Hong Kong Flotilla Association

My Service Life     My Service Life Also    Yangste Incident  The day my  life really began

 MY SERVICE LIFE

   By

   John Torr

Midshipman on HMS Berwick, HMS Ocean and BYMS 2955 (Corfu Channel Incident) 1946-1947.  When Conrad Jenkin (The Association President) relieved me as Sub of the Gunroom in HMS Belfast 1950.

I was drafted into the Hong Kong Flotilla. A short period as First Lieutenant MFV 1540 (IMS1540) Lieutenant Commander N.A.Burton was the driver.  Filled in time before taking delivery of SDML 1326 off a Ben Line freighter from Australia ( I just signed “for one H.M.Ship”.  Petty Officer Moore was the Coxswain to a scratch crew shanghaied from the rest of the fleet and together we held back the Screaming Yellow Hordes until I was relieved by RNVR Lieutenant T.Hull eighteen months later.

Apart from sundry shore jobs I only had 4 more H.M.Ships Scorpion, Starling, Constion and Urchin, while the powers that played the game of “pass the parcel” 2 years sea service with the R.N.Z Navy (including Korea and Hong Kong) eighteen months with Ghana Navy, 2 NATO appointments a broad and axe with Foreign Office as BNA Oslo always being “lent” to somebody else!

I finished up with half the number of ships as Conrad Jenkin – but I doubt he had more fun.

My Service Life Also

 By

RODNEY  BERGER  

I was a Midshipman in HMS Implacable from February `48 to April 49 M.L.1323 from November `54 to March`53  and HMS Adamant as Staff Navigation Officer to SM3 from November `59 to July `61.  I spent most of my career seagoing and served in almost every  class of vessel including one of the Fairmiles.

HMMASB 3001, which was a converted MTB, they took the tubes off and substituted depth charge throwers and a single “squid” fitted a ping set and we spent our time working out tactics against midget submarines.  We were based at Portland and played with XE8 and XE9, survivors from Tirpitz raid.  We were fitted with four Packard aero engines which ran on high octane petrol and could do forty knots flat out.  The MASB`s were replaced by the Aberford class seaward defence boats. I stood by Aberford building at Yarrows on the Clyde and commissioned her in September `54.

After I left the 3rd SMS in `64 I went to standby “Hampshire” the first ship of the guided missile ships, building at John Brown's and, as the future navigator and in company with a Clyde pilot took her to sea for builders trials.  We finally commissioned in April 63 and eventually went to the Far East as COMFEF`s Flagship.  In `64 I had my first sight of Hong Kong since `53.  There was a big difference! When I left the Hampshire in `65 I got my first shore job apart from courses, which was Base Ops to Com HK which I held down for two and half splendid years.  I married in `64 so we moved in to the base flat HMS Tamar – the fifth floor of the building on the bull's nose, alongside what in the Hong Kong Flotilla days had been the dockyard basin.  Fine view of the harbour.  So all in all I spent over four years in Hong Kong.  By then the Hong Kong Flotilla has been replaced by three coastal minesweepers and MS8 was Neil Macleay, who had been my best man.

Their lordships failed to recognise my talents, so I slapped in to leave at forty and for my sins was sent to serve out my time as Staff Officer to Tay Division RNR and Commanding Officer of HMS Montrose a “ton” class minesweeper. When I came out I got a job up here in Scotland and Have been here ever since.

YANGTSE  INCIDENT

 By John Inskip

 in

 H.M.S. Black Swan

 In April 1949,  I arrived in Hong Kong aboard a troopship, an ordinary seaman, who'd never fired a shot in anger, I joined the Amethyst for four days to Shanghai where I became a member of the Black Swan's Crew.

On 19th April, the Amethyst sailed into history to relieve the Consort, as guard ship at Nanking, attacked by the Chinese Communists and ran aground at Rose Island, she later refloated and proceeded to a safer anchorage at Ta Sha Island where she remained for 100days.  The Consort sailed from Nanking to her aid but sustained heavy damage and casualties and had to proceed downriver.  Black Swan was joined by the London and they attempted rescue, but also came under heavy fire and the London lost several crew members.  It was decided that to proceed would be disastrous and Amethyst was left to her fate.  We returned to Shanghai for the burial of the dead at Hongquia Cemetery and the service in the Cathedral.  All members of the four ships later received the General Service Medal with a Yangtse Bar.  The Black Swan was thought to be the last ship to leave Shanghai before the Communists took over, but I have heard that the Constance nipped back and took off some nurses.

 The Black Swan spent sometime, then , around Malaysia, for which service I discovered a few years ago, I was entitled to another bar. Malaya.

