Rob Jerrard's ROYAL NAVY SITE, Royal Navy & Maritime Book Reviews and Ships and (Crews) that Deserve to be Remembered.

HMS Leopard Anti Aircraft Frigate

HMS Leopard Her First Commission 1958-1960

Please note the page numbers only relate to the original Commissioning Book which was written and illustrated by Her First Ship's Company

CONTENTS

Chapter

Page

Captain's Message

7

1 In The Beginning

8

11 Trials and Tribulations .....

10

III The Work-up and After .....

13

IV High Living and High Life

17

V South Atlantic

22

VI South Africa

26

VII The Sea of Zanj .....

29

VIII Christmas at The Cape .....

36

IX Tip-to-Top

42

X Hope to Horn

46

XI Argentina .....

50

XII Furthest up the Creek

- 56 56

THE SCRAN-BAG

 

A Year's Good Run

62

A Run Ashore

63

Night Encounter .....

64

The Ops Room

65

The Glamour of the Englishman

65

Concert Party

66

Ode to a Tot

67

Glug

68

Nomenclature

69

The Seagull

70

El Limerico Argentino

70

Tailpiece

70

Statistics

71

Ship's Movements

72

Distinguished Visitors

73

Officers and Ship's Company

74

Former Leopards

77

Map of routes taken ......

centre pages

CAPTAIN'S MESSAGE

During the commission you have been called upon to carry out many and varied tasks, from saving life at sea to helping to save the lives of natives living in the dense jungle of the Amazon 1,130 miles from the sea, and also in providing Aid to Civil Power.

You have cruised in the jungle of West Africa, round the Cape of Good Hope to within sight of Cape Horn, and carried out sea passages in waters visited by Darwin in the Beagle. Your visits to coral and desert islands in the Indian Ocean have enabled medical aid to be brought to the islanders, and your surveys of these islands will help to improve the lines of com­munications in these waters. The ship has fulfilled her duty as part of the Operational Fleet in this nuclear age by being ready for immediate action.

In all the countries you have visited you have made many friends and been good ambassadors; above all you have gained a reputation for your understanding of other peoples' problems, your sense of humour, polite­ness, your bearing, and for working and playing together as a team, and I have been most honoured and proud to have been your Captain. I hope that you will look back on your time and achievements in Leopard with pride for whatever you have been called upon to do you have always given your best.

In bidding you farewell may I thank you for the support you have always given me and may I wish you and your families good fortune in the future.

R G Guant

Commander Royal Navy.

Chapter I

In The Beginning

Few ships can have been so inspection-prone as Leopard. A list of the Admirals and others who have cast a curious or critical eye over her in her first two years will be found elsewhere in this book; and no doubt the list would be longer still if we could see as far as the end of the commission.

One of the reasons for this extraordinary interest in an apparently unremarkable frigate is that Leopard was the first ship to be built by Portsmouth Dockyard for many years. Various claims have been made, even to the extent of asserting she was the first ship built there since the Dreadnought in 1906; but at least it seems clear that she is the first ship built in Portsmouth Dockyard since the war.

It is undisputed too that, like the Dreadnought, she was built on Number One Slip; but unlike that revolutionary battleship, whose incredible completion within a year made every capital ship in the world obsolete overnight, Leopard was eight long years a-building.

Having been originally ordered in 1944, she was laid down on 15th September, 1950, and launched on 23rd May, 1955, by Her Highness Princess Marie-Louise. It is said that Her Highness, a grand-daughter of Queen Victoria, lamented once that in all her 80 years she had never been asked to launch a ship, whereupon the Admiralty invited her to launch Leopard. We are glad to think that our ship provided a unique event in Her Highness's long life, and are sorry that she did not live to see us completed and commissioned. She would have been a proud and welcome addition to our list of distinguished visitors.

Probably every sailor nurses the dream of one day having a brand-new ship which will always be peculiarly his own. For 200 officers and ratings that dream came true with Leopard; and to none of them more vividly than the small party, beginning with the Engineer Officer in the spring of 1955, who stood by her while she was building. Let one of them take up the tale.

April, 1957: at this stage the ship was berthed in No. 2 Basin and looked as far from the real thing as one could imagine. Externally there was little that one could recognise, for as yet there was virtually no superstructure; internally she was more or less empty; and the construction was constantly changing since the dockyard was making continual alterations in the design.

Of the machinery, only the Middle Engineroom was complete so far as the fitting of the engines was concerned; in the Forward and After Enginerooms only the generators were fitted (the fitting of the main engines awaited the arrival of the gearboxes).

During this period the ship's company consisted of the Engineer Officer, the Chief ERA, a POM(E), a LM(E), and two M(E)'s, with the addition of the Electrical Officer and one or two Electrical ratings. The work undertaken by the ship's company was in the main to supervise the dockyard progress and assist where necessary, as well as the survey and mustering of the large quantities of spare gear which were steadily arriving in the dockyard. At this time the ship's company operated from the offices on the north side of No. 12 Dock.

As the year passed by, the ship's company steadily increased with the addition of the Ordnance Department. As for the construction of the ship, at times it came almost to a halt when the dockyard workers were taken away to do more important work on other ships. But the civilian contractors continued with such work as the engines and gunnery equipment.

In spite of all setbacks, the Leopard gradually took shape, and the early part of 1958 saw a further increase of the ship's company with the arrival of the First Lieutenant and a number of seaman ratings, followed by the appointment of the Captain and most of the officers in May.

Things on board now became a little more hectic and the Leopard at last began to take her final shape, although at times one couldn't help but wonder whether the dock­yard would meet the completion date. There were the various trials of machinery taking place, and at times the ship's company worked long and tedious hours; they also started keeping duty days, which in the main consisted of security rounds and the like.

Some may think that the period spent standing by the ship was all honey, but I can assure you that it was not always so and at times one could only look forward to its completion with the hope of a more stable and steady life.

The period was not without its amusing incidents. One originated in the dockyard's method of demarcation of work (this is where one department finishes a specified job of work and another takes over), and was caused by a slight difference in the drawings being used in the construction of some ventilation trunking. Apparently the two depart­ments concerned were working from opposite ends of the ship; unfortunately, when the time came for the two sections of trunking to be joined, it was found that they were quite a long way apart, and it was only after a lot of talk that the error was put right. On another occasion the Stewards' Mess, skilfully prefabricated ashore, was lowered impressively into position with meticulous accuracy; the only snag being that it was upside-down.

As the dismal, sodden summer of 1958 wore on, the shore offices grew week by week more crowded and the trail of rain-drenched figures plodding through the dockyard puddles between offices and ship more numerous. Every newcomer gazed incredulously on the chaotic heap of ironmongery alleged to be his new ship and automatically as­sumed that the commissioning date could never be met. Nor was there much apparent progress as the weeks went by; dogged despair was the mood of the moment.

Yet somehow, almost imperceptibly even in the final week, the dockyard conjured order out of the chaos and on 30th September, 1958, we found ourselves the astonished inheritors of the newest and smartest frigate in the Fleet.

