[Witten and published on the 20th August 2017]


In the above mentioned Gazette, a BILL NORTON who had joined the navy in 1951 and who had trained in BENBOW Division, wrote an excellent and touching article about Commander FRANK TRICKEY  RN [deceased].

Commander Trickey was known almost pan-navy, as the quintessential Whale Island man, who started life on the lower deck and retired as a Commander SD Gunner. I'll leave it to Bill to tell his story, which has been copied from the Gazette so that readers of this page will know the reason for its publication.


It was Bill's last paragraph which gave me the opportunity to respond by adding to his story.

However, although an ex Ganges boy myself  [1953], I am not a member of the Ganges Association and I have to wait for a good friend of mine who is a Member, to pass on to me the Ganges Association correspondence he receives. Thus, I have no way to respond to Bill's request for additional material to support his story, given that I do not know his email address.

I'll start off by mentioning that Commander Trickey was awarded the honour of the OBE in The Queen's Birthday Honours List of 1978, and this coincided with his parting with his 'Active List' status, and as I understand it, he didn't retire at this point, but took a uniformed job with the staff of  C-in-C NAVHOME looking after reservists, sea cadets and the like. This brings me to an addition to Bill's story which I hope, compliments it.

Commander Trickey left his beloved Whale Island and travelled [to look after his new charges] working, when in Portsmouth,  from the dockyard in a building adjacent to H.M.S. Victory, the Flag Ship of C-in-C NavHome. As such, he was never far from his alma mater, so his absence was not missed amongst the gun-busters.

It was whilst in this semi-retirement appointment that Lord Louis Mountbatten was brutally murdered in August 1979 by the IRA, that Commander Trickey was immediately called back to HMS Excellent to assist the Captain, Captain Richard Bethell RN OBE, to commission the State Gun Carriage and to form a crew ready for a Royal Ceremonial Funeral - one step down from a full State Funeral. In overall charge of the funeral ceremonies was the Lord Chamberlain, Lord Maclean, directly supported by the Dean [and staff] of Westminster Abbey, and the General Officer Commanding of the Household Division. Responsibilities for the centre piece of the funeral procession, namely the State Gun Carriage and the conveyance of the coffin, was given to Captain Bethell and Commander Trickey. All took their overall guidance for the prosecution of the event, as written into an OPORDER [operational order] written by Lord Louis himself some years before his tragic death. It was a great credit to both these R.N., senior gunnery officers that the event passed off near perfect, and by so doing brought great credit to the men of the Royal Navy, internationally as well as nationally.

I was personally involved at meetings along with Lieutenant Bob Doyle the OIC of the Bearer Party, [himself,  as the OIC of the R.N., Regulating School, an appointee to H.M.S. Excellent] with Captain Bethell and Commander Trickey, as to what the Bearer Party would be doing with the coffin, which all sounds so simple and obvious, but it wasn't to be! You see, at other Royal Funerals, whether State or Ceremonial, the Army, specifically the Grenadier Guards, had always acted as the Bearer Party and they had been controlled by the General Officer Commanding the Household Division. It was the army who dictated where and when the soldiers marched with the State Gun and how the coffin was put onto and taken off the gun: army orders and ceremony differ greatly from those of the senior service! Much prevarication took place and the navy were unsure of what was proper and not proper for them.  The last major London funeral was a full State funeral, that of 1965 for Sir Winston Churchill, fourteen years before Mountbatten's, and the expertise gathered then had disappeared, in a similar  fashion to that of King George VI in February 1952, a gap of thirteen years to Churchill's funeral. At the next State funeral, that for Her Majesty, the State Gun Carriage would have been idle for thirty eight years!

