Waterlooville officer who didn't realise he'd been shot

I am sad to report the death of a well-known Waterlooville resident and former Royal Navy officer, Lieutenant Commander James Thake.

By Bob Hind
Thursday, 31st October 2019, 12:28 pm
Updated Thursday, 31st October 2019, 2:39 pm
Lt- Cdr James Thake.
Lt- Cdr James Thake.

James, who crossed the bar on October 23, was well known in naval diving circles as he was a Diving Long Course instructor. He was such a hard taskmaster that anyone who passed their Long Course under him was able to say it was a badge of honour.

Born in St Pancras, London, in 1932, he began his illustrious career as a boy seaman 2nd class at HMS St Vincent, Gosport, in 1948. He quickly passed from boy to leading seaman.

In the Korean War he was shot through the leg while manning a gun. He didn’t notice because of the adrenaline rush experienced when under fire, but his mate did and said: ‘Jim, you’re bleeding!’ He had been shot through the leg above the knee, the bullet going in and out through the flesh. He said it only really started to hurt after it had been pointed out to him.

Boy Seaman James Thake at HMS St Vincent, 1948.

In 1963 James passed the upper yardarm course to gain a commission and attend Dartmouth Royal Naval College, Devon, passing out as a sub-lieutenant. In 1968 he was promoted lieutenant. In 1970 he was in command of the Fraser Gunnery Range at Eastney, Portsmouth. It was while there that the BBC filmed the Dr Who episodesThe Sea Devils in 1971.

In late 1971 he was a gunnery instructor at HMS Excellent and later served in HMS Jaguar. He returned to Excellent in 1975.

Promoted lieutenant commander In 1977 he took command of the first ‘plastic’ warship, HMS Wilton. The minesweeper/minehunter was the first warship to be constructed from glass-reinforced plastic. She is now the Essex Yacht Club vessel. James was proud to have his ship in the line-up at Spithead for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee fleet review.

James was also a qualified football referee and on one occasion when abroad refereed an Asian Cup Final sending off one of the players. The player had never been sent off before because no refs had the nerve, but there was a roar of approval from the crowd when James gave him his marching orders.

HMS Wilton leaves Portsmouth with Lt-Cdr Thake in command. Picture: Karen Thake family collection.

In 1980 he was based at HMS Dryad, Southwick, and in 1982 was in the service of the Commander-in-Chief, Naval Home Command under Admiral James Eberle. James retired from the navy the following year and began his own company involving youth training.

James’s funeral is on November 8, at 1pm at The Oaks crematorium, Barton Road, Havant. All former shipmates and friends welcome.

• Portsea Vicarage in Fratton Road, opposite St Mary’s Church, is now part of the Barrells Funeral Directors business. Does anyone remember when it was used as a vicarage?

Portsea vicarage, now part of Barrells funeral directors. Does anyone know more about the building? Picture: Mick Cooper postcard collection.