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HMS Leopard 1st Commission

The Story Of The First Commission


1634 The first was built. A third-rate ship of 387 tons and manned by 180 officers and men, In 1655 she was taken by the Dutch.
1659. Built at Deptford, a firth-rate, 52 gun ship of 676 tons with 280 officers and men. Purposely sunk at sheerness 1699 to secure the graving-place.
1702. The 3rd in line. A forth-rate, 50 gun ship of 683 tons. Built at Rotherhithe. In 1702 rebuilt at Woolwich and her tonnage increased to 762 tons. She was broken up at Plymouth in 1724.
1741. Another forth-rate 50 gun ship of 872 tons. Manned by 300 officers and men. Built at Blackwall. Had an uneventful life and broken up at Plymouth in 1761.
1776. Forth-rate 50 gun ship of 1056 tons, she was laid down at Portsmouth in 1776. In 1785 the frame was transported to Sheerness: this must have been an immense undertaking, done solely with men and animals, and should be reckoned a remarkable achievement. She was launched at Sheerness in 1790. Manned by 343 officers and men. She was lost in the St Lawrence River in 1814.
1850. Built at Dartford, she was one of the first paddle-wheel frigates, of 1412 tons, 560h.p, and mounting 18 guns. After an active service, she was eventually sold in 1867.
1897. Built at Barrow in 1897, she was a torpedo-boat destroyer of 385 tons and 6,300 h.p. Armed with one 12-pounder and thee 6-pounders After First World War action, she was sold in 1919.
1950. September 15th. The Eighth Leopard is laid down. She was originally ordered in 1944.
1955 .Launched on 23rd May, by Her Highness Princess Marie-Louise the grand daughter of- Queen Victoria.

* Click pic thumbnails to enlarge

Leos Launch

Historical fact:

HMS LEOPARD was the first ship to be built in Portsmouth Dockyard since WWII with the all welded fabrication method.

Part One

The Work-Up.

HMS LEOPARD was Commissioned on 30 September 1958.

Monday 6th October 1958. Leopard put to sea for the first time. The first days sea trials went well, with kind weather and not to bad a sea. This was short lived as the second day, and many days thereafter, were a severe test for those tender bellies unused to small ships or delicate from to many years shore based. Sea legs were soon found, which was just as well, for much rougher weather would soon be met when we headed to the South Atlantic.

October. The most part of which was spent at sea around the Isle of Wight, anchoring each night at Spithead to disembark dockyard and contract personnel who had joined us each morning for the acceptance trials.

November. We are back alongside in No 2 basin in the dockyard. During this time a ships company dance was held in the NAAFI Club. Was this a ploy by the Captain to butter us up for harder times ahead? Landing parties were trained during this damp cold month, together with survival courses and any other course that could be thought up.

December continued with more ratings from various departments going to the survival school at Lee on Solent. Here we were, a bunch of hairy arsed sailors learning how to survive a bitterly cold month with the help of a parachute, a knife and compass. Talk about the cold war. The New Forest proved to be a very hard training ground. All survived to tell the tale. Surely we won’t have to do this for real!

10th December. Enough fun and games, it was time was sea. We slipped a cold Pompey dockyard for further trials, returning on the 17th, the ships company to start a well earned Christmas leave. There were a series of visits to the ship by various dignitaries, and on Friday 19th we enjoyed the company of the First Sea Lord, Admiral of the Fleet, Earl Mountbatten of Burma.  No doubt his visit proved successful and he was able to reassure his colleagues, for we saw nothing of them after that.
That same afternoon the Captain in the presence of his officers, signed for the ship, having been received from the dockyard sound in wind and limb. The eighth Leopard had now officially joined the Royal Navy.

January and February, see no let up in the training. Almost every day parties were landed to play soldiers at Tipner, gunners to Fraser Gunnery Range at Eastney or the poor odd sole who could not swim to learn at Flathouse. No one was to escape this continuous hard, forced training. Even the cooks were sent across to Tipner to set up a field kitchen so as to serve up a decent bit of grub for the Landing Party training lads, a change from the eternal oggie. Lectures on first aid and damage control abounded. Radar plotters went to Harrier for a bit of directional training whilst the Anti submarine warfare lads did their bit on Grafton, down at Portland; and the boarding party were sent away in a whaler to return, and seize their own ship. Then, before we knew where we were an early Easter leave had started.

March. The leave period finished on 18th March and on 24th and 25th our final and wholly successful sea trials took place. After a swift “forty eight” to each watch, on a sunny Easter Monday we slipped our berth on HMS GAMBIA, headed up harbour, turned, and sped down-harbour and out to sea watched by a throng of Navy Days visitors. We were on our way to the long awaited and half dreaded work-up at Portland. That same evening saw us anchored in Weymouth Bay.


HMS Gambia

Next morning we entered Portland. The afternoon consisted of Divisions and a walk round of the ship by Flag Officer Sea Training (FOST) Rear Admiral Crawford. Flag Officer Sea Training FOST

Next morning, the courtesies all over the gloves off, we sailed for hectic days of “action stations”, gunnery drills, boarding parties, which set the pattern for the weeks to follow. The date, 1st April, April fools day!

April. Guns fired at aircraft towed drogues, Targets towed by tugs and many other objects that were put in our sights. Squid fired, grenades dropped to suggest a direct hit on a submarine. Ops plotters plotted, Directors and radar turned, turrets elevated and spun; and of course our landing party landed.

The signal was received that a party of guerrilla saboteurs, Wonga Wonga tribesman had been operating in the LULWORTH COVE area and Naval Intelligence reported that they were using an old ruined barn to the northeast of the cove as their head quarters. In a shallow valley and well covered by trees and bushes, it afforded a reasonable good defensive position due to the nature of the two ridges, one to the south and the other to the north of the barn.


Lulworth Cove

Lulworth Cove, who’s beaches and beer supply being thoughtfully reconnoitered by the Gunnery Officer and the Gunner, the previous weekend.

The Battle of Lulworth Cove took place at 1645hrs on 14th April, the seabourne assault being made by one company of ratings from LEOPARD and BATTLEAXE. The company would be made up of one Platoon and Company HQ from LEOPARD and two Platoons from Battleaxe. Lt Lennox, Gunnery Officer of Leopard was to be the Company Commander.

The plan was to land the major part of the assault force in Lulworth Cove at 1645hrs in ships boats, under gunfire from LEOPARD; then to capture the high ground to the east and southeast of the beachhead, clear the wooded and scrub covered cliff, dig in and wait the remainder of the force, also brought in by ships boats. The capture of the rebel headquarters was to be achieved by the simultaneous flanking maneuvers; by 3 Platoon moving along the seaward (southerly) ridge and by 1 Platoon along by the higher ridge to the north of the barn. Prominent points above the rebel stronghold were to be over-run and a covering fire laid down from here while 2 Platoon made a platoon attack straight up the valley, taking the barn by “coup de main”.

That was the plan, then; and Platoon Commanders, Platoon Petty Officers and Section Leaders were called to a briefing on LEOPARDS bridge at 1430 hrs, 13th April, in Portland Harbour. The operation was discussed in detail, suggestion and comments, called for, times and final plans laid down. LEOPARD and BATTLEAXE sailed from Portland at 0800hrs on Tuesday arriving off Lulworth Cove at 1600. Both ships hove to about 4000 yards offshore, boats were lowered and manned and the assault was on!

Unfortunately the boats got separated on the way inshore (due to different speeds of boats) and Lt Lennox had difficulty in getting his command together before the entrance to the cove was reached. No sooner was all in order, when the boats came under heavy fire from light machine –guns on the cliff above the eastern entrance to the cove (these were REAL bullets too).

The company GI was among the first to realize that the dreaded enemy were using live ammo and he reports he was sore dismayed, he spent the rest of the journey among the bottom boards of the boat. Most of the other occupants of the boat were all for going back and asking the navigating officer to check his “****in” charts again!

In the end both LEOPARDs and BATTLEAXEs boats reached shore at about the same time. The beach was under fire from mortars and light machine-gun by this time, but Sub Lt Frere ( later to become Admiral), the beachmaster, armed with flags and flares, established himself in the midst of this inferno and started to flag the other boats in.

Just before the first boat hit the beach, fate stepped in and and struck two severe blows! The first was the premature dropping of the motor boats kedge anchor. This meant that the kedge-rope would have to be tailed and during this operation the boats coxswain, Leading Seaman Scott, sustained a serious injury to one of his fingers. This resulted in him being taken ashore for first aid, but not before he had successfully beached his boat and therefore allowing his “troops” to get ashore. We are now left with a perfectly good boat without a coxswain. The poor old motor boat stoker tried to assist but was unable to stop the boat being thrown up onto the beach.

Meanwhile the motor whaler coming in astern from the motor boat, had run over the motor boats kedge-rope, got it caught firmly around its screw, and was firmly anchored 100yds offshore. By this time the motor boat has been re-floated and under command of the Company GI and the luckless occupants of the whaler transferred to the motor boat and taken ashore.

During this phase of the operation it was interesting to observe PO “Castro” Blackwell, 3 Section leader (stands 6 foot plus) up to his chest in water, and others, not realizing who he was ( he being garbed in battle order) and seeing him only this far immersed in the icy waters of the cove, stepping blithely out of the boat into what they fondly believed to be shallow water, only to disappear beneath the waves, fully booted and spurred!

However all made it ashore. The beach was captured and the Company was advancing, by two routes, through the thick brush, up the steep of the cove cliffs . They pressed on and the top was reached with Company HQ being established alongside an old chapel, at the corner of the wood, which was just below a rise at the end of the valley containing the ruined barn. From here patrols were sent out to reconnoiter the wood and establish contact with the mortar detachment and 3 Platoon, who had followed the more southerly route to establish themselves on the high ground above the eastern entrance to the cove.

Enemy patrols and snipers were active and our own section activity was very brisk, kept on our toes by the wily foe.
At this time the Bren Gun group of 1 Section reported to 1 Platoon Commander (Lt Smith) that they had marked the position of a group of the enemy and that with some help they could capture it. They were reinforced by the rest of their section and ordered to make the capture. This they endeavoured to do, and Able Seaman “Reg” Groom frightened the daylights out of Petty Officer “Joe” Mercer, Able Seaman “Jackie” Hobbs and Ordinary Seaman Lewis by leaping out of the woods with his Bren at the ready and giving vent to a yell that made one of them “spill his baccy”. 1 Section had successfully captured our own mortar detachment!

Patrol activity on both sides was pretty fierce but all objectives were taken by the time that the rest of the force joined up, somewhat depleted owing to LEOPARD being a boat short and therefore unable to bring off all of 1 Platoon. However in spite of this Lt Lennox pressed on.

The flanking moves got off to a good start, as little black dots on the seaward horizon testified. The men had failed to get far enough down the cliff to prevent themselves being silhouetted.

About this time a large blue hump was observed travelling at high speed up the left flank. Investigation proved this to be “Castro” Blackwell, the redoubtable character of 3 Section, who was informed that ” bent double” for everyone else would mean “hands and knees” for him. Casualties began to mount, Leading Seaman Withers (1 Section Leader) among the first to fall.

Advancing through thick shrub to the north of the barn AB Williams, Bren number 1 of 2 Section, was confronted by a rebel who he ordered to surrender, the reb’s reply was a bona fide .303 round, “…. About ‘alf inch from my starboard ear’ole,” said Williams. Thus ended the life of yet another stalwart mariner.

Covering fire was laid down from the ridges above the barn and 2 Platoon made it’s attack having advanced, under heavy fire, to a position at the top of the rise at the head of the valley. As soon as 2 Platoon had reached a position where they were in danger of coming under fire from their own troops on the ridges, these worthies rose up and yelling like maniacs, descended on the barn from both sides. Thus the barn was hit from three directions at once. Some fierce hand to hand (and boot to head) fighting ensued before the position was over-run.

During the struggle at the barn, one of the rebels, was apprehended by some men from 1 Section, and Ordinary Seaman Ellis was ordered to “hold him!”. Ellis’s reaction to this order was to drop his musket and launch himself from the small mound on which he had been standing and land in a bunch of arms and boots on the back of the luckless guerrilla. This caused the poor fellow to collapse completely and from then on he was the most docile of prisoners.

Eventually all the band was either killed or captured, their leader under close arrest, and the exercise declared over. Platoons were gathered together and a post mortem was held. All had gone fairly well but, as was only to be expected from a Company suddenly thrown together from two ships and hurled into an entirely new field of conflict, mistakes and errors of judgment had occurred. One of the major difficulties was in getting a large body of men ashore from a ship – or more than one ship – using only the small, slow ships boats.

The post mortem over a small demolition exhibition was put on by the TAS world all the hands embarked in the ships boats (LEOPARDS whaler being serviceable again by this time) and returned to their ships wet and thoroughly weary.

Three weeks after the start of the work-up, a Friday night found us rounding Lands End making for Milford Haven. At 0200hrs on Saturday we were suddenly confronted, after all our exercises and make believe, with a real emergency. A small Dutch motor vessel, the MARJAN, had had her engine-room flooded and was in danger of drifting onto the Cornish coast. The motor ship MALTASIAN had taken her in tow, but when this parted at 0205 hrs LEOPARD tackled the task.

It was not an easy one, with a twenty- knot wind and a short, steep sea which caused the hapless MARJAN, her bows well out of the water, to roll heavily.

A line was successfully shot but the messenger parted at 0320hrs. A second attempt resulted in a 4 1/2 inch manilla being passed and on this the MARJAN was eventually taken in tow. As the grey light of dawn grew the salvage tug “ENGLISHMAN” appeared and, when she had passed on her own tow, we slipped at let her finish the task we had started. Salvage/Prize money was paid out to us some years later, I think I was paid less than a pound., the captain getting the lions share, I doubt if he got very much though.

We duly arrived at Milford Haven at noon. After a couple of days here we returned to Portsmouth for a busy time ammunitioning ship and storing before our return to Portland for the final leg of our work-up.

