Rear Admiral EC Thorne – Oral History

It is important for people reading this manuscript to remember that these are the personal recollections of Mr Thorne. 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 taking place in November 1992 with Rear Admiral E.C Thorne CB, CBE, conducted at his home 75 Hatton Street, Karori, Wellington. The interviewer is Commodore G.F Hopkins OBE, RNZN (Rtd).

Admiral Thorne perhaps you could start of by telling us a little bit about your family background, your education and what led up to you joining the Navy.

Both my parents were English. My Father, although born in London, came from a Devon family and my Mother was a Londoner. They were married in 1915. In early 1917, my Father, who had volunteered for the Flying Corp, became ill with pleurisy. When he recovered he was graded unfit for military service so the firm he was working for, a silk firm sent him to New Zealand as assistant manager of a Branch of the firm which had recently been established there. My Mother who was then secretary to a Major General in the War Office remained in UK and did not travel out to New Zealand until late 1918.

I was born in Seatoun, Wellington, on 29th October 1923. I had a sister Margaret, two years older than myself, who unfortunately died of a rare complication of chickenpox of the lung in 1955. My mother died in 1966, and my Father in 1971.

In those days Seatoun was very much a seaside village; consequently, from an early age I spent much of my time in or on the water. From the age of ten I had my own 12ft sailing dinghy, in which friends and I spent many hours fishing, sailing and exploring the coast line of Wellington Harbour and its entrance. It was this environment and the father of a friend, Bill Gendall, who had a boat similar to mine, which gave me a liking for the sea and especially, a basic understanding of what the sea can do. Mr Gendall who had crewed for Lord Jellicoe when he was Governor General, in Saunders Cup races, taught both Bill and I sailing especially sea, and weather sense.

My education followed the usual pattern of those days. I attended Seatoun Primary School. One teacher stands out in my memory, a Miss Grey who, I understand, was later, unfortunately killed on a Railway Station at McKays Crossing north of Paekakariki during the war, when an American soldier went berserk and sprayed the platform with a machine gun. In 1935 I moved to Rongotai College where I spent three years and at which my only claim to fame was that I was Junior Swimming Champion.

My Father and Mother decided that I was to go to Boarding School. To this day I don’t know whether this was because they considered I needed straightening up, or whether it was considered necessary for my education, but I went to Nelson College, starting in the 4th Form, and joined Barnicott House.

In those days there were very strong Cadet Units in most schools and many of the younger Masters were Officers in those Cadet Units. The War started in 1939 and by 1940 a number of the younger Masters at Nelson College had left to join the Forces. In the early part of my time at Nelson College I was in the Sea Cadet Unit, but transferred into the Army Unit as a Sergeant. This provided me with rudimentary military training. I went to College with the intention of becoming a Mining Engineer. Why I don’t know, but I wanted to go mining and the great attraction was to go tin mining in Malaya. However in late 1940 a great school friend of mine, Dick Sladdon, showed me a pamphlet about the New Zealand Navy, which was to be created and which was advertising for Officer Cadets. He and I discussed it and decided we would apply, because the war was likely to go on for some time and we would become involved but we would not be able to go overseas until we were 21. By joining as cadets we could get away earlier and learn a career at the same time. I spoke to my father who willingly gave his consent but told me I was a mug, as I would never make any money in the Navy. How true!

I duly applied in March 1941 and was told my application was accepted. I remained at school in 1941 but instead of going into the Upper Sixth I did special tuition in various classes to cover the subjects which I would need for the entry examination, these were physics, additional chemistry, higher mathematics, and a little geography.

In July of 1941 I sat the examination, had the medical examination followed by an interview.

The examination was that sent to the school?

No we came across to Wellington, and sat it here. From memory it was four main subjects. There was the usual English and there was mathematics. Mathematics in those days was divided into arithmetic, geometry and algebra as separate subjects. There was history, and there was physics, electricity and magnetism. I August I was informed that I had been accepted for entry as an officer in the New Zealand Naval Forces subject to my completing minor dental treatment.

How many people would have been actually sitting that exam with you?

If my memory is correct there were about twelve. I know it was over ten.

Some of the Cadets too as I understand it that were in your entry, Admiral McKenzie for example, actually joined the Royal Navy rather than the Royal New Zealand Navy. Were those Royal Navy Cadets doing the same examination?

Yes, that was the Dominion Officers Entry Scheme into the RN which was available in those days, they were doing the same entry process as us but I recall their interview was conducted by the Governor General. I understand that the Admiralty asked the New Zealand Naval Board of the day to conduct the examination and assist with the interviews. The final choice was made in the Admiralty from the recommendations of the Naval Board. That is quite correct. Admiral McKenzie was one.

Going back a little bit I remember vividly in 1940 when the ACHILLES after the Battle of the River Plate came to Nelson. People will know that Lieutenant Richard Washbourn, later Rear Admiral Washbourn and CNS was then the Gunnery Officer of the ship, and he was a Nelson College old boy. We all went down on board and I was quite impressed, I remember speaking to him at that time, it was the first time I met him. Commodore Parry had been the Captain of ACHILLES, and by pure chance our interviews were conducted by Commodore Parry who then became Chief of Naval Staff. I went into this interview and I sat down. He said, “Oh Thorne I see you were at Nelson College”, and I said, “Yes Sir”, and he said, “My Gunnery Officer Dick Washbourn was at Nelson College”. We discussed Nelson College for the next ten or fifteen minutes. I believe, to this day it was probably being a Nelson College old boy and knowing Dick Washbourn that got me into the Navy, because we didn’t have a lot of other discussion at the interview.

He was the President of the Interview Board?

He was the President of the Interview Board. The Second Naval Member Captain William-Powlett was one I think and the Naval Secretary and there was one other person but I don’t know who he was, he may have been an outsider or something. It was interesting that this was conducted in the Stout Street Office that I occupied as CNS, many years later. Navy Office in those days was just one little corner of that area. Apart from the Naval Board I suppose there wouldn’t be more than about a dozen others, about two or three Naval Officers, plus civilian staff one of whom was Eugene McSherry who years later reminded me of that interview and day. I also remember the Naval Agent Doctor who examined us. I had a driving licence and I brought my parents’ car into town. I picked up Bill Peterson another applicant, who lived in Hataitai and who became an Engineer in the New Zealand Navy, and we drove into town. One of the parts of the medical examination involved eye drops, you put eye drops into the eyes to expand the iris and they look inside the eyes. Then other drops to put it back. What we didn’t realise that when they put in the second drops you can’t focus for sometime. We got into the car and were driving off when I suddenly realised that I could just see a blur. I remember driving along Lambton Quay with Bill Peterson leaning out the left hand side saying you are two feet from the kerb, three feet from the kerb and so forth. Still we made it home.

You don’t remember the Doctor’s name I suppose?

Yes Dr Kronfelt who was a very great friend to the Navy for many, many, years, and who I then met on numerous occasions during my naval career, doing our annual medicals here in Wellington and so forth.

He was a wonderful man wasn’t he?


He was a great friend of the Navy. Deeply interested in everybody and remembered your name right the way through and took a keen interest in every thing. He had his rooms in Kelburn Chambers I think.

He was a great friend of an uncle of mine.

Was he?

He looked after me many years ago when I had mumps as an adult. He used to visit me every day for about two weeks. All he wanted to do was to tell me stories about my uncle. He was a wonderful guy. I always remember he would tell the story about his dog. Every time the phone went the dog immediately went and sat beside the car. He knew the Doctor was going out.

I was passed as fit. I went back to school and in August I was told I had been accepted. It was expected that I would be leaving in late October. We were given lists of clothing we had to have. We were told that because stocks were short in New Zealand we would not be completely fitted out in naval uniforms in New Zealand, but we would get a basic set of gear and the remainder in England. I left school in the middle of October and came over to Wellington to spend some time with my family before I left.

So ended four very happy years at Nelson College that I left and according to my Housemaster Gordon Kirk (grandfather of David Kirk, All Black Captain) with a very good record. Quote: “Very good class record, school prefect, Head of Barnicott House, 1st XV jersey, high life saving award and senior NCO in Cadet Unit.” My last four months at the college had been very interesting because I had finished my examinations for the Navy in May and was planning to leave, my father was asked if I could go back for the Second Term and for the beginning of the Third Term. I became an honorary Tutor as many of the younger masters had left to go to war and the College was short staffed. I would go down to town and collect the pay and help in the House administration. Gordon Kirk who was a Maths Teacher had two lots of classes, while he was taking one I would sit in on the other and supervise the work he had set. It gave me a little bit of insight into managing things which I think stood me in good stead when I left to join the Navy.

We were finally told that we were leaving on November 23rd. Before this we went up to Auckland to collect some kit and to be checked in. This was my first insight into the Navy that I was joining. We were in civilian clothes, but we slept on board the old PHILOMEL. I took one look at this ship and thought, “Good God is this what I have joined”, it looked pretty ancient. It is of interest that our kitting allowance was 75 pounds of which my initial issue came to 10 pound 4 shillings and 10 pence. Four of us had been selected, John Armstrong, Bill Petersen and myself of Wellington and Max McDowell of Oamaru. As we were the first officer cadets to join this new New Zealand Navy the Press took some interest. We were photographed on the steps of Parliament with Walter Nash, deputy Prime Minister and Fred Jones the Minister of Defence and written up in the local paper. On 23 November the four of us together with John McKenzie and a chap called John Corbett, who came from the north of Taranaki if I remember correctly were the two who had been chosen for the Royal Navy. We gathered on Wellington’s Queen’s Wharf and walked aboard a dirty little tramp ship, a five thousand ton ship called the GORGISTON, which belonged to the British Strick Line. The Captain of the ship had been told that as we were the only passengers that as Cadets going off to join the Navy we could be employed onboard and taught as much as they could tell us on the way. We weren’t signed on as crew, but we were told to do what we were told. The original Captain of the ship when ashore at Panama on the way out to New Zealand, had been knocked over by a car and broken both his legs, and so the First Mate had taken command of the ship. The Second Mate who was a delightful little Irishman, who we became very fond of, became First Mate. I don’t remember the other officers but they were all British. The rest was a Laskar crew. Down on the stern of the ship was a pen with live sheep in it. For the next seven weeks, at least once and usually twice a week there was screeching and yelling as a sheep was killed. We said goodbye to our parents and girlfriends and sailed from Wellington. Some years later my mother told me how worried she and my father were seeing me leave. The War was on, and they were concerned because it wasn’t terribly long after Dunkirk and the war news wasn’t good. The Americans weren’t in the War at this stage and things were not too good in Europe. My parents were both English, and they were deeply concerned at what we were getting into. For ourselves I think it opened a new arena, we were going off to this War, we were enthusiastic, and we all had decided this was going to be our career.

Well we set off in the GORGISTON taking the great circle route down south, and then up the South American coast to Panama. We settled into the routine of the ship. She was clean but pretty uncomfortable, we were two in a little cabin. We were watch keeping one in three. John McKenzie and I kept the morning and dog watches with the First Mate. In addition they had an old World War 1, 4 inch gun on the stern and two Lewis guns on the wings of the bridge. This was our protection. The Captain decided that we Cadets should become the Auxiliary Guns crew. If my memory is correct, we had one DEMS Rating, they had these DEMS personnel who were naval personnel during the War who went to sea in Merchant ships. There was one English Rating who was the Gun Commander. We were taught the drill of this 4 inch gun. If I remember rightly I was No.1 loading number. It was decided that the ship’s gun crew and ourselves would do a live gunnery practice. An old barrel was thrown over the side as a target and we circled around it firing the 4″ gun. I can’t remember whether it was the second or third shot, but early on the breach blew out and we were left with no gun. I don’t recall any major weather problems or other incidents in this part of the voyage. We were just on our own down at the bottom of the world, and then we came up the South American Coast. On the 7th of December we received the news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. We were then only about a week out from Panama we realised that if the Japs had got to Hawaii their submarines could be down here, so we were warned to keep a better look out. I recall we saw smoke on the horizon a couple of times, and the Captain who was a fairly nervous Captain steered away from it smartly. Two or three days out from Balboa I was on the dogwatches and I was the port lookout. I always remember it, it was a perfect day, flat calm, little cloud and warm. I was just glancing around when at about red 45, there was a swirl in the water. It appeared fairly close, and I looked back and then a thing started to appear out of the water, and I looked at this thing again and shouted at the First Mate, “Come and have a look at this”. I had never seen a periscope in my life before this. He came over and said, “By God it’s a bloody periscope”. I suppose it wasn’t more than a mile, may be up to two miles, but it was relatively close. Up it came and underneath the periscope emerged a conning tower and then a submarine. With one look at this the Skipper who had come onto the Bridge turned the ship away, pointed our blown up gun at it. We steamed off making smoke, flat out at 12 knots. The submarine started flashing a light at us. By this time we were all done up in our life jackets, I think we had tin hats on, wondering what we were going to do next. The First Mate said it read, “Stop or I fire”. The Skipper finally stopped the ship and another signal came, “What ship, where bound”. After our reply as to who we were back came, “American Submarine carry on”. We all breathed a sigh of relief. This was our introduction to the War.

We arrived in Balboa. We didn’t take on fuel there but just berthed to wait for passage through the Canal, we refuelled later on. The captain decided we could all have a night of leave. We went ashore, with the First Mate who obviously knew his Panama. Looking back, he had probably been told to look after us but we did the “dives” of Panama that was quite an education, an extremely good education. Comparing them with other “dives” I have been in, their standard was as high as I have seen anywhere in the world. I think we all behaved ourselves in a reasonable manner, as we all got back on board safely.

Next morning we went through the Panama Canal which was most interesting. It was fascinating, because just ahead of us I recall a large American Battleship going through, I can’t remember which one it was but to see this warship going through with inches to spare on either side, one felt it wasn’t going to make it. Once through the Canal we steamed on. We called in at Port Royal in Jamaica for fuel. This was a fascinating visit. As part of my studies to join the Navy I had read the life of Lord Nelson. To be in Port Royal, we had twenty four hours there if I remember rightly, was quite intriguing to see and absorb some of the old history of Nelson’s time. It was also my introduction to the colour bar that existed in that part of the world. At Nelson College we had Maoris and Fijians, in fact one of my best friends at College was a Fijian. As a New Zealander I had not been brought up to any form of colour bar. To see the colour system operating there, with the blacks and natives, under a white supremacy brought home to us the differences we lived in, in New Zealand to what was happening there.

From Port Royal we steamed up through the Windward Passage. Again we saw a number of places of great historical interest. We were on our own, but every now and again we would find ourselves passing American warships. There were a number of scares, because every time there was a swirl in the water, after our experience at Balboa, we thought we saw another submarine. However we finally arrived at Halifax.

By this time it was mid winter, and what a dismal place Halifax seemed to us. Barren, snow and ice on the hills and very cold. I recall there were odd ice patches on the water. We felt that the Northern Hemisphere was not the place we thought it was going to be. We anchored out in the Roads and a boat came alongside.

Apparently a convoy was forming up, so instead of staying at Halifax we were told to join this convoy. I do recall our station in the convoy was in the port wing column, I think we were about third or fourth down the column and there were five or six columns, making a total of some 25/30 ships. We had a small escort of Corvettes and I think there was one of those old three stacker American Destroyers that had been given to Britain. It didn’t seem to us to be great protection, but we were young and didn’t understand what the problems were. We were given instructions by the Captain, that we were in a war zone, in a real war zone, we were going across the Atlantic where there were submarines, and it was extremely dangerous. We were to never take our clothes off, we were to wear our life jackets permanently and we were likely to die if we were torpedoed. This didn’t cheer us up much, but I suppose it was to tighten us up. There was complete black out but our watch keeping took on a more interesting note, because we had to look out for light and flag signals. We helped the First Mate interpret the signals, and this started my interest in Naval Signals.

It was the middle of winter. I don’t recall we had a real Atlantic gale, but we had some cold, wet horrible weather. The Captain was a rather nervous character. At night we would start moving in towards the second lane. I can recall on several occasions we went through that column into the middle of the convoy. This went on for probably a week. When dawn came, we moved back to our station. One morning we discovered there was a ship missing in the middle convoy and so from then on we stayed out in station. We were fortunate as we did not have any attacks on the convoy. Whether the ship that disappeared just broke down I don’t know, but we didn’t go through any of the ghastliness that some convoys suffered.

Finally we arrived in Northern Ireland and anchored off Belfast. Many people know Belfast well and like it, but it is not a cheerful place in early January, in the middle of winter, when you have just spent over two weeks coming across the Atlantic in a convoy. We arrived in the early morning and anchored in the Loch. I remember it was cold and bleak, and we all felt depressed and glad to be leaving this ship. Looking back on it, our trip in GORGISTON was a useful introduction to the life at sea. It was an experience which few Naval Officers gain and probably taught us some rudimentary things about the sea and especially about the Merchant Navy with which we would have contact in many ways in the future. We were shown the basics of Navigation, including handling a sextant, cargo stowage and ship stability and learnt the tedium of watch keeping. It could be said that GORGISTON gave us our “sea legs”.

During the later part of the forenoon a message arrived to say that the six New Zealand Cadets were to land that afternoon and take the Heysham Ferry to England and to report to New Zealand House in London. It must have been a Saturday because I remember we got to London on a Sunday. Then started the business of packing our clothes. We all had the good old standard tin trunks, but as we had not had any opportunity for laundry for some weeks it was a matter of throw it all in the trunks. We dressed ourselves in our best suiting, college suits, and we were landed in Belfast by tug. I recall it must have been mid to late afternoon, but it was daylight, so it must have been between three and four.

Having very little knowledge of what to do next, we were wandering about where we landed looking for the Ferry Terminal when we met a tall Irish Policeman. We said to him, “We’ve got to catch the Ferry”, and he said, “Oh that’s over there”. He asked who and what we were, then said “Well the Heysham Ferry doesn’t leave until 7 o’clock at night so you had better come with me”. He took us down to a bar by the wharf that he indicated was the Heysham Ferry. He obviously said something to the owner of the place, because when we ordered, possibly a beer of some sort, the owner said, “You sit down there”, so we sat there, and spent an hour or two. The policeman returned and took us across and put us on the Heysham Ferry.

When it left it was full, there were military people every where and we had our first sight of women in uniform. We went into the dining room, and sat down, with four of us at one table there was a plate of cut bread and on another little plate there were four rounds, about the size of a penny, of butter or margarine, I presume it was margarine. I remember vividly John Armstrong took a piece of bread which he covered with all four pieces of butter/margarine, then held the plate up to the steward and said, “More butter please”. The Steward just looked at him in blank amazement and said, “You’ve had the bloody lot mate”. That was it, our introduction to rationing. It was an overnight voyage and we arrived in Heysham in the early hours of the morning. It was just getting light and everybody off loaded immediately so there we were on the jetty with our gear and that we had to go on to London, but nobody had given us tickets or directions on how to get there. We went along the wharf until we found that famous character which I got to know well later on, the RTO, (the Railway Transport Officer) who had an office in the station. We went and saw him and he said, “New Zealand Midshipmen I don’t know any thing about you”. We thought a temporary promotion might help. After a lot of talking we convinced him that we were in fact RNZN Cadets, just arrived in U.K. and been told to go to New Zealand House. We didn’t have any identity, I think we had letters to say who we were, but I don’t recall we had identity cards as such. Any way he finally agreed that he would give us a ticket to London each, which he did, and we caught the train to London.

I remember vividly that it was a Sunday, because we travelled down and we finally arrived at Kings Cross in the evening, in the blackout, it was dark, pitch dark. The next question was how to get to New Zealand House. Now we were bright young chaps because we knew that New Zealand House was in the Strand. We said to somebody, “How do we get to the Strand?” and received the reply, “Oh it’s easy. You catch the tube to Charing Cross which gets you into the Strand”. We were bright young chaps who knew what a tube was, so we found our way down into the Underground having checked our heavy baggage into the left luggage office. On the platform we had our first insight into how some of the people of London were coping with the war. With the bombing there were people all set up with their bags and their mattresses and spending the night in the Tube Stations. We caught the train, and we watched the stations names until finally we got ourselves off at Charing Cross, came up into the street, looked around. All we could find was a short, very narrow street. We walked up it, it wasn’t more than about one and a half minutes walk. We thought this was funny, as we always thought The Strand was a big main street of London. Well we must have gone up this street two or three times, until it suddenly dawned on us this must be a side Street that led into The Strand. We got ourselves into and across the Strand, walked down and found New Zealand House, which had a large wooden, brass studded door that was firmly shut. We walked further down and came across the Strand Palace Hotel. In we went, booked ourselves into rooms, had a meal, then talked to the hall porter who said, “The place for you young gentlemen is the Covent Garden Palais de Dance”. We went out into the blackout fumbled our way and found the Palais de Dance, which was throbbing away with lots of people there. We all acquired a female dancing partner. Because of the blackout and Tube stopping early, I think the dance finished at about half past nine, ten o’clock. Any way we were talking to these girls and being polite young New Zealanders said, “Can we see you home, where do you live”. One lived at, I think, Holburn and the other one at Clapham Common. Any way we realised that we couldn’t be well brought up young New Zealanders and not see them home properly, but as they were going to catch the tube at Trafalgar Square we could see them to the Station. Walking up the street we realised we were outside the Strand Palace. Once again being well brought up young New Zealanders we invited them in for a cup of coffee. I have never seen four women run so fast in their lives. We later discovered the reputation of the Strand Palace. It was a very good Hotel, but it was regarded as not the place to which you invited young ladies late in the evening.

I gather you lost John McKenzie in the blackout?

Yes I was coming to that. I think it was our second night in London. We had decided to go to the theatre on the other side of the Strand. From our experience of the night before we had learned that in the main streets of London there were pedestrian islands in the middle of the road which at night were indicated at either end, by small white crosses of lights. After dinner we went out into the blackout, found the marked crossing and set off across the Strand, avoiding the dimly lit traffic. Half way across there was a thud and a loud groan from John. Someone asked, “What’s the matter McKenzie ?” who replied, “Something hit me”. We helped him back to the Strand Palace, where, once in the light we found blood pouring from his nose. The hotel staff were more worried about the blood on their carpet than John’s injury, but we finally got some medical attention for him.

We discovered next morning that between the two markers on the pedestrian island there was a tall lamppost and because of the blackout was not lit at night. John had walked into it.

On Monday morning, Armstrong, McDowell, Petersen and myself, the four RNZN Cadets reported to New Zealand House where we met the New Zealand High Commissioner Bill Jordan. Over the war years that followed we came to know Bill Jordan well and to appreciate the great interest we took in New Zealand Servicemen in U.K. with whom he was extremely popular. I remember being in the Fernleaf Club some years later and being told that Bill had visited the Club a few weeks before and someone had asked what he had been doing that day. He was reputed to have replied, “Had a full hand today, three Kings and two Queens”. This was the nature of the man.

After meeting the High Commissioner we were taken over by Mr Skinner, the civilian on the staff who was responsible for Navy personnel. We also met Mr Tillbrook his assistant. I came to know them both over the years that followed and was very grateful for the help they gave. Skinner was a British Public Servant loaned to the High Commission, which for some reason affected his pension when he retired. He fought for years, strongly supported by many members of the High Commission Military staff for a New Zealand pension. I don’t know if he achieved it, but he did visit New Zealand as a guest of the Services late in his life.

Were there any military officers in the High Commission?

I think there were but I am not sure. We were told when we were to go down to Royal Naval College at DARTMOUTH, and given our tickets and an advance of pay.

John McKenzie and John Corbett went off separately and reported to the Admiralty. When John came back, later and told us they said, “McKenzie, we didn’t chose a chap called McKenzie, we chose a chap called Delamore”. Delamore had been one of the applicants who had gone through the process selection with us. John apparently replied, “Well my father’s paid my passage and I am here”. This received the reply, “Well that’s alright do you still want to join the Navy?” and he said “Yes”. They said, “What did you join as?” John was in a quandary as he had applied to join the RN as an Engineer. However on the way across he took one look at the engines of the GORGISTON and the Lascar crew and had enjoyed the upper deck and executive side so much that he made up his mind, to try and change and become an Executive Officer. He replied, “I joined as an Executive Officer”, they said, “Right, well you go off to DARTMOUTH. He lived in fear and trembling for the nine months, he was in DARTMOUTH that the system would catch up with him. They never did and ultimately he became CNS of the New Zealand Navy. Delamore was chosen and came over later.

You say he had to pay his own passage, did you have to pay yours?


But he had to pay his own passage?

I understand his father paid the passage and I think, paid for his uniforms and so forth. I am not sure of that, but I know his father paid his passage, because he commented many times that he didn’t think Dad had got his monies worth in the GORGISTON. One of the conditions of my joining the Navy was that my father had to nominate a guardian for me in England. My father was the New Zealand Manager of a firm called McKower and McBeth which was the firm he came to in 1917. It was a wholesale silk business, selling silks and so forth. My father therefore wrote to the Manager of McKower’s in London Mr Miranda who volunteered to be my guardian. After going to New Zealand House I went out to meet him. The firm had evacuated from their London offices down to Henley on Thames and he and his family were living in a local pub called “The Crown” in Henley on Thames. I went down there and saw them and stayed a night. I think he came up to London first because I recall meeting him in London as he took me to lunch. I will always remember this, as we went to an “oyster bar” in Swallow Street just off Piccadilly. He said, “What would you like?” I looked at the menu and saw oysters, only six oysters. I said, “I would love some oysters”. Had my six oysters, which were lovely big ones, he said, “What would you like now?” I said, “Well can I have more oysters, because only six is not very many”. He said, “Right” and so I had another six oysters. Then I think we had a crab salad or something like that with a bottle of wine. I don’t know how but I happened to see the bill when it came, six oysters cost nine shillings, so they were one and sixpence each. I had just left New Zealand where we were buying a sack of oysters I think for half a crown. I sort of blinked and I saw the look on his face as much to say “I am not taking him out to a fish restaurant again”. It really rocked me that anybody would pay one and sixpence for an oyster.

That was a lot of money too.

A lot of money in those days a great deal of money, especially as our pay as Cadets was 5 shillings per day.

We had arrived in England. We had only part of our uniform a cap, work trousers, seaman jerseys, and we had all been issued with long johns, which I rarely ever wore later on. We had sea boot stockings and things like that, but we didn’t have our main naval number one, uniforms. We didn’t have time in London to be measured and fitted for these uniforms and we were told that Gieves would be at DARTMOUTH when we arrived and so we would get our kit then.

I think it was a Wednesday when we set off, it was either a Wednesday or a Thursday, as we had arrived on the Sunday. We caught the train from Paddington and after an all day trip finally arrived on Kingswear Station on the eastern side of the Dart River opposite DARTMOUTH. I think there were something like fifty of us on the train, and these Cadets in various uniforms. Being wartime and France, Belgium, Holland and Norway had fallen. We were an international group, not just RN, British and Commonwealth but Norwegians, French, Belgians, Dutch, as well as Australians, New Zealanders, Indians, South Africans, I can’t think of any others. About fifty percent were RN, and the rest of us were a mixture of Commonwealth and allied countries.

After a most interesting trip down through the West Country we later got to know well, Exeter, Teignmouth and Torquay we finally were fallen in by Chief Petty Officers and we marched down the road and caught the ferry across the river. I suppose we marched in a bloody great heap up the hill to DARTMOUTH. It was early evening and dark, I remember it was just light enough to be able to see the town, it was grey, cold and miserable. I remember we had one of those wet, horrible fogs and we could just see a bit of DARTMOUTH, and thought once again what a miserable place to come too. I recall the College, DARTMOUTH itself was an impressive building, but we weren’t so impressed when we were in the Benbow Wing, the northern wing. We had two floors, and we just had hammock rails. We were allocated a hammock, a slinging billet and a chest, which were lined up down the centre. We were taught in ten minutes flat, how to sling a hammock. How to put the stretchers in, what your bedding was, sling the hammock and how you get in by swinging yourself up. We had a meal and were told to turn in. Next morning we were mustered.

Just to put a perspective on DARTMOUTH you were Benbows.

Special entry, the RN special entries were all eighteen.

You mentioned international, but was it the RN’s only special entry?

Oh yes they were all part of the RN special entry group, we were to undertake the same training.

Was the RN still perpetuating the Dart Scheme during the war?

Yes. The “Darts” lived in the rest of the college. They were younger than us. They entered at 12-13 and spent four years at the College consequently they went to sea as Midshipmen at 17. With the exception of Sunday Divisions when the whole College paraded in front of the College and the odd occasion on the sports field or sailing races on the river, we had no contact with them. Our training programme was entirely separate as ours was confined to naval subjects whereas theirs included academic subjects as well. We ate before them and used the facilities of the College, Gym, boats etc at different times. We were older and more physically mature and we regarded them as a bunch of kids. What they thought of us I don’t know.

As I said earlier we the New Zealand Cadets had only working uniform when we arrived at DARTMOUTH. For the first three weeks until Gieves delivered our uniforms, we changed into civilian suits when the other cadets wore No.1 uniform for dinner. Because of the danger of bombing the Dart Cadets had been shifted from their dormitories on the upper floors of the College into tiered bunks in the corridors on the ground floor through which we had to pass to get to the dining room. For these three weeks we six New Zealanders were saluted and accorded great respect by the young Darts who we assume thought we were new civilian teachers of which there were a number.

I enjoyed our life at DARTMOUTH, even though it was very regimented. Our Commanding Officer was a Lieutenant Commander Pedder, who had one of the largest and reddest nose of any man I know. I had respect for him, and I think he was a good officer. I remember his first address when we were fallen in on the first morning. We were the second or junior term. The first term, or Senior Cadets were off doing their training. We had all fallen in to be told what it was all about. We got the usual CO’s comments of right you are here to do this, this and this. I remember his statement, which I think it was one of the best bits of advice I ever had. He said, “You young gentlemen have joined the Navy, and whether you like it or not you will have to drink alcohol, as part of your career you will be faced with many occasions when you are obliged to take alcohol”. He said, “You live in a Wardroom or a Gunroom where spirits or drink is available and you have got to learn to drink, drink properly and look after yourselves, etc, etc”. He said, “You will get leave on Wednesday afternoons, Saturday afternoons and Sunday afternoons and Saturdays up until 9 o’clock,” or whatever it was. “If you are not on duty you may enter the public houses, you may drink and as long as you get yourself back here in a reasonable state no questions will be asked. This will go for the next three weeks. After that I expect you to do what every man in the Navy does. You are required to do your duty when it is called upon and drink will not be an excuse”. For the next three weeks we were actually taken into the pubs by our Divisional Officer, Lieutenant Brooks. We were encouraged to drink Rob Roys, beer and whisky and even mix our drinks. In those three weeks I think I learnt more about drinking, not drinking for the sake of drinking, but its effect. I learnt a lot about my capacity, knowing when to stop, developing our ability, when you’ve been drinking to switch your mind into gear and get back on board. I’ve got to salute the quarterdeck, I’ve got to turn in and I’ve got to be ready to turn out if and when I am called upon and act responsibly. I think it was the best bit of training I have ever had, because we learnt what spirits do, we learnt our bladder capacity for beer, we learnt what mixtures do. We learnt to respect alcohol, to be able to control it, and do your work as well. I think it was an excellent education.

(end of Tape 1)

(beginning of Tape 2)

We are during your time at DARTMOUTH Admiral.

Yes we had just arrived in that place. I think it is interesting at this stage to remark on the advantage I found from my life at boarding school which had taught me to look after myself. One had learnt to buy a tube of toothpaste when you needed it, to organise yourself, one had learnt about looking after what funds you had and that sort of thing. Also we had travelled 12,000 miles, we had been on the way for something like two months. We might, possibly have been a bit arrogant but I did notice that our ability to settle into life at the College was much easier for us than it was for a large number of the RN Cadets. Those who had come straight from home I think found it extremely difficult to organise themselves and were very confused.

The senior cadets exercised their prerogative of being seniors, and gave us juniors the run around.

Life at College was typical of any naval training organisation. We rose at 6.30 in the morning, washed and showered, we went off to breakfast and then there was a strict routine of instruction and exercise. We were out in the parade ground, classroom instruction, practical training e.g. semaphore and Morse and those sort of things. The instruction I found was good but looking back rather out of date. I remember the model of the forecastle of a battleship of World War 1 from which we learnt our anchors and cables.

It was still there in 1955.

Basically what did impress me was the Officers especially my Divisional Officer Lieutenant Brooks who I came to know well. Another Officer was Lieutenant Metcalfe. They were out to teach us as much as they could, encourage us and assisted us with officer like qualities. I personally very much enjoyed the navigational side, and the practical work. We spent a lot of time on the river, which I enjoyed, especially the sailing. I wasn’t too keen on the pulling side, but one had to do that. Sailing was my forte. I achieved distinction in sailing and boat work and I was first of our group to pass the fourth star for boating. To pass this one had to qualify on the motorboat and a 32 foot cutter, single handed without a rudder around a course and put it alongside. It gave you authority on the river, you were allowed to take the boats away, you had a sort of top position on the river, and I really enjoyed that. I think that one of my achievements at the College was my ability on the river.

I was impressed with the Chief Petty Officers, Senior Rate Instructors and I remember a Marine Sergeant, Sergeant Jenkins. He was a true marine strict but fair. Many of the foreign cadets, the French, the Dutch, the Norwegians, the Norwegians especially, were older than we were. In the Norwegian system you could not join the Navy as an Officer until you had spent three years at sea in the Merchant Navy. I remember there were four of them, there was Cadet Gruder, Cadet Bertelsen and I have forgotten the other two and they were older and maturer than we were, but they were delightful people. They didn’t exercise any sort of attitude to us, we were altogether and we New Zealanders got on very well with them. They were extremely polite, delightful people. I recall on one occasion we were on leave together in London and they introduced us to their London routine. You had a good sleep in the afternoon and then about 8 o’clock at night do the town, you didn’t got to bed until 3 or 4 the next morning. They were a most delightful bunch and from that day on I have always admired the Norwegians.

Our food was simple but adequate. It was normally shepherds pie, I don’t want to see a shepherds pie ever more, but shepherds pie appeared time after time. Stand easy every day there were great big jugs of milk and buns, or rolls. They must have got them from the left overs from three or four days, because they were normally pretty stale. We each of us as part of our leadership training had to be head of a table in the dining room in turn. On one occasion I was in charge of a table, and for some unknown reason a battle with buns started across the dining room. They were being thrown from one side of the dining room to the other. Unfortunately the CO. walked in and all hell let loose, and being one of those in charge of a table it was our fault! The six of us who were in charge, were up in front of the CO. the next day and we were all dealt out either 7 days number nines. During lunch hour and at stand easy and in the afternoon after instruction we went on punishment parade. In those days, a typical number nine punishment, was an hours drill, which involved star jumping with a rifle, doubling around the parade ground etc. One of the others under punishment was one of the Norwegians Cadet Gruber, who stood about 6 foot one, he was 6 feet at least, a big strong chap. After half an hour of this he threw his rifle on the ground in front of Sergeant Jenkins, the Sergeant of Marines who was in charge of the punishment that day. Gruber walked up to him and said, “No I do no more”, and the Sergeant just looked at him then told us to lay down our arms and we were all marched up to the Gym. Jenkins said, “Rig the boxing ring”, so we rigged the ring while he went off and he got two sets of boxing gloves, and said to Gruber, “Strip off to your trousers and put the gloves on”. He stripped off his top himself. Cadet Gruber stood six foot and this Marine was no more than 5 foot 6, 5 foot 7, but of stocky build. He said, “Right I am now going to teach you whether you do punishment or not”. These two had a set too. One of us was told to be the referee and count the time, as they got stuck into each other. After three rounds, Jenkins said, “Enough, you are good, Gruber, you have proved your point, punishment for you all is finished for the day”. Gruber said, “You are good too Sergeant”. That was that for the day and we did no more star jumping.

With the War on we the Cadets not the Darts were all part of the defence of DARTMOUTH. We all had positions surrounding DARTMOUTH College and up the hill behind where there were a series of gun pits. We were all drilled, and we all had our positions for the defence of DARTMOUTH. Additionally there was always the chance of air raids, and while we were there I can recall on a number of occasions mainly Messerschmitts or Fighters roaring over the College strafing the shipping down on the harbour. They never attacked the College. At night we often had air raid alerts. We were all organised into three watches. One night you were fire party, we had a trailer pump which we manned. The next night fire watching and the third night off. Immediately the sirens went, if you were fire watching you went up onto the roof and you were looking out for incendiary bombs or manned the fire pumps. If the sirens went during your night off the drill was you took three turns around your hammock, doubled down to the seamanship hall. Alongside the hall there had been dug an air raid shelter with a chute one end and an open entrance the other and a lined whole series of three tiered wooden slatted bunks. You just threw your hammock on the chute, followed it down, laid on a bunk and turned in there for the rest of the night. It was bloody miserable, because with the chute and an open door a gale blew through. Any thing not to go to the shelter. We often volunteered to do fire watching rather than go down to the shelter. Probably one night in four the air raid sirens would go.

In our second term there was a big exercise that took place south of DARTMOUTH on Slapton Sands, which became famous later on, when it was the area used for training for the Normandy landings. There was the occasion when E boats that came across the Channel sank some landing ships in an exercise. A number of the landing craft were sunk with heavy casualties. The Exercise I am referring to involved British Regiments and some Commandos who were doing an exercise landing and advancing on DARTMOUTH while other forces were in the hinterland as defending forces. The Exercise took place over a weekend. For some unknown reason and I don’t know why to this day, I was one of four Cadets chosen to be sent out in civilian clothes to act as Fifth Columnists and report the movement of the enemy. I went off with a RN Cadet Jackson. I had my naval identity card, but I didn’t have a civilian identity card, so they gave me the civilian identity card of an RN Cadet Trevathan, who they said looked enough like me, and I could use if I was stopped. We went off south from DARTMOUTH towards Plymouth through the little villages and set ourselves up to watch the landing. Our only communication was by telephone. We were told that if we found an enemy Bren gun carrier we were to find a stone, inscribe it with crimson chalk to indicate it was a bomb and of course we were to try and get to a telephone and say where the enemy was. We went out on the Friday evening saw nothing and all day Saturday we only saw a few troops in the distance. Saturday night we decided to move from where we were. It was pretty late at night and we were walking along a country lane when out of a hedge came four Home Guardsmen who stopped us. We were challenged and we used our civilian identity cards. Cadet Jackson said, “You do the talking because you sound like a New Zealander”. As we had decided our excuse for being there was we were both New Zealand Airmen who had missed the train to Plymouth and we were walking home. An odd excuse considering our identity cards, we managed to talk ourselves out of this one. We were just leaving when up came the local Policeman on his bicycle. He said, “What’s going on, “Hello, hello,” type of thing, “Let me see your identity cards”. He shone a torch at me, looked at me closely he obviously didn’t like the look of my face compared with this identity card. After, it must have been twenty minutes to half an hour arguing with him, we finally decided that we had better get on with the War that we were supposed to be fighting, so each produced our Naval Identity Cards. The worse thing we ever did. We had two Identity Cards, which was most suspicious so we were put in the local lock up. About 7 o’clock next morning the door opened and there was the Policemen’s wife, who said, “Would you like some breakfast?” Jackson quickly said, “Yes thank you very much, we will have two sausages, mushrooms, bacon, tomatoes and two eggs”. She replied, “I don’t know whether I can do the mushrooms, but we will see what we can do” and returned with a most magnificent breakfast. We hadn’t had a breakfast like it for months. By 9 a.m. after telephone calls to DARTMOUTH who identified us and we got on to the War, but we didn’t see a Bren Gun Carrier to bomb.

On the football field New Zealand’s reputation went before us, as all six New Zealanders were automatically selected for the First Fifteen, irrespective of whether we had played rugby or not. Only John McKenzie and I made the Team. I remember John McKenzie was playing Hooker, I was playing in the front row with him. One of the RN Cadets was playing Lock. John and I kept on saying to this chap, “Get your shoulders down”, he was sort of riding up over the top of us. This went on and on and on, until finally John turned around and said, “You stupid bastard why don’t you learn how to play this bloody game”. This chap was terribly upset, but we thought no more about it. About two days later he came up to John and showed him his Birth Certificate. We had to explain to him that calling someone a bastard in New Zealand was just a term of endearment.

I remember we took on the Darts and beat them. I can’t recall playing the Army or anything like that. Sport was a big thing there as part of our training.

We did a number of visits to naval ships in the harbour, but I can’t recall we ever went to sea for organised sea training. There was no such thing as a training ship. We had leave at Easter time, which I spent in Leeds at the home of a RN Cadet, David Hardspeth and experienced my first heavy bombing. We were given free rail travel warrants and with our pay, which was the magnificent sum of five shillings a day, did not go very far. When we arrived at DARTMOUTH the CO. decided that it was far too much money for Cadets under training especially as the RN Cadets only received three shillings per day. We were therefore paid three shillings per day when we were at DARTMOUTH and the rest of our money accumulated, and was paid to us to go on leave, which in actual fact was a very good form of savings. I remember the first leave we went on I went off with five pounds in my pocket that was a masterly sum in those days. In fact later on we lived in London for 10 days on five pounds.

I mentioned earlier in this interview that we were fitted for our uniforms at DARTMOUTH, which was my introduction to Gieves. Mr Gieves dressed in black coat, pin strip trousers and bowler hat measured us for our uniforms and I must admit I grew fond, as years went by, with Gieves and their service. I don’t know whether people saw it, there was a magnificent Lowe cartoon produced in the Daily Express just after the Salerno Landings in Italy. It showed standing in the middle of the landing beach this man in a bowler hat and tattered clothes walking holding a board with `Giev’ with the `es’ is blown off. This was personified Gieve. The whole of my time as a Midshipman, Sub Lieutenant and even later, Gieves would meet your requirements wherever you were, but at a price!

So our time at DARTMOUTH concluded and in August we qualified and we were promoted Midshipmen on 1st September 1942.

Before we go on, can you just give a very brief outline of the curriculum. Were you still doing schoolwork?

No we were doing entirely naval subjects. We were all regarded as educated having passed the entry examination. There was no such thing as English or anything like that, except you were criticised harshly for your writing ability if it wasn’t up to scratch. We had naval history; we had to write appreciations on naval matters or whatever we were doing, Navigation and those sort of things. One was criticised for ones writing as well as content. Additionally in our administrative training we were taught the basics of AFO’s, KR’s and AI’s Division work, and those sort of things, but it was entirely naval subjects.

So it was seamanship, navigation?

Torpedoes, anti submarine, signals, officer’s duties, etc.

The whole spectrum.

My other question too you met a whole team of RN people and others from around the world as you mentioned. Did any of these become famous?

Oh yes in later life.

Prince Philip for example left the day we joined. He had been two groups ahead of us. Terry Lewin who became CDS and Lord Lewin who became a personal friend was in the senior Team to us, and I met him again when we were Sub Lieutenants. I can’t think of any of our group that became famous although some like John McKenzie and myself became Admirals. Surprisingly enough after we left DARTMOUTH I met very few of my term again. I met more of the senior term, in the course of my career than I met of my own term.

If we were not duty we were given leave on Wednesday afternoon make and mend when we had to be back by 7 o’clock. Saturday we had make and mend and we were allowed out until 10 when the last train from Taunton arrived at Kingswear. Every other Sunday after Divisions we could go straight off. We used to spend most of our leaves at Paignton and Torquay. We would go over to Torquay where they held tea dances in the Grand Hotel very Victorian and I can still visualise the three old ladies sitting there with their orchestra playing away among the palms. We all had our girlfriends. As the summer came I enjoyed sailing up the River Dart to Totnes where I had my introduction to the good old Scrumpy and Devon Cider. On one occasion I recall another Cadet and I went up to Totnes and had a good lunch of Scrumpy and bread and cheese. It was a hot afternoon, there wasn’t much breeze and the next thing we knew was a bump and we woke up in the boat to find our Divisional Officer who was the Officer of the Day alongside in a boat. We had gone to sleep and committed the gravest sin of drifting down the Dart River with sails flapping. That cost us seven days No.9’s.

We finished up, with what was called an E190, which was our report. John Armstrong won the Eardley, Howard Cocker prize as Top Cadet and I was in the top quarter. I came first in boat work and sailing champion, which is my only claim to fame as a Cadet. One of the most amusing things on my E190 was the comment on sport. It said rugby, played in the First Fifteen, cricket, excellent in the field. I have never been keen on cricket and never played cricket to any great degree. I spoke to the Reporting Officer, who commented that we were playing interdivisional cricket between the various divisions, and I was in the team. I was fielding at mid on or mid off. Somebody let drive and I just shot my hand up and the ball stuck in my hand. From that moment on I was regarded as a brilliant fielder. It just goes to show you know what gets you credit. I remember our final parade when we were all presented with our E190’s by the Captain of the College. I can’t remember who the Captain of the College was, we very rarely ever saw him. We were an entirely separate entity, and I am not sure he really approved of this “odd bunch” that lived in his College. It was a very interesting nine months but good, at last to be able to wear a Rank badge, the Midshipman white patch.

Two weeks after we left, the College was bombed and the tragedy of it was they hit the main quarterdeck which was a lovely part of the building. There was only one casualty and that was a delightful women a Chief Wren who was very kind to us. She was one of the Dart Cadet staff, but we used to talk to her and got to know her well. Unfortunately she was on the ladies loo which was alongside the Quarterdeck and was killed. She was the only casualty. The College was considered too dangerous so a little later the whole College moved to “Eaton Hall” which I think was in Cheshire. We didn’t see it, but I am certain the Cadets that came after us would know it.

Before we were sent on leave. We were asked what we wanted to do. We all volunteered for Destroyers. We had about three weeks during which I was notified I was appointed to HMS DEVONSHIRE that was serving out in the Far East. The four of us, Max, John Armstrong, John McKenzie and myself were all appointed to ships in the Far East. Bill Peterson of course went off to MANADON for Engineering training and John Corbett went his own way. I am not sure whether it was at that stage or a little later that he went to the Fleet Air Arm. I didn’t see him again.

He was killed wasn’t he?

Not to my knowledge. In fact I know he wasn’t because I have heard the Fleet Air Arm people in New Zealand talk about him. I lost touch with him, John McKenzie may know.

I was talking to Admiral McKenzie the other day and he mentioned Corbett and he said, “Of course he never came home again”. I assumed from that he was killed.

No I don’t think so, but he stayed in the U.K. I think he is still alive, but I am not too sure on that.

We took passage in a Blue Funnel Line ship called the NESTOR, which was one of the last ships operating as a passenger ship as opposed to a troop ship. We went on board and I think there were about twenty Naval Officers, some Army and a number of civilian passengers, many South Africans going home. It was a pleasant life. We had minor duties on board because there were a number of Ratings on board. There was a Lieutenant Commander who was OC Draft. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, except the OC Draft, Lieutenant Commander, insisted that we had some form of instruction. We had now been promoted to Midshipmen and he considered some form of instruction at least three times a week was required. A proportion of the lounge was curtained off for the younger officers. I recall on one occasion that we had a naval doctor who gave us a lecture on social diseases. He was giving graphic descriptions and all the time you could hear titters coming from the other side of the curtain wall. The girls on board were all listening to this lecture as well. It was a very pleasant trip. We sailed alone most of the time. We came out from Southampton I recall in a convoy, but once we got down towards Gibraltar we were on our own. I recall doing some deviations, because we heard, the Ships Officer told us there had been some ships sunk ahead of us but we had to my knowledge, no sightings. We stopped at Freetown, which I thought was a ghastly place. It was really my first experience of the real Death Valleys of Africa. It was steamy, we went ashore, it was a horrible place and I thought thank God that I am not staying here. It was interesting to see and we got chatting to the local Navy people.

Then we went on and we called in at Walvis Bay, which was very interesting because we happened to meet up with the SHROPSHIRE and some other ships. A Midshipman called Huntington Whitely who was in our senior term was onboard the SHROPSHIRE and he invited us all over, which gave us an introduction to the sister ship of the one we would join. It was very helpful, we were able to get some idea of what a warship was all about. We heard from them the story of DEVONSHIRE which fairly recently had sunk a raider in the South Atlantic. We realised we were going to a ship that had been in action.

We then stopped at Cape Town, which I thought was a lovely city and then on to Durban where we disembarked from the NESTOR and joined the WARSPITE for passage to Mombasa to join DEVONSHIRE. This was of course our introduction of being on board a warship. We were passengers, and my billet was a hammock in what was called the “port dip”. I don’t know whether you have ever been in one of these old battleships. To get from forward to aft, you went along a passage way, and then down one or two decks along and up again. I don’t know quite why they were built this way but these were known as the port and starboard dips. The hammock bar was my sleeping billet. We didn’t have a chest in the chest flat because we were just passengers, so we lived out of our suitcases in the Gunroom. This port dip was a passage way and all night long, people came down the ladder, bang, they knocked me as they went past and up again. We kept watches on board, Admiral Sir James Somerville was flying his flag in the WARSPITE. I became Second Midshipman of the Watch on the bridge. I remember, about my second watch, it must have been my first watch at night, it was a night watch any way. I was up on the bridge and the Officer of the Watch turned to me and said, “Take this down to the Flag Lieutenant”. I said, “Where do I go?” and he said, “Oh you go down there, down to the Flag Officer’s deck”. I went down the ladder and I went along, and there was this space in the front of the flag deck, which was a glassed viewing platform. I was staggering along in the dark and tripped over a body. I said, “What are you doing down here?” the body rose up and said, “I am the Admiral, what do you want boy?” I met the C in C but only for a short occasion. We finally arrived in Kilindini. By this time it was November and we joined DEVONSHIRE. There followed a very happy time. I enjoyed the ship, she was my introduction to the Navy. David Tibbetts a Lieutenant Commander, who was the Navigator, was our snotty’s nurse in charge of the Midshipmen. Later on I became his tanky which was his Navigator’s assistant. A friendship grew up which continued through my life. I still hear from him from time to time. He was ultimately promoted Captain. When he returned he joined Trinity House and became the Head of Trinity House. We met on a number of occasions.

DEVONSHIRE was a County Class Cruiser with eight, 8 inch guns and eight 4 inch AA guns. It carried a Walrus Seaplane and Torpedo tubes. Four shafts which produced a top speed of 30 knots. They were built in the mid to late twenties as long range commerce protection Cruisers, and providing “presence” throughout the world. They were the result of the London Treaty that restricted the size of capital ships. They were very spacious with high deck heads and large compartments, and had a complement of over 500. As Midshipmen we had a large, comfortable Gunroom and separate chest flat.

The other interesting point was that Captain Oliver Captain of the ship had been 2NM prior to the War in New Zealand. I remember the day after we joined we were marched to his cabin which was down aft. He looked us up and down, and said, “Good God I thought Midshipmen were about 16”. He said, “I don’t know whether I can put up with these 19 year olds around the ship”. He referred to New Zealand and said how much he had enjoyed the country.

We went through the normal process of Midshipmen, writing our journals that I hated, but it had to be done. We ran the boats, we did the various duties on board the ship and so forth. My action station to begin with was Close Range Control Officer and Search Light Control Officer at night, which was fine provided the searchlights worked properly. Every now and again they would take charge of me and instead of sweeping left and right it would go vertical and stay vertical. The amount of abuse that used to come down the voice pipe or rather up the voice pipe to the control position was nobody’s business. Later on I was moved from that and put in charge of the after 4 inch gun anti aircraft battery control position, HATS. I remember going into HATS for the first time to take up this position. We were doing gun drill and I found that I had a Glaswegian Petty Officer, and Newcastle Leading Hand, a Devon AB, another character and two Marines, one of whom I think came from Liverpool, I spoke New Zealand English. I hardly understood a word they said, and I don’t think they understood me. We got on quite famously after a while. A lot of sign language had to go on until I started to learn these various dialects of English “as she was spoke”. We had been in the ship about two months when we went to Colombo. Here we saw the result of the Japanese raid. There were two ships sunk in the harbour. I felt rather proud, I was running the Officer’s motor boat and I was delegated to be bowman of the officer’s crew when Captain Oliver left and Captain Jamieson took over. We landed him in a true naval style ashore in the boat. It was a pleasant life. Kilindini we saw a lot of. I remember we did two trips to Fremantle in Australia. We took the MAURITANIA down on her own once. Later we were part of the escort that took the AIF back from the Middle East to Australia. There was our self and JAMAICA and one other one. We picked up the QUEEN MARY, ILE DE FRANCE, AQUITANIA, QUEEN OF BERMUDA and MAURITANIA, in the Gulf of Aden. We then went into Addu Atoll, which I assumed at the time, from my journal records, was to fuel. I discovered later after reading the war diaries of Churchill and the Prime Minister of Australia that we stopped there. We waited while the argument went on as to whether the AIF were going to go to Burma and protect India or whether they were going back to Australia to fight the Japanese. We all went into Addu Atoll and stayed there for about 48 hours and then we took them down to Australia.

