Request for assistance – Richard Richardson

I need a bit of help.  Do we have any seaman out there somewhere?  As a communications rating I have helped hoist the
sea boat many times but I just can’t remember if the griping spar goes inboard or outboard of the boat.  I am making a model of
HMS Campanula  (the corvette which Nicholas Monsarrat served in during the second world war) and I need this information
for historical accuracy.  Any help would be appreciated.

HMS GANGES Victorian Division Masthead No 231

Victoria Australia

Chairman: David Lines.   Secretary: Harry Harrison 36 Barretts Road Langwarrin South Vic 3911

Telephone Harry 03-9728-3200  Email:rodneyharrison@bigpond.com



Chairman David Lines     Came to the lunch from hospital after an angiogram which indicated he will require a pacemaker be fitted at a later date. BZ David. Secretary:- Opened the meeting and welcomed John and Ann Horner for making the trip from Gisborn. A warm welcome was extended to Owen and Carmen Dingle and to John Hannant very good to see John after quite a while.A warm welcome to all.

Birthdays   November Winfrede Agnew, Winifred Harrison, Mike Bennett, John Hillman and Pat Vary Best wishes to all. Also our congratulations to Owen and Carmel, who celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary on the 18th. October Bravo Zulu Owen and Carmel.

Apologies Pat Vary, Jean Rees, Maureen Hannant, , Mary Stephens. Jane Clark sends her apologies but is in the process of finalising her late sisters affairs at Yackandandah, Jane hopes to be at the Kick Off meeting.

Sick List. Albie Cunliffe had another visit to Knox hospital with respiratory problems. Also Harry Thacker and Bill Agnew were hospitalised with respiratory problems.  David Lines has cardiac problems as detailed.

Interstate Ted Lavendar has a brain aneurism, also in SA Derek and Judy Ernst havebeen quite ill. Ric Broniman reported that Tich Oulds is suffering from a number of medical complaints including prostate cancer Tich is refusing treatment and is quite ill. Contact is by telephone or snail mail as Tich’s wife Maureen does not use the internet. The Victorian Division wishes all a positive outcome. The Division also extends our best wishes to Ian Critchley and family on Ian’s wife Gail Crossing the Bar.  Vale Gail.

Treasurers Report  Total in account b$3,387:73. The BBQ held at the Yarrawonga get together was paid for out of  Divisional funds

Correspondence  Bank Statement.WA Hoist, Shotley Buzz 55,Queensland News Letter

UK Association   The Association is moving along positively. Members will receive a membership card through Brenda Chitty the Australian Financial Administrator for the Association.

Treasurer Phil Bridge has had a hip replacement and is doing fine.

Secretary Cliff Snelling and his wife Christine are still progressing on their Grand Tour.

We the Victorian Division wish the Chairman Colin Gent the committee and all members a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

General Business   1) The kick off meeting will be held on Sunday 21st. December 2017 At the FNMC. Due to the high price and availability of seafood the seafood entrée will not be available this year. Discussion was held as to the catering arrangements. Information on another caterer was tabled. As we have the kick off meeting fully catered for so our members do not have to cater or wash up the meeting felt this caterer would mean dishing up and washing up it was decided to get a quote from Gourmet Catering for three course meal with no seafood entrée.The date decide on is Sunday 21st. January 2018. Those wishing to attend please contact Chairman David or Secretary HarryH  with numbers guests are welcome.

2) There was a good turn out for Remembrance day. The service included the dedication of plaques to Ron Benton an associate member of the Victorian Division and Alan Guthrie both members of the RNA. Some Ganges members wore mauve/purple? poppies which signifies remembrance for the animals that have been involved in wars and conflicts. The poppies were a gift from the Mulwala RSL .

Our thanks to the President and Committee of the FNMC for organising the occasion.

3) Get Together 2017   The members at the meeting who had attended Yarrawonga Mulwala 2017 get together were asked for any comment all agreed it was an enjoyable occasion and the Club and accommodation first class.

2018 get together  members were asked if they wished for a get together be organised for 2018. All agreed that a get together be held.

