UK in ACHILLES and was part of ACHILLES ships’ company when ACHILLES went back to UK after she had her turret bombed and before they changed over to GAMBIA. Mervyn Smith who called in to see me the other day tells me that Luke was seasick all the way. He wasn’t just seasick as some people get for a while, he couldn’t eat, he couldn’t sleep and this went on for the whole trip. Old Luke was a very thin guy to start with and he was like a match stick when he got to the UK. Of course he came back in GAMBIA and he was still sea sick and that was in a fairly large cruiser and it didn’t matter whether the ship was in bad weather or not. They persevered, you will get over it and there is no way that you are getting out of this lot. It was wartime and Luke was quite happy to go in the Army or do his bit, he just didn’t want to go to sea again.

I came back from Australia at the end of the war in GAMBIA, from Sydney and these two were in that ship at that time and Luke Warnes and Mervyn Smith went on leave together. They had taken Luke Warnes off GAMBIA because of his seasickness and I remember Luke telling me this that they were putting him into a minesweeper, ARBUTUS or ARABIS or one of those to see if he really did suffer from seasickness. He was a guy that had been suffering for a couple of years and so he said, “To hell with this”. He joined the minesweeper, he never went to sea in it and he went on leave with Mervyn Smith who was second leave in GAMBIA after she came back. When they arrived in WELLINGTON, Luke said to Mervyn Smith can you lend me ten pound. In those days it was quite a lot of money, particularly for young AB’s who were on eight and six in their hand a week, mind you draw it out of the ledger and what not. Mervyn Smith said, “Yes okay, I must have it back”. Luke got off the train in Wellington and it was thought he was spending his leave there and Mervyn Smith went on to Christchurch. Luke Warnes deserted there and thereby hangs a tale. Poor old Luke he never really got over that all his life.

You don’t know what happened to him?

Yes he died in the end, he had a daughter in Australia and he went overseas.

Did they get him back after he deserted?

No I don’t think they did. As far as they are aware they didn’t discharge him medically or anything like that.

You guys kept up with him?

We organised a reunion a few years ago and I managed to catch up with him.

Your kit was issued at PHILOMEL?

At PHILOMEL yes, I can’t think of the name of the guy, he was in the Naval Store as the Naval Tailor of for years, but all he did was reach things off the shelf and throw them at you.

We got our kit. Then from then on with our bag and our attaché case and the kit that we brought from home we weren’t separated from it and never let it out of our hands I don’t suppose until we got into the dormitory in TAMAKI.

You went to TAMAKI that day?

Yes and we went down on the ONEWA and we got to the jetty and it was up bag, kit and you had to carry it up the hill, right up to the parade ground and took it to the dormitory. It was torture.

Everything presumably went in a kit bag. A hammock would be in bits and pieces wouldn’t it?


No nice neatly tied up hammock?

Hammocks were lashed seven turns, one for each sea.

I fancy that I was carrying a hammock as well, anyway I certainly carried the kit bag up there and we were almost dropping like bloody flies, but of course we all thought if we don’t do this they will send us home again. We made up our hammocks in the dormitory under the eye of our instructor, PO Bill Cook.

Later many dogwatches were spent in pointing and grafting our hammock lashings and lanyards. We were not allowed hammock stretchers, had no pillows or sheets but a horse hair mattress, bed cover and two white blankets. The blankets wore well. I still have them 55 years on. Pyjamas were issued and worn for the first time for some of our class. On our first leave we took our civvies and suitcase home.

How old in fact were you?

In 1942 I was just 16 and a quarter, the age range was from I think 15 and a half to 16 and a quarter.

What I was thinking was I suppose some of you weren’t very big and the muscles hadn’t developed as well as they should have?

No that is right.

We had one chap there who I will see hopefully after I come home after this weekend, Brian Dewes, who they found out later was 14 years and something. He got through and towards the end of his training they suddenly found that he was not of age. But by the time they found it out and did all the paper work he just crept over the age mark and so they kept him, old Brian Dewes, he was only 14 and three quarters. I think for the HO’s they brought their gear up on the truck.

How long had TAMAKI been going when you got there, it must have been a relatively new establishment?

Yes there was one class of boys ahead of us, but they had done most of their training in PHILOMEL. That was people like George Marshall and Vic Sutherland and those people and they came down to TAMAKI and finished off their training down there. They were the last class of the New Zealand Division. We were the first Boys Class of the Royal New Zealand Navy. I don’t know, I suppose it had been going 6 or 9 months or something like that. It was in full flight. There were new dormitories and of course they were using a lot of the buildings from the quarantine station and they had a couple of Army guns there. They were naval guns actually, but they were manned by Army and we used to do our gun drill on those and we were going to defend Auckland with those. There was one BL 4 inch and one quick fire 4 inch. There was great ceremony when the Army went and fired one round by long lanyard. We all stood around and watched them. One gun the BL was at Cemetery Point. The QF on the beach facing out towards the Gulf. Yes TAMAKI was good times actually.

I suppose feet didn’t touch the ground once you got going?

That’s right. You were up before six I suppose and you did your PT first I think. You got up and you had a cup of cocoa and you did your PT and then you came back and had your wash and your breakfast before you turned to for training.

It must have taken a bit of time to get going and learn how to tie a hammock up and get your kit sorted out?

Oh yes.

Did your kit have to be marked?

Yes we spent time with the old stencils and one inch black types with black paint. You did your hammock and I think they were two inch and one inch for your kit, metal type. Some types you made up from wood. You learnt how to sling your hammock and how to get in it. We had one boy who fell out of it and he went off to hospital with a serious dose of concussion. That was Bill Eddy, later PO Eddy killed at Westport during the 1951 Wharf Strike.

Which was your dormitory, just roughly can you describe it?

Yes it was right next to the quartermaster’s lobby and it was next to the cell block and it had the boy’s bathroom at the back of it. The boy’s bathroom was outside near the cliff top. The showers were in a block at one end of the parade ground. A shower block and a boiler house were in the same building. It was right opposite the PO’s Mess I suppose. If you took a road that went to the point. It was a small dormitory, it only took 25 of us and it was next to the cellblock and the WT Training Room.

There was a senior boy’s class there?


You were the only ones?

We were the only ones there.

You didn’t have anybody to guide you or hate you?

No we were on our own. When ACHILLES came back or it might have been LEANDER, when one of the ships came back the old boys came down and they were put in another dorm and they came down with all their salty sea stories and they were there for several weeks. That happened to us as well. When we came back from LEANDER, while LEANDER was cleaning up and we went down for a couple of weeks and we became the old boys as well.

Is that purely to gee up the youngsters that were there?

No that was a question of getting us out of our old sea dog ways to bring us back to earth and give us some more PT and what have you.

Tell us a bit about the routine there, especially the early routine, you must have been a collection of boys from quite diverse backgrounds and presumably one had to be taught the basics of life, the basics of laundry and hygiene. Did you have to prepare your own food. Tell us about the domestics?

We didn’t really have to prepare our own food because the galley was there, but we collected our food from the galley and served our own food in our own dormitory. We didn’t eat in the dining hall with the HO’s, we were kept separate from them as far as possible and so we weren’t supposed to speak to them or scrounge tobacco from them or anything like that. We had our meals in our own dormitory. We used to go over and collect the meals from the galley and then serve them out on one of our tables there. I have got some photos of the tables there. Collecting hot water in Pussers mess kettles to wash up the dishes. We had a pantry in one end of the dormitory with a big hot box, food and mess trap cupboards and drawers. The floors were polished with white wax polish. Windows and glass cleaned with newspapers.

This was where you slung your hammocks?

Yes it was like a little mess deck, it had hammock netting and we had the tables which we used for every thing and our lockers were built in under wooden seats which were around the edge. We had a little servery at the end with a hot press in it. This was so that when you brought food over and if the class happened to be boat pulling or something like that and didn’t get back in time or someone didn’t get back in time it was kept warm there for you.

You had to do your own dishes afterwards?


I can always remember we had a Leading Cook, George Merrit who finished up as a Chief Cook and in fact old George finished up running the tea-rooms at Rangiriri. Old George was always kind to the boys. We were always hungry and after the midday dinner I would imagine that he probably whipped up some spare duff anyway, but if there was spare duff or what have you he would come outside. We would be waiting for him outside the galley and he would say, “We have got some gash here for you.” The boys used to run and grab the tray, one of those aluminium galley trays and take it into the boy’s bathroom down the back and they would be eating it with their hands.

I suppose you always were hungry?

Yes we found all sources of food. There were Cape Gooseberries growing around there. The banana passion fruit we used to take off the Training Officer’s house at night. We used to go out on expeditions at night to get food. Apples and figs were on the trees. Our ablutions in the morning and dogs were supervised by an instructor who made sure that we did everything correctly. We used to wear white duck drill uniform and it was bloody hard to wash, canvas, it used to take all the skin off your knuckles. They used to make sure that you washed your hands at lunchtime and that sort of thing and then in the evening the Instructors used to put you through the shower as well. We had beautiful hot water, there were four shower heads in the room and the GI’s used to push you through there. It was the highlight of the day sometimes.

This duck uniform was that a winter and summer rig?

Yes in the winter you wore a blue jersey with it instead of a white flannel cotton front.

What under the jumper?

Yes under the jumper.

Were you issued with the old flannels or were you into the modern type T shirt that sailors wear today?

Yes we had the blue square. I am not sure whether we had a flannel or the cotton shirt.

It was a ghastly looking thing and I have seen it in the Museum where they had a flannel and it used to come down to your knees and that was a night shirt?

No we didn’t get that that went yellow.

We were issued with two duck suits and two blue suits or one blue suit to start with and we could have tiddly suits later on, jerseys and those white flannels. They still called them flannels with the blue border and a money belt, socks, boots, we weren’t issued with shoes. It was interesting I actually had my father’s silk when I joined the Navy. My father’s silk was a full yard square.

That was all neatly folded up?

Yes that is what the silk was originally. Ours would be half a yard and then it went down even further, but it was a yard silk. We were also issued with a blue check handkerchief which was about a yard square and that went back to the days the sailors used to use that to wrap up their bundles to go on leave with.

You were actually issued with that?

We were issued with two of those.

What was the purpose of them?

I don’t know and I can’t even remember what we used them for, but we were issued with these two blue check handkerchiefs. We used them for wrapping up our odds and ends and for ironing cloths years later.

You didn’t have senior boys, who indoctrinated you into the way of tying a tiddly cap tally and bows on your ribbons?

Some of the Instructors there were jolly good. Our PTI was Bungy Syms who still lives in Belmont I think, I met him at our last LEANDER Reunion. He has come down from Northland and he is in one of the pensioner flats there.

He appears time and time again.

Yes he wouldn’t have been the most energetic PTI I have ever come across. He came to sea with us in LEANDER when Joe Quinn went down to TAMAKI and relieved him. Towards the end of the time John Mason appeared as an Acting Petty Officer GI and he was a great guy for showing people these things. We all learnt how to put a threepence in our cap tally and then of course we had to hide it. You couldn’t wear it, you could only wear the standard one like the Instructor had showed you how to tie it, but you had the tiddly one for when you went ashore.

What did you do with the threepence was it in the actual bow?

In the front of the bow so that you the bow so that it looked like a bud in the centre of the bow, like the centre of a poppy sort of thing.

I haven’t heard of that before.

There was all these sort of tricks and you would get the bow as close as you could to the S of the HMS, so that it was over your eye instead of your ear. Then they used to sew them, some people used to sew them, tie the cap tally and then sew it back which you weren’t supposed to do either and so there was all sorts of tricks with it. Some of these we kept and changed them when we went ashore.

I can remember our class, Bill Eddy who was killed on the wharf strike in Westport. Bill was fed up with having these wide sleeves in the jumpers, because they were like coat sleeves almost. One Sunday Bill decides he is going to make his suit neater and gets it spread out on the locker and unpicks the sleeves. He puts his arm down and he draws or gets somebody to draw his arm on the sleeve and then goes to sew it up and he made it too small in the sleeves and he couldn’t get his arms in.

You were asking who taught us dhobying. We had the two dog watches and that was our laundry period in the laundry and it was all handraulic. We were taught how to do your hammock and wash your clothes and socks and darn your socks and hang your washing up on the line. You were issued with 48 clothes stops, which were little pieces of string and you used to tie the clothes up on the line so that each piece was interlocking with the other with these clothes stops. We didn’t have irons you rolled your trousers up and folded them in the creases and slept on them or put a weight on them.

You couldn’t even iron whites?

No you folded everything, you didn’t have an iron.

Would you believe I have got some down below somewhere, the pusser’s hard soap which we used to use and we used to rub it on. We weren’t allowed to scrub anything except our hammocks, you had to do it all with your hands. Our Divisional Officer Arthur Wilkinson showed us how to collect soap scraps and melt together for shaving. We were issued with blocks of Gibbs toothsoap in a Bakelite container and a safety razor. Later on I bought a cut throat razor.

What was the main instruction down there, what were you mainly trained in?

Well everybody went to school at some stage. After you had been there a little while they then sorted you out and some became advance class boys, AC boys who were going to stay there a further six months I think and go through more school to get to ET2 standard. School was a pretty standard subject particularly for the AC boys. Then the rest I suppose was divided into seamanship and gunnery, physical training, some Padre sessions, personal care, cleaning etc. were part of the routine.

That just kept going?


You had lots of seamanship and lots of gunnery?

Yes I can remember things, when I take classes now I can remember the old dits that the Instructor used to teach us out of the Seamanship Manual for the rules of the road at sea. I can remember Petty Officer Cook who was our Seamanship Instructor and he was an old Cornish First World War guy, a three badge Petty Officer. If you ever had a spare moment it was open your manuals and we used to learn those dits like, “If both lights you see ahead starboard wheel and show your red”. “If in danger or if in doubt always pull the damn thing out”. He said, “If you heard the rapid ringing of a bell followed by a white light what would it be”, and that was the only one that I could really remember all my life and that is a cyclist ringing his bell before he got around a corner. We had to point and graft our hammock lashings and we used to sit at that in our spare time with bees wax and what have you and also the hammock lashings. If you went over instead of under you had to do the whole bloody thing and start again. Gunnery instruction included, gun drill on the 4 inch, ammunition recognition and use of various types. Fire control included the use of Dumerq Vicker double dialled clock, fall of shot clock, potters wheel drivers etc. Terms and definitions including range, rate of change of range, bearings, inclination, the angle between the line of sight produced. The enemy’s fore and aft line measured in degrees from 180 degrees to o degrees and 180 degrees towards zero, O like a cats’ backside running away, these I remember.

Masses of boat work down there, lots and whalers and cutters?

Yes cutters and whalers and tons of boat pulling and sailing.

What about get fit?

PT every morning and regular gymnasium periods, box horse, wall bars, parallel bars, boxing etc., rugby, soccer, cricket, marathons, athletic meetings, field events, long jump etc.

Running and rugby and stuff?

The ear nose and throat specialist who I went to a couple of years ago found the bend in my nose which I had forgotten all about which happened in rugby on the beach down there.

I know in later classes the speciality was once around the Island very frequently?

Yes we did that around the Island. In the morning as I said when you turned out you went straight to PT and if the PTI wasn’t there then you had some of the other Petty Officers. PO Writer Percy Calder who was a keep fit guy in his own right and I remember Percy used to get you up there and, “Chop, chop”, you would be waving your arms and things and then you would go for a run. His nickname was “Chop, chop”, meaning faster, hurry up.

Down the beach?

Down the beach or down the wharf or out to Cemetery Point and to the farm gate.

Did you have to have early morning swims and that sort of thing in the summer?

I don’t know about early morning swims, but you used to get a swim down the beach. I can’t remember having a lot of those early morning swims. In fact they taught swimming off the beach. There were no powerboats.

Of course one had to pass swimming tests?

Yes I passed a preliminary test down there. There was no swimming pool or anything, it was straight off into the beach. The swimming test included a swim in overalls.

The food was quite adequate?

Yes I think so, except we were always looking for more. We had Lime juice, cocoa, tea, a little coffee, but what was issued was made up in the tea kettle and milk added and I think boiled together. Bread came from Auckland in wicker boxes. Food was well cooked and varied for those days. Some of the duff was a bit heavy for a midday meal. Mince on toast, sausages and tinned tomatoes known as train and mash, Spaghetti on toast and perhaps one piece of fruit each day.

The pusser received an extra allowance for boys under training, about a quarter of RA.

You mentioned dinner at midday and so what you had a sort of an RN routine of dinner at midday, tea and supper, how did that work?

You had tea at 4 o’clock which was a cup of tea and a biscuit or something I suppose and then you had an evening meal. You had your breakfast, beans on toast or something like that. May be porridge, but I don’t think there was a great deal given to cereals and things in those days and then you had your lunch and then you had tea which was when you finished in the afternoon. Then you went and had your shower and went and changed into your night clothing and then you had your evening meal which was a cooked meal again.

Night clothing was your oldest serge suit worn without a collar. Leather slippers like laceless shoes were eventually issued to be worn in the evening in lieu of boots. We sneaked them on leave to wear as shoes were not issued until we went to sea.

What about leave, did you get any leave?


None at all?

No there was no leave for the first six weeks.

(end of Tape 1)

(beginning of Tape 2)

We were talking about leave?

After six weeks we could have a long weekend if we had our parent’s permission and we had a written statement by somebody who said that we could go and stay there and that was from a Friday until Sunday afternoon.

How did you get on being a South Islander?

A friend of mine down in Christchurch had a cousin in Auckland and so I was introduced to her or he wrote to her family. They had a Four Square grocery store in Remuera and I went out there and helped them count ration coupons over the weekend besides the normal walks, home time, meals and outings.

That became a home away from home?

Yes I also had some other friends there, Lloyd Elsmore’s family who became the Mayor of Manukau. They had lived opposite us on the West Coast and so they became my up homers later on. Then after about three months, I suppose a term you had a fortnights leave to go home.

You went right back to Christchurch?

Yes and you had your three days travelling time or whatever it was and you had a warrant and set off.

That would be a big event going home. No doubt in uniform and proud as punch?

Yes that’s right.

Your parents eyeing you up and Dad eyeing you up?

I went home once and I think it must have been from LEANDER when I was an OD. Eric Elliott who was another guy in my class who lost a leg in Australia on his way home when he was between Sydney and Melbourne to join a troop ship. We went to town, we were the big sailors alright and came home a bit full, I had the biggest dressing down I had ever had in my life. Of course my father could speak, he was a bit of a hard player when he was a youngster in the Navy and so that was our leave. Of course there were other highlights when we went over to football. If you could get into a football team that was going to play a school or something that was great. We had high days when visiting teams from schools came to play at TAMAKI. We always had buns, cakes and sandwiches on those days. The other one was that when you went to be confirmed if you took up the church and I was Church of England and my mother was anxious that I was confirmed before I joined the Navy. The Reverend McKenzie was our Chaplain who eventually became the auxiliary Bishop of Wellington. We went to be confirmed at the Bishops Court in Auckland, Bishop Simkin, that was a great day for some of us boys there and some of the other OD’s I suppose, there was a fair party. We had lunch at the Bishops Court and it was all set out like a mess dinner, every piece of cutlery and glass and they served us wine and cigarettes. They had blokes taking the cigarettes from the table and trying to smuggle them back. But as soon as you got back to TAMAKI when you got on the wharf you were up arms and searched. I can remember we used to sometimes get a bit of tobacco from the OD’s who used to take pity on us and they would buy a half pound tin of tobacco for us. I didn’t smoke very much, but I suppose it was the dare devil to do it. We used to get out at about 9 o’clock at night or after dark and go and sit on the cliff there and puff up. You used to have to hide your tobacco because if the Instructors caught you with the tobacco you were in for it and they would have crash searches. We didn’t have ditty boxes they gave us little attaché cases instead of a ditty box. I can remember one boy, they reckon there was match strikes on the bottom of his attaché case, so he got sorted out and punished and they didn’t take any explanations. I had a camera an old fashioned camera and I can remember I didn’t use the old fashioned camera box because it was one of those old box ones that you pulled apart. I put the tobacco in the camera and I stuck a number on the back red window so that it looked like it had a film in it I can remember. Old Don Simpson and Petty Officer Fordyce they would come and they would search me but not my camera and so I got away with that for a while.

I suppose that would be the dare thing to do isn’t it, if you can’t have it you must do it?


We had one guy who got a few whacks for it and we had another guy who had six of the best for stealing.

Was that the sort of standard punishment being caned?

Yes for something outlandish. Smoking a couple of times you would get half a dozen whacks, but this guy had stolen something, he finished up headmaster of a school in South Auckland actually. Poor old Johnny Sinclair he died.

Punishment also included boy’s punishment, extra drill and work early morning lash up and stow and muster for rounds and at dinner (midday) time. Unofficial frog hopping with rifle, running with rifle over your head or held out at arms length. One of our class doubled until he dropped because the instructor forgot him. If we made a noise after pipe down we may have been turned out lashed our hammocks and run up and down the hill.

You were talking about how we learned other things too. Well the old Chaplain used to take us for classes and they used to swear that he had patriotic fund chocolate. He had a little terrier dog and he used to feed this dog and give him blocks of chocolate and the thing was said “Bloody Parson gets all the patriotic chocolate and gives it to his dog”. He used to give us a bar of Nutty occasionally and things and we used to have to go to his study and he was the guy that would tell us things about ourselves which probably your parents should have told you. The crafty Instructors, I suppose they must have all talked about it in the mess or something when you come to think of it, but they were a bit concerned that he might be attempting to get away with the boys or something.

I can remember the Padre in class explaining why one testicle was higher than the other one was and enable us to cross our legs. They used to question you about what the Padre did and what the Padre said and did the Padre touch you and all this sort of thing which we didn’t know much about in those days. We learned those things from him.

How long actually was your training?

A year.



So it would be May the following year before you graduated?

Not quite. The GC boys they had six months and they went to sea after six months and the AC boys left late April. I sailed on a troopship USS TYRON just after Anzac Day 1931.

You were an AC boy?

Yes and the WT boys.

Did you have to do lots of exams?

Yes you had seamanship and gunnery exams and school exams. Our schoolie was a guy by the name of Carr who was an RN chap and Ducky Waddell, Rob Waddell who was an RN chap, the guy who really put television in Auckland. He started to experiment with television and then he was the principal of the Waikato Polytech, he died recently old Ducky Waddell and then they were followed by old Schoolie Hermans. Then you did your ET1 and ET2 exams down there and it was church every Sunday.

Lots of parades no doubt?

You mean like divisions and things?


Were their lots of VIP type visitors?

No I don’t think so. We had daily divisions and we had a Sunday divisions and then off to church. Freddy Gardner was the gunner, he came from the RNVR. He had been an RNVR Instructor or Liaison Officer in Wellington through the war, very well known old Freddy down there. We used to get into the church and Freddy Gardner would have us all marched in, he seemed to be in charge of the church, the chapel down there and we would all sit down. The boys had to rig the church and we had to unrig the church. I can always remember Freddy Gardner after the Parson had finished. He would stand up in front of the congregation and the officers would leave the church. Then he would say at the order, “Clear the church, standfast the seaman boys”, and the seaman boys will pick up the hassocks and hymn cards, because we had hymn cards in those days and we had to close the chapel doors.

It was a dedicated chapel?


Just used for that purpose?

Yes it was like PHILOMEL, we closed the chapel doors which were the gym and it had old Commander Denniston’s family altar cloth on there too.

Denniston the CO?


Do you know his background?

Yes he was a Commander and he retired as a Captain, they used to retire a rank higher and he was farming, his family were farming in Canterbury. There is an Army officer, Denniston or something?

Yes that’s right, Denniston-Woods.

Yes there might be a tie up there somewhere, but they ran with the Elworthy’s through Canterbury. He had this family altar cloth which he allowed them to use, he wrote and asked for it back or the family wrote and asked for it back sometime, George Denniston.

Who were the First Lieutenant and other key officers?

There is Lieutenant Jefferies who was the Training Officer and he was one of the first Lieutenants from a SD rank, he was the Training Officer or Assistant Training Officer. There was a guy Lieutenant Commander Mitchell at one stage and he was the First Lieutenant.

You mentioned Bungy Syms?

Yes he was the PTI.

Who were your other Instructors, did you have PO Instructors?

Commander Denniston used to belong to the Navy League in Christchurch when I was the resident Naval Officer down there and he always used to get me to one side and he would say, “Now what about the sailors ?” and he was always asking about the sailors and how they were getting on these days. He was a great guy for thinking about the sailors and he was still alive in about 1970, but he would be well gone by now.

The Instructors we had newly promoted Arthur Wilkinson as a Warrant Gunner and he was our Divisional Officer and thank God we had Arthur Wilkinson because he was really a great guy and he shielded us a lot from the wrath of some of the other Instructors. Then we had Dick Fordyce who used to give us slide shows on Whale Island, shining up and polishing pig buckets and doing all those things. I can remember I didn’t have my cap on square one day and he took my rifle and he put it on square with the flat of the butt. Cookie who was the PO Seamanship Instructor, who again was a nice chap and who was really an old sea dad, but he was very strict and well respected. He left the Navy and became a porter in the Christchurch Hospital. Don Simpson he was a nasty bit of work we used to think, but in actual fact I don’t suppose he was, a really smart guy and he was an Australian GI. John Mason came towards the end of our training as an Acting PO GI. There was another guy down there, Franky Stringer, he was associated with the boys. Percy Calder who was the PO Writer who used to take a hand with the PTI work and I think that was the main stream. Doctor Helmore became the doctor down there and there was the dentist and I can’t think of who he was.

Did anybody live on the Island in those days?

Yes the Captain, Commander Denniston, First Lieutenant Training Officer, Lieutenant Jelliff, Doctor Helmore who was the Paymaster by the name of Lieutenant Trigg who had a deputy called Sub Lieutenant Kerr. I used to do Kerr’s rugby gear, I used to wash his rugby gear for sixpence a week and I used to have to make the best job I could of pressing it. That sixpence was a lot of money to somebody receiving two shillings a week.

Some of the boys were houseboys weren’t they?

Yes you would go down, you would change round to a different officer and you would clean the stove out and sweep around the grounds.

Did you have to do that yourself?

Yes you either did that or you did something else like clean the jetty or something. They were generally good, particularly some of the wives who were quite nice ladies. We, who worked in the officer’s houses, early morning, felt privileged.

They would give you a cup of tea and that sort of thing?

Oh yes that’s right and they would always acknowledge you when they saw you. I think old Freddy Gardner might have lived down there. There was a Boatswain by the name of Buckle he came from the West Country, England.

Jan Buckle isn’t it?

Yes and his ducks. He had these ducks that used to wander around with him, Buckle’s ducks. There was actually a cartoon that was drawn about Buckle and his ducks. Buckle’s ducks followed him to divisions on occasions.

In later years they had a system where you could if the weather became bad on the southern side they moved boat operations to the northern side, did they do that in those days?

Yes but I am not sure with the ONEWA. Yes I think they used to anchor the ONEWA on the other side and we used to go out in boats and get the people off because she would bump along too much on the jetty, she was a slow old boat.

When you came to leave TAMAKI was there a big passing out parade?

I can’t remember. There were HO classes leaving on a regular basis.

In the sense of Whale Island?

No or the passing out parades they have now, no I don’t think so because you see we were a group of 25 boys and there was a couple of hundred OD’s there. We did have a passing out dinner. Old Chief Cook Luke prepared this dinner and we all had our eats and each person individually had a menu, yes it was quite a thing. It was a meal like a banquet for the boys attended by D.O. Instructors etc.

There must have been a junior class that came in behind you too?

Yes Charlie Raven’s class came in. He joined in 1942. They were there when we were there because they joined probably about October/November `42. They had the next dormitory towards the parade ground.

Did you tend to act as their Leading Hands?

I don’t think so.

You had a year in the Navy all at TAMAKI and you were an AC boy. There might have only been about 12 AC boys out of 25?

Six AC Boys and six Boy Tels stayed on for six months. We enjoyed the extra space.

Most of your class would have gone six months before?

I think half the class went as GC boys and most of those went to ACHILLES and some to LEANDER. Then we had six sparkers and six of us roughly and we lost one guy who was unfit and I found out that he went into the Army as a Sergeant. In fact we left there just before Anzac Day 1943 and so we were less than a year about 11 months I suppose.

Where did you get posted to when you left?

We weren’t posted in those days. Ratings were drafted and officers appointed. I got drafted first of all to LEANDER, we knew we were going to LEANDER.

You all went as a group? The whole six of you went?

Yes we actually went to COOK in Wellington where we slung our hammocks and waited over night. The next day we joined an American troop ship which was really one of the Liberty ships called the TRYON and it was a bloody try on too and we went to Noumea.

I see LEANDER was up in the Islands?

She was in the Pacific at the time. They had a submarine alarm on the way up and they put us all down below and closed the hatches and put sentries on the hatches so that we didn’t come out. Because we were Limies, they made us tea and we smoked ourselves raw on American cigarettes, but we had good food, fantastic food. Shortly after I joined the Navy and before our other boys went away, one of the highlights was when the Americans arrived in Auckland, the Marines, Army and Navy. We all trained up and trucked up to the Auckland Domain and we all fell in with this bloody great American band with all the instruments, Souza phones etc. and American Marines and Army, our Army, Navy and Air Force. We landed at Admiralty steps and trucked up to the Domain and we then we marched from the Domain through Queen Street which was the big rally and I have seen it on film a couple of times and I was just a little short arse. There was Bill Fairbrother, myself and Brian Dews, we were in fours and somebody else and we were the last row of the Navy. They had guys from PHILOMEL and from the ships and we are marching so bloody proud and we are going to do this that and the other. We are passing a couple of old ladies down on the side of Queen Street, one said to the other, “They are not sending those dear little boys away are they?” That took the wind out of our sails.

The troop ship took us up to Noumea where we went into an American transit camp. Ducky Waddell, Schoolie Waddell was in charge of us and I don’t think he had been in charge of anything really before and had six of these boys there and we had quite a time there, we had to wait six weeks or something in these tents. The Yanks took us to their hearts. We would occasionally hear the broadcast go, “Chief Bandmaster Arthur Shaw lay aft.” Arthur Shaw’s Band was there and they had great USO shows. They had four toilets and there was about four thousand in this camp all wanting the toilets. The urinals were spouting on the outside. You had shows in a big natural bowl there, a natural sort of land bowl where they had a big screen and they had a big stage. Then of course everybody would then want to get back to their tent and have their pee before they went. Blokes were finding trees and things and killing the vegetation. The order came out nobody is to urinate anywhere except in these urinals. Off we go and the first night one of our boys was breaking his neck. So he sloped off and he is having a pee in the corner against a bush and a Yank guard comes up behind him and cocks his rifle and says, “Fold your arms on your head, forward march”, and marched him down to the quarter deck. Harry Kelsey got seven days brig on bread and water. We could go ashore and the Yanks couldn’t, so they had plenty of money and they would load you up with dollars to go and buy the hooch which was sometimes meths and they would bring lots of fruit juice from the stores that they were loading. We used to go out and go under the trucks and bring these tins of fruit juice and God knows what else in for them. We just about lost a couple of guys there. I can remember Spud Spurdle, in his tent they were drinking up on this stuff and all of a sudden he was sweating and then he was shivering and so was another guy, they were all suffering from this bloody hooch.

Then LEANDER comes in and we go and join LEANDER which happened to be at Noumea. We had been there for six weeks and we had no dhoby facilities really and so we were pretty scruffy. We were living in tents and we get on board LEANDER and as we get up onto the waist where the Mamba, Commander Steven Roskill said, “What filthy boys”.

(end of Tape 2)

(beginning of Tape 3)

We joined LEANDER from this US Navy transit camp in Noumea where there were six or seven of us boys plus Mr Waddell who was the schoolmaster and Instructor Officer. As we came up and went inboard the Commander, Steven Roskill made such remarks as, “What a filthy, scruffy lot of boys”, or something like that. Because we were in white tropical rig which was below knee length and had been filthy because we had been living in tents in the transit camp without any reasonable washing facilities and things and working in this rig. There we were with our bag and hammock in the port waist of LEANDER and took our bags and hammocks down to the mess deck. The first thing that happened to me, I didn’t realise it had happened actually I hit the water tight clip on the screen door that led down through the Sick Bay flat down to the mess deck. I got down to the mess deck and Boy Clifford said, “Don’t spill blood on my deck, I have just cleaned this up”. At which point another chap, Dave Kawakia who was a Maori in the class of the class ahead of us. Dave Kawakia was the kindest sort of guy and he took me to the Sick Bay to have the thing treated and every time I see my little scar I think of poor old Dave. There we were down in the mess deck. Now down below us in the mess deck was the flour store and the Jack Dusties were dragging up flour and we were going down with kit bags. The Master at Arms sleeping cabin mess was there. I can remember being down there and one of the older boys, the senior boys threw something, a piece of food or something that landed on the Jaunty who was lying there in his shorts resting. It all pointed at us. I think the Leading Hand of the Mess was Killer Cole and another one was John Trent who was RNVR and they were really good Sea Dads to us when we joined those messes. Martin Sewell RNVR was another of our leading hands.

Cole was a GI wasn’t he?

Yes that’s right, he is still around here, I see him at LEANDER days. He was a very young leading hand and took a great fatherly interest. He was a great worker too, even then as a leading hand I remember.

The normal things then happened to us. We were given our parts of ship action stations, defence stations, locker numbers, abandon ship stations. I was a Topman and the Captain of the Top was a big burly Petty Officer by the name of Bill McKeen and he was also King Neptune in the crossing of the line ceremony later on in the commission. It is interesting that his son became a GI and became my GI at TAMAKI. We used to get chased around. The most menial task I suppose was after scrub decks was to go around with a cloth and wipe all the water out of the ringbolts and the scuppers. The other one was to be a boom jockey and that was in the morning in harbour to go out and scrub the lower boom, which are quite sizeable fittings actually. We used to have to out there and you would have a bucket of water at one end of a piece of line and you would collect your water with that and anchor it on the boom and drag it along. Then you had a scrubber on one end of a piece of spun yarn and wiping cloth on the other end of a piece of spun yarn and you used to lower the scrubber in and scrub the boom and lower the cloth in and wipe it. This was getting near breakfast time and I thought this is bloody stupid and I wasn’t too happy sitting out there, my first experience. I came back inboard with the bucket and got a bucket of water and whoosh, I threw it all over the boom to make it look wet and Bill McKeen caught me and so I was boom jockey forever more. To get it really white you used sand and canvas.

One of the bad jobs of course quite often was side boys and call boys on the quarter deck or at sea on the bridge to do the piping and to run all the messages and so forth.

One day I was given the task of being in the side party and the Captain of the side was William Montgomery Cedric Gibbs who is in Christchurch now and he used to be in the RNVR Christchurch and was the RNVR Instructor and what have you.

Monty Gibbs?

Yes he was the GI.

I think he was our Sea Cadet Instructor when I was at school at Christ’s College.

Yes that would be right.

Monty and I forget the other guy, there were two guys down at PEGASUS with Monty. He went on the tunnel in the end.

Down in this copper punt (we had a little vessel which was called the copper punt) which would be about ten feet long and was like a catamaran. It had two sort of hulls and a flat board between where you had the long paint bushes (long toms) and the pots of paint and things which you touched up the side. We had been going for sometime. In those days sailors didn’t carry wristwatches and so you are listening to the bells to get the time. I think 11 o’clock struck and I said to Monty Gibbs, Petty Officer I think he was then or he might have been a killick or Acting PO, because he was Captain of S1 4 inch gun. I said, “Can I go back inboard because I have got the afternoon watch as call boy or side boy?” I was splattered with paint, dirty hands and rust. “Why didn’t you tell me before you came down here wasting my time.” They pulled this copper punt up to the foot of the cable and said, “There you go”. I had to crawl inboard over the cable and through the hawse pipe. Of course when I got up there I was covered in rust and filth and every time this thing moved I was frightened I was going to get jammed in it, that was an experience.

It was quite interesting being side boy and callboy at times. You would hear what was going on.

I was actually on the quarterdeck, we were at anchor still and the Yank ships were sailing ahead of us. I was daytime when we went out to Kolombangara, we went out during the afternoon. The Commander was on deck and I was standing there and the Yanks were yelling out, “You Limey so and so’s, why don’t you go to sea”, and all that sort of thing. Commander Steven Roskill wasn’t a guy who shouted much, but he shouted something like, “We have been at this war for two and a half years already”, in his very precise manner and gave it to them back, the Commander standing on the quarter deck, yelling to these yobs.

What did the ship do between Noumea and Kolombangara?

We went to Espiritu Santo as it was then, which was the American recreation area and they had a Fleet Canteen if you like, which was nothing more than a beer garden in a bare patch of grass in a plantation. I can remember there was an American sailor asking me if I had seen paw-paw growing, which I hadn’t and he took me around this paw-paw orchard and he showed me how to take the pips out and told me they were good for your stomach ails. The Americans had Landing Craft that they used to use backwards and forwards to the ships and also for stores. Before we sailed to go back to Tulagi they filled this Landing Craft with Limes and that is the first time that I had ever tasted Limes off the tree. There were lemons, paw-paw and all these fruits from these orchards. There were massive groves of the fruit and it topped up our vitamin C I suppose.

I don’t know whether you carried it up then, but there was a time when you had a double load of ammunition. Was that on that trip or it might have been a previous trip that it was left there?

It could have been. We had to ammunition at Santo, but I don’t think that we took so much for ourselves there, what we did take was a big load of ammunition in the waist, shell and cartridge for the American Cruiser USS HELENA. The chippies made big bins in the starboard waist from heavy steel planks. Hoses were rigged and sentries posted. If anything had gone in there we would have gone. By the time we got up to Tulagi, HELENA had been sunk and we took her place in the Fleet I think. That was a wasted effort. I am not sure what size it was 8 inch may be, we off loaded that up at Tulagi.

I can’t remember all that much about the trip up, I had been at sea then probably about three weeks or something like that and it was all a great mystery.

I think you said initially that you were in an assistant breech number in LEANDER?

No I was assistant rammer number. You had a wooden rammer, which had a Pisaba on the end that you put in the tank of water. When the shell went up on the tray then the rammer number and his assistant on this wooden rammer pushed it home. I was so small that the rammer number used to drag me along the deck in the turret and I got thrown out of the turret and went down to the TS.

Because of your size?


It is a fairly tiring business isn’t it to be a rammer number in those old six inch turrets?

Yes in that six inch system as well I think I might have said last time we had a lot of Damage Control practices and things which the Commander, the Mamba organised every dog watch in harbour and at sea or where ever, you were always doing these things. They were lately called general drills, but these were just Damage Control exercises. I can remember that my Damage Control Station if the power failed was assistant training number for the turret. That involved getting down into the compartment just above the working chamber, just below the deck and the training was done by hand with a big wheel which was about two foot six across or something like that.

It would be a pretty tight area if my memory of it is right. It would be like a double bottom?

It might have been in the working chamber. You trained left and you trained right, but you had two guys on the wheel. What he used to do was to get a list on, the engineers trim the ship and put a list on one way or the other and then you would train the turret up hill into the list. The Mamba had come with a clean broom to sweep the thing clean and the old sailors were saying, “Oh we never did this on the last commission, why are we doing this now?” After we were hit the first thing that happened was that we had the four turrets trained on the four quarters, port bow, starboard bow, port quarter and starboard quarter and you could operate the turrets, the guns easily manually with the training gear and the elevating gear. The layers were able to work it by hand anyway, it was just the question of training them which was the problem. It was quite comforting to see that at least you had covered the four arcs. A boats compass was in the aft conning position (under main mast) Dumerq and double dialled clock, the fire control centre in the DCT support.

You were moved down to the TS room as your action station?

Yes I went to the TS’s action station and I became the telephone operator down there. They didn’t have sound power phones, you had those ordinary electrical phone systems that were fairly heavy brassy things, but they were battery operated. The exchange was just like one of the local exchanges in a New Zealand Post Office tolls room with flaps that flicked down and plugs that you put in and lever that you put the call in to.

Was that in the TS as well?

That was in the TS and that was there for an emergency. If the ordinary communication system broke down which I think was run through the low power room, then this was the telephone exchange. I could put plugs in and put A turret through to B turret or the bridge or whatever.

Have you got memories of the technology of the gunnery system from a control point of view?

No, except that it was a massive size table that had lots of paper and pens with indelible ink manned by bandsmen. There was a range plot that came down from the range finder and pricked up little dots and they used to line that on top with our ink. They had similar things like a Dumeruq, which automatically fed in deflections. You set inclination, course and speed and line of sight and from that you are able to work out the aim off. That was automatically fed to the turrets and it was a follow the pointer system in the turret where the layer and the trainer actually wound their handles and lined up the pointers. Of course they also had sights on the guns in the turret and if the TS broke down then they could set the range locally and set deflection onto the gun sights. and what not on those.

How did the information get from the director to the TS. You talked about range, but how did your bearing get down to the TS?

I think you had these things called Evershed bearing indicators.

Just M Type transmitters step by step?

Yes I think so and again I think that came down and was followed up. Every thing was transferred from one system to another by a manual follow up.

Everybody was following pointers so to speak?

That is right. It was the really the basis of the Admiralty Fire Control Table which later became the all dancing thing that you had in BELLONA and BLACK PRINCE.

I have just got memories of it from NEWFOUNDLAND days.

We also had HACS for aircraft.

In the same TS?

I am not sure about that.

It was like the HACS in that you had a big screen and you had an eclipse on the screen and that tilted and turned and it changed its size depending upon the rate of change of range. Then you followed this by putting a vertical and a horizontal wire onto the edge of the circle and reading off from that. Once you had done that, that automatically sent your aimer deflections away. That also had a pedal machine, like an Australian outback radio generator and so you could connect in and pedal away.

Just for emergency power?

Yes that’s right, hydraulic.

I have heard it described before as a bicycle?

That is right exactly.

It really was a bicycle?

Yes like an exercise bike and you pulled this out and plugged it in and I am not sure whether that hydraulic or electrical, because there were hydraulics certainly in HACS which the bicycle worked with.

Okay so that was your action station.

LEANDER goes up to Tulagi and what happens then, I think you hang around quite a lot there don’t you?

Yes that was more or less the Base and then we joined up with Task Force 18 or whatever it was and we sailed from Tulagi.

Was there a long period there waiting around?

It couldn’t have been all that long.

Most of the waiting around was at Santos.

Not while I was on there, because we went into Santos and had a few days where we loaded the ammunition and stored and then sailed back for Tulagi. Then on our way back to Tulagi HELENA had been sunk and as I understand it, we then became part of that Task Force in HELENA’s place.

Another specific question I meant to ask you and I think Richard Hale mentioned that one of the reasons that they didn’t include LEANDER in the early operations was that she had old fashioned flash cordite. In other words when she fired her guns were highly visible, whereas the Americans were operating with flashless cordite?

Yes I think that is right. I can remember them talking about flashless cordite and the ordinary flash cordite when the guns fired, even by day there was quite a flash. I am not sure whether LEANDER in fact was kitted out with the communication kit. They had a set called TBS, which was then supposed to be the all singing, all dancing inter ship communication.

Was that installed up at Santos?

Well it could well have been because LEANDER had been working there for sometime. She had gone to Pearl Harbour before she went to Noumea she had gone to Pearl Harbour and had presumably something done up there, I am not sure and then came back to Noumea and then on to Tulagi.

The Aircraft Carrier VICTORIOUS had also been working out there in the Pacific and she was in Noumea when we were there and she had been part of that Fleet for some months.

I have got some stories from some New Zealand pilots on board there. There were a lot of RNZNVR pilots in VICTORIOUS.

They were on all the Aircraft Carriers. I can remember when I was on a destroyer, the aircraft that were shot down, if there were six shot down you could guarantee there would be two or three Kiwis that you would pick up.

The things I can remember mainly are doing practices on a daily basis. That is where they issued us with tropical khaki gear as well. The shirt was in actual fact the old white tropical shirt with a double back bone to protect your spine from the sun, just dyed khaki. The shorts were cut down American shiny khaki uniform that the US Navy issued which they wore for years. Although they were all tattered and holes and what not, they still had that shine on. I wore mine for years after in the garden.

We had Leading Seaman May, he was the radar operator and he had employed by Millers or something like that, and so he was also the clothing expert. We had this clothing and every one changed into khaki which was one of the Mamba’s innovations again I think. The legs of the trousers were cut off with the issue pinking sheers and we sewed the hems.

Otherwise you would have had to just wear overalls or something like that or wear whites?

Overalls were the working rig and the action rig was overalls and anti flash gear. You didn’t have number eights as such. Some people used to buy or swop rum and things with the Yanks, because the Americans had shirts and trousers similar to jeans. Also some of the sailors used to get made a little jacket out of denim and they used to wear this little jacket with a couple of pockets in. Not an official rig but accepted in some ships.

Were they allowed to wear that on board?

Different ship’s, different cap tallies, some did and some didn’t. Overalls or shorts were the working rig.

We are at Tulagi, what was the lead up to the actual action from a crew point of view. Did you understand that you were heading out on a war patrol and it was going to be a bit tense?

Yes we had been briefed. One thing about the Mamba was on Sunday mornings he used to get the sailors in the rec spaces and sit down and read the intelligence report and tell you what is going on around and why we are here and all that sort of thing. We were briefed on the Tokyo Express and that we were joining the Fleet and taking the HELENA’s place. We knew that we were going to sea and also we knew that we were going to do something desperate as it were or something worthwhile as it sounded in those days. All the mess tables were taken down and secured to the bulkheads. The hammocks were all stowed away. We had to keep our spare hammock and use that on the deck with your trousers rolled up as a pillow for sleeping on until we went to action stations and until we knew roughly about what time we would be going to action stations. The galley was all fired up with sandwiches and soup and bread had been baked and all that sort of thing. In actual fact I can remember it was a beautiful afternoon and we were in a line a head formation, I think LEANDER in the centre of the two cruisers as we steamed up through the Solomons. It was like going on a peacetime patrol, beautiful.

When did you go to action stations, were you at action stations the whole day and night?

We exercised at night action stations as we always did and then went to defence stations. I think we went to action stations about 10 or 11 o’clock, I am not sure.

The action was about one in the morning wasn’t it?

About 1.20 in the morning I think. In actual fact we were encouraged to go and sleep and get our heads down before and keep out of the light.

You couldn’t sleep in your hammock, you had to lay in the deck?

Yes our hammocks were all stowed away. There were no mess tables to eat your supper off, have your sandwiches and your lime juice or whatever it was. There was always lime juice around in the billies and fannies around the deck. That would be about it I suppose.

We were in Tulagi for some nights I know because we used to like to sleep in the waist. The first night I was in the hammock, it was always impressed on us that we had to get down to our action station pronto. You slept in your underclothes, your pants and flannel or whatever it was and the bells went and of course this would be the first time I closed up in anger at action stations. I was in the TS and I get down there in my underwear and old Jan Quick the fire control gunner he reamed me out for not coming down dressed and I thought what do you do, and so I was always dressed then. It was just a question of sliding on your overalls and you always had to carry and wear your life jacket and I always had a puff of air in it. You had your respirator as well I think. We used to have a little bag and the crafty old sailors had your bit of tobacco and matches all wrapped up and nutty with a few other things like that in case you found yourself in the water or whatever and so you went down with that lot. Then it was just like any other closing up, all the reports coming in. They pretty well kept you informed about the fire control situation any way of what was going on up top.

I suppose you would be in a ring side seat being a telephone number?

Yes and you had to test through this telephone exchange and talk to all positions. Besides all their reports coming in I used to have to test the telephone and report who I hadn’t contacted. I can remember that Jan Quick tied a line and it was the first time we had done it. We had closed up at action stations several times, but this night he tied a line from the door of the TS our to the ladder which went up into the gyro room ladder. Of course the lights went out and that was valuable. The emergency lanterns would have come on.

What was the first thing you heard, because you opened fire didn’t you?

Yes we fired, that is the first thing that we knew that any thing was going on was when the time gong went ding, ding.

You presumably had been tracking an enemy had you?

Yes that is right. The table was working and the Royal Marine bandsmen were doing their things on the table. Then I was looking at my telephone exchange thinking I am going to have to work this. Then we just opened fire and then felt the ship turn and heel a bit and the next thing was bang. The telephone exchange, it was the first time I had to use it for an emergency, it came off the bulkhead.

How many shots would you have fired?

Not many, we were I think firing broadsides. The US ships firing rapid salvoes, I am no sure how many they actually fired and of course they fired torpedo as well. I think Jack Harker gives it in is book and he has researched it, it wasn’t a long running River Plate type of battle, it was all over in 20 minutes as far as we were concerned.

There was some confusion on the bridge wasn’t there, I think caused by the TBS between ships. Somebody gave the order about turn and the back ships didn’t hear it or said, “Say again?”

They gave this turn, I am not sure what it was, 9 zero I think it was or something like that. The leading ship was HONOLULU I think, ST LOUIS was astern of us, she turned and it hadn’t got through and ST LOUIS was coming up on LEANDER. I think two of the cruisers were struck then and one was struck afterwards, two in the bow and us being the centre ship got it in the guts. I understand it was the “execute” didn’t get through. Somebody like Subby Hale would know more about that being on the bridge.

Everybody is a little bit vague and I think the trouble is even Subby Hale up in his director, it would be somebody like Lieutenant Woodhouse who would only have the true story because he must have been on the bridge.

He comes up for all the LEANDER Reunions and he will be up here in July. He would be one of the last around to give the actual story.

We had a big armoured hatch, we were below the armoured deck, to get through and there were two of us. There was Charlie Izzard who has now got an orchard out here and myself we were the youngest in the TS and so they said, “Up you go, open the hatch”. They got us out first, being the youngest, which I thought was pretty good when you look back on it. I knocked the clips off the hatch alright because we had practised this before, but couldn’t lift the hatch. What had happened was the counter weight had jumped off the block, the pulley. To open the hatch you had to lift the whole sheet of steel and old Charlie and I couldn’t do it. “Come down you two”, and so down we came and the Sergeant Bandsman, Dicky Bird, a big bloke went up and he just about walked through the hatch. It looked pretty grim and I can remember seeing the film “Tug Boat Annie” where the water was pouring in the tug boat when it got rammed. It just looked like that pouring over the gyro big streams of water and by the time I got out I had water halfway up my calves.

Was there light?

There were emergency lanterns.

Then we went up through the trunking and a Bandsman again who returned to New Zealand who has died since, but his family still live in the Bay of Islands, Percy Hind, he grabbed me and he said, “Now you stick with me”. We went through the Stokers Mess deck and there was a guy hanging on the hammock hook. Then we went up outside the Sick Bay which was not a cheering place to go, one of our Fijians had a ladder dropped on him and he was screaming as they brought him forward. I was then given the job of four inch ammunition supply for the forward four inch guns. The hoist of the magazine came up to the canteen flat which was on the upper deck level with the guns and I used to carry the combined cartridge and shell out from there. I can remember sitting out there the next day feet stretched out because they then upgraded my position to S1, which was Monty Gibbs gun, as part of the guns crew ammunition number, just supplying ammunition. I was sitting there and I have got my feet over here and my backside over here and my feet kept going that way and then coming back like this. I thought, “Christ, we have broken the back”. Somebody explained to me that it was the expansion plate we moved with the ship. Then we came on back down to Tulagi. We were stopped for sometime and until we got underway, that was probably the most nerve wracking.

What happened, you just stayed on the upper deck, you just stayed as gun crew?

Yes until we got back to Tulagi. I went between decks a couple of times but stayed near my new action station.

What did you do, just sleep there and you were given action messing type food?

We got back into Tulagi that afternoon I think and I don’t think we spent the night at sea again. I can remember we were anchored in Tulagi and then next morning or next day went alongside and tied up to some trees and they rigged up a little pulley system to take the copper punt backwards and forwards to carry passengers ashore. They got a concrete mixer in and wheelbarrows’ tools to start the repairs. To get to that stage we had to weigh the anchor and of course that is when they weighed the anchor by capstan by hand. They had the band on the foc’sle and had the PO’s cheering you on and marching around and around pushing the capstan spars. One of the things that they used to teach you in seamanship was how to rig a capstan and how to pass the swifter. The swifter was the rope around the outside end of the spars. The Americans I understand just stood there looking in amazement, “Those silly Limies, they must be just going to slip their anchor”. Up it came and we went alongside there. I wasn’t all that keen on going down below actually for a while.

Had your mess deck been damaged?

No, but the TS was flooded, A Boiler room was, which was next aft was flooded and out of action and they were all killed in there. The low power room was smashed up and flooded which was another adjacent compartment and there was another compartment around there, but it didn’t get into the mess deck. There was that great smell of oil and after that lime, because there was still bodies in the compartments. I can remember the teams going around and they had the cable hooks, the long cable hook from the foc’sle and as bits were floating past they would grab them and put them on hammocks. We boys used to sleep in the waist, we didn’t sleep in the mess deck even at sea. There was a boys sleeping place in the port waist and we got turfed out of this the first night because these bits and pieces came up and where they could identify them. They put them in little piles and put a hammock over them and put a guys name on it and they had a morgue sentry and they rigged up curtains. He was a real dark muzzle sailor with a real miserable looking face and if anybody ever fitted the job it was this guy. Of course then we had the burial at sea on the way down.

To Tulagi you mean?

Yes on the way from Kula Gulf down to Tulagi.

(end of Tape 3)

(beginning of Tape 4)

I will just go back a bit. We had this dish-washing machine in LEANDER in the port waist and I think this was a Commander Steven Roskill initiative again. Instead of having to carry water down the mess decks to the mess kettles and then bring it up after each meal, the cooks used to just bring their dishes up. They had a team who operated this dish-washing machine which was a big long sort of mobile table. You put the dishes in one end and you had all your mess name and numbers on them and it drove itself through on an endless belt to the other side and picked the dishes up and you took them away and you didn’t even have to wipe them hardly.

There was steam and hygiene?

That’s right and that operated there right until we paid her off in Boston.

The other one was that we used to have a cinema and the cinema in harbour could be out on the upper deck that you had on the foc’sle. You rigged a big tall screen up and you had one of these old fashioned GB projectors with arc lamps and you rigged planks in stages across and everybody sat out there. At sea you had it in the waist, in the starboard waist. They had metal structures that you rigged up in the waist, one looking forward. It was tiered like a football field seating arrangement and the other one was looking aft from the other side of the screen and so you got twice the number of patrons in to see the film. But some of them saw it backwards, because it shone straight through the screen. We had that going in Panama when they showed us an American personal hygiene film and the natives of Panama were most amazed, because there was this doctor explaining the various human parts with his pointer and people had come down from Panama to look at the ship.

Was LEANDER carrying an aircraft at this time?

No that had come off before she went up there. The catapult was on Calliope wharf where the TAS School was. We still had the crane.

When we got out of that hole there was an LTO Irishman and I still see him every LEANDER’s Reunion. I call him my old Sea Dad and he always says, “Come on son”, still, because he took a great interest in us boys after the incident and looked after us.

Then there was the work of cleaning up.

The other thing was they trimmed the ship by shifting ammunition and I think we were taking six inch shell out of the forward magazines and carrying it down aft. I can remember spending quite sometime in Tulagi in the tropics carrying six inch bricks which were I suppose about 110lb.

That would be pretty tiring, I suppose it was all manual work too?

Yes that is right. You unloaded the hoist and then we used to just get it on our shoulder and you would have a piece of rag on your shoulder and carry it to the other end of the ship.

Did you have any part in the concreting?

No I only saw it. There was a great team of volunteer officers who did that. If you see that photograph, the nearest guy to the camera, we used to call him Ducky Waddell, was R.B. Waddell who was the schoolmaster, he took Stan Hermans place.

The ship was brought back, not repaired but made sea worthy?

It was made sea worthy and there was still the hole on the side. In fact I can remember we used to go up every morning and have a look over the side several times a day perhaps and see the piece of armour plate, 4 inch, just hanging, bumping like that. We came down with an escort destroyer RADFORD to Auckland.

What sort of speed could she do?

I don’t know, I suppose she used to do about 14 or something like that, she was working quite well as I recall anyway. Certainly not the slow speed that we were stopped in the Solomons and then gradually worked up a thumping of black smoke. They reckon we set off at about four to six knots to get back and then they gradually improved as we went on. They lost the forward boiler room, some damage in another, but they also lost one engine room, because the set up was boiler room, engine room, boiler room, engine room, and they lost a bit of one engine room as well. I think our passage back to UK was about 16, I am not quite sure.

What about ships’ services were all the ships’ services working. Could you eventually train the turrets in power. For example did you get the capstan back again?

Oh yes, because we anchored in Auckland harbour on arrival.


Yes the bake-house was going with the galleys. Yes and I think that was the busy time, there was business for everyone. There was the business of the people who were getting the domestic services and the ship services back together. They were busy times for the untrained people who were cleaning up and gathering bodies together and things like that because we also had a burial at Tulagi and they had a full funeral and firing party. John Mason was the PO in charge of that, but not everybody could go to those things because there was a whack of work to do. They got LEANDER together and brought it back to Auckland. We went into the dock there and I suppose everybody from LEANDER would have told you that the Dockyard maties wouldn’t work on the ship until we got the bodies out. I didn’t have much to do with it, but I was anxious to get ashore and I can remember people like old Killer Cole had been working their guts out. “It is alright for you guys”, because he was duty watch or something, “All you are interested in is going ashore, there is work to do here”. That was the attitude, there is work to do here, why are you wanting to go ashore. That would have been the first time that we had really got off the ship. The smell down below after we were hit was terrible, because while they were fishing for these bodies they were spreading lime to stop disease spreading and stop rotting and what have you. That mixed with fuel oil produces a terrible smell, even in the frigates when we were fuelling, in the lower cabin flat there you could smell the fuel coming down and it used to remind me of that time.

Yes because fuel has sulphur in it?


I suppose it is a sulphur, lime, real rotting smell?

Yes a horrible smell. We weren’t to keen to spend much time down there on it until the ship got settled down again. They came in to Auckland and they put a plate on the side. In fact I think I was on the quarter deck as side boy or something in the morning watch, you couldn’t see anything here, it was foggy. They had the old hand fog horn going and then the fog lifted and all of a sudden out of the blue came a ferry and nobody knew that we were there. The ferry came past and cheered and it was quite a time. Then we came in and were pushed in the dock. Sir Atwell Lake came up.

He was CNS?


In those days people didn’t swear particularly officers in public and there was all the WRENS and everybody gathered around while he stood up on the capstan to address the ships company, “You gave them a bloody good kick up the arse”, and then we went away on leave. You weren’t allowed to communicate and tell your folks what had happened or anything like that except that the people knew that something had happened to LEANDER because they knew the names on the casualty list. My father picked this up and I am not sure when we were allowed to say that we were okay after the announcement that LEANDER had been part of that action.

The interesting thing was that we thought this was a victory for LEANDER and I suppose that is what keeps LEANDER’s ships company together, one of those things, because it was an achievement. I picked up a book, a paperback which was written by a Japanese Destroyer Captain and it is called “Destroyer Captain”, and it was at the time when the Japanese Fleet in the Pacific were really down. They really got down and they were not having any success. They picked on this particular Battle, that particular night and passed it around the Fleet as to how the Japanese had routed the American Fleet and damaged them and they took that as encouragement at that particular time, their victory.

The American Cruisers got badly damaged. Didn’t one have the bow shot off?

Yes both, the ST LOUIS and the HONOLULU they had torpedoes through the bow I think. Certainly one of them had them through the bow. I am pretty certain the two of them had torpedoes through the bow, which wasn’t a great problem really because you could close watertight sections and put a plate on the thing, ours was in the vitals of the ship.

The Japanese Destroyers fired an incredible number of torpedoes and I suppose it was only a relatively narrow area and so they had to hit something didn’t they?

We were using 21 inch torpedoes and theirs were 24 inch.

I think the other thing is too of interest that I picked up, is that the Japanese knew where you were because they were using electronic warfare for almost the first time at sea?

Is that right.

They had a radar intercept set and they knew where you were or they knew roughly where you were and what bearing you were and that was quite a significant event.

We had searchlights, I am not quite sure whether they used the searchlights then. I think the Japanese cruiser used searchlights and got them shot out or they turned it off. The Americans they had those two cruisers damaged and they lost the GWEN, the Destroyer and I think they might have lost another one. To disable three cruisers is quite an achievement, they didn’t get their troops and their supplies ashore, so the Japs were able to escape. I have read the Japanese eventually landed some of the troops.

The other interesting thing was I can remember us singing on the upper deck, “There is a friendly something”, which was a popular song that they used to sing about when the friendly aircraft used to come over. We had the New Zealand Squadron, Kittyhawk, Corsairs or whatever they were escorting us back to Tulagi as well. I was talking to one of those pilots and in fact we had a tape cut by him for the radio down in Taupo.

LEANDER is back in Auckland and you are on leave. What happened to you now?

I went on leave as a big sailor with one of my classmates Eric Elliott who subsequently lost a leg in a disaster in Australia, where he got pulled out of a train, he was struck by the thing that hits the train to make the signal work. He was joining the troop ship, having spent the war coming through unscathed in the North Sea in VERITY and JAMAICA.

We go home and I was not supposed to say where we had come from because we had HMS on our hats. We were not supposed to say we were going to the UK and we weren’t allowed to tell anybody. We go to the pub and we roar through Christchurch singing, “Rolling home to merry England”. I got home and we were still, “Roaring home to merry England” going through the gate and my father got me to one side and said, “You didn’t join the Navy to become one of those bloody louts”. He was a good man to say that because he had his Master at Arms fall into the dock here when he was coming back from the Splade. “Any more of that drinking like that around here and you won’t becoming home.” That took all the hero glory out.

Then we came back off leave and sailed for UK and had that slow passage. I think we were pretty well unescorted from Auckland through to Panama on our own.

They hadn’t actually restored the boiler room had they, they had just plated it up and the purpose of the trip was to go to Boston for permanent repairs?

Yes that’s right. They took X turret out here while we were in Devonport.

Why was that?

That was the policy for that class of cruiser I think. They did that with ACHILLES as well.

Do you know where that turret went to?

I know where it went to initially, they built a cradle for it alongside the TAS School there, but I don’t know what happened to it after that. They lifted X Turret out and they lifted X Turret out of ACHILLES as well.

That was damaged of course?

Yes. I think from that class of cruiser, AJAX, they didn’t put anything else in there to us anyway at that time. I saw LEANDER after and I can’t remember, I think they just had a Bofors anti aircraft weapon in X turrets’ position.

I think ACHILLES came out with a couple of pom-poms?

Yes I think they were at that time thinking of increasing the AA armament. For the size of the ship they had a pretty hefty surface firepower.

This was the Mamba again. They cleaned out everything. They cleaned out the working chamber, the magazine and the shell room, the lot. He filled it with crates of beer and so that would be one of the first RN ships or RNZN ever to have a bottle a beer a day issue and he allowed the boys a bottle of beer as well.

He was by this time Captain of the ship?

Yes. I can remember going down to the bottom of the Dock when Captain Mansergh said his farewells when she was in dry dock, just before we flooded up I think, because the anti foul was wet and then the Mamba took over from there. As soon as we poked our nose out we were onto the exercises again and he had smoke bombs through the ship and thunder flashes going all the way to Panama. We had no escorts, a real sort of a shake up again and that went all the way to Panama. We then went through the Canal and there was some sort of a fracas in the Wardroom on the way over, good natured like Lieutenant Davis-Goff taking to somebody with his sword. He was in trouble and confined to his cabin. I was an OD by then.

We had a crossing the line ceremony going over to UK when we got to 87 degrees W. I was side boy there. On the starboard side of the quarter deck the Commander was walking up and down and from the opposite side of the quarter deck was Lieutenant Davis-Goff and his escort, because he was confined to his cabin and he was allowed so much time for exercise.

It was quite serious?

Yes he was confined to his cabin and he was there with an officer at his door.

Was he subsequently court martialled or anything?

No, not to my knowledge and then he was allowed up on deck in the evenings to get his fresh air and he would have to march up and down the quarter deck with his escort and he still had a smile on his face I think.

During that action the torpedo tubes lifted and they had to ditch the torpedoes, because I think they were worried that the torpedoes were going to go. I understand that they ditched them, but the torpedo tubes had lifted and had slewed off and had come off their training rack and I remember Davis Goff was there in his white overalls, he was the Torpedo Officer. We were met the other side of the canal by two American escorts, they were those little frigates the same as some of our ships company took over to UK and they escorted us.

What Captain class or something like that?

I can’t remember what they were, but they escorted us anyway to Boston. We arrived on Christmas Eve with the harbour frozen over. I can remember holding onto the fore spring, cold. We came through the Gulf Stream and the last night in the Gulf Stream they cleared lower deck and the Captain came to talk to us and the two themes he had was it was to be cold tomorrow morning. Out of the Gulf Stream, and we said, “Christ !” we were out there in shorts and shirt, he is crazy again the old sailors were saying. Because they issued cold weather gear, I took some alongside my hammock, because I was still sleeping on the upper deck in the waist for when I got up in the morning for the morning watch and it was cold, there was no doubt about it. The other thing was we were going home to England and the people don’t swear like New Zealanders and that and so all swearing is to cease. I think the Padre used to get onto the Captain and the Commander about the swearing as well. That night he comes past the dish-washing machine where the marines are washing the dishes in and something went wrong and this marine swore, and the Mamba had just passed and “Three days in the cells”. That stopped a lot of swearing.

We got to Boston, secured the ship, no leave that night, it was dark anyway and it was Christmas Eve. We were going to clear lower deck on the foc’sle at 2340 or something like that, by which time they had a Christmas tree rigged up on the capstan, the band was there, frozen. The Yanks again thought we were mad, because we all went up there and sang carols around the Christmas tree. That earned us a lot of points. Part of the harbour was frozen in Boston, the wires were terrible to handle.

I guess you would never forget it would you?

Yes we sung the carols with gusto and it earned a lot of points from the Yanks who saw this. Of course we were bits of heroes. We weren’t allowed to wear New Zealand shoulder flashes and the blokes would go ashore for a Liberty Parade and they would have them covered with something and they would pull all the pins out. They were very generous to us in Boston and they wanted to take us away from the ship the very next morning, there was a couple of clubs there, the Benbow Club and something else that used to entertain the New Zealanders and Aussies. The Captain said, “No, they will stay until after Christmas Dinner”. We had a traditional Navy Christmas Dinner with our bottle of beer and tot for those that were old enough to have their tot and all the trimmings. After Christmas Dinner the buses started to arrive to start taking us out. A family took me out. The young girl in actual fact had just done her medical for joining the US Army and she was an artist. While we were at her home that night she drew how it looked for all these girls sitting there on the bench with all their bare backsides waiting to go through for their x-rays and exams. They tramped us around Boston to Bunker Hill and the traditional cemeteries and things like that and we had a really good time. We did our bits of shopping getting silk stockings and stuff to take to our relatives in England and had our photos taken in machines and studios.

Then we went down from Boston by train to New York and then across to Brooklyn where HMS SAKAR was the Navy RN Depot, we stayed there for a night or two and then joined a ship called the EMPIRE CUTLASS, a troopship, to go to UK.

Were you still a boy then?

OD Ordinary Seaman.

Our pay when I was a boy in training was two bob a week and it went up and as I said I got all these bonuses with being a Bugler and AC Boy. Then it was eight shillings or something in the ship and the rest of it was kept on your ledger. I became an OD just before we got into Boston, while we were between here and Boston I think, because I see on my crossing the line certificate I was an ordinary seaman. That meant when I got to Boston I collected all my ledger money paid in US dollars and so I was wealthy, 80 pounds or something and it was $2 to a pound in those days and so that was good.

We joined this troopship and we had a medical inspection, there were some US Army soldiers on that and on the passage over we used to go up on to the hatches and do our exercises with the PTI’s and people.

How many were in that draft?

I couldn’t tell you off hand.

Everybody seemed to go in different ways. Chas Raven talks about all the boys went with the Bandsmen and the Marines together in a big Landing Craft?

Yes. Well this ship was built for one trip, she was a Liberty ship fairly shallow and subsequently sunk in Mulberry Harbour.
This isn’t the same ship that Chas Raven talks about?

No I don’t think so.

His ship was full of American soldiers.

We had American soldiers, but I wouldn’t say full of.

I thought I had a rotten deal because I was picked as one of the people to have a job as the slushy in the Officer’s Mess. Wipe up the dishes and pots and pans. There were a lot of American Officers there in that Mess. It turned out to be a goldmine because they were feeding on turkey and goodness knows what else, fruit and things. We had little kit bags that they had given us to carry so your personal gear close at hand. I used to take this up and after dinner at night, after the last meal, collect all this stuff. The rest of the sailors would be waiting for you when you came down the hatches to see what you had got. I collected up lots of oranges and fruit that we took to Britain. The Americans gave us these little bags that they give to their own troops when they leave, it had a lucky shamrock in it and it had nutty and tobacco, cigarettes and those sort of gifts, they gave us those. I can remember we fuelled the escorts, I remember seeing that happening. It was a bloody awful trip over, dull, grey, we were in a convoy.

No submarine activity?

No not that we knew of and we would have known. If there was submarine activity the alarm bell would go and they would put you down below and they sat on the hatch with rifles to keep you there.

We arrived in Gouroch the day before New Year or around about New Year anyway, it might have been just after New Years Day. The dates don’t come back. We had Christmas in Boston and so it must have been after New Year, it was in early January and it was raining. We went ashore in one of the ship’s lifeboats, our hammocks wet and then we had to wait until that night to catch our train down to Guzz, Devonport. We went to the wet canteen in Gouroch and the beer was like brown water and there were those Eccles cakes, then we caught the train down to Devonport. In those days they locked the train doors on troop trains in Britain, but we found a way around that some how. We parked overnight in Crewe at one stage. I can remember going down the line and there were women painting the overhead bridges and there was LEANDER sailors firing oranges up to them as we passed. Then we got to Guzz. The railway station in Devonport Dockyard was inside the wall and it was a big wall. We thought of the barracks as PHILOMEL. It had big walls, glass and wire netting and barbwire on the top with guys with Sten guns all around. We went in and we undid our hammocks and slept on the deck of the gymnasium. Our first night there was an air raid and that turned us all out. I volunteered to stay with the RN, I had volunteered in LEANDER.

On the way over we were asked what specialisation we would like. Coming home from Kolombangara to New Zealand and on our way over there we did our boys training classes for seamanship, torpedo and gunnery and from the results of those there would be a selection of what your specialisation was. In actual fact I did fairly well on the torpedo side, but I opted for gunnery. I think the only thing that came up I suppose when they looked at the manning or whatever was range takers and so I become an optical range taker CR3. I did the Optical Range Takers Course at Devonport Gunnery School where we used to have a range finder range actually right up in the roof of one of the barrack blocks. It had model ships and the place where you could estimate inclination and all those sort of things right up to the top there and from ever after that from where ever you were, you were supposed to take half a dozen range taking cuts every day and record it. We also went over to a Rifle Range at Trevoli.

The first time I ever did the assault course was on a Rifle Range in the winter. If you fell off the wires you fell into the Torpoint Stream which was iced over. Of course land fighting was in and you were doing bayonet fighting on sacks like soldiers. My Grandfather introduced me to rough cider, which was fivepence a pint and was cheaper than beer and had more effect. So I took this back to my cobbers in Devonport and said, “Hey we don’t want to spend our money on this beer, with half a crown you could have four or five pints of cider and sixpence worth of fish and chips.” On Monday morning to go back to the Gunnery School your legs and arms and everything would be aching. You needed an hour in the shower to recover.

Another interesting thing, Alexander was the First Lord of the Admiralty fired through there and we saw him once. Lady Astor used to invite the Commonwealth soldiers to her afternoon tea parties in Plymouth.

She had a big mansion there didn’t she, a big country estate or house?

Yes. I think we did it in the Guild Hall, I am not sure. I went to Lady Astor’s tea party and there was a good New Zealand Club there that we used to go to as well. We spent many a Sunday afternoon at the Club, a house between Union Street and the Hoe.

Were you separated from the rest of LEANDER’s crew at this point?

Yes more or less. We did our Gunnery Courses. Bill Eddy and Spuds Spurdle were together with me at the Gunnery Courses.

We had this run ashore on this scrumpy one night and we asked a policeman where we could get some cider and he said, “The Lord” something pub, which was just by the Palace theatre in Devonport. He said, “Now you boys don’t know much about it”, he said, “But don’t you mix it with spirits.” We played darts and we weren’t dart players and we played darts and we won a couple of games and so the Guzonians were also giving us cider. Spud was a bit of a mess, but we were walking all right and the patrol wasn’t worrying us and so we were okay. They had these static water pipes above the footpath that ran every where for the Fire Services during air raids and Spuds tripped on one of those and broke his ankle. First of all we had to try and make him look as though he was okay, because if any thing like that happened the patrols honed in. We got him away from the patrols and got him to the sailors rest and we were going to take him back on board. It wasn’t the sort of time you could ring a taxi or any thing like that, we had to wait for the old blue pusser’s bus. We were about to do this and somebody who had more sense than we had said, “No we will get somebody to look at that before you move him”, because it was swelling. We got him back to the Sailors Rest where the Naval Hospital was telephoned. They brought the Ambulance along and they put Spud in the ambulance and Bill Eddy and I said, “Oh you are not taking our cobber unless we go as well”, and then the patrol came. “Get back to your barracks”. “No we want to…”. “You will never ride in the ambulance you will have a ride in the patrol wagon”, and so we walked back to Guzz and poor old Spud was there for ten days. Bill and I got back to Barracks (DRAKE) after 2300 with a good excuse that checked out, we got away with it.

Whilst in Barracks you would wait for your name to be called. The New Zealanders were okay because they were going to ACHILLES, they knew that, they were the ones staying with the RNZN Service. You had this pipe come over the barracks with your name piped, report to DFDO the Fleet Drafting Office. You just got a number, that was your draft chit to job number D281 or whatever it was and you asked what is it and they wouldn’t tell you. What it turned out to be was a brand new Destroyer WRANGLER that was being commissioned in Barrow in Furness. There were four New Zealanders in WRANGLER.

Who were they?

There was Carl Turner, who unfortunately just died about a couple of years ago.

They were all regular New Zealanders?

No he was an RNVR EA, Gyro EA and he just died and his widow brought some gear down I believe, she said she was going to, they lived out of Warkworth.

Then there was another one, Len Hunt, he was a Leading Seaman, a ginger guy from New Plymouth, Stratford way and the Bunting Tosser Kemsley. We were New Zealanders, we didn’t wear that white tropical gear we wore khaki. When we got to Bombay we brought all our khaki, that was all that was in our kit. That was the end of LEANDER as far as I was concerned. Except when we went to work up at Scapa Flow ACHILLES was there working up as well. I went back over to ACHILLES and that was a memorable occasion because Spud Spurdle had just been circumcised and he was in the Sick Bay for about a week.

(end of Tape 4)

(beginning of Tape 5)

In LEANDER, after we got back to Tulagi I can remember half a dozen of us used to sleep up under B turret and we used to hear the operations of the PT boats, torpedo and gun boats around the Solomons and that was quite interesting. The communication which was between the boats used to come over this TBS and although the communication failed on the night of the action we could hear every thing that was going on miles away. We listened to air raid broadcasts etc. through the night.

Another thing in LEANDER was that under Commander Steven Roskill’s bunk on her return to Auckland. There were two or three portable radios, ZC1’s or something I suppose, which a team of people had taken out of the ship. We understood or the buzz was that they had gone down to the centre of the North Island after IRIRANGI was set up. They thought that there were German or agents or people interested in IRIRANGI’s transmissions and they had come down to listen into this and to try and establish this. There were buzzes that there were people in haystacks, receivers in beehives and God knows what else.

After the war I visited Steven Roskill and found that he was most approachable. I wrote to him and asked him about that, but he said that I ought to refer questions to the Royal New Zealand Navy. There could well have been something in that I don’t know. When we got to Noumea we found the beer garden was run by Tom Healey the world heavyweight boxer who was in New Zealand for a short period.

He was in the Navy?

He was in the US Navy, running the US Navy’s beer garden. I am not sure about the monitoring of that WT Station, I must get somebody to go back and have a look.

Why would they be under his bunk for?