I left the Black Swan shortly after and transferred to the Hong Kong Flotilla, where, off duty I enjoyed the fleshpots of the town, until the St Brides Bay decided they needed my assistance to win the Korean War.  I collected two more medals for that.  Not that we indulged in much warlike activity, it was mostly spent well offshore watching the combatants knocking seven bells ........  When the Yanks pulled out of Inchon they left a lot of stores behind, Which we rescued, mostly unlabelled tins, but we had free canteen messing for quite a while after that although the menu was sometimes surprising and depended on the cook's competence at guesswork.

I returned to Guzz in 1951 and spent two years in the Barracks Guard, met my wife, a Leading Wren in the pay office.  We married in January 1953 and on our return, I found there had a clear out of the Guard and I was posted to the Veryan Bay which was off the West Indies - in Coronation Year - lots of celebrations, we also went to the U.S.A and travelled slowly down the coast of South America to the Falklands Isles where we stayed for a few months, the only good thing that came out of that was, when the Falklands War started, I was the only bloke in the pub who knew where they were

I left the Navy in 1954 and spent the rest of my working life with British Rail in various parts of the country.

In 1989 the Amethyst Association commemorated the 40th Anniversary of the Incident and invited the three other ships along.  Twenty or so ex Dirty Ducks turned up and we formed our own Association.  We've adopted a Black Swan at Marwell Zoo.

In 1994 a party from the four ships and their wives returned to the Yangtse.  In Shanghai, the Cemetery and Cathedral were gone, erased by the Cultural Revolution, on our way up river to Nanking we visited a Museum which purported to have the Amethyst's anchor, it was R.N. but how did they manage to find it in the silt of the river? The river banks which once were all fields, now house factories, power stations and over it all a terrible haze of pollution.  We laid two wreaths on the river, at the places we thought bodies had been committed by the Amethyst and Consort.  The toll was 45 dead and 68 injured.

Last year the 59th Anniversary, 600 shipmates and their guests commemorated their Incident at Plymouth with a Dinner and a Church Service in Barracks.  The Incident has also been recognised by tree planting at the China Fleet Club at Saltash and the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas, Staffordshire.

Whilst on the cruise in 1994, another ex  matelot and myself decided to have a matelot's run ashore..........but that's another tale.

Sec Note:  You certainly earned you General Service Medals

Thank you for letting us share in a part of history.   

The Royal Navy

The day my life really began !!

Having left school at the age of 14, I joined the Post Office as a messenger boy, but my life was always destined to be in the Royal Navy, for all the male members had at sometime been members of this  great 'Club'.

Having passed my entrance exam at 28 Charing Cross Road, I was sent home to await the official brown envelope, which arrived on the 6th October 1948, instructing to report for drafting to HMS St. Vincent the boys training establishment in Gosport Hampshire

I was to stay in St. Vincent for 15 months, because having learnt my trade as a seaman, I was selected to stay behind as an instructor boys to teach “Nozzers” joining theNavy.

On the 20th January 1950, I left St. Vincent to join HMS Implacable at Portsmouth (I have only just found out that our Chairman Gordon Cleaver was also a boy seaman onboard at the same time) the Implac: was to be my home for the next 9 months when she was paid off, and the whole crew marched around the Portsmouth Dockyard to join HMS Indomitable.  What a mess she looked, I'm sure that she had not moved since the end of the war!   It took a long time to get her into shape and looking like a aircraft carrier again.  Having completed our sea trials which  didn't go without incident.  On returning from speed trials we anchored at Spithead for the night only to find that we where unable to raise the anchors in the morning, we had to slip them both and be towed back to Portsmouth by tug.

Finally, we were ready to sail for Gibraltar to take over the flag of Admiral Phillip Vian (who was Commander in Chief Home Fleet) from HMS Vanguard.  Indomitables' Captain Power decided that he could berth between Vanguard and the Bulayawo, but the wind caught Indom: and we rammed the stern of Vanguard, when we pulled clear two ratings with a stage jumped over the stern and painted over the dent we had made, I cannot recall the signal sent but Indom: had quite a gash in her bows, we had to stay behind for repairs and missed the Home Fleet and Med: Fleet exercises for a few days until the repairs were made good.  

It was while I was on carriers that I got interested in Rifle Shooting, being selected to represent the Home Fleet in Stockholm.

August 31 1950 now an Able Seaman, I found myself drafted to R.N.Barracks Portsmouth (Victory) some of the jobs I had was “Leaf Sweeping Party” and “Spirit and Lamp Party” the latter being the best as you had to help get the rum up.  It was about now that I decided that I would like to become a 'Ping Bosun' so I was drafted to HMS Vernon on the 25th September.  Having failed the course, ( not having heard a thing), I was informed that I was “Tone Deaf” this having been caused by my love for the Rifle Range. (Ear defenders had not yet been introduced).

So another pierhead jump, this time to HMS Dolphin Ships Company, I served here from 5th October 1952 until 18th August 1953.  My job in Dolphin was Routine Office Writer (Held me in good stead for later life).