The previous morning, while the Admiral Superintendent conducted his final inspec­tion, all the water in the world had seemed to be falling out of the sky. Perhaps it had, and stocks were exhausted, for that afternoon the advance party got themselves and their belongings on board unmolested by the heavens; and the skies remained neutral, if not benevolent, while the ship's company marched down from Barracks on the great day to embark and take stock of their new home. After dinner, with wives and families present, we fell in on the jetty for the Commissioning Service; but a sudden vicious down­pour from some celestial reserve tank forced us to reassemble under the quarterdeck awning where, after the Captain had read the Commissioning Warrant, the Chaplain of the Fleet conducted the service. Tea on the jetty for wives and families followed and so, 14 years after she was first a twinkle in the Board of Admiralty's eye, HMS Leopard was born: the eighth warship in the annals of the Royal Navy to bear the name of Leopard, but the first to have as her motto, " Ready In Peace, Defiant In War."

Chapter II

TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS

That was Tuesday. On Wednesday the Captain addressed us and explained the ship's programme for the next 18 months and what he considered were the essentials for running a successful ship. These were three things: a good sense of humour, good manners, and a thorough understanding of each other's problems.

The rest of our first week was spent in sorting ourselves out and in final embarkation of stores. Then on Monday, 6th October, we put to sea for the first time, drawing a congratulatory signal on our appearance from the Commander-in-Chief as we passed his flagship.

Despite the disturbing weather forecast, conditions were by no means bad as we did our first day's trials; but the next day and many days thereafter were a severe test for tender tummies unused to small ships or delicate from years of land-lubbing. Only the strongest survived unscathed; and even they had an anxious look at times. Still, in the end we all found our sea-legs; which was just as well, for much lively weather lay ahead in the South Atlantic.

Official photos of the Ship's Company ice re taken for a London Exhibition

Throughout October we pursued a regular routine of pounding the seas around the Isle of Wight for several days each week, anchoring at Spithead at night to disembark the dockyard and contractors' representatives who joined us each morning for the acceptance trials. Our days in the dockyard were enlivened as often as not by a hurried re-polishing of the famous Bourne Plastic in readiness to welcome some distinguished visitor. On 10th October the Commander-in-Chief, Portsmouth walked round; on Friday, 17th, the Third Sea Lord; and on the 18th a NATO Shipping Commission including Prince Axel of Denmark. Altogether, though our duties may have been drab, life was far from dull.

The same was true of November, which we spent in No. 2 Basin while the dockyard and the contractors wrestled with the lessons of the acceptance trials and we took the chance to get in some useful training ashore. Clear, cold weather had succeeded the rains and, though undoubtedly a boon to the landing-party, it was a relief (graphically illustrated by one of the cartoons which daily adorned the hatch above the Gunnery

Mess deck) to leave the basin and return to the stream.  Other diversions included a memorable ship's company dance at the Naafi Club; and, for a chosen band, a survival course which was evidently a success, as everyone survived.  One of the survivors has thawed his frost-bitten fingers sufficiently to tell the tale.

In the month of December, 1958, a team picked from various branches of the ship's company left the ship for Lee-on-Solent to learn how to survive. At Lee these courses are normal routine for aircrew, but a different matter for sea-going sailors.

Our first day and a half were taken up by lectures on the art of survival in the Arctic and in tropical conditions. Some good hints were inwardly digested, and on the whole it was very interesting. On our second day the morning started early with a run down to the seashore for some PT and then a dip in the Solent. (" Very nice in December "­ask those that risked it.) Later at Seafield Park, our main base, we were kitted up with the things a pilot would be likely to have after crashing his aircraft. Most of you know that a string vest and seaman's jersey can be very warm, but in the New Forest in Decem­ber it gets quite cold and the parachutes we were given as our only shelter proved to be very handy. Compass, maps and a knife were our only tools, with a pack of sweets that was to last us 48 hours.

Our packs we made ourselves out of short lengths of wood, secured with parachute cord, and it was surprising how useful they were. Tuesday afternoon was spent on a short briefing on our rendezvous; how we were to get there was our problem. We were split into small parties and then returned to Lee-on-Solent for a final big meal.

Late on Tuesday night we boarded a bus which was to drop us off at various stages on the Salisbury road. Our first rendezvous was a small wood called Vernditch Chase, which was to be marked by a small fire lit by the officer in charge of the course. His comment was, " We might get there sometime." The party I was with was the first to be dropped and we made good time until I fell down a shell-hole on an Army range. After this we decided to stick to some Roman paths, marked on the map, and a compass bearing. We arrived at our first rendezvous about four hours after being dropped.

Part of our packs up to this time was a one-man rubber dinghy. As you may have read, many escapers during the last war used some form of water transport if possible, as it is fairly fast, depending on the river of course, and at night it is hard to detect a small boat. Our water-trip was to take place from Ringwood down the Avon for about seven miles.

It was quite a laugh first starting off, trying to get used to the dinghies and keeping them on a straight course. The journey was not without incident. One member managed to get chased by a herd of heifers when he took to the land, and finished up with a holed dinghy and a good soaking. We all finally made our next rendezvous, which was a small hall in a village in the New Forest. There we had our first square meal for 36 hours­rabbit stew.

Our next rendezvous was a small wood in the centre of the Forest. To get there we had to rely on compass bearings since one soon gets lost on the forest paths, as some of us found out. When we had reached our destination we had to make a permanent camp, and it's surprising how comfortable a bed holly covered with fern makes.

Our last hike was a fairly long one with a time limit, our destination being a place called Stony Point on the coast. The air crews get picked up by MTB's but we were returning to our camp. Only a few reached the rendezvous inside the time limit. On our return to camp we set to to make a meal which we shall all remember-a stew whose main stock was corned beef. I think everyone wanted a second helping. That night we had a grand finish to the week at the Beaulieu Road Arms and everyone slept well that night in spite of the cold.

On the whole we all learned something that week, saw something of the countryside, and acquired a few blisters. If you get the chance, go on one of these courses. You never know what may happen.

On 2nd December the Permanent Secretary and the Parliamentary Secretary of the Board of Admiralty walked round the ship. Eight days later we returned to sea for further trials; and when they were over and one watch had started its Christmas leave on 17th December our series of visits from members of the Board culminated on Friday, 19th, in a visit by the First Sea Lord. No doubt he was able to reassure his colleagues, for we have seen nothing of them since.

That same afternoon, with the Admiral Superintendent presiding, the Captain and ship's officers formally signed for the ship as having been received from the dockyard sound in wind and limb.

Nevertheless we were still not free of the dockyard's clutches, and the end of the Christmas leave period found us still patiently enduring the daily havoc wrought upon the Bourne Plastic. November's routine was resumed and almost every day parties were landed to play soldiers at Tipner or gunners at Fraser or simply to learn to swim at Flathouse. Even the cooks cashed in, trying their hand at an improvised field kitchen at Tipner to give the landing-party a rest from the eternal oggy. Lectures on first aid and damage control abounded. The RP's went to Harrier for a directional jolly; the A/S ratings had a fortnight's frolic in HMS Grafton down at Portland; and the boarding­party went away in the whaler to return and board and seize control of their own ship. Our only visitors, now the novelty had worn off, were a committee headed by Admiral Sir Stephen Carlill and including Sir Ewart Smith, then Deputy Chairman of ICI. Before we knew where we were, advanced Easter leave had started.