I had a friend who is dead now, but I see his widow occasionally, and he was the Commander’s messenger. What had happened was there was this job on and I think that LEANDER was lying alongside the wharf in Auckland and getting ready to go back to the UK, was given the task of doing that. He took personal charge of it and the sets came to the ship. He picked the people who went and did the task and when they came back they were put in there to be out of the way, so that they weren’t around the ship.

Jack Williamson might know that, I see him quite frequently and I will ask him.

Yes unfortunately I can’t ask Arthur Thomas who is dead. Of course the Mamba is dead now. He didn’t deny it or anything, he said that it was something that I ought to address to the Royal New Zealand Navy, he wasn’t prepared to comment on it. When we were waiting in Noumea we helped transfer these New Zealand radar stations.

Do you remember much about that?

Well New Zealand had a pretty good record with the radar sets and I think that was with the building of them.

Yes I have got a record of the people and I have interviewed the chap who designed them. I know they went up to that area.

Yes and they manned them. In Noumea, or the one anyway that we became involved with was up on the top of one of the hills, which in actual fact had a shaft down and tunnel down to water level. It was up a mighty hill on a fort, an old fort. The radar set with the shack and things for it was at the top and I think they had a power plant halfway down. Anyway there were six of us seamen boys. There was Ducky Waddell as we used to call him, who was the schoolmaster. They asked for help these radar operators to shift this. We had American trucks that we were able to put the aerials and other gear on and we dismantled the aerials and loaded them up on the trucks. The gear was boxed up and we loaded that and then we accompanied it down to the wharves at Noumea and it was loaded onto a Liberty ship and it was taken up as advance radar for the Solomons.

Do you remember the size of the aerial, was it a big array or was it rather like a 960 that used to be fitted in ROYALIST, like a TV aerial?

The aerial head itself I can’t picture at the moment, but the aerial mast was a sort of lattice girder, like a power pylon.

We have got some photographs of these in the Museum and may be next time around you could have a look at them?


Of course we had radar in LEANDER which was the gunnery radar. We had another radar shack down by the funnel and you used to have to ring the bloke up in the radar shack and say, “Hey how far away is that” and point it out to him sometimes. In actual fact the radar was in use during that short action and I believe they have got radar ranges printed up on a piece of paper.

When we left you last time you were in UK and you had left LEANDER and gone to UK and done some training in the Plymouth area and then you were drafted to HMS WRANGLER in Barrow in Furness?

We were sent to DDO2 that was the drafting office in Devonport Barracks and went down there and you were given a piece of paper with a job number on it. I asked what is it but they never told you what sort of a ship it was or anything. I was a bit concerned because some of our chaps had been detailed off to go to combined operations and God knows what else and I was keen to go back to sea. There was a group of us then who went north by train and we went to Barrow in Furness. Now at Barrow in Furness, WRANGLER had been completed, painted out and stored and we went up and fell in on the jetty with our kit bags and hammocks. The ship was commissioned, we marched in and sorted out where we were going to sling our hammocks. In actual fact it was the real proper old Navy drill where you had your station card and even though it was wartime. Because it was wartime you had your locker number and hammock hook where it was and whether you were sleeping on the mess table or whether you had a hammock sling and so forth in you went into this brand new ship smelling of nice clean paint on the inside. We stayed around Barrow in Furness for three or four weeks and we did trials out from Barrow in Furness. A lot of the Brit sailors had been through the war. They were the people who had been through the Mediterranean and some of them were from ships like ILLUSTRIOUS and PENELOPE, they welcomed this respite. In Barrow in Furness the people were most hospitable, although I never got personally entangled in it, I wasn’t in the age group. The older guys got into the homes of the women whose soldier and sailor husband were away and there were parties and they had a rare old time. One guy in our mess, one Able Seaman Ryan, he owned a public house in Fleetwood, the Royal Oak I think in Fleetwood. He was good news, because he used to go home and come back with his suitcase loaded with small bottles of brown ale. Barrow in Furness was good, the people looked after us well there and we did our trials and we were almost all set to go and something went wrong with the gearbox. We limped back in and they cut a piece just after the Bofors deck. One of those little compartments on the upper deck and lifted the whole lot to get at the gear box and strip it down and they found it had been filled with bags of sand and so there was all hell to play. Of course the idea was to stay in port and there was certain people under suspicion. I don’t know if any thing ever came of it or they ever got anybody. There was an enquiry of course.

Was it likely to be sailors or Dockyard, shipyard people?

I would have thought that it might have been sailors, but that was the buzz that went around. That put us back another three weeks or so while they cleaned that lot out. We had four New Zealand sailors on board. We had a chap Carl Turner who died last year, his widow is in Warkworth and she has been in and given some of his stuff to the Museum. We had a chap by the name of Len Hunt, he came from Wanganui, New Plymouth way and he is dead. We had a Signalman Kemsley and he is still alive somewhere down Wellington way and then there was myself and we were the four Kiwis. We were in different departments. The sailors in there really made a fuss of Kiwis and you never felt that you were in some strange environment or what not, it was quite good. We were all quite professional compared with some on board.

We were sent to Scapa Flow and we ammunitioned with a lot of practice ammunition to do our work up. We were only there for a short period of time and they cancelled the work up. We had to de-ammunition ship of all the practice ammunition and they started bringing HE and armour piercing stuff in and we topped up with ammunition and we sailed and were told that the work up had finished and we were now going with the fleet. We joined with the fleet that consisted of aircraft carriers including the FURIOUS, cruisers that I can’t remember and a whole heap of destroyers. I think we had about three aircraft carriers and we were told that we were going up to Alten Fiord with the operation against the TIRPITZ with the Fleet Air Arm. There was a large contingent of New Zealanders in the Fleet Air Arm. I think a New Zealand squadron leader was in charge of some of the attacks and tore the shore aerials with his tail hook.

We have spoken to a chap in Christchurch, Derek Morten and he won the DSC there. I have got three interviews with people who flew on that operation.

Yes they were flying American Aircraft, Corsairs I suppose. I think this aircraft was designed for this sort of work, the Barracuda, which they called the flying coffin. I used to admire these guys because it was scary enough being in the fleet in the destroyer without taking off flying your operation and then coming back and trying to land on. Of course we did pick one or two people up there and amazingly in WRANGLER most of the people we picked up, either in the Mediterranean or in the Pacific were New Zealand Fleet Air Arm people. Off we set to take the TIRPITZ to task.

We had a small aircraft carrier, one of those postage stamp ones. We were on the way up there and doing look out duties and it was in defence watches I suppose and it was bloody cold and we had been at sea for a while. We went to the Faeroes first, we fuelled in the Faeroes, which was a pretty barren sort of a place and then set off again. This pocket aircraft carrier was torpedoed. The Captain who was a two and a half, Lieutenant Commander Austin I think his name was, he was an ex lower decker actually, which was quite peculiar in those days, he got onto this lookout, “Why didn’t you report it, look at it sinking”. This Irish lookout said to the Captain, “How do you expect me to see things Sirs, we haven’t had bread for three days.” He was promptly put down below in the cable locker and a relief provided. Having qualified in Devonport as a range taker, I was in the forward director crew for defence watches, but my action station was on the Hazemeyer mounting. I have missed a bit in so much that before we actually went onto our work up, the Hazemeyer crew went to Fraser Battery in Portsmouth to do a couple of weeks pre-commissioning training I think you would call it now on the Hazemeyer mounting. I think we might have been drafted there.

Tell me just for the record, tell us what the Hazemeyer mounting is?

Well the Hazemeyer mounting is the forerunner of STAAG and in actual fact the guy who was largely responsible for it was there to do the trials. It was one of the first that were fitted in the fleet. It was a stabilised twin Bofors. The layer trainer, the guns themselves were all on a trunnion that was parallel to the guns and so you took out roll and also you took out the pitching, you took out all the motion in elevation. It had about five or six gyros and Carl Turner he was the Gyro EA, and he spent more time with the gyros on that than what he did on the main gyro. It had a range finder, small range finder and I was the range taker. It also had a radar set that was and I have got an idea it was 262 or something.

262 seems to come in towards the end of the war.

I used the range finder if it was okay, but you could use the radar, you had a radar tube with a couple of blips on it and you could take the range. We were only interested in the range at that stage from the radar I think. I don’t think we actually trained the mounting using radar. It was quite peculiar to see this mounting when the ship was rolling. The layer and trainer of the guns would be parallel to the horizon at all times and the ship was moving around them. It had quite a sizeable crew with the loading numbers and the back up to get the ammunition out of the ready use lockers. We fired quite a lot of ammunition. Later we had a binocular sight with a training tube in one eye piece.

We were actually doing our pre-commissioning training in Portsmouth on D-Day or around D-Day. We had our crew in a hut on a field that they lived in, which had a small football field by it. Around behind this up in Haslar Creek was absolutely chock a block with landing craft.

One night, we used to have to get out during air raids of course, and we used to go under Eastney Castle, right down underneath and sit in there while air raids were going on. It was a massive space under there. Then come back and turn in. We did this one night and never thought any more of it until after breakfast where we messed ourselves in our own hut. We went down to the mounting for our drill or whatever and there was a land mine on the field that fortunately didn’t go off. That gives you a little bit of a shake up when you thought that the war was coming to an end.

After we had been there a while and a couple of nights, I suppose about three or four nights before D-Day itself, all these landing craft were revving up and testing engines and things like that. One night there was just one mighty roar and we were then summoned to man the mounting early before dawn. We were part of the defence of Pompey, the battery was an AA defence as well as a training area when things became operational. We had a very good view of D-Day up on the mountings at Eastney, Fraser Battery and you could just about walk over to France on the number of ships there and over the period of time there were Hospital ships coming back and there was the towed gliders. For anybody that had a spectator’s view without really getting involved with the jolly thing it was quite good.

I had a friend in my class who actually landed in D-Day at Omaha and had his radio communications and assisting the beach controller in communication. He was on these motor torpedo gunboats in the channel. I rang him up on the 50th Anniversary of D-Day and I said, “Where were you 50 years ago?” he said, “I don’t know”. I said, “Well I was defending the pubs and the whores on the streets of Pompey and I believe you were on a bloody barbecue picnic on a beach in France.” He suddenly remembers and he said, “Yes”.

Then from there we packed our bags again and went back on up to the ship. It was then we went to do our trials and then to Scapa and so that was the sequence.

What was the main armament of WRANGLER, was she a 4.5?

She was 4.7 single, four mountings.

Open mounts?

Open mounts yes, she was a fleet destroyer. She had twin Bofors and I am not sure whether she had Oerlikons when we went there or they came subsequently. We also had a search light.

Fitted with torpedo tubes?

Eight torpedo tubes two sets of four along the upper deck. Four depth charge throwers and a set of depth charge rails.

It was about this time when one of our class WIZARD came into harbour and they had left the armament broadcast on. The Captain found this was a way of passing information other than armament information. It was an armament broadcast really. They were entering harbour and they had not fallen out the depth charge rails and the LTO on the depth charge rails had not re-set the depth charges to safe, they were set to shallow. They got to their anchorage and they said over the armament broadcast to the foc’sle, “Let go”, which was the same word for pull the bar out of the rail and they did. They came astern and they blew the stern off and we didn’t see her until just towards the end of the war when she joined us in the Far East.

We were then off North Cape with the TIRPITZ operation, escorting the fleet up there.

Of interest I have got another description of the torpedoing of that small carrier from one of the fly boys.

She actually got back to Scotland, didn’t she go back to the Shetlands or somewhere, I have actually read the story of it and she was repaired and carried on the war.

These Barracudas and Corsairs or whatever they were, aircraft came flying back and we acted as carrier rescue ship, the same sort of destroyer routine as ever. If they were damaged or going to ditch a couple of hundred cables in front of you and then you could go and scoop people up. Either put the scrambling nets out or may be even have to send a boat away to go and pick them up or else go alongside them which was fairly easy in a destroyer. My understanding is that if you didn’t get them out of the water in about 20 minutes that was the end of it. They had dye so that you could see them. Then you would belt to catch up with the fleet. That was the worst bit as far as we were concerned. We had been told there were German 5 inch or 5.5 gun destroyers there and they were thinking of coming out and submarines and aircraft, but in actual fact to my knowledge we didn’t see any German surface ships. I don’t think that the German Air Force troubled us either, we just went on.

When I left New Zealand in LEANDER, my mother insisted that I take some of my father’s pink Roslyn underwear and I said no way was I going to take that, I would be the laughing stock of the whole ship. She said when you go to England, and no one was supposed to know where we were going, you will want this in the winter. I took it and put it in the bottom of my kit bag. I tell you that I used to wear it under my trousers, my overalls, a duffle coat and the South Africans I think had given the Royal Navy Jerkins, like our truck drivers used to use, a jacket, a sheepskin jacket and we wore the lot. When we went to catch up with the fleet on one occasion, because on the Bofors you are right out in the open and WRANGLER did her best in speed to catch up with the fleet. The engine room branch as usual spat out a lot of the fuel that should have been burning out of the funnel, it seemed to come right down to the Bofors deck, sweep down. That went right through your clothing, all the way through.

What were the living conditions like on board, because a lot of those destroyers used to have their wash places just at the break of the foc’sle on the upper deck. Did you have proper bathrooms?

Yes we had little bathrooms. They were among the first destroyers anyway which had the officers’ accommodation under the bridge, except for an engineer who was down aft.

Some of the seamen lived forward, we were in the quarter deck or the after mess deck which was over the propellers. There is an after PO’s Mess down there and up on the next deck we had the bathroom. There was canteen messing and you got a ration allowance for each mess or for each member of the mess. Then you went and did your shopping from the tanky who was the butcher, who would be up on the upper deck with a great steel axe at the beef screen. You would go along, depending on how popular you were with tanky or what time you got there depended on what sort of joint you got or what meat you got. He would swing his mighty axe, “How many in the mess”, he would ask his assistant and they would say so and so and you would go back with the big piece of meat which he had just carved off. You would put it on a baking tray and this is about half past seven in the morning and if it was stewing steak or something there would be a bit of a debate. There were three cooks detailed each week and you were responsible for preparing the food. The old guys in the mess of course were the ones who had the say. On that ship besides me as a boy entrant, we had some regular PO’s and some leading seamen, but only about one other regular seaman and he was a three badge man.

What were the rest, HO people?

Most were HO people yes.

You would be the real Navy real in the sense of what the Navy was about?

Yes except they had the experience, some had spent all the war in PENELOPE in the Mediterranean and also with ILLUSTRIOUS and TARTAR in the channel, so they were salty, they were well indoctrinated with war at sea.

Then you would get the spuds and everybody had to peel the spuds in the morning and prepare the veg and they would all sit around the mess table. The guys who were sleeping over the mess table by this time had to get out and the guys who were sleeping on the cushions on the seats or even on the mess table had to get out while you had breakfast and laid down the white oil cloth. The cry for breakfast was, “Do we have breakfast or do we have a cup of tea and a Woodbine”. The eye was kept on whether you spent all your victualling money or you kept some, and at the end of the month the pusser had to pay you back what you hadn’t used. If you thought you were going into some place where there was a decent run ashore, it was hard to convince the old salts that you could exist on nothing and instead have this money in you pocket for a run ashore.

What sort of a breakfast did you get. Did you have to prepare your own food for breakfast too?

Yes a tin of tomatoes, sausages, hard frozen New Zealand liver and kidney.

You would get a reasonable Navy breakfast?

Yes but we prepared it and so you would have to put your breakfast up at night for the next morning and you would put it in the galley, but all the cook did was fire it in the stove and cook it. If you had a duff and my first efforts at pastry, it was like rubber and it would spring back, but there were tons of old sailors who would tell you how to do things, even if it wasn’t in the gentlest of ways.

I can remember making a rice pudding and to make a rice pudding you got the rice and you put it in the tray, the standard pussers baking tray and you put a knob of margarine in. You would put some sugar there for him and a tin of Carnation milk and you would take it up to the galley, which was a big advance on years before that when you had to make the thing in the mess as well. Then he would produce it. I can remember saying that is not enough rice in there for that big tray. All these guys and so I put more rice in and more rice in and then you learned the lesson that the rice expanded and you had to cut it with a knife and eat it like bread. That was part of the daily life.

You said you had no bread, was bread baked?

There was occasionally but it wasn’t like when we were out in the Pacific with the American fleet or even with the other big ships where we went alongside and took advantage of their bake-house and got a load of bread. We were on our own. PO Cook was the baker, it was just one of his side lines and when we did get bread once a week or whatever it was, it was quite burnt or it might be doughy, it just depended on how he treated it. We had tons of flour and hard biscuits.

What would you do, have dinner at midday and then have what a sort of tea or supper or just another big meal in the evening?

Yes I think we were up to two cooked meals. Sunday was always a cooked meal in the middle of the day and at night you had herrings and beetroot and the standard pusser’s thing, which was very good.

When we were in places like Barrow in Furness and what not, a lot of the herrings in went ashore in those days.

What to chat up the girls sort of thing?

Yes that’s right, or food for the parties and a hostess.

As it progressed and you would run out of spuds and I can’t remember how long we were up on the TIRPITZ thing, but it would have been weeks up there, two or three weeks and you ran out of spuds and things like that or they were very scarce.

What sort of watch-keeping were you doing, you would be in defence watches presumably?

Yes. We were seldom in cruising watches in those areas, but on passage in other areas.

You would be four on and four off is that how it went?

Yes and four on eight off in cruising watches.

Were you closing up at dawn and dusk?

Yes we would do dawn action stations and dusk action stations or night action stations and then you would be four on and four off. You would also stand to with the aircraft coming back to sort out the friendly’s, in case the enemy came in with the friendly’s. Also of course in case you had pick ups to do and things like that and so it was quite busy.

Sleep would be difficult presumably?

It wasn’t difficult once you got a chance.

Were you able to sling your hammock during the day to sleep if you were off watch?

Yes the weather was pretty good when we were right up there doing the operation. The North Sea is not the most hospitable place. I think that every afternoon was a make and mend and turn to in the forenoon, if you are off watch in the afternoon you slept. I can remember the essentials of keeping the place clean, keeping the ship clean. Fortunately it was in summer and we didn’t have to worry about ice on the upper deck. Life lines were pretty well always rigged for going from aft to forward. My action station was aft, we didn’t have catwalks that went all the way. We had catwalks between X gun and the Bofors or the Hazemeyer and to get to the bridge you had to go down to the upper deck for a bit of it anyway.

Fortunately we also had two galleys, an after galley and a forward galley.

They were two separate galleys?

Yes we lived like a little separate ships company with our own PO’s down the after end, like a self contained unit with bathrooms, galley. If you couldn’t get forward, you didn’t go without hot food.

You mentioned that the Captain was an ex lower deck officer, but presumably straight rings?

Yes that’s right, and that’s why I say it was a bit of a novelty to these other UK guys and to myself I suppose, because most of the destroyer and small ship captains were either RN young two and a halves or RN two and a halves or RNVR’s. We had one straight ring Electrical Officer, a greenie and the First Lieutenant was an ex lower decker too.

(end of Tape 5)

(beginning of Tape 6)

The engineer was also an ex lower decker, an ex artificer he was two straight stripes. We had an RNR and RNVR sub or two. The Gunnery Officer was an RNVR Lieutenant, he was also the pay officer and he had done a short RNVR Gunnery Course like J O’C Ross did down in Whale Island before he took up his job as a Gunnery Officer. He was a hell of a nice guy, he was a knowledgeable guy and a very helpful guy, he was my Divisional Officer Lieutenant Whitley I think his name was. He encouraged me to spend my spare time swotting up.

We went back to Scapa, but we were always looking for and hoping that we were going to have a boiler clean because a boiler clean meant that there was four days leave in it. We got back and low and behold we did have a boiler clean. I think they might have even extended the leave a bit because unbeknown to us we were on the way south. I can remember going on leave and going to see my grandparents in Bath and Bristol and so I must have had about half a dozen days leave. I came back to Scapa to the ship. I remember travelling in the trains going south and this time not in a troop train, but as a passenger and sitting on your kit bag and your little attaché case in the corridors. The train was absolutely loaded, you couldn’t move, breath or rest, but it was all worth it I suppose, it was a good experience anyway. We then came back to Scapa and we were all set to sail and we sailed on our own I think and then joined up with some other ships and off to Gibraltar.

I think we did our boiler clean in Rosyth, yes we went to Rosyth and did our boiler clean there. We had a quartermaster on the gangway and a bosun’s mate on the gangway and they were our sentries as well as bosun’s mates. They had pussers with .45 loaded, spare rounds and if somebody was coming across they would challenge them with who goes there. You had a sentry sometimes with a rifle and a bayonet as well, but he was a proper sentry. This quartermaster in the middle of the night got a bit fed up with doing nothing I suppose and fiddled with his 45 and fired a couple of shots off, which really put the harbour in a bit of a panic and they put that guy down for a while. Even in Devonport when we were doing our training on the rifle range and around Guzz Barracks we had our sentry duties and they were quite serious, very serious, you go from post to post and do this lonely couple of hours at a stretch before your relief came. Real challenges of, “Halt who goes there” and if they didn’t say who they were or if they didn’t produce their identification, you had a big torch on the barrel of the rifle, you blew your whistle and somebody else came along. That was the same as the sentries around the ships.

While we were in Scapa there was the British battleship that was being returned by the Russians, the RESOLUTION I think it was and there was a lot of Russian sailors there. The canteen there was like a big tin shed and I tell you what reminds me of it, the advert for the Yellow Pages. It was a big shed and it had pot belly stoves all around it and it had bars. Of course the sailors were only allowed beer and the beer was like brown water. Of course the Fleet used to be there in great numbers and there used to be patrols from each ship. The Patrol Officer used to carry a pistol. One night in there, I wasn’t actually in there, but the guys came back and that night it got so much out of hand that the Patrol Officer fired six shots.

Was it Russia versus the rest?

No, you had a great number of guys from Newfoundland, fishermen, there was fishermen from Britain around Hull, there was Liverpool Irish and they really were tough guys who the good pusser had tried to bend into a discipline force I suppose. They were good sailors and what have you, but when they got on the ran tan boy things bloody well flew.

Yes I bet to draw the short straw and be in the patrol would be something else.

Yes fortunately they thought I was too small or too young and I never got that sort of a job. I finished up as a bosun’s mate or something which wasn’t quite so bad. For the trip back from the canteen they ran MFV’s and your own boats. The whole ships’ company didn’t go on liberty they were rationed. You might have one part of a watch, a quarter who would be allowed ashore. The old IRON DUKE was there too, the flag ship from Jutland and that was an interesting sight. This Russian ship and the people who had been in it that had brought it back to return it, and they reckoned that it was filthy. There was excrement and what not all over the ship. A whole team of British sailors after the Russians had left, had the job of cleaning it out. They reckoned they should have gone on and sunk the bloody thing just straight off. I don’t know whether it ever went back into service or not, that was something to look at.

We arrived in Gibraltar.

You were heading for the Far East?

We were heading for the Far East, but we were heading for the Mediterranean to do a couple of jobs down there. We arrived in Gibraltar and the Captain had trouble getting the stern in on the jetty that we were going to. I had the motorboat in the water, and it was the days that you lowered your boats when you went into harbour. They got the motorboat and asked the motorboat whose coxswain was Leading Seamen Hunt, New Zealand to push the stern in. I think he might have been an RNVR from Wellington actually. He nudged the stern in with the old motor cutter, but he went a little bit fast maybe and he poked a hole in the plate in the stern by the tiller flat. I was on the quarter deck when I saw this and I tell you what that gave me great confidence in our ship. However nobody seemed to worry about it and it was soon patched up. We had sometime in Gibraltar and that was quite interesting and it was quite a relief from being in wartime Britain. Although it was wartime Gibraltar, the little cafes and pubs and things were around. They had a big canteen there which was quite good and they had Fleet tombola and all that sort of thing was quite good for the few days that we were there. It was in Gibraltar that they took our searchlight off and I think they put two single Bofors on there. They were gaining confidence in radar and throwing searchlights away. The searchlight was landed on the wharf in Gibraltar and they gave us some more gun power.

We then went off to Malta and Malta by this time had sorted itself out and so we entered the harbour and were quite astounded by the wreckage and the devastation of the harbour and sunken ships.

The OHIO was still there sunk?

Yes, we went alongside the OHIO, because I think we took fuel there and all the fuel pipes were run across from the tanks underneath the cliffs. Her upper deck was just above the water level and so we took fuel across from her. We went backwards and forwards ashore of course and had our little runs ashore there.

One night, I think I must have been bosun’s mate or the quartermaster and there was a spotlight flashing from a motor cutter coming back to shore and another boat went and helped it and our motor cutter came back with a hole in it. Leading Seaman Hunt was still driving the motor cutter and the good Kiwi had run over the mast of the destroyer MAORI which was sunk in the harbour and the mast showed at low water and he had struck that. So Malta was quite an interesting place. These guys who had been in the Mediterranean in the ILLUSTRIOUS and PENELOPE knew all the bars and they knew all the places to go. They never had much joy with women because unless you are a good catholic and you are about to marry them you never got very close, they were pretty sheltered. I had that short period in Malta and I went back to Malta two or three times afterwards in peacetime and it had changed considerably. During the war the little bars had women flaunting all but giving nil. In our mess and I can still see it now. At the end of the mess table we always had a bucket and a billy or a fanny and all the scraps went in there. Whether they had come off the plates or whether they were scraps when we were cutting the fat off the meat preparing it for the galley, but every morsel of food scrap went in there. We had our friendly Maltese who would come and help scrub out the mess and all that sort of thing, or even the Maltese dockyard maties who were working on the ship, they took that home and that’s what they were living on. They were still short of food. Some of them were still living in the caves under the hills. They used to clean these buckets and billies out and shine them, but they were still short of food and that is quite sometime after the relief of Malta. We had sport ashore and visited churches, catacombs and other sights. A run ashore down the Gut in Malta was truly a run ashore to be remembered by a young uninitiated sailor. Some of the ships company went to a rest camp in St Pauls Bay, Malta. We lost an Irish sailor there who drowned.

Then we went to Alexandria and saw all the wonders there. I am not sure whether we joined up from Alex or whether we joined up from Malta with KING GEORGE V, an aircraft carrier and a couple of other escorts. We went off to escort the KGV up into the Cretan Islands, the Cretian Archipelago I suppose to do some bombardments. The Germans were still entrenched and had gun batteries on the shore up there and the idea was to go up and wipe them out.

The first island that we went to was Milos and the aircraft were flown off as spotting aircraft. The Captain was quite good in so much that all the communication coming from the other ships and from the aircraft, he left the microphone for the armament broadcast on, and we were in the picture all the time. We were there sitting around in our tin hats, steel helmets and we had brews of tea and limers in beautiful Mediterranean sunshine while we were escorting the KGV up there. We get off the place and they had difficulty in identifying the gun emplacements. We heard our Captain, a brave soul he was, in his voice signal to the flagship, “Should we go in and draw their fire for your Sir?” and all the crew were saying, “You silly bastard, listen to him.” These are guys are well seasoned battle veterans who didn’t really mean what they were saying, but it was the sort of sailors jargon. They said, “No keep station” and so that’s what we did. We went up and down a couple of times and then we were told to go in and see if we could draw the fire. We broke off and ran in towards the island at a speed of knots and sure enough Jerry said he wasn’t having any of this and so he started firing six inch shells at us. We turned tail and the aircraft picked up targets and then KGV did her bombardment. I think she only used a couple of turrets, she didn’t fire full broadsides. We used to hear them talking to the aircraft that they called chickens and they would get the spotting back. They were difficult to spot because apparently there is a lot of shale on the shore and on the beach and it used to put up great clouds of shale and stone and stuff. We had that small operation there and then back to Alex.

I have an idea that the VALIANT and another ship was there that had been struck by those Italian torpedoes and I think one of them was still there. We stayed in Alex for a while and had the experience of riding around in a garry and getting stoned with real stones by Egyptians. Then you would go ashore and on the pontoons on the jetty there would be sailors galore in all states of sobriety being ferried back to their own ships. In Alex there was a Fleet Club and a Naval brothel in Sister Street, number 20 I think.

Off we went from there through the Suez to Colombo.

Once you got to the Indian Ocean it was still defence watches, because presumably the Japanese were there?

Yes I think that might have broken, you had all sorts of variations. Sometimes, depending on the knowledge you were either in three watches cruising or defence, two watches or at action stations. I spent most of the time in defence watches. You would go into three watches cruising when it was assessed that there was no threat. We spent quite a bit of time at that. Very often you went to night action stations and stayed in defence watches.

I think after we left Gibraltar we were in company with KEMPENFELT who was Captain (D) and another destroyer from our flotilla and it was about 6 o’clock in the morning. I can remember I was sleeping on one of the mess stools, having come off watch and the other destroyer got a submarine contact and started dropping depth charges and so we had this hunt for a submarine. We were told that they had the submarine contact while the other destroyer was attacking. I don’t think it was ever confirmed. In those destroyers sleeping close to the plates there was quite a noise.

Yes I bet, especially down aft there too?

Yes that’s right.

We went out of the Mediterranean and we went to Colombo. We were alongside the wall at Colombo and we were joined by BARFLEUR which was the first of the Battle class and we in our fleet destroyer looked in amazement at this thing which was called a destroyer with two big headlights up on the Director, a twin turret 4.5. Then we went on board and saw the space that was in the thing, because our deck heads were lower and all the facilities that they had in there, we were amazed. It is quite interesting that our secretary of the Ex Navalmen’s Association her husband was on BARFLEUR, he was a Brit, he was on BARFLEUR and we were tied up alongside each other.
They were great ships weren’t they?

Oh yes.

They had American fire control if I am correct with the British radar?

No I understood that they were the first Flyplane at sea.

Certainly a chum of mine served on one and they had a mechanical box and they had an American fire control system.

They had a round director like Flyplane 5.

They had the two separate radar nacelles, 275 radar. His ship was absolutely wizzo for gunnery and used to win all the fleet gunnery trophies.

A Rear Admiral, Flag Officer Destroyers was in BARFLEUR.

Colombo of course was another great foreign port to go to and we went all over the place there. We went to a rest camp and that was very interesting. Just while we were alongside the wharf in Colombo we used to get the British cinema, 16mm films and because the EA ran the cinema I used to be the other cinema operator, his assistant and so we worked watch and watch running films. I can remember we had this big American musical with two great big reels on it, and I just can’t think of the name of it. On the foc’sle we had all the stages for painting and all the deal planks strung across the foc’sle and everybody sitting there and the Captain came and the officers and what have you. This day or before the film show Carl Turner said, “Come and have a tot”, and I was old enough to drink and I had a tot in the PO’s Mess and the PO’s would say, “Right Kiwi have you got a good show?” “Yes we have got this big American musical”, and every thing was fine and we put the first reel on and it all went fine and I put the second wheel on backwards and upside down I think. How I got away with that I don’t know. We had sports teams and things went as normal. The recreation was pretty top line and of course everybody was singing Admiral Mountbatten’s praises for the Royal Naval Film Corporation because it was well known throughout the Brit Fleet anyway that he with his connections with the film industry was able to get that organisation going. We had top line films from them. We had top line films from the Yanks as well.

The Royal Navy Film Corporation was always good. I remember tapping into that on occasions and it was very well organised.

That’s right. They had really first class up-to-date films and we saw them before they were shown in the cinemas in Britain, we had some of those films out there. In Colombo we tidied up and I am not sure whether we got another boiler clean there and then we went off to Trinco, where we joined the fleet at Trinco and we were in Trinco for Christmas and the New Year.

This would be 1944?

Yes 1944.

Once again the sports team were away and there was a big fleet canteen down there and parts of the ships company were invited over to one of the Fleet Support ships and they had some entertainment and food and drink. The food in the ship had changed and we had gone onto a lot of dehydrated food. Dehydrated spuds and carrots that you can buy now a bit better done like Surprise Peas and things, it wasn’t very popular of course.

I suppose in those days it would be pretty tasteless?

Yes you needed tons of Worcester Sauce and stuff on it and dehydrated meat which was like mince and you used to try and make it up into meat cakes and all that sort of thing. It certainly supplemented the diet on board.

We get to Trincomalee and the Fleet is there and it is the first time that our 27th Destroyer Flotilla were all together. We were the canteen boat pretty well and we had all the tasks anyway. We were buoy to buoy and we were secured to our buoy, this is Christmas Eve and astern of us comes WHELP. I think it was WHELP and she comes astern of us and secures her head to our stern buoy. We had a gunner on board, he was a torpedo gunner, old stripey was the gunners party and the GI and stripey had been drinking. Others were drinking Blue Bell and all sorts of things, it was chaotic, Christmas Eve. The Leading Hands went to the Wardroom and then the Petty Officers. That night I gave a picture show in the Wardroom and I was plied with ale until I just about fell off the machine. On Sunday night when you did the Wardroom show you got a beer and that was more than anybody else in the ship had legally. The good looking Lieutenant in WHELP leans over to direct his buoy jumper and Stripey is there and he has got the hose with a high pressure branch pipe on it and when the Foc’sle Officer leans over he says switch on and dowsed him. That was the only contact at sea with the Duke of Edinburgh or Prince Philip or Philip Mountbatten.

That was he?

Yes. There was tales again of him when we arrived back in Sydney of the parties in the destroyers there and he was a well respected guy actually.

He took it kindly?

Yes. All the ships had their booms out in our Flotilla and they had their skimming dishes all tied to the booms. What happens, some bright spark in one of the ships decides that they would race around the Flotilla in the skimming dish and another ship decides the same and in the end they were out in Trinco Harbour during the war, Christmas, playing dodgems with skimming dishes. Well that sorted itself out.

They were terrifying little boats weren’t they, skimming dishes?

Yes I have seen one of those in Colombo hit a log and just drive itself under. The Leading Stoker used to drive them to keep the engine going. These were fast, an engine on wheels.

I have watched one at Dartmouth pick up its CO from the harbour side, he was in a bowler hat, umbrella and a nice overcoat. He took off like a rocket and Dartmouth Harbour was full of buoys. I watched this thing hit the buoy and down they went. Here was this guy with his bowler hat going under.

Yes they went down all right quickly. Good message and Postman’s boot, easy to get out and hoist in board. Then the Fleet got together and we went up again with the aircraft carriers to Sumatra/Penang and they were attacking the installations and oil tanks and things up there. We did a couple of runs up there as Fleet escort.

Were you in the group that used to go down to Exmouth Gulf and refuel and then come back up or did you just go straight over. Was the GAMBIA there?

I think so, it might have been. We refuelled at sea sometimes from a stern hose from a carrier.

The early attacks on Sumatra, the Fleet used to go down to West Australia?


The tankers were actually anchored in the bays off the Western Australia coast. They would fuel off the Western Australia coast and then they would come back and attack and then go back to Trincomalee?

No we operated from Trinco and went back to Trinco. We developed a boiler fault and so we were diverted to Bombay where they came and looked at the boilers, we had burnt out a nest of tubes or something. They had to rebuild a boiler or two, they might have done both of them I don’t know. Any way they had to rebuild the boiler and that was forecast to take a couple of months and so that became another adventure because we divided up then and went to various places. I spent some time in Royal Marine Camp at Chember, which was just outside Bombay where they used to bring the Green Beret blokes back for recreation. God knows what they did when they worked, because on a Saturday morning while they were doing rounds we sailors used to have to climb the local mountain with them. They would have bearers out in front with sticks to get rid of snakes. The Gunnery Team went to the Royal Indian Naval Gunnery School HMS HIMALAYA. We called it HIMALAYA until the Commander used to call us to attention, HIMALAYA. I think we had about six weeks up there at the Gunnery School. We thought that we were teaching them more than they were teaching us. They had Indian GI’s and because we couldn’t understand left and right turn we spent quite a lot of our time doubling. We used to work in the forenoons and then go to our quarters in the afternoon that was a beautiful old hotel, it had been used as a rest camp, on Manora Beach at Karachi. That was interesting because we had a train trip up to Karachi. They had a dome teacher there and we used to do our tracking. I think the greatest thing that we got from there was good aircraft recognition training which of course was one of the things that you used to have to keep up with at sea and you had dogwatch instruction and so forth in that and AA. We used to fire a few rounds up there, 4 inch I think as well as Oerlikon and Bofors. They had the dome where we used to do our tracking practice and they had range finders there. As an optical range taker and I think there was two or three of us in the ship, we had to do so many cuts a day, that is so many runs a day to keep your eye in. At sea in the ship you did it every day and you had to fill your log in, almost like the Seacat aimers log. Even when you were ashore in barracks if you were a range taker you did your cuts. The range takers then became CR ratings and you still had a range finder on your arm but they changed that to cross guns with a C underneath it.

You stayed with this Hazemeyer gun all the time?

Yes and then the 4.7 AA director.

That must have been quite an extensive repair then if you had to spend all that time ashore?

Yes they had to rebuild the boiler, I think the boiler was stuffed.

While we were there we worked in the forenoons. There were three or four RN WRENS there who actually lived in the HIMALAYA Wardroom and they ran the dome. I don’t know how they got them or where they got them, but they used to get some 35mm films and we would go to the dome to do our dome training and when we had finished our dome training they would put these films on. Unbeknown to the Command we would have a film morning or afternoon. Their mess bill in the Wardroom must have gone up because they lived in the Wardroom and they could get grog, bringing us crates of beer. Perhaps we paid them.

They were real officers?

No they weren’t, they were WRENS, but they lived in the Wardroom, they had a section for the WRENS in the Wardroom. They used to keep us supplied with beer and in the afternoon we used to have a beer. We used to have a servant who we used to pay 4 annas a week. We had a char boy and we had an old guy, a Seihk with a turban on his head with his big tray of nuts and raisins and things he used to come and sell. If you have seen that television series, “It ain’t half hot Mum”, that was what these two were like. They used to come and sell their tea and bun in our barracks or in the camp. I think for 4 annas the servant dhobyed our gear. We had convinced our officers in WRANGLER that the New Zealand Navy wore khaki. Well in actual fact I did have some issue khaki from LEANDER and of course went ashore in Bombay and bought khaki. Len Hunt again was the postman and so we had a little circle and so we went ashore in our khakis.

Were you the only members of the ships’ company who were in khaki at this stage?

Yes. The dhoby wallah used to do our dhobying and iron it and press it and they would even clean your anklets and belt and it was life of Riley as far as we were concerned.
Did you carry any local Indian sailors at sea?

No. You know about the Fijians in LEANDER. Steven Roskill told me when I went to see him in Cambridge, he talked about a lot of things in LEANDER that we didn’t know, like how he had been sent out, the Government here had wanted someone to shake the ship up and all that sort of thing. When the two Fijian boys were killed in LEANDER he had representation from the Chiefs in Fiji and the father of one of them offered his next son, but it wasn’t acceptable to the New Zealand Government. The Fijian Chiefs and father offered the replacement.

We then had a momentous trip back to Bombay in the train and through the Sindh Desert. All of the Indian Railway decided to go on strike, it was planned. They withdrew the ash-pan from the engine and we just sat there.

We had a higher class compartment compared with the Indian who was hanging onto the train and all crushed together. We had these four berth sleepers with a little toilet on them and in the centre of the floor there was a big place for an ice-block and you had a fan blowing onto the ice. When the train stopped of course the batteries would go and so we were losing the power and we were losing the fan and I can remember we were walking out of the train in the desert alongside the line. We had some stokers, I don’t know where they had come from, it was only our gunnery people I thought had gone to Karachi, but it looked like a long night in the middle of the desert sitting in a train. A great deal of talking and what have you and pushing by naval stokers and they convinced the people to put the ash box back in and light the fire and during the night we started up again. We arrived in Bombay just on VE Day. We arrived in Bombay Railway Station as the big heroes of the British Navy and all that sort of thing and were cheered by the Indians on the station.

(end of Tape 6)

(beginning of Tape 7)

This is another day, we were in WRANGLER in Trincomalee and Indian Ocean area.

Yes that’s right.

During our stay there in Ceylon itself, we went up from Trinco to a rest camp there, which is mighty high on the hills and came back in open trucks down the mountain roads with mad native drivers, nobody daring to look over the sides of the trucks. These guys were stopping not so much to get the water as we went down, but to have another tot of arak on the way through. We got stuck in the dark there where all hell let loose with the monkeys and things in the jungle and forest as we were going through and so we had some hairy rides there. It was quite interesting because we were able to wander in tea plantations, walk down streams and come out the other end with leeches stuck to your legs.

We also went to Kandy where they had the sacred elephants and all those sort of things. It was great to see how the RN had organised these places for the fleet and particularly the smaller ships got first treat at them I suppose and a week or ten days in those places was absolutely marvellous. This happened of course in India as well where we went off to Dulahi to the rest camp there and that is exactly the same setting as the camp they used for “It aint half hot Mum”, the television programme. The Punka Wallahs were there, the Char Wallahs and again the Brits had great ENSA shows. I can remember while we were there George Formby performed there and I am not sure if it was Vera Lynn, but some other great singer which they had in a place not far from the camp. Once again we were well looked after and the beer there was onion beer and you could trade your beer tickets for quite a lot of extra services actually.

The beer would be made locally?

Yes they had onion beer in Egypt too, when they didn’t have enough hops and things to make it from I suppose.

Some of the comical things there were sailors on horse back. They had a riding school where you could go and hire the horses and away you would go and gallop for an hour and a half in the morning. You think that you are going to keep going, but the horses after an hour and a half would turn around themselves and take you straight back to camp, it didn’t matter what you did, you came back. They had a great hair cutting service. Of course there was the mental hospital there for the Army, hence the thing that anybody who was mentally disturbed was known to have dulahy tap.

When we were in Bombay the First Lieutenant and his team persuaded the Dockyard to put a wooden quarter deck on, cover the quarter deck with wood. Then with a wooden quarter deck you had to paint it of course battleship grey. They ran out of rum and so they bought a new supply of Australian rum in and were striking it down in the beakers. The beakers had been so dry that the rum was spilling out and the next morning it had lifted the paint on the quarter deck and so it was a good brew,

I suppose the wood was there to provide insulation?

Well it did provide insulation, but I think they just wanted it to look a bit smart. I don’t think that the fleet was too happy because they were trying to get rid of wooden things in ships. However we finished up as a fleet destroyer with a wooden quarter deck. Our gang of sailors was given the task of starting to build a wall at the back of the rifle range at the Marine Camp at Ghanda and we had a couple of natives to help us. They didn’t do any work, they just advised us. We had to make bricks out of mud and grass and cut them up into the shape of bricks and let them lie over night and then slap them together with water and that was our daily job building this mud wall at the back of the rifle range. Mind you the sun baked them pretty hard and what not. I don’t know how high we got them when we left, probably about halfway up to our chests or something. I can imagine some more sailors coming along and being given the task of building a few more steps up on it.

It was there that we used to go to the pictures in the village in an open truck again after dark. We went to this cinema where they had Dorothy Lamour or somebody in the Cobra Woman and we saw all these snakes in the pit slashing and snarling. We came back and slept on our string bunks in a grass hut and every little rustle every night after that one imagined that there was a cobra climbing through there. That wasn’t too stupid either, because when we went out on our climbs up the hill behind, which we did on a Saturday morning while the camp was doing rounds, they had beaters out in front. They went out with sticks and they would disturb the snakes and hook the snakes and throw them clear. It was quite a turn at night for the sailors to hear a rustle and every one would be awake and looking under their bunks to see whether it would be a snake or a scorpion.

Were you issued with any heat protection gear like pith helmets and that sort of thing?

No they recalled pit helmets just before we went to sea. They were inflammable and they were a bloody nuisance. We weren’t issued with any alternative head wear either from a sun stroke point of view. No the pith helmets had gone and we just had our sailors cap. It was before the days of thinking of soft hats for sailors.

BRAGANZA was the name of the barracks in Bombay at the time and I stayed a night there for some reason in between ship and between camp or something. There were bed bugs. The string was made out of coconut twine and you took your hammock mattress and you threw it on, but you spent a little while before you went to bed going around all the joints to make sure that you had killed all the bed bugs in there.

When we actually left Bombay we found the ship alive with cockroaches and bed bugs among other things. The First Lieutenant also had made cushions to go over the lockers in the ship. We didn’t have cushions on the lockers and so he had these cushions covered in vinyl or thin leather and stuffed with horsehair. We thought we were very smart and this was jolly good because we would sleep on these cushions instead of sleeping on the hard steel locker tops. A couple of weeks after we left Bombay to go wherever we were going. I think we were actually going off to Sydney when I think about it now, the ship was alive with bugs.

How did they get rid of them, was there an effective way of getting rid of them?

Well they did some work on spraying cockroaches and putting powder down, but the only effective way was dumping the cushions. The big snag was trying to disinfect and get the bugs out of the hammocks.

The little hammock mattress is horse hair isn’t it or straw?

It was horsehair yes. You used to have to open your hammock up every few weeks or months or whatever and re-pack it. Because after you had been lying on it for any length of time it became a solid mass and you had to open it up and take the horse hair out and tease it and stuff it all back in. You used to be able to sleep great in that for a few months afterwards.

Were people actually sleeping in hammocks in the tropics there, or was there a tendency to sleep on the upper deck somewhere?


You would get a camp stretcher, were they available?

Not in the way that they were later on, but there were some wooden folding camp stretchers, I think there were some camp stretchers because there weren’t enough slinging billets. People used to lay their hammock out on the top of the lockers before these cushions came and on mess tables and on the deck. Where it was possible of course you slept on the upper deck, but in a destroyer it was generally wet.

There is not that much room is there, not like the waist of a cruiser?

No the waist of a destroyer except in extremely calm weather or very calm weather is usually pretty wet. If the ship heels or manoeuvres or what not you then you get that awful feeling and get wet. But in harbour yes. In fact in Bombay we took our complete mess up on X gun deck and I think the other mess came up and slept on the quarterdeck and they put the awnings up. I can remember all the sailors going ashore and buying parrots and God knows what else. We had birdcages hanging all around and trying to feed these parrots all sorts of fruit. The snag was we didn’t know what to feed the parrots on and the crafty Indians who sold us the parrots anyway had sold us some duds and it wasn’t long before they were dead. There were some murmurs that you had to get rid of all your pets, but they never really pushed it because all these pets died. From an outside observer it must have looked peculiar at lunch time with all these sailors around in shorts and scruffy rigs and what have you.

It was very interesting our stay in India from a tourist point of view. We lived in the ship and we lived in this marine place where the marines had divisions every morning, which was like an Eastney parade with an RSM giving his orders and giving orders by bugle and sailors trying to march with marines. It was interesting because that was the first time that I had ever picked up a golf club, they had a golf course next door which had cheap rates for camp people. They had these burning places for the funerals.

We would catch the train from Bombay and then we had to walk through some fields to get to the camp and you would walk past this burning place. We wondered what the smell was the first night or two that we were in the camp, the wind was in the wrong direction. We found out when we were coming back what they would do. They stacked the bodies up and they were exposed on stretchers outside this place during the day and then at night they would cremate them with big sandalwood fires and what have you. When the heat got into the body the muscles contracted then that was a great celebration and we were told that they celebrated that because that was when the spirit was leaving the body. That didn’t give us good sleep for a couple of nights.

It wouldn’t be good to be down wind from all that?

That’s what I say, when the wind was in the wrong direction, although there was tons of incense and other stuff thrown in and the sandalwood burnt sweetly, it was better than the Parsi burial places on the top of their temple in Bombay. They just left the bodies out there for their sacred birds to come along and feed off them and then when all the bones were left they would take the bones away and store the bones.

Being with our EA who was also the cinema operator, he and I after Bombay started a photographic firm. He was very into photos and films and cinema because his father owned a couple of suburban cinemas in Auckland and I think that’s how he got interested in running the cinema in WRANGLER.

We went to Kodak in Bombay for those days it was a great store and we used to get our paper and film and chemicals. We had a little cubby hole in one of the power rooms below the Hazemeyer mounting where we used to do our photos and we finished up being the official photographers. We were allowed to flog the photos to the sailors subject to the censor stamping the back of them.

I suppose even in a destroyer you would have to go through the routine of getting the First Lieutenant’s approval or the Captain’s approval to start up a firm would you?

Yes that’s right and we had to go through that. Carl Turner went through that and he did the organisation of it. Another interesting thing about Carl Turner was he did the wiring of the Battleship CENTURION, which used to be the old target ship for the Fleet. They moored her off Mulberry Harbour for a breakwater and he set the electrics for the detonation and pushed the plungers when they blew that and he came to WRANGLER direct from that. That was an interesting job that he had, another New Zealander in a different role.

There are a lot of these people who we don’t really hear about, the great events and the things that they took part in.

I think we then went on to Australia. There was just one thing that I missed and that was we had the ENSA party on board WRANGLER either in Bombay or in Colombo, I think it was in Bombay. After they had given their concert and there were all these beautiful birds, the sailors hadn’t seen English women for yonks, except the WRENS who entertained us and showed us cinema films and brought us beer in Karachi. They gave this great concert on the foc’sle and they all then disappeared into the Wardroom of course. Sometime during the afternoon the pipe went up and the bosun’s mate used to have to go around and do the piping. Although they used to use the armament broadcast sometimes to let them know that the concert party was leaving and would people like to come up and talk to the concert party they are welcome to do so on the foc’sle. All the officers were fussing around them as well when they came out, but they were all boozed. That was a bit of a wet blanket you might say.

We went down to Sydney, via Darwin in company with BARFLEUR.

I have also confirmed BARFLEUR’s armament from my friend Alex Curtis who was employed in the TS as a Fire Control Rating – AFCC, FKC and Radar 275. The armament – 2 x 4.5″ Turrets, 8 x 21″ Torpedo tubes, 4 x twin Bofors STAAG, 2 x Oerlikons and 1 x 4″ Starshell gun amidships.

The Flag Officer in BARFLEUR was Rear Admiral Eddlestone (Boy Entry). The Captain’s name was Townsend, brother of Princess Margaret’s Group Captain. BARFLEUR came to New Zealand to refit after the war before going to Hong Kong again in company with a group including WRANGLER. I bet there were some over flowing drip cans in that ship as the ship’s company were working out their demob points hoping to be discharged at wars end.

I was by that time on leave at home. BARFLEUR’s leave party were given a chit for a rail ticket that they collected from the station. They had tickets to various stations from Auckland to Wellington. They were met at the station and spent some weeks on leave with the people who met them. It was this experience which caused my friend to come to New Zealand after the war. He had been billeted at Te Awamutu. Anyway at this time my Divisional Officer Lieutenant Whittle and I think he made two and a half before he left the ship was on to me to become a CW candidate and he gave me great encouragement, which was great. He made available to me the HFDF office way up under the mast for my little study and set me off doing HET. He was always available to come and coach me. I think that it was on that passage down to Sydney that I started.

Would you get any other assistance from professional Instructor Officers?

No there was no professional Instructor Officer in the ship.

I was thinking was there a Fleet Instructor Officer you could tap into or a Squadron Instructor Officer?

I suppose there would be in a depot ship, I don’t know because the cruisers lets face it carried a schoolie. Both Ducky Waddell and Schoolie Hermans were in LEANDER for instance. Yes they would be in the Fleet. In some cases there was acting schoolmasters and these were people who were HO’s like Colin Dallas down here and Schoolie Parsonage whose is presently the President of the Ex LEANDER Association. When Schoolie Hermans left the ship to come back to New Zealand before Waddell joined there was a toss up between Dallas and Parsonage who was going to be the schoolie and they got threepence a day as the temporary Instructor and that is how they got their name schoolie. Schoolie Parsonage won it and Colin Dallas dipped out on his threepence a day.

Then we arrived in Sydney and I can remember we anchored in Farm Cove. I was always very keen and by this time I had become Director and Fire Control Sweeper. In that ship my recollections are that we had an FKC, Fuse Keeping Clock and an AFCC, Admiralty Fire Control Clock. We had two little tables in the TS as it were and the GI ran the TS with the Rocky Sub who was Fred Griffin the straight stripe greenie who was the Electrical Officer.

That would all be mechanical no doubt a mechanical table?

Yes you had some small servos in it, but it was a question of the range coming down and you follow the pointer.

It was all M type, follow the pointer and all that sort of stuff?

Yes that’s right and step by step transmission and what have you. In the old table for instance in LEANDER the range finder radar coming down, every time you pressed your cut switch it made a print on the plot and the plot was running at a certain speed. You got this zigzag on the plot and the operator had to align his cursor with the mean of your cuts to produce the range.

The angle was the range rate was that right?

Yes that would be right the rate of change of range.

In the AFCC the range just came down on the dial and they actually followed up the range on a pointer. In the cruiser where you had the thing like the HACS, you had all those eclipses which you measured your aim off’s, a basic tachometric system on the shape of the circle and the angle.

I became the sweeper of those places and I was most popular because it was in the summer and the birds were around the beach in Sydney and I was only too keen to get up and do my range finding cuts up there. We had a short spell in Sydney which was a great recreation again. It just seemed like we were having a recreational war with these rest camps and into Sydney. We then set off with a couple of other destroyers I think to go and join the Fleet.

You didn’t get to New Zealand at all?

No. Two or three of our Flotilla actually got to Auckland and went into dry dock and refitted.

New Zealand fitted a lot of the Fleet Destroyers with updated Asdic. They fitted the sword, the depth finder and we specialised in that. There must have been probably a dozen destroyers in the Devonport, Auckland Dockyard who had that fitted.

Us four New Zealanders were all aghast because we were one of the few that didn’t come over. We might have had it done in Bombay when we were in dock. Because there was plenty of time to do all that sort of work.

We set off from Sydney to go and join the Fleet, which we were all excited about doing, but not too fast as some of the old sailors were looking for another night ashore in Sydney. In those days except for the buzz that went around the ship when certain activities went on, you didn’t know when you were sailing. You could sail that any time there was no daily orders saying that you were going to sail the next day.

What time of the year was this, it sounds like the middle of `45, would that be right. You mentioned that you had VE Day I think in India?

Yes that’s right, we came back from Karachi VE Day.

The war finished in August didn’t it, was the war still going?

Yes the war was still going.

It sounds to me like June/July.

We may have come down from the British Pacific Fleet to Sydney for something. We sailed from Sydney to go back to the British Pacific Fleet and then we got to Cairns or Townsville by which time we had washed a couple of lockers off the foc’sle. We had Oerlikons fitted, I think they might have been fitted in Sydney on the quarter deck or down aft and we bent the shield for the Oerlikons and we were told to put into Cairns to have our repairs done. Everybody was jovial, another run ashore in Aussie, but those keen Aussie workers came on board as soon as the first wire was on almost and they worked all through the night and the next morning out we went again and ploughed our way north.

Were you with a group or just on your own?

After repairs we were on our own and made all haste to join the group going north. We were then going back up to join the Fleet. Generally the communication between the Fleet and Sydney was done by MANXMAN and the fast minelayers. They used to come backwards and forwards to the Fleet to collect the mail and stores which used to come unaccompanied. They would make a mad dash, I think they did about forty knots or something flat out. I think we came down for some reason and then went back up to join the Fleet. Our last spell with the Fleet we were actually 42 days at sea without seeing any land and the old sailors cry, “There was I 42 days on the same wave”. We were about 3 months without a run ashore.

In a destroyer it was a bit tough on water, most of the water they were wanting for the boilers. You were doing a lot of manoeuvring with the Fleet. I remember the Captain saying that due to the shortage of water, the ships’ company need not shave. I took this as an opportunity that I was going to grow a beard, I didn’t shave, but I didn’t grow much of a beard anyway, it looked like a nanny goats it was tuffs here and tuffs there. That decided me through my naval career that I wasn’t going to grow a beard. After we had run out of fresh food we had a diet of dehydrated spuds, carrots and cabbage. We looked forward to the American store ships coming up, they came up from Australia and from New Zealand and they had beautiful fresh vegetables and chickens and turkeys that were of American origin I think and steak and God knows what else, oh yes, ice-cream.

I can remember going alongside one of these for stores. I had shifted forward to the forward mess deck for some reason, perhaps I had changed to the forward director and forward of us was the Naval Store and underneath was the cold room or freezer. We opened that up and were taking these stores in and it was choked we couldn’t get any more in. Jack Dusty was telling Lieutenant Whittle who was also the Supply Officer, “You can’t take any more Sir”, and the Yanks were saying, “We’ve got plenty more here for you”, and it was spilling over. I can remember that night we had chickens, geese I think and turkeys stowed on the mess deck. Having been associated with my father and his poultry over the years I found myself cleaning geese and what have you. We were just making our favourite dish out of it, just to get it cooked, pot mess, you bung it in the fanny and send it up to the galley and make great stews out of it. Of course ice cream was great, people would give their rum away for ice cream in some places. When we went alongside an American ship we always looked forward to the ice cream.

Every two or three day’s you would presumably have to fuel and presumably take stores or mail and all the rest of it. You were doing constant jackstays and constant fuelling?

Yes we were among one of the first to experiment with fuelling at sea and I think we did this up in the North Sea, I am not sure, and I have got some photographs of it fuelling from ahead. I remember on one occasion with the aircraft carrier they dropped the end of the fuel line over with some buoys on it. We got it on the foc’sle with some grapnels and connected it up forward just abaft the capstan to a fuelling point there. We had a sort of wire which we didn’t actually tow on, because they kept station pretty well, but just in case something happened and you didn’t keep station, you rode on the wire as opposed to the hose.

Oh really!

This was a safety thing.

I can remember an occasion when we were fuelling from an aircraft carrier, it was about 11 o’clock in the morning and the Chief Stoker looked around and Jimmy had gone, he was back on the bridge and had left instructions. He knew that if any thing was going to happen he would have been quickly down there. There was two or three of us seamen around and a PO and the Chief Stoker said, “I am just going down to get my tot”. Blow me if it didn’t go air raid warning red and they were looking for the Chief Stoker to disconnect it, and the aircraft carrier was in a panic, because they wanted to fly off. We switched off and sucked back and did all those things and the Chief Stoker came up. We didn’t have a capstan on there, we had two upright warping drums above the cable holders.

The first time when we were fuelling at sea a beam, we used to fuel at sea and we used to have a spring on, a big heavy wire spring from our bow back to about the waist of the tanker to keep station or whatever. On one occasion I can remember panic going up when we were fuelling again and this was an American aircraft carrier. There was a mine sighted between us and that was an all hell situation of breaking off. The wire came off because they had secured it on a slip. The wire of the fuel hose was secured on a slip, but the danger was that breaking off quickly was breaking the fuel hose and spilling oil every where. It was hard a starboard to clear that.

We used to like going alongside the American aircraft carriers, the same with the Brits as well, because they used to put their band on the upper deck and then they would always send ice-cream over, or usually send ice-cream over and then played Tombola with the ice-cream by messes. One hand from each mess would go and play Tombola and you would take your share of the ice-cream depending on whether you won a line or whether you won the house.

Were you involved in operations up there. What sort of operations did you get involved in?

We were Task Force 37.1 WRANGLER.

Your Flag ship was KING GEORGE V?



Yes we were Indefatigable’s rescue destroyer at times.

VICTORIOUS in actual fact we first saw before I joined LEANDER, she was in Noumea. The Brits sent her out here very early and she was in Noumea before I joined LEANDER, so that was the year before. GAMBIA and NEWFOUNDLAND were the cruisers.

We joined that and then we took part in all those operations from July to the 18th August.

FORMIDABLE was hit several times with kamikaze aircraft?

We were alongside one of the aircraft carriers that were hit by kamikaze. I thought that was IMPLACABLE.

They were all hit at various times.

This thing hit just aft of the island and went up with a cloud of smoke and so forth and they pushed some aircraft over the side. I don’t know whether they did a great deal of damage.

Our ship didn’t take part in the Okinawa operation, but we were up with the Fleet when all the other operations were going on. Our basic role was with the aircraft carriers and so we didn’t get tangled up with the Battleships that did the bombardments.

You were acting as a screen?

Yes a screen and a rescue destroyer, plane guard they call it now. We spent our 42 days doing that. We went right through until the Japanese surrendered. When the Japanese surrendered we being the canteen boat did some very interesting jobs in actual fact and I have got some photos of those. Our photo firm was pretty active.

(end of Tape 7)

(beginning of Tape 8)

Vic before we go on are you able to describe your impressions or your activities during a typical air attack and there must have been many whilst you were screening these carriers?

Yes the thing was of course that the destroyers were not so much the targets as the other vessels and so we were not directly attacked in most cases. We had some attacks up in the North Sea and the Mediterranean. In the Mediterranean really again that didn’t affect us much because we were a bit to one side.

The American Battleships and the American Cruisers when they opened fire with their anti aircraft fire, God knows how any thing got through, but they did. It was just one wall of steel and they seem to have guns and weapons in every conceivable position. We boosted up our AA armament with a couple of Oerlikons aft and I think probably a couple up by the bridge. Our role of course was to act as the rescue destroyer or air guard for the aircraft carrier and whatever they did we generally did.

Your 4.7’s would have an AA mode?

Yes they fired either direct controlled fire or they fired barrage on incoming targets.

You had your Hazemeyer?

The Hazemeyer radar may have been 282. It had a small dipole aerial with short trough reflector. Beam switching was not done. I think we balanced two echoes on the screen, training towards the tallest. With the Hazemeyer we actually tracked them in and fired at them. We were part of the general fire power if you like. We were on the quarter of the carrier that I thought was INDOMITABLE or IMPLACABLE. INDOMITABLE was attacked with a Kamikaze. Now there was no firing at that Kamikaze as far as I remember it just came out of the blue and bang it struck the flight deck.

After the peace, after they had signed the surrender we were warned that the Japanese Kamikazes were still in action and they were still going to attack the Fleet and were still preparing for attacks and they kept coming out in isolated patches. By the time you had closed up and went to open fire they had found their target or they had been destroyed. Quite a few of them got through. Before we got there, they got through into one of the Australian cruisers. It took the funnels and the area aft of the bridge and cleared it.

After the peace had been declared I think there was a splice the mainbrace. We were stood down to defence watches and we went down to our forward mess deck. I wasn’t old enough to drink rum, or officially to drink rum in those days. The rum was down there and they said, “Come on Kiwi have a sip”, when they had just got the rum down and the action alarm bells went. We all rushed up to the Hazemeyer again and we are just going past GAMBIA and there is a dog fight going on overhead and I think the aircraft were coming down to attack. GAMBIA had had a relaxation as well and I can remember that Y Turrets crew on GAMBIA were all out on the quarter deck. The turret door was shut, but they looked to me as if they had come out of the hatch at the bottom of the Turret and undone their overalls and were taking in the fresh air. The sights and then this air attack came and they were all trying to get back in and they were all scattering under the turret. It was a most amusing sight actually.

I think GAMBIA shot a Japanese aircraft down after the peace.

Yes because that was the dog fight up there and she was attacked as well I believe with an aircraft. Our concern was on our starboard side and that was on her starboard side and I think that attack was slightly ahead and high in the sky. I think she was attacked on the quarter I am not sure. I didn’t see her shoot that down, I heard about it.

I think a lot of it is creative thinking as well.

Yes more creative as the years go by. My picture of an incident with GAMBIA just after tot time if you like on the day that the Japanese surrendered was getting summoned back to action stations, running up to the Hazemeyer deck and then we were going flat out to take station again with the carrier I presume. Because our role then was to stay with the carriers who were to provide the air cover while the peace negotiations were going on. What I saw was the dog fights above and Gambia’s Y Turrets crew on the quarter deck trying to get in. My attention then was drawn to my duty and back to the Hazemeyer range finder and radar.

What you are really saying is that for a destroyer protecting the Fleet, if the Japanese aircraft got through the fighter CAP, then quite often they were too high or too out of range for you to do much about it?

Well I suppose so, I wasn’t gunnery minded then, they were just aeroplanes coming in. Boards with coloured discs were fitted around the upper deck and changed as the colour codes changed. When the Kamikaze were coming in, they presumably were briefed that they were going to the capital ships, to the aircraft carriers. They were not going to waste those pilots and those aircraft on us, thank God for that, they did hit an Australian cruiser and I am not sure which it was.

People describe the Fleets there as being huge and massive. Controlling the gunnery fire power must have been quite something with safe arcs and friendly aircraft coming back and all this sort of thing, it must have been an incredible business?

Well even with the Fleet in the North Sea with the TIRPITZ. You see we all used to close up when the Fleet Air Arm were coming back from Alten Fiord for instance and the thing was that you closed up because it was thought that the German aircraft would be coming in with our own friendly aircraft, which was their practice. This is why a great knowledge of aircraft recognition was required. Guns crews, lookouts director and bridge personnel all had to know the recognition signals and when they changed. Boards with coloured discs were fitted around the upper deck, after bridge etc. and changed as the colour codes changed. The aircraft themselves of course had lanes that they were supposed to approach in. Those lanes were given out to the ships and those arcs were given to the guns and the friendly aircraft would be coming in on this bearing or whatever and then the ship would alter course wouldn’t it and then you wouldn’t know where you were. Guns crews, lookouts’ director and bridge personnel all had to know the recognition signals and when they changed.

I presume there would be some sort of Fleet gunnery control system where the Fleet Gunnery Officer decreed guns tight or whatever on certain sectors?

That’s right you had guns tight on sector A or whatever which would be where those aircraft would be coming in. Now that of course was plotted on the bridge and then that was given to you as a relative bearing that you weren’t allowed to fire on there. If there were aircraft coming in you wouldn’t get the engage on that bearing, you would get a check fire. Of course aircraft attacking a ship were fired on. Friendly aircraft generally had one lane allocated to come home on. Sometimes however friendlies got into the wrong lane through accident or because of damage. Sometimes aircraft ditched over the carriers bow on land or take off or fell short.

Yes I just recall they used to have these portable perspex plots in the gun direction position where you could draw on the bad arcs and the good arcs?

Yes that’s right.

We had a gun controller you would call him now, an officer of the quarters at the Hazemeyer who had his sound power headphones on to the bridge which acted as the GDP. He would get all his information and be able to get us to track aircraft and then say okay friendly and we would go back to our lookout position that was right aft. We could fire pretty well forward. There was a couple of little aerials which were a nuisance on a little stick mast on our deck aft and I think we got rid of those so we could fire from about 45 degrees forward to either side.

The targets were the battleships and the aircraft carriers at that stage.

You were never involved in any of the bombardments along the coast like GAMBIA was at Kamaichi?

No we were with the carriers pretty well.

42 days in a destroyer is a long time isn’t it?

Yes that’s right and we had water problems. We fuelled alongside of tankers. It was hairy fuelling in those days, they weren’t well practised at it and it wasn’t a thing that you did regularly.

The couplings weren’t exactly instant couplings were they, they took about 15 minutes to bolt up if I recall?

Yes and you had to get wires across too, because they had this spring on them. The connections if I remember rightly were done by a wrench.

We were then as canteen boat given the task of going around the Fleet and doing odd jobs. Those included going around most of the British ships to get flags for the MISSOURI for the signing of the peace. The Brits had still kept a complete flag locker of flags of all nations, but the Americans had only American flags I think. We were going around and we went around lots of ships and picked up flags. We also went around lots of ships picking up senior officers. We picked up Admiral Rawlings and took him over to MISSOURI and I think we had Admiral Halsey at one stage and carted them backwards and forwards. It was quite amusing to us.

Was the Fleet still at sea?

Yes this is getting ready before they went in and they were getting all their team together. This is Admiral Rawlings and company going in for their discussions a few days before any signing was done.

You just put them across in a jackstay?

Yes but we were using the American jackstays and they were quite decorative actually. This was a lot of amusement for us, because our jackstays we didn’t even have stirrups in those days I think, we had a couple of knots in them. We had knots and a stray line that you sort of put around your body. The Americans they had a thing like a little carriage that went across with a little awning and seat in it like a sedan chair.

I always thought that they were dangerous.

Anyway that was one of our jobs before the Fleet split up.

Then there was one big day when the Fleet was altogether, the whole US Fleet, the British Pacific Fleet and it just covered the sea. It was immeasurable, you couldn’t count them, there were just ships every where. Aircraft carriers, Battleships, Destroyers, Cruisers, Weasel the little rescue tug, Tankers, store ships and as far as the eye could see it was just ships. They had this big sail past and they sent up aircraft and took photos.

It was really just a big photo opportunity presumably?

A big propaganda thing I suppose as well, but there was the Admiral who had command of that Fleet. I have got the figures actually of how many aircraft he had command of, about 1500 aircraft or something and how many men he had under his command and how many ships. Then they all split up to go to Yokosuka Harbour in Tokyo Bay for the peace signing. We stayed out with the carriers to provide the air cover as the carriers were still under attack at that stage.

I think we spliced the mainbrace after they had signed the Treaty. I did get a tot that day instead of my lime juice I used to get lime juice on splice the mainbrace days, being under age.

Then we went in and we became a Liberty boat. We were one of the first ships to go alongside in Yokosuka in Japan. We went to ACHILLES and to one or two other cruisers and went alongside and all their Libertymen piled on board and we took them inshore and landed them. We went on leave from our ship in groups of six and one person had a pistol.

I can remember this because I was on the bridge sometimes, we had a Japanese pilot on board and an interpreter of some sort and there was Japanese on the Dockyard wharf. Jimmy was trying to give his orders to take our lines after the heaving lines had gone over and they just stood there. We had armed sentries. Jimmy said point your rifle at that Jap and the interpreters had to tell these people to get on with it.

Gambia’s crew were the occupation force at Yokosuka Dockyard initially. One of the interesting points of that, John Washbourn was the officer in charge.

Yes that’s right and Lieutenant Commander Davis-Goff I believe.

One of the problems was the American Army was about a thousand miles away and they were preparing to invade and it took them about three weeks to get an occupation force together, an Army occupation force together. The Navy and the Marine Units in these ships had to provide that force initially and I gather that was quite a difficult thing to do?

The invasion was supposed to be in November. I think we were even briefed that there was going to be an invasion of Japan. Our thoughts were the way that the Japanese had fought in Burma and in China and in the Islands, that this was going to be bloody murder and whoever got home was going to be bloody lucky. It was with great relief when we were at sea and we were told that the atomic bombs had been dropped. The first one had been dropped and then we were told later on that the second one had been dropped and of course that was when the resistance ended. Now I have said this on many occasions to a lot of greenies and politicians, that as far as we were concerned that that was the saving of perhaps a great proportion of the generation of youth in not only New Zealand, Britain, America or whatever, but also in Japan. The few hundred thousand that were sacrificed saved millions of Japanese being killed and millions of other service people. That was borne out when we went into Japan the first time after the war and we met a couple of Japanese Commanders, wartime veterans and they were of that opinion when they were talking to us socially and what not. They had even armed children with sharpened sticks.

When we went ashore in among the devastation were stalls where young women swapped goods such as medals, ribbons, badges etc. for chocolate and chewing gum even before the yanks were there.

In the later stages there you were the Liberty boat taking the boys ashore?

That’s right and we also took over the Yokosuka Yacht Club. We were the canteen boat again and we were the scrubbers out. We went ashore with buckets and soft soap and scrubbers and with parties from other ships and scrubbed the place out and made it into a Fleet canteen and we didn’t get to use it because they promptly sent us back to sea just as it started running.

At sea in a destroyer on the bridge there was a little hatch, just about where the officer of the watches foot was and it went down to the wheel house. we had a blonde haired AB who was the helmsman, quartermaster with the telegraphman down there on one occasion. The officer of the watch who I think he was the sub, was giving him port so and so and steer so and so and he was wandering off course, he was chasing the needle. He was putting the wheel on the opposite direction where he should have been maintaining the course. He got a blast down the voice pipe and he said, “Stuff this, I am fed up”, and left the wheel. The telegraphman on the wheel sent for the coxswain. These were HO’s you know. He went down below and he was put down and confined to the cable locker.

The ships maintenance must have been suffering considerably and I am thinking of seamanship maintenance as well as engineering maintenance. Paint in destroyers was a luxury and they are always wet as you say. She must have been starting to get a bit tatty.

I can’t remember any sort of mad panics and worry about it. Whenever there was fine weather you worked in the forenoons on the upper deck. I can remember in that ship seeing nothing but the tops of the masts of our consorts and then seeing nothing but the bottoms of our consorts really riding heavy weather with quite some speed. Later on we will talk about BELLONA or ROYALIST belting her bottom when you see the resilient destroyer hulls which those light cruisers were as well, how they rode the seas.

We took some sailors back down to Australia through that typhoon and some of them had come off a battleship and they were all full of what they had done and what they hadn’t done. I tell you one thing those guys didn’t go down below for about four days, they wouldn’t eat, they really knew what it was like to be at sea in a destroyer, which really pushed the old adrenaline along.

You talk about ACHILLES and GAMBIA, did you actually have much personal contact with the crews on there?

No except on that occasion when we went alongside, or we yelled obscenities to them when we were going past them, but that would be the closest we got to those ships. Oh yes I met quite a few of my classmates and ex LEANDER’s when we acted as liberty boat.

You would presumably have lots of mates on board?

Yes that’s right, my classmates were in both ships.

The other New Zealand ship up there and often forgotten is ARBUTUS, did you come across her at all?

No I didn’t, but I know people who were in her at the time and she gets some credit in the publication that came out.

She was a radar repair ship and she used to go around and repair people’s radars with a mobile team.

Yes I think we did have her at one time. I can remember being in company with BARFLEUR too and hardly seeing BARFLEUR for water and waves. Those new Fleet destroyers in actual fact were pretty dry ships except on the upper deck. In the WRANGLER the worst place was down in the forward mess deck which I for some reason finished up on, which was right down forward, right next to the forepeak and in the forepeak was the Naval Store and the paint locker. We used to get our meals from the galley in rough weather in the big square fannies. In those day in the rough weather it was corned dog, tinned vegetables and make a pot mess in the big fanny and you would take it along to the galley and get it all cooked. Two of you would go and collect it and bring it back down to the mess deck and in this case the forward galley. All the mess tables and all the stools are all lashed, because otherwise they would be thrown everywhere. There were two stanchions in the middle of that mess deck, it was a little triangular mess deck, there was only two small messes in there or two small mess tables in there. The ladder was out too, the sloping ladder was out and so you would lower your pot mess down with a heaving line or a block on a line and it would be secured around one of these stanchions and you would sit around with cups and have your meal. They were pretty dry down below compared with the old V and W’s which were very often swimming in water in the mess decks.

Did the water shortage really affect ones hygiene, were you still able to get a shower a day?

You wouldn’t get a shower a day. You had little round bowls in the bathrooms and you would probably fill a bowl of water and throw it over yourself.

Even in LEANDER that had a beautiful tiled seaman’s bathroom, the boys had their own bathroom until I became an OD and then you were in the seaman’s bathroom. You had these big round tin baths and you would fill these baths up and do your dhobying in your bath maybe as well and then you would throw the water over you as a wash off.

I suppose you would all have your own dhoby buckets?

Well there would be a dhoby bucket in the mess deck. Some were lucky to have dhoby buckets if they were associated with the bosun’s store or something.

That was the other favourite sailors way of bathing wasn’t it, to do your dhobs, soap yourself down and rinse yourself off in the dirty dhoby water?

Yes that’s right.

Then of course the other thing was if it was forecast it was going to rain or if you were going through a rain cloud they used to pipe it. You would rush up on the upper deck with your towels and your soap and you would stand up there and get all wet and you would be rubbing down with soap and the shower would pass. You would be left and so you would have to go and get salt water or something. Yes you would be like an all hands on deck.

We used to sympathise with the Americans too. When we were alongside American destroyers they used to have to line up on the upper for their meals, like queue up for their meals, because they had the cafeteria system and in all weathers they were lined up for their meals. Whereas at least we could take our meals down to the mess deck and eat them.

Were rashes and heat rash and all that sort of stuff epidemic?

Athlete’s foot was a problem. One Scotsman I remember had a permanent sweat rash. Considering the close quarters the sailors kept themselves and kit very clean. Hammocks and bedding being the worst problem.

While I was in Espirito Santo or somewhere swimming I caught my leg on some coral and I got coral rash and I was under treatment for that quite a lot. It used to come out with the heat and for years it came out with the heat at that same time of the year. Coral rash had a weepy sort of a sore.

That’s right it is very difficult to get rid of.

Scabies. We had one guy in WRANGLER and this was before we went to the Far East whose name was Brown, he was filthy. He never changed, he still wore his white uniform flannel and his uniform jumper and jersey and you could see where a guys jersey was getting dirty, it would go greasy and what have you and never washed and blokes used to take him for a wash and scrub him. He went a little bit around the twist. He was mast head lookout on one occasion and those Fleet destroyers if you weren’t going fast and the wind came up the stern, fumes from the funnel would go up and the mast head lookout would be the one who copped it. He got up there and he wouldn’t come down from the mast head lookout’s position. I can remember having to go up there with a line and one other person and rig a block above the crow’s-nest, mast head lookout position and tie a bowline around him, and throw the line down so that the sailors took the weight. He was dozey from the fumes. He went a bit around the twist and he left us.

