Bits and pieces Volume V

Table of Contents for Bits and Pieces     

By clicking the paragraph required, you will be taken direct to that subject.  When finished, simply click 'Back to Top' ready to click on the next subject of interest


In July 1981, just after his engagement to Lady Diana Spencer, HRH The Prince of Wales, visited HMS Mercury.  His visit, arriving in a helicopter of the Queens Flight, which he himself piloted, was to have been private.  However, much to everyone's SHEER delight, he sat the helicopter down on the broadwalk adjacent to the wardroom's rose garden, and guess what?  Yes, he had brought Diana with him.  Mercury was on a great high anyway, but to bring his future wife really was 'icing on the top of the cake'.

Although the day went well and was a qualified success, one thing puzzled me, and does to this very day, over twenty two years later .  It had long been tradition in the Royal Navy, that when a senior officer or a VIP visited the ship/established, the Captain would trawl the ships company to find out if any of its members had previously served with the visitor. Those that  had,  would be re-introduced either in a group, or individually when being inspected or during a walk-round at their place of work/duty.  On this occasion, for some inexplicable reason it didn't happen, this, despite that Mercury had several officers and men who had served with the Prince.  I was one of them, having been with HRH in a classroom, at sea in HMS Jupiter and at Lord Mountbatten's funeral. 

The Prince and Lady Di, as she was affectionately known in the early days, had several functions to attend that day, and one of them was a visit to the Warrant Officers Mess to meet an invited audience of senior ratings and their wives.  Beryl and I attended that event which was conducted in a large square room in which the Prince walked clockwise and Lady Di anticlockwise, talking with members of the mess as they passed.  The Mess President was Leslie Murrell MBE and he was the host attending upon the Prince introducing personnel and answering the Prince's questions. Leslie had had the honour of being in charge of the coffin bearers at Lord Mountbatten's funeral when laying him to rest in his grave within Romsey Abbey, at a ceremony attended by the whole of the Royal family.  The events of those years were still very tender for us all, and in particular, for the Prince who had lost a great uncle.  I think that Leslie too, had been a little upset about the breaking of tradition on ex-ship introductions, and as the Prince came nearer to my position, Leslie leaned over to the Prince and forewarned him of my presence.  In great anticipation I awaited his presence, and whilst still a few walking paces away, the Prince uttered in a raised voice "Mr Dykes, how nice to see you again."  Whilst I was concentrating on the Prince and his questions about my service career and my on coming retirement, I was very conscious that Leslie was happy now [as I was] that we had, after all, got to meet HRH personally:  the Prince knew that, we knew that, and all around, including the officers who had broke with tradition, knew that.  HRH chatted to me and to Beryl for some time and remembered me well [how could he not?] from our previous service together.  I was extremely proud and very grateful to Leslie who had 'engineered' the meet!  Lady Di, coming her way around, also spoke with us for some minutes.  On returning home that day, Beryl wrote down the conversations to record for posterity.

Here is the visit programme. 


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge



I have just tweaked the plan of Mercury [last picture above] - see tweaked picture below -  to add in a few details of the 'old days' at Leydene.  My tweaking goes back to the late 1950's and adds [or complicates whatever your view] to this plan which omits the SCU buildings [behind the drill shed] possibly for security reasons. It is interesting to note that when I did my petty officers course in the late 1950's, south camp, i.e., all below the main Droxford Road, was almost barren having just the following buildings of substance: Mountbatten Block/Bungalow/Old Garage block with training classrooms and the Main House.  Over to the right of the picture where the 'new garage block' is was South Camp training area, a collection of Nissan huts stretching from Droxford Road to where I have put "civilian bits", to the Church, and down into the area between Droxford Road and Main Drive Road heading towards the Main Gate Sentry Post.  Even in 1969 when I did my Radio Communications Instructor [RCI] course, we were instructed in Automatic Telegraphy [AT] in a Nissan hut adjacent to the 'old' Sentry Box, which by that time had been pulled down. Nissan huts were very basic and so were the amenities within - seats, tables etc. They were products of utility manifest in the shortages caused by the second world war which touched our daily lives in almost every way.  They were unheated but had a stove and chimney.  The policy of whether they were lit or not was left to each Section [cryptography, organisation, wireless telegraphy procedure, AT etc] and their instructors.  However, I can remember being detailed to light them and to fetch and thereafter maintain, a stock of fuel [coke] but it was a great [and dirty] effort for little reward.  Mercury seemed to attract cold weather and the stoves were inefficient and virtually useless - they achieved their maximum heat output just as instructions were finishing.  Fortunately, our messes were in the newer blocks sited along the Crescent Road and they were centrally heated.  In harsh winters, we used to race back to our mess just to get warm.  Incidentally, as I have stated below, Crescent Road blocks have been used to accommodate all types of personnel over the years, with, at one time, seniors rates, albeit for a short period.   They were essentially messes for ships company male junior rates, and the New Entry trainees lived in blocks where the supply block is now. That same little area housed the camps post office.  The post mistress, an elderly civilian lady, was an oracle and knew everybody in the Clanfield/East Meon areas, including all the admirals and captains.  It was well known in the camp that there were certain people who you didn't upset, service and non-service, and she was one of them.  The plan of the camp below, for ease of reference only, assumes that the top of the picture in north.  The plan is complete to its northern, western and southerly borders [except for the captain's house and its supporting sites [it had its own sewage farm], but is incomplete to the east.  The land area where I have marked "Old OOW" became narrower and narrower the further east one travelled, until it virtually disappeared and the Droxford Road met the Main Drive Road, at which point, the main gate to HMS Mercury was sited.  Just across the road from the Main Gate and to the right, was the Hyden Wood complex .  In this area there was a large sports pitch area which was boxed-in by the Droxford Road, the Hambledon Road [to the famous cricketing pub the Bat and Ball] and the main road running between Clanfield and East Meon.  Behind it, and neatly tucked-in underneath a clump of trees, was Hyden Wood married quarters, the MQ's for senior officers.  Other officers lived in MQ's distant from the camp, and the nearby village of Lovedean provided MQ's for ratings.  However, towards the end of my career in 1983, the vast majority of officers and senior ratings where living ashore in their own homes in local areas, thereby, taking the pressure off our MQ's Officer, dear old Arthur Shreeves, an erstwhile communicator.  Before I finish, I want you to look at Dreadnought Block, which was the 'modern' area for training sparkers whilst North Camp was the 'less modern'.  To build it, they knocked down a WRNS junior rates block which ran parallel with Droxford Road, and which together with the Bungalow to its immediate south [WRNS senior rates], and a live-in floor on which  WRNS stewards [junior and senior rates] plus WRNS sick bay staff lived to the 'deep' south in the Main House/wardroom mess, formed Mercury's WRNS quarters. These were ships company WRNS [cooks, stewards, writers, drivers etc] and not communicators, who lived in the village of Soberton [Soberton Towers].  They were bused to and from Mercury each working day, a round trip of about 10 miles.  After Soberton Block commissioned, all WRNS came to live in Mercury or if already in Mercury were re-messed; the Bungalow was decommissioned and reassigned, and Soberton Towers was shut down, sadly for the proprietor of The Pinky, the pet name for the pub across the road from the Towers, who for many years, had profited from the many matelots who had come-a-courting!  It was a long walk between Mercury and Soberton, and I have to admit that I did it more than once. Now I am not a man given to be crude especially in print, but I want you to remember [those of you who are my age] and to believe [if you are younger] that young ladies of those far off days didn't do what [I am told] young ladies of today do so willingly, and therefore a walk to and from Soberton from East Meon [approximately 10 miles] got you a necking session, or, at best, a grope of the upper body only.  How we have all grown up since?  Click here to see a map and distance of the treck  Click to enlarge.  Anyway, back to the reason I started to mention  all this, namely what stood where Dreadnought block was erected.  The WRNS junior rates mess was so close to Droxford Road, that when their windows were open, a person innocently walking in the road, could not but fail to see inside the building.  This became a source or annoyance to some of the girls, but to others, it became a tease.  On more than one occasion, the windows of their drying room, bedecked with knickers and bra's, were opened to their maximum, the hinges straining against the wall of the building.  Whilst Droxford Road was always a public road and regularly used by vehicles transiting between the local villages, it was equally used by sailors marching across it [north camp to south camp] or along it [south/north camps to messes] where "eyes left or right", depending upon direction of travel was ordered when adjacent to the drying room windows.  Pedestrian traffic increased many fold along this road where other routes around the establishment were quicker, easier and certainly less boring than Droxford Road, not to mention less dangerous because of the road traffic.  Men from the accommodation blocks in Crescent Road, especially from the nearest blocks like Kempenfelt etc., took 'recreational' walks along the road from roughly where I have shown OOW [at road side of the Admin Block]  to the beginning of Mountbatten block, failing in their duty to walk on the side of the road facing the oncoming traffic, slowing their pace, and increasing the zoom function of their eyes, to stare upon those scanty panties on passing the windows.  Clearly they couldn't be so audacious and overtly stop to have a better than average view: or could they?

As time went by, the authorities started to clamp down on this behaviour, where it could be argued that the girls, or some of them, were the protagonists, egging the men on with the big tease.  The windows were still opened, but were mechanically restricted to about 45°, and the hedging plant planted between the grass verge and the side of the building proper, was allowed to grow.  All was now under control, though the men's minds were not necessarily so, and the road returned to its former role as a boring non entity.  Then one night, a sailor, or a group of sailors, decided to revisit the now slightly open windows of the proverbial drying room, to reach in and to take as many pieces of lingerie as time would allow, and then make off with them as trophies.  Whilst the plan was probably conceived with fun in mind, its execution put the fear of God into the minds of the WRNS because if a hand could come through a window into a common area, surely one could come through into a bedroom,  bathroom or other private area, and any where in their block, even away from the road side.  The idea of having personal clothing paraded as spoils of war was also non too pleasing, and joking apart, did much to offend our fellow female sailors, damaging their morale.  Something had to be done once and for all.  As so many pranks do back-fire, so too, did this one. The authorities decided that there would be a DROXFORD ROAD PATROL, and set about creating an unpopular extra duty watch task which would see a sailor patrolling part of the road outside instructional times Monday to Friday, and during Saturday and Sunday, and in all weathers.  That patrol was maintained right up to the girls being re-housed in their new mess, Soberton Block, and it became known as KNICKER PATROL throughout the camp.  Why Soberton Block changed things remains a query.  I do remember quite vividly the effect of having Soberton Block on the men, many of whom were in my division.  It did their morale a power of good.  Mercury was a 'normal' place during the working week because it had lots of young females going about their business be it under training or in support services. But at teatimes and for the whole of each weekend, they disappeared, visibly affecting the men's attitude to the camp.  Without a car, they were very restricted.  Men liked the former but hated the latter. The former, whilst they couldn't touch, was natural and pleasing: the latter was unnatural, unpleasant and made them want more than ever, to touch!  Me and my type were what the men called "good kids" because we were at home with our families. So, having girls around twenty four hours a day, touch or not touch, pleased the men and Mercury 'came to life'.


Back to Top




Question.  Did you signed one of these? Click to enlarge This page comes from my paybook of 1960 which is a replacement paybook marked "fair wear and tear re-issue".  Clearly, I did.  In my tool box I have five tins [for screws etc] marked tobacco for personal use, do not etc etc, the contents therein being roll your own duty free issue. We used to smoke 'blue liners' when based ashore, and 'HM Ships Only' proprietary cigarettes when based afloat - mind you its nearly 40 years ago since a touched one.  Whilst the first two sources of baccy were largely unknown [they used to say that the contents of the blue liners were the sweepings from the deck after a days working making proprietary cigarettes] proprietary brands covered the whole spectrum of cigarette manufacturers both in tins [for self rolling and pipe] and in cardboard packets.  One of the biggest proprietary companies was [and is] the John Player and Sons company, and I remember my dear father who looked forward to me coming home on leave bearing gifts, and particularly his favourite Capstan full strength [without filter tips], which today, would be classified as 'darn right dangerous', puffing away on 40 a day. I really should have known better! What follows is the John Player and Sons version of their association with the Navy, loosely, or otherwise.

John Player & Sons Logo.

The Player's Sailor

Contrary to popular belief, the sailor's head does not represent any particular individual, but was simply an artist's conception for an advertising design and later used for the trade mark in 1891. Contrast that with this HMS CHEVIOT where the sailor's head was of a known serving sailor.

Originally the sailor had only one stripe on his collar. Later two stripes were introduced and these remain to the present day. The correct number is three. But as the design was registered with only two, legal advice was sought, and it was decided that no alterations should be made.

The Origin of 'Navy Cut'

For more than a hundred years before 1953, seamen in the Royal Navy were allowed to buy tobacco leaf duty-free. They formed this into a roll and pressed it by coiling a thin rope tightly round it. When they wanted a smoke, they unwound the rope a turn and sliced off a pipeful or pressing plug.

Pressing and slicing is still the basic process used for Player's Navy Cut Pipe Tobacco today.

The Three-Decker is HMS Britannia

When Queen Voctoria came to the throne in 1837, HMS Britannia was one of the biggest ships of the line. She was a wooden three-decker, carried 120 guns, could sail 9 knots in a fair wind and in fact was not very different from Nelson's ships of the line.

HMS Britannia, HMS Hero (on the right of the sailors head) and the sailor himself were formed into the current Player's Trade Mark in 1891 {see the picture in the main logo above}..

The Player's Sailor's Ship

Is referred to in his cap-ribbon. She was HMS Hero. Cruiser. Built 1885. Two ten-inch guns. Two six-inch guns. Twelve small quick-firing guns. Follow the sailors nose and you'll see her. [That is Player's version - here is another from a different web site "The battleship HMS Hero was launched 27th October 1885, she differed from HMS Conqueror only in that all four of her 6 inch guns were mounted on the superstructure. At the end of Hero's career it was used as a target from November 1907 and was finally sunk off the Kentish Knock on 18th February 1908."

A Curious Error on the Sailor's Cap-Ribbon

If you look, you'll see that the ship's name 'Hero' on the sailors cap-ribbon appears without the letters HMS. The reason for the omission is that they were forgotten in the original drawing, and since the Trade Mark was registered without the letters, it was never possible to add them.

As a matter of interest, there have been three ships in the Royal Navy named Hero. 

This picture, regrettably of poor quality, shows some of the advertising captions used by John Player featuring sailors and the Navy. Note particularly the sailor with his back to us and the caption saying "turn your back on all but players". Click to enlarge

In 1980, the Captain of HMS Excellent Captain R K S Bethell OBE FBIM Royal Navy,  published a booklet to commemorate 150 years of his establishment from 1830.  In it he put the Royal Navy's side of the story, and supported it with this picture Click to enlarge.  He went on to say Click to enlarge and Click to enlarge *


*This is the Nottingham referred to, D91, having a piggy-back-ride back to Portsmouth from Australian waters Click to enlarge

How are these for prices? Click to enlarge e.g., Duty Paid In decorated tins of 50 = 2s 3d [11¼p] : On HM Ships = 1s 6d [7½p]

From an auctioneers magazine.  Recognise him? He's the friendly, weather-beaten sailor who has been the logo on millions of packets of Player's Navy Cut cigarettes since 1927. This oil painting by Arthur McCormick (1860-1943) is estimated to fetch £7,000-£10,000 in Bonhams' maritime sale in New Bond Street on Thursday 15 August 2004 (11am and 6pm, lot 450 of 454 lots). It was the basis for one of the most successful and enduring advertising images of all time.

On the cigarette packets, framed within a life belt, the sailor is gazing out to sea and has 'Hero' on his cap, not the 'Invincible' of the painting. HMS Invincible, one of the fast, much-vaunted battlecruisers of the post-Dreadnought era, was sunk at the Battle of Jutland in 1916, with heavy loss of life - a fact that Imperial Tobacco chose not to point out to customers used to equating tobacco and the glamour of the Navy.

The sailor has travelled more in the past year than at any time during his decades in the WD & HO Wills collection of tobacco memorabilia. Imperial Tobacco dispersed the collection this year, to auction houses and museums in Bristol and Nottingham. McCormick's painting is a museum piece if ever there was one, but it was consigned to the Bristol auction rooms in May, where a canny private collector bought it for £3,335 against an estimate of £2,000-£3,000. And thence to Bonhams, where, three months later, the trophy is expected to top £10,000.


Back to Top


3. RESEARCHING THE ROYAL NAVY [or indeed any subject on earth!]

I have used, and continue to use research tools, merely out of interest, and for the pure enjoyment of getting information.  The proverbial reference library is very hard to beat, but more and more, information technology is taking over, and I find it exciting.  Naturally, I got to wonder whether or not the information Technology [IT] tools available from your own computer, were common knowledge, so just in case they are not, I have added this little cameo hoping that some of you will get started to delve into data bases, especially those run and owned by the government.

The subject which encompasses this data is the PUBLIC RECORDS OFFICE, the PRO, and in this country, they  and the British Library, must be the ultimate data bases.

Their web site is easy to find, and by and large, easy to use - practice makes perfect!  At the PRO they run an enormous CATALOGUE which is fittingly called PROCAT. Once inside their website, just look for PROCAT and you are half way there.

The best way I can describe a research task to you, is to mention something you already know a little bit about - I am sure that there are many things you know a great deal about as well.

The NAVY per se, and in our case, the Communications Branch erring towards W.T., things, is my subject.

ALL Records of the Admiralty are under a CATALOGUE called A D M .= Records of the Admiralty, Naval Forces, Royal Marines, Coastguards and related bodies from 1205 until 1992.  Those dates in themselves are pretty impressive don't you think?  Once there, you simply open and shut the required file by clicking on the crosses or minus signs.

Inside the ADM catalogue, you will find divisions  covering all aspects of Naval life. Below is the current list.

Records of the Navy Board and the Board of Admiralty 1563-1985  
Records of Medical and Prisoner of War Departments 1696-1977  
Records of Victualling Departments 1660-1975  
Records of Transport Departments 1773-1868  
Records of the Hydrographer of the Navy, and Royal Greenwich Observatory 1827-1964  
Records of Works Departments 1786-1962  
Records of the Surveyor of the Navy and successors 1620-1972  
Records of Naval Ordnance Departments and Establishments 1736-1974  
Records of Naval Staff Departments 1883-1978  
Records of Air Department, Fleet Air Arm, Royal Naval Air Service and Department of Aircraft Equipme ... 1914-1971  
Records of Royal Naval Scientific Service 1912-1975  
Records of Research Establishments 1874-1991  
Records of Accounting and Pay Departments 1615-1953  
Records of Secretary's Department 1812-1965  
Private and Private Office Papers 1920-1953  

Within these divisions are sub divisions which break-down each division above, into useable parts.  Below is the sub division of the first named division above, namely of the Records of the Navy Board and the Board of Admiralty from 1563 until 1985.

Records of the Navy Board and the Board of Admiralty 1563-1985  
Admiralty, and Ministry of Defence, Navy Department: Correspondence and Papers 1660-1976 31037
Admiralty: Out-Letters 1656-1859 1756
Admiralty: Minutes 1657-1881 286
Admiralty: Letters Patent, Lord High Admiral and Lords of Admiralty Appointments 1707-1964 410
Admiralty and predecessors: Letters Patent, Navy Board, Transport Board, Vice-Admiralty and Commissi ... 1746-1890 85
Admiralty: Service Records, Registers, Returns and Certificates 1673-1960 477
Admiralty: Miscellanea 1563-1953 1006
Admiralty: Digests and Indexes 1660-1974 1911
Admiralty: Supplementary Records 1803-1917 252
Navy Board: Records 1650-1837 3636
Navy Board: Passing Certificates, Examination Results, and Certificates of Service 1691-1848 75
Admiralty: Record Office: Cases 1852-1965 6440
Admiralty: Historical Section: Records used for Official History, First World War 1860-1937 4837
Board of Admiralty: Minutes and Memoranda 1869-1976 179
Admiralty: Naval Courts Martial Cases, Boards of Inquiry Reports, and Other Papers (Supplementary Se ... 1892-1951 405

Below shows one what is in the first named sub division above, and so on.

