a continuation of  type from



 There was a saying, which asked a sailor if he had been to the Rock [Gibraltar]? Many would be keen to say yes to make it known that they were bonafide mariners, but jack 'me tickler-tape' would retort NO!, but I have passed it many times when going abroad or, in Jack's speak, when going foreign!

It was the first recognised "going away port" east/west and south  of the Western Approaches, and likewise coming home from an exciting time in any of those compass-point directions, particularly those pointing East of Suez via the Cape or the 'Med/Suez Canal. There were however, in-fillers for a run-ashore like Brest, Nantes/St Nazaire, Lisbon or Oporto but most warships went from Gibraltar to UK [Plymouth/Portsmouth] direct. Wherever one went in a capital ship, one dipped-out berth-wise, with the smaller ships and submarines getting the alongside berths with a walk-off-gangway direct to shore-leave via the dockyard/docks. The capital ships were berthed inboard [sheltered side, protected from the open sea] on one of two Moles at Gibraltar, South [hopefully] or Detached [please not],[SM, DM] with smaller vessels on North Mole [NM]. This picture shows the best view of the moles with SM on your left, NW on your right, and clearly, DM in the middle. In other ports, they usually ended up mid-stream between buoys or anchored outside breakwaters.

 Note the two breakwaters. Contrary to common belief the township and dockyard of Gibraltar [and thus the breakwaters] face directly opposite the Spanish town of Algeciras and not North Africa. I suppose, if there has to be a bloody Mosque on the Rock, it is fitting that it is in the south of the Rock, opposite North Africa, but no doubt facing east. At the opposite end of the Rock directly facing Spain is the airport - North Front; again the name making sense of the Rocks geography. Most people think that Gibraltar is at the bottom of the rocky outcrop directly facing the tip of North Africa protecting the Gibraltar Straits, but this isn't the case. Gibraltar is on the Mediterranean coast of Spain quite some distance into that sea and some distance north of the famous Straits: in fact, by the time you are abreast of Gibraltar you are well and truly through the Straits! Escaping the Rock into Spain, one can go north by car/bus or walk to the area of La Linea, or cross by ferry to Algeciras which is quite a pleasant area, from where you can taxi or bus it north to other Spanish towns. If you wanted to go to North Africa, to Morocco, there is a regular ferry from Algeciras to Ceuta [1 hour approx] and cheap! Once in Ceuta you have the choice of three big towns all within a four hour cheap taxi ride - Tangier one and a half hours; Rabat three hours; Casablanca four hours. Marrakesh?....well that is quite a bit further!

When capital ships call in at Gibraltar they are berthed on a seniority basis so the admiral and his officers can come and go to the flag ship[s] without too much trouble. Being berthed on the DM required a boat routine which is tedious for virtually all, unless you have your own private boat!

This picture is looking almost due west.

 In this rather ancient drawing of 1929 you can see which ships have the best south mole berths. The ships are taking part in the 'Atlantic Fleet Spring Cruise' in January to April. The Fleet was in harbour from the 26th March to the 2nd April when it set sail for UK Ports. Benbow was decommissioned as soon as she arrived home, was taken out of service in 1930 and sold for scrap in 1931.

On the Detached Mole:-
Repulse - Battlecruiser [north]
Hood - Battlecruiser [middle] with flag of VA Commanding Battlecruiser Squadron, Sir Frederick Dreyer
Marlborough - Battleship [south]

On the South Mole:-

Emperor of India - Battleship [north]
 [next] Benbow - Battleship
[next] Rodney - Battleship
[next] Nelson - Battleship
plus a small vessel in front of Nelson just by the dry docks. Once those big girls are berthed there's little room left for anything else.

Note the senior ships on the SM. Marlborough [on the DM]  is also a battleship with a captain or flag  junior to either of those on SM.

Some of these ships fought at Jutland thirteen years previously!

Note the many buoy moorings, and the large ship at the buoy directly opposite the southern harbour entrance.

Hood, in particular, spent every year from 1921 to 1929 doing Spring Cruises, chiefly to the Mediterranean.


This is a picture, cleverly [I think] drawn/sketched by a naval boy in 1938. I don't know whether it is supposed to be the ship further below [there are marked differences] but it is a damn good attempt. I also wonder if this boy went to the Caledonia and left to go to another boys' training establishment when it was destroyed, like to Shotley Gate for example?

After Shotley, what a posh training ship?

.....and here's six more pictures with no known home.

War magazine front

Early mining demo

About to lay a German

War magazine on

The general war
naval magazine
HMS Rodney
on cover

An early WW2


When we were a global navy [how sad today?] we were harassed by these guys wherever we went in second and third world countries - that's getting on for four fifths of the world!