The mixture of the workup continued as before, till after an early dinner on the 4th May 1959 we sailed, closed up at action stations, for our passing out exam, otherwise known as Exercise “Squarebash”. Intelligent anticipation ensured that a sneak attack from the air as we left the jetty was dealt with as it deserved; and then thereafter we suffered three days and three nights of every conceivable sort of warfare as we battled our way to Milford Haven and back again. It wasn’t fun- how could it be. But it bore a close resemblance to the real thing and we like to think our determination not to be caught napping throughout those sleepless 80 hours also bore a resemblance to the wartime spirit. At any rate the Flag Officer Sea Training, who spent the last weary day with us aboard LEOPARD, had some flattering things to say about our alertness and efficiency after all we’d been through.

But for all that, sleep was the first thought when we secured alongside during the dogs on Thursday 7th May. Today was also my anniversary, It was only two years ago that I was walking through the gates of HMS St VINCENT to start my Naval career, a fresh faced 15 year old. Today I feel old and haggard thanks to the dreaded “Portland Work-Up”.

The next evening we arrived back at Portsmouth and, while one watch went on leave, the other watch buckled down in an almost un-English heat to store ship and take on ammunition in preparation for a 365 day away from home and for most of the time the sole British Warship of the South Atlantic Squadron.
Part 2

We head for the South Atlantic.

May 28th was a perfect day, it was quite warm, the sun was shining on a sparkling new ship about to depart on her first trip to foreign waters.
At 1430hrs precisely we slipped our berth at Portsmouth Dockyard and sailed down harbour. Past Kings Stairs, South Railway Jetty, the Harbour Station then HMS VERNON with it’s flotilla of minesweepers and Fort Blockhouse (HMS DOLPHIN) with it’s fair share of Submarines, past Sally Port, the War Memorial and Southsea Front, and so down to Spithead, encountering our old friend the MARJAN off the Isle of Wight, we are to be away for 365 days. We wondered what will we discover during this year away!

Ye Olde RockJune 2nd and the Rock of Gibraltar was seen. This was a first for us younger ones but a familiar friend for the “old sea dogs” aboard.
Gib was to be but a short call, two days only. Just enough time to introduce ourselves to all the bars and meet old “oppo’s”(friends) from other visiting ships. As usual as soon as the gangway was down, the first visitor is always the “naval jailers”( Naval Tailors)”Bernards, Flemmings and Blairs”, with their bulging suitcases of goods costing an arm and a leg.

But the usual purchases were made, payment being made by the monthly allotment that had previously been set up. Now days we call it a Standing Order. The more you allotted the more merchandise you could purchase. £5 month allowed a spend of £60, a considerable sum then. But with the 12 month away, by the time you arrived home the debt was clear, and the availability of another sixty quids worth of the “jailers” wear.

I recall a good trick that many a sailor exercised if he was a little short of the “readies” (money). He would purchase, usually a pair of officers black-leather shoes, from the asaid “jailer”, with the usual credit, then take the shoes to “Ma’s”- a little old lady who bought and sold second hand goods- in Queen Street, Portsmouth, who would buy them for half their value. She was happy, the naval tailor was happy and “jack” was happy now that he had some “run ashore ” monies
5 Mess Lads

5 Mess lads on departing Gibraltar

So, after the brief stopover, we resumed our passage south.

4th June we watched as the “Rock” faded away at the stern and our bows headed into the Atlantic
Ten days at sea lay ahead of us. This was filled in with the occasional exercise- just to keep us on our toes-the normal chores about the ship, paint this, scrub that.

On one occasssion whilst scraping the old varnish off the beading that surrounded the upperdeck, Petty Officer “Joe” Mercer loaned Junior Seaman “Ken” Maltby his Seamans knife. I must point out here that PO Mercer had survived a couple of sinkings during the Second World War and on each occasion had lost all his personal effects, except his precious pussers knife, this was always held securely around his waist by a landyard. Yes, you got it! Within a couple of minutes of Matlby borrowing the knife he dropped it over the side. Have you ever seen an old sailor cry?

Another party piece of this young sailor was to put a full paint-pot of ships-grey paint on top of a locker and then opening the locker.The locker opened upwards, of course! From that day to this, his nickname was Jonah!

The days are now becoming hotter and when a rain storm does appear the upperdeck is just one shower room for most of the ships company. No air conditioning on ships in 1959!


June 15th, a Monday we arrived at our first foreign port, ABIDJAN, the then, Capital of the French Ivory Coast. In 1959 this was a new city, only 10 or 12 years old, not many of us had even heard of the place. The local dignitaries made us welcome, ok for the wardroom and it’s cocktail parties, but for a run ashore it was very expensive.

Three days later, with a parting gift of a Pineapple apiece from the acting Prime Minister, Mr M. Mockey, we sailed for the short passage to Lagos.
June 20th, Saturday we arrive at LAGOS (Nigeria). After the modern Abidjan this specimen of a British colonial capital seemed a shade shabby. Nothing like todays more modern city.

Lagos Hotel

During our stay here a childrens party was put on for the locals and the normal cocktail party by the Officers was held. This party had the presence of the Oba (or King) of Lagos and his four attendant chieftains. The Oba held court in a corner of the flag deck and assured us he would mention his visit to LEOPARD in the letter he was about to write to Her Majesty the Queen.

June 23rd, Tuesday, and once again we are at sea, for an overnight passage to Port Harcourt, 40 miles up the Bonny River in Eastern Nigeria. This was to be our first attempt at river navigation. Almost the entire British community, at this small but rapidly growing town, is employed by Shell-BP or Taylor Woodrow. Both groups entertained the ships company magnificently. Dances were put on and free booze flowed endlessly! Trips were organised to view the oil wells being drilled and a hunting party for big game.

The latter yielded no results. Jack the big game hunter, I think not! The Governor of Eastern Nigeria, Sir Robert de Stapleton, came to Calabar especially for our visit and took the Captain on a tour of part of the immense province under his rule.

Not much of a run ashore here as leave expired at 6 pm, a curfew being enforced on the ships company. If you had a “Grippo” (local host) then maybe you could get to stay with them until midnight.

July 1st . We bid farewell to all our new found friends at Calabar and head back to Lagos for a ten day period of self maintenance.

July 2nd Leopard berthed alongside, at our old berth, at the Marina Dolphins in a cloudburst at noon. We have the misfortune to be in West Africa during the rainy season. This did not help when trying to apply coats of fresh paint, for as soon as we had done so the heavens would open up. The good runs ashore made up for all this misery. Also some good swimming was had at Tarkwa Beach, just across the Lagoon.

The ships Rugby team ventured as far as Abadan a 84 mile drive, for a game, only to get thrashed, all returned with hangovers! Another group from the ship had an invite to spend a shooting weekend at an Army camp some 60 miles distant at the small garrison town of Abeokuta.

On one of the shoots 14 birds were bagged. It is believed that when these unlucky fowl saw a group of hairy arsed sailors in the middle of the jungle, it was time to put up wings and surrender, or they died of a heart attack!

So our weeks in Africa came to an end, and on Monday, 13 July, we left the lowering skies of Lagos for the clearer air of the South Atlantic.


Crossing the line

July 15th, during the dog watches we crossed the Equator. Crossing- the- Line ceremony took place, the chief Electrician made a jovial if arbitrary monarch. With all proceedings hatched and despatched and the Equator behind us, we were henceforth going down hill; but the Engineer Officer insisted it made no difference to fuel consumption.

cross the line

Indeed it increased, for a few days after we left Lagos the Commander-in-Chief ordered us to accelerate, turning our 15 day passage to Rio-de-Janeiro into a 10 day one.

July 23rd we made our rendezvous with aircraft carrier HMS ALBION south of Rio and after a busy time doing plane guard as she flew aircraft off and on, we entered Rio together at 1400hrs the next day.


HMS Albion

July 23rd Leopard gets an excellent berth in Rio, berthing at Praca Maua, right beside the Avenida Rio Branco, with ready access to everything a sailor wants. One thing he seemed to want was butterfly trays, which poured on board in profusion. This was a strictly informal visit and we had to find our own entertainment, no problems reported on this score!

July 27th The Leo sailed with ALBION and after rendezvousing with LYNX and CHICHESTER, rehearsed for the following day’s “Shopwindow” demonstration to officers of the Brazilian and Argentinian Services. Both days blessed us with perfect weather and besides LEOPARD’s own part in the demonstration, we enjoyed watching the flying from ALBION. When the demonstrations were over we re-entered Rio on Tuesday afternoon and the official part of the visit began.

This time there was no lack of entertainment provided and every day, besides a comprehensive programme of sport, there were sightseeing trips to the Sugar Loaf or Corcovado or even far afield as Petropolis, the old imperial city up in the mountains. But what really stands out in most people’s memory is the evening run ashore- after all, one doesn’t go to Rio just to play cricket!

3rd August and we say au revoir to all and that and, with half the Commander-in- Chief’s Royal Marine Band embarked, sail with the rest of the squadron, which broke up next day, ALBION and CHICHESTER heading for Recife on their homeward way, while LYNX and LEOPARD made for Ascension Island, who’s summit we had sighted afar off on our way across from Lagos.

But before we got to Ascension we had to face the ordeal of a walk-round by the C-in-C, who had now shifted his flag from ALBION to LYNX. We pressed on quietly in LYNX’s wake and on the Sunday morning anchored with her off Ascension.

9th August. The first thing we noticed was the persistent roll which kept us wallowing uncomfortably throughout our visit., and the second was the extraordinary bareness of the island. But once ashore and if you made your way to the summit of Green Mountain, Ascension took on a very different aspect. To ramble among the lush greenery of the mountain-top was almost like being in the heart of Devon. Lower down too, Ascension had it’s compensations. The 80- odd inhabitants, all employees of Cable and Wireless, were outstandingly friendly, and the Americans at the USAF Base (yer, we know, they get everywhere) were very generous hosts.

The run ashore here was minimum, just a stretch of the ol’ sea legs was ample.
At the time of our visit the island was used by the USAF as part of their tracking system for their space programme, well so they say. During our visit LYNX and LEOPARD put to sea to track an unidentified underwater object in the area. Contact was made by both ships but soon lost due to it’s speed. The mystery contact was either a Russian sub or a whale with two or more great Evenrude outboards up it’s fantail! No further contact was made.

15th August, two days sailing from Ascension we arrived at St Helena, this presented a very different picture. Though rich and fertile, it’s cocoa-coloured cliffs lowering through the murk were forbidding in the extreme and we learnt that the mist and cloud in which the island was wrapped throughout our stay were nothing unusual; a marked contrast to the sunny skies and cooling breezes of Ascension.

Napoleans House St HelenaOnce ashore you were presented with the quaint, old fashioned little settlement of Jamestown full of atmosphere and, of course reminiscences of Napoleon, not to mention two pubs. A dance was given each night we were there for the ships company, and we gave another enjoyable childrens party.

The photo is Napoleans house.

A concert party was given ashore, performed by the combined ships company’s of LEOPARD and LYNX and of course the Royal Marine Band. Broadway had come to St Helena!

Sunday 17th August we sailed, in company with Lynx, straight into a south easterly gale which endured for four days before slowly subsiding on the fifth.

It was an uncomfortable time and the ship was strangely quiet except for the constant calls for the doctor to identity a suspected albatross.

Early on Friday 21st August we at last rounded the Cape of Good Hope and eagerly scanned the mountainous slopes of the Cape Peninsular as we sailed in sparkling winter weather over the placid waters of False Bay to enter the harbour at Simonstown at 0900, this was to be our operating base, under the flag of CinC SASA, Vice Admiral Sir R. Dymock Watson.
We are now officially,” On Station.”

Part 3


21st August
. The unseasonably warm winter made our first days in South Africa a joy and it was not before long to make friends ashore and find a roof- if only that of Daryls nightclub in Capetown or The Lord Nelson pub here at Simonstown- to shelter us from the less pleasant weather which later set in when the winter reverted to normal.

The first fortnight at the Cape was spent on a much need self maintenance, all this done and bits and pieces put back together, hopefully, in the right order, it was time for a bit of sea time.

SAS Vrystaat 1959SAS  Vrystaat Type 15 A/S Frigate

4th September, once again in company with LYNX we sailed for exercise Capex 1960. We made our rendezvous with the South African Frigates VRYSTAAT and GOOD HOPE and sailed northward to meet HM Submarine ACHERON, which was on her way out from the UK to give us all some Anti Submarine practice.Sgoodhope                         Photo to right SAS Good Hope

It was on the Saturday morning, that a memorable dialogue, took place, between the Officer of the Watch and the Starboard lookout, it went something like this:
Look-out: Ship bearing green three-oh, sir
O.O.W: Very good. Which way is she going?
Look-out: (after agonising pause, to solve this complicated problem):Forward, sir.

Now more than forty years later I will now divulge that this was the reply of the one and only “Jonah” Maltby, whom I might add, has been an oppo of mine for nearly fifty years. (sadly my ‘ol pal Ken, died a couple of years ago)

The first week of Capex consisted of mainly A/S manouvering exercises and after eight days of this we re-entered Simonstown on Saturday 12 th. And spent the following week in harbour.

21st Setember, we are off again for more exercises. After only a few days our part of the exercise was tragically cut short by the sudden illness of the late OA Kelly, who was rushed to the City Fever Hospital in Capetown with Poliomyelitis.

OA Kelly

Bernard, aged only 23, was flown home to the UK by the specially dispatched, Royal Air Force Comet, Pegasus,of 218 Squadron. Sadly, Bernard died just a few days prior to the ships return to the UK. This was a blow to all of us, as we felt sure he was going to pull through. A sad epilogue to what had been a wonderful trip.

Rest & relaxRest & Relaxation at Cape Point, during ships quarantine

In order to prevent undue strain weakening the physical resistance of the ships company to this dreadful disease it was decided that we should be withdrawn from Capex for the time being. Instead we began an open –air campaign to keep health at it’s peak. Bathing parties to Fishoek and Seaforth beaches, sailing and fishing was the order of the day. All played their part in the prevention of further cases of Polio from breaking out.

During this period LEOPARD was tucked away in the corner of Simonstown dockyard, flying the Quarantine Flag. All the same after ten days of this enforced “rest”, some of the weaker spirits reckoned it high time we went back to sea- to recuperate! I am wondering when was the last time a British warship flew the quarantine flag!