Records of the Navy Board and the Board of Admiralty 1563-1985  
Admiralty, and Ministry of Defence, Navy Department: Correspondence and Papers 1660-1976 31037
Pieces without a sub-series parent    
ACCOUNTS AND BILLS (2a) 1935    
ADMIRALTY (5) 1935    
AVIATION (90) 1935    
BUILDINGS AND LAND (14a) 1935    
CHARITIES (18) 1935    
COLOURS (20) 1935    

Now, whereas all the divisions and sub division affect all of us in the navy, I just want to show you what is inside the division called "Records of research Establishment", which you will observe is the division fourth up from the bottom of the top table.  Here it is below, known as the 200 series.

Records of Research Establishments 1874-1991  
Admiralty: Admiralty Research Laboratory: Reports and Notes 1920-1977 3253
Admiralty: Admiralty Experimental Station and Admiralty Research Laboratory: Correspondence and Pape ... 1915 - 1977 201
Admiralty: Admiralty Surface Weapons Establishment and predecessors: Records 1918-1974 2365
Admiralty: Admiralty Experiment Works: Reports 1874-1969 957
Admiralty: Admiralty Engineering Laboratory: Reports, Technical Notes and Memoranda 1920-1974 2850
Admiralty: Admiralty Chemical Advisory Panel and related bodies: Minutes and Reports 1944-1957 296
Admiralty: Chemical Department, Portsmouth: Reports 1939-1959 47
Admiralty: Craft Experimental Establishment and HMS Hornet, Sea Trials and Development Section: Repo ... 1941-1958 87
Admiralty: Admiralty Development Establishment: Reports 1945-1958 168
Admiralty and Ministry of Defence: Admiralty Materials Laboratory: Reports 1947-1975 672
Admiralty: Mine Design Department and Mining Establishment: Reports and Papers 1922-1958 876
Admiralty: Central Metallurgical Laboratory: Reports and Papers 1943-1956 163
Not used    
Admiralty: Underwater Countermeasures and Weapons Establishment and predecessors: Reports and Papers 1920-1968 345
Admiralty: Anti-Submarine Experimental Establishment, later Underwater Detection Establishment: Tech ... 1930-1961 695

Now look at the fourth entry down from the top. Admiralty Surface Weapons Establishment and predecessors Records, and again I show it below.

Records of Research Establishments 1874-1991  
Admiralty: Admiralty Surface Weapons Establishment and predecessors: Records 1918-1974 2365
Pieces without a sub-series parent    

This is where the mechanics of the W/T branch were decided.  Note the entry, second up from bottom, Admiralty Signal School, or, as it was known H.M. Signal School. There are other titles here which will be familiar to you, like Radio Communications for example.  But Admiralty or H.M. Signal School, which was in that, or was that, the same as the Signal School which was too vulnerable in Portsmouth because of German bombing and which re-located to Leydene near Petersfield  [HMS MERCURY] in the early years of the second world war, and is now in Fareham [HMS COLLINGWOOD] ?  Look below to the break-down of the Admiralty Signal School and to its content.

Records of Research Establishments 1874-1991  
Admiralty: Admiralty Surface Weapons Establishment and predecessors: Records 1918-1974 2365
ASDIC Section appendix to quarterly report: Dec 1921  
ASDIC Section appendix to quarterly report: Sept 1922  
ASDIC Section appendix to quarterly report: Dec 1922  
ASDIC Section appendix to quarterly report: Mar 1923  
ASDIC Section appendix to quarterly report: June 1923  
ASDIC Section appendix to quarterly report: Sept 1923  
ASDIC Section appendix to quarterly report: Dec 1923  
ASDIC Section appendix to quarterly report: Mar 1924  
ASDIC Section appendix to quarterly report: Sept 1924  
ASDIC Section appendix to quarterly report: Mar 1925  
ASDIC Section appendix to quarterly report: June 1925  
ASDIC Section appendix to quarterly report: Sept 1925  
ASDIC Section appendix to quarterly report: Dec 1925  
ASDIC Section appendix to quarterly report: Mar 1926  
ASDIC Section appendix to quarterly report: June 1926  

This is all that is in the Signal School sub divisional report.  However, it clearly states the ASDIC 'SECTION' so one assumes that there were other sections.  There were indeed, but everything that happened there was of an experimental nature and had very little to do with training operators for the Royal Navy Communications Branch.  It covered RADIO and RADAR experiments, trials and testings where operators where required, but the FIRST CALLED, Signal School was very different from the Signal School we all knew, and of course, know now. Moreover, it was not the School of Signals which re-located to HMS Mercury. Look at this pad and ink stamp mark It reads Confidential Book Officer H.M. Signal School Portsmouth ! It is dated 14 Jun 1946.

If we now look at Radio Communications in the table immediately before the one above, we see the following:-

Records of Research Establishments 1874-1991  
Admiralty: Admiralty Surface Weapons Establishment and predecessors: Records 1918-1974 2365
Notes on installation and operation of short wave transmitter for Cleethorpes 1926  
Lists of wireless telegraphy and other signalling sets and apparatus 1928  
Notes on medium power transmitter for Aden WT station 1930  
Notes on experimental Fultograph transmitting outfit 1929  
Admiralty pattern SS71: instructions for sound reproduction equipment 1940  
Admiralty pattern SS76: instructions for WT set type 405 1940  
Admiralty pattern SS91: preliminary notes on WT sets, types 57 CMR and 57 DM/DMR 1941  
Instructions to fitting out officers and assistants for working sets 271, 272 and 273 1941  
ASE handbook for type 271 Mark 4 instruction board 1.25 KW supply: parts 1-3 1942  
ASE handbook for guidance of officers responsible for WT layout at naval aerodromes: part 1 1942  
ASE preliminary notes on WT set type 66 1943  
ASE handbook for type 277T trailer installation: part 1 1943  
ASE handbook for type 277T trailer installation: part 2 1943  
Admiralty pattern SS184: handbook for power supply outfits DUA and DUB 1944  
Addendum No 1 to H391: preliminary notes on wavemeter G82 1944  

which holds little interest to the vast majority of our readers, but then again, look at the dates.  In time, when the 30 year rule has passed, all that you ever knew in the W/T branch will be available on tables such as these.

Look back above to the table before the penultimate table, and to  Admiralty Signals Establishment, and things in here look a little more interesting:-

Records of Research Establishments 1874-1991  
Admiralty: Admiralty Surface Weapons Establishment and predecessors: Records 1918-1974 2365
Power measurement with balanced calorimeters with tapered water load for H01 rectangular pipe 1943  
Theory and design of the transition circuit 1944  
Type 992 target indication set: description of equipment being supplied and proposals for ship fitti ... 1945  
Effect of ship roll on performance of UH/F communication aerials 1946  
Interrogation of Dr Koops of Zeiss, Jena, about synthetic crystals, at Beltane School Wimbledon 6 Ma ... 1946  
Four German V/S lanterns 1946  
A rotating beam radio lighthouse system 1946  
Wave-clutter experiments, Seaford 1946  
Interrogation of Dr P Mallach about dielectric materials and their use ; Beltane School Wimbledon 6 ... 1946  
A method of determining direction of a target by comparison of RF phases 1946  
A multiple-reflection supersonic delay-cell suitable for radar 1946  
A report on interrogation of Herr Martin by Mr P G Redgment and Mr K C Bowen of Admiralty Signal Est ... 1946  
Application of coherent pulse technique to type 277 radar equipment 1946  
A very accurate ranging system 1947  
Manual of storekeeping in Admiralty Signal Establishment: monograph no. 702 (issue 2) 1947  

and, if you look here, things are beginning to look very familiar.  This is the break-down of the ASRE Communications Division Technical Notes up above:-

Records of Research Establishments 1874-1991  
Admiralty: Admiralty Surface Weapons Establishment and predecessors: Records 1918-1974 2365
Ship-shore HF communication: power requirements 1948  
High speed transmissions from Types 55 and TC8 1945  
Interrogation of Dr Beckmann at Dollis Hill Research Station on 26 Feb 1948 1948  
Type 690: see trials 1949  
UHF communication equipment Type 691: preliminary notes: technical and mechanical description 1950  
UHF communication equipment Type 691: illustrations 1950  
VHF switched-cardioid homing device for sonobuoy recovery craft 1950  
RT/P signal regeneration 1949  
Teleprinters reporters: comparison between GPO and ASRE units 1949  
Operation of GPO electronic regenerative repeater on a normal radio teleprinter service 1949  
Electronic double current relay 1949  
Influence of ionosphere on propagation of radio waves in band 30-300 MHZ 1950  
Dual-diversity receiving outfits: part 1 1950  
Dual-diversity receiving outfits: part 2 1950  
HMS Tyne: ship-shore radio link 1950  

It is a wonderful day out and I have spent several days researching various interests. What follows next is just to whet your appetite; to encourage you to write that book or novel, or to motivate you into going and seeing first hand the wonderful historical documents our nation has kept, and continues to keep for all posterity. I have picked out some interesting files, but remember one man's interest's are another man's indifference. The simple table below shows you the 'magic number' you need to know and roughly what the file contains in historical terms.

Ref No [Goes from 1 to 342]    Contents
29 [1802-1919]

This series of records mainly comprises service records compiled by the Navy Pay Office from ships' musters and pay books in respect of ratings, warrant officers, and occasionally commissioned officers, from full and half pay registers, in support of applications made by servicemen for pensions, gratuities, medals. Also included are applications for the admittance of orphaned children into Greenwich Hospital School, the removal of the term 'run' (signifying desertion) entered inaccurately alongside an individual's entry in a ship's muster and applications for certificates of freedom (discharge documents) from foreigners or apprentices press ganged into the Royal Navy. Service records for Royal Marines, Coastguards, Dockyard workers, Sea Fencibles and Convict Guards - many of whom had previously served in the Royal Navy - making such applications can also be found in this series of records.


The dates given in the list are the dates of issue of the certificates; the services given are naturally prior to those dates, but do not necessarily cover all the service to date. In some cases of persons still in service, for whom further certificates were later issued, later annotations have been made in these entry books. Pieces 1-96 are indexed by pieces 97-104, in which the ledger or volume numbers are the same as the piece numbers but this index has been superseded by the index included on PROCAT itself.

Publication note An article on using these records called 'Indexing the Admiralty' by Bruno Pappalardo can be found in 'Ancestors', Issue 15, August-September 2003.
Unpublished finding aids A Military Memorandum (MN 437) provides an overview of records relating to the Greenwich Hospital School is available from the Research Enquiries Room at Kew.
Related material For other naval ratings' service records see: ADM 139
  Naval Courts Martial records can be found in ADM 1
  Registers of allotments and allotment declarations ADM 27
  Registers of seamen's remittances are in ADM 26
  Ship's logs can be found in ADM 53
  The original certificates will be found among the Greenwich Hospital School Admission Papers, ADM 73


38 [1793-1878] Ships' Musters (Series III), recording the presence of every person on board a ship
50 [1702-1916]

Formal daily journals of navigation, weather, orders, signals, manoeuvres, and other official business


Until 1854 and 1855 (pieces 1-263) the journals are listed alphabetically by the name of the admiral. From these years onwards (from piece 264) they are listed by station or squadron


51 [1669-1853] These logs were maintained by the captain of each ship in commission, and kept in manuscript form on a continuous daily basis. They cover details of the employment and position of the ship and ship's company, details of weather encountered, and provide a full picture of the daily routine of a naval vessel under sail. Some occasionally provide a list of the crew
52 [1672-1840] These logs were maintained by the Sailing Master of each vessel in commission, and were a record of the Ship's course, position, weather encountered, employment of the hands, and records of punishments carried out. They also recorded any discrepancies found when opening casks of food or drink (not an uncommon occurrence) to make subsequent claims against suppliers. The Sailing Master was also responsible for making sketches and charts of land and harbours not previously visited, which were often copied and circulated as navigational aids. They were mainly divided as required by the Master until the mid-nineteenth century, when they were supplied ready-lined
53 [1799-1974]

These logs were books maintained by the Officer of the Watch for every ship of the Royal Navy in commission. They provide a permanent and consecutive daily record of the ships movements and position, recording all wheel and telegraph orders, weather encountered and other events, such as the employment of the ship's company, any deaths on board, disciplinary action (i.e. the reading of punishment warrants), loss or damage to stores and any other items of interest, such as visits by dignitaries of foreign officers. Logs were not kept by ships under major refit, which account for some gaps in sequence.


The lists are maintained on an annual basis where possible, and under each ship alphabetically by months. (Prior to World War II, some of the vessels were listed alphabetically, with several years logs in each sequence, especially in the 19th century. During the 1930s batches, the lists contain two years of logs.) Any logs, out of sequence due to being retained as exhibits in Boards of Enquiry or Courts Martial proceedings, are placed at the beginning of each new annual batch and cross-referred where possible in the Standard list set. (Note that in this electronic catalogue some redundant cross-references have been removed). Where sequences are not consecutive, this could be due to either the ship being lost (in the War years), paying off or re-commissioning after extended refit, or on commissioning from the building yard. Explanations of some of the anomalies in more recent years are given where possible


56 [1806-1868] Entry books of out-letters from the Royal Marine Office. The books, with the exception of the first volume in each series, contain pressed copies (flimsies) either of the letters themselves or of brief dockets of them. Each volume in all these series has a subject or other index  
59 [1868-1884] Entry books of out-letters to the Royal Marine Artillery, Portsmouth 
63 [1834-1889] These volumes include the twelve volumes of divisional letter books, miscellaneous, which formerly comprised the whole series, to which have been added two volumes of entry books of letters to Royal Marines, Pembroke Dock, 1844 to 1851, mostly concerning personnel and equipment; volumes of entered or press-copied letters to the Comptroller of Victualling and the divisions concerning clothing, barrack stores and accounts; and volumes of confidential letters to the Admiralty and the divisions on officers' affairs
64 [1888-1976] Printed regulations regarding conditions of service, duties, uniform and general organisational matters
87 [1806-1860] This series consists of letters to the Surveyor of the Navy relating to ships under construction or refit. From 1837, each letter was allocated a number, which appears in the Registers contained in ADM 88  
88 [1832-1860] This series consists of registers of letters to the Surveyor of the Navy relating to ships under construction or refit contained in ADM 83 . Each register was indexed, except that for the period 1855 to 1856, when a separate register and index was maintained
89 [1854-1859] This series consists of letters to the Surveyor of the Navy relating to yards engaged in ship construction or refit
90[1854-1859] This series consists of registers of letters to the Surveyor of the Navy relating to yards engaged in ship construction or refit contained in ADM 89
91[1671-1860] Minutes and entries of letters, indexes from 1833 onwards
92[1813-1860] The minutes and recommendations of the Committee of Surveyors. The second series beginning in 1832 is indexed
93[1847-1853] The minutes and recommendations of the Committee of Surveyors
94[1847-1853] An index to volumes 1 to 10 of letter books; each of the remaining volumes contains its own index

This series contains reports on the sailing qualities of ships; estimates and orders for shipbuilding and stores, etc; lists of ships built, repaired or building; and entries of warrants from the Navy Board, etc.


Foreign ship names beginning with El, La, Le, San, Santa, St etc are listed under their prefix. eg El Corso appears under 'El' rather than 'Corso'.

Publication note The source on which the standardisation of names is based is JJ Colledge, Ships of the Royal Navy: an historical index, volume 1 (David and Charles, 1969).
Unpublished finding aids Four supplementary finding aids (1: an index to pieces 23 to 62; 2: a list of possible ships' name variants; 3: reports, etc; 4: a list of miscellaneous items) are available; for their location see MORIS (the Finding Aids Location Index).


96[1688-1862] These records of the Marine Pay Office and Accountant General's Department consist of:

In-letters, 1690 to 1810. Out-Letters, 1778 to 1819. Accounts, 1695 to 1831. General and recruiting ledgers, general, divisonal and regimental accounts, half pay cash books, etc. Registers, 1688 to 1837. Effective and subsistence lists, musters, states of balance between the Marine Pay Office and regimental agents, commission and establishment books, etc.

Miscellanea, 1702 to 1831. Entry books of warrants, address book (1816), documents relating to prizes, widows' pensions, wills, etc

Scope and content

These volumes are for the most part registers of the prisoners in the various depots and prison ships taken during the wars with France between 1793 and 1815. They cover prisoners of war of all services in British hands, British prisoners in enemy hands, and the exchange of the two. They usually give detailed descriptions, with the places of birth, and show the ultimate disposal of the prisoners. The records were created by the Prisoners of War Departments of the Sick and Hurt Board (to 1796) of the Transport Board (1796-1817) and of the Navy Board, Transport Branch (from 1817).


The registers are in various sequences. The first contains registers of depots and prison ships in an alphabetical sequence of locations and ships' names ( ADM 103/1 -464). Home and overseas depots, and British and enemy prisons, are all within this sequence.

A further sequence of register volumes is arranged alphabetically by nationality, from American prisoners ( ADM 103/465 ) to Spanish ( ADM 103/505 ) and Various ( ADM 103/506 -510). Registers of parole prisoners ( ADM 103/549 -616) and registers of prisoners' deaths ( ADM 103/617 -638) are all listed in alphabetical order of location, as are the certificates with which the series ends ( ADM 103/639 -648).


104[1742-1957] Establishment books of naval hospitals, lists of officers entitled to half pay, entry books, complement lists, and service records of medical, nursing, pharmacist, and other staff, case books of the Royal Naval Hospital Bermuda, 1832 to 1883, and a history of the hospital, and wages and salary lists of persons employed in the care of prisoners of war. Also registers of reports of deaths, and of killed and wounded; and medical department general notation books
115[1853-1879] These volumes show under each vessel full details of establishment and of the complement of officers and ratings. Dates and places of birth and all draftings and desertions are shown
Scope and content

This series consists of large groups of papers made into 'cases'; it also includes a few collections of private papers, including those of Sir Eric Geddes and Sir Walter (later Viscount) Long, and a sub-series of files relating to Cabinet Committees.


A record office was established in the Admiralty in 1809. By the mid nineteenth century a system had been instituted within it whereby the larger, more important, files were bound together into a single volume or case. ADM 116 consists of many such cases, continuing the earlier series in ADM 7 . Each case was given an Admiralty case number by which it was then referred to in the Admiralty digest and other Admiralty sources and which should not be confused with the later piece number.

The key to Admiralty cases (part 1) shows that while most cases fell into a 'main' series several smaller case groups were also created. In 1932 papers designated as secret were separated out forming the '00' group. Two years later it was felt that all papers originating in the cabinet office should also be segregated, four new case titles thus being adopted. These became the 'cabinet' series for those files containing cabinet minutes, 'cabinet committee' series for files from cabinet sub committees, 'defence' for papers from the Committee of Imperial Defence and 'communications' for papers from the Imperial Communications Committee. Finally a group of files dating from 1870 were prefixed with the letter 'F' while a single case also remains retaining the reference 'H&A', abbreviating 'Honours and Awards'.

Secretariat papers, when passed to the Admiralty Record Office, were then 'digested' under a relevant subject heading. The tables of heads and sections under which the correspondence of the Admiralty was digested were originally set out in 1809, with later revisions in 1843, 1881, 1909, 1935 and 1963. Each heading was also given a corresponding digest code number. For example: Academy and Education (1); Accidents and Casualties (2)

As a result of the Admiralty's case and digest systems the catalogue to ADM 116 must necessarily incorporate three separate sets of numbers, that is the case number, the digest code number and the later piece number.

The arrangement of the catalogue to ADM 116 is as follows:

Pieces 1-3624 (part 1), arranged by piece number

Pieces 3625-5460 (part 3), arranged by subject (1963 digest)

Pieces 5461-end (part 4), arranged by subject (1935 digest)

The subject index in part 2 is the tool which any reader should use who wishes to make a subject approach to ADM 116 . The subject index also provides relevant case numbers which can be found alongside the subject headings. From here the key to Admiralty cases then cross refers case to piece.

It should be noted that the subject index follows the headings of the 1963 digest. Unfortunately the catalogue itself uses headings from both the 1935 and 1963 digests. In an attempt to simplify the digest system an index to subject headings has been prepared to show all possible variations. This index can be found at the front of all four parts of the catalogue.

Finally although only the first part of ADM 116 , pieces 1-3624, is arranged by piece, a key to pieces has been provided to cross refer the piece number to case and digest numbers for the remainder of the series. The key to pieces can be found at the front of part 1.



Ships' ledgers were instituted by regulations established by Admiralty circular letter No. 53 of 21 September 1872. The ledger was to record the full pay and allowance of every officer, man and boy on board, and all necessary particulars as to victualling. The introduction of this system made unnecessary the record and establishment book, the open muster book and the description book.