Were there Hospital ships in the Fleet to look after medical cases?

Yes but they were back from us I think, I never saw them except MAUNGANUI in Yokosuka taking our men released from Jap POW camps.

They were in the Fleet train I suppose.

Yes the first Hospital ship out in the Far East that I really saw to take notice of was the New Zealand Hospital ship MAUNGANUI, who was in Yokosuka.

Some of the destroyers, BARFLEUR for one and I think GAMBIA or ACHILLES were going down the coastline and they were picking up Japanese prisoners of war and they were bringing them back and they were putting them into this Hospital ship. This was at the time when we were cleaning out the Fleet canteen. They brought them to us or they had them come over to us in the afternoons and the evenings for entertainment and to get to talk to people, because they were trying to break them out of their role of being isolated and what have you. We were tied up alongside QUIBERON and QUICKMATCH I think and we had boxing matches and film evenings and things like this for these poor chaps, they were like walking skeletons. We gave them treats. We were under strict orders that we weren’t to over feed them, we were to give them small rations. These ex POW’s came and we thought they won’t be thrilled with our offering of dehydrated this, that and the other, but they loved it, you could almost see their bellies swelling during the evening. The old tins of pussers pineapple and things like that were quickly emptied. Then we saw her sail, she was the first Hospital ship out. Captain Holden was the Harbourmaster at Lyttelton and he was in that ship at that time.

I had a doctor in the Dockyard, our Health Clinic doctor was a doctor on board. Apparently that ship still has great reunions and all the nurses and the doctors get together, apparently it was a great ship.

Yes that’s right Dennis Holden was a mate on there or one of the mates on there and in actual fact when I was RNO in Christchurch we got him his medals because he hadn’t claimed them. Because he was in a Hospital ship he was entitled to the British Defence Medal, they had a Defence Medal, which was the same as if you are ashore.

I suppose they were operated as Royal Fleet Auxiliary in essence weren’t they?

No I think they operated pretty well independently. They didn’t operate in the Fleet.

They weren’t HMS or any thing like that?

No they were just known as the Hospital ship.

After I had qualified as a Gunnery Instructor GI I came out on the immigrant ship ATLANTIS and finished up in charge of the draft which was very good. That meant the purser had a signal from Wellington to say I was to take charge and I didn’t see them again until we got to Wellington and I fell them all in then. The Navy at the head to march through the Customs. That ship ATLANTIS was a Hospital ship and I found a photo of her in the paper that came out from the Western Approaches and I think they were just known as the Hospital ship. The Fleet didn’t want them anywhere near because they were all fully lit and steaming along with all the white lights and red crosses and things. I have seen a couple at sea. I saw them coming back from France in those few days after the landings there.

There is a very good ship model of MAUNGANUI in the Maritime Museum on the Hobson Wharf.

Yes I have had a look at that.

MAUNGANUI took the Victory Parade contingent back to the UK with a lot of WRENS on board and they had a great time because they lived in the old hospital wards and of course they were nice and airy.

(end of Tape 8)

(beginning of Tape 9)

We then bundled ourselves up to come back to Australia. They had a brewing ship in the Fleet train, BACCHUS, Admiral Mountbatten had promised that they would have beer.

They actually made it at sea?

Yes they had this in the Fleet train. Anyway they were starting this canteen there. Some of the beer was Guinness with quinine in it, onion beer and all sorts of fancy things. We did a lot of scrubbing out, but we sailed before the place opened unfortunately. We were still doing our canteen boat trips and things.

The night before we sailed, along comes our officers with a yacht and rigged the torpedo derrick and a bit of other lifting gear and hoisted it on board and turned it upside down and covered it, so it wasn’t sighted and sailed with it. This was one of the biggest rabbits that I have seen and we sailed off to Sydney. We took quite a few people down to Sydney and they didn’t like our little destroyer at all. They were seasick all the way down. At one stage and I am not sure it was then, we were on the edge of a typhoon, which is pretty historic. The American Fleet which consisted of some destroyers and aircraft carriers got caught in it and it capsized a couple of the destroyers and they went down with all hands. We saw some aircraft carriers afterwards and they had the front end of their flight deck pushed up. We had a lot of rough weather, but we didn’t get affected by that so much. I was just reading a quote from an Admiral on that the other day. Then we came back to Sydney and we went to a mooring in Farm Cove. I think we went to a mooring, because I was also the Buoy jumper. Every time something came up, I seemed to win it. The Director was a very popular place then. The range taker had to do so many cuts or take so many ranges each day to keep your eye in. That was alright in Sydney because we would swing the old director around all the way around the beach and see the birds all sunbathing. It didn’t take long for the buzz to get around and the bridge was full of people with binoculars and sighting instruments.

I had had an application in for leading hand and I had been recommended. While we were in Sydney everybody was given leave and I had seven days leave. I had a pen friend who was up in north of New South Wales, Grafton and so I went up there and stayed for a week. It was quite interesting actually. It was a typical country Australian Pub. It was the Jacaranda season where they had all the Jacaranda flowers out and all the curtains were Jacaranda colour and there was a festival on and so I had a ball for a week up there. The old pub had a big bath with one of these geysers, gas water heaters and if you put too much gas in there, it would just about blow you out of the bathroom. I remember waking up once in the bath and my nose edging on the water. I thoroughly enjoyed that, the first leave that we had had for some time.

Then back to Sydney to join WRANGLER. When I got back on board WRANGLER my Divisional Officer got hold of me and said, “You are doing the Leading Hands Board tomorrow. You have got to put a eye splice, a soft eye in one end and a hard eye in the other end of this piece of two and a half inch wire. I was straight into my overalls and spent the rest of the day and night doing that. In addition he said, “And you are to join GAMBIA tomorrow”. GAMBIA had arrived and the signal went around that all New Zealanders who were attached to the RN on a wartime basis were to go to GAMBIA. I said, “Can you signal GAMBIA and say, “Can I come after I have done the Leading Hand’s Board”, and they would have put me through early to do it. “Oh yes”, they said, “We will get that done first thing in the morning, GAMBIA is not sailing until late in the evening or something.” They sent the signal and back came the answer from GAMBIA, “No he is to join at 9 o’clock in the morning and then he can go back and do his Leading Hand’s Board.” That was that and so I packed my kit and I was all ready and had greasy, filthy hands from doing the wire. I finished my wire and got up in the morning and thought, “Now I have got a hundred pounds on the ledger, I had better get that before I go.” I went and talked to the Divisional Officer who was also the pay bob and he said, “Yes, because of the exchange rate, you had better do that.” I went over to TYNE, who was our depot ship, we were tied up alongside TYNE, and I stood at the pay bob’s office until he appeared and the 9 o’clock was going past. Ken Muir was getting anxious and I stood there until I got my money, because it turned into 125 pounds Australian and when I got back here it turned into 150 pounds New Zealand with the exchange rate as it was, because the Aussie was less value than ours. I got to GAMBIA and Bogie Harris was the Jaunty who wasn’t very pleased to see me about half an hour late and of course I had to go back. I went and sat my Leading Hand’s examination in WAKEFUL and the Chairman of the Board was Admiral Dudley Pound’s son George Pound who came out here. They had a great reputation there of the show girls running through the Wardroom and so did the WHELP which was Prince Philip’s ship. Everybody let their hair down and there was about 4 or 5 of us from our flotilla in Sydney at the end of the war. I came back in GAMBIA. They broadcast over the loud speakers that we would get to Auckland a bit sooner than when we anticipated because we were going to do full power trials across the Tasman. The next morning up on deck watching for the full power trials and there was a shuddering and shaking of funnels and black smoke and all those other things that engineers do and we built up speed. Then all of a sudden there was a shuddering and juddering and then we stopped. The result was something went wrong down in the engine room or the boiler room and we finished up a couple of days late.

I gather it was the Captain who decided to have a full power trial against the Engineer’s advice. The ship hadn’t had any maintenance for years and a couple of the boilers just fell off.

We arrived in Auckland a bit late.

I was a passenger on there and I was in the forward seamen’s mess deck and I said to the blokes in the Mess, “Look I am a passenger, I haven’t got any thing to do all day, I will scrub out.” I dived into my kit bag and I got the oldest thing that I could find and an old pair of shorts and sports jersey. I scrubbed out the Mess deck and wiped it all out and tidied things up. I was going up to take the dirty water up to ditch and Bogie Harris, I am not sure whether he was the RPO or the Jaunty in there, I haven’t been able to establish that. He came out of his office and I had to go past him and he reamed me out, “You bloody Kiwis who have been away in destroyers, think that you can come in my ship in this state of rig or what not.” I said, “Master, I have just been scrubbing out, I am just going to get rid of this and I then I will have a shower and change.” I kept out of his way for the rest of the trip and I kept out of everybody’s way. Then we got to Auckland and Devonport and came off and went to one of the green huts in PHILOMEL, which was the demob hut and lined up with all the others who were coming back and they said, “All HO’s over here and all regular service over there.” There was about two of us regular service and all the rest were HO’s. All the HO’s got their leave tickets and every thing straight away. They got their discharge there and they went to the Clothing Store and got their suit of civvies. Those that didn’t get it there, I think when they got to Christchurch they went to King Edward Barracks or some where like that, and they kitted them up there as well. There was us and instead of having a discharge notice we had to wait until they wrote our leave ticket out and tried to work out how much leave we had. Any way, away we went and they said, “You South Islanders are not going tonight.” All that we could imagine was that we were going to get straight out of PHILOMEL onto the train and home. “You are going tomorrow and you are going to fly home, we are going to take you to Hobsonville and you are going to fly home.” We were all upset because we didn’t think too much that we were going to be home earlier, but the fact that we had to spend this other night in PHILOMEL shook us. In fact they took us over to Hobsonville and we flew down to Christchurch in a Parade, a Dakota fitted for parachutists. It had a long row of seats either side, indentation punched in an aluminium bench. There was no lining in it or any thing but it had a little settee in the centre where they put more passengers on and it was tied down onto the frame. I can remember when we got over the mountains, looking out and seeing the bloody wing wagging. I thought, “Gooh it is going to fall off.” Any way one of the airmen was looking at it and he didn’t seem concerned. We eventually arrived at Christchurch where they collected us from Wigram or Harewood. Harewood then I think and took us into town in trucks and we had some sort of reception in Cathedral Square. From there they took us down to the Railway Station. Why they didn’t co-ordinate all the transport in one place I don’t know. Waiting outside the Railway Station there was a big row of Army Staff cars with WAACs and I was about to get a taxi and go home when I was collected by a WAAC and they sent us home in these Army cars. I can remember going into the house at home in Harmon Street in Addington. They knew when I was getting home and they knew when I was in Auckland, and so they said, “Oh well he will be home the day after tomorrow or something like that. About 2 o’clock in the afternoon I went in and my father in those days was working I think doing the University boilers in the University Hostels. He started work early in the morning and he came home at about 1 or 2 o’clock in the afternoon and spent some time in the garden and put his feet up and then went back to bank his boilers for the night. He was out in the garden and so I call out, “Hey, hello Dad”, and he said, “Hello”, and he just carried on and it didn’t hit him for a while that I had walked in. My mother always put her feet up in the afternoon for an hour. I knocked on the window as I went past the bedroom and she looked all startled and didn’t really hoist it in. We had this spell of leave at home. I can’t remember how much leave we had, but it was a month or so.

I came off leave and went back to PHILOMEL and joined ACHILLES and I became Quartermaster in ACHILLES. ACHILLES had come back after us and she was still in a leave period and all the HO’s had emptied out and they were filling her up with regular’s to take her to UK. That was good because it allowed me to settle into ACHILLES and get all the perks before all the sailors arrived back.

You were a Leading Hand there?

Yes and I was Killick Quartermaster. I can remember I had my little perks down in the wheel house and a little stretcher and everything down there away from the roaring mass and so that was okay.

We had a New Zealand cruise and it was the heroes cruise. I hadn’t been an ACHILLES hero, but I now was an ACHILLES hero. We marched through all the towns in New Zealand. We set off from Auckland and did Tauranga, Gisborne, Wellington, Lyttleton, Dunedin, New Plymouth, you name it and we had a ball. “All hail the conquering hero’s come”, sort of thing and marched through and then back to Auckland to take ACHILLES back to the UK.

We had one or two old guys on there. Even at that stage we had one guy who was about forty or something, which was really strange for an AB. He was a QA, Quarters Armourer Steaker Seers. They particularly took him into the ship’s company because he had all this spell of time in the service and he wanted to go back and see his family in the UK, so there was quite a lot of sailors who remained in the service for the one trip.

There were people getting perks for service?

Yes that’s right and I think they advertised it throughout the Fleet that if anybody had a particular reason that they would like to go and form part of ACHILLES crew to go back to the UK they would be considered.

I think a few HO’s stayed on too didn’t they in the cruise?

Yes just to do the trip. These people were time expired. There were some reserves too. We set off to UK. That is one of the only times that I have ever been adrift in my life was before we sailed from Devonport. The night before for some reason I was adrift when I came back in the morning, or I might have been adrift a day or two before, but they didn’t hold the Commander’s Table until after we sailed. In the afternoon of after we sailed they had the Commander’s Table of all these sailors who nibbled a bit of extra time I suppose and I got stoppage of leave, which didn’t really mean all that much, but it was one of those things, I can’t remember the circumstances. I think I had a girlfriend from Christchurch staying in Auckland with my mother.

We had quite a trip back to UK. I was Coxswain of the motorboat, I took over the job in Auckland and found my way around Auckland running people backwards and forwards to Admiralty Steps. It wasn’t so bad as being coxswain of the motorboat in WRANGLER when you went to a place like Manus and arrived there in the pitch black dark. You had to take the signalman over and find the duty ship from a plan that the Navigating Officer had drawn out and it was pouring with rain and pitch black dark and it was without lights getting there and back, most ships darkened. We had those two fast motor boats. I enjoyed that until we got to Colombo. The motorboats were running exceedingly well, but when they are running exceedingly well the Tiffies and the Engineers must pull them to pieces to see how they are doing it. So under the guise of planned maintenance they lifted the motorboat’s engine while we were on passage to Colombo, the nice long leg I suppose and they put it all back together and I jumped into the motorboat when we got to Colombo. The boats used to go down and you would circle the ship until you were permitted to come to the boom and I ran the boat during the day. I was duty boats crew and did all the trips, except at 7 or 8 o’clock at night I did a trip ashore. We were just getting alongside in the boat harbour in Colombo, alongside the pontoon and the starboard shaft broke and so I yelled out to stop the boat and put a strop around it to try and hold it. We weren’t making water and so we went alongside and dumped our passengers and limped our way back to the ship and went to the boom and went in board and reported to the officer of the watch thinking, thank Christ for that, we will be all night in tonight. The officer of the watch was Laurie Carr. We had taken a lot of these RNVR’s going home to UK to do their specialised course.

Subs Courses and things?

Yes that’s right.

Before the boat is lifted out of the water he is weighing me off for negligence and running over a log or something like that. I said, “Sir, perhaps you can have a look at the propeller when the boat comes out of the water”, because they were hoisting the boat out. I was coxswain of the boat and he was weighing me off when my boat was being hoisted out which is unheard of, you were there to see your own boat in. It came out and of course the propeller is as clean as a whistle. The Captain’s motorboat then became the duty boat, but instead of the Captain’s motorboat crew taking it, we won it again, no all night in.

We got to Aden and the same thing happened with the motorboat. They had obviously not aligned it correctly when they put it back and so that put the motorboat out of action I think. We used the Captain’s motorboat then after for those runs. I think we went to Bombay and I think we might have gone to Karachi as well on the way through.

We stopped at that island where the fuelling is done, it is an airstrip now, Addu Atoll. Then we went through to Aden and through the Suez. When we went through the Suez I was sent for and told to take the motorboat through from the lakes with the pay bob and the postman ahead of the ship. They were to do all their business and wait until the ship comes and then we are already to go. All the money is there for changing and that was a great thrill. The pay bob wanted to take the wheel and I stood on my dig as the coxswain and all the workers on the canal sides were waving to keep our wake down, but it was a great trip. We tied up in Port Said and waited for the ship.

I went ashore in Port Said there too and we got chased by a couple of wogs with knives and so we came back. We were in an oil berth there and so we came back on board rather hurriedly. There was a nasty attitude. I don’t know whether it was wog against white or whether it was to do with the general trading, if you didn’t buy something, they would pester you all the time. This guy actually drew a knife on two of us and so we came back on board hurriedly.

During our passage home to UK with Bill Eddy and Glen Spurdle I slung my hammock in the cable locker. We used to feast at night on surplus 24 hour ration packs which were scattered throughout the Ready Use lockers.

Then we went to Malta, Gib and onto Sheerness, where I was running the motorboat and the last trip was to bring the Captain off before they took the ship up to go alongside. I went out to collect him and on the way back to the ship we became a steam pinnace as opposed to a motorboat. Because some how we picked up something which stopped the water circulation in one of the engines and we just managed to get alongside and to get the Captain off. We left ACHILLES with two dud motorboats. So in we went and paid ACHILLES off.

I gather ACHILLES was absolutely immaculate when she went home, as clean as a pin?

She really was. I can remember I had a chipping party around the base of the funnel. They were chipping around the base of the funnel and they put a chipping hammer through the plate of the deck. Where the wooden deck finished there was a piece of bare steel deck that joined onto the base of the funnel and people were saying, “Thank Christ, we are getting rid of this ship, it is rotten”. The Indians had it for a long time after that. She was good.

We had a couple of incidents on there. We had one chap who was a bit of a grog hound and we had a cell on the upper deck and they put him in the cell on the upper deck, which was a canvas screen really. When the sentry turned his back, he screamed out, “Man over board”, and leapt over the side. We got him back. Then on another occasion there was a lot of rum floating around in the mess deck. I was a young killick and the killick of the mess.

I didn’t want to be associated with all this rum floating around, except that which I drunk of course. I came down to the mess one day and said, “If I come down to the Mess again after 20 past 12 and there is rum here that is not designated to go in the bottle for rum stops, then I will ditch it. Of course everybody thought, “Oh no, he won’t”. The next day I went down there and there is rum still sculling around in the pots. Just like those metal paint pots we used to have the rum in and so I said to the OD who was by the port, we were at sea. I said, “Open the port”, and he opened the port and I undid the wing nuts and whoosh. Well the mess deck went silent. They complained to the Captain that I was spilling stuff all over the ship’s side and what have you. I had no more trouble. Very shortly after that I got shifted out of the mess. What had happened was, one of the Divisional Officers had twigged that there was a problem in another mess and so I got shifted into this other mess. It was a nice little mess and there weren’t so many in there, but a couple of them were grog hounds. We used to be able to get our rum in a white enamel jug. I can remember going up and getting this rum, the rum boatswain wasn’t there, so as the killick of the mess I grabbed the jug and up we go. Again Laurie Carr is the Officer of the Day, or the officer doing the rum and the butcher with a great flourish and measures used to over spill it and if you knew what you were doing, you would put your jug under the overflow. He put in the rum, or it was measured out, whatever it was, 2.8 or whatever and I said, “Thanks”. Old Laurie Carr said, “Come back, tip it in and measure it out again.” Yes, there were bits of trouble with that, there were the rum rats around and I think after birthdays, some people were useless in the afternoon.

Two of us left the ship as soon as she arrived in Chatham in actual fact, so we didn’t know any thing about her paying off. Spud Spurdle, Leading Seaman G.D.A. Spurdle from Wanganui, late Lieutenant and Bosun of the Yard and myself were CW Candidates while we were in ACHILLES. So we had special attention there as well and kept our noses clean as far as we could and had decent runs ashore and sneaked back on board, so nobody could see us doing wrong.

We were drafted to the RN for CW sea time training and we went to KING GEORGE V, the battleship. We left Chatham to join KGV at Devonport. We had all the train connections and the RTO had given us a route to show us how to change trains and get to Devonport. We got to Devonport and KGV had sailed for Portland. We did a grand tour of the south of England and caught up with our battleship in Portland and were waiting on the jetty at Portland. I can remember we got alongside the forward gangway in KGV and looked up and thought, “God”, we had never seen a ship like this. There was such a long accommodation ladder to climb up, again with kit bag and hammock.

Did she actually get inside Portland breakwater or was she right out in the basin?

Oh no, she was inside. Not only was the KGV there, the HOWE, ILLUSTRIOUS, the Home Fleet was there. There were three Battlers, ANSON and HOWE and KGV. KGV was the Flagship of the Home Fleet with Admiral Syffret. There were two or three Aircraft Carriers, Cruisers galore and destroyers galore. Because of Libertymen flooding the place only parts of the watch were allowed ashore. We wondered what the hell we had struck when we joined KGV.

HMS NELSON, Flag Officer Training Rear Admiral Enright (another Boy entrant) was also in Portland.

We were shown down to the Regulating Office by the Boatswain’s Mate or the Corporal of the forward gangway. We got down to the Regulating Office and the Leading Patrolman said, “You know your way back to the gangway to get your kit?” and he showed us where our Mess was and we wandered around that ship for quite some time until we finally found ourselves. We were in one of the enclosed Messes and they were a wonderful team of messmates. I have heard lots of people say that they wouldn’t like to be in big ships, in battleships and particularly us old destroyer hands, didn’t like being in cruisers at times, but it was a great ship. The Commander was N.V. Fisher, who I think was Admiral Fisher’s second son and he was a really great person. He was the old style of Naval Commander.

I can remember the Commander when I was Boatswain’s Mate of the gangway coming up to a midshipman who had his hat slightly askew and he corrected this midshipman’s hat with his telescope, bang, “Only I wear a hat like that in this ship and my name is Fisher.” He was getting more like his old man.

(end of Tape 9)

(beginning of Tape 10)

In KG5 was there was a group of CW candidates?


It was just to give you experience in a different environment?

Yes this was part of the RN policy then, was they put their CW candidates in bigger ships like cruisers and battleships and I suppose it came up there was these vacancies in the KG5. Spud Spurdle and I became leading hands in KG5 and had a great run around because they were aware of our being CW candidates and they were trying to satisfy New Zealand’s faith in them I suppose and they gave us everything, it really was great.

During our time there we became gangway staff.

Spud Spurdle was a leading hand too?

Yes and I became coxswain of the launch and I was coxswain of the motor cutter at one stage, the launch was 50 odd feet.

Yes it was a proper battleship launch. The launch was bigger than a picket boat?

Yes I forget how many we could carry in that jolly thing, about 45.

The launch would be used for what, Liberty?

It had the Kitchen rudder gear, which was the first time that I came across Kitchen rudder gear. I am not sure whether we had it in the motor cutter in ACHILLES or not. So that was one of my jobs. Yes a big boat. My first job when we anchored anywhere or moored was to go under the crane. They lowered the C in C’s car into the launch. It was a big black Humber and you would take that ashore and go to a crane at the dockside and lift the C in C’s car off and the C in C’s staff would rub it all over and take the bits of salt off it. The old man could go and do his calls. Then the last trip the launch would bring the C in C’s car back and sometimes in Portland it could be bloody rough actually and sometimes we would bounce around a bit. But we did it. Then we would hoist the launch in and inside the launch you would put the pinnace and little boats went inside big ones. The Coxswain of the boat was responsible for hosing out and stowing his boat. Then I was also foc’sle, cable party for experience. I was always running from one place to another because of the special jobs. I was also special sea dutyman in many positions.

I actually finished in the great, glorious situation where my Divisional Officer said, “We will give you some experience in the Admiral’s barge”. The Admiral’s coxswain was a chief and his second coxswain was a three badge killick and I was the assistant second coxswain, but I had the experience you see. The GREEN PARROT was a beautiful boat. When the Admiral went ashore the Admiral’s coxswain would take him on the ceremonial stuff. When he went ashore in the evening in his dog robbers, the second coxswain would take him in. I would go in and the second coxswain and I would bring the boat back. I would make sure that it was scrubbed out and secured and cushion covers taken for washing etc.

Then I went to the picket boats. We had two picket boats which were designed basically for harbour patrols around the fleet and they had little depth charge racks on them and machine gun mounts, but they were used as the officer’s motorboats. That launch by the way used to go from Portland to Weymouth with the libertymen down through and across the bay and back and that was quite a lively trip sometimes.

Picket boats were good, we had them at Dartmouth and most of those battleship ones ended up at Dartmouth for boat handling.

Yes they had one at Beaulieu too when I was there.

We used to go away on weekends and have great camping activities with them.

Well they were mini ML’s weren’t they?

Yes absolutely.

The same configuration, but smaller. I ran one of those and they were used there as officer’s motorboat.

I can remember I came in the motor cutter once, my Divisional Officer was also Boat’s Officer and stokes hadn’t revved up when I wound the thing astern. You used to blow your whistle for the stoker to rev up. I glided into the ship’s side and sprung the rubbing strake around the motor cutter. I was a bit worried about that and I came inboard and reported to the Officer of the Watch who got a bit bitchy. I went and saw the Boat’s Officer and he came and looked at it and he said, “Well, that is why we have a team of Shipwrights in this ship”, and that was it. They were mighty size booms in those vessels.

One of the boat’s crew and I think it was on one of the picket boats, a little Irish lad who was the last one out of the boat who finally tied the Lazy Lizzard on to the boat. The boat came up and he hit his head on the boom and he went down and he wasn’t seen for three weeks. They sent divers down and he was washed up on the beach weeks later.

The launch, it was the first trip in the morning, which was about 7 o’clock or something like that in Portland and sometimes it was jolly cold. We used to go down there with a spanner, with a lump of waste on it and a bit of diesel and light it up and put it under the injectors to get the jolly thing warmed up before we could start it. I drove that launch around all sorts of places, over in Port Rush and up in Inverness and the Clyde and in the Med and Norway what have you. It was a great boat.

The Home Fleet used to operate as a Fleet?


They all went out?

Oh yes.

While we were at Portland, I am not sure which battleship I was on at the time. The King and Queen went to South Africa in VANGUARD, who was in Portland sometimes as well. That harbour you could walk across ships. In fact I used to take a band in the motor cutter or the launch, usually the motor cutter or may be the picket boat. I used to take the Bandsman around on Sunday mornings and dropped Bandsmen off at various destroyers so they would play for the church service.

The ship itself I saw a picture of it the other day somewhere, it had a wonderful little chapel, The Chapel of St George. I think that was in KGV and we used to use it for play reading and other activities, and it used to be used for communion, christenings and a small daily service. They had a set of bells, they weren’t bells they were tubes, which they used to strike as bells for a church service. This used to go all through the broadcast SRE system in the ship and it was fantastic, just like cathedral church bells.

I was cable party and that was quite interesting because we did the first spring cruise after the war to go and show the flag in Norway. That was interesting going up the fiords there and you had the band on the foc’sle and it was like a pleasure cruise. Then after that we did the first autumn cruise in the Mediterranean, where we went to Nice, Malaga, Gibraltar and Malta for the first showing of the white ensign after the war with ceremonial. That was a good cruise.

Did you have any gunnery duties?

Yes I was range taker in the DCT. We had I think it was about a 30 foot range finder and I used to crawl down in my cubby hole there. In ACHILLES I was range taker in the DCT as well on the trip back to the UK. I also had a defence station I think in one of the 5.25 directors. These worked with HACS. It is amazing isn’t it, you had a cruiser armament on each side and ten 14 inch down the centre. You also had stacks of quadruple Bofors and Oerlikons and close range weapons.

They are magnificent ships to look at aren’t they?

Oh yes, they are quite roomy and comfortable.

Did they actually still have broadside messing or did they have a proper canteen type of style?

No they were broadside mess. The only canteen messing I really did was in WRANGLER.

I meant cafeteria?

No they didn’t have a cafeteria, you went to the galley and got your gear down.

Just the old fashioned way?

Yes they had messes in compartments. A compartment of about 20 foot x 20 foot, would have two messes in there and 16 and 18 Mess I think I was in or something like that and you would have those messes stretched through the ship, but inside the water tight compartments. They were quite comfortable from a sailors point of view. We used to joke and say both watches had better catch the bus or catch the tube because it was such a distance to go from forward to aft.

One night I was duty hand when we were escorting the VANGUARD. We escorted the VANGUARD to just south of Gib I think when the King and Queen went to South Africa. We did all the things and cheered ship as the VANGUARD steamed through. They piped, “Leading Hand and the first Duty Hands”, because we had two sets of Duty Hands to the bridge. I had to go down and take my team to the quarter deck of Duty Hands and take an awning stanchion down because there was a noise, a rattle over the Admiral’s cabin. What it was, there must have been a piece of metal left in an awning stanchion when it was welded up and it was rattling all the time as the ship rolled. We were rolling a bit in the Bay of Biscay and it was the first time that I had been out on the open space of the quarter deck at night with the ship rolling. From a person who had been in a small ship, it was quite alarming to stand up on the guard rails one side and look directly down into the ocean below you. Anyway we quietened it all down for Admiral Syffret and so he had a good nights kip.

The other thing before we sailed for this, before we joined up with VANGUARD, it was snowing and bloody freezing in Portland and we were washing paint work. We are in number threes, blue uniforms and then you put your overalls on over the top. As Coxswain of the Launch, I had leather padded gloves which were issued to us, I can remember having these. We had to wash paint work. As soon as the water and cloth went on the steel, the water froze. I said to my Divisional Officer, “Do we have to wash this ?”, he said, “Get on with it”. He was told what he had to do. Now he was a two and a half and his name was Skinner, Bernard Francis Skinner I think, and he became the Captain of AMETHYST and was the Captain of AMETHYST when she went up the Yangtze River and he was killed on AMETHYST. I can remember him saying, he used to talk to us as a Sea Daddy. He had a corvette or a frigate during the war and he finished up as Foc’sle Officer and Divisional Officer in a battleship, which didn’t please him very much. I remember him saying, “That if ever you get qualified, when you get commissioned”, he said, “You just make sure that if ever you get in the position, that you go in and get your own command in a small ship.” This is what he did of course and he joined AMETHYST and lost his life. He was a great guy, Bernard Francis Skinner, I think that was his name.

Anyway we had quite some experiences there. Spud Spurdle and I were given the job of masts and funnels, the Leading Hand of the masts and funnels. I suppose because we were CW candidates and they gave the ropes end to us. That entailed washing down the masts and painting and doing the rigging and things like that, which had to be done when perhaps we weren’t in the Dockyard. We actually painted the funnels with stages.

How big a team did you have, because it is hell of a job really when you think of it?

We didn’t have a permanent team all the time, but we would have a team of half a dozen or so from both watches. I would have the foremast and Spud would have the main mast because he was quarter deck and I was foc’sle and he had the after funnel and I had the forward funnel. I can remember we put in a request to go to London for Anzac Day and the Commander, a new Commander said, “Right well, we will give you time off for this great PU in London.” He said, “We will have the foremast and the main mast job finished and then you can go.” When we were working on the mast it was always job and finish. We used to have tea hoisted up in buckets. You would get up there as soon as you could in the morning when it was reasonable to do so and it was fairly dry and then painted.

Also we used to get the task of taking some of the younger kids up there and taking them out on the yards and walking them back in to get a bit of confidence, which nobody did to us, we just went up there from cold. Then we had our normal sea duties. All in all we got a good grounding. Also sometimes if I was off watch from the boat or whatever, or they were putting booms out, then you would get sent for to put out the starboard boom or the port boom, which was quite a massive chunk of wood. As a Leading Hand you would get out and do it.

I can remember when I was in BELLONA or ROYALIST I think and I was a thick stripe Commissioned Gunner being detailed off by the Commander. “You are to put out the port boom when we get in.” I said, “Not bloody likely.” This is when they first gave the Commissioned Gunners the thick stripe. I said, “Not bloody likely”, I spent a life time doing that as a bloody Leading Hand on a boom about as long as this ship.”

I can remember one night at sea there being a light on in B Turret and as the Duty Hand again, I had to go and put this light out. It was rough, so I couldn’t go from the upper deck, I had to go underneath and I had to find my way through this bloody turret, through the loading rooms and the shell rooms and trunking to get this light off. It took me all the watch. The other interesting thing was ammunitioning and de-ammunitioning ship in that vessel, because the shells were about a ton and it was all done by hydraulics and it was quite an interesting evolution. I used to love to get on the lever, all done with rams, pumps and oily motors.

We went into the Dockyard in KGV and also landed all the cable to the cable shop in Portsmouth for testing. Once again I was the Cable Party Leading Hand and I was given a party of half a dozen or so and got the cable into the Cable Shop. We unshackled the anchor and the Boatswain was there for that bit I think. We had the Dockyard crane lift the anchor and take that away. Then put the end of the cable out on the jetty and got a jintney or tractor to start towing it out and breaking it and lowering it down on the wire on the cable holder of the capstan. It was really a great place, they let you get on with things.

I can remember when I first came back here as a Gunner in KANIERE and I was hardly allowed on the bridge.

Did you do much in the way of shoots and that sort of thing?

Yes, but not all guns together. When I was in there, we did forward and aft and we did a full calibre shoot and I was range taker. Of course I had never heard these mighty guns going, but it wasn’t much different to the six inch in ACHILLES and LEANDER.

You say full calibre, of course they had sub calibre facilities, didn’t they?

They did lots of sub calibre practices, but this was a full calibre shoot. The Sick Bay was forward and when they fired the forward battery, A and B turret, then they used to strip the Sick Bay down and there would be chippies going around and making sure that there weren’t leaks and the ship would lurch. It was quite an experience actually. Then in the turrets they had a fire control clock in the turret, with its range finder.

So each turret could operate independently if it had to?

Yes, certainly A and Y turret. But all the three turrets had their range finder. I used to go into A and Y certainly had. Y turret was the ceremonial turret where it was all painted in the best enamel and what have you. We had sleeves to go on the guns when you are taking awnings up and down. We actually did a Royal Fleet Review in Rosyth and the King and Queen, Princess Elizabeth, Lieutenant Mountbatten came on board. I can always remember when the barge came and fired the 21 gun salute as they came across the harbour. They came to the gangway and the shrill of the pipes as the King came up. The guard presenting arms and the National Anthem and Queen Elizabeth now Queen Mum, and Princess Elizabeth waited at the bottom of the ladder for all the ceremonial to be finished with Lieutenant Mountbatten who came up on his own. I can remember they did a display. They tied a destroyer up alongside us and they had the destroyer’s crew in anti flash gear, steel helmets and action gear. You were actually looking down on the destroyer and seeing all the ships company working as though they were at action stations, including the bridge staff. They did a complete action, so that the King and Queen could see it. I don’t know what Philip Mountbatten would have thought about it, because he spent most of his life on a destroyer bridge. Then we had the big divisions where the King and Queen came around and inspected us. I can remember old Lieutenant Commander Skinner strategically placing Spud Spurdle and I and making sure that our shoulder flashes were sticking out so that the King and Queen could come and talk to us. I remember the Boatswain, Mr Huggins, he said, “Oh well, I suppose I get my first gin today, because it’s a tradition that the first person that the King sends for is the Boatswain.” Sure enough the messenger comes to the foc’sle, “Mr Huggins, His Majesty, would like your company”, and this is pretty well straight after the King’s arrival, down he goes and he has his gin with the King. I didn’t know about that, but apparently it was an old naval custom and that happened on KGV. The Bosun took great pride in this.

When we were up in Norway, there was the Norwegian training ship there, and they came over and called on KGV, doing a normal call. They came over in pulling boats and pulled their officers over and they went up the gangway and then they laid off until they were called back alongside. That evening our officers dined in that training ship with the ship’s officers. Commander N.V. Fisher went to the front again, he’s the Coxswain and the Fleet Engineer and the Fleet Surgeon and the Fleet pay bob Commander’s and the Captains, they pulled across to the ship and had their dinner and then they came back. They are pulling back and they had quite a good dinner and they are just getting level with the gangway and the Commander details one of the other Commanders, “Take it to the boom”, then he leapt off, swam to the gangway and came inboard soaking. His Leading Steward, his Valet, always saw him over the gangway and saw him when he came back. I can remember him saying, “Christ, I spent all afternoon on that mess undress.” He took great pride of having a notice outside his cabin, “Commissioner of Oaths”. If he heard anybody swear he would say, “I am the only one who is commissioned to swear at this ship.” He was a character.

I actually had three or four days in Sick Bay in KGV when we were up in Scotland and they thought I had diphtheria. I can remember a pen friend of mine wrote and said, “Oh there is lots of notices around the country saying, diptheria is death”. In fact it turned out to be tonsillitis. I can remember that Sick Bay Tiffy giving me a stab with penicillin in my backside and he forgot his swab and so he walked away to go and get a swab with this bloody needle hanging out. Anyway that lasted 3 or 4 days, I was really out to it actually. I got my medical history sheets when I was in Auckland sometime ago and I think it is about the only four days of sickness that were there on my total record.

Also we were there while the King and Queen were on board and they had a Royal Fleet Review Concert for the Royal Family. Spud Spurdle and I being the good CW Candidates and being into every thing, we used to be in the little drama group that they had in KGV which the schoolies used to run. I suppose a bit of blackmail there when they ran short of people they would scoop us up and say, “This is good culture for CW Candidates”. Anyway they had a play written or a sketch written by a BBC person Wood, I think the name was, at that time a well known writer and producer for the BBC. Spud Spurdle and I finished up in this and it was a skit where all the words were based on phrases and sentences taken out of Shakespeare, but it was to do with Navy. For instance the Officer of the Watch would be pounding around and his relief would come and he would say, “For this relief much thanks”, and the whole sketch was put on like that. This was part of the Royal Fleet Review Concert and we looked like we were going to be Royal Command performers. It was held in the hangar in ILLUSTRIOUS over three or four nights. We never did get to perform ours. We did the audition and every thing and we were put on the side, we were the emergency act in the end. Old Spud Spurdle who was the goose face goon or something never did get to perform. But we had to go and help with the general performance that was quite interesting. The King and Queen and the Royal Family were there for one night, but the thing went for about three nights. It was also quite interesting because we spliced the mainbrace twice. In ILLUSTRIOUS they victualled us for our rum, we were fully victualled and we were also victualled for our rum because we were there in the afternoon, it went over during the forenoon. Splice the mainbrace, which the King gave the go ahead for. We had our two tots, but we knew that our rum had also been stopped in KGV. So we get back on board KGV and this concert went on until have 10 o’clock at night. Anyway we get back on board the ship and we said to the Officer of the Watch, “We would like our tot”. “Oh right”, send for the duty pay bob, who was a Commissioned Stores Officer and he wasn’t going to give us our tot, so we went back and complained. He got turfed out and we had a tot. We thought that we would get it neat because it was only two tots each, but he was upset, and he made sure it was proper two water. Quite a few great experiences in that vessel. I think I wound up on the Welfare Committee and God knows what else.

How long did this last for, this sounds quite a lengthy period?

Yes I think about 14 months.

There was no intention of ever sending you back in BELLONA or any thing like that?

No I was there for the CW and to do the course at HMS HAWKE.

Then part way through the commission, the Flag changed. KGV paid off and DUKE OF YORK took over her. We went to Devonport and we tied up on the opposite side of the jetty to where DUKE OF YORK was. I can remember Commander Fisher had that ship, just like ACHILLES, like a new pin before it was paid off into Dockyard hands. All the lockers were inspected and there was no paint and nothing left and what have you. Then we all went over and you carted your gear into the identical Mess almost.

The whole crew just moved over?

Yes that’s right, we went over to the DUKE OF YORK. It was filthy. Dockyard maties had piles of rubbish around her and I think there was even some from the old ship’s company. Commander Fisher, God I wish I had a copy of it, he sent a signal to the Admiralty. I am not sure if he was acting Captain just at the turn over, but he sent this signal, and it said, “Joshua lead his people across the waters and they came to another land and they found it neither swept or garnished”. It was all Biblical quotations and from there after he was known as Joshua. It was quite right, we had to turn to and make that into a bloody Flag ship again.

I suppose KGV didn’t run again after that?

Not to my knowledge, it went to scrap.

When we had a cocktail party on there, you had this big awning and we used to have to get out and do colours. You wore just your socks or bare feet on the awning. You had an awning and then you had a ceremonial awning and then you had everybody having a party. If we had to put in frapping lines and things on you would walk across them when they were all drinking up down below.

I can remember one night in the South of France and Nice somewhere, where we were unrigging after a cocktail party and Commander Fisher was there, “I don’t know what you sailors are growling about, I had to go to the bloody party.” He always said, “Leading Hand go to the Wardroom”, and there was always a crate of beer or a few beers for the duty hands after they had done that, or it might have even been left on the quarter deck for the duty hands after a cocktail party. Yes he was a great guy like that. That’s what happened when we went around on these cruises, they were great. We had Cotton the golfer on at Nice, and they put a shot mat up on P2, at the top of one of the 5.25 turrets for him to drive off. “Clear lower deck, come and watch.”

Also before we went to Rosyth and I was up at the top of the mast actually when we went under the Forth Bridge, because we were finishing off cleaning. Right at the top of the mast there was a little UHF aerial on a little pole, you took a pin out and you had to pull it down and paint it and then push it up. It was amazing, you would think that you wouldn’t get under, and you would see this bridge looming up. Yes big ships.

I remember when I was a youngster looking at VANGUARD moored in Portsmouth, I would have loved to have served in one of those ships. It would have been a great experience.

Yes it was a great experience.

VANGUARD was the Home Fleet Headquarters in Portsmouth when I brought MORECOMBE BAY forward from Reserve to commission and trials. I lived ashore, but we were victualled in VANGUARD. In VANGUARD over the Wardroom Bar was the ventilation systems that came down from the deck above. There was a brass tally all shined up which said, “Queen’s natural exhaust”. It was the natural exhaust from the Queen’s cabin. This was a great joke in the Fleet.

Of course the other thing in those battleships, we were involved with Midshipmen Streathfield James in the gun room and they used to get us New Zealand Killicks down there and sometimes used to really get us full. They were midshipmen on our boats. Streathfield James the elder, was a Mid on my boat, and we had some great names through that ship. Of course after a trip they would take us down and they would take great delight in filling us up. When we were on the gangway as Bosun Mate, you would get alongside in Portsmouth or you would get alongside any where, there would be another battleship in or cruisers whatever and they would be in to get the gun room trophy. They had a barbers’ pole of some sort that went around the Fleet and the Mids used to try and raid the ships. We used to cop it if they came in board. I can remember sometimes it was bloody cold in Portsmouth and we would rig hoses because we would get the buzz that there was going to be a raid tonight and so we would rig hoses on the gangways and what have you. You would never see them come inboard sometimes. In those ships the bathrooms were in compartments and they had watertight doors on them and they had a pump that pumped the water out. I can’t remember what they called them, ejectors, but you could backfire these things so that they flooded. The Mids from one ship came and they flooded the Mids’ bathroom.

(end of Tape 10)

(beginning of Tape 11)

Vic last time we left when you were in the battleship the DUKE OF YORK and you described your time as the Boats Coxswain. You mentioned midshipmen. In a ship’s boat what is the relationship between the rating coxswain of the motorcutter and the midshipman?

Well the coxswain was in charge of the vessel and was like the Commanding Officer of the vessel. When the midshipman was in the boat one called him Sir, but he was briefed to go into the boat to learn. If any thing went wrong, he also got it in the neck. The actual person in charge of the boat was the coxswain of the boat.

Did the midshipman actually drive the boat? Did he steer it?

Yes at times, because he was supposed to be there to learn his boat handling and basic ship handling skills.

He would take control of the vessel from you?

Yes that is right under the coxswain’s guidance, but usually there was a pretty good liaison between the coxswain, the boat’s officer and the mid. It never got into any problems. I always accepted it was my responsibility as the coxswain of the boat and I made it quite plain that I was the coxswain and I was in charge. He was the officer in the boat and if something went wrong he got it in the neck because he was supposed to keep me up to scratch as it were. It was like a little command for him. I had quite a few mids there.

They would secure the boat at the boom with you and all the rest of it?

Yes they were boat’s crew and you would get them down there when the boat was being scrubbed out and cleaned out too.

Night and day?

No sometimes because of classes or some specific thing that they had to do, they would not be available, but they were part of the boat’s crew. In the DUKE OF YORK and KG5 between them I had the motorcutter, the motor launch, that is the big launch which carried 105, the pinnace carried 30 and one of the picket boats, those things like small Fairmiles which carried 60. We had a mid in pretty well all of those. Then we used to go around the southern coast and things.

They also had in the DUKE OF YORK and KG5, Motor Fishing Vessels, MFV’s. They used to take a hell of a lot of passengers and they used to follow the fleet around sometimes, around the coast of Britain anyway. I can remember when we went up to Inverness or up north, when the Home Fleet went up there, all the MFV’s chugged up behind.

I had a chance of running one of those, but for the passages generally they had a Petty Officer and they had a Mid or may be even a couple of Mids, because they took it as a pilotage exercise.

Spud Spurdle wasn’t into boats as much as I was, but we both had a pretty good liaison with the Mids and at the end of the day. They used to take us down to the gun room and send us back to the Mess deck pretty high and of course we were honour bound not to reveal our source. I can’t remember a lot of their names. I can remember Streathfield James was there and there were two or three who did quite well. They were also bloody pests with their trophy raids. The Bosun’s Mate and Corporal of the gangways both forward and after were also responsible for the security of the gangway.


In WRANGLER, I know this is disjointed, but I have just thought of this. This HFDF room that I used to go and do my studies in, HFDF was a pretty new thing in small vessels and in the Mediterranean they picked up a submarine signal in WRANGLER and they actually triangulated with some other vessels out in the Atlantic. I think they had another two. We heard afterwards, they actually pin pointed two or three submarines, which was a great thrill to our greenie on board who was actually an RNVR Sub, it then became his wonder machine.

It was in there too that I had my first experience of being down below when they dropped depth charges. We were going through the straits of Gibraltar and that gave us a bit of a shake up. I can well understand how the submariners felt. When I was in the second training squadron and we used to drop a depth charge a hundred yards, half a cable away to show them the delights of their occupation, so that they knew what it sounded like.

In WRANGLER we also brought back and I think it was the DUCHESS OF YORK or the DUCHESS OF RICHMOND, something any way, a whole heap of evacuated people from Gibraltar and the Med who were evacuated or during the height of the war. In WRANGLER we went to Casablanca with a couple of other vessels and we escorted this troop ship, which was really a lovely old Liner painted grey back to Gib from where they all went back home. We got very good chuck up’s on that. In there was the pride of France’s battleships. I am not sure whether it was the RICHELIEU, but it was a brand new battleship that was bottled up when the French gave in and turned it over to the Germans. It was disabled, but it was still partly manned.

It hadn’t been wiped out like the ones at Oran?

No I understand that they had removed the breech blocks and all that sort of thing. The guns were still there. She was still making smoke, so presumably she had some steaming capability. I don’t know what happened to her, whether at the end of the war she steamed away or not or she went for scrap, but she looked in pretty good nick.

Certainly a battleship of that name I think kept going with the French Navy after the war?

She was tied up alongside a wharf in the harbour of Casablanca. We fuelled there and then sailed. No leave.

Of course the other old French ship that I came across was tied up in Devonport when we were there, which was used as a barracks block, was PARIS. It was called PARIS and it finished up more or less like an accommodation hulk with administration offices. A lot of free French also used the ship as did WRNS.

Now going back to the DUKE OF YORK. Whilst we were running boats in Portland, I wasn’t duty this night, but there was an American ship inside the breakwater. We used to take the Libertymen through the breakwater at Portland direct to Weymouth, so that you didn’t have to go through on buses, taxis or train, in the launch and the picket boats. The American Fleet came in and the Home Fleet had put a curfew on boats going out into Weymouth Bay that night because of the weather. Anyway the Yanks were working on the harbour in their gasoline gigs and one capsized with a whole heap of libertymen in and they all got swept towards the breakwater. The Fleet got alerted and the search lights and the 20 inch lamps were all flashed around while the rescues went on. I think they got pretty well all of them. There was a few drowned I believe, that put quite a pall around Portland, particularly as they were a visiting fleet. I think they only came out of destroyers. That was quite a disaster in Portland.

Spud Spurdle and I decided that we would like to take on fencing with foils and sabres and things like that. In DUKE OF YORK or KG5, whichever one it was, I think it was KG5, you could pretty well take on any thing you like, there was an expert on every thing and they had classes. On the quarter deck every night there was always something, even in the starboard waist or the port waist there would be soccer training and the guys would be playing soccer and they would play with a stuffed ball.

I remember Commander Fisher, the commander walking along once and I was close by and he walked across the gangway that went across the waist and in the open port waist there was this team playing. He leaned over and he said, “I don’t know why you are laughing”, he said, “I am the Commander of this bloody vessel and I can’t afford to laugh”, and stalked off. What we found out later was that he had just come down from the bridge where the Captain had not treated him ever so kindly because they had just uncovered a big cigarette duty free scandal and I think he got the first slice of that in the neck.

We went down and we saw the Colour Sergeant of Marines who was the fencing expert. “Yes”, he said, “Certainly yes we will take you two on, glad you came along. Before we do the foils, sabres, swords and cutlasses we want a bayonet fighting team for Gibraltar.” All the various Fleets, the Mediterranean Fleet was there, the Home Fleet was us and I think there was some other representative of another ship coming in with an inter fleet tournament which involved every sport. We walked into this trap and said, “Yes, okay”. We were about three weeks to a month away from being in Gib. Every night in the dogs at sea or in harbour we were down on the quarter deck which was the dog watch and recreational area with these spring loaded bayonets, learning bayonet fencing. Spud Spurdle and I actually represented the Home Fleet in spring bayonets. I think we got up into the semi finals and got wiped out by the experts who were the Marines.

It is a funny thing when I talk about fencing. My father as a stoker in the First World War used to tell me about his training, shovelling stones into the fire grate and shovelling them out and learning in rake, out bake, in slice, out slice and then went around the other side and shovelling them all in again. One of the things in his training was cutlass fighting. He could demonstrate the parries and the cuts and the thrusts and things. He as a lowly Stoker 2 had to learn cutlass fighting.

While I was in the DUKE OF YORK I was in a racing cutter’s crew. Because I was small I was always up in the bow, the second bow or in the bow. We always had a great day with regatta days. You can imagine the number of ships that used to get into Portland. There would be three battleships and may be three aircraft carriers and God knows how many destroyers, cruisers and minesweepers, two depot ships etc. That was a great sport’s day. There was a big tote and in a battleship they really run a big tote and there were lots of races. You might start off the day before and do the preliminaries and then you would go through so that the finals came in the afternoon and you might have pulled your cutter over this mile course a couple of times.

I started to get a thing popping out in my gut. I went on leave and then I went to my Aunt’s place and I bent down to put my socks on and a great bulge popped out and crippled me. I swore and I went back and they had a look at it and they said it was probably a bit of a strain, we won’t strap it up or any thing and that was okay. That kept occurring, I didn’t get to know what was really the matter until I got back to New Zealand into the Sick Bay in Auckland when it happened again. Several times I went to see a doctor, who would say, “Come back when it pops out again”. I could hardly stand then. I still get a bit of a weakness there sometimes and I get a fright. Doc McPhail put me on the table and he reckoned he discovered what it was. He asked me had I taken part in a lot of boat pulling. I told him it occurred after this stint. I used to pull in whalers and in the cutter, but I think it was probably the cutter that did it. He got the big diagram out and showed me the muscles and said he didn’t think it was a hernia at that stage, but I should keep out of deep water swimming and I shouldn’t go back into boat pulling and things like that, which I stuck to. There was a pretty full life in those ships, there was lots of competition. It used to be great too, to see the ceremonial. When I was assistant Second Coxswain in the barge I kept out of sight mainly in the cockpit. With the exception of bringing the boat back after the C in C had gone ashore and when I was in charge of cleaning it out while the First Coxswain who was the Chief went in board had gone ashore and had maybe gone and played golf with the Admiral. The Second Coxswain sneaked off as soon as they had gone and said, “Okay take the boat back and we will get it ready to pick the old man up again.” The ceremonial when he was afloat, all the guards and bands paraded, it was every thing that you had read in the drill book. The hailing of boats from the gangways, if you had the old man on board you would call out “Flag”, and you would see everybody panic.

While I was on the way over in ACHILLES, I was coxswain of the motorboat and LEANDER was a flag ship in Malta and I had to take the Stores PO over to the flag ship to go and pick up something. I had a look around and it looked to me as though the easiest access was going to be the starboard gangway. I had the Captain’s motorboat I think because our other motorboat had broken down and I went alongside the gangway and everybody appeared and up steps Jack Dusty in his overalls and number three jacket. Did the Officer of the Watch there instruct me about going alongside and what gangway I should use. Jack Dusty had to come down the gangway, get in the boat and I had to go around and I learnt a bit about protocol that day.

We forget this protocol of Flag Officer in the motorboats. Everybody had a quarter guard or something tucked away, ready to run it out at a moments notice.

Very often the Flag would make a signal or you would get a programme of what the Admiral was going to do.

Discs, tell us about Discs?

A red disc with a white St George Cross was Admiralty, Flag Officer or Commodores in uniform. A blue disc was Executive Officer RA or above or Commodore not entitled to fly a broad pennant. A white disc was one of the above on informal occasions (negative guards and bands), courtesy salute only. Distinguishing flags and pennants were worn in boats by those entitled and discs were not then shown. I think even the Captain of the vessel, if he was going as the Captain he had a disc. You also had a commissioning pennant which acted as the guard pennant. I can remember doing this in Portsmouth, going around Portsmouth Harbour in a motor cutter with this pennant and you would go around all the gangways of the ships. They would hail you. The white disc had a black cross on it and the Captain had his commissioning pennant.

You would carry an Officer of the Guard wouldn’t you?

Yes, so you would hail every boat at night, go, “Boat ahoy.” I remember being Officer of the Guard after that from Whale Island because establishments used to take their turn. As coxswain then you would go around and they would hail, “Boat ahoy”, and you would answer, “Guard”, and if you didn’t get a hail then he would take his book out and he would take the time and he would write it down. If he was a particularly nasty chap or if he had a chum on the ship he would send somebody in or he would send the bowman in and grab the log. The next day they would get a signal saying, “You log is held by so and so, which was taken at such and such a time.” Those were the days in the bigger ships when the Officer of the Watch wasn’t turned in, he was on watch all night. You had a full gangway team in the bigger ships, a bit like a corporal of the gangway who was a Marine if you had the number of Marines or were made Petty Officer or Leading Hand. If you didn’t and a Boatswains Mate who was a Leading Hand generally, he acted as the Quartermaster. Then you had a side boy who manned the side when boats were coming alongside and then you had a call boy who supposedly went around piping, but he was also a messenger and so you had quite a team on watch during the night. In DUKE OF YORK or in the battle ships you had that on the quarter deck and then on the forward gangway you had the equivalent Corporal of the gangway and Boatswain’s Mate and quartermaster aft, the watch was pretty well manned.

If anybody got in you were responsible. Certainly in wartime in WRANGLER in particular we had the gangway staff armed. There was always somebody fiddling with his pistol and firing a shot in the middle of the night. They used to count the rounds out and count them back on turn over of the watch . I can remember one Able Seaman Hennesy in WRANGLER, he fired one in the Clyde when we were on a destroyer trot alongside, all hell let loose in the harbour, boats were flashing lights.

I think I must have spent half my young days learning the etiquette of being the Officer of the Watch on a gangway of a big ship and recognising red discs and blue discs. It really was drummed into you wasn’t it?

Yes and there was a midshipman of the watch too. You always had a midshipman of a watch.

You probably had two officers of the watch and a midshipman. You had a Lieutenant and then a sub lieutenant until he got his ticket and then a midshipman and then the rest as you describe.

The midshipman was good at getting the Kye usually. Then you had the regulating staff, although the gangway staff generally did rounds around the upper deck to my recollection, you also had the regulating staff like a duty RPO or duty leading patrolman who would go and take the boatswains mate with him. In a battleship they would spend quite a number of hours during the night just doing mess deck rounds, because they still maintained that watch over the sleeping sailor.

Yes mid watch rounds in a battleship would be no mean thing would it?


I think I told you about having to down and find the light switch in B turret. It was a good way to learn all about where the shell rooms were.

Yes that was a great experience.

While I was in DUKE OF YORK I went and did my C.W. Board after I had been in a year or so. It was held in BROADSWORD. The Chairman of the Board was Sir Charles Madden who eventually came out here. I was sent back for more grooming. I was okay as far as experience was concerned, but anyway they sent me back for some more grooming. They had these boards set up in all the fleets and barracks and I think they used to take 12 to 14 upper yardsmen in HAWKE each term. I think there was about two or three terms a year or something like that. It was competitive. I am not sure if Glen Spurdle had come home, because Glen Spurdle gave up the ghost and came home. He later qualified Bosun and retired Lieutenant Commander. He was Bosun of the Yard for sometime. I went back into the battleship again to go before the next board which I did and passed. That then took me off to HMS HAWKE.

You were an upper yardman?


I didn’t realize that, I thought you were a salty gunner?

I was a salty gunner because I went down to HAWKE and Peter Silk had just been there and he was the idol of everybody, they used to say, “Oh we had Peter Silk here, we had Leading Seaman Silk here and he did this, that and the other”. He was a hard man to live up to at that stage. Perhaps more so then than later. Our Captain down there was Captain Beattie VC. They had a picket boat in Beaulieu River again. I can remember we used to go down the Beaulieu in the picket boat and out the mouth of the river into the channel to assist with regattas and things like that and he used to bring his wife and family. Then he would bring the boat back up. He would act as a passenger, mind you it was an observation trip as well. We got he and his wife into the dingy and I was supposed to pass the burberries over and I dropped them all in the tide and everybody said, “That’s the end of you”.

I think there was a six or eight week preliminary period where they assessed you and they gave you lots of examinations in Maths and English and all those sorts of things, academic stuff. They gave you lots of little guards to run and boats to run and sailing up the Beaulieu River in a whaler was quite an experience. I don’t know how many times you would go aground on that or how many times you would get the oars out, but that didn’t matter, it was a hard days slog. In the dog watches we had recreation which was helping to plant spuds for the wardroom. There was a very small team really of officers there.

Just a small World War II camp?

No it was the home of the big banking family in Britain. It was the family home of Rothschild. It was taken over during the war, commandeered. It was a beautiful old country house. It wasn’t too old, but it was an aristocrats house. It had bathrooms galore, stair cases, domes etc. For people coming out of ships it was quite fascinating, especially Kiwis.

You were the only ones there, there was no other use of the place other than for upper yardmen?

For upper yardmen yes. There were two sections. There was those who actually got through the preliminary who were graduated and they went and lived in the big house and they had a bathrooms and went up the beautiful marble steps and live in luxury. The ones who were under assessment and hadn’t qualified into that, we lived in the servants quarters. You can imagine how big the servants quarters were. It was really a big country gentleman’s house if you like with all the stables and things and it had its jetties down onto the river, beautiful big grounds. Besides the academic studies, Maths, English, Navigation, Magnetic and Electrical, we had plenty of PT, sports, parade drill and physical tasks set for assessing people. They decided to plough up one of these grounds and plant potatoes. That is the only time I have ever planted potatoes with going along with a dibber with your mate. You put one potato in and so I hope they got a good crop out of that, because I only saw them coming through the ground, I was gone by the time they were ready. At the end of your probationary period you all went and saw the various people. You had like a house lieutenant I suppose you would call him, who looked after you generally, like a Divisional Officer. You had a schoolie Instructor Commander Smith was his name. Ours had been a Flag Lieutenant and was a typical Admiral’s Flag. I think he was an equerry later and then of course the Captain. I don’t think they really had an executive type there. They had a GI of course, you must have a GI anywhere. I think there might have been the odd gunner or something like that. Any way at the end of this period they went through every thing and told me what a fine fellow I was and then they brought out my math’s paper.

That was the reason?

Yes, and so I failed. They recommended that I come back. They said should they go to New Zealand House and ask that I go to Portsmouth or somewhere to do some schooling. I said, “Well I will think about that, and I will go to New Zealand House myself.” By this time I had had about three or four years wartime service and this couple of years afterwards in UK and I thought, I think I want to go home, which was the worse thing I ever did really, but never mind, and so I gave it away.

I then went to Chatham, I got drafted to Chatham for some reason, because normally New Zealanders went to Devonport. I did a Conversion Course from range taker to radar and I became a CR2, Control Radar 2. I did pretty well on that.

There was a Gunnery School there wasn’t there?

Yes, some say an excellent Gunnery School devoted to more gunnery than ceremonial. There was an AA Battery and proof range at Shoeburyness.

Varryl Begg was the Captain G at one stage while I was there anyway and the Commander was “Two Gun” Roberts, who was out here, who I had a lot of respect for. I can remember being out at sea in KANIERE in the Gulf here and Two Gun Roberts was Captain D in a squadron of frigates that came down from he Far East to visit here and do some manoeuvres and we were out in KANIERE meeting him. Mike Saull was on board, he was our First Lieutenant and Dennis O’Donoghue was the Captain. I suppose Mike Saull would be feeding him the tales about Two Gun Roberts. Anyway as his ship came over the horizon, I can remember making sure that there was somebody on the 20 inch lamp and as soon as they saw it they flashed this signal, “Here comes the conquering hero, welcome”, or something like that, and they got a bloody rude reply. We then became under his D, even in New Zealand. While we were on the jetty, old Two Gun came along, he had a bit of a limp, and said, “Oh Fifield”, and talked old ships. You should have seen the eyebrows rise up.

I went to Chatham and I qualified CR2. Then I went to the Seamanship School there. I was a Leading Hand and I went and did the Petty Officer’s Course at the Seamanship School at Chatham. I came out of there with the first, first class pass for Petty Officer since before the war and I really threw my chest out about that. I stayed in Chatham and I went through for GI and I qualified GI at Chatham. I finished up as an Acting PO GI. I can remember going before Two Gun Roberts after I had done the GI’s Course, which I did fairly well. He said, “Well Fifield, what are you going to do now?” I had a recommendation from the Seamanship School to go through as Boatswain. I said, “Well I have a recommendation from the Seamanship School Sir, and I think I will go through for Boatswain”, and he just about threw his hat at me. I was one of his prize GI candidates. He was a great guy because he was a bit forward thinking as far as the RN was concerned. For instance it was a hot summer, he went and saw the Captain, who I suppose cleared it with the Commodore of Chatham, that in the afternoon there would be negative jumpers, which was amazing for those days in England, this was in 1949 or something. Some of us got trapped, those that just had dickies, because it was just off jumpers and off jackets. I mislaid my blue belt, waist belt, it didn’t matter when I had a jumper on, but as soon as I took my jumper off of course there I was with a white waist belt. When we got back to the mess that night, I was out with the ink bottle and hoping that it didn’t run.

In Chatham the Gunnery School ratings lived in St Mary’s Barracks just above the main barracks. These barracks were ahead of other UK barracks too. Bunks in the barrack rooms were sectioned off to form small six or eight person rooms. There was a cafeteria type dining room and Leading Hands Club room. In Chatham barracks there were wooden huts and one was used by the guard to fuse grenades. The doors opened inwards and when a grenade started to activate those inside could not get out and were casualties.

(end of Tape 11)

(beginning of Tape 12)

While I was waiting to go on the GI’s Course I had one or two jobs around the barracks, I was in charge of the Court Martial room, which really meant that I was in charge of the Court Martial room sweepers. This was where they had defaulters and all that sort of thing, but it was set out like a court with lots of polished oak and polished wood, brass rails and lecterns and seats of judgement, witness rooms. The place was highly polished and much like a High Court. On the wall and I think that I have mentioned it before, there was a big list of excuses all the way along the wall and it said, “The following excuses have been used for stoppage of leave and are considered not original and will not be accepted. It was every thing from trains breaking down, horses breaking down. You could go back to the old days where blokes would say that a horse stood on the line in front of a train and all this sort of thing. I wonder if anybody took a photo of that, because it was kept up to date, new excuses were added if considered worthy.

I had been up to see my Aunt and Uncle who lived in Weybridge or just out of Weybridge by Byfleet in Surrey. When I was up there I met a girl over the road. She was pretty sick, she was a tuberculosis patient and was in a wheelchair and was just home for recuperation. She was allowed up about three or four hours a day. In the old days treatment for that disease was rest. I got pretty friendly with her and I used to take her out. In fact I started courting her in a wheelchair, that was Joyce. So I used to then be a pretty regular visitor to my Aunt up in Byfleet and my Aunt saw it getting fairly serious and she used to warn me, “You don’t want to get tangled up with that invalid woman”, and so it developed. My Uncle was a special policeman there. I remember how I found them, I knew they were in that district, the Chertsey District and I finally finished up at the Police Station and went through the Electoral Roll. They became a good home to me while I was at Chatham and all the time I was in Britain. They finally immigrated to New Zealand, and my Aunt and family are out here now, down in Christchurch.

I used to have to catch the train at Byfleet, change at Waterloo and then go to Victoria and catch the train to Chatham. It wasn’t a great length of time. It meant that I had to catch the London train about quarter to six or something like that to get back to barracks to be able to be changed and ready for a start in the morning.

You commuted there every night?

No weekends, especially long weekends which in those days were once every four weeks.

I had quite some adventures on the British Rail commuting. On one occasion after being in the mess in Chatham, this was when I was a PO, I had a tot and a couple of beers in the mess and caught the train and got myself changed on to the Pompey line. Because Byfleet was on the Pompey line and woke up and I am looking at the stern of an aircraft carrier. I had over shot my mark, I was at Portsmouth looking at South Pier.

Another night I came up from Chatham and I woke up, the train stopped and I looked out and there is trains every where, pitch black. I open the door, there is no platform, and any way I jumped down, it was high above the ground, grabbed my bag and I was in the train yard where the train was parked for the night. I saw a chink of light in a door, way up one of those little doors that they have in big doors and went up there and there was some guard with his dog. Any way he let me out and got me a taxi and got me on my way again. I had quite some experience in British trains at times, much to the disgust of my then girlfriend who knew that I had left Chatham. I would leave Chatham at 1 o’clock on a Saturday or whatever, because you only had one long weekend every four and I would be asleep. From her house and from her sister’s bedroom where she spent most of her time, because she was bedridden for years, she could see the train go past and I wouldn’t turn up.

Anyway the reverse happened. I am there and I didn’t wake up on time and I didn’t rely on alarm clocks and I used to reckon that I could wake up. I would be up and I would get my Aunt and Uncle a cup of tea before he got up to set himself off for the day and I would walk down to Byfleet Station and I was on my way. One Monday morning I missed the train. The trains were running about every 20 minutes. Anyway I missed the train and I was about five minutes late going through the gate in Chatham Barracks and I really was upset about this because I thought I have only been adrift once before in my life and that was just before ACHILLES sailed to go to Britain.

I went in and the duty RPO or the Master at Arms at the gate, they had the Regulating Officer at the gate there, looked for my name in a big book and said, “Oh you have never been in the nibblers book before, you have never been adrift before?” I said, “No”. He said, “Well okay we will put your name in the nibblers book”, which meant that you just nibbled a bit of time you see. That was okay. I didn’t appear before anybody or any thing, I got away with it I thought. A few weeks later on I did the same thing. I thought oh well if I was in the nibblers book last time, this would be the first offence. It was under the hour and so it would be one day’s pay, one day’s leave under the standard scale of what was going then. So in I go and they said, “Oh you are in the nibblers book last month, and so I then went before the Officer of the Watch and I didn’t get Commander’s report or any thing, I got Commodore’s report, because they reckoned that I had already been adrift. I went up to the old Court Martial room and stood in front of the Commodore. The Commodore said, “What’s the story Fifield ?”, and I said, “I was adrift Sir”. “Ten days stoppage of leave”, and they stopped my pay for 10 days. That really upset me because I was looking forward to going home the next weekend, which meant a whole section of my life was lost for at least a month

I was waiting for passage back home as a GI in Chatham. We used to do rounds down in the WREN’s quarters. We used to have to go and shake the duty WREN cook, which was an exciting experience. Sometimes it was young and lovely and sometimes it was fat and sloppy. You would knock on the door and take them a cup of tea. They trusted the GI’s. They wouldn’t let any other PO’s do that job, a place called East Camp, to the east of RNB.

Before I went into the Petty Officer’s Mess, that was before I was made up to Petty Officer, I lived in Collingwood block, which was a block above the actual barracks themselves. In those days a modern block, which was quite good really, but you were still in a big dormitory sleeping in double tiered bunks which were made up into four or six bunks I suppose in little units. You had a smaller community and they were separated off with an aluminium pusser’s locker.

While I was there Chief Petty Officer Kitchener the GI who was out here, died up in Orewa a while back. He was the GI in Y turret, when I was in Y turret in LEANDER I was thrown out of Y turret because I was not physically capable. He had the fire control section at Chatham and they had one of those old big, what used to be the 15 inch turrets for turret drill. Remember they had them at Fraser and Chatham and at Devonport I think. That was set up as the fire control and gun direction area. I remember that our fire control then was we did two systems actually. We did the SWIFTSURE system and we did Flyplane. We also did gun direction, GDP’s and gun direction rooms, which were just in their infancy. Kitch was Chief of that section.

I can remember in WRANGLER they had a pedestal like a periscope looking down instead of up and it had a binocular and underneath it used to be the plotting table. When you are doing an attack or when things were happening they looked through this set of binoculars set in this trunking onto the plotting table down below and the officer who was down there would point out what the Captain asked for. This was quite different in that you had the PPI and those things down there. We had all the usual things that one has in GI’s training. When I was qualifying CR2 there a couple of mornings a week we did company drill, but the GI’s did it every morning and we actually had poles to make up the platoon. You might have four platoons, so you would have eight GI’s qualifying with white poles between them and then you had to have your company GI and your company second in command and your Company Commander and Platoon Commanders and cutlasses. You would spend a quarter of an hour every morning doing your company drill. A very useful period, learning to move large numbers of men up to battalion drill eventually.

While I was there too I saw the King again. The King and Queen came down to Chatham Barracks and he actually did divisions at Chatham Barracks at the Gunnery School. I suppose the Gunnery School had about four or five platoons. They were big, 60 or 70 men and then there was the rest of Chatham Barracks there and others from the fleet. He went around the lot. Then he stood up on the wall, there was a big wall at Chatham opposite the drill shed and the dignitaries would go up there and take the salute standing on a platform at the head of one of the sets of steps. We all marched and did our normal divisions with tons of company drill to get us into formation to march past with the Marine Band. You know people would say this parade rubbish and all that sort of thing. I used to think that divisions with the band and the hymn card, sing the hymn and have the march past and it was a great lift in life, to start the day off as it were. Even though I got caught out like everybody did several times and found myself doubling around the Island or doubling around the parade ground for doing something wrong. Chatham was very good, “Chatty Chaps” they called it. It was a nice town. We did our firings and things down at Shoeburyness where they had an AA range and then we went from there into the firing ship and I am not quite sure which firing ship it was then, MYNGS I believe, Lieutenant Commander Rednobe.

A Battle Class destroyer?

I then qualified from there as a GI.

I suppose there would be a huge rivalry between Chatham Gunnery School and Whale Island, was that so?

Well there were three you see.

Was there one in Plymouth as well?

I qualified CR3 (Visual range taker) in Devonport Gunnery School. The school had the same type of batteries as in EXCELLENT. It had two or more 15 inch mock up turrets, one set up for fire control with destroyer directors on the top and FKC and AFCC below. Some places had fixed ranges and we also had aircraft to practice on.

There was always the range at Plymouth I remember?

Yes, but I qualified range taker at Plymouth Gunnery School during the war and they also had a big range system out at Tregole. I did my land fighting there and that is the first time I came across a real assault course. They used to have the thing stretched across a river. If you fell in, in the winter, you broke the ice. We had a gunner there who was mad keen on bayonet fighting. Of course it was real, it was into stuffed sacks and things like that. That was part of the Gunnery School. I lived in Tregole range while I qualified range taker, that is an optical range taker in the Gunnery School. They had one of those old turrets there. We used to sit up the top of the range finder and the WREN’s used to operate the fire control down below and they would plot all your ranges as well. They didn’t really need to, because every time you pressed your cut switch a click came up like it did in the old fashioned fire control tables, it marked the plot and then they would give you your assessment and things.

I have an idea that the Wembury Range was started as the firing range from the Guzz Gunnery School in the beginning and then developed as the overall firing range for the three schools and for work ups etc. I was out there with pre-commissioning training for WRANGLER, we did shoots out there as well. That was the first time I saw a snake and chopped its head off, they were still constructing the range then. It was mud and slush around where the turrets were. There was a couple of buildings, but nothing like it was in the end. We used to then live in chalets because it was a holiday camp. They had the holiday camp chalets as accommodation. In the morning you are transported out from Guzz Barracks in trucks out to the range and then returned in the late afternoon.

I think I went there from Whale Island. We could not fire at Frazer because of the range foul problems?

Yes the Channel.

I went to Wembury two or three times. I got a tie there from HMS CAMBRIDGE. It became HMS CAMBRIDGE and by the time I did my long course and probably by the time you did yours it was CAMBRIDGE as opposed to Wembury range.

I went down there once with a heap of gunners in my car, which was an old Flying Standard and cut the clutch out. We thought that we were going to have great runs ashore in this car for the ten days that we were down there. The car was in a Wembury garage, which did a pretty good job of actually getting a new clutch, so we could get back to Pompey. I had two Canadians as passengers Lofty Luke and Jack G.

I don’t know whether there was all that great rivalry. They could say you were a Chatham GI or a Whale Island GI. I personally think that it was a more settled down Gunnery School if you know what I mean. We had a lot of rushing around, but we didn’t have the Whale Island bull as it were.

How long did the GI Course last?

Oh about a year.

You had your couple of years in the Battleships and a year or so doing a CW Course?

No it was only about six or eight weeks doing that.

You were away?

I was away about four or five years I think. I came back in `50. It seemed a while anyway. I was drafted to ACHILLES on 23.3.46 having arrived in PHILOMEL on 26.10.45 after the war. I was away for 4 years until I returned to PHILOMEL on 31.3.50

While I was there the London Docks went on strike and so the Gunnery (Chatham) School was dispatched to work on the London Docks. Because I was a New Zealander they said, “Well you are a New Zealander and so we think that perhaps we had better not put you down on the docks.” I said, “I don’t mind”. They said, “Oh no, just in case somebody picks it up.” Off we go and we go to work on the London Docks. Now we had a Chief GI by the name of Robbie French who came with us. He was the parade Chief I think at Chatham at the time and all these trucks on the parade ground. We got our baggage in certain trucks. Every thing was detailed off like we were commissioning a ship and then we fell in alongside the trucks. This went on for weeks at Woolwich and it started on the Chatham parade ground, “At the order, mount”. So we used to get this order, it was “Mount”, somebody was detailed, “Up tail board”, and he was the last man who you had to pull in over like you do in an Assault Course and away we went to London. We lived in Woolwich Arsenal. That was the first time I was in Woolwich Arsenal. I went back to Woolwich Arsenal later to do the Long Tactical Course. We arrived in Woolwich Arsenal and I was given the job of Buffer of the barracks. I was told they did not want to put a New Zealander on the wharf, it might cause some embarrassment. We put up beds and pulled down beds and we did all the things of running a barracks. This was where I first came across a corporal as a Leading Hand, the Corporal’s Club, which was a status above the wet canteen. Every morning about half past seven or so or even a bit earlier off went the troops, “Mount” and driven off to the docks. Then about half past five in the evening they had all come back and the trucks would stop and nobody would move until old Froggy French said, “Dismount”. They all got out of their trucks. I had to make sure that every thing was ready for their reception and comfort.

I lived in a headquarters barracks. We actually lived where the old troopers, the artillery lived with their horses. They had the stables down below and the troopers lived up above, and they all lived close to their horse, so they looked after their horses. By the time we got there of course there weren’t any horses and we had the ground floor which were the old stables and some had the top, the second floor. But we as the headquarters unit we picked our living area.