Location of the event. There was considerable discussion as to the location. Places put forward were NZ, WA, interstate. A number of members put forward that we hold it in Melbourne either mid week or a weekend. Then those who find it difficult  to travel in Victorian country or interstate can attend various events if not the whole get together. Secretary said we could incorporate a service at the club to Remember all who have crossed the Bar and include the book of Remembrance held at the Cerberus museum and lunch at the FNMC. Chairman and secretary to investigate accommodation in the City such as the Ibis, Jasper or other suitable accommodation. Members should have a think as to suitable venues and attractions that are available locally for the event. Ideas and an outline to be discussed at February meeting.



Chairman David Lines Thanked Ann and John Horner for donating the home made Christmas pudding, brandy sauce, shortbreads and mince pies. Thank you John and Ann.

A Big Thank you to Joan Kime, Flo Livingston and Harry Thacker for preparing and serving the delicious lunch. Harry Kime and Mark kinder for bar service. Janet and David Lines for supplying the turkey and ham, and all who donated ingredients for lunch.

Gordon Canty for selling the raffle tickets and conducting the raffle draw.

.Chairman Thanked everyone for attending and making it an enjoyable occasion, and declared Up Spirits for a Christmas Tot or drink

Secretary Closed the Meeting

There is no meeting in December so we hope to see you all and any guests at the Kick off Meeting at the FNMC  Seven Bells (11:30hrs.)on  Sunday 21st. January 2018

Regards – Harry Harrison

The Chairman’s Christmas message: – To all Victorian members, I thank you for your support throughout 2017 to both myself and Harry Harrison, as we have said before, it is you the members that make this Association, and it is you that have helped us make the decisions we have needed to make throughout the year, and this includes the get together held at Club Mulwala . Everybody had a say in this, and I think that those who attended not only from Victoria, but also Australia Wide and N.Z. made this a worthwhile A laugh and a bit of fun go a long way to enjoying yourselves. We look forward to 2018, and planning a getaway later in the year, to wherever YOU decide. It leaves me to say, I hope you All have a very Merry Christmas and a Healthy, Happy New Year. See you all on the 21st.. January 2018 for lunch at the FNMC. From David and Janet

As me move into the festive season and approach a brand New Year we remember those who CTB during the last year and all those suffering medical problems So when you raise a glass or two remember the good health to all and our absent friends. Harry Harrison Secretary





HMS GANGES Victorian Division – Special Masthead

Victoria Australia

Special Masthead


MASTHEAD Special Get Together Edition

As there was no meeting in October and no Masthead this Special Masthead is for a report on the get together. As Chairman David Lines has prepared an article for the Spring Gazette it will be brief so as not to encroach on the writings of Our Great Helmsman.

The get together was held at the Club Mulwala and accommodation at the Club Mulwala Resort. We were informed by the Mulwala RSL Chairman that although the Mulwala RSL owns the land the establishment is on and has an RSL branch the Club and Resort are owned by Clubs NSW. Which considering the tanks and artillery pieces and the Dakota at the club  entrance was a surprise.

Due to illness and various other reasons there were 21 people attended from Queensland, NZ and Victoria. Bette and Mike Barron from Auckland attended and the Victorian Division organised their transport to Mulwala. It was good to see Bette and Mike after a considerable time. During the deliberations for a location suitable for a get together is it’s accessibility to

Melbourne, two hours driving was a criteria. Ian and Joy Thomson (no P Jock) travel from Rockhampton a round trip of approximately 4, 900 kilometres. Charlie and Lorna Greensmith travelled from Brisbane with medical equipment required by Charlie equal to a medical ward. However all made the effort to get together a tribute to the Ganges spirit and Rudyard Kiplings poem “If” we all remember on the gymnasium bulkhead.

A number arrived on the Sunday and were welcomed with friendly efficiency. There was a get together and a run down by Ian and Joy Tompson who had arrived on the Saturday.