8th October we sailed to join the rest of the fleet, which now included the Portuguese frigates NUNO TRISTAO and DIEGO GOMEZ, for the final serials of Capex. It was during this part of the exercise that we encountered, what was to prove, the most violent weather of the commission.Sub Acheron With intense wind and waves we just battled it out. Although fitted with stabilizers these were unable to help control the ships movement completely. On this day I wished I was a submariner, no doubt the boys on ACHERON were having a little snigger.
Pic shows Submarine Acheron.

Next break from the exercise resulted in a visit to East London. I think this was wholly the Captains choice as a port of call as his parents were there. His parents were on the jetty to welcome him “home”.

I must point out at this point that the Captain, unless it was absolutely necessary, would refuse the assistance of tugs, when berthing. This was mainly because he did not want these dirty, filthy, push and shovvers to mess up our usually gleaming paint-work, also he was a bloody good at this type of seamanship. Always smooth dockings and departures. Except, here at East London, where the mostly wooden (thankfully) jetty, received Leopard alongside with a little more than the usual “kiss”. No damage to either, only I think to the Captains pride. Mum and Dad probably saying, “Bob can’t be driving today!”

On our first afternoon there, the bright blue skies vanished behind great blackening skies. Seconds later the hail came. We had never seen hailstones like it, the size of golf balls, and as they hit the corrugated roofs of some of the houses, it sounded like the chatter of a machine gun. A most impressive storm, luckily short lived.
RFA Wave Knight

RFA Wave Knight with Leopard at the pumps

12th October, a bright Monday morning, we slipped East London for continuance of exercise and passage to Durban. This was to be three and a half day’s of continual convoy screening exercises. For the first serial our task was that of a raiding cruiser and we were detached to make a night attack on the rest of the force, which now included the Royal Fleet Auxillary WAVE KNIGHT, (who by the end of the commission, was to be an old friend). Given the armament we should have had for this role, we feel we would have inflicted severe damage on the Blue forces, but who knows?

A series of submarine attacks with screening and replenishment exercises followed and we were subjected to conditions very similar to those experienced by convoy escorts in war. We took part in a classic hunter/killer group attack on ACHERON, with NUNO TRISAO as our consort, which resulted in an almost certain “kill”, while the South Africans made similar claims.

On completion of the exercise, the senior ship, VRYSTAAT, ordered a free- for –all for Durban harbour. We connected all engines and with “arse end down” headed for Durban. We were no match for the old Type 15 VRYSTAAT, but not far behind as we approached Durban Bluff. Inside after much ado, we were finally given a berth far down the harbour at Maydon Wharf.

Zulu's15th October. Durban. What a good run ashore this was to be. The Zulu rickshaw, with the driver/puller dressed in all his refinery only to be seen sitting in the back whilst jack tar doing the leg work! Twelve days were spent here and there is little to be said about Durban. The reason is simple; so well did it live up to it’s reputation for entertaining the Navy, and so thoroughly did innumerable families “adopt” officers and ratings, that every man has his own memories of this wonderful place. The only memory that all have in common is the colossal dance given in the City Hall for all the visiting ships. One of my good memories was the free invite by Tessie O’shea, (the singer and comedian) to her show in the Ivy Room at the Edenroc Hotel, she even rang the ship to get me an extension of leave (I was on Cinderella leave at the time). Another memory shared by a favoured few is that of an expedition to the Hluhluwe Game Reserve, flying to the reserve from the Durban Aero Cub.

20th October. My Birthday!

21st October, (Trafalgar Day) LXNX sailed for home. She had done her stint as the Guardship of the South Atlantic, now we had relieved her, and it was our turn. No sooner had she sailed we appropriated her berth on T Jetty, with ACHERON alongside, and settled down for the remaining week.
The only flaw in Durban had been the damp moist unpleasant weather, but toward the end it did buck up a little. Even so Durban would be high on our list for any future visit.
28th October. Flying the flag of the CinC SA we departed wonderful Durban, forsaking South Africa for the time being in favour of the lonely isles of the romantic-sounding Sea of Zanj.


The Sea of Zanj/Indian Ocean.

Our passage up the Mozambique Channel was a fitting prelude to what was to be the first sustained spell of calm weather we had known since leaving England, some 153 days ago. But before we embarked for good on the peaceful, sunny waters of the Seychelles, we had to endure a final act of malice by the “Cruel Sea”.

2nd November we were wallowing hideously in the swell off Diego Suarez (situated at the very north tip of Madagascar), while torrential rain did nothing to damp the oceans exuberance. With expert manouvering we made it alongside.

The downpour continued all the time we were alongside, and in view of a cyclone warning we cut short our proposed one day visit and sailed after only two hours. Soon after the swell began to subside; and next day we began our halcyon month among the islands by stopping at midday off Farquhar Island, so that we could have a good look at our first coral island.

5th November, Victoria, Mahe. At 0800hrs in a faint morning mist we moored ship a couple of hundred yards off, one of worlds most beautiful islands. Even before the “hook” had touched the bottom and we received our first welcoming signal:

 “Have no fear,
Sharkies here,
Lots of beer”

Our visit here and to the neighbouring islands was to last for four weeks.
Eat your heart out Kuoni, Thompson  Holidays and others, this was for free, with full board and getting paid for it!

Throughout this time we had the CinC embarked and between our two visits to Mahe  we also flew the flag of His Excellency the Governor of the Seychelles Sir John Thorp, who with  Lady Thorp joined us for this part of the cruise. This was rather annoying at times due to the fact that, if Lady Thorp was up on the bridge sunbathing, this meant us poor jacks working on the upperdeck had to put our shirts on. Obviously Sir John did not have such a manly chest as us “ ‘airy arsed sailors!”
I also wondered as to the sleeping arrangements in the Captains small cabin, for a Sir, a Lady, a Admiral, and a Captain! The Captains steward (“Pincher” Martin) was very tight lipped, probably bribed!

Sir John’s tour of the islands in his care was done normally by island schooner, so he jumped at the chance to visit in one of HM Ships (show off!) For many of us some of the clearest memories of this period will be the almost ritual landings, in surf boats of varying splendour, of the Governors party at each island he visited. Ashore Sir John would tour the facilities of the island (if any), while Lady Thorp distributed and received presents and the ships doctor performed a variety of improvised but effective dental operations on the islanders.

Of the surf-boats the most impressive was at Poivre Island, where the crew were smartly dressed  in a naval style uniform, with huge straw hats. The crew who were kept in perfect order by a veteran with rows of medal ribbons, pulled the mile to shore with great verve.
Almost as ritual as the landings were the tributes, usually edible, brought off the islanders by the Governor. Vegetable matter was dealt with, with no problem, though four scrawny fowls, very much alive and  kicking, were masterly dealt with by the Butcher, no formula was found for dividing them among 200 ratings! The obstinate mobility of four large land crabs caused confusion among the cooks, while two goat carcases were promptly dispatched to the cold-room to await their fate as shark bait.

Mahe, the largest of Seychelles islands, welcomed us with a dance at the Pirates Arms,in Victoria, which boasted one of the finest beaches in the world, Beau Vallon, a white crescent of palm fringed sands two miles long.
The best bar in town was most certainly “Sharkies” an ex Brit married to a local girl with a couple of the most beautiful daughters, who were immediately put “out of bounds” by mine host.

Sharkies clapped out old jeep would pick you up from the jetty and return you to same the worst for wear!
This was also our Shore Patrol HQ, unofficial of course, the patrol got more free beer than that, never a shortage of volunteers to do this duty! I can now divulge this most secret after over 40 years. Is there anyone left to put ‘em in the “Rattle”?

Aldabra We visited nine islands in the Seychelles during the month of November. The Island of Aldabra was most memorable for its giant tortoise. The last tortoise of this size we had last seen was in the grounds of Government House on St Helena- reputed to have been 200 years old.

Aldabra, is situated 630 miles from Mahe and 250 miles NW of  Madagascar. An oval ring of islands around a central lagoon, reputedly used by the German cruiser KONIGSBERG (surely that’s a lager!), during the First World War.
Navigationally the islands had their peculiarities. Little Astove, inconsiderately five miles away from its charted position, was rivalled by Assumption Island , which rose so suddenly out of the sea,  that one cable off shore the depth was over 100 fathoms.
The Seychelles was something of a navigational nightmare. The only charts available were sadly out of date, some of them over 100 years. Many a craft has ended up stranded in the Seychelles  coral abounding blue waters. Thankfully we had the latest technology to assist us in our navigation, and charts were re-written as we moved from island to island.

F14 Seychelles

Leopard anchored off Farquar Island

Farquhar Island proved to have an excellent beach, and proved supreme, Conch shells abounded as to the usual milk filled coconuts.
Praslin Island was our last port of call before our return to Mahe. Those who got ashore visited the Vallee de Mai, the only place in the world where the coco-de-mer (the double coconut) grows naturally. It bares a strong resemblance to my wife’s rear end! It was General Gordon, who visited Praslin on his way home from China, propounded the theory-and after seeing the coco-de-mer growing there one could understand why- that the Vallee de Mai is the site of the Garden of Eden.

The ships football team played the locals, we turned up- fully booted and spurred- boots, shorts and tops, against a side bare footed and bare topped. The score was more than ten nil when I stopped counting…..in their favour! Not only that, the rugby, hockey, and cricket teams were no more successful. I put it down to too much island hopping!

22nd November, we arrive back in Mahe and Port Victoria for the first mail in three weeks (not much of it) and a welcome run ashore. It was now that the souvenirs began to creep aboard: sharks backbone walking sticks, tortoise shell cigarette cases, straw hats- not to mention the coco-de- mer coconuts.
Before departing, there is one other notable occasion, namely the miss-use of one of our precious Squid Bombs, normally used for depth charging submarines.

It seems Frigate Island wanted a larger gap in it’s coral lagoon so as to allow larger ships safer access. No problem, send in LEOPARDS bomb squad (wot.. bomb squad!).
Anyway one was hastily conjured up, consisting of  the TASI, Leading Seaman Skitt and the Gunner, the Doc decided to go too, not in his medical role (no, not much!) but as the ships part-time bird watcher. It seems Frigate had its fair share of the feathered variety!

The problem was how to get the Squid Bombs ashore. After much discussion it was decided that to get the bomb in the correct position was to lash it to a 40-gallon oil drum; to be towed right into the gap and the lashings cut at the crucial moment. Who was to tow this 400lb bomb to its position, not bloody Jack, that’s for sure!
The island boatmen did a good job! Imagine trying to steer a 20-foot surfboat in a heavy stern sea, towing a 400lb bomb, and trying to stop it coming over you stern, and you will see what I mean.

The bomb now in place and charges connected by cable from bomb to dynamo-exploder, we are ready for the big bang!
The Gunner had the honour of pushing the plunger home, and if the suspense was not enough he decided on a count down. The shout of “FIRE” was heard and the expected eruption before the word was heard but nothing happened. The time lag seemed like a year but really it was only a couple of seconds before the air was rent by a huge roaring hissing noise, and a column of writhing water and rock was hurled into the air. A great cheer broke out from the locals, and our brave bomb squad, breathing a sigh of relief, were rumoured to too mutter “thank f… for that!”

After lunch inspection was made of the mornings work and it was decided another bomb was required. So it was the same procedure as before except for the placing of the charges of TNT. This proved a better decision as this time there was no time lag at time of detonation.
So there you have it, there is now a gap in the lagoon at Frigate Island to get a bloody Battleship through! Well maybe a Junk! and all thanks to, LEOPARDS BombSquad.

Best bar in town

Living conditions in Cassis outside Port Louis.

28th November. Mauritius-we arrived at Port Louis on a rather overcast day. This was the halfway mark in our year away.
Our first stay at Port  Louis was just for the weekend and on the Monday morning we were off again and once again with non paying passengers! This time we were taking the Governor ( His Excellency Sir Robert Deverell) and Lady Deverell to visit the outlying dependency, the island of Rodrigues.

Squid mortars. (“away sea-boats crew”, fish for dinner,AGAIN?)

The anchorage at Rodrigues was none too safe, with reefs writhing in every direction. The Governor went ashore soon after our arrival and was able to fulfill his most important duties, but as there were three cyclones in the area and the weather was already disagreeable he re-embarked a couple of hours later and we sailed immediately. From what we could see of Rodrigues from the anchorage under that rather lowering sky, it had seemed a rugged island of simple charm if somewhat deficient in bright lights, just as we had been told in Mauritius, and though unavoidable it was a shame that we never got the chance to go ashore there.

3rd December and we are back in Mauritius after a stormy passage from Rodrigues.
The next few days featured a series of tours to the cigarette factory, some good runs ashore and once again beach hogging, to show off our Seychelles sun tans! I don’t know why, this was not a tourist trap then, only the locals and the small detachment of Naval personnel at the RN Radio Station.

On Sunday 9th December, we sailed and headed back to the Cape, where we are to spend a brilliant Christmas.

Christmas at the Cape.

The passage from Mauritius to Simonstown, South Africa, was a busy one. After we had given the CinC a good old holiday around the Seychelles and beyond, he decided to thank us by deciding to carry out his annual inspection, mutter, mutter!
The Naval Stores ran out of elbow grease and the lampshades were attacked with concentrated fury. Passageways were  “Bourne polished” and then covered with miles of brown paper (protection). Stainless steel sinks in bathrooms were “Bluebelled”and  the “heads” were forever closed, “due to cleaning!” But in the end we done ourselves proud -the Admiral told us so, so theres no need to be modest- and just to prove our armament was up to scratch, we crowned our efforts by shooting down a drogue on the first run. A successful bombardment followed.

Friday 11th December, at 1600hrs  we entered Simonstown Harbour.

Simonstown 1960
We remained at Simonstown over the week-end and spent the early part of the next week sprucing up for our official visit to Capetown.

17th December we berth at Duncan Dock in Capetown, just before noon, after a morning passage from Simonstown.
Quite apart from the entertainment provided, it was a delight to be able to step ashore straight into the big city instead of enduring the hour long train journey from Simonstown.
The Mayor, Mrs Joyce Newton-Thomas had arranged a first-class programme of entertainment, for both Officers and Ratings. At the official dance on the Friday evening she insisted on being introduced to every rating present. I have always wondered if she ever found her father!
Among the other entertainments was a memorable tour of the KWV winery at Paarl.50 men were to jump at this offer, jack tends to be very willing when anything associated with the demon drink is mentioned!