In that headquarters unit we had the patrolman, myself being the Buffer of the place and one or two others, the writers and people like that and so we had a couple of these big units as it were where we had bunks. We had taken our hammocks and you undid your hammock and laid it out on your bunk and that was your bedding. I think that is what happened in Rodney Block up at Collingwood and up at Chatham too you slept on your hammock. The same was in Chembur and Braganza, Bombay and Himalaya, Karachi. You didn’t have bunks where you would stow your hammock and have a special mattress and blankets and things, you used your hammock spread out.

But there was a mattress there?

I think we used the hammock mattress there at Woolwich anyway.

You still had to carry your hammock around?

Oh yes I carried my hammock until I was commissioned. We used that building in the Gunner’s Q hut in EXCELLENT.

There was a rum ship that was being unloaded and so they posted patrolmen on the rum ship. We all had webbing and included were the old blue and white enamel water bottles, everybody had to fill his water bottle in the morning before we set off to the docks. We were fed bag lunches initially. Then they had to empty the water bottles and drain them at night so that they were all fresh. They would rinse them when they got back. The only people who didn’t rinse their water bottles was the patrolmen because they used to come back with their water bottles full of rum. It was unblended, it was neat in casks in the hold and just about ate the enamel out of the water bottles, it was strong. The headquarters had some sick looking guys at times. Not only that when it had seeped down from the casks it had formed like brown sugar, it was a solid alcoholic block and you could get drunk on a big chunk of this brown sugar. We had quite some fun there until the Wharf Strike gave way and they went back to work and then we shot off back to Chatham to get on with our gunnery. Of course a lead into the Wharf Strike out here where I found myself on the wharf and at sea as a Bosun in a collier and general cargo vessel, KAITAWA and KARITANE.

While I was in Chatham I was sent to go the Wardroom to meet a Lieutenant Bardwell. Pip Bardwell had just qualified Long G in Whale Island and he became one of the gunnery staff in Chatham. I will never forget that either because he sought me out. I suppose in London they said, “Look out for Fifield”. I was the only New Zealander in the whole place as far as I knew. He sought me out and sent for me and got me along to the wardroom. There was another Fifield in Chatham Gunnery School at the time and up until then was the only one I had met in two Navies.

Whilst waiting for passage in ATLANTIS with Tiger Goldstone, Bill Evans and another, I was given an instructors job in the ABC School. Atomic Biological and Chemical Warfare School. This was part of the Gunnery School in those days. Instruction included the effects of and the effects to the environment. We tested respiration in the gas chamber and a little chlorine gas was released for people to sniff. A small amount of mustard gas was placed on the student’s wrist and they used a tin and a piece of waste to wipe it off. The mustard gas, as a liquid came out from cylinders.

I then left Chatham to come home.

I had a good liaison. I think one of the things that came out of all my service in UK is the staff that had been at MAORI or at the RNZN Headquarters. Ponto Luckman was the Chief and there was another Chief there. Ponto was the writer and his brother was a chief sparker in New Zealand who used to be in that little hut opposite the Gunnery School in PHILOMEL.

The civilian was a Mr Skinner I think wasn’t it. Was he still there at that time?

Skinner yes. Mr Skinner was there in the days of Bill Jordan.

That’s right, he must have gone right through from the beginning of World War II until the fifties sometime.

Yes and Mr Skinner and Bill Jordan used to come down and see us. I can remember them coming down in their bowler hats. We got sent for in odd places because Mr Skinner and Bill Jordan had arrived. They took a keen interest in New Zealand servicemen.

Also the other thing about that was that if you were broke and you went up to London and you went and you saw Mr Skinner or Bill Jordan you would get a pound. It would come off your ledger, but they would never see you broke. I used to say, “Let’s go and see Bill Jordan”. All through the ages that organisation really looked after the sailors. During the war he would come and sort out New Zealand sailors, the soldiers and airmen as well. But the Navy was very lucky from that point of view. They settled a lot of arguments between New Zealand sailors and the RN because of the distance to New Zealand and the limits of communications at that time, they must have made a lot of important decisions locally. I heard it named Bill Jordan’s Navy during the war.

Yes I have never interviewed anybody who has nothing but the highest praise for Jordan, Skinner and co. The Fleet Air Arm pilots had a lot of trouble and he sorted a lot of problems out for them.

Yes he must have been a pain in the neck to the Admiralty at times.

I got my sailing orders to come back.

Did you get married over there?

No not then, got engaged. I got engaged in Woking. I can remember we got a second hand engagement ring because you couldn’t get any gold above 9 carat. In those days while I was there we were still on ration cards and coupons. You were issued with your ration card when you went on long weekends and when you went on leave. Even then things like chocolate and sweets were rationed. I used to save up my Nutty, Kit Kat and Joyce used to like Pebbles, but I used to get my share out of the canteen, my share out of the canteen and I always used to take it on leave. Then you used to get a quarter of a ration for a long weekend on you ration ticket for meats and butter and sugar that you gave to your host or restaurant, there was still rationing then.

What was food like. I remember when I joined the Navy and went to the UK in the early fifties you used to get masses of potatoes and no meat, that was my memory of it. You would get very thin cuts of re-heated roast.

There was tons of heavy duffs and watery custard it depends where you were.

The worse food that I ever had was in Guzz Barracks in Jago’s Mansion they used to call it and you used to have that song, “I wonder what can be on Jago’s Christmas tree”. Mind you it was in the middle later part of the war where things were really tight.

I can remember in the DUKE OF YORK and in KG5 where we used to store ship, you used to get sacks like big sugar bags, frozen hard of New Zealand Ox livers, kidneys and offal. They would say, “Look at this bloody lot here Kiwi, why don’t you send some steak.”

What happened at Chatham? You didn’t take food back to your messes or any thing like that?

Not in Rodney Block, we used to have a cafeteria. It was good. It was a self service thing I think.

You got hearty food?

You got good food there.

In Chatham, in the Petty Officer’s Mess, of course there was better food there and it was better served.

When did you actually become a PO?

While I was in Chatham qualifying GI 2nd June 1949 Acting PO and confirmed 2.6.50 just after arrival home.

It wasn’t dependent on you passing for GI, it just came up whilst you were there?

Yes in fact the guy who was on the next course to me was Frank Trickey and he was a killick all the way through. I think you might have had to be passed for PO providing you had done well in the gunnery world. Leading Hands (a few) were on the course. I believe John Mason started his GI’s Course in Australia as a Leading Hand. When he returned to New Zealand he was an Acting PO.

The PO’s Mess was really a great Mess. The favourite game on the billiard table was skittles and they used to have the skittles out at lunch time. You would have a pint because the bar was open and then you would play skittles and spend the rest of the lunch hour playing skittles. In there you had a little regulating office and when you went ashore you had to go in. When you were a leading hand or when you were a sailor you had a card that you handed in at the gate which you took out as you came back, your station card. When you were a PO you went in and ticked the board. Where you went to tick the board there was a picture of King Edward the Eighth as a Commander. If King Edward the Eighth was facing the wall, you knew that they were going to check everybody as they went out the gate for rabbits. Nobody ever said any thing, but they would say, “What’s the King doing”, before they bought their extra packet of fags. I used to get the leaf tobacco for the people in DUKE OF YORK and roll up tobacco for them and I used to get a tot for that. I used to get the tickler (tobacco) in tins. Rolling a cigarette was known as furling a querty. Some of it was South African tobacco and some of it was New Zealand tobacco. You have heard about a tickler tin. A tickler tin is what your tobacco came in, it was like a big Edmonds Baking Powder tin with half a pound of tobacco. It used to smell nice when you opened it too, particularly if you got pipe tobacco it used to really smell nice. Then people set up these firms. They would buy cigarette making machines and you handed your tickler in, you paid a shilling or something and you got it all back as cigarettes rolled up. The welfare system took it over in Chatham and in some other places I think and so you could opt then for your tobacco or blue liners they used to call them, they had a blue line through the paper. You went and drew your tobacco but you could draw it in blue liners and they did the transaction that would cost you a bit more.

In our ships one of the chaps told me that you contracted for so many cigarettes and it always meant that there was a bit left over and that was the profit, that is how they really made their profit. You got so many cigarettes, but that meant that there was half a can left over.

Yes I think they used to come out in packets of 200 or something. Some people wouldn’t have tailor mades they would still have their tickler. Chatham had this big organisation, it was a welfare organisation and the thing went to the Welfare Fund.

Did they have laundries there for you, you could hand your clothes in or did you have to do your own dhobs?

You did your own dhobs, but I think there were laundry and dry cleaning firms, but you generally did your own dhobs. The dry cleaning firms ashore were run by firms in shops in the barracks. At sea sailors set up firms using sometimes Carbon Tetrachloride. Two people died in DUKE OF YORK or KG5 using that liquid in an enclosed space.

Drying rooms?

There was drying rooms. Laundries and tubs and wringers were adjacent to the drying rooms. A good supply of hot water was available and plenty of Pusser’s Hard, soft soap and Teapol too if you could scrounge it

Chatham was a great place, they would bring down the shows before they went into London. In Chatham there was a big stone building there which was the canteen and that was a bare boards thing and by gee I have seen some displays in there with sailors with beer all over the place, doing, “This old hat of mine”, and sailors stripping off. Next to the canteen was the theatre and they had a big theatre. I don’t know whether it was attached to the drill hall. No it wasn’t, there was this big theatre with a proper stage and all the facilities. They used to bring down these people from London every so often. There was always a show going on, but once every so often you would get a real good turn from London.

I can remember a blind pianist came down. He wrote the Dicky Bird Hop, well known. There was this beautiful woman and I can always remember in a real tight gown cut down to her navel and when she went to take a bow, the place just about went through the ceiling, the jolly Jack Tars. They had never seen this before. There was great recreation facilities there and great sport. We played soccer, hockey. I don’t remember much rugby. There was a good rifle range there. Frank Trickey’s father, he was the GI at the rifle range. We used to reckon that when Frank went home from his Gunnery School parade training that his old man, “Now my son what did you do today”, and he would say, “Oh well we presented arms by numbers”, and father would rehearse him before next days drill period. That’s where the word rabbit came from, that range I believe. When they came back from the range they would say, “What have you got in your bag?”, because range keepers there who looked after the food for the classes would smuggle a bit of the spare butter out at the weekend. They would say, “What have you got in your bag ?”, and they would answer, “Oh just a couple of rabbits”, because there was a hell of a lot of rabbits there and they used to shoot the rabbits. Then the cry was, “Well you had better tuck it’s ears away.”

(end of Tape 12)

(beginning of tape 13)

Right so we are now Petty Officer GI Fifield?

Yes and very smart too. A remark by one of my DO’s said, “More like a machine than a man”. He was an ex Rocky in PHILOMEL, Bill Hodge.

You asked about the food over the period. Of course on reflection you always you had gripes about it and on some occasions it was pretty awful. Generally it was pretty good. In actual fact in some cases in Britain in the ships we were better off than the people on shore, in so much that quite a bit of the food got rabbited ashore. There was always the standard food right throughout the Navy in those days, whether it was here, in New Zealand, ashore, afloat or whether it was in a Battleship or a Destroyer. That was the Sunday night cold meal that varied from corned beef to pilchards or herrings and tinned beetroot and boiled spuds. My father used to say to me, “Gooh if you could get some of that bully beef, some of that corned beef.” In his day he can remember exactly the same and he could remember the Herrings-in-Tomato sauce which was exactly the same sort of Sunday thing. In your mess traps the things that you had on the bulkhead, the aluminium cupboard with all the gear in, there were always tins of herrings in.

I must say I have always enjoyed Herrings-in. McConnachie’s herrings-in-sauce it used to be.

That’s right.

I still grab them from the supermarket if I can, the family hate them?

Officer of the Day or the duty Pay Bob in a big ship would come around and may be even sample a bit, but would certainly come around and say, any complaints. Some of the Brits during wartime, old Brits who had been rough and tough fishermen and seamen, they certainly would tell you if it was bad.

There was a good canteen in KG5 and in DUKE OF YORK too, and of course this was after the war. You used to get the little pies and things all done up in cellophane in those days and they were a great back up.

In the canteens during the war there was a sort of standard thing which was Eccles cakes, which were dough with a bit of sugar on I think and if I remember something like a doughnut, but not called a doughnut. It gave rise to the thing in India of calling it Char for tea and a wad, Char and a wad which was basically what came out of the canteens. There were lots of sausages of course Sausages with rich brown gravy, bangers and mash and we used to call them Mexican half breads, because there seemed to be more bread than meat. There was also of course the dehydrated food, which in some cases was an improvement. When you were in other places and when fruit and that was available, I must say the Navy in all the ships I have been in went out of their way to get fresh fruit and veg. In those days of course milk didn’t carry, you didn’t have powdered milk, Carnation tinned condensed mil was standard in the RN.

In fact it was in ACHILLES when we were going home to England where an experiment for the New Zealand Dairy Board was done. I can remember watching powdered milk being made up in the galley in one of those big Tasman dough mixing machines and they had it all filled up with water and they poured the milk powder in the top and sure enough out came the milk. This was the freshest milk that we had had after the supply of fresh milk had run out. In the RN ship and particularly during the war in WRANGLER for instance we always had Carnation condensed milk.

Tea was never any good was it?

No it always had that taste. Even when we made rice pudding you would send the rice up with all the other ingredients, the nob of butter, sugar, nutmeg and a tin of Carnation milk. That wasn’t sweetened condensed milk, it was horrible in tea. The worst tea I had in actual fact was while I was waiting to join LEANDER in Noumea and we used to go down to the beach, because we were allowed out of that American camp and the Yanks weren’t. We used to go down to the beach and there was a New Zealand Hospital down there. We didn’t really get tangled up with the hospital, but we used to meet the staff and nurses sometimes down there. There was a little kiosk where you could go and buy and bit of nutty and a cake and tea. The tea that the Americans put on was awful as well and here was this tea. If you asked for milk, they would just sprinkle the milk powder across the top of it. That was a big let down again. Whereas if they had just mixed it up with a bit of water first. The Americans used to set out to make tea for us while they had their coffee. I have even seen them make tea in a bucket in a troop ship for us and look at us as though we are really going to enjoy it and we thought that we were really going to enjoy it, but boy it was horrible brown water.

The food ashore in the barracks was pretty good too compared with the people ashore I always thought and compared with what you could get in the cafes. Some Navy places like Whale Island for instance ran their own life stock. They had a pig farm and all their waste materials went into that and they had gardens in some of those places to supplement their fresh fruit and veg.

Whale Island had a big piggery?

Yes that’s right. George Marshall, a guy who went through for GI there just after I was through there, he had the spare time job of looking after the pigs. So many people were detailed off to go and help the pig farmer, they had horses and things. TAMAKI at Motuihe also had a pig farm.

Coming back to New Zealand. I got my draft chit to come back to New Zealand. In the New Zealand newsletter, the one that came from home, was talking about the new immigrant ship, the ATLANTIS, and I thought I am going home on a new liner. I was all chuffed about this and off we set to go down to Southampton to join up with this new liner we thought and I met up with the Navy team who were going. There were five I think or six of us who came out on ATLANTIS then and that was Tiger Goldstone, the Chief Stoker, Bungy Williams the EA who actually walked into the water and drowned himself. Taff Evans, another Chief Stoker, myself and a young signalman.

Tiger Goldstone became our Chief Records Clerk in the Dockyard?

Yes that’s right.

Tiger Goldstone wrestled for the Royal Navy in the Far East. He spent a lot of time in what was called Indo China in those days. You think about the wars that have been going on in that area now where they have changed the name, but he was involved in it before he ever came to New Zealand at the end of the Second World War. He wrestled all through there and that is where he got his name Tiger. I lived next door to Tiger afterwards out at Albany and in fact I bought a section from him. I lived first on the Lonely Track when I came back and then I bought a section off him in Carlyle Road, Browns Bay and lived next to him. He had this big chicken farm and he used to take the eggs down to the Chief’s Mess and flog eggs and chooks down at the Chief’s Mess. A great guy.

He must have kept it up for a long time, because I am sure he used to sell eggs around the Dockyard.

Yes that was right.

I remember officiating at his farewell when he retired and I think he died within six months of leaving?

It was a bit longer than that.

His death was still when I was in the Dockyard. I have got a feeling I might have even gone to his funeral.

His death was 1981.

Yes he would have retired about that time. I was CS in 1979 and so he would have retired about `79 or `80 or something like that.

He had a couple of years, he was 61 when he died I think. When he retired he went to the Outboard Motorboat Club just by the Orakei Basin and he became the caretaker and Marine Master there. He had a flat there. I went to call on him when I was in Auckland, because my brother lives near there. I went away for a trip to UK, Joyce and I in 1981 and I went to call on him and the flat was all shut up and somebody there said, “I am looking out for Tiger, he and Cath have gone off to Greece”. He spent a lot of time in Crete and Greece during the war and he wanted to go back to Greece, because he was looked after ashore by people in Greece. He had quite a colourful period in the Mediterranean and the Far East. Joyce and I went off to Britain. When we came back I was at Auckland Airport, and I was reading the Auckland Star while I was waiting for my daughter to come back from Australia. I was picking her up there at Auckland Airport and there was Tiger’s death notice. There were about three at the same time. There were Spud Spurdle, Harold Richards and Tiger Goldstone. I made it to Tiger’s funeral as a pall bearer. He also wrestled at Auckland Town Hall.

We joined this ship which was a real old time liner. It was an old White Star liner which during the war had been a Hospital ship. A lot of New Zealand sailors and their families came out to New Zealand on the ATLANTIS and the CAPTAIN COOK. In fact at one stage the CAPTAIN COOK broke down and we had a team of Tiffs on it, one of the cylinders in its triple expansion engine had gone bung, the piston rings or something and the Tiffs got it going.

Our passage was great because there was about 600 people on there, immigrants. The average age I believe was about 27 or 28 and 60 percent of them were young women. There was a couple of ex naval stewards. We had our cabins in the after end of the ship, in a sort of a cabin flat. We were two to a cabin. It was right next to the laundry and the after servery and other facilities, so we were on the pig’s back. Our steward was an ex matelot and so that went down well. The food in there was good, he used to bring down all the left over chicken and sandwiches wrapped up in white napkins and leave it on our bunks.

We sailed and we had only been at sea a little while and I got sent for by the mate to go to the Purser’s office, because there was a message there for me. I went along to the Purser’s office and he handed me a signal which had come from Navy in Wellington. Petty Officer Fifield, I was to assume command of the armed forces drafts. I knew my matelots. Any way I found out that we had one or two Army and about 50 odd Air Force and that I was to take charge of them on the voyage. I thought, well that is a bit off. Any way I fell them in as a good GI does and said who I was and if you have got any problems let me know, but other wise I don’t want to see you until we get to Auckland. If there are any problems, then the Master at Arms, because there was two Master at Arms in the ship will let me know, because I had even got to know the Master at Arms in the ship well, I suppose they flocked to Navy people and that was it. When we got to Auckland I fell them in the lounge ready for clearance at Customs. I fell the Navy in on the left and the Army and the Air Force and found a Sergeant in the Air Force and said, “Right you take charge of yours”, and I said to the Navy, “Left turn, quick march”. We marched through the Customs and that was the end of my command. We went straight across to the pub over the road. My father was on the jetty. We went over there and the first impression was, “What the hell have we come to.” We had been in nice cosy English pubs and Messes and then to this pub opposite to where we berthed. I can’t remember where we berthed in Wellington, it had the old bare floor and gratings, no furniture, people standing around the bar and the beer being served with hoses, which I had never ever seen in my life before. That was a bit of a shock to the system and also to the ex RNers.

Any way coming out on the ship we got to take our part in the social whirl as was our want and assisted organising games. There was an Immigration Officer and his wife who were the chaperone for the immigrants and tried to keep them separate. We teamed up with some companions and organised things like deck hockey, tugs of war, quoits etc. and Tiger gave wrestling demonstrations. We had a crossing the line ceremony. The ship’s officer started looking to us a bit to give a bit of leadership I suppose. Anyway we made some friendships on there which of course dissolved pretty well shortly after. Except when I got home my mother said, “I have been asked by the local factory Lace Webb, to take in a boarder until this chap gets settled, he has just come out from England”. Lo and behold it was a young Scotsman who had been in the ship. He stayed with my family for ages after that, Jack Shand.

We came out through the Mediterranean, we had a pretty good trip. Because of the way that the immigrants had behaved on the previous trip they took out all the spirits in the ship as far as the passengers were concerned. We had wine and beer. Looking back on it they had some nice South African wine. At that stage of my life my wine education wasn’t up to any standard at all. I didn’t have a taste for wine. By the time we finished the trip, because for a couple of shillings we could have a bottle of nice South African Hock, I acquired a bit of a taste for it at the end. I think we ran the Tombola at one stage for a short period. We took a professional but not too profitable interest in the days run.

We came through the Med and got to Fremantle and off we went ashore and took some of our friends ashore. At that stage you could hardly get a beer in Australia and the sort of product that they were selling was Korio or Koria Whiskey, which I think they made just as you came up harbour. It was rough. Everybody was warned that no grog was to be brought back on board. Well the matelots I must say were not caught out. Gin slings or Pimms was also available.

They knew the tricks?

Well we never took any on board. We were pretty well together and we knew the drill. We got back on board and then watched the others coming. Now the ship’s Master at Arms and one of his henchman and another crew member and one of the mates stood at the gangway, which came through one of those big open doors in the side of the ship. They frisked them, the women and all, and they smashed bottles against the ship’s side and it all just went straight into the ocean. Of course a lot of the immigrants it was their first run ashore. There was no beer which they had been used to and they had no spirits on the ship and some of them were in quite a state.

We sailed off again and we came through the Australian Bight. It was fairly rough through there actually and that put a few of them down. I can remember that we had plenty of food then for a while. We had a bit of a blow in the Bay of Biscay, but nothing really and that was the first bit of rough weather that we had. I can remember being one of only two people in this saloon during one day.

Were they all New Zealand immigrants or did different people peel off in Australia?

No they were all New Zealand. It was a New Zealand immigrant ship. Then we arrived in Wellington. She was a great old ship actually. She was beautifully furnished, quite comfortable and when she was a passenger liner in her hey day, she must have been great. She had one single up and downer and you used to go along on the honeymoon stroke and that sort of took us back all the way to New Zealand. I had a trip around below. They kept her in really good nick. She had quite a few inches of paint on the ship’s side. We arrived in Wellington. We sat in Wellington harbour the night before when all the little friendships started to get to the last one serious night stage and then we dispersed in Wellington and then I went home on leave. Down on the ferry to Christchurch with my father who had come up to meet me. Which is great wonders, it was the first time he had ever met me anywhere.

I got home and I had about three months leave because I had been away for years. Petty Officer Bill Eddy was the RNZNVR Staff Instructor at the RNZNVR Headquarters which was then in St Asaph Street, Christchurch, in the brewery buildings. It subsequently burnt down. I had been there before because we used to go up there sometimes as Sea Cadets. We had the Steadfast Building up in Crystal Street, because they had a bit more equipment than us or something like that. Sometimes we used to parade with the RNVR’s and go to St Asaph Street. The first indication that the Navy was at war as far as I was concerned in Christchurch was that all of a sudden a sentry was put on the RNVR Headquarters, which was the front door of the Brewery almost. He had a rifle and bayonet, you know the old big webbing. That is where I joined the Navy, that is where the recruiter was, old Tommy Hughes the recruiter.

Bill Eddy and I used to get into a bit of mischief, being classmates around in Christchurch. I can remember coming home from town one night full as bull’s, or not quite, but having a good run ashore. The Nurses Home in Christchurch Hospital used to be where Tuam Street joins Hagley Avenue and it was on the corner. It is all taken up now with the new hospital building. The Nurses Home used to come right out to the footpath. We knew a nurse or so. We stood outside what we thought was her window. This is not the main Nurses Home, the main Nurses Home was the big building. We sing, “Nursey, come over here and hold my hand”, she put her head out and said words like, “Go away, I will do more than hold your hand.” We still went back and tuned up again and lo and behold all of a sudden down comes a bucket of water, that dampened our spirits.

Also one night, this is in the 6 o’clock closing time. We were allowed to wear civvies on leave then I think, Petty Officers, but you had to wear a hat. I had a smart suit. I had a suit made in Poole in England, a tailor made suit, it cost me 14 pound and I had 4 fittings for it, a real bespoke tailor did this. We thought that we were the cat’s whiskers and we went outside Shade’s Hotel, we thought that we would go and have a drink, and then Bill says, “Let’s make out we are cops”. We knew that you had three rings to get in, but we knew what the code was that the cop’s use and so we used the cop’s code. The door opened and we were just about to go in down the little dark passage in Shades and they had seen us in there before anyway. Boy did we get a roasting and were kicked out.

While I am on leave and I had not only been on leave a few weeks, I get a message from Bill and said, “You had better come up here there is a signal, I have got to contact you. You are drafted to HAWEA for Korea.” I said, “No way, I have just got home, I am on leave.” He said, “Well you had better come up and have a look at this.” Up I went and had a look at the signal. I don’t think that there was an RNO there then, I can’t remember. Any way we made a signal up and spelt out that I was on leave. I might have done this with Bill Eddy, spelt out that I was on leave and that I had this amount of time. I was posted as Chief Boatswain’s Mate. I had just qualified as a Gunnery Instructor and no way did I want to do that. If they had said I was going to be the GI for the three ships that would have been good. I pleaded that I had just come back. That was the drafting skills that they had in that Drafting office at that time. If you were a Petty Officer, a Seaman Petty Officer, that was it, they didn’t think of whether they wanted a Plot Rating or an AA Rating or a Gunlayer or what, you were just Petty Officer, Chief Boatswain’s Mate on that ship or both. As it happened they said I was to remain on leave and report back when I came back off leave when I was due. I carried on and enjoyed my leave.

I used to spend quite a bit of time up at the RNZNVR Headquarters, because Bill Eddy had a cabin there. It was quite a great place to go and socialise.

He actually lived there?

Yes he had a cabin there. There were nice offices there that belonged to the CO and other people with plush armchairs. I remember they had quite a bit of old fashioned training.

Off I went to spend the rest of the leave at home.

Having had my leave, the next interesting thing is that there was a rail strike. I said to Bill, “I am not going to be able to go back off leave”. Bill had to go back to Auckland too. We thought, ha, with this rail strike going we couldn’t get to Lyttleton unless we went by bus that was okay. You could go across in the ferry, and how are you going to get to Auckland. We will have to wait for the rail strike to finish. We get a message, we are to go with our railway and ferry warrant and get a booking on the ferry so that we can muster outside Navy Office about 8.30 on a Saturday morning for our trip to Auckland. So that was the end, we thought that we were going to be on a great extension of leave. Anyway off we go, we fall in outside Navy Office in Wellington and there are four Pusser’s trucks from the Dockyard. They had put wooden benches in. They had canvas covers and they had the most interesting markings on them. On the front of the lead one there was a big sign written in paint by matelots, “Ruck Keenes Circus”. What had happened was Captain Ruck Keene had insisted that rail strike or no rail strike, his sailors were going on leave and that included the South Island ones. He had Army trucks rustled up in Christchurch or Lyttleton to take the guys on further south. All these matelots, his ship’s company who were travelling south, they came down on these trucks and they had these funny signs on them, like “Ruck Keenes Circus” and the “Monkeys are in this cage”. In my best Doeskin number ones, double breasted suit, a stiff white shirt which I had insisted my Mum do for me, we piled into these trucks. There was quite a little party of us, about four trucks I think. The Dockyard had also provided an emergency truck, a tender as it were. It was a little 1300 weight truck that followed up and it had big drums of oil on it and pumps and water. In charge of it was Berkley Goddard, who was a young rosey cheek Lieutenant. Bill Eddy and I became the Petty Officers in charge.

At least you would get a seat up front?

No there was a driver and relief driver.

We set off. At Paekak or somewhere up the road we stopped for some reason. I went up to Berkley Goddard and said, “Sir”. I didn’t know him then. I said, “Can we stop somewhere so that we can get some beer to go in the back of the truck.” They had a truck load of packed lunches as well, we had them in the truck in boxes. Any way we went to the Dockyard driver who was the engineer of the whole trip I suppose. We said, “When you have got to get some petrol, how about stopping somewhere close to a pub, so that we can go and get some grog or go and have a beer while you are fuelling.” He said, “We will work that out somehow.” We got up the line and I can’t think where it was, but halfway up the line, may be Levin, whenever they were running short of fuel, the convoy stopped. It was a Saturday morning, because we stopped and the pub was open. It would be about midday or something like that, because they opened at 11’clock in those days. All these matelots said, “Right oh, how long do we want ?, how long does the truck drivers want ?”, and they said how long they wanted. Of course all the sailors dived for the pub. When they got in the pub, there were all these people there who had never seen so many sailors in town you see. The sailors never bought any beer. We weren’t supposed to carry any beer according to Barkley Goddard and so we told them, “Oh no, we are not allowed to take any.” “Oh take a couple of bottles.” “No, we are not allowed to take beer on the trucks.” The result of that was, we are all in the trucks, it was slightly engineered I suppose and just before we shoved off, these people out of the pubs came out with crates of beer and put the beer in. It wasn’t as though we were on a drunken spree or any thing. It was bloody useful, because we drove all day and it was dry and dusty.

The seal used to run out at about Levin in those days didn’t it?

We drove all day over these dusty roads. We stopped some where for lunch and we stopped occasionally to let guys get out and go behind the trees or something. It was dark when we arrived at Waiouru and we stayed overnight at Waiouru. There was just time to get in, have a wash of some sort, have a meal and go to bed. Then up in the morning, we are in the Waiouru barrack blocks. Up in the morning and back on the truck again over the Desert Road which was then unsealed and it was just red volcanic earth, and of course it used to come up over the tailboard straight in, you could eat it.

We got to Auckland that evening and we arrived in the Petty Officer’s Mess at about 5.30 in the evening. The suit was absolutely red and grey, it was in our skin. When you took your clothes off, it had gone right through. We got back from leave anyway.

When I got back to PHILOMEL I was then put into the Gunnery School.

(end of Tape 13)

(beginning of Tape 14)

The Gunnery School must have been in its infancy then, was there much there?

It was down in the Green Huts as they were then. It was the first Green Hut inside the gate. While I was there we built a magazine alongside it and the saluting guns were at the battery at the back. It was one room there, which had the office and an Armoury. Along to the left there were two or three classrooms that were the Gunnery School classrooms. I went down there to join the Gunnery School and Joe Mossford, a Commissioned Gunner was down there and he was sitting down there reading a book. He always had a new book out of the Library, a good novel. He asked me all about myself and I introduced myself. He said, “Right oh, we haven’t got any classes at the moment. We have got a class of AA3’s coming through shortly”.

I got myself sorted in and started making myself very popular in PHILOMEL by picking everybody up for having their caps on the back of their heads and not swinging their arms. We had to do a lot of our parade drill right outside the Gunnery office or down on PHILOMEL’s parade ground or between the blocks.

I can remember I had a class of youngsters outside between the Petty Officer’s block and the first of the other barrack blocks in PHILOMEL, almost up to the clothes lines, that was the bit of space that was available for doing parade drill with a rifle. I kept chasing this guy up who was doing his sloppy parade drill. He threw his rifle at me in the end. I said, “Ground arms”, to two people on the end, marched them out, one either side of this guy and marched him up to the quarter deck and I didn’t have any trouble after that. It was quite a different atmosphere to my gunnery training over in Britain and even my training down at TAMAKI to what it was there. It was a bit unfair on the kids I suppose. I read my Mickey Ducks, my own personal report which was written when I got back and the Divisional Officer who wrote it up said, “More like a machine than a man.”

I suppose though the classes would have been minimal. You would have only had half a dozen or something would you?

No about 10 or 12 because they were building up.

ACHILLES had paid off and so what did we have out here then, BELLONA?


What was an AA3?

Anti-aircraft gunner.


Bofors, Oerlikons, machine guns and pom-poms.

We had pretty well the RN syllabus, because we maintained the standards. The ratings were the same, the badges were the same and all that sort of thing.

One of the things on the syllabus was dome training and this was at the end of the wharf where the Ocean Terminal is now.

Princes Wharf?

Yes, there was the dome. We used to go over there.

That was operational?

Yes, we used to go over there and take the cinema operator and he might have been Maxie Dorset. It might also have been Wren Balfour Kinnear, who was a three badge Wren. We would do our AA training on the dome, which was bloody good. They pulled the dome down. Every piece in that dome was marked. It had all been cut to a plan. All the woodwork and all the surfaces had all been cut and bent to a plan and it could have been erected anywhere. At that stage it would have been a good idea to have it re-erected, but it was lost. It had been put up there for DEMS I understand.

I don’t know why they got rid of it, there was another one in Wellington. In fact when I was in the Weapon Shop in `64 or `65, I went down to Wellington and dismantled the one down there, took a team down. I thought that they had good potential, especially for Seacat training.

Yes exactly and even for Oerlikons and Bofors. It was all marked to put back together. All the equipment was there.

I think they had a rolling platform. The one in Wellington had a rolling platform?

Yes that’s right you had a RYPAC, (Roll Yaw Pitch and Alteration of Course) for which you had several cams. You could put cams on to simulate rough weather in small vessels or slow rolls or whatever. We used to have those under the range finders in the Gunnery Schools in Devonport, UK and EXCELLENT. Even under the four inch guns where the layer and trainer used to use their telescopes to focus on targets which were models. I used to switch the RYPAC on and there was even one on the bridge which did exactly that. The bridge was enclosed and I can’t remember which Gunnery School that was in. The bridge was enclosed so that it was dark. It was in a big room, so they could turn all the lights off and you are in this bridge, and then they would roll it and not only that, they could hose water at you.

I have been in one like that at Whale Island.

You had all the things, simulated night action complete with water, smoke and thunder flashes.

The other training I was doing was land fighting in accordance with the syllabus. Now the land fighting used to be done on the PHILOMEL football field and to be a bit more realistic, used to have sailors crawling up the cliff through all the wild onions and scrub. One night in the PO’s Mess was a Sergeant Cook from the Army who came down from Whangaparaoa, he used to come and drink down in the Mess when he was not at Whangaparaoa. He said, “Why don’t you go to Whangaparaoa and do your land fighting up there”. Joe Mosford had taken over from Eddy Blakiston. Eddy’s suit was still hanging up behind the Gunnery Officer’s door. He just walked out and left his suit when he left the Navy I think. Joe said, “I will go and have a look”. Out I went and sure it had all the potential. It had a barrack block. The Army had never used it for years even then and all he was doing was cooking for the Ministry of Works. That was just a maintenance team. They still had the 9.2 Battery out there. They still had the six inch. They had the radar shack that became the Bofors battery. You had to put the Bofors on top. They still had the old radar set. They still had all the fire control gear in the tunnels that went all the way through. It was fantastic. It was just as it was left. The generator room for the radar and every thing. I went back and I said it has got all these facilities out there. Old Joe said, “I will see the Commander, come along and we will see the Commander”. It was Laurie Carr. He said, “He would go out and have a look”, and so he came out and said, “That’s alright, yes”. He made some arrangements with the Army that we could use one of the barracks and we took our hammocks. The sailors still took their hammocks and put them on the bunks and made their bed. We had some Army radios that we managed to get portable radios and took all our gear. There was no range there then of course. We went and we did our week’s land fighting, crawling all over the hills and posted sentries. We had a big exercise at the end where I would go and put them all out at various places and let them settle in and give them a couple of hours to do their sentry duty while I drank with the cook. Then go out with thunder flashes. It became realistic because there were cliffs there that weren’t dangerous and they could climb up. There was all the ground there, we could do every thing. We also did things like digging holes and cooking out in the field to make it varied.

The Navy virtually took over Whangaparaoa, although I think the Army probably still own it, but I think the Navy in later years were the major users.

Yes so that started Whangaparaoa as far as the Navy was concerned.

One of the other Instructors used to come out with me, one of the AA ones or whatever class that we were running. They would say, “Why can’t we have our rum out here?” Laurie Carr was still in the chair and I went and lo and behold, yes they let us take the rum out in a wicker jar, the number of tots. We were running it like a little ship there was no officer or whatever. We were being cooked for by this Army cook and so that sort of started the thing.

As Whangaparaoa progressed I happened to be there at some of the stages, we put the range in with George Hannan and put the mountings in. I have had a fairly long association with it from those simple steps.

Some years later we came off KANIERE as a landing party, exercising a landing party and I had the landing party in the whaler. I might have had two whalers, and there was I in my steel helmet and pistol and big boots and pack. I had carefully gone over the beach and found where I thought it was shallow, where we could get in reasonably, without getting too wet. I thought I had found the spot and so I gave the order, “Follow me”, and I leapt and I disappeared in a hole. However we all got ashore and there was a contingent of the Army there. They were the dental corp. It was the first time it had been used as I understood it from them. They were supposed to be at Trentham for their territorial camp and there had been some disaster or there had been some muck up, there was no accommodation and so they got sent to Whangaparaoa. They were the only people using that in those days.

Another thing that happened when I was in PHILOMEL we had a Petty Officer’s Mess and a Chief Petty Officer’s Mess and in both Messes we had a bar. A Chief Petty Officer’ bar and a Petty Officers’ bar. The unfortunate thing was that they were little bars in the corner, a little round bar in the corner. You had crates underneath and we were only selling beer I think. They were really the Messes of the Petty Officers in PHILOMEL. In those days you had living in, I don’t know how many cabins, probably 30 double cabins, 15 on either side, so you had quite a few people.

A Petty Officer had a double cabin in the Mess to sleep in?

Yes and I will tell you something, they had bunks, they had drawers under the bunks. We had a leeboard on them. I had one of those. Ted Thorne wanted one to put into his batch at Rotoiti when they gutted it and so I got one down to IRIRANGI for him. He came and he measured it up and it was too big. I had this hanging around me for ages. In actual fact pulled it to pieces and gave the Rimu out of it to my son in-law, it was beautiful timber. They were great bunks and great cabins.

We had washing machines in there, the old rotary type washing machine. I can remember if you went into the Mess at lunchtime and had your tot and had a couple of beers and stayed too long. If you put your overalls or number eights in the washing machine, when you went to get them at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, they were like paper mulch.

What happened was the Petty Officers suggested that if we could have a room in the canteen block, we would set up a bar up there that the chaps from the ships could come, so that they are not in our Mess.

They were just too big a crowd?

Yes they didn’t have any where to go and they expected to be able to come and drink in the Petty Officer’s Mess or blokes were asking them in any way and so it came about we had this room up there. Two guys started that off as barmen. One was a bloke by the name of Ernie Bushell, who was a Petty Officer Stoker ex RN and another one was Sharky Ward, who was an LTO and he is still around. Little Sharky Ward used to be the carrier in Devonport. We used to have the kegs up on the counter in there in what used to be a billiard room, we took the table out. That became a Petty Officer’s Club and it really took off. It took off so much that the Canteen Council got worried. The Canteen Council had done the lower canteen out, the troops’ canteen. Up on that upper floor the Fleet Mess used to be divided by folding doors. I can remember we had to clear lower deck of Chiefs and Petty Officers of the fleet up in there and this is sometime later when Laurie Carr was the Commander of PHILOMEL. He put a proposal to the Chief Petty Officers and Petty Officers that if we agreed to go to the Canteen Council to run our Mess, this little bar place we had, then they would do it up the same as the did the canteen down below. Of course all the profits were going into the Canteen Council, whereas there was a bit coming off the other one for Chiefs and PO’s. It was a really good little Mess that we had there. The Chiefs and PO’s turned it down. Thank goodness they did, because out of that came the Fleet Mess.

There are some tales to be told about some of the goings on about that little Chiefs and PO’s Club of course. Dave Barratt, he was a young Lieutenant out here with Lieutenant Sutton.

Yes they were in HAWEA I think.

Sutton has got a house down here at Wharewaka Point and he should be here in October and he goes back in April each year to UK.

He comes out from England?

He was running, the last I heard a Travel Agent business there. He has got a house there. There is a friend of mine or acquaintance of mine, Ronnie Harker, used to be a test pilot for Rolls Royce and he was Rolls Royce Agent out here. I saw him at the funeral of Sir Rochfort Hughes the other day and he said, “Sutton was coming out and he should be out soon”. Once when he was at Taupo he came across to the harbour and there is bloke over there by the name of Harding who he was staying with. Harding was Bernina Sewing Machines and I had quite a bit to do with Harding because of his boat and what have you, he had a clipper, and he was coming over to fuel the boat and he let me know that he was coming over. I ran up to the house and I grabbed my boatswains call and I stood on the jetty down there and he was stood up on the bows with a boat hook and as he came into the harbour I piped him in. Sutton and Barratt used to come down to the Mess, because they liked a tot. That was the beginning of the Fleet Mess really.

On one occasion my old friend Glen Spurdle was there, he used to like to play his guitar and sing what you now called Country Music, cowboy songs and his great favourite was the Overlander to Overlander Trail. The only snag about it was once old Spud got a few beers in the Overlander Trail was a long trail, he never switched as it were and he kept on the Overlander Trail. Somebody got fed up with him one night, they took his guitar and they hit him over the head and his head came through to the strings and they hung it up on the wall, Spud’s guitar.

We had a plumber and I can’t think of his name now. I must ask Bill Morris who lives here and is from the same era. This plumber had the Plumber’s Shop there alongside the canteen block in PHILOMEL and he brings in one night his creation. It is a chastity belt made of galvanised iron, nicely built with a hinge and staple on a lid on the front of it and that was hung up on the wall. I think it was Laurie Carr again who was not very impressed with that when he did rounds and that had to disappear.

There was another guy who became a Warden out at Paremoremo, Donoghue, he lived close to me up on the Lonely Track. Sometimes I used to go to work with him and ride pillion on his motorbike. That was the scariest thing I ever had in my life, going from the Lonely Track at Albany down to the Base. Going home was the worst, because he never went home until he had had a couple of beers. Anyway he was going home in the afternoon on a Sunday afternoon after his duty. He had a few beers up on the Club and he actually rode his motorbike up the steps of the PHILOMEL Canteen, around the Canteen and up through the steps again and straight out home.

At that time we also had those figureheads in PHILOMEL. You didn’t have uncover guns and cover guns, you had in the morning uncover figureheads and at 1600 cover the figureheads. After a while they constructed canvas covers and they were rigid box like covers, four posts braced and canvas over them. You used to lift them over the figureheads for preservation. Some of those came across from the Dockyard down by the office block down in the Dockyard, and then they put them around the PHILOMEL gym. I think Maurice Ashdown was the Commander in there then who got rid of the jolly things and that is when we lost them.

That has been a sad thing really, because they were classic.

That was a bit of Maurice Ashdown’s work I believe. He was the Commander there at the time anyway.

Well they were stored out at Sylvia Park for years. I can recall them being stored out there and how they disappeared from there I don’t know.

They just disintegrated I believe.

There used to be one figurehead there who used to be where the bell is outside the Chapel now, under that window and he had a boater hat on. He used to come in for a lot of rough time with sailors coming off shore before they used to cover them. They used to hang things on him, yes that was a great shame.

I was there was when the Queen came out the first time as well. Of course we had plenty to do in the Gunnery School then training up for the ceremonial.

This was when she presented the colours?

The colours yes. I had two or three roles that day. Training guards, street lining parties over on he wharf, where the GOTHIC came in. Saluting guns crews. Yes life was busy. Everybody took to it there was no bitching or any thing among the sailors, except the normal sailors talk. They all really put themselves into it.

That was a huge parade wasn’t it, when you see the photographs of the football field converted into the parade ground. I think John Washbourn was telling me that Laurie Carr was to have been the parade Commander. He took ill the day before and poor old John Washbourn got half a day’s notice to be the Parade Commander.

Yes I think that is right. I think it may have been the stress or strain with that, that Laurie flipped.

They had a private contractor put all the scaffolding seats in. I can remember my Mum came up from Christchurch. I had an old Aunt from over in Auckland, she is still alive actually, she still talks about it, she is about 86 now. The day she came over to see the Queen. She sat on PHILOMEL field on these rough old boards up there.

My particular role on the parade ground that day was to pile the drums for the drum head. When we piled the drums I also carried the kneeler, the cushion, for Joe Quinn to kneel on. We devised this bit of drill and we placed our drums and Joe Quinn did his bit. Years later when I was qualifying gunner, I went to the Odeon in Pompey and when they played the National Anthem in the Odeon circuit in Britain, there was Joe Quinn receiving the Queen’s Colour, it was bloody marvellous actually. I wonder if there is a piece of that film loafing around. There was Joe receiving the Queen’s Colour.

We had a busy day there. We were living out at Albany in the Lonely Track. We didn’t have much of a house then. We had part of a house. I remember I was sleeping out in the living area, kitchen come living room.

Joyce had come out from UK?

Yes I missed that bit. We were married in Addlestone, Surrey.

In the meantime I had been in BELLONA, this is after I came out of BELLONA and came back into PHILOMEL again.

After the Gunnery School you went to BELLONA?

I went to BELLONA yes and then after BELLONA I came back into the Gunnery School and this is when all this is.

I remember it is about 4 or 5 o’clock in the afternoon or may be six in the evening because it was light. The pubs were shutting, so you had to dash to the Splade, it must have been before six to get half a dozen beer to take home for Christmas, because it was the night before Christmas, Christmas Eve. I sat down at Devonport waiting for buses or a taxi and got home and of course it was over that period that we heard of Tangiwai next morning. The other thing was that we had a big street lining party over on the wharf there. Jackie Draper and I were in charge of that or I was his GI actually.

Jackie Draper being a gunner then?

Yes that is right and Jackie Draper was also gunner of the saluting guns. He was the Battery Commander for when the Queen came across in the barge. I don’t know what I did then, but I was there somewhere. I then had to go across the parade ground and fall in with the drums, so that I was all in position by the time the Queen came and then piled the drums and take the drums back and that was the end of my day. We went up to the Mess. I have got an idea that we might have had a function in the top place, which is now the Fleet Mess, which was then just a bare room. I can remember we were able to take our guests. It was one of the rare occasions that you had guests in a Naval Establishment to be able to socially entertain them. On Sundays in the Petty Officer’s Mess and the Chief’s Mess, which are supposed to close at half past one in the afternoon or something like that, they used to go on all day. It used to be called the Sunday Sesh. We used to have some great fun in there. It wasn’t as though it was doing any harm, you always had to keep an eye open for the Officer of the Watch or the First Lieutenant or the Officer of the Day.

It would be the only place in town to get a drink anyway?

Yes that’s right.

We had a guy who was a TAS(I) Tim Farley, we used to sing songs to him. “All the TAS(I’s) are here to wet the GI’s tea”. He played a Ukulele and he really played this Ukulele. He would sit in the centre there and play his Ukulele and there would be a sing song all afternoon. They used to go out to Kumeu and around there and get wine. Our great favourite in the PO’s Club was Apricot Brandy. We had this song, “I love Apricot Brandy, Apricot Brandy for me, I love it for breakfast, for dinner, for tea”, taking off this jingle that was Aeroplane Jelly, that used to be a hit.

Bill Eddy and I decided we were going to take up Archery and so we went to Tisdalls and we bought bows and arrows. Nobody told us about arm guards unfortunately. We had bows and arrows and we got them back in the Mess. I can remember the long passage down the Petty Officer’s Mess. We were like kids, we couldn’t wait to try them out. Bang. We used to use them on the football field. We had to get permission to use them on the football field. We made targets from hammock mattresses and painted them all up with red and gold. We lodged our bows and arrows in the Armoury. We weren’t allowed to have them in the cabin.

Another thing that I took on or went back to or got interested in was sailing. We used to sail pretty well every weekend with old Bill Syms the ex PTI.

Navy boats?

Yes cutters and whalers. Also I sailed with John Coleman, dinghies and whaler and cutter. Betty Thompson, I think she sailed. We had another little WREN who used to sail for the DIOMEDE Cup. We always used to face aft while she used the bailer.

Then we used to occasionally go up the Wade River that way, sail up during the day, spent the night up there floundering. If we had a cutter sometimes we would take it over to Rangitoto on the beach and use the sails and camp over there at night and get sea eggs and things. It was great.

For leave occasionally we would take TANGAIKA, which was the windfall yacht. I can remember we took it one Christmas leave. Des Trillo was one, myself, there might have been Bill Syms. Dave Hessie I think was one. You had to be a member of the Royal New Zealand Navy Sailing Association to be able to take it. We had to go with Dave Hessie or a member. We went up to Russell for Christmas Eve, for the yachties ball on Christmas Eve, really highly dressed in bare feet and shorts and then down to Whitianga for New Year’s Eve, stopping at the Barrier to recuperate. There was no fridges or any thing like that. Narrow Gutted it was wet as hell. We used to put all the beer along the bilge’s. We had the coldest beer in the harbour and you put the food along there. We would get a Kingfish. We would catch it and put it in a sugar bag and keep it in the sea fresh.

We used to go quite a bit on the weekends, those that had a car, got out to Helensville to the hot pools. There were tons to do to make your fun.

Vic, tell me what a GI wore in PHILOMEL when you first went there. Would you wear a whistle around your neck, a chain and whistle?

They didn’t, but I did.

That was a traditional thing?

Yes a whistle.

Almost a badge of rank, chain and whistle?

No so much as they try to make it out now. Parade GI’s wore the whistle but not if you were in the classroom.

You would wear boots and gaiters?


What coloured gaiters would a GI wear, black ones?

No. Once again he wore them on the parade ground, white gaiters, because the others wore khaki. The GI’s wore white.

In those days too the Navy wore long webbing didn’t they?

Yes that’s right, we wore long gaiters. When I was a Qualifying GI, GI’s qualifying wore white gaiters and they wore the calf length gaiters.

Or was it the RN wore long gaiters and we wore short gaiters?

No we wore long gaiters as well. I couldn’t remember when we went into anklets, we used to call them anklets then. I couldn’t remember when we went into anklets, but we changed into anklets, but we certainly wore long gaiters originally.

The rifles would have been what, Mk1’s, Mk1 rifles and long bayonets?

No it might have been up to four then. To start off with yes but during the war we went to the pig stickers and also later on had Commando knives on them. I have actually got a 303 competition rifle, which I paid $18 for, under the house. We had long bayonets. I think everybody was in long gaiters then. They were a new type. We changed webbing during the war or towards the end of the war, we had the wide web belt that was about 4 inches wide when I joined. Then it went down to the narrow belt that they wear now and we still wore the long gaiters. Then it went to short gaiters after that.

I know by `58 it was short gaiters for the New Zealand Navy and so it would have been in that early to mid fifties period that they changed over.

I have got an idea that when the Queen came we were wearing long gaiters.

I don’t think we paraded around with whistles or yard sticks and we were sailors still.

(end of Tape 14)

(beginning of Tape 15)

Last time just as I left you suddenly remembered you were the Boatswain of the KAITAWA. I think really what we want you to do today is talk about the 1951 Wharf Strike and the KAITAWA?

I didn’t get tangled up in the Wharf Strike for the first couple of days, I was a GI in PHILOMEL Gunnery School and I had to arm and train a landing platoon in case there was any action up Queen Street. We had no proper parade ground in PHILOMEL except the one in front of the main block, we therefore used to do a lot of our drill just outside the Gunnery School Office or on the football field. We armed this platoon and put them all in gaiters and haversacks and water bottles and also issued them with rifles, webbing and with cartridge pouches. I have got an idea that Lieutenant Commander Blomfield was the Landing Party Officer. The wharfies got the wind of this and they used to station a guy up on Calliope Road on one of those sections that backed onto the cliff behind the football field. Even when it was raining, he was up there with a big golf umbrella and he was the messenger to tell them over on the wharf what the Landing Party was doing.

I think they padded some of the pouches with paper, but we did have ammunition for them. They certainly had their rifles and we used to do a bit of drill with that as well and they also had the conventional Navy truncheon in the shape of an entrenching tool handle with the metal band on the other end of it. They actually stayed in PHILOMEL in case they were called. They were there all the time that the troops were working on the wharves. They were watch on, stop on for a while, but then it eased back a bit. We got wind of this guy up there I went and had a yarn to Commander. I can’t remember who it might have been then and so I said, “It mightn’t be a bad idea if we sort of rustle them out a couple of extra times and see what the reaction is”. We used to do that during the day.

Then because there didn’t appear to be going to be any of that sort of trouble at that time, the Landing Party or Armed Party or whatever we called it, I can’t remember, used to go over and work on the wharf. They went over in their own boat and they left a couple of sentries in the boat at Admiralty Steps. They used to leave their weapons and paraphernalia in the boat and they would work handy to the boat, so if they were called, then they would be quickly on the scene.

They were in actual fact called at one stage and when the wharfies marched down Queen Street and went to storm the gates. I wasn’t there myself, because by which time I was away on the coast. They rigged fire hoses and they formed a barrier, I don’t think that there was any personal confrontation and I think the police were there.

They were actually working ships?


They were acting as wharfies?

Yes originally they were just an armed platoon, ready to be called out and they had a fast boat ready to take them over. Because they weren’t called on and they were wanting more labour then they went as a team and they worked in one particular ship as a team. So that if they wanted the armed party they could rustle them up quickly, go down to the boat and get their gear on and go to it. They did have that one confrontation that I know of, but as I say I wasn’t there. I think the first vessel I went into was one of the New Zealand Shipping Company’s vessels that used to run between Auckland and Singapore. They had a cargo of ingots of tin. It had whacks of pineapples, pineapple juice and we used to drive a spike into a tin of pineapple juice. We thought we were dreadful thieves until we found out what the ratio the wharfies were allowed. Where the wharfies had worked in that thing, there were half empty tins and all sorts of things stuffed in all corners. I worked there for a little while. Then I was detailed to go on the coast. The first vessel I went in on the coast was the KAITAWA, which was a collier, she ran between Auckland and Westport. It was important at that time, because the Auckland Hospital ran on coal. The heating and all the machinery, it was coal fired steam. That was the main priority to keep the Hospital supplied with coal that was what we were told. I think I had a cook with one other hand to help him in the galley and I had four ME’s or Stokers, they were raw buff Stokers I think, but they went on as donkey men. I had a leading hand and about 4 or 5 sailors. We had to go to Wellington to pick up the KAITAWA that was in Shelly Bay, on one of the wharves at Shelly Bay. Down we go and on the way we were given a radio, which came from a patriotic organisation (I don’t think it had come from a grateful pusser) and some other bits and pieces to take into the vessel. We got down onto the jetty and of course we had our towels and soap and every thing that we normally carried. We didn’t take our hammocks because we knew that were going to be bunks for us. The first thing we did was to go along to the store and have a free hand in the store with clean linen and towels, soap and you name it, we had this great issue. I think we got into Wellington at 9 o’clock in the morning and by the time I had gone to Navy Office to collect this gear and we got around there to the ship sometime about lunch time or just after lunch. We got kitted out in the ship and I went and reported to the mate who was Andy Keyworth of great nautical fame who has just died recently and who got his Masters ticket in PAMIR. In actual fact the story went around that he fell off the yard in PAMIR, he was so popular nobody picked him up. He was a bloody good seaman.

The ship was still officered by the officers and by the regular engineers?

Yes it had the engineers. We had a second officer as well, the officers were still there. I was the highest ranking crew as it were. I became the Boatswain.

No New Zealand Navy Officers just you?

In fact some New Zealand Navy Officers actually worked in some of the other ships. I can remember old Wilkie, Arthur Wilkinson and somebody else. There were 3 or 4 officers who were AB’s on one of those Union Company vessels that run to Singapore but were coasting. Sam Mercer I think was one.

I know that Rob Ellison was the cook on one ship.

Yes that’s right.

There the ship was. It was tied up alongside the wharf, all the hatches were open. The derricks were all slung out. The crew had just walked off and left it. It looked to me as if I was going to have to be by myself on the foc’sle. There was no carpenter, the guy who usually ran the windlass. I took myself and I think 2 or 3 sailors onto the foc’sle to run the foc’sle, which was a big come down from the numbers that you usually scampered around on a small ship in the Navy. I had the other hands down aft, Leading Seaman McKay who was a Weapons Mechanic in the end. The Chief Officer showed us where our accommodation was and that sort of thing and then he said, “Okay we are sailing this afternoon at 3 o’clock. Hatch up and stow the gear and get the windlass operating.” In my best GI fashion I said, “Aye, aye Sir”, and went out and looked at the rigging we hatched up. We knew how to hatch up because we had done that when you finished your job on the wharf each night. Put the covers on and belted the clips in and then hoisted the derricks up and secured them and then I went up with my little team to get the windlass running. I asked to get steam on the jolly thing. It hadn’t had steam on it for so long, there were so many bends in the pipes, you could hear it going all the way up. For a gunnery rating there was no problem, it was like driving a hydraulic shell hoist. There was your exhaust valves and what have you. We got this jolly thing going and chugging and I left it chugging there for almost until we sailed to get all the bends out of the pipes. We sailed for Westport.

I suppose you had to get all the derricks stowed?

Yes that is all the gear, we had to do that first because they had left all that swinging
They were a bit complex those things weren’t they in those days?

Yes but if you sat down and worked it out. Having got one done.

The rest just followed.

I got hold of the Chief Officer and said, “Is that okay, is that satisfactory?” He said, “Oh yes that is okay”. I said, “Well you will have to go around and inspect the rest of them just to make sure that every thing is okay”. Each of these had their own electric winches as well and so we had to get a couple of our guys handy on the winches. I think there might have been one or two who might have been working on the wharf who had already played with the winches anyway, so there was no real big problem. We didn’t actually smash any wires or smash any gear or let any thing fall down with a big clunk or any thing like that and off we sailed for Westport. Well we were empty. We had a pretty rolly sort of ride down to Westport and went alongside the wall in Westport. I suppose it was getting on dark when we got there. When we got there the police were on the jetty. The seamen were in the pubs looking out to see how we managed and so were the wharfies. Commander Bourke, Paddy Bourke with Dick Hale as his First Lieutenant were in TAUPO alongside the wall and they were the gang. Paddy Bourke wanted to put his oar in and run our ship too and we soon sorted that out. We didn’t want their sailors coming in and playing with our gear, we wanted to keep the thing going. Anyway we got that away and broke out all the gear that night and opened all the hatches.

I had to make a liaison with the police. The policeman who was at the bottom of our gangway was a big cheerful copper who came from Denniston. They brought police from all areas in. He was quite a friendly chap. I said we had this hard trip down and my sailors after their tea tonight would look forward to a beer. He said, “No problem”. He said, “My pub is the Black and White”. He said, “Now if you go to the Black and White don’t give three rings”, which was the normal pub ring.” He gave me his code which was three rings and another couple or something like that. I will let them know you are coming and they will fix you up, they will let you in. The police had an office up in the signal station, where they worked the signals above the rail yard, so that they could survey all. They spent most of their time in our Mess I think, feeding, or one or two of them did. At night they would go up there. He said, “Now that is where I work”. If there was a couple of bottles of beer down at the bottom of the ladder there, that would make my job much more pleasant. So that got sorted out and we fed the police.

I had the boatswains’ cabin that was quite a spacious affair. There were two bunks. I had a sleeping bunk and a day bunk which was like a settee. A reasonable desk and it was far better than I had as a Lieutenant in ROYALIST. My friend, classmate Bill Eddy was in the frigate TAUPO and so I contacted him and told him about the pub and so he and I went up the pub that night. Then we came back and had a couple of beers in my boatswains’ cabin and I let him sleep on my day couch. The next morning we started loading.

Did they have proper loading gear or was it just grabs?

No most of it was done by the coal hoppers I can remember these as a kid. They sat on railway boggies, like an ordinary rail truck, but they were clipped on. They would bring them alongside the ship, knock the clips off. They had four hoisting points. They would lift that up and then they would trip it and it would just pour out the bottom.

The whole wagon came inboard?

Yes it was hoisted above the open hold and the bottom doors opened and down she went. It didn’t take all that amount of time to load. I think we were probably there 12 hours from the time we started loading.

A dirty business, dust every where?

All over the upper deck as it is always is when there is coal around. It was the easiest coal ship that you can imagine as far as we were concerned. I think we took about 5,000 tons, we took a lot, because there were two holds forward and a hold aft. We were out to get the evening tide to get the coal back to Auckland for the hospital. As soon as it was finished we hatched up and we stowed the gear again and sailed from Westport. We had an interesting device there for turning the ship as well. When the ship came in, it came in with the bows up river and secured alongside the wharf. We secured astern of the frigate. When we were going the river was running out and you had to turn within the confines of the river. I have been back to Westport and had a look at this since. We had a slip on the stern that the Mate said we will go and rig this swinging wire. They had to come and show us. You had a wire that went across the stern through the outboard leads onto a slip on the bollards that side and was onto the jetty and led forward like a spring. What they did was you let go forward and you took all your ships wires off except you left this swinging wire on. It held the stern in and the river turned the vessel alongside the wharf. Then when you got so that the nose was pointing down river or down stream you got the big hammer and knocked the slip off and away you went.

There were no tugs or any thing?

No tugs it was like you would use a spring, there was this thing made especially for the job and tailored for each of the ships I suppose. I am up on the foc’sle. The Mate said to me, “Now make sure every thing is secure before we leave. We won’t secure the anchors until we have got clear of the bar, but make sure that every thing else is secured”. We had done that any way. The Mate and I stand up on the foc’sle head while we are coming down the river. I think we made the Leading Seaman McKay the Chief Quartermaster, he found it a bit queer, because instead of getting a course to steer in confined waters the Skipper or the Master would say, “Steer to that pile on there, to starboard a bit, steady”, and out we went. We had one lookout closed up and one helmsman. We weren’t allowed to put any more up. I wanted to relieve the helmsman every half hour the normal naval procedure, but because of the overtime the Merchant Service wanted the helmsman on watch for two hours. The jolly Jack Tars who always had their trick every half hour or twenty minutes got all stroppy about that, but any way that worked out alright, we managed to get that squared away and got our watch-keeping systems organised.

We are going over towards the bar and the Mate is looking at the bar and seeing how it is running and he said, “I think this is going to be a bit of a rough one boatswain, you and I should get down under the foc’sle head.” We walked down and we got under the foc’sle head and we hit the bar. Well we sailed a bit early on the tide and we were fully laden and we certainly hit the bar. We hit the water at the bar first, it was like a brick wall and there was water every where, the length of the ship and then we went up and you could feel her sliding over and then down. They put the revs on, you could feel her sliding over and down and then the Mate says, “Okay we can go up and secure anchors now”. That was quite interesting. West coast bars are pretty notorious. I can remember as a kid there was always a boat on the bar at Greymouth that we would go down and have a look at fishing vessels and coasters as well.

Back to Auckland. Alongside in Auckland I thought, well this ship will do me alright. The Master once she sailed, he sat up and did his paintings. The Chief Officer was the officer who was around. After we left Westport we were on the way, it was around Anzac Day I think and we are already on double time. When we sailed we had all this coal around, so I said, “Righto, let’s clean that lot up, the first thing we do, as soon as we get over the bar, the first thing we do is clean that mess up, so that it is not tramped in”. The Mate came down and said, “What are they doing?” “They are cleaning up all that coal so they are not tramping it into the ship”. “Oh” he said, “They have worked their eight hours day”, he was worried about the over time. I said, “Well I don’t know whether they get paid or not”, I said, “But they are cleaning it up”. I had a time sheet for everybody. I was supposed to fill this time sheet in. I suppose they were charging pussers for it or pussers were charging them for it or something, I don’t know, but the Merchant Service guy got his wages with his overtime and time and a half and wet time or whatever it was.

When it became daylight I went up on the bridge and we were rolling a little bit. I could hear in my cabin a bang, bang, and I looked out and I thought something is loose aloft, I thought it might be one of the derricks, but the derricks were okay I couldn’t see any thing else. In the morning I looked out and there was a big steel block on top of one of the derricks, the derrick head block and it had a tail on it and we hadn’t tailed it to the mast to stop it from banging. I got hold of somebody, one of the crew, they were just sitting around. I said, “Hop up and tie that tail around the ladder. It has got an eye bolt up there to tie it to so that it stops banging. The Chief Officer said, “Hey you can’t do this sort of thing.” We did though and Leading Seaman McKay went aloft.

You never got the overtime in your own pockets?

No we got seven bob a day flat I think.

That money presumably was the money that became the Wharf Fund?

In addition to the Wharf Fund, what the Shipping Companies paid the crews and the people who were doing the wharf work went into the big Defence kitty as it were. From that Defence kitty they handed out seven bob a day to all those who worked on the wharves and who worked on the ships. The rest of it was the wharf money which they grabbed and which really has always annoyed me that the Navy had to take that money which was Welfare money really to buy the swimming pool. They couldn’t provide a swimming pool to teach tailors to swim. Then having built that swimming pool the Commander and the PT staff of PHILOMEL run it and when sailors wanted to swim in their 24 off or something they couldn’t because the pool was being used by the pusser. I always used to say, “If the pusser wants to use the pool let him take some certain hours and let’s charge him.” Any way it cut both ways because they did the water and all the maintenance I think.

Then we got to Auckland and went alongside in Auckland. I thought I could stay here, this will do me and we no sooner had secured the jolly thing that there was a phone call and I had to take my team to PHILOMEL, report to PHILOMEL, which didn’t cheer my guys up very much. We packed ourselves up and they sent a boat over and we went to PHILOMEL and then I was detailed with another crew to go to another vessel which was KARITANE. She was a general cargo vessel who did something like a New Zealand cruise which left Auckland and went to Tauranga and Gisborne and I think we might have stopped in at Wellington. I know we had been to Timaru on the way back and we went as far as Bluff.

It might just be worth recording here that the KAITAWA actually sank about 1963 or may be `4?

Yes she sank on a reef or on a bank, on the shallows. I don’t know whether, although they have had divers down to it, I don’t know whether they really ever found out or have ever released to my knowledge what happened. There was some theories that it may have been coal shifting. There were other theories that there may have been gas developed in there and burst seams or something like that, but I have never heard. It makes your tum turn actually when you think, because she was lost with all hands. I have heard since she got into a roll, perhaps through shifting cargo and probably broached. I am told divers found her hull sound.

I was in a Sunderland searching for it. I was up in Fiji. I was waiting for a passage back to New Zealand. We spent 20 hours in the air searching for survivors.

Yes that was one of the tragedies of the New Zealand coast. I have often wondered what really happened, but I have never ever seen, even in some of the books about wrecks around the coast, any thing about how it happened.

Certainly the Navy divers dived on her and it was quite an extreme dive too.

In KARITANE we had a general cargo. We had things like hogs heads of Sherry, cases of beer. I have an idea that we might have actually helped to load the jolly thing as well. We had a different Chief Officer and a different Captain. I can remember the Chief Officer saying to me, “When we have got wharfies”, he is saying this quietly to me, not in front of all hands. “When we have got wharfies on here, we know that this percentage of the beer is going to go”, he said, “You grab hold of your sailors and say the ship has said that you can have two cases of beer”. It was all in those big bottles in those days. We started off on that footing.

This was a less experienced crew. We had again 4 ME’s or buff Stokers. I think the ones in KAITAWA, although I said buff Stokers, I think they might have been more experienced, because they didn’t have their star on their badges. I didn’t have a cook, but I had two RE’s from under training who were my cooks and then I had a little team of sailors again. I don’t know whether I had a leading hand that time, I can’t remember. We took her from Auckland and sailed and we unhatched when we got to each port and unloaded and loaded up and took other stuff on. It was like a proper tramp.

That would be good clean living too I suppose?

Yes it was good fun and a nice ship.

I had my own cabin on the upper deck, again with a couple of bunks. I also lived just off the saloon with the Chief Steward, I didn’t live in the Seaman’s Mess. I had some delightful tucker or could have if we had the professional cook on board, they did pretty well actually. I used to go along and help them. They had an oil fired stove. While we were at sea and while we were on the way down and somebody was over looking them each day they produced pretty good meals. In both of those ships I was taken to the cool room. They had a cool room and a chiller. One was a freezer rather and one was a cool room. There was the meat and you decided the menu. That was great. They had legs of hams and Christ knows what. There was always tea brewing and there was always a meal in there for the crew and that went very well until we got to Bluff.

The seamen ashore they would say to the sailors, “Who is the Chief Officer in there now?” I can remember when they said it was Keyworth. They told stories about Chief Officer Keyworth. One of the stories that somebody told me afterwards about Keyworth, was that some guy came into his cabin one night and was going to thump him. He just lay in his bunk dead quiet, coiled like a spring and when the guy moved over him he just stretch his legs out and he pushed the guy straight through the door and down the hatch and down the companionway. I used to say to the Mate when are we sailing and can I give my sailors a run ashore and what time should they come back. He said, “We are going to sail at such and such a time, you know what time you want to make us ready. He used to leave all of that to me. Before I gave leave I would go and see him.

That all worked very well until we got to Bluff. I have just recently stayed in the same hotel down there too, just off the waterfront that my sailors all trooped over to. It is a big grand old hotel, it really is. Richard Seddon and all those sort of people had stayed there. I spent two nights in it when I went over to Stewart Island last year and it really is a fascinating place. It wasn’t so fascinating for me then, because my sailors got ashore there and these Merchant Service guys were there and they were buying the sailors beer.

It came to the time when I wanted my sailors and I had given them a time to come back and they didn’t come. So I kept somebody on board and I sent somebody over and I said, “Now go and get those guys and tell them to come back on board”, and they didn’t come. The Mate says, “Well that is the same as our problem”. What is happening is that those Merchant Service guys are over there and they are saying, “Don’t worry, they will blow the bloody whistle when they want you”. Up we go and we sound the whistle and sure enough back come the sailors. Most of them were on board. There was a couple of these buff Stokers I think or one of them and somebody else. Any way when they came over the gangway I said, “You are absent over leave”, and I said, “I will deal with you in the morning, now go and turn too.” This guy started to argue and I said, “Okay”, and I put him in his cabin and put somebody on his door, which cut the labour force down. Then I went to the Chief Officer and I said, “I have got this guy here”, because they thought that there was stuff all that you could do. Away we sailed from Bluff and we got to Timaru. I said, “I want to get this guy sent back to Auckland from Timaru and I would like the police to come and take him into custody and we will organise his onward trip to Auckland.” I think we probably made some radio signal some where. When we got to Timaru, there was the copper waiting on the jetty. This guy had threatened to fill us in. The Chief Officer actually gave me a couple of Brandy’s and said, “Hey, this guy is going around threatening you”, he said, “You go to your cabin if you want to or you can come up here.” I said, “Oh no I will go to my cabin, I will just lock my door”. He gave me a couple of Brandy’s and said, “That was well done, I wish we could do that.” Away this guy went to Auckland. The next time I saw him he was at the table at PHILOMEL. That shook the crew down a bit then.

The other challenge in Timaru was we had a drilling rig. Any way it was a massive bloody load that we had to put on the upper deck. They had a heavy lift derrick. It had two four sheath blocks with wire. We had to lift this thing on and put it on strong backs on the deck. The stevedores did all that of course and secured this thing on the upper deck and that was going to Auckland I think and away we went. When we got to Auckland that was all unloaded for us, we didn’t have to worry about it any more. That was quite an eventful trip. I then came off the coast. That was a pretty lengthy run actually. That was about three weeks.

I was going to say it would take quite a while to get around.

The other interesting thing was that we worked with the other Armed Forces when we got into port who were loading and unloading of course. When we got to Bluff the Air Force was camped on Invercargill Race Track. They had their tents and their mobile kitchen and all that sort of thing. I said to the officer who came down, because we were going to be there two or three days with them in Bluff I think. I said, “Well when they are working over the lunch hour down here, we will give them a cooked lunch, because there was all the supplies and stores there and what we didn’t have we could just buy before we sailed. They thought that was a great idea. Here I am feeling like the great host to the Air Force and I go down to the galley and I say, “Now you have got 20 extra”.

(end of Tape 15)

(beginning of Tape 16)

I said, “I am going to be busy, if any thing goes wrong in the galley or if you want any thing else let me know. Now lets go and select something so that we have got a decent feed for these people out of the meat.” We went into the chiller and there was the biggest leg of pork, a beautiful leg of pork. I said, “Righto, now you have got to cook this very slowly, so you have got to start it”, this is about half past 7 in the morning. “Keep the temperature down and cook it very slowly. Then get all the spuds and things done and we will fire them around. We will roast the spuds in separate trays and get all the veg going and ready and when you have got every thing ready give us a yell and I will come down and have a look with you, but get the meat on.” Well it all looked perfect, they had it laid up in the mess. I remember you came in one door here there was the mess and they could go out the other door. We had it laid out on all these tables for these guys to pick it up and it looked beautiful. We are cutting off big slices of pork. The Air Force, their eyes are sticking out of their head, because they are on stew up in the camping ground up there, until they put their mouth into the pork and it was bloody salt pork, salty. I knew the other was fresh because it was nice and pink and the rest of the pig was alongside it. I got hold of one of the guys who was doing the shift, that is not the pork that I gave you this morning. He started to cover up. I said, “It is not the pork I gave you this morning is it ?”, he said, “No”. I said, “What happened?” What had happened was nobody had been there to supervise them, they had run the bloody stove too hot and they had red hot plates on the top and they burnt this pork to a cinder. What they had done was to put this straight over the side, ditched it and grabbed the next piece of pork. But the next leg of pork that was hanging up there was salt pork. That was quite interesting.

We pulled into Wellington and BELLONA was in there with Captain Ruck Keene, Basher Watkins the Commander. I went over to negotiate to get the tobacco for the crew, because we hadn’t been near the stores to get tobacco. One or two of them wanted some slops or something and so I went over there to get the tobacco. I had to see the Commander. I said, “While we are in port I wouldn’t mind if my sailors could get victualled just for their rum.

You didn’t have rum on board?

No, the only stuff on board was in the Chief Officer’s. I suppose the Captain had something in his ditty box.

That was a survivor’s pack I suppose?

Brandy and port (in bond) for medicinal purposes, a Merchant service stomach soother.

I had a bit of an argument with the Commander on the quarter deck of BELLONA, no way was he going to let us, bloody rabble, that sort of attitude. We got our tobacco I think, but I don’t think they officially got their rum any way. We were glad to get out of the reach of BELLONA.

What was messing like in these merchant ships. Did the officers have a saloon?

Yes that is right.

Was there a separate mess for senior rates like yourself?

Well in the KAITAWA I was in with the troops in the mess.

There was just one mess for the crew?

Yes they might have had a table there. In the KARITANE there was the mess, the crews mess and then there was the saloon and just off the saloon was a little room where the Chief Steward and the Boatswain and somebody else lived and I was in there.

It was a sort of Warrant Officer’s type mess I suppose?

Well I suppose it was halfway I suppose for the senior hands.

In both of those ships it was interesting the Electrical Shop, they normally had an electrician on board. The Electrical Shop was right aft and there was a sort of like a dog box, a compartment aft on the upper deck. I said, “It is funny they build an Electrical Shop like that just sticking out above the deck, you would have thought that they would have put it down between decks or something.” “No that is part of the subsidy that the shipping company’s get from the Government to build the sponsoon up there for DEMS guns, even in peace time, if it was required in wartime. That was really part of the magazine system and for the gun mounting shelter etc.

In those days certainly all merchant ships were fitted for but not with.

Yes that is right.

They were also fitted with degaussing coils too.

Yes so I left that. I got back to Auckland and went back into PHILOMEL for a short period. Then I joined BELLONA, by which time the command had changed. The CO that I served with in BELLONA was Fish Dolphin and I can’t remember the Commander. On those ships we did a bit of maintenance, only the bare essentials because they were frightened of employing us. Mind you we didn’t really have a great number of hands any way.

Were they clean ships, did you have to get them up to Navy standards?

No they were quite good, they were alright, the galleys and the messes. The standard of accommodation, messing facilities, pantries etc. were above Navy standards by far. Senior ratings cabins were better than junior officers in warships.

Apart from the Engineer Officers and the Officers, were their others not on strike, you mentioned Chief Stewards and that sort of thing, were they still there?

No they weren’t.

What about the electrician for example?

No he wasn’t there either, neither was the carpenter or cook.

Anybody who wasn’t an officer had gone?

Yes that is right. I don’t know how many engineers they carried, three or four I think, but they were really like Tiffs. Our stokers were like their donkey men. It was a great experience for those stokers actually, because they were given charge jobs really, motor men or donkey men.

They were steam ships?

No diesels.