The leave-period ended on 18th March, and on 24th and 25th our final and wholly successful sea trials took place. There was just time for a swift "forty-eight" to each watch; and then on a sunny Easter Monday we slipped from our berth on Gambia, watched by the fascinated throng of Navy Days visitors crowding her decks, headed upstream, turned, and sped down-harbour and out to sea on our way to the long-awaited and half-dreaded work-up at Portland.

We had learnt a lot in our first few months in commission; now the time had come to be sent away to boarding-school, a hard school where in a few weeks we must learn to be knitted together as a team, to stand on our own feet, and to take our place in the Fleet not just as a ship but as a warship, capable of hitting an enemy harder and faster than he could ever hit us.

Chapter III

THE WORK-UP AND AFTER

That night we anchored in Weymouth Bay. Next morning we entered Portland; and, after dinner, divisions were paraded for inspection by the Flag Officer Sea Training, who then walked round between decks.

The courtesies were now over and the gloves off. Next morning-and no doubt each drew his own conclusion from its being April Fool's Day-we sailed for a hectic day of action stations and boarding parties and gunnery drills which set the pattern for the weeks that followed.

Looking back, it all seems rather a blur. Four or five days at sea each week, with early starts and late finishes (sometimes not anchoring in Weymouth Bay till well after midnight), with drills and exercises of every sort following hard upon one another and often getting mixed up with each other, left little time for accurate recollection. The frequent calm seas and friendly spring sunshine, heralding the glorious summer of which we were to see so little, stand out in the memory and helped to mitigate the unremitting strain of the working week. Sunny week-ends alongside in Portland with inter-part matches thriving merrily on the sports grounds, and quiet (well, fairly quiet) runs ashore in Weymouth, were a welcome break. Isolated incidents stand out. There was the landing in Lulworth Cove, whose beaches (and beer supplies) had been thoughtfully (and thoroughly) reconnoitred by the Gunnery Officer and the Gunner the previous week-end; the night alongside in Portland when the doctor was sent speeding (in earnest, he thought) with his little black bag to a mythical injury in an imaginary ship off the breakwater; and the assault on the dockyard, when Petty Officer Mercer very properly sent the Weymouth patrol back to Osprey for not being in possession of their pay and identity books. But through it all ran the growing confidence in ourselves and our ship and the obstinate resolve to cope with the worst the Staff could inflict on us and still­ as Petty Officer Mercer had shown-remain one up.

Before we go any further, let us return to record in detail the afore-mentioned Battle of Lulworth Cove, which may not rank as one of the Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World but was replete with lessons learnt (which, some rude person once remarked, is a polite way of saying mistakes made).

A party of guerrilla saboteurs, Wonga Wonga tribesmen, had been operating in the Lulworth Cove area, and Naval Intelligence reported that they were using an old ruined barn to the northeast of the cove as their headquarters. In a shallow valley and well covered by trees and bushes, it afforded a reasonably good defensive position due to the open nature of the two ridges, one to the north and one to the south of the barn.

It was decided to launch, at 1645 on Tuesday, 14th April, a seaborne assault, to be made by one company of ratings from HM Ships Leopard and Battleaxe. The company would be made up of one platoon and company headquarters from Leopard and two platoons from Battleaxe. Lieutenant Lennox, Leopard's Gunnery Officer, was to be Company Commander.

The plan was to land the major part of the assault force in Lulworth Cove at 1645 in ship's boats and, if necessary, under cover of gunfire front Leopard; then to capture the high ground to the east and southeast of the beachhead, clear the wooded and scrub­covered cliff, dig in, and await the arrival of the remainder of the force, also brought in by ship's boats. The capture of the rebel headquarters was to be achieved by two simultaneous flanking manoeuvres: by 3 Platoon moving along the seaward (southerly) ridge and by 1 Platoon along behind the higher ridge to the north of the barn. Pro­minent points above the rebel stronghold were to be over-run and a covering fire laid down from here while 2 Platoon made a platoon attack straight up the valley, taking the barn by coup de main.

That was the plan, then; and Platoon Commanders, Platoon Petty Officers, and Section Leaders were called to a briefing on Leopard's bridge at 1430 on Monday, 13th April, in Portland Harbour. The operation was discussed in detail and suggestions and

comments called for, and the times and final plan laid down. Leopard and Battleaxe sailed from Portland at 0800 on Tuesday and arrived off Lulworth Cove at 1600. Both ships hove to about 4,000 yards offshore, boats were turned out, lowered, and manned; and the assault was on!

Unfortunately the boats got separated on the way inshore (due to the different speeds of the boats) and Lieutenant Lennox experienced some difficulty in getting his command together before the entrance to the cove was reached. No sooner- was all in order than the boats came under heavy fire from light machine-guns on the cliff above the eastern entrance to the cove (these were real bullets too!).

The Company GI was among the first to realize that the dreaded enemy were using real ammunition, and he reports that he was sore dismayed, on poking his head round the side of the motor boat's canopy, to perceive real live tracer bullets hitting the water alongside. He spent the rest of the journey among the bottom-boards. Most of the occupants of the boat were all for going back on board to get Navvy to check his charts. There were whispers of " . . .****in' Cubans! " and, " I thought it was a bit hot for this time of the year " (suspicions were probably aroused by the sight of LIREM " Castro " Blackwell on the beach).

In spite of resistance from shore, the beach was reached by Leopard's motor boat and a boat from Battleaxe at about the same time. The beach was under fire from mortars and light machine-guns by this time, but Sub-Lieutenant Frere, the Beachmaster, armed with flags and flares, established himself in the midst of the inferno and started to flag the other boats in. Just before the first boat hit the beach, fate stepped in and struck two severe blows! The first was the premature dropping of the motor boat's kedge. This meant that the kedge-rope would have to be tailed, and during this operation the motor boat's coxswain, Leading Seaman Scott, sustained a severe injury to one of his fingers. This necessitated his being taken ashore to be treated, but not before he had successfully beached his boat and allowed all the troops therein to get safely ashore. Thus we had a perfectly good motor boat without a coxswain. The motor boat's stoker came to the fore; but, though he tried hard, he was unable to prevent the boat broaching to and being thrown up on to the beach. This unhappy state of affairs was saved by the Beachmaster and the Company GI rounding up stragglers from 2 and 3 Platoons and together getting the boat off the beach and under control. Meanwhile, the motor whaler, coming in astern of the motor boat, had run over the motor boat's kedge-rope, got it wrapped round her screw, and was firmly anchored 100 yards offshore. But help was at hand in the form of the motor boat, now afloat again and under the command of the Company GI; and the occupants of the luckless whaler were transferred to the motor boat and taken inshore and landed safely.