This picture was far from the minds of sailors serving under what was a strict [or stricter then early-mid '50s] discipline carried out by the chief and petty officer classes exercised in the name of the commanding officer and his wardroom officers. It wasn't a harsh physical discipline meted out to sailors in the German and Russian navies or even in the French navy, but it was often incomprehensible, unnecessary, fruitless and petty. The saying "if it moves salute it, and if it doesn't, paint it" was enforced rigidly and cans of brass polish [trade name 'Brasso'] were bought by the ton, issued to every part of ship, and the 'paint locker' forward, played a central part in the daily life of ships, usually in harbour, but increasingly so at sea also. We truly deserved the nickname "bullshit navy": mind you, most were! As often as not, the proverbial heavy chipping-hammer was the largest "weapon" sailors saw for lengthy periods, and whereas sailors comprehended the need to keep the vessel ship-shape, doing it repeatedly, routinely when it didn't need it, just to employ the lower-deck crew, was not seen as good management nor the correct way to keep the men happy and content.

It is a picture of a group of male naval officers and WRNS officers* looking down [literally] at the sole junior rate in the picture with misgivings, misgivings also shared by the CPO bottom right, who himself is the subject of being looked down upon.  Why are they there, two lower deckers in the midst of eleven commissioned officers**? In  actual fact this is the picture of a dust-cover from a book called Naval Obituaries, which I have called "death is a great leveler." The junior rate is probably Signalman Gus Britton a WW2 submariner, but as for the lone CPO, this caricature doesn't make much sense, for the only chief mentioned in the book was a brave man, taking on a Japanese cruiser with an ancient 4" gun only to be taken prisoner to undergo a hard time in a Japanese POW camp. In 1945 he came back home safely. His name was 'Lofty' Rogers.  

* The book was published in 2004. Women became naval officers in 1990, but come 2004, none had died with gold stripes on their arms!

** Very few naval officers from the '50s onwards had sets, and those that did were often "rankers" an oldish word used liberally in and before WW2, meaning commissioned from the lower deck - warrant officers, then branch officers and then special duties officers. Being such an officer is perhaps the reason why he is hiding at the back right hand side, with the exception to the rule, back left hand side, inboard of the vice admiral!

Back in the early 1950's, in the situations explained above, I used to think that one day I would get my own back on these 'slave masters' and that in another world, civvy street, we would be equal, doing what I couldn't imagine, although I became a business man in London whereas many commissioned officers didn't. Of course here, getting equal, meant lying next to one another on a mortician table before being dispatched to a "deck" entirely different from the one's that so separated us in life, maybe above, higher than the upper deck or below the lower deck, who knows?  Funny as you get on in years [I am now 78] a rose garden grows around all the things you didn't like as a youngster, and a forgiveness takes over from angst [perhaps too strong a word, I agree] that you either had or thought you had. Moreover, being elderly makes one aware of just how lucky one has been [certainly true in my case] and how grateful one should be for providence: oh! and naval training and employment also! 

See you up there, or, are you going to visit Lucifer? He takes both commissioned and non-commissioned erstwhile mortals, or so I am told!


  Flags, colours, bunting, ensigns have all an important part to play in naval ceremony, customs, marks of respect and salutes to our own Royals but also to visiting Heads of States, as a matter of courtesy, and to maritime nations world-wide visited by our warships.

To most people, civilians largely, the word flag[s] means a coloured/patterned  piece of cloth raised up or down on a flag-pole using rope;  likewise a piece of paper or plastic stuck on the end of a hard plastic or wooden stick; loose laid over a railing or balustrade used as a so-called loyalty emblem at sporting events, or, in modern parlance, used on a computer [called flagging-up] to signify an action to be taken: there are other examples too.

However, now concentrating on 'flags' only, the navy has a custom of giving a Flag to a very senior naval officer by rank [not by name], all but two modeled on St Georges' Cross/Flag [SGF], the Flag of England.

Rear Admirals wear or fly or raise the SGF with a red ball in each of the two quadrants closest to the mast on which it flies,
Vice Admirals have a SGF with one red ball in the upper quadrant only, closest to the mast,
Admirals wear the SGF unencumbered,
Admirals of the Fleet wear a Union Flag/Jack,
and The Lord High Admiral of the United Kingdom wears a very special flag shown below:-

The Lord High Admiral has had an irregular past over many centuries, often going for many years with the rank being unfilled. HM The queen in fact reintroduced the rank in 1964 after having been the monarch for twelve years, and this after a break of 136 years of it been unused. It could have been that there were times when there was a spare mast in HMY Britannia. Britannia had three masts, traditionally fore, main and mizzen, and the flags she flew/wore depended upon who was on board. For example, with the crew only onboard it was often that a white ensign would be hoisted on the main and mizzen, with a rear admirals flag on the fore. With Her Majesty embarked, its was Lord High Admiral on the fore, The Queens Royal Standard on main and a Union Flag on the mizzen. In 2011, on his 90th birthday, The Queen relinquished the title of The Lord High Admiral of the United Kingdom and gave it to her husband H.R.H. Prince Philip The Duke of Edinburgh.

