HMS Warrior, a Colossus class light fleet aircraft carrier, was completed in 1946 and served in the Royal Canadian navy for her first two years. In 1957 she was headquarters ship for Britain’s atom bomb tests on Christmas Island. In 1958 she was sold to Argentina and became their Independencia, and was withdrawn from service in 1971. (Wikipedia) Royal Navy/MOD
One day in August 1957 there appeared on our S.R.O. a notice asking for volunteers from the Army and RAF personnel to volunteer to join HMS Warrior for return passage home to Portsmouth via South America.
I returned to my tent that evening chewing over in my mind whether or not to volunteer for this trip home with the Royal Navy.
Reminding me at the back of my mind, that old military saying never volunteer for anything in the forces, but purely on a selfish motive I decided on this instance that were more gains then losses, to be had, with the advantages to be had in my favour, was that I would leave Christmas island two months earlier then my repatriation, and secondly I would have a trip around the South America, the Falkland Islands, Pitcairn, Gibraltar, and finally arriving in Portsmouth on 11th October 1957.
I quickly realised that this was once in a life- time chance of me being offered a trip like this. Though I was not fully aware of how I would cope serving in the senior service, I was more than a little apprehensive if 1 would fit into Navy life, and muster up to the grade that they would expect of me. Having no idea of what duties I would be expected to carry out on board her majesties ship.
However the next morning I reported to our orderly room and put in an application to apply for the farewell trip home on HMS Warrior. Returning to my supply duties and wishing that I would be lucky enough to be picked for this South America trip home.
The day I joined the Navy
It was either late August or early September in 1957 (the exact date escapes my memory) that my posting to the Royal Navy HMS Warrior, had arrived. I reported to the MT section and had transport to London Port area and about 100 of us boarded L.C.M., which took us out to the H.M.S. Warrior.
My first impression in seeing this great grey hulk sitting there in the blue sea was what a ugly monster, I suppose I was expecting some welcome signs like “Welcome the R.A.F”, but what really upset me that I realised that I had forgotten to bring with me my large jar of Brylcream, but I soon cheered myself up because I realised that any accommodation they found on aboard ship for me was a 100 times better than my old accommodation, the bell tent, that I had lived in for 10 months.
Once on board there was a welcoming committee to show us the ropes and to allocate us to our respective messes. Once again I was lucky because I was billeted in the Royal Marine Band mess, and was handed over to the leading Killick, of the mess, who explained the navy procedures and regulation that I was expected to obey & carry out. At certain times of the day a officer would turn up at our mess and carry out his rounds, it was now that I realised that Navy life was a lot different than R.A.F. life, a lot stricter and more discipline.
The first problem that I had to overcome, was getting to grips with putting up and sleeping in a hammock, this apparatus took us new boys, some time to master, but we did manage to give the matlows something to laugh about when some of the R.A.F lads found themselves on the floor. Once we had mastered the trick in putting the thing up properly and inserting the sticks either end, the problem was solved, and I found it one of the most comfortable forms of sleep that one could get.
After a few days at sea we soon pick up the gest of sea life, and what was expected of us. I just listened and did what I was told to do carrying out my duties to the best of my ability. I didn’t wish to get into any trouble and be put on a charge and be punished by loss of any day shore leave. What I could not forget is the reason why I volunteered for this Cruise in the first place, it was to see the world, I had to try and keep a clean sheet.
Life at sea for an RAF Novice
Being at sea on one of her Majesty Ships, for a raw recruit, it is nearly an impossibility to keep out of trouble. I can clearly remember on one occasion when the ship was berthed at Montevideo, I crossed swords with the Master of Arms, a person not to upset on any account. I was detailed to report for duty as an extra navy police patrol. I was put on security duties, on the evening shift, so many bells, which I have forgotten.
Well late into the night I was put on the returning gangplank duties and instructed, by one of the navy policeman to watch and check the returning crew, to make sure that they did not bring any drink on board, and that they were sober enough to climb the ladder un-aided, return to their mess deck in a fit state, not cause any trouble, and pick up their correct boarding cards. That night two Stoker Ratings cause a disturbance at the top of the gangplank, I left the frame with all the identification cards and proceeded to the gangplank where the two matlows were brawling, while I was trying to sort out the trouble with these two sailors, another sailor crept up behind me and grabbed a hand full of identification cards and scarpered with them.