That was another thing they did a routine on one of them, I think it might have been the KARITANE coming back from Bluff to Auckland, they did a maintenance on one of the diesels. I think it must have been on one of the auxiliaries or something. They lifted the head and the stokers really had great practical experience. One of the Stokers in actual fact, Stoker Walton, he went into the Police, he left the Navy and became a Detective Sergeant in the end I think, he was quite a good guy. They had just come out of training on that second run. Originally you started off having to go down to their cabin and shake them and call the hands. We had to get down and say, “Listen, what we want you to do is to be on time for what you have got to do and then do as you like when you haven’t got any thing to do, but we don’t want to have to chase you.” For the guys who had just come straight out of training, thought, “Oh this is pretty good, we don’t have to get up and do this.” There were good facilities on there. I think there was a bath, I was able to get a bath any way and there were good showers. We always had clean towels when you wanted them, you just went and got the key. The Chief Steward usually ran it, but as we didn’t have a Chief Steward one of the officers would hop down and you would grab soap and all the stuff you needed for your personal toilet. New towels every day, pillow cases.

There was a laundry on board?

No it all went into a bag and they just had shelves of clean linen and stuff and when you got into port it got sent off and a new load would come in.

That finished my escapade on the coast. It was good practical experience for me as a PO because I am not sure whether I had passed for warrant, commissioned warrant.

Lowering the lifeboats?

Yes and getting the boat underway and what have you. These are big hulking jolly things and the Jolly Jack Tars who had been pulling a bit in a whaler, they were better than what the Merchant Service ever was. We let them go for a paddle around the harbour and come back and hook on. We had the drill as soon as we sailed to muster, but this time we had to lower the jolly thing. We had fire drill which was no different to the normal fire party.

I think it is a Board of Trade requirement to do it so many times a year or something isn’t it?

Yes that is right. I think on a monthly basis even if you have done it before on passage they are supposed to do it just as an exercise and they mark everybody off alongside their boat. Well we only had two boats I think. The one we lowered of course not only had oars but had a wee motor in it, a little chug, chug.

On that first, KAITAWA we had a guy Third Officer Williamson. He was a leading hand in the Navy, he finished up as the Master.

Going back to this grog on board, my friend Paddy Agnew, who was the Captain of the WAHINE, or the Inter Island Ferries between Wellington and Christchurch. He was not on the WAHINE when she sunk. He always tells me of the medicine chest, when he was Chief Officer or Master. If anybody had gut trouble or any thing like that, out of the medicine chest they would give them Port and Brandy. They reckoned that was a cure all. It was bonded you see, it was all locked up. I thought gee on a Merchant ship we might get some cheap grog on there, but of course no way.
There was no bar for the Merchant sailor’s at all or any thing like that?

No. They were expected to take in enough when they were on shore.

Then as I say I joined BELLONA.

What were you on BELLONA, GI?

Yes we shot off on a New Zealand cruise. I can remember on that New Zealand cruise Captain Dolphin saying that he hoped he would be able to take the ship home to the United Kingdom. He was putting pressure on to do that, although it looked as if it was going to be a hard push up hill. Eventually he gave us the news yes this was going to happen. We did a New Zealand cruise on BELLONA and I think it was just outside of Dunedin where he gave us that news. The Commander was Commander Davis-Goff.

The interesting highlights of that were we went to Nelson. We had a bit of trouble turning in Nelson. They put a long head rope on I think and because of the way the tug played the tune, it took a bit to get the jolly thing alongside. We were having our runs ashore in Nelson and I was duty one night. The RPO came back on board and somebody else came back on board and said that in the pub ashore there was a leading hand, I can’t remember his name, who was boasting the he went out with the Strike and they can’t touch me now. Lennie Joy who was the Crusher and I went up and spoke to the Commander. The Commander sent an immediate to Wellington, the cruiser was controlled from Wellington I think and the frigates were from Auckland and gave his intention that he was going to arrest him. I had to get an escort together and we sent the escort and they went into the pub and they collected him and they brought him and they put him down in the cable locker flat. I think we had a couple of cells in there. He was put in cells. We are on the way back to Auckland and I think we then crossed across and came up through New Plymouth or something like that and then back to Auckland. Well the tale as far as I was told afterwards that he got to Auckland and he went before the Captain of PHILOMEL and as a deserter he was charged and he got his 90 days or whatever it was at Ardmore. Because they had taken him back on the ship’s books they had to do that to charge him. He hadn’t been discharged from the Navy, he was a deserter and because they took him back on the ships books and pay and he went to Ardmore and he came out of Ardmore, got his super, or he got reimbursed for super that he had paid in. Commander Davis-Goff latched onto that.

We had a great Petty Officers Mess in there.

You were still a Petty Officer?


Jock Tait was the PO Cook, he was an ex T124, Merchant Service Cook, and he was jolly good. I can remember we were in the forward PO’s Mess there and he made a great thing of setting the table and making it a decent setting for our lunch. He went to extreme lengths when he had salads and curries. I can remember going past and just going to take a piece of celery or something off a plate and out comes a swing. He actually left the Navy under a cloud, but he went into TUI in the end. He was charged with a homosexual act in the canteen in PHILOMEL. I am getting out of phase here a bit. They used to have a canteen patrol in PHILOMEL. This is the days when the sailors canteen consisted of bare table, bare forms and just beer. The most primitive scrubbed floors, worse than the Splade public bar. Anyway there was a great deal of joviality you would get in the place and a bit of trouble and you always had to have a patrol at the canteen within the precincts of the barracks. One of the guys in the patrol was Shorty Bostock, who was in LEANDER with us. Shorty saw two people go into the heads there, one was a youngster and the other one was Jock Tait who had been leaning on this guys’ shoulder. Anyway old Shorty being an inquisitive sort of guy looks under the door. You had these gaps in the doors and he see’s what he see’s. So he goes and reports this to the PO of the patrol who reports to the Officer of the Watch and they had to take old Jock in and take the kid up for examination and all that sort of thing. Jock Tait was court martialled. I did the court martial guard. I was all dressed up and in those days you had to wear your medals for the court martial. I marched the guard back down and asked the Chairman of the Court Martial Board after he had inspected the guard, did he require it on completion of the court martial. I think it was Captain Hardy. He said, “No, I could dismiss the guard.” I went down and dismissed the guard. I said, “Well you jokers might be interested to see how a court martial goes. I had never been really to see how a court martial went, even though I was a court martial room sweeper in Chatham and I had been on the wrong side of the table there once. I went to hear this court martial. I spent the forenoon there and I couldn’t stomach it any more. It was not the sort of subject that appealed to me.

Yes it is all pretty gruesome stuff.

Anyway old Shorty Bostock was asked, this is where I think it fell down and I think this is where Jock Tait actually got off. I think he then left the Navy and went into TUI. That was TUI’s good luck actually. Shorty was asked what he actually saw. He never saw any thing, as they say, if its in you can’t see it and if its not in, its not a crime. He never saw any thing. All he kept repeating was that he saw two pair of feet facing in the same direction. Old what’s his name’s smart friend got on to the fact that old Jock Tait was just supporting the guy while he was not too well. He got off.

When you say he went to TUI, you mean when TUI was the DSE ship?

Yes when she was flying the Blue Ensign.

The research ship?

Yes, she had an RNR skipper and a Merchant Service crew. She was a Corvette wasn’t she, the same as KIWI.

No she was a trawler, an A/S trawler would be a better description.

Yes the same as KIWI and MOA. Yes the KIWI and MOA are described in there as AS trawlers.

The cruisers when they used to get to Dunedin always there was a tradition that they gave a kids party for all the orphanages and kids in homes and things around Dunedin. You are preparing for this as you are going down there.

We thought that we would like some more social life in our Petty Officer’s Mess and we used to collect our rum and have a two tot day occasionally. You would save some of your rum and then on a Saturday instead of having one tot you would be able to have two tots, that would be your social life. Of course you got a bottle of beer a day which had been started in LEANDER by Commander Roskill.

George Oldfield, the Petty Officer GI was the President of the Mess. So we said to George, “What you ought to do George on Saturday is as President go to the Commander and say that we would like to have a little social evening, a little sing song in the Petty Officer’s Mess and get permission from the Commander to do that. I am not sure if we directly asked for any thing from the Wardroom. Any way up George goes. He said I want help, two hands and Commander Davis-Goff says to him, “How many have you got in that mess”, and he said 20 or whatever it was, he said, “Okay Steward, two crates of beer”, and that started our Saturday evenings. Rum was saved for the evening too.

The other thing was just before we get down to Dunedin was that when we were refitting in Auckland, we had in the Petty Officer’s Mess an idea that we wanted to have bunks. We asked DG and he said, “Oh you can’t get bunks built. We said, “All we want really Sir is that where you have cushions on the lockers on one level all the way around or along the ship’s side where you sat and behind you was a padded piece that you leaned back on. What we would like is to get these padded pieces on boards and put them on hinges and then up with some wire onto some ring bolts on the deck head and then we would have six bunks, three on the bottom and three on the top”, which we did. We had bunks in BELLONA long before they thought of bunks in other ships. They worked jolly well and it was marvellous in the tropics. We also had Jim Spence and Arthur Thomas in the mess. Jim Spence and Arthur Thomas and myself were non natives and so we used to have our cocktail hour in the PO’s Mess on Sunday mornings. We would lounge around in our pyjamas. Some how we would have a bottle of Gin and we would have lots of grapefruit. We even built a little shelf and we used to have gin and juice and gin and tonics on our Sunday runs in the Mess.

The ship arrives in Dunedin and we are all prepared for the kids’ party. The Buffer, Tonguey Brewis had borrowed a horse, a big white horse with a horse collar. The Jaunty, I think his name might have been Master at Arms Townsend was leading the horse, we are all in funny rig you see. At this time the Band had been taken off the ship, we had no band. We had a couple of instrument players in the ship and they had a big sign which said, “The Marine Band is gone, this is BELLONA’s Band”. They lead the thing in funny rig and we had a Miss BELLONA, the nicest looking AB and he was in a female swimsuit all decked out with Miss BELLONA 1951 or whatever it was. Pirates galore. So I said, “Okay”, to people like Joe Cowan and Arthur Thomas. I think we had six cutlasses on board. We issued the cutlasses. We had a couple of tots before we started off and there were all sorts of clowns, perhaps we were all clowns. There was a guy with a pram wheel on the end of a bit of wire and it was running along the tram lines as we are marching along. They had all fallen in on the jetty, and being the GI I was going to march the parade off. I forget what time we are supposed to march off. Every thing was ready and it was about 5 minutes early. The Commander hadn’t come down and I didn’t know he wanted to see the parade go off. Ted Thorne was a Lieutenant and he was Officer of the Watch and I gave him chase with a cutlass around the quarter deck. He was calling out, “Disarm him, put that down Fifield disarm him”. I think we finished up with wooden swords. So they are all lined up on the jetty. I stand up and say, “Taking your time from the Dockyard clock January, February, March, and they all marched off. The Commander comes out, bring them back, bring them back, too late they are on their way. We go to Dunedin and we get a great old reception through Dunedin. We went through trams as they were stopped at tram stops. I can remember we came out off the wharf and a couple went through the pub, glared at the counter with a swag of their wooden swords. Dunedin really took us on it was a tradition. We marched back like the Pied Piper, with all the kids who could walk came back and others came down in cars and buses and things and they all came alongside the jetty. We had one guy dressed up as Superman, it was just when Superman was the real thing. The kids were all after Superman, he was the favourite for the day. We had lolly scrambles and all the gooey things that you have for kids. They had the boom rigged for the pirates to walk the plank. We had the pirates walking the plank and the kids wanted Superman to fly. “We want to see Superman fly”. Well by the end of the afternoon Superman had to fly. He leapt from one of the sponsoons and spread his cloak, he went down with a big flop. We had a great day and I think the sailors enjoyed it every bit as much as the kids did.

Those children parties, you remind me of them now. I don’t think I have seen a kids children’s party in a ship for years and years.

That was the great thing on the New Zealand cruise. From the time you left Auckland you are planning for it.

You used to have slides down from the bridge, down to the foc’sle or from one of the decks down to the foc’sle. A boom over the jetty had swings mounted on it.

Yes and you used to rig the capstan with the capstan spares and make a merry-go-round out of it.

Yes I think you even used to put seats on the gun barrels and moved the turrets.

Yes that’s right. You had swings on some of the turrets. Yes they improvised. Also we had side shows and silly sailors standing getting things thrown at them, coconut shies and hoopla for sweeps.

Whale Island was great for that too. By gee they had some great kids’ parties there and on the proof range where they had those pools, they had big pools of water down where they used to proof the guns and big sand pits. They had standing rigging for that, that was all put away in sheds and each year it came out as slides, water slides, they used to slide into the water. I never heard of any serious accidents, but wonder how today’s safety standards would tolerate this.
Yes that was a good old RN tradition that wasn’t it, always have a kids’ party when you came into port.

Yes and in Whale Island they had their old horse and traps, sledges and carts.

I think we had kids riding this old horse down there in Dunedin. But everybody took part in it. It was really a great day, all the sailors are trying to out do each other. The cooks and what have you were great.

PHILOMEL had wonderful children’s Christmas parties. In PHILOMEL and the Dockyard they had a sleigh, Jitney train. Santa Claus came down a chimney erected on the terrace outside the now “Fleet Mess” and Santa often arrived by barge.

Then we came back to Auckland and got ourselves together and sailed off for the UK.

Was that a popular thing, a trip like that?

Oh yes, everybody was waiting on every word that the Captain was saying. A big cheer went up through the ship. Not like nowadays, where I am told that it is too long away and some of the people were requesting not to go when the frigate and ENDEAVOUR went over there. Everybody was looking forward to it and everybody wanted it. Away we went. I have got an idea that the Commander changed and Clinton Stevens became the Commander.

Max McDowell was on there too, I think he was the Navigator if I recall correctly?

Yes he was my Divisional Officer actually. He was the Divisional Officer for the GI’s or special PO’s.

We had Ivan Le Nain Priddy, he was the Gunnery Officer. He was a cook and he liked to cook. We had a cartoonist on board as well. Able Seaman Forsyth was the cartoonist, came up with this cartoon, which was, “Butter before guns”. Because old Ivan Le Nain Priddy wasn’t the greatest of Gunnery Officers, he was a Brit RNVR and was well out dated, he was a stately, gentlemanly type. When he left the Navy he got the job supervising the burning of bank notes at the Reserve Bank. He always used to wear his bowler hat down Queen Street with his brief case. I can remember having a beer with him ashore in the Esplanade lounge one night. He was that sort of guy who would see you and say, “Well come and have a drink with me”, and pour his heart out wondering whether he was going to get an MBE or an OBE, which he didn’t. When he died he had a great collection of antiques, it was advertised for ages in Wellington, the Estate of Ivan Le Nain Priddy.

There was this thing, “Butter before guns”, which was a skit of what the war cry was, “Guns before butter”. There was a picture of Ivan Le Nain Priddy on the notice board with Chef’s hat, butter and wooden spoon.

On the way south too we also had the Minister of Defence who took passage for a short trip from probably Lyttelton to Dunedin, because he was the MP for Dunedin, Connolly. It was the MP who also had the Ministry of Police and he had the DEODAR built. In fact the DEODAR was named after one of the ships he had served in.

You mean Lieutenant Commander Connolly?

Connolly was the Minister of Defence.

Is he not the same guy man who was Lieutenant Commander Connolly who commissioned the MOA or the KIWI or the TUI?

I don’t know, I didn’t tie that up with him.

One of them was RNVR who commissioned one of those corvettes?

Between the Tiffies, the electrical people and a firm ashore they converted an electrical polisher to a deck scrubbing device. It was quite heavy, but it worked and had big brushes on the bottom. There was a cartoon in one of the papers and a photo of Connolly scrubbing decks with this. That was another innovation that came from those people in that ship, you suddenly had deck scrubbers. They used to throw the sand down and they could do a more efficient job than 20 sailors in the normal scrub decks set up.

(end of Tape 16)

(beginning of Tape 17)

I think last week Vic we were chatting about BELLONA on its way to UK?

Yes that’s right. We did the New Zealand cruise and then during that cruise I think I might have mentioned Captain Dolphin said that they were attempting to negotiate a trip to UK, which in the end they did and that would have been in 1952. So we set off for UK going through Suez.

I am glad he didn’t confide it to us at the time.

We went to Singapore and then to Bombay and then through to Karachi. It was quite interesting because I had been in Bombay during the war before the Indian Independence and quite enjoyed Bombay as a city, which was I thought a pretty smart clean city. Carl Turner the EA in WRANGLER then and I were the photographers and we used to do a bit of business with Kodak in Bombay. Also another New Zealander Len Hunt on WRANGLER was the Postman and so we used to go ashore with him occasionally to assist the postman. It was there that we convinced the Brits in WRANGLER that the New Zealand Navy wore khaki, the tropical rig, and in actual fact I still had some from LEANDER days, but we went and bought the cheap Indian bush shirts and jackets and kitted ourselves out.

Then to come back to Bombay it seemed that the city had gone backwards in the state of cleanliness.

Because 1952 was way after the Brits pulled out?

Yes that’s right, the streets seemed to be dirtier, the buildings seemed to be dirtier. Some of the nice avenues that one remembered seemed to have dropped back, but that was just an impression that I had.

I can remember in the Odeon in Bombay, if you went to the cinema, this was in the days of the British Raj. The white Raj sat in one section of the cinema and the rest sat in another section downstairs, almost in enclosed wire areas, so never the two mixed. Of course this looked a bit different when we went back this time.

At this stage the Indians, particularly the Sikhs and the Muslim side of it I suppose had an anti drink campaign. A lot of the gunnery staff in India, the GI’s and OA’s had trained in Whale Island and when a ship came with RN or RN influenced people on board they flocked down to come and see their friends and come and talk about old days. They arrived there at the golden time of 11 o’clock to ensure that they got their rum. Because we didn’t have access to Chiefs and PO’s Messes and so forth like you did in other places, they opened a special canteen for our ship’s company ashore which was a marquee attached to a building I think probably around about where the old barracks, BRAGANZA used to be.

Who would do that?

I think the Indians did this.

The Indian Navy?

Yes I think it was the Indian Navy and they did this to provide a facility for us. Of course we were allowed to take guests there and there were a lot of Indian Naval guests that were only too happy to come. That also happened to us at Norway at the end of the war when I was in KING GEORGE V, they set up a special place ashore for the British sailors, because none of the Norwegians were supposed to drink. We had the usual round of games competing against the various Messes and so forth. I think we in the Petty Officers Mess in BELLONA had a reasonable hockey team and so I played hockey on that cruise around that area and once again did all the sights.

Then we moved on to Karachi. Karachi by this time was Pakistan, whereas the Karachi that I had been to before was Indian. HIMALAYA was the Gunnery School which I had been to before. However this time we arrived and once again our recreation from our Mess was hockey again. We played a team there called the Puffins, which were a fairly swept up team and they really thoroughly tired us out. They were made up mainly of the British Agents, public servants and teachers etc.

In Pakistan, in actual fact in Karachi, the Chiefs and PO’s in particular, but the sailors in general were well entertained by the remains of the British that were there. I can remember that the Chiefs and PO’s were all invited to a cocktail party in one of their Clubs. I can remember having to fall in all the Chiefs and PO’s in number sixes and march them into the provided buses, all spick and span and smart and off to these high class Citizens Club to be welcomed to Karachi and the afternoon turning into a great party. We struck up some great friendships there. I can remember the agent for Singer Sewing Machines took a couple of us in hand and they really looked and entertained us and took us places all the time that we were in Karachi.

The snag in Karachi was they had given up drink, that was the Pakistanis themselves, including their Navy. You could buy a bottle of beer, which is funny tasting beer, but it would cost you something like nine shillings a bottle, which in those days was a lot of your pay. A bottle of beer back here in New Zealand was about one and threepence or something. Through these Clubs of course they helped out extremely well and once again I think the Pakistanis put something on for the sailors as well. Yes I can remember that afternoon it turned out to almost a sod’s opera, some sailor found the piano and relieved the pianist, they thought it was wonderful in actual fact, because they lived in such a sheltered area. At that stage it was different to when I was there which was before the houses were in the compounds, by this time they were wire fenced and they had not only their gardener and their Amah and other servants, they had their security guy and protection.

Just going back to Singapore it was really the first time I had been to Singapore. Singapore didn’t bring me on very much because it was so smelly and so many people sleeping on the streets and also the open klongs, drains and smells. Once again we were all smart in our number six suits and coming home in Sembawang, into the dockyard gate. One of our three slipped and fell into the klong in his white suit and we made him march about three paces astern, poor old Arthur. Then to go back when we went to the Far East Station from New Zealand and to see the great change in Singapore and even to go back a couple of years ago to see further progression, it was quite amazing. I didn’t stay in Singapore last time I went through, I stayed in Johore Bahru. I thought Singapore had lost it’s character in the city itself, it was just a stone jungle and you are just wandering around a stone jungle, whereas up until then it was quite great and interesting. It was great to have seen the transformation of the cleanliness and the way the citizens looked and the way they were housed. One couldn’t say that about India nor Pakistan I don’t think at that time any way. I eventually had a Singapore driving licence.

Then from there we went through to Aden and to UK. Now there is an incident that happened there. We did a high speed belt from Karachi, may be it was a Merchant ship that was supposed to have been in trouble or something. Any way it turned out to be a nought if I remember. I can remember that there was a diversion and we belted off at a great rate of knots belching out black goo, unburnt fuel on to the quarter deck and the after part of the ship, they had been spruced up for the ceremonial part of the tour. It always seemed to be the same. I don’t know whether those ships were particularly bad burners of fuel, but it reminded me of WRANGLER, the destroyer when we got far behind the Fleet after doing a rescue during the war and then belting up and pouring out black spots, blobs really.

Probably good Indian and Pakistani fuel!

Yes it didn’t go down very well, the quarter deck men turned to again with cloths, Teepol and Suj.

Then we went ashore in Aden. I have got an idea that there was a bit of fracas in Aden, not between us, but by the natives who turned unfriendly compare with when I had been there before and were out to make their pennies. I can’t remember any other sort of incidents on the way through until we went to Malta. Lord Louis Mountbatten was C in C of the Med and the Flag ship was LEANDER.


Yes our LEANDER looking really spick and span in Malta.

Fish Dolphin used to go ashore with his boatswains call. I have got an idea that he was classmates with Lord Mountbatten and he spent a lot of time at the C in C’s social side while we were there at dinners and functions. He brought Mountbatten on board and his good lady. We all fell in on the quarter deck and up comes Mountbatten. He impressed everybody as about the first three or four minutes he addressed the ship’s company in Maori, and that really impressed people. Then he spoke to us and said all sorts of nice things as usual. I think it was through Fish Dolphin that we had that personal visit. It really went down exceedingly well, what a fine example was he.

The other time and I suppose I mentioned it in WRANGLER. When we arrived on the Far East Station, and that I suppose would be in Trinco when we came under his command when he was C in C of South East Asia. We tied up alongside an oiler as soon as we got there. We weren’t there about 10 minutes or so and a boat comes alongside and out jumps Lord Mountbatten in khaki and he stood on the catwalk on the tanker, we cleared lower deck he was there to greet you which was a great leaders’ attitude. There was a dirty RN destroyer and we had had a bit of a belting and a whole heap of HO’s and all anxious to get home because their cobbers had got home after the German war had finished. Mountbatten was able to put some new spirit in to all hands.

It is interesting to catch up to LEANDER, because you don’t hear much about her after our involvement and I knew that you had been in the Med and she had also been involved in the Adriatic during those early Yugoslav troubles, the Corfu incident.

I don’t know about that, but I know she was and it could well be while she was stationed there. Yes she was certainly in the Med and she was certainly the sea going flag ship.

She must have been about the last LEANDER class cruiser running in `52 in the RN?

I am not sure. The only other one of course was ACHILLES. I don’t think we saw ACHILLES when we were in Bombay I can’t recall, I am sure we would have remembered DELHI as she was then. On we pressed to finally Portsmouth where again among the ceremonial Fish Dolphin had the Lords of the Admiralty down to Portsmouth to be entertained with a Maori Concert Party. The Captain’s cook baked a great cake in the shape of BELLONA. We had the British television and it went down quite well that side of the visit. I disappeared pretty well after we secured alongside, because on the jetty waiting was my fiancée who I hadn’t seen for about three years and her father and entourage. I was invited to go up to Byfleet and Weybridge and start making some arrangements. To go back again another interesting port we went to, on the way through we went to Malaga. We met the chap who had been down at TAMAKI when we were down there as trainees. He wasn’t in the Navy, but he was the Training Officer, Lieutenant Jelliff’s son, he was the engineer on somebody’s yacht. That yacht had a car and an aeroplane in which he sometimes went on leave to UK.

That was a strange port to visit Malaga, because Spain was almost held at arms length until the sixties.

I well remember Malaga, I can check up on it because Joe Cowan was around. There were about four of us I can remember riding around on a Gary and looking at buildings and things and certainly teaming up with Jelliff. When we did get to Gibraltar, I in particular, not because I am against bull fights or any thing like that, but because I had seen the thing before I never bothered to go to La Linea. We went to the canteen there and cleaned them out at Tombola.

To get back to Britain we arranged for our wedding to be October the 11th 1952 and I was married in a place called Addleston and we had a good representation from the ship.

That had been pre-arranged before you left New Zealand more or less?

More or less it was just a matter of clicking the details as it were.

How long did BELLONA actually have in UK?

Not very long. I suppose it might have been six weeks, I am not sure, I had about two weeks leave, two in the West Country seeing the family around the West Country showing the new bride off as it were. Then doing some tentative arrangements with the people who came down from New Zealand House as far as passage back to New Zealand was concerned for my wife.

Then we went and joined the British Home Fleet and we went to sea with the Fleet and did Fleet exercises. We were criticised by the Russians because we didn’t belong to NATO and there was political ho ha’s of why we were engaged with the British Home Fleet.

It was a NATO exercise wasn’t it?

Yes it was a NATO exercise.

It was called Mainbrace?

Yes that’s right it was, Exercise Mainbrace. In actual fact as far as I recall BELLONA acquitted herself bloody well, in particular because this had been the first time really that she had been with a large company of ships. We didn’t have the days when we exercised very regularly with Australians or any thing like that. We were a solo ship around the coast here and then on passage to UK, Portsmouth. I think we had a bit of a work up period with OOW manoeuvres and things and then into Mainbrace. It was rough at times too if I remember correctly. We came back from Mainbrace and we pulled off or separated from the rest of the fleet and went into Rosyth where again we had the football match ashore. We only stayed there for a night or two. I couldn’t get ashore I was duty. I lent my 16 millimetre movie camera to somebody to complete the record of the football matches, but that was lost in the canteen and I never saw it again. The rest of the trip was unrecorded on 16 millimetre.

Then back out to New Zealand coming back through the Med. I can remember in Ville Franche, Billy Camalari the Captain’s Cook, who was a native of Malta didn’t come back from his leave and the Captain was waiting to entertain and so he stopped his leave when they got to Malta. He was able to go ashore and get the stores of course.

When Billy Camalari learnt that I got married while I was on leave, he was quite annoyed that I hadn’t gone and asked him personally to make the wedding cake. I hadn’t thought of imposing on anybody and he was really upset, he talked about that all the way back. He came and settled here in Belmont around the Belmont area, a great old guy.

I don’t remember any great incidents.

None of the crew went off to do courses or any thing like previous commissions when you went home in ACHILLES?

No I don’t recall, some took passage for courses. I think for instance Alan Tyrell and maybe Nev Win.

When we left here, Jacky Draper was the gunner, we loaded a lot of ex Army and New Zealand Defence Force small arms. We cleared out the magazines. Being the GI I won the stowing of this lot which were Bren guns, rifles, pistols. To get into the magazine, to do rounds in the magazine you had to crawl across the top of this it was stacked so high between the battle racks.

You had your regular ammunition in its racks, but his was stowed in the passageways?

Yes, I am not sure, we might have cleared out a couple of magazines, because we were going to bring ammunition back as well. We unloaded the small arms at Singapore.

The small arms?

Yes it went as aid to French/Indo China. I can remember truck loads of it loaded alongside Calliope here, the lower end of Calliope just before we set off.

That’s interesting, that is worth investigating and following up?

That’s right, there was masses of that stuff, it was unloaded and we were told any way that it was going to the French/Indo China where they were having the start of their civil war.

We came back here and then I came off BELLONA and went into the Gunnery School down here in PHILOMEL again.

My wife came out on MATAROA.

Did you have to pay for her to come out?

No she became a dependent and she came out on her own and arrived here the day after New Years Day, which was not far after us. They had done a great job at New Zealand House. I can remember we had a picket boat or it might have been an HDML running as Liberty boat and we had a pretty good in with Customs and things there. They would take Navy guys in them to meet your family. I missed out for some reason, may be it was because of what I did the night before. Anyway we managed to circle the MATAROA and wave a few hands and then get alongside in the jetty by the time she had berthed. We stayed up in Parnell, in St Stephens Avenue, there was a private hotel up there, for a couple of days, waiting for Spud Spurdle’s wedding. I remember my wife going up Parnell rise then in the tram for her first look, thinking she was really out in the wild west with the types of houses and things around. That brought my BELLONA time to an end and I came into the Gunnery School. That would be at the end of `52, probably starting in `53. That worked through to the end of that year `53 which was the Queen’s visit. I can’t for the life of me recall any great shakes in the set up.

You were still a Petty Officer?

Yes I was a Petty Officer GI and it was then that I also passed my commission and warrant exams in BLACK PRINCE actually with Bosun Murrel and somebody else who took me for the practical seamanship side of it. I went down to TAMAKI and did a flog up of maths with Stan Hermans and his team. I suppose it was in `54 I then went over to UK for gunner again. I did my study at TAMAKI with Chief Petty Officer Ike Cliff and we qualified gunner together.

Coming back life was a bit different for me then in the Petty Officer’s Mess having now married. We had a great team of young married Petty Officers around, the Cowans and those sort of people and Charlie Raven. We had great weekends at places like Orewa and Helensville to the hot pools. We did have lots of functions in the Senior Rates Mess and in the Junior Rates Mess. In the Senior Rates Mess in particular we would have a ball in the gymnasium a couple of times a year. We would be out at Kauri Point and bring all the greenery in and have the Marine Band, it used to be fantastic. You used to set it out like a cabaret, with little tables. You would spend all Friday during work when the time was right decorating the place out and then the Saturday night and Sunday unrigging it again and putting it all back to square one. We would book a place like the Gold Room/Peter Pan, which was a cabaret in Queen Street and have a ball up there, a Chiefs and PO’s Ball.

The duties in PHILOMEL then, they had a Duty Petty Officer and a duty RPO. The officer’s duties were mainly carried out by four officers and they were what we afterwards called them SD’s like Jack Cameron, Warrant MAA Bogie Harris Commissioned Gunner, Joe Mossford and there was a watch-keeping team of about four of them there.

My first memory of PHILOMEL is as a Sea Cadet and coming of the ferry from town whilst we were waiting to catch the TAMAKI Tram, Jack Cameron is the first person you saw, he would be there meeting the Liberty boat.

There was a Sea Scout Unit in the Dockyard then, it used to run from the hut down by the corner of the dock. Sometimes we would go there and give them a bit of a hand and sometimes we would get called over to NGAPONA. I can remember being called out to a coal barge where they found some detonators. Also being called out on a Sunday afternoon, I wasn’t really duty and I just happened to be on board.

(end of Tape 17)

(beginning of Tape 18)

Over we go to look at this bomb, I couldn’t get any volunteers to come with me. The Police came I think and we went over in a Police black as it was in those days and found this bomb, which was a little small flare bomb, an Air Force flare bomb. I had taken the precaution of putting a box of sand in the back of the car. We found it and I said, “Okay, let’s take it back to the Base”, and the cop wasn’t all that thrilled. It was unarmed and it was a fairly inert sort of a thing. The TASI used to get involved with them more than me of course.

Also there was a load of coal that had come up from South that had detonators sprinkled through out it. Something had happened in the mine and somebody had dropped a box of detonators or something and they just got into the coal. One would think may be that’s how KAITAWA went, but no.

That would make a mess of your fireplace wouldn’t it on a cold night.

There were those little things that came to amuse us.

I enjoyed the few weeks that we had down at TAMAKI and that was with Ike Cliff who was the GI and he and I were selected together to go to the Gunners Course. We set off and we went home to UK in the TAMAROA.

Did you take your family with you?

Yes I took my wife with me and he took his wife and a couple of kids, because we were going to be over a certain length of time, which was 12 months. Much better than when I went to qualify Long Course and I got really seen off and I was very bitter about it for a while. Peter Phipps was CNS when I went to the UK to do my Long Course, because he promised me air tickets in my own hand and what not and after I got there they withdrew the whole bloody lot, Civil Administration I believe.

Any way we set off and went to UK. We arrived just about New Year. I think we had Christmas at sea and arrived just about the day after New Years Day or the day before. Cold, bitter, snowing. I can remember the first thing I did was leave my sister in-laws house in Hammersmith to go to MAORI to report in and to buy myself a pair of galoshes. I walked another block and I bought myself a scarf and a pair of gloves. Then we settled ourselves and started the New Year in Whale Island with the Gunners Course. We had white trousers and our jackets and a collar and tie and so forth. Our distinctive rig was these white trousers, white drill trousers, that was the gunner’s qualifying dress. I can remember it being bloody cold.

Even in winter time?


I don’t know if I had some with me in my kit. Any way Ike Cliff and I got some pairs of white Long Johns and put these on under. The Brits in our class were wearing their pyjamas underneath their white trousers and occasionally you could see the blue stripes through them. Then we started that Gunners Course which was a very worth while course, a very interesting course. We had a Course Officer who was a contemporary of Frank Clark’s, who was out here as the fire control gunner and one or two others who had been associated here, whose names I can’t get to right now. I can’t remember how long that course was, it was half a year I think. I learnt to double again and to be on the other end of the stick.

These white trousers, was that an old tradition?


It must have died out by the time I got to Whale Island in the sixties and when you were there doing your Long Course, that was no longer?

I think the gunners still wore them. We had a separate gunner’s mess there in one of the prefab buildings. I can remember having close association with a great team. It was interesting that when I came to do the Fire Control Gunners Course a great slice of that team were there. Some had dropped aside because they weren’t up to the fire control, electronics and so forth. Then when I came to do a Long Course again there was two or three from that Gunners Course. We did the actual Gunners Course, which was gunnery on the Island and then we went to DRYAD and did our Nav and then we went to MERCURY and did our Coms and we went to PHOENIX of course and did our Damage Control. We went to VERNON and did our TAS and also at VERNON we did our diving, because all of us had to qualify as Diving Supervising Officers in the old copper helmet and what we used to call a frogman’s suit, which you call a wet suit now. The Slaven suit, which was the one that they used in the Midget submarines and it was one that you stepped in with a big zip.

That’s right, you had re-breathing gear?

Yes Protosol breathing gear which was very good, except that if you punctured the diaphragm and salt water got into the Protosol it would kill you, it would burn you out. In actual fact that happened later on while I was still in the UK doing my sea time.

Yes I can remember I used to go down first thing in the morning. Our first thing was to swim in a frogman’s suit from one corner of the Basin and over to the other corner of the Basin and back and then go and do our dives there and then we would sit in the pot. I caught the flu there and I had a couple of days off because of the flu and fortunately that was pot time and so I didn’t mind that.

Was this all done as a rating or after you were promoted?

If we hadn’t qualified we wouldn’t have been promoted, it was part of the qualification.

Then we did time at Horsey Lake, which is where PHOENIX was. Horsey Lake was where they trained the frogman during the war. At the bottom of Horsey Lake you go out on the Porchester Road, it is at the back of PHOENIX.

Yes I know where PHOENIX is.

Down on the bottom they had benches and things set up and I had missed my underwater class because of this flu thing. So I can remember sitting on the bottom there in the standard suit with a hacksaw and a piece of iron and having to cut my way through the piece of iron. Then we had to do search patterns on these lattice squares. It was all marked out in white ropes like a plot, they would plant things there. We took our meals out from Whale Island. We had our own little mess in that place in the Gunners School. I can remember the big old Pusser’s fannies, in the midday when you are going to be diving again in the afternoon, fortunately it was the summer when we did our dives and you would have big stodgy boiled potatoes, corned dog, all indigestible sort of things. You just felt like going to sleep afterwards.

A class of Air Force Cadets from Cranwell came visiting Naval Establishments, and they came in VERNON to watch the Dive School and tour VERNON. They came across onto the jetty and watched us on the pontoon where we had a Petty Officer Harry Mucklow down on his first dive. They had the hand pump, you know the big wheels and they also had a compressor to keep the air supply up so that you got both types as an experience. Harry is down there and these people from Cranwell come and the Instructor being a smart sort of a guy was telling them all about diving and how they trained divers. If the diver gets into difficulty then all he has to do is to close his valve and the air coming in will bring him to the surface. He got onto the intercom and said, “Mucklow, this is whoever”, “Yes”, came the faint funny sound from the intercom down below. “We are going to blow you up, are you ready ?”, “Right, close your valve, hold your mouth”, and it was the first time Harry had been down. The next thing he is spread eagled on Pompey Harbour. Then so we all thought I hope he is not doing that to us. I was a bit claustrophobic actually in that standard suit to start with and particularly when I was standing on the ladder with all the weights on and the hole open still. I took a bit of convincing that there was enough air in my helmet to keep me going for five minutes if I punctured myself. It was quite an experience to me in that standard suit when I did get down to feel it clamping around my legs. This is the sort of thing that they didn’t explain to me, they might have explained it to the rest of the class, I didn’t pick it up, that the pressure of the water pushed the damn suit alongside you. I thought, “God, it is wet inside”. It was an interesting experience.

All the gunners had been given this because they were sent to sea and they became the diving supervising officers in ships, in frigates and destroyers. The snag was that sometimes you had no diver and so you also became the diver if you got a foul rudder or they wanted a quick look at something under water. I was in ROYALIST with Di Davies who was the TASO and I realized that my Diving Supervising Certificate was going to run out in February if I didn’t hurry up and get re-qualified. I tossed this up and after I came back here they had a Dive Team and so I thought I don’t really want to get into that. It didn’t bring me on like it does some people. I did it because I had to previously and so I let it drift. Lieutenant Commander Davies fortunately didn’t check his records until about April or May and he said, “We should have got you re-qualified in February and now you will have to do a bit of an updated course”. I said, “No I won’t”, I said, “I have got other fish to fry thanks very much”. That is how I dropped out of that. I passed my thing there in VERNON.

Did you have to go to Greenwich?

No we didn’t go to Greenwich at that stage.

While we are out on Horsey Lake a doctor joined us, a two striper RNVR doctor and he had been appointed to the Deep Sea Diving ship. I can’t remember its name now. I might have mentioned it when we talked about picking up the NELSON’s anchor.

RECLAIM or something.


Any way he joined us for the Diving Course, but he had done the tank at DOLPHIN, the submarine tank, because he was doing diving medicine and submarine medicine. He was detailed off to give us our lectures on drowning, he was a cheerful chap. There is no such thing as recovery from drowning, if you drown you drowned. He had just been at DSW and he was all swept up on these theories, but he wasn’t all that cheerful to us. Then it wasn’t long after that they had a big dive on one of the submarines and he was involved in that.

We had a hard case Instructor at DRYAD actually. You know DRYAD and MERCURY are still doing your instruction in these old Nissan huts, the wartime huts, really cold at times. We had this guy who was our tutor for navigation and he was always setting us tidal problems. You always had a tidal problem to do at night. I can remember his classic was, there was some Island that he had picked some where in the world and I forget the name of the Island. At such and such a time there was this woman, native woman who was standing on the island at low water and she was such and such a height. The height of her legs were so and so and you had to work out what time it was when it was going to get wet. He had masses of these funny problems. We went to sea in REDWOOD the destroyer and did our practical nav and pilotage up and down and between the forts in the Channel, in the Solent. We missed out on a trip to Norway or some where, but that was really designed for Long Course Navigators. We thought that we were going to get a place in there but we didn’t. Decca had just come in which we hadn’t really seen at sea and so that was quite valuable. DRYAD was quite a place. Of course now it is where the ST BARBARA’s functions are held. We also did fixes by Decca of the soccer posts at DRYAD for practise and I remember the brass boards with our names on from EXCELLENT, they are now in DRYAD.

We qualified, there were two New Zealanders on the course and two Canadians. The two Canadians had been on a Gunnery Instructors Course with Monty Gibbs and George Marshall, Arthur Thomas and Arthur Brush, they were in our Gunners Course, we had quite a course.

I had a flat in a house in Southsea right opposite South Parade Pier, one of those Georgian houses. I had been looking for flats to bring Joyce down to Portsmouth, because it meant going backwards and forwards in my 1939 Flying Standard to Weybridge at the weekends. We really wanted to be around in Portsmouth because of the benefits of doing the study there and of course long weekends weren’t so flush in those days, you got one a month or something if you were lucky. If there was something going on like a firing ship or something that we had to go to or down to Wembury or whatever. I don’t think it was called Cambridge then, I think it was still Wembury when we did the Gunners Course and so we got our wives down there. I got this flat. I had looked at lots of flats and you are paying three pound a week for something under the road level. I went there and into this house on South Parade Pier. We went up to the third floor. The chap who let it was a Mr Mitchell. He at that time was running the Portsmouth Aero Club, which in actual fact was where the Subs were doing their flying. He had a son who was a Pay Bob SD who had been appointed Captain of VICTORY ship. He re-decorated the top floor as a flat for his son and family. Then his son got posted to Malta and so he had this flat empty. We went and had a look at it. Well it had a massive bedroom in it, you needed a loud speaker to speak to one another, with a great Elizabethan sort of bed in it and wash basin and all the facilities and a most beautiful kitchen facing out over the Solent. It had a lounge, a massive lounge and two attic bedrooms. Mrs Mitchell said, “The only thing is we would like occasional use of those two attic bedrooms because we have got a daughter who comes over from Canada occasionally and in exchange for that we would have our woman who does for her do the stairs and the surrounds about. There was even a sideboard with 12 Pewter pint pots on it. It was fantastic, three pound a week.

Why I mention it is because when we finished our course we were looking for some where to have a party. Well we had a couple of beers in a pub and I said, “Well come and have the party at our place, we have got plenty of room.” Well we had the party in the bay window, all the class. Poor old Mrs Mitchell never said any thing to me, she said something to Joyce and then had a bit of a laugh. She was quite surprised when one of our number rolled down two flights of stairs at the end of the party. It was quite a party and that was our break up.

It was great delight that our Course Officer said, “Now your first duty when you qualify is going to be the Whale Island Summer Ball”, it was outside in marquees. We hadn’t got our kit. We got our kit on the Friday I suppose from Baker, Tailors and Pussers. We were pestered with naval tailors, Gieves and all those people, but the crafty old gunners who had been through the mill pointed most of us to Bakers. I have still got my Bakers Burberry and mess undress in excellent condition but shrunk. We got kitted up. Then we had to go to this ball. I said to a couple of them, “Well you had better come around to my place and we will dress each other”, because we had never worn a wing collar or a stiff shirt in my life. There we were getting dressed to go to the ball. Talk about Cinderella. The girls had the biggest laugh of the lot, because they were all dressed and watching all these antics. White waistcoats which didn’t have any waistcoat, just a false front. Any way away we went. Now the greatest thing as far as Ike Cliff and I were concerned was that John Mason, he qualified Long G and John said, “Don’t worry about it, I will be there. When we arrived in the taxis John Mason and Marge grabbed us and took us and introduced us around the function and the Whale Island Gunners and the Long G’s knew us from around our classes and all this fear soon went, by the time the evening was going, even the women were happy and relaxed. It was really a fantastic way to break the ice.

Yes it would be a bit difficult initially, especially if you hadn’t had much time in the Mess before.

Yes because we were unlike others doing qualifying courses who had been brought up in the Wardroom or in the gun room and whatever. The only time I had been in the gun room was when Mids like Streathfield James used to try and get us drunk in the battleships.

I remember Whale Island Balls they were quite something weren’t they?

We had one winter ball on a Dickens theme. The rooms were decorated as if they were from a Christmas card on Great Expectation’s halls. Yes the inside was going and they had two marquees with different types of dancing with a sprung floor in the marquee. It was the ball of Portsmouth. As the Long Course we were responsible for one of the winter balls, but that was a different thing which was done inside. No it was absolutely fantastic and a great introduction. Particularly the way the people had welcomed us into the community as it were. That included the Captain, Commander and they all came at some stage to see each one of us and introduce their wife to our wife. People suddenly felt that they belonged. Then we were sent off to sea to do our sea training. I was sent to HMS TINTAGEL CASTLE, which was a Castle Class frigate, which was based in Portland and was the second training squadron, anti submarine training squadron. I spent I can’t remember how long in there.

You were a member of the complement?

Yes I was the gunner.
This was your exchange service?

Yes it was to get experience with the Royal Navy. Afterwards they just piled them home. That was great because we had a squadron of about five Castle Class and I forget what D had, there were destroyers there. We worked for OSPREY as an anti submarine training ship and we used to get the AS training classes down and take them out and do the CASEX’s.

We had two Captains while I was there. The last one was Ed Brown, His wife had been a Fanny, one of these woman in Belgium during the war and we actually went on a cruise to Belgium and they more than welcomed the ship, they welcomed his wife. The other, I can’t remember his name and he was an ex submariner. There were three or four ex submariners in that squadron of FLINT CASTLE, PORCHESTER CASTLE and TINTAGEL CASTLE. Captain F was in GRENVILLE. We all used to set out on a Monday morning and we came back in the evenings.

They ran mostly for the TAS(I’s) and the ASW training classes, would I be right?

Yes and the Long Course guys and also Officer of the Watches for doing anti submarine CASEX’s and things.

Now those two CO’s really built my confidence up. I was Mr Fifield right from the day I stepped on there. I can remember the Captain telling one of the Lieutenants, “Now if you want any practical advice about personnel and all that sort of thing, you see Mr Fifield”. You would be on the bridge, I was not a Watch-Keeping Officer, I had little experience on the bridge, and I was always addressed by the Captain as Mr Fifield and he made sure that his other officers always addressed me as Mr Fifield.

What would they carry a Lieutenant Commander in command I suppose was it?

We had a Commander because we were F2 or whatever it was. We had a Navigating Officer. We had another Lieutenant and we had a Sub and a Gunner, which was myself and we had a Chief Tiff as the engineer and I was the Electrical Officer, because I had also done an electrical course. Gunners were made electrical officers because we did a COLLINGWOOD Course.

Were they one up from a Loch Class or one down from a Loch Class?

One down.

They had single screw didn’t they?

Yes a big single screw, great manoeuvring with a big rudder, we all had a chance of berthing her.

It noted very much when I came out here and went into KANIERE where I was only allowed to stand on the back of the bridge when they had the submarine out here. I had been doing CASEX’s off Portland. After I had been there a little while the Captain would go below and say, “Are you alright Mr Fifield” and you carry on the CASEX. I can remember stopping a CASEX and telling the course officer for a Long TAS Course to break off the attack, because I thought it was a bit too close, it wasn’t really. I know afterwards the Course Officer said something to the Captain and the Captain said, “No he is in charge of the ship on my behalf.” The Captain had a wee word in my ear. The first thing we used to do in the morning when we went out as a squadron was morning prayers. All the ships in Portland of our size and in fact were sometimes joined with cruisers we would go and do what they called morning prayers, which were the old fashioned manoeuvres. You would do grid irons etc. It was fantastic experience. You were supposed to know this by this time because you had ATP and all the manoeuvres of what we were going to do the next day. He would go through and make sure that you knew what you were going to do and away you went. They weren’t very fast I suppose, but going through the lines at 14 knots and what have you was great experience for the uninitiated.

That was always a tradition of Portland isn’t it, every ship that deployed on mass in the morning and you always did an officer of the watch series of manoeuvres first off.

What guns, that would just be a 4 inch up front or something?

Yes and I had the Squid. We didn’t have Hedgehog. We had depth charges down aft. I was Quarter Deck Officer, I was Divisional Officer to I think the Miscellaneous Division. The other thing was, I was Electrical Officer and this was quite the thing when we actually arrived in Brussels a 17 inch engine room fan burnt out. I only had what they called an LEMX, which was a Rocky or a special service LEM on board. We had to take this big fan out and take the armature out and put a new armature in and find out what spare we wanted to get it flown in. Every time that there was an electrical problem I would get sent for. The Chief Tiff he had an interest in electrics and so we used to get the book out and have a read of it. There were also the generators, light bulbs the lot, it was certainly throwing you in at the deep in. I think the Captains used to think, “Now who is going to tackle that one”. We had a boatswain as well.

What was the rank then, were you a Sub Lieutenant or were you a Commissioned Gunner?

No I was a Commissioned Gunner I was a thin stripe, I was a Branch Officer. The Canadians immediately were Sub Lieutenants. It is at this time while I was in Whale Island on that course that the Brits were having re-thinks and trying to sort out the difference between General List and Branch Officers and SD Officers. They were pluming for having SD Officers with SD on their buttons, which wasn’t going down very well at all.

Whale Island was anti this, particularly the Long Course guys. Eventually and the Brits were saying that if you had done a Long Course then you should be a General List Officer, this SD business would have died, the Special Duties list would have died, but we soldiered on with it. Some SD officers who qualified for instance as Navigators were on a lower class as it were than General List who had never qualified for any thing beyond what they qualified for on their Subs Courses. We had a great team in that squadron. We eventually got a house halfway between Portland and Weymouth. We had a ball. It was hard work. I was also wine caterer, tobacco caterer and all the odds and ends.

The Captain had confidence in you, when we had finished CASEX’s or whatever it was he would say, “Okay Guns, is there any thing around?” “No Sir”, he would say, “Surface the submarine”, and you would fire your five charges or whatever it was. You would get into position and after the class is ready you would scream down the voice pipe to him, “Ready to commence the CASEX Sir”, and dive the submarine. He would say, “Very well, report to me when the submarine is happy”, and you would do all that.

When I joined KANIERE here I was in charge of making the grenades up. I felt really out of it because one lone submarine out in the Gulf here and I wasn’t allowed on the bridge except to watch and supply grenades.

How long did you spend in the TINTAGEL CASTLE?

Well until I went to qualify Fire Control dagger gunner, off hand I can’t say, probably over 12 months.

What was the rest of the time over in UK?

No because when I completed that time in there I then went back to Whale Island and did the Fire Control Gunners Course, what they used to call the Dagger Gunner’s Course.

(end of Tape 18)

(beginning of Tape 19)

Vic when we left last time you had just finished the time in the Castle Class TINTAGEL CASTLE and you were heading back to Whale Island to do the Fire Control Gunner’s Course or the Dagger Gunner’s Course I think was another name for it.

When I was in TINTAGEL CASTLE I don’t know if I have mentioned it, there was a class of boys, a group of boys came to Portland and they were put in our flotilla or squadron, I think we were a flotilla or a second training squadron. Any way they were in the Castle Class. PORCHESTER CASTLE was tied up alongside us and in those ships the whole wardroom, Captains and every thing were like a team. A lot of these people were ex destroyer officers and there were ex submariners and it was that sort of feeling within that flotilla a great comradeship, not unlike the submarine squadron whom we worked very closely with and partied and played with and things like that. I got a message for me to go over and see the CO of PORCHESTER CASTLE. I went over and saw the CO of PORCHESTER CASTLE, he said, “For our sins, we have got so many boys, New Zealand boys”. I suppose they were over there then before the ROYALIST changed over or something like that and they had put them to sea in the Second Training Squadron.

This would be fifty five?

Yes that’s right.

Yes that would be right because as a cadet we served for a period in a frigate and there were New Zealand boys in this frigate.

Any way these guys came and when any thing was said to them, they said, “Oh no we don’t do that in the New Zealand Navy”, which is the same as every New Zealand sailor has tried on some where along the line. If I said, “Why didn’t you go to church this morning?” you would say, “Well you don’t have our church”, “What’s that, Bush Baptist”. They would say, “No we don’t wear badges in the New Zealand Navy” or whatever it was. “We are allowed to wear dicky fronts”, you were allowed to do this and what have you. They didn’t say anything. I don’t think we were wearing shoulder flashes in those days and I was just a new gunner straight out of Whale Island and I was a pretty brisk sort of a person any way. I think Keith Knight was among them. I have met several that were in there and he had these bloody problems. He said, “Well they are not real problems because they are just crafty boys, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea if you introduced yourself and say that you are an ex Gunnery Instructor from New Zealand. Did they have any problems and make it straight that they were in an RN ship and the RN was exactly the same as it was in the RNZN in those days”. I said that if it is necessary that I will come along and assist their Divisional Officer, and the whole thing shut up. That sorted that lot out.

I remember them quite well because they stood out in our ship because it was winter time and we were all still in black caps, the RN were wearing black caps and they had their white caps and they really did stand out. I can’t remember whether they had shoulder flashes or not, but certainly the white caps made them different.

Just going back to that ship we had some pretty hard playing parties in the Wardroom. I can remember one occasion we had a Sub Lieutenant, a very pompous chap and he played the proper RN. He had a bowler hat and an umbrella and these things. He always had his hair cut at Gieves, but he never had any money if he wanted to buy any thing. If he heard you saying, “I think I had better get a new pair of shoes”, he would say, “I will get those for you, I will get those through my tailor”. Of course what happened was you would pay him, he would put that on his account and he had enough to live on for a day or two. It might have been the New Zealanders, but somebody came on board to see me and they came through the upper cabin flat to get down to the Wardroom and there on this Sub’s bunk is his brolly and his bowler hat”. I said, “Gooh”, a bit of a skylark going on. So we put the umbrella and the bowler hat up on the 277 aerial and of course when the Sub came back, he went to the CO who was a hell of a nice chap and it all turned out to be a bit of a laugh.

We had two very good CO’s in there, one was Ed Brown, who I think I have mentioned, who was a Fleet Air Arm observer and everybody in the squadron watched him when he first came alongside. He was the half leader, we were the half leader, he was a Commander and we thought he was going to stuff it up, but no perfect. Then after that he would say, “Guns your turn today” or whatever, a great guy. It was his wife who was in the Fanny, she was the agent in the Second World War and we had a bigger welcome for her when we went up to Brussels than we did for the ship.

We had another CO, Commander Norman Carrington and he left TINTAGEL CASTLE to become CO of HAWKE and therefore would have been involved with other New Zealanders. We had somebody die and so he went up to the funeral. He took a bus load of sailors up to the funeral, up to the Midlands somewhere, and when he got back to the gate, the Portland Dockyard gate the policeman had been briefed by our Navigating Officer who happened to be Officer of the Day. We had the Fire Brigade in and God knows what else, (they were expecting, the Captain to return) to let the Captain know when they come through the gate. He let the bus in and he ran down through the Dockyard to his ship that was on fire. It wasn’t really, it was oily rag in the tiller flat and waste, something which made smoke. Yes I will never forget him. He was another gentleman, he had been a submariner during the war in submarines. Several of the CO’s and Jimmy’s in the 2nd Training Squadron were ex submariners, some ex POW’s too. Another chap that was there was a chap who was out here in actual fact at one time, Lieutenant Commander Garnet, he was a Lieutenant out here, but he was a well decorated CO of the gunboats in the Channel during the war. The next time I saw him he was actually driving a flotilla of these things. He used to come into Portland and tie up alongside the squadron ships. I used to think that he was a bit of a dill out here in New Zealand, he was a real white hanky and you couldn’t see his finger nails for the length of his cuff, but there he was. He was back to driving MTB’s and was a well respected chap.

He was full of dash?

Full of dash yes.

Another person that was associated with us was the chap who was in X-craft during the war, they had a few left and he was now driving one of these. He was telling us and I having done the Divers Course with the suit with that re-circulating lung where the CO2 went through Protosol and removed CO2. When you get a rip in the bladder, the salt water gets onto to the Protosol and produces this burning gas that just burns your lungs out. Well they were having an exercise with one of these, two man submarines I think they were two men and a diver and they were playing around in Portland Harbour. They would dive and come underneath the ships anchored and at buoys. This craft got out of control and was going out through the breakwater. I can remember seeing him standing up on the casing. They sent boats away to the rescue and his diver had this problem. The diver had I believed ripped the lung off his closed circuit respirator circuit and was suffering burning of the lungs. While I was down there as well the submarine depot ship TYNE or it might have been MEDWAY who had an explosion. They were experimenting with the peroxide torpedoes, because they had the torpedo experimental range there, Whitecliffs. The explosion caused damage and a fatality.

It was an HTP wasn’t it, Hydrogen Peroxide Torpedo?

Yes that’s right, a Hydrogen Peroxide Torpedo, and that’s when the RN gave them away I think. It was in one of the forward workshops in the depot ship where they had this mighty explosion.

I must have been somewhere around that time, because I can remember that. There was some RN doctor who did an extraordinary brave act to rescue whoever was badly burnt or damaged.

Yes I can’t remember the details of it.

I have got vague memories of an RN doctor who got himself covered in glory for his bravery.

Yes that brought back great memories of when I was in Portland with KG5 and then after that with the DUKE OF YORK. I can remember being in Portland Harbour there with KG5, HOWE, ANSON, a couple of aircraft carriers, goodness knows how many cruisers and destroyers. They used to send part of the battle ships band around the fleet in boats to play at the church services in the destroyers on the Sunday mornings.

Lots of people hated Portland and we didn’t like it when I was in the battle ship because you never had two watch leave, it was only first part of port and then the first part of starboard. On leave one part of watch at a time. Some leave expired at 6 o’clock in the evening because there wasn’t the facilities around for everybody.

Yes it was restricted because there were few facilities ashore?

Yes unless you showed that you either lived there. We lived halfway between Portland and Weymouth.

A very barren place in winter wasn’t it. I can remember the pub outside the Dockyard gate which wasn’t exactly the greatest spot on earth.

But there were a few good pubs around that area with skittles. In Weymouth it was a great place for a social life if you knew your way around, away from where the tourists were. We spent a lot of time up at Moonfleet, the pub up at Moonfleet where the Moonfleet stories with the pirates and Captain Moonfleet were based. I re-read the book a couple of times after I had been to Moonfleet and even read it again recently.

Our Captain at that time was a very wealthy man and about once a month or so he would put on a party for the ship’s company at the Moonfleet, buses laid on and all the beer and cider laid on. He would come along too and we would play skittles and have a wonderful time. It was a good social life for Joyce and I really, except the dangerous cocktail parties in submarines. I got wise to it after I had been there a while, because I had quite sometime in Portland. We always went early to get under the conning tower, which was where the fresh air was, because I was disastrous if you drank submarine Horses Necks in the foul area and then you walk out. The submariners didn’t put a gangway out with two guardrails, not even for the ladies at a cocktail party. I can remember the first thing we always did was stand on the jetty and you took your wife’s shoes off and put them in your pocket until you got down and then they put them on when they got inside the sub. The sub sailors would say, “Don’t forget your shoes madam, give them to your husband”, and then reverse the process as your went out. Of course when you went out and you hit the air, you got over that little bit of gangway as fast as you could.

You went from there straight back to Whale Island?

Back to Whale Island, which was a bit of a shock to the system for the dagger or fire control gunners course.

How long was that for, just a short period or a lengthy period?

It would be two or three months, I will have a look, four months from August `56 to December `56.

We couldn’t go back into our flat in Southsea, my wife by that time was pregnant and because of the steps up to the third floor and breathing problems as well, it wasn’t sensible. We took a little house in Porchester, just past Porchester Castle, going between Pompey and Fareham. This house had cracked walls. The walls were cracked when the barge of explosives at Priddys Hard exploded and all the houses opposite in Porchester were damaged in some way or another. We settled into there and I settled in back to the Island. It was a bit better in the Island at this stage, because we were already gunners, but of course we still started off in the same manner of the parade ground. I think by that time we were wearing battle dress as our course uniform with anklets. I am not even sure that we had anklets. I made a mistake on Friday Divisions, the laws of the jungle as it were still applied to fire control gunners qualifying even in their dignified state. You used to get the shake up if you made a mistake on the parade ground.

This was just literally fire control?

Yes. We had done all the gunners accounting stuff and general gunnery, Diving Supervising Officer and Electrical Officer Courses etc.

This was what just TS’s and directors basically?

A lot of radar, fire control, ballistics, electronics, maths and theory. TS’s and directors and radar and a bit of ops room, because in some of those destroyers the fire control gunner was also what you now call PWO(G). The dagger gunnery in a bigger ship (cruiser) was responsible for calculating ballistics for all weapons and TS crews drill and control and gun direction.

What was the technology of the time?

I think MRS was coming out, MRS3. I am just trying to think of the systems, but I think we were still into battle class STAAG 293, 277, 282, 275 etc. Gun direction systems had also come into service.

ROYALIST had just commissioned, she was the first Flyplane 5 virtually, except for HMS CARRON, in fact I served as a midshipman in CARRON for a while and I think she might have been the trial ship for Flyplane 5.

Yes I think Flyplane 5 and I think there was a bit of MRS3 because it was looming over the horizon and 275 radar, 262 and STAAG and those systems.

My daughter was born. I said to my wife, “Joyce, I have told the Course Officer and I have also mentioned it to Commander G that I think I might not be able to stay or go to the dinner tonight because it looked like she was due to go into the home. She had her bag packed. I was quite prepared when I got home and said I will probably not be back. When I got home Joyce had laid out my mess undress and every thing and she said, “No I’m alright, I don’t think anything is going to happen, I know where to get hold of you, you go off to the dinner”. I said, “Well I won’t play up tonight, I will be home early as soon as the dinner is over”, which I did. I got out as fast as I could and got home. That was fine, off we went to bed and sometime after that which wouldn’t have been much more beyond about half past 11 or something, she said, “I think something is happening, I think you had better get me into hospital”. It was all arranged, we wanted to go into the Navy’s private maternity hospital there, but they said, “No, given her condition, they would probably put her into the public hospital where the facilities were, so she might as well go straight to the public hospital”. I said, “Oh no it can’t be, it’s just a twinge, roll over, it will be alright”. She said, “No seriously”. I said, “I will go down, because we didn’t have a telephone on in those days, not every naval officer had a telephone”. I went down to the call box and I rang the nursing sister and she said, “Bring her in immediately”. I took her into St Mary’s in Portsmouth and I went back home to bed. I don’t think any thing happened that day. The next night I had been in and seen her and then I rang at 11 o’clock at night, nothing had happened. So I turned in again and the next morning I rang in at about 7 o’clock or something like that and they said, “Oh yes, you have got a daughter”. There was no way of communicating. I said to my wife afterwards, “There you go off half cock again”. We spent quite a bit of our time on that course at Eastney and we spent quite a bit of the time at Wembury and in the firing ships.

Did they have a specialist firing ship in those days?


Attached to Whale Island?

It was between Whale Island, Chatham and Devonport.

A destroyer or something like that?

Yes I think MYNGS was one and there was another one as well. REDPOLE was firing ship for one of my courses.

That would be a good ship to have too.

Yes it was a Battle class with Fly 5. You were running around changing rounds and you did your shoot from the director and from the TS and then you went through all the numbers. You had guns crews there who were doing their firing ship as well but very often there was a vacancy and they said, “Well will anybody like to go into the turret”. It was a well rounded course, there was no doubt about it, Whale Island really had it right in that sphere of training.

There was never any shortage of ammunition?


You got so many rounds a man or something. I think we used to get 25 rounds per person and when you sum it up in the totality of the course and everyone doing it, it is a lot of ammunition.

Yes it was heavy firing. The firing ships would change their barrels regularly. You had a go from every side of it. A thorough practical training in every position of the Surface Gunnery Control Courses include practical ops room plotting, weapon designation etc. We also did STAAG firings at Fraser Battery and 4.5 at Wembury before the firing ship.

Ed Brown was the Captain of TINTAGEL CASTLE when we paid TINTAGEL CASTLE off. I paid TINTAGEL CASTLE off in Devonport when ROYALIST was commissioning. We sailed from Portland with paying off pennant.

I was the last officer to serve in TINTAGEL CASTLE. TINTAGEL CASTLE was said to have had Egypt or some other Middle East country interested in buying her. She was despite her years in good condition.

The day I was leaving her, my car, a Standard Flying 12 loaded with my gear alongside the gangway when a Commander from the Reserve Fleet summoned me to order me to clean up the waterline and paint the boot topping. I had one rating and he was drafted to barracks. The last time I saw TINTAGEL CASTLE was this rating LEM on a punt with long Tom, pot and two working the water line. All because a Flag Officer was going to walk around the yard.

I had friends in the Petty Officer’s Mess in ROYALIST like Cowan and Raven and what have you, they used to come down and stay with me in Portland and I took them down into the Wardroom of TINTAGEL CASTLE as my New Zealand compatriots. I would have to sneak up the after gangway of the after PO’s Mess in ROYALIST while they were down in Guzz. When Ed Brown left, he commanded PELLEW, which was one of the new Type 14 frigates, he said, “Why don’t you take direct promotion”, he said, “I am prepared to recommend you for direct promotion”. I like a fool then, when I look back on it said, “I would like to do the Gunnery Fire Control Course”, that was my interest at that time, “And get back to New Zealand”. When I was on the Fire Control Gunnery Course he wrote to me again and offered to take me in to complete my Watch-keeping Ticket, because I needed a few more weeks for my watch-keeping ticket, he would take me into PELLEW, but the New Zealand Navy, “No”.

That’s a shame, because there are quite a few people, a lot of my branch did that at the time. I am thinking of Peter Laker, Nobby Clark, they all some how got direct promotion didn’t they. I don’t know of any seaman branch who did it, but there was quite a few. There seems to be a time when that was encouraged wasn’t it.

The guy who qualified gunner with me, Ike Clift was offered it and he took it and he died unfortunately while he was on the course. Then George Glyde I think was a direct promotion. Peter Silk was an upper yardman who went to HAWKE just ahead of me. There were a few seamen. Engineers, Pay Bobs etc. on the SD List were always promoted where seaman were not. There was supposed to have been no difference in branch, but seaman GL jealously guarded the brass hat prospects. I think Charlie Middlemiss was the first in the late 1970’s or 80’s and Sandy Herlihy the day before he left with nearly 40 years service. There was nobody in my time except EOS and SOS.

Joe Quinn, would he be direct promotion?

Joe Quinn was direct promotion.

There were a few of them weren’t there?

Yes the RN, the New Zealanders had a fairly good reputation in the warrant or in the commissioned ranks as it was then. I wish I had taken it up, it would have made a bit of difference I suppose, but I opted for fire control and to stick with it. It was going to be another couple of years or whatever in UK. I talked it over with Joyce and we decided to come back.

You then returned straight to New Zealand did you with brand new baby and all?

Yes and came out in RANGITANE with brand new babe. I think my daughter was born in the November and she came as a babe, just a few months old in RANGITANE. I had a job back on the Island for a little while there.

On the staff or something?

I had a job in the International Publications Section for sometime and I was there researching 6” turret handbooks and drills for the film “Battle of the River Plate”.

I then went to MORECOMBE BAY. MORECOMBE BAY had been in reserve and they were bringing MORECOMBE BAY out of reserve and so I was the Gunnery Officer, trials gunner to bring it out of reserve for both gunnery and I think for the Asdic weapons. I think she had Hedgehog.

Where was this in Portsmouth?

In Portsmouth yes and did the sea trials. Our base was VANGUARD.

Yes that’s right because VANGUARD was berthed there wasn’t she?

Yes she was reserve fleet depot ship. ABERCROMBIE was there an old monitor.

There was a huge reserve fleet wasn’t there with moorings after moorings of frigates and what have you?

Yes and we used to have to do these rounds as a guard boat of the reserve fleet. I don’t think I did many duties there. There was the Engineer Officer and the First Lieutenant and myself who were the team for MORECOMBE BAY. The First Lieutenant and I and may be the Engineer Officer used to work over the weekends that one of us would be in Portsmouth and that was because they had a reserve fleet team who looked after the security of all the vessels. We brought her forward and not only weapons, we brought her forward seamanship wise as well. We got her cables in, anchors, boats and rigged awnings and tested them and went through a complete set of trials to bring her up to operational standard except for ammunition, perishables and victualling stores. When we took her out for trials they could have put a ship’s company into her because she was ready. On completion of trials all these things were bundled up and put down between decks and stowed away with the labels on. I remember my father was over in Pompey there and I was trying to get him to have a trip or two, but he wasn’t all that over keen. We then put her back into reserve, bundled every thing up and sealed it up.

I see she wasn’t being commissioned?

No she was brought forward from reserve to operational and then went out and did engine trials, gun trials and the whole thing. You did all your gunnery calibrations and your datums, checked all the datums and all the director datums in the gun bay and ran all the hoists and did all that sort of thing and then put it back into reserve, so that she was ready to go. They had different notice didn’t they?

They really looked after reserve ships in those days.

Yes they had three days notice and so many weeks notice. They used to have these exercises of calling people up. In the barracks you had big exercises where they got hundreds of sailors around, you started at the barrack gate and you came out as a new kitted up as a newly kitted sailor. You would have bits of paper that you got stamped and doctors looked at you and they said, “Right oh, you are such and such a ship”, and it all tied in together.

They did a lot with reserve ships in those days out here in New Zealand. Remember we had them dehumidified and gun mounts were covered with that silver covered sprayed plastic over canvas or something.

Yes and you also had alongside electronic plates with a current racing through, cathodic protection.

They were very handsome little ships those Bay Class frigates weren’t they?

MORECOMBE BAY and ST AUSTELL BAY were among those serving on the Far East Squadron and came out to New Zealand. Yes they were the ultimate actually, they were a beautiful ship and were much better than the Lochs with comfortable Wardrooms. That was quite an experience too because that was something that was done pretty thoroughly and the Reserve Fleet Staff Officers were most helpful and you had a strict manual to go through and gunnery wise you had the team from the Island any way. They had their own gunnery and they had their own OE’s in the Reserve Fleet. Then we went out and did firings and then sponged out and they came and put the plugs in and sprayed it over and that was that.

Okay so back to New Zealand?

Then back to New Zealand from there.

That would be a bit of a shock to the system I suppose?

It was a nice 5 weeks in RANGITANE which when I look back on it now, I had about four of those trips. I did RANGITANE and I did MATAROA and ATLANTIS. They were real cruises. The poor man’s world cruise really. If you took full advantage of those passenger trips they were fantastic. I look back on it now and couldn’t afford even part of the voyage.

I put my uniform in the wardrobe in the cabin and the steward came in and said, “Oh Navy Officer, I am an ex Navy steward”. When we used to come down after any function he would say, “Don’t worry about the baby, I will keep my eye on it here”. We had a cot. They could only get beer I think in their canteen, he was a Scotsman and I used to get him a couple of whiskeys and leave them on our wardrobe and when we got back there was always a little parcel of chicken or turkey. Once again with the help of ex navy stewards in merchant ship, it was fantastic, because they really looked after their naval officers again. It just goes to show you that they had respect for naval officers. Some of them would have you believe that they despised them, but after they left the service they were still proud of that association. I never put my uniform on again on the ship until we got to Auckland.

(end of Tape 19)

(beginning of Tape 20)

We are back in New Zealand.

Yes we came out in the RANGITANE and we had a little Navy team there. Commander Sampson came out as CO of TAMAKI with his wife and kids and his Nanny, Margaret the Nanny. She had the cabin next to us, so that worked out well, because she kept an eye on our babe as well. Monty Montgomery, he was an electrical engineer, he left the Navy and he became the first manager of the Oasis Motel down here. When he left the Navy he had kennels out in Albany. I met Monty at the 1997 Leander Reunion and he was hale and hearty as President of the Ex Submariners Association. We got lumbered into the entertainments committee and all that sort of thing on the way out and we had a pretty full trip. We made some good friends there. There was Terry Welch and his wife who was Dougie Bamfield’s sister. They tell me Dougie Bamfield has gone to Queensland. I was trying to contact him in Auckland and somebody said, “No he is off to Queensland”. We had a good team and enjoyed our way out. I never had my uniform out, but I had a dinner jacket or something which was suitable for when they had a dinner. We were at the Chief Officer’s table.

We arrived in Auckland and I put my uniform on by which time I was a Sub Lieutenant as opposed to a commissioned gunner with a thick stripe and sat down at the table. One of the woman at the table said, “Oh are you a Customs Officer?”, she thought I was a Customs Officer and had been spying on them all the whole way out. We were met by somebody in Auckland and taken off and the Navy had booked us into the Esplanade Hotel for Sub Lieutenant and Mrs Fifield and Miss Fifield. Here is our tot who is booked in as Miss Fifield with a single room on the front of the Splade. We said, “Really we would prefer that she was in the bedroom”. They had no cots and the housemaid was very helpful and pulled out the bottom drawer of the duchess and got her own fur coat of nylon I suppose and put it in a plastic cover. Dr Sprott who is worried about cot deaths would have a fit, and she made up a bunk in this drawer for babe and that is how she slept. I often say to Sue if we are at Devonport and I will say to the grandchildren, “Now that is where your mother first slept when she first came to New Zealand in the duchess drawer”. I went along to PHILOMEL, they didn’t want me for a couple of days and I thought that was generous of them and I thought I might have got a bit more leave or something, but anyway I got a Navy house in Beresford Street. I think we might have been the first or second in that house. It was a corner house right on the corner of Beresford Street with access straight down to the beach, a little beach where we eventually used to have a boat. All sorts of people came backwards and forwards through there. There was Ted Roberts at one stage and Doug Domett.

I think I can remember you, I think Dave Abernathy or somebody might have been near you?

Yes Dave Abernathy was just one above me and we used to baby-sit for Dave Abernathy’s first wife Lillian. Next door was Ken Rutherford, both he and Rose are dead now. He was a greenie. He was an ex RN commissioned electrical officer. Then just a little bit further along we had the Watts, Gerry Freeth was over the road and George Hannan was down the road. George’s wife Della Hannan, she was a well known lady who carried her naval rank quite well. George Hannan was the Gunnery Officer of PHILOMEL anyway at the time, very swept up was George, a very good gunner and a very good home brewer. He used to have his home brew done in lot numbers under the house in bottle racks, but it was the best home brew that I have tasted, that old fashioned way of home brewing. George Hannan was a Dagger Gunner and I believe he was one of the Daggers (old and bold) who were given long course (G) status. Bob Norman, Frank Clarke (RN) were among those in the RNZN who served here who were so honoured. We had a great naval community there, it was very good really. People were extremely kind. I can remember talking to Vic Sutherland in the Base, the Chief Electrician. When we went there all we had left from our flat that we were in before going to the UK was stored at Naval Stores for us, would that be right when we went overseas.

Yes that is how they did it in those days.

Yes and when we came back, I think we gave the beds away or something, but we had a couple of mattresses, because we had some good quality mattresses we thought that we would hang onto those because it had taken a long time to save up to get them. We had these mattresses on the floor and we had a cot. We came out with an English style pram that you could convert into a bassinet and cot. I think we used that in the cabin on the way out as well as opposed to the cot. We had a spare bunk. I think we had a three bunk cabin and we were able to put the kid’s bassinet there. I can remember my daughter crawling around the cabin floor, she was just starting to move around, taking the labels off the blankets and sucking the labels off the baggage, good pusser’s paste. Vic Sutherland said, “Oh I’ve got a spare bed”. He was living in a naval house just up the road from where we were, off King Edward Avenue. He said after work, “Come around and we will get this bed”. I went around and there was the bed and we marched all the way down King Edward Avenue with the bed. Others helped out until we got ourselves settled in and got our own furniture and stuff.

They were funny days those late fifties and early sixties weren’t they, because we never had any money and you were given these strange Navy houses. You were given these state houses which had no furniture and nobody could afford washing machines or any of the things that young people of today expect as of right. I wonder how we all survived sometimes.

Yes that is right. We were allowed in UK to buy direct from the factory and you didn’t have to pay tax on it.

It was while I was on that Dagger’s Course that we bought a fridge and we were one of the few that had a fridge, we had a brand new fridge, a little Electrolux. We had a couple of goodies like that, that we had bought. We bought a dinner set and we bought some cutlery and things while we were there. We used to go down to the markets at Charlotte Street and I have still got some of the gold rimmed 22 carat gold tea sets that we came out with. I can remember the Engineer Officer in MORECOMBE BAY saying, “Oh you’re going back to New Zealand, well now get yourself a decent trunk? Oh right oh” and so the next thing. I have still got it under the house, this big black box, the pusser’s black box all painted black and it even had my name Sub Lieutenant V.W. Fifield and big G little g dagger sign written on the top.

That was part of the spare gear?