August 19th found me back in R.N.Barracks for foreign draft to HMS Tamar for Hong Kong Flotilla, having had my leave I joined HMT Windrush for passage to Hong Kong we sailed on the 17th September 1953, I was to serve on Landing Craft (LCAs) 1992, these craft were paid off after a short while and as my family were enroute to Hong Kong I found myself placed in the flotilla office as writer (thank you Dolphin) the Senior Officer John Basil Cardew took me from the office on to his boat ML 1328 as his gun sweeper.  My past history of the rifle range once again caught up with me and I spent a lot of time on Stonecutters Island and at Kai Tak, I again represented the Royal Navy and the Combined Services (they even dropped me off from patrol when I was needed)

My family and I finally left Hong Kong on the 3rd August 1956 on HMT Empire Fowey, back to the UK and RN Barracks for leave.  After leave on 23rd July I was again drafted to HMS Dolphin to join the staff of Captain S/M 5 barges crew (not another quite number).  While here I was selected to Captain the 5th Submarine Squadron Rifle Team being at that time the only rating to attend meeting at HMS Excellent, we did however win the Saturday Morning Cup at Tipnor.

On 8th February 1957, I joined HMS Adamant and served onboard until 6th November 1957, when I was drafted to R.N.Barracks Portsmouth for release.

But I was not yet finished with Navy for the next 10 years I served as a Lt. Cdr (RNR) Sea Cadet Corps, Commanding T.S.Barrosa at Mill Hill in North West London.

I never held a non substantive rate or took promotion mainly due to all the quite numbers.

John Metherell P/SSX 856937

With Fleet Dec-Dec57

Reserve      Dec 57-Dec62

MIRACULOUS ESCAPE

Sailor Falls About 120 Feet Down Cave and Lives!!

SILVER MINE BAY ACCIDENT

Throw yourself from a twelfth floor window of the city's newest skyscraper, and you would be unlikely to find that you were still breathing at the bottom. But a young, fair haired, blue -eyed sailor - Able Seaman "Dicky" Dickerson - fell from the same height - about 120 feet - down a cave in Silver Mine Bay, and is alive and almost kicking, in spite of the fact that he is swathed in bandages from the chest downwards with four broken ribs, a fractured knee-cap, a lacerated skull and a large display of cuts and abrasions for several weeks to come.

It happened like this, L.C.A (P) 1992, had been patrolling the Silver Mine Bay area for a day or so. It was three o'clock in the afternoon, and Lt. D.A.Leitch, the Skipper, decreed that the time had come for a recreational break, Leading Seaman Blanchard, Stoker Mechanic Hathaway and Seaman Peters, BaIlie and "Dicky" Dickerson set out to walk along the hills from the jetty at Silver Mine Bay . They had gone a couple of miles when two of the party called from some way in front Dicky couldn't see them, but he saw a little wall about two feet high around the entrance to the hole in the hillside. Thinking the voices came from the opening he ran up to the wall, took a flying leap over it, and in no time at all discovered himself to be a painful heap in utter darkness. Actually, it was twenty minutes after he fell that Dicky came round, for he says he remembers nothing after jumping, and BaIlie who was standing at the top says they waited for him to shout. Soon, however, there was no sound, so "Dicky" guesses he must have lapsed back into unconsciousness.

The cave was one of those excavated by miners searching for ore, and although there was an entrance from the seashore, rocks and earth have fallen down blocking access to most of the tunnel. Unfortunately "1992"'s radio set was "hors de combat," so Peters went into the village for help, while BaIlie and Blanchard stood guard and Hathaway and the Skipper steered for Cheung Chau. On the way, they saw and signalled a Port Health launch and gave the officer a note for the Police at Cheung Cha

Eventually, two policemen, a nurse, a sister, Dr Yau and about forty people from the village assembled on the hill with ropes and torches. Lau Tin-tak, a youth from the Dairy Farm in Silver Mine Bay , offered to go down by rope and bring the sailor up. This was just five hours after he had fallen. But once down there, he could do nothing, Dickerson's back was too badly cut. After two descents, Lau went down a third time with a stretcher. Blandchard and Ballie followed with more torches.

"He was half covered in rocks and earth," said BaIlie when describing his friend lying in the murky darkness of the cave. He and Blanchard helped to strap Dicky to a stretcher and then manning the rope hauled away at the top.

Meanwhile, Lau was climbing up by another rope, which had been made fast at the top, and with one hand was preventing the stretcher from bumping against the rocks on the way up. "He did a wonderful job but he was utterly flayed out," said Bailie. No sooner had the top been reached, than it was Lau' s turn to pass quietly out.

Dicky in hospital was surrounded by a group of his rescuers who were eyeing with suitable awe the quantity of bandage and plaster that was evidence. One thing about the coming weeks is that Mrs Dickerson will probably be hearing more often than usual from the twenty-year-old husband. Dick has been out in Hong Kong thirteen months, and was married in his hometown of Cannock , Staffordshire, on May 12, 1950.