We were then in a bit of a panic, as I did not know who was ashore and who was on ship with out a full roll call. So on the appearance on the scene of the Master Of Arms, who took charge of the situation, for some unknown reason the finger of suspicion was pointed towards me.
I remember that not long after the security incident I was relieved of my police duties. Some time later the Master of Arms sent for me. He said that he had found the culprits who had snatched the cards and that he wanted me to go down an identification parade and pick out the stokers that he had lined up.
I walked up and the line, but I couldn’t be 100% certain that they were the culprits as the lights on gangway were very dull, I mentioned this to the Master of Arms, and he said I was to have another go and if I didn’t pick them out, I’d be up in front the Captain next day. So that is how I found myself in the Captain’s cabin on these jumped-up charges being read out against corporal Brown R.A.F.
After reading out a number of charges against me, the one I remember was for dereliction of duty! The Captain asked me what I had to say in my defence. I told him that in my opinion could I be expected to carry out the duties, when I was given no written instruction on that night duty that I’d normally be given in the R.A.F. I had been given no instructions or procedures of Navy life at Sea, not even fire drill or life stations. No instructions on the four cards watch system that was used on her Majesty Ships.I was given no details on navy rank and their uniforms, in fact when it came to the Navy I was a complete Novice, and no way with the lack of training could I have expected to carry out the duties that I had been given. The Captain agreed with the evidence that I had submitted and dismissed all charges against me.
The Master of Arms was not happy about the result, after being marched out of the Captain’s office he said, Brown I will be keeping a beadyeye on you for the rest of the trip, and if you step out of line, I will come down on you hard. The four Stokers were admonished from any charges as far as I can remember.
Another incident that comes to mind, is of Airman Sam Musgrove, who when the ship was docked at Montevideo, jumped from the bow of the carrier and swam to some steps leading to the dockside into the arms of an Argentinian girlfriend, that he knew from the last stop at Buenos Aires. Their brief encounter was short-lived, because soon on the loving scene were two Navy Police personnel, who kindly escorted him back aboard the ship, where he was confined for the rest of the cruise.
On many occasions us R.A.F. lads gave the sailors a reason to have a laugh at our behaviour and our lack of seamanship, I recall one such occasion when we docked at Port Stanley in the Falkland Island, we had asked a Lieutenant Commander to be issued with protected clothing for the cold weather and also some leather gloves to protect our lilly white hands when handling the hawser when mooring, needless to say, he gave us a short and sharp reply.
Sometimes we did find it difficult to understand some of the Navy’s terminology. But when I look back over forty-nine years ago now, on my journey home from Christmas Island with the Navy on board H.M.S. Warrior, It brings back very happy memories of life on board one of her Majesty Ships.
I like to think that in a small way that we did contribute to help make the journey successful, as our government did manage to sell the Warrior to the Argentinian Government. So all my painting to cover up the rust seems to have done the trick, and fooled the Argentina Navy that they were getting a bargain, for this nicely turned out ship.
Some of my most proud memories were when we lined the decks on entering foreign ports; it always brought a lump to my throat. And I felt proud to be British. I also got the same feeling when joining the ships company in the marching through various cities during our South America tour, We march through their cities with the marine band playing, to their Cenotaph to lay a wreath on the unnamed fallen comrades, and then on to the Saluting Dais with all the local dignities.
I was very lucky because last March I revisited Rio-De-Janeiro. Stayed a couple of days in Rio, then caught a cruise liner back to blighty, we covered some of the same sea ways that we had crossed some 49 years before, needless to say a lot of old memories came flooding back of my first cruise on H.M.S. Warrior, However there was one big difference between the two sea journeys the first one they paid me for my sea adventure, and the second sea trip I had to pay them. However I must thank the Navy for giving me my sea legs, and for giving me my first taste and the love of the sea, which to this day I have not lost, and was responsible for so many other sea adventitious that I have had in my life time since.
Terry Seymour Brown
EX RAF Sergeant Brown