Of course not all admirals [of various types] are appointed as Flag Officers [although they are of Flag Rank], and Flag Officers fly their Flag whilst ashore or afloat, and also on the front of their official motor vehicle, or their boats/launches.

Flag officers are always given specific functions, some ashore, like Flag Officer Portsmouth [FO Portsmouth] and some at sea like Flag Officer Carriers and Assault ships [FOCAS]. Flag officers appointed to shore jobs, fly their Flags in one place in one building. Commander-in-Chief Naval Home Command [CINCNAVHOM] was a shore appointment but he flew his Flag on board HMS Victory in Portsmouth Dockyard which was stay-put for an eternity and didn't go anywhere other than number 2 dock. These 'shore' Flags do not move around except in extraordinary conditions. Those appointed to sea jobs necessitated the admiral to have a ship in which to fly his Flag [known as a Flag ship] and a shore station/dockyard dedicated building for his huge administrative load. In these cases [FOCAS, again, for example] the shore station would be in a fixed geographical position - in the vicinity of Fort Southwick in this case, but his ship could alternate, say one stint in a carrier and the next in an assault ship. Changing Flag sites, known as a Flag-shift, was a frequent event, and in the case of a sea-going Flag, any large vessel could be earmarked as a fitting Flag ship. When a Flag was transferred to a ship, the captain of that ship became the Flag-Captain.

You can readily see that a Flag officer with the title "Commander 3rd Battlecruiser Squadron" a rear or vice admiral, say with four battlecruisers and several other types of cruisers, would have a nominated Flag ship carrying his Flag, but he could easily shift his Flag to any of the vessels in his squadron.

There was however, one exception to the rule of Flags, and associated titles of Flag ships, and that was The Royal Yacht. From 1953 onwards Her Majesty's Yacht [HMY] Britannia was The Royal Yacht and her commanding officer was appointed as Flag Officer Royal Yachts [FORY] and his Flag ship was Britannia. Yachts plural, was a left-over from previous years when there had been two or three royal yachts in the squadron, often used simultaneously by various members of the family and extended family. In the long gap between the last of those Edwardian yachts and Britannia's commissioning, one or more merchant vessels had acted as a royal yacht, the most famous being the liner Gothic - the battleship HMS Vanguard had also acted as the Royal Yacht to take King George VI and his family to South Africa in 1947. In 1953, the Gothic, entering the Mediterranean from the Suez Canal with the Queen and Prince Philip on board, rendezvoused off Malta with the Britannia [on her maiden voyage] which had entered from the Gibraltar end carrying Prince Charles and Princess Anne, and continued into Grand Harbour together. Thereafter, until the lousy Labour government took the Yacht off Her Majesty, the Britannia had her refits, and maintenance periods when the vessel was not required by the Royals.

Unlike most sea appointed Flags, FORY Flag always flew and on the Britannia only [his standing Flag ship] even during lengthy periods of her at her mooring off Whale Island.

That said, on one occasion, FORY, Rear Admiral Sir Richard Trowbridge, the longest serving FORY clocking up five full years [over two typical FORY commissions by other admirals] who had joined when aged fifteen as a boy seaman [career story continues at this point below] had a premonition during a planned refit of Britannia. Princess Anne with a small team was to fly to Addis Ababa to represent the Queen and the country on a British Delegation to visit the Emperor of Abyssinia/Ethiopia, Haile Selassie, a dear friend of the UK. Rear Admiral Trowbridge had really little to do whilst they wrecked his posh Flag ship, so he offered to lead the Delegation. He knew that the DLG Antrim [as a private ship i.e., no Flag aboard] was due to be in the Red Sea, and that the British base at Aden was less than a one and a half hour flight from Addis Ababa [a distance just short of 500 miles]. He therefore took the opportunity to visit the ship for an overnight stay during which he raised his Flag as FORY making the ship temporarily a Royal Yacht: unorthodox but a unique occasion. Haile Selassie disappeared in 1974, believed murdered by a Russian-backed coup which deposed him! After the loss of the Britannia, the Queen used a couple of civilian vessels, albeit for short trips in local environments, never leaving the sight of land except for Scottish holidays, and at that point, the appointment of commander of the Yacht, which started off with a vice admiral and finished with a commodore, a non-Flag rank officer, lapsed for all time; a very sad occasion.   

He progressed under the old Mate system/upperyardman scheme starting his officer training at Dartmouth in late 1940 being commissioned as an acting sub lieutenant with a seniority of 01.01.1941. His first ship was HMS Luminary a trawler. He was promoted lieutenant wef 16.10.1941 and spent much time in the B-Class destroyer Boreas. After the war during which he met Prince Philip at the Japanese surrender, he took all his leave due, qualified on the long-G course at Whale Island becoming a professional gunner, did various gunnery jobs, then took command of the Mediterranean-based destroyer Carysfort for two years. His next big job was as the commander of the cruiser Bermuda as second in command. After a spell in Whale Island he took command of the fishery protection squadron in Duncan, famous for fighting the first cod-war, for being awarded the freedom of the city of Hull for doing it so well to protect their fishermen, and for round the world yachtsman Sir Robin Knox-Johnson a one time bridge watchkeeper in Duncan and SCO [Squadron Communications Officer] who was the first person to do a single-handed non-stop circumnavigation of the world.