 A snippet taken from the web page http://www.godfreydykes.info/ceremonial_funeral_of_lord_louis.htm     In August 1979, the navy was in a state of flux regarding 'ceremony' and the navy Bible was out of date?  The navy has many books of reference [BR's] covering every duty, function, piece of equipment, whatever, and the BR relevant to ceremonial drill was BR 1834.  In May 1972, the 1949 edition was withdrawn and replaced by an updated book.  At the time of the funeral, two changes had been incorporated, the last, change 2,  being issued by directive P1428/78.  For some reason best known to the Director of Naval Manpower and Training, chapter 7 'Funerals' still reflected the pre introduction of the Fleet Chief Petty Officer [conceived in 1970 and introduced in 1972 - later, post 1983, known as Warrant Officers] even though other chapters mentioned them.  It seems petty now, but such an omission caused all kinds of misunderstandings from footwear to armbands when, as written, a CPO had boots and gaiters and no mourning armband fully relevant to his replacement in the ceremony namely the FCPO.  It was a snap in-situ decision by Captain Bethell that all FCPO's taking part were to be treated and dressed as commissioned officers in all but regalia. In that one moment, Captain Bethell had brought the navy into line with army regiments, some of whom, Grenadier Guards for example, had these procedures set-in-stone from WW1 days and before!

Today, it beggars belief that the two rehearsals to the Broad Sanctuary [the area immediately outside the great west door of Westminster Abbey] were conducted in the wee small hours of the morning on two separate days without the Bearer Party being as one with the gun carriage' crew. We were to follow some crazy idea of marching with the empty gun from Wellington Barracks in Birdcage Walk [the Guards Barracks] to the Queen's Chapel in Marlborough Road [between Pall Mall and the Mall proper],  where we would put the coffin onto the gun carriage, then dash by naval transport provided by Naval Provost HQ London to Westminster Abbey, to take the coffin off the gun carriage and carry it into the Abbey. This was the preferred method for the Bearer Party and was vogue for three and three quarter days of the five day training/rehearsal period allotted. Another idea was that the Bearers should march behind the State Gun?  I well remember the moment when Bob Doyle returned from a so called 'high level meeting' which involved the Army and the General Officer Commanding, saying that good military sense had prevailed, and we navy men were to march with the gun at all times until its arrival at Westminster Abbey in exactly the same way as did Bearer Parties for other high profile funerals in London and at Windsor.  Bob hinted to me that Frank Trickey's hands were all over this decision, and what a wise decision by this seasoned gun buster! We, the Bearer Party, had thirty hours only, to sort out our role which would be played out on the day in front of the world's television cameras where all eyes would be on the coffin and the chief mourners, the Mountbatten's and the Mountbatten-Windsor's, the surname of the Royal Family. This 'new' role-enactment was done on a chalkboard and in a discussion group, as we had lost the opportunity to do it for real as an integral part of the State Gun Carriage Crew. Throughout the training/rehearsal period of five days, Commander Trickey was very obviously the man in charge whether in Eastney Barracks or in London, and his enthusiasm was like a magnet drawing all towards him, as he was thinking on his feet,  whilst pulling together a great phalanx of men [and support facilities] into what became a highly polished and professional body of men which any part of our great naval tradition over the many years,  would have recognised, readily saluted, and be left with a tear-of-pride in their eye, wishing with all their might, that it was they who were the protagonists and not the spectators/audience.  Captain Bethell, no doubt was attending meetings organised by the Lord Chamberlain at the highest State level, and was rarely seen during the training period. It was his lot as the senior naval officer of the State Gun to lead the gun carriage during the street procession and he must have been exceedingly proud to be able to do that. The most senior naval officer in the ceremony [both street procession and at the Westminster Abbey ceremony] was Admiral of the Fleet Sir Edward Ashmore, who, apart from HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, was the most senior Admiral of the Fleet at that time. He was the senior Pall Bearer whose marching position was immediately alongside the coffin, with my line of Coffin Bearers outboard of him and within a meter distance. However, Captain Bethell was to give just one or two orders to the State Gun's Crew, whereas, Commander Trickey controlled the movements of the full Crew on arrival in Broad Sanctuary, especially that part of the Crew who formed the rear drag-rope section. They had to be manoeuvred to allow access by the Bearer Party to take the coffin off the gun and to start the short march into the Abbey for the service. It involved several movements, all conducted like clockwork, which couldn't fail to impress all who observed it. Commander Trickey must have shared with Captain Bethell much pride in their joint achievement, and subsequently, now back in a Portsmouth and at Whale Island for a clear-lower-deck gather-around, both officers were generous with their thanks to all involved in this great naval and historic event. It was my only involvement with this charismatic Frank Trickey [and over my thirty years in the Service I had met and served with several officers of his ilk] and I can well see why he was so famous and so admired by a great number of people from all branches.