Breakfast was part of the tariff and was a very adequate menu. I understood that a continental breakfast “was a roll in bed with honey” the continental breakfast and cooked breakfast was extensive. Monday evening was a tot and get together in the BBQ area and discussion as to the program for the week. The Victorian Treasurer was on hand with his handbag collecting for the bus trip on the Wednesday.

Tuesday was a day for members to explore the area. Some were detailed off to purchase the food for the BBQ on the Wednesday night others went afield, to such places as the Olive Grove farmshop with provender associated with an Olive Grove available. Others went to Byramine Homestead and Brewery. The homestead afternoon tea is a delight with the largest and tastiest scones available. After the Tot time and drinks it was to the club for a drink and meal. The meals were varied and tasty. A point of interest was that a schooner was cheaper than a middie not many places where it is cheaper to consume large quantities of ale. Life is tough.

Wednesday was a bus trip to Rutherglen starting off with a stop for morning tea at the Corowa Chocolate and Whisky factory the “Head Distiller” was a 23 year old dreadlocked fellow but very knowledgeable as to his craft. One item of interest was that the spirit cannot be called whisky until it has aged at least 2 years in wooden barrels until then it is Bourbon. The first release of whisky is for November/December. This raised an interesting point as people had seen a TV show touting Corowa Whisky.

The Chocolate factory next door was very popular. At least they had samples.

Then it was on to Bullers and then Cambell’s wineries.With a generous samples of their wares. It was the town of Rutherglen next with a wander round the shops and lunch at a well known pie shop. On the way back to the accommodation a stop at a bush pub the Bundalong Tavern was made. With a bus load of thirsty people the bar maid made a frantic call for help to serve. A ute screeched up and the publican fronted up interrupted in his building work. It was then back to the accommodation after a good day things started to go a little awry. It was found that the BBQ’s had been booked by two golf teams knocking the planned BBQ and Trivia night into a cocked hat. The BBQ’s were then booked for lunch and tea on Thursday. After a Tot and discussion it was back the club for the evening meal some went for Chinese others the Diggers restaurant. The fine weather was broken by a deluge of some 46mm of rain overnight with more forecast for the evening. A decision was made for a BBQ lunch which was held and enjoyed. Linda Anderson and Janet lines were presented with birthday cards and some Corowa chocolates by Chairman David. A raffle was held and the first prize went to Bette Barron from NZ and second prize to Albie Cunliffe’s ex neighbour at South Oakleigh now living in Mulwala. All attendees were thanked by Chairman David for making the considerable effort to attend the get together. He assured everyone that consideration for next year would be on the agenda for the November meeting of the Victorian division.

Evening meal some attended the Chinese and seafood buffet and others the Diggers restaurant. Ken and Linda Anderson, Ian and Joy Tompson headed off early the rest said adieus at breakfast. Then it was hands to stations for leaving harbour.

There were a couple of things that did not go according to plan but were dealt with without any dramas. The reception and house staff were helpful and friendly, the housekeepers were efficient and helpful. In all a good place for a group of people to relax and enjoy themselves in a friendly environment. Our Thanks to all who attended and hope to see you all in the future.



Regards Harry Harrison

Vicdiv Secretary         .



HMS GANGES Queensland Division – Newsletter Sep-Oct 2017



Queensland Division

Newsletter No 60


September – October 2017


 Welcome aboard everyone,


Unfortunately I start this newsletter with sad news of the passing of ex Ganges man Gerry Hughes, I have been advised by his partner that Gerry passed away earlier this year. RIP Shipmate


Also apologies for the lateness of this newsletter, I have now moved to Burrum Heads and purchased a new computer as my old one was KIA on the way up here.



For those wishing to renew their membership the following details were provided by the Treasurer

Account is H.M.S.Ganges Association Queensland.

Westpac Capalaba  034080 380466.


Members $20.00.    Associate members $5.


Last newsletter Ship Quiz.


Only correct answer was Geoff Dann of Cairns Qld. As Geoff correctly emailed me it was HMS NELSON departing Portland.

Due to the lack of support I won’t be including this segment in future newsletters. Thanks to all those who participated. Instead I will highlight one of our amazing members.