One of his biggest delights was taking command of the DLG HMS Hampshire which was typical of the Flag-shift system I have outlined above, seeing several new admirals and staff using his ship as a base. It is said that despite the turmoil [and having been twice myself as a sea-rider on an admiral's staff in DLG's, I know how fraught the association between ship's company and sea-riders gets, especially when we pinched all the best bunks down aft in No3 CPO/WO Mess], he managed to keep a happy ship and "a brilliantly" efficient ship to boot. It was much better when we were in Tiger a cruiser as there we had junior officers cabins, albeit directly underneath a very noisy and busy flight deck having four Seakings embarked].

Admiral Trowbridge liked to witness what was going on in his Flag ship especially during refits, after all he knew more than any other about what the Royal Family wanted and what the crew desired, even down to choosing the "rabbit" course [un-costed, unofficial additions to the ship] and it is said that he was present when the dockyard ripped out sections which since build, had trapped-in large amount of asbestos. Evidently he was present when the air was thick with asbestos dust. Although he died at the grand old age of 83, he died of lung cancer, and had he not been in those below-deck spaces during the strip-out stages, he may have gone on to receive a telegram from his old boss!

After the navy, he became the last, non-Oz born, vice-regal Governor of Western Australia based in Perth for the first three years of the 1980's. He died in Portsmouth in 2003.


From time immemorial sailors went to sea and whether for commerce or for defence, for very long periods, and they were doing that still on the day I joined the navy in 1953. Two to two and a half years was the norm in the 1920's and 1930's and in the early 1950's it was down to two years. That was considered much too long a period for separation which needed to be reduced: for a period without separation, namely being accompanied and having your wife and family with you, often kept the status quo and even increased the length of a foreign commission by six months or so. There was a high proportion of foreign accompanied drafts/appointments even for sea going vessels for officers, warrant officers and chief petty officers. To reduce the separated cases, two things happened, the first of which was the introduction of the General Service Commission [GSC]. This came about vide AFO 659/54. A GSC took as the norm, a ship inside a two year cycle with, at the commencement, half the time on a foreign station and the other half in home waters. Later on, variations were introduced, alternating the foreign leg, usually by, although it didn't always hold true, looking at one of the years as a two part deployment with the home period staying as the twelve month period, and the two-part year spent in two different parts of the world e.g., east of Suez and the West Indies. The second thing that happened, but a tad later on, was a cash payment made to men separated from wives as a compensation for the disruption of family life. This was introduced on the 2nd March 1966 as follows:-

It was of course not designed for men who had voluntarily separated from their wives as this cutting shows. However, in 1964 he wouldn't have qualified as it hadn't then been established. Pardon the names shown, but the guy in question would be 100 years old today in 2016 having been born in 1916 joining the navy in 1932 when 16 years old 

GSC's really meant that some non-sea-going ships [or went to sea every blue moon] based abroad, took [or had the opportunity to take] their families with them, typically the heavy maintenance ship ex-carrier Triumph, the Medway LCT and the Forth submarine depot-ship in Singapore, and in Malta, Forth again in earlier years, Ranpura heavy maintenance repair ship, and all shore establishment drafts/appointments.  Virtually all other sea-going ships were itinerant [some on GSC and some deployed] and at best, flew their wives out for a holiday. However, there were several ships based on foreign ports which went to sea for long periods, specifically submarines [in Australia, Malta, Canada, and Singapore and to a lesser extent, the MCM small vessels based on Hong Kong, Malta, Gibraltar and Singapore.  They too were accompanied drafts/appointments. Another big change for foreign service personnel, was the closure of the dockyards at Trincomalee, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malta, and the call-back of submarines from Sydney and Halifax.

That the old days of saying goodbye to a baby and coming back to hug a three year old had gone, and most cheered and were well pleased. But, as the GSC supplanted the full commission, which, with rare exceptions, were depot manned, dissatisfaction grew in mixed-manned ships. The navy was formed and operated around three main depots, Devonport, Portsmouth and Chatham, and ships were allocated to depots. Ships set off from a depot and returned to it when in UK waters for main leave periods. A Portsmouth rating for example, would have a Portsmouth MQ's or would have bought a house in or around the depot city. He knew that when in UK water there was always a high chance of docking in the Pompey Yard. His children went to school in Portsmouth [or Gosport] and even his promotion and advancement rosters were dictated by his depot barracks, Victory, Drake or Pembroke. As an example of this there was only one Signal School and that was HMS Mercury [in the Portsmouth depot area]. All depot men irrespective, attended the petty officer courses in Mercury. Then they waited! Chatham might require half a dozen petty officer telegraphists and you could be promoted within a year of passing the Mercury course. Devonport on the other hand, might have had a frozen roster with twenty men waiting for advancement, but their requirement might have been just two. It could take you three to four years before being advanced.