We in DEVONSHIRE only went as far as Fremantle. It was interesting to watch, as we came out of Addu Atoll the Far East Fleet consisting of WARSPITE, VALIANT, two Cruisers and about three destroyers steamed down towards us and turned away and then went off over the horizon. When we arrived at Fremantle the MAURITANIA which had all the Western Australians on board, went in, we berthed astern of her. When we went ashore we got talking to some of the soldiers that had been on board the MAURITANIA and a number remarked how safe they felt when they saw this mighty British Fleet off Addu Atoll. We didn’t have the heart to tell them the Fleet couldn’t keep up with us.

What was your main base there, was it Trincomalee?

Trincomalee, no, our main base was Kilindini.

Where is that?

That’s in Mombasa on the East Coast of Africa. Mombasa had two entrances. I will get my journal out. The main port was Kilindini, it was always known as Kilindini in those days, as Mombasa was just a small town. It was a pretty dour place, a large number of ships in there, very few people. There were quite a lot of WRENS there, but they lived in a barracks that was surrounded by barbed wire and Marine sentries. If you were taking a WREN out you had to line up, and sign her out. The Marine would go and get her. You had to sign her out and you would have to sign her back in again. The only activities there beside taking the odd WREN out was a very nice swimming beach. There was a rest centre about 40 miles south as you went down towards Tanga where we stayed when we had a couple of nights off. There was a beer canteen.

Your main operational role really was escorting?

Escorting yes.

Did you have enemy contact at all?

No we had no action. The ship, just before we joined, had been down at Madagascar at Diego Suarez. They went in there and took over Diego Suarez and Madagascar from the French. No we had a number of alarms but nothing spectacular. It got a bit tedious sometimes escorting. In those days there was no air conditioning in ships. When ever possible we slept on deck, Prickly Heat was a problem. When we joined the Fleet we were still in whites and wearing ice cream suits on Sunday Divisions. We all went out there with white helmets that we never wore. Fortunately soon after we arrived the rules came and we could wear sandals and shorts. Most of the time you were living in a pair of shorts and sandals. We always had to have an action kit with us, which included long trousers, headgear, respirator etc.

When you went down to Fremantle did you bring a Convoy back?

No, we brought MAURITANIA back, we escorted her back and I think she probably had some people on board. We did a jink across to the Seychelles if I remember rightly. Trincomalee, Colombo and Ceylon had virtually been evacuated. The Navy had evacuated out of Ceylon because of the raids. Later on I will talk about the move back in there.

We joined DEVONSHIRE on the 6th of November and we served in her for just on 6 months. She was then transferred back to the U.K. for refit and we were moved. Max had been in BIRMINGHAM he wasn’t with us in DEVONSHIRE. We all four were then transferred to HAWKINS in the Far East.

What was the HAWKINS?

HAWKINS was a World War 1 Cruiser. The HAWKINS, FROBISHER and EFFINGHAM which had seven, 7.5 inch guns and nine 4 inch AA Guns, tubes and 4 shafts. The after gun on the quarterdeck was an open gun, hand loaded. Each shell weighed 75lbs, was carried between two men coolie style from the shell hoist in the deck to the breach of the gun.

We had a comfortable Gunroom in which there were nine of us. The Sub was a New Zealand RNZNVR Officer named Sub Lieutenant Evans who came from Wellington. After the war he joined the Bank of New Zealand and finished up as the Manager in Hamilton. A Sub Lieutenant Bill Cole, who later served in New Zealand on loan/exchange. It was he who introduced work study into the RNZN, a subject on which he had become a specialist in the RN, Midshipmen (S). two British RNR Midshipmen and we four RNZN Midshipmen. The Kiwis had a majority of one. We were treated much more as young officers than had been the case in DEVONSHIRE, given more responsibility and became very much part of the team. While she was a pretty old beast, she was a very happy ship. There has been a reunion of the HAWKINS officers of our commission up until two years ago when the Captain, Captain French died. She finished up at Normandy as a bombardment ship and that was the end of her career. We had very close relations with that ship. Captain French was the driving force.

Just as an aside. I notice your service record talks of a ship called REDOUBT.

That comes later.

That’s later after HAWKINS?

We were in the HAWKINS and in the middle of the HAWKINS time we went and did our Midshipman Destroyer time, Max and I in REDOUBT and John McKenzie and John Armstrong in QUICKMATCH.


Midshipmen had to do Destroyer time if you were in Cruisers.

Soon after we joined, HAWKINS was sent to Cape Town for a refit period. We did a little bit of escorting off Kilindini, then a passage down through the Mozambique Channel, to Durban and then onto Cape Town where we went into Simonstown and started the refit. I had played rugby for the ship in Mombasa, where you never saw a blade of grass on the field. I received a bad scratch on the leg that festered and I got a poisoned leg. In the ship it seemed to be clearing up. At Simonstown, soon after we arrived in Simonstown it flared up again and I was put into the Simonstown Naval Hospital while the rest of the Mids and other people went off on leave. I was in hospital for about ten days and a very comfortable hospital it was, more like a hotel. There were seven of us in the Officer’s Ward. Some benevolent gentlemen of South Africa had donated a fund that provided a bottle of spirits per week for officers and a bottle of beer per day per man in the hospital. Of the seven in the ward only two of us were allowed alcohol. At about 7 o’clock each evening after dinner many of the nursing staff and some of the off duty staff would come up and we would have an evenings entertainment. Once over the initial fever, it was a very pleasant ten days and my leg got better. I went back to the ship where they were all on leave. I had been told to take ten days sick leave.

They were highly organised in South Africa. There was an organisation run by the women in Cape Town called SANA’s. I rang up a telephone number in Cape Town and explained that I had been given ten days sick leave. They asked, “How sick I had been, did I want to stay in town, or get out in the country, what were my interests, how old was I”. It was finally decided that I go out into the country, but not too far. I was told to ring back in two hours. Sure enough in two hours I was told to catch the train from Simonstown to Cape Town and move to Platform 7 and catch the train to Somerset West. A Mrs Wilmslow who would look after me for a week or ten days would meet me. I took a train and went to Somerset West. They turned out to be a most delightful family. She and her husband were an English couple living in South Africa. He was a civil servant, he was in the mining industry but he was a civil servant. He used to spend 6 months of his time in Johannesburg and 6 months in Cape Town because of the system they had in South Africa where the Parliament moved every 6 months. They had a delightful home in the country on about two acres of land. I had, not quite a guest wing, but a separate bathroom for myself. They had a lovely sixteen year old, blond daughter. We were in the middle of the Somerset West grape growing area. Some beautiful old Dutch style homes and it was absolutely magnificent. They were extremely kind to me. They had a little old Morris 8 as a second car. After my ten days leave they told me to take the car back to the ship and to come out for any weekend I could. I took the car back and used to go out there for the weekends. They were an absolutely magnificent couple. I have nothing but gratitude for them looking after me and helping me get fit again. The ship stayed in Cape Town or rather Simonstown and finished her refit. We were about to go back to sea when we four Midshipmen were told that we were to go and do our Destroyer time. Max and I joined the REDOUBT. This was 22 July 1943.

With the exception of the Tribals the Flotillas of the Fleet Destroyer in the RN were built in batches of six with each class having names beginning with the same alphabetical letter. By the beginning of the war they had completed the “M” class. REDOUBT was one of the “R” class with ROTHERHAM, RAIDER, RELENTLESS, RACEHOUSE and . They had a length of about 350 feet and were about 1800 tons with twin shafts developing 40,000 HP and a maximum speed of 34 knots. Four single 4.7 inch guns, one, six barrel 2 pdr pom-pom, six 20mm Oerlikons and eight 21 inch torpedo tubes.

We did very little in company with other ships of our Flotilla. In actual fact I only recall meeting with RELENTLESS and ROTHERHAM. However we were often operating with other Destroyers, the “Q” Class. Some of the “Q” Class were Australian ships. The `N’ Class were all on the station.

Our first operational task in REDOUBT was with QUADRANT and the light Cruiser DESPATCH, to escort a convoy of five troop ships from Cape Town to India. QUADRANT and our self left the Convoy off Mauritius where the Cruiser EMERALD took over. We went into Port Louis to fuel. At one point south of Madagascar we were told of a submarine in the area. Shortly after this we made a very firm Asdic (sonar nowadays) contact which we and QUADRANT hunted for some time dropping two patterns of depth charges at one stage. The battle ended when a whale surfaced close to us, spouted and swam away. I recall another occasion later when we were escorting some ships up the Gulf of Aden we made an Asdic contact that our self and another destroyer hunted for some time. It again turned out to be a whale this time surfaced just in front of us and we rammed it. Judging by the blood and flesh in the water we could claim one whale sunk.

We had an interesting period exercising with the Fleet off Kilindini involving live day and night torpedo attacks. This was followed by more troop convoy escorting and this time up to Bombay. On this occasion we hit a Dhow in the middle of the night. It was pitch black night with no wind. We didn’t see him and if he saw us he could not get out of the way.

I enjoyed my time in REDOUBT. We lived in the wardroom, and the officers went out of their way to teach us, especially the First Lieutenant. At sea we kept the first dogwatch with him. Under his watchful eye we ran the ship for those two hours. We were given many other opportunities of hands on training, ship handling, gunnery and torpedo control, navigation etc. We both received good recommends which would help with our final Midshipman’s assessment which in turn would determine our seniority as Lieutenants. Our destroyer time finished on 6th October and we left the ship at Kilindini.

We went into Kilindini but HAWKINS didn’t come in for about three weeks. You will notice on my record that we were in DANAE for a short period. Max and I joined DANAE who was the sister ship of the old DUNEDIN and DIOMEDE that had served on the New Zealand Station. As HAWKINS, to which we were to return, was not in port, Max and I were appointed temporarily to DANAE. Fortunately it only lasted three weeks as DANAE was a miserable ship. Some Damage Control fanatic had painted the whole of the inside of the ship, including the wardroom, with silverine. The officers made us welcome but I was extremely pleased to see HAWKINS steam in on my 20th birthday.

(end of Tape 2)

(beginning of Tape 3)

Admiral when we broke to change the tape we were talking I think about your time in HMS HAWKINS as a Midshipman.

As I said Max and I rejoined HAWKINS at the end of October 1943. A number of changes had taken place, Captain Joselyn had taken over from Captain French, Commander Hawkins for Commander Wallace, and the two RNR Midshipman, Towner and Midshipman Tullis, had been promoted to Sub Lieutenant and replaced by three RN Midshipman Stacey, Midshipman Howland and Midshipman Clack.

The ship made another visit to Simonstown to dock for repairs to the stern glands. At this time it was my turn to do engine room training. We spent a month with the Engineering Department. It was good experience but I realised why John McKenzie had opted for the upper deck. However it gave me a great respect for the plumbers. My most vivid memory of this time was the shutting down procedure in the boiler room. The main stop valve was right at the top of `A’ boiler room, and to get to it you climbed up ten or twelve steps of a ladder. It took ten turns of the wheel with a heavy wheel spanner to close it. It was so hot and the air was so dry that after two or three turns you had to come down to breathe. It took two of us working in turns to close it. By this time it was very early in 1944. We had Christmas at Cape Town.

Repairs completed, the ship returned to Kilindini. In early February we were put through a preliminary Seamanship Board in preparation for our final Midshipman’s examinations which took place a week later in the Flagship. I received a First Class Pass.

The war was moving very much in allied favour. The Mediterranean was open, Italy had surrendered, and the Allied Forces had landed in Italy itself. In the Indian Ocean the Japanese advance in Burma had been halted. For some time C in C Staff and the Naval Base at Kilindini had been moving back to Colombo and Trincomalee.

On 5th February 1944 HAWKINS sailed from Kilindini as senior officer of a convoy escort with two destroyers, PALADIN and PETARD, of six ships to Colombo. The largest ship and Commodore of the convoy was a large passenger ship the KHEDIVE ISMAIL. HAWKINS led the port column and KHEDIVE ISMAIL the centre column. Onboard the KHEDIVE ISMAIL were some 800 East African troops and a large number of the Base staff from Kilindini, including some 200 women, Nurses and Wrens, some 1300 in all. To provide additional signal staff to the Commodore of the convoy, HAWKINS had lent a Leading Signalman and two Signalmen to KHEDIVE ISMAIL. On the afternoon of Saturday 12th February we were passing through the Maldive Channel north of the Maldive Islands. It was a calm hot day. I was off watch and sun bathing on the Quarterdeck. When suddenly a sheet of flames and grey smoke went up just forward of KHEDIVE ISMAIL’s forward funnel, followed by another near her stern. As I rushed forward to my action station on the bridge I saw a torpedo break surface on our starboard bow and pass close ahead of us. By this time I arrived on the bridge the KHEDIVE ISMAIL had rolled over and was just disappearing. After an initial turn away we returned to search for survivors while the two destroyers rushed off to hunt the submarine.

As far as I remember we saved only about 130 including our Leading Signalman, but only 30 women. The destroyers found the submarine and forced it to the surface. It was a large Japanese `L’ Class which carried an aircraft. At one point PALADIN turned in to ram, but as she was approaching PETARD signalled to clear the line of fire as she was firing torpedoes. PALADIN turned away but struck a glancing blow on the submarine and opened her starboard side on the forward hydroplane. She flooded her engine room and after compartments and sank to the level of the quarterdeck.

PETARD sank the submarine with gunfire.

The convoy regrouped and proceeded to Colombo, while we took PALADIN in tow to Addu Atoll where she was patched up and later towed to Trincomalee.

The women we had rescued were all accommodated in the Captain’s quarters aft. In the evening after the sinking I had the First watch on the bridge. At after 21.30 it was reported that one of the women was missing. The ship was searched and she was found on the flag deck asleep alongside our Leading Signalman who had been in KHEDIVE ISMAIL and who had rescued her. Apparently when the first torpedo struck the Leading Signalman was in his cabin which was close to the cabins occupied by the Wrens. As he rushed along the passageway he saw a Wren struggling with her life jacket. He went to help her but the ship was rolling over. he opened the scuttle climbed through and dragged her after him. Her life jacket caught on a clip. By the time he cleared it the ship had gone under but he managed to get them both to the surface. As I said earlier they were both saved. On our Doctor’s advice she was allowed to remain close to the Leading Signalman until we reached Colombo. Some years later when I was doing my Long `C’ Course, I met the Leading Signalman, now Yeoman, again. He told me that the Wren had been engaged to an Army Officer and was happily married. She was also the daughter of an Englishman who was managing a large cattle ranch in Argentina. The father had written to him thanking him for saving his daughter and if, when he left the Navy he wanted a job he would offer him one in Argentina. Still later when I was in UK on the Naval Staff Course I attended a Signal School Reunion and again met the Leading Signalman/Yeoman, now Mr. he told me he had come over on leave from Argentina where, the following year, he was to take over as manager of a cattle ranch. It would have made a good film script.

That was our last operation in the Indian Ocean as we were told to go back to England. The ship went through Aden, the Suez Canal, along through the Mediterranean to Malta and Gibraltar back to England.

One incident I remember. We were going along the Coast of North Africa and I was down in the shower when the alarm bells, action stations went. It was pretty cold, I grabbed my great coat and rushed off to my action station and spent the next hour standing with a towel around my waist with a great coat on shivering while we expected an aircraft attack.

We arrived in Glasgow at the end of April 1944, where we New Zealand Midshipmen, left the ship. We had finished our Midshipmen time, we were just about to be promoted Acting Sub Lieutenants and we were told to go on leave ready to start our Subs Courses.

John McKenzie and I travelled together from Glasgow. From Gibraltar we had brought back a large bunch of bananas which were like gold in England. I remember when John and I arrived in London we went and had a meal in the Queens Restaurant in Leicester Square. The waiter chatted to us giving us a story of a sick child. By this time we had split the bananas up and we had a bag of bananas with us. If I remember rightly we paid for our meal with bananas.

After leave we reported to HMS EXCELLENT for our Subs Courses, which went from early May to October. We did a series of Courses at various naval establishments, the standard Subs Courses. There was Gunnery Course at Whale Island, Navigation at DRYAD, Signals at MERCURY, torpedo and anti submarine at VERNON, which in those days part of which had evacuated from Portsmouth, to a Girls Boarding School in Brighton, Rodene. Some of us were billeted in the St Dunstan Blind Institute alongside it, which was fine, except there were no mirrors in the bathroom, there were only tiny, little 20 watt bulbs in the lights. It was fine however when you were coming back from the pub because you identified which floor you were on by the studs on the stair rails. While we were there Brighton was attacked and there was rather a nasty bombing of a Hotel. GREENWICH for a Divisional Course, ARBROATH for flying training and what later became PHOENIX for Damage Control. We finally finished Subs Courses on which you gained certain seniority marks for each course, I finished up with the maximum six months seniority allowed.

They were fairly compressed compared with later on. They must have been quite rushed?

Oh yes they were very compressed. It was 1944, D Day actually occurred in the middle of our Courses. The whole of the South Coast was blocked off. For Security we had to have a pass to get in and out going up on the train. There were troops going backwards and forwards. You were recalling doing silly things. A previous Course to us had put a detour sign at the Head of Twyford Avenue on the road going down to HMS EXCELLENT. An Army Convoy of tanks on tank transporters all arrived in the middle of the parade ground, which caused great chaos much to the amusement of the Subs but not the Captain of the College or the Army. It was really the height of the War. Once or twice we were sent out into the Solent in charge of a MFV taking dispatches and other things out at night. I remember going out one night and they had all disappeared. That was just about three days before D Day. Then just after D Day I can recall seeing a landing craft coming in towing its bow behind it, it had been mined.

There were a lot of New Zealanders in the Royal Navy at the time, through the various schemes that went on. Did you come across these people?

No very few. At the Fern Leaf Club in London was the only time I really came across any of them. Once or twice on Subs Courses if we were visiting ships or somewhere we would find there was a New Zealander there. I did meet one or two friends from New Zealand at the Fern Leaf Club, but beyond that no. My training was RN and there was no New Zealand influence in it.

You didn’t tell the funny story about Rodene School.

Oh yes its a true story. There was a bell on the wall of the dormitories that said, “If you want a mistress during the night press the bell”. It rang considerably all night. Yes that was quite true.

It was a pleasant period, we made a lot of friends, we saw and caught up with our Dartmouth group, but we were all split up. If I remember rightly there were about eight groups of Sub Lieutenants. Eight to ten to a group, John McKenzie and I were in the same group, we followed each other around. We also overlapped with groups from our senior term. I met up again with Terry Lewin who was ahead of us.

Is it from here that you got interested in communications.

I volunteered for navigation first and then the Air Arm. I was told the Air Arm wasn’t on I was a regular RNZN Officer and we didn’t have an Aircraft Carrier. I put down communications or signals as it was known in those days as my second choice. I enjoyed the communications side in which I got an A grade or first class pass, the same in Navigation. I know John McKenzie volunteered for Submarines. I think Max volunteered for Submarines, but he was told no, New Zealand does not have Submarines. I said I would like to go to Destroyers and got my wish. I was appointed to HMS LAMERTON, which was a Hunt Class Destroyer. She was then in the Med and I was to go out and relieve a chap called Lieutenant Austin who was the Navigator. I took passage, it must have been early to mid October `44, in a troop ship, because we arrived in Naples about two weeks after the place had been recaptured, and I celebrated my 21st birthday there.

I’ve got you down here as relieving a person called Sprague?

Yes, that was the Sub Lieutenant in the ship. I was told I was going out to relieve Austin, to take over as the Navigator when he left.

I see.

We arrived in Naples and I had my 21st birthday in Naples. I also had more culture in a week than I have ever seen before or since. When Naples was recaptured, the local Opera one day was performing to the Germans and the next day it carried on performing for the Americans and British. It was absolutely magnificent. They had two shows a day and you paid I think about a shilling. As there was little else to do, I spent much of my time at the Opera.

We were in a stage in the War where the Allies were going up Italy?


Presumably the heavy naval activity in the Mediterranean was over?

It was in terms of the Battle of the Med yes. The landings at Anzio and Salerno had been done and the Navy was mainly supporting the ground Forces. I joined LAMERTON in Brindisi to which I went on a train from Naples. A troop train full of Army. There were about six Naval Officers, it was winter time and we went over the mountains, and bloody cold it was I can assure you. There was no glass in the windows of the train, no light, you had candles. We stopped up in the mountains where the Army had a field kitchen where they had a 44 gallon drum of stew and a 44 gallon drum of tea. The troops had their Army eating utensils, we didn’t have any thing, but we managed to borrow some. We sat in this train in our great coats, played cards by candlelight. We arrived in Brindisi after 36 hours and I joined the ship. LAMERTON was operating mainly up and down the Adriatic, supporting the Army, bombarding and escorting ships in the Med. We also did a number of runs across to Yugoslavia taking in British Forces to the Partisans landing them or helping back up the Partisans in operations on some of the Islands.

In a clandestine manner?

Yes clandestine, once or twice we put people ashore on a beach where they were picked up, rather like the movies and there was the flashing light ashore and so forth. Normally we went into Split or Zara, we would berth alongside, off load and embark people and leave immediately. You never knew whose side people were on, over there. In Split we went alongside one night and there was a great big barbed wire fence about twenty feet back from the ships side. If you went too near it you got shot at. It was hard to tell who belonged to whom in that part of the world. We had the odd Partisan we would pick up and take back. We also operated in other parts of the Med, including Greece, where at Pirgos we became involved in a battle between the two factions of the Civil War.

You mentioned doing bombardments, was that a frequent thing?

Not terribly frequent, I can recall only twice when we went on a major bombardment run. I remember on one occasion we were on the Romany Coast and another on the other side of the Adriatic up towards Trieste.

Were you on your own?

Yes and no. We were part of the 16th Destroyer Flotilla. I don’t remember who was leader as we never met him. Our division consisted of BROCKLESBY DERWENT and ourselves and I can’t remember the fourth. We were in the general area and normally one of the others was with us. It is of interest that Tony Blomfield as a Lieutenant commanded BROCKLESBY and he later commanded HAWEA in New Zealand.

DERWENT being an Australian?

No DERWENT was not the Australian DERWENT. This was another ship, but I may have got that wrong. There were four Hunt Class Destroyers in the Division. We rarely saw our chums to any great degree. We were bombarding the Romany Coast on one occasion, aiming at a series of tunnels on the railway track. If you saw a train coming you would try and knock out the other end of the tunnel from where he went in and then try and knock out the other end once he was inside.

You were on your own, you weren’t getting calls of fire from the shore?

Not on those occasions. Later on we went up the eastern side of the Adriatic towards Trieste and did a bombardment where we had forward observers ashore. We fired over a small peninsular at a town called Lucinpiccalo. At this time we had three landing craft “G” with us. An LC(G) was landing craft with four 4.7 Howitzers on it. We anchored close to the shore and we were firing over the top of the hill. That was fine until the opposition decided they didn’t like us and they started mortaring us from the other side of the hill. One of the LC(G’s) was hit so we left. There were still German Submarines operating so we did escorting between various parts such as Taranto which was an interesting place to see the sunken ships, the result of the British attack earlier in the war. In the Inner harbour you would back in, put your stern to a walkway with two Inner anchors out. An Italian Destroyer came in one day, went astern and forgot to go ahead and went straight through this walkway a wonderful sight.

The Hunt Class ships were really World War standards weren’t they?

LAMERTON was a Hunt class destroyer which were designed and built during the war primarily for fast escort A/S and AA duties. They were just over 1000 tons twin screw with a top speed of 27 knots, three twin 4 inch Turrets with director control, a pom-pom and Oerlikon for close range defence. The complement was seven officers and 160 ship’s company.

You had a cabin to sleep in?

Not to begin with but later I had a cabin.

Was a Lieutenant Commander in command?

The Captain and Divisional Commander was a Lieutenant Commander called Gray – a delightful chap. Yes there was a Lieutenant Commander, a Lieutenant, the First Lieutenant and then there was the EO, two Lieutenants and a Sub Lieutenant. Lieutenants commanded some of the ships. BROCKLESBY was commanded by a Lieutenant who later commanded ROTOITI in New Zealand. They were fairly short ranged, that was one of their problems, so they weren’t good for long convoy work. We were maids of all work. An enjoyable team and I really enjoyed myself with them.

Did you ever knock out any of their trains that you were firing at?

We hit one on the Romany Coast yes, we got him just behind the engine and knocked him down. We had the odd air attack, but there wasn’t a lot of air activity. I recall we took a British Guards Regiment, Tank Regiment, three Officers and about a dozen troops, to sea with us for two days when they were out of the line. Some German aircraft attacked us. There were three ships and, we were doing a bombardment. We told these blokes to get down below and keep their heads down. They complained bitterly afterwards, “You say you fight them in a tin can like this where you can get sunk, not for us”. Some time later when we were in Ancona for a boiler clean they took us out in their tanks on a patrol. At dusk we stopped and I asked where we were to sleep for the night, “Underneath the tank”, came the reply. I told them they could keep their tanks.

It was in early `45 winter and cold.

By this time you would have been promoted to Lieutenant too?

No, not yet.

I notice you were promoted to Lieutenant in `45, but your seniority was backdated.

Yes my seniority was backdated, but I didn’t put up my second strip until 3rd February 1945. I had to do 3 months watch-keeping getting my W/K Ticket. In late January `45 we went back to England, Plymouth, Portsmouth and then finished up operating out of Harwich where we were part of the Harwich Destroyer Flotilla. Our main task involved `E’ Boat hunting and protection of the East Coast shipping lanes. We would go out for three nights then come in for two. We would anchor down in the Thames Roads during the day, then at night we would take two MTB’s with us to patrol off the Dutch Coast to intercept the E Boats coming out. There would be a patrol of Beaufighters over the coast then our patrol line. I was by this time the Navigator and the Communications Officer. It was hard work, tiring. As Communications officer I gained insight into the British ability of cracking German codes, Enigma. Only the Captain, myself and a special operator we had on board with a special wireless set were allowed to read these top secret signals that came in. Every day it gave us the operational frequency, the call signs etc, etc, of these E Boats. We would hear them setting off and read their operational signals. We had some wonderful actions off the Dutch Coast, and fortunately were never hit. I remember one occasion when we got in amongst three of them that had come out of Ostend. They had a crack at us, but we were sitting backfiring the 4 inch at them or starshell to illuminate then while MTB’s went after them. I watched two MTB’s and two E Boats throwing every thing they had at each other. There was tracer going every where, fortunately our MTB’s came back without a scratch on them. Whether they hit the E Boats I don’t know to this day. It was all very spectacular.

That was a great experience from a navigation point of view. We were always running in between sandbars and in the channels. We would get the daily signal of wrecks but there was always the chance that one had been missed. I remember on one occasion we were steaming along when I saw a mast sticking out of the water fine on the starboard bow. I ordered hard a port and the Captain immediately said, “Midships hard a starboard” and pointed at another mast over to port. I think we must have gone straight over the top of a tanker or a ship like that.

Minefield transits would presumably be a daily occurrence?

That’s right, and so it was a very interesting active and educational period.

VE Day, the end of the war with Germany was the 6th of May or the 5th of May. It was a Monday. The Friday before that, a signal arrived in the ship to say that I was to pack my bags and report forthwith to New Zealand House in London as I was to return to New Zealand. I packed my bags, went down to London and thus by pure chance, was in London on VE Day which was quite an experience and a wonderful occasion.

I was informed by New Zealand House that I was to take passage on the DOMINION MONARCH leaving Liverpool on the following Wednesday. Arriving in Liverpool I found the ship was alongside. There was a berthing officer, who was a Sub Lieutenant RNVR taking charge. He told me I was in bunk 113, in the Palm Lounge. There would be a Midshipman below me. I put my two stripes on the table and said, “You had better read Kings Regulations and Admiralty Instructions, Wardroom Officers do not sleep with Midshipmen”. He coughed and spluttered, but, finally put me into a two berth cabin with a British Naval Dentist. We shared what had been a single cabin, which was very comfortable.

Did you other term mates come home with you at the same time?

No, no it was just myself, they had scattered far and wide.

On board DOMINION MONARCH we had two thousand plus, Australian ex-prisoners of war who had been very recently released from German Prison Camps. Somebody had paid them their back pay. As many of them had been in camp for 3 or 4 years you have never seen so much money on board a ship. There were about thirty or forty naval person amongst whom, was David Beattie (now Sir David Beattie), Peter Hindle from Wellington, Jackie Draper. I have forgotten the others. We set sail from Liverpool, and there was little to do except watch the gambling that went on amongst the Australians and play cards ourselves. David Beattie, Peter Hindle and I, with one or two others played Pontoon and Bridge all the way from Liverpool to Sydney through the Panama Canal. Between David, Peter and me we made a profit of about 380 pounds at the end of the trip.

At Sydney we were put into the Junior Officers Mess which was on the northern side of the Harbour Bridge. All we had to do was to report to Garden Island Embarkation Centre or Garden Island Transport Section every day to find out when there was a ship to New Zealand. We did this for three weeks. We had a wonderful time. With our profit, we really saw life in Sydney. One Saturday morning we rang up about 11 o’clock and were told that HMS WESSEX was sailing for New Zealand that day. There were two berths on board. We were to decide between the three of us Beattie, Thorne and Hindle who would take them and be down here by 1 o’clock. We tossed up, Peter lost, so David Beattie and I gave him five pounds each to square up our debts and tell our girlfriends. We boarded the WESSEX and arrived home in early July. Peter Hindle came over about a fortnight later. I met him in Wellington to find he had contacted TB in that time. Happily he recovered. I then went on leave.

I remember my mother saying when I stepped off the train here in Wellington, “Good heavens, you’ve got a very English accent”. This amused me as I had spent nearly 4 years being called a “Damned Colonial” and I had always considered her as having a very English accent. It made me realise that accents are not necessarily the tone of your voice, but the phrases you use. I had got so used to using ‘actually’ and those sorts of words one learns in the British environment.

It was great to be home and although Navy Office didn’t `turn the boat wet’ when I reported in, I was looking forward to at last serving in the Navy I had joined.

You’ve been away for four years?

Yes very nearly.

You would have had a great welcome from your family?

A great welcome. I had had no direct contact with New Zealand or the New Zealand Navy I had joined. I had no knowledge or contact with ships such as ACHILLES, LEANDER, GAMBIA, KIWI, TUI etc and every thing else. I had no understanding of or relationship with the New Zealand Navy at all. It was not a problem, but proved the need for a catching up process, as I was expecting to be sent to a RNZN ship serving in the Pacific. However the Atom bombs were dropped and VJ Day came while I was still on leave. I was actually staying with my relatives down in Blenheim for that occasion.

I felt elated. I had a great career ahead of me, with straight stripes on my arm I was going to be about the fifth or sixth Senior Officer of the New Zealand Navy. Many years later I found I was the 105th.

After my leave I was appointed to GAMBIA which had returned from the BPF. She arrived in Auckland and of course the War was over. The ships company was a mixture of about 50/50 British and New Zealanders. The majority of the New Zealanders left the ship for discharge. In early December we sailed with a skeleton crew to take the ship back to UK. We picked up a considerable number of additional personnel in Sydney. A lot of them I regret to say were the riffraff of the RN who had been left ashore in Sydney. We also loaded up with about 12 million pounds worth of gold. With that and every available space in the ship loaded with tinned meat and food for Britain and set off for UK.

It must have been a funny crew if you had all that riffraff, end of the War, no motivation presumably, it must have been funny times?

It was funny times. To give them their due they kept the ship running. I was the Divisional Officer of the top division but you could not instil any form of unity amongst them. They were not interested in any thing, but they did their job. The Captain, Ralph Edwards was a true efficient British Officer who later became First Sea Lord. He was appalled at what had happened to his ship. It had made a name for itself in the BPF. He actually left us at Alexandria and flew on to U.K. The Commander, Commander Jacobs took command for the final leg to Plymouth.

Who were some of the other New Zealand Officers and sailors even if you recall?

Well Sam Mercer was the Second Navigator. Taking passage to go on exchange service was David Dunlop who now lives in Auckland, he was a British VR Officer. There was John Washbourn and Max McDowell. I can’t think of anybody else. The majority were RN Officers. Also as I had had no contact with the RNZN during the war none of the ratings were known to me.

We arrived in Plymouth and handed the ship back to the RN. We were to take over BELLONA which was in Chatham, but she wasn’t ready to be taken over till May or June so we had time to fill in before leaving New Zealand. Max McDowell and I applied to do a flying course. In those days the RN had decided that the air side of naval warfare was so important that all Sub Lieutenants were being put through an air acquaintanceship course. If they passed it, they were given training to Civilian A Licence level on Tiger Moths to give them an air understanding. If they were very suitable they obviously went into the Fleet Air Arm. Max and I heard about this and as the RN agreed not to charge the RNZN for it, off we went and spent eight weeks at RNAS SISKIN in Gosport. The RN decided we didn’t need to do the full course, i.e. all the classroom work we would just learn to fly. They gave us a Tiger Moth and an Instructor each and we learnt to fly Tiger Moths which was great fun. I finished up with about 3 hours solo and about 11 hours dual and Max was something similar. We both passed our `A’ Licenses. It was extremely good training, I learnt a lot which stood me in good stead later when I commanded WAIKATO in which was the helicopter. It was a very useful background when operating the helicopter, which I also learnt to fly dual.

Did you fly any thing else other than the Tiger Moth?

No but on occasions when I have been with the Air Force, I have liked to have been allowed to have a go which is a pity.

I just wondered if they put you up in some of the current Fleet Air Arm aircraft?

Oh yes we did. If the weather was not good for the Tigers we sometimes went across to Lee on Solent. We would go for a flip in a Sea Fury I think it was.

The other incident was the Victory Parade which I took part in, which was a great honour.

Were you with the New Zealand Contingent?

I was part of the New Zealand Contingent. We had if I remember rightly 36 naval personnel. Lieutenant Commander John Holm was the CO of the Naval Contingent. Lorelle Corbin was the Senior Wren. I would have to get the photograph album out and try and identify some of the other faces. Some were GAMBIA and some came over from New Zealand, about half and half if I remember rightly, as did many of the Army and Air Force. We all marched as one main contingent.

My Uncle was part of the Army Contingent. I am not certain whether he was a commissioned officer or he may have then just been a Sergeant Major. A chap called George McCullough who used to be known as the screaming skull.

I don’t recall him directly. The officers and the troops we were all quartered in tents in Kensington Gardens for three days before the parade. We practised our marching and forming up. We were allowed leave at night, except the night before the parade they stopped all leave, but they made a fatal error. They had a central marquee mess for the Officer’s and that was very wet. I remember, about 2 o’clock in the morning, a boisterous singsong of South Africans, Canadians, New Zealanders and Australians. We were doing a Haka, the Aussies singing Waltzing Matilda and the others their national songs. We would then change round and do each other’s. We rose with pretty thick heads at 6 o’clock the next morning. We marched along Oxford Street, Regent Street across Trafalgar Square, Northumberland Avenue and then halted on the embankment while the armoured column went through ahead of us from across Waterloo Bridge. The Aussies in front of us got a bit bored with this wait so they picked out some kids from the crowds alongside their contingent, and put half a crown prize for a race around the contingent. There was great betting going on amongst the crowd who booed like hell when we moved off, to march along Whitehall and up the Mall past the saluting base and Buckingham Palace. It poured with rain for the last mile and we were soaked.

Max and I joined BELLONA in Chatham where we stood by the ship. I was a watchkeeper and the Forecastle Divisional Officer. We commissioned with Michael Laing as Captain, Richard Washbourn was the Commander, Commander Barnett Chief. The majority of the officers were RN including Alastair Mars. BELLONA was the first ship that the New Zealand Navy had taken over post war. We were getting back to the Cruiser Navy, there was no talk of any thing else, we were going to be a Cruiser Navy. She was a modern AA Cruiser who had quite a good war record and everybody was delighted that this was the beginning of the post war era.

What condition was BELLONA in when you took her over. Had she just been refitted?

In modern terms, not a full refit as far as I remember she did a long maintenance period, but she was behind time in getting ready, there is no doubt about that. I don’t recall any modernization or new equipment for example. We still had paravanes. I did not make myself popular when I jammed the paravane chains in the paravane bow tube while recovering them and we had to go back into dock and have the bow cut open to get them out. We didn’t do any major work up. We went down to Portsmouth and operated out of there for a week or ten days doing some shoots and checking every thing through, but nobody went to any great rhapsodies about work ups or any thing like that.

What was the make up of her crew then, were there a lot of RN people?

There were a lot of RN people, on loan. I think all the engineers except Commander Barnett who was the Chief were RN. I would say 50 percent of the complement were RN. We had Royal Marines, including a Marine Band.

What actually happened to the crew of GAMBIA, had they just hung around England for six months?

Relatively few if I remember rightly actually came on from GAMBIA. Most of the crew who brought GAMBIA back were RN, they just disappeared over the horizon. However many of the Ex GAMBIA RNZN personnel had undertaken courses in UK and a number of RNZN personnel in UK, some Ex ACHILLES joined. I’m rather vague now where they all came from.

We left UK in September, steamed out via Bermuda, Panama Canal, San Diego, Hawaii, Fiji back to New Zealand arriving for Christmas.

Our first main exercise in 1947 was across in Australia where we did three weeks working with the RAN. I remember that occasion because on the way across Lieutenant Ken Douglas Morris RN who was married, brought his wife and family to New Zealand and lived in Auckland. His wife was a Whitbread. They didn’t flash money about, but they had a nice house and a large Lagonda car. His wife had told him he was to behave himself in Sydney. I had some money stolen out of my cabin. We arrived in Sydney on a Friday afternoon and he and I were sitting in the mess. I couldn’t afford to go ashore and he didn’t want to. The Captain came in and said he had been invited to dinner with the local Admiral who had asked him to bring two young Officers because his daughter and a friend are there. He looked at us, “Any volunteers, you and you”. Dougie and I changed into our Mess jackets and off we went. We had a delightful dinner party. The daughter and friend were 19,18 that sort of age. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. In the course of the evening the Admiral had mentioned Bridge and we said we played Bridge. He invited Dougie and I up on Sunday night to play Bridge with he and his wife. This became a set thing, and every weekend the Admirals car would be alongside and Douglas Morris and E.C Thorne would step into the car and we would go and stay with the Admiral for the weekend. We would take his daughter and her friend dancing on his bill at the local night club. We played Bridge on Sunday, a very good arrangement.

We gave leave for Easter. In those days one watch went off on Thursday evening and came back on Sunday morning when the other half went off on leave. I was duty on Sunday when the first leave party were coming back. The Commander sent for me and said, “I am told the watch that are coming back off leave are forming up outside the Dockyard gate and are going to march down and demonstrate alongside the ship”. He said, “You will get the three men under punishment to get the gash cans, fill them up, put them by the forward brow. When you see this party walking along the jetty those three men are to carry the gash cans down one at a time and empty them in the gash cart alongside”. We did this. Whether that affected the situation, or not I don’t know, but the leave party just came along and marched up the brow and the other watch went off on leave. We avoided a mutiny.

What was the object of the gash cans, just to show that business was normal?

That business was normal. One of these Ratings under punishment was regarded as a ring leader. He wasn’t under punishment for that. He was regarded as one of the stirrers onboard. It seemed to work, as nothing happened, so we didn’t have a mutiny on board the ship.

I remember later when we were on a New Zealand Cruise visiting Picton. Again I happened to be Duty Officer of the quarterdeck. One of the PO’s came back from leave and said one of the ring leaders of the mutiny, a Leading Hand was in the Tramways Pub boasting to the ships company that he’s got away with it.

He was a civvy ashore?

I can’t remember at all whether he was actually on the run, but he must have been. I reported to Davis-Goff who was the Commander, who told me to send a patrol ashore to arrest him. He was arrested and placed in the cells on board.

Oh I see he was a deserter?

He was a deserter. We arrested him and brought him on board. He really kicked up hell. We took him back to Auckland where he was charged etc, etc, etc.

I stayed in BELLONA until the middle of `47, May `47 when I was appointed to TAMAKI as the Training Officer.

Were you involved in the sword fight?

I’ll mention that later.

Do you have a view of who was responsible for this Mutiny?

I don’t know, because I had no contact with Navy Office. However the Government promised a new pay code in 1946. A year had gone by, and nothing had happened. I understand the ships company in PHILOMEL refused to turn to and demanded of the Government that unless we received a pay code by the 31st of March 1947, a year later they were going to say to hell with you and walk out. As I have said we were away overseas, in Australia. I understand it came from a number of ringleaders in PHILOMEL. However it was obvious it was done in a last minute rush as a form of protest. The Naval Officer in Charge Auckland, a Captain Pugh, turned on the heavy handed act calling them mutineers, threatening dire consequences. I understand some walked out and some who went on leave didn’t come back. He then issued an order stating that unless they came back by 10.00 the next morning they were considered deserters. It was always felt that if he had allowed them to come back on board by 10 o’clock at night, a lot of them would have just come in the dark.

Did they not lock the gates as well and they physically weren’t allowed in?

That I don’t know. We were not in New Zealand on the actual day of the mutiny. They called it `The 47 Strike’. The Navy called it ‘Mutiny’ and it was not well handled as far as I could see.

The New Zealand crew of BELLONA was there any Hostilities Only people left or were they all now on a fixed engagement?

No, there were still some HO’s because a number of the HO’s served until about 1951 in various categories. We were in the process of signing people on when I was Focsle Officer. I had a number who came up and said they wanted to sign on.

Was BELLONA generally a happy ship?

Yes and no I was just a young Lieutenant and getting on with my job, I enjoyed the ship. They were a good bunch of people, but it was chaotic and over shadowed by the general atmosphere at the time. There was nothing highly organised like we had later on. You tended to just try and train your own people. The Navy had not settled into the post war era nor was there a clear policy for the future.

I think before we go on you wanted to tell us a little bit more about BELLONA.

Yes we were talking about the commissioning of the ship in Chatham. We were virtually a RN ship, there were relatively few true New Zealanders on board. We had a RN Captain, RN Commander the whole top structure including Alastair Mars who was the double DSC, DSO and a World War II famous Submariner were RN. I recall in my time in LAMERTON when Mar’s Submarine was in Malta, going to a function at the Submarine Base where I met all these young CO’s, Lieutenant Commanders and Lieutenants. They were a different breed who had a mana all to themselves. They did a superb job in the Mediterranean. Alastair Mars was now the First Lieutenant of BELLONA and that turned out to be a terrible appointment for him. I don’t know whether he personally was against being appointed, but he gave a very bad example I felt, to the ships’ company. He was First Lieutenant, and as the Focsle Officer, Focsle Divisional Officer we met regularly, because he was in charge of anchors and cables when we were leaving harbour and I of course was up there too. My first real run in with him was when we were going through the Panama Canal. It was agreed that he and I would share the watch keeping on the forecastle, as we had to have a cable party closed up for the whole trip. I was detailed for the first watch but I remained there until we were through to the other end of the Canal, because Alastair Mars never appeared. I sent down to his cabin on a number of occasions, but he never appeared. He also was not a good man manager with the ship’s company. Whether this was because he was so used to commanding his own ship or something like that I don’t know. As history shows he became involved in a court martial and he wrote a book about himself called `Court Martial’. There were several other incidents that went on. I was involved in arranging for him and his wife to rent a house down on the front of Milford. Some months later the owner of the place would hardly speak to me because of the state that they left it.

Now the sword incident, Bill Smith who later became the Hydrographer, who won the DSO in Midget Submarines in Singapore was in BELLONA. I recall coming back one night, when we were in Auckland. It would have been about 9 o’clock. on going to the wardroom I found Alastair Mars and Bill Smith setting to with naked swords. What had started the argument I don’t know to this day, but these two were hammer and tongs with these swords. As I recall one received a cut across the neck, and I think the other a cut under the armpit. If I recall correctly one of the swords broke which stopped the fight. Our Electrical Officer was a Lieutenant Commander Poole, commonly known as `Puddle’. I heard afterwards that Alastair Mars couldn’t find his sword so he borrowed Poole’s sword, which was the one that was broken off about 6 inches from the hilt. In those days we always had Sunday Divisions while we were in harbour. We mustered on the quarterdeck I was standing in front of my Division and Commander Washbourn called Divisions to attention. As the Captain walked on to the Quarterdeck we were ordered to draw swords. Out of the scabbard came a six inch sword.

Was there any action taken of these Officers as a result?

Quite honestly I can’t recall any action taken, whether they were sent for by the Captain and disciplined I don’t know.

Did it actually happen in the Wardroom?


I know nothing about it other than a second or third hand story?

It was in the Wardroom, we could check this out with Bill one day. I remember coming into the Wardroom and seeing this going on and I backed out.

Did they end up shaking hands?

I don’t know, as I say I was not involved in it, I wasn’t there when it started. I can’t recall whether there were many Officers in the Mess at the time and seeing it going on I decided the better place for me was down in my cabin, so I went back to my cabin.

Had they had a few drinks do you think?

I assume so, but I just don’t know what started it.

It took place not long before I left and went to TAMAKI.

I left the ship and went down as Training Officer at TAMAKI. Commander `Paddy’ Bourke was the Commanding Officer and the First Lieutenant was a RN Lieutenant, RN in capitals, named Ivan Hall who had a bull terrier called Buzz. Buzz was a bit of a pain to the ships’ company because he would sit under the defaulters’ table. If the First Lieutenant said, “14 days number nines” Buzz would go “grrrrr”, so he wasn’t popular. Ivan Hall was typical RN. He always marched around with the telescope under his arm. The ships’ company, one day tied an imitation telescope to Buzz’s collar, whom was seen rushing around the parade ground during divisions. Buzz and I became great friends.

Ivan Hall went off on a fortnight’s leave on one occasion. I said I would look after Buzz. I took Buzz shooting rabbits around the Island. I remember Ivan Hall came down in the ML and I was at the inner end of the jetty when the ML berthed. Buzz was about half way along the jetty. As Ivan stepped off the boat he called, “Here Buzz”, but Buzz turned around and came back to me. Ivan Hall hardly talked to me for a month after that.

Bull Terriers aren’t easy things to become friends of either?

I enjoyed that dog.

You were still single at this time?

Yes. I had met Fay now my wife, when I was in GAMBIA. We became friends but it wasn’t until we came back in BELLONA that we renewed our friendship. While I was at Error! Bookmark not defined.TAMAKI, in October, we became engaged. Fay used to come down to the Island at weekends when I was duty. Reverend Mayo Harris was the Padre down there and Mrs Harris very kindly asked her to stay with them. I remember, as Fay would tell you, Mrs Bourke would spend half her time saying, “If you marry him, you marry the Navy, you are being a mug”. I don’t know whether `Paddy’ deliberately did it but it took me nearly a fortnight to get up to Auckland to buy the engagement ring. Every time I was going off on leave Paddy always found some reason why I should stay on board. Whether he was trying to do my future wife a favour or not I am not quite sure.

What was your job at TAMAKI?

I was the Training Officer.

For the Boys?

No for the whole Establishment.

(end of Tape 3)

(beginning of Tape 4

Paddy Bourke told me later that Ivan Hall had been sent out as the expert on training, new entry training. I took over from Val Weir. I was the Training Officer and we were the only two Lieutenants in the place. The rest were Warrant Officers, Boatswains, etc, etc. There was always a bit of a debate as to who the Training Officer was whether it was the First Lieutenant or myself. I enjoyed it; it was a very happy time down there.

We had two ML’s attached to TAMAKI in those days which we regularly sent off for a weeks training. We had one Officer in charge and a Petty Officer, a Petty Officer Mechanic running the engines another Leading Hand and then the rest were trainees.

My future in-laws had moved to Russell and Fay was staying up with them helping them build a house up there and so it was all very convenient. I would take a ML up and go and visit Russell.

How long was the training in those days, can you remember?

Yes it was about three months for the new entry course. We had a separate Boys Division.

You had an adults division?

If I remember rightly we had two Adults Divisions one for the seniors and one for the juniors. We used to recruit three times a year. The Boys were there for nearly a year, and the adults were there for three months.

Do you recall where you recruited them. Admiral Steward talks about having to attend Court quite often. The Magistrate would say to an offender, right you can either go to prison for so much or join the Navy. Did that sort of thing go on?

Not to my knowledge. We had no part in the recruiting, we just took what we were given. They were kitted up in PHILOMEL and they came down and went through the course. I don’t recall ever having seen the Recruiting Officer.

Was it a tough routine for the sailors?

I don’t recall it being terribly tough. They doubled every where, lots of parade ground training but there was also lots of recreation, especially swimming. It was a lovely environment for training. The summer time especially was magnificent. We were given a 4 inch twin gun turret. This thing came down on the barge which was beached but we were faced with the problem of how you got it up the hill. I remember we put the tractor in front of it to tow it up but wound the tractor back on its wheels instead of pulling up. We finally had to virtually man handle this damn thing up the hill, with big blocks and tackles on it manned by the whole ship’s company.

I went there in June and I left at the end of the year. I only had 6 or 7 months there, and really only saw one complete group through.

I suppose really too it was the PO’s who did the donkey work of training?

Yes we had PO’s, and Chiefs and we had the Boatswains at the Warrant Officer level for the professional training. We didn’t do a lot of specialist naval training, it was mainly character and disciplinary training, making sailors of them. However we did quite a bit of seamanship.

Lots of Whalers and boat work?

A terrific amount of boat work, we had about six whalers and two or three cutters. They were always a problem they were anchored off, and we had to go and inspect them frequently. When ever the weather deteriorated there was a lot of physical exercise. It was nothing to be doubling around the Island once a day and that sort of thing. There was a lot of sport. They went from us up to PHILOMEL to do their professional training.

In later years it was called BCT and BBT wasn’t it?

That’s right yes.

I forget which way around it started.

It was BCT but as I say we just taught them how to wear a uniform, how to march and discipline, code of conduct etc, etc. They were a smart bunch when they left. They knew very little about any thing practical in the Navy such as gunnery or TAS or any thing like that.

A tough lot?

Not terribly, I don’t recall them being terribly tough.

At the end of the year I was informed that I was going to be sent to do the Long Communications Course in England. I became engaged. Fay and I decided that I would go and do the course unaccompanied. As my future wife’s father had promised me that he would pay her passage so that we could be married in England later on.

Fay and I became engaged in October of 1947. As I said earlier it was quite a problem to get ashore to buy an engagement ring. In those days the only contact with the Island was a ML which went backwards and forwards on regular trips and a barge which came down once a week to bring stores, vehicles and that sort of thing. The first boat from Auckland in the morning left at 6 o’clock. The last boat at night was half past 9, far too early for someone courting a fiancée. If I was on leave I would go to Auckland, but there was no hope of catching the half past 9 boat. Brian Turner, who you will know well, his parents lived in Parnell. They very generously provided a room in their house that I could use. My fiancée and I would go out to a film or dancing or something like that. I recall on many occasions not getting into bed at the Turners until about 2 in the morning. Brian’s father very kindly set an alarm clock and he would get up at 5 in the morning, shake me with a cup of tea and send me on my way down to Admiralty steps to catch the ML. I suppose in those days we were young and silly and we did these things. It was very pleasant, I enjoyed my six months at TAMAKI but looking on it I was not really qualified to be Training Officer, I had no knowledge or no training for the post. I had spent my time in the War on board RN ships. I had been trained as an officer but had no connection with Rating training. Ivan Hall was the supposed expert, but it was a bit of the blind leading the blind. We hadn’t developed good training programmes. As I look back on it I think we did as well as we possibly could. It really was not the appointment for me at that stage in my view. I presume the Naval Board had only a few to choose from and that’s why I was sent. However it provided me with some experience and understanding, and I learned a lot about young Ratings, and their problems, the welfare side and all those sort of things, which was very good training for me. However I am not sure I was a very good Training Officer.