Sec Note: My thanks to the South China Morning Post and to Dicky for passing it on for us all to read.

Immediate Thoughts of Hong Kong Flotilla Days by Patrick Bryans

I was a rather immature 23-year-old when I took command of 3513 in 1956. What a great place to grow up in!

I took over from David Hall who married Liz daughter of the top HK legal beagle, Bill

O'Brien was the SOHKF (he spent a lot of time in the RAF Club I seem to remember!) and Tony Finlayson was the Staff Officer. Kelly Low was there (sadly now dead - saw Sue the

other day in Bishops Waltham - she was Nanny to John Marden the Tai Pan), Francis Gibbs,

John Roberts, John Ovington, Mike Freeman, David Llewelyn and others that in my increasing dotage I cannot remember. Wyndham Rogers-Coltman and Tony Lynch I think ran the MMSs. Doug Barlow from the dockyard ran our refits, Milner was Captain of Tamar and Mike Pawsey ran the LEPs. David Gregory was the Commodore and Mike Barrow the Flag Lieutenant.

Three days at sea and four in harbour. What a life. Shooting duck in Mirs Bay with a bren gun (small portions!), exploring Tolo Harbour, dinner at Castle Peak with the Cadouris (spelling?), flotilla visits to Macao for the Grand Prix and that extraordinary gambling place, racing in Stars from Mount Kellet with the RHKYC, disastrous days in the Commodore's Box at Happy Valley, dipping the ensign to Mrs MacGregor on the way out through Lei Mun, bombardment in Port Shelter, moonlit flits round Hiram's Highway with the latest girl-friend, Queen's Birthday garden parties at Goy House - we were very fortunate to be there at the time we were.

Newfie was in refit for quite a time in that great big hole in the ground - Julian Oswald was onboard; met and married the beautiful Ronnie. I remember him scuttling up the road each Sunday to see the priest for his short conversion course!

Dr Peter Preston ran the Christmas pantomime (we all got 'flu), David Grace ran the HK Flotilla Kazoo Band, and we seemed to have endless parties in the mess. My most vivid memory \\'as waiting for everyone else to try their luck with this startlingly beautiful white Russian girl. When they had all failed I sidled in with my best lines. Her eyes glazed over and she slid silently down the wall in a crumpled heap at my feet. Hardly a conquest!

On much the same vein my Radio Operator plus a few of his mates got a visiting American sailor so drunk in the China Fleet Club that they managed to have a union flag tattooed on his back before he sobered up. NPM was not amused.

I could go on forever - happy memories.

More thoughts about Hong Kong by Patrick Bryans

Even getting there was different. Eagle Airlines charter flight from Blackbush airport in Surrey via Brindisi, Ankara, Basra, Karachi, Delhi, Calcutta, Bangkok and Singapore - that was an excitement in itself - and it took three days!

Our departure was delayed a couple of hours due to a mechanical problem which recurred on our way south so we never made Brindisi and had to divert to Nice by which time it was too late to get to

Ankara because we could not fly in the dark over the Turkish mountains; so we stopped for the night at Istanbul. Of course there was no hotel booked so we spent half the night looking for one - and there were about 60 of us including families and babes in arms! One RFA skipper decided he did not need

his bed and got so carried away in the fleshpots of Istanbul that we had the greatest difficulty, the next morning, getting him into the airport bus and even more difficulty in persuading the captain of the aircraft that he was fit to fly. He wasn't but we set off anyway!

We spent the next night in Karachi in something called Mrs Minnie-Walla's guesthouse - at least that's what it sounded like. This hostelry, we were told, had a great reputation for all sorts of exciting things that happened to passers-through. I lay in my bug-ridden bed (fitted with an excruciatingly uncomfortable straw palliasse) and waited for exciting things to happen. I had obviously drawn the short straw as there were no alarms or excursions!

Next day we were off to Delhi. Here we were severely disinfected by several young ladies operating garden sprays filled with what seemed to be a mixture of DDT and Detol. It was then discovered that two of our number had failed to bring their yellow fever certificates. This was a mortal sin according to an irate Indian Health Officer and engendered a near diplomatic disaster and a subsequent delay of several hours whilst the miscreants were suitably injected.

I should have mentioned earlier that my Captain in my last ship, St Kitts, one Commander John Murray was also travelling in this aircraft as "The Senior Officer" of the flight. You will not therefore be surprised to learn that his responsibilities were quickly delegated in my direction before we even took off from Blackbush. In consequence, by this time, I felt I had collected a considerable amount of flak and heartache. Very good for a young Lieutenant I can hear you say! But I could have done without the RFA Captain and the angry Health Officer!

We eventually got away from Delhi, on to Calcutta and so to Bangkok. It was, to our unacclimatised bodies, very hot and in those days there was no air-conditioning. A/C pods on the ground were plugged in just prior to embarkation. We got off the aircraft all right and into the transfer lounge but when we got back onboard, after fuelling, the engineer found he had another problem. By this time the a/c pod had been removed and our mobile steps had been allocated to another aircraft and there were no spares. We couldn't get off. We sat in this pressure cooker for what seemed like forever. For the breast-feeding mothers it must have felt like a lifetime.