On arrival we were lectured on how the KWV was set up and that the farmers receive a set price for the grapes supplied, on a quantity-quality Cape Winesystem. “Now”, he concluded, “we will walk round the plant and then come back and sample some of the produce.” With that we all filed out following him like faithful  matelots with the scent of a free drink in the air.
We visited various warehouses where millions of gallons of wine was stored, was introduced to the laying down of the wines etc etc etc. By now our tongues are hanging out. The temperature of over 90 degrees was’nt helping either. At last we arrived at the tasting. As wine was poured into our glasses we were told a bit about it, it’s type and when it should be drunk ( wot yer mean, when it can be drunk, anytime is a good time for thirsty Jack). Cheese and biscuits followed each drink.

It was now time to move on “and if any of you would like another drink before you go please step up and help yourselves”.( Not a sole moved)” I KWV Cellarshave tried to give you an idea how things work around here, I hope you have more knowledge now, and what I said about helping yourselves I meant” There was a sudden movement forward and within minutes the Brandy had been consumed together with the remaining wines.
Some boarded the bus somewhat merry, others were pissed! Me! I do not recall, someone else related this story after the event! Most probably.

By way of returning hospitality, though in not quite the same vein, we gave a Christmas Party for 40 children from Nazareth House Orphanage. It turned out to the best childrens party that we ever gave, and was moreover memorable for the liberty- men fallen in and inspected by Father Christmas before they proceeded ashore.

Altogether our visit to Capetown was a great success, our only regret was that it hadn’t happen when we first arrived in South Africa.

22nd December. We bid farewell to Capetown and Table Mountain with its “tablecloth” on.
Table Mountain with her clothWe took the opportunity to make our short return passage round the Cape of Good Hope to Simonstown a sort of unofficial Families’ Day for what we might now call our South African Families. An enjoyable day, was had by all.

The Christmas period was to be 10 days recreational leave. One unexpected result of our visit to Capetown had been a sudden rush of invitations for ratings to spend Christmas day or even the whole of their Christmas leave with South African families-in fact many invitations had to be reluctantly turned down since every available rating had already been fixed up. This warm-hearted hospitality meant a great deal to us, so many thousand miles from home.

My hosts, together with “Jonah” Maltby, was with the Hopkins family at Mouille Point, Capetown. It was an invitation that will never be forgotten. Nothing was too much, we were treated like royalty. It was a friendship that was to last for many years and on later visits to the Cape they were always my first port of call. Sadly Mr and Mrs Hopkins are no longer with us but I still maintain contact with the rest of the family, which feels good after over 40 years.

The South Africans have given, I am sure, many fond memories to many far away from home, lonely sailors of the Royal Navy and for this I give them my warmest thanks.
To the unfortunate who had to remain on board over the Christmas period, this is the catering delights that were served up on Christmas day;

Boiled Ham   Fried Egg   Peaches Grilled  Tomatoes
Giblet Soup
Roast Turkey & Stuffing or Roast Pork & apple Sauce
Roast Potatoes Creamed Potatoes
Cauliflower and Sprouts
Christmas Pudding and Rum Sauce
Apples  Almonds  Apricots  Peanuts
Oranges  Plums  Walnuts  Bananas
Brazil Nuts   Pineapple
Fruit Salad & Whipped Cream
Christmas Cake
Lemon Squash     Orange Squash
Tomato Soup
Salmon and Green Salad
Mince Pies
Cheese & Pickle  Cream Crackers

Meanwhile we had entered dry dock and a minor refit was well under way, continuing throughout the January of 1960. None of us are likely to forget  the wind that tore relentlessly over Simonstown all that month and into the next. I believe this wind is known as “The Cape Doctor “. It’s undoubted value though was to keep the ship nice and cool.

Surrounding Simonstown Dry Dock, are painted the ships crests of just about all the British Warships that have visited here. It was customary for later ships to add their own crest and to touch /freshen up these pieces of history. Our crest was added with skill from L/Sea “Geordie” Coates. I wonder if they are still maintained, I doubt it! ….I have since received notification that all the ships crests that adorn the dry dock are in the process of being repainted, in preperation for Simons Towns Centenary in 2010. Celebrations in the November.


 One of my jobs at this time was “ships side party”. I spent most of the month , with “Jonah”, sitting precariously on a plank of wood, hung over the ships side ,supported by two lengths of ½ inch manila rope, chipping and scraping. No safety nets in those days to save you. Although the “Cape Doctor” was doing it’s business up and around the dry dock, here in the dry-docks protection the sun and heat beat down on our backs. By the end of the month our backs and shoulders were black and felt like leather. Nobody slapped us on the back for doing a good job, thank goodness!

The repainted ships crest November 2010. It seems that all the ships crests have now been repainted. Well done to all those involved on this mamouth project.


Our cricket teams had a busy time of it in January with many good games around the Cape, the concert party gave a performance in the dockyard hall which raised £30 ( a fair amount in 1960) for the Simonstown Sailors’ Home, and on the  22nd January we held a very successful ships dance at Lakeside.

Eyes Right  ” Eye’s Right”

Although Simonstown boasted about three very good bars and a café, with an old jukebox but with up to date records, the run ashore was Capetown.
The journey by train took about an hour, a pleasant enough journey, following the coast line much of the way. But it had its rewards. When you finally arrived at Capetown, if you showed your return ticket at the liquor store on the station you could purchase a bottle of brandy at half price. This proved handy, as the night clubs did not sell spirit, and sporting a bottle at the door meant immediate access. A bit different today, today you would be refused entry.
Savoy “Daryl’s,” “The Savoy” and the “Navigators Den” were the popular haunts, the latter being “out of bounds”. All the bars where “Men Only”, the only place to drink with a female would be at a hotel bar or night club. “Castle “ beer was the tipple or if you ventured further the Cape brandy with ginger ale (Horses Neck) was a sure winner!
It is said the Wardroom changed their normal drinkies of gin and tonic or pink gin to the wonderful “Horses Neck”! This fact was discovered after numerous cocktail parties that were held on board. The duty lads who were detailed to help the wardroom stewards clearDaryls 2 away,after the party, use to do a “minesweep”, that is to accumulate all the half empty glasses, pour same into a rum fanny, and with the spoils smuggle down to the messdeck to have their own little cocktail party. If only they knew! Well they do now.

simonstown new

Main Street, Simonstown 1999

Cape fire

Fire on the Cape at Muzinberg
One of our many tasks at the Cape was to assist in putting out the occasional bush fires. One evening we were called out to fight one such fire (pictured). The fire fighting parties, controlled ( for the first time, it is believed) by radio from the ship, toiled all through the night before the fire was finally put out. It is thought, that many of these fires were deliberately started by locals, who were then paid to put them out. The trick was to light, a well protected candle, and by the time it had burnt down to reach and set alight the shrub, the perpetrators were well out of the area, and awaiting the call as emergency firefighters.

But the activity which overshadowed January for all of us was the never-to-be-forgotten Tip-to-Top, surely one of the oddest escapades any warship ever engaged in.

Part 6
January at the Cape

TIP-To-TOP challenge.
Inspired by the Daily Mail “Arch to Arc” race, Cape Argus had announced in December that it was offering £1000 in prizes for a race from Cape Point (the tip) to Maclears Beacon, on Table Mountain (the top), a direct distance of 26 miles. The competition was to consist of two classes, speed and ingenuity. There were a number of other rules, among them an overall speed limit of 35mph and a ban on the use of four-wheeled powered vehicles up a mountain jeep track.

Fresh from our Indian Ocean cruise, the first we heard  of all this was when the Mayor of Capetown, in the course of the Captains official call on her, cordially invited us to enter a team from LEOPARD.

An attempt to achieve the fastest time was not considered worthwhile. Few varieties in method were possible, and there seemed no simple way to employ effectively a large team. It was therefore decided to concentrate on the ingenuity section.
The plan was that the ships entrant would be a shallow- water diver-fully dressed in his frogman outfit. He would be lowered to the water at Cape Point and swim to a boat that would take him to a convenient harbour, from there a lorry would take him up the mountain as far as possible, after which he would walk- or be carried – to the top. The plan in its outline was approved, as was the use of Service equipment, and a call was made for volunteers.

It was essential that the attempt  be conducted as a naval operation, and so the Gunnery Officer was put in charge. More likely detailed off! The Diving Officer and the Gunner were to assist. Four Petty Officers volunteered at once, or was it you, you, you and you! Anyway all were fit shallow- water divers, anxious to be selected. 16 other ratings also came forward immediately, including myself. All volunteers were gathered and told of the plan, being warned that the whole enterprise would be extremely exacting physical labour, and were given the chance to withdraw, none did.

The Gunnery Officer then began canvassing mountaineers’ options of the best away to reach the top. It soon appeared that a jeep track from Constantia Nek to the reservoir and an easy path from there to Maclear’s Beacon was one of the most practicable. Most of the jeep track lay in the Water Board Conservation area and, with the Boards permission and the help of one of their Rangers in a jeep, the Gunnery Officer made the first reccee. The six mile track is difficult by any standards, with many hairpin bends and steep gradients, but it was decided that with care a three ton lorry could get up. The path to the top was straight forward and, although hard going, offered a feasible route for a stretcher party.
Cape Point was then visited and two alternative routes down to a sheltered bay on the eastern side was investigated. It was considered quite practicable to take a diver to the waters edge. As no RN boats were available to us except our small ships boats, negotiations were opened with a number of private individuals for the loan or hire.

The remainder of the route was driven over and timings noted. It was decided that Kalk Bay, with it’s fine harbour and convenient main road, was the best landing point. This brings back memories of Lulworth Cove, the  G.O was in charge of that landing?  At this stage it was intended to take the team right to the reservoir by lorry, and it was not until a week later that we received the rules forbidding the use of four-wheeled vehicles. At this time it was suggested that it might be possible to rig jackstay gear between two points on the mountain path, and hoist the diver part of the way. Further reconnaissance  was made with a small party of Officers and ratings, and it was finally decided to rig sheerlegs on top of the small plateau on which the beacon stands and hoist the diver 30 feet to the finish.

So, we are now going to transport a diver, fully booted and spurred from Cape Point to the top of Table Mountain without him touching the ground, with temperatures well into the eighties! Why is it, nobody heeds that firm old warning “never volunteer”.

The team was now formed into groups; the stretcher party, the jackstay party and the diving party. Drills were worked out and practised at Cape Point, tip, and at the Table, top.
But there was still a gap in the execution of the plan-the all important stage from Constantia to the reservoir. It was at this point that Sub-lieutenant Francis-Jones (later to become Admiral Francis- Jones) recalled that in 1929 his father had driven the first car ever-an Austin Seven-from Constantia Nek to the Reservoir over rough hillsides. The chance was too good to miss, and after many enquiries an Austin Seven was unearthed in a scrapyard. After removing the engine, cutting the roof off and repainting, it looked something like the original. The plan now was for the diver to be hauled up the road sitting in the Austin Seven car driven (steered) by the Sub-Lieutenant.

At the request of the Cape Argus our team made their attempt on 27th January. At 0640 hrs the diving party were driven to Kalk Bay and embarked in a fishing boat for Cape Point. At 0800 the stretcher party and diver with the Gunner in charge, left for Cape Point by lorry. They were followed shortly by the Gunnery Officer and two signalmen in a car.

At Cape Point all hands made for the lighthouse where the diver was dressed in his cumbersome frogmans outfit.
In the presence of the Captain, who accompanied the team throughout, and the competition officials, the attempt started at 0900. The “still” was piped and at the explosion of a thunderflash the stretcher party leapt into action and strapped the diver into a “Neil Robinson” stretcher. He was carried in this down forty steps to a concrete road then along to where a precarious slope led to the waters edge.

The fishing boat was lying off shore by now, and as the party arrived a “Coston Gun Line” was fired ashore. The outer end of the divers safety line was attached and hauled out to the boat. The diver jumped in to the not to calm waters, his safety-line preventing him being dashed back on the rocks. Throughout this phase communications were maintained between the boat and shore by means of portable W/T sets.
As soon as the diver was aboard the fishing boat set out for Kalk Bay. The stretcher party climbed back up the hill and set out in the lorry (with the Austin Seven aboard) for Constantia Nek. The G.O and one signalman, left by car to Kalk Bay where they were met, by the jackstay party with a Landrover.

Tip Top diver When the fishing boat arrived at 1105hrs it entered the harbour entrance and the stopped. The diver jumped into the water and swam about 70 feet underwater to a vertical ladder on the jetty. He was helped up the ladder and placed in a waiting armchair. This was then carried shoulder-high on a pair of oars through a considerable crowd to the Landrover. Once the diver was aboard we set out for Constantia Nek, arriving shortly after midday.
Here the Cape Point stretcher party had unloaded the Austin Seven and laid out the drag ropes, no time was lost transferring the diver to the car.


The drag ropes were manned by twelve of the party, including myself, and, with four more pushing, Sub Lt Francis- Jones at the wheel, the Austin started on its 6 mile haul up the mountain. Bag meals were provided for lunch, the normal fodder, stale cheese sandwiches and an apple, together with the mandatory “limers” to replace the sweat!
As is normal with all “airy arsed sailors” the bag meals had been scoffed before arrival at Constantia Nek. Thankfully the “limers” was spared, this was to be most welcome, later on during the tow and push, even though the chef had forgot to put any sugar in it!
The haul to the reservoir took 2 ¾ hours of very hard effort. Only four five minute stops were made en route. The chef’s bag meals weren’t helping! The greatest need was water or limers, as the thick dust caused considerable irritation. Although the going was hard, the rhythm of the pull was scarcely broken throughout. On arrival at the reservoir we had a 15minute halt while everyone recovered and plenty of liquid was guzzled thankfully.
The jackstay gear had been brought up in the back of the Austin Seven and was now made up into carrying bundles. The diver was also transferred to his “Neil Robinson” stretcher again.

Refreshed, the party set out at 1505 on the final stretch. The jackstay party, led the way, followed by the much slower, diver carrying, stretcher party. Even with seven men carrying it, the stretcher proved cumbersome, and awkward in places. Parts of the pathwere very steep and it took  two hours ten minutes of sustained effort to reach the plateau of Table Mountain. Under the hot South African sun the diver was feeling the worst. At frequent halts oxygen was squirted down the divers suit in an attempt to keep him cool. In comparison, the remaining mile along the top of the mountain to Maclears Beacon was easy going.