During my time in BELLONA I had been sent for by the Captain on two occasions to say that the Naval Board considered they would train specialist officers and what were my choices. I told him that I had put in for navigation when I did my Subs Courses.

In my time in GAMBIA I had spent a considerable amount of time, encouraged by Captain Edwards who was a communications specialist, taking an interest in communications. I spent quite a bit of time in the WT Office and had become interested. I therefore told the Captain I would be interested in communications, and thought no more about it. While I was at TAMAKI I was sent for and asked if I would like communications and I said yes. Out of the blue, soon after my future wife and I became engaged, a signal arrived to say that I was to undertake the Long `C’ Course at HMS MERCURY leaving New Zealand in early 1948.

At that time there was a report that the PAMIR the Finnish sailing ship which had been taken over by New Zealand during the war was being returned to the Finns and was sailing from New Zealand in November. I wrote to the Naval Board through the Captain suggesting that I should be allowed to do this trip in the PAMIR for the experience of being under sail. I thought it would be a good idea to go and find out what sailing ships do. The Board accepted this and enquiries were made. However the Captain of the PAMIR said he wouldn’t have me on board as a deck officer because I knew nothing about sail. The Naval Board said I couldn’t go as a deck hand because I was an Officer and a lot of toing and froing went on. Time went by until finally the Board said, “I was to go via sea in the normal way”. Looking back, I would have liked to sail in PAMIR to see what it was like, to climb over a mast and to have gone around the Horn in a sailing ship. I gave the Board full marks they did support me on that one.

I was told to join the PORT PHILIP one of the Port Line Ships, which was sailing from Wellington in early 1948. Fay came down and stayed with my family and myself here in Wellington. There were only twelve passengers, and as we walked in to the upper lobby by the lounge life boat stations we noticed the list of passengers had been pinned up on a noticeboard. Fay saw this list which had me in First Officer’s boat, Miss so in so and so in so, and Lieutenant Thorne then Miss so in so, Miss so in so, Miss so in so and then somebody else. Fay looked at this list and said to me, “You are going to have a good trip”. We walked into the lounge and there were four women all at least sixty five and she looked at me and said, “You will not have much fun will you”. We set off from New Zealand. One of the other passengers was an Engineer Officer from the Union Company. It was a typical trip to the UK. We went through Panama. They were a very pleasant team of Officers on board. As far as I was concerned it was just a matter of getting to England. I used to keep a few watches. I did some navigation just to keep my hand in and to keep up an interest of something to do, otherwise it was just reading books. One of these ladies had the cabin opposite mine. I shared a Cabin with the Engineer Officer. Soon after we left Wellington one of them saw me in my Cabin doing my dhobying and she said, “Would you like me to iron those for you”. I accepted with alacrity, so for two or three weeks I had some well ironed shirts. Unfortunately after we were through the Panama Canal we had a gale and she fell on the staircase and broke her leg. For the rest of the trip there was E.C Thorne standing in his cabin ironing her clothes for her.

I arrived in England to find the Course had been put back by a fortnight for some reason and I had something like five weeks to fill in. The Admiralty suggested I be appointed to HMS BOXER, which was then the Radar Training ship, a World War II Landing ship. It had been converted for operator radar training, mainly Fighter Direction Officers. I joined the ship and we operated in and up and down the Solent and out into the Channel with aircraft coming out from Lee on Solent. We just ploughed up and down and I kept bridge watches for them. I got to know a number of people especially the Fighter Direction and Fleet Air Arm people. It was quite interesting, and a good background to some of the communication procedures and equipment that I was to meet later.

I think BOXER later became a communications trial ship didn’t she or may be it was Radar Trials ship.

It was probably radar trials.

I remember her when I was a young Officer.

I think you are quite right. As far as I was concerned we were doing Fighter Direction because she was all set up with a carrier control position. Thinking back on it I think we had some Admiralty Research Establishment people on board with equipments that were being trialled.

I finally joined HMS MERCURY, which is situated outside Petersfield. Then started a very pleasant year. I really enjoyed my time at the Signal School. We worked hard, but it was a magnificent environment. It was a country home, which had belonged to Lady Peel, and which had been taken over during the War. It was a relatively modern country home, but it had its own big estate sitting up on the hills over looking the downs. It had been developed as a Signal School with a series of buildings all around it. The Long Course and the Officers lived in the main block. You tended to live a country house style, you wore uniform during the week, but at the weekend, unless you were Duty Officer you wore civilian clothes. There were miles of countryside around it. It had its own shooting and down the road were Eastmere and Westmere. There was the Bat and Ball Pub by what is supposed to be the original cricket field of England, also just down the road. We were only 40 minutes drive from Portsmouth, it was a magnificent place. The Course was known as Long Course `Love’, which proved itself quite apt. We finished the Course on a Friday. Fay had arrived in England and I was one of three on the Course to get married on that Saturday. One of them married the sister of one of the other officers doing the Course. There were ten of us on the Course, all RN except Teddy Lesh from Australia who ultimately became DNSD of Australia and myself. There was a separate “Indian” Long (C) Course of four Officers, and a WREN’s Long (C) Course. Their training was not so much communications in terms of operating at sea but cryptography, and the control and operation of Command Communication Centres. There were six WREN Officers. Guest nights usually finished up with Highland dancing. It was a very pleasant time.

Do you remember much about the Course content?

Our Course Officer was a Lieutenant Commander Lowsby, he was also VL in charge of the visual signals side. Edward Ashmore who ultimately became First Sea Lord, and also became a personal friend starting from then, was W1 in charge of the radio telegraphy side. We were trained in WT. We did WT theory to a degree so we could understand what a flip-flop circuit was. How the WT gear worked, but we were not trained in the electrical side of maintaining it, but we had to know enough about whether it was working or not and whether the maintainers were doing their job properly. On the VS side we had to attain high standards of visual signalling, flashing and Semaphore and WT Morse. We did touch typing so that you took the Morse from the radio straight onto the typewriter. They had two masts rigged up as flag decks. We spent at least half a day a week on these masts conducting flag signalling and manoeuvring signals as if we were operating as the Signal Officer and flag deck of a Squadron or a Fleet. A lot of our training was on the conduct of the Fleet. The NATO ATP documents were just starting to appear. We were being trained to be Communications Officers and Squadron `C’ Officers and finally Fleet `C’ Officers, to be able to stand beside the Admiral or the Senior Officer and advise on manoeuvres, tactics and that sort of thing. We did a period, a fortnight at Error! Bookmark not defined.HMS DRYAD on the Tactical Tables there and simulating the controlling of the Fleet. We also had a period of three weeks at Lee on Solent on Air Comms. We also did a considerable amount on cryptography and ELINT. Our final three weeks were in London at Northwood, where we studied Radio intercept techniques. That was the first time I ever saw a computer at work. They showed us the original one that would fill a house developed during the war for cracking codes. We lived in London at the NAAFI Club and we were clear every evening. I look back on it because one of the members of the Course, Barry Miller and I would travel on the tube every morning on our way to Northwood and he would tell us about the opera or concert he had seen the night before. This went on for about a week. I said to him, “Barry you must be worth a mint if you go off to these shows every night”. He said, “Oh no, I just go up in the Gods, would you like to come”. So we went off the next night and stood in the queue for the God’s seats. We paid, I think it was a shilling to an old duck there who would put your chair down and she kept your place while we went off and had a meal. We came back took our places and climbed up into the Gods. It was Tosca we were watching, and we were way up in the top of the Opera House. I remember it clearly. We were about three rows back. Sitting in the front of us were half a dozen young people, who had the score of the Opera in front of them. I don’t think they watched the Opera once, but if one of the singers or the orchestra hit a wrong note they would throw their arms up and gasp in horror. To them that was the purpose of the evening.

The Long Course lasted a year.

Today Fax’s and computer networks reign supreme. In those days it was still pretty manually intensive stuff?

Oh very much so, and message handling was very much part of our training. It was vital that the messages got from A to B. You could have a mistake in the text but if you got the transmission indicators wrong at the top of the message, especially the WT routing indicators you were in trouble. We spent hours studying and learning things like that. In the same way we spent a lot of time being trained in the organisation of a Headquarters. Also the decision making as to who would receive a signal, the logging of it and all that sort of thing, because it was vital factor. You as the Signal Officer made the decision who was going to see that signal. A lot of effort was put into this training of understanding the content of the message and making sure it went to the right person. We had a whole series of duplicating machines and all that sort of thing, the paper war was a major problem.

What about electronic intelligence, is there any thing you can tell us about that of those days?

The only ELINT we did was WT finger printing. We were trained or taught or shown how the finger printing worked. We were not trained in radar intercept but we were trained in setting up the plan for listening to these transmissions. As part of the Course we went to GCHQ and shown how it was organised.

Were teleprinters available then?

Not in the Fleet. They were available in the shore establishments because when I ultimately went to IRIRANGI we had teleprinters there, but they were not yet afloat. As far as I know but some of the larger flagship’s may have had them. But I doubt it as the standards of transmitters and receivers for frequency control, and signal noise ratios were not good enough on the equipment at sea at the time to ensure that teleprinter circuits would work properly.

It was all hand?

It was all hand operating. It was just through the ears onto the typewriter. That had only been in for two or three years touch typing which was a new thing in the WT section. We were taught teleprinter codes and all that sort of thing, how it worked, etc, etc. They may have appeared in some of the flagships in the carriers, I am not sure, but I never saw a teleprinter afloat. We went to sea for a fortnight in the training squadron where we took charge of the flag decks. There were no teleprinters amongst that lot. There were however high speed Morse tape readers in some of the main message centres e.g. Whitehall WT.

Did the direction finding side come under your control?

DF yes that was all part of our training.

FH4 was the main set?

It was HFDF there was no UHFDF. VHF and UHF were just starting to appear.

What about the UA something?

UA 2 that came later, UA1, UA2, those were the UHF and the VHF sets. We were shown those at ASRE, we went down to ASRE for a week and were shown the new sets. The 614 and the 615 VHF sets were just coming into production at that time. The TBS was the main VHF set operating on 80 to 90 megs.

Can you remember the number of the main HF sets of the day?

We had some at IRIRANGI and I am trying to think of them, I can’t remember the number. The main VHF set was the American TBS and the H/F sets were still the World War 2 equipment. However the 602 and 603 HF sets, the 600 series were just coming into the Fleet. It was still very much valves, the transistor was unknown.

The UHF became 621, 622’s.

They came later.

614 we used as an emergency radio.

Yes that’s right they were emergency sets. The 615’s were the small single channel VHF’s, I think. I have forgotten what the UHF sets ultimately were. The 600 series, the 600 series was in OTAGO if I remember rightly.

They were initially?


Remember you had to tune the final amplifying section?

That’s right.

I think we have demonstrated our absolute knowledge of radios.

That’s right.

The Course finished and I passed out third on the Course. Teddy Lesh the Australian was top. I wouldn’t call him an egghead, but he was a bright character and by far the best as an operator as well as knowing his theory.

Fay my wife to be had arrived in UK. She had been booked on board a ship, the RANGITATA I think it was, but unfortunately she became ill and they transferred her to the AKAROA. We were to be married from her Aunt’s home in Pinner, Middlesex her father’s sister whose husband, was Captain Frank Read RN. He joined the Royal Navy in the latter part of the last century but had been axed under the Geddes Axe in 1921 as a Lieutenant Commander. He was recalled in World War II and promoted Commander. He was at the evacuation of Ostend and then promoted to Captain, in which rank he spent the rest of the War as Captain of HMS VERNON, which was then the Torpedo and Mining School. Fay arrived in the AKAROA about three weeks before the end of the Course. Uncle Frank’s brother Bill Read was the Managing Director of the Mersey Docks. The AKAROA was arriving in Liverpool. I went up by the overnight train to meet her. As the ship was due in the early afternoon I called on Uncle Bill in the morning who suggested that I spend an hour or two looking around the Mersey Docks. Then come back at half past 12 to have some lunch before we went to meet this niece of his and who he had never met before. I had a very interesting visit. It was the first time I saw a harbour radar control system. Their radar control post monitored the area out to five miles beyond the entrance of the Mersey and it showed all the buoys and traffic in the area moving up the channel. We could see AKAROA moving up the channel. I hadn’t seen this system before. I went back and we had a very pleasant lunch in the Boardroom. An elderly `gentleman’ Valet came in regularly, to report the AKAROA’s progress. Finally Uncle Bill indicated we should go. Outside there were two 1935 hearse style Rolls Royce’s. We got in the back of the front one with Jeeves driving and the other one followed. Instead of going and joining the hoi poloi up on the top of Princes Pier we drove down below to the bottom of the gangway. The ship had just berthed, and he asked which was Fay? I looked up and there was Fay standing up on the top deck by some lifeboats. I indicated the second lifeboat down, and she is the third one along after davit. He put his hand up to wave but lowered it quickly. Standing beside Fay was a Maori girl, he said, “Which one did you say?” Finally we went on board, Uncle Bill just marched us on board. We met Fay of course and collected her baggage. In those days there was a problem of bringing money into England, you were only allowed a small amount ten pounds I think. I said, “Don’t fuss, you just keep your money”. She said, “I have already had it changed”. She was over the limit. She was given a receipt for the money confiscated but this was later refunded. We went ashore with Uncle Bill and sat in the first Rolls Royce. Jeeves by this time had all the bags in the second Rolls Royce. We went up to Mersey Dock headquarters where we had tea. Finally Jeeves came and said, “The train will be leaving in half an hour Sir”. So we drove off in magnificent style to the main Central Station in Liverpool. I don’t know whether you remember the English trains of those days, but some of them had a half compartment at the end of the carriage right across the train. Jeeves had arranged all the baggage at one end of this half compartment and left enough space for Fay and myself. We drove up alongside the train, not going through the gate with the ticket collector, got out, and Fay was presented with a lovely travelling rug. I remarked she was being treated like a film star. My first comment was once we left, “You’ve seen the good side of life now lets get back to normal”. She went and stayed with her Aunt in Pinner. We had our wedding at Pinner. A great friend of mine Micky Simpson from the course was my best man. He was unfortunately killed about six weeks later in one of those little, three wheeler BSA cars on a country road. He came around a corner and went straight onto the back of a truck under the tray. It was a great tragedy. We started our honeymoon at Henley on Thames which I knew well because of my guardian living there and then went off down to Devon to a lovely little inn outside Chaeford. We had a magnificent honeymoon down there. I took Fay down to DARTMOUTH to show her where I had been training. Also to Dittisham which was a village about a mile up the Dart River from DARTMOUTH. There was a lovely old tearoom on the front in this little village where you used to get real Devonshire teas, even during the war. It was a favourite place to go. Fay and I went there. It was a great disappointment. It had been changed to a chromium plated horror. This lovely little English village was completely spoilt with the tearooms, with its bright neon lights and chromium plating.

By this time I had been appointed to be the Squadron Communications Officer of the Second Minesweeping Squadron based in Malta. The Captain was Captain Campbell-Walker who incidentally was the father of the famous model Fiona Campbell-Walker who married Count Von Tyssen. She became one of the world’s great models. Interestingly he lived just down at Westmere just below the Signal School, he was a Communications Officer himself. He and his wife and Fiona who was then 15/16 used to regularly come up to the Signal School functions, to dances and functions like that. As I was going out to join his command I went and called on Mrs Campbell-Walker and Fiona. I didn’t know her well, but later on I could say I met this famous model.

Before I set off for Malta we lived for three weeks in Portsmouth. We took over the flat that Max and Eleanor McDowell had been living in. Max had been over there doing his Long Course and exchange service. They were just leaving and so we took over their flat for three weeks. I set off for Malta alone. Malta had been so badly bombed that accommodation for wives was in extremely short supply and the rules were you couldn’t have a wife out there until such time, as you found proper accommodation for her. The arrangement was that Fay went and stayed with her Aunt and Uncle at Pinner while I set off for Malta and joined FIERCE as the Fleet Communications Officer.

How did you get to Malta in those days?

I took passage on board one of the cruisers MANCHESTER I think it was. There were still a number of troop ships going through, the Med such as WINDRUSH. There were a number of war brides going to and from Australia and England, but I went out in MANCHESTER.

Going back to the Long Course I would just like to comment that the Commander of the Signal School was Commander Bonham-Carter. The Earl of Cairns was the Training Commander. There was also Lieutenant David Sealy who was our Assistant Course Officer. The reason I mention him is because he comes up again later on when we are at Malta. Ultimately he became Lord Mottistone and has been quite renowned in the House of Lords for standing up and telling the Navy how to run itself. It is of interest that his father was at Cheam Prep School with Fay’s father.

Were there any other famous people in the actual Course with you?

No, Teddy Lesh was promoted Captain, Barry Miller to Commander, but I am the only one beyond that. Cedric Wake-Walker was the brother of Christopher Wake-Walker who served out here in New Zealand as a Captain during the fifties on exchange for me when I was on the Staff of the C in C Fleet. Most of them retired as Lieutenant Commander. I was the only one who reached Admiral and Teddy Lesh was the only one who reached Captain.

I will now move onto another period of my life my time as Squadron Communications Officer to MS2 in HMS FIERCE which was the Leader of the 2nd Minesweeping Squadron. They were Algerine Class Minesweepers. We had seven Sweepers and three Dan Layers in the Squadron. I took over from Peter Page who was another communicator. RIFLEMAN was the second leader with a Captain in command and all the others were Lieutenant Commander Commands. The Algerine Class were Fleet sweepers designed to work ahead of the fleet in confined waters. 950 tons, twin shafts, triple expansion engines, giving a maximum speed of 16/17 knots. One 4 inch AA gun forward, two Oerlikons and a complement of 110. Our Squadron consisted of FIERCE, RIFLEMAN, SYLVIA, STORMCLOUD, PLUCKY, ROWENA, CHAMELEON and three Dan layers. Surprisingly enough when I arrived there I found that the Mediterranean Fleet had run down considerably. We had by far the largest single command in the Mediterranean Fleet. We had ten ships under command. There was the First Destroyer Squadron, CHEQUERS in which Prince Philip was the First Lieutenant, was the leader with four ships. I mentioned David Sealy earlier, he was there as Squadron Communications Officer. There was another Destroyer Squadron, a Third, which came and went. There were two or three Cruisers. Later on Lord Louis Mountbatten came out as Rear Admiral First Cruiser Squadron after he came back from India and dropped down in rank and went back to sea. We were the largest single command and also operationally did by far, the most work. Our primary task was clearing the German and some British minefields around Greece. At first we went off for twelve weeks then back in Malta for six, but this dropped down to six weeks and six weeks. We went away as a Squadron. The first area I was involved with was on the West Coast of the Peloponnese, running down from the Gulf of Corinth to Navarin Bay. We would sweep each day for six days and knock off early on a Saturday afternoon, go into a bay, anchor and have Sunday free. The following weekend we would finish sweeping early Friday afternoon and go to a small port like Patras or Zante or some other recognised small port for the weekend. It was a great routine. It was hard work but I saw and came to know a lot of Greece, and especially the people there. Unfortunately at that time the Greek civil war was going on. You never quite knew whether you were going to land in a port and find there was a bit of sniping or a battle going on up in the hills. We had to be extremely careful. Some of the guns they were using were so badly worn that they were putting cigarette papers around the bullet to get them to fit tightly in the bore. It was practically death for any of the ships’ company to be found ashore with cigarette papers. If they were swapping them or selling them God help them if they were caught by the wrong side or by the Police. The people themselves were very friendly, mostly of the peasant class. I remember Patras well. In the evening you could walk down the harbour mole. There was a lighthouse at the end surrounded by a sort of cafe. We would walk down there in the evening, sit down and have a bread roll and a glass of Oozo or Retsina or Mafradafni. People walking past would all nod, and even if they couldn’t speak English they would say something. We would nod and reply cheerfully. Wonderful people, I really enjoyed it.

Every second weekend on this long weekend, one of the Ranger Class Oilers would come up from Malta bringing stores, mail and relief’s.

I will back track here to mention the officers in FIERCE. I have already mentioned the Captain, the First Lieutenant was a salt horse Lieutenant Commander. Gordon Dodds was the Squadron Navigator and Henry Leech, who later became famous as the First Sea Lord who advised Mrs Thatcher that the Falkland Islands could be retaken, was the Squadron Gunnery Officer. Ronnie Lancaster was the Squadron TAS Officer. We also had a Lieutenant Metcalf who was the Pusser and Captain’s Secretary and the Engineer was Bill Jenkins who I had served with in LAMERTON. We were a very good team, one of the most delightful teams I have ever been with in a ship, full of fun. Henry Leech, Squadron Gunnery Officer, had just come from being the Parade Ground Officer at Whale Island, and was a very smart, Gunnery Officer. I heard afterwards that when he was told he was going to a Minesweeping Squadron as the Squadron Gunnery Officer he told the Admiralty what he thought of them, he expected at least a Battleship. He came out quite clearly intending to smarten up these Minesweepers who had the reputation of being a pretty rough scruffy lot. When he arrived in the Tanker, we had just come out of a lap, and were recovering the sweeps. We sent a Whaler across to collect Henry and some other people on board for us. The Coxswain of the boat was wearing a dirty old white submarine jersey, and no cap, and as he went alongside he called up to the Captain and said, “Hey Captain I gather you’ve got something for us?” The Captain who had been briefed replied, “Yes there he is down there”. Henry was pulled across in the boat in a most unseaman-like manner. The First Lieutenant was at the Jumping Ladder in a dirty old sweater and a cap on the back of his head and said, “Oh Leech nice to see you, hop up, the Coxswain will chuck your bags up later, come along to the Wardroom”. I was lying on one settee, there were two settees in the Wardroom, it was a small Wardroom, I was lying on one of the settees with a duffle coat over me, another Officer on the other settee. It was mid afternoon. On the table was a dirty old white tablecloth on which there was a chunk of corn beef, just taken out of the tin, a pound of butter in its paper and some bread. As the First Lieutenant brought him in, the Engineer Officer, Lieutenant Jenkins came in, in his overalls with a dirty bit of cotton waste in one hand and his dirty gloves in the other. He went to the table, sliced off some bread, put some butter and corn beef on it and he said, “Oh welcome to the ship have a sandwich”. Finally we were introduced and the First Lieutenant said, “Leech there’s your cabin, we don’t stand to ceremony in this ship, but dinners at 7 o’clock”. So Henry went off fuming. He tells the story against himself. He said to himself, “I will fix this lot”. He unpacked his gear and he got out his mess jacket, stiff front shirt and wing collar etc and dressed himself in full best mess kit. Bang on the dot of 7 o’clock he came into the mess. Instead of the shambles he expected. There we all were including Captain MS2 and the Wardroom immaculate with polished table, which was all set for dinner with the Mess silver and all the paraphernalia. As he walked in MS2, Captain Walter said, “Leech how nice to see you, welcome on board, have a sherry”. Henry realised the joke was on him and he tells the story against himself many times.

(end of Tape 4)

(beginning of Tape 5)

We became a very happy ship and, I believe an efficient operational squadron. When we were sweeping, as leader, FIERCE went first, we ran the Dan’s which marked the edge of the previously swept water. The rest of the squadron would follow us in quarter line to port or starboard keeping inside the float of the ship in front. Finally the Dan layer would follow behind the rear ship laying Dan’s to mark the edge of the swept area. At the end of the run we would carry out an intricate manoeuvre to reverse the information for the next run. This went on all day and some times at night, if we were behind time.

The Navigator’s responsibility was to plan how the area was to be swept and then constantly check that no gaps were being created. He did not keep a watch. The Gunnery Officer, Henry Leach, and I kept the Bridge watches and the First Lieutenant and the TAS Officer the sweep deck watches. The squadron was manoeuvred primarily by flags backed up by radio, which in those days was fairly simple. We had only one voice set the American TBS that operated on 60 mc/s. Communication with the sweep deck was by sound-powered phone backed up by hand signals. It was hard work but followed a set pattern requiring the minimum of orders and reports. For example instead of a lengthy report from the sweep deck when we were veering sweeps it was usual to receive a cryptic statement of, “The girls are behaving themselves”.

Later on, just before I left the ship, a new Captain MS2 joined Captain Compton who had come from Admiralty where he had been Director of Mine Warfare. The first time we went to sea as a Squadron, he said to the staff, “You take this Squadron out and show me how it all works”. I was on watch, the Squadron was formed up veering sweeps. The sweep deck phone went on the bridge, and as I was over one side of the bridge, our new Captain very generously picked up the phone and said, “Bridge”. All he heard was, “Tell the Form Mistress the girls are behaving themselves”. I heard him say, “I beg your pardon”, and the voice repeated, “Tell the Mistress the girls are behaving themselves”. Looking bewildered the Captain handed me the phone, “I think you had better answer this call”. I said, “Yes, Bridge”. An irritated TAS Officer said, “What the hell is going on up there, I’ve just told you every thing is working”. He was quite unperturbed when I told him the Captain had answered the phone.

At the time we had a young RNVR Midshipman in the ship. On one occasion he was on watch with me. At about 12 o’clock I told him to, “Go down and shake the Gunnery Officer, make sure he gets up”. We had been working the night before, so he had turned in after his morning watch. The Mid returned about quarter of an hour later with a bandage around his head and his arm in a sling. I asked him, what had happened. He whispered, “The Gunnery Officer hit me when I shook him.” The new Captain looked and said, “What happened to you Midshipman?” I realised Henry Leach was up to one of his tricks and glared at the Mid not to say much. He gave the excuse, “I walked into a door Sir” or something like that and I told him “Get down below”. About quarter of an hour later Henry Leach and the Midshipman arrived on the bridge, all looking smart with not a bandage in sight. The Captain looked them up and down, looked bewildered at me and left the Bridge. This was typical Henry Leech, who had put the Mid up to it.

When we had completed the sweep of the area with `O’ sweeps, Oropesa sweeps which were streamed from each quarter of the ship on Otter Boards which took them down to the required depth and out from the ship. To the satisfaction of the Navigator that there were no gaps, we re-swept the area with `A’ sweeps. This consisted of the seven sweepers steaming in line abreast one and a half cables apart and connected to the adjacent ship by a single sweep wire running through a single otter board towed by each ship. This was known as a check sweep. We became quite expert at station keeping and manoeuvring as it was quite a complicated manoeuvre to turn the Squadron 180 degrees at the end of each lap. The ships would close to half a cable, turn outwards 45 degrees, straighten up and then wheel 180 degrees with the sweeps still streamed with RIFLEMAN the second leader taking guide running the Dans. Finally if it was thought that magnetic mines maybe present, the whole area was again swept with double L sweeps.

During my time in FIERCE we cleared areas in the Gulf of Corinth, off the East and West Coast of the Peloponnese and in the Northern Aegean to the west of Salonika.

As I’ve said it was hard work. In the summer the weather was normally good, but in winter the Mediterranean can produce some cold, wet weather that made life on the open bridge and the sweep deck miserable, and cold, damp conditions below decks. Sometimes the sweep wire would part or become fouled on some obstruction, or a ship would have to haul out of the lap for some reason, requiring the squadron to be reorganised and the lap to be swept again. However the small ship atmosphere prevailed where we knew each other intimately, and it was most satisfying to have a full operational role and be part of a well drilled and efficient squadron.

Additionally I came to know Greece well.

What sort of mines were you actually sweeping?

Mostly moored mines, but we had double L sweeps for Magnetic mines. Most of the mines were the big German `R’ type and they were big things. The majority of them when you cut them came to the surface and we would sink them with gunfire.

Just with rifles?

Machine guns and rifles. It was a bit difficult depending upon the sea state. We had explosive cutters on the `A’ sweeps, which sometimes would catch onto something else and would go off. Then you didn’t know whether you had cut a mine and if it had sunk or what had happened.

There was a danger of actually pulling the mine into yourself?

We did have one or two that surfaced, and we dragged them on, as they didn’t cut properly. There was a drill for that. The ship concerned had to stop and drift back to clear its sweeps and then we would go and sweep the area again. The worst position to be in was for the ship immediately behind which had to do some quick tricky manoeuvring to keep clear. They were big mines.

How many a day would you sweep?

Most of the fields were at least 6/7 years old. This was 1949, and some had been laid in 1940, so it was very doubtful how many mines were actually there. I don’t think we got more than ten mines out of any field we did, but every field yielded some so our efforts were worth while.

It was infrequent?

Yes infrequent, days went by when we swept nothing and on average we didn’t get more than two or three mines a week. Some were bigger. When we were up off Salonika we got amongst a field where we popped up about a dozen in one day.

On this occasion we had two Greek Navy Algerine Sweepers working with us. They were good efficient ships. I recall one day when one of the Greek ships was second in line behind us. We swept a large `R’ German mine which popped up just off his starboard bow. I grabbed the TBS to warn them but before I could transmit a message there was an enormous explosion and the Greek disappeared in a great sheet of water. We thought he had hit the mine. Not so, he had seen it and hit one of its horns with his first rifle shot. He appeared out of the cloud of water quite unscathed.

Each field was drawn out on the chart, the lanes set. We would start at least 500 yards outside the area and then sweep across the area. The Danners would lay Dans every mile. Running the Dans was quite an art. You had to pass close to them but you were not popular if you cut the Dan mooring, this was quite an art in a tideway. It all had to be double checked to ensure we had covered the field with the sweeps.

There were magnetic mines?

There were a few magnetic mines. We blew two or three of those up. But as I say most were moored mines and were at least six, seven years old.

Were you actually working from the original German charts?

To some degree, yes, but most of the planning of the areas we were to sweep was done by the Staff in Malta. We worked on the charts provided by them.

Besides my duties as the Squadron Communications Officer I was also responsible for co-ordinating the fortnightly replenishment requirements of the Squadron when we were away from Malta. This was sent by signal a week ahead. A supposedly simple task but converting a minesweepers stores assistant writing of the peculiar language used by naval stores onto a signal pad to be sent by a Tel on a bad circuit and received by another Tel, who might have had a hangover could sometimes lead to errors. On one occasion one of the ships ordered a new propeller for its motor boat. The oiler arrived with a complete new boat and a propeller for the ship.

In addition to the operational minesweeping, the squadron occasionally took part in Fleet Exercises to make up the number on the screen. All good fun but rather slow motion and infuriating for the screen Commander and the Destroyers while they waited for us to take up new stations at our flat out 14 knots.

It was a very interesting and satisfying appointment. Excellent training for me running an operational squadron being part of the staff and gaining considerable experience in ship handling at close quarters with other ships. While we had a simple communications system we had to deal with all the problems of a squadron of ten ships on active operations away from their base for longish periods. FIERCE was a happy ship and I left it with some life long friends.

Going now onto my personal life in Malta. I said earlier, that you were not allowed to have your wife in Malta until you had found adequate accommodation. The place had been really badly battered, there was hardly one place where there wasn’t clear evidence of the bombing it had suffered, damaged buildings and cleared bombs etc. OHIO the Tanker was still sitting on the bottom in Grand Harbour, there was still a number of wrecks in Grand Harbour and Sliema Creek. FORTH the Submarine Depot ship lay in Lozaretto Creek. We came under Flag Officer Destroyers, Rear Admiral McCall, who flew his flag and had his staff in FORTH and whose daughter Mary, Henry Leach married later on. I arrived in Malta in May, and finally in July/August found a flat in the Sliema area off Prince of Wales Road. Nowadays any young Naval Officer or the average person would throw their arm up in horror when they saw this flat. You went in the ground floor, up a flight of wide marble steps through a door into what was the lounge, which was about, oh, half the size of this room we are in, say 12 x 12. You then went through a door on the left into another room which was the bedroom was just big enough to have a double bed in the centre and with enough room either side for a chest of drawers. There was about four feet at the end of the bed to walk through into the kitchen, which was off the bedroom. It couldn’t have been more than six feet wide and 12 feet long. It had a gas stove, a simple sink, hot and cold water taps and I think a small bench, but that was it. That was our flat. To get to the bathroom you went out the front door and halfway down the steps, turned right and went through the kitchen of your neighbours flat. Their flat was on the other side, but their kitchen was alongside the bathroom that we both shared. You can imagine what its like going down in the morning at 7 o’clock because I had to be on board ship by 8, with your neighbours cooking breakfast and you are going down to have a shave and a shower and shampoo. It was quite an interesting experience.

I was told I had done well, I had found a good flat compared with many. In fact the person that had the flat next door to us was the First Lieutenant of SYLVIA. However a bit of a thing for a young wife and a New Zealander to come to as her first married home. As always happens in Naval circles I was away at sea and I arrived back a week after she arrived. Fortunately Barry Miller who had been on the Course with me had come out to Malta as the Assistant Fleet Communications Officer and who she had met was able to meet her, look after her and put her into the flat. Fay travelled out from UK overland. For this we were most grateful to Lieutenant Bywater-Lutman who by this time was on the Staff of RNZNLO London and who took it on his shoulders to arrange contrary to a series of procrastinating signals with Navy office.

It is also interesting of note that when applying to New Zealand House for a change of passport after her marriage, Fay found that they had run out of New Zealand Passports. Fortunately because of her father’s nationality she was issued with a British Passport. However this disadvantaged her, as she was then subject to the limit of sterling which could be taken out of the country. However the sympathetic Bank Manager solved the problem by stamping the British Passport with all the appropriate New Zealand currency allowances. Quite illegal but it worked.

The Squadron was having a break from sweeping, and visiting various Mediterranean ports. Naples up to Genoa and along the Italian and French Riviera, finishing up in Nice. I arranged for Fay to come over land by train to Nice, meet me there and then she came down by train through Italy and Sicily and across by ferry to Malta. We were still on our way coming back to Malta. We met in Nice and had a delightful four days there. We went to the local Casino where we changed five pounds sterling, a lot of money in those days, into chips, she had half and I had half, I lost mine but she made thirteen pounds. We had an excellent dinner with the best champagne in a small French restaurant on these winnings.

We had on board FIERCE a Leading Writer who was a very keen golfer. Every where he went he always went off with his golf clubs. While we were in Nice, with another Sweeper alongside us, we gave a cocktail party in the middle of which who should arrive alongside the ship but the Duke of Windsor. The Captain said, “We are delighted to see your Sir” he replied, “Thank you very much for your invitation”. As Signal Officer I was a sort of semi Flag Lieutenant. To MS2 who asked me, “How did he get an invitation”. I was surprised as he was. I discovered next day, that the Leading Writer on the first day, had gone up to the local golf club, saw the Secretary and said he was from FIERCE. He didn’t say what he was, but said he would very much like to have a game of golf. This secretary looked out and seeing three people on the first tee. He went out and said to them, “There is a chap from the naval ship FIERCE in harbour who wants a game”. One of them replied that he would be delighted if he joined them. They set off, and the Leading Writer did his round of golf. He didn’t know who they were, he wasn’t introduced to them. During the round they talked about the Navy and the Leading Writer said, “The ship was giving a cocktail party that evening, why don’t you come”. They all did and one of them was the Duke of Windsor.

We set up house for the first time and embarked upon our married life. Malta was still very much a naval port especially around Sliema where we lived. Although we did make some friendships with members of the other two services and a New Zealander who was Deputy Governor on the Island, the vast majority of our friends were Naval Officers and their wives. It was a very pleasant, active life; a warm climate with lots of swimming and many beaches for picnics and a thriving Club life at the Sliema Club. However as I have said it was very naval. We were accepted by the local population, a large proportion which depended upon the Navy for their livelihood and who had had the Navy in there midst for centuries.

We didn’t have a car, but some of our friends did, and it was no problem because the Island was small enough to get around in a Garry or go by water in a Dghaisa.

One settled in the flat which was rented on a monthly basis, we started looking for something better, especially with its own bathroom. As I was at sea for much of the time, this task fell to Fay. After some 4 months she found a small terrace house named `Aida’ next to `Ruby’ in Sliema, and moved in while I was away. She had negotiated with the landlord to have the place re-painted inside before she moved in. We heard later that the previous tenant had been a woman who had been fond of late night parties! Fay fortunately visited the house while the painting was being done as the landlord had given instructions to paint only half way up the walls. She charmed the painters into doing the job properly. This they did by diluting the paint and as we discovered later when we moved a sideboard, by painting around it! Still it was a most comfortable abode that we lived in for the rest of our time in Malta.

Being RNZN I received New Zealand rates of pay which at the basic level were not much different from the RN but they also received location allowances for Malta and minesweeping money. I was once again a guinea pig being the first RNZN Officer to go on an exchange appointment in a RN ship on an overseas station, for which there was no provision in the RNZN pay code. The correspondence started, arguing the case for me to have location allowance and minesweeping pay. Despite strong support from M/S 2 and Flag Officer Destroyers the New Zealand Naval Board refused the Minesweeping pay but granted a location allowance some three shillings less than the RN which would be reviewed when full details of our cost of living, etc. were forwarded. This was produced mainly by Fay and she became well known in the shops of Sliema, especially the Blue Delicatessen where she discussed the minimum and maximum prices of every consumable possible. She smoked one of his local, strong cigarettes that he insisted upon her smoking with him while they itemised each item. Recently I found the submission in the Navy Office files, which was sent to the Board supporting my claim. I was amazed to find how detailed it was, and what a strong, fully documented case had been put forward but to no avail. The reply I received, the logic of which to this day, I have never understood, was that as Separation Allowance had been recently introduced into the RNZN, I would be paid Separation Allowance but no increased Local Allowance. Overall I received less than my RN counterparts, but we survived and thoroughly enjoyed the Malta experience.

As I have said we made many friends some of whom we still see and write to, to this day. One couple in particular, were Bill and Anne Willett. Anne became the victim of a Polio epidemic in Malta at that time. She recovered but still suffers from a gammy leg. He was the Staff Communications Officer and Flags to Flag Officer Destroyers and who, some years later became Private Secretary to the Duke of Edinburgh. Anne was a Canadian who helped us to maintain a Commonwealth voice amongst so many Brits.

At this time, the Admiralty had introduced the Destroyer Command examination, which all Executive Officers were required to pass before being given command.

Henry Leach, Ronnie Lancaster, the TAS Officer and I decided that we would take all the subjects in one go, as we had within our staff an `expert’ for each subject, so we could instruct each other. Fay became very knowledgeable in Gunnery, TAS, and other naval subjects as we would sit up in bed until the early hours of the morning with question and answer sessions. Henry and I were the only two who passed all subjects and qualified for command. We were very proud of ourselves when we heard that Prince Philip had failed one subject.

For the first half of 1950 we had settled into the routine of my being away for six weeks minesweeping and then back in Malta for six weeks.

During this time TUTIRA passed through on her way to New Zealand which gave me the opportunity to see this new class of ship we would have in our Navy.

It was also announced that CARDIGAN BAY and ST AUSTELL BAY, two Frigates similar to the Loch Class Frigates which the RNZN had taken over from the RN and which were part of the Mediterranean Fleet, would exchange stations with two RNZN Frigates for six months.

In early 1950 good relations had been established between the Royal Navy in the Mediterranean and the Italian Navy. Arrangements were made for a small team of three Staff Officers to go to Italy to arrange for some Italian ships, to come to Malta for the first lot of exercises with the RN. I was chosen to be the Communicator of this team. We were led by a Lieutenant Commander Jeremy Nash a Submariner. There were to be ASW exercises, with the Navigating Officer from FORTH and myself. We flew across from Malta to Taranto and were put up in the Italian Naval Club, which I remembered from when I had been there in LAMERTON during the War. We met their team, delightful folks these Italians. We sat down around the table with them. The Italian commander, spoke pretty good English, but my opposite number the communicator, spoke very little English and I spoke no Italian what so ever, but we both spoke school boy French. If you can imagine trying to arrange frequencies, communication orders etc in schoolboy French was a hilarious performance, but we managed. At one point the Italian Commander turned to Jeremy Nash and he said, “Well the last time I met you chaps, I was Captain of an Italian Destroyer off Crete during the Battle of Crete and was attacked by one of your Submarines”. Jeremy Nash said “Yes that was me in the such and such a Submarine”. These two for the next three quarters of an hour discussed this action in such a way you would think they were discussing a football match. The Italian would say, “Well you did a good manoeuvre there and you nearly got me, but I managed to get around you”, Jeremy Nash replied, “Yes you nearly got me with that depth charge”. You would have thought it was a football match. We made all these arrangements and we flew back. Some weeks later, two Italian ships arrived in Malta. Because I had been across to Taranto and they berthed in Sliema Creek, near our minesweeping berths, I was made Liaison Officer to them. We went to sea and we did exercises with the RN Frigates and I went with them. The day before they were due to leave they threw a farewell cocktail party. This time they were moored up in one of the trots in Sliema Creek with the two ships alongside each other. The Italians really turned it on in style. Everybody from C in C Med down was invited on board. There were Admirals, Captains and their wives. As Liaison Officer I stood at the gangway to point out who they each were. At one point alongside came a Dghaisa, in which was my dear wife Fay. She had already met some of them as two or three of them had been up to the house. She came up the gangway and was visibly showing her pregnancy. She was led off to the centre of the quarterdeck of one of the ships where a nice large armchair had been placed. She was sat in it, and everybody was paid court to her. I could see the Admiral’s wife looking a bit sideways at this. Halfway through the party she was conducted across to the other ship, where another chair had been placed so they could play proper homage. She was sort of the Queen of the May at this party.

It was an interesting experience because again later on I got involved in SEATO and it was a good educational process, getting involved with other Navies and having to try and talk technicalities and serious things with a language barrier. It was part of my education in this sort of thing. I can’t think of any other great incidents in Malta. It was very interesting to be there when the future Queen, Princess Elizabeth was in Malta. She was engaged to Prince Philip. We used to meet them on a number of occasions. They were both very much part of the naval fraternity, but you paid proper respect. They took part in everything, especially when Lord Louis Mountbatten came and set up his house. It was quite an interesting period of history to be involved with.

In June TAUPO and HAWEA arrived in Malta. The Naval Board in its wisdom, had decided that the Signals officer of TAUPO Willy Rudd, was to go to UK for training and that I was appointed to TAUPO as Squadron `C’ to F11, `Gilly’, Commander Gilfillan. As a number of changes were taking place in FIERCE I was not too disappointed to be leaving the Minesweeping squadron. However the question of location allowance reared its ugly head again, on the argument that TAUPO was on an unaccompanied assignment. I don’t know whether the Board thought that Fay should just up sticks and return to New Zealand, but they finally agreed she could stay in Malta and location allowance would continue. Also life for Fay would change very little, although she would miss being a FIERCE wife and its wardroom who she looked on as a bunch of brothers. I joined TAUPO and my life became a little less hectic as I had responsibility for only two ships instead of ten. However operating with the big ships of the Fleet and on occasions as screen commander was a new experience.

Our first encounter with the whole Fleet was at the Fleet Regatta that was held in Mamaris Bay in Turkey. The two New Zealand ships really excelled themselves.

In those days the regatta was in two parts. There was the small ship regatta one day, followed the next day was what is known as the fleet regatta which involved the big ships, but included the winners of the small ship races. However only a big ship in the fleet regatta could win the cock of the fleet. On the first day TAUPO won the small ship regatta hands down. I think there were nine or ten races, if my memory is correct TAUPO won six or seven of them, HAWEA won two, and there was only one race won by CHEVIOT, one of the CH destroyers. The next day there were the fleet races and if, again, my memory is correct we in TAUPO won four and HAWEA again won two, PHOEBE got some second and thirds and won one race. She was declared the cock of the fleet, and set up a big cock went up on B Turret. That evening the small ships decided the cock justifiably belonged to TAUPO and raid was made on PHOEBE to take it from them. All was well until somebody commandeered the Admiral’s barge from alongside PHOEBE to bring it back, which didn’t go down at all well. We didn’t get the cock but we were declared, for all intents and purposes cock of the fleet. This made a great name for the New Zealand Navy enhanced later to a greater degree when HAWEA won the Malta Cup, which is pulled for in Grand Harbour, and which a Maltese crew from ST ANGELO won regularly. Every month it was pulled for, and this Maltese crew won every race, every time. The big ships took them on, everybody took them on, but to no avail. In September, less than a month before we left Malta, HAWEA beat them and won the cup. That’s how the Hawea Cup in Auckland came to be because HAWEA ultimately presented a cup to the New Zealand Navy to be raced for under the same conditions as the Malta Cup. The Malta Cup races were a major local event on which all the Dghaisamen and Maltese bet heavily. The Dghaisamen who serviced the Fleet at the Destroyer trots and at the buoys, had bet heavily on the Maltese crew which were beaten by HAWEA. For about a week after the race we couldn’t get a Dghaisaman to come near a New Zealand ship.

My neighbour in Auckland, Devonport was a member of one of those crews, Blue Wheldale he was a signalman.

Oh yes he was in HAWEA.

He’s still got his very faded black singlet that he wore in the crew.

Has he, I’ve got my oar, over there on the mantelpiece which I won in the Officer’s crew at Mamaris.

We left quite a name for ourselves in Malta. The ships company were very good, a typical Kiwi crew who got stuck in to every thing. Being Loch Class Frigates we were slow. There wasn’t a great fleet to manoeuvre with. There was a Royal preview in which we took part. We did various things.

Were you involved in the Palestine patrols at the time?

No we were involved in patrols off Cyprus, where there was a going’s on between the Greeks and the Turks. Also illegal immigrant ships were plying between Cyprus and Palestine. We went into Famagusta on one occasion and while on a coastal patrol we did some bombarding practice along from Famagusta. For some reason I was onboard HAWEA during the practice. During their 4 inch shoot of a white cairn on a hillside they were missing just above or below the target, Richard Harding the Gunnery Officers’ corrections were having no effect. In an exasperated voice he finally said, “Up a teeny weeny bit”.

How long did actually HAWEA and TAUPO stay in the Med at the time?

If my memory is correct they arrived in June `50 and we left towards the end of October.

On 21st August, I remember the date clearly as it was the day my eldest son was born, I went on board and `Gilly’ the Captain sent for me, and told me I was to report to FOD immediately”. I asked, “What for Sir?” and he replied “I think you are going to be his Flag Lieutenant”. Michael Marwood who I knew, FOD’s Flag, had gone sick. I went over to FORTH and reported to Rear Admiral William Powlett who had been out to New Zealand as 2NM. He told me he wanted me to be his Flag Lieutenant. My first duty was to report back at quarter to one for lunch, having collected my gear, etc. In the early hours of that morning I had driven my wife Fay up to the Army Hospital nursing home in Imptapha which was about a 15-20 mile drive where she was about to produce our first son Anthony. On arrival back on board FORTH I told the Admiral I had just taken my wife off to the Nursing home and hadn’t had time to find out how the situation was. He replied, “Oh go and find out boy, don’t just stand there”. I rang up the hospital to discover I had become the proud father of a son. I reported to the Admiral for lunch, at which there was himself and the Captain of the FORTH who was the Chief of Staff, who was the famous Crap Miers of Submarine fame. FORTH was also the Submarine depot ship for the Submarines in the Med. He said, “Well what was it?” and I told him, “It is a son”, and he asked after Fay and what did it weigh? Instead of saying 8lb 10oz he said, “10lb 8oz”, he said, “Good God you’ve got to have a double Gin”. During lunch he very kindly said, “I want you to do so and so and so and so this afternoon, and as there is no social event tonight, “You take the car and the driver and go and visit her. What are the visiting hours?” I replied, “4 o’clock”, he said, “That’s no good you can’t get away by that time”. The secretary or somebody rang the Hospital. I drove up in lordly state in the Admiral’s car at 6pm and went to see this new baby and my wife received a bit of royal treatment from the Sister, which was quite fun. I was Flag Lieutenant to Admiral William Powlett for about 5 weeks.

He had his flag in FORTH?

He had his flag in FORTH, he was Flag Officer Destroyers which included the Submarines and minesweepers, he was small ships really. He was every thing except the Cruisers and the odd Carrier such as THESEUS and GLORY, which appeared on the scene from time to time, which C in C ran himself. He commanded Sliema Creek and Lazaretto Creek area. All the big ships were on the Grand Harbour side. He was a very pleasant man to work for. I enjoyed it. It was a good education because I suddenly realised the position that the Staff of an Admiral holds. It was quite surprising I hadn’t been in the chair for more than two or three days when the telephone rang and a voice said “Its D1 here”, I said, “Yes Sir”. He said, “Would you mind mentioning to the Admiral something or other, so and so, and such and such, and if you are coming this way drop in and have a Gin with me”. I realised that you have a position in which you can sometimes exert influence. Also it was a very good education for me on the communications side. I saw all the traffic. I was usually present when Senior Officers or people came to see the Admiral and things are discussed. I got to know people, and what was going on. It was a very good educational period and very pleasant. Michael Marwood, the proper Flags, returned and I went back to TAUPO.

By this time it was late September and only a few weeks before we were due to sail for New Zealand. One day while we were day exercising off Malta I went sick and retired to my bunk. On return to harbour I was sent to Naval Hospital at Bighy. Fay had cooked a lovely dinner expecting me home about 7pm. Max McDowell turned up instead to tell her I was sick. He enjoyed the dinner.

At this point I should mention that our son Anthony, was born with Pyloric Stenosis, a stomach blockage, and he had to be operated on when he was five weeks old. He was in hospital for 12 days. Fay had to live in the hospital with him to feed him. Some months after we returned to New Zealand Navy Office received a hospital bill from Admiralty that I had to pay. In the heat of Malta the wound took a long time to heal and Fay had to take him every other day to the local hospital for the wound to be dressed and his progress checked.

I was discharged from hospital after four days and sent on sick leave. At one stage it was thought I had Meningitis, but after a lumbar puncture, which I would not wish on anyone, this was dismissed. As my temperature had dropped to normal I was discharged feeling still very groggy and Fay had both a sick husband and a sick child on her hands. I would accompany her and Anthony to the hospital for his visits, and collapse on the examination couch while he was dealt with.

The day of TAUPO’s departure drew close. I was not showing signs of much recovery and Fay was having to face the prospect of travelling back to New Zealand via UK, alone, with a sick, very young child. On the advice of the local doctors and fully supported by F11, `Gilly’, a signal was sent to the Naval Board proposing that I remain in Malta until fit and travel back to New Zealand with Fay. This received a very unsympathetic brief, “Not approved” which did nothing to improve my view of the Board. Although not fully fit I returned onboard TAUPO a few days before we sailed with HAWEA in company for New Zealand. We had given up the house and Fay went to stay with a New Zealand Army Officer serving in the British Army and his wife. She had to remain in Malta for two weeks until Anthony was fit to travel.

TAUPO and HAWEA returned to New Zealand via the Suez Canal, Colombo, Singapore and Darwin, while Fay flew to UK and travelled back via Panama in the AKAROA. We met again on New Year’s eve when AKAROA arrived in Wellington.

We finished our time in Malta. It had been very enjoyable, except for the last few weeks, and a satisfying experience. I had learnt a lot and had made many friends and met many people. Princess Elizabeth who was engaged to be married to Prince Philip spent some time there. We often met them both at informal functions. Lord Louis Mountbatten was also there in the latter part of our time as Flag Officer Cruisers. He had recently returned from India where he had been the last Viceroy and negotiated their independence and the partition of India and Pakistan. His Flags was a personal friend from MERCURY days.

