Portsea to Port Said – every lad’s Royal Navy dream | Nostalgia

Imagine, if you will, a young boy living in Portsmouth in the mid-1920s.

Saturday, 3rd April 2021, 6:00 am
The officers and men of HMS Renown pose with the Duke and Duchess of York in Malta in 1927. Picture: Andrew August collection

There is little hope of a successful life for the only job would be, perhaps, as a delivery boy.

The boy decides to join the Royal Navy and off he goes to either HMS St Vincent in Gosport or HMS Ganges near Ipswich.

After a year of training he is given his first draft, not to some destroyer in the North Sea, not to a barracks as a gash hand somewhere across the UK, but he is drafted to the battle-cruiser HMS Renown to have a voyage around the world with the future King of England, although that was not known then of course.

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For in 1927, Albert, the Duke of York and Elizabeth, the Duchess of York, using Renown as a royal yacht, travelled to the Australias, as it was then called, via the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

The ship left Portsmouth on January 6, 1927, for Auckland calling in at Las Palmas; Kingston, Jamaica; Panama; Marquesas Islands, Fiji and onward to Auckland, New Zealand, where the ship arrived on February 22. After visiting many locations and meeting many hundreds of New Zealanders the Duke and Duchess departed for Australia on March 22.

Arriving on March 26 the couple, along with our young Portsmouth boy, perhaps not yet 17, visited Sydney, Hobart, Melbourne and Fremantle being greeted by thousands of loyal Australians.

On May 23, HMS Renown departed Fremantle for England calling in at Mauritius, and the Hanish Islands in the Red Sea before going through the Suez Canal.

There were other stop-overs at Port Said, Malta and Gibraltar before arriving home in Portsmouth on June 27, 1927.

Our young Portsmouth lad arrives home after travelling around the world to be greeted by his parents. He visits some of his mates who ask where he has been while they have been delivering goods on their carrier bikes around the town.

‘I’ve just been around the world,’ he tells them. ‘Yeah, course you have,’ his mates say with some amount of disbelief and envy.

Since those distant days and the loss of Britannia, the last royal yacht, royalty now travel everywhere by plane of course.

In the photograph we see the officers and men of HMS Renown when she was in Malta. The Duke and Duchess of York can be seen at the bottom between the 15 inch gun barrels.

n My photograph of the painting of the funnel of HMS Sussex on March 19 brought a response from Tony Thompson.

He tells me: ‘As officer cadets in the merchant navy in the 1960s it was one of our regular jobs to re-paint the draft marks and Plimsoll line markings on the ship after discharge of cargo.

‘This was done by hanging over the side of the ship in a bosun’s chair, often precariously close to the water, which was often putrid, such as in Kidderpore Docks at Calcutta. Not a particularly healthy activity!’

n I see News reader Dennis Wills has been talking about the difference between film cameras and digital.

There is no way I could put together these pages using a film camera.

To take photographs, have them developed then send them to the office to be reproduced would take an age.

I can take a photograph on my digital camera at midday and it will be captioned and sent in by 1pm.

Dennis also mentions CDs and LP records. I have many hundreds of LPs and single 45s many of which I still play.

When I was a presenter on Angel Radio I loved playing tracks from LPs. I find that handling an LP is far superior than a small CD. Also, the track notes on the sleeve can be read without glasses!

OK, there are a few scratches but at least LPs do not get stuck like CDs can do. I have records going back to the 1960s which are still perfect and as good as the day I bought them for 6/11d and 27/6d. I’ll leave you to work those out

n I have not mentioned the lockdown at all over the last year. To me it is a complete pain in the neck.

I have mates I have not seen since January last year. In that time I have also lost six old friends plus two former work colleagues whose funerals I could not attend, although I did manage to get to a couple to speak a eulogy.

Nothing seems worse to me than not attending a friend’s funeral to say a final farewell.

Most funerals of former railway workers are attended by a hundred or so mourners.

In the time I have had to myself I have taught myself to play the ukulele (badly) and have brushed (pun intended) up on my drumming technique in case I can get back out playing at some time later in the year. Here’s hoping.

A message from the editor, Mark Waldron.

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