During this phase of the operation it was interesting to observe " Castro " Blackwell, 3 Section Leader, up to his chest in water, and others, not realising who he was (he being garbed in battle order) and seeing him only thus far immersed in the icy waters of the cove, stepping blithely out of the boat into what they fondly believed to be shallow water, only to disappear beneath the waves.

However all managed to get ashore and the motor boat, still under the command of the Company GI, set off for the ship to collect the rest of the assault force. Meanwhile the beach had been captured and the company was advancing, by two routes through the thick brush, up the steep cliffs of the cove. They pressed on and the top was reached with Company Headquarters being established alongside an old chapel, at the corner of a wood which was just below a rise at the end of the valley containing the ruined barn. From here patrols were sent out to reconnoitre the wood and to establish contact with the mortar detachment and 3 Platoon, who had followed the more southerly route to establish themselves on the high ground above the eastern entrance to the cove. Enemy patrols and snipers were active and our own section activity was very brisk, kept on our toes by the wily foe.

At this time the Bren group of 1 Section reported to 1 Platoon Commander (Lieutenant Smith) that they had marked the position of a group of the enemy and that with some help they could capture it. They were reinforced by the rest of their section and ordered to make the capture. This they endeavoured to do, and Able Seaman " Reg " Groom frightened the daylights out of Petty Officer Mercer, Able Seaman Hobbs and Ordinary Seaman Lewis by leaping out of the woods with his Bren at the ready and giving vent to a yell that made one of them " spill his bacey." One Section had successfully captured our own mortar detachment!

Patrol activity on both sides was pretty fierce but all objectives were taken by the time that the rest of the force joined up, somewhat depleted owing to Leopard being a boat short and therefore unable to bring off all of 1 Platoon. However in spite of this Lieutenant Lennox pressed on. The flanking moves got away to a good start, as little black dots on the seaward horizon testified. The men had failed to get far enough down the cliff to prevent themselves being silhouetted!

About this time a large blue hump was observed travelling at high speed up the left flank. Investigation proved this to be " Castro " Blackwell, the redoubtable leader of 3 Section, who was then informed that " bent double " for everyone else would mean " hands and knees " for him. Casualties began to mount, Leading Seaman Withers (1 Section Leader) being among the first to fall. Advancing through thick scrub to the north of the barn AB Williams, Bren number 1 of 2 Section, was confronted by a rebel who he ordered to surrender. The reb's reply was a bona fide .303 round, ". . . about half an inch from my starboard ear'ole," says Williams.

Thus ended the life of yet another stalwart mariner.

Covering fire was laid down from the ridges above the barn and 2 Platoon made its attack after having advanced, under heavy fire, to a position at the top of the rise at the head of the valley. As soon as 2 Platoon had reached a position where they were in danger of coming under fire from their own troops on the ridges, these worthies rose up and, yelling like maniacs, descended on the barn from both sides. Thus the barn was hit from three directions at once. Some fierce hand-to-hand (and boot-to-head) fighting ensued before the position was over-run. During the struggle at the barn one of the rebels was apprehended by some men from 1 Section and Ordinary Seaman Ellis was ordered to " Hold him! ". Ellis's reaction to this order was to drop his musket and launch himself from the small mound on which he had been standing and land in a bunch of boots and arms on the back of the luckless guerrilla. This caused the poor fellow to fall down and from then on he was the most docile of prisoners.

Eventually all the band was either killed or captured, their leader under close arrest, and the exercise declared over. Platoons were gathered together and a post mortem was held. All had gone fairly well but, as was only to be expected frorn a Company suddenly thrown together from two ships and hurled into an entirely new field ofconflict, mistakes and errors of judgment had occurred. One of the major difficulties was in getting a large body of men ashore from a ship-or more than one ship-using only the small, slow ships' boats.

However the more detailed, the more complicated side has no part in this, the " Funny Side " of the exercise. The post mortem over, a small demolition exhibition was laid on by the TAS world and all hands embarked in the ships' boats (Leopard's whaler being serviceable again by this time) and returned to their ships wet and thoroughly weary.

Three weeks after the start of the work-up, a Friday night found us rounding Land's End and making for Milford Haven. At 0200 on Saturday we were suddenly confron­ted, after all our exercises and make-believe, with a real emergency. A small Dutch motor vessel, the Mar/an, had had her engine room flooded and was in danger of drifting on to the Cornish coast. The motor ship Maltasian had taken her in tow, but when this parted at 0205 Leopard tackled the task.

It was not an easy one, with a 20-knot wind and a short, steep sea which caused the hapless Marjan, her bows well out of the water, to roll heavily. A line was successfully shot but the messenger parted at 0320. A second attempt resulted in a 4z-inch manilla being passed and on this the Marjan was eventually taken in tow. As the grey light grew the salvage tug Englishman appeared and, when she had passed her own tow, we slipped and left her to finish the task we had begun.

All this while our friends in Battleaxe had been sadly standing off, their imaginations afire like ours with memories of Bulwark's recent sensational feat of salvage; but it doesn't look as though they missed much, for as we go to press we are still wearily awaiting what will certainly be a very modest award.

Still, it was nice to know we featured on the seven o'clock news (this being the first indication some of the ship's company had of the night's salvage operations) as we resumed our way to Milford Haven, where we arrived at noon.

The RP's, after their course a couple of months earlier, were in their element here, but all of us had a thoroughly good time thanks to the hospitality extended by our friends at Kete. The weather continued calm and sunny and we had a curious couple of days, slightly dream-like in quality, exercising with Kete in a flat calm and a sunlit mist up and down the Irish Sea. Then back to Portsmouth for a busy time ammunition­ing ship and return to Portland for the last leg of the work-up.

The mixture at Portland continued as before, till after an early dinner on 4th May we sailed, closed up at action stations, for our passing-out exam, otherwise known as Exercise Squarebash. Intelligent anticipation ensured that a sneak attack from the air as we left the jetty was dealt with as it deserved; and thereafter we suffered three days and three nights of every conceivable sort of warfare as we battled our way round to Milford Haven and back again. It wasn't fun-how could it be? But it bore a close resemblance to the real thing and we like to think our determination not to be caught napping throughout those almost sleepless 80 hours also bore a resemblance to the wartime spirit. At any rate the Flag Officer Sea Training, who spent the last weary day aboard Leopard, had some flattering things to say about our alertness and efficiency after all we'd been through.

But for all that, sleep was the first thought when we secured alongside in the dogs on Thursday, 7th, and scarcely a soul had the energy to drag himself ashore.

The next evening we arrived back at Portsmouth and, while one watch went on leave, the other watch buckled down in the almost un-English heat to a frantic programme of embarking stores and ammunition. It all went better than we'd expected until we started on the Naafi beer. The first lorry, with a tray the size of a tennis-court piled high with boxes of canned beer, we took in our stride; but, when it was almost cleared, a second exactly like the first appeared. Faltering a little, we doggedly cleared that too. The appearance of a third lorry, albeit only half loaded, late in the afternoon, was, however, almost too much for us; but, by toiling well into the dogs and cramming beer into every conceivable crevice, we somehow scrambled through our self-imposed martyrdom. After that, storing was complete and we contentedly dispersed on a sin­gularly well-earned leave, letting the other watch cope with the comparatively simple task of cleaning up after us.