Publication note  
Unpublished finding aids  
Related material  
Separated material Ships' ledgers for the period 1878 to 1909 inclusive were, with a very few exceptions, destroyed by fire as a result of enemy action in 1941.


Scope and content

Correspondence and papers relating to naval bases and fleet activities in the Mediterranean; there is also a volume of correspondence relating to the American Civil War.


The first 87 pieces in this series are part of a series of volumes numbered 1-101. However, in the absence of any indexes, these have been re-arranged under the subject groupings of general series, Bases and Ports and miscellaneous.


Scope and content

Records of the Cape of Good Hope Station (including the East Coast of Africa and islands in the Indian Ocean) and the West Coast of Africa Station (including Ascension, St. Helena and Tristan Da Cunha) relating to general service proceedings, Slave Trade, British interests in African territories, foreign powers, the South African War and the War of 1914 to 1918.


Each Commander had his own collection of records with, sometimes, an index to them. For the convenience of the student the records have been re-arranged under Stations and Subjects, as follows: General Service ( ADM 123/1 -14), Cape of Good Hope Station ( ADM 123/15 -60), West Coast of Africa Station ( ADM 123/61 -97), Cape of Good Hope and West Coast of Africa Station ( ADM 123/98 -117), Naval Service Squadron ( ADM 123/118 -120), Expeditions ( ADM 123/121 -128), Letters of Proceedings ( ADM 123/129 -133), Boer War ( ADM 123/134 , 135), World War I ( ADM 123/136 -158), British Interests in African Territories ( ADM 123/159 -161), Foreign Powers ( ADM 123/162 -169), Slave Trade ( ADM 123/170 -185).


Scope and content

Records of the China Station including the East Indies, Japan, Korea, Australasia, Pacific Islands and the Behring Sea. They include correspondence relating to the East India Company in China, general service proceedings throughout the Station's area of operations, piracy and the Sino-Japanese War of 1894 to 1895.


The records have been arranged under the following headings: General ( ADM 125/1 -73), Naval Establishments, Bases and Stores, ( ADM 125/74 -91), British trade and relations with Chinese Governments ( ADM 125/92 -111), Sino-Japanese War ( ADM 125/112 -114), Japan ( ADM 125/115 -122), Chinese Rivers ( ADM 125/123 -128), Seal Fishing Patrol ( ADM 125/ 129 , 130), East Indies and Pacific ( ADM 125/131 -143) and Piracy ( ADM 125/144 -148). It should be borne in mind, however, that the General section contains correspondence relating to all the other subjects.


Scope and content

Correspondence relating to India, Ceylon, Burma, Aden, the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf, the East Coast of Africa and islands in the Indian Ocean. There is also a volume of telegrams sent and received during the Sudan Campaign, 1883 to 1884


Scope and content

Correspondence, reports and memoranda relating to the Western Atlantic seaboard, ranging from Labrador in the north to Central America in the south and embracing the West Indies, and including seven volumes of correspondence arising from the American Civil War. There is also an accumulation of correspondence, reports, conventions, regulations, etc., relating to the Newfoundland fisheries, 1871 to 1912.


The pre-1867 records are arranged in Divisions. From 1867 records of all Divisions are brought together in a 'New Series'.


130[1859-1928] Entry books and copies of orders and memoranda issued by the Commander-in-Chief
131[1842-1969] Correspondence consisting of, in the main, letters from the Admiralty, including files of the First World War concerning the operation of the Auxiliary Patrol in the Plymouth Command area, mines and minesweeping, submarines and attacks on convoys and counter-espionage matters
135[1807-1873] These volumes consist of reports and other papers giving the history of the maintenance of a ship (hull, machinery and armament) from construction to disposal; in some cases details of complements are also given. The earliest ships' books consist of bound volumes and Series I contains the surviving books of this type
Scope and content

These volumes consist of reports and other papers giving the history of the maintenance of a ship (hull, machinery and armament) from construction to disposal; in some cases details of complements are also given. This series of ships' books took the form of a loose-leaf album, and contains a selection of ships, mainly those of particular historical fame or of naval significance.


The ships' books in this series are arranged, as far as possible, in chronological order of date of launching.

Publication note  
Unpublished finding aids  
Related material  
Separated material Many more books of this series have been deposited at the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich, a partial list of which is held by the Navy Listing Section, CS(RM) 1, Ministry of Defence


Scope and content

A collection of documents forming material for the official history of the First World War, arranged in three series, respectively from the Admiralty Secretariat, from commands and stations, and from Naval Staff. To them have been added other papers of varied origin, including War Diaries of the Royal Naval Division and papers of 'Room 40' (including copies of WirelessNews) and the Naval Intelligence Division.


The documents in this series were extracted from the Admiralty Record Office by the editors of the official histories and rearranged by them in a form which reflects the structure of those volumes.

Publication note  
Unpublished finding aids An index to the series is available at the PRO. A 'key' is also available, which relates entries in the Admiralty Digest and Index of Correspondence (ADM 12) to the HS volume in which the papers have been bound up. These volume numbers are shown in the Scope and Content of the ADM 137 pieces.
Related material For Wireless News, see also: ADM 233
Separated material  


Scope and content

These continuous service engagement books give the date and place of birth, physical characteristics on entry, and a summary of the service of each rating.


Arrangement is in order of continuous service numbers, but there are alphabetical indexes of surnames which give the individual's CS number.


140[1786-1956] Maps and plans of naval dockyards and buildings (such as hospitals, barracks, storehouses etc.) in Britain and overseas. Maps and plans can also be found in other Admiralty classes
Scope and content

These registers, which are arranged alphabetically in three series (covering 1802 to 1824, 1825 to 1848 and 1849 to 1861) provide an index to seamen's effects papers.


These volumes follow an unusual variation of alphabetical order in which the initial letter is followed by the next vowel, and that in turn by the first consonant after the initial letter, whether before or after the vowel



These volumes are registers of seamen's wills. In addition to giving the date of death of the seaman, the first 14 volumes also contain the name, address and relationship of the executor or administrator of the will.


Arranged alphabetically in two series, covering 1786 to 1861 and 1862 to 1909.


144[1867-1911] On 14 December 1904 the Channel Fleet was re-styled the 'Atlantic Fleet' and the Home Fleet became the 'Channel Fleet'. Up to that date these records relate to the Channel Fleet and Squadron; thereafter they relate to the erstwhile Home Fleet under its new title.

ADM 144/14 -16 were 1 to 3 of the records in ADM 145


145[1902-1910] The records of the fleet known before 14 December 1904 as the 'Channel Fleet'.
147[1871-1904] Bound copies of out-letters and reports including one volume of correspondence, etc., relating to the Welsh colony of Chupat (Chubut), Patagonia
148[1821-1825] Entry books of orders and memoranda issued by the commanding officer of the Ireland Station.
151[1805-1939] The records in this series, in the main, deal with correspondence to and from the Admiralty affecting the Station. The majority are either indexed or contain lists of contents of the Nore Station
153[1848-1863] Entry books of reports and returns of courts martial held on the Nore Station (and elsewhere in the Navy) showing the charge and sentence in each case
Scope and content

Registers of the names of ratings who died in service, giving their ships, and the names and relations of their next of kin and of legal representatives. The fact of leaving a will is also noted.


In alphabetical order of initial letter only.


155[1893-1903] Index to records of Admirals Stephenson, Palliser and Bickford
156[1890-1965] This series consists of cases and files extracted from ADM 1 , 116, 137 and 167. They comprise records of Courts Martial of officers and men of the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, and the Naval Reserve and Auxiliary Forces
171[1793-1972] Rolls and lists of officers and men of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines who were awarded or claimed medals and clasps issued to commemorate actions and campaigns. The rolls recording the award of the Arctic Medal, 1875-1876; the Sea Transport Medal, 1899-1902; and the Delhi Durbar Medal, 1911, are included in this series
172[1843-1858] One volume of Rear-Admiral Seymour's correspondence, etc., concerning the Contract Mail Service; hydrographical information compiled from reports by ships' officers; and correspondence and reports relating to the Navigator's, Friendly and Fiji Islands
173[1914-1976] This series consists of the logs of HM submarines from 1914. They are a comprehensive record of all wheel, telegraph and depth keeping orders, together with information on battery charges, firing of torpedoes, and navigational fixes etc
174[1690-1950] Entry books of correspondence, warrants, minutes, orders, instructions and miscellaneous papers and plans concerning Plymouth Dockyard, including records of the Royal William Victualling Yard
Scope and content

A complete set of photographs of HM ships which was formerly held by the Naval Construction Department.


They have been arranged alphabetically and divided into two series - mounted (piece nos. 1-782) and unmounted (piece nos.783-1141).


177[1914-1945] During the First and Second World Wars there were two separate editions of the Navy List, one of which was for official use only, the other being an expurgated version available to the public. The official edition indicates where individual officers were serving, with the names of ships and establishments. A complete list of all ships in the Royal Navy is included, together with details of tonnage and armament
178[1892-1951] This series consists mainly of Naval Courts Martial and Boards of Enquiry Reports of a sensitive nature
179[1880-1948] Correspondence on routine naval and dockyard matters, HMS Victory, ceremonials and reviews, boom defences, accidents to vessels at sea, etc. The majority of records in this series cover the Second World War period and deal with exercises and operations carried out under the auspices of the Commander-in-Chief, Portsmouth. Many of the files deal with the invasion of Normandy, 1944 (Operations Overlord and Neptune).
Scope and content

Registers of Naval vessels giving brief details of their construction, date and place of launching, refitting, complement, armament etc.


The series is arranged in two sections 'Progress Books' and 'Lists of Ships and Lists of the Navy'.


181[1708-1970] Yearly estimates of the cost of the Navy at home and abroad, including wages, pensions and victuals of serving men (including Royal Marines) and dockyard personnel and the mainenance and supply of Naval establishments, etc
Scope and content

Printed routine orders issued to ships and establishments for information, guidance and action.

The orders cover matters of general interest or requiring wide circulation, including technical, administrative and disciplinary regulations, and official instructions and information. The 'P' series contains only amendments to Confidential Books.

  In 1964 the orders were replaced by those in DEFE 45


185[1763-1967] Order books, general weekly returns, letter books, embarkation, discharge and disposal books, etc., of the divisional headquarters at Portsmouth of Royal Marines
Scope and content

Printed manuals, instructions, monographs, and reports, issued on restricted circulation by the Admiralty.


They are arranged under subject headings: administration, training, armament, engineering, historical and geographical studies, navigation, photography and signals.


Admiralty: Naval Staff, Operations Division: Lists showing stations and movements of Allied and Royal Naval Ships (Pink Lists), Second World War
Legal status Public Record(s)
Language English
Creator names Board of Admiralty, Naval Staff, Operations Division, 1912-c 1946
Covering dates 1939-1976
Physical description 188 volume(s)
Place of deposit Public Record Office, Kew


Scope and content

Registers, arranged numerically giving date of birth, ship or shore establishment and an account of service. The covering dates relate to the dates of opening the registers. Entries in them continue for many years according to the length of service of each seaman. The series includes eight volumes described as Continuation Books, also arranged numerically, which continue entries appearing in earlier registers. Service numbers can be found in nominal indexes at the end of each transfer.

From 1 January 1873 all Royal Navy ratings were allocated an"Official Number". Official numbers (O nos.) began at 40,001 to avoid confusion with any number previously allocated to Continuous Service men ( ADM 188/1 -4). The O or General number series spanned 1873-1907 and did not have prefix numbers. Sequential numbers were given to ratings irrespective of their branch: seamen, stoker, domestic, etc, to the number O 178,000.

From 1 January 1894 the numbering for all ratings entering the service became more specialised. A series of block allocations of numbers were introduced for six different classes of ratings. By 1907, the numbers of each series were in danger of overlapping and a simpler but similar numbering system was introduced with four different prefix letters to denote branches, or groups of branches. This revised scheme was applicable for new entrants from 1 January 1908 and it continued until October 1925, following the introduction of a revised pay code for naval entrants and marines in September 1925, because the Admiralty wished to distinguish any recruits entering under the new pay code.

ADM 188/1 -4 are of the early A and B series before service number 40,001 when numbers were allocated in groups of three i.e. 100, 100A and 100B. The service particulars in pieces ADM 188/9 -82, from service number 42922, are continued in eight Continuation of Service volumes, ADM 188/83 -90. References in the registers to ther"new registers" are to these Continuation Books.


The registers are in numerical order by service number which can be found by the nominal indexes (pieces 245-267 and 1132-1177) by date of enlistment. The date reference for each register merely relates to when the register was first raised (date of the first entry) and information in the volume continues for many years thereafter according to the length of service of each man and may even contain some earlier information.

Individual service numbers from 1-165,000 are contained in the first 244 volumes with indexes to individual surnames in a further 23 volumes. Pieces 1-4 are of the early A & B series before service number 40,001 when numbers were allocated in groups of three, i.e. 100, 100A and 100B. The service particulars in pieces 9-82, from service number 42922, are continued in eight Continuation of Service volumes, pieces, 83-90. References in the registers to the 'new registers' are to these Continuation Books. The covering dates for the series relate to the opening of the registers continue for many years according to the length of the service of each seaman.

Publication note See Information Leaflet 2: 'Admiralty records as sources for biography and genealogy'.
Unpublished finding aids Enlistment date: 1853-1891: indexes are ADM 188/245-267;1892-1912: ADM 188/1132-1154;1913-1923: ADM 188/1155-1177.
Related material  
Separated material  


Scope and content

Registers, arranged numerically giving date of birth, ship or shore establishment and an account of service. The covering dates relate to the dates of opening the registers. Entries in them continue for many years according to the length of service of each seaman. The series includes eight volumes described as Continuation Books, also arranged numerically, which continue entries appearing in earlier registers. Service numbers can be found in nominal indexes at the end of each transfer.

From 1 January 1873 all Royal Navy ratings were allocated an"Official Number". Official numbers (O nos.) began at 40,001 to avoid confusion with any number previously allocated to Continuous Service men ( ADM 188/1 -4). The O or General number series spanned 1873-1907 and did not have prefix numbers. Sequential numbers were given to ratings irrespective of their branch: seamen, stoker, domestic, etc, to the number O 178,000.

From 1 January 1894 the numbering for all ratings entering the service became more specialised. A series of block allocations of numbers were introduced for six different classes of ratings. By 1907, the numbers of each series were in danger of overlapping and a simpler but similar numbering system was introduced with four different prefix letters to denote branches, or groups of branches. This revised scheme was applicable for new entrants from 1 January 1908 and it continued until October 1925, following the introduction of a revised pay code for naval entrants and marines in September 1925, because the Admiralty wished to distinguish any recruits entering under the new pay code.

ADM 188/1 -4 are of the early A and B series before service number 40,001 when numbers were allocated in groups of three i.e. 100, 100A and 100B. The service particulars in pieces ADM 188/9 -82, from service number 42922, are continued in eight Continuation of Service volumes, ADM 188/83 -90. References in the registers to ther"new registers" are to these Continuation Books.


The registers are in numerical order by service number which can be found by the nominal indexes (pieces 245-267 and 1132-1177) by date of enlistment. The date reference for each register merely relates to when the register was first raised (date of the first entry) and information in the volume continues for many years thereafter according to the length of service of each man and may even contain some earlier information.

Individual service numbers from 1-165,000 are contained in the first 244 volumes with indexes to individual surnames in a further 23 volumes. Pieces 1-4 are of the early A & B series before service number 40,001 when numbers were allocated in groups of three, i.e. 100, 100A and 100B. The service particulars in pieces 9-82, from service number 42922, are continued in eight Continuation of Service volumes, pieces, 83-90. References in the registers to the 'new registers' are to these Continuation Books. The covering dates for the series relate to the opening of the registers continue for many years according to the length of the service of each seaman.

Publication note See Information Leaflet 2: 'Admiralty records as sources for biography and genealogy'.
Unpublished finding aids Enlistment date: 1853-1891: indexes are ADM 188/245-267;1892-1912: ADM 188/1132-1154;1913-1923: ADM 188/1155-1177.


Scope and content

This series contains courts martial registers of the Portsmouth and Plymouth Divisions and several overseas battalions of the Royal Marines. These relate to courts of enquiry and civil power courts as well as to divisional, district, regimental, garrison and naval courts martial.

  There are also registers of courts martial of Royal Naval and Royal Marines Officers and ratings, 1812-1815, and of Royal Naval and Royal Marine Officers and Warrant Officers, 1857-1915, continuing registers in ADM 13


195[1857-1961] This series consists of photographs of works in dockyards, etc., in the United Kingdom and overseas
Scope and content

Officers' records giving dates of entry into and discharge from the service. They contain such information as dates of birth, rank, seniority, date of appointment, orders and commissions, awards, distinctions, examinations etc. and include particulars of Royal Marine Officers. Most volumes are indexed.

Unpublished finding aids Copies of a nominal index to ADM 196/117-124, which relates mainly to the service records of Royal Navy commissioned officers who served in the First World War, are held in the Reading Rooms.
Related material Indexes are in ADM 313


Admiralty: War History Cases and Papers, Second World War
Legal status Public Record(s)
Language English
Covering dates 1922-1968
Physical description 2577 files and volumes
Place of deposit Public Record Office, Kew


Scope and content

A very varied collection of entry books, registers, note-books, papers and collections of statistics, the main groups being as follows:

  • Entry books of correspondence with the Divisions and Barracks, and correspondence and circulars from the Inspector General of Marines, 1831 to 1899.
  • Registers and note-books of correspondence, commissions, administrative memoranda, promotions, regulations and orders, and volumes containing notes on the Special Services Brigade, the Royal Fleet Reserve, and on Divisional amalgamations, 1821 to 1923.
  • Twenty volumes of bound up correspondence, on various topics, including establishment matters, medals, pay, savings bank, Portsmouth Garrison, the Royal Marine Artillery, Royal Marine Reserve, Greenwich Hospital Pensions and Prisons, 1798 to 1908.
  • Eleven volumes of papers, 1840 to 1902, concerning the Ashanti, China, Esquimault, Japan and Suakin battalions.
  • Twenty 'Statistical Packets', 1761 to 1924, mostly concerning establishment matters, promotion and returns of numbers.
  • Twenty-seven papers of returns of the State of the Corps, 1869 to 1928.



205[1937-1965] Correspondence and papers relating to the administration and strategy of the Royal Navy mainly during and after the Second World War, including the Suez invasion (Operation Musketeer) and post-war defence reviews
208[1940-1949] The red lists were printed at regular intervals, usually weekly They listed all the minor war vessels in home waters under commands and included the vessels of allied countries. Details of all these vessels, including those being built or under repair, were given and their accounting bases listed
209[1940-1946] The blue lists were printed at intervals varying from one to three months. They listed the ships being built for the Royal Navy and Dominion Navies including landing craft and motor craft. Detailed were the month or year of completion of the ship, where it was being built and the tonnage. Also shown were a summary of ships being built abroad for the Royal Navy and a yearly summary of ships completed for the Royal Navy
210[1942-1946] The green lists were printed weekly listing landing ships, craft and barges in home waters and foreign stations under commands. They also showed the present state and forecast additions to landing ships and craft at home and abroad. Issued as a weekly supplement to the green list was a list of United States landing ships and craft in the United Kingdom and their commands
211[1940-1971] A collection of bound volumes of office and secret office circulars known as office 'memoranda' and 'aquaints'. From 1965 the series includes office memoranda in the Ministry of Defence general series
212[1915-1977] The files in this series are arranged under the following headings: camouflage, degaussing (the neutralization of magnetism in ships, particularly as a defence against magnetic mines), early electronic research, optical and vision, rangefinders and underwater experiments. There is also a section of miscellaneous scientific papers and reports in which there is a file of correspondence between Sir Ernest Rutherford FRS and Professor William Bragg FRS during 1915 and 1916, relating to the directional hydrophone, a means of detecting submarines
213[1926-1956] This series consists mainly of reports from Admiralty Research Establishments, with scientific reports from other sources, including foreign countries, of interest to the Royal Navy
217[1942-1945] Reports of proceedings of ships and vessels under the command of the Commander-in-Chief, Western Approaches, and chiefly engaged in escorting convoys. There are also some war diaries of the senior naval officers of ports within the station
220[1918-1974] Reports, technical notes, papers, minutes and correspondence of the Admiralty Surface Weapons Establishment and its forerunners HM Signal School, the Admiralty Signal Establishment and the Admiralty Signal and Radar Establishment
Scope and content

Submissions or recommendations to the board, with associated correspondence and reports enclosed, about the building, repair and equipping of naval vessels and consequential manning and appointments; and the ruling of the Board of Admiralty on them.