However the Naval Board had the final word on my Malta experience. Because of Anthony’s illness and the need to catch the AKAROA, Fay flew from Malta to UK. The Board decided she was only entitled to a sea passage and I had to pay the difference. Such was the life a Guinea Pig.

Where are we in time now with the Korean War. The Korean War would have broken out in `50, I am trying to think of the date?

No. The Korean War hadn’t started. We are now at the later end of 1950.

`51 was it?

`51 was the Korean War, because TAUPO and HAWEA were back in New Zealand. PUKAKI and ROTOITI were the first that were sent off to Korea.

Why I ask actually is because Admiral Steward was a Midshipmen in one of the Aircraft Carriers the GLORY and they used to work up out of Malta on their way to Korea.

That’s right.

They rarely came into harbour, they anchored off. The aircraft could use Malta’s airstrips as an alternative.

One of the officers from GLORY’s wife was a friend of Fay’s this would be 1949, early 50. GLORY was based in Malta at one stage when we were there. She was a friend of Fays and they used to play a lot of tennis together. Yes the Carriers did a lot of training off Malta. 1951 was Korea I am quite certain.

I will have to check that but I think you are right.

I think we might have gone into Colombo, I am not sure we didn’t go on arrival in New Zealand. Gilly left the ship and Paddy Bourke became F11. This was now the beginning of 1951. Fay stayed with my parents down here in Wellington for a short period. Then we went to Auckland and found a flat on Black Rock Point, just opposite Lake Pupuke. It was a big house divided into two parts. We had the larger of these flats. We set up home there, and I remained in TAUPO.

We were at the beginning of 1951.

That’s correct. We set up home in Black Rock Takapuna, which was a pleasant area. There were a number of young Naval couples in the area. Most of them living in flats in the old Dixeyland area just down the road in Takapuna. The majority of them were RN.

In early 1951 in the Frigate Squadron we went across to Australia to do exercises with BELLONA, of which Captain Ruck Keene was the Captain and SONZS. Laurie Carr was the Signal Officer of the New Zealand Squadron. With the Australians we all finished up exercising in Tasmania off Hobart with on one occasion some aircraft from the Australian carrier I think it was the SYDNEY, were doing mock attacks on BELLONA. We were stationed about one mile on her beam. One pilot hit the wrong button and shot up BELLONA’s quarterdeck with two rockets. One went through the Captain’s gig, his favourite, sitting on the quarterdeck and the other one went right through the quarterdeck through the Marine’s mess deck and out the ship’s side. Paddy Bourke who was my Captain and Ruck Keen just didn’t see eye to eye at all and hardly spoke to each other. I happened to be on the bridge at the time when this happened. I have never seen such a smile of delight on anyone’s face. He jumped up and down and jumped and threw his cap on the deck to see BELLONA being hit.

We were in the middle of these exercises when the news came through of the wharf strike. I can’t recall exactly how long the strike had been on when we were recalled, but we all sailed back to New Zealand. Ruck Keene was relieved by Fish Dolphin, Captain Dolphin RN. I think BELLONA stayed in Auckland for a short period and then went down to Wellington. TAUPO was sent to New Plymouth. We spent just a few days in New Plymouth unloading two ship’s, then onto Wellington for a short period, and then we were sent down to the West Coast, Westport. I think people probably know about the Wharf Strike. Not only had the wharfies gone on strike completely throughout the country, but also the Railways were on strike in sympathy to the degree that they would not support anything which was being involved in strike breaking. In other words they wouldn’t man anything on the wharves where there was strike breaking going on. In addition the Seamen’s Union, not the Officers, but the Seamen’s Union were all also on strike. The Navy was providing crews for the coal ships and a number of the coasters. By this time if I remember rightly it was late February/early March.

There was 40,000 tons of coal sitting in 14 ton trucks in rakes alongside the wharf in Westport. There were two colliers there and we were told to go down and load this coal. We arrived on a Sunday, went in over the Bar, and berthed. Westport is a river port. The river is likely to surge suddenly when it rains which it does regularly on the West Coast. Ships secure with a shackle of anchor cable onto special bollards on the wharf. I remember Paddy Bourke and Dick Hale who was the First Lieutenant and Bob Paul the Engineer went ashore and looked over the wharf, on which there were two or three big cranes. They were steam cranes, which picked up the top of the railway truck, which weighed 14 tons. You swung it over the collier and knocked the pins out of the bottom, the truck doors opened, and the coal poured into the hold. You then put the truck back on its bogie. The rakes of trucks sat on rails alongside the ship and were on a slight incline. You just let the brake off and the empty one would run into a siding. Captain Paddy Bourke then sent for us all. We had a mustered in the Wardroom and he outlined his plan. I was told I was in charge of the marshalling yards, and my job was to get the coal under the cranes. The Engineer Officer and Stokers were detailed off to run the cranes and David Smith was in charge of loading onboard. Dick Hale naturally as First Lieutenant was the over all controller. The orders were we were to turn to at 6 am and find out how it all worked, and get the cranes going. He said he expected to see the first truck load of coal going into a ship at 10 o’clock. If my memory is correct it worked out extremely well. The ship’s company thoroughly enjoyed themselves, the Stokers got stuck in, the cranes were fired up, and away we went. Sure enough about 10 o’clock we lifted the first truckload. There were about thirty trucks in a rake, and two rakes alongside the ship. We must have been going for a couple of hours, and all was going well. Sitting in a marshalling yard near by were eight more rakes of trucks but it became painfully obvious that we were not going to be able to push these heavy full trucks up the inclines alongside the collier. I went on board and told Paddy Bourke that we are not going to get those trucks alongside the ship without an engine. Typically Paddy said, “Well go and get an engine”.

I went over to the main station yard, found the Stationmaster and told him I needed an engine. He said, “Sorry the Railways as far as you are concerned, are on strike. They won’t do any thing for you”. I went back on board and found that by this time Dick Hale had made a list of who in the ship’s company had special qualifications. We had on board a leading hand, I have forgotten his name now, he had been a fireman in the Railways. We also had another stoker who had been an assistant fireman. I got hold of these two and asked them if they could drive a train. They were delighted with our idea. We went back to the station yard and sitting over the far side of the yard we found a little shunting engine, which had steam up. The leading hand had found himself a baseball cap, which he wore around the wrong way, went around and tapped the wheels and poured a bit of oil here, pulled some levers and it went. We were ready to go, but we then had the problem of how to get the engine from the siding over onto the main line to get it down to the port. I went into the main signal box and asked an old chap there to work the points. He was quite polite, but said, “I am sorry, its got nothing to do with me, I can’t help you”. However he said, “I happen to be going of to my smoko, I suppose you know how these things work. He went out and I pulled levers, until the points went the right way and we moved the engine across onto the main track. I walked out of the signal box climbed on the engine and we went on with our business. We discovered afterwards, we held up the main express from Christchurch to Westport up about a mile out of town because the signals had been against them for about half an hour until they found out what had happened. The two engine crew painted the funnel of the engine grey leaving a black top because we were the leader. They painted a whaler on either side with `Paddy’s Puff Puff’ underneath and a white ensign was hoisted on a short staff at the back of it. For the rest of that day we had a whale of a time. We shunted trucks in, backwards and forwards keeping up with the loading. At sunset the engine pulled up alongside the ship. The ensign was lowered with the ensign on board. The two engine crew set guard on it all night so the Railways couldn’t come and pinch it. I have never seen such disappointment when next morning when the Railways went back to work and decided they were going to drive the cranes and recovered their engine. The leading hand came to me and said, “Go and tell them to go on strike again”. It didn’t take us long to load these two ships and get them on their way. Other ships arrived but we soon ran out of coal.

Paddy Bourke decided that if the nation wanted coal then the nation should get coal. He set too and rode around the area looking for coal. He discovered that there was another 40,000 tons sitting up at the top of the Denniston incline and there was a lot of coal at Stockton. I was put in charge with Bob Paul of a party of twenty of the ship’s Company to get the coal out from Denniston, down the Denniston incline. I don’t know whether you have ever been to Denniston, but the incline if I remember rightly, dropped 700 feet in a matter of about a mile. The principle of the incline was simple. A heavy cable was attached to a loaded truck at the top of the incline. The cable passed many turns around a large drum that was controlled by a water brake, then down to the bottom of the incline where it was attached to an empty truck. The heavy truck going down pulled the empty truck up and the brake on the drum at the top controlled the speed. The area at the top of the incline was very confined. There was only room for two full trucks waiting to go down, and three empty ones waiting to go under the coal hopper to be loaded. There was only about 50 feet from where the Incline met level ground and the cable drum. On the first day a number of the miners and their families who lived on the hillside nearby came and watched. They did not interfere with us or say much, all they were waiting for was to see the first truck hurtling down the incline out of control. It took us most of the morning of the first day to work out how the system worked, set up the parties at both ends, and ensure we had a good communication system. Our one problem was the drum brake indicator. This was a marker that moved up and down a spindle beside the brake control wheel. There were no numbers just a series of marks and crosses.

It was a case of trial and error for the first truckload. We hooked on the trucks at both ends. Bob Paul went on the Brake control wheel, and stood at the top of the incline. Bob and I had worked out a code of hand signals by which I would try and indicate how far the empty truck coming up, had to go, before it came over the top. We let the first one go and the empty came up at a great speed. I frantically signalled Bob to apply full brakes but it hurtled over the top and finished up hard against the Drum house. Nothing seemed to be damaged and Bob’s only remark was, “I think I’ve got the hang of the indicator, that last mark must be 100 feet not 200 feet”. The onlookers walked away looking very disappointed. We didn’t see them again.

We worked the Denniston Incline for two weeks, delivering the 40,000 tons to Westport where another team from the ship loaded it into the colliers.

You couldn’t go into the mine?

No we didn’t go into the mine we just took the stocks that were there. We did get coal later from other sources, but we didn’t go underground mining at all.

In the mean time Paddy Bourke decided we needed truck drivers and trucks and somebody had told him that there was a truck up the Buller Gorge at Inangahua. We had a qualified truck driver on board. Paddy and I and the truck driver drove up to Inangahua where we discovered two trucks. Paddy said to the owner, “I am commandeering those”. He replied, “Sign here, I don’t mind you can have them”. Paddy said to me, “Can you drive that truck?” I said, “I have never driven a truck that size but I have driven the odd truck”. He said, “Right take it back to the ship”. The two of us set off in the trucks down the Buller Gorge, through Westport and parked the trucks alongside. That must have been on a Friday. The following Monday Dick Hale had arranged for the local Traffic Officer to come down to the ship to put some of the ship’s Company through for Heavy Truck Licenses. I decided that having driven the truck once, I might as well get my truck licence, so I was first up and got into the truck. The Traffic Officer said, “Didn’t I see you driving a truck through Westport on Friday?” I said, “Yes”, he said, “Alright sign here, here’s your truck licence”. From that day on I have had a Heavy Truck Licence.

The next job was at Stockton, on the Stockton incline. There was a big open cast mine at Stockton that had large diggers which loaded large dump trucks, that carried about 8 tons of coal, to the loading hopper at the top of the Incline. We taught some of the ship’s Company to drive the digger and the Dump truck. We then filled small railway trucks from the hopper. These in turn were connected to an endless cable by chain stoppers. The heavy trucks pulled the empty trucks up the incline between two to three miles long and passed through a number of tunnels. It was a much gentler slope than Denniston incline. We ran for about ten days to a fortnight. It was on this incline that we had the first incident of sabotage. Somebody sabotaged some trucks in one of the tunnels that took about half a day to clear.

The only day off we had each week was on Sunday. I had been at Boarding School in Nelson with three McLean brothers, whose father was the Superintendent of Mines for the West Coast. The oldest and youngest were miners and on strike but the middle one, my particular friend, was a Mine Manager and not on strike. He and I used to go and play the other two at golf most Sundays. They used to complain bitterly because he was a good golfer and I wasn’t, and normally used to win the ten bob a stroke.

(end of Tape 5)

(Beginning of Tape 6)

David Smith, as a result of his report, had been sent up to Reefton to check out Reefton coal sources. I was sent up with a team of twenty members of the ships company and we took over the miners hostel. We booted out some miners from it. We lived there. My instruction from Paddy was to get coal from some of the little co-operative mines which were owned by two or three people. These were normally producing 100, 200, 300 tons per week. Most of it was open cast but there were some underground mines. I was told was to go up there with these twenty sailors and to get 10,000 tons per week out of Reefton. We got a lot of help from the local people. There weren’t the miners there because there weren’t the big national mines at Reefton, like there were up in Denniston. They were mainly co-operative mines. We had seven little mines working for us and my team were driving trucks. I remember one place called Garby Creek that had an underground mine. There was a mineshaft that went in straight at the bottom of this little valley. The coal seam went at right angles straight through a ridge. They had just started to prepare this for open cast. They had built a hopper, well down the front of this ridge. We winched a D8 bulldozer up the side of this ridge on a big tree and winched it up backwards. One of the ships’ company was taught to drive the bulldozer. He couldn’t have had more than oh about 50 or 60 or may be a 100 feet. He knocked the over burden off the top and all he did then was to go backwards and forwards pushing coal over into this hopper. We then put this into trucks, trucked it down to a siding and it was put into railway wagons. Every evening a train would pick up the trucks we had there. It was then normally hitched onto the coal train which went through to Christchurch each day as well as being shipped out. By this time we had started a supply going through to Christchurch through the Otira Tunnel.

Were the coasters you were filling up manned by Navy?

Yes, the seamen were out too.

Every thing was out?

The Merchant Navy Officers were not out. In those days they would have nothing to do with the Seamen’s Union, as they were the Masters.

So the ship’s officers stayed and you just supplied sailors?

There was normally a P.O. and a Leading Hand and a pretty small crew that included the engine room crew. The engineers were there; there were probably two or three Stokers.

You had a few Stokers and a few sailors?

I didn’t see a lot of them because as I say I was away all day at Denniston, except for when we were actually loading the coal in Westport. I was either away at Denniston or at Stockton.

Did you stay over night?

I lived permanently in Reefton, I was in Reefton for ten weeks. We lived permanently in this hostel.

You took cooks with you?

We took a cook back with us.

How did you get on with victuals?

I had a contingent account I used to buy the stuff. We got to know the locals.

I suppose they would be pleased to see you?

They were pleased to see us.

Good money for them I suppose?

That’s right and I got to know some of the people. In fact a couple are still friends that I used to go and spend an evening with. It was hard work, you didn’t have time to do a lot of socialising. Winter started to come because we were there until June. Originally we used to turn to at six and be away at half past six. We used to take our lunch with us. Then we would work not quite until dark. We never got back to the ship before six at the earliest, and probably seven. By the time you had a decent shower and got the coal dust off and sat down and had a meal it was eight or nine o’clock. Then as I say I was up at Reefton, so I didn’t see a lot of what went on in Westport. They sent teams down to Greymouth to get some coal that was down there, get that loaded up. They mainly worked the Stockton incline, because they were getting this open cast coal out. I don’t know how many hundreds of tons we got out, but we must have got to the half million tons.

It was interesting because in Reefton on a couple of occasions I got phone calls. One from the Mayor of Christchurch, could I please put another three trucks of gas coal on. They were short of gas coal. I think I could probably have sold it at twice its price if I had been allowed to.

What was the total time on the coast?

If my memory is correct we must have gone down towards the end of February or in March because I don’t know when Easter was that year but we were relieved by LACHLAN. We had a week off we came back to Auckland for a week’s spell and LACHLAN came down and took over from us. If my memory is right we finished in June. I can’t remember the dates, but I think it was the middle of June we finally finished.

You seem to have been appointed from there about the middle of June the 13th of June.

That’s right the wharf strike wasn’t finished when I left. It was still going on in Wellington because when I joined BELLONA it was still on. The wharf strike must have gone on until the end of June.

Another ship came down to take over?

Yes I think LACHLAN came back and took over again or else we worked the thing out. I can’t recall.

The ship must have been getting low on maintenance?

Oh that’s right that was half the problem, ship maintenance was a terrible problem, because the whole ship’s company was involved. The Loch’s had a crew of 120. We never normally had more than a 20 on board or less during the day, they were just the ship’s keepers. We sent a report out every night as to what we had achieved. I quite often myself got down in the WT Office, because the Telegraphists had all been out for the day. I would get on and call up HARMAN in Australia and pass the report myself. People were working pretty hard to try and keep the ship clean. I think Dick Hale finally convinced Paddy that every third weekend we should take Saturday off as clean ship day. The ships’ company was very good. We used to give normal leave in the evening, and we never had any problem with people not getting back. I remember on one occasion the Sergeant of Police coming on board and I was sitting in the Mess with Dick Hale. He came on board, we gave him a drink and were talking away on generalities for about twenty minutes, until finally Dick Hale says, “Well Sergeant it is lovely to see you, have you got something for us?” He said, “I just dropped in to tell you that you’ve got to tell those sailors of yours that they are to be out of the pubs at closing time”. We all raised our eyebrows. We said, “Sergeant we thought you had separate rules in the West Coast, what’s this, they don’t get ashore until 6 o’clock or later.” He said, “I am not talking about 6 o’clock, my closing time is half past 11 and they will be out of the pubs at half past 11”. We had a very good relationship with the people in Westport. There was the one incident up on the Stockton incline and there was another incident I have forgotten. Unfortunately a Petty Officer was killed. That must have been fairly early on when we were down there when we were loading coal at the wharf. This Petty Officer was doing some manoeuvring or something and he got caught between the buckets of two trucks and he was unfortunately killed. To my knowledge there was not great disharmony. Every now and again there would be something about strikebreaking or scabs.

Many years later after I retired when I was Chairman of the Fire Service Commission and touring around various Brigades, my wife and I went to Westport. I don’t know whether you’ve been down the West Coast recently but they have a Coal Town down there where they’ve got a memorial museum of the coal industry. This had recently opened, and the Mayor of Westport at that time was actually the Chief of the Fire Brigade as well and he said, “Come and have a look at this”. He took me around and we walked all through it, and it was very well done. I said, “The only thing missing is the most important part of your history”, he said, “What do you mean?” I said, “There is no evidence of the wharf strike when the Navy came down and kept you going”. He said, “We couldn’t do that”. When I went back and went up to Auckland I saw the Commodore of the time. I don’t know whether you remember ever seeing it, but after it was all over there was a magnificent carving of a coal truck and a sailor pushing it. It was a trophy made for TAUPO, presented to TAUPO to those who were involved in the West Coast. It became a trophy in PHILOMEL, I don’t know whether you remember seeing it.

Yes I do recall it.

It had been put to one side, but any way I asked that this be sent down and presented to this coal town as at least part of a symbol of what the Navy had done there and a series of photographs. I have never been back to this day to see whether it has, but I would be most interested to know.

I will check that out for you.

I believe there should be a better record down the Coast there of what the Navy did. I am told that we saved a number of Gas Companies and so forth. In those days most of the gas came from coal. We must have contributed well.

Before the end of the strike and I am a little vague in my memory we left Westport and came through Wellington. I left TAUPO and was appointed as Squadron communicator to Captain Dolphin the senior naval officer New Zealand SONZ in BELLONA and joined BELLONA in Wellington. Sam Mercer was the Navigator, C.C Stevens was the Commander Robin Ellison was the Secretary and a number of others. The Commander E was a Commander Bott RN, and the Commander S was Commander Bachelor RN. They were still involved in the wharf strike loading and unloading ships here in Wellington, and I got involved in that. Soon after I joined the ship a request came to bring the WAIRATA down from Auckland. The WAIRATA had apparently been sitting in Auckland harbour at anchor for some weeks and it was half loaded with something for Wellington. The experts or who ever was controlling the system decided they needed this ship in Wellington. The Captain said, “We will get this ship down”. Twelve Officers, we took a couple of cooks and a steward and twelve Officers went off. Sam Mercer was the Senior Officer and I was the next senior. We joined the WAIRATA at about 3 o’clock one afternoon. We came up in a Dakota, went straight to the ship. She was in a filthy mess, the crew had literally walked off. There were old legs of mutton still in the ovens. The upper deck was filthy, she was in a hell of a mess. The Captain and Officers were on board. So we saw the First Mate and Sam said, “Look” he said, “We are going to live in this thing, even for a couple of days I am going to clean it up a bit”. We got stuck into washing down the upper deck and helped to get the galley cleared up. The First Mate came down and he said, “You can’t do that”. We said, “Why not”, he said, “I am not going to pay you overtime for that”. We said, “The devil with that, if we are going to live in it we are going to get it clean”. It was then announced that we were sailing at about 5 o’clock. I was made Chief Quartermaster and Robin Ellison was another one of the Quartermasters I have forgotten who the other two were. I went up onto the bridge.

You had no sailors with you at all?

No, no, just Officers, we were the crew. I went up onto the bridge and the Captain came up. I have forgotten his name now, he was a crusty old salt. The pilot came on board, and said, “Are you ready?” The First Mate got the anchor up, and the Pilot then said, “Full ahead, starboard a bit”. I telegraphed to full ahead, and I put one turn on the wheel. The Captain came around said, “The Pilot said starboard a bit, that’s two bloody bits”. We steamed out of Rangitoto Channel and set course for East Cape, Colville Channel and so forth and it came 6.30 and I was relieved for dinner, Robin came up. I was in a seaman’s jersey and a pair of old grey bags. I went down to the main saloon, and the only chair left at the table was alongside the Captain. I went and had a wash and sat down, and he looked at me, looked me up and down and he said, “I am not eating with the bloody crew”, and picked his dinner up and went to his cabin. We came around the East Cape and we finally came into Wellington. We came in at night, and again I was Chief Quartermaster. I was on the wheel, and as we were coming up through the Head we started to get pushed to port on the main leads, the Sommes Island leads. I called out to the Captain and said, “We are being pushed over the port Captain, we are off the leads”. He came over and he wagged his finger and he said, “You steer this bloody thing, I navigate alright”. That’s all he said, “I never saw him from that day to this”. We all received a clean discharge and again it was an experience. That was my final association with the wharf strike. BELLONA, when the strike was finally declared over, steamed back to Auckland and settled down to getting back to naval routine.

Not long after that and at this time if you remember it was the pattern of the New Zealand Navy to do Island Cruises. BELLONA at this stage had gone in for a refit. Captain Fish Dolphin decided he would do an Island Cruise in KANIERE. He decided he would take his Communicator and Robin Ellison his Secretary and we were to accompany him as his staff. We went to Raratonga, Manaia and did a number of the Islands. I had never done an Island Cruise of that kind before and it was a very interesting thing. I enjoyed it, except I must say it got a bit much from time to time, the feasting that went on. You sat cross legged for hours, with the sucking pigs, the flies and so forth. Fish Dolphin who I grew to admire liked his drop of gin and found that being ashore for hours on coconut juice was not very good for the system. The arrangement was made with Robin and myself that when we went ashore we would take with us a coconut shell full of gin. This would be quietly kept beside us, and every now and again the Captain would indicate and his glass of coconut juice would be topped up with a touch. This was fine until one occasion he forgot to put the gin coconut back in its right place. The local Chief got some neat gin and it was a most hilarious party that we had at that place. What impressed me about it was the loyalty of the Islands. You would either steam up and down or you got inside the reef and anchored. They gave great honour to Captain Dolphin and he invariably had to refer when he spoke, “When I last saw the Queen she said to remember her to my people my people of the Manaia”, or whatever it was. You invariably saw pictures of the Queen or possibly King George the Fifth or Queen Victoria, there was always a very loyal symbol. They were a very genuine people. It was an interesting time to see them in this environment. The Loch’s were very good because of their long range. You could potter around from Island to Island. We blew a hole in a reef at Manaia and we did some other good works. Invariably we took a doctor and he probably did more good than any of us because he always set up a little surgery. He cleared up the ulcers and the various diseases of the Islands. We must have used up about two years of medical supplies. We then returned from that and BELLONA did the normal cruiser activities around the gulf and around the coast, and we did a New Zealand Cruise. In October of 1951 Captain Slaughter, he was the Second Naval Member, I remember we were in Wellington, he was down on board one Saturday morning. It was lunchtime and a number of us were in the Mess and having a gin before lunch, having a chat to him and so forth. He announced that the first of the Australian Minesweepers which the Australian Government had given to the New Zealand Navy were ready to be brought back to New Zealand. I said, “Oh I will bring it back, I have got my Destroyer command”. I forgot to say that when I was in Malta in the FIERCE, Henry Leech and I decided we would do the Destroyer Command Exam. With the staff on board FIERCE it was an ideal situation, we could teach each other. Three of us did it, and we had a built in University you might say. My wife I think learnt more about gunnery and torpedoes than I did, because we would sit up in bed at night and she would question me. We sat the Destroyer Commander Exam, and Henry and I passed it completely. Much to our joy we discovered that Prince Philip failed one subject. I said to Jackie Slaughter, “I have got my Destroyer Command I will go and get it for you”. He said, “Alright go and ask the Captain to see if he will let you go”. I went in and saw Fish Dolphin and he said, “You, yes he said alright, I think I can get on without a Signal Officer for a while”. I went back and on Monday a signal arrived and I set off by train to Auckland and on Thursday we flew off with a crew from PHILOMEL. Lieutenant Jenks was my First Lieutenant, David Smith and the Engineer Officer and myself. We had a scratch crew and we got into a RNZAF Dakota, stayed the night at Norfolk and finally arrived in Sydney to join INVERELL. We had barely a fortnight there whilst we did trials, swung compasses, loaded fuel. We filled up the after mine sweeping flat right to the deck head with mine sweeping stores. Finally on the Thursday before Easter we had a handing over ceremony with the New Zealand High Commissioner. The Flag Officer Sydney came on board and we had a ceremony of handing this thing over. An hour later we sailed. We went out through the heads into a howling easterly, a real big easterly she just went up and down.

They were pigs of sea boats weren’t they?

Oh she really went up and down. I went down, the Captain’s cabin was under the bridge, to find about an inch of water in my cabin. I looked around and I thought a fresh water pipe or some pipe had gone. I finally looked down under the bunk and I could see daylight. I think the bridge was the only thing held on by the angle irons of the quarters. The next thing to happen was that the gyro started to play up. Quite obviously it was saying we were steering north when we should have been steering east, and we were steering roughly east. It was unfortunate they had left the top off the gyro, the cover. A light fitting above had been shaken loose, and as you know if you hit a gyro that way it goes that a way. We lost our gyro and had to wait for that to settle down, it was spinning all over the place. We went on magnetic compass. We had been out I think for about thirty six hours when we got our first nav sights. The first set of sights David Smith and I took, we both agreed we were something like sixty miles north from where we should have been. It just didn’t fit into the pattern. We should have been steering east but we steered about southeast. Then the sights were saying we are getting on to a reasonable track to Cook Strait, we had been told to go to Dunedin. Twenty four hours later there was a report there was smoke coming from the Wardroom which was down aft in those things you remember. There was smoke coming out from under the door into the minesweeping flat and from duckboards outside the Wardroom. We went down and we pulled every thing up and we just couldn’t see where this smoke was coming from. We took the hatch off the top of the minesweeping flat and found there was smoke in it, not a hell of a lot, no sign of flame. I decided to put a guard on, we rigged hoses and so forth. We couldn’t unload the minesweeping flat, we hadn’t any where to put it. I said all right watch it, and see if it dies down. About two hours later they reported that they had found the fire. It was the DG cables that had rotted. They were over heating and a flame appeared so we found out where the fire was. We had been told and I expected that when we swung compasses the DG was off. We had obviously swung compasses with the DG on or visa versa. This was why our magnetic compass was miles out. By this time the weather had calmed down. The Engineer Officer came up and said, “I have dipped the tanks three times this morning, we’ve not got enough fuel to get to New Zealand”. I said, “What do you mean”, we were just about at the point of no return. I said, “Listen you’ve been telling me that the tanks hold x tons and we’ve been burning y tons per day”. He said, “I have been around, I’ve done it myself”. We scratched our heads and we went over the plans. He had only dipped five tanks, and there was another tank. I said, “Well where is this tank, which ones have you dipped”. He said “I don’t know”. We had to wait until he checked. Finally we found another tank, we found a tank with a dipping thing which had been painted over and wasn’t visible, and was full of oil thank God. We had sufficient fuel to get to Wellington. We then came through Cook Strait and we finally steamed into Dunedin with very little fuel, because I was told to get rid of all the fuel. She was then going to be put into dock and refitted by, what was the Firm in Dunedin, Sims. We just berthed and handed her over to Sims and got in a train and went back to Auckland.

Did you leave a crew with her for the refit?

No, no, I don’t think we left anybody there. I think somebody came down. The RNO took charge of her, and I think the Dockyard took over. I took the whole ship’s company back to Auckland. We had a special carriage on both the trains going back. I was still delighted with my first command, an interesting thing. As you say they were odd ships, they had these in turning screws. The first time I handled it, it was all a bit odd. If you wanted to kick the stern in to port, she went half astern port instead of half astern starboard. You had to get used to handling them. It was a very good bit of my education.

They were packed with minesweeping gear too weren’t they?

Yes absolutely down to the gunnels with gear.

Of course they were like the Algerines. By that time they were probably utterly useless as minesweepers.

Oh I quite agree. I think though it was probably a good move. This was 1951, the Loch’s had just arrived and I think was the best thing that happened to the New Zealand Navy. The CNS of the day did us a great service and got us off the Cruiser level and down to ships that we could understand, in which we could get a Fleet together, but it was all still second hand stuff. The INVERELL and those Bathurst minesweepers were even more second hand or ancient than the Lochs. I mean at least the Lochs had a four inch gun and some decent sonar, they weren’t bad sonar ships.

I then went back to do my duty as Squadron Communicator on board BELLONA and we operated around New Zealand. It was decided, and I have never discovered to this day why, we would do a complete flag showing trip to UK. We would show the flag in Australia, Singapore, Ceylon, India, Pakistan, Southern France and UK. When we got to UK we then had to take part in a NATO Exercise. We set off, the usual trip across to Australia, up the Barrier Reef. On our trip from Darwin to Singapore I got my first taste of what it could be like if you have navigational problems. What the problem was I don’t know, Max was the Navigator. We suddenly found ourselves amongst swirling water. We then turned around and tried to weave our way out of this the way we had come in. We either misread on radar a range of mountains or something else, but we were well off course. Fortunately we cleared out of it and we got into Singapore, I think we were a bit late.

I have read Max McDowell’s story of it, and I think he was a day late and very contrite.

Very contrite and Fish Dolphin was not a person to upset the local Admiral. He was a dashing Destroyer man was Fish Dolphin and ran a taut ship. He expected tautness from his Officers, but was a very friendly person. We got to Singapore and we went into Colombo and then up to Bombay. In Bombay the Captain took I think seven Officers, and we flew up in an Indian Dakota to Delhi. The C in C Indian Navy was still then a RN Officer, who had his flag in Delhi. On the way up we lost an engine, so we were late. There was a big dinner party set up for us when we arrived. We all changed into white Mess jackets on board this aircraft, it was like the changing room of the Windmill Theatre. We had a dinner party and I acted as the Flag Lieutenant. Fish Dolphin and I stayed in Admiralty House with C in C and his wife, the others went off to a Mess. I remember the next morning after this dinner, I was given a big bedroom with a mosquito mesh bed, bathroom off, etc, etc. I was shaken at 7 o’clock the next morning for a cup of tea and an enormously tall Sikh with an even taller turban bending over me, saying, “Your tea Saab”. I got up and went into the bathroom with a towel around my waist and it became obvious there was going to a tussle as to who was going to shave who. He picked up the razor and the shaving brush and so forth and stood as if he was going to, so he won that one. I stepped out of the bath and there was a dispute and misunderstanding as who was going to dry whom because he stood there with a towel. Have you ever tried to step into a pair of underpants held by a man six foot tall, it is the most difficult thing I have ever had in my life. He was a delightful character, but I wasn’t bred to have an Indian Raj servant. We had a very happy visit there, they looked after us extremely well. They took us to the Taj Mahal and to the Red Fort and those sorts of things, and they were very generous. Fortunately one of the Officers, the Flag Lieutenant to the Admiral was one of the Indian Officers, who had been at Signal School with me. There was another one who had been at DARTMOUTH with me, so it was renewing old friends.

We went on to England and we went into Portsmouth. In Portsmouth we gave a cocktail party on behalf of the New Zealand Naval Board for the Board of Admiralty. I went to London and talked to the Secretary of the Board and got it all fixed up. The Admiralty Board arrived by train and they were driven to C in C Portsmouth’s house. The first thing was to be a nineteen gun salute supplied by BELLONA to the Board of Admiralty. I don’t know whether anybody has realised it, but we did twenty guns. They got a misfire and just as the gunner said, “Fire the next one”, the misfire fired, so you got a double boom. I noticed and Fish Dolphin noticed, but I don’t know whether anybody else realised. It could have been one and it could have been two, but I reckon they got twenty guns that day.

We then went off up to the Firth of Forth and joined a NATO Mainbrace exercise, the annual NATO Exercise. Fish was a fairly senior Captain and the Captain of the Canadian carrier, BONAVENTURE and Fish had been Cadets together. These two were deadly rivals, as to who was going to drive who and we had a lot of fun with that. We hit the headlines because TASS radio came up saying New Zealand had joined NATO because the New Zealand ship was at this Exercise. We then had time in UK. We took a number of trainees, people for training, we swapped over crews. We then sailed back and came back through the South of France and then back we came through the Suez Canal and got back to New Zealand. It was an interesting trip. I left the ship, this was at the end of 1952, and after a little bit of leave was appointed to command IRIRANGI at Waiouru.

I have explained earlier on, I was engaged in New Zealand, my wife’s father very kindly paid her passage to England, we were married in England. Then she came out to Malta with me. I was not the first specialist because Laurie Carr had done the Long C before me and Max had been over, but Max had married in New Zealand. I had been his best man before he left and his wife had gone over with him. At that stage the New Zealand Navy was geared up for a wife to accompany you overseas. There had been a number of Officers who had married overseas and come back to New Zealand. The system was geared up for people who had got married overseas. The system was not geared up for somebody who had got engaged in New Zealand, went overseas and did a Course, and then got married overseas. I came sort halfway in between these two states. A series of communications went backwards and forwards because the system couldn’t quite decide what my allowances would be and what my wife’s status would be. The end result she went down in the books as a wife acquired, and this has amused us ever since. Again it was one of these things of being one of the first of the team. We were part of this process of developing allowances, developing things for the benefit of the future. This occurred again when we went to Malta. The RN had marriage allowances, they had minesweeping allowances and they also had a danger allowance. I got minesweeping pay, but no danger pay. My pay was different from the RN pay it was less. It’s now on file because I happened to look at it in Navy Office recently. There must be twelve pages where we were invited to give a detailed account of what it cost to live in Malta. Finally my allowances were put up. Separation allowance had just been brought in, so I was to get separation allowance, although my wife was with me. It was regarded that I was separated for some unknown reason, but I wasn’t to get a special location allowance for Malta. In the same way for some unknown reason I was not to be paid danger money. We had been following RN practice, but there were these gaps in the system where we had to start and develop our own policies, our own allowances, our own systems to cope with the New Zealand scene at the other end of the world. The Headquarters had not geared up sufficiently to cope with the bureaucracy of Government. The level of things that had to go to the Minister and even to Cabinet for approval was absolute nonsense when you look back and think about it these days.

I had just left BELLONA and it is January `53 and I had just been appointed to take over from Laurie Carr as Commanding Officer of IRIRANGI. I had been told that this was equivalent to my doing my First Lieutenant’s time in a Frigate. I was doing my professional specialist job and here I was given another command, which I thought was good. Looking back on it I have got no regrets what so ever. It did provide a gap I think in my career later on that I didn’t have the experience of being a First Lieutenant before I took command of another sea going ship. In many ways it taught me a lot more than I would have got as a First Lieutenant. I must admit that when I was told, one wondered why one had been banished to Siberia, and you can’t get further from the sea than you can at IRIRANGI. I drove down on my own, I arrived and Rick Humby was the First Lieutenant. He said, “The Captain is in Taihape, they are giving a farewell party for him there, the Taihape people”. He said he wanted Rick to take me to this function, so I just got changed into my uniform and off we went. We arrived at this function and I went in and the host welcomed me. Laurie introduced me and he stood up and said, “Ladies and Gentlemen this is my relief”. I don’t know whether you knew Tom Campbell who was a Colonel who finished up a Brigadier in the Army who was then one of the Lieutenant Colonels at Waiouru. With a loud voice from the background, he said, “I am never able to understand why Naval Officers can’t relieve themselves”. We had a handing over ceremony. Laurie left. He left and went back to Auckland. After about ten days I drove up to Auckland to get the family. Fay had packed up the house. We were rather embarrassed when it came to packing up this flat we were in. Naval Officers were not very wealthy people and tended to live on the smell of an oil rag in those days. The dressing table was built of butter boxes which Fay had put a lovely frill around. The only thing to go was the mirror and the frill. They picked this thing up and it fell apart, and I think they thought we were going to charge them. She packed up the house, we drove down with our only son Anthony. One of the joys of IRIRANGI I had the CO’s car. We drove down and we set up house. I don’t know whether you know IRIRANGI.

Yes I know it quite well.

Well in those days the accommodation blocks were down six miles south on the Taihape Road. There was the main area, the canteen, the administrative block, there was the Wardroom, there was an Officer’s accommodation area and then over to the one side there were four flats. They had been Army bunkhouses or something. They were just two small bedrooms, a lounge and a bathroom, and a kitchen, two units of two. We took over one of these flats.

This was before the CO’s house was built?

Yes because the CO’s house was built when I was there.

I see.

We went into one of these flats, which was small, not terribly comfortable. It was the middle of summer, so later on when we put the first fire in we couldn’t understand why it remained cold. We had magnificent firing logs and we discovered there was a gap about half an inch wide around the hearth. This just dragged the cold air straight in and all the heat went up the chimney. We had the First Lieutenant and two other Officers living in the flats alongside, and you made life what it was. The Army were six miles up the road and a very delightful bunch we got to know very well. I had been there for ten days and I came down with chickenpox. Here was this Commanding Officer covered in spots, being dealt with Gentian Violet all over the place. My wife put me into a pair of green pyjamas that didn’t go terrible well with the Gentian Violet. My first experience or the first experience there was a very poxy Captain.

We settled down, and started to really get to know the place and came to love IRIRANGI and Waiouru, and the Taihape District. That little range of hills between IRIRANGI and Waiouru seemed to be the boundary between Ohakune and Taihape. As far as IRIRANGI was concerned our prime interest always was Taihape. We made many friendships, it was an interesting place. In those days there was a Navy League in Taihape. Every year there was the Taihape Navy League Ball that was held at IRIRANGI and Laurie Carr had set this up. It was a major event for the district. The local farming population, we got to know. We made many friends, and they were a delightful people. You thought nothing of driving thirty or forty miles to go out to dinner or a cocktail party. Later on when our second son was born the children went in the back in the carrycot. You never went to a cocktail party in a farmhouse there and got away before 10 o’clock. Alongside us was the Army up the road, and they were delightful. Alan Andrews was the Commandant, as a Colonel and then there was Tom Campbell and Kim Morrison and Dennis Cawley, all Lieutenant Colonels. Each had command of either the Cadets or in those days the CMT intake and so forth. Kim Morrison for example, he is well known I think through out the Service as being one of the great practical joke people in the Army. I remember on one occasion he and his wife were having dinner with us over at IRIRANGI and we had visiting us the British Naval Liaison Officer and his wife. Kim kept telling this woman that he was very disappointed he was only a Class F and he didn’t get away to the War. He felt terrible with all these chaps with all their medals and so forth. I had to tell her afterwards that he won the MC and he went right through the War, he was one of those sort of people. We had a very happy time in IRIRANGI.

How big was the crew there at that time?

The ships’ company?


I had eighty, there was myself a First Lieutenant and three Officers. I think it was eighty in the ship’s company, because we ran a full watch. I was just going to get on to the operational side. We were on the Commonwealth Communication Network. Not only naval traffic, but the Merchant Navy traffic, we handled all the Merchant traffic. We ran the Naval broadcast and the ship to shore circuits. We had fixed services to Canada, Pearl Harbour, HARMAN in Australia, London and from time to time Singapore. A lot of traffic went through the place. We were on teletype on the main circuits, Morse on the ship to shore circuits and the broadcasts. The transmitters were opposite Waiouru Camp on the Desert Road and the receivers were alongside the Camp. We also had NR1 that was part of the GCHQ set up. We had a full watch system.

The men from NR1 they messed with you I think?

In my day they were all Naval Ratings.

They were all Naval Ratings?

Yes. Sorry there were a couple of civilians. The Officer in Charge was a specialist Naval Officer, in uniform and they were responsible to me for operational things, but directly responsible to NSD in Australia for their traffic. I was informed and kept involved in what was going on.

Our main traffic was Naval and Merchant Navy traffic. We could quite often hear the QUEEN MARY and QUEEN ELIZABETH going across the Atlantic, and the aim was always to try and beat Portishead and get them to send the traffic through us. It was then routed straight back through Portishead. We handled mainly Pacific traffic though we used to get a lot of stuff from the South Atlantic. Our big time was Christmas. All leave was stopped from the middle of December through to just after New Years Day. The traffic levels just went up like that, when all the Christmas traffic was going backwards and forwards.

This was telegrams?

Christmas telegrams and all the paraphernalia that went with it. There was no leave given at Christmas time at all.

Presumably there would be still quite a lot of Morse traffic?

Oh all of the ship to shore traffic is Morse. The broadcast was Morse. Fixed services sometimes had to go over to automatic Morse because quite often the level of the channels went down. They were corrupt on the teleprinters and you would have to go to fast Morse. We were message handling and we were re-routing the traffic down to Wellington and up to Auckland as well. Most of it went down to Wellington. We had both links to Wellington Com Centre, but also to the Post Office for the civilian traffic. It was a big message handling problem, so we were kept pretty busy, very busy.

(end of Tape 6)

(beginning of Tape 7)

Admiral when we left the interview last night we were in the middle of your time at IRIRANGI and I am sure there is a lot more that you can tell us.

Well I thought I would start off this morning really talking about the organisation of the establishment. It was of course developed around the receivers. We had a three watch system or a three shift system. We had something like I think it was nineteen houses. The Army was building a number of houses for us over at Waiouru. We still had a number of the ship’s company who were married who were living in Auckland. The bachelors of course wanted to get away for weekends. We ran a system where there were three main shifts. There were three groups and two of the groups did the watchkeeping in the receivers and the transmitters and the third group was off for a week. They changed over on a Friday morning and the shift that came off could go on leave. They had to be back on board the following Tuesday night. It was a regular system and on Friday afternoon at about 5 o’clock a number of travelling salesmen would stop at the bottom of the road by the Establishment and chaps would get lifts to Auckland. They would come back on Tuesday, and on Wednesday and Thursday formed the maintenance ship’s company of the Establishment. They would pick up their shift again on the Friday and another shift would go off. Except on Wednesday and Thursday we never had the total ship’s company together. One of the problems of the place was getting the whole ship’s company together at any one time. The Wanganui Ministry of Works who had a team at Waiouru Military Camp looked after us. They were responsible for our maintenance in the Establishment. We had our own rigging party for the aerials, primarily at the transmitters. I was running in a sense, at IRIRANGI a farm. The receiver area and especially the transmitter area were leased out. The transmitter area was leased out to a Mr Harding who had a station at Waiouru. There were sheep all around the transmitters and that often caused problems. You were running a large area with something like 900 acres if I remember rightly. The Com Centre in Wellington operationally controlled it. Administratively I was administered by now COMAUCK the NOCA who was Captain Hardy. This was quite a good arrangement, because if I didn’t like what I was getting from Auckland I could always make it operational, and if I didn’t like what Wellington was saying I made it administrative. I don’t know whether you remember New Zealand in those days, but the Desert Road wasn’t sealed. The road between Taupo and through to Tokoroa wasn’t sealed it was that Papa dust, you had great dust storms and ruts in the road. I used to go up to Auckland about once every six weeks. All the radio equipment and the spares came through the Dockyard. I used to drive up normally about once every six weeks to Auckland, have a couple of days in Auckland and drive back again. It was very much an independent command. It was a halfway house. Fay and I met a considerable number of people. The Chief of Naval Staff Commodore Madden, Sir Charles Madden and Lady Madden were both very keen artists. He painted in water colours and sepia pen and she in oils. He would come up regularly about once every six weeks and spend a weekend with us, and they would go off painting all around the district. I can remember the first time he came up on a Saturday morning. I was in my office, and this figure was typically British with a brown hat, collar and tie and an old jacket with leather elbows. He had brought himself a New Zealand pair of Wellington boots or gumboots and came tramping across. I think the ship’s company couldn’t quite understand why the Captain was leaping to attention, saluting this scruffy farmer. We got to know them very well because of this. Additionally most of the Attachés in Wellington, Australian, British, French, usually stopped a night there on their way through. In those days driving to Auckland was quite a long trip, I think it was ten hours or more driving. The Governor General Sir Willoughby Norrie and Lady Norrie on about four or five occasions stopped off with us for lunch, or for a wash and brush up and afternoon tea, they never stayed the night. Consequently we got to know them. I will explain later, but my elder son was injured there. I remember on one occasion Sir Willoughby Norrie, he and his wife had driven up in the Rolls and the staff had come behind in a large Ford stationwagon. These were pretty new types of vehicles in those days. Sir Willoughby trotting my son around and said, “What do you think of that, pointing at the Rolls”. Young Anthony who was then aged three said, “I will have that one please”, and pointed to the Ford, which didn’t go down very well.

It was a delightful spot to be and we got to know many, many people. We had a good liaison with the Army, but we ran our own business. We victualled ourselves, we got most of the dry goods down from Auckland, but the majority was brought locally in Taihape. We ran our own cash accounts, and life went on very pleasantly. David Ingram was the electrical engineering side of the show. Rick Humby to begin with was the First Lieutenant then Barkley Goddard. There was a RN Communications officer, Warrant Officer Cottleshell, and there was one other and I have forgotten his name at the moment. There was the Officer in Charge of NR1.

After we had been there about four or five months the contract was let to build the CO’s house and this started to be built across the road from the main block. I recall going over there on one occasion when they had just laid the piles. The steps going up to the back door and the steps to the front door were all set up. I was talking to the builder. I looked at this and said that’s a funny entrance to the main hall. I was on the main highway side of the house. He said that’s not the front door that’s the back door. I said that’s nonsense, the plan says the lounge and so forth are to face the mountain and the kitchen is the other side. It was fundamentally a State house, but it had a dining room added to it, a small dining room and the lounge had been enlarged and it had another bedroom, it had four bedrooms and it had got turned over in some way. It was built with the front door on the south side and the kitchen on the north side and that is how it is today. Still it was built, and we were very grateful. It just sat in the middle of the tussock. Our great friend Jim Morgan who had a farm down at Hihitahi brought his tractor and discs up. We turned the ground over, put a fence around it and started developing a garden. It was a very pleasant place to live in.

I remember Jackie Slaughter, 2NM came up on one occasion. The house had been built and we were just getting to the stage when the wallpapers would be chosen. He came over and had a look at it. I remember my wife said to him, “Look we’ve been all over the place looking for wallpapers and the contract says that we are only allowed to spend two and sixpence per roll, and this is what I can get”. This looked like lavatory paper. He very kindly said, “Oh to hell with that, you can go up to seven and sixpence”, I will fix it when I get back to Wellington. We rushed off and got some decent wallpaper. In those days, the Navy provided the carpet and the curtains, but you provided the rest. We had to start buying a lounge suite, kitchen table and so forth. You may not remember, but after the War all ex Servicemen could get special loans. I think they were three percent. You got a furniture loan up to a hundred pounds and a house loan at three percent. We spent my hundred pounds furniture loan on furnishing the house. We settled into this new house and it was very comfortable.

1953 my first year there was an interesting year. I remember one amusing incident, I had only been there about six weeks to two months and the First Lieutenant Rick Humby reported that a barrel of beer from the canteen was missing when they did a muster at closing time, there was a whole barrel missing. A search of the Establishment was set up and nothing was found. The Coxswain said, “We had better go down and have a look at the caves”. I said, “What are you talking about?” He said, “Oh come with me Sir, I will show you”. Down the main highway about half a mile down the road on the left there were these two caves which had been set up during World War II. They were furnished with a whole series of things. I gather especially during the War this was a sort of separate canteen that was used by the ship’s company. We found our barrel of beer down at the caves. I then discovered what the caves were all about. From June onwards of that year we started planning for the Royal Visit. Her Majesty was coming out for the first time, and they came out in one of the New Zealand Shipping Company ships GOTHIC. Sid Holland was the Prime Minister, Captain Hardy was down on one occasion was telling us that they were doing a dress rehearsal alongside Princes Wharf where she was going to berth. Mr Holland said, “Mrs Hardy you are the Queen, Captain you are the Prince. They took the place of the Queen and Prince Philip. The Prime Minister and Mrs Holland were down at the bottom of the gangway. They came down, Mrs Holland came up and did a curtsy and Holland said, “Not good enough, do it again”. She did and finally Hardy said he turned to me and said, “Can you curtsy?” Hardy said, “Well I have done it”. Holland said, “Well take her off over there and teach her how to do it”.

At IRIRANGI our main task was to do the Queen’s Broadcast. The Queen’s Christmas Broadcast for the first time was being done from overseas. It was being done from Government House in Auckland, and we had these too big DS13’s which were the only transmitters in New Zealand at the time, which were suitable for voice transmission. The arrangement would be that we would go on air, it would be piped down to us by landline and we would broadcast to be picked up in London by the BBC. We would get back over the fixed service a message to say, “Yes they’ve got it”. We also took a wire recording and we were to run it after the first broadcast again in case it hadn’t got through properly. The arrangement was that we had a land line system that ran down through Hamilton, down through the King Country to Ohakune. Another completely separate line came down around through Tauranga, Rotorua, down the eastern side of Taupo by Turangi, and around the mountain. These two lines terminated at Ohakune. Two separate pairs came on the road from Ohakune to Waiouru and then to us. We did about three tests and the BBC said it was good etc, and we were all set up to go. The broadcast was to be on Christmas Day. On Christmas Eve just after 10 o’clock at night the Quartermaster rang me up. In those days the telephone was a crank handled type that went through to Taihape at the Taihape Exchange. He said, “I have just been talking to Taihape Exchange and over heard the operator say there has been a train crash at Waiouru”. He said, “All we know is that it’s a bad train crash”. I got hold of the First Lieutenant. We had a special emergency hut with a trailer pump and gear. We had a four by four World War II Chev truck and we had another truck. I went to my office and I always carried in the safe in the office, ten phials of Morphine for emergency purposes, shoved those in my pocket and off we went with a team of about ten of us, the First Lieutenant and myself. We drove and we got to Waiouru, and not a sign of a train or any thing else. Somebody said, “Its along the way, up the road there we think”. We drove off and we got to Tangiwai and this was the famous Tangiwai Disaster. Half an hour or an hour before the train arrived the ice wall of the lake on Ruapehu, at the head of the Whangaehu Valley where the Whangaehu River started, had broken and the lake had just emptied straight down the Whangaehu River. It had taken out the railway bridge and the road bridge. A chap tried to stop the train, but couldn’t. The engine had gone in and the first three carriages had gone in and the fourth one was hanging, still hanging over the edge. We were not the first there and there was an Army Team just ahead of us, and some civilian people. Except for five or six who had been thrown down the end of this fourth carriage, they managed to get the people out of that carriage. The first three carriages and the engine driver had gone straight down the River. It was dark and there were great boulders bouncing down the river. We went on searching with torches trying to find people. We were there until 1 or 2 o’clock in the morning. It became quite obvious that we weren’t going to find anybody that night. It was pretty obvious that weren’t going to be many people alive. We found the bogey of one carriage half a mile down the river. The Army had set up a communication base. We also set up a temporary bridge across the road bridge, so we could at least communicate with either side of the river, just a small walkway. It was decided that we would pack up for the night, then we would all turn out at dawn next morning. From the next morning for three or four days, the ship’s company did a magnificent job. I remember Cook Abbott who was an ex Policeman who had to leave the Police Force because of flat feet. We had to keep the Establishment running but the ship’s company would come off watch and go straight out and be part of the search team down the river. We found one carriage about a mile down, another carriage further down still. There were over 150 people lost in this tragedy. They put a barrier across the Whangaehu River away down by Wanganui on the road, and actually some bodies were found in this barrier. If my memory is correct I think there were 153 lost and I can’t remember but I think it was something like 17 found alive.