The problem with a GSC ship was that it was mixed-manned, men from each of the depots, and as such it had no dedicated port. Although your wife and kids were domiciled in Portsmouth, that counted for nothing after the change-over, and leave periods could be given in Rosyth, Devonport, Chatham or Portsmouth if you were lucky. Worse still, all the long-stay maintenance requirements [DED = Docking for essential Defects] [AMP = Assisted maintenance the dockyard] [SMP = Self maintenance Period [done by ships company] could all be carried out up north [say in Rosyth] meaning just a few hours at home in Portsmouth on a LWEL [Long week end leave] allowing for the long train journey's south and back again ready to start work on a Monday morning. I recall many men being zombiefied all day long on Mondays and virtually unemployable! 

The change over from long full commissions to GSC solved one major personnel problem but in so doing created many more personnel problems. It wasn't long afterwards that the depots were struck and all drafting, advancement etc was done centrally by HMS Centurion, a shore building manned by naval and civilians employees over the harbour in Gosport. Fortunately for me [us submariners], the minute one joined the submarine service they were automatically Portsmouth ratings [their official number changed [if it wasn't already there] to the letter 'P' and from thereonin, drafting, advancement and welfare were all done from HMS Dolphin [Fort Blockhouse] in Gosport entirely separate from the rest of the navy. This also applied to the Fleet Air Arm, where everything started and finished in HMS Daedalus at Lee-on-the-Solent, also on the Gosport side of the harbour.

Life for GSC married personnel was or could be, a real bugger. For the single man it really didn't matter!


Every now and again, we dig-up a confusing story about our illustrious navy in WW2. This is a story about HMS Primrose, one of thousands of brave little ships. According to WW2 records, there were three of them by name, and we will started by introducing them.

First come the Flower-Class Corvette which was first commissioned on the 15th July 1940 with a pennant number of K91. Rather confusingly there were Flower-Class Escort Sloops and Flower-Class Corvettes, the Sloops displacing 1175 tons and the Corvettes 925 tons. There were lots of Flower-Class vessels, and if they were not enough, they built the Modified Flower-Class @ 980 tons. Primrose was built by Simons and Majors, one of several commercial yards on the banks of the River Thames. She was adopted by the Welsh town of RISCA [Glamorganshire] under the Warship Week Sponsorship. If you Googled this ship and viewed the first K91 ship offered, you would probably have arrived at the proverbial UBoat-Net page. On it, you will see, as is often the case on this site, that the Primrose wasn't shown as being on active service until after the war, in this case the European war in July 1945. This is very misleading for the vast majority, if not all of British warships were not listed in the Navy List in the war years late '40 to second part of '45. Had they have been so, it would have made it easy for German intelligence. Let me assure you she was very active throughout the war. The pennant number 'K..' was used by deep-sea going patrol craft and corvettes.

This is Primrose's [K91] convoy tasking in WW2:-







Date convoy sailed

Joined convoy as escort

Convoy No.

Left convoy

Date convoy arrived








SL 040





OA 196





OB 202





SL 043





OA 211





HX 070





OA 218





SL 047





OA 226





OA 234





OB 234





SL 051





OB 241





HG 046





EN 074/1





OB 294





SL 066





OB 299





HX 114





OB 312





SC 028





OB 318





HX 123





OB 324





SC 031





OB 331





HX 134





OB 343





HX 141





ON 005





ON 004





SC 051





ON 033





SC 057





ON 046





SC 063





ON 068





SC 073





ON 080





SC 080





ON 098





ON 100





HX 195





ON 112





SC 094





ON 139





SC 108





ON 149





SC 113





ON 160





HX 225





KMS 011G





ON 179





HX 237





ON 186





HX 243





ON 191





HX 248





ON 196





SC 140





ONS 027





ON 220





WP SP 24





WP SP 26





WP SP 29





WP 529





ETC 001





ETM 008





ETC 022





EMM 001W





ETM 061





OS 108KM





ON 285





SC 169





ON 294





SC 173





ON 302





SC 177



Very impressive I am sure you will agree.

Moving further down that Googled page you will come to a title called "HMS Primrose [Littleships]". On this page you will read of a rescue performed off Iceland by HMS Primrose, but this one, a so-called "Long-Range Armed Trawler" used the pennant number of T104. The T104, a Naval Trawler of the Dance-Class was in fact HMS Cotillion and not HMS Primrose as the author of "Littleships" Ron Stahl, would have us believe. She too served well throughout most of the war 1941-45, and as the norm, officered and crewed by RNR personnel with the odd civilian mixed in every now and again. Cotillion was built in Ardossan Scotland by the Plenty company. She was adopted by the towns of Alnwick and Amble in Cumberland.