This month: Richard Richardson


Richard was born in Hastings Sussex on the 21st July 1938, and lived throughout the war and right up to when I joined the navy in a little village called Ringmer, about 8 miles East of Brighton.

He joined HMS Ganges on the 13th October 1953 and served for 25 years, retiring on the 21st July 1978. I was a “from here to the right” communication rating in that at one stage in the annexe the whole recruitment was fallen in and informed that they required more volunteers for communications. Several people volunteered but not enough so they decided to detail some of us off.  An officer went along and said “3, 6, 9, 12 from here to the right communicators’. I wanted to be a gunner!!!

I am glad that it worked out like that though as it was probably the best thing that ever happened to me. As a visual signalman I was always on the bridge and always knew what was going on.  I felt sorry for the stokers stuck down below and always in the dark and I tried to keep them in the picture as far as legally possible.  Of course a lot of the stuff that I dealt with was secret and definitely not allowed to be released to anybody.

My sea going started with an 18 month commission in HMS Newfoundland and was probably the best commission that a young boy could possibly have. We left Portsmouth and did our work up in the Med. based on Malta. Then through the Suez canal and on to the Far East, visiting Singapore, Australia, Japan, Korea, Subic Bay, Hong Kong and several places that I can’t remember now. At one stage I was loaned to HMS Comus when some of her people were on advancement courses.  When it came time to come back home we were the first cruiser to recommission by air, 14 flights out and 14 flights back.  I was on flight 10 and we crashed at Karachi.  The pilot couldn’t get the wheels down and so we left a lot of the aircraft strewn along the runway. It was a Handley Page Hermes belonging to Britavia.


I also spent a couple of years at Whitehall wireless station and nearly a year with 43 CDO Royal Marines. Our watch had just gone on for the all night on at Whitehall Wireless and the chief of the watch came round just to make sure that everyone was there and suitably briefed during the takeover.

When he got to my desk he said


“There you are Dick, there is a draft chit for you”.


When I said “Where to Chief” he replied, “43 Commando Royal Marines”.  I just laughed and said, “O.K. where is it really to” As it turned out he was absolutely right and he wasn’t joking.  I complained bitterly and slapped in to see the boss but he pointed out that the Royal Marines are part of the Navy and if they are short of personnel they can draw on the Navy to make up numbers.  I had to go, needless to say kicking and screaming, but the funny thing is that after I had been there a few weeks I didn’t want to come back to gens again. I thoroughly enjoyed myself after I got over the initial shock. When they had enough people again I had to go back to the navy and I didn’t want to do that either.It’s a strange thing, human nature …


Other ships include Liverpool and Boxer (HMS Bellerophon reserve ships Portsmouth) which then moved on to HMS Vanguard, a wonderful ship, then HMS Agincourt for a commission in the Med.

Several times I went to HMS Mercury, the signal school at East Meon, for advancement courses and finished my time there as a Quartermaster. Shore bases included Commodore Naval Drafting at Lythe Hill House, Haslemere, Windmill Hill Signal Station, Gibraltar married accompanied, HMS Mauritius married accompanied, and Ricasoli Signal School, Malta for Killicks course.

I served in HMS Nurton as a killick and HMS Carron as a killick (yeoman) I did another commission in the F.E.S. in HMS Dido (the fourth of the Leander class) and served two years in HMS Apollo (the 25th of the Leander class) which we collected from the builders yard on the Clyde and took away on her first commission. I also served a short spell in HMS Dolphin MSO.


Richard’s hobbies include model making, here is a quick history and his current project..

My interest in model making started about ten years ago with aircraft, tanks and armour and ships.  Since then my trophy cabinet has steadily filled up and some of my models have already featured in the news letter. It keeps me out of the pub …….(and broke!!)