Something like that. I bought an old trunk down at one of the markets which is still full of clothes now. We literally sat on the box at times in Beresford Street. I went and got some cheap paint. The first thing we did was get the garden in. I think it is quite important that the efforts of a person like Percy Stoner who took over from Mao Harris who was the Padre who between them had developed the Naval Housing scheme. In the rating’s housing I think it led to some problems and particularly those flats in Ngataringa Bay Road which was a good scheme and a good every thing. I can remember from a welfare point of view that some young wives of sailors who were away for long commissions caused some problems with young sailors who were left behind, there were problems there. Also they used to talk about each other and “Why is my husband getting this and your husband not getting that”, jealousies. However, they were a great innovation. That was a beautiful house that we had really when one comes to think of it, almost brand new, three bedroom state house on a corner section.

It was `46/47 before they even thought of Navy housing at all. Somebody was telling me that BELLONA’s Welfare Committee actually put forward a remit that Navy housing be created and that was the kernel that started it all. No it is quite amazing.

I was never in the Navy housing as a rating.

A lot of it was built by ex Navy people as part of their rehab training.

Yes somebody told me that.

Eddy Buckler known as Buck, he spent two years building Navy houses learning to be a builder when he left the Navy.

EVT, Educational Vocational Training.

What happened to you, what ship were you posted to?

I went to KANIERE. I went to KANIERE I suppose to get watch-keeping or to fill up a hole in KANIERE. Yes that’s right with Dennis O’Donoghue and Mike Saull.

Dennis was Captain?

No he wasn’t when I joined actually, because that is a very interesting thing. Where did I go and how did I get informed where I was going. I was hanging around the Gunnery School and C.C. Stevens was the Captain of PHILOMEL. His First Lieutenant was Lieutenant Commander Jim Lennox-King. They didn’t have a Commander they had a First Lieutenant, Lennox-King. I was in PHILOMEL additional which was the appointment from MAORI and so I went down the Gunnery School in the forenoon and hung around there. When I joined I went to the First Lieutenant and said, “When does the Captain want to see me and when do I do my joining routine? Because I got there at 8 o’clock thinking that the Captain would send for me at 9 o’clock, that was the RN normal sort of thing. Lieutenant Commander Lennox-King said, “We are not quite sure where you are supposed to be, so we will wait until we find out what your appointment is before you see the Captain, so you won’t join PHILOMEL formally”. I went back down to the Gunnery School. I am walking along the road behind the galley and the Deputy Director of Personnel (N) was Commander Carr and he was responsible for the appointments. I saluted him and said, “Excuse me Sir, Fifield just returned from UK, is my appointment out ?”, “Oh KANIERE”. I said, “When Sir?” he said, “Now”, this is sometime in the forenoon after I had seen Lennox-King. I saw Jim Lennox-King again and he said, “Well we will confirm that with Commander Carr at lunch time before we do any thing”.

In those days in PHILOMEL’s dining room where they now have the settees and chairs was where they had the bar which was set out with table clothes on, it wasn’t a formal bar like we have got now. That was the billiard room where the bar is now, but the bar was in the anti room to the dining room there. So we were in there and then Laurie Carr came through and so Lennox-King bails him up and he says, “Yes that’s right this afternoon, go down and join after lunch”. I had my lunch and went down as I was. I left my medals and things in the Gunnery School. I asked George Hannan I think who was in there and I said, “George can I leave all of these here until I find out exactly where I am going, where and what”. I strode over to KANIERE in my best Whale Island manner and the Captain was Val Weir, Commander Weir, he was on the gangway and so I waited for him. He was actually on the gangway, I waited for him to get inboard and so I went inboard with him and asked who I was, “I have been sent to join you Sir”. “Join us”, he said, “We are going into reserve, we are going to put KANIERE into reserve”. “Well”, I said, “I have just been sent to join you”. While we were having this conversation, he gets a pink signal, which says, “Stop going into reserve”. She had come back from the Far East and had a fairly unhappy commission, this is what I gather. All of a sudden she was decommissioning and the sailors were looking forward to going on leave as soon as all the stores had been returned. They were actually trucking things off the gangway, when all of a sudden just as I come on board they say, “Stop”, and have it all put back together again. I joined with Val Weir as the CO and John Caddell (retired as Rear Admiral I understand) was an RN Lieutenant who was the First Lieutenant. He was a very nice good guy actually and I think he is married out here to one of the Todd’s, would that be right, farming, down in Hawkes Bay I think. The Navigating Officer was a Lieutenant Murray, the engineer was Jock Baxter and Jock Baxter lived opposite me and so they put the thing back together. Then Val Weir was relieved by Dennis O’Donoghue and Mike Saull became the First Lieutenant.

We are going along and I am not sure whether it had been running or not. I think we might still have been getting ourselves back into the commissioning stage, DOD in the chair. John Caddell was still the First Lieutenant and Lieutenant Murray was the Navigating Officer. I had had some experience with ceremonial in my life time up until then. I was Officer of the Day and I went to do colours and these two instead of coming on the quarter deck like you would do colours, they were supervising me doing colours from the jetty. That didn’t go down too well with me. I put it to them that I was quite capable of doing colours in a Loch class frigate without them sneaking up and then telling me what was wrong or right. We got over that little hump. This was engineered by Lieutenant Murray I am sure. The sailors weren’t very happy and I was going through the officer’s cabin flat and standing at the table was Lieutenant Murray, who was Officer of the Day. There was the Coxswain, Shallcrass he was ex RN and in front of the table was Able Seaman Hard who was a bit of a skate anyway. He wasn’t too well liked by some of the sailors. He fell over the side of a liberty boat in the Bay of Islands when we were there. I often quote it to my classes, “Always throw something to people you want to use as flotation, throw it to them not at them”, because they threw bloody great logs at him, chunks of wood at him. He wasn’t very popular. Defaulters were after stand easy. During stand easy this AB had organised the boatswain’s mate to make a pipe, “Everybody muster on the seamen’s mess deck” at lunch time. They were unhappy with their leave and what they were really out to do was have a good old chat amongst themselves about it and then go to the coxswain and say how about it, can they see the First Lieutenant, which you would do nowadays in a reasonable manner. But this officer Murray went off half cock and as I walked past the table, this would be in the stand easy in the afternoon, Able Seaman Hard is being charged to attempting to incite a mutiny and there is nobody standing there. I just happened to go past and I said, “Excuse me Sir, there is nobody standing as Divisional Officer for Able Seaman Hard”. I don’t think he was in my division actually, but I said, “I will stand by him”, and had the case stood over until Hard had proper representation. There had been this feeling in the ship and you could feel it, I had never experienced it in a ship before. Because most of my ships had been happy ships and we had lots of fun and the sailors were always cheerful about things, even though they were down trodden and like Tony Chadwick says, “Living in the jungle”, but they were always cheerful on board. There was just a feeling you see.

Any way I got hold of Jock Baxter. Jock Baxter was the more experienced officer in the ship. I said to Jock, “I am a bit bloody worried about this Jock, I think I ought to go to the Captain, I don’t like shopping a couple of Lieutenants, what do you think?” Jock being an Engineer Officer, even though being just a junior officer had the ear of the Captain. I didn’t know DOD very well, he had a bit of reputation I found out. Any way Jock says, “Yes, I think you are right, I notice it, it is not affecting my branch at the moment, if you think that way, don’t you worry about those other buggers” he said, “You go and see father”. Up I went and knocked on the door, “Yes come in”. I said, “I don’t know how to approach this”, and I sat down and I said to him, “I have never had this feeling in the ship before”, and I told him what had happened. These Lieutenants used to go around after stand easy and chase people off the mess decks and things like that, where they had a perfectly good coxswain and buffer and all those people to do the job. They would pick on people who were playing cards, “What are doing down here playing cards”, and doing this sort of thing. DOD in his normal methodical way was out with his pen and paper and wrote it all down as I said. He said, “Well I am going up to see the Commodore, I want you to stay on board until I have been and would you ask the First Lieutenant to see me. John Caddell went up to see him and he said, “I am going up to see the Commodore, I want you to remain on board until I come back”, and he didn’t tell him what it was. I was taking over the gunner’s stores from John Caddell because he was leaving and Mike Saull was coming as First Lieutenant. He said, “I have got to stay on board until the Captain comes back”. I said, “I have too”. He said, “Well when the Captain comes back I will give you a lift home in my car”. When the Captain came back he sent for John Caddell and he says, “You are out of the ship at 9 o’clock in the morning”, so I didn’t get my lift home. I felt sorry for John Caddell and I have never seen him since I don’t think. I think he went back to the RN. Lieutenant Murray stayed and I think he was the problem. I suppose John Caddell should have been strong enough to sling that one. They both went the next morning and then Mike Saull joined and things started to tick again a bit.

Who were the other officers there after Mike Saull came?

We still had Jock Baxter. When Lieutenant Murray went we had another RN guy came to join us, Gerry Plumber and he became the Navigating officer.

I have heard this story before and I think perhaps it was Mike Saull telling the story.

Yes well that is how it happened. I went to DOD and DOD went up to Commodore Davis-Goff who was the COMAUCK and got the Coxswain and First Lieutenant out of the ship and we didn’t have too many problems after that I don’t think.

What sort of things was the ship doing?

I don’t think that we had really started to operate then. DOD had just relieved Val Weir and I think they had just stored KANIERE and we might have had a run out of the harbour. Then we started doing our own work up with Commander Elliott and PUKAKI and one or two of the others out in the Gulf and we were running in the Gulf doing our own little private work up. We had the submarine that would come over and then we would go out there and do our CASEX’s and things and I would be throwing grenades. That was our programme for some time. While we were practising out there and getting the CO’s and First Lieutenant into the way of life again we were practising RASing. Of course we didn’t have a tanker and so one frigate would act as the tanker and the other one would act as the ship taking the fuel. We were acting as the tanker going along and PUKAKI was to fuel on our port side. Instead of coming up our stern and slapping on the brakes, he came in at an angle from the beam as though he was coming alongside us and I was in the port waist, so there were some funny remarks came from old DOD.

Did she touch at all?

Yes just touched I think. Old Bernie Elliott didn’t report a collision because it didn’t happen, they were pushing the jackstay around. That is the sailors in our waist.

Then and I can’t get it in perspective because I was brought up to never keep a diary during the war and I much regret that I didn’t disobey that one order. Other people kept diaries and I never wrote these incidents down because they were just part of daily life. When you look back on them now I would encourage anybody in the Navy to keep a diary, even if you only put headings down because it so important later on in life.

Then we had a submarine come over from Aussie, the ANCHORITE came over and I can remember we were out there doing CASEX’s with ANCHORITE and we lost contact with ANCHORITE and that was a bit of a panic for Mike Saull and Dennis O’Donoghue. I think ANCHORITE had put on a few more revs and thought this is the last CASEX of the day. It was that time ANCHORITE came up all standing alongside something and when they surfaced they found that they had rock marks on them and they found the ANCHORITE rock, a pinnacle which had been missed by countless surveys and then before the submarine went down again I think the surveyors went out and dragged it.

I can remember entering harbour in KANIERE and PUKAKI was with us and in those days Commodore Davis-Goff kept a sharp eye and knew when the ships were coming in and kept his telescope almost perpetually pointing at F buoy. As we are going up the harbour and flash, flash, flash. I think I was quarter deck officer, as only a General List Officer could be Foc’sle Officer. I spent the rest of my life as Foc’sle Officer and Cable Officer and of course I had done a great whack of it in the DUKE OF YORK where the Bosun was the Cable Officer and he just let his leading hands do it. Any way we came up and the signal was, “Why weren’t the hands fallen in at F buoy”. When they were alongside I was in the cabin flat and I might have been going to be Officer of the Day or something. I was hovering around and DOD and Mike Saull were concocting a signal to send to the Commodore that they were fallen in and they were in dress of the day. He got sent for and so DOD was up the hill in sword and medals perhaps.

Real serious stuff.

Did I tell you about old Davis-Goff and his telescope when he became Commodore?


In that office where they have now got the Commodore’s office, Davis-Goff our first New Zealand Commodore direct promotion or hard slog through from a torpedo gunner. He goes up to his new office and he looks out and he sees where his fleet is going to be. He had a fleet, he had a couple of cruisers, six frigates, a survey vessel, minesweepers, RFA’s. He got hold of Fred Smedley who was the commissioned Stores Officer on his staff and said, “Stores, get me a telescope”. Fred Smedley goes and has a look and comes back and says, “There is not one on your loan list, you are not entitled to one”. “Get me a telescope”. The Naval Stores was down below by where the swimming pool is now. So Fred goes and he has got to talk fast to get this telescope out of the Naval Stores that is not on the Commodore’s entitlement, the Commodore is not down as being entitled to a telescope. He takes it back up the hill, all proud, and he gives the telescope to the Commodore who pulls it out and every thing is upside down. The objective glass has gone and of course it is an old telescope that has been banged around the cruisers by Officers of the Watches. The Commodore got his telescope, but poor old Fred Smedley he bought that one alright.

Then we went around the Gulf quite a bit. We had a couple of frigates come down from the Far East and Captain F was R.O. Roberts, Two Gun Roberts. Two Gun Roberts had been a two and half in Chatham when I qualified GI and I came across him as a gunner a few times. Two Guns, he had a real Two Gun reputation. He used to walk like a cowboy and he shot straight from the hip. He was the guy who I told you when he was First Lieutenant or Commander G in Chatham and it was bloody hot. He went to V.C. Begg who was the Captain of the Gunnery School and said he would like this afternoon all the Gunnery School to be in negative jumpers and they just gave the order, negative jumpers. Everybody took their jackets off and of course lots of sailors got caught who had dicky fronts. I got caught out because I had a white Pusser’s belt as opposed to a blue one. I had to spend the evening changing that with ink to blue. Anyway out comes Two Gun and Michael K. Saull and DOD are all anxiously waiting for this man with a reputation to appear over the horizon. They had a signalman posted up on the 20 inch lamp above the bridge there with a signal lamp, a 20 inch and they had lookouts galore, radar and what have you. As soon as old Two Gun poked his head over the horizon they sent a signal something like, “All hail the conquering hero comes”. But it was a real good signal and it would be interesting to find out from DOD or Michael K. Saull what they sent to Two Gun who really appreciated it. It was way over the horizon and they got him first and they greeted him with this signal, “All hail the conquering hero comes”. I can remember we were there alongside the wall and he was alongside astern of us and I walk along the jetty and “Oh Fifield”, old Two Gun as though we were long lost pals. The CO looked a bit sideways at that.

(end of Tape 20)

(beginning of Tape 21)

We are talking about KANIERE and Dennis O’Donoghue as CO.

I think Dennis might have been a bit of a misunderstood guy actually because he had a bit of an abrupt nature, but he was a bloody good CO I thought. He was a very meticulous sort of a guy. He told me that he changed his hand writing to get on. He was good company, he had a very dry sense of humour. He was a great guy. You could pretty well always get a decision out of him and he had a great brain on him I think. I understand, I might be wrong here, but I understand Commander Davis-Goff said he was not going to command another ship while he was COMAUCK.

It was over the Christmas period and we were at home in Beresford Street and he was over seeing Jock Baxter and he knocks on the door and says, “What are doing for Christmas, just you and your wife and daughter here, come on out”. He had a house out by Rangitoto Channel, Rangitoto Terrace. He and his wife were very friendly and looked after us like that. Later on when Joyce was sick in hospital Mrs O’Donoghue visited her every day when she was in the Naval Hospital when we had a naval flat. I don’t get to see them very often, I ring them sometimes when I am in Auckland, but I get a Christmas card every year and write a Christmas card, a very great woman she was. Dennis was I think a bit misunderstood. He was First Lieutenant of PHILOMEL at one stage when I went back in the Gunnery School and he sent for me and I think he was the President of the Mess as the First Lieutenant and the Governor General was dining there, Lord Cobham. I suppose my reputation is for games after dinner and so I suggested bike polo. We drew bikes from the Naval Store and played bike polo out on the tennis court out there. The only snag was and I think DOD was in the action there and they put a hockey stick through the front wheel of one of these bikes. I returned the bikes to Naval Stores and there was all hell to pay for that because they had to repair the bikes.

In KANIERE did you do a tour up to the Far East or any thing?

No we did a tour of the Islands. Gerry Plumber became the Navigating Officer, Mike Saull was the First Lieutenant, DOD was the Captain and I think still had Wee Jock Baxter. Wee Jock Baxter was a guy who loved his whiskey, not to excess, but he loved his whiskey and he could tell you whether he was drinking Teachers or not, but he couldn’t tell you what whiskey it was, but he knew if it was Teachers or not. God help the wine caterer, because I think I was wine caterer in there at one stage, if you didn’t have Teachers. I think we might have had a schoolie. I think occasionally we had the Padre or somebody like that who came out just for the trip. I can remember we went to Lauthala Bay where the Air Force Base was and I can remember having a good thrash there in the Mess at Lauthala Bay, because the Sunderlands were still based there and I think we did some exercises with the Sunderlands and things like that. We had a cocktail party ashore there, one on board and then one out there, because all the Air Force Officers had their wives and families out there. So all the single Air Force guys got together and said, “Well let’s go for a swim in their beautiful swimming pool down there”, which had no lights on it. When we went down there and so we all stripped off and into the pool and some dirty dog brought all the wives down and turned all the lights on and we were running for shelter or staying in the water until somebody fired our clothes to us.

Then we went around the islands and DOD and Mike Saull, it was too hot to sleep in their luxurious cabins and so they decided to sleep on the Squid deck. They were like father and son almost, they were real companions, whether they were or not I don’t know. I am Officer of the Watch and they don’t want to get bloody wet do they, you know you get those little tropical storms. I am using the PPI and successfully dodging the bloody weather except that we come to one stage where you can’t go either way because there it is. I sent the messenger down to the Squid deck and suggested that they might come in unless we went 180 degrees we weren’t going to get out of a rain shower. Tell the Officer of the Watch to keep us clear of the rain and we didn’t. I wasn’t very popular for a while because there was this bedraggled First Lieutenant and Captain.

Commodore Davis-Goff came out after we finished our work up and he did a sort of an inspection, I don’t think it was a full inspection, but he came up on the bridge anyway and we did a shoot. I have got an idea that we used the double dial clock to work out deflection. We did a shoot and I gave the deflection 5 right. There were two ways that you gave deflections. One was right 5 and one was 5 right let’s say, and that was depending on how you gave this order. I can remember Mike Saull, “I did it wrong” and of course he was the big gunnery expert.

After we had been to Fiji we then went up to the Islands and I am not sure which way the cruise went, but we went up to the Islands and we were to do some fireworks displays for the Islanders. Can we do some fireworks displays, yes we will organise some fireworks displays. We had two inch rocket flares and Starshell and I think we might have taken some extras on, some pyrotechnics that were getting near the end of their days to do this and we get up there and stand off the Island and give a display. One Island we went too and I can’t remember the Island, Fukeofa or something, you had to go over a reef. We had some Ministry of Works demolition’s on board for delivery up there and we had to bring this Ministry of Works guy back as well. You go over the reef, get in there dry which we did and we had this party all laid out for us with all the mats and all the gifts and so forth. When we arrived there was the Sergeant of Police who was in charge of the Island out stood well out from the Island in his big rowing boat with all the natives on oars challenging us and welcoming us before we went inshore. Then they took us inshore in their boats and what have you. He wasn’t the doctor, but he was the sort of medic, qualified who had some medical training any way who did the job of the doctor on the Island. He took the Captain and I to lunch. I don’t know whether he got talked into it or whether he saw that the Captain had not really been organised to have a formal lunch and so we went to his house. There were chickens running around and all that sort of thing and so he talks to the women in his language and then you see the women running around chasing the chickens and we have chicken for lunch. They had a big central pit I suppose of copra charcoal out the back and they were doing the bananas and the things on there. Then we go back out to the ship and as we were going back the Ministry of Works guy says, “Will I take this tin in for him”, and “Yes sure”. I go put it in his cabin. I think we had the Ministry of Works guy in the cabin or something, going from Island to Island. I put it in his cabin and then I looked at this bloody tin and I found I had this tin of loose detonators in my back pocket and we were shooting reefs and things.

Then one night it blew up. You couldn’t anchor and sometimes they would land the sailors and the people ashore and the ship would steam keeping off shore until it was time to pick them up. It blew up and for some reason they never sent portable radios or any thing ashore. It could have worked because we had a couple of portable radios for the landing party if I remember rightly. All the sailors were ashore and we had a heap of the village men on board the ship. We couldn’t land the men and the sailors were all ashore with the women. I am not sure what time we got the sailors off, but it was bloody late or even in the morning. They rounded all the sailors up and they put them in the school room and they posted sentries and we had all the men doss down on the quarter deck under the awning. They had seen sailors before perhaps. Eventually we got the men back to the Island and the sailors back on board and they shot off to the next Island. We sort of did two or three Islands up there and it was pretty well much of the same routine I think.

There was another Island we went ashore and they had this cocktail party. The District Officer was there and we were all invited to this and anyway we went along and we went to his house and there was some of the native women in long black frocks with barefeet, typical Island standard. The boats’ crew for the old Sergeant and the Resident Officer were all pusser and pucker and were the prisoners. The prisoners all worked around the Island, they just went into the prison at night, but they were the boats’ crew for the old Sergeant and the guests. They did the colour ceremony with his constables and what have you. It was quite a little far flung post of the empire, but they still aimed to do things as best they could.

While we were at sea Gerry Plummer had pains in his stomach and there was great concern whether he had appendicitis or any thing, because we only had a Sick Bay Tiffy on board. I think we went back to Fiji to put him ashore and we found out during this time his wife had been in labour and his babe had been born. Mike Saull might be able to tell you a bit more about that, but that is what we put it down too, because after it was all over we got him back on board. I am not sure whether they flew him home and we got him back when we were in New Zealand, but it was the time of the birth of his babe, he was quite sick and people were worried about him. He was a nice guy Gerry.

Mike Saull at that stage suffered sea sickness a lot and he spent two or three days at a time in his bunk with sea sickness, I felt sorry for Mike at times. Sorry for anybody who suffered from sea sickness. We came back and I left KANIERE.

What happened then to you?

I went to ROYALIST.

You didn’t go back to do your Long G Course?

No I did a stint in ROYALIST, I had the after TS and Fred Ralph had the forward TS.

Who was Gunnery Officer?

John Mason was followed by John Excel and then I did a stint in ROYALIST.

KANIERE and I think it has been the thing in most of the New Zealand ships and perhaps it is because they don’t get a chance to be in command often or First Lieutenants and so forth. The general run of officers didn’t get the opportunities that we did in the second training squadron and in the RN ships that I had been in to do things.

That’s right, they were not experienced were they.

They didn’t have the confidence in themselves I suppose, they didn’t have the in-depth experience to do it.

I don’t know what it is like today.

Captains didn’t allow their First Lieutenants to do these things often.

I tell you it comes much later on, but Commander Ian Tyler would sometimes stop OTAGO and he would send for Tony Lewis and myself and lay a couple of buoys. We would be running between these and going alongside and doing things like that which they used to do in the second training squadron. Everybody was going out on a daily basis I suppose, so that you had plenty of time to do it, but everybody had a shot at it. The Americans are great at that and the Americans in those work ups, they were just as likely to say, “Right oh, we will have the gunner take it out or the WEO”. I don’t know whether the Captain’s have said, “No we don’t do that in this Navy”. In their ships, because I went backwards and forwards in and out of Pearl just for experience on their ships for a day out or something and an officer would be piped to the bridge as we entered harbour and he would be given the ship.

The Captain’s sometimes stopped it, but only after the WEO parted the spring as he tried to swing the ship out to back out.

I came off KANIERE and then I think I went straight pretty well into ROYALIST.

In ROYALIST what would have been happening there. Who was CO of ROYALIST for that time?

I am just trying to think, it might have been Clinton Stevens and Joffre Vallant was Commander and we had Bob Paul who was the senior engineer, Commander Taylor was the Engineer Officer and Dr McDonald. At some stage we had Tiny Lawson, (Maurice Lawson) as the Commander (S), Ernie Leary, Bill Knight (RN) among the engineers.

What year is this about `59/60?

No before that I think.

Then we had Dudley Harris as the second pay bob and Algie Walton as Bosun.

That sequence, Peter Phipps was the first Captain of ROYALIST, then George Pound and then it would be Clinton Stevens?

Yes that would be right.

We had a bloody good Wardroom, they were really great guys. I was one year in KANIERE from `57 to `58, I joined ROYALIST in August `58 and I had two years in ROYALIST. Peter Silk was the Navigator. We set off and we went to the Far East in ROYALIST. We worked up pretty hard I suppose and we came out quite a good ship actually, quite a good team. When we got to the Far East we did some shoots and Admiral V.C. Begg who had been the Captain (G) in Chatham when I was there was FO2 Far East and he came out. He was quite impressed with Flyplane 5 with 5.25 guns which they were designed to be together. Because the VT fuses weren’t working we were knocking the wings off the drones with the shells. Many times when I went back on Long Course old Commanders and retired Commanders who had come back as RN civilians into that XP would question me because they knew I had been in ROYALIST, how did it go. The story that I got from some of those people in Whale Island was that they had a programme for updating all of those ships. But it was Winston Churchill who was adamant that the Tiger class, they had laid down a couple of them I believe and not gone any further. They were his pets at the end of war with the modern 6 inch quick firing gun and what not were to go ahead. The project stopped the conversion of the 5.25 cruisers. A shame as the Tiger class were not very reliable.

The Dido class were designed to be the AA ships for the Task Force and I think the guided missile over took them. I think the programme for the Dido conversions ran late, every thing ran late in the RN in those days. Eventually the advent of the Devonshire Class and the Sea Slug missiles over took the Dido conversions, technology over took them.

So there was just the one off.

The other thing from a gunnery point of view I remember was that you could play great tactical games. Like if you had a target out at a good range, John Mason was quite good at this. John who was accused of sometimes being a bit slow, would stand away back out of range and run in on the target bows first. After you had done your initial shoots he would then have the ship run in, bows on for the target, fire the forward turrets, hard over, fire the broadside and run out on the after TS and this used to be great. The gunnery, it really put spirit into the gunnery and the engineers and the whole thing came alive. This opposed to running parallel to the target at a slow speed doing a deliberate practice shoot.

The STAAG mounting too was a piece of classic engineering of its day wasn’t it?

Yes which was a follow on from the old Hazemeyer.

Yes and really is the forerunner of the Phalanx isn’t it? The STAAG is a forgotten mounting these days.

It was a steady old pumper, water cooled barrels, stabilised tachometry AA gun.

I think we did about ten months or something, did a fair old commission up in the Far East, one of the last of the long ones, it might have been just over a year by the time we got there and back, I can’t remember now.

I still did the stores in there. I was the Stores Gunner as well I think.

You looked after all the ammunition?

Yes spares and all of the gun wharf.

I will tell you another one about John Mason at that time. I had all the stores and all the ledgers and every thing was tip top fine and the Governor General was going to the islands in ROYALIST. We had Tom Hookham on board at the time too.

The dentist?


The RN couldn’t understand this friendly dentist where the sailors were only too happy to go to Tom Hookham’s surgery. Tom usually had a cold can of beer down there or something or he talked rugby. He may have been a rugby coach.

We set off with old Tom and McDonald and John Mason and they are on for the tour. I get sent for, I am going ashore or Joffre Vallant tells me that I am going ashore. I said, “Well Sir, not unless I am relieved properly from my ledgers”. I had every thing from the finest spring in a pistol to all the 5.25 shells and rifles, bayonets and God knows what else. “No, I am going ashore, they want my cabin for the Aide-de-camp to the Governor General”. I am saying there must be somebody else and I went and stated my case to John Mason. I said, “I am not happy, I am just leaving the stores, just like that and everybody has got access to every thing and the responsibility would have to be on his bloody shoulders”. Any way ashore I go and they are away for six weeks. I take the ledgers and I make an arrangement with Kauri Point that I go to Kauri Point over that period of time, not as regularly may be as I should have and I had a great time at Kauri Point. I went all through my ledgers with Dave Roydhouse and his team and got every thing up to scratch and then got to know a bit more about the armament depot and things like that and testing ammunition. Then I came back and the first thing I did was muster the small arms and the bayonets. I have got one of the rifles now, I bought it actually a competition rifle. In ROYALIST some wise man when they came out from the RN drew six competition .303 rifles. Those were the ones, they had a different land in the bore, but were pretty worn out in the end as the only competition rifles in the RNZN.

The original rifles had two lands and I think the competition ones had three or four.

The furniture and everything was much firmer. They were hand put together as opposed to slung together as it were and so we had six of those. We also had these Commando bayonets with a hand grip on them and they are missing when I get back, six of them. We find every thing else and sort every thing else out, but we can’t sort these bayonets out. I report those and I am not sure if John Exell might have joined by then. I had to put all this in writing. Carefully put in writing that I had said I left my stores to somebody else’s responsibility. John Bardwick or somebody came in there some where. The up shot was that they wouldn’t accept this explanation and they were going to charge me in value for these bayonets, but not only that but my dereliction of duty. John Mason went to Wellington as the Director of Gunnery and I saw him when he came up. I said, “Look these bayonets, the Captain is still getting letters and I am still getting hit over the head about these bayonets and they are still wanting my pound of blood”. He said, “Leave it to me Vic when I go back to the office in Wellington”. He went back to the office in Wellington, it had gone through in Wellington, I think it had gone through and when he was duty staff he went up to the stores or wherever the paper flowed to, to one of the stores civilians. John went through the desk and found the file and he wrote on it, “Bayonets gnawed by rats”, and I never heard any more about it. A great guy. He was a good guy to have as a boss in the cruiser.

Living conditions were pretty rough weren’t they in ROYALIST in a way?

It wasn’t too bad for myself. I had a small cabin. I don’t suppose it was any smaller than the one I had in OTAGO and it was on the deck above, which was a continuation of the upper deck. It was of course my office too, although I had a little space in Gunnery Office.
It wasn’t in the lower grot’s?

One had to change into long whites outside the cabin! No I wasn’t in one of the grot’s. The engineers were in the grot’s right alongside the engine room in the passageway down there, Ernie Leary and those guys down there.

Yes they had a pretty rough time there I think.

Just as we were getting ready to go to the Far East and all that we had a work out in the Gulf. We are over in the Barrier and they changed the illumination of ship circuits from the days when we had light bulbs stretched all around the ship and around the shape of the ship, they came with floodlights and made reflectors and they went out on long poles. They are going to test these this night and I am Officer of the Watch. Joffre Vallant comes to me, he is the Commander and we used to call him the Startled Cockroach. His cry was, particularly in the Far East when there is senior officers coming, Joffre running down with his telescope, “Clear the starboard waist”. He was a guy who I would follow through hell in a celluloid submarine, he was really a leader of men was Joffre Vallant, I had a lot of time for Joffre. He said, “Are you coming to this mess dinner tonight Fifield?” I said, “No I have got the dogs, I don’t get off until eight”. “Who is your relief?” I said, “Mr Walton”, you know Algie Walton. He said, “Right oh, I will tell Walton and you tell Walton that you want to be relieved early and we will hold the dinner until you come to the dinner. Also where is Walton now ?”. I said, “He has got the motor-cutter away Sir”. Algie had gone off to get crayfish. He said, “I hope he is back at such and such a time”, which was something like 6.30 because Commander(L) Snow Hardman and the Commander and Commander(E) were going in the motor-cutter to go around the ship to look at the illuminated ship and also Algie had to relieve me. Algie knew all these things and he knew that he had to bring the motor-cutter back on time and therefore he was going to be on time to relieve me so that I could go to the dinner. Algie in his normal manner didn’t get there did he. Any way I got to the mess dinner eventually, but poor Algie didn’t quite make it. We did that inspection to test the lights.

Another thing Algie had the cabin right next to the bar in ROYALIST and Joffre Vallant issued the order that nobody was to take any drink into their cabins. You drank at the bar or not at all. This is when we are up off Hong Kong and everybody has bought cameras, taking flashes and photos and putting them up on the notice board. Here is somebody who has got Algie in his shorty jamas sat outside his cabin with a couple of cans of beer and of course it went up on the board. Algie was my Control Officer in the after director and he stuttered. We are just about to open fire or something and I say, “Range clear”, and he says, “Wwwwwwait a sec”. Poor Algie he was a great Bosun though, he was a great seaman. If I ordered shoot he might say, “Wwwait a minute Vic”.

He was Bosun of the Yard for a long time.

He was a great seaman, but he went Algie’s way, even in the height of a decision in battle, it went Algie’s way, you had to wait for Algie.

We trained up quite a few people in that Flyplane system. That after TS, it was a joy to work in and a joy to be in that team. Although you were part of the main team, I was just separated by those boilers and engines from Fred Ralph and you are sort of the after team. Then I think Fred left and I went to the forward TS and I think John Bardrick then came and went into the after TS.

I will tell you another story about when we were in dry dock in Auckland and they had had a party on board the night before and Dudley Harris the pay bob had been invited ashore. It wasn’t really a party he had somebody in for dinner and they had a couple of drinks on board and Dudley was invited ashore with his guest that night. Dudley went off in mess undress. The next morning it is payment ships company and all the pay is made up and every thing is okay”. Clear lower deck for payment”, and there is no pay bob. Joffre Vallant is roaring because all these sailors are tied up and so is the Engineer Officer and there is no work being done. The Supply Commander Tiny Lawson will be able to tell you more about it. The pay bob is not there and Tiny is in the bloody gun and I am not sure if Dudley had the only combination to the cash. Any way it is me isn’t it. The Commander comes, “Where is Harris?” and I think old Joffre Vallant thought I was shielding him and I didn’t know, and so I had to do a bit of investigation quickly. I got hold of the Stores Chief who had had a telephone call. By this time I twigged this was the Stores Chief running around with a grip, obviously with Dudley’s number five’s. I was able to tell the Commander that Dudley Harris was on shore and was coming off shortly.

Any way the next day Dudley was lined up, and I happened to be passing the Captain’s cabin, the door was open, was Dudley Harris with his hat off, Joffre Vallant and Maurice Lawson. I think he only had his mess bill reduced for a month or something. Yes the great pay scandal.

(end of Tape 21)

(beginning of Tape 22)

We were chatting about ROYALIST last time Vic and in fact your last words were you were talking about Dudley Harris with cap and hand inside the Captain’s cabin in front of his table.

Oh yes who failed to return in time for payment after having the ship’s company clear lower deck and the Chief Stores sneaking away with the Pusser’s grip and Dudley’s number five’s because Dudley had nipped ashore the night before in his mess undress.

Of course being Officer of the Watch once again I collared it. Where was he?”, I knew he was ashore, I said, “I don’t know”, “What’s the Chief Stores doing”. Chief Stores came up to the gangway and he said, “I know where Lieutenant Harris is I have got his kit here”. Tiny Lawson and Joffre Vallant were rolling around about that. I saw Joffre over the weekend actually, he has got his arm in a sling, and I said, “Oh have you been fighting again have you?” he said, “You should see the other guy they buried him”. He was a great guy actually. I don’t know about his technical abilities but as a leader I always had great admiration for him. He is one who could jolly people along and get things moving and people had a great respect for him, sailors and officers.

He was one of the first two to undertake the Long TAS Course, he and a Rocky, Dufty Wilson.

Well of course Joffre was a Rocky and I am not sure whether he was a wartime Rocky or in actual fact he was a Canterbury Rocky.

I am not sure either, but he and Dufty Wilson virtually did the first two TAS Long Courses towards the end of the war.

We were talking about Algie and his drinking after Joffre had put the ban on taking any grog to your cabin or any thing.

Then the other one we were in Hong Kong and that was when the Dockyard was the Dockyard. I had made some friends there and I was going ashore or may be I had just come back on Sunday morning having been to the Fleet Mess. Joffre was sitting having his lunch and I went to the bar and I had a Horses Neck or something like that and he sent the steward for me and he just quietly said, when I went up to him at the head of the table, he said, “I think it is time you sat down and had your lunch Fifield ?”. Fifield sat down and had his lunch. Then I waited for the person whose husband was a photographer for Life Magazine and was to come in her bright red sports car to take the gunner away and that stopped the quarter deck team for a few moments.

I am not sure whether I told you, but we are having an inspection and we are going to have booms out altogether, we are going to anchor and the booms were going out as a drill. I got sent for, I suppose I was a Sub Lieutenant, (Commissioned Gunner I called myself). He said, “Fifield I want you to take the port boom when the G goes to make sure that it gets out”. I said, “I beg your pardon Sir”. “I want you to be in charge, I don’t want any thing to go wrong”. I said, “Sir you’ve got leading hands”. I said, “When I was in the DUKE OF YORK I had all the bloody booms to look out for”. Any way John Mason poked his head in the office and John waved his finger. We had young Sub Lieutenants on there, the Humphrey Teagle’s and the Mitchell’s, they could have well done those things if he wanted an officer up there.

During that commission, I think it was in that commission we had a mayday call of some sort and it was some guy on a merchant ship who got appendicitis and so the call went out for the doctor. I am not sure whether he was the Surgeon Commander McDonald then, (yes I think he was) who then sent for his anaesthetist who was Tom Hookham. They were given the time that they were going to meet up with this vessel and they were going to send them over to the vessel in the motor-cutter or motorboat. It looked like from the information that they got chatting backwards and forwards that they were going to have to operate. Doc McDonald always had a bottle of chilled sherry in the bar, dinner hasn’t happened and still has his glass of chilled sherry and Tom Hookham comes up with his book and he is reading up all about it and he says, “Oh I haven’t done any of this”. Fortunately probably for both of them and the patient something else happened and the problem was all solved. They were a great team of Commanders in that ship I thought, besides Joffre there was Bill Waite who was relieved by Tiny Lawson as I remember it. There was Snow Hardman the electrical and Dr McDonald.

Who was the engineer?

Commander Taylor and Bob Paul was the senior and it was a great team. Now my father years and years ago had taught me how to play Bridge and I used to play a bit of Bridge and 500. Any way they found out, I must have been boasting at the bar or something and they had this Bridge school at the end of the Wardroom table after dinner each night and I got inveigled into this to play a couple of games, a couple of hands. It wasn’t so bad at sea because everybody disappeared except the non Watch-Keepers who were spread around and this team of Bridge players, but in harbour they still wanted to be able to play their Bridge. So you had to turn the SRE down or you weren’t allowed to play the radiogram and Graham Bosson had to stop strumming his guitar. Clinton Stevens gave them one of his cabins any way, a sea cabin or something and when they were at sea they played in his day cabin and so that took the school away. Well I never had more than a couple of games with them and when I left the ship, I am not sure whether it was Taylor, but one of them came up and thanked me for joining the Bridge school. But I would duck out because it is too intense for me, you couldn’t talk, you couldn’t make a joke and it would go on for ages.

Before we went to the Far East, because we were going to have a regatta and we had the officers racing whaler’s crew and I won coach and coxswain of that. It was mostly those Commanders who hopped in and crewed it. We used to go out on the harbour before both watches, scrubbed decks in the morning and Joffre was one of them and he rallied these Commanders around to get them into the boat. We did quite well in the ship competition, mainly because everybody was there practising, whereas the other crews would say, “Tomorrow morning”, or something like that, but it never happened with our team. There was quite a good spirit around in the Wardroom.

We joined up with units of the Far East Fleet in Fremantle. He as I remember was a Carrier group. There were large numbers of British, Australian and New Zealand sailors ashore, so ships sent patrols ashore. I was officer of the patrol one night, black gaiters, whistle and black Malacca cane. Whilst the patrols were out working on the streets I was in the Police Headquarters (the police were investigating a murder). The police also took me into some interesting places as well. I don’t remember any from ROYALIST getting into trouble.

I can remember coming back from Australia when we arrived back here and we had a bit of heavy weather in the Tasman. I was actually Officer of the Watch and I had the middle. The Captain’s night orders were there, which gave us the speed and course and all those things as normal. After I had been up there for quarter of an hour, half an hour maybe, it became obvious that we were washing down pretty heavily for a cruiser and we were bumping quite heavily. Although I had been in destroyers during the war and after the war, that was the way that destroyers worked, but they were much more buoyant, they rode it, whereas this was that sort of thump. I called down the voice pipe and said that I was slowing down and I actually took some revs off. The next thing Clinton Stevens came up to the bridge and had a look around and said, “Oh it’s alright”, and checked his night orders and said, “No, keep on in accordance with the night orders”. So I put the revs back on and he had a look to see how it was going and said, “It’s alright”, and away he went down. Di Davies the TAS Officer came up on the bridge, a two and a half and I was just about to slow down again and he said, “By gee, we are washing down a bumpy deck”. By which time one of the foc’sle deck lockers was looking a bit dangerous and looking as though it was going to get washed away. So I again slowed down and called down to the Captain and he came up and we had to slow down anyway for the seamen to get up on the foc’sle and lash the deck locker. If I remember rightly Di Davies got hold of the duty hands and the leading seaman of the watch and secured the thing and so I was bidden again to press on. I had a pretty rugged trip prior to that and after that because the weathering in the forward turret that had been done in the Devonport Dockyard here was not holding, what ever you did to it. In fact we trained the turrets on the beam or with the guns aft, but we were still taking water in the magazine. So when I wasn’t on the bridge I was down in the magazine almost with an umbrella with the gunner’s party shifting ammunition, wiping it. Joffre had a pretty strict rule too that no officer’s had their breakfast in their cabin. He caught me one day and I had just come out of the magazine and turned it over to one of gunner’s party and I was walking along with two eggs in an egg cup trying to keep them balanced. I can remember getting on my bunk and literally my bunk disappearing underneath me and me following it and meeting it as the bunk came up again.

I spoke to the draughtsman in the Dockyard drawing office and he got the plans out and what not and sort of showed me his theory anyway that these were resilient hulls. They had been speeding through the North Sea and what have you, but when they put all the servos in for the engine room they put all the fire control gear and all that heavy weight down below they became like a log.

We got in harbour and I had a pretty rough ride and hadn’t spent much time in my bunk and I said to John Mason the Gunnery Officer I wouldn’t mind going home early if I can, about 3 o’clock, and he said, “Oh yes”. I said, “I will do my magazine rounds and go”. He said, “Oh you have got an Officer of the Quarters, get the Officer of the Quarters to do your magazine rounds”. Later Vice Admiral Humph Teagle was the Officer of the Quarters in the forward quarters. So I turned it over to him and we dried out before we got into harbour and I did magazine rounds after we got into harbour and had a look and every thing seemed dry, but unbeknown to me it was seeping up from the bottom. When I got back next morning, those were the days when you came in and you had your breakfast at about half past 7 before the days work, had your breakfast on board and I was sitting next to John Mason who was the Duty Commanding Officer. He said, “When you’ve had your breakfast Vic, you had better go down and dry your magazines out”, and I thought he was pulling my leg, because that is what I had spent the last 4 days doing. I said, “Oh you’re joking”, he said, “No, anyway have your breakfast”. I had my breakfast and I sat down to have my coffee next to him and he had the magazine keys there and he said, “Here’s the magazine keys, you had better go and have a look at your magazines”. Then he told me the Officer of the Quarters had inspected the magazines and the water was coming in and was above the plates and the lower bottle racks were covered. So they spent time pumping out with bilge pumps, pulling out cartridges which we had done for a week, wiping them, putting them up higher or putting them back in, drying and re-stowing the shell and what not all night. John Mason had some orchids in the magazine. I don’t think they suffered. I went down there and had a look and had the shipwright Chippy Ford and somebody else. Now I am not sure, I think he was on the Base staff then or the Dockyard, any way he came in and they lifted the plates and had a look and found bent plates and cracks. De-ammunitioned ship and into the dry dock to have this lot done was our next task.

I think Neil Walker was on board wasn’t he, I remember him telling a similar story.

Yes he might have been the double bottom officer. Ernie Leary was the outside machinery and used to look after and test the floods and sprays together and I think he was the guy who had some input into that as well. I don’t remember Neil but I am sure he was there, because he was a great cobber of Bob Paul’s and I think that friendship developed there. When they took the plates out and that it looked quite a different kettle of fish. I was quite happy in my own mind that I had on a couple of occasions slowed down.

Was that one of the famous, must get to the All Blacks game?

Well that is what it was said to be, because it was the last test or it was a test at Eden Park and Clinton Stevens and Joffre Vallant were pretty great rugby men. I mentioned somebody’s name last night or Saturday night when I saw Commodore Joffre Vallant. He said, “Ah yes, he’s the rugby referee”, and so it could well have been, I don’t know.

The Australian, what was his name David Robertson was supposed to have done the same thing?

The other thing was I can remember outside the Commander’s cabin, with a senior engineer and the commander, Bob Paul telling him that he thought that he ought to advise the Captain that he was going to bash the bottom out of the thing. The ultimate was that we got back a bit battered on the bottom.

I will just go back to the ammunitioning. One of the other cruisers, it might have been BELLONA de-ammunitioned, you couldn’t imagine this now, de-ammunitioned the after magazines and shell rooms because they were going to do some welding down below in dry dock. The gunner was Ian Cole and instead of getting the ammunition into barges and perhaps leaving it alongside in barges with sentries and a fire watch over it with hoses they actually left it under the awning on the quarter deck while they were in dry dock. There was a bit of a panic and by gee I tell you what it could have been a disaster for Devonport. Mind you the cordite would have only burned. You see a lot of these guys were wartime brought up as it were and you made those short cuts in wartime because you had to for an operational point of view. I have got an idea that might have been about the time the King died, because I can remember being ashore with Joe Cowan, Arthur Thomas and somebody else. We came back on board late that night over the gangway back into BELLONA and back into the cruiser. Then as we went over the gangway the Officer of the Watch said, “The King has died”, and in our drunken salute as we went on board said, “Long live the Queen”. The officer of the watch was Lieutenant McIndoe and his claim to fame was when he was officer of the watch in a Loch Class frigates. He would put the brass binnacle cover on his head and he would slide the shutter open when somebody knocked on the cover to attract his attention.

ROYALIST was coming back from the Far East or was it on a trip to Australia?

No it was coming back from the Far East.

Did you stay in ROYALIST then?

Then there was the subsequent Board of Enquiry that they set up in the Dockyard here, it might have been carried out within the ship, but it was set up here with the Commodore’s staff. I remember being closely questioned on why did I change the Captain’s Night Orders. Peter Silk was into that too I think, because he was the navigator. Di Davies he appreciated the situation.

Did Clinton Stevens get in the gun for that?

He then made Commodore. I don’t know and that is something I would really like to get a look at the result of that Board of Enquiry. Nobody ever said any thing to me afterwards. Nobody said you did the right thing and nobody said you did the wrong thing. In my own mind unless C.C. Stevens had stayed up and taken control of the ship out of my hands no way did I want to go back to that speed and so it was his responsibility. He had advice I am pretty sure from at least Bob Paul’s side of it and may be somebody else as well.

Did you come off ROYALIST then?

Yes I think I did. I joined ROYALIST on the 18th August 1958 and left on the 11th January 1960 and I went into the Gunnery School again and then I was asked if I would like to do the Long Course which I said I did and the Long Course came up. In those days they used to muck about so long making up their minds, I suppose because of the politicians and the Treasury or their internal budgeting of how they were going to spend their money of whether you go or whether you don’t. I was booked for a course and the course was for just over a year which meant I should have taken my family and so I said to Joyce my wife, “How about it ?”, “Yes it would be fine if we can go, I don’t want you away again”. I think the ROYALIST commission in the Far East was about 10 months or so, it was quite a lengthy period really. That is what I represented and I said, “Oh well, they will let us know whether I will be accepted and whether the funds are going to be available”. This went on right up until just about the time I was due to leave. In fact the week before I left they were saying, “Oh yes you will be able to take your family”. Then on the Thursday and I was due to go out on the Tuesday I think, CNS who was Peter Phipps was in the Wardroom up in PHILOMEL and said, “Well you are going to the Long Course, congratulations Fifield”, and all that sort of thing. I said, “Are my family going ?”, he said no we can’t afford that, there will be no more families going for people on courses, but we will give you your own personal air tickets so that you can make your own booking arrangements to come back as soon as you have finished your course”. I went home and I said to my wife again, “Well it looks like it is only me going, what do you think?”. Well she wasn’t too cheerful. I said it is because they have taken part of the course off. Instead of doing the Fleet Air Arm part of the course, I was taken off that and just did the straight Long G. I said, “Well that is okay”. In those days one of the prime things was you can get a car. I said, “Well we can get ourselves a bit set up and get a car”. We had our plans done for the house in Browns Bay and I had almost contracted with the builders to get it started. I had stopped it before because I had a draft chit and went away and said, “Wait until I get back, I will like to see it built myself”. Any way we had to discuss this and I said, “I am going to be away, let’s not stop the house, do you think you can supervise it with my brother over in town”. I made my brother Power of Attorney for that purpose to get the house built. “Yes that’s fine”, and so away I went. I flew to UK, Electra to Sydney and Comet from Sydney to Zurich and then on to London.

When I went there the first time up in New Zealand House I went to make enquiries about getting a car and they said, “Ah how long are you here for ?”, “Five months”. I had to be in England a year before they would allow the concession. Okay so off we go on the Long Course. We SD’s had to do six weeks ahead of the General List of maths and electronics. Most of us were Daggers, were pretty well up on it anyway, it was really valuable, but all the same were streets ahead of the Long Course before they came. We had that six weeks which was really good grounding. I remember during that six weeks, there was quite an alarm in Britain about Russian movements and threats and there was quite serious consideration about a Russian attack and a missile attack and things. Anyway we soldiered on.

I was at Whale Island at this time, I was doing the OE Long Course which was a year at Whale Island following engineering training. Who was with you, were you, was Frank Trickey in your lot?


Was Frank Trickey the Parade Gunner?

Frank Tricky was the Parade Gunner.

He then went on to join the following Long Course.

I have been with Frank Trickey from the time that we were leading hands together, because I qualified GI just ahead of him and I started my GI’s qualifications as a leading hand I think was made Acting PO while I was on the GI’s Course. Then in the next course was Frank Trickey and we became quite pals in that way. When Frank Trickey went on the GI’s Course they all reckoned that when he got home at night his old man who had been the gunner at Tipner Range and was an ex GI used to drill him with the broom stick to get him up to date.

Was Alan Tyrell with you as well?

No, there was going to be nobody else on this Long Course from New Zealand and nobody was going to take their family. I was into the Long Course two and a bit week and my Course Officer Shorty Lawson, Lieutenant Commander Lawson, who was an admirable guy. He said, “Oh you are going to be joined by one of your New Zealand cobbers shortly, John Mair, we have just fixed up some housing for him because he is bringing his family”. I was quite bitter about that actually, not against John Mair because we became cobbers, but to make that bloody distinction. General List again!

I am trying to think of some of the people I remember. Henry Hurrell was he there. He was the guy with the parrot on his shoulder on parade?

Hurrell was a class ahead of me I think. We had David Cowley who became the Commander of the aircraft carrier EAGLE who did that `Sailing’ programme. David Cowley died of cancer I think. We had two South Africans and three or four Australians.

I remember when we arrived, we went to slops and got battle dress when we arrived at Whale Island and it was all hairy dog stuff. When we got there all the Long G’s were in superfine battle dress made by Gieves.

Well that wasn’t our course because we had the hairy dog stuff.

We said stuff this, we are going to stay as we are.

Yes we had the hairy dog.

That really set me off to a bit of a bad start. We had two South Africans on course as well. During that time was when South Africa became a republic. In each of our cabins up there we had our safe and we had our secret books for our course. When South Africa turned republic the South Africans had to hand their books back in, but they still carried on the same course and we had to let them flog up with us because they were still doing the same course. They didn’t go on an International Long Course, which whilst we were there we had an International Long Course come, and these were South Americans. We had someone who was Flag Lieutenant for Tito or in Tito’s yacht or somebody, there were red stars and things on them. They actually came and gave us an explanation of this on how valuable it was for the revenue side of it and what not. We as the Long Course hosted them for their first functions and these South American guys, they had their beautiful South American ladies and they over took us in the social field I think in the end. To help them along they did the basic systems and didn’t get access to other stuff. That turned out a great liaison.

Most of it would be pretty old hat though wouldn’t it, you would have known 99 percent of what the Long Course is taught any way wouldn’t you?

Yes and of course it didn’t go so deep as what you had done in the Dagger Gunners Course, because you pulled servos out and you wondered whether you were building the equipment sometimes. However from the tactical side of things which the Long Course went in fighting manuals and things like that quite a lot more deeply. Also from that Long Course I was bidden to go to Woolwich Arsenal where the Tactical School was. We did about seven weeks at the Tactical School at Woolwich which really was much better than going up to the Fleet Air Arm, but it dragged me over that twelve months period.

You were still away twelve months?

I was away fourteen and something months.

No car and no wife?

Yes that’s right. I went again to see Customs and they said, “Oh no, you have got to be here twelve months after you make your application”, and I was going to be there thirteen months and so bang that went.

It was pretty brutal wasn’t it in those days?

Yes, there was no real consideration and this came from the civil staff in Wellington, because I found out a bit about it after I came back.

Anyway there was a civil officer up in MAORI, Viv Wrightson, who was a first class guy and he helped me draft some signals. Later on these personal tickets that I had I was told to return them. I said, “No way, the Chief of Naval Staff literally organised those for me”. New Zealand had published a Navy Order that said, “All people with personal booking tickets were to hand them back in and that they weren’t to use them on return flights”. If you didn’t hand them in they were going to be stopped and so I handed them in. Maurice Ashdown used to hide when I came in, because he knew what I was on about. They couldn’t get involved domestically, but the odd telephone from a senior officer in Whale Island and these signals from Viv Wrightson to Navy Office who attempted to help me out, but in the end that is what happened. Instead of being able to reap my reward as it were I had to troop back. I flew out to Singapore.

You went on a charter flight with Britannia Airlines?

Yes that’s right with Britannia or Eagle to Singapore and then from there came back in Air Force DC6 with Jock Elder and his family, we picked them up there. It wasn’t uncomfortable or any thing like that, it was just the under hand method that they went about it. We had a break in our journey in TERROR.

What about notable memories of Whale Island apart from you blowing your bugle at mess dinners?

I was just going back to that.

When I got back here I then put in to the CO of PHILOMEL to go to Wellington and see the DDOPA(N) who was Commander Vallant and complain about this treatment. “Well Fifield”, and he had already looked into it because he knew I was coming down. I am not sure whether he took it to the Chief of Naval Staff or not. The thing was it was over, there was nothing they could do to recompense me, but I just wanted it to be known so that I wasn’t just verballing it around the Wardroom or around the ship. Sometime later I applied for a job, RNO Christchurch and at that time Joffre was Second Naval Member and I didn’t know until later that he made sure that I got that. The civil staff had taken it out of the Navy Staff hands, they said, “No you just can’t have that money”. While I was down in Christchurch, he came down once and they were talking about forming a Fishery Protection Squadron and he offered me the Squadron Leaders job but I had seen Algie Walton and those people suffering from arthritis after years in those boats and so I ducked that. He realized and he was quite embarrassed and he was quite firm to help me over the uniform branch, but it was the Naval Secretaries team who was running the roost.

I think I am correct in saying that in those days the overseas travel for a civil servant including serviceman had to be almost personally approved by the Prime Minister.

Yes that’s right that happened to us when I went over for the Gunner’s Course, we didn’t really know until we were on the train. In fact the final approval because I sailed from Wellington on the MATAROA was given in Navy Office after I had got to Wellington. I didn’t get my tickets and things until I had got to Wellington from Auckland, called at Navy Office in the morning and then joined MATAROA at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. I think the final approval came after we got through the Heads, which is a bloody ridiculous way to run things. They were waiting for the Prime Minister’s signature.


Yes Whale Island doing the Long Course was great, there was a great spirit as you know and anybody who has done a decent course, even the Sub Lieutenants, there is just that sort of spirit in that place that was great. I got sent for just before I left. Everybody got sent for by Commander G and the Captain was giving you a certificate and congratulations. It was quite interesting because the SD’s and there was 9 SD’s and I think they got the top eight places or something like that in the course. I was sent for by Commander Mansell who said, “Now I have sent for you especially again Fifield, Wardroom and Mess dinners”, he said, “Where ever you go you take that spirit of Whale Island with you”. I thought of over the beams, under the carpet, rigging winter balls, croquet and cricket.

After one mess dinner we set out to shock our Course Officer Shorty Lawson, we made sure that he was side tracked and the rest went and lifted one of those brass cannons off the quarter deck and put it in his bunk.

(end of Tape 22)

(beginning of Tape 23)

Shorty was pretty crafty and early in the morning about 3 o’clock in the morning or something like that when we had all gone to our beds to sleep it off around comes Shorty Lawson and he has us all out on the quarter deck. I don’t know who he got, he might have sent his second Dicky or we had a GI attached, but he went all through the cabins. He had us all out on the quarter deck and we had to go and march this bloody cannon back onto the quarter deck in those hours.

I was there on Long Course, at the same time as the elephant incident which was the night before April Fool’s day and some rating goes to the Chief of the gate and says, “Chief there is somebody coming over the bridge with an elephant”. “Don’t be so bloody silly”, and said, “I know, I am no bloody April Fool”. Of course the next day on divisions all the Subs marched the elephant past. A chap who was the Course Officer for that, was an Australian who made Admiral.

I wasn’t there, I must have been at VERNON, we detached to VERNON for a while whilst we were there.

I didn’t actually see it because we had gone to Wembury that day. The Subs were fallen outside Captain John Wells’ office when we returned.

Yes that is one of the great tales of Whale Island.

Yes that is right. Instead of the Subs here came an elephant with a Sub Mahu and a guy with a boat hook and this. Captain John Wells he took that as an insult and this class when we got back was fallen in outside the Captain’s office with this Lieutenant Green who was their Course Officer, a well known character, but he became an Admiral in the Australian Navy. They had to stay fallen in until the last edition of the Portsmouth Evening paper came out to see that there was nothing in the Portsmouth Evening paper. I have got an idea that he tried to take away any advanced promotion.

Other incidents, Subs Courses involved in included adjusting the clock tower clock to have Captain Wells late for Friday Divisions with the whole world waiting for his on time appearance. Marking the grass around the parade ground with weed killer. The course number appeared weeks later. Setting adrift a fiery car down Domvilles approach just as the parade marches past, doors open.

Yes he was brutal like that because I think you told the story previously about our speech about female anatomy at our final mess dinner. We were all fallen in front of the Captain. We actually jointly composed it, and the guy who delivered the speech was a guy called Fish Taylor from Australia, David Taylor. He was a very, very clever man, that did brilliantly at Engineering College and topped the course at Whale Island and was recommended for Dagger OE, quite a privilege which got you a year at Greenwich I think. That recommendation was withdrawn and he then spent another two years in the Australian Navy and then left it. He is now a very wealthy man because he got into the gold industry and developed some way of extracting gold on the cheap and made an absolute fortune.

Yes there were those incidents there.

Another incident that happened to me was Frank Trickey who was a cobber of mine when we were in the Far East in ROYALIST was when I was in the bar in TERROR. A big hand comes on my head, turns my head, pushes my head back and says, “Hello Kiwi”, and it was Trickey.

Yes that’s right he was the Gunnery Officer of BLAKE or TIGER, one of the two.

I went to call on him in England when I was on a trip in `81, but his wife wouldn’t let me see him because he had been sick or something, he was having blood tests and any way he died. He organised Mountbatten’s funeral, he was the Funeral Officer, he had been made Commander. Frank Trickey and I used to run backwards and forwards from Devonport to Weymouth when we were both on ships there and he was living there. His old square shaped Essex early 30’s sedan had to stop occasionally to be topped up from the oil bottle

Yes I remember him at Whale Island when they were drilling teams to take part in the Lord Mayor’s show in London. We were issued with bags of marbles or ball bearings and we were throwing them under sailor’s feet, because apparently all the London students do this during the march.

The other thing was for that Lord Mayor’s show when he was Field Training Officer. He had the blackboards up on the parade ground and had the hymn, “Oh God Our Help In Ages Past”, written up on the blackboards. After guard training the 100 guard fell in facing the blackboard and standing at ease and they sang, “Oh God Our Help In Ages Past” and this has been done ever since I believe by all the guards. This was unheard of in military circles in so much as it was remarked on by the Queen, because the Naval guard was right opposite from where she came out on the balcony. That was the November handicap they used to call it which was Lord Mayor’s show, Remembrance Day and something else. Of course the other great thing we had down there was Brickwoods Day which was a mini Royal Tournament. I had trouble with my sword salute for it at one stage and I did a lot of practice and I thought I had got it right before Friday Divisions and away we went. At the end of divisions the note came around to Shorty Lawson the Course Officer. I was sent for because of my sword salute and I stood in front of Frank Trickey who told me all about it and then doubled me around the Island. There was I a Lieutenant of about 35 doubling around the Island. That was the second time I had done it. The first time was when I was doing my Gunner’s Course.

Divisions and church before were a great thing. I can remember it was quite an inspiring thing really and maybe it was just my gunnery mentality, although one hated all the preparation and doing the West guard or the East guard or other duties. If you make a stuff up there for just the slightest thing, bang you are away, it didn’t matter whether you were a sailor or who you were.

Then in one of Mountbatten’s autobiographies he mentions this, that he as a Lieutenant nearly 30 was hauled out and doubled around for a simple mistake. If you had to hand it out you must be able to take it.

Another day I remember, John Wells ordered that the parade would double past the saluting dais and then the order came the staff shall double past as well. I remember laughing like crazy because our engineering guys were rather rotund and not fit at all especially the OE, Commander Windybank. I remember watching my crew doubling past and they were not in great shape at all, a real shambles.

Any way after that double around back to the bar at lunch time and Tricky buys me a pint and we had a big laugh about it.

I can also remember when I arrived there I had a wool tie, like they issue the ties now. I just had an issue of a pusser’s tie that is the exact same material wool as I bought. I liked this black wool tie and when people used to say something about it instead of having this silk one, “Why have you got that, where is your bloody silk tie”, I said, “No this is New Zealand wool”. Any way in my battle dress standing for the Course Officer’s inspection, Shorty Lawson comes in front of me and says, “What’s that, get rid of that bloody blanket”. I started to plea, but no way. I said, “New Zealand issue”, “Get rid of that blanket”, and so I had to get rid of the New Zealand blanket which I was wearing as a tie.

He was a great sailor in actual fact and he had a 6 metre yacht which had no engine in it and in fact he sailed a lot in the Admirals Cup and Fastnet race.

There was a guy in the Long Course before us who was a great sailor too and he died, but he used to sail on the Atlantic and I think he might have even sailed single handed, Tim Salt.

I was a non native and Shorty used to say, “Well come for a sail”. If he had his wife and what not on board it was just like being on the parade ground except that he swore, which he didn’t on the parade ground. I had to meet him at South Railway Station it was called, Pompey South Railway Station and we were going over to collect the boat, we had sailed it over and were going over to collect it, it was blowing a bit. I hadn’t seen Shorty dressed up like this before. But he had one of those canvas Cornish fisherman’s smocks, bright coloured, bright red or something down below his knees. He smoked a pipe and had big cap pulled down. He had a couple of oars for the dingy and really he looked the part of a seaman of England. As soon as we got out he would give you the tiller and say, “Well take it back to Pompey”, and he would be down below and what have you. He also organised a few good parties for the Long Course at his house, he had a lovely wife and he had a daughter born and when the daughter was six weeks old she was in a hammock and sailing.

While we were there we had a wedding in our Long Course, Pip Playford from Australia who actually left the Navy I believe, he married into part of Western Australia’s wealthy family and they had the wedding at Brompton Oratory. I had never been to one of these society weddings in London and I am never likely I suppose to do one again. We all had our sword arch our drill. We had a wedding on board OTAGO and there is one sword way out and it is mine and all the others are down here some where and somebody said, “Look you are a bloody Gunnery Officer and your sword is way out of line”. Shorty Lawson was making sure that we weren’t going to be outside Brompton Oratory and stuff it up. We had this wedding and then we went off to some rooms in some great hotel there and had red coated toastmasters and all the trimmings and that was quite an experience as well. We had three Australians, James was one I think and Pip Playford and they were all great guys actually. We had quite a liaison with them and they had their wives there of course and they used to look at me as though I was separated, why don’t you bring your wife.

On the technology side, presumably missiles were top of the pops with new technology?

Sea Slug was just coming along. The 6 inch gun was being tested in CUMBERLAND would that be right or one of the old 8 inch cruisers had just been tested and was going to be fitted in the TIGER.

Yes and the three inch the same?

And the three inch. We only verged on that in the principle. The wooden mock ups of it were in the island in some of those places down the West Battery and Sea Slug.

Yes because during my year almost once a week we would go off on a Thursday night and spend Friday visiting a shipyard or Vickers. We used to spend a lot of time looking at the ships being built and we used to be always going over that County Class guided missile destroyer. BLAKE or TIGER was down in Devonport I think and I remember going through her.

Yes earlier on when I was in the Island, Jacky Cann who used to be a gunner out here had a lot to do with that in the 8 inch cruiser which they turned into a platform for the 6 inch gun and for the 3 inch.

CUMBERLAND, she actually plays her own part in the Battle of the River Plate film and there she is with the modern 6 inch forward and a 3 inch aft.

She plays EXETER. Yes that’s right.

We did GWS21 and I see on my discharge book it has got I did a GWS21 system. New Zealand had bought it in actual fact. David Nelson was the Technical Officer in London and over in Short’s in Ireland they had a retired Gunnery Officer who was the salesman and naval liaison. After I had done my Long Tactical Course, again to delay me I did the GWS course in the Island which was fairly basic actually, because they didn’t have any equipment or any thing really. Then I did the Long Tactical Course that the New Zealand Navy and David Nelson had arranged. David Nelson was quite nice about it and said, “We don’t want to waste your effort while you are over here and if it is going to delay you a couple of weeks”. It delayed me more actually and so they sent me over to Short’s for 10 days I think.

I did much the same thing, I did 10 days and I actually qualified as a Seacat Aimer and then I went to sea in and I think DECOY was the trial ship.

No DAINTY, I went in DAINTY.

One of the Darings, out of Plymouth for about a fortnight I think.

Yes I did the same thing.
They had the two systems on board, they had the twenty, which was the dustbin and then they had the 21.

Yes the 21 was the 262.

Anyway I had to do this thing. I went over there and flew over I think and I was met at the airport with a big black car with a chauffeur and what have you and this Long Course guy who was their Navy Liaison salesman. I thought he was selling it to me actually for the 10 days I was there. I used to go and have lunch in the Boardroom with the directors, sales team etc.

I don’t remember too much about it.

With the cigars and the port. Then always after that I had a session with this salesman type guy. In the mornings the forenoons I went around and watched them build things and looked at the control systems that they had there. They put me a private hotel a little way out of Belfast, but that didn’t matter because they gave me a chauffeur car to go home and to pick me up in the morning. I went out there one night and this private hotel was absolutely full of Irish people all tipping out the doors and they were all smartly dressed and what not and it’s a wedding. I went to duck it. “No”, so having had this society wedding in London I was tangled up with this Irish society wedding at this private hotel that I was staying at. They were most hospitable. I can remember wandering around Belfast one night just shopping, just having a look around and they told me where they would pick me up to take me back. I went into a couple of little pubs and things, because I hadn’t been in Ireland since I was in the DUKE OF YORK days or KG5 days. Somebody started talking to me and said, “Well when are you going back to England?” and I said, “Tuesday” or whatever day it was. Oh come out to me and stay the weekend, he had a house on a lake somewhere. I declined this because I wanted to have a look around Belfast. I went back to Whale Island, there was a delay, I couldn’t go because they couldn’t get me on a UK charter flight and so I helped set up the GWS21 at Fraser. I went to Fraser and I spent a few weeks and I started teaching Seacat at Fraser while I was waiting for passage home and then I came back out here.

I did up to about a week I suppose of Seacat firings in DAINTY which was very good because I had been sent there. They took a special interest in me, I was not on course or any thing like that. I wasn’t part of the trials team, but they pushed me in with the trials team when they were talking about things and also with the ship itself, the ship’s officers and things.

They were very good actually.

We had one that broke up in flight there.

We always had a Russian ship. We had great trouble getting a firing area, because as soon as we got out of Plymouth the Russian trawler would come astern of us and we would go up to 30 knots and it would go up to 30 knots.

Yes I think they were keen on monitoring the radar.

It took them almost half a day to get rid of this Russian and get a clear range. I must say it stood me in very good stead, because when I came back to New Zealand I went straight to OTAGO and we fitted the Seacat and a lot of the things than I had done were spot on.

I know they were spot on because I won the job of accepting Seacat in the Navy and I went out in OTAGO and we did the trials in OTAGO and I have got some quite spectacular photographs actually and then I did TARANAKI as well. That time in Belfast really stood me in good stead.

In OTAGO we had no way of recording the joy stick and I made up a little black box with just a few electronic components so that we could actually put it onto a pen recorder and you could see the movement of the joy stick. It was a silly little modification but I was always quite proud of it.

The snag I found with Seacat firings in the New Zealand Navy was not so much the aimers or the maintainers getting the equipment ready but it was convincing the maintainers of getting the correct record. The Gunnery Officer always got it in the bloody neck because the records didn’t come out, there was always one thing or something. I think there were five or seven pens on that recorder. I can remember arguing with Bob Tucker in my last commission in OTAGO and “Yes she is alright, she is all set Vic”.

The last commission in OTAGO I had some good firings when I was Gunnery Officer in OTAGO for two commissions and the Yanks thought it was a good handy little weapon in actual fact. The last time I was there and as I say we were normally always bugged with recording, but I had a good liaison with the recording team in the Base staff in the Far East Fleet. I used to take my records up there and go up with them while they went through the records and the film and so forth and they could interpret it quite well even if you had missed a few bits or something like that. When you started to send them back to New Zealand you used to get bad remarks but little interpretation, maybe they hadn’t had the experience or something.

They didn’t have the continuity did they, it was always done with fits and starts.

What did you do when you came home, you came home to a new house presumably?

Yes I did. I can remember we drove up the road and there was these black and white tiles, like a black and white draft board in Carlyle Road which you could see all the way down East Coast Road because there was hardly any houses in East Coast Road then. When I got home I was a bit upset because the house had been put too far forward and I had shown Joyce the line where the front should be, but the builder bullied her and put it too far forward and so that was the completion of that.

Just another interesting thing about the Long Course, we did our firing ship at Malta, the firing ship was in the Med Fleet and presumably there wasn’t enough firing ships or they were all booked around the UK and so we went to Malta for a firing ship.
They flew you out especially for it?

Yes they flew us out Eagle Air in a DC6 and it was just our Long Course in that DC6. We had a whale of a time going out there in the aircraft with the hostesses and what have you, they thought this was absolutely marvellous. We had to travel in uniform and what have you. There were twenty-five in our Long Course in this aeroplane all to ourselves and three hostesses. As soon as the doors were shut, “Open the bar”, and away we went. We flew back in the same aircraft with the same crew and when we got in and they shut the doors they opened the bar and they gave us the keys and said we are sitting down, you look after us. I am not sure what establishment we stayed in there, but we had about a week and we would go to sea daily. Malta had changed quite a bit since wartime. Tourism was the industry. I can remember big fountains and hotels where once there were nuns. The political side was not so friendly either. A destroyer would come up the creek and we would go out by boat. Then we would go out and do our days shoot and then we would come back and have a Maltese run ashore which was quite a bit different to when I had been there during the war of course. A friend of mine Dennis Reading who had been the Bosun on TINTAGEL CASTLE was the Bosun of the Yard at Malta and so I struck up a liaison with him again and he and his wife carted me around and took me around. He was a bit of a dare devil in his car and I think he moulded it two or three times on the stone fences and things. Yes we enjoyed that and then we went back and we completed our course.

The Royal Navy were always very generous I think with ammunition for training weren’t they?


I remember we did a lot of firings on my OE Course. I was amazed, I think we were allowed 25 rounds per man or something like that.

Yes you had an allowance for AA, you had another allowance for surface, you had an allowance for star shell and of course you had an allowance of pyrotechnics. We had 25 people in the course.

Everybody moved around.

Yes we could just about man the system you see and we all moved around and we were firing 25 times 25 in AA. Yes they were pretty generous with their ammunition. Mind you it all went onto the cost of the course.

I think you used to get a few misfires because a lot of the ammunition was dated that they gave you.

Yes it was dated stuff.

Yes I can recall one or two misfires being not quite handled in accordance, thinking of the Army’s accident, not being quite handled in accordance with the book.

When I joined Whale Island for my Long Course old Doug Harris from New Zealand House took me down there. They provided a wonderful service and Harris provided a wonderful service. He drove me down in the old Estate wagon that he had, which wasn’t very dignified for a diplomatic office. I can remember going over the gate and having the diplomatic badge on. The Chief of the gate calling out his minions to stand to attention as I went in there with old Doug Harris. Then poor old Doug went back and we had a little session in the bar, but that is the last time anybody stood like that for me at Whale Island at the gate.

(end of Tape 23)

(beginning of Tape 24)

We SD’s didn’t do the air side of it. John Mair went up and did the Air Gunnery Course whilst we went to Woolwich and did the long tactical course which was six or seven weeks. Chris Shaw was a Lieutenant out here.

That’s right, he was in OTAGO with us wasn’t he?

Yes that’s right and his father was the Captain of the Tactical School and that was a splendid place. The Duke of Kent was a mess member. It was really like living in a castle with all the armour and the things around, it was splendid.

Then I came back home here, flew back. I had been given my air tickets by Admiral Phipps because they hadn’t allowed my family to go with me, but then they took them off me in MAORI. I don’t know if I have covered that, but Captain Ashdown and I fell out so much that he never appeared around the door when I went into MAORI. The civilian chap Viv Wrightson went flat out to try and reinstate my entitlement to the tickets, but to no avail. I came back and I went to Wellington and saw Joffre Vallant. I stated the complaint and he was very good and I have a lot time for Joffre and particularly over that because he tackled the civilian side of the Navy, it wasn’t the uniform side of it that had seen me down the drain.

I then went back to PHILOMEL and was appointed to PHILOMEL Gunnery School, Base Gunnery Officer. I took John Mason’s job and George Hannan’s job in one foul swoop. The Gunnery School I had been associated with over a long period time and then the new job of course was the Base Gunnery Officer. I am not sure who was the first Commodore who I served with there, but certainly for the majority of the time it was Commodore Challis.

Yes I was going to say Challis or Commodore Roe were about that time.

It was Challis for the majority of the time.

I was training a guard for the Governor General or something like that and the Commodore’s meeting was 9 o’clock on a Thursday morning and I was about 10 minutes over time and I had the wrath of his tongue, a very quiet tongue. I said to myself, “Right I will always be on time”. The next, about a fortnight later something else cropped up and I couldn’t get away and I rang the Secretary who said, “That’s okay we will pass it on to the Commodore”. I went in and he looked at me and he said, “Guns, them’s what keen gets here previous, I will see you after”. That quiet little man gave the hardest tongue lashing that I have had I think, but he was a good officer. Commodore Challis received a pay rise or a payment and back payment of an allowance whilst NOCA. He used some of it to buy a set of tankards for PHILOMEL Wardroom, I remember him stating this intention.

OTAGO came back and she was fitted or the Dockyard had fitted the Seacat under the ship’s officers and presumably you had done the Seacat Course when you were in UK?

Yes well I did exactly the same as you I went off to Short Bros and I remember spending quite sometime in their Dome Trainer, almost in effect qualifying as an aimer. I think I have actually got a certificate for it I am not sure.

Last time we talked about going to sea and I thought it was DECOY but you said it was DAINTY the trial ship?

I thought it was DAINTY but it could have been DECOY, it was one of the D’s, one of the destroyers.

When I came home I went to OTAGO as OE. OTAGO had been fitted for but not with Seacat, in other words all the wiring was there and I think we had a special two month period in Dockyard hands when they put on the director and the launcher and fitted out the magazines. I have got a feeling all we did in New Zealand was to fire a proof round.

Yes we did tracking exercises with the Air Force. We went out into the Gulf. First of all we did our thing alongside the wharf and we started to train up some aimers and we had to do that on the simulator that was in the director I think originally. Then we went out and it was about two days if I remember rightly, we did your OE sort of type trials on following directors and radar and that sort of thing and then we did the loading trials the dummy weighted missiles and fired a couple actually out there.

Yes I know we didn’t actually do the real rounds until we had PTA’s and we waited until we got to Singapore.

