This little report which was written nearly 25 years ago by me having visited the Type 42 destroyer HMS Sheffield, was discovered inside one of my books which I own, but rarely look at.  The book, a large one, called KING ALBERT'S BOOK, deals with the dreadful 'rape' of Belgium by the German's in WW1, and was published to be sold for the benefit of the Daily Telegraph Belgian Fund. Albert was the King of the Belgians.  The book came to me from my paternal grandfather, and as a child, I knew it well from cover to cover.

It is quite ironic that such a document about a brave little ship, should have found its way into this book about a brave and internationally [except for the Germans and her allies] admired King who stood his ground against these vile people.

HMS Sheffield was sunk during the Falklands War of 1982, but this report has nothing to do with that period for it is dated October 1980.  However, it shows how a department of the ships company, the communicators, were anything but ready for active service and it would be fair to assume that what goes for this important branch, also went for the rest of the crew, and indeed, for the ship itself. 

When a proud warship goes into a dockyard for a refit, she loses her pride, her sense of being and purpose, her spirit, and the fragmented ships company that remain onboard, share many things, chiefly privations, but not the camaraderie associated with a commissioned ship free from the feet, tools and intrusions of the civilian dockyard work force.  The skeleton crew lose their skills and reluctantly adapt to doing necessary but soul-destroying husbandry tasks trying to keep some semblance of navy routine and organisation going ready for the time ahead, when once again she would regain her pride as a warship of the Royal Navy.

This report is really all about the training of men, or rather the lack of it, and is typical of men found in a ship that has been away from the sea for over a year, and in this case, for a ship where problems had been experienced causing her to suffer a much longer refit than was originally planned or given to such a type of ship at a given age.

Her 'escape' from the clutches of the dockyard management team back into naval management and thence to operational efficiency, would have been difficult for all onboard, but being what we are, RN'ers, she made it and went to war bursting with pride and a camaraderie only found in a fully worked-up British warship, surface or submarine.

The rest is history!


Click to enlarge Click to enlarge Click to enlarge Click to enlarge Click to enlarge [Words punched through are {have to be used} and {who pass TB1 } where TB1 = Task Book 1] Click to enlarge Click to enlarge Click to enlarge Click to enlarge Click to enlarge Click to enlarge Click to enlarge

My qualifications for writing this page, apart from being the author, are [as were many others] that I had my own ship's and submarines in refit; that I was a professional trainer in a branch shore establishment and subsequently, an assessment officer visiting scores of ships in harbours and generating feedback for training planners;  that I spent lots of time at sea in both boats and surface units, and that I was a sea rider on both FOST's staff and on FOF2's staff.  In these sea riding jobs, I was well placed to observe the difference between a crew finding its feet and a ship with a crew ready for the off - it was a very pleasant observation and I did my little bit to bring it about.

Of some interest is the knowledge that during the launching of the Sheffield by HM The Queen on the 10th June 1971, the Argentine Navy was publicly thanked by the British Navy for their kindness! During the building of the Sheffield, the same yard was building a warship [type 42] for the Argentine called the Hercules. Sheffield had an explosion which damaged the ship two months before scheduled launch and the Navy asked the Argentines if the parts destined for their ship [under contract] could instead be used to repair the Sheffield.   This they readily agreed to. Hence the public thank you. However, Sheffield then spent nearly four years in 'makers hands' before being commissioned in February 1975.