Also included are plans of sections of ships; reports of those men unable to work and so, proposed for superannuation; and lists of "Inferior Officers and Workmen borne in each Class" employed at several different dockyards.


Scope and content

This series contains Admiralty Intelligence papers, German naval communications, Operational Intelligence Centre special intelligence summaries, special intelligence reports from Japanese and Mediterranean waters, ULTRA decrypts, essays on World War 2 by German naval staff officers, statements by German prisoners of war and intercepted enemy signals between Berlin and Tokyo. They relate to such matters as U-boat warfare, attacks on convoys, minesweeping and enemy shipping movements, together with reports by the naval intelligence division and correspondence concerning the British Naval Mission to Moscow (1941-1946). The series includes photocopies of documents cited in the official history of the intelligence services as well as a small series of message logs from the First World War.

Related material For files of the tri-service Defence Intelligence staff see, DEFE 31
  For records of the Joint Intelligence Bureau see WO 252
  Records of the Government Code and Cypher School: Division within HW


224[1710-1903] Records of the Weevil Depot and other victualling establishments in Portsmouth and Gosport, and their successor, the Royal Clarence Victualling Yard. The series contains the charter to the commissioners for the victualling of the Navy, 1752, and incomplete series of registers of contracts, orders, receipts and expenses, letters, staffing and pay
225[1920-1921] This series contains original letters from Sir Oswyn Alexander Ruthven Murray, Permanent Secretary to the Admiralty 1917-1936, to Sir Vincent (Wilberforce) Baddeley, First Principal Assistant Secretary to the Admiralty 1921-1931 and Deputy Secretary 1931-1935, concerning a re-organisation of the Board of Admiralty Secretariat following the 1914-1918 War
226[1874-1969] Reports and related papers on vessel design and performance. Aspects covered include propellor design, manoeuvrability and seakeeping behaviour
Scope and content

Papers from the office of the British Naval Commander-in-Chief, Germany, who was also the chief British naval representative in the Allied Control Commission. They include files on the disposal of German shipping, stores, and equipment; German personnel; general and naval policy; and ports and the control of shipping.


There are four main series of files, though some reregistration has taken place: File prefix A = disposal of German shipping, stores and equipment; B = German personnel; C = policy and control; K = port and control of shipping.


Admiralty: Correspondence between Sir Bolton Eyres-Monsell, First Lord of the Admiralty, and Sir Roger Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet
Legal status Public Record(s)
Language English
Creator names Bolton Meredith Eyres-Monsell, 1st Viscount Monsell of Evesham, c 1878-1969
  Roger John Brownlow Keyes, 1st Baron Keyes of Zeebrugge and of Dover, 1872-1945
Covering dates 1932-1934
Physical description 1 file(s)
Place of deposit Public Record Office, Kew



Reports on foreign naval strength, coastal defences etc. produced by the Naval Intelligence Department and its predecessor the Foreign Intelligence Committee.


The reports are numbered in a single series every item of which is noted in the table of contents of the appropriate volume, but not all of which are bound up in this series. There are also some unnumbered reports included. The numbers were allocated in chronological sequence, but until about 1890 successive editions of reports on particular subjects bore the number of the earlier report on that subject with a suffix. Thus Report No. 3C, France, Mercantile Marine, was issued in 1888 between Nos. 154 and 155, and was so numbered because it replaced No. 3B of 1887 on the same subject, which in its turn had replaced No. 3A of 1885 and the original No. 3 of 1883. About 1890 this practice was abandoned and thereafter suffix letters were used only for supplements and corrigenda.


233[1918-1921] Summaries of wireless signals from stations in central Europe and elsewhere intercepted and circulated to interested departments by the Naval Intelligence Division, later by the Government Code and Cypher School
Scope and content

Admiralty printed books and pamphlets issued to the Navy in the BR (Books of Reference) series, which did not need inclusion in the security classified CB or SP series. They include regulations and instructions, handbooks and training manuals, reports and works of reference.

The subjects dealt with by BRs include almost all those about which officers, ratings or civilian employees might need to be informed, which were insufficiently secret to be issued as CBs. They include all sorts of regulations and instructions, handbooks of weapons and equipment, training manuals, works of reference, historical studies (including the Naval Staff "Battle Summaries"), reports and studies of damage to ships in action, and the Geographical Handbooks produced by the Naval Intelligence Division. The series also includes some of the similar works produced by the same Division's Interservice Topographical Information Centre for the use of all services.


The records are arranged in BR number order within each accession.

The BR (Books of Reference) series was started in 1942 when the former OU (Official Use) series was discontinued. Many of the early BRs were renumbered from the OU series, while others were transferred from the CB (Confidential Books) series. The distinction Between these series lay neither in subject nor function, but in security classification: CBs were all graded "Confidential" and above, as were the SPs (Signed Publications), but OUs were only "Restricted" and BRs either "Restricted" or freely available.


Scope and content

Incomplete series of reports of British submarines, mostly relating to Mediterranean waters. It includes a booklet on submarine experiences during the First World War.

Related material For submarine reports formerly held in the Admiralty Secretariat, including those of Greek, Norwegian, Polish, French and American boats operating under British control, see Y series cases in
    Subseries within ADM 199


237[1940-1945] Case files on individual convoys of the Second World War, including papers on the planning, compositions, routes, progress, and fate of the convoys and their ships. Some files include more recent photocopies, translations and other papers as well as the original documents
238[1803-1953] These records relate to prize and prize bounty accounts and to other aspects of naval accounting which may have been associated temporarily with the Prize Branch
Scope and content

Official publications, graded 'Confidential' or above, issued to naval personnel and Admiralty civilian employees.


Arranged in CB number order within each accession.


242[1914-1933] A card index of naval officers killed 1914-1920, including some officers of the Royal Marines and Naval Reserve, and of the Canadian and Australian navies; a card index of ships lost, 1914-1919; a war graves roll, 1914-1919, and statistical casualty books 1914-1933
245[1894-1925] This series consists of an incomplete collection of papers from the Admiralty Awards Council and the CP(Patents) Branch concerning awards to inventors, patents, royalties and related matters. It includes the report and minutes of the Committee on Dazzle Painting of Ships which adjudicated on the rival claims to have invented dazzle painting.
250[1941-1958] Records of the Admiralty Craft Experimental Establishment and HMS Hornet, Sea Trials and Development Section concerning sea trials and development of equipment
251[1945-1958] Reports of the Admiralty Development Establishment, Barrow, concerning submarine propulsion machinery and equipment, and dockside facilities for nuclear vessels
258[1920-1968] Papers of the Underwater Countermeasures and Weapons Establishment, the successor of the Admiralty Mining Establishment, and like it concerned with mines, torpedoes and other underwater weapons
263[1944-1961] A collection of reports and technical notes, assembled from various sources, of the Admiralty Gunnery Establishment, which was responsible for Army and Navy gunfire control work between 1943 and 1959. The reports deal with ordnance material and equipment
269[1946-1981] Administration files, many from the Office of the Captain of Chatham Dockyard. They cover such subjects as dockyard organisation and staffing, accident enquiries, the refitting and launching of particular vessels and royal visits. They include minutes of meetings of the Chatham Joint Production Committee and the Whitley Committee
Scope and content

Reports and other papers of the Co-ordination of Valve Development Department (CVD), dealing with the development of thermionic valves, research into solid state and neutron generation devices, lasers, and low temperature physics for the armed services and other government departments. The series also contains records of two laboratories established by CVD to provide technical support: the Services' Electronics Research Laboratory (SERL) and the Services' Valve Testing Laboratory (SVTL).

Related material For further records of signals and Radar establishments, see DEFE 35
  For related physical research reports, see ADM 285
  For reports and memoranda of the Royal Radar Establishment and predecessors of the Ministry of Technology and predecessors see AVIA 26


Scope and content

This series consists of service details of officers serving in the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) between August 1914 and April 1918, when the RNAS merged with the Royal Flying Corps to become the Royal Air Force. Each volume is indexed.


They appear to be arranged in service number order rather than alphabetically or by the date of entry into the Service. Each volume however contains an alphabetical index to officers whose details are within each volume. It is also possible that certain individuals may have more than one entry in the registers.

Unpublished finding aids There is an alphabetical card index to this series. To find the card index, consult the Finding Aids Location Index.
Related material For Air Ministry, Department of the Master-General of Personnel, Officers' Service Records, see
    AIR 76


277[1940-1945] Files of the Directorate of Miscellaneous Weapon Development, dealing with the trials and development of various unconventional weapons
282[1939-1970] Translations (two only) of Italian and German war-time technical papers, compendia of Admiralty war-time research issued in 1950, and lists and directories associated with post-war research programmes
283[1923-1948] A collection of reports, assembled from various sources. Most were produced by the Admiralty Computing Service set up by the Nautical Almanac Office in 1943; others deal with projectiles, torpedoes etc. The series also contains one registered file of the Department
290[1930-1960] A collection of reports and technical notes, gathered from various sources, reflecting the Torpedo Factory, Greenock, and the Torpedo Experimental Establishment's responsibility for research into all aspects of torpedoes except launching gear
292[1930-1957] This series consists mainly of translations of German torpedo documents from the Admiralty Underwater Weapons Department
295[1957-1973] Reports and technical memoranda of the Central Dockyard Laboratory, which provided a range of laboratory services to Fleet and Shore Establishments, including metallurgy, chemistry, biology, paint technology and reactor chemistry
296[1950-1956] Records accumulated in the office of the Operational Commander of Operation MOSAIC, the code name given to British atomic tests on the Monte Bello Islands in Western Australia in June 1956. Planning files deal with meteorology personnel, scientific aspects, safety, the conversion of vessels, and public relations. There are also reports on the operation
298[1942-1967] Reports of research into biological and medical problems affecting the health and fighting efficiency of naval personnel so as to increase operational efficiency and improve safety and comfort
299[1952-1969] Volumes, issued monthly, containing letters to the appropriate commanding officers authorising complements, and amendments thereto, of HM ships, of other Royal Navy establishments including air stations, Fishery Protection vessels and experimental establishments, and of some Royal Marines brigades and depots
305[1755-1968] This series contains a wide variety of administrative documents and some plans relating to the Royal Naval Hospital, Haslar, Hants. Included are a few records from the Hospital's lunatic asylum, medical school and museum. The "Council" mentioned in the list was a management board.

This series also includes a series of burial registers, 1826-1954, which were transferred from the Navy Chaplain's department of the Ministry of Defence


Scope and content

Admiralty Military Branch files raised to deal with naval fishery protection duties following Iceland's unilateral declaration of a twelve-mile territorial waters limit in 1958.

The files describe the organisation of the initial and subsequent Naval response, and include Foreign Office telegrams and Naval signals, and reports of proceedings and incidents of the period covered by the dispute.


314[1946-1955] Reports of the Naval Air Fighting Development Unit, Royal Air Force West Raynham, Norfolk
318[1916-1931] A complete collection of the personal files of WRNS officers who served between 1917 and 1919

This series consists of NID and DI 19 Beach Survey policy files and beach intelligence reports of the coasts and inland waterways of the British Isles, including a comprehensive survey carried out between 1946 and 1966 (Operation SANDSTONE).


The files are arranged geographically, covering the west coast of Scotland and outlying islands, then from north to south, the east coast of Scotland and the remainder of the British Isles in a clockwise direction; Northern Ireland, Eire and Jersey are also covered.


Scope and content

The ratings' records in this series cover service in the Women's Royal Naval Service during the First World War.


The volumes are arranged by official number (G1 to G6923) and are indexed by twenty two volumes in alphabetical order.

Related material Engagement papers which duplicate the information in these service records were presented to the Royal Naval Museum, Portsmouth.


338[1845-1995] This series consists of registers of registers of baptism, marriage and burial of the Chaplain of the Fleet and successors

Well, that's just a little insight into how the Public Records Office  [PRO] show their wares, and how you can research the information from your own computer if you wanted something of particular interest. Remember, just about any subject can be researched this way, but remember that a lot of information is still time sensitive, although things are being relaxed in two different way. Firstly, the politicians are bending towards the idea of freedom of information, even though they might not enact a law which puts it on an official footing, and secondly, information technology tools allow for vast amounts of data to be made available electronically, even though, once sourced, one still has to go up to Kew, or wherever, to get the piece of paper or photograph required.

Yours aye.


Back to Top



 SUEZ WAR 1956 – A Communications Overview

All wars, however “small” must have a coherent policy glued together by good and reliable communications.  Indeed, in the Royal Navy, we having a saying; Of what avail the loaded tube?; the cannon and the shell?; if Flags and W/T default, the Fleet will go to hell.. Given the conditions of the 1950’s, the British forces relied heavily on the morse code to convey command and control orders, and the Royal Navy above all other UK forces, had mastered this media par excellence.  Moreover, because it was a deep-sea Navy and roamed in every ocean and sea on the planet, it had few international competitors, not even the Americans, when it came to communicating.  When trouble was brewing, the speed of the dot’s and dashes increased exponentially as more and more signals were drafted by the commanders.  When there were too many signals in the system and the limits had been reached on speed of  morse transmission, a minimise, ordered at the onset of the situation, was rigidly enforced.  Another way to speed up the overall signal flow, was to send the message only once, which made a huge difference, for it had long been the practice to ‘re-run’ as many messages as possible, particularly those of a high precedence.  In times of trouble, the vast majority of signals are sensitive and kept away from enemy eyes [and ears] by coding them. In heavy traffic [signals] periods, the coders were hard put to keep pace, especially when every signal coded, had to be checked-decoded correctly by a second person, before it was transmitted by morse code.  In the 1950’s [and at other times of course] the Royal Navy  frequently exercised the handling of ever increasing traffic loads, by generating ‘dummy’ messages, testing the ability of the Communications Branch to keep the battle commanders informed of an ever changing battle plan.  I can remember it being hard work, and a four hours watch would fly by, such was the intensity in the communication offices onboard ships.

The Royal Navy had very little experience of working with ships of foreign navies, and despite the successes of the British naval units in the Korean War [1950-53]  under the United Nations banner, when we did manoeuvre together, the union caused great frustration to the Royal Navy, a navy  without peers.

NATO was a new organisation with almost insurmountable teething problems, and once again, the Royal Navy had to be ‘geared back’ to allow the shallow-water naval units to acquire a NATO skill, which, notwithstanding its potency, didn’t match the modus operandi of the massive, skilful, competent and omnipotent Royal Navy.

Thus, in communication terms, the scene is set. We have a Royal Navy which is au fait with handling wartime communications around the world, shore and sea. Relatively few R.N., ships are given over to NATO duties, so, by and large, the R.N., is a loner, willing to give assistance to an ally, but happy in its own company.  The bread-and-butter way of sending and receiving signals is by morse code, although much R and D work is in the pipe-line to move us away from the skills and machinery honed sharp in the second world war. Trials have taken place between sea and shore units, whereby all traffic, sensitive or not is sent in plain language [with no need to code] and, as importantly, by a machine using a high speed code other than by ‘slow’ morse code, but still maintaining the status quo of using radio frequencies shared by on-going morse code channels.

Then, after the relatively happy days of post Korean were becoming the norm, the Suez Crisis came and we entered into an affray with the French as an ally.  It has to be remembered that France was not part of the Military wing of NATO and the R.N., had no dealings with them, especially at sea.  As you have read in many articles written about the Suez Crisis, the French committed fewer ships than did the R.N., although they sent the Jean Bart, the only battleship present, and no, she didn't use her big guns for naval bombardment purposes.  CLICK HERE TO READ ABOUT NAVAL SHORE BOMBARDMENTS. Our communications inter operability with the French, was, as I recall, shambolic.  Additionally, by changing the ‘goal posts’ whereby we introduced “modern” communications, tested by trials only, but not operationally, as the main means of communicating between the Flagship HMS Tyne, and CINC Mediterranean {now domiciled in Cyprus and not in Malta, his normal base}, we were almost doomed to complications, frustration and partial failure.  As a further complication, the R.N. was changing the way it coded its messages by machine – in those days, we also coded by hand using OTP {One Time Pad} etc.  The outgoing machine was called TYPE X updated by a device called CCM, and the incoming machine was called a KL7, an American device, also proverbially known as ADONIS.

The Flagship – HMS Tyne   - Click to enlarge  {HMS Tyne, A194,  Radio Callsign GGYV, in 1955 - one year before Suez - taken alongside at South Railway Jetty Portsmouth where she was acting as a submarine depot ship {note her submarines alongside} and ahead of her is the aircraft carrier HMS Victorious {?}. In the distance, astern of Tyne can be seen the foremast and mainmast of HMS Victory {the mizzen is masked by Tyne}. See also HMS Tyne entering Grand Harbour Malta on her way home from the Suez Canal on this page A FEW PHOTOGRAPHS AND BITS AND PIECES  [right hand side top two pictures]

HMS TYNE Summary of Service 1941-1972

I joined Tyne in Portsmouth from the carrier HMS Eagle, along with several others.  At that time Tyne was based in Portsmouth as a destroyer depot ship.  She was large, old, and unattractive without the lines or good looks of a warship. A few years earlier in 1952, she had been a support ship for the ships involved in the Korean War. Tyne was fitted-out as a communications ship and her facilities were mind blowing.  That is why she was chosen as the Flagship for the Suez Crisis.  She had taken part in many ship-to-shore communication trials, and her fit included automatic machines which were designed to be a panacea to all known problems in naval radio communications afloat.  The communication branch represented a large part of the ship’s company, and from sailing until reaching  Port Said where we anchored in the mouth of the Canal itself, it grew to be the largest ever sea going staff, a record which stands to this very day. In Portsmouth the staff was R.N. with the exception of about six R.M. Signallers and comprised of  six communication specialist officers; two CPO’s; ten PO’s and lots and lots of junior rates. At our first stop Gibraltar, we embarked the RAF Signals HQ unit from RAF North Front and whilst in Malta, further communicators from the Royal Signals Regiment.  We also ‘borrowed’ more R.N., communicator’s stationed ashore in Malta. When operating in Cyprus waters, we had to make room for a few more RAF men from Episkopi and the advanced team of French communicators, increased in size when in the Canal area proper. All of these extra units comprised of officers, sergeants, and other ranks, all crammed into a ship without air conditioning as we know it today, and in Mediterranean temperatures.  Add to this, that after Cyprus, the dress of the day was such that every area of our skin was covered  [action working dress and anti flash gear] to protect us from burns should the ship be attacked by Egyptian forces. CLICK HERE TO SEE THE COST OF THE SUEZ CRISIS MANPOWER INCLUDED

The Command Structure for the War affected Tyne greatly, for it not only meant that we were the Flagship, but that we were the host ship; the ship in which all war correspondents were accommodated; where high ranking Egyptian prisoners-of-war were incarcerated; where surgery took place to repair front line unit injuries, and a whole hosts of other functions and duties which pre occupied our time. Living and working in Tyne, apart from an over crowded non air conditioned space, was like living on a knife edge, because being stationary, berthed alongside the jetty in Port Said, actually on the front-line,  there was a continuous worry about divers and underwater saboteurs; at night time we were lit up like a Christmas tree, not from any source above the water line, but from scores of powerful underwater lights  placed at near keel level.  The water line was patrolled by small boats carrying our divers and it was the responsibility of all who wandered on the upper deck to be observant.

On paper, the Communications for Command and Control were designed by clever and shrewd minds, and had the conditions prevailed on which these senior officers had cut their teeth, i.e., on the coding/morse code navy with strict rules for minimise, then, I am sure all would have been well!  Equally, as you will have read in other pages on the Suez War, about the political situation which I am not going to expand upon, suffice to say, that  we, Britain, had several enemies at that time.  Our belligerent enemy was of course Egypt: our confrontational, frigid, non-belligerent enemy {at that time anyway!} were the French, a so called ally: our sternest and most unforgiving enemy were the American’s who, as it turned out, won the day and defeated Britain, and bringing up the rear,  most of the people of the rest of the world.  CLICK HERE TO READ ABOUT POOR COMMUNICATIONS WITHIN THE COMMAND STRUCTURE. Unlike the 1982 Falklands War, where our men went to, fought in, and came back from, with great pomp and circumstance, we went unnoticed in dribs and drabs over a lengthy period of time; fought a short and most unpopular war, and came back without ceremony with our tails between our legs. However, unlike others who had served in the Suez Canal area before us, we at least did get the Naval General Service Medal [GSM]  {1919-1964 series} with a “Near East” clasp. I am pleased to see that the petty oversight has now been rectified.  Well done you men.