And so to Singapore. A week in HMS Terror with nothing to do but laze about the pool was a pleasant prospect and so it turned out to be.

The next leg of the journey was in the Bibby Line's Oxfordshire, one of the last of the troopers and very comfortable. We had an uneventful passage up the South China Sea, past the Paracels and up towards Hong Kong. I met an interesting couple onboard - WarryWarrington-Strong and his wife. He was to be the new Assistant QHM in the HK Dockyard. He was a Bahaist; a follower of the teaching of Baha-Ullah. This was something quite new to me so we had a great old time arguing our way North over plenty of sundowners. It was a very civilised way to travel although I suppose those who were 011 the Empire Windrush might not agree.

And so to Hong Kong. HMS Tamar, the Hong Kong Flotilla and ML 3513 - my first command

A SALTY  YARN

By

John D Rowland

Whilst on a West Patrol somewhere off Tai-o we received a signal from the Shore Watching Station that there was a "Skunk" in our vicinity. The problem was that the Grid reference we where given put the "Skunk" somewhere in the middle of Lantau Island!! Nevertheless our Skipper, Paul Gifford M.L.1329, closed us up at Action Stations and within minutes, in the pitch dark, a Communist Gun Boat appeared within 15 yards of our Port beam. Fortunately both of our guns where trained out to the Port Side, and when lie switched his searchlights on to us, we must have given him the fright of his life because he sheared off into the night never to be seen again, not to say that we where not scared!! Remembering that in those days if fired on, we had to request the Commodore Hong Kong permission to fire back, although I imagine our Skipper would have taken the initiative for us!

The Royal Navy

The beginning of my life!

My name is John Fleming and I joined the Royal Navy as a Boy Seaman 2nd class in 1948, my first ship was H.M.S.St. Vincent the boys training establishment in Gosport, Hampshire. On competition of my training in 1949, I was drafted to H.M.S.Maidstone

The Maidstone was to be a short draft, for after 6 months I was posted to H.M.S.Battleaxe a weapon class destroyer, while serving in Battleaxe I was promoted to Ordinary Seaman and one of my duties was that of quartermaster, it was during this time that we searched for the lost submarine" Affray" in the English Channel.

In 1951, I joined the. Portsmouth Reserve Fleet, being bedded onboard HoM.S.Adamant and working on HoMoS. Cavalier and HoMoS.Caprice. This work came to an end when in March 1952, I was drafted to HoMoS. Tamar for the Hong Kong Flotilla, I served on M.Ls 1323 and 1328.

November 1954 found me returning to the U.K. to join Royal Naval Barracks Portsmouth (Victory) until September 1955, when I was again sent back to the Hong Kong Flotilla, this time serving on M.L.3513 (until she was taken over by a chinese crew) I then joined M.L.3514.

My Royal Navy service should have ended in February 1958, but I was released 6 months early so that could take over the job of Assistant Manager China Fleet Club, where I stayed for another 2 years.

When I left the Royal Navy, I joined the Hong Kong Government in which I served until 1998, one of my jobs for them was that of Hong Kong's Executioner!!!

John Henry Fleming P/SSX 858438 Served with the Fleet July48-Feb58   

M.F.V.  1069

HONG  KONG  -  1949

Commanding Officer: – Mr. E.L. Monaghan, Gunner, ex-H.M.S. Amethyst

June/July of 1949 saw the formation of the new Hong Kong Naval Force, a constituent arm of The Hong Kong Defence Force.

Already operating from H.M.S. TAMAR was the 200-ton MFV 1540 and she was now joined by three 114-ton MFV’s – 1044, 1069 and 1156.   Crews for these three initially consisted of Ratings currently living in The China Fleet Club.    Of these, several were ratings who had escaped and been brought to Hong Kong from the ships involved in the Yangtse Incident in April – Amethyst, Consort , etc.   The remainder were, like the writer, E.M.2 Vincent Hart, ratings who had arrived in June on the Troopship S.S. Lancashire, having left the U.K. in May on draft to the Far East as reliefs for men reaching the end of their Foreign commission.   The fortunate ones were those like E.M. Hart who, though having received Draft Orders, to join Amethyst, in the February, had been required to await transport on the next available Trooper, thus missing the action.   Chinese crewmembers were, in all cases, the E.R.A., Stoker, Chef, and Officers’ Steward.

The three smaller MFV’s began their career with a Shakedown Cruise to familiarise the crews with their new home and the duties they would be required to perform.   The total armament on each vessel consisted of a single Oerlikon mounting on the gun deck above the after cabin.    This was soon supplemented by the issue of .303 Rifles, Bren guns and Lanchesters.            