Nobody was found alive afterward?

Nobody at all. We found the engine driver. The engine was in the mud and we found the engine driver still in his cab. The Fireman had gone.

Well of course the Queen was in New Zealand and this was a great tragedy, it was Christmas Eve. It was decided that the Army who were the biggest organisation would co-ordinate the searches. The Police of course came up and set up mortuaries and an identification system. Cook Abbott was magnificent. He got up about 4 o’clock in the morning, helped cook breakfast for the ships’ company. Then he went off with the search parties. The Police with the Army had set up a mortuary system in Waiouru Military Camp. There was all the paper work that had to go on with the identification. There were a large number of families and relatives inquiring. We were getting phone calls all the time, and special phones were set up. There were people ringing up from Invercargill saying, “We think Auntie was on her way to see Cousin John in Auckland and she might have been on the train, could you check”. All this was going on. Abbott being an ex Policeman would go to the identification area when he came back from searching and work until 2 o’clock in the morning, come back get a couple of hours sleep, then off again. He did a superb job. I pick him out, as he is one I remember vividly. So many of the ship’s company were coming off watch, working flat out with the search parties and giving there all.

There were a lot of folk tales around about how the Navy did so much better than the Army, is that true?

I am not sure it is true in a sense. Tim Andrews and I agreed on the first day that we were a small unit and we had to keep the Establishment running as a communications facility. We had set up separate circuits for this Tangiwai Disaster. Going back to the Queen’s speech, a pair of lines that came down from Ohakune came across on the road bridge and they disappeared with the bridge. We were cut off from Auckland. This was Christmas Eve and we were due on the air in about fifteen hours and all hell was let loose, rigging up a new pair of lines from Auckland. We set up a radio link which didn’t work too well. Finally the Post Office got a pair rigged on a pole across and we got it going. I remember at about 3 o’clock on Christmas Day we started testing with Auckland, and it didn’t work properly. About 5 o’clock we finally got clear with Auckland, but we couldn’t get London clearly, the Queen was due to go on the air at 7 o’clock. Edmund Hillary was to do the introduction or the first part of it. I remember we finally got on the air properly at about quarter to seven and the first thing we heard was Hillary. We just got him in time. We set it all up, we sat there, with fingers and toes crossed knuckles white. The Queen came on, all the dials went correctly and away we went. It transmitted we put the re-broadcast on. I think it was half past nine about an hour later we got the message through from Whitehall WT to say the BBC are very happy, they got it loud and clear straight away. We sat down and opened two crates of beer and had a really good party. So that was the broadcast.

Sir Charles Madden arranged with the Queen to present two signed photographs done of her actually doing the broadcast in front of the microphone. One was given to me and one was given to the Navy and I presume it is in the Museum up north. It was quite a treasure to have.

The arrangements with the Army were that they would deal with the large mass of people. They had the mortuary, they would deal with all the relatives, the enquiries. They had the capability of space and that sort of thing. They opened dormitories for people, so people could come and stay the night when they were identifying bodies. They had a welfare system to help. They had the Chaplains and all those sort of things. The arrangement was IRIRANGI would deal with the VIP’s, we would get them out of the Army’s hair. There were thoughts that Prince Philip would actually come down, he didn’t in the end. Sid Holland was the Prime Minister and Walter Nash the Leader of the Opposition both decided they wished to come and speak to the people. Sid Holland had his Secretary. On Boxing Day Sid Holland arrived with his Secretary, Walter Nash arrived driven by a Times Correspondent who was covering the Royal Tour. There in our house we had Sid Holland sleeping in one bedroom and Walter Nash the Leader of the Opposition sleeping in the other room. Fay took charge of these people. We found Sid Holland a most unpleasant person to have as a guest in our house. Fay will recall he had just been overseas and at that time nylon underwear was a great thing. He suddenly appeared out of his bedroom in a blue singlet and a blue pair of underpants and said to Fay, “What do you think of these, aren’t they smart”. Fay said, “Well they don’t look very good to me”. They stayed with us for three nights. On the second or third morning I had been out, came back and I went into breakfast. Sid Holland was there. He said to Fay and myself, “Where is Mr Nash this morning?” We said, “He is over at Waiouru. There is a special communion memorial service”. He said, “What!” and roared off to the telephone. He got hold of his Secretary, a Mr Hicks, gave him hell, and rushed into a car. Walter Nash had beaten him to the draw.

Roughly a week later the Queen was at Rotorua for the big Maori welcome and the Maori side of things. Fay and I were sitting down to lunch on the Sunday in the house and there was a knock on the door and there was Walter Nash with this Times Correspondent who was driving him from Rotorua back to Wellington. Walter Nash said, “I just thought I would drop in to thank you and your wife very much for what you did for me and for your hospitality”. He said, “I was telling the Times Correspondent here what your Establishment was”. We had taken Walter Nash around the receivers and transmitters and explained what we did especially the Royal Broadcast. He said, “I have brought” and I have forgotten the chaps’ name. He said, “I thought I would bring him in because he would very much like to talk to you and see for himself where the broadcast took place and what you do here.” They left late that evening and stopped at Taihape. It was typical of Walter Nash he was a very kindly person, we didn’t know him well. I considered Sid Holland was an oaf. He was a strong Prime Minister, but not a gentleman to like.

This was now early January `54 Fay my wife was very close to having our second son. A few weeks before the baby arrived I was up on Morgan’s’ farm. I had taken one of the trucks up and had taken young Anthony who was three and a half. We were going up there to get a lot of sheep manure from under the woolshed for this garden we were setting up. Jim Morgan very kindly provided firewood for us. I had this truck up by the woolshed, which was on a slope. We had loaded up bags of sheep manure. I had been under the woolshed, so I was covered in manure myself. We had been loading wood by the woodshed. I was taking the truck down the slope, turning it and backing it in to the area underneath to load the sheep manure sacks. I said to my son Anthony, “Right you stay there, I am just going to move the truck, so stay up there and don’t move”. I drove down and turned and was just about to back in and I felt a bump and there was a loud scream. A piece of wood had fallen off the truck and Anthony had fallen over a two foot high bank and tripped over and gone straight under the back wheels of this truck. I had gone over the top of him. Fortunately the truck had tended to bounce over a piece of wood, but he was badly injured. His pelvis was split open, his leg was broken, he was badly hurt. I carried him down to the Morgan’s house, and Betty Morgan immediately got her car out. We rang the Doctor. A Dr White in Taihape provided our medical services. I sat beside Betty Morgan holding this young child, and we drove into the Taihape Hospital. Alan White examined him and said, “Right he’s got to go to Wanganui, they’ve got all the facilities”. I rang Fay, Betty Morgan drove me back home. I changed. Fay came back in with us to be with him. This happened about three o’clock in the afternoon. Nine o’clock that night I set off for Wanganui in the ambulance with Anthony and left Fay at home. We got down there about midnight. He went into the operating theatre and they put him together. Dr Noble was the Orthopaedic Surgeon who took charge. I finally returned in the ambulance and got home at about six in the morning, had a shave and a shower and Fay and I got into the car and we drove back to Wanganui. Just after Tangiwai, one of the Officers I think it was Ingram, Dave Ingram had crashed the CO’s car on the Desert Road and rolled it. We were driving an Austin A90, what you now call a pick up which was a van with a tray on the back. We were driving backwards and forwards to Wanganui in this van. In the back was Fay’s emergency bag. We had arranged a doctor and a nursing home in Wanganui. Anthony was in hospital for nearly six months. He was strung up, with two legs in the air. About a week after he was there he turned at night and pulled the leg out and they had to grow his leg into itself to get the right length. He came home about June I think it was. Peter our second son was born in the middle of February. We had a new baby there and we would take the baby down with us to see Anthony. People were extremely kind. David Wraight the Naval Secretary rang me about a week after and said, “Don’t fuss, use the transport. We had some friends in Wanganui where you could stay the night”. A Sister Cawley I remember was the Sister in Charge of the Children’s Ward. She was the sister actually of Colonel Cawley at Waiouru Camp. She would let us visit any time practically even at lunchtime. She let us give him his lunch and visit any time that we wished. Fay went into the hospital to have Peter and there was a period of about a week when I was driving down to Wanganui, seeing one son and then seeing my new son in Hospital back in Taihape. I remember the day he came home. There was this young figure, this son of ours came out holding Sister Cawleys’ hand and he was walking with his hand on the rail, throwing this leg out. He was cock a hoop, he was walking again. I took one look at this leg being thrown to one side and I thought God what have I done to this son of mine. Now he is fully fit, he’s played Rugby in the First Fifteen. It was one of the incidents that took place in IRIRANGI.

It’s a tricky thing, particularly those days with the transport problems. No helicopters to rush you there.

Nothing at all like that. We were deeply grateful both to Taihape and Wanganui Hospital and to Dr Noble. The other surgeon’s theory was put pins, pin it all together with silver pins or whatever it was, then finally take them out. Noble said, “No let nature do its best, we will put it in the right place”. This is why Anthony lay there for a month with both legs up in a sort of gallows. It turned out Anthony is half an inch longer in the left hand side. His left leg is a little bit longer, but it’s all knitted together and I think that was to our advantage.

There we had a new son, two children when Anthony came home. We were told we were to let him have a tricycle and he was to spend all his time roaring around on this tricycle. He became an absolute bloody nuisance in the house.

I remember there was a big Far East Exercise that we got involved in. We set up special circuits and so forth. I can’t recall any other major incidents in `54.

As well as the ship to shore service you presumably provided, you had a fixed service to Australia.

There was Whitehall WT, the London direct circuit, which wasn’t open twenty four hours a day. You were lucky if you got about fifteen to eighteen hours a day. The main traffic was at night time and signals were roaring through.

That was direct to Whitehall?

Direct to Whitehall.

If we couldn’t get a circuit we would link through HARMAN in Australia and sometimes they could actually patch us through where we worked Whitehall WT direct. Alternately we would go to HARMAN and they would re-transmit. On occasions HARMAN came through us, and that often caused chaos, because you had this volume of traffic coming through which had to be re-routed on. We had a Canadian circuit that I have forgotten the number of. London was fixed service 11.

The Canadian, that was to Vancouver?

Esquimalt, but that was not necessarily a twenty four hour circuit. That became one of the major links with the Merchant Navy traffic, because we would link through to them and go across Canada to Portishead, which was the main reception point for Merchant Navy traffic. Whitehall WT was the Naval Station and they had to then route it down to Portishead and often it was easier to get it through Esquimalt.

Did you have a circuit to Honolulu as well?

Honolulu wasn’t a very big circuit, unless there were big exercises going on. Quite often the traffic was coming down to us because at certain times the Americans were not able to get into Guam or Honolulu from the Western Pacific. We were often acting as a link for them.

You would push traffic for New Zealand down the wires to Wellington?

Traffic would generally be linked down to Wellington. We had a small circuit to Auckland.

You wouldn’t decrypt any thing you would just send it down as it arrived?

We did some decryption of traffic for ourselves. The main signals went down and were decrypted in Wellington.

I think you might have covered this yesterday. The fixed services were Morse or teleprinter?

Teleprinter, if the circuit was open sufficiently. Otherwise we went over to high speed Morse.

That would be received on a machine?

It would be received on a machine yes, it came out on a tape and it was read off the tape. If I remember rightly the teleprinters were also taped and then they went onto a tape reader. You didn’t get a page copy. We had a teleprinter circuit to Wellington and as long as it was a good tape we could just put the tape straight through. Quite often you would get bad patches in the tape. We would have to give them an initial copy then try and get re-runs. We always had alternate transmitters set up on a higher or lower frequency. Quite often we were transmitting on two or three frequencies at once. At that stage I don’t think we had automatic receiver selection on the reception side. You were reading all three and taking the best signal. I think if I remember rightly we had to tune from one to the other. The watch became pretty expert at this business, keeping the circuits open.

You had a landline between transmitters and receivers?

A landline that on two occasions the local farmer cut.

Even in my day it was always being cut.

It goes along by the road most of the way. The worst part was when it went over Mr Harding’s farm. At that time the whole of the area was tussock. Harding was breaking in a lot of that land up there. There were enormous great tractors and discs churning up the tussock and bringing it in.

I’ve got a great interest in communications and it is interesting technology. I have always thought IRIRANGI was one of the great establishments in New Zealand.

I think it was. Incidentally the Post Office Station at Himatangi was built when I was at IRIRANGI. They came up and spent a lot of time up with us. They were introducing the DS13. The Army wanted to run a circuit themselves up to Singapore and the British Army and they purchased the DS13 which was to be put into our transmitter building. It finally went into the new Himatangi building and they operated from Wellington. We had a very good liaison with the Post Office. The Post Office were basically responsible for all the commercial telegrams and work that was going through on the Merchant circuit. That all went down to the GPO in Wellington or ZLW. Wellington Radio dealt with that, and we had a separate landline to them. It didn’t go through Navy Office the traffic went direct.

I can’t remember whether I asked you this yesterday, but did you have WRENS there at all?

No there were no WRENS in my time. The WRENS had stopped at the end of the War and it was all male.

Talking of Captain Hardy. I don’t know whether you were in New Zealand in his time. He wasn’t a martinet, but he was a very efficient Officer and a meticulous person. He was a Navigator by specialisation. I would ring up his Secretary and make an appointment to see him, and be told that he would see me at 3 o’clock or 10 past nine and so forth. That meant that you knocked on the door at exactly ten past nine or whatever the time was. You walked in and he would say, “Good morning Thorne”. I would say, “Good morning Sir”. He would say, “Please sit down”. Alongside his desk was a green leather armchair, similar to this one I am sitting in. You would see his diary, and in his diary would be in immaculate printing, “Thorne” and alongside it would be a list of three or four subjects. Specific things that I would want to talk about. When you sat down he would put a square around this with his pen, a green pen. As you spoke and he spoke he would start crossing out, neat little crosses against each of these subjects. You knew full well when the last cross was on the last item it was your point saying, “Thank you Sir”, and you stood up and walked out. I liked him, I think you could talk to Max McDowell because he was the Operations Officer to him. I think he drove his staff there pretty hard. I was fortunate I was away. I was an independent command, I used to appear from time to time.

He was a Captain?

He was the NOCA the Naval Officer in Charge Auckland a RN Officer.

Was he the Captain of PHILOMEL as well?

I think Peter Phipps was Captain of PHILOMEL at the time.

Around this time I joined the Navy, believe it or not. I think he might have been the President of my selection board.

He could have been.

He did our inspection and we were dining him in our little Mess. He told the lovely story of when Roy McKenzie, Padre McKenzie joined the Navy. It must have been a Friday or towards the end of the week. McKenzie was ushered in and he went over and he sat down in the chair. Morris Hardy said, “Padre”, and this was Morris Hardy telling us the story. I said to this Chaplain, “I would like to point out to you, I know you are a man of the cloth, but you have now joined the Navy. In the Navy you do not sit in the presence of a Senior Officer until you are invited to do so, would you please stand up”. Roy McKenzie stood up. He said, “Now Padre would you kindly sit down and we will discuss what is going on”. They had their discussion and Roy went off. In those days Church was a pretty formal affair and the Naval Officer in Charge was the last to come in and sat in the front. Swords were put to one side. The moment the Captain and Mrs Hardy and their daughter sat down, the Padre got on with the service. Roy McKenzie had been invited to give his first sermon. So came the time for the sermon, the hymn ceased and everyone sat down and settled in their seats. Roy McKenzie was up in the pulpit, he waited for dead silence and he said, “I take as my text today I sat on the right hand of God”. Morris Hardy thought this was great, he congratulated him afterwards. He told this story against himself, and this was typical of Morris Hardy. I think he did the New Zealand Navy a lot of good, because he became very fond of New Zealand. He is deeply grateful for the medical profession in Auckland and the Naval Hospital because his daughter got Polio towards the end of their time, and I think they saved her life, and saved it to the degree that she was able to walk again afterwards.

In February `55 I was informed that Viv Kempthorne who was Captain of PUKAKI, which was being refitted in Auckland, was to come and take over from me and I was to take over command of PUKAKI. I think it was about March, I have forgotten the exact dates, we as a family moved back to Auckland. We lived in one of those naval houses alongside, or in those days was alongside the entrance by PHILOMEL Wardroom. I think it is part of COMAUCK’s office complex now. It was kept as a transit house in those days. We just lived in it for a short time. We looked around and we purchased a house in Alison Avenue, just below the Mon Desir. I took over command of PUKAKI. There was myself, Joe Quinn was the First Lieutenant, Doug Domett, John Burgess, Dick Lea was the Engineer. We were a pretty young team.

(end of Tape 7)

(beginning of Tape 8)

I will just go back for a moment to IRIRANGI before we get on to PUKAKI.

There was one incident I think is of interest. Christmas Eve in `53 was the Tangiwai Disaster. By fate on Christmas Eve in `54 the BP tanker came in to supply the diesel for the boilers. The tanker driver discharged his oil and he turned that sharp turn on the road from IRIRANGI onto the main highway to go off towards Waiouru when something went wrong. The whole truck was tipped into the creek onto its side, nearly upside down and he regrettably was thrown to one side and was killed in the tanker. I don’t know why we were fated but at IRIRANGI on Christmas Eve we always had an unfortunate accident on our hands.

I will get on to PUKAKI. I was told that I had to do a full medical as I was going in command. Eric McPhail, Captain McPhail who was Chief Medical Officer at the Hospital happened to be down staying with us at Waiouru. He said, “I will do your medical while we are here”. I went through this medical and he decided that my sinuses were such that I had better have them properly looked at by an expert. I went off and had a specialist look at them. It was decided that during my career of playing football, I had broken my nose and I would have to go into hospital and have these nasal passages cleared up. Eric McPhail said, “Unless you get it done I will make you unfit for sea”. I said, “Alright”. I went off to Palmerston North Hospital to have this operation. I wouldn’t wish it upon anybody, because they did it under a local anaesthetic and it was a painful process. In the middle of this lying in bed with a bandage all over my face the phone, a nurse came in and said, “You are wanted on the phone”. I said, “What is the problem?” she said, “It is the First Lieutenant”. It was Barkley Goddard ringing me up to say that one of the sailors had shot himself in the establishment”, which wasn’t a very pleasant thing when you are lying there. I was passed fit and I joined PUKAKI and was very proud this was my first real command. We were destined to do our post refit trials in Auckland and go across and do some training with the Australians. Then off I went for nine months to a year with the Far Eastern Fleet. In those days the ships went away for quite a long period.

We sailed for Australia. David Beattie, who became Governor General is an old personal friend who I have already recorded was on board DOMINION MONARCH. He and his wife and Fay and myself were very old friends. He was representing a gentleman, a Wool Buyer in New Zealand called Mr Prebo and there was a major case going on in New Zealand in the High Courts on the question of wool buyers, I can’t remember the details. This chap Prebo was living at that time in Sydney and David was going across there, so I said, “Why don’t you come as my guest”. David came across as my guest on board. We arrived and we did the usual things in Sydney. We did our 4 inch gun bombardments down in Jervis Bay. I realised that we were a pretty simple ship. We were a good ASW ship, we had Squid up forward. Our flat out speed was 15 knots if you were lucky, we normally cruised at twelve. The great thing was we had oil to burn. If I remember rightly we had a range of something like 10 thousand miles. I have forgotten the details, but it was extremely good range. I remember the whole of the time I was in the ship the number of queries I would get from a Senior Officer when we were with the Fleet. We sent a daily signal detailing fuel remaining. We had started off with 96 percent and after two days we were down to 92. There was always their question mark, “Don’t you mean 72”.

BELLONA came over to Australia with Captain Whitfield in command. We joined up with him. There was ANZAC, WARAMUNGA, QUICK MATCH, TOBRUK, BELLONA, ARUNTA and ourselves. We went as a group, left Sydney, stopped off at Brisbane and up through the Barrier Reef. Being the junior boy I was always tail end charlie. I remember we were in line ahead going through the northern part of the Barrier Reef, which is a fairly narrow channel. Peter Tulloch I think was the Navigator at the time in BELLONA. We could see that the line getting more and more into quarter line as all the ships behind the boss in front didn’t like the course he was steering. We were all going across where we reckoned the channel was. Signals were going up saying, “Get into line”, we were saying, “We don’t like the course”. On our way through the Indonesian Archipelago the MELBOURNE and one of the cruisers and three Destroyers were coming back from the Far East. We were taking over from them. We had a great night encounter. They were to find us and it was a good exercise. We went on and arrived in Singapore. We had just berthed up in the Naval Base, when a signal arrived on board to say, “Commanding Officers to report on board BELLONA at 0900 medals and swords”. I went and saw Buster Crabbe who was Captain of ANZAC. He said, “What the hells going on Ted?” and I said, “I don’t know”. We tried to find out what all this was about. We went on board, and being the junior boy I was first. John Ross was the Commander and Dennis Gresson was the Signal Officer, they were all dressed up in white suits and medals and we got the full treatment as we went on board. John Ross said, “Captain of the PUKAKI would you stand over there please”. They all came on board. Then John Ross said, “Would you come down the Captain wishes to see you in his cabin”. We all marched down there and fell in, in his cabin. He stood up in front of them and said, “Well gentlemen there comes a time when things have to be said”. With which there was a pause and Dennis Gresson came in with a velvet cushion with a whole lot of medals. He said, “Today I am to present to you after that excellent exercise the Medal of Bogfoj”. We looked at each other. Finally Captain Morrison who was the Senior Australian, said, “Well what does Bogfoj stand for Sir, because you are pinning this medal on all of us”. He said, “The day before yesterday was the Battle of the Glorious First of June, and we fought it again in the Indonesian Archipelago and I am now decorating you for this mighty battle.” We were then presented with a medal for the Battle of Bogfoj. BELLONA stayed for a while but I joined the Fourth Frigate Squadron, which were then CARDIGAN BAY, ST BRIDES BAY, ST AUSTELLS BAYS and ourselves. The Captain F4 was Captain Blundell who had been the second in command of the Second Minesweeping Squadron, so we had a relationship. The Captain of ST BRIDES BAY was my old friend Sommerville who had been at Signal School with me. I personally felt the ships really settled down into a good team. Doug Domett was the Navigator, Joe Quinn was full of fun, a very athletic person as everyone who knew him. He was a PTI by profession who kept himself very fit. Had a favourite Wardroom stunt of balancing on a board with a round piece of wood. You put a board across about a foot to eighteen inches long and you balanced on this thing. If the ship was at sea the thing would go for six. Joe of course was an absolute expert on this thing. That was one of the party games.

This was 1955 and the Korean War was still on but virtually over. The ship’s which had been up there were coming back. The main pressures of the area were the beginnings of the problems in Indonesia. The Dutch were still there, and there was a lot of activity with Dutch ships coming in and out. The Formosa Strait area with the Chinese on the mainland and the Taiwanese, the National Chinese was a problem area. There were a lot of problems with ships being fired at going into Swatow (Shantau).

Did you do any escorting through the Formosa Strait?

We all took turns at doing the Formosa Strait patrol. You patrolled off and you would sit off Swatow outside the twelve mile limits providing a presence while these ships went in. We were told if they were attacked we would go and try and protect them. Some of these China coasters flew the red ensign. They were a tough bunch of skippers. We would tell them they weren’t to go in at night. They would go roaring in, and we had a lot of problems looking after them.

Any specific incidents?

I had one incident where a coaster was chased by a Patrol Craft, a Chinese Patrol Craft. Fortunately the ship was fairly fast and we went in and got in between them. There was no firing. There was constant firing going across the Formosa Straits at the Island of Quemoy. There were two Islands off the mainland which the National Chinese held. Sometimes there would be a lot of firing there and you were never quite sure what it was.

Did you actually go up to Korea and operate off Korea?

Yes I was going to come to that. We went as a Squadron from Hong Kong and did a Formosa Strait patrol and then we went onto Japan to Kure. It was Christmas time, or it was wintertime because we went through the Shimonoseki Straits in a snowstorm. In the snowstorm we passed the other three ships and I remember Junks going backwards and forwards. We went through about five times through the Shimonoseki Strait. It was about the fourth occasion before we went in daylight, and I saw what the place was like. It was a very interesting passage. We then went off and we finished up in Kure. The main base for the Commonwealth ships. In those days in the Kure Dockyard, you could get the whole of the quarterdeck re-teaked for a dozen four inch canisters. K Force, the New Zealand Army was there. It became a bit of New Zealand territory and there was a funny little floating pontoon jetty arrangement you used to berth alongside.

The Commonwealth Naval Base was still there from the Korean War days?

We went over and did two patrols off Korea, one down off Pusan and one around on the other side. I remember we really learnt what it had been like in the winter up there. The Loch Class Frigates were lovely little ships. In the wintertime and even at slow speed the spray coming over the foscle was icicles by the time it hit the bridge. You were standing up there in a sou`wester and oil skins and a towel around your neck. You would have to duck as you could get stung badly with the ice. Ice all over the 4 inch gun and over the Squid up forwards. You were watching that you weren’t getting top heavy. The ship would be sweating down below, cold as charity. We had heaters in the ship, but trying to keep any warmth in the ship was difficult.

The Lochs never had any thing much in the way of insulation did they?

None at all.

I gather that they sweated very heavily.

Very heavily. You had a Mess deck up forward and you were trying to keep the ship as steady as possible, to give them a bit of rest up there. There was no centralised heating or any thing like that, just local heating on the Mess decks. It was pretty miserable. It must have been really miserable in the wintertime in the height of the Korean War. We went up the Han River and saw what it had been like and all the enormous great tides that run through that part.

That’s where the Frigates had operated in the early fifties?

Yes that’s where ROTOITI had some people killed in a landing party, Brian Turner I think was Captain. The War was virtually over. There was the odd shot but they were into negotiations. They were glaring each other across the 38th Parallel, but there was no major fighting.

Were there any naval incidents going on?

Not that I recall. I can recall a number of air attacks going in, just to prove a point. I don’t recall any naval incidents that we got involved in.

We were told that we were going to do a goodwill visit to Kobe. The four ships split up, one went up to Tokyo. We actually went up to Tokyo with the Fleet, but we turned around and went finally to Kobe. We were told that we would spend Christmas/New Year there, which was fine. We had Christmas dinner on board. There was a British Consul General in Kobe in those days. There was the Lloyds surveyor and these were two fairly prominent people in Kobe. There was a fairly strong British Club in Kobe. I was invited by the Consul General to go with he and his wife and the Surveyor of Lloyds and his wife to the New Year’s Eve Ball that was being held at the Club. I said, “Thank you very much”. He said, “Come up about 6 o’clock”. When I got there they said, “We are all going as the 4th Form of St Trinians, it’s a Fancy Dress Ball why don’t you come as the Mistress”. I said, “Fine”. I was dressed up in Mrs Consul Generals’ gear and I think she was a bit disappointed that it fitted me. I was dressed up as the Mistress of the 4th Form and off we went to this Ball. We got there in the late evening, and it was a very good party. I can’t remember if it just before midnight or just afterwards, somebody came up to me and said, “You are wanted on the telephone, your First Lieutenant’s on the phone”. I said, “I’ve told him I am away and I won’t be back until tomorrow unless it’s a major problem, tell him to get on with it.” So they came back and said, “He insists upon speaking to you”. I went and I said to Joe Quinn, I said, “Come on Joe I’ve told you, you’ve got the ship”. He said, “Oh I just thought you might like to know there is a signal and you’ve been promoted to Commander”. This amazed me because it was my first shot in the zone and I was quite dumbfounded. Well of course with that information it was a rip roaring New Year’s Eve. I finally arrived in the ship the next day at about 11 o’clock. I don’t know how they arranged it but Joe had not got the Chiefs and P.O.’s and a number of the ship’s company lined up when I went on board. There were congratulations and of course it was a pretty tough afternoon. I went down to the Chief’s and P.O.’s Mess and given a tot. Joe had discovered that we had 11 bottles of Champagne on board and decided that this new Commander could pay for that lot. We finally if I remember rightly had lunch at about 5 o’clock. By this time I said to Joe, “Look its time I got some head clearing exercise, lets go for a walk”. We went up to the Ginza in Kobe and were walking through there and I thought well I suppose I must at least buy my wife a promotion present. We bought her a promotion present and had it all wrapped, and they said they would send it off. I had to write to her the next day and ask her what I had bought her, which turned out fortunately to be a pig skin handbag. Just prior to this while we were in Kure, the ship’s company used to go ashore and a number of them used to stay the night in the barracks with the New Zealand J Force Team. There was a young Ordinary Seaman Tamahana who during the evening, apparently had fallen down marble steps going into this Barracks or to the canteen. He had fallen and cracked his head and knocked himself out. His chums in the Army instead of taking him off to the doctor tucked him into bed for the night and unfortunately he was dead next morning. We had a death on our hands. I signalled New Zealand and asked what to do and New Zealand came back and said, “The relatives wish the body to return to New Zealand”. We arranged with the Americans at Yokohama for the body to be embalmed. He left us weighing about 115lbs. Three days later we got a message to say he was on the train coming down and Joe the First Lieutenant went ashore with a party of six to bring him back to the ship for honours. He rang up and said send me another dozen hands, he weighs 750lbs. He was in a lead lined casket, coffin, a big crate, the whole thing, it was superbly done, but it was extremely heavy. We finally brought him and got him on board and put him down aft. The arrangement was we were to take him to Hong Kong, then the British Air Force would fly him to Singapore. The New Zealand Air Force Hastings would fly him back to New Zealand. We went back to Hong Kong. We were coming in past Junk Bay and we were met further out than normal by the Officer of the Guard coming on board. I slowed down and he came on board. I said, “What’s the problem?” he said, “The Commodore said you can’t come into Hong Kong unless you are properly dressed”. They had sent out a brass hat and a pair of Commander’s shoulder boards.

You didn’t have your rank?

I didn’t have any rank up I was still improperly dressed. He very kindly sent out the regalia so I could call on him properly dressed. We landed Ordinary Seaman Tamahana. Tamahana was flown down to Singapore. The New Zealand Air Force plane that was carrying him back to New Zealand was taking off in Darwin flew into a flight of black geese and crashed. There was nobody killed or hurt, but the aircraft crashed. It must have been some two months plus, we got a signal, “Where was young Tamahana”. We said as far as we were concerned he was back in New Zealand. It turned out that he was still in Darwin. We finally tracked him down and he was taken back to New Zealand. I am told that when he arrived at Whenuapai the local Customs wouldn’t clear this great big crate. I don’t know who the young officer was, but apparently a young Pusser had been sent out with a guard to take him into PHILOMEL. Finally he got hold of a screwdriver and said to the Customs Officer, “Well you can unscrew it just to prove it, but I am not going to”, and they finally let him through. Many years later when I was the Admiral we bought this cottage at Lake Rotoiti at Taumarai. I think it was probably after I retired. Across the bay from us is a small Maori cemetery. I was talking to the local Maoris and one of them discovered that I had been in the Navy. He said, “Oh my young cousin who is buried up there he was in the Navy”, I said, “What was his name?” “Tamahana”, and this was young Tamahana, I look right across to his grave. He had come all the way back and been buried near Lake Rotoiti.

PUKAKI carried on a normal patrol. We did our inspections we got a good report from FO2, and finally came early 1956 when we were due to return to New Zealand. The ship’s company had bought all their presents for families and so forth. We were actually on our way from Singapore to Darwin when we got a signal to say that we were to go through to Noumea, refuel in Noumea, then across to Suva. We were to put ourselves at the disposal of the Governor General, Sir Ronald Garvey and Lady Garvey and we were to take them on a flag showing visit to the Lei Group. Well this was a bit disappointing. We had been away for a year. The ship’s company rallied around and we said right we will go and do this, and off we went. We had a very happy couple of days in Noumea itself. I remember the French were very hospitable. I don’t know whether you have been through New Caledonia. You come in from the west to Noumea. On the eastwards side there is a long channel and you go over the reef out. A fascinating thing because as you come up through this channel there is a big swell breaking, actual breakers, and one wonders what the hell is going on. This reef drops down I think about a thousand feet. Its shallow enough to break, yet there was thirty or forty feet of water when we ploughed through it. We arrived in Suva and berthed. Sir Ronald Garvey came on board. He said, “Look while you here could you do a bit for the Fijian Navy, they don’t see a lot of ships, can you take them out and show them how a modern ship works, fire your guns and all these sort of things”. I Sent for the team and said, “We are going to go and do two days around at Nandi with the Fijian RNVR or the Fijian Navy. We are going to do demonstrations.” The Gunnery Officer said, “Where are we going to put all the stuff that is down on the magazine on top of the ammunition”. The TAS Officer said, “When you fire the Squid there will be camphor wood chests and bicycles coming out”. We had a mad scramble of getting some bullets and things out to do this. We had a very pleasant trip around the Lei Group.

Garvey was the Governor General of Fiji?

Fiji yes.

In PUKAKI the CO’s cabin was just a single cabin with a small bathroom off it, and up one deck was your sea cabin behind the bridge. I evacuated my cabin, Joe had to give his cabin up and the Governor General and Lady Garvey had my cabin, which went out onto the deck on the port side. It was very pleasant weather because we would sit out there and have breakfast on the deck. After she had been on board, the second day I said to her are you quite comfortable, she said, “I am very comfortable, but she said I have a major problem”. I said, “What’s that?” She said, “I can’t turn off that red light”. I realised I had bought one of these filigree work lamps in Hong Kong which had the white under the shade and a red lamp inside, and she couldn’t find the button. She said, “I find I am a bit nervous with all these good looking sailors around and here am I in the middle of the red light district”. We finally put them back in Suva and we arrived back in New Zealand after 14 months away. We had a very happy reunion with our families and that was the end of my time in PUKAKI. I had come back a Commander and was very happy. I was told that I was then to go to England and do the RN Staff Course at GREENWICH.

We had this house in Alison Avenue, Takapuna. I was told that I was going off to do the Staff Course at GREENWICH, then I would do some exchange service with the RN. I naturally assumed at this stage that my wife and family would come with me. That was not the view of Navy Office, and a battle went on, until finally they gave in and advised that because I was going on to exchange service that my wife and family could come with me to UK. One of the arguments put forward was I should go and do the Staff Course unaccompanied which would be about six months by the time it was over and done with. The Admiralty was talking about me going on the Far East Fleet Staff. My wife could stay in New Zealand and join me in Singapore. This wasn’t my view on the subject. We finally won the battle and we flew by RNZAF aircraft, an old Hastings from Whenuapai, up to Singapore. Then we flew in a British Britannia to England to go to GREENWICH. Those Hastings were uncomfortable aircraft. We flew through Cocos Island, because we were not allowed to fly over Indonesia. We flew to Cocos Island which was an education, then we went around the top of Sumatra and came down the Malacca Straits to Singapore. Who ever designed the seats in those aircraft must have been deformed I think, they were uncomfortable. Any way we got to Singapore and went on to England.

The Course was due to start about a week or ten days after we got there. We had a very short period of time to get settled. I had asked New Zealand House in London whether they could find accommodation for my wife and family. At that time still the aftermath of the War there wasn’t a lot of accommodation available in London. Finally we found a house in Sidcombe south of GREENWICH which was one of these semidetached houses in a street of about fifty or sixty. Our eldest son Anthony who went to a little school down the end of the road was heard quite often walking along swinging his football boots or his bag and just calling out “Mum” and hoping a door would open. He couldn’t recognise which house was which.

The routine at the Staff College was such that we did lectures and work from Monday to Friday. Normally Tuesday night and Wednesday night and possibly Thursday were live in nights. We all had a cabin there we lived in most of the week. At this time we bought our first motor car which was a little Ford Anglia, brand new, which we picked up in London. I remember driving out of the Ford depot in London which was in behind Regent Street into Oxford Street. Because I remember the first time driving this thing we got into Oxford Street with a double decker bus in front of us, one on right and one on the left and there was one behind us and I have never felt so small in all my life. Here was our first car, we had made it we owned a car. I think I paid 200 and something pounds for this little thing.

I know exactly where you picked it up because I bought an Anglia in I guess it would have been about `59. It was almost behind the Windmill Theatre if I recollect.

That’s right with narrow little ways going out of it.

W had a car, we were happy down in Sidcombe though it wasn’t a terribly comfortable place. Of course the allowance is such for the New Zealand Naval Officers that your housing was not so terribly grand. I had the usual battle as to what allowances I was going to get whilst I was doing the Staff Course. Fortunately Paddy Bourke was then Captain of GREENWICH College and Hazlett was the Director of the Staff College.

Was that Baldy Hazlett?

No, no the other Hazlett, John Hazlett I think but not Baldy. Tony Davis, Captain RN was the Deputy Director. I have forgotten whether we were the first or the second, but they had just changed the Staff Course into an International Course. We had Argentineans, Chileans, New Zealanders, Australians, Belgians and Colombians. There were about sixty of us. I was a little upset about this. To begin with we were shoved off with the non-Commonwealth. We complained bitterly to the Captain, the Australians and ourselves. We said, “We have come over here to learn something” and finally we were treated as RN. Every now and again the Course would split into two and the RN would go off and do Nuclear Studies or UK Secret. We weren’t allowed to do the nuclear except we were always briefed when they came back. A lot of the secret stuff and so forth we would join up with them. It became a bit of a nuisance. I enjoyed the Course it was interesting. They paid a lot of attention to civilian aspects, trade, historical background and so forth. I remember we went off and visited BP and they told us all about oil and all these aspects. It was a pleasant Course. Fay’s Aunt where we had been married was handy. I had an Aunt living in London. We had many friends we had made in Malta and people I had been on the Long Course with, so it was a pleasant six months.

I guess it was like the JSSC.

Yes it was a single service Course as opposed to the Joint Course. The JSSC, I think it was the Joint Staff Course in those days was held separately.

What was the Course content? Presumably you did briefings and prepared papers and position papers and plans and that sort of thing?

That’s right it was fifty percent operational orders. We did a series of operational planning. We would be given a scenario on Monday and had to produce either an operational plan or an appreciation of a situation. One week it would be operational and the next week it would probably be Strategical or a shore staff planning document.

Purely Navy?

No because we had Army. There were Marines, there were a couple of Army Officers. It was primarily Naval, except we did two or three joint staff studies when they came down from Cranwell or the Army. We went to the Air Force and to the Army at Sandhurst and did a week with each and did joint studies. It was very much writing appreciations and operational orders and so forth.

What was the main thrust of these? Was it NATO versus Russia?

Yes it was NATO orientated. I think they went over to orange Forces because we were being polite to the Russians at that time. There were scenarios world wide. I know there was one scenario we did in the Pacific. There were two or three Americans on the Course, so it wasn’t just orientated east/west and Europe, though that was a strong theme. A number of the lectures were based upon that. There wasn’t a major effort to educate the Course from an educational point of view. It was staff work, studies, appreciation’s, how a staff should operate, how they operated at the various levels from Admiralty down. You were expected to read yourself in for the appreciation of the situation where you were. I remember Hazlett the Director. His opening remarks to us as I have always remembered were, “While you are here gentlemen you will be invited to write appreciation’s”, and he said, “I will give you the standard phrase, you appreciate the situation, you don’t situate the appreciation”. He said, “The other thing I will tell you that every plan you write I can assure you will never happen the way you will write it. The one thing you will have done is you will have thought about the problem”. That was the emphasis really. It was a pleasant time. We finally finished the Course and I was informed that I was to go out to Singapore and I was to be Fleet Communications Officer for C in C Far East.

Who was that at the time?

That was Admiral Scott Moncrieff. He had been AD 1 Korea. He was then a full Admiral Scott Moncrieff.

Were you there when Admiral Gladstone was C in C?

Yes Scott Moncrieff was only there for about four of five months during my time on the staff. I took over from a Commander Dalrymple Hamilton. We arrived out there in April/May. I went down to the Signals School and did a brush up on a few things. Then I spent three weeks in London with the DSD, the Director of the Signal Division and GCHQ. I went around doing a series of briefings of various things before we set off. We finally set off from London, again in a Hastings aircraft flown by Britannia and went out to Singapore. We had two overnight stops, one in Brindisi and then one in Karachi. At Brindisi we got in the aircraft next morning and took off. We were hardly off the ground when the whole cabin started to fill up with blue smoke. People were rushing around pulling out floor boards and so forth until the Skipper decided to go smartly back to Brindisi and we landed there, expecting the thing to blow up any moment. I finally found out afterwards it was some electrical fault and the wiring was smouldering, but it wasn’t very pleasant, especially with the family present. I think we had an extra thirty six hours in Brindisi which from a personal point of view gave the opportunity to show the family, Fay and my sons Italy where I had served in LAMERTON.

We arrived in Singapore, again a battle over pay because the RN system of allowances was different from ours. I was the first to my knowledge that had gone on a staff position as opposed to straight exchange service. I have discovered the Admiralty complained bitterly. This exchange was worked out in 1955 before I was promoted and they had agreed there would be an exchange of Communications Officers. I would go and do a staff job and my alternate number would come and be DSD in Wellington. The Admiralty and especially the Signal School complained it was a bit rough to promote me. Lieutenant Commander Everly came out here on exchange.

Housing in Singapore was a problem, because C in C’s Headquarters was at Phoenix Park up the top end of the Tanglin Road in the Tanglin area in the centre of Phoenix Park. In those days Britain was still running Singapore, it was still a Crown Colony. The High Commissioner for Malaya and Singapore was at Phoenix Park together with the three service staffs. There was no naval housing in Singapore itself. We had to look for housing, and it was fairly difficult, because there wasn’t a lot available. Most of the people had to take on what was known as leave houses. British personnel out in Singapore normally went off every three years for six months leave. We finally went into the house of the Manager of Bir Shipping Line who had a nice house up in Queen Astrid Park. We lived for something like six weeks to two months in a guesthouse.

My job was that of Fleet Communications Officer. I was part of the Joint Signal Board that consisted of my opposite number in the Army and Air Force and the Director of Telecoms in Singapore. We were then working for the High Commissioner as opposed to our individual Service Chiefs, though we went through them. They formed a Chiefs of Staff Committee. We were part of the planning group which was at that stage planning for naval communications, frequency allocations, all that paraphernalia that went on. We looked very closely into the prospect of independence of Malaya and Singapore, which had been promised in 1957. From `56, for over a year there was all the build up of the political process. There was this rebel, supposed Communist, Lee Kuan Yew who was head of the PAP. He was regarded as a Communist and if he got power in Singapore they would probably throw us out and wreck all the communications. We spent a year planning how we were going to protect these communications, if there was a major bloody Coup. I look back to see how Lee Kuan Yew has turned out, and to what has happened to Singapore since. It was a very interesting time.

There was the general staff work and of course maintaining the communications of the Fleet in general, which covered right across the Far East Fleet. Boundaries went right across as far as Hawaii, right north up to Japan and then right up to the Indian Ocean down the middle including Ceylon. Trincomalee WT was in my patch and one of the things we were doing at the time was planning the shift. Independence, I think it had come in Ceylon. We shifted Trincomalee WT down to Mauritius, and that was all part of the planning process. Kranji was our main wireless station in Singapore. There was still fixed services running, and it was a repeat to some degree of IRIRANGI. From a family point of view Anthony our eldest son went to the Army School, in those days there was a very big Army presence in Singapore. The New Zealand Army was in Malaya up in Ipoh. There was Australian Units and the British Army was in large force and of course there was a large air component. The RNZAF had a Squadron of Vampires at Tengah, and there was the Bristol freighters operating out of Changi. There was a large military presence in Singapore and quite a strong New Zealand presence. I was FCO, C in C Far East wearing a British hat, the New Zealand High Commissioner was Foss Shanahan and quite often used to ask Fay and myself or myself to come and be a New Zealand presence at some function and so forth. Harry Purcell a Lieutenant Colonel was the Defence Liaison Officer. Paddy Tucker from the Air Force also used to go and act as support. We carried a New Zealand hat as well as our local hat, which was rather fun. We often got involved in things which you wouldn’t have done normally.

From the Fleet point of view we did a lot of time at sea with the C in C. There was a Flag Officer second in command. He had his Communications Officer and so forth. So a lot of the work was worked through him.

He was Admiral Durlacher?


No the FO2 was Admiral Elgin to begin with then Durlacher, who was a bit of a so in so. I didn’t like Durlacher too much.

Quite a little chap?

A little chap, who was a very bouncy little chap. We had a lot of argument with him and quite often had to get our Chief of Staff who was Captain Hutchinson on the trail. There was always an argument between C in C Staff and FO2 Staff. FO2 believed that they ran the Fleet, they were the sea going element. We could get on with our job ashore, but that’s as far as it went. The Fleet Operations Officer had an awful argument regularly with FO2 staff as to where the ships were going to go and what they were going to do, but it worked pretty well. From the communication point of view they depended upon us to a far greater degree. We ran the training programme especially in Singapore. At Kranji there was a set training period for ships every day. You had to tune in for exercises at 10 o’clock in the morning. My Assistant John Jessop ran that.

I had a wide patch. We looked after Hong Kong. In Hong Kong of course there was the SIGINT side of the show. We had a number of personnel in there. We didn’t control it directly, that was done by GCHQ. There was still Formosa Strait patrols going on. We went up to Japan. There was liaison with the Americans. The American ships were coming in and out. It was a very interesting time.

Did you go to sea with C in C Fleet in his despatch vessel, ALERT?

Yes ALERT. I never did a trip in ALERT as a trip. We used to take her out sometimes just for C in C to lead the Fleet in and out of the harbour. No I went to sea with him on a couple of occasions in MAIDSTONE and we went in one of the Cruisers. I think it was NEWFOUNDLAND we went to sea for a week. C in C didn’t do a lot of sea time operationally he left it to FO2. He did a lot of trips in ALERT, flag showing trips. I had two very interesting trips with him. There was always an annual meeting with CINCPACFLT. There was the New Zealand CNS, the Australian CNS, the New Zealand CAS and the Australian CAS, and we used to meet once a year either in Hawaii, Singapore, Canberra or Wellington. The first year I was there we went to Hawaii.

(end of Tape 8)

(beginning of Tape 9)

Admiral when we left the last tape I think you were about to tell us about a conference in Hawaii.

Yes we were talking about this annual conference that went on between the Americans, New Zealand, Australia and the British Far East Commander in Chiefs. The Fleet Planner and myself, the Communicator went with C in C to Hawaii. We went in a RAF Hastings and the C in C Far East Air Force was there. One of his Staff Officers was an Australian Air Commodore. We went through Clark Field and Guam and then Wake Island, which was an interesting visit. We arrived in Hawaii, and finally sat down at this conference where the CNS from New Zealand was present. One of his Staff Officers was a RN Officer. The Australian CNS had Australians with him. The CAS from Australia had a RAF Staff Officer on exchange service. The poor Americans couldn’t understand this at all. Here was E.C Thorne RNZN saying, “The British Navy won’t accept that”. The RNZN Staff Officer (RN) was saying, “Well the New Zealand Navy won’t accept this” and so forth. The US representative got highly confused on this business on who represented whom.

One of the main points of my being there was that we had a major problem exercising with the Americans in the Far East. They were much ahead of us in communications and fitted out with new VHF and UHF equipment. In those days you had circular screens and you had Station zero in the centre, which was quite often a cruiser. The carriers and escort screen were arranged in a circular manner around that. The cruiser acted as guard ship on a number of air traffic circuits. I did a deal with the Americans to borrow a dozen UHF sets from them, and one of the points for my going across was to do this. We arranged for these to be sent across and they were fitted in ships of the Fleet. Later on the following year, this meeting was held in New Zealand. By this time Admiral Gladstone was C in C. He took over from Admiral Scott Moncrieff soon after we got over there. I had great pleasure coming down to New Zealand visiting home as a RN Staff Officer for the C in C Far East. I sat in at all these meetings having great fun teasing all my chums around the place that they didn’t know what they were talking about.

After the first year at Phoenix Park, one of my other duties on the Staff was Administration Officer of C in C’s office block. I allocated the space and looked after and saw that the cleaning was done and supervising all those aspects. I don’t know why it went to the FCO but that was one of my duties. After we had been there nearly a year, the Admiralty decided they were going to do away with the post of Flag Officer Malaya, this was a shore based post which ran the Dockyard and the Naval Base in Johore. That was to be done away with, and C in C Staff was to move out to the Base, they were cutting down and so forth. I had the task of shifting C in C’s office and allocating space etc, etc. The only air conditioning spaces out there were C in C’s personal office, Chief of Staff’s alongside and one other office space. The Communications Centre was down one deck, one level. Above it was this A/C office space. I was the only officer who had an air conditioned office. We said it was absolutely essential that Communicators had to go into an air conditioned space. I wasn’t terribly popular, but I had an air conditioned office. It was agreed there wasn’t sufficient housing down there for us all to shift down to Phoenix from Singapore itself. It was decided that those who were living in houses in Singapore would remain so, and we would travel out every day. We had a complicated car system where a car would pick up three of us. It became even more complicated in the evening because we couldn’t necessarily all join up at the same time to get back home. We had this constant travelling backwards and forwards. Our children were taken to school, they didn’t go on the local buses. Another car system operated taking the children to school and bringing them home.

By this time as it has been through the whole of my career there was the argument over allowances and pay. It became highly complicated and terribly difficult. My pay was being handled from Navy Office via London (New Zealand House), then to the Admiralty and then out to TERROR. Payment of allowances and all these sort of things became highly complicated. The RNZAF had out at Changi a small administrative unit where they had an Administrative Office who ran the RNZAF Units and personnel in Singapore. Somebody had made a very wise decision that I would be attached to and for administrative purposes dealt with by the RNZAF. The RNZAF in those days, and may be still, were far better than we were in the Navy in administering people and organising themselves proper allowances. They had a series of specific allowances for accommodation, housing and that sort of thing. A Squadron Leader ran this unit who was absolutely superb. He immediately decided that the house we were living in was regarded as a proper Air Force accommodation house. It was put on a proper basis and he paid the rent. We actually lived in three different houses because with these people on leave we would vacate one and went over to another one. It was an excellent arrangement and I gave them full marks. I have ever since admired the Air Force and their ability to administer themselves properly. Money was a bit tight. We lived a good life, we belonged to the Tanglin Club and those sort of things, but money was pretty tight. My wife decided she wanted something different to do. We heard that the Controller of NAAFI in Singapore needed a PA. This was a big organisation, because it handled all the Army Units and the Air Force. The Navy had an off shoot from NAAFI. We heard that the Controller in NAAFI had a PA who was leaving. Fay applied for the job and she thoroughly enjoyed it. Brought in some dough to the place, she really enjoyed it and became I think quite influential in the NAAFI system.

Anthony went to the Army School. Young Peter who was only three went to a little Prep School. We had a very pleasant time in Singapore. I learnt a lot. It was a very good educational process to me to be on a major staff. We made some very great friends who have remained great friends ever since. Tony Davis, who was the Captain of the Fleet, his wife and family became great friends. It was a very good period of training or education to me getting to know the business of a major Fleet, how they worked, and all the problems. You got involved not only on just the communications side, but the planning and the discussions that went on with the Americans. SEATO was just getting off the ground and was really just starting up. The Domino theory was the main threat. The Communist threat coming down from China and you got involved in all the aspects of planning and so forth that went on.

Just after two years our time came to an end and we took passage in the WILLIAMROYCE a Dutch passenger ship. It was extremely difficult arranging a passage down to New Zealand. It was agreed that we would come home by sea. I think somebody worked out it was cheaper that way than it was for us to fly down with the RNZAF and have our baggage sent. I don’t recall any major arguments on this occasion. We came down on the WILLIAMROYCE through Sydney and into Wellington. So we finished a very interesting time. This was 1959.