Yes we had to have PTA’s to do the real firings to fire the live ones. They actually brought out a drogue afterwards, it was a copy of an American drogue used in our work-up’s in America in Hawaii.

Delmar targets?

I couldn’t tell you the name of it, but it was a special drogue towed by a Jet if I remember right and you do your firings against those.

The thing about Seacat firings when I subsequently went to OTAGO as the Gunnery Officer were that there was a difficulty of convincing the ordnance staff the importance of the records. Particularly those who hadn’t been associated with it in either the Gunnery School in Whale Island or seen it at Short’s, because they treated it just as an ordinary shoot. I think there was seven pens on the recorder, five to seven pens on the recorder. There was the camera and voice and if you didn’t get it all going then when the records went into the base staff and subsequently if they went in Singapore or something like that, then all hell was let loose. The value of the records and firings were most important.

It was all a bit of a lash up, you had pen recorders here and pen recorders there and often you missed out, the time base wasn’t running. I can remember endless things stop the run the time base hasn’t appeared or something like that.

The last firing I had in OTAGO in actual fact was stuffed up by records, although we had a good shoot we hit the drogue and also by weather. I can remember and I think the Captain Ian Tyler was most upset because I wouldn’t fire and that was because we had one of those rainy days off Hawaii and you couldn’t see. I stood up on that GDP and got soaked and never fired the missile, because I knew that the camera wouldn’t pick it up, it was dicey and the rumpus that was caused if you fired a missile and you didn’t have complete records. The records seemed to be of great importance which of course they should be.

As Base Gunnery Officer you would have been involved in every post refit trail on ships?

I made a habit of going to seat for trials and work ups that had not often been done in New Zealand before. We also used OTAGO and TARANAKI for gunnery classes using the RN Syllabus for firing ship as the basis. We stayed three days or so in TARANAKI for instance with 1st Class and 3rd Class candidates.

Yes that’s right and I did TARANAKI as well the Seacat with Commander McKenzie.

John McKenzie, Commander McKenzie was OTAGO?

Oh was he. This is an OTAGO tale because we stopped at lunch time and the Captain, Commander McKenzie would go down to the quarter deck and take the con on the sound power phone by which time they had got to a fishing spot. He would be trolling from the frigate before we started of in the afternoon for the next part of the trials. I can’t remember who was the CO of TARANAKI because I did TARANAKI as well and signed the piece of paper accepting the things.

All those trials, particularly the Flyplane system was always difficult, it was a difficult system to get tuned up on the button.

There were always more problems after we shut down in Auckland. One of the secrets I think was to keep it running. When it was tuned up it was jolly good. I can remember and I always asked the XP how ROYALIST went, because it was the only ship that the guns and the fire control system that were built to match worked together. Even Varryl Begg was most impressed with our shoots. If the VT fuse didn’t go then the shell would go through the wing of the drogue or the wing of the aircraft because that system was jolly good. As you say it was a maintainers headache I think to keep all those servos up. Which reminds me I met on Saturday or last weekend, Geoff Ocklestone, he was TSOA in OTAGO on one of the commissions I was there. He really sat down and would burn the midnight oil. It was always going in the morning.

We would sometimes spend two days without sleep getting ready for a post refit trial or some form of trial. We did a thing called a regenerative run and getting this in within tolerance was awesome. We would get good results after two days work. I often used to wonder what happens when you went to war.

Yes I think the difference was you probably got a better service out of the Dockyard. I blame a lot of it on Dockyard which was then thrust into ship’s hands and they had lot of work to do. I think the other thing is that the maintainers never got a fair go in so much as soon as the shooting programme or the work up was finished nobody wanted to know about it and you couldn’t run it every day. If the users wanted to get hold of the fire control crews and the guns’ crews to actually run the system, you didn’t have to shoot. But if they had run the system quarter of an hour every day on a dummy situation, I think it would have been much better. It drifted a lot.

Well we did originally, we actually used to run it every day and when OTAGO first came home we had user trials every day. For the first refit of OTAGO I kept the system hot, I wouldn’t let the system go cold and it paid dividends but I think that stopped after two or three years.

Yes we used to have user checks that were five minutes a day, but you would only have two or three hands to run the whole system. It would have been a big advantage to have had a trials team ashore as in UK or Singapore, spending its time and actually in ships. I think we may have had a worse problem in the Frigates than ROYALIST. Her systems always seemed to be up when required. The OA’s/FA’s more mature and lived in the TS and aimers maybe.

There were two excellent guys in the dockyard, ex ROYALIST guys ex Chief OA Trevor Lloyd and ex Chief EA Laurie Reynolds and Trevor Lloyd used to be the GRU 3 king and Laurie Reynolds was one of the FPS 5 kings and they were a brilliant pair of people. Laurie Reynolds died years and years ago, I don’t what has happened to Trevor.

Talking about GRU the song in the Wardroom at one stage was taking off the jingle about Colgate, “You will wonder where your wander went if you brush your GRU with Pepsident”. That used to be the big cry about the wander. That was among the most interest bits I suppose.

Then I took gunnery classes to do firings in the frigates which was very valuable whenever you could get hold of a frigate. What with their operational role and the training role no wonder they came out as some of the highest run vessels in the Royal Navies compared with the amount of time they spent in maintenance.

In the Gunnery School that I came back to, Mike Saull was the Director of Gunnery in Wellington and Lyn Tempero came back as a class after me I think or it might have been two classes after me. I can remember him getting into Mike Saull’s ear why was Vic Fifield the Base Gunnery Officer when he as a General List Officer had come back, he should be. He didn’t realize I was in the background I don’t think, they were walking along in front of the green huts. Mike said, “Well we have got other things for you”. Be that as it may I ploughed on with the Gunnery School. We had a four inch up at Whangaparaoa, a Bofors and some Oerlikons and so we had a good little range for the weapons that we had. We also had a demolition range and an 8 butt rifle range.

You could fire them up there?

We could fire them up there except I went up there to fire the four inch and I found I had plugged ammunition and it was HE. I was a bit concerned about that and so I checked back to Kauri Point because it would just lie on bottom of the firing area. I started firings and it is a devil of a place. I suppose it is even worse now to fire from Whangaparaoa into the firing areas because in the summer in particular there is every pleasure boat in the world is out there and they think that the red flag flying up on the headland is just a piece of decoration. It was difficult at times. We actually got ML’s out there with great difficulty to warn people but it didn’t succeed as a policy. I said, “We will have to cancel this firing which was for junior rates, five or six rounds through the four inch because the range is closed”. Somebody said, “Don’t worry about that Sir, if the range is closed because there is somebody out there, the previous Gunnery Officer used to just fire them down there off the rocks”. I said, “I am not doing that”. I went back to Dave Roydhouse at Kauri Point and said, “It is not really on to fire these plugged HE”. He said, “Oh we will take the exploders out”. I said, “I would rather have the exploders, so that they disintegrated”. So we stopped that practice. I remember mentioning that to Mike Saull when he came out one day. It was a bit difficult, the range was the problem, the clear range. Then we established a room in the old Army radar building and put one of the Bofors up there. We had a good maintenance room underneath and a Bofors sitting up the top. That range was quite valuable for our basic firings. Starting on from when we had gone to Whangaparaoa years ago when I was a GI and pleaded with the Commander of PHILOMEL to go there because the Army weren’t using the place and they had a galley out there and all that sort of thing, it was great. George Hannan and Fred Ralph were the ones, particularly George to take the credit for that range going ahead. Once again, even with the 303 as it was then, those ranges fouled up quite often. It is like firing in the English Channel. Wembury and Fraser Battery sometimes were useless because of the lack of clear range.

Whangaparaoa developed quite well. I can remember when I was at TAMAKI and Rob Williams was the Chief Staff Officer to the Brigadier there. The Navy was talking about putting the Damage Control School out there, he came out to see what we were doing and fortunately I had classes when he came around. He was saying what a valuable piece this was for the Army and then the Army started filtering back in there which I think was designed to show that the Army wasn’t going to give it away.

It was interesting too whilst I was the Base Gunnery Officer. Just going back to the PHILOMEL Gunnery School. We had of course then to train up our Seacat aimers and unfortunately the dome that used to be on Princes Wharf had just been pulled down and burnt I think. The dome had to go from Princes Wharf because the Harbour Board and other people wanted the space and I think they actually rebuilt the whole building there. It was all cut and every bit was marked and so it was like a kit-set. I had some experience with domes as a gunner in UK I thought that we should pull it down and store the pieces in case we had to rebuild it. When we came to do Seacat aiming nobody knew where it had gone or if it had ever been pulled down in pieces or whether it was just pushed down and burnt. They were a great structure. The domes had been prefabricated and each part was numbered so they could be re-erected.

Another one was in Wellington, I remember I took a Dockyard team down there to pull that down about mid sixties and I often used to wonder why we hadn’t made good use of it because it had rolling platforms and it had all sorts of wonderful gadgets there.

Yes you had one of those roll, pitch and alteration where you mounted the gun sight on. I used that dome in Auckland for our gunnery training right up pretty well to the time it disappeared or until either I left or we used to go over by boat and run the old films through. They were great things. It’s amazing isn’t it that now you can train your Seacat aimers down at the local video store, because that is exactly what you were doing was teaching them to be able to manipulate a spot of light with their finger, they put between their finger and the brain. I often think about that, that if those devices had been around then you would have had a lot of nimble fingered aimers.

Of course at TAMAKI or at PHILOMEL first, but then at TAMAKI we kept records of the aimer training and we generally got the aimer training when a frigate was alongside. I can’t remember how we trained otherwise.

I think they went off to Australia.

Yes in that course to do the original training, but it was like range taking. You were supposed to have so many hours a day and it was hard to keep up if there was not a frigate alongside or something.

There was a little simulator wasn’t there on top of the GWS21 director that put a spot light onto the thing which used to randomly jump about?

Yes I am not sure whether we had one of those down at the Gunnery School or not I can’t remember.

Each aimer had his own personal Seacat aimers history sheet and you had to log your practices and they were assessed and so the guy came away after his runs with an assessment as to say how well he was aiming.

I can remember in TAMAKI, in the Gunnery School we had those and so we must have had a simulator there at TAMAKI. If anybody went on draft you had to make sure you filled up his Seacat aimers history sheet and fire that in with his gunnery history sheet because that was kept separately in the Gunnery School and made up each day as the guy did his practices. I don’t know how valuable Seacat was as a weapon really, but I think it was of some considerable value to the RNZN in that it got them an in into thinking into short range missiles. Of course we never tested it in anger, but it jolly well worked in practice at the fastest targets that were available, which were the towed Drogues around Singapore and in Hawaii. It was a pity that it didn’t have an electronic aiming device, that was the big failure that you had to rely on the visibility, the aimer had to see the target to be able to track it. If he had been able to have done it, something like the old Hazemeyer or STAAG. In the Hazemeyer we had a radar operator of which I was one of them. Although it was primitive you could follow the target. In actual fact at one stage they had binoculars with a radar tube in for the trainer. I am not sure if they had one for the layer, and you actually had a radar image in one of the eye glasses and you could switch it in or out and that was a sort of I suppose a pretty primitive but early blind training. It is a pity the Seacat didn’t have something like that.

It eventually came in the Leander the GWS22 and they did a modification for it. I think we did buy it for the RNZN, but by the time we got it, there was only a few years to go before Seacat went out.

Of course it was thought to be exceedingly expensive then, I think a missile was 1200 bucks, I am not sure whether I am talking dollars or pounds. That was the figure that was quoted if you mucked up the records. I believe it was in the forties and fifties thousands at the end.

Yes I would think so.

The end of the life for the missile.

What else would have gone on then?

We had a Royal Visit while I was Base Gunnery Officer.

OTAGO was the escort ship I recall.

We did a lot of training of course in PHILOMEL Gunnery School for guards and saluting guns and things like that co-ordinating with a frigate and what have you. The Chief Staff Officer for Commodore Challis was Max McDowell, Commander McDowell. I remember he had a bout of flu through it and we used to have our meetings on his back veranda sometimes hoping that he wasn’t going to spread the flu when we were doing the initial planning for it. This is the one we did at Waitangi and we did it between the Marae and the Golf Course. We went up with Commander McDowell, myself, the Commodore and had a big meeting as was usual before Waitangi Day, but of course this was a bit more powerful because the Queen was coming and we used to have an annual meeting in the Treaty House. I can remember at the Waitangi before or it may have been two before, but the Waitangi before Commodore Challis said, “Let’s get this to a proper format so that we don’t re-plan it every year, it becomes the Waitangi Ceremony”. Because years ago I can remember that the Waitangi Ceremony was a little guard of about six people from a fishery protection vessel and the fishery protection vessel used to go in there and do the ceremony at the Flag Staff and we used to train up their crew. I can’t remember but we may have even put in a few extra hands and some people up by bus to do the flag pole and they had this little guard of half a dozen sailors or so, nine sailors I think, like a sergeant’s guard to do the ceremony. At this stage the Commodore said, “Let’s do it so that it is going to be the Waitangi Ceremony for all times, so we don’t keep chopping and changing it and that is what happened. We planned it and then we had to modify it for the Queen’s visit.

We went up and had this meeting with Matt Rata was the Northern Maori MP and I can remember in the morning going through the ceremony and the Maoris were going through what they were going to do. I had actually measured the parade ground up to fit the guard in and the Band and how much space we required. Matt Rata was saying, “No we couldn’t have that space because he wanted it for dancing Maoris and the Haka party over here and we were taking up too much space for where the Governor General and the Queen had to walk down to the guard. Before lunch I can remember I had the last say and I said to the Commodore, “Well Sir if we can’t have this area that we need to march the sailors, the guard and the Band then we will have no ceremony. So we might as well give the ceremony away”, and we closed for lunch. We came back after lunch and all sat down. The first remark after lunch was from Matt Rata who hadn’t been giving an inch before who said, “Well as I see it, if we don’t give the Navy the space that they want for their ceremony, we won’t have a ceremony”. The day was won. We planned it and we rehearsed it and took the guard up there and rehearsed the guard and all that sort of thing. The next thing that I get is a message from the Commodore’s Staff saying I am required in Auckland for the Queen’s Visit and to go as the patrol for BRITANNIA. I was a bit upset about that I had spent all this time training for the ceremony at Waitangi. I pointed this out that I would like to see that the thing went well and that I thought I was of more value of the ceremony up there, which I had a hand in planning and so forth. Anyway I had to go to Auckland to take up this patrol around BRITANNIA. I can’t remember which vessel it was in, I think it was in the old PHILOMEL motorboat. Anybody could have done it. It just shows you how valuable these SD Lieutenants, particularly gunnery are. I had a pistol and a box of pistol ammunition and I had a policeman, but he wasn’t armed, and so I was the armed guard for the BRITANNIA. You went at sunset and patrolled backwards and forwards up towards where the Gulf Ferries are now I suppose and around to make sure that no craft came in that area.

I have just thought of a story of dear old Alec Montgomery. We were in OTAGO, inboard of the Royal Yacht at Princes Wharf and we had to parade a guard every time the Queen came to and fro and Monty was the Guard Commander. Monty between events was in the Wardroom and he had the odd gin. By the end of the day I think it was touch and go who was commanding what guard.

Yes, so we used to see all the comings and goings. It was like my time in ROYALIST when they wanted me as a Commissioned Gunner to put the booms out, which I have told you before. They wanted a qualified person to do a menial task, whereas there were tons of Lieutenants around that could have easily done it, it didn’t need my qualifications to sit in the motorboat and guard BRITANNIA. Still I was suppose the Queen was able to sleep peacefully knowing that Vic Fifield was out there guarding her. If somebody had come along and done something wrong and hadn’t obeyed the policeman, I suppose I would have put a couple of shots over his bows. If that hadn’t worked I might have shot him and finished up with a real old good court martial and civil liberties and God knows what else. Those things happened in those days. I can remember earlier that whilst I was a GI we used to provide the escort for the pay bob and we used to go down to the Bank of New Zealand in Devonport with four hands, belt and gaiters. I had a pistol and somebody like Dudley Harris would go into Devonport Bank of New Zealand and draw the cash and I would ride back with him to the Naval Base. I actually did that in Pearl Harbour too not so long ago. I used to go with Kel Lewis to pick up the cash in the bank there. They were armed for anything, the Yanks and so that didn’t make any difference. I actually used to place the guys outside the bank in Devonport, so that you had a view of the bank door and anybody coming in, you were standing there with your pistol and that paid off in actual fact. The Dockyard when they drew their cash at one stage got robbed. That was much later.

(end of Tape 24)

(beginning of Tape 25)

What happened after Base Gunnery Officer. I think you then joined OTAGO didn’t you?

Yes I went from Base Gunnery Officer to OTAGO.

Fred Ralph was guns when I was in OTAGO and I have got a feeling that you joined before I left?

Yes I took over from Fred Ralph.

John Burton relieved me, would that be right?

John Burton was in OTAGO on one commission that I was in and so I suppose that was the early commission. After John Burton the next commission I was in we had Jack Williamson and then the next commission after that we had Bob Tucker and so it would be John Burton. John was a real dedicated guy and one of the old school of ordnance which we always had a great deal of faith in, because they came from the right place. We got on quite well with John and his team and we had a good team of maintainers there. We had a good team of users, gunnery people as well. We had a good team of officers really, specialists. I think we had Chris Shaw on that commission, he was TAS.

You went up to Pearl Harbour when you had the big crash is that right?

Yes and Captain Thorne had just been promoted Captain and became Captain of OTAGO.

Neil Walker would have been engines?

Yes Neil Walker was the engineer. The First Lieutenant was Berkley Goddard I think at some stage of it anyway. Doug Domett was Navigator and we had quite a team and so off we set to Pearl Harbour. We took actually as a passenger David Beattie who was a friend of Ted Thorne’s and I can remember his family coming down to see him off. He took passage with us to Pearl and stayed a while and then came back under his own steam. Frank Arnott was the Ops Officer and Kelvin John Lewis was Pay Bob.

The work up in Pearl Harbour was jolly good, it entailed quite a bit of work because we took our own ammunition and we had to off load it first into the American armament depot and then go back and collect it. I think what we did was we off load our HE.

Yes that’s right we took it up boxed on the decks of the magazine.

Yes on the magazines and we off loaded that into Pearl and then we went to fire our practice stuff and then when we were due to go we went back to the armament depot and we loaded our own HE. We had difficulty in getting the boxes back to New Zealand. We could fire the ammunition but the big concern among the bean counters was we weren’t returning the boxes or the cartridge cases which was pretty difficult from Pearl Harbour. The Armament Depot at Pearl Harbour was jolly good to us.

I can remember seeing and I haven’t seen it in another Navy, when we were at that Armament Depot, a funeral where they were taking a sailors body from one place to another. They had this gasoline gig, a motorboat I think followed by some other boats all with their flags at half mast. All the crew standing there with their black arm bands on and it was most impressive, although nobody knew the guy from Adam, it was a most impressive little procession. I think they came to land him there from a ship or something like that. It wasn’t somebody in a body bag just shipped from one place to another as we were inclined to do when the soldiers came back from Vietnam.

I was just trying to think of the name of the American officer we had on that commission who rode the ship, because he and his family became great friends of Monty’s. They actually came out to New Zealand here and stayed with Monty and what not.

We had some quite interesting experiences with Ted Thorne and Berkley Goddard as First Lieutenant. Neil Walker was the black smoke king. I can remember on the bridge if Ted Thorne came up to the bridge or the Captain came up and said, “Stop revs” or something like that or “Stop main engines, half astern”, he would wait at the top of the ladder for the engineer to come up. Wait for Neil Walker to come up, saying, “Is he coming up?” “Is it alright Chief?”, “It’s alright”, and there would be black smoke every where. We didn’t make so much black smoke as GOLDSBOROUGH an American frigate, but we weren’t far off. The worst black smoke as far as the seamen were concerned was what came out of the diesel engines forward, those vents either side of the bow and I don’t know whether it was dirty injectors or faulty fuel filters or what, but God they burnt some black. You would wash the side say in Auckland it would be all nice and smart and you would arrive in Brisbane or Darwin on your way, and it would be black as the ace of spades.

They were awful weren’t they?

Yes and I don’t know if they ever conquered that.

David Beattie was a good hand to take as a passenger because he right from the start took a great interest in the ship and in the sailors. I used to always plan when we left to have a shoot in the Gulf straight after leaving Auckland, before we got away. I always reckon it settled you down, it did for myself and I think it did for my Gunnery Team. Everybody was thinking at 10 o’clock in the morning as you are steaming through the Gulf having sailed at 9 or whatever, all thinking about home or what not. We used to plan it with the Captain, let’s have a shoot before we get away from the coast. We got the Drogue over and spent an hour getting the thing going again and it didn’t matter whether it went too well or not, it was a matter of getting some noise and bangs through the ship and getting the sailors settled down. It was amazing how it changed the atmosphere. You then got onto the work up as you sailed north. I must say in those frigates and ROYALIST as well to a certain extent, but in those frigates generally, you were always training, there was always a training programme and you just didn’t take passage from one place to another. All the way you had either TAS exercises or your had gunnery exercises. Very often if there was an aircraft around or something like that or you could come up to another ship, you closed the control teams up and what not to do a bit of tracking and the radar to do a bit of tracking. As opposed to the days when you went from one place to another and you didn’t do any training, it was quite different, certainly in OTAGO and the three lot of commissions that I had in her that every where you went you had a training programme. We used to do our damage control exercises and so forth to such an extent that we actually had a mess dinner just before we went into Pearl Harbour. I think this was to say farewell to David Beattie, because we wouldn’t have a chance. We had this mess dinner which was a pretty sober sort of a dinner being at sea. The Captain who was a guest took his guest David Beattie and said, “Now come on David, I have got to go and turn in now, I have to go on the bridge” and so away went David Beattie and the Captain. A little while later back came David Beattie in his pyjamas and knocked on the Wardroom door in his pyjamas. He picked up this cry from the damage control exercises of brace, brace, brace. I can remember there was a scrum in the centre of the Wardroom and there is David Beattie giving the orders, “Brace, brace, brace”. Then eventually sneaking to bed so that he didn’t disturb the Captain or hoping that the Captain was still on the bridge I suppose. Yes I can remember that episode quite well.

He used to give a talk on the SRE on the sound system every night advising sailors on all sorts of things, like house mortgages and legal things, divorces and people looked forward to his little talk about 5 o’clock in the evening. I can remember at the end he said, “I am leaving the ship, but I have spoken to all your Divisional Officers and the Captain and that if there is anything I can do while you are away on this commission back in Auckland you let your Divisional Officers know, they know how to contact me”, or his firm I suppose. Now I had a welfare case with somebody’s wife had run off and something had gone wrong with the house and low and behold David Beattie put one of his firm onto it and quite a few of the sailors had the highest legal assistance, and of course he was a sailor anyway. He took an interest in everything that went on.

I was at an OTAGO reunion in Milford and he was the speaker and I also was at an official function down here in Turangi, something to do with the anniversary of bringing the trout to New Zealand and I can remember saying to him, “Brace, brace, brace”. He said, “You were an awful lot weren’t you!” He was a great mess mate and person.

We also used his legal expertise once because we had a run ashore with Kel Lewis, Frank Arnott, Ted Thorne, he started off with us, David Beattie. I can remember when going into Pearl Harbour and after a cocktail party in Pearl and on the way to Honolulu having a bull fight from the back of an estate wagon hanging jackets out and another couple coming up in a Volkswagen behind doing a bull fight. We went around the clubs and we went into one club late in the evening, we went in and there was no room at the tables. We thought well that’s okay, we sat close around the edge of the stage to see the show and the management came and said, “No we couldn’t do that”. We were in our best planters rig too, we were well dressed. The place was full and we would have to leave. We got up and said, “Thank you very much, sorry to be any embarrassment”, and we left. We came out the door and David Beattie said, “You know that is not right”, he said, “Just hold on there”, there were three or four of us out there. I think Ted Thorne had disappeared by this time, discretion being the best part about it. David went in and spoke to the management and he came back and said, “They would be very pleased to have us in there”. They had set up a table in the centre of the floor and so we went back. Yes it pays to have a QC on a run ashore.

With your lot I should think it would be mandatory.

What is your memory of the crash, were you associated with that at all?

Yes I was Officer of the Day, and it was a gunnery day and may be a Seacat firing day, but it was a gunnery day and the Commander of the Fleet Training Group was coming onboard to come out for our day as well as the other riders. The Commander was coming out and so as Officer of the Day I was particular to be at the gangway when he came and see him down to the Wardroom. However before that I got a shake at about 4 o’clock in the morning with the Duty ERA who came and brought the book, would I sign the book so that they could test main engines or run the main engines on the bypass. I said, “No”, so I got up and I went and checked all the wires and then I signed the book. I was grateful that I always did that. Some people used to turn over I think and the Chief would say I have had a look all the way around Sir and all the wires look alright or the Quartermaster would say oh they are okay. I used to personally get up and have a look at it, which I did on this day. I then went back to my bunk until I was called for whatever I had to do, because we were going to sea I suppose at 8 o’clock or it might have even been a bit before. I went up to the gangway to meet the Commander from the Fleet Training Group. They started their engine trials again and I went down and took the Commander down and I was in the Wardroom flat just outside the Wardroom when the bump came. John Burton was there and nobody had seen anything as to what had happened. The first thing John Burton did was grab a sailor and close the hatch that went down to the cabin flat, and we assumed damage control state whatever it was, 1 Alpha and we got that piped. Doug Domett dashed up and went straight to the wheel-house and of course thought somebody had fiddled with the telegraphs or something and tried to get the vessel stopped on the telegraphs. I was the Foc’sle Officer and so I went up to the foc’sle because we had an anchor cock a bill to see about the wires and of course when I got up there the wires were parted and we were going between two ships. JENKINS was the ship that was alongside. JENKINS actually was a ship that was associated with us in LEANDER in the Second World War. The Captain of the JENKINS was on his toilet and he came out with his trousers over his arm struggling and then we had this horrible graunching and the graunching was on the starboard side and the JENKINS was on the port side. There was another vessel there and I think it was propeller guard or something that actually did the cutting.

M understanding that it sort of opened up a strip like sardine can?

Yes that’s right and it was from where the bow came, the flare of the bow. It actually ran a narrow gap along the deck line of the TS, you could see it from the TS. We re-secured the vessel and I think Ted Thorne said something to the Fleet Training Group like, it doesn’t look as though we are going to do any training today and they went ashore. Then it was a question of assessing the damage and what happened and what didn’t happen and my understanding was that instead of putting the steam through the by-pass they actually put the steam directly onto the turbine.

Something like that.

That shot us forward. Life in the ship went dead and particularly in the Wardroom it really was like you had lost your best friend, seen your best friend die, it really went dead. We are busy tidying up things and having American Dockyard people and what not coming in and assessing the damage. The engineer, Neil Walker and his team had seen what the damage was and I should imagine that the engine room team were feeling pretty down to it.

I think it was Ted Thorne who tells the story of going up to call on the Admiral who ran the Naval Base and tell him what had happened or to seek his co-operation or guidance. He says the Admiral turned to his PA and said, “Bring me the files on collisions at Bravo Pier”, and came back with a pile of files several feet deep.

Yes we were told that accidents were a regular occurrence in US Bases. The other thing was that sometimes you would bump Calliope Wharf. I can remember when Commander Carr brought TARANAKI alongside Calliope Wharf. I was the Officer of the Day with Pip Bardwell. While we were piping Pip Bardwell said, “I think we will go below Fifield”. Then comes TARANAKI and boom and all the sailors who were standing upright were going horizontal. We were versed with those sort of things. The Americans were saying, “Well this happens in a big port, in a big naval place”. It wasn’t so bad as that. Anyway at about 4 o’clock that afternoon we were all sitting around and nobody had touched the bar and the Commander of the Fleet Training Group came down, Joe Perry. He sat down and he said, “I came down here for a drink”, or words to that effect, “God damn, what are you all sitting around here for, we had better get ashore, let’s go to the O Club”, or something like that. We had a couple of drinks and off we went to the O Club or whatever and he actually brought that ship to life. I still think of Joe Perry who did us that great service, because he just dragged us out of it, including Ted Thorne and everybody else. Then of course we had that long stay in Pearl Harbour, an extra 7 weeks or something while the thing was fixed up.

I gather they did a great job, because I know in the TS they had to disconnect a lot of the electronics and pull them back from the ship’s side, so that they could actually get in there with welding torches.

Yes you imagine down that edge where the deck and the ship’s side joined in the TS was where some of the gash was and frames bent and cut.

I think John McKenzie was a player in it too. I think he was sent up to Pearl Harbour to run the Board of Enquiry on it, there were three, John McKenzie, the engineer. Perhaps Brian Turner led it and John McKenzie and an engineer.

Yes I think from my memory Brian Turner came. The reflection that went around was, “What does he know about this class of ship”. I think it would have been better accepted if John McKenzie had come.

I again was before a Board of Enquiry because I had been Officer of the Day. It was like when I came back in ROYALIST I was before a Board of Enquiry because I was Officer of the Watch, stopping the ship and getting the Captain up, why did I not obey the Captain’s Night Order book. Then of course that thing went through my mind and I was questioned about the wires. I think two people who did a really great job there spontaneously without any other hint of prompting would be John Burton who started closing hatches and reminding me to get the thing in damage control state Alpha 3. Doug Domett who leapt out of the Wardroom, passed everybody to take control of the situation, even before the Captain got up there. Those two guys always stuck out as also was Kel Lewis who was in the heads and came out in surprise.

The after effects were somewhat to our benefit in some cases, if you looked at it overall I suppose. It was a pretty sorry sight. The Americans were exceedingly good and you have probably had this from those like Ted Thorne and the others and Neil Walker who were closely liaisoning with them. Just from our point of view they were jolly good, encouraging and trying to take us out of the despair. The USN were to my mind particularly great friends and their assistance in every way was excellent. I think while we were there one of their destroyers had a fire over a magazine or something and they were always pointing out that these things happen at sea, although they didn’t happen to us.

In that commission too we had a great Wardroom team and Rod Brown was the Diving Officer. I can remember Rod Brown up on the bridge with the Captain and we are just going into Singapore and Rob said he would like one of his exercises tonight for surveying the bottom. I think we had already had something else booked in. Ted Thorne listened to Rodney and questioned him and thought about it and said, “No I don’t see any reason to change that programme Rodney, I think we will go ahead with the programme. Then Rodney started saying more and then Ted Thorne really put the caps on him, he said, “Well I have listened to your argument, and that’s it”.

When we were at Pearl Rodney and Admiral Haywood’s daughter had formed a liaison. I can remember at the Wardroom party afterwards, here is Admiral Haywood’s daughter on the carpet in the Wardroom with a rolled up piece of newspaper blind folded playing, “Morriate , where aren’t though”. The Admiral liked his Leopard beer and so it was always arranged that a little sack of Leopard beer went ashore with the Admiral. This little romance or this little thing that Rodney had going, the friendship carried on and he went to break it off and I believe Ted Thorne got onto him and said, “Keep this going”. Anyway this young lady was most hospitable. We used to go and play golf on the Golf Course at Ford Island and the Admiral’s house backed onto the Golf Course. Frank Arnott and I and somebody else out there bashing balls around and she said, “When you have finished your game come in and have a beer”. We go in and have a beer and the Admiral has got all his Leopard in his chiller and he has got his glasses in the chiller and he has got his Budweiser in the chiller and he comes in. He says, “I don’t mind you coming here drinking beer as long as you don’t drink my Leopard beer”. Ted Thorne really had formed a great liaison with Admiral Haywood, they seemed to click, so much so that we were invited about three or four us, the Captain, myself and I think Frank Arnott and somebody else to go and have a look at the Nuclear Submarine layout at Ford Island. Now the Americans couldn’t get into there unless they were nuclear submariners and so we front up to the door there which was big locked glass doors and we had this escort officer with us and in we went. I had my head inside looking inside a Polaris missile. They had it all laid out. The routine was the crew came off the submarine and went and had their leave and then they came back and they did so many weeks on the mock up, six weeks or something on the mock up, maintenance and getting themselves up-to-date before they went back in the submarine. This was all through this very great liaison we had with the Americans. I can remember the Americans saying, “We will do anything for the New Zealanders, they always help themselves, they are not like the Chinese who come here, or they are not like so and so who just want every thing. Even the stores and particularly with a brilliant pay bob like Kel Lewis, the motor-cutter would come back from the boat store loaded to the gunnels. They really went out of their way and I don’t think the people or certainly the people of New Zealand and I don’t think a lot of the Navy just realized what a great liaison was struck up and how disastrous it was when we had this nuclear thing and didn’t go back and do our training. It was more than training, they reckon sailors are always ambassadors and this is what happened. The American officers they used our ship as their home. We even had a wedding at one stage on the next commission, they used us. We were taken out to their homes and it couldn’t have been a better example of what they say, sailors are great ambassadors for their countries.

We had the odd problem there. We had a problem with a writer, it might have been a leading writer actually who got into a bit of trouble with the FBI. He didn’t come back from his leave and the FBI found him, he had left Pearl Harbour, he had left Hawaii I think and he was with a bloke who they had under surveillance. They brought him back and I was the Security Officer and I had to search all his gear before we could give an assurance to the FBI that he wasn’t mixed up with this spy outfit that this American sailor was. It got down to even chopping soap up to see if there wasn’t things stuffed in there and going all through his kit. It proved a false alarm and he was released, he came back to New Zealand but he went outside directly. I don’t know any more of the story than what I was physically involved with.

We also had a young Sub Lieutenant Oleg Whimp who didn’t perform very well and I think he was sent back from there and he went outside too. It wasn’t Terry Whimp who is Chief of the Senior Rates Mess now, it was Oleg Whimp, he was a peculiar guy actually, a Sub Lieutenant. Of course Kel Lewis called a spade a spade and this guy didn’t perform at all, he did all the wrong things as well, so he came back to New Zealand, we never saw him again. The next commission we had another guy a Petty Officer Draper who came back to New Zealand and went outside, he was mixed up with interfering with sailors I think, he came back to go outside.

(end of Tape 25)

(beginning of Tape 26)

Last time Vic we were chatting about OTAGO in Pearl Harbour when she had her accident and I think we had started to cross the Pacific towards the Far East and we were about to arrive in Singapore.

Yes I think that was a straight trip then from Pearl Harbour to Singapore, we stopped at Guam at least I think to fuel and have a day’s break and perhaps two nights. I think we did that several times actually and then onto Singapore. Then of course once we got to Singapore my thing then was to tee up the gunnery practices and go and see Fleet Gunnery Officers or Base Gunnery Officers and the Armament Depot and tidy away all those things from the start. It was the only real facility that we had to properly fire Seacat I think. We had no facility here and then I am not sure whether we fired Seacat on that occasion in Pearl Harbour, but they did eventually have a fast Jet towed target which was suitable.

Originally the Americans didn’t have a flare on their target and you needed something with a flare so that you could record it if I recall.

Yes that is right, there was something that wasn’t suitable anyway.

One of the things I remember about getting to Singapore after going through Pearl Harbour was thank God we had a place where we could get the guns inspected and all that sort of thing and measured and ballistics sorted out.

Yes that was a great thing once we got there and the team came down. John Burton was the WEO on that trip, they got those sort of things sorted out and we also got the Doppler fitted for measuring the muzzle velocity and a liaison with the MET people for the ballistic telegrams. The Brit staff were exceedingly helpful in Singapore and it was a bit different to Pearl Harbour, there was a different attitude and in some ways I was a bit disappointed in the difference between the Brit and the American attitude. Having been a loyal staunch Brit follower as it were, they didn’t seem to have the same zing and interest in us as perhaps the Americans did, but maybe in Pearl Harbour we were a bit of a novelty or something like that. Then of course there was all the normal fleet exercises and so forth and we joined the squadron or flotilla squadron they were called then, which included AJAX and that was Commander Gordon Tait who was Captain D in that particular squadron. I can remember I was on the bridge when we were doing fleet manoeuvres of some sort, the sort of daily dozen manoeuvring with the squadron before we joined up with the fleet and D sent a signal. Ted Thorne was on the bridge and he said, “Yeoman, pilot, is that right”, “No”. So Ted Thorne said make to D, “Suggest so in so and so in so”, and back came the signal you may be a Captain but I am D. That put people in their place. We were off for a big fleet exercise and Tait was a guy who was interested in everything. Anyway he decided because somebody had issued the invitation or something or he had heard that the Air Force were going to parachute people into the harbour to see what it was like to give them the experience of jumping into the water. They do this now in Taupo because they don’t have to wash their gear from saltwater. He jumped and broke his arm and his shoulder or something and so he came out and was put in plaster. They wanted to take him off the ship, but he said, “No he would like to go to sea”, and they said, “Well you go to sea, but not in command, you are to confine yourself to your cabin”. I don’t know how it worked, but that was the sort of ship that we ran.

I can remember AJAX the first time I saw it, they had their ship’s colours, they had their mess undress cummerbunds and everything in the ship’s colours, they were a great thing and they were really a great team as far as we were concerned in OTAGO.

A lot of ships used to do that up there and create some identity by uniform change or something didn’t they?

Yes I don’t think we did it that trip, we did it one trip in Pearl Harbour where we all bought the American golden ones and there was a visiting RN Rear Admiral came through. Tony Lewis persuaded Ian Tyler and they gave Ian Tyler one and so they gave one to this visiting Admiral who thought it was marvellous and stuck it on.

Then there was the usual social whirl in Singapore. Seacat firings as I remember them were and certainly the early ones were aborted with record taking and we seemed to always have this continual bug of record taking, whether you got all the pens going or whether somebody would say that one doesn’t matter and then the final analysis. Very often the analysis which was done in Singapore of course would come through. They had the thing set up here at DSE by then and you could go along and discuss it and iron the bugs out, but then they had the thing set up here. We used to get it done up there and then send it back here and you would get all sorts of raspberries coming from here, but you would get constructive stuff coming from Singapore. The other thing is you came in and they would take the records. In actual fact they would take them out by helicopter and by the time you got back in they would be down and saying, “Come and have a look at your firings”, or you would get a signal to say whatever the problem was on that firing. I think Seacat cost about $1200 a throw then and everybody was really anxious that you got the full value out of it, which is quite right.
They had a very good trials unit in Singapore. The trip before that in OTAGO they came out and did the first Seacat firings, they helped us immensely with the gunnery system. I can’t think of their names, but I remember the whole team, there was an SD Ordnance Engineer and an SDL and a whole crowd of OA’s and EA’s. We got them hopelessly addicted to Leopard beer and they seemed to spend their whole time in our ship.

They were jolly good and it was a great place to get all hour datums checked and line ups and system tunes and things like that.

The big thing I remember was getting that damned, remember they used to delegate to the Gunnery Officer and the OE the measurement of the guns and I was never confident with doing that. Because you didn’t do it on a daily basis you were nervous about it and it was a great relief to get to Singapore and get the real experts down to confirm your own measurements.

I can always remember the argument that went on about who would condemn the gun. I would say, “Look here is my Long Course Certificate”, that is the only thing that it says on it. The only qualification that I have got is to condemn pieces of naval ordnance, which was really I suppose a carry on from the gunners days in old ships. Certainly I could measure it, but I didn’t have the technical knowledge and I would have to rely on everybody else to go through the bore with their little mirror and telescope and inspect the bore.

I condemned the guns the previous trip, because we had wash in the breech area and I took impressions, it was black gunk you took impressions with, wasn’t it. I remember Bill Minchall reaming me out for being silly, but the guy up in Singapore who was a Commander Short if I remember, would slap me on the back and say, “Well done my boy, that is exactly what I would have done in the same circumstances.”

Of course Bill Minchall was worried about costs or it wasn’t done in the depot.

What did OTAGO get up to up there, did you do any port visits?

Yes I am just trying to think. We went to Bangkok and I can remember we moored in the river in line with the merchant ships up in Bangkok and when we sailed from Bangkok we had a little ding with a merchant ship when we were turning and I don’t think anything came of that.

This was Ted Thorne’s trip?

Yes, who was a pretty good ship handler actually. I think Barkley Goddard was our First Lieutenant and we went to Manila. When we set off Doug Domett was pilot and so we said we would have an RPC in Manila, we sent signals and nobody seemed to be coming and so we put the green and white fighting lights on as RPC signal and still nobody came. Barkley said, “We will take the motor cutter” and so we went from the Wardroom and we had the gin and the brandy in big glass Carboys bottles. I can remember going down to the port boom and lowering this into the boat we had young Clive Calkin who was the midshipman in there. Anyway we went into one ship, it was one of these diesel AA frigates and I can’t remember it’s name, the Captain of it had been out here as a two and a half.

What were they Salisbury class?

Yes and in fact there were two of them who had CO’s who had been out here. So we went and he was turning in actually, but we woke him up and he said, “Oh I will come and have a drink, but I am going to have to go back to bed because we are off in the morning. He detailed his First Lieutenant to entertain us in the Wardroom. We started singing and I can remember the First Lieutenant said, “Nobody sings in this Wardroom and if you sing you will have to leave the Wardroom”. Calkin starts singing again and so the bone was pointed to leave the Wardroom. Calkin stands to attention and says, “Aye, aye Sir”, opened the port and dived out and swam around to the gangway.

On a more serious side, this is the time of the Indonesian confrontation and we used to patrol up and down the Malacca Straits and around the East Coast of Malaysia and do these night patrols in darken ship. Rick Humby relieved Ted Thorne and so we were still doing them with him.

I think Ted Thorne talks of going over to Tawau?

Yes that was part of this Indonesian thing.

SANTON was out there at the same time with Lyn Tempero as the CO and the Governor General came and called on us. It was while we were in harbour in Singapore SANTON had a few bullets put through her funnel. I am not sure if it was just before or just after the Governor General had had his trip in SANTON, because he did an operational patrol. These Indonesians had big long aluminium or metal boats that had great big Mercury motors on and they used to belt along. They had things covered up which looked like fish and when they would get close they would uncover it and they had a couple of machine guns. I think that is how SANTON got caught, somebody from SANTON would know more about it, but that is the story that the SANTON brought back.

Kel Lewis was the pay bob and at one state Kel Lewis was the Boarding Officer and old Kel used to sleep in his number eights in his cabin and we would give him a shake when things were looking as if we were going to have to board somebody. One night we actually took some prisoners, it was like a big barge, which was a fishing vessel, but it was shaped like a big barge. Clive Calkin again was the Mid who was detailed off to take this prize with a couple of sailors. We got him a big baton and nailed a white ensign to it and sent him of. I can remember standing up, “Carry on Mid Hornblower, out to the reef and anchor”, and so we left him out there. They anchored out there. Then a bit later we got another one and we had to send somebody else out. I don’t know who went out with the other one. Anyway this other fishing vessel was coming up around about where this anchored one was and of course they didn’t know who was who and it just about came to battle stations between the two shooting at each other.

I can remember we always got a good feed of fish, because when we cleared one of the Indonesian sampans or fishing vessels they used to be always so pleased that they would be throwing fish at us. We would only take things on the port side because the cinema and the dining hall were on the starboard side. It was pointed out if one of these guys fired a shot it would go straight through our plate and so that turned a tactic that we had to change things over.

Then I can also remember the night patrols for the officer of the watch in the Ops room, you had to be quite alert down there because of the number of vessels that were travelling backwards and forwards on their normal lawful occasions. There was the Indonesians who were blacked out and of course we were blacked out and sometimes you were doing about 22 knots to get up to a place. Ted Thorne he turned our plan over to the Officer of the Watch, the Ops room. Then he would go to his bunk and say, “Are you happy, call me if you need me”. You would go on doing the patrol. Frank Arnott was in the Ops room and I was Officer of the Watch and we would be talking to each other and I would say, “There is something bearing so and so and it looks like it has got a speed of so and so. It looks like we are going to pass it well clear if we keep this course and that was quite okay. I can remember one night saying, “Yes I have got it and yes we are going to pass it alright”, and I said, “Gee it is getting close”. I used to say to Frank, “Heaving line distance will be alright”. I said one night, “Half heaving line distance”, and up the steps from the back, the after end of the bridge came Ted Thorne, although he was asleep, he was right there on the ball, really alert.

Would he be listening into AI or something like that would he?

Yes there was a speaker over his bunk. He went down and he went to his bunk. But boy when you needed him he was there. He came up and he had a good look around and then he would settle it down again and of course if we did find something suspicious of course he was always up for that.

Were you operating in defence watches or would you just have the Ops room and bridge defence watches?

We had the boarding party who were in an area altogether that we could shake them if I remember. I think we had the Bofors put on us, we were the first ones who put the Bofors on, I think they might have had Bofors crew around. The 4.5’s weren’t manned or anything like that.

Did you have other small arms rigged up?

We had some guys on the bridge or around the bridge who had rifles and semi automatics, because I can remember one night we hailed somebody and it was of these big open boats and we hailed them and told them to stop. They wouldn’t stop and so we got up a bit closer to them again and hailed them and told them to stop and they didn’t. I had a Leading Weapon Mechanic up there who was on the L1A1 and I said to the Captain, “Shall we fire a couple of rounds over his bows ?”, and he said, “Yes”, and so we fired these rounds and he stopped and came around. I can remember the Weapon Mechanic was the duty hero, because they were the only shots that had been fired and he had fired them, about five rounds or a magazine of L1A1.

They rigged up in SANTON and HICKLETON three Vickers machine guns, one on the bow and one on each side under the bridge. The team there described to me that they had belts of ammunition all over the decks and then they had the boarding party who had their small arms parked on deck, so that they could go straight to them. I think Gerry Wright talking about joining as First Lieutenant on one of them. He joined in a middle of a patrol and was aghast with the pirate appearance of the whole thing. They used to use a Bren with tracer on the bridge and the deal was if the bridge opened fire with the tracer everybody else opened fire down the line of the tracer, so the bridge Bren was used as a director.

I don’t think we got in to the close situations that those sweepers did.

Nor would you want to.

We were more a general patrol at a greater distance. The SANTON’s were more or less the closed in ones who came in contact with those people a lot more than we did. We were also interested in the Indonesian Fleet as such, because they had ships at sea. I can remember one night and I think it might have been when we were on passage to Tawau that we came across a destroyer and flashed up, “What ship, where bound?” and back came the answer, “You ought to know we are the ex Hunt Class so and so”. It was taken over by the Indonesians and they were doing their patrol down there and we were doing our patrol up here.

Yes we did go into Tawau. I told you about Harry Taylor going from BELLONA and use Lyn Tempero to out wit Joffre Vallant to get ashore there. We did go to Tawau and we went around there to go and I was trying to look at it on the map the other day to go up the head of the entrance or river as far as we could, because ships went up there and did bombardments. I don’t really know what the outcome was. I think it was mainly keeping your head down and showing your presence type of bombardment as opposed to going out and destroying any specific target. We just had targets here, there where these people were known to be in camp and I think it was a heads down operation more than anything else. Then we came back to Tawau and I went over there for the wash up. I said to somebody, “Lets sell our brass cylinders here”, and I just about got away with it.

Ted Thorne reported there was a bit of strife over the bombardment because it was a disputed bit of territory, I think it is an island, although it is a bit wishy washy because there is a lot of mangroves. There was a timber company who used to mill the timber on this island who actually bribed both sides to leave him alone and let him get on with his timber and apparently OTAGO lobbing the shells didn’t help the bribery and corruption.

Yes then of course we headed back to Singapore and we did our usual trip to Hong Kong.

Did you have other forces under your control with a frigate and say two or three CMS’s and IMS’s and you took control of it?

Not to my knowledge. We seemed to operate quite independent and the other frigates seemed to operate quite independent. Those coastal minesweepers, the Micky Mouses and the patrol boats, they seemed to operate as units by themselves. We never had the New Zealand SANTON and HICKLETON, they weren’t under Ted Thorne’s control at all.

There were a few New Zealanders too up there like Chris Carl for example was up there on exchange with the Malaysians running their CMS’s.

Bob Tucker was up with the Malaysians at one stage. Chris Carl had an IMS and then a CMS.

You say you went to Hong Kong?

We did those usual things.

Up to Japan at all?

I am not sure whether it was that commission or not. The one thing I do remember and it was during that commission that Dick Lea’s wife went sick, I don’t know whether I mentioned it before, because Dick Lea and I used to run ashore and go out to the golf course. I can remember we went out to the golf course once at the invitation of the Golf Club when you visit Hong Kong. When we got there they said, “No more invitations for the Navy”, and we said, “Can we buy a drink”, “No”, they wouldn’t have anybody in there.

We went up to Nagasaki and I am not sure whether it was on that particular trip. We went to Nagasaki and we were the guests of Prefecture of Nagasaki that included the Mayor, his brother at the time was the Minister of Defence in Japan. We were all issued with a little chit that told you that if you showed it to a taxi driver or somebody they were bound to tell you how to get back to your ship. We had this Sukiaki party with Prefecture and the Minister of Defence was there and he just introduced us to him as his brother and we were told later who he was and what have you. After we had our meal and the Geisha girls entertainment, it was our turn to entertain. Somebody was given the one string fiddle and somebody was given something else and I was given the gong, the City Prefecture’s gong and I had to bang this. Sao I broke the gong stick of the Prefecture of Nagasaki there, we had a whale of a time.

John Burton got married up there didn’t he during that trip?

Yes that’s right and we went into dry dock.

This is in Singapore?

In Singapore.

We were chummy with a group of young women from the teachers hostel if I remember right, there were three or four of them who used to come down to the ship and who used to provide company ashore. One of these women taught in the school inside the Dockyard and I think it was Mary. John comes down and says he is getting married and they are having the wedding in the ship and the reception in the Wardroom which wasn’t the ideal thing when we first looked at it, because we had shore heads and no catering and all those sort of things. Anyway it was all over come with portable loos and what have you. If I remember the Washbourn daughter came along and we had this great festivity. This was about the time that the dry dock I think was being changed over to private ownership from the RN and we had a dock master who was an ex gunner, Robson I think his name was. There was a funny situation there between that guy and the boatswain of the yard sort of thing, bad docking and all that was over come.

When we went to Bangkok and I spoke to Ted Thorne to tell him all about Bangkok. The Washbourn’s were up there and of course they were very hospitable and John Washbourn had an in to the Thai silk industry. We went up to the factories there and bought reams of Thai silk and then came back to Hong Kong or Sembawang or wherever we went and had our wives measurements sent up and they all had Thai silk gowns, shoes and gloves and handbags made up. Albie Green was our doctor on board and Albie Green actually sorted out one guy quite well. We had a guy who was play up and people were getting worried that there was something medically wrong with him. I think he was in my division. I remember the killick of the Mess once saying, “No there is something wrong with him”, and everyone is looking at Albie. Albie said, “He is pulling a fast one”. So it turned out to be correct and that stood Albie in good stead for a while. Albie went ashore and bought himself a Thai silk suit and coming back from ashore in his Thai silk suit he fell onto a klong, he smelt to high heaven when he came back. Poor old Albie in his Thai silk suit.

The other thing was a Captain in the Thai Police came down and heard that Ted Thorne was the Captain and he had been Ted Thorne’s body guard when Ted Thorne had been a Commander and was on a SEATO trip, a SEATO delegate. This guy used to follow him in his car when he was on the road in the cavalcade and all that sort of thing. On one occasion Ted Thorne said, “There is a car coming at an intersection and it wasn’t going to give way to this cavalcade and this Police Captain went bang and stopped him by physical contact with his car. This let Ted Thorne and the rest of the motorcade go through. He is one of the first visitors on board and he comes down and he invites Ted Thorne ashore. Ted Thorne gets some officers to come, I can’t remember but I should think that Neil Walker would have been there. There was Frank Arnott and one or two others anyway. He said, “I will take you to a parade”, and so all of us in these white suits thought that we were doing to this parade, which was a police parade. We went into this big place, which looked like a Police Barracks. It had an area outside which could have been a parade ground, it was tarsealed. We said, “Where is the parade?” and he said, “Alright start the parade”. Coming in one door on the left and going out the other door was a parade of women from twenties down to about 14,15 and we just watched and let them all go through. “You want another parade”. Of course what he done he put this selection on for us but no we didn’t want any of that. He was quite disappointed about that. So he said, “He would take us around the town and show us and some of us got back about 5 o’clock in the morning. By this time Ted had been peeled off I think. We did go to some places and we went had a meal somewhere. He wanted to take us to a big restaurant where they had a floor show. So he got on his radio and he found out where the Vice Squad was and he said, “It’s alright they are over that side of the town, we will go here”, and we went into this place and he went in first.

(end of Tape 26)

(beginning of Tape 27)

They bowed and scraped to him at the reception, “Captain here is your table over here”. Here is this big table set out for us with seats all around right in the centre of the floor so that we could see everything and watch all the show. Then he took us on again to somewhere else. The last place we went to which was about half past 4 in the morning or something like that, “You will like this place, this place is owned by a retired movie star”. We get there and it has got big gates and things and he is ringing the bell and trying to get the gates open. He gets a message through from one of the runners as to who he is and the whole thing opens up and in we got into this palatial movie stars home. These beautiful birds that we thought might be her sisters come down, but it turned out that she was running one of these places again. I think we might have had something to eat there and we went back on board and that was one of our runs ashore.

We did the normal runs ashore and the trips up in the country.

We also went to a cocktail party there that was hosted by Steve Weir the New Zealand Ambassador. I can remember and he is an old artillery man and I had met him before somewhere very briefly and everybody goes into the reception and somebody is introducing everybody as they go in. I am trailing towards the end and this is the Gunnery Officer. This is an artillery tie and I had a St Barbara tie on and I said this isn’t a gunnery artillery tie, this is a St Barbara tie you see. He kept this up. When he came to visit the ship he used to dig me out and show me his tie. He and his wife did quite a lot for the teams up there. They were good informal do’s.

I can remember in Singapore on that trip when there was a trade delegation including some ministers who arrived in Singapore and they were shown arriving in Singapore carrying their jackets. Just like you would get out of a train or a bus, their jackets were over their shoulder and the Thai’s said that is not an ideal impression when people came. I got into discussion with one of these people about something and I am not quite sure what it was, it was something about air passages for soldiers’ wives and to do with sailors. I can remember old Ted Thorne warning me from a distance when he could see I was in earnest conversation and so I packed that up. Ted came up after they had gone and said something like, it is not so much what you feel or what you say, but who you say it to, you have got to be careful it doesn’t come around and hit you in the ear sort of thing. He wasn’t annoyed or anything, he just gave that piece of advice. He was good company in the Wardroom. He was one who stuck to the proper Wardroom tradition. For cinema night Ted would wait for his invitation and would be keen if there was a cowboy film.

He must have felt that collision, he must have had a big impact on him personally I would have thought?

Yes it had a big impact on the ship itself, particularly the Wardroom. I can remember sitting around in there and Ted Thorne down there and nobody saying very much, very glum and it is like the end of the world. If it had happened in action or something like that nobody would worry about it. It wasn’t perhaps such a great disaster really because of where it had happened. It was the Commander of the Fleet Training group, the American team who really led us out of there.

How long did you spend away together, was it about nine or ten months?

Yes it was under the year. If it went over the year when you were entitled to take your wife, to be accompanied, it was about eight to ten months I think those commissions in those days, nine months or something like that.

Yes you spent three months getting to the Far East Station via Pearl and then you had about six months there and three weeks coming back.

That is right and coming back through Australia.

One of the things I have always regretted is we never stopped in places like Bali. They had the fuel problem I suppose. I am not sure if we had a slight detour on the way home, I am sure if we went into Tawau on the way home or not, but there was a slight detour before we came back. Another place we used to call in to fuel when we were on those runs was out on the West Coast of Malaysia.

Port Dixon?

Yes it might have been Port Dixon, it was further south and halfway up the Lombok Straits. Yes that was a great experience there with all that traffic going on and frigates running up and down at fairly high speed at times and sometimes just bumbling along.

It is a busy waterway.

Yes one of the busiest in the world, because you have got all the tanker traffic. That is when I was first a watch-keeper and came back towards Singapore one night and there was two sets of lights and it looked like two vessels and it was really one super tanker.

It was at that time they had a problem with the RN helicopters and the Prime Minister of Malaysia was going to go to sea and we had a big fleet there with the Fleet Carrier. They had a problem where they had an accident and they actually stopped operating them. They cancelled this big exercise which they were going to have which was a Shop Window and they did Shop Window for the Malaysians. I think it was on that trip that we were astern of an RN destroyer or frigate and the helicopter was coming delivering the mail and as it was hovering it fell out of the sky, we were a cable astern. It hit the water. I was on the bridge, I don’t think I was Officer of the Watch, I just think I was on the bridge watching things and the flames coming out from the bottom. It had these two big floats on the wheels and this was the first time they had a genuine accident when the floats actually worked. The guy in the helicopter, the radio operator in the helicopter, as they were hitting and filling with water was giving a description of how it worked and this was a perfect copy book ditching. We sent the motor cutter away and we had a Diver Weapon Mechanic who was a bloke by the name of Scannell, he was a real skate, but he was a good skate. He was one of those good skates, if you wanted somebody on your shoulder to look after you. He had already been in trouble with the patrols in Singapore and I had been and sat with the Provo Marshall as his Divisional Officer and what not and so forth, you could rely on him. I can remember there was an aircraft ditched and we went alongside where it had ditched and we had to pick up the pieces. It was Scannell and somebody else who went down the scrambling net, because we had scrambling nets rigged then to bring people in from he confrontation side of it. He was the sort of guy who would be down the bottom there scooping them out. I can remember Scannell going away in his cutter and they got a wire on to the helicopter and took the other end of the wire to the carrier whichever it was. I could have been EAGLE, I don’t know if EAGLE was around in those days, and they got the helicopter out and they were able to do their thing. I think the pilot or one of the crewmen in the helicopter broke his ankle. That was quite an interesting thing to see these big round floats.

That was a good system there they had with the helicopter with the mail. They would fly the mail out by Fleet Air Arm to the carrier and within three days or so you had mail from Auckland here and the more important thing was the mail going back.

Because they used to fly it out, most of the carriers had COD didn’t they, it was a Gannet which was fitted out for carrying stores.

Yes it came out and went back with a Gannet.

Previous to that I had been left ashore in hospital and they flew me back to my ship in one and it was a frightening experience. I was up in the telegraphist cockpit facing backwards and I didn’t enjoy it.

In Singapore during this confrontation period we had patrol boats in Singapore and I am not sure if they were our own motor cutter or they were Singapore boats. We used to have to patrol around the entrance to the Naval Base and it was a rostered thing between the fleet. I can remember sitting out there for about four hours going backwards and forwards. They used to sweep the ships with the divers and drag them in case there were Limpets and things.

In fact the Indonesians had a good underwater swimming capability as I understand?

Yes and this is what this was. They used to drop an occasional grenade or one pound charge around the place. I don’t know whether they in actual fact ever invaded the place, but anyway that was the precaution. Our Diving Officer was Rodney Brown. We had worked out a training programme for the week, it was all slotted in and Rodney came up and said, he didn’t think it was fair that there was no allocation for his diving team to do their underwater practice. He wanted us to go out somewhere and anchor and do one of his sweeps for practice. Ted Thorne listened to his request and got hold of the pilot who I suppose co-ordinated the programme and said, “Why didn’t you think of it earlier, because it is all slotted in”, we had gunnery things and TAS things and what have you. Ted Listened to Rodney’s plea and he said, “No Rodney, the programme is all sealed and we need these other exercises more and you will just have to put yours to one side. Then Rodney started off again and put forward another argument which Ted listened to. He said, “No, I have made up my mind, it stays”, and then Rodney came back and Ted made it quite plain, he had listened to it and he had made up his mind and got on with it.

The ship come back to New Zealand, any incidents on the way home, you think you might have gone to Tawau again or something?

Yes I think we might have called in there and then come on.

Did the mood of the ship change with a new CO?

Rick Humby actually joined when we were up there.

Was he a Captain then or a Commander?

He was a Commander I think. He took over up in Singapore.

When the Governor General came he came down for drinks in the Wardroom at lunch time and he was rushing around and grabbing Gin for it and what not. I can remember him saying two things, one was, “Your crest, the first time I have really seen it in person, they asked me if I had a Claymore and what could I contribute to the crest. Fortunately that chap in South Africa, they had a big prize for the Claymore and it cost me sixpence for my Gillie to carve the crook. He actually got his Gillie on his estate to carve the crook and that is how the crest came together. I can remember him also saying, “You have no dart board in this Wardroom, no dart board and the Aide came forward with this parcel wrapped up and he went and gives it to the Mess President and the Mess President opens up this picture of him and his wife. So there were lighter moments.

From the technical gunnery side, it seemed to go quite normally. We always had good service out of the depot up there. You had a problem sometimes getting empty cylinders and things back and New Zealand was anxious that you got every cylinder back. It was a question of stowing them and shipping them back sometimes.

We came back to New Zealand with Rick Humby and then we came back up with Rick Humby. I stayed with the ship with Rick Humby. Then our WEO changed who then became Jack Williamson and Neville Winn became the pilot. I think Doug Domett might have moved to First Lieutenant then and we came back through Pearl and on to Singapore.

I can remember that we had a problem with the elevation in the gun, very erratic and it wasn’t holding. They pulled the thing to pieces after we left Pearl and the face of the swash plate was rough, it had been like that after it had come out of the Dockyard. Jack Williamson took the glass from a port and I remember him saying that it had to be one of the original English ports, not the New Zealand glass and he had his team grind it down and he got that thing going again. I can remember standing on the bridge with Rick Humby saying, “It is murder here, we are just about in the Indonesian zone for the continue of the confrontation and we haven’t got a gun that works, simply because it wasn’t done correctly. I think we might have slipped through Pearl. We did go to Pearl because I remember we became very friendly that time in Pearl with the Photographic Section there and that section was run by a US Navy Commissioned Gunner and really they were a most hospitable team. We went in and this guy was with the welcoming party and so we chummed up as a group because he was a gunner and what have you and he said, “While you are here, you borrow my car”. I said, “Oh no, I have never borrowed a car in New Zealand driving on the correct side of the road”, “Oh hell, you borrow my car, my girlfriend she has got a little Standard 10”. They thought the world of this little English Standard 10 van”. Lee Oswald was his name. It will do all the running around that we want to do. I said, “No”, and this was a Saturday lunch time. He said, “Oh well come for a drive, I have got to go up and get some gas and I will take you for a drive around the yard”. He took me for a drive up to the petrol pump and filled his car up with petrol and it was a great Ford Falcon 500, but it was nothing like a Falcon 500 you see in New Zealand. It had all the gismo’s, the electric windows, it had an electric hood, it was automatic and it was a great size car. I said, “Oh no”, and he said, “Drive it back to the ship”. I drove it back to the ship and he said, “See, see”. I said, “I will tell you what I will do, I will borrow it on behalf of the Wardroom if you like”. So we had this car. There was Keith Pearcy, Jack Williamson, myself and somebody else, we used to go for great trips in this car. They really looked after us there. The woman’s name was Anita Liptap and that was his girlfriend, she was a designer and she designed covers for records. She was a journalist, she belonged to the Journalist Club in Hawaii. Then she became the editor of the Hawaii Magazine and then she became the owner of it. In subsequent visits to Pearl I went and called on her. They were absolutely fantastic people. Some people almost lived with the married quarters people who took you in almost as part of the family.

On that trip we got to Guam and the CIA people who were there requested that they come and have a trip through and have a look at the ship. Rick Humby said to me, “You are the Security Officer, here is this request, over to you to look out for them and take them around the ship and perhaps bring them out for lunch or a drink or something”. We contacted them and they came out and we took them around the ship and took them down to the Mess. Jack Williamson, Keith Pearcy and somebody else gave them lunch and drinks at lunch time and they said, “Come ashore this afternoon and we will take you out to dinner to the O Club”, and this we did. They gathered us all up and we went out to the O Club out at the Air Base. They had a fantastic cabaret show, the Korean Kittens, a big American show. They also took us to a spot where we could watch the B52’s bombing up, nobody knew they were bombing up and they were flying them from there to Vietnam. We think we are going back to the ship and we are having breakfast in their homes at 5 o’clock in the morning. When we sailed, they drove all along the causeway, I think we stayed there two days, waving to us as we left.

What was the purpose of their visit in the first place?

Just interest. I suppose stationed in a place like that anybody they could go and talk to from outside and they were just hospitable people, they really looked after us. They never asked any questions about anything.

Those B52’s were awesome weren’t they?

Yes and they were the big secret of the Vietnam War.

We were in Hong Kong later on and that is when our boilers broke down. We used to go to the Mandarin Hotel because we knew the bar and cellar manager. He was Chief Steward Anderson’s brother who had been and worked for the Ghanese Government in a big hotel in Ghana, but he got tangled up with a Ministerial wife and I think it might have been a Defence wife in Ghana. He was expelled from Ghana and he came to the Mandarin in Hong Kong. Vic Anderson the Chief Steward said, “When you can go ashore, you go there, tell him I’ve said come”, he did his end of the thing. We met some of these CIA guys on R and R and they had their wives with them and so they took us up for a drink. We naturally said, “Come and have a drink on board at lunch time, there we are, and went to the window, you can see us. So they did. Tied up alongside was an American destroyer, one of the old wartime destroyers which I think they were using around those waters as a spy ship observation thing, I don’t think they were fighting any wars with it, it was a real American solid built old fashion destroyer. We used to have their officers come in for a drink at lunch time or before they went ashore or when they came back, if we were up. They said when we come ashore we will go and have steaks in the destroyer and they came and had their drinks with us. We had the CO of the destroyer sitting there having a drink when those CIA guys came in, he drank his drink and apologised and went. He came back and said, “He wasn’t going to drink with us.” I think one of the reasons or covers that they were in Guam for was for pilfering and rabbiting in the dockyard and things beside their normal role and so they made themselves known and so that was another interesting little quirk there. Also they used to take water from us and I think they used to take some green veg from us. They had an arrangement with Jack Dusty and Colin Ashbridge I think. Because they couldn’t take water direct from Hong Kong, because the water came from North China, it was republican water, they would take it from us. They would pump it out of our tanks and we would pump it into the destroyer, it was the same water, but different.

While I was on duty again, we had a typhoon warning and this in Rick Humby’s time and Rick Humby was ashore. The heads of department were all looking and watching and seeing what was going on and deciding when it was time to come back on board. We got this warning and we got a hours notice. I got the Chief ERA and Sandy Herlihy who I think by then might have been a Seaman Chief and one or two others and we prepared for sea. Rick Humby came down fortunately through the Dockyard dark, they had contacted him somewhere, I think he might have been with some naval staff anyway and they had looked at the typhoon warning and of course they flashed up. Now I understood when I asked the Chief what the story was, they were backed. I said, “We have got to come to one hour’s notice, what’s the problem?”. No that is okay, we will bring it forward from there”. Then the next day they discovered they had burnt out a nest of boiler tubes and that gave us 10 weeks in Hong Kong. That was quite interesting and that was also quite a bit of a shock and a bit of a thing. I think they found, or this was what I heard and I wasn’t really in the engineering side of it, that those boilers had tube problems before and it wasn’t a direct result of anything. The Board of Enquiry came flying up to find out all about it and we had Norman Kirk in Parliament who had been a stoker on a Devonport ferry saying, “That you should never burn out boiler tubes, because you do this, that and the other”. I felt sorry for poor old Keith Pearcy then. Out of that came a good unofficial refit from the Hong Kong people in the yard. Those people were working that ship day and night, whatever time you went through the ship, there were people working to get us on the road again and also doing the rabbit jobs as well.

While we were there we took on a recreation thing for the sailors as well and the Brits had a MFV there. I used to take the MFV and take a run around the other side of the island and take the Ban Yan parties and have big barbecues on the back of it and things like that. Go up through Aberdeen, all through those junks, which was quite hair raising really. The matelots really enjoyed that sort of thing. We also went to Stonecutters Radio Station, there was also the rifle range there and we spent quite a bit of time on the rifle range. There was a team of us and I think Jack Williamson was there again and perhaps Keith Pearcy and Colin Ashbridge. We never went to the Kowloon side. We would go down to North Point and there is a big hotel complex there and at the bottom there was all the Chinese families having their meal and sometimes we would go and have a Chinese meal where all the families were. It was economical, it was genuine, and you were in a great atmosphere. You would go up and there would be the food floor, there was the click clack floor where they are all playing Marjong and on top there was the cabaret. There would be just the three of us white people sometimes in there and it went on until about 2 in the morning or something like that and they had these beautiful Chinese singers who would sing pop tunes and things. It used to work out the equivalent of about 30 bob, three dollars or something for us to have the most fantastic run ashore, whereas it was costing hundreds around Kowloon. Old Chan Kee used to give us a run and go to his place in the Garden Restaurant. He would put on a meal and he would ask you what you drank and if you said, “Whiskey”, a bottle of Teachers arrived at your table and he did that for the Chiefs and the PO’s as well. The side party they used to entertain the Chiefs and the PO’s in the sampans and what not. The China Fleet Club was another great place there.

I wonder what has happened to that now it has become a republic?

I wouldn’t have a clue. Maybe the Chinese would have taken that over as one of their service’s facilities I suppose. It could have well been knocked down again. TAMAR which was quite a tall building at one time is just a pimple isn’t it. We were up there in ROYALIST and the dock was open and when we sent up in the frigates Victoria Dock was all filled in. I can remember going and buying some fresh water pearls to take home for my daughter and my wife and I bought quite a few of these and I thought, will I or won’t I. We were coming back in about two months time and I thought I would go and pick them up then. When I went back there I couldn’t find the store and made some enquiries, it had been knocked down and rebuilt.

(end of Tape 27)

(beginning of Tape 28)

Vic, we are going to talk about your time as RNO Christchurch today. When did you go there?

I went down there in August 1967. I was at TAMAKI actually and I was at the Gunnery School at TAMAKI again which seemed to be my appointment when I came back from sea each time. I did have a break with the Base Gunnery Officer at one time. My parents were in Christchurch and they were getting on a bit and so I volunteered for the RNO’s job in Christchurch with my tongue in my cheek and with almost indecent haste I got an appointment with to go to Christchurch. I was appointed to relieve Chris Carl who was in the chair at the time as RNO. We packed up and sent most of our gear down by rail. I had a big old Zephyr car. The Inter Island ferry was going and I could leave my house in Browns Bay with all the spare bits as it were and load up the car and unload when I got to Christchurch, I drove through. My daughter had just started Intermediate School probably and so we set off and drove down through the North Island and across in the ferry to Christchurch. When we came through the North Island we came through Taupo and it was like a little village and that is only in 1968. When we got to Turangi there was one petrol pump, which was a little petrol pump which was in the village by the river and you could look straight out across the swamps out to the lake. We had an overnight stop here, because I had heard that the Oasis Motel had just been built down on the waterfront and Monty Foster had left the Navy and he was the first manager of the place. I those days the manager did everything, he didn’t have a great team. The manager and his wife ran the place and they also worked the place as it were, including Monty doing the lawns outside and so forth. Then we went on and we went down to my parent’s place and within a couple of days took up the job. I got a nice little house in Linwood, just out from Linwood.

Did they provide you with a home?

No they didn’t, I had to go and search for my own.

Private rental?

Private rental.

You didn’t even get a married quarter at Wigram or anything like that?

No I had to look for my own. A chap and his wife were just on their way to Britain for a couple of years and they had a nice little new brick bungalow or house and we took that and we were quite happy there. They came back towards the end of my term there and we then shifted to another house that wasn’t so bad.

Did you get help with rental?

No I was quite annoyed really, because when my tax returns went in and I had rented out my house in Auckland I then had to pay rent in Christchurch. The Tax Department were claiming for Income Tax on my own house in Auckland and I pleaded through the system to be excused, because I had been sent there, but no way. It was only a small place. In actual fact we used it for some entertaining as well while I was RNO and we were quite happy in the little house. My wife and daughter fitted in with school, the neighbours, the Girl Guides and all that sort of thing. In fact before we arrived in Christchurch my wife’s organisation had a better handle on things than the Navy, in so much that they were waiting for her to run the Guides down there, they had heard of her coming. Before I went, I did a week in Wellington with some other people who were on some sort of Staff Course and who were going to go to Navy Office and do staff jobs there. This was one of the few occasions that I think they ran this sort of course which was a gallop through the organisation in Navy Office and the civilian organisation. We went through to Parliament, the Civil Service and met the Minister of Defence who was David Thomson I think at that time. I was given a little bit of background in that respect. Then I went down and I saw Chris Carl and he had everything in immaculate order as only Chris would and passed over to me. I am not sure who was there before Chris, but I think he had had a fairly hard job to bring things up by the boot straps as they had drifted a bit. His staff there consisted of Chief POME, a Yeoman I think who was subsequently relieved, a GI who was the Sea Cadet Instructor and Recruiter. Although the Recruiter didn’t directly come under RNO, the RNO took a great interest in him and he took a great interest in RNO because we were able to do things for each other and that was Bob Lassiter. Also the RNO in Christchurch was then the Staff Officer, PEGASUS and that was a sticking point at some stages. Because of personalities there I think there was a clash, the RNVR didn’t see why the regular navy officer should be in their buildings at times.

I had been out to functions where the then Commander of PEGASUS Ray Sanderson was, people would hear him talking and telling people that he was the Senior Naval Officer in Christchurch. I used to nod him along and tell him that I didn’t think that was so.

I found a person who I had come across before in actual fact, Ray Pugh-Williams, who was the Captain in the RNR and I encouraged Ray Pugh-Williams then to come into the circuit. He gave a great deal of prestige to the Navy in Christchurch. He used to come in and inspect our parades for us and he also was well respected. He belong to the ex RNVR’s Association and of course he was the master of the RANGITIRA. It was during that time that I was there that he dropped something one night and he said, “As an RNR I could wear a blue ensign on the RANGITIRA”, and I said, “Yes that is absolutely right”. We went and looked at the books. We put up a letter and I helped him draft a letter and we started off this thing to have the blue ensign in RANGITIRA. It took some time to get through and eventually he got a warrant to fly the blue ensign in the RANGITIRA. We were invited up to Wellington my wife and I and had this ceremony in the ferry terminal in Wellington where he hoisted the blue ensign on the RANGITIRA. When he was in command he was able to fly the blue ensign. If you remember his little speech that he gave, he said something like, “We invited the ladies here today to show them that the man is the master of the vessel and he is the master under his God, under the Company and under the Union.”

Another amusing thing, he came one night to inspect a parade and he came in his RNR uniform and he put the wrong hat on and he had his Union Steamship Company hat. So I had to whistle him into the RNO’s office, give him my cap and wear my old dirty cap. He was very good value.

He is actually very good on history too, he was a very good historian.

Yes and he was very interested in Captain Cook and I had three volumes of Cook’s voyages of discovery which were written by Cook, they were the first edition, and I have still got them actually and he was most interested in those. Although he had no disrespect for Nelson, his hero was Bligh. He had done the research that showed what a seaman Bligh was and how in fact he did look after his men really.

I am not a Mason, but we used to live opposite the Masonic Hall in Devonport. Occasionally I used to get invited over I suppose as part of the good neighbours campaign to open meetings and he was there one night giving a talk on the founding of the Masons in New Zealand, they had all started from the RN. I think Albion was the Lodge opposite us and that came from HMS ALBION. There is one in Wellington called RENOWN and that is HMS RENOWN and so it goes on. His lecture was extraordinary interesting.

He was a Grand Master and he tried to encourage me to join the Masons and I said, “I have got too old”. You are never too old”, he said, and also I had enough commitments and I had been approached before. John Goldsworthy was another strong Mason down there in PEGASUS and between those two, they had their Lodge fairly well tied up I think.

Of course the Canterbury RNVR came out of the Lodge, that is how it was founded.

Oh that is very interesting.

When they started the RNVR inevitably it was a person who was a Lodge person and it might have been an ex Navy man who was a Lodge person. They would say, “Well I have got some good Masonic friends and Lodge mates, they would be interested in this”, and away it went.

That is interesting, I always associated the Masons with a level above me and yet when I look back on it, it was really a strong naval organisation for particularly senior ratings and officers as well. In fact something I went to say in the battleships, there were Lodges, the Buffs. I belonged to the Devonport Buffs for a very short time. The Buffalo Lodge and the Masons used the chapel in the battleships as their place of meeting, the Lodges.