Finally, the official records of the battle cruiser HMS Hood tells us that she had a boarding party which was called HMS Primrose! Well, to a purist, that too was a misleading statement, nearly as confusing as HMS Cotillion being called HMS Primrose. HMS Primrose, newly commissioned for convoy duties, was no where near the Norwegian mainland at the time of the Norwegian Campaign!

This courtesy of, and reserving full and eternal copyright, comes from the HMS Hood Association Website, under the heading REFERENCES - OFFICIAL RECORDS - ADM 101 and hence to ADM 101/565 - 2nd QUARTER - SHEET 45 reproduce here below.

- Sheet No. 45 -

It must be mentioned that a landing party - known as H.M.S. Primrose - was sent from this ship to join the Norwegian Expeditionary Force. Of those that returned to the ship four men were granted Hurt Certificates for wounds received in action ; they are all described under the individual Hurt Certificates. It was considered that the granting of these Hurt Certificates was warranted, and as there was no authority in H.M.S. Primrose in a position to award them, they were given from this ship on the return of the party, when full facts were obtained.

Now it just so happened that the launching of the ship HMS Primrose coincided [loosely] with a part of the 1940 Norwegian campaign against the annexation of the whole of Norway by Nazi Germany. This happened between 9th April and 10th June 1940.

HMS Hood was in refit in Devonport [good old Guzz - Oggie, Oggie, Oggie] and let me assure you that being in refit in a major naval port is the best and the worst of Jack's lot?

During the day when 90% of those on board are dockyard employees [dockyard matey's as we called them] doing an excellent job in making life that much better for sailors after the refit than it had been before the refit but at a cost of sanity for anybody within a few metres of the refit dock, added to which is the almost total privation of lack of even basic facilities like toilets, washing, laundry and preening, a space on which one could write a love letter home - believe me - whilst at night many of the ship's company would cause consternation [or anxiety known to be coming] to and from the bars and dives ashore, with the ever present 'thick heads' the following day, the problems with inherited STD [sexually transmitted diseases] and 'phthirus pubis' [the pubic area blood-sucking louse] called 'crabs' in the vernacular. Far better a ship, her company and officers are on the open sea/ocean than in a harbour, with both alternatives being in harms-way and subjected to attack by the enemy.

During the early part of the Norwegian Campaign, the army were seen to be under great stressed duress, and wanted more soldiers to fill the gaps. There were none, at least none to be spared, so Churchill decided that the navy should be called in. Sailors from most of the capital ships were involved [Rodney, Nelson, Barham etc] whether operational or in dockyard hands, and Hood was ordered to supply a party of 250 officers and men.  The campaign had be called "OPERATION PRIMROSE", and so these sailors were required to fight in and support an Operation and not to fight in HMS Primrose as stated in Hoods records. In short, Hood's party suitably armed [although said to be pitifully armed] were en-trained with a gun, small arms and provisions to Rosyth where they boarded a small warship to take them to Norway. Their story, well and fully told elsewhere, was interesting but not exciting and very shortly afterwards they were back in Hood with four of the men injured for their efforts. However, the overall story had many very important occurrences chief of which was the resignation of Chamberlain in favour of Churchill as the Prime Minister at the famous House of Commons Debate of the 12th May 1940, with Churchill replaced at the Admiralty as the First Lord by A. V. Alexander a famous member of the Board. Also the UBoat which revealed the Enigma details; the infamous act of the Scots Guards leaving their post which they were ordered to maintain and fight for; the gung-ho! leader of naval forces against impossible odds Admiral of the Fleet William Boyle whose thrust to destroy the German invaders was subdued by the army leaders; the naval losses sustained, Germany losing heavily in both personnel and materiel whilst we also lost a lot of men plus 1 carrier, 2 cruisers, 7 destroyers and 1 submarine. The end result was a shambles and and a qualified success for the Germans.

Moral of my story, of the three recorded HMS Primrose' only one was the real thing, proving the need to do one's research fully.


   In my researches I have come across rating deserters, but rarely is there a hint, never mind a doing, of a naval officer deserting his post and his ship. As a very brief snippet, I came across this Obituary of 1980 of a hardy army officer who had once been a midshipman in one of our Flag ships. The ship  was based off the Cape in far away South Africa when WW1 started in 1914. He feared that the navy and especially his ship would not see any of the action which he was hell-bent on experiencing, so whilst ashore he reported to a local army barracks and duly signed on as a soldier. It appears that he didn't tell the navy that he wasn't coming back, nor did he mention to the army recruiter that he was already a member of the UK's senior service newly promoted to an acting sub lieutenant RN. I have heavily cropped the obituary, but this guy was a goer and came back for more in WW2 winning the DSO.



From a 1976 cutting, in which it was suggested by a famous naval officer Captain Roskill RN, that the dates of WW2, assuming the start was always to be at Hitler's behest, should have been 1939-November 1944!