We went back into our house in Auckland and I was then appointed to take over from Nigel Johnson as Director of Plans in Navy Office. We arrived back and my wife was not well and we wondered what the problem was. She went and saw a doctor in Auckland, Dr Farris and he just grinned and said, “You are having a baby”. This was not announced too early. It was known between my wife and I as our hidden export from Singapore. When someone used to say, “What did you come back with?” we said, “A hidden export”. Until the wives found out what it was they were jealous, but after that they weren’t quite so jealous.

It was decided that I would go down and take over the post as Director of Plans but Fay and the family would stay in the house in Auckland. It was some months before the baby was due and I would commute backwards and forwards when I could. This was in the middle of the year, and finally at the end of the year I went to Auckland and fortunately arrived home just after the baby was born on Christmas Eve. Again another Christmas Eve accident came into my life and young Richard was born. The family stayed in Auckland for a short time. Admiral Villiers was the CNS and Peter Phipps was 2NM and I have forgotten who the 3NM was at the time, Sam Mercer was the DNI. I lived while I was in Wellington at Fort Dorset and what a change from a Naval Mess to an Army Mess, it was a miserable place. You got a cup of tea in the morning, you made your own bed. I had been used to a good Naval Mess like PHILOMEL or somewhere where there was a good service. Fortunately my parents lived in Wellington. I used to spend a lot of time with them. They had a small flat on the Terrace and a house at Paraparaumu, so I couldn’t live with them permanently. I used to go up regularly about every fortnight for the weekend to Auckland. Then later in 1960 I found a house to rent from a Professor Munro, who was overseas on sabbatical, at Golden Gate, in Paramatta. My family came down and we set up shop there. Surprisingly the children didn’t enjoy it, I don’t know why because we lived there for a year. Then we moved into Karori and they were far happier going to the local swimming pool than they had been at Paramatta. The schooling was much better in town than the little Paramatta School. We had come back from Singapore and bought back a second hand Vauxhall. It meant if I took the car to town, my wife didn’t have any wheels. She had to go and take me down to the train or come and collect me. In the planning post you never knew what time you were leaving. She would have to get somebody to look after the young children while she came and collected me, so we moved into town.

The planning post was a very interesting time because it carried with it not only naval plans, but also the other two Services. The Director of Plans for all three Services formed a Joint Planning Committee. Dick Webb was on it at one stage and Wing Commander John McDowell. By this time SEATO was really off the ground. As a Planning Committee we travelled with General Weir who was CGS and Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee to the SEATO meetings every six months. We went to the six monthly meeting that was held in Bangkok. Once a year there was the main meeting when the civilian Ministers of Defence normally would attend and the SEATO Council met. These meetings were held in the capitals of the countries involved. One year we went to Washington and another year we went to Paris and another year we went to London and another time it was in Canberra, and then there was one here in Wellington which was after my time. It was a very interesting period. The Domino theory prevailed with the communist menace coming down. Vietnam hadn’t started, but Vietnam was Plan 9 if my memory is correct. There were the beginnings of a plan being developed for the protection of Vietnam. In the event of communist penetration in other places there were plans being developed. Every time we went up to Bangkok we always did a country study. We did a tour up the Mekong, we did another one up to the River Kwai area, and we always took in discussions with the High Commissioner in Singapore, the C in C’s in Singapore and up in Malaysia or Malaya in those days. A large aspect of our planning was this overall joint planning.

It was just operational planning?

Plan 4 was the main plan to defend Thailand and South East Asia against Chinese attack. SEATO never became like NATO, there were never Forces assigned, there were no Forces assigned to SEATO operationally in these areas. These were contingency plans. Nobody was ever willing to put up Forces to any great degree, it was always we would need this, we would need that. The Americans of course were dominant to the degree that they would have provided the main Forces, but they were never willing to commit forces. The Thai’s who were extremely polite people, were wanting the Americans to do every thing. The Filipinos were just following the line of the Americans quite naturally. Australia did not want to commit its Forces because it had the problem of Indonesia and that area. President Sukarno if my memory is correct was still there, but it was a problem. The Dutch were pushed out, so it was a volatile area.

If I recall correctly we had quite substantial contingency plans to move our Army and what have you in that direction didn’t we?

Oh very much so.

As I recall the Inter Island ferries had strengthened decks for armoured vehicles, we had degaussing coils in the ferries.

The WAHINE and the MAORI, I have forgotten which one it was, was especially strengthened and degaussed.

The first two Cook Strait Ferries were the same.

That is correct. We used to have a whole lot of degaussing stored out at Sylvia Park if my memory is correct. Contingency plans were being drafted for the protection of New Zealand. Moving away from SEATO, the big problem for joint planning in New Zealand was that the Army was still in its divisional concept. It was being pushed away from it. Compulsory Military Training had been whittled down. The Territorials had dropped right away and there was a big debate as to whether the Army would continue its divisional concept or go over to a Battalion concept. From a naval point of view we were still on the six Frigate concept. OTAGO and TARANAKI had been ordered and built and they arrived just when I became Director of Plans. The big battle was on when I first went in for the next two. The plan was we should order two more and they were to be Type 12’s.

Was that part of your brief as well?

Part of my brief, I was Naval Planner and Joint Planner.

You provided the user requirement or whatever it was called in those days for the ships to be purchased?

Very much so. The Engineers on the Staff and 3NM did the engineering side of the show. Robin Ellison was my Deputy and Bob Adams came in later on as Director of Administrative Plans primarily for the role of co-ordinating staff requirements. We didn’t write staff requirements like they would be done now. We tended to take the British Staff requirements. We were still fully orientated to the RN. We had gone through the process of developing the New Zealand Frigate i.e. with OTAGO and TARANAKI with centralised messing, bunk sleeping, the Captain’s cabin arrangements and so forth. We had set our requirements and when I took over from Nigel Johnson the aim was to order two more of the same. The RN had by this time accepted our centralised messing and they had gone over to that concept themselves.

By this time we had become very much involved in the Antarctic. Deep Freeze and McMurdo Sound had been set up, the Americans were in McMurdo. All supply at that stage was by sea. Just before I took over we had purchased the ENDEAVOUR, the old wooden ENDEAVOUR which had been the British Antarctic ship.


JOHN BISCOE, we bought it and took her and christened her the ENDEAVOUR. She was running down backwards and forwards, but she was old and she wasn’t up to scratch. Another part of our planning was to produce an Antarctic ship. The Army was pushing us and I was pushing things, but we needed a support ship function in the Navy. We were trying to convince the Government that we needed, and the Army was supporting us. They were looking at a full troop carrying ship and we were looking for a logistic support ship with a tanker capacity. In 1960 at the SEATO Meeting in Washington I was given the task of staying on for an extra week and went to Long Beach, California and inspected a number of their reserve ships to see whether there was any thing suitable which we could take over. The only way we could get approval to do this was to find an ice strengthened ship replacement for ENDEAVOUR. I found sitting there this ice strengthened small tanker called the NAMAKAGON. We came back and presented a paper and the Government finally agreed. The Americans gave it to us on permanent loan if I remember correctly and she was taken over and re-commissioned as the second ENDEAVOUR. She spent most of her time ploughing backwards and forwards down to the Antarctic. I tried hard the four years I was Director of Plans to get approval to fit her out for replenishment at sea. For some unknown reason we never achieved it. I think it was a great tragedy, I never understood it. I think the Army and the Air Force blocked us. The Air Force was fighting tooth and nail to replace their Canberra’s with Attack aircraft. The F4 and F5 were the two, and they were going flat out to get their Attack aircraft replaced. They had the Hercules on order and the Orions were coming in. We were supporting them with the Orions. The Army had accepted the brigade concept but they wanted a fully operational brigade with tanks etc, etc. An all arms brigade and the battle was on as to where the money was going to come from.

I think one of the problems was that in those days all the ships were using a heavy furnace fuel oil. ENDEAVOUR could only take diesel down to the ice which was incompatible with our ships. There was always the problem you would have to clean tanks and what have if you ever put furnace fuel in. It was an engineering problem.

There was an engineering problem. If we were going to fit a replenishment at sea gear the argument put against us was that we would have to be able to refuel overseas ships etc, etc. We said no all we want is a capability where we could operate around the Islands. In those days we still had the requirement to service the Islands. We said all we want is a capability to pump oil, even if they do it behind an Island. For some unknown reason we never got it. Robin Ellison and I wrote paper after paper on this trying to get this. I think it is one of my great disappointments in the Navy because if we had got a replenishment ship then I think we would have been well on the way. It came up again later on when I was CNS and we had Mururoa, this really proved the point, because we couldn’t provide our own support and I will talk about that later. This constant battle went on. Steve Weir the General and the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff was a delightful person, a magnificent man to travel with and highly regarded in SEATO. Bill Thornton was our resident person up in Bangkok. He was strongly military minded in the khaki sense of the word. We were suffering in the Navy from the past. Admiral Villiers was the last of our British Admirals. He was the last, but we were still RN orientated to the stage where the Government and the other Chiefs of Staff still regarded the Navy as an RN appendage. I used to have monumental battles in the Planning Committee, getting it across we were the New Zealand Navy, we were running a New Zealand outfit. I had major arguments with Dick Webb and I think that is probably where our difference of opinion started which carried on when he was Chief of Defence Staff and I was the Admiral. He was a very good Officer, I admired him, he was an extremely efficient Staff Officer. He was not an operational officer, he was artillery. He commanded a Battery up in Korea, but he was not an operational officer in the sea going or operational sense in my regard. The Air Force Planner John McDowell was a very pleasant person but he was dominated by his CAS, and especially Frank Gill who at that time was the Group Captain at Ohakea if I remember rightly. No Group Captain Morrison was there; he was up at Whenuapai. He for some unknown reason had a view of maritime operations that you flew Sunderlands to begin with and then when they got the Orions the Navy’s job was just to come out and pick up the pieces of the submarines that they had killed. The concept amongst the staffs, the other two staffs in Wellington in those days was not maritime. It was still a continuation of the pre war, World War II concept that we sent a military Force overseas as part of the British contribution. We had joined up with the Australians, and became more American orientated. The American influence especially with the Air Force and partially the Army had become much stronger. The American influence with the Navy hadn’t trickled through. We had had the GAMBIA and ships in the Far Eastern Fleet in WWII. We had not been part of the American Forces to the degree that the Army and the Air Force had been during World War II in the Pacific. The American influence became an Army and an Air Force influence as opposed to a naval influence. We fought tooth and nail to get a true maritime attitude as opposed to the view that the Navy was a bunch of ships and was there to convoy the troops away and so forth. I think we held our own, but it influenced Government thinking. I am trying to remember the politics of the time. I think the Labour Party was in power and then the National Party came back in, or was it the other way around. I remember the Black Budget was in 1961, so they came to power whilst I was there. Dean Eyre was the Minister of Defence for a considerable period of time. Yes they must have come in the middle of that period. As usual Defence money was being kept down. We did a series of studies, there was the annual white paper, Defence Reviews etc, etc. There was also a considerable influence coming from Foreign Affairs and of course Treasury. The battle went on and our main effort was to get the Frigate Squadron, the six Frigates. After I had only been there about a year when Admiral Villiers left and Peter Phipps became CNS and it became quite obvious we would maintain the six Frigate concept, but we weren’t going to purchase pairs like we had OTAGO and TARANAKI. He said, “We are to concentrate on one, get one ship, our aim is one ship. We will talk about two, but we will arrange to get one”. Quietly Robin Ellison and I undertook a separate study for this one ship. In 1962 I did a trip to London with Peter Phipps. While we were there we went and had a look at the new Leander frigate that was being built. He came back determined that we were going to do the jump from the Type 12 to the Leander. That caused another great problem because we had to start swinging the Chiefs of Staff and people’s mind on to a Leander frigate as opposed to Type 12’s. A major factor was the Helicopter. The Air Force was very determined that the New Zealand Navy was not going to have a Fleet Air Arm. Our concept was that we would re-create the Fleet Air Arm to the degree we would operate and have our own maintenance personnel etc. We finally had to back off to ensure we would get this thing through. Originally the Air Force would provide the air power for the Navy even to the degree of the pilot. That was incorporated into the proposals for the Third Frigate.

I think I am right in saying we wrote eleven submissions to Government on the Third Frigate. I have forgotten how many it was but I know it was very many of them. Peter Phipps was going off to a Cabinet Meeting on a Tuesday, a Monday or a Tuesday, but he was going up with the Minister of Defence to Cabinet to present the case for this third Frigate. I was actually here in this house on leave. I had taken a week’s leave, I have forgotten why, I was digging the garden or doing something. I was out in the garden digging away, and about 3 o’clock in the afternoon the phone went and Fay came out and said, “Its the Admiral on the phone you are to report to him forth with”. I said, “Fay tell the Admiral will you that I am on leave. I am out in the garden, and I am not fit to be seen”. She came back and said, “You are to report forth with”. I was a bit angry about being pulled off leave. I put on a pair of grey slacks I remember and a polo necked sweater and I put a blazer on, got in the car, drove down, stormed into the Secretary’s office who said, “The Admiral wants to see you”. A voice said, “Yes, come in”. I marched in ready to tell CNS even as a Commander what I thought of being pulled off leave. He handed me a large Whiskey and he said, “Drink that”. I said, “I don’t want to drink, its only 4 o’clock”. He said, “Drink it, that’s a triple and we’ve got the third Frigate”. I got home at about 3 o’clock the next morning I seem to remember. That was what became the WAIKATO.

She was ordered in 1962?

Yes that’s right because we ordered her from scratch. The OTAGO and TARANAKI were RN ships that we took over.

So their order period was quite short?

That’s right.

WAIKATO took what about four years to build I think?

I brought her back. She commissioned in 1966.

It was about a four year period?

That’s right because for the first time we did the full proceedings of selecting a builder and the whole contracting process. In the case of OTAGO and TARANAKI, as you said earlier, we took over some ships on the stock being built and the contracts had already been let. Where as for this one London called for tenders and we made the selection finally for Harland and Woolf at Belfast. We also went through the process of deciding whether we were going to have MRS3 if I remember rightly. MRS3 had just come in. I have forgotten whether it was actually afloat or whether it had just been put afloat. I know we were one of the originals.

We were the first one?

I think we were the first one.

We always suffered because we always seemed to have the first one from the production line.

That’s right. I remember the debates that went on in Navy Office. We argued backwards and forwards, sometimes I was supporting it and they were saying, “Lets stick to what we know”. Because Flyplane 5 I think was the Type 12 system. But we agreed to MRS3 and we also got updated sonar, which was, I have forgotten.

It was still 177 but it had a suffix M to it.

That’s right we got the latest. In fact we went for the latest on every thing possible. It was a modified turret if I remember rightly I have forgotten the details of it all now. The engine room set up. CANTERBURY was a fully enclosed nuclear engine room. WAIKATO I know was modernized as far as we could from the NBCD side.

The early Leanders were really OTAGO and TARANAKI jumped up a bit, with the same machinery. WAIKATO was a batch 2 Leander with Y136 machinery.

That’s right.

CANTERBURY was a later edition she was wide beam Leander with Y160 machinery.

That’s right.

This took a lot of work because we didn’t have all the technical staff down in Wellington in those days. I suppose looking back on it we might have been a bit arrogant. As Director of Plans I was the central point of a lot of this planning and we had to bring people in from Auckland, the Dockyard. A lot of consultation went on with the Dockyard to get a lot of this technical work done because there were few engineers down there. There were very few staff to do all this work. Still we got the thing ordered and away she went. After two years in the post Peter Phipps said, “Okay you’ve done your share”. I was told I was going to take OTAGO and Peter Tulloch was to be my successor as Director of Plans. He blotted his copybook I have forgotten the details of it along the way. I was sent for by Peter Phipps again and said, “I am sorry but I can’t have Tulloch down here you are to stay on”. I went on and did nearly four years as Director of Plans. It was an interesting time because the one thing it did for me is I got very much involved and known in the Parliamentary circles especially in Foreign Affairs and Government. I worked with a series of people. I got to know a whole series of people down here and worked with them, this stood me in good stead later on when I came back as ACNS, then ultimately as an Admiral. If I can digress slightly, I am hopeful now days that people are spending a lot more time in Wellington getting known. One of the great disadvantages that I always felt the Navy had was that they were not known in Wellington. In commercial circles, they were not known. They didn’t have personal knowledge of people and the politicians and everybody else didn’t know them. Every Army Staff Officer spent at least two periods in Wellington and got to know people. They also had the Territorials and all these sort of people so they were all known. The Air Force had built up of a core of people who were known in the commercial aviation circles. I did the full four years as Director of Plans. As I have said earlier a lot of that time was spent on the SEATO, ANZUS arrangement. We used to have an annual ANZUS meeting. We would have odd Australia/New Zealand exercises but there was never a major exercise. With SEATO we had ships doing exercises with the Thai’s and so forth. Our main exercising work and operational work still went on with the British Far East Fleet. We always had two frigates on station in the Far East, and that’s where they got their training and experience and of course operating with the Australians. That was a very interesting four years as Director of Plans. Looking back Peter Phipps who was a very pleasant person to work for, was one of the laziest paper pushers I have ever met. I can remember on a number of occasions going into his office and saying, “Can I please have such and such a file that has got that proposal on it”. He would say, “I haven’t got it”. I would say, “Yes I brought it into you about a week ago, can I have the key of your safe”, and I would go and I would find it in the bottom of his safe. He had a very good grasp of what went on. He was a good listener when you briefed him. I don’t know whether in your day you remember the Boardroom outside the Board Member’s offices. There was a filing cabinet in there, which was the main bar. My wife got jealous because I wouldn’t get home sometimes till 7 o’clock. Rather like a Golf 19th, we did a lot of chatting away in there and CNS would be quizzing people and getting their views. As I say as a paper pusher he was extremely lazy. He also had an extremely good rapport with Government. He was a personal friend of Dean Eyre. They had operated together during the War and that sort of thing. He still had those contacts of the World War II people and he had a very good relationship with them. He had a very good relationship with the senior Politicians, from Dean Eyre up to the PM. I think a lot of the success we had in resisting the pressures that came from the other Services was mainly due to him quietly chatting away to people and so forth. It was a period when the Navy I think continued to grow and it was just entering the phase where we were starting to become a true New Zealand Navy. The RN content was dropping away. We still had an RN 3NM, but when Peter Phipps became Admiral and Commodore Stanners became the 2NM, at last we had got a Naval Board which had a majority of RNZN people. David Wraight was still the Secretary and a very unpopular person, sometimes maligned in my view. He was thwarted to a degree, but he had had the battle with the RN CNS’s to represent the New Zealand Government. I think it made him unpopular to a greater degree than he possibly was. When Peter Phipps came to the chair it was quite clear who was going to run the Navy. We were starting to get the first momentum of this Defence system. Peter Phipps before he became CDS was Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff, the senior one was the Chairman. Steve Weir had sat in that chair for a long period and this tended to dominate. The Minister of Defence, Dean Eyre, wanted to talk to his three individual Chiefs, but some of the others worked through this Chairman. The beginning of this co-ordinated defence concept was just starting to develop. The British were already doing it with Lord Louie Mountbatten. There was the creation of the Ministry of Defence there. It was being created in Australia and the mood was trickling into New Zealand. When I left in 1963 it was starting to really bubble around, although the Defence Act creating the Ministry of Defence didn’t come until 1964. It was being planned and we were already writing papers and arguing up hill and down dale with the other Services as to who was to do what. In 1963 it was the end of nearly four years and I was appointed to go to OTAGO. Just to round off this period as Director of Plans. When I had been told in 1962 that I was to continue for another two years as I said earlier we were living in a rented house on Karori Road in Karori. My wife and I decided it was time we sold the house in Auckland which was being rented, we decided that it was time if I was going to stay here for another two years there was no point in continuing to rent in Wellington. Additionally now we had three children in the house in Auckland only had two bedrooms and we would have to either sell or buy or add to it or something. So we decided we would sell the house in Auckland and buy a house in Wellington which you and I are sitting in now. So in 1962 we came up and bought this house in Hatton Street. Just as an aside it was interesting because the plan there was unless we were overseas the family always lived in this house in Wellington. Because I found and as it proved later on if I was away without my family I was at sea in command or I was back down in Wellington. So there was no point in shifting my family to Auckland and going through all the trials and tribulations of schooling and all those sort of things. So the family lived here in Wellington unless we were overseas as happened on two or three occasions. I had done my time as Director of Plans, was bursting at the seams with knowledge of SEATO and so forth and really felt after four years that it was worth while to get out and become a Naval Officer again and get some sea air in my lungs.

I went off and did a short trip to England to do pre commissioning training and then came back and flew up and took over from John McKenzie who was commanding OTAGO, I think you were aboard the ship at the time.

I remember it very well.

You had just come from Pearl Harbour, from a work up in Pearl and Bob Laurie was the First Lieutenant.

Boof Stronach was our TAS Officer and Stronach and Alec Montgomery left to go home when we were in Singapore. Then Tony Lewis arrived and then it was you I think.

Doug Domett was the Navigator, the Engineer was Neil Walker.

Fred Ralph was the Gunnery Officer.

Fred Ralph was the Gunnery Officer and you were the WE.

No I was the OE.

OE that is correct. Nobby Clark was the Electrical Officer.

I am just wondering if Neil Walker was there at the time, he probably was yes.

I think Neil had just taken over.

George Shotter would have been the Engineer before him I think.

Yes, he wasn’t with me.

Dudley Harris was the Supply Officer.

That’s right.

I took over in Singapore and I was delighted to at least get on board a ship. The change from a Loch Class Frigate was noticeable right from the start. The CO’s cabins in those ships were extremely comfortable because they had been designed so that we could take Governor Generals and various VIP’s around the Islands and so forth. You had a larger cabin, a comfortable sleeping cabin etc. Also it was a joy to get on board a ship with proper air conditioning. I was very impressed to see it operating. This new concept of centralised messing and the bunk sleeping and to have some really modern equipment compared to what we had had, with the Fireplane 5 and so forth. There were still one or two people in Singapore that were still there when I had been up there four years before. Knowing the Base and knowing the whole concept was also rather fun. I knew exactly where to go and who to talk to and that sort of thing. It was a great joy to be afloat again. I haven’t got any strong memories in actual fact of any major operations or things we did when I first took over.

I can jog your memory here a bit.

I am trying to remember whether this was the time in OTAGO when we went off and did the exercise with a nuclear submarine. No sorry that was later on, that was in WAIKATO.

The first thing we did in Singapore when you took over command was to fire the new Seacat system.

That is correct, that’s right you remind me now, we did the first firings.

The first firings because we had the Seacat fitted in the Dockyard. We had gone up to Pearl Harbour, but they wouldn’t give us approval to fire it in America. I think the targets were not right. We had to wait until Singapore where we could use those Drone targets. It was the first thing we did when we got there. I am starting to tell the story now.

No I am delighted you are.

We discovered they had never designed in the ability to record the firings.

That’s right.

I did some design work in conjunction with the local WATT Team, and a WATT Team was a Weapons and Trials Team. We found these two RN officers who became great friends.

They became great friends and they ran the targets. We used to take them out on the quarterdeck and we would go out off Pulau Tiomin.

We fired our Seacats and they were all very successful.

Very successful. You remind me now, one of the major issues when I was Director of Plans was the Seacat.

(end of Tape 9)

(beginning of Tape 10)

Provision for Seacat had been built into the ship but it wasn’t fitted in the ship when it first came out. As you said earlier we did the first firings. I remember as Director of Plans the battle that went on ordering the Seacat missiles. If I remember rightly they originally were going to cost $22,000. When we came to actually purchase them they had gone up to $55,000 or $60,000. The original compliment was to be I think thirty missiles held at Kauri Point. If I remember rightly we got down to ten. The argument was that every Seacat aimer should at least fire one missile a year. We had two qualified aimers on board. You had to have at least two back ups for each ship, so that gave eight qualified aimers. You had to have people coming up. In other words it was going to work out that the ten missiles would be fired every year by the aimers just to keep their hand in. The Government threw their arms up in horror, this was going to cost something like about a million a year just to keep the missiles going around.

Now you have reminded me I arrived on board the ship having gone through all this to do these trials, very interested to see how the things worked. You said you were going to make a comment.

The Short Bros rep who was on board decided to shout Champagne in your cabin at the end of the day after we fired off however many missiles it was. I always remember that we all mustered in your cabin and had a glass of champagne and the Seacat Rep gave you I think four Seacat ties. You said, “Well I am having one, and Bob Laurie you had better have one”, and Fred Ralph got one and I think you gave one to Able Seaman Bloggins the aimer. I was waiting for mine.

Well I apologise now after many years I humbly apologise.

I used to know the Seacat, the Short Brothers man in Canberra in my last job in the Navy. I remember telling him the story, and one day through the mail came a Seacat tie.

Yes it was interesting. Later on when we went back, came back to New Zealand and went up to Honolulu again for our second commission work up. We arranged to do the Seacat firing on the range in Hawaii and got the Americans organised for it. Yes well thank you for that reminder because I had forgotten that.

I always thought it was a very good missile system. I think it’s had its day now?

Oh it’s had its day now. Its problem as far as the RNZN was concerned was the lack of money to support it to allow people to use it regularly enough for people to get confidence. You remember we had this training device you slapped onto the control mechanism, and an aircraft could follow the dots. We could never prove to the Commander in the Ops room that we had got the target or not. There was no way of looking at it in the Ops room or having some system that said, “Yes that would be a hit or it wouldn’t be a hit”. I don’t believe anybody ever got the full confidence in it because they never really saw it happen enough. I think I am right in saying the RN was pretty interested in these trials. I remember that Team that had the target drones they used to come out with us when we did ordinary shoots.

We got them addicted to Leopard Beer, remember we used to stock Leopard Beer in those days. The two Officers, one chaps name was Peter Williams I can recall and I forget the other guys name. I met up with them years later. They virtually lived in our ship. With the help of these guys and a lot of ingenuity we actually got the weapons system of that ship really going, we really did, they were in great shape.

The gunnery standards were good.

Yes they were superb.

You might be able to jog my memory again because we did two, I did two stints in Singapore with OTAGO. It wasn’t terribly long before we came back to New Zealand if my memory is correct.

We were up there a fair while because we went to Bangkok, Peter Phipps came up. We had the King and Queen on board.

We will go to that part of it. This was a SEATO Meeting and Peter Phipps was then Chairman, Chiefs of Staff I think and was the New Zealand Representative. He sent me a signal to say he was coming up and he was going to try and get the King of Thailand on board which he arranged. You recall we had the King and Queen of Thailand on board and they came for lunch in my cabin. If you remember we then took them through the ship. I found it fascinating because the King over lunch, his whole conversation was centred on the domestic side of the ship. He wanted to know how the sailors lived, how we fed them, what their accommodation was, how we looked after them. The Queen was a true Naval Officer, she wanted to see the guns, she wanted to see the Ops room, she wanted to see the Engine room, she wanted to see how the thing worked. After lunch we took them through the ship and as you remember she was the most gorgeous person. She was a slim and beautiful woman, she really was. He was a good looking man, but I mean she was a beautiful woman and in this Thai silk dress she was magnificent, had a beautiful hairdo. I remember taking her through the ship. She was happy to go up and down ladders. We had been told you never touched the Queen. Sailors would immediately step forward to take her hand and lead her down a ladder and so forth.

I chatted up the Lady in Waiting and she had a gold cigarette box. Two or three of us said, “What’s in the cigarette box?” She wouldn’t show us, any way we talked her into opening it, and inside was a packet of Lucky Strike Cigarettes. You remember we berthed in the Bangkok waterfront and there was a very shabby dockside building. The day before the King came about a hundred guys arrived with paintbrushes and painted it.

That’s right the whole place was done up.

Yes it was a very interesting trip that one.

Then if you remember we sailed the next day or the day after with the Crown Prince on board because he was so impressed with the ship. The Crown Prince came on board and came down the river with us and disembarked into a Thai patrol craft out off the main entrance of the channel. All the way down I think Bob Laurie got stiff arms because we were being bugled by all these rather dilapidated Thai ships. They weren’t a very modern Navy at that stage. They were all lined up and were saluting the Crown Prince as we went by. That was a very interesting visit that one.

I remember joining the ship. One of the first things I always did in any ship that I joined was to see how good the engine room was. I remember we went out down Johor Strait the first time we went to sea. I had arranged with the Operations Officer we would go out and have a day at sea and I would get used to this ship, and do a bit of ship handling, and get my hand in, because I hadn’t handled her before. We got out off Johore, were going out past the Horsborough light, I just rang down full astern, both engines and waited to see what had happened, it worked alright. The Engineer Officer was up in the bridge quicker than that saying, “What the bloody hell is going on in this ship”. I said, “I just wanted to see whether it worked Chief”, he said, “Oh……” blew his top. I said, “Well it is supposed to be able to work”. I must say I was impressed. They were beautiful ships to handle they really were, with those great big eighteen foot propellers and you had 25,000 horses on each end, I have forgotten.

The total horsepower was about forty wasn’t it?

Yes it was 25,000 horses on each end and these great big props you could spin them around, it was like an aircraft when you rang down high speed and she just took off. They were beautiful ships to handle and very manoeuvrable and very good for berthing alongside, except you did get a little windage on that high bow.

One of my problems was remembering my period in OTAGO, whether it was the first time or the second time. Selwyn Toogood came up with his, “In the Bag” Team. He did the Army and the Air Force in their barracks. I had known Selwyn reasonably well and he agreed that he would do one for the Navy. The Captain of TERROR agreed that we would do this for the Fleet in the TERROR canteen I think if I remember rightly. It was a magnificent evening, he did it extremely well. He sent me a copy of his book a few years ago and one of the pictures in the book is Selwyn Toogood and the Captain of TERROR and myself on this occasion with, “In the Bag”. I have forgotten who it was, somebody on board won the washing machine or something, I have forgotten who it was. We also had a very good rugby team and VICTORIOUS the Carrier was there, and as you have reminded me a lot of our operating was done with the Carriers doing plane guard for them. I remember a magnificent game we had against VICTORIOUS over in TERROR. We beat them if I remember rightly about 15 to 6 or something like that. I know we beat them, and of course there was a really wild party in the canteen afterwards. I remember Neil Walker the Chief was the Coach of the Team. We were having a really good celebration in there and a message came down, “There is too much noise in the canteen.” Apparently the Officer of the Day discovered that OTAGO was causing all this trouble. He rang up the ship and wanted to speak to the First Lieutenant and they said, “I am terribly sorry he is up at TERROR”. Finally he said, “You are to send a patrol up to help calm this group down”. He said, “I can’t I am the only Officer on board and there is twenty of us here, if you want a patrol go and ask the Captain down in the canteen”. It was quite a party, but I remember we won the Cock of the Fleet.

Wilmott Castle was our Padre too, because I remember him getting very excited.

That’s right.

We persuaded the Navy Team in Singapore to take on the Army and the Navy beat the Army for the first time in so many years. We weren’t terribly popular with VICTORIOUS when we beat them. The Navy team was practically a VICTORIOUS, OTAGO team. Neil Walker decided who was to play for what when we beat the Army.

There were some very good players in VICTORIOUS because I knew one or two of the Engineers who had been with me at Engineering College. They certainly had been Devon representatives if not Navy or even English Representatives.

They were a good team.

I really enjoyed OTAGO and I found talking to all the OTAGO teams over the years she for some unknown reason was a special ship. I don’t know how you felt.

Oh yes.

OTAGO always seemed to have that little edge. She seemed to work better, she operated better, handled better, I don’t know why. I will talk later the time when we took on the American Navy in Pearl Harbour, but apart from that she came through unscathed. I don’t know, I may be guessing, but she always had a special charm to me.

She was always a happy ship and certainly it was happy with you. It was a very happy commission for us and I think for the sailors too, they all, the ones I meet now at that time always remember it with affection.

Oh she was.

She just had that knack. I was talking to Max McDowell who commissioned her and built her, he said she seemed to start off right from the start. Princess Margaret launched OTAGO didn’t she?

Indeed it was, I was at the launching.

All the way through the whole process it was very good indeed.

Admiral this is the start of another day of interviews and I think we left the interview last night where we were in OTAGO still on the Far East Station.

Yes and I think we generally covered that period of my time in OTAGO and if my memory is correct we got back to New Zealand for Christmas at the end of `63. I remember we were home because I was promoted to Captain on the 31st of December 1963, I know I was home for that, but still remained in command of OTAGO.

There were some changes in the ship, not a great deal, the First Lieutenant stayed on, Doug Domett stayed, I think you left us at that stage.

I have a feeling John Burton took over as WEO?

Burton, yes Burton came as WEO and Neil Walker remained as the Chief. There were some other changes but nothing great.

We had Christmas leave and I think we did a normal refit. Then we started operating around the New Zealand Coast again. I recall in that period, it must have been getting on for the middle of the year because, we were operating with one or two of the submarines from Australia. I remember SM4 Pat Westacott was over and he was a friend of my wife’s and myself. We were actually out in the Hauraki Gulf doing ASW Exercises etc, etc, when we received a signal at about 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning to say that we were to break of exercises and proceed forth with and all despatch for Dunedin. We were to fuel and proceed down to I think it was 55 or 60 south to act as weather ship and Rescue ship for an American aircraft which was going into McMurdo to pick up a Seaman who had fallen some how or broken his back. We dropped off SM4 who was on board and then set off flat out for Dunedin. We must have been pretty well topped up with fuel. I remember doing 30 knots across the Bay of Plenty. We went around the East Cape and went straight into a real good howling sou`easter, and the ship just went up in the air and crashed down. I had to throttle back and we came down in speed. I remember we came to about to about 15 knots to steady the ship up. We were under directions to get to Dunedin as quickly as possible and I started to wind the ship up a knot or two at a time to see how she would take it. We finally got up to, I think I remember rightly between 23 and 24 knots. We were literally going from top to top, we seemed to just pick the right sequence of these heavy seas that were rolling through and every now and again missed one and banged down hard. You remember what the Type 12’s were like, they were very good in heavy weather but they squashed down, but we were literally flying from top to top. Unfortunately it was at night-time because I would have loved to have a photograph, the water was literally going over the top of the mast, and we were cork screwing about. Quite surprisingly she was relatively steady, but as I say every now and again there would be an almighty crash. Well that lasted through out the night until the next morning it subsided and we got to Dunedin where we immediately fuelled and went off down to I think 55 south to act as weather ship. This aircraft I remember went over the top, we talked to them. It was the shortest day, so it was must have June the 21st or 22nd, I remember it was the shortest day of the year. This was the first flight the Americans or anybody had done into McMurdo in wintertime. We waited, they turned around, and flew back. It was an eerie sensation down there because it was practically flat calm, with a whole series of mist patches, every now and again we would see a small patch of floating ice. If I remember rightly I think OTAGO at that time had just been fitted with a weather facsimile. I think it was the first ship to get this Fax system. We got some good weather maps, they used to come in regularly twice a day. I remember that on this Fax was one of the most intense lows building up south of Hobart and moving across the bottom of the Tasman. It was going to be touch and go whether it got to us before we got back. I remember the moment the aircraft went over the top, we turned around and rang down, “Full ahead both”. We roared back to Dunedin and just got around the top of this depression before it hit us. It was a very interesting exercise. We had been issued with cold weather clothing, which was set alongside each entrance of the upper deck, and people were not allowed on the upper deck without changing into this gear. It was my first experience of going down that far south and it was a bitterly dry cold, it really pierced you unless you were properly set up.

You were lucky to get some calm weather because from a previous interview I had some very dramatic stories of the Lochs down there.

Oh it must have been miserable in those ships. I remember when I commanded OTAGO patrolling backwards and forwards and they were down there for about a fortnight if I remember rightly.

Twenty one days.

Twenty one days and it must have been miserable it really must.

Did you have weather balloons to send up?

No I don’t recall, we were just reporting surface weather. The main thing was to be watching that they could get down. I don’t think they were equipped to stay there and it was really to give them a route back. We must have gone back to Auckland pretty quickly because soon after we set off for our second stint up to the Far East. We went up to Honolulu or Pearl Harbour to do our work up. My friend David Beattie, I have forgotten whether he had some legal work in Pearl Harbour, any way he once again joined me as my guest for the trip from Auckland to Pearl Harbour. I remember he came on board and said I have got to keep fit while I am here. We measured out a track around the upper deck. It was measured that if he did so many circuits of the deck per day he could get from Auckland to Hamilton in the time that we took to get to Pearl Harbour. We stopped at Fiji for fuel. I must say that he was an excellent guest, not only personally to me. Being a Lawyer and at that time he was President of the Auckland Law Society. He let it be known through the First Lieutenant that if anybody had any legal problems he would be very happy to sit down and talk to them about it and give them help. He left us and flew back, but over a period of about two to three months afterwards a series of letters came to me or to individuals. I remember my Leading Steward Taylor was having a difficult problem over a divorce. His Solicitor was being very lethargic. About a month after David left the ship he got a letter, obviously David had got back and sorted the thing out for him, so you could say that he paid his way.

This was of course before the ROYALIST court martial where he played a large part defending Roger Simmonds.

It possibly gave him an insight into the Navy, which was good for that case.

We arrived off Pearl Harbour and the Commander of the Fleet Training group came out to meet us in a boat and join us. Well just going up that narrow entrance into Pearl Harbour this Captain USN looked down and here was this civilian going around and around the deck. He turned around and he said, “Whose that, Captain?” Before I could say any thing the Yeoman said, “He’s got two more turns for Hamilton Sir”. Here was David finishing off his trip to Hamilton. We arrived in Pearl Harbour and you’ve been through that work up programmes they have at the Fleet Training Group. A well organised system and Captain Michael was the Captain of the Fleet Training Group who came on board. We did our initial trial run as they wanted to get a measure of us. We came in and if I remember rightly we were given a score of each Department. Our navigation was very good and the engine room good and I think we got one excellent for something or other. The Team went ashore and I felled the ship’s company in. I told them they were the biggest crowd of rubbish I had ever heard off. We had only got a good, we got a very good here and so forth and they had better buck their ideas up as we are going to do better than that. I went up to my cabin and a few minutes or a quarter of an hour later, Bob Laurie the First Lieutenant came up and said, “The Senior Chiefs want to see you Sir”. I said, “Okay bring them in”. They came in and I said, “What can I do for you?” They said “Well we think you are a bit hard on the ship’s company Sir”. They said, “You got two very goods and three very goods”. I said, “Well lets get this quite straight when we are here you speak American. Good in America is what I call fair, very good is good, they have an excellent and then an outstanding”. I said, “As far as this ships is concerned we are going to be outstanding”. They said, “Oh is that all you want to do, okay that’s the way we will go”. From that moment on the ship did very well, except for the famous occasion. I think it was the beginning of the third week if I remember rightly, it may have been the third or the fourth. As you may remember Pearl Harbour on Monday morning is an absolute mad house, because everybody goes to sea doing whatever they are doing. We were on Bravo Pier, we had somebody outboard of us and I think he was leaving at eight or quarter to eight or something. If I remember rightly we were due to sail at 8.30 and there were two Destroyers ahead of us. Commander Hooper who was the Deputy of the Fleet Training Group was on board, and he and I were just sitting in my cabin. I was waiting for the report ready for sea from the Engineer Officer, First Lieutenant and so forth, I suddenly heard the pipe saying, “Damage Control, state one, stand by, collision forward”. I turned around and said, “Bloody ships, are they charging us now or something”. I nipped out of my cabin, up on the upper bridge to find us moving along Bravo Pier at about three or four knots. Doug Domett was frantically ringing telegraphs but the Chief hadn’t done the telegraphs by this time. We hadn’t rung on or any thing. We went in between the two Destroyers ahead of us and were just climbing up over one and bouncing onto the other one, pushing them apart. The breast parted, but fortunately the stern line held long enough just to pull the stern in, so we didn’t drive up the back end of the one we were behind, we went between them. We must have gone up about half the length of these ships before we stopped. A couple of tugs came alongside and we were taken back and put alongside the jetty. We then went through the whole performance of trying to work out why it happened. The Chief came to see me and he explained that in the Engine room when they were warming through the routine was they warmed through on the bypass, steam bypass line, closed the bypass, closed down the throttle and then called for main steam. Apparently as it turned out later, or as the enquiry turned out, this Chief had got into the habit of shutting off the bypass and opening the main steam throttles and not closing the main steam valves quick enough. Any way what had happened was that the main steam had come through, the throttles were open and she had just gone woosh and two big propellers had just gone woosh and we took off. I went ashore to see the American Commodore, CONDESRON 5 who was in charge of the Group Training Group Area. I went and saw him and explained what had happened. He said, “Oh that’s alright” and he pressed a buzzer and got hold of his Secretary or his Writer and he said, “Bring me File 2648”. He came in with a file about six inches thick, and I noticed across the top, “Collisions on Bravo Pier”. He said, “Well this is what we do”. In the meantime I went back to the ship and I telephoned directly to New Zealand to CNS who was Admiral Washbourn and told him what had happened and said I was sending a signal with all the details. I said, “What do you want me to do to get it fixed”. He said, “Find out what all the problems are and send me a signal”. He very kindly and very generously immediately rang Fay my wife here in the house and told her to prepare herself and the kids because he said, “It is going to hit the headlines, in fact they are already ringing up”. The headlines read, “OTAGO savages American Destroyers” or something, I have forgotten what the headline was. If I remember rightly we fortunately were holed above the water line. I think for about 70 to 100 feet, we had been opened like a can opener about oh five or six feet above the water line, this great slit. The question then arose as to what we were going to do about it. I remember a lot of debate went on by signal and telephone with 3NM and myself. I will just digress slightly here because they sent an enquiry team up. There was Brian Turner and John McKenzie and I have forgotten who the EO was. CNS had sent them straight away, and they arrived the next morning as far as we were concerned. They actually arrived half an hour before they left New Zealand because of the time difference. It was very smartly done. An enquiry was immediately set into gear to find out what had happened and how it had happened. As part of this process the debate went on were we going to fully repair the ship in Pearl Harbour and go on. We were on our way to the Far East or were we just going to patch her up and come back to New Zealand and have the whole thing done or what were we to do about it. This debate went on for about 36 hours. In the meantime I was told I was to get hold of the American Dockyard and find out (a) could they do the job because of the equipment which was affected and (b) what was it going to cost. I must say I was highly impressed with the American Dockyard system. I remember it was a civilian chap whose job was ship repair, coming on board, being taken down by Neil Walker, the WEO and so forth. Going through the area which was concerned, which was mainly equipment spaces it was found inside, I know it was radio equipment, I think there was some radar equipment room down there. I have forgotten exactly.

I think you ripped the ship open through the Flyplane 5 compartment.

Yes that’s right.

Because you had to pull the equipment back.

Yes because there was all this equipment on the bulkheads and on the ships’ side that had to be disconnected and put back and set up again. We went through this all. I remember on Thursday or Friday morning he came on board with a schedule of work. I remember rightly it came to $36,000 and had stated exactly what was going to be done. I rang Wellington and said, “I am willing to sign”, they said, “Sign it, get it done”. I was impressed with not only the US side but also the organisation in New Zealand with the Dockyard and CNS and the Team in Wellington. They really worked well with us to get the job done. We must have spent a few thousand dollars on telephone calls. It worked extremely well from my point of view.

We went into dock, and they just came on board like locusts with their gas torches and so forth. I remember Neil Walker tearing his hair, because he had gone down and found they were cutting something with a torch, which they shouldn’t have. This chap with the thing said, “I am not stopping, there is my work sheet, I get paid for that job, and it says cut that out”. There was something behind this bulkhead and it would have blown the whole thing apart and would have ruined a piece of equipment. The overseer was extremely good, he came straight on board and sorted it out. We were in dock I think only three days and they put in new ribs and ship plating. All the gear came back and they re-fastened the gear. A lot was done back alongside once we made the ship watertight. We only lost a week of work up. We were back operating in 10 days because we had to spend two or three days out testing and tuning the whole system up. We might have lost up to a fortnight, but a relatively short period. Then we went back into Fleet Training and finished the work up. They managed to extend us a week and we worked every weekend and they were very good. We used to stay out at the weekends. We had a very good liaison with the Submariners, the American Submariners, because they were doing their training and they wanted some targets. The ship’s company didn’t have any families there, so we would stay out for the weekend. The Fleet Training Group worked over time and we would do a lot of exercises and work at the weekend to catch up. We finished with an `outstanding’ and we came out of it with a very good record. Then we sailed and we went across through Guam, Subic Bay and finally finished up in Singapore for our second stint.

By this time it must have been getting on in the year. Being a four striped Captain there was a difference of opinion as to whether we were going to join up with a Squadron or be independent. We generally favoured independence. I have forgotten who the C in C was at the time. Confrontation was at its height at that stage and one of the operational requirements was over at Tawau on the eastern side of North Borneo. Tawau was a harbour on the northern side of Indonesian/Borneo. The boundary actually went through an Island opposite Tawau. The distance across the harbour there was no greater than across Auckland Harbour. You went around the northern part of the island there was a teak timber mill, timber wharf and so forth and that was in Borneo territory. A matter of half a mile further down this channel you got into Indonesian Territory. There were a whole series of problems. Every now and again the Indonesians would open up and fire shots which would land in Borneo. The Borneo Force was a team of CMS’s and patrol craft. A number of Royal Marine underwater people were stationed there and a Frigate or Destroyer was there and you were in command of the Tawau Defence Force. We spent if I remember rightly, I think it was three weeks or a month. We used to go alongside this wharf by the timber mill, then you would steam down, we would land people to go and infiltrate. Every now and again we would open up with our 4.5 inch and bombard areas where observers had decided there were people congregating etc, etc.

You were actually firing into Borneo?

No we were firing into Indonesia or into a sort of no man’s land in between the two.

Were you getting calls for fire?

We were getting information from observers ashore and we were asked to put some rounds down in a defined area. We were getting information through the Army and the Marine Force ashore. The CMS’s were doing patrols, stopping infiltrators coming in.

Were those Forces British?

They were British Forces and local Force. The Ghurkhas were there.

The Marines were Royal Marines?

Yes Royal Marines yes, the Royal Marine Commando Force, a small detachment. It was mainly preventing infiltration and there was a lot of smuggling going on across there. It was just part of the confrontation process. Towards the end of the time there Rick Humby arrived and he actually took over the ship from me in Tawau. I flew back in one of these small Auster aircraft. Flew across to Jesselton then came across in an RAF Aircraft and caught a plane home to New Zealand. I didn’t finish the period up there. I joined in the Far East I left in the Far East.

Who prepared your operational orders?

I got these from C in C Far East. We came under the direction of the Land Force Commander and there was a local Commander in Sarawak or somewhere in that area. There were a series of other things going on down further south where the Forces were going up the rivers and so forth.

Did you ever get any feed back on the effectiveness of your fire?

Yes I remember we did because I remember one of the Commando Patrols went in and reported back that we had knocked out a camp. I don’t have any memories of great reports coming in. Our main task was patrolling and organising patrols of the CMS’s and the patrol craft to cover all the various things.

Did you have any contact with the Indonesian Naval ships?

No none at all from my memory.

Because later there was a sort of Sampan War wasn’t there?

That we got involved in separately when we used to patrol Singapore Strait. There was always a Frigate or a Destroyer on the Singapore Strait patrol. You went up and down Singapore Strait from Horsborough Light or just to the north off Horsborough Light, through, then around past Raffles and up into the Malacca Strait where the Malacca Strait started to open out. You patrolled backwards and forwards with quite often two ships and some CMS’s and small craft. It was a bit terrifying for the command and for the bridge. The big tankers were starting to appear on the scene and you had this constant stream of large ships steaming down the Malacca Straits. We were darkened and they couldn’t see you. What you were looking for are these Sampans coming across.

It would be a pretty cluttered radar picture too.

Oh it was a cluttered radar picture, you would pick up these small dots, and sometimes you didn’t know what they were, because you could pick up a coconut floating along.

Did you actually have any contact with them?

I remember the most amusing one was we stopped a Sampan with two great outboards. He must have just virtually run into us, because they could have outstripped us if they had seen us. We stopped him and got him alongside. We used to have some fast boats attached to help us. We got this guy alongside and there were about three people on board it. They were covered with rifles and so forth, they had this big tarpaulin, and when we pulled the tarpaulin off it was stuffed full of toilet paper and Tampax. He must have been going across from Singapore into Indonesia.

OTAGO was fitted with 40mm Bofors?

She was fitted with Bofors in my time. They were fitted when we came back from Singapore. They were fitted because I said we have got to have these for confrontation. Our gear was absolutely useless for this local small craft game. We can’t use the Seacat, the 4.5 inch gun is no damn use, it’s all close range stuff. They were fitted in Auckland. They were part of the DEMS stores, and I got them fitted on either side.

In fact they were ex Army guns. The Navy took them over for fitting to merchant ships.

They were the DEMS Stores.

I recall once again we were a good rugby team and we took our part in Singapore rugby scene.

Did you go to Hong Kong during that second trip?

We definitely went to Hong Kong and we also went back to Bangkok. We were leaving Bangkok and you remember that the main berthing part in Bangkok you put starboard side to against the current. Then you came off and you could either go up or go around a bend and there was a turning area around the corner. You could also turn just above the jetty. We got in this stream and we were starting to turn. The Thai Pilot asked, “Is there any traffic coming down”. He called up on his radio to the Port Captain who ever it was who said, “No traffic”. As we started to turn, around the corner came a Thai Merchant ship. We tried to stem the current of the river while this guy went past. We kept on going across the river and we finally bumped into a great trot of large Sampans, they were mainly cargo Sampans. I remember afterwards there was reams of correspondence, and it cost the New Zealand Government $4,000 or more a vast sum, because we damaged these things. So that was the end of my time in OTAGO.

I came back to New Zealand and I was appointed to be ACNS to relieve Terry Herrick in Navy Office. This must have been early 1965, yes early `65.

The family had stayed in Wellington because I had been at sea and there was no point in them shifting to Auckland. I just came home and went and took up my post as ACNS in Wellington. This was an interesting period. It was period when the Defence Act of 1964 had been passed and that had introduced the new Ministry of Defence, and this was just being set up. Sir Jack Hunn, then Jack Hunn had been made Secretary of Defence, Peter Phipps was Chief of Defence Staff and Admiral Richard Washbourn was the CNS and I was ACNS. It was an interesting period because it was the development of the Defence Department. A lot of discussion and debate and work went on as to what degree this Department was going to take over full control of the Forces as opposed to setting up a small Defence Department. A lot of discussion went on. I remember Lord Louis Mountbatten was out at one stage telling them how it had been done in England and so forth. Jack Hunn who was an excellent administrator. I found later on when I took over from him the Fire Service, he was a superb administrator in setting up administrative patterns and all the paper work that went on. The big debate was how was the thing going to run from an operational and ultimately a command structure which would enable you to command the Forces in time of war, etc, etc. Associated with this was the unfortunate thing that Richard Washbourn the CNS was in the beginning of what turned out to be later Alzheimer’s disease. He used to have periods when he was not well. He had a lot of medical advice. Originally it was put down to the wound he received at the Battle of the River Plate when he was hit in the forehead with a piece of shrapnel. He had memory loss, I don’t mean he was gaga, but he found it very difficult to memorise things. Quite often we would go and brief him for a Chiefs of Staff Meeting or a Defence Council Meeting and we would get down to the third or fourth item and he would turn around to me and say, “What’s all this about item one”. We had already spent twenty minutes on it. After a short time he would turn around to me and say, “Well you had better go to Chiefs today and represent me”. I must have attended as Naval Representative at least 30 percent if not up to 50 percent of Chiefs of Staffs Meetings as the naval person, this was very good, interesting and very good training. The other Chiefs who were Ian Morrison and Bill Thornton were polite and nice and I could say my piece. Peter Phipps was helpful as the Chief of Defence Staff, but we were on the back foot because of this. Richard Washbourn appreciated this, but it was just one of those things. Besides the development of the Ministry of Defence we were going through the development of what finished up as the 1966 white paper. There was a considerable debate and argument going on as to the size and shape of the Forces. The Frigate process started off at six, but at that point really we had got down to the four Frigate Navy. The main battle that went on with the other Services and with Defence was the ordering of the fourth Frigate ultimately CANTERBURY. If my memory is correct she was ordered in 1965/66. I have forgotten the exact detail but the approvals were given about that time for the fourth Frigate. The Air Force was just getting to the stage when they were getting their F4’s. The Army had come down to its Brigade Group concept, but was still arguing strongly for tanks and major weapons. The main factor in addition to getting the Frigate was this whole question of helicopters.