The Command and Control function was of course centred in London {and not Paris} with a British General in overall charge. His subordinates, British and French,  were scattered and linked by ambitious [notwithstanding the clever and shrewd minds mentioned above]  communication plans. The following plan gives one an idea of the Command and Control chain:-

The French commanders were afloat in French ships. The Deputy CinC in the heavy cruiser Georges Leygues, which we used to call the Gorgeous Legs [her radio callsign was F A R T], and the Deputy Allied Land Forces Commander was in a most unattractive auxiliary ship called the Gustave Zédé. 

The above picture shows a battleship firing from 'B' turret. F.S. Jean Bart had 8 15" guns all mounted forward in two turrets of four guns each. JEAN BART.jpg (93714 bytes)Heavy action damage forward of the bridge would have rendered her useless as a battleship. Here is a thumbnail of her.  Just like our own battleship HMS Vanguard, Jean Bart did not see action during WWII. Her radio callsign was easy to remember because it was FAB [meaning fabulous] and G [meaning guns] - F A B G.


CLICK HERE TO READ ALL ABOUT THE NAVAL ENGAGEMENT - WHO ATTACKED WHOM ETC with a couple of pictures of the carrier HMS Theseus in action landing her Royal Marines at Port Said into the thick of it.



 Before moving on, a few photographs to view.  The first of of HMS Tyne with approximately three quarters of her RN communications team [the others are on watch]. In this first picture, I am the young man extreme left hand side front rank. For some inexplicable reasons, the first three of us in that row decided to rest on our right arms supported by our knees!

and the second with enough soldiers, airmen and sailors of the UK tri-service team to cover the beam of the ship on the after part of the fo'c's'le . The French communicators [also tri-service with even a member of the French Foreign Legion onboard] and all the civilian war correspondents who kept us more than busy, were not photographed!

Below right is the Tyne in the entrance to the Suez Canal

 The communications plan was that our ship, the Tyne was to be a floating communications centre, a COMMCEN, with the ability to handle a traffic load hitherto only seen in large shore COMMCEN's. This would be done in two quite separate ways.  Firstly, the Strategic communications, the bulk of the traffic, would be sent and received by the new technology I have already mentioned, namely by a high speed machine, using a code other than morse code, and not requiring the coding processes.  These machines were the work-horses of shore COMMCEN's but had never been used for real in and from a ship at sea.  They were called BID30's but became better known as the 5 UCO machines. I was trained to be an operator of these whilst in Grand Harbour Malta and again in Cyprus at Episkopi when on the final stages for the attack on Egypt. As operators of such 'new technology' machines, we were seen as a cut above other peer-group operators, and we were rarely taken away from our prime task to undertake more mundane jobs, with one exception, and that was to operate the equally new cryptography machines, the KL7's. The 5 UCO's would send and receive signals by radio frequencies directly to Cyprus.  There in Cyprus, was CinC Mediterranean and his Commanders.  Cyprus was connected to London via comparable machines, channels and radio frequencies, and also to Malta, so the route to the CINC at his HQ in the UK was high speed with an instant read at the end - no decoding.  Malta was critically important because the COMMCEN there completed the Strategic Communications route, converting this high speed, non-morse, plain language data into a morse code ethos which every ship in the Mediterranean was listening to for their information.  In the following PDF TELEPRINTER CODE TO MORSE CODE TAPE.pdf you can see a machine which converted RATT Teleprinter Tapes to Morse Code Tapes. The second type of communication platform that Tyne had to perform was based wholly on the use of morse code.  The Tactical situation covering the in-situ daily needs of fighting the war; the intelligence gathering required, particularly about the Israel's intentions and Russia's bullying in Hungary; the routine spuds-and-bread signals for stores, food, fuel etc., and the enormous amount of Press Telegrams written by our many War Correspondents, all engaged a phalanx of senior radio operators sending and receiving signals in morse code for the whole time they were on watch, which was a six hour shift.  They were communicating by morse code with Cyprus, Malta, Gibraltar, Portishead [UK]; with most of the large warships supporting Operation Musketeer,  and with French warships, which were playing host to French Commanders.  There were no 'passengers' within the Communications Branch onboard Tyne.

The 'system' from the very beginning was intense, and it was clear to all that there was no slack or flexibility.  However, some plan had to be available should either the STRATEGIC or the TACTICAL side fail or under perform.  There was, but when it came to putting it to the test, it failed, and failed miserably.

Interference [noise] on radio frequencies had [and has] always been a weakness in using them for communicating. When the noise increases to a point where it is stronger than the signal itself {poor SIGNAL to NOISE ratio} the frequency cannot be used.  However, radio operator's were always trained in using their ears to, as it were, tune in on the signal and ignore the noise, as far as they were able. Highly competent operator's could read a morse code signal even in the worst possible conditions of interference.  Thus, whilst not desirable, interference did not stop us from communicating. Regrettably, it did stop machines from working.  From the very beginning, when we had sailed some distance from Cyprus towards the Suez Canal area, the reliability of the 5UCO machines became a matter for concern.  Ignoring the defects and the difficulties with paper tapes in a sea going environment at that time, our down-times of periods without contact ran into  hours and into many hours.  This down-time meant that the signals waiting to be sent to Cyprus, had to be coded by hand and then sent as high precedence signals over morse code circuits to places like Portishead [UK] and Malta.  Quite often at these times,  Tactical traffic prepared for morse transmission had to take a back seat, and I can vividly remember signals which in non down-times would have taken up to an hour waiting in a queue [such was the size of the traffic generated in Tyne] would have to wait three hours {by which time, it had no Tactical value of course.}  Other morse code but non tactical traffic, would take 24 hours or would be ditched under the minimise rules.  The down-times began to come thick and fast, and the morse code boy's were being stretched to their limits.  This led to a major problem far away from the Canal and the transmitters of HMS Tyne.  Malta and Portishead particularly, were Ship/Shore Stations [an integral part of the COMMCEN] and listened to the radio frequency bands for ships calling in to send their messages.  Clearly, there are many more merchant ships than warships, so it was a first come, first served basis facility. HMS Tyne by herself, was beginning to have that much traffic to send that these stations had to lay on extra facilities to cope. Like Parkinson Law says, the more you give 'em the more they will use, and Tyne more or less, took over the show.  Operation Musketeer had many naval units, which included at least five aircraft carriers, all of whom wanted their share of the bands to send their traffic: after all, they didn't have a "magic machines" like the Tyne did!  All this lead to a knock on effect, and for the ships of Musketeer, morse code was king.  The Fleet load was climbing and the only way signals could be sent to ships, was by utilising a broadcast common to all ships.  Every ship read every message, just in case the message coming through at that time was for their ship.  If it was, and they were a small ship, then possibly the next twenty would not be for them. To get rid of these messages, Malta was ordered to increase the speed of the morse code.  THIS IS THE SPEED OF MALTA CW AREA BROADCAST DURING THE HEIGHT OF THE SUEZ WAR - IT IS JUST A FRACTION OVER 28 WORDS PER MINUTE  MALTA BROADCAST IN SUEZ WAR  Ships had to put their very best radio operator's on to read the Broadcast, but in reality, they were needed to send messages out of the ship on the various Ship/Shores available, now few in number because they were swamped. The more the 5UCO circuit failed between Tyne and Cyprus, the greater grew the load on morse code, coding and delays, and the frustration shown by Theatre Commanders was tangible.  We had a room full of sixteen people at one time [I was one of them] and each one would spend hours sitting at a KL7 machine coding signals.  When we had finished, we would pass it a colleague who would then try to decode the signal as though he were receiving the signal for real in some distant part of the world. If it was successful, it would be passed to the morse code operator; if not I would get it back to start all over again. 

Tens upon tens of thousands of words were transcribed by our war correspondents, and, after scrutiny by the ships intelligence office, the correspondent  would want his script transmitted straight away.  We had no long distance voice and satellites were yet to be thought of.

When deep into Musketeer, the 5UCO machines began to behave and settle down, but at no time in the Operation could they have been considered reliable assets.  After Musketeer, at a wash-up which had a heading "Lessons Learned", the swamping of ships/shore and the various broadcasts were high on the agenda. The inadequacies of the 5UCO afloat were legend, and whilst not publicly stated, they must have proved a major disappointment to the Commanders.  As for Tyne and her many senior telegraphists, one can only admire the sheer physical effort they put into transmitting by hand millions of words in terrible conditions [full action working dress with anti flash gear] in Egyptian temperatures without air conditioning.  As for the Ships Communications Officer Lieutenant Anthony Hugh Dickins {who CTB on the 25th October 1991], I don't think he ever went to bed, such was the hapless man's responsibility, and he didn't even get an MBE for all his sterling efforts. He would have been knighted in today's give-away awards!

Whilst we won the war in terms of force, we lost it in every other way possible, not least in the trials and uses of modern radio communication methods.

I like to think that by 1983 I was a good 'modern' communicator: I certainly knew everything  that could be known about naval radio equipment [machines].  Looking back though, to the mid 1950's, the success of communications was down to the man and his skills and he had no one to blame about missing signals etc etc. Today, naval communicator's have machines, which they don't need to know a great deal about and behind which they can hide and apportion blame for failure.  Their machines are reliable.  Ours were not!  Still, a first world war telegraphist might have said the same of me. 

P.S.  The following four pictures were given to me by the photographer, one Jimmy YOUNG, who, as a junior signalman, served in the carrier HMS Theseus during 1956/57.  Jimmy and I served together in HMS Mercury in the 1960's. I have put the pictures into a PDF File so that you can use the zoom function to get the best possible picture for your own needs, from {Jimmy and I agree}, not so good original pictures from fifty years ago taken with a camera of those days.  Picture 1 shows ships sunk by the Egyptians in the entrance to the Canal between the shore line proper and the mini breakwater which can be seen middle of picture left.  Note the stern of HMS Tyne right and small craft alongside her believed to be a boom defence vessel. Picture 2 A view over HMS Theseus' flight deck onto Port Said's inner harbour, a haven for small minesweepers and landing craft. Picture 3 shows British merchant ships anchored off the entrance to the blocked canal, bringing and taking war materials and supplies.  Picture 4  shows HMS Tyne, the Suez War Flagship,  alongside in Port Said, with destroyers berthed forward.  These are believed to be  St Kitts, Barfleur and Armada.  Notice other warships berthed beyond the destroyer's bows.  Also in these pictures you will see Theseus' flight deck and 20 inch signal lamp sponson;  a Theseus lattice mast which was called a "hockey stick".  "Hockey sticks", several of them,  fitted to carriers, carried and supported wire aerials.  When operating aircraft, these were lowered to the horizontal [rather like clearing decks on other ships ready for action] and aerial continuity was maintained at all times, whether raised or lowered.  Click here for PDF file SUEZ SHIPS 1956.pdf    

There can be no doubt whatsoever, that being ordered to stop fighting when we [the French and ourselves] had more or less conquered every assets [personnel and materiel] that Egypt owned and to come back home with 'our tails between our legs', had a distinctive affect on morale in the wardroom.  This was manifest, when, at the 1957 Defence Review which called for a reduction of two thousand RN and RM officers from a total of fourteen thousand, officers fell over one another to resign in favour of a 'golden bowler' encouraged by a generous tax free severance lump sum.  Staggering to think today of these figures, but twenty five officers of flag rank, fifty captains, three hundred commanders, five hundred lieutenant commanders, nearly one thousand lieutenants, some SD officer, and two hundred or so RM officers of similar assortments left the service, and at the same time, one hundred and fifty warships out of the four hundred in reserves were immediately scrapped.  Lord Louis Mountbatten, the 'supremo' had listened long and hard to the opinion of the Commander-in-Chief Mediterranean at the time of Suez, Admiral Sir Guy Grantham, who held the belief that we used a sledge hammer to crack a nut [too much force] to defeat Colonel Nasser, when all that was needed were carriers and Royal Marine Commandoes.  From that point on, Royal Marines were put into small ships and the carriers Albion and Bulwark were converted to be Commando carriers with helicopters, to be used in conjunction with fixed wing carriers doing what fleet carriers do best!  At this point, the navy was further reduced by a thousand ratings being made redundant, national service was stopped, and all naval reservists were sent back to their civilian jobs. 

<Date line November 2012 added as a post script> - back 56 long years ago, I didn't [and couldn't have understood] understand the semantics of the times, but now, aged 75 and after a great deal of research/reading, I believe I do.

God Speed and good sailing.



Back to Top




Before 1966, I had visited Aden a couple of times and enjoyed both the naval facilities [Sheba, dockyard, Mermaid Club] and also the township of Aden proper.  There were some good bars and reasonable eating houses.  The Arabs were not unfriendly although I was never exposed to local customs and beliefs.

In 1966 whilst onboard H.M. Submarine Auriga, I  spent a most enjoyable stay in Aden stopping there enroute for a long commission based on  Singapore.  From my diary of that time, I note that we arrived at 1340 on Sunday the 20th February when the weather was 85°F. We were accommodated in the Merchant Navy Club, I in number 10 cabin, and after a diesel submarine, it was like being in the Ritz! Things had changed greatly since my last visit, and we were restricted to military sites only,  for all our relaxation. Indeed, whilst enjoying the protection of Steamer Point, not far away in the village of Marla a local trades union man had been shot three times in the chest, and the next day a petrol bomb was thrown at an RAF officer's car but nobody was hurt.  We had a good social programme visiting the 4/7 Royal Dragoon Guards mess at Little Aden; the Royal Corps of Transport at Normandy Heights, and we played rugby against RAF Khormaksar losing 38-0: that's good for a submarine crew!.  We rewarded them by hosting a cocktail party in the submarine [limited numbers only] and then taking them to sea for a half day and diving to show them how hard our lives were compared to theirs - they readily agreed! The day before we left, 15 Arabs were injured by a rebel grenade and a serviceman was attacked and injured at Shiek Othman. We sailed for Singapore at 1600 on Wednesday the 2nd March after virtually eleven days of comfort and style. Little did we know that in time, we wouldn't be as happy the next time we saw Aden.

We crossed the Indian Ocean and arrived safely in Singapore where we were to be stationed until March 1968.  It was a married accompanied draft, although being submarines we did more sea time than any other unit except for the fixed wing carriers, who were our equal, but without the smell and the heat of living in a veritable  sewage tank.  For the record though HM S/M Resolution holds the record for the longest time at sea, 108 days, and all of that dived. For the first two-thirds of the commission we had a good and happy crew, a crew who knew and liked the skipper well.  He had been with us from the beginning, and together, we had worked the boat up into an efficient unit.  Sadly, the day came for him to relinquish his command, and he was replaced by a most unpopular commanding officer.  His attitude and unnecessary insistence on a 'new brush sweeps clean' approach, alienated many senior members of the crew, for they felt that their departments were already performing well, and they had just cause to believe that. Morale took a dive, and for the last third of the commission, it was a different boat.

Then came the news that we were the nearest submarine to Aden [only over four thousand bloody miles away] and the British were planning to move out for good.  Thus, at the end of October 1967, four months premature, our wives were ordered home, and we started our long and lonely trek across the Indian Ocean towards the Horn of Africa.  We had just three days in Aden after travelling 4300 miles, and then we were deployed immediately patrolling the Gulf of Aden.  I have added a map here to show you our search box.  The water way you see to the upper left is the Red Sea, and far right is the sea area leading to the Indian Ocean.  Aden is immediately above the letter 'l' in Gulf of Aden. It was our job as a sole submarine to patrol a relatively large search area to make sure that no surface or submarine units got anywhere near our boy's and especially our big naval units which conducted the major uplift and shift jobs of personnel, equipment and stores.  As always, the job was boring but of course necessary and we did it with a great sense of duty and dedication, happy to be there helping to write the pages of history.  We were part of a Task Group, and the Task Group Commander flew his Flag in HMS Fearless, an LPD [Landing Platform Dock], and a very versatile amphibious ship at that.  It could land fighting men by helicopters or by boats. To deploy the latter, she would submerge her stern so that the boats could navigate to the inside of the ship, and she was a  large ship.   She had a sister ship called the Intrepid which I will mention shortly.With her were aircraft carriers, and I was happy to know that one of my old ships, the Eagle, was there with her formidable punch of fixed wing fighter aircraft.  Other carriers were helicopters only, and they were mother and control ships to Royal Marine Commando's and other of their ilk leaving Aden for the last time. This photograph was taken at the end of the successful operation. It shows four units at anchor off Aden.  The carrier Eagle, a commando carrier thought to be Albion, the flagship Fearless and us, submarine Auriga.  I am on the bow, and the event was to cheer-ship for the CTG embarked in Fearless.  Once the skimmers [pet name used by submariners for surface sailors] were safe and sound, we bade our farewell, and now without any form of leave or recreation for many weeks, we started our 4000 odd mile  journey back to our base in Singapore.  However, on the way back we caused a major incident for ships and authorities in the Indian Ocean and the Far East proper.  When submarines are on long passages it is the norm to dive for a few hours everyday to keep the crew on their toes.  On this occasion, we [that's me by the way] sent a DIVING SIGNAL to our base in Singapore [HMS FORTH] to cover a series of DIVES on a pre determined TRACK for a given number of hours.  At intervals decided by our boss in Singapore, we were to send a report in the form of a radio signal bearing just the one word "CHECK", which signified that we were OK., and that we were safe doing our own thing, diving and surfacing at will. The time approached to send this signal, and the skipper gave me permission to start calling shore to pass this signal.  I could hear Singapore loud and clear [his callsign was GYL] but he couldn't hear me CLICK HERE FOR   AURIGA CALLING BASE IN SINGAPORE.wav  I could also hear lots of other stations from all areas of the world [Simonstown in South African callsign ZSJ down to our SSW; Malta way-up NW in the Mediterranean callsign GYX, dear old UK [where my wife was] callsign GKL, and various Australian's the most prolific being callsign VHS many thousands of miles away to the East. None of these could hear me.  I kept trying, changing frequencies to meet the prevailing conditions [a thing called the ionosphere] but still no luck.  Submarine aerials were not the most efficient devices, ours often taking in a goodly measure of sea water especially when we had done very little maintenance [but a lot of work] in the weeks gone by, although quite often the main radio transmitter did help to 'burn-off' some of this dampness, it acting as a 200 watt heater. During my endeavours to attract the attention of one of the above mentioned radio shore stations, I was pestered, yes, pestered CLICK HERE FOR  VPT OFFERING TO PASS MESSAGE.wav by  LOCAL radio stations just north of us in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh,  vying with each other to take my precious CHECK report ostensibly for them [the one I chose] to pass it on to Singapore. I could talk for hours on the danger of falling into such a trap, but I can sum up the outcome in a simple way. It would have been better for me to leave my wireless office, climb to the top of the conning tower, screw the piece of paper on which was written the one word CHECK into a tight ball before throwing it into the sea below: it would never have reached our base commander either that way or via the route of the enthusiastic Asian operators sitting in Bombay, Karachi, Vishakhapatnam and Chittagong. That said, as the clock ticked away and the CHECK TIME grew ever closer, the skipper made the decision that I should pass the CHECK REPORT ashore to Karachi, he considering the Pakistan Navy to be the best of the bunch.  As soon as I had received a ROGER for the signal, I began to get that sinking feeling. Nevertheless, I was being pessimistic  without cause [except for my previous experiences and those of other RN telegraphists] because there was still time for them to pass the signal to Singapore.  The CHECK TIME came and went and HM Sub Auriga was unaccounted for whilst crossing a very deep ocean.  The authorities in Singapore were concerned, and after weighing the odds, issued a SUBMISS [Submarine Missing] signal which lead to a general alert by everybody east of Suez, including our friends back in Aden who we had supported for the withdrawal.  Whilst we wallowed on the surface, at first unsure that our CHECK REPORT had made it, then fully aware that a SUBMISS signal had been sent when we read our BROADCAST ROUTINE, it was left to me to try and communicate with the outside world to quickly circumvent a situation developing whereby the whole world would be holding its breath concerned about our fate. As the hours wore on, we finally made contact with HMS Intrepid, the sister ship to HMS Fearless previously mentioned above who had left Aden sometime after us and was also heading for Singapore. Her commanding officer was a well known submariner called Captain Anthony Troup Royal Navy , a larger than life figure, and he was as glad to see little old us as we were to see him in his mighty big warship. HMS Intrepid had a whole host of sophisticated radio equipment, with dry and efficient aerials being fed by high powered radio transmitters using techniques other than morse code, and she radioed ahead to Singapore direct that all was well. CLICK HERE FOR INTREPID READY TO RELAY.wav   The situation was saved and the withdrawal of the SUBMISS was a relief to all, and the more so for us.  The kindly man sent across some fresh food and of course, a bottle for the skipper, then he went on his merry way to Singapore, leaving us to send a new DIVING SIGNAL and to continue our easterly journey spending a couple of hours per day down-under below the waves.

