Isn’t it strange that the affection associated with one specific ship can last well into civilian life for many sailors.
HMS Sheffield, of 1936 vintage, is one of the many ships I have mentioned over the years and the photograph I published some weeks ago of her languishing in Fareham Creek brought a vast number of e-mails from members of the ship’s company.
One came from former Chief Petty Officer Alan Walker who, as a petty officer, served in the ship in the mid-1950s.
On a voyage to the Mediterranean the ship called into the French port of Cannes when the film festival was taking place.
Alan, who was always a little starstruck, went ashore to try to take photographs of some of the stars. He managed to not only take a photo of Doris Day, but also managed to pass his camera to a colleague who grabbed a photo of him with the screen legend. I wonder how many sailors can say they have been arm in arm with Doris Day?
Later in the visit the very first Bond Girl, Eunice Gayson, came on board.
Eunice starred as Sylvia Trench, James Bond’s (Sean Connery), first girlfriend. She appeared in two Bond films, Dr No and From Russia With Love. She was booked to play Miss Moneypenny but the role went to Lois Maxwell.
Another who came on board was James Robertson Justice. As we know, Justice appeared in many films playing the part of... James Robertson Justice. He always seemed to be typecast as himself.
From Cannes HMS Sheffield stayed in the Med where she later played the part of HMS Ajax in the film Battle of the River Plate.
Alan retired from the navy after 23 years and became a drama and English teacher in Portsmouth.
And so to a different memory of the Shiny Sheff.
Deryck Swetnam served his apprenticeship at HMS Caledonia (immediately above Rosyth dockyard) between 1965 and 1967.
During that time new accommodation blocks were built and apprentices progressively moved into them from the Second World War-vintage corrugated iron and asbestos huts.
The metal beds and lockers that were in those huts were sold to a scrap merchant. This would have been in the autumn of 1966, but when the lads went home for Christmas leave, an inspection of the new blocks found that the concrete had not been poured properly and the buildings were unsafe.
Enough of the old beds were found, but the lockers had gone beyond recall. So this is where Sheffield came in. She arrived at Rosyth for final de-equipping at just the right time. All the metal kit lockers were taken out of her and put in the old huts, which the apprentices had to move back into after returning from leave.
After some time in the basin at Rosyth she was towed back into tidal waters before her last journey to the breakers at Faslane.