T to T Diver

The jackstay party set off again in advance and reached the final approach to the Beacon at 1735hrs. The “sheers” were erected on top of the 30-foot “cliff” and the jackstay rigged, using a convenient boulder for its lower anchor and steel bars driven into a crack in the rock for the topping-lift. The gear was rigged just as the diver reached the lower end. He was swiftly hoisted into a Boatswain’s chair and hauled up the jackstay to the top. Once there he was carried by four, now pretty exhausted, lads, the last fifty feet to the Beacon, and the finishing point. The operation finished as it had begun, to the pipe of the “still” and the crack of a thunderflash.

The journey from Tip to Top took 8 hours 47 minutes. The cheerful and willing effort throughout by everyone was most commendable. The diver, although practically roasted in his rubber suit, never once complained and survived the exploit remarkably well.
The Cape Argus awarded special prizes to our team and to the only other Service entry, the Cape Field Artillery. The speed section was won by a schoolboy in 1 hour 34minutes 35 seconds.
prize monies jpg

Our First Lieutenant, Lt Crosbie, was at the summit to greet us, having exhausted himself with the confines of the cable car. The one consolation was that he had with him a crate of beer for the “lads”. One tinny per person perhaps! The burden of carrying so much, “on ones own” must have been exhausting? Well done Number One!  It might be worth noting, the cost of the beer was deducted from our prize money

If you equate that a pint of beer was One shilling and Six pence at that time, at todays prices (2005) a pint is,say, £2.00 then the prize money today would be in excess of £118 each.
In other words we would have got 59 pints for our Four pounds Eight shillings and Fourpence.

Part 7


Our days in South Africa were now drawing to an end. With the end of January our refit too came to an end and we not only had to restore order in the wake of the dockyard but also make ready for the departmental inspections by the Commander-in Chiefs staff in the first week of February.
It is at this point that I feel that the extract from The Daily Telegraph, 1959 should be read;

“A single British Frigate, HMS LEOPARD, patrols the vast stretch of water between South America and South Africa. It is known as the South Atlantic Squadron. And that is all there is of it at present.
In control of this lone warship are: one Vice-Admiral, one Captain, four Commanders, and four Lieutenant Commanders, all shore based in South Africa (at HMS Afrikanna, Simonstown).
It is not the fault of these officers that there are so many of them to command so few sailors. The fault lies with official policy which has left us scandalously short of operational ships at a time when needed – as Kuwait showed – sea power and military mobility are paramount for the protection of British interests.
The public knows what the Navy needs: more cold steel and less gold braid.”
Daily Telegraph 1959

So, we have another inspection coming up, could this reflect on the above. The CinC staff, are bored,
“ I know Flags, the swimming pool is being cleaned and my golf partner is away, lets get down to the jolly ‘ol  LEOPARD and give her another inspection, I’m sure ‘ol Gaunt wont mind!, might get a couple of snifters as well, just to round it off nicely?”
And so it happened. All that week the various staff officers were to be seen clambering about the ship, and the process culminated on Saturday 6th when the Commander-in-Chief inspected divisions and said goodbye to us, and no doubt back to his golf and other hectic Naval chores!

8th February 1960.At 0800 we sailed for exercises, under the name of  “Alex”, with our old friends VRYSTAAT and GOOD HOPE on the way to Durban.


Saturday 13th. We arrive at Durban. Once again there is little enough said of our recreational activities in Durban, which were, if anything, even more enjoyable than before; but there were two events which do deserve a mention.
At the request of the Chaplain of the Seamans Institute the concert party gave a charity performance on Friday 19th. To make sure the public got their monies worth, the Chaplain arranged for a number of local performers to supplement our own turns. The concert party went into frenzies of rehearsals to ensure they were worthy to appear in this semi-professional company in a big city- very different matter to the usual slap-happy frolic at back and beyond.

Splice Mainbrace

The result was a marathon entertainment- in fact some of the later turns had to be cut-which made a profit of £100 for the Institute and which got off to a perfect start with the announcement to the packed theatre that Her Majesty the Queen had given birth to a son, (Andrew).
J Hobbs 2Under the impact of this news, those of the ship’s company ashore that night were deluged with overwhelming hospitality, and great interest was taken when we paraded in full uniform and fired a royal salute –not to mention “splicing the mainbrace”- at noon the next day. All the Natal newspapers featured the ceremony prominently, and the great South African public were able to see the “Butcher” enjoying his tot on newsreels. The saluting guns crews of that day, (I was lucky enough to be one of them) were allowed to retain, as a souvenir,one of the spent cylinders. I still have it to this very day sporting a floral decoration.21 Gun Salute NOTE: the sailor raising his glass is NOT “Jacky” Hobbs but his oppo, who’s name I cannot recall!
22nd February, we bid goodbye to Durban having said fond and indefinite farewells to our many friends there, and on Wednesday 24th arrived back at Simonstown, where we spent a busy few days cutting our last ties with South Africa

1st March. At 1100hrs, played out by the band of the South African Navy, we slowly drew away from the jetty and a couple of minutes later cleared the harbour entrance at a speed that drew gasps from the crowd bidding farewell……Seven hours later we were on our way back again.

Our recall was caused by the plight of Mauritius, which had been devastated by two successive cyclones. After a brief call at Simonstown to embark disaster relief gear, we headed at high speed for Durban, making as we went plans to bring relief to the stricken island.

7th March, a Thursday, in the afternoon we reached Durban, and there awaited for further orders. Though kept at a state of readiness at short notice we were able to renew contact with the astonished friends we had so recently taken leave of, but the general uncertainty prevented any whole relaxation till we were told on the Saturday afternoon that the island authorities decided that they could manage without us. So on the Sunday morning we left Durban, and this time it was to be for the last time, and after three hours at Simonstown, to disembark disaster relief stores, on Tuesday morning, we headed westwards in earnest.
Our passage to Port Stanley (The Falklands) had been planned to take18 days, but in order to catch up with our original programme we travelled a good deal faster and in fact arrived only one day late.

19th March. Port Stanley.We were extraordinary lucky in our crossing of this dreaded stretch of ocean, having only two or thee days of “roughers”. However it was bad enough at Port Stanley, to make it necessary for the RFA WAVE KNIGHT to put to sea to replenish us, so it wasn’t until the dog watches that we actually entered harbour and gazed at this  remote outpost as the wind whipped the murky waters of the harbour into a yeasty turmoil. Little was I to realise that  22 years later,  I was to return to these same waters, in not so happier times, aboard HMS GLASGOW, to take part in the “Falklands War”.

Falklands only pubFalklands Pub in 1960

We stayed at Port Stanley for only two full days, enough time to give both watches a run ashore. And sailed again on Tuesday 22nd, a beautiful crisp morning, on which we enjoyed a rendezvous with HMS PROTECTOR  (photo right)
We were in company for about an hour during which time the Captain made a courtesy call, by helicopter, on the Captain of Protector. During this time mother- nature gave us a display of over 50 whales and innumerable penguins within a mile of the two ships.

Port StanleyPort Stanley 1960

Forty eight hours later, we entered the Straits of Magellan, which were disappointingly wide and flanked by regrettably dull shores. To the south Tierra del Fuego (Land of Fire) was flat and uninteresting, while northwards the coast of the continent was a little better, though a range of hills along the coast broke the monotony. All ideas of picking a tortuous and treacherous passage between towering precipices while naked savages rained fiery darts on us had to be shelved!
24th March. We approached Punta Arenas at 1400hrs and, as we turned and slowed to fire national and personal gun salutes, the full force of the westerly wind, which had been with us all forenoon, became apparent. Standing still, at “attention”, on the upperdeck during the prolonged salutes was almost a feat of strength, for the wind was gusting at over 30 knots. As soon as the ship was fully secured alongside, and the gangplank, safely down, a warm mess and a hot drink was most- welcomed by all.

Prior to our arrival here we were instructed by the Captain not to mention our recent visit to the Falklands, the message was to be repeated when we visited our first Argentinian port .The “Islas Malvinas” is a voodoo subject. Both Chile and Argentina contesting over it’s sovereignty.
We only had one full day at Punta Arenas, the most southerly city in the world and also Chile’s southernmost naval base. Over the 200 foot ridge immediately behind the town lie vast flat plains, divided for the most part between estancias. On these a flock of 90,000 sheep is not considered excessive. They must be a ready source of provender for what we had recently learnt in South Africa  to call a “braaivleis, and now had to call an “asado” (Bar-B-Q); and the asado given for players and spectators after the soccer match on our second day was the excellent forerunner of many more-in fact, giving these open-air roasts is almost a Chilean and Argentinian national sport!

Saturday 26th March  sailed at 0630 , having embarked a Chilean naval officer as pilot, on what was to prove the most beautiful and yet most worrying voyage of the commission. We continued up the straits until they headed west, when we turned southwest into the Magdalena Channel, keeping the mainland of Tierra del Fuego to port. With Cape Froward, the southern most tip of the South American continent proper, disappearing astern, the desolate beauties of the Tierra de Fuegan channels really came into sight. At first they were indescribably dreary.

One felt that the almighty had deliberately left this region just to show what the raw materials of creation were like; the very mountains were uninspiring that one couldn’t imagine the most ardent mountaineer wanting to scale them.  But the scenery slowly developed a stark grandeur and, after a warning from our pilot that the sunny weather wouldn’t last long, camera’s appeared like rabbits from a warren; and the Contrameistre or Quartermaster Glacier, the first of many we were to see, was much photographed. This was the only time we saw a glacier in sun light; and the whites, blues and greens of the ice made it a wonderful sight.

Passing the glacier, we turned west into the Cockburn Sound and the came the low cloud and intermittent rain, which were to be with us for much of our trip.

The Cockburn Sound is wide and deep, and contains several islands whose names reflect those of the English naval officers who first navigated these channels over a century ago. It was here that we came across odd pieces of floating ice; they looked like small icebergs and were the result of the ice breaking away from the glaciers. It was a relief to get past them, as a collision would have been embarrassing.

Once the novelty of jagged, snow-capped mountains and narrow creeks, and barren islands had worn off, there was little worthy of note until we reached the south-western end of the Cockburn Sound. Here, in showery, gusty weather, we began to catch the Pacific swell, and the ship rolled heavily as we entered the Pacific Ocean itself.  By now the wind was gale force, but visibility was still good as we turned east into the first of the channels south of  Tierra del Fuego .We had been in the Pacific only half-an-hour, but were glad to get round into the flatter waters of the Brecknock Pass.

Through the Brecknock Pass in deteriorating weather, we passed south of Cape Atracadero on Tierra del Fuego, where a dangerous rock is buoyed 250 yards offshore. Once past this threat and into Whale Boat Sound, a three-degree gyro error became apparent, which in the confined waters of these channels was rather an embarrassment.
Toward the end of Whale Boat Sound lies Londonderry Island. It was in Puerto Engano, a small bay on the north side of this island, that the pilot recommended a night anchorage; and by 1910hrs we were anchored.

The night was far from quiet. The wind gusting up to 40 knots, again brought violent sleet and hailstones over the hills, and the “anchor watch” huddled behind “A” Gun Turret. On the enclosed bridge it was icy cold and our windscreen heaters and wipers came into their own, for ice was rapidly forming all over the upper-deck. The sound of the wind blowing down from the mountains was rather like an express train; and having had to anchor in confined waters in such conditions, it is hardly surprising that we were more than pleased when daylight came to relieve our anxieties.
We weighed anchor and proceeded at 0840 and moved on into the north-west arm of the Beagle Channel. The mountains all around us were snow-covered and the rocks black- altogether a colourless but impressive sight. We felt very small at times, with the white foothills of the Darwin Range of Tierra del Fuego rising to over 3000 feet, straight out of the water to port, and the Londonderry Mountains to starboard. During this time the sun never shone and many of the mountains were shrouded in mist.
Further down the Beagle Channel’s north-west arm we began to get into glacier country again, where a series of the most wonderful glaciers poured their ice into the channel to port. The loveliest of all, the Romanze, curls down from 1000 feet, accompanied by a huge waterfall, while three miles further on the Allemana and Italia lie close together.

With Tierra del Fuego still to port and the snowy mountains of Navarin Island to starboard, we moved down the mile wide Beagle. Soon we saw the unmistakable landmarks of Mount Olivia, a sharply-pointed conical mountain, and the dinosaur-like spines of the Five Brothers, all sign posts to Ushuaia; and at 1230hrs we made the dog-leg turn to port round a group of islets to enter Ushuaia Harbour. Ushuaia has a population of maybe 2000, and we are only 30 miles from Cape Horn.

Ushuaia, Argentina. 1960. The world’s most southerly town. Ushuai tip

“You are here!”

Ushuaia, the Argentine’s equivalent to Scapa Flow, is the southernmost town in the world ( tactfully leaving Punta Arenas still the southernmost city). In the Ona Indian tongue Ushuaia means “the quiet place”; and if one went ashore and climbed a little, to turn and overlook the wide and peaceful bay surrounded by the sheltering mountains, it was easy to see how it got it’s name. The town itself was straggling and rather ramshackle, offering very little, but we received the warmest of welcomes from the Argentine Navy
This is only a two day visit, enough for any man. It was bitterly cold and damp.

Waste of time polishing your shoes prior to going ashore. What roads there were, were slush and ice ridden, if there was a thawed out area it was just mud. Entertainment was just about negative. If it wasn,t for the Asado’s (bar-b-q’s) put on by the Argentine navy I do not think many would have ventured ashore.

ushuaia jpgSouthernmost town in the world, at the tip of Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, less than 1,000 km/620 mi from Antarctica population (1991) 29,700. It is a free port and naval base. Industries include lumbering, sheep rearing, and fishing.( population 1960 about 2000)

 Part 8


29th March, was an early start. At 0500, with the British Ambassador to the Argentine, His Excellency Sir John Ward and his wife Lady Ward, together with the Naval Attache and Mrs Vincent-Jones, embarked, we set out on the return trip through the channels to Punta Arenas. After dawn we made most of the passage at 20 knots, slowing down only for shallow waters and rocky patches. The sky was overcast, as it had been on our trip down, and rain fell intermittently. The Pacific was milder than the last time, and we anchored off Muelle Prat, at Punta Arenas, at 2030 that night.