And so we come to Families' Day. Once again we were blessed with perfect weather, and our brief jaunt down Spithead and back again was vastly enjoyed by the assembled wives-and others-though a well-meant photograph from Portsmouth Point, showing our normally immaculate upper deck loaded with a heterogeneous throng of picturesque civilians, later had to be suppressed.

The weather held; and it was on just such a perfect day that we slipped at half-past two the following afternoon and sailed down-harbour. Past King's Stairs, South Railway Jetty, the Harbour Station, then Vernon, and Fort Blockhouse on the other side, and the Sally Port, the War Memorial and Southsea Front, and so down to Spithead and, having surprisingly encountered our old friend the Marjan off the Isle of Wight, away for 365 days, which whether we enjoyed them or not, must certainly have turned out quite differently to our vague imaginings.

Chapter IV

HIGH LIVING AND HIGH LIFE

We were not quite free of England, however, for in the dogs we manoeuvred for a couple of hours in Weymouth Bay while some obscure technical rite was performed, and it was not till dark had almost overtaken us that we finally turned our stern to England and slipped down-Channel.

The passage to Gibraltar passed pleasantly enough in sunny weather while we got ourselves used to the idea of living on top of one another for a year on end. Gibraltar loomed ahead, a familiar friend to most and an exciting taste of things to come for the new boys. Our two days there passed quickly and happily; and then we resumed our southward way with the feeling that now we were properly launched upon the unknown.

Ten days at sea is a long time, and can be boring. In fact it passed quickly enough, with a couple of wry promising beards getting under way, and with " X " Gun Deck the scene each evening of stentorian cries of H-E-A-V-E as the different divisions battled their way to victory or defeat in the tug-of-war and one senior rating after another lost his voice. Quiz contests and the uckers championship got well under way, the latter resulting in a thrill-packed final on the quarterdeck one Sunday evening between the Eggbeaters (commonly called the Forecastle) and the Maintop (masquerad­ing as Jungle Cats), the former proving the eventual winners.

All this time the weather grew ever hotter and stickier, until, on 11th June, a tropical downpour provided welcome relief one dinner-hour and the ship's company went slightly berserk, some members going so far as to take their shower on the upper deck­ which at least relieved the strain on the ship's water supplies.

Meanwhile the concert party was struggling to be born and duly burst on an astonished " X " Gun Deck one Saturday evening. A puny and premature infant, it yet showed a strong will to survive and was to have a lively adolescence along the Nigerian coast in the next few weeks.

On Monday, 15th June, we arrived at our first foreign port, Abidjan. To our shame, there was scarcely a soul on board who had even heard of the place; and our rather antiquated reference books did little to dispel the fog of ignorance, for this thriving, ultra-modern city is virtually a creation of the last ten or twelve years.

Abidjan is the capital of the French Ivory Coast and we found much to admire in the furious pace of development in this former colony, newly independent but a loyal member of the French Union. Great store was set on our visit by the Government, most of whose members were Africans, and the entire Cabinet attended the Acting Prime Minister's reception for the ship's officers, who were honoured by a magnificently uniformed and almost intimidating guard of African troops.

High prices and the language difficulty made Abidjan a comparatively quiet rim ashore, atoned for by the real goodwill displayed by the French community and the interest in seeing such a model ex-colony, where all races were working happily and harmoniously for the general good.

Three days later, with a parting gift of a pineapple apiece from the Acting Prime Minister, M. Mockey, we sailed for the short passage to Lagos, where we arrived on Saturday, 18th June.

After the splendours of Abidjan this specimen of a British colonial capital seemed a shade shabby, but in fairness it must be added that Lagos, and indeed all Nigeria, is likewise developing rapidly; and anyway it was nice to be among our own kind again, especially as the British community were extremely hospitable and few ratings can have failed to find a home to go to. On the Monday afternoon we gave the first of our child­ren's parties, a happy affair for both European and African children which gave as much pleasure to the hosts as the guests. At our cocktail party the same evening we were honoured by the presence of the Oba (or King) of Lagos and his four attendant chieftains. The Oba held court in a corner of the flag deck and assured us he would mention his visit to Leopard in the letter he was about to write to Her Majesty the Queen.

On Tuesday, 23rd, we were off again, with ten Nigerian ratings embarked, for an overnight passage to Port Harcourt, 40 miles up the Bonny River in Eastern Nigeria; our first attempt at river navigation. This small but rapidly expanding town owes its increasing prosperity and importance to the discovery of oil nearby. Almost the entire British community is employed either by Shell-BP or by Messrs. Taylor Woodrow, and both groups vied with one another to entertain the ship's company.            A dance at the Shell-BP Club at Umukuroshe on the night of our arrival got things started, and from then on invitations exceeded our capacity to fulfil them. Certainly they almost caused a concert-party performance at the Shell-BP Club to be cancelled for lack of performers. One rating's run ashore went something like this.

It was at Port Harcourt that I decided that I for one should re-arrange my way of life. After being successfully out-manoeuvred in Lagos I thought it was time I got in with the Grippo Kings, and for a first attempt I thought I did quite well, but after listening to some of the tales of other Grips I'm not quite so sure. Let me tell you about it and you can decide for yourself.

I got my name down for a run with eleven others, all being invited by three families, and we fell in at the nominated time, dress 6A's. After a short wait, three cars arrived and, breathing a sigh of relief, for all leave expired at 2359, we hopped in. We were driven a few miles to a large house, pretty near the size of a mansion, with a big garden, I think, in front, and backed by jungle. The wives were awaiting our arrival and introductions were made before we were led to the veranda and seated. Drinks were served, and conversation started. My glass never seemed to empty below the first half inch before it was refilled to capacity; here, it seemed, you could order any drink and our hostess would go over to the outsized icebox and get it for you. It wasn't long before the old argument of which is the best branch and " we can do without you " started. One politician got so worked up that his windmill-type arms soon sent his glass flying. I saw him cleaning it up and then he disappeared; I found him later, when I went to divest myself of my jumper, in the air-conditioned bedroom flaked out in an unseamanlike manner (or was it, perhaps he mixed his drinks too rapidly).

Somewhere around 2300, big eats were served in the form of a running buffet. 1 don't know where it was running to, what I do know is that it was delightful; cut-up chicken, rice and spices; and bread rolls. It was the first time I had ever had rice on the dinner plate and I took it with mixed feelings for two good reasons: I'm always ready to try most things once, and my inside was calling for something thicker than alcohol. This filled the bill and my inside, and after we had partaken thereof 1, like others, no longer felt like sitting down; so, glass in hand, I started to wander around, confining myself to the rooms I knew, which weren't many. At 2345 an extension of leave was applied for and got; drinking went on undisturbed. At 0045 another extension of leave was received, with thanks, until 0200; drinking, with guitar accompaniment,went on undisturbed. By now I was beginning to feel the drink in no uncertain manner, something drastic had to be done. At 0145, extension until 0300 and no more. When we left, I thought I would have to put my hat on to keep my head on my shoulders, for I was ticking like a bomb (next morning I thought it had exploded in my head). We arrived back just in time, before leave expired, of course.