I said that Captain Roskill was a famous naval officer and well he might have been, but comparing his war career with those of his contemporaries who fought the European/Atlantic war, he has much to compete with and he doesn't really shine! What Captain Roskill is really famous for, is his second career as the UK's premier WW2 historian appointed as such by the highest of academia, and a man sought after on an international basis as a lecturer. I well remember his work "THE WAR AT SEA" and how, back in the 1950's I couldn't afford the cost of the volume set, so I used to go to the reference library in Portsmouth and read them piecemeal when time allowed, and was sometimes thought of as a weirdo by my pals, who chose to spend their free time in different Portsmouth establishments!

I have long owned a DVD-set called the "War at Sea", as I have that most desirable of all DVD-sets "The World at War", and the melodious but haunting voice of Laurence Olivier as the series narrator still stirs goose pimples. So too did the music and the start images. The book, by the same name, became one of my Christmas presents in the 1970's, a book I often consult and occasionally read a chapter or part thereof.

So here is an article of blame, name-calling, regrets, suppositions and mis, or is that mal management at the top of that august body known to us as 'Their Lordships'.


As Portsmouth was everlastingly proud that it had built the world famous HMS Dreadnought [flagship of a thousand navies], west, along the south coast of England, the very name of Weymouth and Portland for the officer corps in that Flag ship, was synonymous with ridicule and immeasurable embarrassment, the type which burns the soul, and if it were at all possible, hides one away from all human beings, whatever and wherever!

My words should now have created a scene on board this vessel which was not the doing of the Royal Navy nor was the ship mobile at the time of this hurtful event: in fact it was at a buoy, dressed overall, with resplendent officers going hither and thither from stem to stern, preoccupied with great and high expectations!

In 1910 in this far away Dorset seaside town, communications in any form, had yet to arrive and an infrastructure of the 'telegraph' and the 'telephone' late albeit, was awaiting a build and a commissioning. So says ME? The UK telephone/telegraph services were well established by this time, although obviously owning a telephone or even a radio set [cat's whisker] was not the norm, nay, most unusual. Newspapers carried all the news that was required, viewed by most, covering domestic and international stories. Certainly at this time news of the Emperor of Abyssinia' severe illness, which had invoked a court assembly to run the country on his behalf and an appointed successor [Yusa]should the Emperor if the incumbent didn't recover, would have been of international importance, especially when that involved Yusa having a wife! That marriage took place in 1910 when the wife, born in 1902 was eight yeas old: wonderful press coverage material I would have thought?

We are not going past 1910, but I can tell you that Emperor Menelek II who had been so severely ill for a long time died in December 1913.

Stay with it folks - remember we have a Flag ship, a Dorset seaside town, lots or some topical newspaper reports.

Now let's forget for a moment Abyssinian's and concentrate on UKian's!

1910 was the hayday of the theatre which included the satire of the time and caricaturisation of so-called important people. Mischief abounded, more so than today. Famous at this period was the BLOOMSBURY GROUP, a bunch of so-called influential English writers, intellectuals, philosophers and artists. This included famous people like Virginia Wolf writer and moderniser; Major Buxton a British soldier and author; Duncan Grant painter and designer of theatre sets and costumes; Guy Ridley English barrister and master of lunacy; Adrian Stephen author and psychoanalyst; and the Group was led by a crackpot eccentric prankster called Horace De Vere Cole.

Build-up over, now raise the curtain on the action.

This Group, despite the newspaper stories and other media coverage, journeyed down to Weymouth dressed and made-up to look like the Emperor of Abyssinia [the guy near to death back in Addis Ababar] and his entourage. They passed themselves off as being bonafide, fooling every body and institution enroute. On arrival in Weymouth the station staff accorded them the VIP treatment, and they were met by the the ship's commander, the executive officer second in command and a couple of members of the ships steam pinnace. From hereonin, it was swank and pomp throughout and as the pinnace came alongside, the gangway party braced themselves for a full-blown naval welcome, including the Royal Marine band and guard of honour. The were greeted in turn by the resident admiral and then by the Flag captain, and in turn, all the ship's brass-hat senior officers.

The Group spent the day in the Flag ship enjoying all the traditional naval hospitality even to the point of exchanging gifts and written citations designed to commemorate the visit. At no stage whilst in Dreadnought and the town were they pinged and their po-faces remained faithful to them, completely humourless. The hapless admiral, captain and officers were entirely duped and carried out their functions, never for a minute doubting the Group's bonafides.

I have cropped the 1970 [date of death and not the 1910 event] newspaper cutting shown below, but only the personal details of the Bloomsbury Group, and since it is an obituary after all, all the details of this Cole chappy, in my book, a waste of space, though obviously clever to be able to fool ALL the ships officers ALL of the time. I have not cropped out anything about the navy, the ship or the duping. Enjoy.