HMS Compass Rose

Just before the start of WWII the Admiralty in London realised that in the event of a war they were going to be desperately short of escort vessels.  They needed something that could be built quickly and cheaply and mainly in civilian dockyards.  They had six options and the one chosen was based loosely on a whale catcher called the Southern Pride that was already in existence at Smiths dockyard.  It was a strong, sturdy little ship designed for use in the Southern Atlantic and the Antarctic.  With a lot of modifications this would do admirably for coastal escort work.  As it turned out the flower class served in every theatre of operations, including on the notorious Russian convoys in some of the worst weather in the world.


They were operated by many nations including Britain, France, Canada, America, Australia, New Zealand, Greece, India, even Germany.

The British ones were all named after flowers and the first one was HMS Gladiolus launched on the 24th. January 1940.  269 were built during the war, 42 in Canada, 4 in France, although the French ones were captured and operated by the Germans after the fall of France.

The flower class were not only used for convoy escorts, at least 54 were fitted out as minesweepers and some even served as ocean going tugs to bring damaged merchant ships into port. 25 were lent to the U.S. Navy.


 As the design evolved many variations came into being and no two were exactly alike.  Some differed slightly, and some had major differences like longer forecastles, more sheer and flair to their hulls for better sea keeping, forced draft ventilation instead of mushroom vents and many other improvements such as putting the mast behind the bridge instead in front of it. Six different variations of bridges were fitted starting with the merchant ship type on the early ones.


 This model is of HMS Compass Rose from the book and film “The Cruel Sea” by Nicholas Montsarrat who served as an officer in corvettes (HMS Campanula) during WWII.




To contact Scotty

Graham Slaney

1 Harlequin Close, Burrum Heads Qld 4659

 Phone  0434896017.

e-mail scottyslaney@gmail.com

skype: G50raham@hotmail.com



P.S. If you no longer wish to receive newsletters from sunny Queensland, please advise and I will remove your details from the list. Until we meet again, fair winds to you all..



Ted Lavender

This is the second message this morning regarding an ill member, Ted rang me to say that he has been diagnosed with a large  aneurysmin his head, he is waiting to be told when to travel to Adelaide for the delicate surgery. I will keep members informed and of course all of our wishes are with Ted for a successful operation.
Yours aye

HMS GANGES Victorian Division Newsletter – (Masthead 229)

Victoria Australia

Chairman: David Lines.   Secretary: Harry Harrison 54, Tamworth Road, KilsythVic 3137

Telephone Harry 03-9728-3200 Mob. 0418809712 Email:rodneyharrison831@gmail.com



Chairman David Lines Opened the meeting, and welcomed all to the meeting.

Birthdays    Birthday Wishes to Jean Rees

Apologies  Owen and Carmel Dingle, John Hillman, Flo Livingston, Mary Stephens, Sally Briscoe, John and Maureen Hannant, Jean Rees, Charles Jenkinson, Harry Thacker.

Sick Parade John Hillman is undergoing medical procedures for skin problems. Albie Cunliffe is now staying at his son Brian’s recuperating after a stay in Knox hospital, to alleviate congestion of the lungs. Albie looked well at the meeting. We wish John and Albie good health and to all those with health problems. This is the worse year for colds and flu since 2009 and the swine flu that year.

Treasurers Report   Monies available $3,552:73

Correspondence Bank Statement. WA minutes. A thank you card from the Cunliffe family.

UK Association   All appears well.

 General Business 1) “2017 Get together at Club Mulwala” Chairman reported that there are 23 attending the get together. From Victoria, Queensland and New Zealand. Accommodation is booked and deposits paid to the club resort. Any member who has not paid their deposit please pay David. David has forwarded to all attending a room allocation list, menus for the Club dining rooms, a club membership form. For the price of $5 the membership benefits are discounts on accommodation, food and beverages in the club. If members fill in the form return to David he block send them on and members will pay five dollars and pick up card on arrival. There is a Chinese restaurant which provides a seafood and Chinese smorgasbord on a Thursday night David has canvassed attendees and the majority favour this for the Thursday night group meal. Secretary reported on the Wednesday bus trip this is under way a 25 seater coach is booked  and will consist of leaving Club Mulwala at 0900 with a visit to the Corowa Whisky and Chocolate Factory for coffee!! Then visits to Cambells and Bullers wineries Lunch at members choice and expense in Rutherglen (there are many and varied eateries and shops) along the main street. Returning via the Bundalong Tavern and be back at the club by 1600.  Wednesday night will be a BBQ and trivia with a small raffle. A full schedule will be forwarded before the next meeting. Members asked what the breakfast arrangements are. Chairman to check with management but it is understood breakfast is included in the tariff, but does not start until 0830 which many thought was on the late side. A number preferred the arrangement that bacon and egg sandwiches be provided as at other Vicdiv get togethers. If you have a preference please contact either Chairman David or the secretary.


