Go sling your hammocks! –
the fleet wants crisp sheets

The China Fleet Club, Hong Kong, 1968
The China Fleet Club, Hong Kong, 1968
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Two Remember When pictures here which evoked strong memories for two readers – both ex-RN.

And their colourful recollections will doubtless raises a smile or two among the many former Royal Navy sailors who I know read these pages.

HMS Redpole

HMS Redpole

The photo above of the old China Fleet Club (CFC) in Hong Kong took Gerald Moore straight back to 1949/50. It was the period in his life when he was in the aircraft carrier HMS Triumph stationed with the Pacific Fleet. This meant, of course, he was always in and out of Hong Kong.

Gerald, of Bracklesham, near Chichester, says: ‘My first port of call after stepping off the liberty boat was to the CFC. There I ordered a single room for the night and before readers start thinking what I’m sure they must be thinking, let me explain...

‘Back in those days all ratings slept in hammocks, so to sleep in a bed was sheer luxury. To be able to stretch out straight and turn this way and that was impossible in a hammock.

‘And with clean crisp sheets what more could you ask?’

Once his room was booked, Gerald remembers his first port of call was the dining room for steak, eggs and chips with all the trimmings and banana fritters for pudding covered in syrup.

He adds: ‘Then it was on to the cocktail bar where a couple or so of John Collins set the mood for a spot of sightseeing in the bustling streets. Happy days.’

We stay in the same era for the picture of the ship, the frigate HMS Redpole.

She was the first ship served in by Joe Gladders, of Alver Road, Gosport, after he joined the senior service in November 1951.

Before then he had two weeks’ induction at the old Victoria Barracks in Portsmouth and a couple of months’ seamanship training in HMS Indefatigable in Portland Harbour.

When he joined Redpole she was an officers’ navigation ship and picked up cadets at Dartmouth before cruising the Scottish islands.

Joe says: ‘I can’t remember going anywhere else except on a trip to Den Helder in Holland and then the fleet review at Spithead when we embarked several dignitaries among them being Sir Winston Churchill.

‘I was lucky to have had time in Redpole as my introduction to navy life. It was an immaculately clean ship with broadside messing and hammocks. There was no such thing as a bunk for minions like me.’

Joe, now in his 80s, recalls there were no guns aboard Redpole at that time so on those many Dartmouth/Scottish islands jaunts there was little else to do but scrub paintwork and polish brightwork.

During that time he met two men who would become friends for life. They still are.

National serviceman Mick Preston enjoyed what Joe calls the ‘posh job’ of navigator’s yeoman. He is also in his 80s and living in Surrey.

The other is Dennis Cripps with whom Joe completed his training before Dennis joined the submarine service while Joe stayed on the surface.

Joe continues: ‘My time in HMS F69 caused considerable ribald mirth wherever we went, but it was a happy ship and was a great starter for me.

‘There are those who say I should write a book, but I think sailors lives are best not disclosed; best kept under the hat as it were – with chinstrap down... ’