The job entailed being the representative of the Navy in Christchurch and the liaison then with Deep Freeze and also the Sea Cadet Area Officer. Now the RNO Christchurch went from somewhere like Oamaru over to the West Coast and up to Picton, because I was actually sent by Navy Office, Commander Hale I think to go to Picton to go and present the LEANDER Trophy for the R-Class Yachting Regatta there one year. So that was the basis of the area. It was a pretty big parish which you couldn’t get around very often. I did go to the coast a couple of times and then went south. I used to go to Timaru to take part in their seafarers function at the church there once a year. I used to get invites over to the West Coast to Greymouth, Westport and to Hokitika sometimes, the NRO’s over there were fairly strong and interested in the Navy, particularly the one in Greymouth, the name escapes me for the moment. When I saw him at a Cruiser Reunion he was 80 something then and he was still a member of the West Coast Band.

I was the Navy’s representative in the Rescue Control Centre which was established in the Christchurch Airport, that is before it centralised in Wellington. Our district from there was again from Picton south and halfway across to Australia and across towards Chile. Those were quite interesting bits of the job to go with it.

I was particularly interested in the beginning with Deep Freeze and with the Sea Cadets, because I had been a Sea Cadet there and I think I had six Sea Cadet Units, which were four in the schools, there one at Christ’s College.

That was still going then was it?


There was one at Boy’s High, one at Aranui and I think that there was one other somewhere, and then there was the two outside units, STEADFAST, which was my old unit and CORNWELL and I can’t remember what the other one was. There would have been over 300 Sea Cadets in the area and they were jolly active. They were always a credit to the Navy and to their own unit mostly and they had a great team of interesting and interested officers. For instance one of their officers, they were in Aranui, I think he was the CO, was an ex Gunnery Officer by the name of Willis. I think he went back to UK, but I believe he came back, I am not sure. The one at Christ’s was a Housemaster at Christ’s whose name was Austin and he was an Astronomer.

The chap who was there when I was there was Peter Guernsey. I know he came out to sea with us in CANTERBURY in `72 when we first went down there and whether he was still the Sea Cadet Officer then I don’t know.

Yes I know the name, but I don’t think I actually served with him.

There were one or two characters there, there was old Frank Glaville who had been at Sea Cadets since the first Sea Cadet Unit was formed. The first Sea Cadet Unit was STEADFAST formed in New Zealand and he had been with the Sea Cadets since then. He had taken the Sea Cadet Unit over to UK for a Jubilee for some important occasion and he worked all his life in the Railway Workshops I think, old Frank. Then some of them had RNVR association affiliation. There was a couple who were ex Navy and they devoted a lot of time to the Sea Cadets and particularly in CORNWELL where they built up their unit in CORNWALL and I used to spend quite a bit of time down there. They also had a boatshed at Cass Bay where mainly STEADFAST’s whalers and surf boards were stored.

Once upon a time the Sea Cadets and the RNVR whalers used to be on the wharf down by the Inter Island ferry, where the stern of the Inter Island ferry is. Years ago there used to be two whalers on davits there, like ship’s davits, and we used to go down there and lower the boats. One was called Naismith and I forget who the other one was, but they were named by a chap who was a Sea Cadet Officer before the war and who was an ex submariner coxswain on E-11 and he served with Naismith and these boats had those names.

We used to go down there in the early fifties, about `54 I suppose it would be to sail in Sea Cadet boats. But I have got a feeling that they were over in the old HMNZS TASMAN buildings, but those buildings would have gone when you would have got there.

Yes that’s right. I think they had just completed the Cass Bay buildings when I arrived there, which were very good. They had a windlass and a nice slipway and plenty of storage space and a few buoys laid out there so they could put their boats out. Of course it became very handy to the Sea Cadets, particularly STEADFAST, because the magazines at Cass Bay and the office block there became available and they turned it into a Sea Cadet Wardroom and instructional block and accommodation and they used to go and have their camps down there.

There was no ammunition down there?


It was a Navy depot wasn’t it?

I am not sure.

I think in the war it was?

It could well have been.

One of the Navy depots that I came across down there was in Akaroa. I think even the last time I was down at Akaroa which is half a dozen years ago, the big building is still there, it was a mine building, where they used to store the mines, it was a very tall building. I can’t remember the bay its in, but you can look across the estuary at Akaroa and they have that big mine depot.

I remember visiting Cass Bay as a Sea Cadet and I remember watching the repainting shells and I presume they were Navy, they may well have been Army shells, but I have always assumed they were Navy.

Oh it could well be.

They looked like 525.

Yes they certainly had a magazine in the South Island, because I can remember in my younger days unloading and off loading stuff in Lyttelton. In Akaroa as well they had a mine control station. Whilst I was there the fishermen or somebody in the fishing industry had a brilliant idea of recovering the underwater cable that was used for mine control and so we got approval for them to lift that. It was a heavy armoured lead cased cable and they chopped it up and sold it for scrap.

I could be worth a bob or two?

Yes it was long protracted negotiations there for that.

A very interesting person who I was introduced to early on and who gave me a great deal of background about the sea naval wise, was Paul Shelly who was senior member or I think he was the President of the Navy League at the time. He was the son of Professor Shelly the educationist. Paul Shelly never went to school until he was nine. He was the Managing Director of the MED. He took a great interest in things historical. For instance he was very interested in the torpedo boats, the four torpedo boats that they had around the country and the one that was in Lyttelton. He had established where there was either a training ring or a conning tower ring, but I think it was a training ring that was located from the vessel. I was talking to Sandy Peach about this and he remembers going to see that and that was in Pigeon Bay somewhere, somebody had it around a well and it is still there apparently.

The other thing he told me was that the engine, a little steam engine, I am not sure whether it was a turbine or what, was actually taken by the Canterbury University. He said when I was there anyway, that it was still at Canterbury University as a demonstration model that engine from that torpedo boat.

He rang me up all enthusiastically one day and the plans were spread right across his office. All the power poles and the generating fire plans were thrown to one side and he had right across his table the plans and the drawings of these torpedo boats which he got from the Admiralty. Paul is still alive, I haven’t heard of him dying. He was a very nice man and he was a contemporary of Bill Minchall’s, they were both in the RNVR in Christchurch and in the Tramway Service in Christchurch before they joined up during the war.

Paul Shelly had a great input into the installation of the mines at Whangaparaoa and around Auckland Harbour and Wellington harbour and at Akaroa. He actually blew them up, they blew them up at the end of the war, but they found some at Akaroa and I don’t know whether they actually blew them at Akaroa, I think they might have swept them.

Yes because Bill Minchall was the Christchurch Tramway Electrical Engineer and that is how he got into degaussing. He started as a Degaussing Officer I think Bill and then moved into the ammunition game later on.

Yes I think there might have been a progression through these mine systems and that was Paul Shelly’s line of work as well. He lives in Weka Street in Christchurch and I used to go and visit him and I have been remiss in not doing it for sometime, because he must be getting fairly aged, but he is still around as I understand it.

I will find out because we have got a man down there, Tim de Castro and he will soon track him down.

He knew a lot about the installations at Whangaparaoa and around the place as well.

A chap who unfortunately has died too and who was a great source of information. I used to have long yarns with Stan Wiltshire who actually married Spud Spurdle’s widow. He was a mathematician and he was with the Army Artillery, but he was with their Survey Corp. This specialisation when he was in the Army was to work out the ranges of deflections or the settings required for the grid blocks around the country and design the cams for the gun sights. They were really clever men in that field.

Did you have a car there, a Navy car?

Oh yes we had a great Navy car, it had been passed down the line and finally it had finished up at RNO Christchurch.

It was an old one?

Yes that’s right and of course we pressed for ages to get another one and we finally got one. I had a signal from Wellington to say that when I was next in Wellington that there was a car available for the RNO Christchurch and I thought oh we are getting a new car. I arrived there and what was it, it was an old beat up Consul that had its day. I can remember Laurie Carr taking me down and showing me with pride this new car. So yes we had a new car.

I can remember I went to Wigram to a passing out parade. I had my Chief or maybe a stoker driving and the Chief came out with my wife and I. I went out in this car and getting really ribbed by some Air Force senior offices because where are the hub caps.

It was that bad and you didn’t have the ability to shove it in the Army motor pool there and have it come out totally brand new?


When I had a ceremonial on or had visits there was nothing left to do, but to hire a Public Service car, which is fairly expensive I suppose and on the highest of occasions to have a Public Service car with a driver. I was honorary aide to Sir Arthur Porrit the Governor General. I can remember when he was in residence there having been in attendance at the functions and so I would have a massive stretch LTD or something to pick me up around the street and take me out there, because the Navy car wasn’t up to those sort of things. I don’t know why the Navy didn’t seem to look at that side of it, as long as you could get from A to B was all they were interested in. The Navy car used to have to drive to Timaru and go and meet the Mayors and people like that. I met every visiting warship and took the CO’s and did all their calls to the Harbourmaster and to the Chairman of the Harbour Board and to the Mayor.

All this had to be done in this tatty old Consul?

We used to have to get a Public Service car. The Army were very good to me in actual fact at times. The Commander of the southern military district was Brigadier Morrison, who was a great practical soldier, a humorist, a practical joke player, but a great help to me. He used to continually say, “Now Vic if there is anything you want”, and so would the Air Force in actual fact, they were very good. I lived in the Air Force Mess for sometime when my wife and family came back.

The Army transport man there for many years was Buster Norbet Muns and he would be one of the most wealthy men in Christchurch. He had been a Captain for 35 years or something, but he wasn’t budging, he wasn’t moving, he had the transport pool at Addington probably up until the time you got there.

We had Staff Sergeant Cook or the Head of the Catering Corp in Christchurch who was a JP. I said, “How come you have become a JP ?”, but he went outside and came back in and so he held his JP.

Did you get an expense account and how did you cope with visiting people if they needed entertaining or needed looking after in the evening?

The same way as in a ship. I don’t think I had an expense account. I used to get some assistance from catering, from the Army and really you didn’t have any, there was limited catering facilities at PEGASUS anyway and so we didn’t cater for people there. I would get them a meal in Addington sometimes.

Were you expected to have people home for dinner parties or that sort of thing?

No, not really I don’t think. I had received a great wealth of hospitality in my travels around the world and so we quite enjoyed having visiting people out for a meal and tying up perhaps with some of the Navy League people.

If you had a visiting ship and you wanted to have the CO’s home or some officer’s home, it was just home hospitality, you couldn’t do it officially?

I couldn’t claim any catering or anything like that. Even buying the beer as it were, it was the same sort of thing. We quite enjoyed it.

Perhaps if I go through the Army liaison side, because that was important from a transport point of view and also I became a member of the Addington Mess. The Navy senior rates, that is the regular people became members of the Sergeant’s Mess and in actual fact even those who had retired were still members of the Burnham Mess. When I go down there my old Chief Yeoman says, “Good Sir, I am glad you are down, we are going down to the Mess on Saturday”, and they still keep that liaison. The generation that they were tied up with has probably gone, and yet they are still doing things in the Mess in small committee ways.

Brigadier Morrison was the Commander of the Southern District. Brigadier Morrison was away and he had his Headquarters just by the bridge there on Cambridge Terrace and he had a Naval Signalman there. The actual communications centre in Christchurch was the Army Headquarters.

That was King Edward Barracks?

Yes the Navy had a signalman or two or a sparker or two in there. They were Army, although they used to come to PEGASUS and keep their naval association. One of these leading signalman or communicator, whatever branch he was, came and said, “They have just had the Commander of the Southern Districts office painted out and refurbished. He is coming back off leave and he calls himself the Commander and so we would like to doll it all up like a bridge for him. Now this is the sort of chap he was, that the sailors and the soldiers could think of doing something like this. They borrowed lifejackets and they borrowed a wheel and they put this in front of his desk and all these sort of things and when he came back he arrived in his office and all his staff were dressed in matelot’s rig to welcome the Commander. He played this along to some extent when they were naming the ship CANTERBURY. We had a campaign going through CANTERBURY that we took to the schools and to the Mayors and all sorts of places to produce a crest. We wanted to get them interested in providing some funds for the CANTERBURY, comforts and things and people to knit Beanies and scarves and get the Navy League interested and so there was this campaign going on. I had been pretty busy the day before Anzac Day because we used to get involved talking to schools and other organisations the day before Anzac Day. I came in quite late in the afternoon and the Yeoman came to me and he said, “We have a signal from a silly old blighter Sir, who is Master of the dredge CANTERBURY, he must be a Norwegian or something”. I said, “What’s the problem?” and he showed me the signal and it said, “We are pleased that you are calling your new frigate after our dredge.” I never twigged, but the dredge had been alongside the wharf for years and they were trying to sell it for scrap and it said all nice things about the new frigate. The Yeoman said, “I tried to tell him to say”, We are pleased”, and he kept saying, “No he is pleased”. He said, “I wasn’t going to send it on until you came in.” I said, “Oh no it is congratulating the Navy Board, so fire it up to Navy.” The next morning at the Dawn Parade and I was there with Brigadier Morrison and we arrived a bit early and we were standing there in our great coats, a bit cold, and I get called to one side by the Brigadier, who said, “Vic, come here. I want to talk to you”. I thought, “Oh what have I done now.” He said, “Have you had any signals about your frigate?” and I said, “Yes and as a matter of fact we got one from a sill old blighter who said he was the Commander of the dredge CANTERBURY”. He said, my wife said to me, “You have done it now, tomorrow morning you had better get on to Vic Fifield and see what’s happened to that signal”, because it was sent by
(end of Tape 28)

(beginning of Tape 29)
The Brigadier was worried about this and so I said, “Okay Sir, it is Anzac Day today and there will be nothing going on in Navy Office. Joffre Vallant was the 2nd Navy Member. I said, “I will get on to Commodore Vallant in the morning and put it right”. Well I wasn’t fast enough because when I finally did get through to him in a typical Joffre way, he said, “Ah that’s alright Fifield, we will send a signal anyway”. Back comes this signal which says, “Thank you very much for your signal and we appreciate you and your crew and the ships company giving us all these good wishes and we will certainly put the salt on the table in the spirit of CANTERBURY”. I put on my sword, medals and uniform and said I wanted to call on the Brigadier and took him the signal and thereafter he became the Commander of the dredge CANTERBURY. When I was in Waiouru Mess, they had a Morrison Class of regular service cadets going through and he was up there as the guest. I was in the Mess and Colonel Harding was there and I said to him, “When he comes in the door”, and I told him what it was about, “If you just give us the nod we will pipe him in. As he came in the door we piped him in, “Gentleman the Commander of the dredge CANTERBURY”. He was the guy who invited the Lieutenant and his wife to dinner one night at his house in Cashmere and when they got there, the place was in darkness and nobody was around. So the poor Lieutenant is wondering whether he is at the right place or the wrong place and so he rings the bell and a light goes on up top and plod, plod, plod down the stairs, opens the door and there is the Brigadier in his dressing gown. “Something gone wrong, something urgent”, “No Sir I thought I was coming to dinner”, “Well you had better come in then”. He took off his dressing gown and of course he was dressed. A great man.

There was another couple of odd characters down there like Brigadier Campbell. The RNVR Captain Jack Allan, he died of stomach cancer, but he was another great character. The Army involved us and we involved them when we had the ship down out on Shop Windows and things like that. So they were part of the organisation in so much as they were able to provide for us and of course we were able to get some things from the Navy for them as well, even in our small way.

We had a visit from the French C in C of the Pacific, Admiral Coupier I think his name was, a French Rear Admiral and as he was Navy I was in charge of the visit. He arrived at the International Airport in his own aeroplane and it looked like it was going to rain and so I had my stoker, a Chief in the Navy car following up and I collected a couple of umbrellas. We had the Army Band and a guard I think we had them in the hangar in the end and the Brigadier and the Air Commodore. The aircraft pulls up outside this hangar and the doors open and they put a gangway up and down comes the Admiral and his ladies. My stoker and somebody else dashes over with the umbrellas for the ladies and they go into this inspection. Old Kim Morrison grabbed me to one side and he said, “It is good staff work Vic, that is a good idea”. After they did the ceremonial I had to take the Admiral on his calls. The French Consul was a guy by the name of Kingswood and I think he was an ex Army Brigadier as well and he ran the Wine and Spirit Merchant firm there and he was able to help with that side of things. We went and took him to the Mayor and to somewhere else and then we called on the Brigadier formally and we had lunch at Addington Barracks. Because it was raining they put a tent up for the Army Band who were playing while we were having lunch and just after we left the tent is disintegrated around the back. We drove up in our cars, we get out of the cars and the Brigadier had Majors with umbrellas and so there was a Major walking behind them with an umbrella.

We had somebody who was in the mess and I can’t remember who he was, he was really anti French and the Vichy and in the toilet he was saying, “These froggy bastards and what not”, and here he is coming through the door. That was quite a successful visit. We took him over to Akaroa of course. The Chairman of the County over there had a French name, De Latour and we went out to his farm and had lunch out there with fish that they had caught in the bay.

Did you have to do this a lot? If CNS came on a southern tour you would have to take him around?

Yes and then we would take them to the Air Force and do the circuit. \

We had two American ships down there at one stage, the JENKINS and one was an old destroyer and MANSFIELD I think was the other which was a newer vessel. We had these two vessels down there visiting and it was at the time of the anti everything, including the anti Vietnam and what have you. There was an agitator down there by the name of Duffield who was stirring up things and I could see that there was going to be big demonstrations and so forth.

Sam Mercer the Deputy Chief of Naval Staff or whatever they called it in those days.


I rang him up and I told him what I thought was going to happen, because I thought it might be outside my diplomatic thing. He said, “We have a lot of this up here Fifield in Wellington and its your turn in Christchurch, let us know how you get on.”

The Press came out the day before these ships arrived and half of the front page of the Press was why they shouldn’t arrive. They had demonstrators on the street corners with a copy of a letter that had been written to Foreign Affairs and the Government complaining that the Resident Naval Officer in Christchurch was allowing these vessels to come into Lyttelton Harbour, as though I had any say in it. One of the campaign things was these sailors had been in the Far East and they had been with all sorts of women and they were coming and they were going to bring all their venereal diseases in Christchurch as well. All sorts of angles to try and discourage the visit or to make as much mileage out of it.

One of the active organisations was the Progressive Youth Movement wasn’t it, the PYM?

Yes that’s right, it wasn’t the PYM.

Because I am sure they were the group that did us over when we came back in CANTERBURY.

I went down and we had a little bit of organisation beforehand, in so much as Customs officials allowed us to use their little offices with spy holes at the end of the wharves where they kept an eye on gangways. We also put some police into MANSFIELD and one into JENKINS and they lived in the ships, but they were not needed. We had a broadcaster who is still around, he was running a programme called Town and Around or something like that in Christchurch and that was Brian Edwards. He rang me up and asked if he could go in and interview some of the ships’ company and the visitors in MANSFIELD or one of the American ships. I said, “I will see the Press people and the CO when I see them and see if that is okay, but I would appreciate it if you could tell me what do you want to talk to them about? He said, “Just general things about coming to New Zealand and what they had been doing, nothing controversial or anything like that”. I said, “Oh yes, that’s fine”. He came down and he asked them what they were going to do and all that sort of thing when they were here. I had arranged a ball for them in the Caledonian Hall in Christchurch.

It was amusing actually while I was arranging this ball and we signalled them and said we had arranged the ball. I wish I had been single during those times, I had the greatest list of eligible young ladies in the country I think. We had all the nurses and other young ladies around the town and organised hostesses for the ball.

I went down and I picked up the CO of MANSFIELD and the CO of JENKINS and took them on their calls. There was a small demonstration down there and I was in uniform and I got, “Go home Yank” and all that sort of thing. It showed you how well informed they were, they took me as an American officer. We did our calls and then we took them back down to the ship. The CO of JENKINS, I can remember him saying, “God damn it Vic, you took us away at the wrong time, we had demonstrators down here and a couple of them bared their breasts”, he said.

Whilst they were there we had the ships open to the public as well and we had a police inspector down there whose name was Knight and he actually was in charge of this district once through to Rotorua, a very shrewd and efficient police officer. We came to the thing that if there was a bomb scare, there were bomb scares all over the place, we weren’t going to say anything about it. We talked to the CO’s of the ships or their Executives and said if there was a bomb scare, providing they were happy of course, it was their ship, we wouldn’t say anything about it. But it would be a good idea if we said, “Right there is a bomb scare in MANSFIELD, we will close the ship and ask the visitors to go over to the other ship and carry on the visit there because we want to clean up decks here. So in actual fact, you close the ship off and that was the excuse for sailors to go around with brooms and scrubbers and things and really look around to see if there was anything on the upper deck. There was no access for them in between decks. I don’t even thing we showed the policeman. The visitors went over to the other ship and it was a fizzer, there was nothing reported and it never happened again during that visit and we think we might have killed it by doing it that way. There was one half of the paper saying on the front page of the Press taking the views of these demonstrators. Then there was the other half which was pretty well dedicated to what I had asked for which was that while these ships were in harbour we provided hospitality. They came down and had a look at the ships and if they could take a couple of sailors and show them the town and that the sailors weren’t out really to just go boozing and go chasing women, but they would like to meet some New Zealanders. Well we ran out of sailors and the Press really did us proud on that. We were able to give them a Press thing after they had sailed that said, “We have run out of sailors, the hospitality was fantastic”.

The other thing that Brian Edwards came and asked me if he could interview these people again before they left. As he seemed to have been alright the first time I said, “Yes certainly, I will check”. I did my liaison with their Press and PRO people. Then he got into them. How many girls had they been with and what had they done when they were on shore and he was trying to check up how many women they had been with and all that sort of thing. From there after I wiped that Press source. I thought that was really bad.

The Americans at Deep Freeze were they there all year around or were they just there for the summer?

No they were there all year around. I got involved with Deep Freeze, in so much as that our ENDEAVOUR and their tankers and their other ships coming into Lyttelton, I was the liaison with the Lyttelton Harbour Board.

In those days ENDEAVOUR was still running, that was the second ENDEAVOUR?

Yes that’s right.

The ex NAMAKOGAN. Their ships would run through on the way south?

Yes Lyttelton was the last port. We would have their store ships. We would have the ice breakers and we would have our ENDEAVOUR and ENDEAVOUR would make several runs. The ice breakers would in on the way down and then they would come in on the way back and their store ships would do the same. I had a liaison with an Army Captain who was the stevedore officer at Deep Freeze. I was a member of the Deep Freeze Officer’s Mess out at Harewood. I became very friendly with the Commander of Deep Freeze, who was the actual Commander of the unit in Christchurch and he came out and commanded the unit for two or three years and they were based in Harewood.

What rank was he?

A Commander.

Because at one stage they had an Admiral there.

Then the high flying people would come out and they would be in charge of the operation, but there was this Deep Freeze Base Commander.

There are still some names of streets around Wigram and what not.
I can recall Admiral Dufek in 1958.

Yes he was the first Admiral who came out.

I was home on leave and I went to the Officer’s Club one night with a friend who was in the Army Territorials and Admiral Dufek and I came to the conclusion that we were the only regular Navy guys there and we cleaned up everybody at cricket and billiards.

Yes and I can remember who the Admiral was when I was there. The Admiral would come down at the beginning of the season and then would go back. He would come down to the ice, but he didn’t stay down the ice all the time, he ran his operation from there and then he would go back. In fact Deep Freeze has got a little counter in the International Airport where they do their Customs clearance and so forth. Nor they have shifted out a bit haven’t they.

I know they have got a big hangar there now, which is theirs?

They used to have those Starlifters come in.

At one stage they also had the old Weedons Air Force Base didn’t they?

I don’t know. Yes they might have had whilst I was there. Weedons was the ex Air Force Communications Base just south of Christchurch on the south road, just out of Hornby, before you get to Burnham. They shifted out of there I think because they built at Harewood at little communications station and I was invited along for the opening of that communication station, which I got a plague from and we had high jinks. In the Mess they used to look and say, “Oh here he is, are you looking for your Uncle Jim again”, when I went in there the second or third time”. I said, “I haven’t got an Uncle Jim”. “Yes, you have, the Jim Bean”. In fact when one of the stevedoring officers left, he came along to my office and he brought about three two gallon jars of Jim Bean. I had a reputation for Jim Bean.

The job was to liaise with Deep Freeze about berthing.

Yes Error! Bookmark not defined.Lyttelton must have been a very active port for that operation at that time. The ships now go direct from the States I think?

Yes and you used to be able to get a passage too from Christchurch sometimes.

Yes I know a lot of my generation Sub Lieutenants used to go and have a tour on one of the breakers or one of the supply ships and go down there.

They also used to get an indulgence passage back through Hawaii. They had these Starlifters.

I can remember McPhail and Gadsby. Now David McPhail I think was tied up with a sports shop before he came on the stage, or the entertainment business. He was a cobber of Jim McDonald who was the liaison guy. I had a phone call and they wanted me out at Deep Freeze that afternoon and so I went, they wanted me in the Mess, when I got there. They had this Starlifter or whatever it was, this mighty aeroplane on the deck at Harewood and they said, “We have got these guys coming out and we are going to tell them that we are going to take them for a flight. It might have been April the 1st or something. They had this massive deception where they were going to take these guys. They took me over the plane first and showed me the cockpit and the sleeping cabinet and they had the bunk made up in the sleeping cabinet and they told these guys to bring their pyjamas and so they played this joke on them. Of course the thing never left the ground, but they made noises and whizzed engines and things and said, “It looks like it is broken down, we had better stay in the Mess, have you got your pyjamas, we have got a room for you. They were good neighbours. They were very good to the Harbourmaster at Lyttelton, Captain Holden, who I spent quite a lot of time with and became friends with, he died recently and I still see his widow down in Christchurch.

Some of the interesting things that did come through, one was GLAZIER, she came through one year, I think it might have been the second year that I was down there, which would make it `68/69 and I was invited to go down there. If they were in Lyttelton for Thanksgiving, they used to have a Thanksgiving lunch down there before they went south sometimes, they had their celebrations before they went down.

By the way those US Coastguard ships carried grog too, they weren’t like the US Navy, they were able to have their bar and they served wine and so forth with their meals. I was taken through GLAZIER. There were three things that were quite outstanding to me, one was they had a weather system that produced the satellite weather map which we hadn’t seen in New Zealand to my knowledge anyway. I think it was something like 1200 square miles that came up on a screen and they were able to print it out. That stood in a small compartment with a massive machine, but they were able with the touch of a button to get a weather picture.

The other one was they had a Sat Navy, which was not called GPS in those days, but it was the same sort of thing. They were doing experiments with these for the US Navy. That Sat Nav and the single side band radio/telephone had been taken out of one of the US aircraft carriers where it had gone through trials and was put into GLAZIER to do trials and all the way down to the Antarctic to see how these systems worked. They had this fairly big size cabinet, about the size of an old fashioned radar set, about 5 foot tall and about 3 foot wide and about 4 foot deep. They fed a small connection into it, pressed a button and the latitude and the longitude with a time came out on a chit like you would get from the supermarket. They actually found that the oil wharf in Lyttelton, the charted position was 200 yards different to the Sat Nav position and I think the charts were corrected. They had this single side band set. Now you can get those and I have got one, a bit smaller than that remote control for my television and you get a lot more on it in actual fact. If I set it here it would go to Auckland. It would tell me what course to set to come back to Taupo, although I would have to go over the hills and through the rivers and things and that is a handful now, whereas that was the state of the art then.

We came across that again up in Pearl Harbour and the greatest thing going around the Fleet there at the time was that GOLDSBOROUGH who was to go to Australia. She was going to Sydney and navigating all the way on Sat Nav and up to half a mile outside Sydney or something, it was really in its infancy then. The single side band on this radio, you could talk directly into San Diego. On the way out when they got to the equator they couldn’t get back into the States for some reason. They picked up somebody in New Zealand and it was a ham and I think he might have been in either Christ’s College or at Canterbury University, this ham who had picked them up had documented what he had picked up from them. They were carrying out these experiments with that equipment. I should imagine that would be among the first time that it had appeared down there, that equipment. That set was no bigger than my stereo and now of course that has gone hand held as well.

Down here in Taupo once Admiral Crow was here and was out on a fishing trip. I acted as RNO Taupo when he was here. I met them and what have you and just as they were going out in the boat a phone call came through on my phone that C in C Pacific CINCPAC wanted to talk to the Admiral. I said to the Chief Staff Officer, well you can use this phone, but it is unsecured, it is just a phone. “That is alright, tell them the Admiral will call them in about an hours time.” He had a briefcase size machine that he took out and put on the deck and called and Admiral Crow got through to CINCPAC. So the communications have really moved along haven’t they?


We had some work with ENDEAVOUR down there.

Doug Bamfield was the CO I think on most of the trips while I was there and he was relieved by Murray Verran.

Yes I know certainly that the two of them were CO’s at some stage or other.

Bernie Commons was XO.

When they got down south Bernie Commons leapt from the ship onto the wharf and broke his ankle. So they flew him back and I had to meet Bernie at Harewood and put him up in Deep Freeze while I arranged for Air New Zealand to get him back to Auckland. He had his leg in a plaster and we had to get him in this aircraft where they took the front seat out of the aircraft. We got him over to the airport in his wheelchair and had to get him in with a forklift to get him back to Auckland.

When Doug Bamfield arrived and this was the first occasion in his command we did the rounds again to take the CO of the fishing ship around everywhere. We went to the Harbourmaster in Lyttelton in his office and he followed the line of the RNO in PEGASUS eventually by having a grog cupboard in there somewhere, we would have a tot there. Then onto the harbour authority in Christchurch in the Board Office and they would have all the Board around, because that was free drinks for them. Then we would go to the Mayor and the first Mayor I had down there to call on was Sir George Manning. George Manning was Welsh Chapel who had never drunk, but he used to say, “I like your visits Commander Fifield, I can get my wee bottle out”. He used to have his wee bottle and that was his ration of whiskey. Then we would go to the Air Force. The night before we were due to do the calls, the officers in ENDEAVOUR had the standing invitation to go to Wigram and so they went out to Wigram. I think Mike Lloyd was one of them, he was a Mid I think at the time and somebody else, there were a couple of youngsters there. They would go out to Wigram and if there was a bit of a thrash and a party going on I would get a phone call in the morning from Commander Bamfield whom I was about to take out in my fast black Consul. I think I might have lent him the car to take him out on his calls to the Air Force and the Army which I think he did the next day. He said, “Vic, I have just found the Mids have brought the Tiger skin from Wigram Mess and the claws are torn off it”. He had a confession that as they left they just tore it off the wall. Of course the Mess closed and nobody had noticed it yet. I said, “Well the best thing to do is to get it and put it in the back of the car and we will see what we can do to repair the damage before we get there.” I rang up Canterbury Museum and got hold of one of the taxidermists and explained the situation with much laughter from them and they said, “Well if you get the claws, we can put it back together, there is nothing to worry about, we will do that for you.” When we called on to the Air Commodore, the CO of ENDEAVOUR was able to apologise for his officers and explain what remedial action had been taken and everything was fine and dandy. ENDEAVOUR sailed and I got a ring from the Museum and they said, “Your tiger skin is ready, thank you very much.” I took it out to Wigram and got it hung up on the wall. I had a fairly good liaison with the CO who was a Wing Commander there and the Adjutant, they took me in and gave me a couple of drinks and what not and we had a laugh about it. Then I sent this signal and I repeated it to the Air Officer Commanding Wigram. “Tiger, tiger, burning bright, back upon the wall tonight. All up there in new mocker, it will cost you $10 on the knocker”, to ENDEAVOUR you see. These youngsters had to go out and give their $10 to the Museum and we got the thing back on.

When ENDEAVOUR was due down the following year, I sent another signal before they sailed, “Big game hunters from the north”. It all went down and we had a great spirit and the thing was solved. We had other visitors, we had the Brits down there. We had FO2 and I can’t think who the FO2 was, he was in LONDON. That was a most successful visit as well. I had great signals and messages, because the people really took them to heart.

The visit was slightly marred. Once again we had functions for everybody. We had the cocktail parties in the ships and we had a cocktail party in PEGASUS. I think we started with a cocktail party in PEGASUS as the hosts. The CO of LONDON and the flag team all departed to go back to their ships at a reasonable hour and some of the others stayed on and did the town. The CO of the RNZNVR didn’t get any invites down to the ships, whereas I did, but I didn’t go, because I had my whack for the day. He drove to Lyttelton and went into the Wardroom and reintroduced himself, he was under the weather and got himself made welcome and had a few more drinks and then drove back to Christchurch late at night and came through the tunnel and was picked up for drunken driving.

Yes that’s right, I know the story, because my old neighbour Blue Wheldale was the man on the gate and they put traffic cops with him and Commander Sanderson said, “But I am a Commander”. Blue thought it was great, he thought it was funniest thing he had ever seen.

He wasn’t a very popular person. The thing was, “I am the Senior Naval Officer in Christchurch.” I got a phone call and they parked his car over to one side. That placed was manned by Monty Gibbs, Blue Wheldale was the boss and also in Lyttelton was a policeman ex GI Lofty Mair. He tried to get Mair involved in the thing, he decided to involve everybody. I don’t know how they got him back to Christchurch, I can’t remember.

(end of Tape 29)

(beginning of Tape 30)

Today we want to talk about IRIRANGI and when you were CO of IRIRANGI. Tell me it is unusual for a gunnery man to command IRIRANGI in the first place, how did you get there?

I was the second gunnery guy to command IRIRANGI because John Mason was there before me. I just volunteered for it, I was fed up with going back to the Gunnery School and to the base job. I was down at TAMAKI and I liked fishing. I used to come down here fishing and I used to like being in the bush, but I never had a great deal of opportunity to go deer stalking and things like that and I thought well I might be able to do those things within my naval career. I put a request in and saw Gerry Lawrence, thinking there will be tons of people who will be putting in for IRIRANGI and I wouldn’t stand a show, they will be all the general list, the WEO’s, communicators and what have you. Anyway within a few days I had an appointment because George Paul had come to the end of his term down there. The gunnery job was getting a bit more interesting in actual fact because from the schools point of view we had started and I had taken a leaf out of the RN’s book and put on a bit more pressure and asked a bit more often for a frigate. In actual fact I can remember for one term on the gunnery school we had TARANAKI with Lynn Tempero and we had a good week with a good allowance. I was a bit fed up with TAMAKI and I had volunteered for the Mess Committee in TAMAKI and I had been told I would have to be Treasurer. I explained to my Captain and I explained to the Mess President Brigadier Hamilton that I didn’t think that I had the time because I was backwards and forwards to sea now. I was going to sea again for the odd days from TAMAKI and that I didn’t have the continuity of day in and day out in the place and also I wasn’t that sort of a person. I could count bullets and do those accounts and things, but I was never a great bean counter for balancing cash books. Gerry Lawrence that but Brigadier Hamilton said I was Treasurer and it was represented to the Commodore Dick Hale that I had made that representation.

I would say it would either be Hale or McKenzie.

It was Hale.

When I went to go I asked for an audit of the books, I had about a months notice or more and I knew it was going on January the 10th or early January to IRIRANGI. They appointed two auditors and those auditors kept dodging the job. Every time I produced the books they would have some excuse. I thought to myself it was being politically done. After I had left, I even went into the establishment the day I had my wife and daughter in the car with all my kit to try and pass these books over, because I had put them in the duty officer’s cabin. The two blokes didn’t turn up and after I left there was criticism, which annoyed me because when I took the job over the bar was running at a loss. In the first month we brought it up to about $1200 simply by counting the grog and the money and what have you. I have never forgiven the Army and a couple of characters in the Army for that and so I was glad I was down in the fresh air at IRIRANGI.

Had the old camp gone when you took over?

No we had the old camp that was in a shocking state. It had been in a shocking state for some years of course. They were building or renovating the Treasury Block as they called it in the Army area at Waiouru to take the administration, that was the offices and the senior rates. The sailors were already in Waiouru but the senior rates were down here. The sailors had gone up just before I got there. However all the old camp buildings were still down there and the Chief Petty Officers and Petty officers actually lived in the old camp still.

Was there a Wardroom still going?

Yes the Wardroom was still there.

Because the senior rates mess joined it?

Yes joined in together and we had a common galley that went through the junior rates as well. In actual fact it was my task then to pay off the rest of the old camp as it was known and open the new one with the Army. We had great co-operation from the then Colonel Lynn Smith who finished up as a Brigadier. He rang me up the other day as he was going through. He really was a great help to the Navy down there and so was Colonel Poenanga beforehand, but Poenanga and George Paul didn’t get on very well because Poenanga was a straight shooter. General Les Pearce was the Chief of the General Staff, so those people were really behind Navy down there.

A nice guy, Les Pearce and Lynn Smith particularly I think are great guys?

Yes and Lynn Smith has always been a friend. We used to go shooting together because he found it easier to do it with somebody outside his own establishment. For instance when he was going to the Staff College in Britain, nobody knew that we were going on a fishing trip to Omori. He rang me up and said, “I don’t think I can go on this trip Vic, call in on your way up”, and I had just got a new ten foot aluminium dingy. I said, “That’s a shame I have just got this new boat”. I called in on him and he told me which he told nobody else in Waiouru that he was off on a Staff Course and that they were packing at the time”. He said, “I think I had better have one last look at the lake”, and so he came.

We had a final dinner where we raked up nearly all the ex CO’s, living ex CO’s, I think they were all living, to a dinner in the Wardroom. It was a tiny little Wardroom, but we had the band in there as well and we had Lynn Smith and the Army.

I see in the real old Wardroom.

We had two Admirals the then Chief of Naval Staff Ted Thorne and retired Laurie Carr. I was sitting next to the Colonel’s wife and I found out in actual fact she was Pauline Pankhurst who was at school with me in Reefton on the West Coast and of course Lynn Smith was a West Coaster from Karamea. What we had to do was to get the block up there finished off and get the sailors shifted there. There was quite a bit of resistance, the senior rates were not all that happy in going up and going to the Sergeant’s Mess.

They didn’t actually live in the Treasury Block?

Yes they did eventually.

But they actually messed with the sergeants?

Yes and of course the Army were very strict about having bars in other areas, they had just tightened up on it. For instance once upon a time I believe the units used to have their own little bar and they stopped it, so that everybody had to either drink in the Officer’s Mess or the Corporal’s Club or the Soldier’s Club or the Sergeant’s Mess. Of course our Chiefs and PO’s wanted to hang onto their Mess. It was through Lynn Smith and I can remember sitting with Lynn Smith in the nearly completed Chief and Petty Officer’s Mess before we shifted up there, just when they were about to put the roof on. We sat down with a crate of beer with the President of the Chief’s Mess and we had a beer and established that there would be a little bar there for the Chiefs and Petty Officers. The Chief of General Staff agreed and they actually had a tot down there on the commissioning day. It was bound that they had to keep hours for it, it wasn’t an open slather bar. On Saturdays and Sundays they had it for an hour or two at lunch time and they could take their wives down there. We had them with a green spot at the back with a big fence and a barbecue and so forth and also an hour at night, but they were meant to drink in their own Mess. I made that arrangement with the Colonel and so I felt bound and encouraged them to use the Army Mess, because really they were living there and they should in the same way that I made sure and my officers made sure that we used the Officers Mess.

Presumably they had to walk a country mile to get food and drink and what have you?

From the Sergeants’ Mess yes.

While I was down here at IRIRANGI I can remember those old buildings down there, the Captain’s office was right at the end of those prefabricated buildings which Fletcher built I believe and they had a ships office opposite me and it was absolutely stuffed with paper it really was. I had Leading Writer Cattermole who finished up as the Warrant the Mole the writer. I can remember going over there one night and they had left the heater on in this old wooden building. Just before the sailors shifted a heater fell over and one REM I think died and was burnt to death when George Paul was down there and that was a pretty terrible thing and so I was pretty strict on that. There was this heater still on and if it fell over all that paper would have gone for miles. There was just a row of little offices along there.

That was just inside the gate wasn’t it?

Yes to the left.

I think that building is still there isn’t it?

No that one has gone. The quartermaster’s lobby is still there which was just the other side of the roadway there which is a newer building.

I said to this Chief and PO, this is down at IRIRANGI, “Why don’t you have a Mess Dinner down here, why don’t you organise yourselves a proper dinner?” This was when they started giving Chiefs and PO’s bow ties and things. “Oh they had never thought about it”. I can remember going down one morning to my office and I looked out, because I used to look straight down to the Chiefs and PO’s Mess. There was Albert Tiriana pulling the curtains back to see if the old man is in already with his bow tie still on. Being unkind I said to the Boatswains mate, “Could Mr Tiriana spare me a moment or two”.

Was he still a Chief then because he became a civilian there afterwards didn’t he?

No I don’t think he did, he might have done.

He was a Chief that time you are talking about?

He was a Chief and he left the Navy and became a technician for the police at Rotorua and he actually covered this area.

He was a good guy actually.

Yes Albert Tiriana and his wife Jill, a great family. He died two years ago in Rotorua.

Yes they had a good Mess dinner alright.

I was then presented with an audit sheet for the Chiefs and Petty Officers Mess among other things. Having been wine caterer in two or three ships and what have you this looked a bit peculiar to me and so I got hold of the two auditing officers and I said, “There is something wrong here”. I couldn’t actually put my finger on it because I hadn’t gone around and done the rounds and all that sort of thing and I had seen the stock and it just didn’t seem to be right. They had a re-run of their audit and what had happened was a load of stuff had come in and they had taken it on as credit but they hadn’t taken the invoices on as a debit and they thought that they had all this money. In actual fact when they redid the audit they found out that they were a bit in debt. I was doing rounds on the Saturday and I went into their wine store and they had a great size store which was the Chiefs and PO’s wine store and in there they had bottles and bottles of Sellicks 1970 red. I said to them, “The value of that stuff there why don’t you sell it, get rid of it, the Waiouru Mess might want it or might buy it”. We did the rounds on the Friday and that very weekend I went up to Auckland and I used to go out to Kumeu and talk to old Mate and I said to him, “I have just discovered several dozen of your 1970 dry red.” He said, “Have you !, you know I have none of that left, I would love to get my hands on that.” I thought I will buy it. When I got back I said to their wine caterers that red wine that you have got in there, I will help you out, I will buy it.” “It is alright Sir, we raffled it over the weekend”, and so it had gone.

The Chiefs and PO’s Mess was quite lively. On Saturdays down there they all used to arrive with their wives and what have you and their kids and they would be out on the green fields down there and the Chiefs and the PO’s would be tucked up in their Mess.

The day I went and did my first rounds there I went to he Chiefs and Petty Officer’s Mess and there is a guy in an old khaki jacket, something like a US combat jacket which I used for fishing, scruffy hat and everything. I had a quick look in the galley and I came out and I said, “No that is not good enough”. I got hold of the officers and the buffer and the Master at Arms and I said, “If I do rounds I expect the people to be dressed and look like we are doing rounds and things to be prepared and what have you and so we stopped it and then we re-did the rounds and this went on for a while, but it gradually came up fine and then I was quite happy to take anybody around.

The grease in the galley in the ceiling above the stoves and that was about 4 inches thick and so we didn’t look at that. There was a possum in the Wardroom’s roof, but that was okay as long as he didn’t show his head.

I can remember that dinner I was talking about, that possum was there and we had to patch a bit of the wall with an old chart to prevent him from coming out. The state of the boards in the buildings was shocking and so we moved. The Chiefs and the PO’s asked if they could have a farewell function and they said, “We will move out of the camp down here at 1 o’clock on the Sunday if that is alright”, and, “Sure”, and they are going to drive down to Waiouru Camp. I had a yarn with the Colonel who said, “We will draw our curtains this afternoon Vic”. One of them had a big stationwagon and they hang wreaths on it for sympathy, “Farewell to IRIRANGI”, sort of thing. They drove it in procession with all their cars behind with lights on as a funeral procession all the way up to the Army camp and into the Army camp. Of course this Sergeant and NCO’s and the Senior Rates and the ranks in the Army welcomed them in and they had been on this squirt I suppose from about ten in the morning. Now some of the Army had been down there as well. When they got them up into Waiouru to welcome them into Waiouru, they said, “We have got to show you what goes on in the camp before we got into the Mess”. So they put them all in Bren gun carriers and drive them up into the hills there, real seasick senior sailors. Then I can remember that we shifted the flag pole up and we made sure that the plan for the flag pole was that the gaff was going to be in towards the building. I aid, “No we turn the flag around so that it hangs over the footpath so you can see the White Ensign as you go past.

The was another thing when I went there was the Boatswains mate if he was on the ball would tingle the bell at 8 o’clock and run out and put the flag out. So we started colours down there and we had Garry Head and the officers down there and the boatswains mate with a pipe and we did colours every morning.

Was it true that was where the entrance to the Army Camp was at one time and they had moved it?

Yes that was the main entrance.

They moved it because the first thing people saw was the White Ensign?

That was done in Mike Saull’s days and I can’t think of the name of the Commander. Yes they re-routed it and the excuse was of course the Army Museum. The main entrance in actual fact was along the road where you went through the village as you come from the north, there was an entrance there where most people drove into the administration.

Did you have a Wardroom?

No, but what I established with Lynn Smith and also with Ted Thorne who was there when we went into the place was the Captain had a locker. The Wardroom table from IRIRANGI which was quite a fine piece of table in actual fact, it was all Formica, but it was a nice table, I had that in the office. I drew mess traps on the CO’s rating and I had a steward and we had a pantry in the junior rates lounge which was designed in there for both senior rates and also for the CO’s place. We used to have our own IRIRANGI Mess dinners there.

Could you have lunches there if you wanted to?

Yes if we were entertaining people in particular. Some of the Heads of the Government Communications people, sometimes we would have a dinner in there. We could dine about twelve I suppose or fourteen and we would have a dinner with our wives there. We would attend the Officer’s Mess one. We would organise our own little dinners and particularly if we had visiting firemen.

You had a steward and were there Navy cooks?

There was always a Navy cook down there, he worked for the Army, but he got his services and we would get the food prepared there and then it would come over.

Because they would enjoy that, doing something for the Navy?

Oh yes. My steward old Wilfred Walsh he took great pride, because he was just an ordinary Able Steward and he became the Chief Steward for the night.

He was the only steward there?

Yes and we would enjoy a couple of sailors and they would come along and they would all take part. He was a great guy getting things going. Then we had that little pantry in there. The Chiefs had the odd function in the junior rates there using the pantry.

Admiral John McKenzie came and we had the ships’ company cocktail party and had it in the lounge and they all brought their wives. I can remember John McKenzie enjoyed it and Mrs McKenzie and Mrs Fifield were over in the Officers Mess because we had the Mess dinner, dining in the Chief of Naval Staff that night and Mrs McKenzie kept sending messages over to John. I said, “Tell Mrs McKenzie that the Admiral is engaged with the Captain at the moment”. I said to John, “We had better go”, and he said, “Oh yes okay”.

We were able to do the odd thing. For instance when Ted Thorne came there as Chief of Naval Staff we were able to make him a cake with a Rear Admiral flag and the Army helped out with that. It was John McKenzie’s birthday when he was there once we made him a cake and shaped it like a submarine and had dirty old grey icing on it and so we were still able to keep those things going. We had the bell and we made sure that we put the bell outside and had it on a moveable thing. So that at night the last thing before they shut the doors the duty PO would have to bring the bell in because the Army were trying to pull our leg about those sort of things.

Then we got some gear down with the help of people like Kel Lewis and what have you, we got an old 20 inch lantern put there on the quarter deck and preserved it. We got a diving helmet for the entrance and John McKenzie said, “You ought to have a chronometer here”, and so we got a chronometer and that went missing in the last days of IRIRANGI. Now I know it was there about two months before IRIRANGI closed down because somebody asked me did I know where they could get it repaired. I said, “There is a guy here from the dockyard who was ready to do it”, and when I asked again, they said, “Oh it has gone missing, and that has gone in somebody’s kit”.

It was a friendly sort of a place. I remember I was Fleet WEO and I came down a few times to see you and you were always doing something. I remember attending a Mess dinner or two and you certainly used to entertain the local population and do it extraordinarily well.

Yes we aimed to get back into the days of Laurie Carr and Ted Thorne and that was when the Navy was important down there.

This dinner with the two Admirals, we allocated five minutes talk for each CO and I think the First Lieutenant you just strike the gong and invited the next person to talk. Ted Thorne was going to be the guest speaker, the last speaker and proceeding him was Laurie Carr who proceeded to talk for 20 minutes and cut Ted Thorne out.

Then they were both staying at the same place with the same family down the road, because Ted Thorne’s car was there and Ted is saying, “Come on Laurie we are going now”. He had his wife there. Laurie is saying, “Oh no we will stay a little bit longer”. Then Ted says, “No we are going now”. Laurie said, “No we are staying”. “No, we are going or otherwise you will walk Laurie and you are not having the car back”. So he went.

The CO’s house was built there and Ted Thorne was the first person to occupy it. He looked at the plans and he said, “That’s rubbish because the front door is facing the wrong position, it is facing right into the weather and the back door was facing out in the sunshine”. It was too late the Ministry of Works were committed and the footings were in and he blamed Laurie Carr that the house was facing the wrong direction.

Of course he was there at the Tangiwai Disaster. Joyce and I used to host people as they came through and what not and Ted Thorne was there once and he was telling us that at the Tangiwai Disaster he had Walter Nash and Sid Holland staying under the same roof.

Yes he told me that, I have got all that on tape. Including Sid Holland in his blue nylon underwear.

No I thought that was Nash. Nash had his woollen Roslyn underwear and he used to sit down at the table and annoy Mrs Thorne.

They used to come out for breakfast in their singlets, which I suppose was the old fashioned way of doing it so you didn’t get your starched shirt untidy.

That is basically some of the domestics.

The first time I visited IRIRANGI, I did an inspection with Commodore Challis and John Mason was the CO then. We had a look at the plans which I had lodged with the Museum, I managed to scrape them up before they were thrown away for the plans of the new IRIRANGI which was going to be built on the site of the old IRIRANGI. It was one big accommodation block.

(end of Tape 30)

(beginning of Tape 31)

It had the accommodation and the dining rooms and the store rooms and all those sort of things underneath it. In fact I think the place was pegged out when we went down there. Of course that was squashed to go into the more economical way of going into the Army which was probably the right thing to do when one looks back on it because it was a hell of an expense. I think it did the Navy quite a bit of good, particularly with some of the Army anyway when they went in there and lived in there. The Army looked and saw how the Navy lived and it dragged their boot straps up which Colonel Harding admitted to me on occasions.

You had a transmitter station and you had a receiver station didn’t you?

Yes within about five miles or so between them. We had two aerial farms and around the CO’s house we had about ten acres of land which was grazed.
Was that your land?

It was Defence land yes.

You would leas it out?

Yes it was leased to the local farmer and in actual fact it was taken I believe from the same family, the Sinclair family when they decided to build the place down there. Then it was bought from them and then bought off their property and old Joe Sinclair went and farmed the rest of it and it was leased to them. The paddocks around the house were leased to the farmer and he used to leave his old rams and that down there stinking around the house. I got onto him once and I said, “Why don’t you take him into the home paddock or otherwise I reckon I am going to have to put up a fence at least 30 metres away from the house. We got on quite well with the farmer Joe Sinclair. We had our own reservoir. We used to take the water from the Hatapu Stream at the bottom of the road there, there was an inlet or an intake and it had chlorine bottles there, but that was decommissioned while I was there. There were two reservoirs up above the officer’s houses and so there was a gravity fall. We used to pump it up to there and the Ministry of Works used to treat it by hand in the end. Sometimes they would get the chlorine wrong and you could smell it all over the place. The Ministry of Works engineer who also ran the sewage plant down there gave me a bottle of crystals that you could deactivate the chlorine and that wasn’t too bad.

There were quite extensive watch-keeping going on in the receivers, there could have even been a watch of about ten, but I am not quite sure of the numbers. How big a watch?

Probably about eight I think.

The watch-keeping system when I went there was I think eight to four and then from four to midnight and the watch would change and they would go through until eight in the morning. We did some experimenting mainly because the sailors thought it would be more profitable to have longer watches and shorter watches just to balance it out. I think in the later days we went to something like a 12 hour shift in the day. I was not keen on having one big long shift, it was getting stretched more and more. Their performance would fall off I thought because it was all handraulic in those days. When I went there we had 120 ships company which included cooks and stewards. There were two stewards and may be three cooks and a Master at Arms and all the rest of it, truck drivers and all sorts plus the telegraphist and the maintainers. They used to victual the watch-keepers for lunch actually at the receivers. So they used to chop up huge lumps of meat, almost like canteen messing and veg and stuff and the watch-keepers themselves prepared their own meal up there and cooked that and served that up there which was great for them. It wasn’t very economical because a lot of stuff used to get wasted up there. They would have just half a side of mutton or something. You would get complaints that the meat was off because it smelt like meat and it hadn’t come straight out of the freezer and you had to keep big stocks, although the galley was still working down below for the senior rates anyway. When we closed the galley down at IRIRANGI that was the old camp, we instituted frozen meals. We had some research on frozen meals and we had those prepared in the galley almost on a daily basis and they would take it down, but they were hard to sell to the sailors. They were quite palatable, there was nothing wrong with them and they were no different to what you would buy and perhaps a better variety and more guts in them than what you would buy in the Four Square out of the freezer. They were only meant to be for lunch time and the evening meal because they already had one cooked meal. There was a great resistance to those and I think shortly after I left Di Davies gave in and they went back to cutting up slabs of meat down there.

I remember Colin Ashbridge or Kel Lewis had something to do with those didn’t they. Didn’t Air New Zealand give some advice on it?

Yes we went and had the catering staff in Auckland really go through it. We put up a proposal down there and Kel Lewis went and rant with it. I used to take a sample up there occasionally. I used to take a couple home occasionally to eat and to see what all the grows were about. These same guys, those who were growling, some of them they would slyly stick one in their kit to take home or to take out to the field or something. All they had to do was to lift the lid and let a little steam out and it had an aluminium foil thing and put it in the oven.

Yes I have got a picture of them in my mind.

Now the receivers, where did IRIRANGI operate to? You had fixed services didn’t you?

Yes we had fixed services to Australia, Hawaii and Esquimalt, Canada. By going through Hawaii of course we were into the States. By going through Australia we were into the wider Pacific. Now we actually only engineered those by rights, they were taken out at Wellington, but we could take them out if something fell on the line.

They were operating all the time?

They were operating all the time.

Because I gather today they don’t. I gather today that the primary circuit is a cable and they are a secondary circuit.

Yes it could well be.

I used to get it in the neck from Defence if we weren’t getting 23 hours a day out of Canada. I can remember we had no problems when we had our team in Wellington, but when we got a Colonel Cooper I think who was running the communications down there, he would ring me up and say, “Why are you only getting this 21 hours out of Canada?”. Well the good Lord up there had a lot to do with it. He said, “Well why have you only got a 5 kilowatt on, what have you got running to Canada?” I would say, “Five”, “Well why haven’t you got ten on?”. Well my engineers say I am getting as good as I can out of the five and I wouldn’t get any better out of the ten and we have tried the ten”. I went down to Wellington and I said to him, “Look what you are telling us to do on the telephone from Wellington is like the Admiral getting on the radio telephone and telling the Captain of OTAGO that he had better close down a boiler or he had better put another boiler on. We have been given the task of running this and we are doing it the best we possibly can”. I think Neil Anderson was the Chief of Naval Staff at the time and I can remember having a yarn to him about that and I soon got that sorted out.

You said it was funny a Gunnery Officer going down there. I didn’t find it all that too hard. I had always taken an interest in sparkering right from when I was a kid as it were. I had also taken an interest in the general naval side of it and I had also had quite a decent background, I thought of having done my Long Course and my Gunners Courses in electronics and electrics and what is this, that and the other. So I have got some idea about these things. I had some good advisors in John Stewart in particular who went through things and we were able to talk things out and I got a good hold in actual fact. When some new greenie came down I was in many cases ahead of them because those were our particular problems and I was able to say, “Well why don’t you switch to that area or why don’t you do this or whatever”.

The engineers used to watch-keep at the transmitter station didn’t they?

Yes in the main and I think we had one in receivers. In the transmitters we had one chief usually and one other who used to watch-keep there.

I am trying to think of the transmitters you had. You had the old CTH 7’s made by AWA?

Yes I couldn’t tell you what the branch those were.

We had I think 5 ten kilowatts and 5 five kilowatt.

I know when I was DDWE in the late sixties I suppose and this must have been when John Burton was there, we put in Collins transmitters?

Yes they were Collins, they were the five’s.

They were the first ones that had stable frequencies?


They were trying to work out why the frequency drift was happening. I noticed that there was a very sharp correlation between the frequency movement and the temperature movement. There was no doubt about it that the frequencies emulating from this old crystal controlled transmitters were entirely due to temperature of the day and the night.

I think that the Collins might have been the five kilowatt ones which were the modern ones in which we had a greater performance out of.

Of course we had this great aerial field. We still had one aerial orientated to Admiralty, because during wartime the Naval WT Station used to go directly to Admiralty and there was still an aerial orientated there.

Then they put those dipole aerials in where the mast itself was alive. I think those were mainly used for shipping.

Ron Follas I think had a lot to do with the dipoles if I remember correctly.

Yes he was the engineer before.

Who was the rigger, he was a civilian wasn’t he, he lived down there?

Yes he was ex LREM.

He had a house on the main road there?

Yes Wilbur and we also had another ex AB who came down, Cuts Cunningham and Cunningham he may still be there, he was the last rigger that I knew down there.

That was a full time job wasn’t it?

I can remember going into a great deal with this with Gary Head who was an advocate for it and again with John Stewart, these were the periodic aerials and they have got them there now. My neighbour was got one down the road here. They didn’t come in my time, it took a while to get those.

My impressions of IRIRANGI were that most of the engineering was done in the real Kiwi fashion wasn’t it. There wasn’t much formal engineering practice. I remember getting you a draughtsman at one stage because I was concerned there were no drawings for the place whatsoever or only very basic ones.

Yes we had a draughtsman a Mr White, a Scotsman who came down and his wife Allison. You are right it was local knowledge that told you. I used to go through the loft in transmitters at least once a week, but it was local knowledge that the engineer was able to tell me what was what. There was no place that you could go and look at it.

The fire fighting was a similar sort of a thing. Eventually there were a few CO2 fixed cylinders on trolleys like porters barrows that you had to push around. We eventually got VCF piped into some of the transmitters. The other engineering problem that we came across quite a lot was our link between transmitters and receivers along the desert road, which was a land line. If the farmer got his plough in the wrong position we would go out. The land line ran alongside the railway line there through Waiouru and there was a lead shield. We had a break there once, we had an out and it was after a thunderstorm and the lightening had gone through the ground and I think we even kept the little piece of cable. There were about sixteen pairs that ran along there. There is a stone building at the junction of the road through to National Park off the main highway and that was a terminal building for the old transmitters and this terminal building finished up as Harding’s pig barn for something. Previously there had been four transmitter buildings on that site and the diesel building. Now those Blackmore’s there I believe came from Manapouri, they were claimed to be ex submarine diesels. They were used to run the equipment for Manapouri before they had power down there. Then they literally combined the buildings by getting trailers and putting them all together and so the building was never a successful building.

After I had been there about a year or so and I said to John Stewart we ought to be designing a new building for the transmitters because the building was falling down. We ought to be putting some options up to COMAUCK and to Wellington about what should be done. Thinking about new transmitters in those days was like asking for a trip to the moon. There were two options and one we suggested was we build another transmitter building alongside the old one and just push the machinery in and then knock the old one down or use the old diesel building as a transmitter block.

I went down and had a look at Himatangi and one or two other places and saw what they had done before I went to IRIRANGI. I think because they were closely associated and they had built a new communications centre down there and they were getting a great haul out of a small room. We initiated upgrading the transmitter building. I can remember the Governor General Blundell being down there and having a look around everything and saying, “How do you use the satellite communications?” The other thing that we tried to look at from a civil defence point of view was to have easily accessible damage control terminals on those diesels. To do the essential services in Waiouru for the hospital and the sewage farm I think was already on there and it could be switched in.

They were great old diesels weren’t they?

Oh they were wonderful. The stokers on rounds when you had an Admiral or somebody come in, they just loved it and I used to say, “Flash up number three or number two”, and they used to chug, chug, chug.

Now of course you ran a ship to shore service for the ships?


Now was there old fashioned Morse going at the time?


At one stage IRIRANGI took a lot of commercial traffic in?

Yes particularly over Christmas and times like that.

That was shared with Himatangi wasn’t it?

Yes and Awarua.

Was that still going in your time?

Yes but I think it might have stopped in my time as well or just after, because I think the Post Office wanted to get into a bit more of it, we were perhaps taking some of their revenue or something. They used to come through Himatangi and Awarua. Himatangi was more of a Post Office transmitting place I think. We had a link with Awarua and we didn’t really have a link with Himatangi I think. We put a proposal forward that it ought to be considered that the ship to shore be taken out at Wellington for Auckland in the same way that fixed services were. But that we maintained a small watch of about a dozen sparkers there so that if there were breaks in land mines and things that we could go straight in, because really we were just passing it on.

You were cutting a tape from one machine and putting it in another?

Yes that’s right. It always seemed to me that we reckoned that we ought to have had a small sparkers team there because of the sort of equipment that we had in case there was a breakdown that we could take it out there and then pass it on. We broken down all the crypto stuff and encrypted the stuff there as well. We had these automatic crypto machines and receivers and we had quite a bit of a problem on those at times.

We had two or three and we might have four civilian technicians there at one time. Our senior one was a Geordie Parkinson who had been a telegraphist rear gunner in a Swordfish and was from the BISMARK era. There was an old spark coil down there from a Swordfish that he carried around the world that we had as a little exhibit. Then we had a couple of people who had left the service and were taken on as civil technicians. Now they worked jolly hard and they worked jolly well and they were great guys, all of them I suppose, we might have had one failure. Geordie Parkinson was one of the old style people if there was a fault he just came down and he got his head down and he worked through until it was done.

That’s right, he was a great chap, wasn’t he?


I can remember being down there when we had a fault on one of these and I can’t remember the numbers of the crypto machines and he was telling me what it was about and what the problem was and how long it was going to take. He was never one of those who would say, “Don’t lean over my shoulder or things like that”, as long as you didn’t interfere with him and as long as you let him tell you what it was all about it was fine.

There was always a problem with earthing wasn’t there at the transmitter station I recall. I can remember visiting there and I never knew that until I remember seeing fire hoses soaking the earth mats.

Yes I was just going to say some of the problem I can remember seeing and being down there with Geordie and watching the masts and seeing the lightning beating at the masts. Because of the pumice around there the water drained away and particularly around the transmitters you used to have to keep that earth mat there soaked in the summer because of the pumice running the moisture away and the sun drying it out you had problems.

With the time did you have problems with access did you ever get snowed up where you couldn’t get into transmitters and receivers?

I lived down at receivers end and sometimes we did get snow down on the road and the road would be closed and so we would have to wait. I actually had in the winter a little blade on the tractor for my drive to the garage. I got a carport built for the Navy car, but even leaving the Navy car in the carport, you couldn’t guarantee to get the hand brake off in the morning. You might have to back up the road a bit and so I always put he blocks behind the wheels and left the hand brake off. The watch in the receivers had sufficient food to last them extra time.

We had a lot of accidents on the road down the bottom there and we actually put a First Aid Station in the CO’s house. We had a couple of nursing wives with the officers at one stage and people coming back from the ski fields couldn’t read the road and the black ice.

That’s a good perspective of IRIRANGI. Of course you served there mid seventies wasn’t it?

Yes from `77 and in fact I was the longest reigning CO, I was there for five and a half years.

From memory you ran a very happy ship, it seemed to always be efficient.

Yes we started off and we cracked down on it and we had a great team of sailors. We prided ourselves in our sporting prowess, we topped the Senior B in the Wanganui area. We beat the Army at rifle shooting, all units in the Army and we cleaned up the athletics. I can remember we tied with TAMAKI one year, so that there was a great spirit there. Old Buck Ryan the Chief REA was a great shooter and he encouraged that along and the First Lieutenant liked shooting. We had a clay pigeon range put in. When we were going I can remember the Colonel, the Chiefs and the PO’s had a cocktail party on the football field down there. They borrowed an Army marquee and they had all the table set out, it was really a set up and they invited the Colonel and they asked me and I said, ‘Sure, you can invite who you like”. This was the same Colonel who we talked about a moment ago. He got me alongside and he said, “This football field here of yours it is wasted, I am not spending all my maintenance money on mowing this lawn”. I said, “No you are Sir, the sheep. The maintenance money you get is allocated because I have put it in my budget to say what we want, it is not all your money”. I can remember the Ministry of Works engineer saying, “You are on about tarsealing that place outside your transmitters”, I said, “Yes but when are you going to do it, you told me I was going to take a couple of months”. He said, “No that Colonel has done this, that and the other, we are starting yours with afternoon”, they transferred it across and so we had a good liaison with Works as well, because we used to include them in all our things. Of course we also included NR1’s people because they were on our turf and they were part of the organisation.

(end of Tape 31)

(beginning of Tape 32)

Did you leave the Navy from IRIRANGI?

Yes I left the Navy from IRIRANGI. Lyn Tempero had previously stopped me and offered me five years extension in the Navy and I talked to Joyce my wife and decided that we would take two or three which would bring up my time in IRIRANGI to just five and a quarter years. When I looked at the honours board there it was the longest reigning monarch and it was on two notice boards.

You were there for five and a quarter year’s at IRIRANGI?


I hadn’t realised that.

I said to Lyn, he was Officers Appointments then, I said, “I didn’t want to re-engage really because you would just send me back to Auckland to the Commodore’s staff or the Gunnery School where I had been or to Wellington and I wasn’t keen on that. I thought I would go and find something else”. He said, “No we want you to stay at IRIRANGI”. It was good for my wife’s health there on the mountain, she had a breathing problem and I enjoyed the hunting, shooting and fishing which we were able to do from there. You could walk out from the Captain’s house and shoot yourself a bunny in the morning and skin it and clean it and have it the next day as a jugged hare or something or pick a bucket of mushrooms and it was really a great life. Also I thoroughly enjoyed being so close to the sailors and having a bit of a technical challenge which was something I didn’t know very much about before I arrived there except for the basic electronics and theory one did with your gunnery course. They had a great team. So I stayed there.

Where were you wined and dined out at IRIRANGI or did you go up to PHILOMEL?

I really wasn’t wined and dined out which I was a bit sad about. I was dined out in Shelly Bay from the Defence Communicators and Somerford Teagle I think was Head of Defence Communications then as Captain and I stayed overnight with them and I always remember that kindness. Then I said goodbye to just an ordinary Army dinner when I presented a hammock all lashed up and what not to the Army Museum, because it was the sort of thing that the troops had on troop ships. The Curator of the Museum there said, “I didn’t realise you were going”. I was quite surprised that I didn’t get an invite to go to PHILOMEL. I suppose they just thought that I was dined out down there.

We used to run a Captains’ mess down there, we had all the mess traps and we had a good steward. It enabled us also to entertain some people who used to come out for the Government communications who were not keen on getting into the mess.

Di Davies came and took over from me and brought that certificate out there, that is hanging on the wall which was signed by Defence in Wellington making me an Honorary Naval Communications Officer for what I had done at IRIRANGI. I was quite chuffed actually. I went to go out of my office to leave and there is my little trailer that is down there now with my aluminium boat lashed on top of it. They had a big television set with aerials on it. My steward had a whip and the Chief and PO’s had drag ropes on it. They dragged it through the camp in front of the Army Administration block up through the housing and across State Highway 1 into the Waiouru RSA, which had opened at that time of the morning. I had a little farewell up there and they presented me with a mug there for the interest I had taken at the RSA there. Then the steward ran me down home and that was the end of it.

I know that you became the Harbourmaster here at Taupo. Was that pre-arranged before you left?

No when I left I had a couple of irons in the fire. Admiral McKenzie had a contact with New Zealand Steel and they had that port at Kawhia. They had a big mooring and they were setting up a village there and he recommended me I understand as somebody who had looked after a community and had some ability. I went up and had an interview for that, but I didn’t follow that up.

My wife wasn’t too well, she had been up into Auckland and had an operation at National Women’s and another in Auckland. I took her out to Taihape Hospital on her 50th birthday I think and put her into the Naval Hospital. Mr Church went past and went to examine her when she came in and said within her hearing there was no need to operate on her and so sent her over to Auckland Hospital and she had her gall bladder out. From there she really started to suffer from Arthritis and her Asthma and so we couldn’t go to an isolated place. In those days the only way that you could get backwards and forwards from there to Hamilton for instance was to fly in a private plane that they had.

I went and saw Laurie Carr who was with Sheffields I think and he made me sit down and do one of those tests. Then I went to Drakes. Fortunately just after they had been to the Navy and been through the Navy Training Establishment when Gerry Lawrence was Captain Training and they were so impressed with that I had started getting invitations and considered being manager of a dairy factory in Taranaki. I was down in Christchurch with my sister and they phoned me down there. There was a personnel job in a clothing factory and also to go as a fishing guide down at Turangi in conjunction with the sports store down there. I was so taken with that, I had actually paid for the conveyancing on a little cottage up on the hill by the river at Turangi.

I actually went to Auckland to collect my back pay, because I had a bit of back pay outstanding and also to commute a quarter of my superannuation so that I could go into it freehold. I already had a house in Auckland and I didn’t want to buy on a mortgage as it were. I was looking at the Auckland Star on the Saturday night at my brother’s place and it said in Situation Vacant, “Harbourmaster, Taupo”. They used to have a joke at IRIRANGI. They reckoned I would finish up as the Harbourmaster Taupo. I didn’t realise there was a harbourmaster here until a friend I used to go yachting with down at the other end, he had a little keeler down there, he used to growl about the Harbourmaster, what the Harbourmaster did and didn’t do. It said, “Applications to be in to Wellington by Tuesday”. Well this was Saturday when I saw it. I rang Brian Wood who was the CAO on the Auckland Command and said could he help me get an application down. He said, “Okay, what I will do is put an official thing from here and send an official telegram and then they will hold it until you get your CV updated again”. I was forever writing CV’s. Get that down there and come over and I will give you a Public Service application form and what have you. I did that. I then got summoned to Wellington in April or May and I had this interview at the Department of Internal Affairs. I came out of the interview. I was always grateful for Ian McGibbon who sat at his desk as Director of Naval Personnel or Officers Postings in case they wanted any queries.

Before that I had also applied for the Regional Officer to work from Rotorua of St John Ambulance, running the Ambulance Service. They actually paid for me to come from Christchurch where I was on holiday, have an interview, accommodation in Rotorua and then back to Christchurch. It was the funniest interview I have ever been to actually. I went for the interview in the incumbent’s house in Rotorua and as it happened they were having a Regional Meeting there and they had representatives from all the regions. There would be about 20 people in the room. The guy who left the job his son in-law got it. They came around to the motel the next morning, one of the officials and they said they thought I was a bit over qualified for it. Then I found out that the son in-law had got it.

Then I went to Wellington and I came out of the interview where they asked me all sorts of questions. I actually had a yarn to the Harbourmaster here who was Peterson who was ex RNVR and he used to have the examination vehicle at Auckland at one stage. I spoke to him and he told me what regulations and things that he had to administer and there were some that I never knew about, even though I had been in the Navy for 36 years. I got copies of these regulations and the local ones and when they asked me a question about it I was able to answer within the regulations. I didn’t hear anything. I was of no fixed abode. I had my trailer, an aluminium boat on the back of the car and we went from Taupo to Rotorua to Auckland where I painted the underside of my brothers’ house up there. Then we were waiting for the answer to this application. I had been outside since March I think. I went to Auckland and I spent a few months at no fixed abode. We quite enjoyed ourselves. I used to go to the Post Office in Rotorua to see if there was a letter for me. Then I would ring them up and they would say, “They haven’t made their decision yet”. It was July when I got the decision and they said, “We want you to start next week”, typical. As a matter of fact I then spoke to the Assistant Secretary of Internal Affairs and he was the Head of the Local Government. He said, “Oh yes you had the job when you walked out the door”. I said, “Why the hell?” he said, “Oh it is the Government they couldn’t do this or that until they had the approval”.

One of the things was I was told afterwards they didn’t want to take any armed forces officers in, particularly Navy, because they had Admiral Thorne, Murray Verran and another guy who I forget doing explosives, they had two explosive officers. I think they were thinking they ought to take somebody who wasn’t. I heard this afterwards and I am sure Ted Thorne wouldn’t mind. Ted took a great interest in the Fire Brigade. He would come and talk to the firemen and they would say, “We are sick of this or we haven’t got that”. Ted would go back to Wellington and say, “You have got to get this done in Rotorua or Taupo or wherever”, and they said, “We don’t want any more of those people around”. Ted having been Chief of Naval Staff would go to direct to the Minister as well and say, “This is not good enough”, and Ted was employed like I was. The other thing of course was Murray Verran had worked for Ted in Navy Office and had gone outside to escape him I think. The next thing is he is the Executive Officer of the Fire Service. I have talked to senior firemen who were tied up with Coastguard and I have had dinner with them and talked about Murray Verran. They didn’t like Murray Verran because of his efficiency, he started a re-organisation within that Fire Brigade and the backlash is still coming I think.

You had a fair term as Harbourmaster, how long was that for?

About eight and a half year’s.

It must have been a lovely job?

It was, I never missed leaving the Navy. I thought I was going to be lost, but I had plenty of boat work. They wanted a reference and I rang John Leonard who was Chief of Naval Staff Flag Lieutenant. I know it wasn’t quite the policy to give references, but could I get something. He wrote this thing that said what a marvellous boat handler I was and how when I was Officer of the Watch I was looking after boats and this, that and the other.

You had eight and a half years as Harbourmaster?


Then retired again?


Since that time you have picked up the job of RNO here?

Yes that is right.

Does that entail very much?

Naval Relations Officer. It goes in fits and starts. The regular things are Anzac Days. I go to sailors’ funerals and take an interest in old sailors when they get sick or something like that. I have had some welfare work, but not for a long time. I also used to have a good liaison with the recruiter at Tauranga but that depends on the personality of the recruiter.

I try and get a few visiting firemen around the place to keep the Navy’s image up. We have just had Chaplain Law down here and last year I had Captain Wood, two Captains up here and they came and pushed the frigate thing. I had Tony Lewis down.

Have we had any surveying of the lake done recently?

In fact one team was down here when one chaps Long Service Medal came up they invited me to present that which we did down at the RSA which was quite an interesting thing. They did a survey a little while ago. I don’t see so much of them as I did earlier on, I used to see quite a lot of them when they came. Mind you they don’t stay around so long either, they are down and away. I always make a point of going to see them. Last Saturday there was 60 odd people having a reunion here and they were hostility only ordinary seamen from TAMAKI and I went down and saw those and had a yarn. I found out that they were down at TAMAKI at the same time I was the boy bugler. I used to walk around with the bugle around the HO’s dormitories

I go to Auckland every couple of years and have the weekend up there which is very valuable, just to keep in touch. It is a good way of keeping in touch with the Navy actually. Although you don’t perhaps set out to do a great deal, people know you are the Naval Relations Officer, they want to ask things and talk about things. I had been to the Scouts and we have some difficulty here trying to get some interest in the Sea Scouts. The ex Navalmen have even raised some money for them and they haven’t been back for it. We have offered to go down and give them some instruction. I am an examiner for Scouts nautical work. It is years since anybody has been interested.

In our discussions over 32 tapes your naval career is still going. An absolute brilliant career with eight and a half years keeping abreast of the nautical activities in the Taupo area that is naval service in a sense isn’t it?

The Yacht Club’s patrol boat was ROYALIST’s original motor cutter and it still had the original engine where you put your foot on the throttle.

When I first came here as Harbourmaster I had no boat. The Yacht Club said that I could borrow it, they called it P1, which was their rescue boat, Patrol 1. They had built a wooden cover over it and I tell you what it was probably the best tow boat that I ever used down here. You could hook something on the cleat. They had re-done the rudder I think.

You knew how to drive it too?

Oh yes that’s for sure, because I had spent a bit of time in motor cutters. My pride and joy was the 46 foot launch in KG5.

You have given us a great story and I thank you very much on behalf of the Museum for the work you have done. As I said earlier it has been an absolutely brilliant career, thanks very much.

(End of interview)

1 Response to Lieutenant Commander Victor Fifield – Oral History

  1. gpcox says:

    I found this site through AOL Images, are you still continuing to post here?
    I have a RNZN story in my latest post at

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