To prevent blackening of character, court cases for defamation thereof, divorces, getting filled in, and blackmail, I have left out all names, the mind speaketh loudest ...

At no other port, in the whole of our year abroad, were we feted in quite the same way, and in addition to the wealth of private hospitality a number of trips to places of interest (including one to the Star Brewery, reckoned by some the best of the commission) were arranged for us. Our industrial correspondent has this to say about his visit to Aba.

As nothing was known about Aba, we were prepared for anything, but when we reached our destination we certainly did not expect to see, 50 miles inland and surroun­ded by dense jungle, an oil well!

We had travelled the last 30 miles over a road which had been made by the simple process of driving a bulldozer straight through the jungle. Despite this rough and ready method of roadmaking, the surface was comparatively smooth, due to the large number of heavy vehicles which had passed along it while the derricks, storage tanks and refineries were being built. Nevertheless I think I can safely say that it would be guaran­teed to ruin the springs of any car inside 12 months.

While we were at the drilling site, the drill reached a depth of 6,000 feet, and the drillers said that they would have to go down to a depth of nearly 8,000 feet before they struck oil. The drill was descending at an average rate of 1,000 feet per week; and, due to the hard texture of the earth, the diamond-tipped drills had to be changed every 900 feet. One thing which surprised us was the fact that all the actual drillers were Danes.

Leaving the drilling site, we next went to inspect the living-quarters. The only permanent building here was the Clubhouse, as the sleeping-quarters were large two-man caravans, with all mod. cons. including refrigerators and air-conditioning units.

On completion of our tour of inspection we were taken to the Clubhouse where we had " chop " (Nigerian word for all meals, and in this case it meant dinner!). While we were eating, we were entertained by the antics of a pet monkey, whose favourite trick was to climb the aerial of a portable wireless and swing by one hand from the tip. In the two months that the men had had the monkey, it had cost them a fortune in replacements for wireless aerials.

In the last five minutes of our visit, there was a flurry of address exchanges and pro­mises to look up our new-found friends when we returned to England.

On the way back to the ship, we stopped at several native villages, all made out of mud and bamboo with thatched palm-leaves for roofs. Our journey back ended rather suddenly and very ironically-our bus ran out of PETROL! Luckily we were a mere ten miles from Port Harcourt, and the nearby natives were treated to the unusual spectacle of 20 British sailors walking down the road frantically thumbing lifts. Reminiscently I sign myself

One Footsore Sailor.

It was with a very soft spot for our friends in Port Harcourt that we sailed on Saturday morning for an overnight passage to Calabar. This city was almost the complete antithesis of Port Harcourt. Lying like it up a river fringed in its lower reaches with mangrove swamps, Calabar, however, was cradled among hills; and instead of the lusty youthfulness of Port Harcourt there was a serene air of autumnal decay, for Calabar is one of the oldest cities in the Commonwealth, having been a trading (but more especially a slaving) station since the middle of the 17th century. Nowadays its importance is dwindling, for much of its former trade with the interior is being channel­led through Port Harcourt; but Calabar lingers on with a sleepy charm all its own.

In this very different atmosphere we received just as warm a welcome as at Port Harcourt. The concert-party performed in the Old Calabar Club (where the bar stools are individually tailored to the posteriors of long-dead members) to an audience com­posed largely of missionaries and their wives without, we are pleased to record, causing a single blush to mantle the most modest missionary cheek. The Governor of Eastern Nigeria, Sir Robert de Stapledon, came to Calabar especially for our visit and took the Captain on a tour of part of the immense province under his ride. He then arranged for the Captain to be taken by the District Commissioner up into the Cameroons, to the country of the Leopard tribe. There, together with the District Commissioner and two Leopard men, attempts were made to shoot a leopard for the ship. Two leopards were tracked but unfortunately neither was shot; and on the first occasion the chase was disturbed by a number of wild buffalo, whereupon the hunters found themselves the hunted.

We slipped downriver on 1st July and soon after leaving Calabar had to accelerate our return to Lagos owing to a serious case of sickness. We came alongside at our old berth at the Marina Dolphins in a cloudburst at noon next day, ready for the ten-day self-maintenance period which was to follow.

As a self-maintenance period it was hardly a success. We had the misfortune to be in West Africa during the rainy season, and as fast as we chipped and scaled and put fresh paint down another cloudburst could be relied on to ruin our efforts. However, there was no lack of entertainment ashore: private hospitality abounded; the Junior League from the Wardroom took up permanent residence in the Bagatelle; tropical routine enabled us to get in some bathing of an afternoon at Tarkwa Beach, across the lagoon; and the rugger team played a series of exhausting matches, venturing as far inland as Jbadan, a trip which has brought forth the following account.

It was a hot and clammy day characteristic of the weather we had met in this region, and we expected rain. At 0800 we boarded the bus with great spirit, however, to begin the 84-mile drive to Ibadan.

It was a lonely road once we were outside Lagos and there were few turnings or even side-roads. The jungle through which the road cut was very wonderful to those of us seeing it for the first time. Nevertheless the scenery soon began to grow monotonous, and most of us fell into a deep sleep-an inevitable pastime to Jack.

We stopped once for a drink, and several times for the bus which, it was obvious before we reached Ibadan, could not take the strain. Here all the natives were jumping up and down and excitedly shouting " Leopard, Leopard." This raised our morale considerably until we realised that it was " Lagos " that they were repeating, from the inscription on the side of the bus which read " Lagos Coaches."

We eventually found the Club and changed for the game. Apart from the fact that we were weary from the journey, and any other plausible excuses, it was soon obvious that the Ibadan RFC were too good for us. There was one casualty-a broken rib­but apart from that it was a most enjoyable match. The rain which we had expected duly came, but only towards the end of the game.

After we had changed we could not have been more cordially received, and after a few drinks at the Clubhouse we split up and went to the houses of various members of the Club for dinner or " chop."

It was very late when we arrived back at the Club, and even later before we started back for the ship. Those who did not get a sleep on the bus, which we thought was going to give up the ghost at any moment, didn't get much chance when we arrived at the ship ten minutes before " Call the Hands " next morning. It was well worth losing to a team of such hosts.

One small party spent a weekend as guests of the Army at Abeokuta.

Among the many and varied invitations received at Lagos came one for an officer and four senior ratings to spend a shooting week-end at an Army camp, 60 miles distant, at the small garrison town of Abeokuta. Although the Nigerian Government have full control over their armed forces, they do have instructors serving on loan from the British Army, and it was with some of these that the weekend was to be spent.