AOB.  The secretary apologized to Barbara Canty for failing to acknowledge that Barbara not Flo contributed last month’s desserts Thank you Barbara

The Chairman then thanked Harry Kime and Flo for a tasty lunch and dessert. Joan Kime for organising and serving lunch and dessert. Harry Kime for attending the bar. There being no further business the meeting closed12:45hrs

Next Meeting     September 27th. 2017 at seven bells (11:30hrs.) at FNMC

Thought for the month: – when Fortune knocks open the door. 16th century.

Visit by Cliff & Christine Snelling – 25-27 Oct 2017

Morning all,
Have received an email from Cliff Snelling regarding his upcoming visit, is anyone able to host? I will be in Hervey Bay at this time so cannot.
Hi Scotty,
Christine and I are on a tour of Australia and NZ and will be Brisbane at the end of October.  I was wondering if there would be any chance of meeting up with some of the Ganges Queensland Division whilst we are there.  We have 25th, 26th and 27th as available days.
Cliff Snelling

HMS GANGES Victorian Division Newsletter – (Masthead 228)


Chairman: David Lines.   Secretary: Harry Harrison 54, Tamworth Road, KilsythVic 3137

Telephone Harry 03-9728-3200 Mob. 0418809712 Email:rodneyharrison831@gmail.com



Chairman David Lines Opened the meeting, and welcomed all to the meeting.

Birthdays    July Carmel Dingle with whom the Americans share a birthday Best Wishes Carmel

Apologies  Owen and Carmel Dingle, Rick Clark, Mary Stephens, Sally Briscoe, John and Maureen Hannant, Jean Rees, Charles Jenkinson.

Sick Parade Owen is still recovering from eye procedures. Judy Ernst in South Australia has been quite ill in hospital we wish both well and positive outcomes.

Treasurers Report   $3, 489:73

Correspondence Bank Statement. Shotley Buzz 53, Guzz armed forces parade Plymouth.

UK Association   Reading the latest minutes all appears to be going well. Secretary Cliff Snelling and his wife Christine are embarking on a grand world tour which includes Australia visiting most capital cities. They will be in Melbourne with a free day on the Sunday of the RNA Trafalgar lunch and have accepted our invitation to join is in celebrating Trafalgar day. With the train travel they have planned we may see a travel doco Great Railway Journey’s of Australia.

 General Business 1) The October get together. Chairman David asked that those attending pay the deposit of one days’ tariff $156 per room. David will email those concerned with bank details. 11 rooms have been booked with 21 attendees. The bus trip is on the Wednesday to Rutherglen calling at a couple of wineries lunch at Rutherglen at own expense.

2)  The ACT Division  The ACT division have decided to decommission with only Ivor Rothwell and Jeremy Harden it is no longer viable. Ivor asked if they can join the Victorian Division this is agreeable with Chairman David and secretary HarryH. The Chairman and committee in the UK have been contacted and the proposal meets their approval. To this end are there any objections from members. There being no objections secretary to email joining forms to Ivor and Jeremy. Ivor no longer wishes to have his name listed as a representative in the Gazette Dick Lord was contacted and future Gazettes will not list Ivor. Secretary of the Victorian division will circulate all UK items to Ivor and Jeremy along with the Victorian division.

AOB Harry Kime invited Members to the FNMC Annual dinner Saturday 28th. August 2017 19:00hrs Cost $30 including non spirit drinks. Dress No1’s jacket tie miniature medals. The speaker will be the former president of the Naval Association of Australia.. For bookings contact Harry Kime.