We landed our Chilean Naval pilot, whose expert services had been most helpful, and remained at anchor overnight.
According to Chilean authorities, our return from Ushuaia had been the fastest passage on record, our time of 15 hours beating the previous Magelan Straits“record” by 19 hours. It is also believed to be the first time one of H M Ships has passed through the northern part of  Whale Boat Sound and Brecknock Pass en route to Ushuaia. We had hoped to pass round Cape Horn on our return, but lack of time forced us to content ourselves with a near miss. I don’t suppose it was anything to do with the passengers we were carrying, no, not much!
30th March, and its farewell to the Magellan Strait, and back out into the more uneasy waters of the South Atlantic.
Plodding steadily up the Argentine coast until on the1st April we entered the enormous Golfo Nuevo and anchored of the little town of Puerto Madryn.

There was very little to do here, on the fringe of Patagonia, but we did repair the desperately derelict jetty. The soccer team travelled to the nearest town of Trelew and once again got a trouncing from the natives. The locals put on a good dance for us and the Leopard hosted a cocktail party, which was attended largely Welsh speaking locals, who had migrated to Patagonia 50 or 60 years ago and were thrilled at this first visit by a Royal Navy ship since that of the light cruiser Delhi in 1935.
Whilst in the Golfo Nuevo there was an incident with a submarine. This was very hush, hush, and full facts were never divulged. Classified as “ keep yer mouth shut”

Extract from a 1960 newspaper:

An extraordinary post-war incident, the “world’s greatest-ever submarine hunt”, occurred in Golfo Nuevo, Argentina in 1960. This round gulf, no more than fifty miles at its widest, no deeper than 175 metres, its only entrance 10 miles wide, has as its major seaport the Argentine naval base at Puerto Madryn. On 31 January 1960 an unidentified submarine was detected and depth-charged in the gulf. Over the ensuing 24 days, although the submarine could be heard, its position could not be fixed by the most advanced hydrophone, sonar, sonar buoy or radar systems. The submarine appeared invulnerable to underwater attacks by ships and aircraft, and although numerous torpedoes were fired at the vessel on the occasions when it surfaced, all deviated away from the target.

In a “New York Times” report on 22 March 1960, p.9 “Submarine Held Real” it was stated: “Capt. Ray M. Pitts, who headed a US Navy unit in Argentina during last month’s submarine scare, believes there was a foreign submarine in Golfo Nuevo. He said in an interview that there was much evidence he was not free to speak about. He added that he had talked with persons who said they had seen the intruder. He said he was confident these persons were telling the truth.” Capt. Pitts was Assistant Director, US Navy Undersea Warfare Division heading a squad of thirteen anti-submarine veterans.

The submarine surfaced on at least seven occasions and was identified by Argentine and US naval experts as “a German Type XXI U-boat of World War Two”. An oil sample collected for analysis proved to be of the formula used by the Third Reich. The possibility that the submarine was Soviet was discounted.

The last known sighting of Type XXI U-boats in Argentine waters was on 17 August 1971 when three specimens, one trailing oil, were photographed from the air heading for an isolated stretch of shoreline in the Golfo San Matías. The material was shown at once to Almirante Gnavi, Argentine Navy Commander-in-Chief, who had been involved in the 1960 hunt. He insisted that the “submarines in the photographs” posed no threat to Argentina and therefore “he was not interested in investigating them.”

So having departed Puerto Madryn, after what was supposed to be a quiet visit, we had a not so eventful weekend at sea, we arrived at Puerto Belgrano.

4th April .When we steamed up the long channel to the harbour of Puerto Belgrano we were passed by the main part of the Argentine fleet on its way to sea for exercises, and were impressed by the look of the training-cruiser Argentina. Soon after our arrival the “non-paying guests,” the Ambassador and his party left us to return to Buenos Aires, but prior to his departure he presented us with a silver cup, the Sir John Ward Trophy, in remembrance of his stay aboard Leopard. I wonder if I give a nice silver cup to Cunard Lines they would in return give me a nice little cruise across the Atlantic?
Just across from where we were berthed was the battle cruiser General Belgrano, formerly the USS Phoenix, sold to Argentina nine years earlier in 1951. Phoenix survived the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour but was to meet her fate during the Falklands war, (1982) when she was sunk General Belgranowith 3 torpedo’s from the British submarine Conqueror, resulting in the tragic loss of 323 men.

Also alongside was the aircraft carrier Indepencia formerly HMS Warrior.
When HMS Warrior visited the Argentine in 1957, Vic-Admiral Rojas, then the country’s vice president, had presented the ship with a handsome silver tray. Now that Warrior had taken on a new lease of life as the Indepencia- though one Argentinian officer remarked that she still “smelt English” ( apparently Argentine ships have quite a different smell from our familiar pot-pourri of paint and soap and one knows what else)- to the Captain fell the pleasant task of re-presenting the tray to her former home. The little ceremony was much appreciated by the Argentinians.

Puerto Belgrano,  was a fine, big dockyard with the garden city of Punta Alta outside its gates housing a purely naval community.The Argentine Navy, once again were the perfect hosts. To those who wanted to get away from all navy matters, ventured a little further, to the city of  Bahia Blanca. I found this quaint little city a great run-ashore.

8th April, after four enjoyable days we sailed, and as we moved down the harbour Argentine ships were manned and guards and bands paraded to bid us farewell. Once again we had shown the flag and had been appreciated.
9th April. Arrived at Mar Del Plata, the first big city for seven weeks and also the holiday resort of the Argentine, we all looked forward to a good run-ashore and a chance to break the bank at the casino, which at the time was the worlds biggest.

On our second day here a group of us were invited to a guided tour of the casino. We were met at the door by a very elegant, not so young, lady, dressed in the full regalia of ball-gown and wrap. Bouffant hairstyle, and dangling earings. After introducing herself, she proceeded to give us the wonderful tour of what was in no doubt a wonderful place. We stopped at various tables and she described the game being played at each one. A few free drinks were graciously accepted and on completion of our “walk-round” we were each presented with chips to the value of 1000 pesos. (230 pesos to the pound). We were now free to try our luck at the tables.

Well the £4 did not last long, the casino had got it back, there was no more free beer so it was time to leave. On leaving the casino, any sailor seen to be carrying a camera was accosted by locals wanting to buy it. I had bought my camera in Gibraltar at the start of our trip. I believe it cost about five pounds, anyway, when I was offered 5000 pesos I could’nt  let it go quick enough, film ‘n all. What a good night we had with the proceeds!

Now! thats what you call a proper “Barbie!”

More asado’s were attended, the best one by far, was held by gaucho’s at a local ranch. Besides the usual beef and sheep roasting in the middle of nowhere, the local plonk (wine) was the stimulant to get you on the back of a horse with one of these, loveable, mad gaucho’s. After this event I had the high pitched voice of a choir-boy!

In one of the numerous bars that I visited (cultural purposes only, of course!) I was fortunate to meet a crew member of the German Battleship Graf Spee. He was the bar owner and he showed me his photograph albums of his life in the German navy, especially his links with Graf Spee. The walls of the room at the back of the bar were covered with German naval momentos, the only thing not present was the swastika.
The ship had been open to visitors in many ports prior to here, but this was to be something new in our experience. That first Sunday afternoon, when we coped with 4,326 visitors and had to turn away a queue about six wide and half a mile long on shutting shop at 1700hrs, will live long in memory. The pressure kept up pretty well during the following week and altogether we had over 10,000 visitors during the four days we were open.Asado1

14th April. We sailed at 1500hrs, after a crowded three weeks which had taken us from the stark desolation of Tierra de Fuego to the sophisticated joys of Mar del Plata, and caused all of us to revise our ideas about Argentina pretty extensively.

Thankyou, Argentina, for the great welcome and hospitality that you bestowed on us.


The  Amazon River 

Monday 18th April. After a placid Easter weekend passage across the Plate we arrived at Rio de Janeiro.
This time there was another reason for our visit here. We are to bear the full weight of diplomatic representation of all foreign naval forces- us presumably, the only ones to take up the offer- for the transfer of  Capital from Rio to Brasilia. This event to take place at midnight on 20th April 1960.

The next morning at 0900, we fell in at divisions, the actual moment when Brasilia was inaugurated as capital of the United States of Brazil,  the guard presented arms and the Brazilian flag was broken at the masthead. Our little ceremony was well documented by local press TV and news stations. Could it have been a coincidence that today was also our Queens birthday?

The whole of that day and night was one big party in Rio. It was just like the “ Rio  Carnival” but better! A certain person had to go to the local hospital to have his small finger of his right hand re-attached. After treatment he was returned to the ship by the hospital staff who would not depart until the hospital bill had been paid. This was done, and then a couple of days stoppage of leave was  bestowed on the victim. I believe the offence is called “self  inflicted”. Well, if you miss your target and put your fist through toughened glass, what would you expect!

2nd A 2pril. With sadness we leave the bright light of wonderful Rio for a seven-day crossing to the Amazon. I think we all looked forward to this break, it gave us time to recuperate and plan our next runs ashore.

29th April.Our approach to the Amazon River was through the southern entrance, making a call at Belem, where we were met by the British Honorary Vice Consul, who was the Booth Steamship Company’s agent as well. Obviously the government post wasn’t paying very good wages and he was moonlighting!. He arranged for our pilots, and even managed to secure our mail, no mean achievement in Brazil where the postal authorities constantly wage war against the public. Their best effort against the ship occurred during our first visit to Rio, when the Postmaster-Generals office received some bags of mail from London addressed to HMS Leopard. When they opened the bags, a thing they shouldn’t have done anyway, it was to discover that all the letters were addressed HMS Leopard, c/o GPO London; so they naturally sent them back to London. Logical, but slightly tiresome

Belem lies on the Para River, and is 100 miles from the sea and about the same distance from the equator, so the climate is constantly hot and Belem Daily ordershumid with only the occasional sea breeze to make it tolerable.
Only one day was spent at Belem, and for most of us, this was one day too many. Warm beer, open sewerage and charcoal grilled dog was not for us.

30th April. With our two river pilots aboard our course was set for the Amazon, but before reaching the main river there were 90 miles of narrows to negotiate, where had our first glimpse of the river-people who live along the banks and eke out their humble existence by growing bananas, jute, or brazil nuts.

Their homes are little wooden huts usually only a few paces from the river-bank, perhaps as close as 50 yards away, the wash of the ship would indian family amazoncurve over the edge of the muddy bank and go tumbling towards the huts, occasionally making it necessary for the house(hut) holder to snatch up the baby or dog or whatever looked as though it might be washed away; the huts didn’t look too secure themselves. The picture shows us in the narrows, with  lookouts  and  anchor party  at the ready.

After the narrows came the River Amazon itself, broad and yellow, curving majestically through hundreds of miles of low-lying jungle, its surface dotted with floating islands of living grass, sometimes with bushes growing on them as well, and great trees , torn from the banks by the mighty river in flood and making their way at a steady four knots to the Atlantic, thousands of miles from their place of creation.

By day the trees were easy to avoid and since we were up the river at full moon it was possible to see them at night. the look-out in the eyes of the ship was kept pretty busy giving a running commentary of the dangers ahead as the ship wove a sinuous course through the debris. Going upstream against the current, our course uasually lay close to the bank to avoid the worst of the stream against us, though we also had to follow the deep-water channel cut in the river which was usually on the outside of the bends; but when the river run straight it was the knowledge of our pilots, Hugo and Jurueno, that kept us in deep water.

2nd – 12 May.
Halfway up the river to Manaos its character changed and it became narrower, with steeper banks, and here and there red cliffs rising at the side of the river which itself became deeper; and it was here that we saw the villages of Santarem and Obidos, where we spent a couple of hours to pay our respects and then moved on again.

The arrival at Obidos was a noisy affair; as the ship moved in to the jetty to anchor close off the bank a fusillade of fire-crackers was released, banging high into the sky. Not to be beaten by this unexpected welcome we replied with the most appropriate tool at hand the Very pistol, firing a broadside of red, green and white Very lights into the sky. It might have been the 5th of November (Guy Fawkes night) but for the fact we were in the southern hemisphere and it was May.

After our brief two hour stay, we completed the firework display by firing a gun salute to the Mayor of Obidos. Many of the small township were seen to scatter at this event having not heard such big bangs before, but all was well and they waved us farewell as we once again pointed upstream to continue our journey.

The furthest point we reached (and incidently the furthest by any HM Sips since the survey ship Pelorus in 1909) was the village of Codajas, 1,144 miles from the open sea on the Solimoes River, which goes on into the continent until it reaches Peru and the Andes where it has its source. Codajas looked a quiet little place, with a grassy bank in front of the houses of the village, the only big buildings being the school and hospital of the Roman Catholic Mission.

When the Captain landed it was to learn that the ship had answered  the prayers of the missionaries, who had been fighting a battle against disease. Malaria and dysentery had struck many of the population and their supplies of drugs were exhausted, with food running out as well, the high river having interupted their normal supplies. Help from the ships resources was quickly forthcomming, and to have the chance to help people in such circumstances gave an added reason for being there at that time and made us feel our trip had been worthwhile.
From then and until his death in 2005  our Captain kept in contact with this village and the missionaries, by means of letters and donations. It was the captain himself who decided to go to the aid of  village,  the Admiralty were informed after the event.

Mugger (Crocodile) Hunting  The tale of Leopards great Amazon hunt!!!!!

5th May, in the afternoon, we headed back down river, but only for about 40 miles, where we anchored of Anory, where it is said the waters Alligator 2boiled with alligators, their tails cracking the air like whip lashes. This was to be the hunting ground for Leopards “mugger-hunters”. The reference to alligators being reffered to as muggers, was taken from the film “An Alligator named Daisy” in which the old retired General would exclaim, “muggers, by gad!” whenever he met the unfortunate poor animal.

Our mugger hunting party was led by the captain, with the gunnery and engineering officer in support and assisted by our pilot Jurueno who was to act as interpreter to any local natives that might be come upon. Not only that, the alligators were pretty poor with the English as well! “let go of my leg you b…..d!” The hunting party left the ship at 1710hrs equipped with one 27 -foot whaler, 12 pussers bag meals, two .303 rifles with bayonets fixed, one parang and most important of all a case of beer. Well! if your going to be gobbled up by a bloody great alligator its best to be pissed/drunk, at the time.