The saying practice makes perfect was never truer on this Ceremonial Royal Funeral particularly for Commander Trickey and me personally!

Commander Trickey was involved with all stages of the movement of this mighty gun carriage, and not only had he personally interpreted the BR [with it faults - out of date procedures as mentioned above etc] but had attended every training session from beginning to end, so come the big day [5th September 1979] in glorious sunshine in London, he was an actor who didn't need a 'cue prompter' and he strutted the boards as though he was in charge of the world. His marching position was at the head of the rear drag-ropes crew on the outboard [starboard side of the group].

This little picture shows the State Gun Carriage with closed ranks to allow safe navigation through the narrow entrance which leads from Whitehall onto Horse Guards Parade. It is therefore distorted! I am marching at the rear of five ratings [some of these were CPO's, volunteers, dressed as seamen], four of which are Coffin Bearers and one, a Cap Bearer. Inboard of my group are four high ranking officers who are the Pall Bearers with an Admiral of the Fleet next to me and a Life Guard officer a Blue] at the rear. That pattern is replicated over on the right partially hidden by a title plate [Pall Bearers] and off screen [Coffin Bearers].  Note Commander Trickey's marching position. Once onto to Whitehall proper, the formation is expanded to its normal size/formation - undistorted. That in effect moves the Pall Bearers back closer to the State Gun; the Life Guard officer leaves his position; my group moves closer to the Pall Bearers; the rear drag-ropes move out [expand] bringing Commander Trickey very close to me but comfortably astern of me. Remember that this is a new experience for we the Bearer Party have not taken part in the London rehearsals marching in our now new positions: new for ME and for Commander Tricky.  For those familiar with the nautical expression CPA [closest point of approach] this coming close to one another is fine as long as the course and speed is maintained and there is plenty of sea-room to escape a potential disaster should any of those parameters suddenly change!



This next picture is ideal for my purposes to show the proximity of these various key players!

Moving left to right,  three of the four Pall Bearers on the port side of the gun [a French General, a Marshall of the Royal Air Force, and a Royal Marines Lieutenant General are next to the gun, and outboard of them and in very close proximity are three of the four Coffin Bearers [two of whom are Chief Petty Officers volunteers dressed as seamen]  CRS Timmington and CRS Davies, followed by the OIC of the Bearer Party, Lieutenant Bob Doyle. In the distant background you can just see two of the other Coffin Bearers with me at the rear, and the last in line on the starboard side of the gun of the Pall Bearers namely Admiral of the Fleet Sir Edward ASHMORE a very famous naval Signal Officer.  Now come to the extreme right foreground and you can just see a lieutenant with sword tucked under his armpit who is very close to Bob Doyle. This officer is marching in the front row port column of the rear drag-ropes as Commander Trickey is marching in the front row of the starboard column very close to me. This picture is cropped from the first picture above to show you  his position vis-a-vis Commander Trickey's position over on the left as he is on the right at the head of the rear drag-ropes.  If Lieutenant Doyle were to wander over to his right or the drag-ropes lieutenant to his left, even by a small amount, there would be a collision!


The passage down Whitehall into Parliament Square was uneventful and nobody veered off course, least of all Commander Trickey and me!

Now we approach the Broad Sanctuary which is the slip road which leads to the Great West Door of Westminster Abbey. It narrows quite appreciably [so, you may well ask why it is Broad], and there can be no doubt that during the two rehearsals without the Coffin Bearers in the procession, things were fine and the crew plus the wheels of the State Gun Carriage navigated the restricted area without a problem.

As we approached the Broad Sanctuary there was nothing in the script to order a closing of ranks that we were aware of  [like in Horse Guards for example] and so we continued at the slow march with our minds set upon our duties about to start, which believe me, were unnerving and demanding especially given the Royal occasion and the world watching our every move and listening to the many orders we [I] had to give.