Early patrols were interesting if mainly uneventful, cruising around the various islands and visiting the fishing villages, stopping junks and sampans to carry out searches, sometimes accompanied by Hong Kong Police Officers.   In the very nondescript colours of black hull and light grey superstructure, and with the original mast for’ard, we could understand why at times our potential ‘targets’ were somewhat reluctant to stop and allow a search to be carried out.    This was even more so, as Boarding Parties, being called out at very short notice, sometimes consisted of a mish-mash of uniforms – overalls, shorts, etc.!!    It is no wonder that eventually, after reports had been made of ‘Pirates flying the White Ensign’ stopping vessels, we were supplied with posh white sweaters and instructed to wear correct full dress when boarding !!     Also in the pipeline was the ultimate conversion of the three MFV’s, with the removal of the mast and installation of a Bofors Mounting for’ard, plus the over-all paint job and in the case of “1069”, becoming “Y07”.   However, all that was later, after the heroic escape of Amethyst and her triumphant return to Hong Kong, where the remainder of her crew were able to return on board.

This meant that 1069 was to lose two very notable members of her original crew, namely Leading Seaman J. Mullins and Mr. Monaghan, Gunner of Amethyst.

Here the writer wishes to take the opportunity of adding to the list of 1069’s Commanding Officers, the name of her first Skipper during her career with the Flotilla, and some information about him.

Mr Monaghan was an Irishman with a very keen sense of humour – very pleasant and at times very funny.   Every morning he would come down into the Ratings messdeck with some comical, if sometimes crude, anecdote, usually dressed just in a pair of shorts and punctuating his words with a slap on his rump – “ As Confucius say – ‘Bird in hand, S**t on wrist’; ‘If job worth doing , F***  it’;  ‘Never put off till tomorrow what you can put off till day after’ ” - and so on.    To a man, the crew liked him and respected him, though I for one knew very little about his time in Amethyst.   As is to be expected, there were conflicting reports given by Amethyst’s ratings who had left the ship at different times and under different orders.    However, I have read  “Escape of the Amethyst” by C.E. Lucas Phillips, and I here quote from some of its pages…………..

“Mr. E. Monaghan, the Gunner, was a recent arrival on Amethyst, not very long promoted from the lower deck.   An Irishman, a likeable character and a thoroughly sound man at his job, which was the technical supervision of the ship’s armament and the training of the gun crews; or, in action, to be in charge of the Transmitting Station”

Amethyst came under heavy fire from Communist shore batteries on the morning of April 19th, during which several of the crew were killed and many others injured.  Mr Monaghan in the T.S. below the wheelhouse, realising control circuits had been put out of action, ordered all guns “Local control quarters firing”, left the T.S. and on finding the upper deck “an absolute inferno”, made his way to X Gun , the only armament still  operating.  Leading Seaman Mullins, as Captain of the gun, was firing , with Mr Monaghan correcting his fire for range, but after about thirty rounds, the starboard side of the gunshield received a direct hit killing two and injuring others of the crew.  Mullins and the left gun’s crew continued firing until Mr Monaghan ordered them to evacuate the gun in order to prevent further loss of life.

                   During the continuing action, when orders were given to abandon ship temporarily, Mr Monaghan was in charge of the whaler taking wounded ashore to Rose Island, together with unwounded, wearing lifejackets, swimming or paddling Carley rafts.    The Communists proceeded to rake the water with gunfire, killing and wounding several.     It was therefore decided to stop the evacuation of the ship to avoid further loss of life.    Some sixty ratings reached Rose Island.    It was here that Mr Monaghan made contact with Nationalist officers, who offered to ferry the wounded to the mainland, while he and a small party of ratings took the whaler back to the ship – fortunately taking with them Telegraphist French, who earned the Distinguished Service Medal for his part in the days that followed.

                  After ‘Consort’s’ and ‘London’s’ unsuccessful attempts at ‘rescuing’ Amethyst, Mr Monaghan took the whaler away again, returning with a party previously left on the bank.   After visits to the ship by Nationalist officers, offers were made of Medical assistance, and Mr Monaghan went ashore by sampan, travelling upstream about two miles and returning with a Chinese doctor and two orderlies and some medical supplies, all of which proved invaluable.

                  Mr Monaghan left the ship on one more occasion.   His task was meant to be a meeting with the Chinese Nationalists to make full arrangements to evacuate the remaining wounded and take them to safety.    However, this did not materialise as the sound of an approaching aircraft preceded the arrival of the RAF  Sunderland Flying Boat (after a previous failed attempt), piloted by Fl.Lt. Letford and conveying Fl. Lt. Fearnley, RAF doctor, and a Naval doctor     Monaghan had left the ship by sampan when the Sunderland alighted 50 yards away.    Monaghan diverted the sampan to the aircraft and boarded it to explain the situation.    Fl.Lt.Fearnley jumped into the sampan just as the Communist guns opened fire, which due to the proximity of the shellfire, forced Fl. Lt. Letford to take off.   Not only did this mean that the Naval doctor was unable to leave the aircraft. but unfortunately, Mr Monaghan was still on board and had no recourse but to remain, and to be returned eventually to Hong Kong.    Fl. Lt. Fearnley was able to join Amethyst, but she lost the valuable services of Gunner Monaghan.    However, it was due to this misfortune that MFV 1069 gained a skipper!!