Ten minutes after leaving the ship, the first mugger was seen, a monster of a specimen, to meet one so soon caught the “big white hunters” with their trousers down and it had gone before all could get their breath, let alone load the weapons. I put it down to fright! I wonder if toilet paper was part of their provisions!

Soon after, the hunters came upon two natives in their dug-out canoes, they seemed rather shy at first, but soon came round when Jurueno spoke to them in their own lingo, the captain offered them cigarettes- not having any trinkets or any other barterable goods- and having no cigerettes of his own , detailed TO2 Barnham to do the honours. No doubt the captain was thinking of Captain Cook and his meeting with some natives!

At 1740 they came upon quite a large settlement. The name of the place was not only not known to the pilot, he said he never even knew the place existed. So within just 100 yards of the village, our intrepid hunters turned the boat around and headed, probably at speed, back down river.

By now it was getting near sunset, and suddenly all around them, large, dolphin-like fish started to leap out of the water. These fish, known locally as “cow-fish” are about the size of a porpoise, have pink undersides and grey uppers, a large-beak type snout, and make rude noises when breaking surface. this was a good omen for the hunters as this meant the hunted were close by. Indeed, soon after the first appearance no less than four muggers were sighted. The captain had about three shots and missed each time. Proving to be a better ships captain than a “crocodile Dundee”.
Having now frightened off all living creatures in the area it was decided to move to another stretch of the river. They hadn’t gone far when they came upon another school of fish, with the muggers  following.

This time there were so many targets to choose from that the marksmen up forward ( the Captain and Leading Seaman Withers) were shooting at one mugger while the coxswain of the boat was chasing two others in an entirely different direction, and the situation soon became chaotic.Up to now, less than an hour after leaving the ship, they had seen ten really big Alligators, shot at half of them, and missed the lot. Have you ever seen an Alligator, swimming on it’s back, laughing and sticking two fingers up in the air? I think this band of warriors did!
They chased one monster into an island of grass, and while waiting for him to come out, the Captain tried his luck on three or four pairs of luminous eyes or dark forms on the water.

So lets now sum it up, we have, a shot-up lump of grass and a couple of  logs, peppered with lead from a .303, natives smoking cheap naval tobacco, hiding in the jungle because the think it’s war, and a boat-full of ” ‘airy-arsed” sailors who should be out on the high-seas, defending the realm! “Crocodile Dundee’s” they are surely not.

It was now time to do some serious thinking, so sitting mid-stream  with the engine stopped, the Gunnery officer (Lt Lennox) said it was about time to break out the beer. The pilot, being a sober and upright chap, declined his, no doubt thinking about the consequences of alligator hunting with a bunch of drunken sailors. After the beer had been guzzled it was back to the hunting. A mugger was soon spotted and at a distance of  20 yards, the Captain opened fire. A hit was claimed but it got away. Leading Seaman “Geordie” Coates also claimed a hit but this one disappeared a flurry of foam, having been attacked by piranah, well, so they say!

Once again they moved slowly up-river with aldis and damage control lights trained on the bank. Soon they actually had one of the beasts cornered in the under-growth. Leading Seaman Coates and Withers both hit this one and the boat was turned head on to the bank to get closer; but alas, when the Gunnery Officer gave the order to “go astern”, the boat jumped ahead at full speed and ended up in the undergrowth with a resounding crash. On getting back to open water the boat was examined for damage and it was found that the stern gear had become defective, and it took the best part of fifteen minutes to get rid of all the brush and twigs which had collected in the crash.

By now, our heroes, were determined to get at least one mugger, so off they set again. Suddenly another pair of eyes loomed up not very far shead. Withers took a shot at this one, and lo and behold, they had their first catch of he night. When the alligator was hauled inboard, it was found to be about three foot six inches long, not very big, but something to be going on with. Surprisingly Withers had only stunned this one; it came to life ten minutes later and caused quite a stir running around in the bottom of the boat.

After a lot of fuss, and probably movement of the bowels, it was eventually put unceremoniously into the Engineer Officers bag and later presented to the First Lieutenant when the party returned to the ship. Of its subsequent history it need only be added that Able Seaman Ings also had a moving of the bowels when he was confronted with it in the showers the next morning.

Soon after Withers had got his mugger, the Captain shot one too, the second and last they were to catch. It is widely believed that this mugger surrendered, being in sympathy with our illustrious “Captain Crocodile Dundee”. This did the Alligator no favours as unlike his mate this one had half its head shot away. Obviously the skipper got fed up with the .303 and used the ships 4.5 guns! Maybe this was a better way to die than being put under a hot shower!

After these two quick catches it was decided to call it a night and go back to the ship. This proved eventful, as the same native met earlier that evening was nearly shot having been mistaken as a crocodile in a canoe. All I can say is that the beer was to strong for them. Anyway, after another chat with the native the Captain bestowed more gifts on him, this time the remains of the sandwiches. There is now, somewhere in the Amazon basin, a grandfather telling his grandchildren, about the night he met the “great white hunters”, who tried to poison him with their “pussers bag meals”. So at 2300 hours the intrepid hunters arrived back to sanity!

6th May We leave our anchorage at the great hunting grounds of Anory, and after a brief jaunt arrive at Manaos. capital of the State of DO's ManaosAmazonas and the biggest city in the whole of the Amazon basin. Our berth was out in the river alongside a floating pontoon, which was connected to the shore, to allow for the rise and fall of the river. during our visit the level was 36 feet above low river and was expected to rise  a few feet more before the rains stopped and the river started to fall. Manaos had had a time of affluence at the beginning of the century when the city was the worlds principal exporter of rubber and had a monopoly, this was later broken by the British introduction to Malaya of rubber trees taken from the Amazon.

A monument to this former wealth is the Opera House standing on high ground in the middle of the city with a huge dome, covered in yellow mosaic tiles, to crown it. At the time of our visit in 1960 the building was being renovated and there was talk of Dame Margot Fonteyn being the first artist to appear there when it is reopened. I do not know if this event happened.

Another cheap run-ashore here. The canteen manager put a stop on the sale of chocolate from the ships NAAFI shop, due to the asaid goods being used as contraband, a couple of bars of this in your pocket ashore and you became the most popular man in Manaos, the exchange rate was “fantastico”!


8th May  After two days here it was time to leave. This was probably due to the fact that not only had we run out of chocolate but smelly soap was getting dangerously low. The Supply officer proceeded to do the money exchange-exchanging cruzero’s back to pounds-and it is pretty certain he got more cruzero’s back than he paid out. I wonder if he ever worked it out , or did he spend a many sleepless night trying to balance his books? I hope so.

9th May We arrive at the village of Santarem. This is to be just a short 2 hour call, just long enough for the local traders to come on board to sell a stuffed mugger or some other exotic Amazon reminder.
So its farewell to the Amazon with just a short call at Belem, before meeting up with , for the last time, to replenish, our old faithful friend RFA Wave Knight. We were now leaving behind the muddy yellow waters and heading into the blue waters of the Atlantic, and setting a decent cruising speed of 18 knots pointed our nose toward Gibraltar and home.

Final Chapter …home again

We were not, however, quite as carefree as we could have wished, for yet another inspection was looming and that an operational one on the day before we were due at Portsmouth.. Still, in the glorious weather of that weeks passage it was difficult to be downhearted and we beavered away at painting and polishing and action drills with a firm resolve to give a good account of ourselves.

22nd May Arrived at Gibraltar for just the weekend, to spend the traditional run ashore to buy the last few rabbits. This done, the ships gunnels now bulging with exotica from our year away, we finally departed Gibraltar on Monday 23rd May, the fifth anniversary of our launching.

Most of the passage was through fog which would have delayed our passage in days gone by, but now in the age of Radar we were not hindered. Our first sight of England, like our last, was Portland in the gathering dusk.

We spent the night at anchor in Weymouth Bay and next morning embarked the Flag Officer Sea Training (FOST) and, it seemed, his full staff. They gave us a gruelling day of it-I think they were a little envious of our bronzed bodies-but we did our party piece by shooting down a drogue FOSTon its first run. We shot this out of the sky before it had been fully discharged by the towing aircraft, the pilot was heard to mutter a few choice words; he didn’t do another run! Then there came a moment of light relief when one staff officer handed a lighted thunderflash to another in who’s hand it promptly went off, snigger, snigger. The wounded “staffie” was the shown to the Sick Bay, where the doctor refused to believe this wasn’t just another exercise and was barely disuaded from sending him away with a good ear-bashing.
By 1700hrs it was all over, and that night we anchored at Spithead. The fickering lights of Portsmouth and Southsea, just a few miles away, was a welcoming sight. Tomorrow we will be amongst it.

Friday 27th May  on a fine fair morning we weighed anchor and proceeded up-harbour at Portsmouth to berth at South Slip Jetty at 1000hrs, having steamed 49,536 miles in 366 days, paid 50 visits to 36 different places.

Here, with our families flooding on board and the first leave party packing their bags, we must end this tale. Though six months of the commission are still to come, half that time is to be spent refitting and the other half would not yield anything to compare with the rich and varied experiences in out-of-the-way places that been recorded here. By the time we go to sea again -for those last couple of months of the commission-many old stalwarts will have left. So this must be the end of  Leopard’s First Commission.

These are a few statistics of her 12 months away.

Food consumed
Bacon…2913lb (1 ton 6cwt 1lb)
Beef….9207lb (well over 4tons)
Cabbage.198cwt (nearly 10tons)
Spuds…1,131 bags (56ton 1cwt)
Bread baked on board..12,996lb (nearly 6tons)
Eggs….3696dz (or 44352)
Sausages.3642 (or 43,352)

Sick Bay Pills…
Salt Tablets.15000
Total of 36500 tablets issued.
Number of cases treated (excluding minor cuts etc)239
Jabs administered…1420.ouch!

Explosives Statistics…
4.5-inch cordite…2509
4.5-inch shell…..2146
40-mm Bofors…….1715
3-pounder saluting guns..283
Small arms………4514
2-inch rocket flares..124
Squid Bombs……..83
Total…………..11574 Bangs!

Miscellaneous statistics…
Dear Johns received (known)..25
Brown paper to cover main passages..11760yds
or 6miles 5furlongs 4chains 2rods,poles or perches!
Paint expended (all colours)..1,100 gallons
Rum consumed……1013 gallons 5 1/2 pints
Fresh water expended..9,836 tons
Lubricating oil consumed..35,668 gallons
Diesel fuel consumed 3,397 tons
Distance steamed 56,048 miles

Ship was under way for..4,145 hours, in other words we spent nearly 6 months sea time out of the 12 we were away.

HMS Leopard’s Distinguished Visitors:

10 Oct 1958. C-in-C Portsmouth, Admiral Sir Guy Grantham, GCB,CBE,DSO
17 Oct 1958. Third Sea Lord, Admiral Sir J. Peter L. Reid KCB, VCO
18 Oct 1958. NATO Shipping Commission, Prince Axel of Denmark
 4 Nov 1958. C-in-C Plymouth, Admiral Richard G. Onslow, KCB, DSO
27 Nov 1958. CSO(A) to C-in-C Portsmouth, Rear Admiral R.W Paffard, CBE
 2 Dec 1958. Permanent Secretary, Sir John G. Lang, GCB and Parliamentary Secretary of the Admiralty, Mr Robert Allan, MP
19 Dec 1958. First Sea Lord, Admiral of the Fleet Earl Mountbatten of Burma, KG, PC, GCB, GCIE, GCVO, DSO, LLD, DCL, DSC
16 Jan 1959. Engineering and Electrical Specialisation Committee, Vice Admiral Sir Stephen H. Carlill, KBE, CB, DSO, and Sir Ewart Smith, FRS, MA.
31 Mar, & 7 May 1959. Flag Officer Sea Training, Rear Admiral W G Crawford, CB, DSC.
26 May 1959. C-in-C Portsmouth, Admiral Sir Manley L. Power, KCB, CBE, DSO.
3 Jun 1959. FO Gibraltar, Rear Admiral P F Powlett, DSO, DSC.
5 Aug & 10 Dec 1959 & 6 Feb 1960 C-in-C SASA, Vice Admiral Sir R Dymock Watson, KCB, CBE.
And Junior/Ordinary Seaman Nobby Guyatt ??????

HMS Leopard has worn the flags of the following personages:

Commander-in Chief, Portsmouth
Commander-in-Chief, South Atlantic and South America
His Excellency The Governor of the Seychelles
His Excellency The Governor of Mauritius
Her British Majesties Ambassador to the Argentine Republic

HMS Leopard First Commission paid off 18th December 1960

img001Leopards 1st Cruise Maps


During the commission you have been called upon to carry out many and varied tasks, from saving life at sea to helping to save the lives of natives living in the dense jungle of the Amazon 1,130 miles from the sea, and also in providing Aid to Civil Power.

You have cruised in the jungle of West Africa, round the Cape of Good Hope to within sight of Cape Horn, and carried out sea passages in waters visited by Darwin in the Beagle. Your visits to coral and desert islands in the Indian Ocean have enabled medical aid to be brought to the islanders, and your surveys of these islands will help to improve the lines of communications in these waters. The ship has fulfilled her duty as part of the Operational Fleet in this nuclear age by being ready for immediate action.

In all the countries you have visited you have made many friends and been good ambassadors; above all you have gained a reputation For your understanding of other peoples’ problems, your sense of humour, politeness, your bearing, and for working and playing together as a team, and I have been most honoured and proud to have been your Captain. I hope that you will look back on your time and achievements in Leopard with pride for whatever you have been called upon to do you have always given your best.

In bidding you farewell may I thank you for the support you have always given me and may I wish you and your families good fortune in the future.

R G Gaunt


Who have Served On Board HMS Leopard Between 30th September, 1958 and 27th May 1960


* See note below


HowELL, W. A., CH. EL.


DAVIS, F. S., P0
KELLY, B. J, G., 0A2
KELLY, R. J., P0 M(E)
MOORE, A. M., P0
STONE, B. E., P0 EL.


BOAK, A. P., LM(E)
EDDY, A. S. J., A/L/SEA.