Whilst involved in the planning and execution of our duties in support of the Aden withdrawal, the potential problem of less than good morale had almost gone away.  However, for some, as the miles to Singapore reduced, and despite the excitement of the missing CHECK REPORT, our thoughts turned to our wives and families, but at the same time, not unnaturally, we looked forward to getting back on terra firma and having a good submariners-type run ashore.  It had been many weeks since our last relaxation, and seeing the back of that 'living coffin' was all that mattered.  We were grateful that we would be spending Christmas ashore and not at sea. 

Then came the 'bomb shell' which demotivated many on board.  As we arrived, there on the jetty, was the skippers wife.  The skipper was overjoyed, but soon got the message that we were not too pleased about seeing her still in Singapore.  That money talks, and he had enough to keep his wife there privately is well understood, and it was his private business. But his cardinal mistake was not understanding what his selfish action would do to the morale of his men, including I might say, some of his more verbal officers. Fortunately for us, the majority of submarine skippers would not have made that same gaffe.

There I will finish because the story is, after all, about Aden, and not about the story of a submarine.

Suffice to say that we turned Sembawang, Nee Soon and other places upside down, and the Singapore breweries had to work overtime to replenish the Island's depleted stocks of Tiger. Given the chance, we would have exchanged all this for having  Christmas 1967 with our families.

The Navy eventually felt sorry for us, and allowed us to go home east about across the Pacific, calling at the Philippines, Guam, Hawaii, Acapulco, Panama, West Indies, Bermuda.  We had a ball and willingly forgave the Navy for interrupting our lives.  We didn't forgive the skipper! On reflection, the other option available for our home journey was round the Cape. Reason ? The third war between Egypt and Israel closed the Suez canal for eight long years between 1967 and 1975, and when it did reopen, our first nuclear submarine Dreadnought  was denied access into the Canal in 1977.


The picture above right, which shows a task force of helicopters from HMS Albion and HMS Eagle, is the property of ex Warrant Officer John Eilbeck, whose permission I have to use it here. There are at least 15 helicopters and several ship, all there to move the British out of Aden as quickly and as safely as possible. The picture above left shows Auriga newly commissioned with most of the crew standing on the casing between the gun sponsons - the guardrails - gun not yet fitted, or or the top of the gun hatch [9 men elevated] which was immediately above and opened into the wardroom. 

 The picture below shows Auriga leaving Aden en-route to Singapore in her "war paint" ! We were stationed in the Far East based on Singapore at the time of the Indonesian Confrontation often referred to as the Borneo War. Notice our 4" gun forward of the sailfin and that our pennant number is painted out - the gun was 4"/33 calibre Mk XXIII. 

Back to Top


Hi, this is my  pen and ink sketch of an 'A' boat, a British submarine.  I spent nearly five years of my life on one, so I do know the damn thing backwards. No, I am not going to give you a lecture about submarines, or  about 'A' boats. I'm just using my sketches to tell you a story, a story of  a boat which had a mutiny, although it was never recorded as such, nor were either of my fellow crewmen hanged or imprisoned for their act of disobedience. The dotted line [towards the top, left and right] is the free flood area of the boat which is not subjected to pressure.  The areas are called the "casing" and the " fin" or conning tower. The very bottom of the sketch, the thin box, is the keel, and to a submariner, it plays no part in the daily life of the boat.  That leaves the area subscribed by a continuous black line, further split horizontally into two decks and vertically into several compartments. Note, the boat's bow is one your right which means that you are looking at the starboard side. She has four torpedo tubes forward, two on the port side and two on the starboard side and two aft sited alongside each other, 6 tubes in all, two less than he original design/build of 8 tubes: the two now missing were external tubes and these were taken away when the submarine was streamlined in the early 1950's. Apologies for my sketch which shows 3 tubes in  the bow when I should have shown just 2 tubes with 2 + 2 making 4 tubes up front.  The continuous black line is called the "pressure hull" and we live inside it.  The funny items which break or interrupt this line are the hatches through which we gain entry into the boat, and from which we either leave in an orderly fashion or leave in sheer panic:  the latter we call "escape hatches". Obviously, the propeller shaft, the torpedo tubes, the periscopes, masts  etc etc, all pass through the pressure hull in order to do their assigned task in submarine warfare.  Now, let's put some meat on the bones. Just like we found her in late 1961,  the boat is coming to life.  

 Oh. by the way, her name is AURIGA, a Roman Charioteer, and of course a constellation whose chief star is Capella. 

We soon pulled her into shape and we had a good crew, a good skipper, but a pain-in-the-arse First Lieutenant, the jimmy. Since this man is the villain in my story, I have chosen to use his initials only whereas everybody else, have their full names shown. 

Our commissioning at RGD [Refit Group Devonport] was a good event, but we broke with the tradition of the youngest sailor on board helping the captain's wife to cut the cake.  Instead, the skipper chose his own children.

This picture shows that event. Mrs M R Wilson on the forward casing with the wooden object placed on top of the forward escape hatch opening. Note S69, our pennant number: in French tête à la  queue [or worse!]  Here is the commissioning cake in more detail and before it was cut. 



Shortly afterwards, we sailed north, to the traditional testing grounds for UK boats, namely to Faslane.  In those far off days, Faslane, before the nuclear age, was a fun place, and many submariners of my age and time will remember the run's ashore we had, dressed in submarine sea jersey's, white stockings and Jesus boots, not to mention the antics in the compound canteen [or club].  The Friday and Saturday nights in Helensburgh will long live in my memory.  Still, we were there to work-up the boat in war-like conditions, and Rhu Narrows {an area leading to the Loch on which Faslane is situated} were seen more regularly than any of the fun houses ashore, particularly on the way out to sea.  Like all R.N., sailors irrespective of where and upon what they serve in, we worked  hard  and expected to play hard but our jimmy was having none of that.  It was one way, with no give and take, and whilst we did the job he wanted, there was no soul, no camaraderie.  I was a young petty officer in the boat, and a member of a mess having ten senior rates three of whom were chief petty officers. Naturally, I listened and took part in mess conversations chiefly about the lads, our lads, and their mumbling and grumbling about M.J.C.,  Lieutenant Royal Navy, first lieutenant of HMS Auriga.  M.J.C.,  became known as the "burberry kid" {a burberry is  a raincoat}, because no matter what the weather or his site visit, he would have his burberry buttoned to the collar, rather like a trawler-man in the North Sea would wear his foul weather gear.  The work-up was unnecessarily hard because of his attitude.  In boats certainly, and in the Navy per se generally, the first lieutenant  has no real say over the comings and goings of members of the engineering fraternity.  This is exercised by the engineering officer, know in boats as "engines"- ours was Lieutenant Max Kohler Royal Navy.  In Auriga, engine room personnel could take leave whereas non engine room personnel couldn't.  Engines, when well pleased, rewarded his division appropriately: jimmy was never well pleased.  Such was the atmosphere in the boat as we went through our work-up, but despite this, we passed with merit and I can remember our rather quiet though diligent skipper, Lieutenant Commander M.R. Wilson Royal Navy, thanking us for the "gutsy effort" as we started our journey south to Devonport. Lt Cdr Wilson was 33 years of age, a native of Yiewsly, Middlesex. He joined Dartmouth in the late 1940's and joined boats in 1950 his first being Artful. Later on after service in other boats, he commanded Aeneas from October 1958 until July 1959.  Auriga was his third 'A' boat and it should be obvious to all that what he didn't know wasn't worth knowing. 

More meat on the bones. This shows the use of each compartment and where everybody worked or lived. It is not to plan, but if you focus your gaze upon the section "Heads, Bathroom and Galley" you might get some idea of size. This little area had FOUR TOILETS for the men 56 in number, plus one toilet for the officers who numbered 6: 5 wash basins for the crew of 56 plus one wash basin, and when water was not a problem {and it ALWAYS was} a shower cubicle for the officers, PLUS the galley providing 3 meals a day of sorts.  You will also see that directly under this area is an area called "SLOP drain and Sewage Tanks".  The wireless office, my office, was immediately opposite the crew's four toilets and at no time were we the sparkers, ever more than two metres from  the "traps" as they were affectionately known.  However, that wasn't a problem compared with the following. Imagine 62 [in all] including us the sparkers, bit by bit [and a lot by a lot for guy's like stokers], filling up a huge tank with 'motions', which has also collected all the liquid rubbish discarded by the chef next door in the galley, and to a much lesser extent, the dirty water from the 6 wash basins onboard. Can you?  You can almost hear the effect!!!   CLICK ON REFRESH NOW. Well, there comes a time when that tank gets full and if nothing is done about it, it will overflow into that little compartment shown above. At the bottom of the tank there is a plug [for the want of a better word] and this plug is removed.  Then high pressure air is blow in at the top of the tank, and all the solids are forced out of the bottom into the sea - sorry about the use of the word bottom!  When the tank is empty, the air blow is stopped, and the plug is put back in position at the bottom.   Now the tank is full of air, lots of air because it is compressed, and that air aint sweet air like you would find on a walk with your girl friend in say, the Lake District - no, it is FOUL FOUL AIR, and, it has to go before the tank can be used again. If on the surface, it is vented outboard into the atmosphere, but when dived............ Now, I am working away at being a diligent radio man, talking to the outside world on behalf of the captain, never more than two metres away from the traps, when the order is given to "VENT INBOARD".  Do you know, those sadistic bastards ACTUALLY open a lever and all of that air, millions of cubic feet of stench bearing nastiness, comes wafting into the submarine, and who do you think cops most of it - go on -  a test for you to see whether you have been following the story properly. As a grown up - and you have to be to serve in boats - I wouldn't mind too much, but what about the bloody poor old chef, also a couple of metres away and the food he is preparing for MY CONSUMPTION?  Engine room personnel reading this would want to tell you that the vent had a de-odouriser fitted designed to eliminate the smell.  I will tell you that in Auriga, it either didn't work or it was not fitted. Incidentally, what I have described used to happen in my former less sophisticated boats {I am thinking about HM S/M TURPIN a 'T' class boat} on a one-to-one basis, where the pressure blow-back would result in you wearing, around your face what you thought you had got rid of.  Mind you, you could so easily have worn somebody else's. If smoking was permitted when this venting occurred, you could see the end of a cigarette flare up, rather like a sparkler burns, when the air turned from the norm - 50% oxygen 50% body odour [BO] - only joking - to 2% oxygen and 98% methane!  

To finish off the story of who's who in the boat, I have sketched a plan looking down on the main deck so you can see the port and starboard sides at the same time.

Now safely back in Devonport [Plymouth] and exhausted, I had enough time to dash 200 odd miles east to Gosport [Portsmouth] to get married in the August of 1962.  

Thereafter, we operated out of Devonport and used the rest of 1962 pottering until it was time for us to deploy to our new base in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.  Whilst in harbour for a lengthy period in late November, my wife, visiting her family in London, had a mis-carriage. Despite my protestations, I was allowed 24 hours to get from Plymouth to London and back to see my wife. In those days road networks were poor, and most of the time was spent behind the wheel of my little car.  Whilst my wife was well looked after by her family, this mean act of denial, further strained my relationship with our first lieutenant, the burberry kid.

Christmas came and went, and in January 1963, we began storing and kitting out for Canada. When we sailed, conditions at sea were normal for that time of year, and the Atlantic was not going out of its way to be friendly. However, things took a turn for the worse which made that crossing of the pond [the Atlantic] unimaginably difficult for the whole crew.  Before we rounded the bottom of Ireland we had some defects with our mechanical machinery which were considered to be fixable by our own engineers.  In the event, they could not be repaired at sea, but at that time they were not life threatening and so we continued. We were able to dive, and for a few hours here and there, we could escape the worst of the rough seas [note that the sea is still angry down to many feet below the surface.]  Whilst nursing our defects, a subsequent defect occurred which truly affected all our lives, and stopped us from diving, keeping us on the surface at the mercy of the Atlantic. As the boat's radio petty officer, I saw all that came and went by radio morse messages, and I can remember well [also assisted by my diary of those times] that the sea areas on our route west were gales force 8 increasing to force 9 for four long days without a break. Believe it or not, the defect was in the slop drain and sewage tank venting system [the very one I have been mentioning above] which precluded the use of the heads [toilets].  From that point, the crew shifted to plan two: constipation.  The seas were unforgiving and the casing was out of bounds to all personnel.  That left the fin which enclosed the conning tower from control room to the officer of the watch surfaced con position.  This was open to the sea top and bottom and was outside the pressure hull.  By climbing into the base of the fin which stopped the rollers coming directly onto the pressure hull, one could drop ones trollies and try ones best.  However, have you ever tried doing a communal crap where people will risk their necks for a little bit of privacy, and where the sea, whilst not directly dowsing you nevertheless gushes up from the bottom free-flood holes of the fin like some gigantic bore-hole aiming right for your tender parts, negating any need for such luxuries such as toilet paper, necessitating instead, the need for a total change of clothing, a pie-in-sky extravagance in a submarine. The motion [a different one now!] of a submarine, because of it round tubular shape, is somewhat different from the movement of a ship in exactly the same sea condition. It rolls, in a confused and unpredictable manner, first clockwise then anti-clockwise, not stopping too long on any cycle nor choosing neat patterns to smooth the excesses.  It does pitch and toss too, but whatever it does, it is most uncomfortable and a submarine is a poor surface vessel.  Imagine then, being stuck on the surface and unable to dive.  Returning to the wireless office being only two metres away from the heads, and having missed out that the traps could be used for non-sit down human waste also, one can imagine my delight at being the chief witness of hearing and smelling the proverbial "five-fingered-spread" [sea sickness] being regularly, though illegally, offered to numbers 1,2,3 and 4 traps; moreover, guess who's department was responsible for cleaning the heads and bathrooms.  Some of the 'visitors' were just passing when the thought struck them [and us], whilst others actually made a pilgrimage to the site from distant parts, forward and aft. Those that made the 'visit' to the lower casing, added to the charm and serenity of the communal crappers.  Thus we arrived off the coast of Canada, now in calmer seas, licking our wounds.  I and many others had not defecated for many a long day, but equally, our food intake had been minimal, so we were not over concerned. Our first port of call was not our base port Halifax, but a little town called St John's in Newfoundland.  There, amidst a wonderland of snow and ice and our introduction to a weather environment which was to become the norm for many more weeks to come, we relaxed, drank and cleaned the boat to rid it of the turmoil caused by a miserable crossing from the UK.  The people of St John's were warm and friendly, not given to seeing many submarines berth in their small town.  We sailed south from there to Halifax, arriving spick and span as though we had never been to sea. 

This, is what all the pictures above amount to; the sum of their parts. Auriga up in northern latitudes having used its strengthened fin and masts to smash its way through a POLYNYA [pol in ya] to surface through the ice. Submarines operating under the ice are fitted with an upward looking echo sounder.  This works the same as a conventional echo sounder but looks for distances below the ice as opposed to distances from the sea bed.  Normally the ice is of uniform thickness [isomorphic] but occasionally the ice reduces in thickness and reveals a 'weak-spot' which is called a polynya. The sheer upward force of the submarine coming to the surface is enough to break the ice and expose the polynya. In our time based in Halifax, we swung from minus 20 degrees up in places like the Cabot Straits, to plus 90 degrees down in Charleston South Carolina - fortunately, not all in one go! Breaking through the ice didn't do my radio antenna much good, but wouldn't it have made an excellent movie?

I have mentioned the skipper and the jimmy, both of whom went into obscurity, and "engines" Lieutenant Max Kohler, and they were three of our six officers.  The others were Lieutenant John Coward, the Navigator and my direct boss; Nigel Frawley a Lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Navy [RCN] who was the Torpedo Officer, and Lieutenant R.S. Forsyth who was the 'fifth hand', and officer in training without a portfolio. John Coward, who we [my wife and I] recently met whilst on holiday in Guernsey where he was the Governor, went on to become a war hero in the 1982 Falkland's War and achieved high rank as a Vice Admiral not to re-mention the Governorship of Guernsey.  From my many sources of contact with people who served under John Coward both in boats and in ships, there is a common utterance that he was one of the best officers of his generation, and he is held in high regard by us all.  I understand that Nigel Frawley also achieved great things, and he too, was an officer who had mastered the difference between motivation and de-motivation.  

Our base in Halifax was the RCN {Royal Canadian Navy} dockyard, just under the Angus L McDonald bridge which connects Halifax with Dartmouth. When in harbour the crew lived in the local RCN barracks HMCS STADACONA and we were under the operational command of HMS AMBROSE whose commanding officer was Commander Submarines 6th Squadron [CDR S/M 6] , one, Commander Ken Vause R.N. He had just two boats in his squadron, the Astute, who we relieved, and the Alderney.  Everybody liked Ken and from the command and control aspect manifest in the many signals I exchanged with his staff ashore, he was easy to work with and for, and I know that our skipper and he, got on well together.  Under Ken Vause was his deputy, SOSM [Senior Officer Submarines] the man who had the 'hands-on' contact with us and a fully qualified submarine CO.  His name was Lieutenant Commander Gerald Allan Sotheran Paul.  My wife joined me as a married accompanied draft with all the problems and set-backs of a sea going unit. She had sailed out of Liverpool in the luxury Liner Sylvania and I had met her ship on arrival in Halifax. Every thing was running well despite the ship's companies morale, lowered by the ambitions of "I'll get my half stripe out of this come hell or high water" displayed overtly by the Jimmy. Our pay was generous, receiving not only our R.N., pay and submarine pay, but also a Canadian allowance {RCN Bonus}, bringing my pay as a petty officer in line with that of a lieutenant in the R.N., in the surface fleet.  We got around, visiting Boston and New York several times, and many of the eastern US cities too.  Bermuda was a favourite of ours. When in harbour, how much sweeter could it have been than living ashore with my wife, and then our first born, Steven on 6th September 1963. Fellow submariners back home in the UK would have killed for such a draft [posting] especially when the drafts to Australia and to Malta were on the run down, although Singapore drafts were on the increase, and guess where Auriga's next commission [with me still onboard] would be ? - Singapore, of course.

Our first disaster was the loss of the American nuclear submarine Thresher. USS Thresher SSN 593, was lost off Boston USA on the 10th April 1963, with all hands plus a large amount of civilian technicians, whilst undergoing trials.  Evidently, water had short circuited one of her major control panels which led to a catastrophic and fatal failure.  We had just returned from eight days at sea ourselves, and I was at home having a shower when I was re-called to my boat.  We sailed immediately [with some crew members absent] for the Boston sea area just to the south of Halifax, where remaining on the surface, we would act as a decompression chamber should any of Thresher's crew manage to escape.  We knew that that was impossible, given that the depth off Boston is over a mile deep, but our call-out was a gesture, and a very sad experience for us all.  When I got home, my wife's eyes said everything, and I was haunted by the thought of the loss of those scores of men and the manner in which they would have perished.  What none of us could have foreseen was the affect the tragedy had on our captain's wife.  This distressing period resulted in a break-down and our captain was taken away from us.  The mild mannered ways of Lieutenant Commander M R Wilson Royal Navy were at an end, and the forthcoming change to a new skipper, elevated the jimmy to an even greater power base.  

The following pictures have been kindly sent to me by John Sayers.  John was one of my Sparkers onboard and I am grateful for his contribution.

Click to enlarge

Auriga underway in ice

Click to enlarge

Auriga on surface in ice in Cabot Straits

Click to enlarge

Auriga, forward seamens mess.
Busy writing home because they had been told that mail would be taken off the submarine by a Canadian destroyer. Another of the boats Sparkers, Peter Clothier, is in his bunk at the far end.

