Memories of HMS Vanguard

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The recent stories and pictures about the battleship HMS Vanguard prompted Dennis Wills to put fingers to keyboard.

Dennis, from Leigh Park, recalled that in 1957 he was a 15-year-old at Oak Park Boys’ School, Havant, when he visited the mothballed warship in Portsmouth Harbour.

He said: ‘It being a secondary modern we were fodder for the armed forces and dockyard apprenticeships – nothing useful like bankers – and we went on school trips to get us thinking.

‘In 1957 we visited HMS Vanguard out in the harbour and had dinner on board. I remember cold, unsweet custard. The bridge had already been stripped.’

The group then came ashore to HMS Excellent, Whale Island, where a deck gun was fired ‘in realistic conditions’.

Dennis added: ‘Five of the waterproofed ‘volunteers’ from the class got a real hammering from the firing gun on a heaving, slippery deck and overhead water tanks emptying onto them. Great fun for those of us watching. Health and safety? There was none.

‘Then it was to Fraser Battery where the class of 40 were each given a clip of five blanks to fire from a Bofors gun. The heat, blast and sound. It was better to be in the firing seat.

‘Then it was into a planetarium-type building where we electronically shot aeroplanes out of the sky. School trips really have gone soft,’ said Dennis.