(end of Tape 10)

(beginning of Tape 11)

I had just finished the last tape and was talking about the development of the Defence Force, the shapes and sizes. We were also arguing for mine clearance CMS for the Navy. We were using the argument of HICKLETON and SANTON, which were being manned by the RNZN in the Far East. We used that to try and get a CMS Force into the plan. I was saying the big argument was the question of helicopters for WAIKATO for this third Frigate. The battle went on with the Air Force as to whether they were going to be Air Force manned. I think when I left later on as ACNS it had been tacitly understood that the Air Force would provide the maintenance and the all servicing of the Aircraft. They would be attached to the Air Force Helicopter Squadron that was being developed at that stage any way, but they would be manned by naval personnel. When I say manned the pilot would be a Naval Officer and have his career within the Navy. Maritime defence was established as the primary or the leading defence role of New Zealand. We were a maritime country and maritime defence took a higher priority place in the development of shape and size. It didn’t down grade the Army but it did put the position where it was the beginning where the Army was not necessarily going to be dedicated to an overseas country force. They still would go overseas probably but not be dedicated. This carried with it the need, which was agreed to, to develop a logistic support ship of some sort, and we tried to get it written in. It was written in if my memory is correct but it never got off the ground. Again my personal pet theme was to get a simple tanker which I didn’t even achieve in those days. Also at this time was the development of the New Zealand Forces in South East Asia. The British were pulling out of South East Asia, the Australians were pulling back to a considerable degree, and while SEATO was still operable ANZUK which was the Force in South East Asia was being run down considerable. Singapore had split away from Malaysia, they only lasted together under one heading for about two and a half years, they were developing there own Forces. The Malaysian main communist terrorist problems had been virtually over come. In other words there was virtual peace in Malaysia. There was a very great change. ANZUK was virtually defunct, or was becoming defunct. There was the development of New Zealand Forces in South East Asia under one command. They set up this command structure in Singapore. It was based out in the old HMS TERROR Barracks and then ultimately some years later moved down to the base in the old Naval Stores Depot area.

There were other points that came up at that time. There was considerable debate about retiring ages, and that’s when it was agreed that Captains would retire at 53 and Commodores at 55 and Commanders at 50 and so forth. Basically this was forced through for the benefit of the Army who had problems with Brigadiers and Colonels and so forth. It also was the beginning of the development of a well defined maritime headquarters system, maritime control, or the control of maritime forces in New Zealand. Originally up until some time after my time as ACNS this operated from Wellington, the Maritime Headquarters was in Wellington. It was the beginning of the development to get the thing properly organised. In this we had our own separate Deputies Committee, there was the Chiefs of Staff and there was the Deputy Chiefs or the Assistant Chiefs of Staff Committee. Walter McKinnon was the DCGS to begin with, then he became the General and General Hasset became the DCGS. On the air side most the time was Frank Gill who was a very pleasant person to talk to and have a drink with, but I found a most difficult person to get on with and I believe in a sense was dishonest. The number of times we would agree to something in committee and a week later or days later we would find the exact opposite had happened. He was I found a very difficult person and we were constantly battling with the Air Force. We seemed to get on well with the Army.

What was the top management structure in Naval Staff at that time, was there still a Board?

Still a Board yes. Len Stanners was the 2NM and a delightful chap, a RN Engineer was the 3NM and I have forgotten his name. I think he died. The first New Zealand 3NM was Carey, Boyce Carey. If my memory is right he came down in about 1965, I think he took over in about 1965.

So the ACNS was really the DCNS of today?

Oh very much so. He was a sort of combined DCNS and Director of Plans. We didn’t have a DCNS position in the command structure of the Navy in those days. DCNS now deputises for CNS and rates with COMAUCK, etc, etc. You weren’t a Commodore rank, so you didn’t rank with COMAUCK. You were a combination of DCNS and Director of Plans. Director of Plans now has gone down a step and is the same level as DOPS, DPERS, etc, etc. Most of my work was planning and policy side. Operationally the Admiral worked with DOPS. There was the occasion of ROYALIST, when she blew her boilers and had condenseritis off the Solomons, stopped dead in the water. Joffre Vallant was the Captain and Roger Simmonds was the Commander (E). I got much involved with that because CNS if I remember rightly was away and we had the problem of getting a tug from Brisbane to go and pick her up and underway. She was towed away from a reef that’s right.

I just forget the name of the reef now. The tug was only a very small tug as it turned out.

We sent LACHLAN up, I think it was LACHLAN we sent up with stores and fresh water and that sort of thing, because she had no fresh water.

A RN Survey ship the DAMPIER I think played a part.

That played a part that is correct. I remember that quite vividly because CNS if I remember rightly was away and I got involved with COMAUCK in the planning of it. This took us through to 1965 and there was quite an argument on overseas courses. The Government were arguing there were too many. It was agreed that I would go and do the IDC in 1966. I kept my head down because there was some thought that we were going to do a course in Australia I think it was, or something like that, I have forgotten the details of it now, but there was a lot of argument. At the end of 1965 I left the job and the family got organised and we flew to England. At this stage my mother was very ill and our elder son Anthony who was at Nelson College became the difficult problem. We were leaving in December because the IDC started I think on the 7th January, so I applied to the Board for Anthony to come over with us, spend his summer holidays with us, then fly back to school. I noticed when I was looking through the files the other day the large wad of argument over this that went backwards and forwards and backwards and forwards. In the end I gather it went it up to Cabinet. I never knew this at the time, but I will give David Wraight full marks again because he fought the thing through for me. In the end, I just dug my toes in and said I wasn’t going to and leave this son of ours. They said that surely you could find somebody else. I said I am not leaving him, as he is only 13. My mother unfortunately as it turned out had cancer and it was the beginning of her run down. He flew over with us. We travelled by RNZAF to Singapore and then by RAF to UK. John McKenzie who at this time was Naval Liaison Officer in London met us. It was Christmas time coming up and we only had something like a fortnight to get settled in. He said my advice is to find a house a bit out of London. The IDC is very gentlemanly, so you don’t have to start until normally 10 o’clock in the morning. He took us driving around various parts. We went down to the south west and we stopped at a little village called Oxshire, just out of Eyreshire. We actually called into a local pub for lunch. We were talking to the publican and either John or I asked about housing. He said, “Oh you had better go and see”, and he rang up an agent across the road. It was only a tiny little village, and he said, “Come and look at this”. We went around to a place called Woodcoat Road, which was a private little road and looked at this house which belonged to a member of the British Diplomatic Corp in London. It was not a palatial residence, but a nice home on about three quarters of acre, and the rent was right and we settled down in Oxshire.

How far was that?

That was about half an hour, it was on a loop line from Guildford, which is half an hour to Waterloo.

That’s not bad for London is it?

Oh it was excellent, and this loop line was a real oldie, worldly British train. There was a Stationmaster and the one Porter and I remember the first time I had to catch the train to go up. This was the middle of winter, in the little waiting room was a fire going and there must have been twenty or thirty newspapers, the Times, The Telegraph and odd Express and so forth. I picked one up and there was a cough behind me and he said, “That is Mr Jones paper Sir”. I learnt the routine, and I got on with him. I used to catch the same train every morning and got to know the people and that sort of thing. The family, the children went to the local school that was very good and we had a very happy year there. I got to know and made some very great friends. One couple who are still our friends is a chap called John Morton, or now Sir John. He was in the British Diplomatic Corp and actually visited New Zealand on a couple of occasions. His final posting was British Ambassador in Tokyo. We met a lot of people, a lot of friends. I had this very happy year at the IDC, which was a wonderful Course. It never set out to really teach you things, but it was to open your eyes and to put you in contact with world events, with people, and with the broad strategy of planning etc, etc. We had some very interesting lectures. For example Dennis Healey who was then Secretary of Defence and surprisingly enough on this train I used to catch practically every morning was Pat Neame, later Sir Patrick who was his Private Secretary. You don’t speak to people in English trains normally. I finally got myself into a compartment where I found there was a seat, three got on at Cobham the previous Station and two got on with me, and these chaps all knew each other and used to chat away. I remember I had been going for about a month or more and Pat Neame was one of them. One of them picked up his newspaper, and the routine was you could talk from Oxshire to Surbiton, then you read your newspaper from Surbiton to London. The British Lions were touring Australia and New Zealand and their first game I think it was at Queensland where they had won 30 points to 10 or something like that. This chap turned around to his friends he said, “Now we will beat those bloody All Blacks”. I from the corner said, “You haven’t got a hope in hell and I will take you ten bob each”. There was pause and five sets of eyes bore in and said, “Who are you?”. I said, “I am a New Zealander and my name is Captain Thorne and I will take you on”. They said, “Done”. From that moment on we became great friends, we chatted away etc, and Pat Neame was one of these.

The other New Zealander’s on the Course with me were Rod Miller of Foreign Affairs whose last post was Ambassador of Japan and later when I served in New Zealand House in London he was the Deputy High Commissioner, a brilliant linguist, a Japanese linguist. Gus Sharp or Sir Angus Sharp now, who became Police Commissioner, we had three New Zealanders on the IDC Course.

No other Defence Force personnel?

Not New Zealand Defence I was the only New Zealander. Laurie Carr had been there two years before. Robin Holloway may have been the year before I can’t remember. We normally had two on it, that’s right and they had a special dispensation for a third when Gus Sharp came on. We had a whole series of most interesting lectures. We did a lot of visits. We used to go in to the Ministry of Defence in London. It was international in the sense there were Americans, there was a Nigerian, Abadayo who was a wonderful character and that was in the height of the Nigerian coups and counter coups. He had been on the Course for about six weeks and he suddenly disappeared. He was then I think Regional Commander of one of the Regiments. His side had got back in or something and he had been sent for and I think he became Governor of Northern Nigeria. Then there was another counter coup, a few weeks or months or two later and he came back again later. We had a chap Masaia, Percy Masaia who became the Minister of Defence of Trinidad, Tobago. There was Australians and of course British, Army, Navy and Air Force. There was Derek Emson RN who became Second Sea Lord. There was David Stevenson who became CNS Australia. There was, I forget his name at the moment, who became CGS he was a Guards Officers and there was John Anderson who was British Signal Corp, a Brigadier who became a General. He had served out in New Zealand and I have forgotten whether it was during the War or just at the end of the War as Director of Army Signals. He was a New Zealander by birth, but he finished up as the Head of NATO Signals. We had quite a cross section. We had two or three British Diplomatic Corp. There was a chap from the British Treasury and a very good cross section of people. The Vice President of the United States came and spoke to us on one occasion.

Who was that at the time?

If my memory is right the American Ambassador was to speak and the Vice President came to England at this time, and this chap came and spoke to us instead.

The routine of the College, the lecture was normally in the morning and when it had finished we went into lunch. There was a top table where one of the Directing staff would be in charge. The Naval Directing Staff was a Rear Admiral Colin Madden who was a cousin of the Madden who was the CNS New Zealand previously. Three or four of the students met with the lecturer at the top table for lunch. I remember Denis Healey, it was my turn and I sat next to Denis Healey. Later on when I went back to London I got to know him quite well. As Head of the Defence Staff one had an entree to go and see him. There were some big arguments going on in the British Parliament at the time, which had a Labour Party in power. One of the students said to Denis Healey, “Why can’t you people in Parliament get together, surely 75 to 80 percent of the things that go through Parliament are for the common good of England, why all this opposition and this argument”. I remember Denis Healey quite clearly, he said, “Politics is like a grandfather clock, it has a pendulum that goes backwards and forwards”. He said, “If it doesn’t go backwards and forwards the clock stops and nothing happens”, one of those odd sort of sayings that I have always remembered, but he was a very interesting character. We had a pleasant life, the College stopped for the Derby and we went down in our double decker bus. We went to Lords for cricket. We studied NATO, a broad spectrum of NATO, east west. Then there were broad spectrum studies of various parts of the world.

Was it an extension of the Joint Services Staff Course where you actually prepared briefs and operational orders?

No not to that degree, there was a lot of required reading. It was divided, if I remember rightly, into six or seven phases. One of these was an overseas tour. Before each phase, a couple of weeks before, you were given a required reading list to prepare for this. You then had a series of lectures on that subject and then odd other ones thrown in just for good measure. Once or twice a week in the afternoon we were divided up into syndicates. They would throw a broad subject at us and we were required in two days to put in the syndicate view on this subject. On Friday morning it was always syndicate review day where each syndicate, and there were four or five, had to give their review. We debated amongst ourselves how sensible the reviews were and that sort of thing. You never came down with a conclusion, you were left to decide yourself whether they were right or wrong.

Did that involve masses of writing?

No, mainly it involved quite a lot of reading and a bit of fossicking around yourself. One afternoon a week we didn’t work. They had a very good library system, and we were expected to stay there and do studies that were entirely up to ourselves. You never wrote a paper that was marked; you got no marks out of ten.

Did you have to write a thesis?

No we had to write an appreciation of our overseas tour that covered a number of countries and you each put in your view of what you had seen. That was the only thing if I remember rightly we had to produce and which was looked at and commented upon. It was deliberately designed in those days as a personal broadening educational process where you yourself were required to accumulate background and make up your personal views. The Commandant had explained to us that you are there to broaden your knowledge, make contacts, but also to learn the art of thinking for yourself and making decisions. I think there were 69 on the Course. I think he said by the law of averages 12 of you will finish up in command positions where you have to make judgements on a whole wide spectrum of subject matter. You’ve got to be able to make a judgement on it as opposed to a decision, a judgement on the validity of all this information that you are getting.

Did you visit the NATO Forces in Europe?

We did and I will come to that. The overseas tours were divided up into four groups. There was the American continent, which was Canada, America and South America. There was the Far East, which was Singapore, Australia and New Zealand, and I think they actually went up to Japan. There was the Indian Ocean/Middle East, I think they took in a bit of Africa, and then there was the European. We were allowed to choose and I said I wanted to do Europe. The three New Zealanders all went on the European Tour. We had an RAF Aircraft, our own private aeroplane and there were 18 of us I think, and we were a cross section of the three Services plus Foreign Affairs people. I remember Percy Masaia was one. We started off in Greece and had a week based on Athens where we visited and were entertained by the Ministry of Defence, by the three Services, we had a day with industry and we were briefed on foreign affairs aspects. We stayed a night at Delphi, and we were taken off to see the various sights. We flew on to Belgrade, and we had a week in Yugoslavia. We started off in Belgrade, and then we moved down and spent two nights in Sarajevo, which is quite fascinating at the moment, watching the news and reading it. Then we went down to Dubrovnik. We flew on to Italy, had a week in Italy. We flew on to Paris, had a week in Paris, then across to Germany to Bonn, based on Bonn, and we went into Brussels. That was when we did NATO. We had I think three days with NATO, but it was combined with the German side of it. We had a five week tour.

That was primarily visiting the defence and industrial infrastructures of those countries?

Later on when they used to come to New Zealand the emphasis was to give the team an insight into the structure of that country, its political set up, its industrial, cultural and defence. The full emphasis was not on defence, it was more to give an overview and insight into the structure and the religion and that sort of thing of the country. It was quite fascinating being in Yugoslavia in Belgrade and we all wrote afterwards and forecast what has happened, it was painfully obvious. In those days the figure 7 appeared in all discussions. There were 7 states, there were 7 borders and there were 7 groups. It was quite clear you had the religious problem with the Muslims and the Greek Orthodox Church and the Catholics. Apart from the Serbian Croatian problem there was the Albanian problem down the bottom and the Macedonians. We all wrote the moment General Tito goes this thing is going to break up. We didn’t forecast the way its gone. We forecast it was just going to become politically unstable, in that they would have a whole group of various political groups.

What about England? Did you visit the British Forces?

Yes we didn’t do a lot, we had a week with the three Services. We went down and spent a week at Portsmouth, where we were taken around. We spent a week with the Army, we went to Sandhurst and then off to the Salisbury Plain, one of their main training Bases I have forgotten where it was now.


It could have been Aldershot, I can’t remember.

The Air Force we spent primarily down at Farnborough. We also visited Farnborough for the famous Farnborough show and again it was very interesting.

I remember we went to one of these new towns which were being built up in the Midlands and that was fascinating, because we were asked to comment about it. It was designed where you never had to cross a road. The school children had their own separate footpaths to get to school and they went under roads and so forth. There was no parking, you could never park your car outside your house, you had a road system which brought you into the garage at the back. I remember it was just being finished. There was the industrial section over here and it was designed so that the buses took all the workers there. A number of us argued the toss with the planners and the designers that it was like a socialist state. The workers would have to live there to make sure they got on the right track to get there. We said that it wasn’t going to work. It was just being developed and the people were just coming into it. I have never gone back to see whether it did or not. It was very interesting.

One of our study periods involving the Middle East was very much oil orientated. We did a visit up to a Shell Refinery up in Scotland, I think it must have been near Aberdeen I have forgotten now, but we went up as part of this oil study. Three weeks before the end of the Course the Commandant, General Anderson who was a most delightful person sent for me or asked me to go and see him. He showed me a signal, which arrived through the High Commission that I was to take over the command of WAIKATO. I rang John McKenzie up who was RNZNLO and he told me that Sam Mercer had blown up in the middle of Portsmouth Harbour as far as I could understand and the ship was leaderless. The First Lieutenant had had to take command and Sam had been shipped off and the Naval Board said you are to take command. Being the person I am I argued straight away and got the Commandant to point out that I had a family in England and that there was only three weeks until the end of the Course etc, etc. It had been my understanding from John Ross that at the end of the Course I was to spend some weeks or months in England to do a whole series of things because I was coming back, I understood to be COMAUCK. I went and did some very hurried pre-commissioning training and had a week at DRYAD.

You left before the end of the Course?

I just packed the Course up and had a week rushing around DRYAD and various things. Also Lee on Solent to try and find out something about Helicopters. A very quick brush up and joined WAIKATO in Portsmouth.

What was her status at the time?

She had commissioned in early November if I remember rightly, she had completed building. She had just come down from Belfast.

You still had to get through trials?

Oh yes. I think they had just come in from the initial trials for the MRS3. She was just settling down and was at Portsmouth doing trials. Fay and the family had to pack up and there was a big argument as to how they were going to go back. I said to New Zealand there was no point in them staying here, I am going to be at sea, its a waste of time and money and every thing else for them to be sitting at Oxshire. We had only taken the house for a year and the lease was over in three weeks to a month’s time. We would have to either get out or re-negotiate the lease with all the problems. Fay unfortunately at the time was suffering from I think it was a disc, she had a bad back. Once again the battle for the Thornes went on, and it was agreed that she would come back by sea, which was fine, but getting a passage for her with a fortnights notice and the family was not easy. It turned out that they sailed just after Christmas, or just after the New Year. Sam and Audrey and his family came back on the same ship and they sailed together. We actually gave up the house and Fay and the family must have sailed between Christmas and New Year. We had a Christmas dinner in the Kings Head in Portsmouth, they stayed two or three days with me down there and I put them on the ship at Southampton. Once again I think it was Christmas Eve, another Christmas Eve in my life, Chief Electrician Wright do you remember him?


He was killed in a motor accident on the road between Portsmouth and Cosham, he had a house at Cosham. His wife Heather was an English girl and a young family, delightful girl, but he was killed and we had to go through the whole process of a Naval funeral etc, etc, it was a great tragedy.

In fact his family gave a trophy to the New Zealand Navy in memory of him and presented it to TAMAKI for the best Electrical Rating.

Well Heather, she her parents lived I think somewhere down in Devonport itself. I think they had been married three or four years when he was at COLLINGWOOD or somewhere doing Courses. She had been out to New Zealand, she said, “No I am a New Zealander, the children are New Zealanders”, and we arranged for her to come out to New Zealand.

Well she certainly stayed out here for some years.

She married one of the RNZAF Maintenance Team of the Helicopter, but didn’t meet him I don’t think until later on. The Navy did her well, they gave her a naval house when she came back I know, because I remember Laurie Carr organised it, but it was a great tragedy.

So I took over. Tom Riddell was the First Lieutenant, Ian Bradley was the TAS Officer, John Tobin was the Fighter Direction Control Officer, Alan Tyrell was the Gunnery Officer, David Simmonds was the Chief, your opposite number John Coleman was the WEO and I was impressed with them. The ship was in very good nick and they had done a first class job. Sam had found it beyond him, he was very good from the welfare and the ship husbandry point of view. It was very apparent right from the start that he lost his nerve, and I am not being rude about him, but he obviously lost his nerve from a command point of view. It became very clear early on that there was not good leadership in the command side and that too much weight had been put on Tom Riddell and John Tobin who was I think the next senior in command to bring this thing together when it hadn’t even got started. We operated out of Portsmouth for nearly six weeks. Most of the time we were trying to get this MRS3 working but it never came quite right.

It took about five years to get that system going properly.

I know Alan Tyrell was tearing his hair and John Coleman was tearing his hair. I was digging my toes in with Flag Officer Portsmouth. It was a peculiar set up because we came under Flag Officer Portsmouth if I remember rightly from an operational point of view. MOD Bath was involved with it to a marked degree and there was a team in Portsmouth, the Testing and Tuning Team. I finally remember Tyrell and Coleman said they would accept it. I was sent for one day and they said, “How long are you going to stay here?” I said, “When the bloody thing works I will sign for it”. I remember these arguments. We finally got into the position where Tyrell and Coleman would accept it to go off and do a work up. We went off down to Portland where from my point of view it was very pleasant, because Tony Troop, Rear Admiral Troop, who had been Captain of FEARLESS out in the Far East when I was driving OTAGO, was the Flag Officer Sea Training. I had another couple of chums or people I had known down there. Most of the wives, the ships wives, in fact practically all of them had gone back to New Zealand. It was agreed that they wouldn’t get in the way. Where as the RN ships would come in and give leave from 3 o’clock on Friday and start on Monday morning, we had no reason to necessarily come in. Tony Troop was very good, he would lay on things for us at the weekend. I remember two weekends running we were out doing more MRS3 trials and I think we had some Seacat problems.

They had to put a temporary fix into the MRS3, they actually racked one of the servos up nine minutes of arc just to ensure we got some computer results.

Just back tracking a bit. One incident, I remember we were lying on north arm west in Portsmouth, which was our normal billet when we came in, LONDON and one of the other DLG’s were lying opposite Whale Island. One morning the Quarter Master or someone came to see me and said, “LONDON’s on fire.” It was blowing towards us, so we went to Damage Control state one with hoses and so forth. This was the first time that I had seen aluminium burn. Apparently what had happened in LONDON, their galley was on the upper deck, and the routine was the Quarter Master went in at 6 o’clock and turned on the big fat fryers and so forth. Between the time of heating up, and the cooks arriving a fire started and took off. The upper structure of that ship was aluminium I understand, but to see the structure burning was a terrifying thing. I must admit it helped our Damage Control crews on board to realise what can happen. It was a good example.

When we started our work up, it was still the British winter. I have always wanted to meet the guy that designed Portland. The main jetties there were designed so you never got a fore and aft wind, you always had a side wind and also he deliberately went out and put the mooring buoys exactly in the position you needed for your final approach to berthing. I am quite certain he did it on purpose because it was very difficult. We were normally coming in the dark, dropping off the Trials Teams into boats, and then berth. Unless we were going to go in and stay in the next day, I said to the Admiral, “To hell with this skylark we will go to a buoy overnight, you can come out in the boats.” The First Lieutenant was required to do so many berthing stints and you were expected to put most of the Officers through at least one berthing. I said, “This is fine but I have got to get a new ship home in one piece, and I am not going to bash the thing to death”. I reckoned I could handle the ship myself, but I wasn’t going to go through it with the other officers. We had a bit of an argument over this, but any way we used to quite often go to a buoy. They were a very good team. Comparing Portland to Pearl Harbour I believe Portland was a better routine and training base. Of course it was designed for ships like WAIKATO, therefore you had all of the facilities and you had a very good back up technical service for new ships. They had a team there that would work over night to get you ready to go out and do your next stint the next day. It was a miserable area to be operating in, especially with the traffic going up and down the channel. It was good training for everybody, but it was cold and windy and miserable sometimes, but a very good work-up and I was highly impressed with the whole team I had on board. They worked extremely hard and they were efficient, though looking back now I can see that the beginnings of some of the problems with one or two of the Officers particularly Ian Bradley which occurred later on in their naval careers. Alan Tyrell for example was a very efficient Gunnery Officer, but his judgement was sometimes a bit weak and sometimes he would leap off into some silly prank or something, but it was noticeable when I look back. I gave them very good recommendations because they did a first class job. We finally finished our work up and got a good report. We went up to Portsmouth to fuel, we had Princess Alexander who launched the ship on board and that was very pleasant too. The High Commissioner came down, and we had a farewell function and we sailed for New Zealand. We went though Bermuda and we deliberately went to Trinidad and Tobago, because my old friend Percy Masaia was the Minister of Defence, we had a very happy three days there. We arrived at Panama having sent a number of signals and got a firm statement from the Embassy in Washington that our Canal Dues would be paid etc, etc. The day before the Paymaster had issued out dollars to the ships’ company because we were going to have two nights in Balboa. When we got there they wouldn’t let us through until we had paid our dues. We had to muster the whole ships company and I had to take back I think it was two and a half thousand or three thousand dollars back from the ships company. If we paused too long we were going to miss our spot. The ships’ company got a bit upset. They wanted dollars so I said to the Paymaster, “Give them an IOU, give them any thing, get the ruddy money back”, we had to pay our way through. We went through and we stopped at Balboa. Our next stop was San Diego where we were going to do three weeks SMP. It was decided that we couldn’t really make San Diego on our fuel levels, so it was decided that we would go into Manzanillo in Mexico. We went alongside a jetty in which there were big railway angle irons sticking out, and we had a hell of a problem stopping them from going through the ship’s side, there was a big swell came in. The worst thing of all it was a holiday. Mr Caltex had to get a man down from Mexico City and there was going to be a delay of something like eight hours minimum before we got fuel. I didn’t like the berth at all, the First Lieutenant Tom Riddell said, “We can’t stay alongside here, no matter what”. In fact I think we had someone blow up fenders, I have forgotten now, but we had big fenders out keeping the ship off. We worked out if we did economical speed we could just make it. We could even get down to one engine and we would ration water if need be. We would sail now and we would go up to San Diego. We set off and I told New Zealand and I told the Admiral of San Diego that we were a bit low on fuel and we expected to arrive in with about 12 percent. I got a signal back from him saying “Do you mean twelve or twenty two” and I sent back twelve. We rationed things and so forth, and it was a very pleasant trip, it was good weather and I think we had nine percent fuel remaining when we got there and we berthed and all was well. I found out afterwards while very kindly sitting over the horizon this Admiral had a tanker quietly steaming south and if we had screamed it would be there. Now I wish I had screamed, because we could have done a fuelling at sea exercise.

We stopped at Manzanillo on the way home in CANTERBURY and got fuel after a very long struggle.

We had a very good three weeks in San Diego. One interesting point was the ship’s company quickly found out that it was cheaper if two or three of them got together and bought an old second hand car for about a $100. That it was cheaper to do that and leave it on the side of the road when they left than it was to go out and hire a car for one or two days. We had a fleet of about ten cars. Talking of vehicles Alan Tyrell had a big contact in the British Motor Corporation. We did a deal with them where they would give us a Mini Moke as an advertisement or something if we did something, I have forgotten the details. We got this Mini Moke which had a crest on the side and WAIKATO plates and so forth. This fitted nicely just under the helicopter in the hangar. We needed a crane to get it out, but if we were low enough, we could run it out, and so we had our own transport. I used to drive around in this thing down in Portland and around Portsmouth and every where we went.

Was that the start of the Mini Moke?

That was the start of the Mini Moke process. It was a very useful thing.

Going back to the helicopter Bob Carney was a New Zealander in the British Fleet Air Arm. He was trained on Wessex and I think on Sea Kings. He transferred to the RNZN to become our first New Zealand Helicopter Pilot, and an excellent pilot he was too.

(end of Tape 11)

(beginning of Tape 12)

I would just like to back track a moment, going back to when I first joined the ship or when we were in Portsmouth before the work up. Vennell was the Supply Officer.

That was Adrian Vennell?


We were operating our own contingent account and did our own purchasing rather than being victualled by the RN. I have forgotten the name of the chap but there was a supplier for the Navy in Portsmouth who was suddenly had up by the Navy for racketeering. There were a couple of Chief Stores and Chief Stewards court martialled for taking kick backs. I had to do a smart investigation to make sure that we were not involved, which fortunately we weren’t. Adrian Vennell and our team had kept clear of this, but it was a really good scandal going on in the Base.

I know virtually the whole Supply Corp of HMS COLLINGWOOD had their heads rolled.

That’s right. That is just an interlude going back.

We are now back in San Diego and we came across the Pacific via Pearl. The whole arrangement was that WAIKATO was to arrive on Thursday before Queens Birthday weekend at Mount Maunganui, we would come straight into Mount Maunganui. I was talking also about Bob Carney the helicopter pilot. The Wasp had been designed with dual controls so it could be used in New Zealand for training. I took one look at this and said to Bob, “You are never to take those dual controls out”. He was extremely good because I used to go flying with him a lot. I was never allowed to take it off the ship or land it, I used to do it ashore. I did a lot of flying with him and learnt to get a feel of what it is like in a Wasp helicopter at 400 feet in a black pitch black night in a force five wind being controlled by the ship. One of the exercises you do is to suddenly switch off the radar, switch every thing off, no communications and he has got to get himself home from ten or fifteen miles away. I must say I was highly impressed with his professionalism and his expertise. You could bet your life he would do that exercise, you would have a stopwatch and in minutes you could hear the buzz of the chopper over the top. I did a lot of flying with him and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I wouldn’t say I became competent but it was an enjoyable thing and very useful. I used to make a point of sending up all the Officers and a number of the Senior Rates who were involved in the Ops room and so forth. I found in WAIKATO as I had already learnt in OTAGO that control of the operational side of the ship was far superior from the days when we used to drive ships from the bridge. We finally arrived back at Mt Maunganui just prior to Queen’s Birthday Weekend and had a magnificent reception. CNS John Ross met us.

This would be 1967?

1967 yes.

Laurie Carr, the Commodore Auckland, my wife and my father were all there. Regrettably I omitted to say that during my time at the IDC, I received news that my mother was dying from cancer. I sought approval to come back to New Zealand and it was approved I should fly by New Zealand RNZAF Hastings. She rallied a bit and the doctors advised that she would probably last a bit longer, so I cancelled that trip. When she went down hill again. I sought a passage, a commercial passage, but was turned down, so regrettably I was not home when my mother died. My sister died in 1955 when I was away in PUKAKI, she died of a very uncommon thing of Chicken Pox of the lung, which she caught from one of her children. Later on when we were in London in the High Commission my father suddenly died, just before we got back. It is one of those regrettable things in my life I have never been home when any of my near family has died.

We arrived in Mt Maunganui, and we had this wonderful reception. My wife blames me that I had said she wasn’t to come on board until the Admiral came on board. The Admiral pushed her in front and she always said I didn’t want to see her, which was quite untrue.

We then had a magnificent four or five days, but we were split between Tauranga and Hamilton and the Province of Waikato. One felt that you needed to cut the whole of the ship’s company in half because you always needed a guard at this or a team of that or something. In Hamilton you need another team of this. I must say our reception was absolutely superb we were feted in the city of Hamilton, the whole Province went to town and gave us a magnificent welcome. I am trying to think of her name, an elderly woman who right from the start when the ship was building had adopted the ship and sat down and calmly knitted WAIKATO berets in the Waikato football colours. The Waikato Rugby Union presented us with a set of jerseys quite early on which we always played in. This dear old woman, I think she was blind, I know she was.

She came from Cambridge.

Quite right.

I think she died, I’ve got memories of her dying in recent years.

She used to write to me regularly.

The Navy sent down a small team to attend to her funeral.

She was magnificent. Bob Owen at the time was the Mayor of Mt Maunganui and Tauranga who had a great naval association. Tich Hodgkinson was the Harbour Master. Then finally on the following Tuesday we sailed for Auckland. The chopper that had been left on the jetty alongside the ship got a malfunction, she was to join us and bring the Mayors in it. We had to get a tug out to take everybody ashore. We had a considerable period in Auckland if I remember rightly. For the first fortnight to three weeks we were really showing off this new Leander to the Fleet. I remember there were teams pouring on board to see how it worked, and why it worked and how it worked. It was a very magnificent period and I am glad looking back that I had the chance to drive her under those circumstances.

We were then told we were going up to the Far East and we went and did another work up in Pearl Harbour by which time I reckoned I knew the ropes. We had some changes, Eddie Eade had come as the TAS Officer in the place of Ian Bradley, Tom Riddell was still with us. I have forgotten but there were some changes. We went across from Pearl to Singapore. Admiral O’Brien was the C in C and there were a number of old friends around the place. By this time I had been appointed F11 so we carried a black funnel top and I was a Senior Member of the Far Eastern Fleet. Edward Ashmore my old friend from way back in Communications was the FO2. By this time the British presence had run down quite considerably. We had the New Zealand Forces group there but it was a different Singapore to the one we had known before. Confrontation was over. We got involved in a major exercise with the RN and some American ships and the Indian Navy out off Addu Atoll in the Indian Ocean. FO2 was in charge of this big exercise.

Were they called JETEX’S ?

They were, and I failed to say way back when I was in Singapore every year there was a JETEX Exercise with the Indian Navy and the Pakistan Navy. We ran them from Singapore for the Indian Navy. Their planners, operational planners would come down one year and we would go up to them the next year. This wasn’t a JETEX Exercise per se, this was an RN Exercise which FO2 organised, but we had some Indian ships in it. We went out up the Malacca Straits, up the north across and it took place in the Indian Ocean south of Addu Atoll. In it I remember was the nuclear submarine WARSPITE I think it was. She had been in Singapore and I think she was on her way home. She was one of the opposing forces, and there were two or three other submarines. We were out as Screen Commander and we got a contact on sonar at 20,000 yards. It was a perfect contact and we tracked this thing in. Out went the chopper, we got a smoke float from the first one, he then turned away, but we got him again and I think we attacked him three times, we got him. WARSPITE it was, because they came back into Singapore and we teased them. They claimed that they weren’t trying very hard. I was delighted because Max McDowell had talked to me many, many times how he had got a nuclear submarine off Londonderry. To my knowledge it was the only time after that event that an RNZN ship had got contact with a nuclear submarine. I had the track chart of this thing done up to show Max, that we got him three times and he had only got him twice, but a good bit of argument went on. That was very good for the ship.

The other interesting thing in that period of WAIKATO was there was a mood of getting closer to Taiwan with the Nationalist Chinese. The British FO2 sent for me one day and said, “Would you go to Taiwan?” and I said, “Yes”. The New Zealand Government came up and said, “Yes”. They couldn’t send a British ship in for political reasons. The Australians I don’t think would agree with it. We went up north with the Fleet to Hong Kong and the Fleet went on to Japan and we went into Keelung on the north eastern side of Taiwan and did a three or four days visit. This was extremely interesting and a delightful bunch of people we found there. Their Navy was a bit old like the Thai Navy, but extremely pleasant people and I think we broke the ice, and from our point of view it was a successful visit. I remember a Chinese Naval Officer came out as an Officer of the Guard to show us where to berth, it was a very restrictive harbour. I remember because the WAHINE disaster reminded me of it. We had a strong nor`easter blowing behind us, it was blowing about a force five and there was quite a heavy swell, it must have been about a three or four metre swell. You came in and you had to do a hard left turn, then a right turn into the inner Basin. We finally berthed on a jetty where we were too long for the jetty. We had to get in and get alongside and get tied up before we got blown off. I remember discussing with my Navigator how we were going to do this. We decided we either went much slower than the swell or we went faster and we had confidence we could stop and turn as we had to. We came in and did a hard left and a hard right and then stop every thing and backed her down and finished up alongside. I could see this Chinese Officers face, he didn’t quite get his hands over his face but I think he thought that we were going to go straight over his breakwater. They were hospitable to you, there were language difficulties, but one or two spoke some good English, but it was a very interesting visit. We left there and went back to Singapore and Neil Anderson came and relieved me in the middle of April. I can identify the date I think I am right in saying the WAHINE disaster was the 10th of April if I remember rightly.

11th of April was the day you were relieved.

That’s right. Then the WAHINE disaster must have been the 9th or 10th or may be it was the 11th. We suddenly got this news broadcast that the Lyttelton Ferry had capsized and a lot of people had been drowned. We heard it on the BBC or something. The ships’ company was extremely concerned and so was I, nobody knew who had been on board it. I sent frantic signals off to Navy Office could they get some information as to what had happened. All we got back was, “Yes the WAHINE had capsized”, but little more. At this time Neil Anderson arrived and I left it with him and handed over the ship and flew home to arrive here in Wellington by air from Auckland. It must have been two or three days afterwards. Family met me and as we were driving home I looked around, because I expected to see Wellington Harbour flattened by this southerly gale, we had heard about roofs off etc, etc. I looked up and said, “What’s all this about, where’s this gale, this Ferry”. They showed me the WAHINE. Up in the house it had been blowing extremely hard, and Fay had to go down to get our son at school. She got down there to find the kids were being kept in as there were trees being blown down all over the place. Our middle son Peter when we came back from the IDC went into Scots College and young Richard was at the local school. Peter came home in a bus and was practically blown over.

I went and called on the Admiral John Ross who said that he hadn’t got an appointment for me. I said it was my understanding that after the IDC I was to do a period of about five or six months with the RN, then I was coming back to be Commodore Auckland. He said that was the plan but not any longer. He said anyway I want you to do a special study and so I went on the books of Wellington and did some special studies for him for a period from April to about September/October. I was then finally informed that I wasn’t going to be Commodore, Auckland because the then CDS General Thornton had taken over from Peter Phipps and wouldn’t accept Joffre Vallant as the Head of the Defence Staff in London which it was Navy’s turn to do. Therefore I was to go to London as the Head of Defence Staff. I had a long discussion with John Ross and said, “I don’t personally mind going to London because I enjoy London. But surely if I have got a future career and if I am likely to be made a CNS two or three down the line I should at least do a stint as Commodore, Auckland”. I pointed out to him I have never had an appointment in Auckland other than six months as Training Officer and that was down at Motuihe Island. I said I am not known in Auckland and I don’t know Auckland that well. The decision was made and again in December the family up sticks and flew off to England to start a very pleasant three years as Head of Defence Staff in London. As I say it was a very pleasant posting. Looking back I think it was the wrong decision. I should have had at least a stint as Commodore Auckland. As I will say later on I found it not easy when I came back in 1972 and had a few weeks and became CNS relieving Laurie Carr. For the first six months to a year I would go to Auckland, and there were many, many faces up there that I didn’t know. Even worse the majority of them didn’t know me, we had had no contact. The only people that I knew were those who had served with me in OTAGO and more recently WAIKATO, and OTAGO by that time was some years back. I knew very few of the Senior Rates. I only knew the senior element of the officers. I think it was unfortunate. I am skipping ahead a bit at this moment, but I became CNS at the age of 48, which I took pride in in terms I was relatively young to do it. I think it would have been better in the long term if I had come back from London and done a stint as COMAUCK.

We went to London and we settled down. We had a bit of a battle in London in those days getting accommodation because being Head of Defence Staff I came under the Foreign Affairs Diplomatic system. It took us about three months to find a suitable house which we finally found up off the Edgeware Road in a place called Vale Close, it was a very pleasant spot that we finally found.

This was rented?

Yes rented.

As I said earlier when we went to the IDC, Anthony our eldest son had come over to England and then had flown back. He actually flew back in a Hastings with two of the New Zealand Police Force who had been part of the Police Force United Nations Group that had been in Cyprus and he is still friends with them. In 1978 he had completed and done his Matriculation and the question was what was he going to do. It was finally decided that he would come over with us when I went to London and he did his University training in England at Newcastle. Peter unfortunately who was at Scots was in that awkward position, he should have been starting School Certificate in 1969 when we arrived in England. He either had to go back virtually a year and do a complete year to do O Levels or fill in time and do O Levels starting September the next year, which would put him back over a year. Finally he had to go into a crammer in London where he crammed sufficient O Levels to get him into a school in which he could do A Levels. It was a trying time for him, because he only could take three O Levels. He passed sufficiently well and went to a school in Highgate where he went on and sat his A Levels in England. Young Richard at this stage was only seven years old and he went to a school again in Highgate, which looking back I don’t think was terribly successful, it was a private school. We settled down to three and a half years and a very interesting period of time in England. Politically the Labour Party were in power and then the Conservative Party came back into power. This was of great advantage though was it was only a year and a bit since I had been at the IDC and so many of the people, contacts I had made. The friends I had made at the IDC in addition to people I served with in Singapore in the RN were in London. There was Henry Leech from FIERCE days who was then the VCNS in London. Pat Neame by this time had left the Minister of Defence and was what they call Director of Policy in Admiralty as a civilian. There were a whole series of people, and this is where the IDC and my previous associations paid considerable dividends. I became Head of Defence Staff in London, I had Freddy Tucker who was the Air Force Liaison Officer, there was Howard Jones the Army and Bob Adams who was the naval person and I had a technical staff. I was mainly on the defence side, but it did give me an excellent entree’ into a whole series of things. I knew people in the British Foreign Office. There was John Morton, we had rented his house. Whatever the problem was I could invariably get on the telephone or write a note to a friend and say who do I go and see to do this and the doors would open. Sir Dennis Blundell was the High Commissioner and Rod Miller the Deputy High Commissioner. We had a very good entree right from my first meeting with Denis Healey. I paid a call on him. I didn’t know him terribly well, but I reminded him about the IDC and we got to know each other sufficiently that we could meet at some function and he would chat away and tell me things that were going on. I think in a sense it paid back what they had spent on me going to the IDC.

Now you had quite a large staff in London in those days.


Apart from the people that you have just mentioned there were the two Engineers and Peter Laker and Graham Bosson I think?


Then of course you had a huge office staff as I recall.

Well actually at the end of John Mackenzie’s time before I took over from him, he went off and did the IDC, they had gone through an administrative re-shuffle. When I got there we were living on the 5th, 6th and 7th floors and within a year we had gone down to half a wing in the second floor, we had been cut back. Doug Harris was still the driver.

Harold Bassant was the pay man wasn’t he?

That’s right. Doug Harris was the driver who was a pain in the neck sometimes. No we had a good team but as I say we were reduced down considerably.

If you compare that with today where there is two people and one admin officer, two officers from New Zealand and one admin staff.

Sheila Tansley was my secretary who had been in the system for sometime and knew the thing backwards, she was a local civilian, but she was excellent. It was a very good set up. We still had the facilities in the place. The penthouse up on the top was an absolute winner for any form of reception and so forth, because it over looked the whole of London. You could actually see the horse guard parade and watch the changing of the guard and the trooping of the colour from up there. You only saw part of it, but it was an absolute winner. People would come especially early for a cocktail party, they had some where to look out through the lovely windows and things, and it was extremely easy. In addition to this Mike Le Fanu, Admiral Le Fanu was the First Sea Lord. It turned out his wife Pru, who was Pru Morgan in her unmarried name, whose father had been in New Zealand as 2NM pre war had actually been at Marsden School with my wife Fay. June Blundell, Lady Blundell was also there at school together. The 1st Sea Lords Staff Officer was an old friend and I had a number of other friends in the system so it was very convenient and very easy. At this time CANTERBURY was building and so we were visiting Glasgow and we got to know Sir Eric Yarrow and the Yarrow Team. Bob Easton became a personal friend and there was plenty to do. By liaison with Rod Miller and the IDC contacts we had an excellent rapport on reporting and so forth, because there was a considerable lot of defence things going on. The British were more and more pulling out of the Far East, but also they were moving more and more towards the EEC. In consequence the butter quota negotiations were just starting up and all these things, so it was a very interesting time. Alongside of which was all this Diplomatic Corp entertaining and being entertained, the dinner parties etc, which I personally found pretty dreary as it went on. Some very delightful people but you can have enough of good thing, but still it was an essential part of the process. We spent three years there. One could run one’s own routine, and so we managed to do some family trips on to the Continent and up to Scotland, visiting various friends. The three years passed pretty quickly.

I was the WEO of CANTERBURY, and I can remember you visiting us in Glasgow fairly frequently. You used to order us around a lot and tell us what to do.

Did I, what was a Commodore for! I was impressed with your team up there and of course you had a very dynamic Commanding Officer in Mike Saull who got on extremely well with the team in Yarrows and I was always impressed.

It was actually a great ship. All ships are great, but you know it was a great experience.

If I remember rightly there was a South African shipbuilding.

That’s right a South African survey ship. We lost all our duty free grog rations for about three months because the All Blacks lost every Test.

Also if I remember rightly Yarrows was in the process of building their covered slipway.

Yes that was just completing as we were there.

That’s right I remember Bob Easton used to show me this, because he wanted to sell us another Frigate.

There were two Chilean Frigates building.

That’s right.

We gave them a lot of assistance. I remember one of their Engineers didn’t understand what super heated steam was. He used to come along and we used to give him lectures.

I remember the Chilean Naval Attaché spent a lot of time over in my office. I think I got Mike Saull down or something because I know we gave him a lot of help on how to get his own Admiralty to do things and so forth.

The Chileans from then on wanted to join our maintenance system, because they had no club to join if you know what I mean. It never jelled, I think it was just a communication problem. We started doing it but it never got off the ground.

Of course the other ships I think Yarrow were building too, were these dreadful Yarrow frigates. They built one for the Malaysians, it was called the HANG JABAT or some name like that. They couldn’t get it to work, it was a gas turbine/diesel with both drives going into a common gear box. The gear box used to fall apart about once a month and it was one or two years late on delivery.

That’s right because I became associated with it when I was CNS. We visited Malaysia on an official visit and Admiral Balasingham the CNS I had known way back when he was a Lieutenant Commander commanding their Loch Class frigate. They were just in the process of building Lumut Naval Base and this ship was in there, and I remember we were discussing it.

I think just to get rid of the bad vibes they changed the name of the frigate to RAHMAT.

They did and I am just trying to think what it was.

As I say it was an extremely interesting period as Head of Defence Staff. I remember Mr Holyoake coming over who impressed me. I remember because he said to the High Commissioner that he wanted a briefing. I have forgotten the subject, it was a major defence issue, it wasn’t ships, I have forgotten what it was now. We went in and he gave a briefing, he was a very precise person, his memory was fantastic. When I was ACNS, Len Stanners was 2NM and CNS was away. We got a call that CNS was required to a Cabinet Meeting in half an hour. Len said to me this is an operational meeting you’ve got to come up with one. Len sat down in the Deputy Prime Minister’s chair because that was vacant and I was put in a chair behind him. Mr Holyoake said that we are delighted you have come up to give us some advice, we have a slight problem, it was something to do with ROYALIST I have forgotten what it was. He asked the question, I said to him so and so and such and such. He asked another question and I realised straight off that no matter what we said we had lost. A third question came out and he said, “Thank you very much Gentlemen that is very helpful” and so forth. I went into this briefing in London, and he said, “Thorne we have met before”, I said, “Yes Sir you called me up to Cabinet”. He said, “Yes and I won that one didn’t I”. I was quite surprised at his memory.

In those days you would have had full and total access to RN secrets.

That’s right.

If my memory serves me correct the RN used to run a weekly intelligence briefing for their Commonwealth friends and allies, did you attend all those?

I didn’t attend them all, but always somebody went depending upon the agenda. I attended most of them because it was Defence, but sometimes I would get one of the others to go. In addition you remember we had a room in Admiralty which we shared with the Australians in which we had a grog cupboard. This goes back in history, but every alternate Friday afternoon at about 5 o’clock we and the staff or some of us would go over. We would have arranged for somebody to come down and have a gin with us and that was absolutely a magnificent thing. The team Freddy Tucker and Howard Jones and so forth could go over and have Lieutenant Commander levels at Admiralty down for a drink. I would get VCNS down or somebody else from the top team and they often learnt a lot of things from the Navy that they had never heard before. In addition I had a pass into Admiralty I could just walk straight in, I had a top secret cleared pass. I could go to any part of the Admiralty and to Whitehall itself. The other team had their passes and as you say we had complete and utter entree’. The nuclear side was then well under way and they were negotiating for nuclear submarines and all those sort of things. I was never privy to any detail on these but I used to get a lot of information from my friends. We kept up very closely on it.

I can recall you used to go out to Bath and to Portsmouth and to Plymouth and give functions and cocktail parties. I can remember Doug Harris driving the booze bus and everybody coming down. I remember one night you had a big party at VERNON I think.

We used to go once or twice a year to entertain the people down there, especially when they had a ship through. Going back again to my time as ACNS we did the negotiations for the loan of BLACKPOOL. When I was over doing the IDC she actually sailed, Joe Quinn and the team came out and she sailed from Chatham.

It was amazing the data that we used to get from UK in those days, quite amazing. It was mainly unofficial and it just poured out.

Well that was the great thing. I am stepping sideways a bit, but when we got into our Ministry of Defence system and the Army and especially the Air Force were moving more and more with the Americans, quite naturally we were staying British. I used to hammer the Minister of Defence and the Chiefs of Staff when I was ACNS and then later when I was CNS, about the cost to New Zealand if we had to produce all these policy statements. The ATP series all the NATO documents went out to about 113 in number if I remember correctly, particularly the communications stuff. Not only did we get it but we didn’t pay for the amendments and they came rolling off immediately. We got all the British AFO’s, we got all the British doctrine stuff and we got up to date amendments to technical documents. How it gets on now under the flag of not being in ANZUS I would hate to think. Our JIB or JIC, Intelligence, and DNI were right on the inside of all the intelligence stuff. I used to see a lot of it coming through, but it normally went direct, we used to get the briefings and so forth. We were extremely well served. Because of the British associations with NATO and the EEC and all these sort of things, the barriers hadn’t started to come up, but the people were starting to be too busy to talk to us. Admiral O’Brien who had been C in C Far East was then C in C Fleet out at Northwood, and we actually went out to the marriage of his daughter. His secretary was a chap called Tom Hogan and he became a personal friend. The penthouse especially was an ideal organisation. You could throw functions there for twenty up to a hundred with no difficulty at all, it became quite a mecca. People wanted to come. I remember Mike Le Fanu the First Sea Lord, his wife was a New Zealander, he regularly came. She was crippled with polio when she was a young woman, and she would come. He would pick her up and carry her and he would put the wheelchair in the lift and go up. I had one, not amusing incident. One weekend my wife and younger son Richard went and visited Whipsnade Zoo. He and I were galloping across a slope and I put my foot into a rabbit hole or something and there was a ghastly click and I thought I had broken my ankle. We had the facilities of the Naval Hospital system in London that was excellent. I went down there and they looked at it and X-rayed it and found that I had a bad sprain, I had sprained it badly, and so it was all tied up. I was given one of these expanding golfers walking stick that you can sit on, and I found this one of the best things that I had ever had. You could go to the cocktail parties and sit on this thing. You would indicate that you couldn’t possibly move around, and so people migrated to you. If you didn’t like somebody you would poke them in the stomach. I was told after three and about three and a half months wasn’t my ankle getting a bit better, couldn’t I do away with the stick.