Click to enlarge

Auriga. John [with set] and an oppo sitting on top of the boats sailfin in Halifax Harbour. Beyond is the Angus L McDonald Bridge which connected Halifax with Dartmouth. Inboard the bow of another British 'A' boat, and forward, a Canadian warship

Click to enlarge

John [set less] taken inboard in the Halifax Canadian Barracks HMCS Stadacona where victualled members of the crew were accommodated when the boat was in harbour.

Click to enlarge

An Argus anti submarine aircraft of the RCAF flying over ice, exercising with the Auriga.

The obvious choice for a new skipper was the SOSM to Cdr S/M 6, and so our new captain was Lieutenant Commander Gerald Allan Sotheran Paul Royal Navy: he went on to command other submarines of his own, Olympus and Resolution retiring as a commodore in 1986. Inevitably, this led to a new work-up where the crew would have a new conductor, but the leader of the orchestra and the orchestra proper were the same: a different interpretation of a score all in the orchestra knew and could already play with proven ability.  Almost as soon as this captain's work-up had been completed, the navy appointed a new skipper from the UK and Lieutenant Commander K A Bromback Royal Navy joined the boat to relieve Lt Cdr Paul.  Kenneth Bromback became known as "get me up ...get me up" [said quickly without a pause] referring to his periscope being washed when at periscope depth because the planesmen had gone too deep.

Yet another work-up started, the third in just a few months, and whilst the crew had to knuckle-down and get on with it, the Jimmy got more and more up people's noses, he naturally allying himself to the various skippers, but at the total abandonment of that part of the crew over which he had total control:  for the purists, not the engine room staff nor the electricians.  Under Bromback's command, the boat had a mixture of good and mediocre times, but notwithstanding the mood, Auriga was known as an efficient boat, and like all foreign based boats,  the majority of the crew were happier when away from base port. 

As for everybody, the parochial troubles and in-fighting were for nought, when in late 1963, Kennedy was assassinated.  The event polarised all our minds and thinking.  Auriga was dived off Boston exercising with USA and Canadian surface units and aircraft.  In those days we received our signals on low frequency [LF] {the Canadians did not have the 'proper' frequencies viz., very low frequency [VLF] which were always used in the UK} using high speed morse code.  When the skipper wanted his signals, we would come to periscope depth and I would listen to slow morse code stating what traffic was about to be transmitted using  high speed morse, and to whom they were addressed. If we were on the list, we would stay at periscope depth and record the high speed morse on a tape recorder.   Whilst I couldn't guarantee that we had received the high speed signals properly, I could listen to the high speed transmission and make a judgement as to whether it was a good signal free from destructive interference, and when the transmission had ceased, I would tell the skipper, who would then go back to the desired depth again.  We would replay the tape recording at a slower speed and transcribed our messages by hand or on the typewriter.  If it was a plain language message, then it went straight to the skipper and from him, to other officers for action.  If it was a coded message, we would type the transcribed groups into a decoding machine, stick the decoded plain language tape onto a piece of paper, ready for the captain to read. On this occasion we came shallow and read our messages.  After going deeper again, {from my diary} I played the  2200 routine back to listen to Auriga's messages. We were approximately south of Halifax [160°] range 410 miles in approximately 39° N 61° 39' W, with about one mile of water under us.   I cannot explain to you the environment in a small, cramped wireless office in a diesel submarine, deep in the Atlantic ocean, operating in very cold water, nor can I explain my feelings as each dot and dash of the morse code passed through my brain, down my arm, through the pencil I was holding and onto the piece of paper.  When I had finished transcribing, and I was able to read the text properly, I couldn't believe what I had just done.  It was almost as though  I had done a naughty thing, nay, a bad thing.  I couldn't believe that in those few short months, America had lost a submarine and a President.  I opened the wireless office door, pushed myself through the black-out curtain leading into the control room, sought permission from the officer of the watch to climb the ladder leading to the skippers sleeping cabin, and called out  "it's me sir, the RS". "What is it RS". "Some terrible news sir".  After reading my transcription, the skipper jumped to his feet and followed me down the ladder back into the control room.  The skipper announced the death to the crew using the boat's tannoy system, but before he had finished we were ordered to surface by the American's above us and to terminate the exercise.  

We arrived back at base to a subdued and much saddened Halifax.  One the day of Kennedy's funeral, we were alongside in harbour, the only boat in a squadron of two 'A' boats and therefore, the only British ship. As was the tradition were wore a union jack on the bow and a white ensign on the stern.  On top of the fin we wore a tiny pure silk white ensign.  My duties in Auriga covered such things as bunting and flags per se, although in normal terms this task was carried out by our signalman Peter McCarthy.  I ordered that a brand new mini ensign be used for this event, and in the evening, when all the flags were lowered, the big ones to be reused,  I kept the mini silk ensign neatly folded in my locker. I have it to this very day as a keep sake in remembrance of those bad old days so long ago.

After this, we worked with the American's based in Argentia {ar gen se a}, a big US base in Newfoundland, and an interesting 'come around for a few drinks' at a whaling station crewed by a motley mixture of outback Canadians, with a sprinkling of Russians, Norwegians and a Scot who collectively proved to be too hot to handle drinks wise, so we could not and did not invite them back to the boat.

Then came a peaceful Christmas, and Halifax/Dartmouth is as nice a place as any to spend such an occasion.  

Have you ever seen the movie K19 about a Russian nuclear boat in 1960?  The story of its exploits was kept secret by the Soviets for 28 years, so the news did not break until at least 1988.  I do not recall when the film starring Harrison Ford was made.   It is a harrowing story of a hapless crew officered by a mixture of Captain Bligh {mutiny of the Bounty}, Blue Beard and another more sympathetic guy. Anyway, they are dogged by drill after drill after drill, or "for exercise" as we would say.  Auriga started 1964 that way to shake-out a lengthy period in harbour which was no bad thing.  Regrettably, it didn't appear to stop, this despite an excellent response to "action stations" and "attack team close up".  "Diving stations" was second nature - didn't even have to be thought about - and the boat was immaculate.  The only area for real complaint was the food and the victuals.  It was not good even though the chef was.  The coxswain did an excellent job in victualling the boat, but submarines and good catering are opposites, and the much told proverbial navy joke about cooks is not appropriate here.  Can you recall the story line of Caine Mutiny, a 1954 movie starring Humphrey Bogart? Caine was the name of the ship. Doesn't matter if you can't. If you do, or if the in future you research the movie, for Lieutenant Commander Queeg [the skipper] read Lieutenant M.J.C., [the jimmy] but without the ball-bearings! 




Many things happened and the muttering increased, coming now from areas hitherto not involved. It all came to a head in the spring of 1964 when operating from Bermuda. Firstly, we had a casevac [a casualty evacuation] when a sailor was lifted by helicopter from the top of the fin to be taken ashore to Bermuda suffering from severe stomach pains.  This was executed by the USN and the man was found to be  suffering from  an appendix which was just about to burst.  Submarines didn't carry a doctor or even a sick berth attendant, and the medics were chiefly the Jimmy and the coxswain who were trained more thoroughly than we, the rest of the crew were.  The skipper had a lockable safe in his sleeping cabin which contained morphine.  Anyway, towards the end, when we were about to go back north to Halifax, Jimmy was recommending that we take back our recuperating rating.  This, by signal, was not endorsed as being the right thing to do, although, in the end, but not on Jimmy's insistence, he did hitch a lift back to base. However, before that event occurred, two other events brought the matter of Jimmy and his rule to a head.

Like all warship's visiting Bermuda, Ireland Island is the dockyard and the shore establishment is HMS Malabar. Also at Ireland Island there is a NAAFI club which the crew's frequent more than anywhere else on the island. Bermuda, nice though it is, is a playground for the well off, and we were anything but that.  Hamilton, the Capital caters for rich Americans and areas like St George have little to offer as a venue for a run ashore that the men wanted.  All other areas of the island are frequented by the locals and they don't take kindly to high-spirited men of the Royal Navy. Having said that, it is the ideal place for a quiet run ashore, and whilst pursuing this, one can't be guaranteed not being ripped-off but can be guaranteed to be free of raucous near wild matelots letting off steam.  I'll certainly have some of that!

Now Aurigans had a lot of steam to let off; a pent-up feeling of wanting to be rid of the Jimmy and helpless that they were stuck with him.  Plus it has to be said, that foreign bases do favour the R.A.'s [the men who take their wives with them], and what this crew needed above all else was to get out of Halifax, and find somewhere to let their hair down.  Was Bermuda the place to do this? Yes. provided they did it at the dockyard site on Ireland Island.  It was, as I remember, the night I was the duty PO onboard the boat. I did this duty as often as possible when away from base, so that when back in Halifax I could have as many nights as possible home with my wife and child without having to do these duties. It was also Saturday, a time to enjoy oneself knowing [though wrongly in Auriga's case] that Sunday morning was a lay-in to help with the hang-over. We were berthed alongside SNOWI's flagship at the time, after having been as sea for many a long day.  Because of this, the crew were on their best behaviour, warned like children by the Jimmy, of the consequences of being 'too happy.'  SNOWI incidentally stands for Senior Naval Officer West Indies [a Captain RN] who was flying his broad pennant in a frigate [one of the Tribal-Class as I recall] which was the then West Indies guard ship.

Off  went our lads, bless them, leaving me and a few others to settle down with a beer to watch a movie in the forward seamen's mess.

At the appointed hour, the men returned to the boat in dribs and drabs and none was truly the worse for wear.  The gangway staff of the flagship, a frigate whose name I never did record, were helpful and took the ribbing dished out to them with good grace. Many of our sailors had used the flagship's washing and showering facilities during that Saturday, and I had put items into their laundry for the attention of their Chinese launderers. I did get them back, all nice and clean and ironed and lovely. At about 2300 I wandered up on the casing to take the night air, and saw that all was well. I spoke with the duty officer of the flagship, a pusser [supply and secretarial branch officer] I was told by their quartermaster [QM] resplendent in his tropical mess undress. One hour later at midnight, I returned to the upper deck and was joined by our duty officer who looked just as smart, wearing a crisp tropical shirt, dark trousers and cummerbund. We exchanged pleasantries with each other and with the gangway staff of the flagship, even congratulating the 'good and reliable common sense of our lads'.  With his permission I turned in, on notice for an immediate call-out should it be necessary.  I had one or two rowdy sailors to deal with down below but by 1am all was quiet.  There was no need of a head count [we didn't use station cards] because leave expired onboard at 0800 the following morning - some were bound to stay ashore to get a decent nights kip, or for other reasons.

The trot sentry, the submarine's gangway staff had been told of my sleeping bunk position for any call-out, but also the time I wanted to be called in the morning.  I figured 0600 would be a good time even though it was Sunday, giving me plenty of time to go inboard to the flagship for a shave and a shower and perhaps a cup of tea if not a bacon sandwich - they have these things on ship's, especially flagship's.  Night night I said to myself, secretly thanking my lucky stars that the duty had been so cushy, and went fast asleep dreaming of Halifax.

The picture below shows some of the crew at the commissioning ceremony in Devonport in 1962.

It tends to get light early in the summer months doesn't it? It did that day, because at 0515 I was rudely awakened by the trot sentry telling me that Jimmy was waiting for me on the casing and that I had better chop chop. I quickly dressed, and as I climbed the ladder to the casing from the forward torpedo compartment, I saw Jimmy's legs and then some green coloured things, letters I thought.   There was no need to look at Jimmy and even less reason to talk to him, for there, painted alongside virtually the whole of the flagship was "MADE IN JAPAN" artistically applied with green paint each letter about two foot high.  Most surprisingly of all I think, is that he didn't bother to ask me for an explanation, not that I had one, but immediately ordered a clear lower deck of everybody, ERA's, CPO's, PO's the lot.  I was no longer the duty PO: I was part of the 'lot' and Jimmy was the only duty person around.  I can't with any truth tell you that the staff of the flagship thought it was funny, far from it, but their reaction was, let's say, more mature than the reaction of our one and only burberry-kid, who by that time, had lost the bubble [a submariners saying where the bubble, in a clinometre {spirit level}, keeps the submarine level .]  The Buffer [man responsible for the appearance and upkeep of a ship] of the flagship provided many paint brushes and copious amounts of grey paint, and when our crew were suitably dressed, they set about painting out the pretty green letters referring to the land of the rising sun. Once the marks were painted out which took several coats albeit in that heat they dried quickly, the skill of repainting the ships pennant numbers took place using black with a white shadow surround.  The whole operation took up most of that Sunday, and whether one was directly involved in the painting or not, one's leave was stopped.  Remember, we had been at sea for many a long day before being allowed access to the flagship as a 'mother' ship. This was nothing other than group punishment and the men saw it that way.  At no time that day did Jimmy stop and try to find the culprit, and when the culprit finally declared his hand sometime later, he was a Petty Officer from my own mess, Petty Officer Art Bodden a Canadian and the number one torpedo rating in the boat known as the UW1 or the TI which stood for Torpedo Instructor. No leave was given that evening and all ratings, irrespective of their seniority or status were suspects - even me I felt.  The air was tense.

The next day Monday, we shifted berth from alongside the flagship to alongside a jetty, a jetty devoid of any facilities.  Remember I was the boss radio man and I saw all radio communications. We had received signalled instructions that a port of call was being arranged for us enroute to base, possibly our third visit to New York, to Brooklyn Navy Yard, and to Flushing Meadow USN Barracks, a decent but manageable walk over the Brooklyn Bridge into downtown Manhattan just by the Woolworth Building and not too far from the destroyed world trade centre site, though the world trade centre buildings were not built at this time. That signal was never actioned by signal unless our officers had used either Malabar's or the flagship's radio facilities to do so.  The signal demanded a response which was sub judice before the painting happened.  Other suspicious things happened, like officers wanting references for signals previously received whilst at sea.  Signals were coming in about various subjects, but strangely I was not being asked to send any.  Restricted leave was given on that Monday evening with times to be back on board curtailing  any revelry that might be planned.  On Tuesday, just before up spirits {rum ration}, it was announced that the boat would be returning to base in a few days time and that liberty leave would continue to be given but with restrictions imposed.  Sports and recreation leave would be as normal.  Shortly after tot time that day, in a pre and post lunch time frame, sailors from the seamen's and stokers messes left the boat and walked onto the jetty.  They were still there at turn-to time, a time in early afternoon when they restart their work. They stayed there despite being ordered to turn-to and get back on the boat. The coxswain, a popular man called William {Billy} Blackhurst, a CPO with a ready and sincere smile, tried and failed and although I was not present at any of these proceedings, I am told that he gave them a fatherly talk about the consequences of what they were doing.  The Jimmy didn't stand a chance: he was literally ignored by the men. In mid to late afternoon, of their own doing, they returned to the boat, got on with their work, and the subject was not debated, even in our mess, the power-house of the boat.  We sailed as per the new plan and went straight back to Halifax, proof if proof were needed, that the signal had been answered using other communication means, and had been answered in the negative, clearly as a further punishment for the crew.

Our arrival in Halifax met with no excitement, with few signals either way enroute. Clearly, any signalling about the mini mutiny had been routed well away from my department in the boat, which although frustrating, proved to be in my favour when the buzzes started: what I didn't see I can't talk about, not that I would have done anyway.  Within hours of arriving in Halifax we had a visit from SOSM, Lieutenant Commander St Paul, and very soon afterwards, Lieutenant M.J.C., Royal Navy was history, ignominiously removed from his appointment as First Lieutenant of Her Majesty's Submarine Auriga.

None of the offenders, for they were clearly offenders with mitigation, were punished or were made to leave the boat.  No signal ever left Auriga about the mini mutiny and the captain, 'get me up...get me up' Bromback was clearly shaken by the whole affair, but remained in command until we arrived back in the UK. He went on to command the submarine Token after the Auriga. At a later time, he was appointed to Australia, one assumes as a submariner to advise the RAN on its submarine programme. Equally, it appears that he retired from that appointment and stayed on as a civilian in Australia with his wife Ann.  He died in early February 2008 in Queensland. He joined the submarine service in 1950 and did his Perisher in 1957, thereafter commanding an 'S' boat, 'T' boats and 'A' boats other than Auriga. He is listed in the 1969 RAN Navy List under 'Officers on the RAN Emergency and Retired' List serving in HMAS Kuttabul. This tells us what Kuttabul was, where and what it did.

Welcome to HMAS Kuttabul, Macleay Street, Potts Point, NSW.

Situated above the historic Garden Island (GI) Dockyard facility, HMAS Kuttabul primary role is to provide administrative, training and logistics support to defence personnel, both uniform and civilian, employed within the Sydney area.

Funny really!  I have a good friend, Preston. E. Willson who was a colleague of mine in the communications branch but in general service. One of his brothers [at one time the three brothers were in the R.N., together] served in boats, also as a radio man.  He was in Auriga the commission before this [1959-1961 and also in Canada] and he tells of a very unhappy Auriga. The third commission [1966-68] saw me again in Auriga based on Singapore, and that commission also fell to pieces when  Lieutenant Commander John Round-Turner Royal Navy routinely relinquished his command nearly two third of the way through the commission.  He again was an excellent and well liked skipper, the type of man one is proud to serve with. He went on to command two nuclear submarines, Renown and Conqueror, and was promoted to the rank of captain in 1981 then appointed as Captain SM2.  He retired in 1989 and became an executive with the British Horse Racing Authority based on Newmarket Suffolk. His relief, a very different officer much disliked, also later commanded a nuclear submarine and a diesel boat, had a stint at HMS Ganges, a stint at HMS Raleigh, a stint as a Naval Attache in Bonn was promoted to the rank of Captain in 1981 and retired also in 1989.

As for the burberry-kid, his submarine career was ruined. He got his half stripe and as a lieutenant commander commanded a small vessel, and this is an extract from the Navy List of the remained of his career:-

1973: HMS PHOENIX, HM Naval Base, Portsmouth
1972: As above
1971: As above
1970: HMS TAMAR, Hong Kong
1969: As above
1968: As above
1967: HMS PRESIDENT London (Administration of several minor establishments & appointments)
1966: HMS LANTON Ton Class Coastal Minesweeper

He retired in 1973 and  died on the 31st May 2001. He may have had a need for a burberry whilst in Phoenix but probably not whilst in Tamar [Hong Kong] where a Wanchai Brolley would have sufficed.

In summary,  I suppose that like ratings, there are good, bad and bloody bad officers.

Funny really!  Just as an add-on,  Submarine Logs are kept by the National Archives from 1914 to 1980. Regrettably they  don't  have  Auriga's Log for that month in 1964?  

For this commission we had a bunting, the last of a line in boats thereafter. His name was Pete McCarthy and he wore a buntings crossed flag branch badge. In 1963 that badge was withdrawn and buntings had to wear a radio operators badge instead. There was no way that Pete would give up his badge, even after the skipper told him to do so, and he was still wearing it the day he left the submarine service for general service [in the surface fleet]. Finally, in 1965 the Admiralty withdrew the West Indies Guard ship and replaced it with RNR Sweepers. I wonder why? Seriously though, the West Indies Guard Ship duties were disbanded in 1964 and replaced by the APT = Atlantic Patrol Task.

Back to Top




Note this page has been added to with an update for 2019 - see this URL



 This year {2003}, I witnessed two naval events both of which were magnificent and had a great affect upon me.  The first was in America where I visited an old USN Battleship, the USS Alabama now a floating museum in Mobile, Alabama - see below for pictures.  She was decommissioned in 1947 after war service, and was preserved in 1969.  Magnificent is the correct word, especially, if like me, the very word 'battleship' belongs to  a period in time which I regret missing.  However, I did see the French battleship Jean Bart firing her 15" guns in anger, whilst bombarding the Egyptian coast during the 1956 Suez War, and I have mentioned that experience as a separate page on this web site. Alabama is in one piece with very little of consequence missing. Even her W/T office is still as it was with chairs, desks and typewriters in place almost as they were used the day before I visited.  If you enjoy the power of 16" guns, all nine of them, or better still you are an ex-gunbuster, then this is a pilgrimage you should make.  Even the enormous range finders still work. She is berthed quite near to the main state highway running east and west - I was on my way from Destin in Florida, to New Orleans in Louisiana when I made the stop.  My poor wife was bored silly during  my four hour visit: it does require a half day to do it justice. 