Mr Monaghan did not serve aboard 1069 for very long as he was subsequently to rejoin his ship, Amethyst, when she finally returned to Hong Kong after her ordeal in the Yangtse incident.

However, there are a few occasions that will forever remain in my memory of this, my first ship’s Commanding Officer.

On occasion, we would take with us, on patrol, a member of the Hong Kong Police and this particular time we had an Inspector aboard.    It would seem that Hong Kong Islands had problems with dogs running wild, and being possible carriers of Rabies, so the Inspector and Mr Monaghan went ashore on a ‘dog shoot’.     They were disembarked in our dinghy and taken ashore to be left to their own devices, apparently joining up with some Army personnel for the day, and would require collecting from ashore later.    They would signal the ship when wishing to return.

Nothing was heard from them all day and into the evening.    Finally, at midnight, just as the First watchmen were being relieved by the middle watchmen on deck, shots were heard coming from ashore.     Bullets went whistling over the bridge, where a man was on watch, and shouts were heard.      Leading Seaman Mullins immediately had both watches armed and positioned on the port side, rifles and Lanchesters trained on the shore.    After a few moments, more shouting, and this time we could distinguish “1069” being called.     It was realised that the Skipper and his companion had returned and required picking up !!.     The Dinghy was manned by an AB and, with small arms still trained ashore, the dinghy made its way in the direction of the shouts.    On arrival the AB found the two ‘gentlemen’ p.ss.d as f..ts, the Skipper soaked to the skin, having fallen off the rocks into the water!!

They were safely returned to the ship, but on arrival, Mr. M. was given the biggest bollicking I have ever heard a Rating give an Officer.      L/Sea Mullins really laid into him and threatened to chuck him in his cabin, which is where he solemnly went and turned in.     I still don’t know if they managed to find any wild dogs to shoot, but they certainly found a bar somewhere.

Another time, we anchored in a bay near to which Mr M. knew of an Army camp he was to visit.     Unfortunately, he needed someone to find its correct location, so ‘Yours Truly’ was sent ashore in full Number 10’s to find my way through virgin country, uphill most of the way, to seek out this camp and return with the directions.     Not a very pleasant afternoon walk, but I did find a road, also flagged down a ‘bus and eventually found the ‘Lost Army’ !!    Turned out it was around a nearby headland and approachable from the next bay.     That was my run ashore.    I think Mr M. had a better one !!

One more memorable occasion was when we were anchored, I believe, in Clear Water Bay.     We suddenly heard the sound of an aircraft approaching and we were surprised to see an RAF Sunderland circling the ship.    The Flying Boat eventually alighted about fifty yards or so from the ship, an anchor was tossed out and the next thing, two men dived off and swam to the ship.    On arrival alongside, one of them called out “Got any tea?”.    They climbed aboard and wonder of wonders, the Pilot was no other than Fl. Lt. Letford who Mr. M. had met up with previously up the Yangtse.    They retired to the after cabin and had their ‘tea’, supplemented by something a little stronger.   After this very memorable and strange reunion, the aircraft did eventually manage to take off successfully !!

Though Mr. Monaghan was with 1069 for a very short period of time, he certainly made an impression, not only on myself, but on all those who served with him, I’m sure.      However, on the return of Amethyst to Hong Kong we said a fond Farewell to him and I’m sure he was welcomed back with his old shipmates, to assist in bringing Amethyst back to a condition suitable for her triumphant return to Guzz.

Mr. Monaghan was succeeded as 1069 Skipper by Lt. Eddis, of whom I may find one or two incidents recorded in the depths of my Service memory – so ‘Watch this Space’.

With apologies for any unintentional misrepresentations of excerpts from “Escape of the Amethyst”

Vincent Hart

Electrician’s Mate

MFV 1069,  1949/1950

With reference to the details given here, I formally request that the Committee of the Hong Kong Flotilla Association include the details of Mr. E.L. Monaghan, Gunner, in the List of Former Commanding Officers of MFV 1069 and to be shown on all records, both in print and on the Association’s Website.

                                    Vincent Hart

THE FESTIVAL OF REMEMBRANCE 1947

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THE ROYAL ALBERT HALL, November 8th 1947

In 1947, I was a Boy Seaman under training at HMS Ganges, Shotley, having joined the Royal Navy on February 11th of that year.

