Fond memories for Barry on his return to barracks

Barry Jefferies at the old walk-in entrance to Victoria Barracks, Old Portsmouth.
Barry Jefferies at the old walk-in entrance to Victoria Barracks, Old Portsmouth.
Have your say

When well-known local Southsea resident Barry Jefferies joined the Royal Navy 60 years ago tomorrow, little did he think that six decades on he’d be standing outside the former gates of the barracks where he enlisted.

But that is exactly what happened when I took him back to the former main gate of the Victoria Barracks, now the private Pembroke Park estate at Old Portsmouth.

Barry arrived a fresh new recruit three months short of his 17th birthday from Harwell, then in Berkshire and now in Oxfordshire. It would take him from his tranquil village to the other side of the world.

After his four months’ basic training, he was despatched to Portland to join the carrier HMS Indefatigable for sea training followed by a short training trip to the Scilly Isles and around the south west coast and then back to Victory barracks in Portsmouth.

He then joined HMS Perseus in Rosyth before returning once again to Victory Barracks, where he was billeted in a wooden hut, P Hut.

Eighteen months after he enlisted he was drafted to his first ship, the cruiser HMS Glasgow berthed at South Railway Jetty in the dockyard.

Barry tells me that she was the first ship to be commissioned into general service, which meant she did not go away for two-and-a-half years at a time but came home every six months or so.

While in Glasgow Barry visited Poland, but was not allowed to land as he was on jankers and had his leave stopped.

On returning to Portsmouth he was drafted to the reserve fleet – a massive flotilla of ships anchored in Portsmouth Harbour and up Fareham Creek. Most were mothballed but could be ready for service quickly if needed.

He was aboard HMS Sheffield in G Mooring of Whale Island and also served in Boxer, Cleopatra and the former battleship Vanguard.

Barry recalls: ‘Whale Island was a place to get to. You had to get the bus in Twyford Avenue and walk down Derby Road and then across the bridge on to Whale Island.

‘Then you had another long walk to the ship. By the time I was on board I was sober,’ he says with a laugh.

In January 1958 Barry was flown from Blackbushe Aerodrome, Hampshire, to Malta to join the Ton class minesweeper HMS Penston. Later he was flown back to Southampton to pick another Ton class, HMS Maxton.

In 1960 Barry served in the destroyer-cum-frigate HMS Wakeful and after a year with her was at HMS Vernon on a torpedo course for three months when he was again flown to Malta to join minesweeper HMS Meon and serve in the Persian Gulf.

During his 14-month stint in Meon Barry visited Bahrain, Aden, Bombay and, the visit of a lifetime in those days, the Seychelles – the paradise in the Indian Ocean.

On return to England he was promoted to petty officer whilst doing his third stint in HMS Vernon on a torpedo course.

In January 1965 he was then drafted to HMS Triumph, a carrier converted to fleet repair ship. She was needed urgently in Singapore and Barry tells me she steamed ahead and made it in 15 days.

He remained in Singapore for two years and on return went on a mechanisation course in Rosyth which took 20 months.

In 1970 Barry got his wish and joined the submarine service. His first draft? HMS Vernon once again and he used to travel to the many bases in Britain such as Barrow-in-Furness, Faslane, Chatham, Plymouth and Newcastle to check over submarines after re-fit or a service.

In 1971 he got his first draft to a submarine, the Porpoise class HMS Cachalot. His first voyage was across the Atlantic to Halifax, Nova Scotia which took 11 days.

Now here is something you may not know. Diesel boats were only allowed to travel on the surface unless on exercise, or at war.

Barry said the trip across the Atlantic was murder with the boat being tossed around every which way. What made it worse was that the crew slept in bunks and not hammocks which swayed with the motion.

On the way home the Atlantic was a like a mill pond the whole way across. After arriving back home Cachalot travelled around Europe flying the flag.

Barry served three years in Cachalot and in October 1976 retired from the navy as a chief petty officer.

Barry and his second wife Irene ran a pub in Kingston upon Thames for a year and then the Sarisbury Green Social Club, near Fareham, for seven years.

He is now in retirement in Trafalgar House, Southsea, with a lifetime of memories.