All of a sudden, I heard a deep male voice immediately behind me telling me to get out of the way. Imagine, playing a leading role in the funeral to come, and being told to disappear, to get out of the way. I immediately ignored the obvious command because it simply did not make any sense to me  and continued on my way as I expected it to unfold. Again, but this time more loudly came "Fleet Chief get out of the way" and now I am beginning to wonder and to panic. The order was forcibly delivered a third time, and at this stage my only way out was to step up onto the very high kerb stone and walk on the top of an elevated section heading in the general direction of the Abbey front. Quite naturally I felt such a bloody fool towering above everybody else in the procession, but more importantly with some sixty odd orders to give to the bearers into the Abbey, during the Service and again out of the Abbey, I was unnerved and could have so easily lost the plot! Commander Trickey and what was known as the Whale Island mafia, had not taken into account the presence of the Coffin Bearers in their planning and rehearsals [even though it was his wise counsel to say that we Bearers should perform in exactly the same manner as previous Army Bearers]  and all had rejoiced at his intervention and applauded his decision. That decision was not factored into the event proper, and he was hell bent to run me over if that was necessary for him to keep his dignity. I have a little movie of this event which truly shows that a picture is worth a thousand words and here it is.


and then Scroll down and  select PART NINE.

Click on OPEN

When the screen appears keep you mouse pointing to the bottom of the screen so that you can see a red horizontal line which grows showing one the progress of the film snippet in a time base. Keep pointing the mouse because after a while this function will go off. At minute 00.42 you will see me step up onto the verge and immediately to my left is the cap and figure of Commander Trickey, the guy who forced me out as it were. You can grab that red line at any time with your mouse and pull it left or right to go back or go forward, so you can repeat this section of the film at your leisure. If you were to continue watching the whole part you will hear three voices. The first, to stop the gun outside the Abbey and when the coffin has been taken off the gun, his order for the crew to slow march, is that of Captain Bethell. Then  the inimitable deep voice of Commander Trickey ordering an off caps and an open-order-march, and then my voice giving all the commands to the Bearers.

Commander Frank Trickey sadly died on the 13th of February 1991 in Dorset as a relatively young man.  He finally retired fully in 1981 from the staff of C-in-C NAVHOME, so he had but ten short years as a proverbial retired person.  I wrote the story of Mountbatten's  funeral  whilst Commander Trickey was still alive , http://www.godfreydykes.info/ceremonial_funeral_of_lord_louis.htm  not wishing to continue into the public domain the episode in Broad Sanctuary which I was loathed, at that time, to fully forgive, so best not to mention it at all, in any detail anyway. Now, I can reveal all, namely that when back in H.M.S. Excellent for the gather-around-lads speech [a wash-up] by Captain Bethell and Commander Trickey, I happened to be walking to my car after the event with a H.M.S. Mercury colleague, when following on I heard "Mr Dykes" and turned around to see Commander Trickey. He shook my hand warmly and sincerely with his giant sized hand, and apologised in a most polite manner for his actions which clearly had embarrassed me. He said that he could not avoid the collision because it would have affected much of the rear drag-ropes crew and that he wasn't prepared to do that.  Better, if that's now relevant he said, that I sacrificed you, even though I was aware of your onerous duties literally a few minutes away.  And then he said "but the so called sacrifice was short lived befitting the mettle of a Fleet Chief and I am delighted that you did what I insisted you did, without fuss or comment. Well done for what you did throughout the ceremonies and I am pleased that I was able to see you before we all went our several different ways. Thank you. I know that your branch will be well pleased with you and your very able Bearers who performed their duties in a most credit worthy fashion."

So, in truth, I too remain in awe of this man, and I am proud that for just a few hours and much of that from a distance, I got to know why gun busters held him in such awe and with affection and pride that he was a one-off, who belonged to them and to Whaley.

The records show that Frank Kenneth Trickey became a sub lieutenant in 1956, a  lieutenant on the 1st of April 1960, lieutenant commander on the 1st October 1966 and a commander on the 11th October 1974. Subsequent to his promotion to lieutenant commander he had two ships, first off  H.M.S. Nubian as the first lieutenant 1967/68 and then H.M.S. Shoulton as the CO in 1971/72.

P.S. The record shows that many gunnery specialists attained high rank and brought great credit to Whale Island. Perhaps the most important of these men was Rear Admiral Sir Richard Trowbridge, the first boy seaman [trained in  HMS Impregnable at Devonport and commissioned in 1940] to reach flag rank where for over four years he was FORY and the commanding officer of H.M. Yacht Britannia in its hey days in the 1970's.

Regards. Yours aye.