As stated on the invitation, transport, accommodation, and shot-guns would be provided, which indicated that a pleasant week-end was offered with no fear of the participants being put to shame on a rifle-range: in fact a sporting chance for all con­cerned, including whatever fell to serve the role of target. As was later proved, the birds had a better chance of dying a natural death than one by gunshot.

Names of people interested in making up the required party were forwarded to the usual place, by the usual means, to be drawn from the usual hat; from which came the names of the Supply Officer, the GI, the TASI, the Yeoman, and Stores PO Taylor.

At the appointed hour the lucky five gathered on the jetty complete with squashy bags, seaboots, and a large lump of prime beef not for animal bait but for purely culinary purposes. For those who require further explanation, our hosts particularly asked ns to provide our own meat, because away from the city frozen meat is almost impossible to obtain. The whole camp worked on a system of canteen messing, and any meat bought in Abeokuta was truly on the hoof.

The journey, made in a Landrover, provided nothing of great interest, the scenery being rather featureless and the weather rather wet. The road itself was well made, and the driver rarely dropped below fifty.

On arrival at the camp itself, the Supply Officer was taken to the officers' quarters, and the Petty Officers to the Sergeants' bungalow. None of us had expected to find a big mess, so we were not surprised to find only two Sergeants in occupation. Small as it might have been, though, the usual Army hospitality was offered and thirsts quickly quenched.

Shortly after this the first shooting-party went out to wander a considerable distance through the sago plantations, but either the jungle fowl were keeping well down or they had been forewarned. Two birds only were shot, one by the Army and one by Leopard, the latter bird taking a header into the bush, and having no dog it was left to RIP. The Supply Officer, scorning the use of a gun, seemed quite content to wander behind the party with his little black box, perhaps to be luckier with his shots.

A combination of weather and the presence of cobra being the deciding factors, all concerned were willing to call it a day after a couple of hours and return to the Mess to get wet inside as well as out, and in this manner a congenial first evening was spent except for the TASI, who had set off to explore the camp in our hosts' car. By devious ways he managed to direct it right into the camp CO's front garden where a cocktail party was being held; and what better place for a car to stall, especially when it has no starter motor?

Before turning in, an early shake was arranged for Jack Dusty to enable hint to join the dawn shooting party which, when assembled, consisted of one Captain and himself, the previous evening's refreshments having overcome the others. This time a little more success, 14 birds in all, but a very mixed bag consisting of bush-fowl, pigeon, doves, and something resembling a magpie which the beater assured all concerned made very good " chop," and on this recommendation he was left to dispose of it.

Following the shoot, a lazy day was spent, and a delicious curried chicken lunch eaten. No one knows what eventually happened to our piece of beef, and after that chicken no one seemed to care.

As is inevitable, all good things come to an end, and it was with regret that we had to say goodbye to friends so newly made, but our weekend at Abeokuta was one more to add to memories of the commission.

Before we leave West Africa we must recall a form of entertainment which we met nowhere else: here, gained at enormous expense and with complete disregard for his reputation, is our special correspondent's report on High Life.

The Lido to many conveys a bathing resort and to others a fabulous Paris nightclub, but to some of us it conjures up a spectacle of pure animal enjoyment unequalled in my experience.

Almost a dozen miles from the Marina Dolphins is situated an unprepossessing boarded-in dance hall which is strictly non-apartheid and where the feature dance is High Life. The Lido is, to put it mildly, odd, but also an experience not to be missed. I don't know when it opens; but at 3 a.m. it is in full swing with customers being ejected forcibly at a reasonable rate to afford interest if the dancing does not appeal or the bar service is too slow.

Tables are situated around a raised, open-air dance floor and the air is heavy with the native scent and kindred primitive odours. The music is monotonous, if unusual, and partners rarely touch which would appear distinctly for squares only. Fortunately I found it enthralling, for the expressions of total abandonment and complete unin­hibitedness on the dancers' faces were equalled only by the contortions and suggestive sinuations of their bodies. Such were the ecstasies of delight conjured up by this extraordinary rhythm that several couples and even a few solo stars continued their performance long after the band had gone in search of refreshment.

For the connoisseur of ballroom dancing I doubt whether the steps are in any book or follow any set pattern, and ignorance of procedure would probably be no hindrance provided that one had rhythm and was prepared to be " sent." Waltzes may be more romantic, rhumbas more exhilarating, and cha-chas more smoothy; but for down­to-earth, sensual satisfaction give me High Life (Lido fashion) any night or day.

So our weeks in West Africa came to an end, and on Monday, 13th July, we left the lowering skies of Lagos for the clearer air of the South Atlantic.

Chapter V

SOUTH ATLANTIC

Now at last we were entering on the part of the world we had most wished to visit and the token thereof was our crossing-the-line ceremony in the dogs on 15th July. The Chief Electrician made a jovial if arbitrary monarch (just so, one feels, must Henry VIII have despatched his lesser wives to the scaffold) while the GI did equal credit to Whale Island, which trained his voice, and Willy Ings, who lent his hat. The only real casualty was the Gunnery Officer's false beard.

With the Equator behind us we were henceforth going downhill; but the Engineer Officer insists it made no difference to the fuel consumption. Indeed it increased, for a few days after we left Lagos the Commander-in-Chief ordered us to accelerate, turning our scheduled fifteen-day passage to Rio into a ten-day one.

So we plodded on through the southeast trades with a steady sea on the port beam and the skies growing daily clearer. It was as peaceful a time as any during our year abroad.

On 22nd July we made our rendezvous with Albion south of Rio and after a busy time acting as Planeguard and fuelling in the dogs we entered Rio together at 1400 next day.

It was a glorious afternoon, the calm sea a sparkling blue and that incomparable silhouette of weirdly jagged peaks looking as though some sportive giant had been doodling with a fretsaw. Rio is certainly one of the wonders of the world.

Owing to our changed programme, our first days in Rio were strictly informal and we had to find our own amusement. No difficulty was reported.

We were lucky in being berthed at Praga Maua, right beside the Avenida Rio Branco, with ready access to everything a sailor wants. One thing he seemed to want was butterfly trays, which poured on board in profusion; it is a nice point whether they or giant pandas from South Africa were our biggest contribution to the balance of pay­ments problem.

On Monday 27th July 1959 we sailed with Albion and, after rendezvousing with Lynx and Chichester (See my page on HMS Chichester, Chichester was also on Her 1st Commission and a half-sister to Leopard) rehearsed for the following day's Shopwindow demonstration to officers of the Brazilian and Argentinian Services. Both days blessed us with glorious weather and, besides our own part in the demonstration, we got a lot of pleasure watching the flying from Albion. When the demonstration was over we re-entered Rio on Tuesday afternoon and the official part of the visit began.

This time there was no lack of entertainment provided and every day, besides a comprehensive programme of sport, there were sightseeing trips to the Sugar Loaf or Corcovado or even as far afield as Petropolis, the old imperial city up in the mountains. On top of all this we were more than interested to meet and swop notes with our opposite numbers in Lynx, who we'd not seen since the previous November. But what really stands out in most people's memories is the evening run ashore-after all, one doesn't go to Rio just to play cricket.