Then on Boxing Day [2003] my wife and I went onboard  a blue funnel boat at Ocean Village in Southampton.  We sailed out into Southampton Water to meet the largest ocean liner in the world coming home to her base port for the first time   Click to enlarge. She is of course the Queen Mary 2, and a stunning beautiful lady without comparison.  Emotional is an understatement. The slow approach speed  of 15 knots [she doing 10 knots] brought us almost under her bow so close were we to her without hindering her navigation in the long and  narrow waterway. Then, when on her bow we came around to starboard and  running on a parallel course, we followed her into her berth area and witnessed her docking for the first time with her mother land. For much of the time the QM2 was broadcasting patriotic music including 'Land of hope and glory', 'Rule Britannia' and others, but as she neared her berth, that music was almost completely drowned-out by the siren of ships already in port, and of course her own, responding saying thank you, and hey, I am glad to be here where all the QUEENS have lived.  I am sure that of the 1 million people the press calculated were there at some point either afloat, like ourselves, or along the narrow waterway, there must have been many who remembered the Queen Mary, and the Queen Elizabeth in days long gone:  all of course know the Queen Elizabeth 2 which is a regular visitor, and a much loved icon of Britishness.  Whilst we all had a sad goodbye for Concord, another of our national icons, it, I feel sure, has been replaced with Queen Mary 2. When I was 16, and at sea in  a Castle Class frigate working out of Portland into the English Channel with the 2nd Training Squadron,  I often saw the big liners doing their transit of the Channel to and from Southampton and Le Harve. The QM2 sails on the 12th January 2004 for her maiden voyage to Florida and then on to Rio where she will act as host ship for the games. On her return, she will take over from the QE2 as the Cunard liner doing the New York run.  We live by the sea, and from all our windows we get a perfect  view [enhanced to a stunning view through our many telescopes and high powered binoculars] of the merchant ships entering and leaving Southampton, and the warship entering and leaving Portsmouth.  It is an exciting place to live. We will be back afloat in Southampton Water on the 12th to follow her out to the Solent and then the English Channel. [SEE BELOW FOR UPDATE] Thereafter, she will pass our windows 28 times in 2004 when she crosses the 'pond' on her 14 trips to New York.  Whilst New Yorkers will not see the QE2 in the Hudson River, we of course will see her regularly as she continues to cruise in other waters. In 2007 the QM2 and the QE2 will have a new sister-Queen to play with when the Queen Victoria joins the Cunard fleet. The QV is bigger [gross tons = internal volume NOT weight] than QE2 by about 15,000 tons - 100 cubic feet of useable space = 1 ton [she will be 85,000 tons] but she will be a baby compared to the QM2 who is nearly twice her gross tonnage [internal volume]. 

QM2 is the largest liner in the world, with 15 million cubic feet of useable internal space at the registered 150,000 gross tonnage. Her dimensions are vast, and her technology mind blowing: for example, she does not have such 'old things' like rudders, shafts and propellors, employing steerable water pods instead. However, like most people, I seem to get a better perspective of size when it is expressed in height on terra firma, and leading from that, I know that the vast majority of my readers have see many tall buildings, whereas, relatively fewer will have seen a large ship!  Looking up at the Empire State Building needs no other amplifying data to tell you that it is big, and by actually going up to the viewing gallery above confirms to you that your mind is struggling to cope with all you see, and there is still another 40 to 50 feet above that gallery that you cannot visit. What of the men who built it, and the speed of its construction when compared with other buildings in that city?  With this in mind, I thought that I would create a fun feature which would compare size measured in terra firma terms.  I, like many, are familiar with nautical web sites, and the story or this or that is well told, repeatedly so in some cases. Whatever the content, I cannot add in any meaningful or authoritative way. Therefore, I have chosen as my 'fun piece' to gather from the internet, specifics about ships and buildings which will be familiar to many of you, and then to bring the ships onto dry land and stand them on their stern's alongside the well known buildings to compare their sizes in terms of length only.  I have not tried to show the beam or the draught of the ships, so that where ships are approximately the same length but are much wider and much taller, there will be a distortion of overall size measured in 3D.

In my little picture, I have used three groups of six and one group of two, for ease of handling, and I have picked-out 20 objects. .  The categories are in themselves meaningless titles, but the ships and buildings represented within are named below. The picture has a vertical scale which is calibrated in feet.  The measurements of ships are overall and not a measurement made on the water line.  For buildings I have used the quoted height of the building.  In some cases, a building has an antenna or other such addition.  Some sites state the height notwithstanding the addition, but some, like the Eiffel Tower, states the antenna height, which I have chosen to ignore. Since I do not know the weight of a building, there is little point of stating the tonnage of a ship. Thus, there are distortions because of the interpretation or mis-interpretation made by the authors of the web sites used. The table below gives CATEGORY, NAMES within, and HEIGHT [length for ships] of the buildings.  However, time rolls on and since I produced this graph in very early 2004, other buildings have been erected. Look to the very bottom of this page to see a SUMMARY OF THE WORLDS TALLEST BUILDINGS AS AT DECEMBER 2005. Despite this, the graph has been altered but little !

Three photographs of  the oil tanker JAHRE VIKING at 567,763 dwt [dead weight tonnes] the world largest ship. The first one as the Jahre Viking Click to enlarge at sea moving over 4 million barrels of crude oil at a speed of 13 knots, the second Click to enlarge at the end of her relatively short life arriving in Dubai to be converted away from being an oil tanker. This final picture shows the former Jahre Viking, now renamed to be KNOCK NEVIS leaving drydock after conversion into a " FSO" - a Floating and Storage Offloading unit Click to enlarge with no duties at sea. Her life was interesting and she had many names with many owners and uses. The following snippet is of great interest for those interested in ships. THE STORY OF THE LARGEST SHIP EVER BUILT – OR STRETCHED

Since writing this page in 2004/5 things have changed, slightly {?}.  It is now August 2011 and all I can say in defence of my statistics is that the largest seagoing vessel in the world is the SEAWISE, a super tanker measuring 1504' in length [same as Jahre Viking below] having a dwt of an unbelievable 564,763. Also for the record, with cruise ships impossible to keep pace with, the largest cruise ship in the world is the OASIS CLASS, measuring 1181' with a grt of 225,282.  In category one below, number 4, the QM2 has a grt of 150,000.


Fast-forward many years from when the table was written to August 2013, the data is very much out of date and requires  updating.  I will do that when HMS Queen Elizabeth is built and in the water as a commissioned warship as a credible measurement vis-a-vis other already built and in use items. In the meantime I can tell you that in August 2013 the current tallest building in the world was topped-out at a staggering 2723 feet.  It is called the SHANGHAI TOWER built in the financial hub of  China. When will it stop and are we all waiting for a dreadful calamity?

Category Names of 
ships or buildings
Height or length
ONE 1. Oil Tanker Jahre Viking 

2. Petronas Towers in Malaysia

3. Empire State Building New York

4. U.K., Ocean liner Queen Mary 2

5.  Aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan

6. Eiffel Tower in Paris

1504 feet

1453 feet

1250 feet

1132 feet

1098 feet

984 feet

TWO 7. U.K., Ocean liner Queen Elizabeth 2

8. Battleship USS Wisconsin

9. U.K. Ocean liner Titanic

10. Japanese battleship Yamato

11. U.K., battle cruiser HMS Hood

12. German battleship Bismark

 962 feet

  887 feet

  882 feet

  863 feet

  860 feet

  825 feet

THREE 13. U.K., battleship HMS Vanguard

14. French battleship Jean Bart

15. Canary Wharf Tower London Docklands

16. Italian battleship Vittori Veneto

17. U.K., battleship HMS Rodney

18. U.K., aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal [Note: Ark Royal has been chosen by me because of her famous name. However, whilst she is the longest ship in the Navy post major refit, she is not the biggest RN ship. That accolade goes to HMS Ocean [L12] weighing in at 21,5000 tons, approximately 1,500 tons heavier than Ark Royal. The smallest ship in the RN is HMS Gleaner [H86] at just 22 tons.] NB. Correct when written Dec 2003.

   820 feet

  805 feet

  800 feet

  778 feet

  710 feet

  680 feet

FOUR 19. Portsmouth UK Spinnaker Tower

20. Nelson's Column London Trafalgar Square

  541 feet

  185 feet

The following pictures are from the USS Alabama floating museum at Mobile Alabama.  They show the traditional USN arrangement for main armament namely two turrets forward each with three guns and one turret aft also with three guns.  Sited aft are also the ships two aircraft launchers.

Left, after turret. Three 16" guns.

A model of the ship sited in the Wardroom showing the twin turrets forward with 6 16" guns plus 5.5" secondary armament and bofor turrets.
Left, after turret.

  Right, forward turret's trained to starboard to approximately  Green  80








Looking aft from the bow. Note the many anti aircraft guns mounted on the fo'csle

UPDATE:  Yesterday, the 12th January 2004 we were once again afloat in Southampton Waters, there to say goodbye to the Queen Mary 2 setting off on her maiden voyage for the United States. It was a wonderful event with QM2 stopped mid stream having pushed herself away from her berth, the QE2 Ocean Terminal, without the aid of tugs. Quite close by, floating in the water between the liner's port side and the shore, was a barge tended by a tug forward and a tug aft. From this barge erupted a most magnificent fire works display which lasted for nearly ten minutes, at one time covering the QM2 in smoke.  Siren were sounding, including the deep haunting sounds of QM2's twin sirens, the shore were lined with people and the number of boats swarming around the liner numbered well past the one hundred mark. On completion of the fire works display, our boat was close in, ten metres, to the port quarter of the liner, and we were able to see clearly the first signs of her azimuth thruster turbulence as she got under way steering 135°.  We, like so many other boats followed her as she gained speed, her passenger lining the decks of the floodlit ship waving with great enthusiasm, but it wasn't many minutes from being stopped 'dead' in the water, that this massive ship was heading southeast at 15 knots, leaving all but the most powerful small boats behind in her wash. Once again, I day I shall never forget, not to mention witnessing history as it was being made. ANECDOTE  Whilst there I met up with some guys from Warwick who had come south just for this occasion. Once they got to know that I was ex-navy the questions came thick and fast, and some of them related to comparing the QM2 to ships of the RN/RFA navy.  Fortunately and because I take just about every naval/maritime magazine possible whether monthly bi-annual or annual, I was able to answer their questions with some authority [that is, assuming the magazines I read are correct].  One asked whether any of our ships had gas turbine configurations, bearing in mind that the vast majority of modern merchant ships use a diesel-electric propulsion system, and that was easy to answer: lots of it and for a long time gone...........and did we have ships without propellers and shafts? Yes we do. Our Echo Class warships, HMS Echo and HMS Enterprise use the same azimuth thrusters as does the QM2. "And what about size......I mean this baby is 150,000 gross tons? Well, says I, we in the navy do not talk about gross tonnage [meaning internal useable volume] but of displacement tonnage [meaning the weight of the vessel], and because the QM2's displacement is not known or needs to be known [merchant ships never use the expression] one cannot compare, save to say that our biggest ship would fit into her [volume wise] with lots of spaces left over for our smaller ships!!.....and in passing, our smallest ship is just a few tons heavier [displacement] than the QM2 largest davit-lowerable passenger ferry boat.  I was talking about the RFA Oakleaf  [A111] @ 49310 tons {note, although a merchant ship but on naval duties, we talk about its displacement [weight] and not about its gross tonnage [volume]} and our largest warship HMS Ocean - 21500 tons displacement,  would fit into her with lots of space to spare, and at the other end of the scale, HMS Gleaner, a lightweight of just 22 tons. I finished off by 'selling' them Portsmouth's Historic Dockyard and in particular the submarine museum at Gosport where  they would find HMS Alliance, an 'A' class submarine. However, they must hurry to view her as unique, because soon, at the back end of 2006, 'A' boats rejoin the navy the first being HMS Astute followed by HMS Ambush and others.

In the table above, I have talked of size when measured against tall buildings under which we can stand and be awed. I have also mentioned that the QM2 is nearly twice the size [note not weight - only warships talk about weight which is stated as displacement, whilst merchant ships talk about internal useable volume known as gross tonnage] of the former Queens, Mary and Elizabeth. I have sourced two further examples of comparison.  You don't have to know Singapore to understand the following pictures; all you need to do is to image what the scene would have looked like had the QM2 been in the positions occupied by the Queen Elizabeth and the Queen Mary in 1940, whilst being fitted out as Troop Ship, subsequently to run the gauntlet of the North Atlantic. The pictures come from this site to whom all credit is due.  I thank you for their existence. The Queen Elizabeth is on the left. The Queen Mary on the right dwarfs the surrounding dockyard.









This picture shows the RMS Queen Elizabeth on fire from stem to stern in Hong Kong harbour in 1972, and the picture below, her sinking after the fire.  A very sad end to a splendid and proud British ship.

Back to Top

A summary of the Worlds Tallest Buildings updated to December 2005  [Note NOT Towers - see below for definition] However, since I produced this data and these lists everything has got that much bigger.  It is now August 2011 and the mind boggles as to how the list below is totally circumvented by today's standards. Very briefly, in 2011, the worlds tallest structure [tower or building - now academic because floors are being put into towers] - is the Burj Khalifa Tower in Dubai at 828m. In 2012, they start to build a 1000m [yes, a 1km tall tower] called the Kingdom Tower [that is the Saudi Kingdom] in Jedda and believe it or not, actually on the drawing board is another tower in Dubai, but this time it will be 2400m [gulp....2.4km tall] with 400 stories.  WHAT NEXT ?

  Building, city Year


Rank m ft.
1. Taipei 101, Taipei, Taiwan 2004 101 508 1,667
2. Petronas Tower 1, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 1998 88 452 1,483
3. Petronas Tower 2, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 1998 88 452 1,483
4. Sears Tower, Chicago 1974 110 442 1,450
5. Jin Mao Building, Shanghai 1999 88 421 1,381
6. Two International Finance Center, Hong Kong UC03 88 412 1,352
7. Citic Plaza, Guangzhou, China 1996 80 391 1,283
8. Shun Hing Square, Shenzhen, China 1996 69 384 1,260
9. Empire State Building, New York 1931 102 381 1,250
10. Central Plaza, Hong Kong 1992 78 374 1,227
11. Bank of China Tower, Hong Kong 1989 70 369 1,209
12. Emirates Tower One, Dubai 1999 55 355 1,165
13. The Center, Hong Kong 1998 79 350 1,148
14. T & C Tower, Kaohsiung, Taiwan 1997 85 348 1,140
15. Aon Centre, Chicago 1973 80 346 1,136
16. John Han*censored* Center, Chicago 1969 100 344 1,127
17. Burj al Arab Hotel, Dubai 1999 60 321 1,053
18. Chrysler Building, New York 1930 77 319 1,046
19. Bank of America Plaza, Atlanta 1993 55 312 1,023
20. Library Tower, Los Angeles 1990 75 310 1,018
21. Telekom Malaysia Headquarters, Kuala Lumpur 1999 55 310 1,017
22. Emirates Tower Two, Dubai 2000 56 309 1,014
23. AT&T Corporate Center, Chicago 1989 60 307 1,007
24. JP Morgan Chase Tower, Houston 1982 75 305 1,002
25. Baiyoke Tower II, Bangkok 1997 85 304 997
26. Two Prudential Plaza, Chicago 1990 64 303 995
27. Kingdom Centre, Riyadh 2001 30 302 992
28. Pyongyang Hotel, Pyongyang, N. Korea 1995 105 300 984
29. First Canadian Place, Toronto 1975 72 298 978
30. Wells Fargo Plaza, Houston 1983 71 296 972
31. Landmark Tower, Yokohama, Japan 1993 70 296 971
32. Bank of America Center, Seattle 1984 76 295 967
33. 311 South Wacker Drive, Chicago 1990 65 293 961
34. SEG Plaza, Shenzhen 2000 72 292 957
35. American International Building, New York 1932 67 290 952
36. Cheung Kong Center, Hong Kong 1999 70 290 951
37. Key Tower, Cleveland 1991 57 289 947
38. Plaza 66, Shanghai 2001 62 288 945
39. One Liberty Place, Philadelphia 1987 61 288 945
40. Sunjoy Tomorrow Square, Shanghai 1999 59 285 934
41. The Trump Building, New York 1930 72 283 927
42. Bank of America Plaza, Dallas 1985 72 281 921
43. Overseas Union Bank Centre, Singapore 1986 66 280 919
44. United Overseas Bank Plaza,
1992 66 280 919
45. Republic Plaza, Singapore 1995 66 280 919
46. Citicorp Center, New York 1977 59 279 915
47. Hong Kong New World Building, Shanghai 2001 58 278 913
48. Scotia Plaza, Toronto 1989 68 275 902
49. Williams Tower, Houston 1983 64 275 901
50. Wuhan World Trade Tower, Wuhan 1998 60 273 896
51. Renaissance Tower, Dallas 1975 56 270 886
52. Dapeng International Plaza, Guangzhou UC03 56 269 883
53. Al Faisaliah Center, Riyadh 2000 30 267 876
54. 900 North Michigan Ave., Chicago 1989 66 265 871
55. Bank of America Center, Charlotte 1992 60 265 871
56. SunTrust Plaza, Atlanta 1992 60 265 871
57. Shenzhen Special Zone Daily Tower, Shenzhen 1998 42 264 866
58. Tower Palace Three, Tower G, Seoul UC04 73 264 865
59. BCE Place–Canada Trust Tower, Toronto 1990 51 263 863
60. Trump World Tower, New York 2001 72 262 861
61. Water Tower Place, Chicago 1976 74 262 859
62. Aon Center, Los Angeles 1974 62 262 858
63. Post & Telecommunication Hub, Guangzhou 2002 66 260 853
64. Transamerica Pyramid, San Francisco 1972 48 260 853
65. G.E. Building, New York 1933 70 259 850
66. Bank One Plaza, Chicago 1969 60 259 850
67. Commerzbank Tower, Frankfurt 1997 56 259 850
68. Two Liberty Place, Philadelphia 1990 58 258 848
69. Philippine Bank of Communications, Makati 2000 52 258 848
70. Park Tower, Chicago 2000 67 257 844
71. Messeturm, Frankfurt 1990 70 257 843
72. USX Tower, Pittsburgh 1970 64 256 841
73. Sorrento 1, Hong Kong UC03 75 256 840
74.. Mokdong Hyperion Tower A, Seoul UC03 69 256 840
75. Rinku Gate Tower, Osaka 1996 56 256 840
76. Capital Tower, Singapore 2000 52 254 833
77. Highcliffe, Hong Kong 2003 73 253 831
78. Osaka World Trade Center, Osaka 1995 55 252 827
79. Jiali Plaza, Wuhan 1997 61 251 824
80. Rialto Tower, Melbourne 1985 63 251 823
81. One Atlantic Center, Atlanta 1987 50 250 820
82. Wisma 46, Jakarta 1995 46 250 820
83. Korea Life Insurance Company, Seoul 1985 60 249 817
84. Bear Stearns Headquarters Building, New York 2001 45 248 815
85. CitySpire, New York 1989 75 248 814
86. One Chase Manhattan Plaza, New York 1961 60 248 813
87. Bank One Tower, Indianapolis 1989 48 247 811
88. Royal Charoen Krung Tower, Bangkok 2001 68 247 810
89. Conde Nast Building, New York 1999 48 247 809
90. MetLife, New York 1963 59 246 808
91. JR Central Towers, Nagoya 2000 51 245 804
92. Shin Kong Life Tower, Taipei, Taiwan 1993 51 244 801
93. Canary Wharf, Isle of Dogs, London, England 1993 80 244 800
94. Malayan Bank, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 1988 50 244 799
95. The Tower, Dubai 2002 54 243 797
96. Tokyo Metropolitan Government, Tokyo 1991 48 243 797
97. City Gate Tower, Ramat-Gan 2001 67 242 794
98. Dalian World Trade Center, Dalian 2000 55 242 794
99. Woolworth Building, New York 1913 57 241 792
100. Maxdo Centre, Shanghai 2002 55 241 792
101. Mellon Bank Center, Philadelphia 1991 54 241 792
102. Bank of China Mansion, Qindao 1999 54 241 791

NOTES: Height is measured from street level  of main entrance to structural top of building. Antennas and flag poles are not included. UC = under construction, number indicates year of expected completion.