2) Mike Bennett explained the August 13th. lunch “It Ain’t Christmas what the Heck Lunch” at the princely sum of $10pp with Carvery  Yorkshire pudding roast potatoes and vegetables  Desserts of Rhubarb and Apple crumble and cheesecake. For bookings  contact Mike.

The Chairman then Thanked Joan and Flo for a tasty lunch and dessert. Harry Kime for attending the bar. There being no further business the meeting closed12:45hrs

Next Meeting     August 23rd. 2017 at seven bells (11:30hrs.) at FNMC

Thought for the month: No- one is ever too old to know better   Margaret Preston

Program for Vicdiv Get Together 16th. -20th October 2017

Sunday 15th. October 2017 Early Birds  GET Together

Monday 16th. October Arrival Meet and Greet RSL Club Mulwala.

Tuesday 17th. As you please Evening Meal RSL Club Mulwala

Wednesday 18th 0930 Bus Tour to Rutherglen:-  Morning tea at Corrowa Chocolate Factory visiting wineries TBA Lunch at own expense in rutherglen return with visit to bundalong tavern. Cost $25 not including lunch

Evening? BBQ and trivia.

Thursday 19th Stand Easy. formal evening meal at Club Mulwala

Friday 20th Departure.


Can you help?

Can you help identify this Wren being cared for aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia 25 years ago this August?



Bosses of Britannia – now a floating museum in Leith – would like to treat her to a family day out, champagne lunch and behind-the-scenes tour of the famous ship after learning of the nasty accident she suffered and how those aboard the yacht, from Her Majesty down to musicians and sickbay staff, cared for her.

Back in 1992, Britannia was on her annual summer cruise around the Western Isles accompanied by frigate HMS Brilliant when she picked up a call for help from the Type 22.

A female sailor slipped on deck and a hatch had fallen on her finger tips. Dealing with the extensive damage was beyond what Brilliant could offer.

The patient was transferred to Britannia as its sickbay team readied the operating theatre, where an anaesthetic block was applied to her upper arm, freezing her left arm and fingers.

After an hour and a half Surg Lt Commander Robin Mc Neil-Love RN and sickbay manager Eric Birbeck removed the damaged tissue and saved the terminal ends her fingers.

The hand was stitched and cleaned and placed into a ball to allow the fist to be bandaged. She was then changed and placed in the sickbay bunk where she was cared for during a three-day passage to Aberdeen, where she was landed for further treatment ashore.

This was the first time a female patient had been admitted to the sickbay – this was the early days of women going to sea with the Navy.

The Queen was informed and asked her lady in waiting to visit the patient, even presenting a small woven basket of toiletries and informing her that a bath was at her disposal in the Royal household apartments.

The royal intervention didn’t end there; the Queen directed the RM Band to entertain her one morning.

“Never was a wren treated so royally,” Eric – on the left of the first photograph – recalls.

Before sailing he and his shipmates had been sent the latest rules and regulations for wrens at sea and providing them with medical care – something they’d dismissed as there were none on board.

“The patient arrived in Number 8 working dress, trousers and shirt but such was the need to deal with her quickly that we left her clothes on,” Eric remembers.

“When we had completed surgery she had her Left arm in a ball bandage and her right hand at a drip with antibiotics connected to an I/V bottle.

“We had to transfer her to a bed and make her comfortable but she was still dressed. We looked at each other and before we could think she said: ‘Crying out loud. You guys are married. Have you never undressed a lady?’”

Being gents, they asked one of the Queen’s female household to act as chaperone…

Sadly Eric cannot remember the young sailor’s name – and there’s nothing in the documents in Leith, or in contemporary editions of Navy News, to give a clue to her identity.

Which is why the Britannia team are appealing to our readers and the wider RN community to help out.

If you are able to identify the wren – or indeed are the wren – in the pictures, and would like to be royally hosted on the former royal yacht, contact Jennifer Campbell on JenniferC@tryb.co.uk or call 0131 555 8800.


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