As part of our training we were ‘called upon’ to take part in displays for viewing by the general public either in ‘Ganges’ or at public functions outside of the camp.   One such display was at the Twentieth Annual Ipswich BRITISH LEGION FETE, held at Christchurch Park, Ipswich on July 2nd.    Naval displays were provided by Staff and Boys of ‘Ganges’  -  Ceremonial Marching by the Boys Bugle Band; a Gymnastic display by P.T Staff and Boys; Seamanship Rescue Competition; the ‘Ganges’ Band of The Royal Marines; and last but not least a performance of “The Sailor’s Hornpipe”.    Sad to say I was one of the Boys selected to take part in the Hornpipe.    Suffice it to say from that day on I never became interested in dancing and am still a duffer at it !!    However, it was a good day with a great deal of interest going on and apart from the training leading up to it, it was very enjoyable.    I still have my Souvenir Programme, No. 1032, price 6d.

A far more memorable display, which, when I was by then a Petty Officer Boy, I was proud to be a part of, was the P.T. display which was part of the programme of events at the British Legion FESTIVAL OF REMEMBRANCE, held in the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday, November 8th 1947.  Boys from HMS St. Vincent also provided a display – I believe it included a performance of ‘The Sailor’s Hornpipe’, much to their dismay I expect.    ‘Ganges’ PT Display was performed by approximately 60 boys.

Like all Festivals of Remembrance, this one was a very moving spectacle and the atmosphere in the Royal Albert Hall is overwhelming.   It is huge and holds literally thousands of people, so the applause is deafening, whereas the Two Minutes Silence is awe-inspiring.

The afternoon performance is like a dress rehearsal for the more important evening show when the Royal visitors are there.   It was for the earlier show that many of us Boys were given a single ticket to send home to our parents.   In my case, my Mother was able to attend, and that provides memories that will never be forgotten.      My parents lived in Chippenham in Wiltshire, a place to where we had been evacuated during 1940.    My free ticket arrived at our house early on that Saturday and on receiving it, my Mother ran to the local Oxo Factory where my father was working and basically said “I’m off to London” – and off she went to catch the next train.    All I knew was that when I was in the queue for dinner I had a message to say my mother was outside to see me and I handed my gym shoes to another boy, and dashed to meet up with her.  First thing she said was ‘What have they done to your hair?’  - obviously we’d all had a last-minute Shotley Haircut, which is about a nowadays Grade 2.     Problem with that ‘reunion’ was that by the time I got back up to the Dining Hall, the gate was closed and dinner was over.  So no scran for me prior to the afternoon show and though I at first thought I had no gym shoes to wear, fortunately they were retrieved from a table in the Dining Hall, so I was able to perform ‘fully booted and spurred’.   That 1500 show went off uneventfully and then at 1900 it was on duty for the main performance.  This was the show that had to be just right as it was in front of a formidable bunch of ‘Royals’:-

      King George V1 and Queen Elizabeth

      The then ‘Queen Mother’, Queen Mary, widow of George V

      Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret

      And Prince Philip, who was to marry Princess Elizabeth on November 20th.

The Festival was as usual broadcast to the Nation, but of course in those days it was by Radio and, passed on to me by my mother, I have a copy of the West of England Edition of The Radio Times (price Twopence) for the week of 2nd to 8th November.    A small item on the front page refers to the Festival and on the Saturday evening page, the ‘Home Service’ was to broadcast a description of the event by Richard Dimbleby, with the help of recordings made during the  evening performance.    To my knowledge and according to my memory, the performance went off without a hitch and was thoroughly enjoyed by the audience as well as those of us taking part.

The most memorable part of it all is when, during the Two Minutes Silence, the Poppy ‘petals’ come floating down from way up in the roof – a fantastic experience.    Afterwards, when the lights go out, everyone makes sure they have souvenir petals before leaving the arena.    For my own part I have in my possession the envelope addressed to my parents, with a King George V1 tuppeny-ha’penny stamp attached, containing a handful of Poppy petal souvenirs retrieved from the floor of the Royal Albert Hall, and which bears the time/date of posting  - “IPSWICH  5.15 PM  14 NOV 47”.

My copy of the Shotley Magazine for the term ending Christmas 1947 contains a number of references to the Festival, including the fact that the sounding of “Sunset” was played by the ‘Ganges’ Bugle Band.    The magazine also contains three photographs of the ‘Ganges’ performance and I have actual photos in my personal albums.

One more treasured memento of that Festival is my copy of the Programme, which includes the order of events and the Community Singing led by Stanley Holloway and Gladys Ripley, followed by the Service of Remembrance.   The hymns on that occasion were:- “Now thank we all our God”, “Abide with me” and “Onward Christian Soldiers”-

                  (And before you say it ‘Robbie’  -  “Not too fast in Front”   !!!)

Here follows The National Anthem – please all stand to attention and join in, remembering that in 1947 we sang “God Save The King”.

Memories are made of this.

Vincent Hart

D/MX 819966 Boy Seaman, 1947

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