Royal Navy – Post War

At the end of the war operations at HMS Masterdon were wound down – ultimately resulting in the decision to close the base entirely. I was ordered to remain and oversee the closure of the base. On the whole the closedown of the base went very smoothly, but to see the huge amount of stuff being sent for burning and destruction was amazing. On completion of closing down the base I was drafted back to Portsmouth The area we had covered under the guise of HMS Mastodon was all in the New Forest near the town of Lymington; it was only taken off the secret list about 30 years after the end of the war.

After returning to Portsmouth barracks in 1946 I was elected to be in the Gun Crew of Portmouth Command which took part in the Royal Tournament that was held in Olympia, London. That year was one of the best shows as it was a gathering of all the Commonwealth representatives. The Navy gave a display of taking a gun carriage and limber over a chasm and also over and through an imitation wall. All of the main divisions took part – Portsmouth, Devonport, Chatham and later on the Fleet Air Arm. The Army performed drill movements and the Royal Artillery gave a motorbike display and also a display of horse artillery and gun carriages with limbers crossing each other at speed. The commonwealth sent different army units and there was also a representation from the Scottish Pipers regiment. To complete the show, the bands of all units gave a display – with the Royal Marines being the most impressive. The Royal Show was always well supported by the public with all of the profits going to various charities.

After my time as part of the Portsmouth gun crew I was drafted to HMS Bruce – a boys training area in Fife Scotland (Crail). Whilst there I played on the Scottish Cricket Ground against a representative Scottish XI in Edinburgh. I was the Seamanship Instructor and my opposite Gunnery instructor was P.O. Robottom. During our training period we obtained the highest passing out points of any class. As it was an ex-airstrip for the fleet air arm it was near the coast, and being someone who liked shellfish, one of the local fishermen gave me 2 crab pots. I used to lay them just off the airfield on a weekend. We would normally get a good few crabs and lobsters which the P.O. Chef would cook for the instructors. We had a bingo night on Sundays for which we provided the winkles and crab for sandwiches at the break time. Whilst at HMS Bruce I found my Dads sister Jessie in Dundee but on leaving the people she was living with moved and I lost all contact.

I was drafted back to Portsmouth in September 1949 and was retained in Portsmouth to oversee the decommissioning of HMS Duke of York and HMS King George V in the Portsmouth dock yards. It was from there that I was discharged from the Royal Navy in November 1950.

On leaving the Royal Navy we lived in Carpenters Park (Muirfield Close) and I obtained employment with British Rail as a booking clerk. My station was Bushy and Oxy, but I would also work at other stations on overtime – Watford and Wembley stations.

On being called up again to active service due to the Korean situation, I was reengaged in January 1952 when I was drafted to the base HMS Vernon. HMS Nightingale (which was attached to the land base) was an experimental mine unit where different mines would be laid with recording clocks for different effects. We would also practice with different experimental recovery methods of picking up mines. One of the advantages was that we were a small ships company. When we recovered experimental units, one had to be careful when taking off the side panels of the sinker, as you could find a big conger eel inside and they had nasty bites. We also would find crabs and lobsters that would make a good meal for the ships company. It was whilst onboard HMS Nightingale that I was promoted to Chief Petty Officer. I really enjoyed my time onboard HMS Nightingale. I got to meet the famous Commander Crabb who was accused of being a supposed defector when he disappeared on a dive. On completion of my time on HMS Nightingale I was posted to HMS Gamecock near Nuneaton – once a fleet Air Arm base, but now a training camp. On joining I was appointed as Chief Petty Officer of the training block Ark Royal and my C.O. was Lieutenant Sutton. He did me the great favour of obtaining my Guardian a service pension for Ninian, my Brother, who was killed on active service, as a sub lieutenant, on an armed merchant cruiser that had been sunk in Weymouth Bay.

On our first talk Lieutenant Sutton said that he had noticed we did not have any trophies in our cabinet and stated that between us and the Petty Officers we could change this – and we all agreed. From that day on we had a grand leader, on the block. The block consisted of 4 living areas (dormitories) each with 40 trainees, with 2 petty officers to each dormitory. I used the Shotley (Ganges) method for training and appointed senior boys in each area (3). We then started to build up our teams for the cross-country, football, rugby, cricket and Gymnastics. Cleanliness in the block was not overlooked as Captains Inspections were every Friday. Slowly we pulled together and formed a good working team, and over time we got the results from the teams. The trophy cabinet began to fill up with trophies. We were doing really well! It was good to see the efforts of all the instructors reflected in the trophies and to be able to see the self respect in the graduating trainees. When my time at Nuneaton came to an end the trophy cabinet was bulging.

During the 18 months I spent at HMS Gamecock I made many friends and one in particular was a local man, Mr Allcock. He had a small holding where he grew farm produce for selling locally in the villages, and also had about 10 pigs in very good sties. Myself and another Petty Officer would help him cleaning out the sties when he was busy. On Sundays’ if we were staying for a weekend, he would take us out in his Rover car for a pub run. His Rover car was very old and had carbon lights – in fact Rover had offered him any car they made if he would allow them to put the car in their museum, but he had always declined saying that he enjoyed himself in the car too much with his friends. On a Sunday run he once told me that he liked Seed Cake. When I was home on leave my wife made him one and he didn’t know how to thank her enough for it.