Of course at this stage Northern Ireland was really bubbling, the troops had gone in. I remember the High Commissioner at that time was appointed to Dublin as well. He went across and did a formal visit to Dublin and then went up and visited Northern Ireland and Belfast on his way back. I remember when he got back he was telling us what he had done, I remember him saying, “In Belfast its not a question of getting the sides together to talk, its not a question they don’t talk its just they don’t recognise each other. I cannot see a solution to it”, because he said, “I could talk a little bit to both sides, but he said I can’t even get them in a room together”, he said, “It was just appalling”. The Army in England at that time was having a major problem of their portrayal of Northern Ireland, on television especially. The Army Educational Command had set up a television training base. Somebody told me about this and I said, “Can I go?” and they said, “Yes, come on down”. I went down and spent a day going through this training programme where they were training the Officers and some of the troops of each of the Regiments or Battalions that went to Belfast. They put the various people through, the various people of the Unit through this training process to show them how to pick out which were the best that came over on television. They hired a BBC Interviewer like David Frost. They started at 10 o’clock, they lectured for about an hour of the pros and cons of presentation on television, how you go about it and so forth. Then each of us went through an interview or were interviewed by this chap. The first one was a very mundane or low level interview who are you, Commodore Thorne, you come from New Zealand, what have you done in the past and so forth. You did this for ten minutes and they played it back to you, and they pointed out the errors of your way. They pointed out if you are sitting down and stick your bottom hard into the seat, you will see a pair of glaring nostrils. He said that is not the way to present yourself on television. Then they would start off throwing in some difficult questions. For example just at that stage there had been a reported drug problem amongst the New Zealand Artillery group in Vietnam. He said, “You have a drug problem in the Navy in New Zealand?” He said, “How do you know, surely you are not there now, you don’t know that do you?” and you had some tough questions thrown at you. He pointed out if you get a question like that you’ve got to be able, if you don’t know the answer you’ve got to be able to play the ball. Then you did one when it was really rough and tough. Then he said I’ve got a B Grading, you are not photogenic for a television set you are too pork like I think he called it. He said, “One thing you have got to learn” and the man who learnt this fast was Rob Muldoon. He said, “The one thing you have got to learn you are now a Commodore, I presume you hope to be promoted”, and I said, “Yes”. He said, “If you become the Admiral you are going to be getting off an aircraft or you are going to go into something where you may not even know there is television cameras there”. He said, “You have got to brief yourself on three subjects to do with whatever you are doing. Have three subjects well briefed, know what you are going to say, and how to say it”. He said, “With those three subjects well briefed and well handled you can parry any question”. He went back to this drug thing, “If you are well up on your medical services and the Navy’s medical systems and so forth”, he said, “You can easily parry that by saying well I am in London now. But I am quite certain the Navy’s medical system and our organisation in ships, that if there is a drug problem they know about it”. That sort of thing. He said, “You have got to be right”. Rob Muldoon has said, “You have got to do your homework”. The one thing about a television interviewer if he loses to you twice he gets rattled, if he loses three times he gets the sack. It was very interesting.

Going back to London, we had a very happy three and half years there, enjoyed it. It was a very valuable period for me because what it did do it gave me a great entree’ into Foreign Affairs. When I say entree’, I got to know so many people. Merv Norrish who became Secretary of Foreign Affairs recently took over from Rod Miller and we got to know them, they became personal friends. There were a whole series of people who went through the High Commission. There was the team in Bonn who used to come over regularly.

Were you seconded to Bonn at that time?

Not at that time that came later.

There was the team in Paris whom we would call upon they would come over. Now and again somebody from Washington would come in or there would be a team from New Zealand and so I got to know Foreign Affairs well, I also learnt how it operated and how you wrote Foreign Affairs telegrams which Rod Miller educated me in. The perfect Foreign Affairs telegram, he said, “In the fourteenth paragraph you have to put a word in there which takes the reader to the big Oxford dictionary to find out what that word means to understand the whole telegram”.

Also there was the constant visit of people like General Thornton the CDS and all the chiefs of Staff came through on their visits. I had a very good entree’ and preparation for that side, the Defence side and the Foreign Affairs the political side for when I became CNS in 1972. But as I have said earlier the one problem I faced was I was not known by this Navy I was going to command, which as I say was a pity in my view.

(end of Tape 12)

(beginning of Tape 13)

Admiral this is one of the important tapes because we are now going to go on to your time as a Rear Admiral and as Chief of Naval Staff.

Our elder son was at Newcastle University and was doing an Economics Degree. He had been told that he should stay on for a fourth year and do an Honours Degree, so he was not coming back with us. Peter had been through his A Levels and passed extremely well and wanted to do medicine. He applied for three Medical Colleges in London, Guys, University College and I have forgotten the third one and was accepted for two of them. It was the beginning of 1972 and I knew we were returning to New Zealand. He couldn’t start Medical School until the middle of the year. I had to say to him, “Look Pete, a if you are going to do a Medical Degree in England you’ve got to make up your mind whether you want to be a Brit or a Kiwi. It is a minimum of six years training. Secondly you won’t get any bursaries which you can get in New Zealand and I can’t afford to keep you for six years in London at a University. If you want to starve your way through Med School in London then good luck to you. You’ve got to make up your mind and my advice is that if you’ve been accepted here in London its a strong likelihood that you will get accepted in New Zealand”. We wrote to Professor Robb who was the Head of the Medical School in Auckland and got some advice from him. Peter applied for both Auckland University and Otago and was finally accepted for Otago, which meant he had to report in February to start his University training. He had to make his own way back, which he did by RNZAF aircraft. Doug and Joy Domett very kindly looked after him. He went to Washington and they kindly looked after him in Washington. He stayed in San Francisco and he finally arrived back and went to University in New Zealand. It emphasises the problem of what happens to children of Naval Officers.

I handed over in April and we came back to New Zealand. We decided we had never been to Canada, so with Fay and our younger son Richard we flew from London to Ottawa and stayed for a very pleasant period with Dean Eyre who was the High Commissioner. We were talking earlier about when they had been laying straw in Korea for the coming winter. We actually arrived in Ottawa at the end of the winter and were there when he had the ceremony of opening the glass doors onto the garden for the first time for the beginning of spring. It was the opposite affect of what you saw. We saw the result and there the grass looked as if there had been a drought, it was just brown. All the trees were covered with a mesh or wire netting pyramids and the place looked ghastly. He pointed out it takes about three weeks between winter and then suddenly the spring arrives. We did the usual thing, visited at Niagara Falls and then flew across to Calgary and drove through the Rockies and stayed with my wife’s Aunt and cousin in Vancouver and then flew home. I had about five weeks leave.

On the 1st of July I was promoted to Rear Admiral and took over from Laurie Carr. It was a great pleasure to have reached the top of a career I had started back in 1941 in just over thirty years. I was 48 and here I was an Admiral. I started to then learn what being an Admiral was and also the problems, I had seen operating from afar in London, the new Defence Department. By this time we had the duo of the CDS and the Secretary of Defence who were equals. There was the Minister of Defence above this and then there were the three Chiefs of Staff and then the team underneath. Part of the chain of command was very much the CDS/Secretary Defence. The CDS especially regarded the three Services as his domain and it was obvious right from the beginning there was going to be friction as to who controlled what. We had got to the stage where the ADCS’s. There was ADCS (Policy), there was the ADCS (Material) and the ACDS (Personnel). There was a DCDS who was Stan Quill, Commodore Dick Hale was the ACDS (Personnel). The situation had got to a stage were the ACDS (Personnel) was responsible to CDS for all appointments for Commander, Lieutenant Colonel upwards, but in consultation with the Chief of Staff. I found this caused conflict because I wasn’t going to have Defence determining who was going to be the Commodore, Auckland and who was going to command the ships. Whilst it was all laid down on paper that these matters were on my recommendation it didn’t happen this way. I had no personnel department and only a junior personnel officer who provided the liaison. It was the same with the material side with the ACDS in charge of material. You were always getting into arguments especially from a financial point of view as to who had the control of what and it was an extremely difficult period.

I settled into the job. I felt my first requirement was to get up to Auckland and meet this Fleet I was commanding or this Service I was commanding. I have said earlier that I found it unfortunate that I was not known personally. I had not served with or had any contact with something like 75 percent of the Force that I was commanding. I remember on one occasion I had been in the Dockyard. I had been in the CS’s office and decided I would walk back to PHILOMEL. I was walking across the parade ground and a smart young Lieutenant came up and saluted me and said, “Can I help you Sir”. I said, “No thank you”. He said, “Do you know your way ?”. I just turned on a good Admiral’s look and just informed him who the hell I was and what he was. The poor bloke just about died on the spot, but that was indicative of the problem that I faced. It was especially so with the rating element. I knew very few of the Chiefs because it was then over three years since I had been in New Zealand any way and it was nearly four years since WAIKATO. We had spent little time on the New Zealand Station and so there were Chiefs and Petty Officers who didn’t know me from a bar of soap.

Then we had the 1972 election where the Labour Party suddenly came to power and Norman Kirk became the Prime Minister. The Minister of Defence was Faulkner. There was this sudden swing in the political arena of New Zealand which carried with it a whole series of changes especially French Nuclear testing which was a big issue and which the Labour Party embraced. Faulkner was a very senior member of the Cabinet and was very disappointed that he didn’t get a higher post. He was Minister of Defence and we became great friends, but he was not terribly strong. The political climate of New Zealand changed considerably. The Maori element, Mat Rata was the Minister of Maori Affairs, started to get considerable prominence. It was the beginning of the Waitangi problems. The key issue as far as I was concerned and as far as Defence was concerned was this anti nuclear or anti French nuclear testing. Labour came into power in October if I remember rightly. By November the Mururoa Operation started up with the Prime Minister through the Minister of Defence through the Chief of Defence Staff saying he wished plans to be laid to send a RNZN ship to this nuclear testing which normally took place in May, June and July. We started to work on this programme. I will give Norman Kirk his due. You have probably just heard on the news recently and the argument that is going on with David Lange over the coup in Fiji. There was no problems of command or access that I recall with the Prime Minister who directly controlled the system. He was working through the Minister of Defence and there was a good rapport. After a bit of argument with Dick Webb, the CDS, I got myself into a position where at least I attended some of the discussions that went on at a political level. The whole thing was being done in Cabinet, but it was very much by the Prime Minister. We started the whole debate and discussion and it was immediately clear that we could send a Frigate. The ideal one would be CANTERBURY but she was due to go up to the Far East. She had the full remote control system down in the engine room and had the complete NBCD system. WAIKATO was the next best, but didn’t have remote control but had good NBCD. Then it came down to OTAGO and TARANAKI. WAIKATO was in refit and so it came down to CANTERBURY or OTAGO and TARANAKI. The biggest problem, the biggest headache was how were we going to get to Mururoa and stay on station. If my memory is correct if the Frigate went at economical speed and saved fuel she could stay on station for about three and a half days before she would have to go back Rarotonga or some where for fuel. Tahiti was the best available fuelling point, but I don’t know whether we were going to get let in there. We had a major problem. NZDLO in London discovered RFA tanker, the BLUE RANGER which was then thirty years old was being put up for sale. We investigated this in depth. At the same time we were talking to Australia as to whether they could do any thing. The Australians were saying yes they could provide SYDNEY, which was getting to the end of its time and just about to be paid off, or SUPPLY which was in the middle of a refit. If we did it at a certain time they would give us SUPPLY or before that they could possibly give us SYDNEY. We were still in November, December, January period, so that we had a bit of time. The CDS took a considerable interest in the planning because it had an impact on the whole defence structure. If we could get this one done properly we might convince the Labour Party that defence was worth while and we would get the money for other things. Mixed up with all this were the Australians were taking the French to the International Court of The Hague to stop testing in the Pacific. It was going to be touch and go whether this went through The Hague and we got a judgement which would stop testing and really put the French on the back foot. We were having chats to the Americans who were supportive of our operation because they wanted to get all the information they could about the French explosions. They weren’t against it but they weren’t completely with us. In March it seemed that the Australian efforts were going to come to fruition in time and we were told by the Prime Minister that we could put the question of a Frigate going as less likely. His words were, “You can put it on the back burner”. We went on with our planning. Early on the Prime Minister had made a statement that people would be able to volunteer. I went and laid down the law and made it quite clear that Naval personnel had volunteered when they had joined the Navy. That all military personnel in New Zealand were volunteers and there wasn’t going to be any in house volunteering at the last minute. I was pointing out to him I can’t suddenly change the engine room staff or something like that, the ship just won’t work. He never said I agree with you, but he sort of nodded and took it in.

Digressing slightly in February the 6th at Waitangi, we did the normal Waitangi celebrations. I have forgotten the ship that was there, but it was first class, a beautiful day. The day before I arranged an ML and we took Norman Kirk and Mat Rata and the Minister of Defence and their wives we took them out for a picnic. We had Sir Denis Blundell who was then Governor General. Mat Rata annoyed me because he had just come on board and there was a young Maori boy on the jetty and he said, “Come with us Charlie”. For once I had got the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence tied down without the Chief of Defence Staff. I managed on this occasion to really I think brief both of them, Faulkner especially and the PM on what was involved in driving a Frigate. You can’t have volunteers or suddenly change things. We have got to have proper support. We have got to have a back up system if we get a break down or otherwise its going to fall so flat you are going to look silly. That was a very valuable trip. Fay was a bit upset because I was ear bashing for quite a solid time. I think at that stage I was able to get across what it was all in aid of. We went on and I got an agreement with him that we could go on negotiating in the UK with the possibility of getting BLUE RANGER. I said its going to take us six weeks to get her out here to start off with, so we’ve got to make the decision now. She’s a merchant ship and needs to be up to Lloyd’s standards. We will have to have the Navy man the ship but we won’t have time to exercise and train them on the drills. We will probably have to hire the Fleet auxiliary skipper and some of the crew. I think I got the message across because I was given agreement that I was to go ahead. We then went into negotiations and it changed from BLUE RANGER to GOLD RANGER and we got to the stage where we were getting prices. If my memory is correct they were asking $100,000 for it and I think we got them down to about $75,000, plus we paid for the refit and the travel. We still then had the ENDEAVOUR (NAMAKAGON), because I was asked why can’t you use her. I said she hasn’t got the legs to get there and she can’t pump, we have never been allowed to put proper fuel in. He said well can’t she just go around the corner and put a hose over, I had go and explain how things operated. Alongside this we were still discussing with the Australians, the use of SYDNEY or SUPPLY. They came up trumps, so we sat down and wrote operation orders. We didn’t have the staff we had before Defence HQ was established. Defence also hadn’t got to the stage where it ran a proper operational section and we were half way in between. Writing this operational order being vetted by the CDS and being questioned by the Prime Minister, dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s was a long and tedious process. We finally got an operational order out which we were able to give to COMAUCK. By this time it was April and the ship would have to sail if she was going to be ready for the May testing programme and COMAUCK had all the problems of making sure the ship went through its training and particularly its NBCD training. The Prime Minister insisted that there would be a political presence and he wanted a Cabinet Minister to go. He also offered a position to the opposition. He wanted full press coverage. He said he wanted half a dozen and we got him down to three. We had to make sure that he had a proper medical support system, also we had to make sure that we had interpreters, Lieutenant Commander Geoff Daykin proved to be an excellent interpreter. We had to surreptitiously through the Americans and through the Intelligence Service make sure we were fully up to date on all the frequencies that the French used. I had developed a very good liaison with the French Ambassador here in Wellington who was a bachelor. He and Fay got on extremely well together. We used to see him socially quite often. I remember on one occasion we were at a dinner party, he called me over and we got into a corner. He said, “Admiral I just wanted to say I think between us we don’t want to make a mess of this do we”. I said, “No we don’t Ambassador”. He said it would be highly embarrassing for my Government and for your Government if there was a major problem. He said, “I would be grateful if you could just keep in touch for my benefit which might help and I will do the same.” He was very good. I actually learnt from him when the testing was going to happen before we actually got the information through the Defence system. There was nothing ever formally exchanged but it was a very good liaison. Our own intelligence was pretty good. Finally it was decided which ship was going to go. OTAGO was chosen because I refused to bring CANTERBURY back from up to the Far East if I remember rightly. We put her in as a reserve number. We still had to keep ships up in the Far East. Alan Tyrell was CO of OTAGO who I gave full marks, got settled into it. I remember the press release of the Prime Minister who finished it up with the words that the crew may opt out. This annoyed me. Alongside all this were about four or five Green Peace protest ships going off and one of the things that they were trying to do was to get the Government to give them full support. We got the Prime Minister to make a clear statement that they would get no support. They were on their own, and that they were obliged to obey us if we told them to leave. This raised a terribly difficult problem that I remember we went through. Where do we stand for SAR if one of these protest Greenpeace vessels gets into trouble are we going to turn on full SAR. The Navigating Officer of OTAGO said he wanted to opt out and there were one or two ratings if I remember rightly. I had to relieve the Navigating Officer at the last minute that infuriated me. The Australians had been extremely good and they set up the supply system with SUPPLY and we had rendezvous positions. The representative of the Government was Fraser Coleman. According to the Prime Minister they drew lots in Cabinet and he got the short straw. We had three press people on board, and I was recently reading Alan Tyrell’s reports. It took him a bit of a battle to get the press to settle down. They had to transmit their copy through the COMS office and he finally convinced them it was necessary for him to vet what they were saying for accuracy and for confidentiality. That they weren’t releasing something that they couldn’t say. In addition he insisted they put their copy up on the notice board. They objected to this, because they said it wasn’t printed. He pointed out to them you have an obligation to the families back in New Zealand and to the sailors on board. They have not seen the newspapers and they need to know what you are saying about this, otherwise they are going to get most peculiar telephone calls from their wives and families. I think from what I read and what he told me when he came back he did establish a very good rapport with the press. The press side went off extremely well. Alan Tyrell did a good job. We established a good communication link. We had a direct net with them, and they reported in when aircraft came over the top. They had mine sweepers passing by them and a whole series of things went on. Then there was the great day and we set up a Mururoa Ops room in DOP’s office which was a Ministry of Defence Ops room this was agreed with by the CDS and we had a duty Naval Officer. They had links with the PM. I remember going down there on the day we expected the test and was there half the night. I think the actual explosion was about 9 o’clock our time, it might have been a bit earlier. The whole operation went off extremely well and I think a lot of kudos came to the Navy for it. It was the beginning of the anti nuclear problems that we are now facing in New Zealand, which I won’t go into an argument for and against. It proved a point that we could do an operation of this type. I think as an operation it was a great success. It proved a point of very good co-operation between the Australians and ourselves. It proved the ability for the Navy and the Air Force especially to work together. The Air Force was good they sent the Orions out which dropped mail to the ships. They did some patrols for us checking around the area. The Australians set up a supply line through Rarotonga. Stores and spares were flown up there and they would be picked up there by Supply and transferred over when they met the ship or the ship would nip down and get them. It also enhanced our intelligence service. The British in their cunning way had one of those landing ships that finally got hit in the Falklands, SIR GALAHAD. They had her steaming around the eastern Pacific with a big nuclear team on board. We managed to get a link with them, because they were doing a monitoring service on the French in Mururoa. I had a personal link with CINCPAC Fleet who was giving us some help. I hadn’t met him then, but he came up and said, “I can offer you this”. We did have a link with the Americans who wanted the information from us. We had a DSIR chap on board, but we didn’t have a lot of gear to be able to do full nuclear monitoring. We were using our own EW equipment to monitor communication frequencies, but that was just for our own protection and own information really. We weren’t fitted out to do a full nuclear monitoring test. Looking back on it, it went extremely well. I think it brought the Navy together a bit. We had to relieve OTAGO and we sent CANTERBURY up as the second ship. There were three nuclear bursts, and I have forgotten now whether OTAGO did two and CANTERBURY one. We brought OTAGO back because it was quite a long period, and she was getting various mechanical problems. We sent CANTERBURY up and Fraser Coleman and the press people were transferred over to her. Then she came back and there was a big reception in Auckland. The PM was present and Mrs Coleman and the whole lot. I felt a bit sorry for OTAGO because they didn’t get the full glory of the thing. They got a good reception when they came home, but they didn’t get the glory of it because it was still going on.

Fraser Coleman certainly became a great fan for logistic support for the Fleet. When we came to buy the tanker in `86 he was in the ad hoc Cabinet Committee that dealt with it, he was the leader and it just sailed through.

Oh he remained a great friend, he and his wife of Fay and myself. He surprisingly enough took over from me as Chairman of the Fire Service Commission. We meet from time to time and discuss these things. He had nothing but the greatest of praise for the whole thing, for the ship, the ship’s company, the Navy. I gather he was extremely popular on board, not as a politician but just as a person. He would sit down and chat with the ship’s company.

I had to deal with him in a Cabinet Committee. We had to actually go back with the final contract for ENDEAVOUR to that Cabinet Committee to get the final tick. We had to go and front up to him about three or four times and he was just wonderful. He used to put Frank O’Flynn in his place.

Up until, really through until July I was doing very little else. There were other things going on because we were writing another Defence White paper. We were arguing the toss. The Air Force was trying to get more helicopters and more Hercules. The Army were very much into their Brigade concept and were wanting equipment. But it was all being hedged in my view with this cumbersome defence system. Doug St George was the CAS, Les Pierce was the CGS and I was CNS. Dick Bolt was the ACDS (Material), we were at school together, but we got on well together. He was a strong character but he was hog tied by this cumbersome machine. Doug St George and I never really saw eye to eye, in my view he was a an arrogant RNZAF light blue person who wouldn’t accept any thing from anybody other than the Air Force. I was very sorry when he died not long after he retired, but he was not an easy man to work with. Les Pierce was the exact opposite he was a soldiers general. A very popular person, a most delightful chap to work with and we used to get our heads together and take on the system. He had not been through the policy central system mill to any great degree. He was popular in the political scene but he had not had the experience with Foreign Affairs, although he had commanded a Battalion up in the Far East and that sort of thing. He was a soldiers man. His great joy was to get up to Waiouru as you know.

Play golf.

Yes he was a brilliant golfer and there is a golf course named after him.

How did you get on with the CDS who was Webb wasn’t it?

Dick Webb and I we both were at school together, though he was ahead of me at Nelson College. I will just digress at this point. In 1973 was the 125th Anniversary of the creation of the Cadet Corp at the College. There was a big celebration down at Nelson College and my youngest son Richard was there. It must have been 1974 because Bill Rowling had become the Prime Minister. Dick Webb, Dick Bolt and myself all old boys of the school, Bill Rowling was also an old boy of Nelson who was about three years younger than me and had been a junior when I was Head of House for Barnicott. When he became Prime Minister it was the drill that the Chiefs of Staff paid their respects to the Prime Minister dressed in medals and swords and so forth. As I came into the room he looked at me and said, “Well Admiral I can remember you tanned my bottom, you won’t get promoted”. My son was number two or number three of this guard. It was an extremely hot day and they were starting to fall, until finally young Richard finished up number one of the rear rank. Afterwards I said, “Well done Ricky my boy”. He said, “Dad I wouldn’t have dared die in that place with you there”.

Dick Webb was a very competent Staff Officer. He was a political animal in that he was meticulous in briefing himself. He made the judgement on what he thought the politicians were going to accept and he would not deviate from that. He would fight for something that he reckoned he could win. He would not fight for issues where we really had to brow beat the politicians to convince them. We didn’t have violent arguments because he was a dominating character in Chiefs of Staff and in the Defence Council. His whole modus operandi was to produce an agenda for the Chiefs of Staff meeting and call ad hoc meetings. He would present us with a topic which we might have just got the paper the day before. We had to study the issues and demand that we gave him a decision there and then. Les Pearce and I used to resist this like hell because we hadn’t had a chance to go through it. It might go back to the days when he and I were on the Joint Planning Committee. I don’t think we really ever got on extremely well. We used to enjoy each other’s company, we used to play golf together, we would joke and all those sort of things. I think he respected me, but he did not accept me as a person to take over from him, of that I am quite certain. Whether there was jealousy I don’t know. I was only 48 when I became the CNS, he was about 53 or 54. I had been in the chair about a year to eighteen months and Faulkner indicated to me that it was surely the Navy’s turn to be CDS. They had two Generals, they hadn’t had an Airman. Possibly foolishly at one stage I said, “Well you haven’t had an Airman yet”. He said, “Well you had better carry on, because you are likely to be the next CDS”. It became clear to me that as far as Dick Webb was concerned I was not going to be the CDS and I wasn’t. The Navy was going through a trough in terms of establishing a new development programme. We had got the four Frigates. The six Frigate concept had gone out the window, it was not accepted at defence level, it was not accepted at political level. We were in a trough to what we should be doing. From the NAMAKAGON days it was clear that we had to have a support ship. I fought battles for this. We never got it off the ground because we were always battling against CDS and his concept of a logistic or an Army support vessel which could take a Battalion. In addition to this he was quite convinced that Defence development had to expand into centralised Defence operational control. We went through a planning exercise and got to the stage of doing a design of putting a Joint Operational Headquarters on the land between Whenuapai and Hobsonville. Plans were drawn up and there was an acrimonious debate as to how we were going to command this Joint Command Centre. Was it going to be a joint command or was it going to be just three Commanders all cohabited or co-located. COMAUCK was constantly getting at me and we were saying that if you are going to have a joint Headquarters, then the main purpose of this Operational Headquarters has got to be Maritime. We were saying it should be a naval command if it was the Maritime Headquarters. The Army cannot command, as we are the Maritime Command. Under ANZUS we were the OCA, the Ocean Control Authority which was delegated to COMAUCK. Dick Webb was determined so consequently it was a period when there was a downturn in my view in the development of the Navy. I regret that in my three and a half years as CNS I left without a firm development plan for the Navy. At the same time we were going through a re-organisation in Auckland. We were setting up what finally became the training organisation. I wanted PHILOMEL to become the base organisation, a complete support group, personnel, material and so forth. I wanted to try and bring the whole thing into the British concept that they developed in Portsmouth especially. They had a support group which when the ship came in looked after everything. I think it came about in a slightly different way in later years with the training group system and I think they brought two together with CS or somebody became.

I was Fleet WEO when John McKenzie was COMAUCK. They created the Captain Naval Training group. Gerry Lawrence and Denis O’Donoghue were in that role and eventually they moved to TAMAKI. They started off being a Chief of Staff (Training).

The idea was to get all the training under one heading, not just the new entry training. The next aim was to get support in one group.

Captain Fleet Support and they merged SNSD and SASO under the Captain of PHILOMEL.

But what was that unit called that worked alongside the Dockyard?

Fleet Maintenance Unit.

Fleet Maintenance Unit. I wanted to get the Fleet Maintenance Unit and stores not personnel in one system that provided the ship with all the resources it needed to operate. Then the Dockyard was purely a supplier to those two organisations, the Training and the Fleet Support Unit. You didn’t have to send a chit into NSD to get your beef and spuds and so forth, it all came under one heading. That was the objective of what we were trying to do. It didn’t get off the ground in my time.

Did you say who your DCNS was?

The DCNS to begin with was John McKenzie and then Neil Anderson.

Fred Bland would have been CNTS I presume?


It became quite obvious in early 1975, my three years of the post were coming up at the end of June, and I had a straight out discussion with Dick Webb as to what the future held. He didn’t say it straight to me but he made it quite clear that I wasn’t the new CDS. Dick Bolt had taken over from Doug St George and it was clear to me that they were organising the system where Dick Bolt would become the first Air Force CDS. This I didn’t object to, because I had a great respect for him. Therefore I was put in the difficult position as to who my successor was going to be. I thought a lot about this because the logical person then was Neil Anderson. He had a minor medical problem but he had a full medical and was passed fully fit. I decided in early `75 that in my view for the Navy’s benefit if we were going to have a CDS in the future for some time to come the logical person was going to be Neil Anderson. I couldn’t see and you are looking five years in advance past, I couldn’t necessarily see somebody coming through with the mana, to beat the other Services. In New Zealand it is very difficult to beat the Army. I discussed this with CDS, who then told me that he was going to extend for another six months, this made it very clear that they were going to give Dick Bolt a short period, but at least two years in the post. I finally convinced CDS and the Government of the day that I would hold Neil Anderson back and bring John McKenzie in for a short period of two years as the CNS. This was agreed and I had to get hold of Neil and told him. He was very good about it. Personally I believe it was the right move. It gave him longer in the chair and gave him a chance. He would have been the same as me he would never have been COMAUCK. It was one of the reasons that I decided to do it, because it gave him the opportunity for CDS.

He never was COMAUCK was he?

No because he came down as DCDS. He took over from Stan Quill as DCDS. He had a very much defence orientated career and he had been Secretary to the Chiefs of Staff back when he was Commander. At that point I assumed he would go and be COMAUCK. In fact I have forgotten who took over COMAUCK when John McKenzie came down.

Rick Humby I think.

Humby was it.

Dick Hale was up there when I first took over.

I personally believe it was an essential thing because it ensured the Navy was established in the system. I have always believed that we should rotate the CDS. To me it was a bad period. Defence was becoming far too dominant. John Robertson was a very good Secretary. But you had this duo that were all powerful. Most things were dual signed and it was a very difficult position for a Chief of Staff or a Service to really break through the barriers and get at the Politicians when you had to.

It got too centralised didn’t it?

Oh far too centralised.

Especially the finance section.

It was terrible, I remember Les Pearce and I and even Doug St George argued up hill and down dale that we were not big enough for this sort of thing. They were taking away so many Staff Officers from the individual Services. None of us could get our hands on the people that we necessary wanted because ACDS (Pers) or CDS himself had the ultimate say. Robin Holloway when he took over was ghastly. You would suddenly find Lieutenant Colonel so and so was being appointed to some staff or was being brought in for a special project or something like that. I am certain that Dick Webb thought he was building the right blocks for New Zealand to match up with the British. The Defence Departments were the in thing in England, in the States and in Australia. God help us if we ever had the Australian system. I mean ours was bad enough, but the Australian system was terribly top heavy in my view as was Canada. There was this Canadian system where they had one uniform and Chief Petty Officers were Sergeants.

It is quite interesting because over the years all the Defence departments around the world have been devolved back to single services.

That’s right.

It hasn’t quite gone full circle, but it certainly got back to the situation where Defence central looks after policy matters mostly.

Major policy matters. They are the proper servants of the job the politician has and that is to set the basic policy. The single services should be left to get on with it.

(end of Tape 13)

(beginning of Tape 14)

You sent me a letter giving me some extra points you would like to discuss and so I will take it rather in the form in which you set it out in the letter.

Starting out with key people on my staff, the main people at that time were Commodore Bland, Fred Bland, who was the Chief Technical Officer, and who I think in those days was called Chief of Technical Services. I can’t remember when it came in, but he was the main technical person. At one stage Rick Humby was the DCNS. We started off with John McKenzie and then Rick Humby and then Neil Anderson were the DCNS’s. We were in that period of Defence, when Defence were all powerful. In other words you have the Assistant Chief of Defence Staff (Personnel), who was Dick Hale, who was responsible in those days for appointments and theoretically he was supposed to make the appointments. He came to me, I said I wanted so and so and so and so to go to different appointments, but Defence theoretically made the appointments. It was a very confusing period, because he was trying to satisfy two masters, and I am glad to say that I understand now it has changed back to what it was. The main team was Fred Bland who was the Chief of Technical Services. There was again a conflict of interest with ACDS (Support) over the question of purchasing and that sort of thing. People came and went. I am trying to think of the detail of who was the operator and so forth, I will have to look that up. We will move on.

Our relationships with the Australians were extremely good. David Stevenson was the Chief of Naval Staff in Australia. We had done the IDC together, we knew each other extremely well, and there were no problems in those terms. Micky Wiseder was the CINCPACFLT to begin with, then he became CINCPAC, he was another friend that I had known for some time. There was Admiral Haywood, who had been, he was ASWFORPAC at the stage when I was driving OTAGO. He then came back into the scene in Washington. Again our relationships with both the Americans and the Australians were extremely good. ANZUS operated, the ships were going up and taking part in RIMPAC Exercises and so forth. You may remember the period. It was a good period of relationships, there were no difficulties, except it did produce a problem when the Labour Party came in over the nuclear issue. Whilst it hadn’t got to the nuclear free zone problems, that hadn’t originated then, there was talk about nuclear freedom, but it didn’t originate in my time. When we did the Mururoa Operation the Americans tended to stand back, not wanting to get into conflict with the French. But they were very helpful in giving us a lot of information as to what was going on, where things were, where the ships were, when they expected the bombs to go off, etc. We had a very good relationship with both the Australians and the Americans.

Defence relationships with the Australians were a little more difficult, mainly because as you would know well the cumbersome Australian Defence machine, an extremely cumbersome arrangement. The Secretary of Defence, and I am trying to think of his name, Tang, I quite enjoyed his company, he was a delightful chap to meet, but a very difficult person I understand to get on with. CDS and our Secretary of Defence used to tear their hair from time to time, yet there seemed to be a reasonably good relationships, but it was a cumbersome arrangement, not helped by the very cumbersome system that went on in Australia. It was quite apparent from what David Stevenson told me, and I can see the problems he had of the relationship between the Chiefs of Staff and the Secretary of Defence in Australia. It didn’t affect us to any great degree in my time, because generally we were not in the field for new Frigates that happened much later on. They were in the process of going for their DDG’s, and there was a lot of discussion, even at that time as to how much we should co-ordinate the shapes and sizes of the Fleet or the two Fleets, and also common equipment and so forth. We had some problems with SEACAT, they were in the process of developing IKARA and they were very keen for us to get into IKARA business. We were stepping right back saying we didn’t want IKARA, in my view I thought it was a very wasteful system, I much preferred the helicopter torpedo which had come with WAIKATO and arrived in my time in CANTERBURY. They were still very keen for us to get into the IKARA game, which we backed off from.

Our relationships with the RN were extremely good in those days. Personally they were extremely good, because I knew a large number of the RN Officers, from the First Sea Lord down. The Second Sea Lord, I did the IDC with and a whole structure of the RN Officers in my time I had served with in various times in Singapore. On the IDC when I had been in London in the High Commission there was no difficulty whatsoever from my point of view of being able to write not only to the First Sea Lord level but also to the Secretary of Defence or to the permanent Secretary who was a Mr Cooper, who I knew very well. So the relationships were extremely good then. I went to England and did a visit to UK, was received in the normal manner and had complete entree’. Our intelligence was good, we were kept up to date, the flow of information, the flow of books and so forth, but again it was the beginnings of the problem of the nuclear problem, which had been brought about by the Labour Government of the time.

Singapore and Malaysia – in Malaysia we had relationships on a personal basis. The CNS was Admiral Balasingham, who had been a Lieutenant Commander at one stage in command of their frigate when I was driving OTAGO, and again in WAIKATO days, and we knew each other extremely well, we were very old friends, and again there was no problem at all. Fay and I did a very happy visit to Singapore and Malaysia. At that stage they were in the process of developing Lumat the new Naval Base up on the West Coast. We visited there and he was very keen for us to visit and comment, because they were in the process of considering at that stage going in for the Type 12 or the Leander Class Frigate, which in the end they didn’t get. They were very keen for having any advice we could give, they were also considering SEACAT and those sort of things. I seem to remember you got involved in that.

I personally wanted to develop the RNZNVR, they were in the throes of not quite knowing what their role was to be. They were very much developing Naval Control of Shipping, which was their main effort, but it hadn’t developed until later when it became their main role. There was a confusion and we tried very hard to get it settled down, mainly because there was still a big argument going on with the Government. The Labour Government came in with the firm intention that there would never be any more CMT, the whole thing was to be voluntary. There would be no CMT, and the Army was very much under pressure those days as to whether they were going to have a territorial force at all. They managed to retain that. We kept the VR’s out of that argument, they were small enough not to be considered, but there was a problem, both in recruiting for the VR’s and giving them a role, because they were still operating their ML’s. The craft that they now have hadn’t come along and it was a difficult period for them. I gave them all the support we could, but we got no great support from Defence in developing the VR’s into a proper role. MONOWAI, I regard as one of my achievements. When I took over from Laurie Carr the plan was to build a new Hydrographic ship, the Hydra Class I think it was, and it had been put up to Government and it was virtually approved.

I thought we had laid the first part of the hull down there didn’t we?

I can’t remember whether it had been approved to purchase the Hydra Class, I can’t remember whether we had actually started it or whether it came in and Rob Muldoon stopped it. I think he delayed it a year, I can’t remember the exact detail. It was in a pot mess when I took over as to whether we were going to go ahead with it or not. We fought for about a year with CDS who was supportive of it, but couldn’t see the funds, and I was told that we could only have x dollars. The MOANA ROA was then a Government vessel servicing the Pacific Islands. We were suddenly told one day that the Government wanted to get rid of it, they were going to sell it and the Minister of Defence of the Day who was then Faulkner, suddenly turned around and said, “Why don’t the Navy take it over. We said all right we would look at it. When we really looked at it, and really thought about it and this was Fred Bland’s main effort with Sandy Bell. When we really looked at it, it was a possibility, but we believed a very expensive possibility. It became very clear that we could get MOANA ROA and we could get all the gear into it that we wanted. We could have it re-engined and spend a lot of money on it, and the Government were very happy to spend the money that way rather than buy a new ship. We made the decision right we would go for it. The planning, and I gave Sandy Bell and Freddy Bland, the team full marks, they really got stuck into it, and the end result I think was a very good ship which I understand has proved the point. It was a bad period from the point of view of getting money, and I saw that we will get that money, lets get the ship and be done with it, rather than go on fighting for a new ship. There was a lot of argument that went on at that time. Bill Smith was adamant that we should have a new ship, but we fought and we won the thing. MOANA ROA I regard as one of the successes of my time as CNS. The patrol craft were before my time that was Laurie Carr’s thing. They arrived and they were brought out on a heavy lift ship. The first two PUKAKI and ROTOITI were commissioned and named in Auckland, Fay named one of the ships, and by that time Norman Kirk had died and Bill Rowling had become Prime Minister, and his wife named the other ship ROTOITI.

We did that over at Princes Wharf.

That’s right.

Bill Rowling had been at school with me, it was a happy occasion. When I was in London as Head of the Defence Staff I fought tooth and nail with Laurie Carr saying that they were too small. We were strongly recommending the 136 meter patrol craft, they were 106 feet, which is what 60 meters and there was a 90 meter model, I have forgotten the detail. I said all the argument is that the small one won’t handle the conditions around the coast, and it proved true, unfortunately. We did a trip across from Wellington Head to the Marlborough Sounds in the PUKAKI, and she bounced, and I felt sorry for the crew. It was unfortunate but I could understand Laurie Carr’s problems of getting ships from the money available. Inshore Patrol Craft and the diving tender, were on the list. It was the MOANA ROA first and then the survey craft and they just went on as far as I was concerned, we had promoted them, but they were not in my time.

Defence Reviews – the Labour Government in actual fact were supportive of Defence in terms that they saw the need for equipment. The big battle that was going on was the size and shape of the force and especially the Army. As I think I have already mentioned from the naval point of view, WAIKATO had arrived, CANTERBURY arrived in 1972, we had got our four Frigates. We still argued that we needed some new ones, and we needed to plan for OTAGO and TARANAKI’s replacement, but there was no heavy pressure on the frigates. Our whole objective was MOANA ROA, converting her to MONOWAI, and my personal view that we should have a support ship. In terms of the ENDEAVOUR which was the old NAMAKAGON, I wanted to at least put an astern fuelling rig in her, fit her up so that we could use her from a tanker point of view, but we really needed a properly designed support ship. We went through the whole problem when we had the MOANA ROA, we tried to get the GOLD RANGER, and we would have got her if the Australians hadn’t turned around and offered us SUPPLY. I think the Navy made a very bad mistake right at the beginning when we got NAMAKAGON we should have fought tooth and nail to rig her up as a tanker and then replaced her, and I am glad to see they have got a decent tanker nowadays.

We did a Defence Review, but as I say there was not a great deal of pressure on Navy from an equipment point of view and the battle really all the time was getting the Navy voice into Defence where the Defence Department considered that they ran the whole show. They wrote the thing and we were required in a sense to rubber stamped it, which we didn’t do, but it was a period when Defence was all powerful.

Foreign Affairs – personally I had a very good relationship with Foreign Affairs, because again having served in London in the High Commission, I knew them all extremely well. Alastair McIntosh was the Secretary of Foreign Affairs at that stage, a personal friend. A number of the hierarchy just beneath him were all personal friends, so there was no difficulty as far as that was concerned. They were having their problems with the Labour Government of changing policy, changing outlooks. We saw the beginning of the South African problems, with support for the ANC or a move towards supporting African Countries. A post was set up in Zanzibar I think it was, so that the attitude was a Labour attitude of friends to all, down play SEATO. SEATO was gradually disappearing, it didn’t carry the weight it had before, it was still operating to a degree and there was not a lot of association. ANZUS was starting to have its problems because of the attitude on the nuclear side, but again my personal relationships with Foreign Affairs were good.

Treasury – we had little dealings with Treasury because every thing had to go through Defence. Our task really was arguing the toss with Defence rather than with Treasury. Money was just the usual battle that went on. Defence Council deliberations I think I have already mentioned. The CDS of the day, Dick Webb was a meticulous person who was a strong character. He did his homework, he sent the papers up, he and the Secretary of Defence would go through them, they would say that’s the paper to be presented to the Chiefs. We could argue up hill and down dale, but it was very difficult to get things changed that we didn’t agree with. When they went to Defence Council, there was usually very little debate, although I can recall occasions with both CAS and myself and CGS raised points at Defence Council. Defence Council were only really held when every thing was set, signed, sealed and delivered and it was rubber stamped with the Minister present. It didn’t carry any great weight in the process.

On the works and building side or the development, the main issues, which you have just been talking to John McKenzie, the main issue we had was the redevelopment in Auckland of the training system. We set up the training group in Auckland the whole objective was to reorganise the Auckland Command into a total training command, a ship support command and an operational command. Alongside this was a major process, which I think I have already mentioned which was CDS’s view of setting up a Defence Command organisation in Auckland based on a new building or a new complex at Hobsonville. Into this would be the operational command of the forces, the three services and built into would be the maritime command structure, the MHQ. The Radford Collins Agreement governed the MHQ in those days, which was part associated with ANZUS. The Radford Collins Agreement which made the CNS the OCA of the New Zealand Radford Collins area, the Operation Control Authority, and this had required the CNS to have an Ops room in Wellington. CDS was determined to get all operational things out of Wellington and we had a long and difficult argument. The Air Force considered that they should have operational control of the Maritime Headquarters, primarily from the surveillance point of view. I said the OCA has got control and we finally developed the Maritime Headquarters. Originally it was to be developed in the Naval Base in Auckland and we went through a whole process of discussions. Finally it was developed out at Whenuapai, an area was set up, we set up communication systems and the Naval Officer in Charge, the Commodore Auckland became the Maritime Headquarters Commander and he would move out to Whenuapai and operate his Maritime Forces from there with an off shoot of the Naval Base. That was set up with the intention that ultimately it would move into this Headquarters to be built at Hobsonville which never eventuated. That was the move and it took the operational control of the Fleet away from Wellington into Auckland with the Commodore Auckland as the Operational Commander, theoretically being allocated forces by me the CNS and Defence for him to operate. Like all things in New Zealand it was too small to operate this American system of allocated Forces and the Commands did the operating or the Admiralty where the Admiralty allocated the Forces and CINCFLEET operated the Fleet. We were just too small really to do it, because you were tripping over each other. You had three Frigates, and if one went down, the Commodore Auckland was saying the same thing as the CNS as what do we do now. I think it worked better than trying to operate the fleet from Wellington. In my time the objective was to develop the training command, set up a support base where the ships could come in to the Fleet Maintenance Unit, and the Dockyard to be co-ordinated so that you weren’t going through the process which was often an argument that a ship would come in, is it a Dockyard job, is it a Fleet Maintenance job and so forth. It should be one Maintenance Commander or one maintenance system under the control of the Captain of PHILOMEL, whose task was to provide the Fleet with both manpower, which the Training Commander trained to provide the manpower and the support through the Naval Stores organisation and the maintenance side through the Dockyard. It was in the process of developing when I handed over to John McKenzie.

Pay and Superannuation – our major problems again was it was the period where Defence were determined to bring all the services together. We had argument after argument, paper after paper on the Defence disciplinary code. We insisted in Navy that the Commanding Officer was to have to retain his individual powers of discipline. The CDS was determined at one stage that Navy should adopt the Army system of Field Court Martial. In other words on board a ship if somebody committed an offence which was above a certain level you held a court martial. We just dug our toes in, and I dug my toes in and said, “No we have got to retain the old disciplinary system where the Captain was all powerful”. The Army and CDS were determined or couldn’t understand or could not accept why a Commanding Officer should have the powers of discipline such as cells, a warrant, sending people to prison and all those powers. I think it was retained, it was still retained when I retired and John McKenzie told me it was retained, but it was a very difficult period of trying to rationalise every thing into one Defence system.

The medical system had been co-ordinated into Defence. The Dental structure had been made Defence. We had a lot of discussion over the RNZN Hospital. At one stage that was to be done away with altogether, we fought and held it, and it became the Defence Hospital in Auckland. It very nearly became a National Emergency Hospital alongside North Shore Hospital. There was a strong move to establish it because we could provide a 24 hour service. It was very nearly made a casualty or an emergency hospital status, but it got lost on the basis that we had no specialists and we could not man it with qualified doctors 24 hours a day. As you know the RNZNH operated on consultancy experts and usually two or three Service Doctors. The Air Force refused to bring their people into RNZNH, because they said they had to have doctors on tap and they had their High Altitude School of Medicine out at Whenuapai. It was another one of these things of Defence bringing every thing together and it was retained.

To my memory there was no major pay reviews, although there was a pay group set up and I have forgotten what it was called now. It was the Defence Pay Committee to which Commander Eric Dean I think was appointed. There was a team set up which were to do a complete pay review, again wanting to bring it all together. A Sergeant with three years in would equate with a Chief. Then there was the monumental battle which went on as to how you were to equate a Chief Petty Officer Gunnery was equivalent to an Artillery Sergeant or is he equivalent to a Infantry Sergeant or a Sergeant Major. In those days we didn’t have the Warrant Officer system similar to the Army. It was an almighty problem which was never resolved, and I think it was dropped in the end, but it wasn’t resolved in my time. Those are some of the background points.

Going on to your other question regarding my family. I have been extremely fortunate of marrying a wife and having a wife who was extremely supportive to me, who had to run the family. I don’t know where I stand in terms of absence from home compared with other Naval Officers. The longest trip we did away was in PUKAKI, was for 13 months, she had to run the household with two young children. I was away, she had to bring the family back when I went into WAIKATO. She was extremely supportive from that point of view. She had all the problems of a naval wife and a naval officer’s pay was not all that brilliant. Did you pay the butcher this month or the baker the next month and all those problems, but she had been an extremely supportive person to me and I am most grateful for all the support which she has given. She was also extremely helpful on the odd occasion when I had command at sea and we had a welfare problem. She was extremely involved with Chief Petty Officer Wright who died in WAIKATO. When he was killed, Hester Wright his wife who was an English girl that had been out in New Zealand for some time and wanted to come back to New Zealand. She came out in the ship with Fay and Fay got to know her well and they became quite friendly and Fay was very helpful in helping her to get settled in New Zealand. The Navy at one stage offered her a temporary house, but a lot of argument went on as to whether she would get a state house. The State House Department wanted to shove her out to Otara, and Fay got Dick Hale to argue the case and get her settled in another part. In other welfare matters she was extremely helpful to me. As CNS’s wife she took a major part in doing all the entertaining and writing a lot of the thank you letters. When we did our travels overseas to America she very much played a part in getting to know people and also talking to the wives and that sort of thing, so she had been an extremely helpful person. As far as my three sons are concerned, to this day I don’t know whether they suffered. I suppose in a sense you could say they gained on the swings and lost on the roundabouts, in that all of them have travelled overseas with us. They have therefore seen a bit of the world. They got used to people coming and going in the house or being involved. I am quite certain, especially our youngest Richard must have got a bit of tired of Dad rushing of here and rushing of there, and social events and that sort of thing. Anthony stayed in New Zealand at Boarding School, where as the other two young ones travelled with us, it doesn’t seem to have done him any harm. I think like every thing, they gained on the swings and lost on the roundabouts, and I don’t think they have suffered to one degree or gained any thing from it.

Finally you wanted some comments about my career with the Fire Service. That was a most interesting ten years. I retired from the Navy and did one or two things and about nine months after I retired, amusingly the telephone went one day and it was Alan Hyatt the Minister of Internal Affairs. The National party had just defeated the Labour party at the polls. I thought he said, “Could you come in and see me tomorrow afternoon at 2 o’clock”, and I said, “Yes, what’s it about?” He said “I am considering you for Chairman”, and I thought he said, “The Forestry Commission”. I said, “Oh yes”, wondering what it was to do with Forestry. As I went in there, he said, “I am appointing you Chairman of the Fire Service Commission”. I said, “Thanks very much but you might have asked me first”. It was a most delightful appointment. The Fire Service under the Labour Party had been re-organised from its individual Brigades into a National Service, and the Fire Service Act took effect from the 1st April 1976. Jack Hunn had been appointed in late `74 early `75 to organise this re-grouping of the Fire Service and establish the National New Zealand Fire Service. He did a very good job in setting out the parameters of what it was. Then he retired in September and I took over in November with two Fire Officers Bill Henderson and Frank Hardy who were the two professional officers and we formed the Commission. It was not just a Board of Control it had Executive command of the Fire Service. We were Chief Executive and had a Board of Control running and setting up this Fire Service which consisted of 276 Brigades of which 22 had permanent, that’s fully paid staff in the main centres. The remainder 250 odd were volunteer Brigades, scattered from Kaitaia in the North right through to Stewart Island in the South and the Chatham Islands. It was a very interesting period because the whole of the Fire Service had been brought up on a local basis. Their whole loyalty was to their local town, their local city. Their promotion tended to be within the Brigade that they served. The officers moved but their promotion depended upon being acceptable to a local Fireboard for promotion or being appointed as Chief Fire Officer or something like that. We had the whole problem of not only just bringing them together but also setting up a complete structure and an appointment system, a common pay code, a common system of equipment. Up until 1976 each Brigade bought its own equipment, some bought them direct from overseas, some had them built here, so you had a mass of different equipment, different types of breathing apparatus, you name it. It was a most interesting period of bringing them together and a most delightful team of people. Fay and I got to know them well and we really enjoyed their company and admired their ability. The main thing was having to re-educate and develop a national understanding and the officers to groom them to look nationally as well as locally. It was painfully obvious right from the beginning that it was going to take 10 to 15 years for this thing to flow through. I spent a very happy 10 years with them. We saw the development of a common equipment programme, we brought in computers and we brought in clothing. They all had different types of gear and clothing, we got a national dress. We even went to the stage where we introduced an officer mess. I even got them passing the port and having mess dinners which I think they enjoyed. The main permanent Brigade had a mess attitude, they ran a mess system. It was interesting, there was a very great affinity between the Fire Service and the Navy going back really to the original London Brigade. In France part of the French Fire Service is run by the Navy. It goes right back to the London Brigade where they used to recruit retired sailors because they were good at climbing ladders and climbing ropes and so forth. They had the bell system. They still in Wellington here I think ring the bells, like you ring the bells in the Navy for watches, so that there was a recognised affinity. We developed a disciplinary code, where I had discussions with Bogey Harris, we got hold of him and we had a long discussion. We used the Naval Disciplinary Code system, very much modified, because you had Unions and all that sort involved, evolving a disciplinary code for investigating offences and that sort of thing. It was a very interesting 10 years and I am most grateful for the Government because we really enjoyed it.

(end of interview)

1 Response to Rear Admiral EC Thorne – Oral History

  1. Good blog you’ve got here.. It’s hard to find good quality writing like yours nowadays. I truly appreciate individuals like you! Take care!!

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