On Monday, 3rd August, we said au revoir to all that and, with half the Commander­-in-Chief's Royal Marine Band embarked, sailed with the rest of the squadron, which broke up next day, Albion and Chichester heading for Recife on their homeward way (I should point out that Chichester DID NOT visit Recife, after leaving Rio our next port of call was Gibraltar to buy "Rabbits" and possible some official business!) while Lynx and Leopard made for Ascension, whose summit we had sighted afar off on our way across from Lagos. But before we got to Ascension we had to face the ordeal of a walk-round by the Commander-in-Chief, who had now shifted his flag from Albion to Lynx.

Entering Rio

We can't pretend the Admiral's visit was a howling success. Perhaps we were over­confident, perhaps the gremlins were having a field-day, perhaps we hadn't yet got Rio out of our systems; but whatever the reason we couldn't deny that, though we hadn't disgraced ourselves, neither had it been one of our more brilliant performances. Brooding gently over this mischance, we pressed on quietly in Lynx's wake and on Sunday morning anchored with her off Ascension.

The first thing we noticed was the persistent roll which kept us wallowing uncomfortably throughout our visit, and the second was the extraordinary barrenness of the island. At first sight Ascension was nothing but a monstrous slag-heap; but, as the Outward Bounders were the first to discover, once one had swung through the air from the local boat on to the slippery steps and made one's way to the summit of Green Mountain, Ascension took on a very different aspect. To ramble among the lush greenery of the mountain-top was almost like being in the heart of Devon.  Lower down, too, Ascension had its compensations. The 80-odd inhabitants, all employees of Cable and Wireless, were outstandingly friendly, and the Americans at the USAF base were generous hosts; while on board the ship's fishermen (except for Leading Seaman Cathcart who caught not so much as a sardine) had a royal time of it.

The Outward Bounders were emulated by some equally energetic brethren who made a strictly unofficial ascent of Ascension.

I have had to send the cleaners into the back of my mind, if you can call it that, for the story I am about to attempt.

We were lying at anchor, rolling in the Atlantic swell, when my oppoes and I decided that on our next run we would tackle Green Mountain and get to the top (after all there is Room At The Top). After a quick whip-round I procured a pair of flip-flops and with these neatly wrapped in paper we set out in our No. 10's.

After walking round the first of the many hills we took off our shoes, stockings and white fronts, donned flip-flops, rolled up our shorts, and hid our gear under a roadside bridge. " Just call us tourists " we joked. It wasn't long before we realised that we had bitten off more than we could take. We soon missed the road we should have turned off, but we would not give up; we had only just started and were full of power. Our next obstacle came in the form of a fork in the road; it was while we were trying to decide which one to take that one of those many American trucks drove up. " What's up, buddy? " called the driver's mate, " where yer off to? "." We're trying to get to the mountain, old man " (best English accent, might cadge a lift) " er . . . which road do we take? ". He started to answer but the driver said something to him. " Hop in the back, we're going that way " which we did with no second bidding.

We were at the foot of the mountain in five minutes after a bumpy ride but a good time-saver. We disembarked and thanked them both, and they drove off in one direc­tion while we walked off in the other. It was all uphill from here to our turning point. The first couple of hundred feet were the same as the flat land, all waste, but as the road continued to zig-zag upwards so the vegetation began to thicken. It also got cooler, but still sweat poured off us. The higher we went the slower we moved, until we came to rest on a flat part of the road with a white-washed Church Hall type of building on it.

It was here, we had heard, that beer could be got at a nominal charge, so we went in search of this wonderful place. We found it at the back of the Church Hall and took in a couple of cans thereof; while here we decided that this was our turning point. After we had finished our beer we went out on to the road and had a look around: it all looked so nice from here, blue ocean washing white on to the shore, and birds singing and flying around, almost like Bali Ha'i.

After a short rest we started on the downward journey. It was easy going at first until my flip-flops started to cut in. This was the first time I had ever worn such things and it didn't seem such a good idea now. I even tried taking them off but that was no good so I had to suffer.

At about 400 feet we decided to cut the corners by going over the side and straight down. That was when disaster hit our little expedition. I have very ticklish feet, and the stones going between feet and flip-flops were sheer murder. To say that I was " curled up " would be putting it mildly; several times I had to stop to get over my hysterics, but we made it to the bottom in spite of it all. We had to get back to Georgetown now, so we set out across the land making for one of the radar stations and ending up right on top of our clothes. I have never been so glad to get back into shoes. We made it to Georgetown in time to get stamps and a couple more cans of vitamins before catching our boat back to BED.

St. Helena, where we arrived on 13th August, presented a very different picture. Though rich and fertile, its cocoa-coloured cliffs lowering through the murk were for­bidding in the extreme and we learnt that the mist and cloud in which the island was wrapped throughout our stay were nothing unusual: a marked contrast to the sunny skies and cooling breezes of Ascension.

Once again we had to do something of a trapeze-act to get ashore; and when we were there we found the quaint, old-fashioned little settlement of Jamestown full of atmos­phere and, of course, reminiscences of Napoleon, not to mention two pubs. A dance was given for the ship's company each night we were there, and we gave another enjoy­able children's party; but for some, the most vivid memory of St. Helena was the grand amalgamation of the concert parties of Leopard and Lynx and the Royal Marine Band (both halves) whose protracted rehearsals throughout a long afternoon and evening and eventual performance seared an indelible brand in the souls of all taking part, not least the anxious Alderman who was trying to get a programme printed before the producer even knew what turns Lynx had to offer, let alone what order they were to appear in.

On Sunday morning we sailed straight into a south-easterly gale which endured for four days before slowly subsiding on the fifth. It was an uncomfortable time and the ship was strangely quiet except for the constant calls for the doctor to identify a suspected albatross. Glossy literature galore was circulated and we eagerly studied their enticing advertisements for South Africa, designed though they were rather for the wealthy tourist than for the simple sailor.

Early on Friday, 21st August we at last rounded the Cape of Good Hope and eagerly scanned the mountainous slopes of the Cape Peninsula as we sailed in sparkling winter weather over the placid waters of False Bay to enter the harbour at Simonstown at 0900. We had arrived.

Chapter VI (TO BE CONTINUED)


HMS Leopard February 1960 visit to Durban South Africa, during the course of which Prince Andrew was born

The Duke of York was born on 19 February 1960 at Buckingham Palace, the second son and the third child of The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh. He was the first child to be born to a reigning monarch for 103 years. Named Andrew Albert Christian Edward, he was known as Prince Andrew until his marriage, when he was created The Duke of York, Earl of Inverness and Baron Killyleagh.

The quality of the scans are poor because they are old newspaper cuttings


A ceremonial 21-gun salute fired by HMS Leopard to mark the birth of Prince Andrew echoed across Durban Harbour at Noon. At the same time a battery of the Natal Field Artillery fired a similar salute in Maritzburg


Splice the mainbrace



AB WS Quint and Aubrey langridge at the children's party

Leaving to go on Exercise Capex