Of course it does beg the question as to how the commanding officer got wind of this crucially important visit from every British aspect. He must have been informed by official Government or Admiralty instructions presupposing that the prime minister had been forewarned and briefed by the foreign office. Moreover, surely HM King George V who had himself been on the British Throne for a couple of days only in May 1910 with court-mourning in full swing at the passing of Edward VII, but before him by a few weeks, Edward VII, would have had full knowledge of the visit of a friendly King.

In 1910 it is a sure fire bet that such a VIP with an entourage, would have arrived in a stately ship into a British port, and for obvious reasons, that had to be Portsmouth or Plymouth given the rail involvement in the story.

Whatever, it went down in history as the biggest hoax ever played on the navy or indeed, on any other British armed service. It was mooted though not corroborated, that the visit was arranged privately between the Bloomsbury Group and the captain of the ship [and his mentor, Captain Reginald Bacon RN, who had conducted trials in the ship and was credited in large part with its success] sold to them as a coup, a highly prized one-off, to be able to show foreign royalty the vessel, designed to make all other fleet units green with envy. Such a coup, were it real and valid, would indeed secure Dreadnought's position as the lead warship of the fleet and of the world, but dabbling with royal protocol and sensitivities at a time when our monarch was demonstrably ill and the court temporarily dysfunctional, with the Emperor of Abyssinia dangerously ill although it was another three years before he died in 1913: for Edward VII, death had occurred at the time of the hoax, was an act of injudicious behaviour on the part of the CO of HMS Vanguard. For the record, Dreadnought closely followed the path of another famous first of a new and revolutionary class of warship namely HMS Warrior, which never fired a shot in anger and was very soon out of date and sidelined. Dreadnought, still virtually new and tested at the start of WW1 [which had five sea battles] never took part in any of them, and by the end of the war, was considered to be outdated.    

I leave you with this thought. The Bloomsbury group, named after the area of Bloomsbury in the smart posh area of central London, were well established and practicing their modus operandi at the start of the 20th century, but a few years before the onset of WW2 had, fortunately become a forgotten and rotten lot. I am not claiming to speak for royal sailors, God forbid, especially as things have changed so much in the Royal Navy in the last twenty or so years, which reflects society at large in the UK. I suppose that leaves me talking to people of my era, perhaps even my age, and undoubtedly of my type of upbringing and understanding of how society can be, and was, engineered by the privileged classes, to our loss, so I'll be circumspect, wishing only to mention the following points.

a.  In WW1, the male members of the Bloomsbury Group and there were many of them, were, by and large, conscientious objectors. In a way, that turns their prank on the Dreadnought into something much more sinister, pouring scorn on those who served when they were unwilling to do so.
b.  Homosexuality was a by-word for male friendship. When not that, any woman would do irrespective, what today we might call incest or rape!
c.  Many were of an unstable disposition and took their own lives either by shooting or drowning.
d.  To a member, they were all highly privileged, rich, and irresponsible people, taking all and giving nothing in return except to the well-being of The Bloomsbury Group.
e.  Their friendship led to overtly published statements like that of E.M. Forster, who said that if he had to show disloyalty to his country or to his friend[s], he prayed to have the guts to abandon his country.
f.  Some male members, to enhance their own image, were willing to show their allegiance to a foreign cause, but yet refused to do that for their own country.  Fortunately, some died in Spain in 1937 fighting for Franco. Good riddance, for you wouldn't have found them in France [for example] fighting not just a foreign enemy but a universally vile enemy which millions gave their lives for to exterminate. The International Brigade was entirely different! It was a gathering of ego's and devotees of repulicism, but Franco trashed all the lives lost in his cause, but reinstating the Spanish Royal Family.

Putting my own views aside [although it's bloody difficult to do I can assure you] and viewed only from the eyes and unimaginable horrible deaths of millions of soldiers and civilians, members of the The Bloomsbury Group were nothing short of being parasites and betrayers of their birthright. They insulted a British warship, its officers and ship's company, when the British likeness of these souls, six years on at Jutland would die horrible deaths and in their thousands over a fight which lasted less than seven hours. We must also never ever forget, even though today we might consider it a stupid and irresponsible act, the thousands of middle-class young men with an opportunity to sit back and enjoy daddy's wealth, who, unlike the scum of the Bloomsbury Group, chose instead as subalterns to fight for their country, who were mercilessly gunned down the minute they ordered their men 'over the top'. It was an utter   waste of life, but if it is acceptable [and I think not] we can say a noble waste of life, whereas for the Bloomsbury lot, the grim reaper was already programmed to route to Lucifer the corpses of this expired group of privileged debauched traitors. This photograph shows just a few of this large [25 or so] Bloomsbury Group.

It is often said and wisely so, that the pen is mightier than the sword, but the pen can never defend a nation, where war is forced upon it, once the ink has run out. It is as though it were a discarded shell of a fired weapon; useless and inconsequential!

There are other sub para's I could add, but if I haven't got my point over by now, I never will do.  

Bye for now.  See you in the final snippet, snippet No 10.