ALLAN, R., R02
BAILEY, M. K., M(E)1
BEARD, C., T02
BIGGS, D. S., M(E)1
BUTTON, A. T. C., M(E)1
CURW00D, G. E., M(E)1
DAVIS, J. A., SA (V)
GAUL, A. V., M(E)1
GILL, J., M(E)1
HINE, V. A., A
HOOLEY, J. B., R02
JOHNS A. J., M(E)1
KETT, C. B. , M(E)1
LAWLOR, A. W., M(E)1
LOVATT, R. I., M(E)2
MORLEY, H. F., M(E)1
PAGE, J. E., M(E)1
SWIFT, J. E., M(E)1
TANNER, N. S., T02
WATMOUGH. G, 0., M(E)1
WELLER, H. C., M(E)1
WHITE, 0. p., AS
WRAY, G. F. A., T03

 * Note Lt Stuart-Jervis:

Lt Cmdr John Stuart Jervis, was killed in a shooting incident when his hot air ballon was shot down by a Belarus Military helicopter on September 25, 1995. Below is a excert from a report on the incident.

 “On September 12, 1995, a gas balloon (D-CARIBBEAN) participating in the historic Coupe Gordon Bennett International Balloon Race was shot down by an attack helicopter of the Belarus air defense forces with the loss of the lives of the two pilots on board, Alan Fraenckel and John Stuart-Jervis, American citizens representing the Virgin Island Aero Club.”





 Commander “Bob” Gaunt: Commander RG (Bob) Gaunt DSC RN (Lt SANF(V)  Childhood in South Africa – RNVR SA – Seaman gunner Winchester Castle – UK Officer training – MTBs 36, then 222, 223 (ferry crew) – MTB 237 (Guy Fison) – Night action with 232, 241 against 11 German ships (SO Peter Dickens) – MTB 237 sunk – MTB 231, (9th MTBF) Dartmouth – actions off Channel Isles – brief period as XO MTB 640 (Stuart Gould) – India, CO MTB 283 (17th MTBF) – contribution of South African Forces – grounding of MTB 243 – hospital in South Africa – return to UK – 14th MTBF (SO David Shaw) – temporary CO MTB 254 – convoy action off Le Havre – XO Grey Fox –  sweeping oyster mines off French coast – SOO to Capt M/s, Portsmouth – subsequent RN career, culminating as CO HMS Leopard.                                                                                                                                                                                              PHOTO: Grey Fox


On July 27th 1963 Leopard collided with the South African minesweeper Pieter Maritzburg, killing one person. In 1973 and 1975 she undertook a ‘Cod War’ Fishery Protection duties. She finally paid off in December 1975 and in 1977 was sold for scrapping. After being cut into two pieces in order to get up the creek, Leopard was broken up at Dartford.

27 Responses to HMS Leopard 1st Commission

  1. Scouse Hargate

    November 19, 2009 at 13:15

    Nobby, just to let you know that I am “back from the dead ” so to speak. I do like
    the new look of the site, and wish you well with it. As soon as the quacks give me the green light to travel again then I will over in the u.k—–probably in the
    summer of 2010—- see you then. My best to Nicolarse.

  2. Pat Herbert

    December 23, 2009 at 09:43

    Hello, first of all let me take this oppertunity to wish you and yours a very Happy Christmas and a bright new year. I have just come across your web-site and I wish you the best of luck with it and every success. I enjoyed the trip down memory lane as they say and it brought back a lot of memories for myself.
    I have down through the years to try and make contact with some of my old mate’s that I served with but to no avail so for that reason alone I was glad to browse your webs-site.
    You see,I too served onboard H.M.S. Leopard on her first comm.to the South Atlantic, I joined Leopard,straight from completion of training at Ralaigh,a sprog if you like,in January 1959,just in time for the work-up which you described so aptly and then the farewell’s on our departure for the South Atlantic.
    I think I have some old photo’s of a banyan of us Stoker’s yomping steaks in Mar Del Plata and in the Casino’s,if I can find them I will try and have them enhanced and maybe send them on to you.
    My name is Pat Herbert and I served for the duration of Leopards first commission as an M.E.1 (STOKER).
    Well Rod, thanks again for the great read and the memories.
    I will try to get in touch again after the Holidays so until then,have a nice peaceful CHRISTMAS and Happy New Year.

    Pat Herbert. (Cork City,Ireland)

  3. John Sutherland

    March 11, 2010 at 20:08

    Surrounding Simonstown Dry Dock, are painted the ships crests of just about all the British Warships that have visited here. It was customary for later ships to add their own crest and to touch /freshen up these pieces of history. Our crest was added with skill from L/Sea “Geordie” Coates. I wonder if they are still maintained, I doubt it! ######- HMS Leopard’s badge remains on the wall of the Simon’s Town Dry Dock. Although the tradition of maintaining the badges by ships using the Selborne Graving Dock dock has largely been lost, personnel of the Simonstown Dockyard continue to maintain them. It is the docks Centenary in Nov (2010) this year and we are hoping to have all the badges completely re-painted by then, thus preserving them for a few more decades (hopefully).
    John Sutherland.
    Dock Master and Manager Support Services
    ARMSCOR Naval Dockyard
    Simon’s Town
    PS If you supply an E Mail address, I can forward you a photo of the badge.

  4. Ben Bryant

    July 4, 2010 at 20:25

    Excellent dit brings back very good memories I to did SASA on HMS Whitby 63-65 when the SA navy was buying 2 x whitby class frigates I remember Leopards crash in 63 reason I liked it because it was before package holidays and every where you went it was natural. good luck Ben

  5. Peter Wilkie

    August 30, 2010 at 13:23

    Hello Rob

    I served as a Writer during the First Commission of HMS Leopard, joining in July 1958 and leaving at the end of 1960. You have gone to a lot of trouble over the past few years to pull together as many ex-Leopards as possible and you should be congratulated for that. I had the privilege of attending the mini reunion at the Sailors Home Club some years ago, which culminated in a false fire alarm. I keep in touch with Jake Francis-Jones and Norman Pursell from the first commission and would be delighted to hear from any of my old shipmates from our memorale commission.

  6. Deborah Palmgren

    November 9, 2010 at 13:49

    Hello Rob
    Stumbled across this site. My dad Mike Chamberlain ME.1 was on this voyage, and in fact married Elizabeth Jaques – the daughter of Vicky & Ted Jaques, who ran the Sailors Home in Simons Town for 20+ years. They often go back to visit the area – not anywhere near as many ships in the bay.

    Will be giving him this as part of his 70th birthday presssie. Would anyone have pictures or stories about the sailors home, that aren’t about Just Nuisance the dog.

    Deborah Palmgren

  7. Robby G

    December 11, 2010 at 10:56

    Just an update on the Ships Crests surrounding the walls of Selbourne Dock at Simonstown. These have now been fully restored.
    Thanks to all those who put in time and effort to restore them. They have done a first class job. Bravo Zulu.

  8. Patrick[HANK] Hancock ChEl

    December 15, 2010 at 07:52

    Ref.collision, was casualty tom bolton ?he was in my party Buried in Simonstown any imfo..?Also what happened to the spared dogs Tristen and Cunha? patrickhancocksnr@hotmail.co.uk

  9. Patrick[HANK] Hancock ChEl

    December 15, 2010 at 08:06

    please can any give me further imfo on collision with Pietermaritzburgh recasualty Tom Bolton buried in Simonstown ?? Also what happened to Tristan&Cunha The spared dogs??

  10. robbyg

    December 15, 2010 at 11:08

    Yes, the young lad killed was Ordinary Seaman Thomas Bolton 060591.
    Sunday 28th July 1963

  11. Robby G

    December 15, 2010 at 13:34

    Further my previous:
    O/S Tom Bolton was one of the youngest on board, He was a Radar Plotter (RP) and this was his first ship.
    At the time of the collision he was off duty asleep on a camp bed in A Gun Bay Flat. His bed was at the point of compact.
    He was due to be buried at Simonstown on the 29th July but this was postponed as his parents were still deciding whether to have his body flown back to the UK for burial at Ayr in Scotland.
    Tom was just 18 years of age.

  12. Patrick[HANK] Hancock ChEl

    December 19, 2010 at 12:57

    Thanks a bundle Robby G. I took a series of photographs of the damage, since been stolen! The film was kept by the skipper. After all these years I think of Tom…..Where did he finally lay? Any news of the dogs?

  13. William A Martin

    January 3, 2011 at 09:28

    My name is William Anthony Martin, for my 50th birthday my wife made me a memory box of my fathers service records and mementos from the Royal Navy. His name was William Peter Martin, he served on board the HMS Leopard during it’s first commission as a leading steward. He passed away in 1983 at the age of 49, his ashes were buried at sea in Plymouth Sound in a Royal Navy ceremony. As a child and a young man I used to enjoy the stories he told of his adventures during the 366 days of this commission. Just by the way he spoke I know that this was a very important time in life and service in the Royal Navy. He was an avid photographer and I have many photos and colour slides that I would like to share(Also my mother still has the shark spine walking stick and the polished coco-de-mer) . After reading this history of the Leopards 1st commission and digging out the photos and slides, I feel closer to my father than I have for many years. To the author, I thank you for taking the time to write about it. I am going to have the slides transfered to digital media. Could someone please tell me how I can post them to the website.
    Thank You
    Tony Martin

  14. Scouse ( Jim) Hargate

    January 17, 2011 at 07:05

    Hi there William, I knew your dad well—what you forgot to say was that he was the Captains Steward. Be that as may, I am sorry to hear of his demise, he was a good mate to the pantry-man—-A/B Jock “Bill” Bailly who was also one of my best mates on board the LEOPARD. I wish you luck in your endeavours and look forward to viewing the slides when they eventually become available.
    Yours Aye
    Scouse Hargate

  15. Fess Parker

    June 3, 2011 at 16:36

    Joined Lynx in 1963 on leaveing Ganges. First the Gunnery bods ‘bonded’ at Cambridge @Torpoint then we went to Chatham. Portland, Sweden, Denmark picked up a company of Green Jackets and went to Calais for the 25th Annaversary of the defence of Calais in which the Green Jackets played a big part and also my Dad who was in the 5th Royal Tank Reg, spent the war in Prison camps in Poland.
    Lost a screw in the north Irish sea, limped into Liverpool and I got time off at home in Manchester. Did the MED thing then independent comand down the west coast of Africa, last British warship based in Simonstown, Up the coast to Mombasa, Durban, East London. Left 1965 Served on Tiger twice. Excellent Hampshire out after 12 in 1974( Should have signed on!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ONE BLOKE IN MY CLASS AT GANGES DID 39 YEARS.

  16. Fess Parker

    June 3, 2011 at 16:38

    Have you got this in a book?

  17. Geof Hobson

    August 29, 2011 at 14:11

    I served with Tom Bolton on that 63 commission. We were both in the juniors mess
    (after messdeck) the idea being when we got to 17 1/2 yrs we would be transferred
    to our our department mess – Tom was RP I was Comms – both in the forward mess
    under A turret. Tom was a month older than me se he was sent to Rps mess but there
    was no room for me so I stayed aft with the juniors. Ship was at action stations when
    collision occurred (but as we had been on exercise for about a week some people
    were excused – Tom being one of them) Pietermaritzberg hit us in the port bow
    then port beam(ripped open skippers cabin) and then hit the prop guard aft.
    we were Senior officer for the exercise and had told the screen to turn to stbd – she
    was acting as the convoy and turned as well-though she had not been told to do so.
    Enquiry was held incamera as uk Gov was in the process of selling arms to S.A.
    so no blame was apportioned but we all knew she was at fault not us.RIP Tom.
    A nice lad and would have made a good seaman.
    Geoff hobson ex A/CY.

  18. Amy Sturman

    March 12, 2012 at 16:46

    Thank you so much for the work gone into this site. I just came across it looking for information on my grandfather Lewis Sidney Charles Sturman. I knew he was a cook in the royal navy but he is listed as being part of the first tour on HMS Leopard. This small piece of information will mean so much to my family who have been trying to trace my grandfather’s career for a few years now.
    Many thanks again

  19. yorkie sheriff ab

    April 23, 2012 at 17:41

    the young lad drinking his rum is ab kerle his mate was ab starkey from gloucester i think, good lads.jackie hobbs,pusser hill,l/s skitt, oates,nobby hall l/s. jock young, myself, highsmith and a couple moreplayed skiffle music as a group.

  20. robbyg

    April 23, 2012 at 22:07

    Yorkie get in touch….Nobby G. OD Guyatt at time

  21. yorkie sheriff ab

    April 23, 2012 at 22:23

    hey up robby g

  22. yorkie sheriff ab

    April 24, 2012 at 10:09

    sorry i have not replied sooner , got your message but deleted your hotmail, dont know how.send one again,ok rob?

  23. John Thompson

    May 25, 2012 at 14:36

    Loved reading these memories. As a lazy Greenie (63-74) I kept no notes of my travels and my memory gives me little more than the ships I served on. Stupid boy!

    Thank’s for the memories.

  24. gillw

    July 14, 2012 at 22:27

    Loved reading this account. My Dad (CPO Bunn) was on this voyage when I was a little girl. I still have some of the gifts he brought home including shells from Mauritius and a whole brazil nut. Sadly Dad can’t enjoy reading this himself as he passed away in 1983. We still have lots of photos of his trip including one of poor OA Kelly in hospital.
    Thanks for sharing this

  25. Nick Hoskinson

    August 7, 2012 at 19:18

    I to served first commission on Leopard, and think Nobby Guyatt has done a first class job on putting this on line. My old oppo Jan Eddy passed away several years ago. Anyone who would like to contact me would be warmly received.


    November 20, 2014 at 12:08


  27. Ian Somers

    December 17, 2015 at 11:32

    What a great read which interestingly reflects most of the ports visited in the final commission FEZ trip which I have managed to discover a cruise all of the ports calling at were visited in ’74 so I will be visiting Mauritius for my 60th where I experienced my 18th.
    My head is full of happy memories of the commission and to this day still have my ‘Cod War Medal’ made of a Danish Kroner, a tabulation strip and a bent staple with 3 bars scribbled on the tab strip. If there is anyone out there happy to share some lamp swinging I’d be keen to establish comms.
    Ian Oddjob Somers (Nickname given on F14 by Ian C Lauder (Claude) in 73 whilst watching Goldfinger in 2F)

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