Peter Sharp

1967 to 1971

Comms

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Read Ginge Lester's contribution (I remember him well) and the names he mentions in his memoirs. One of the officers that he names certainly merits a further mention. Sub Lt. Barry Lomas. Two incidents involving Sub. Lt Lomas one of which was earlier recalled by another crew member involves the 'lifeboat' which later turned into the rising moon. We were, I think, in the Indian Ocean at the time. It was during the middle watch and I was the duty signalman, Ginge may have been the starboard lookout and Sub. Lt. Lomas was the OOW. It was a clear night, sea like a mill pond. At approx. 2am the starboard lookout reported an orange object off the starboard bow, distance uncertain.

Binos were raised to the eyes of the OOW, bosuns mate and signalman. Lo and behold there was an orange object that appeared to be in the water. Ops room contacted to check plot. Nothing on radar. Check radar on bridge. All clear. Check signal office. No report of ship in distress. Check orange object in water again. Getting larger as we were drawing nearer. Sub. Lt. Lomas checks bridge radar. Nothing for a hundred miles. We are all alone, yet there was this, what looked like a liferaft, off the starboard bow getting nearer. Confusion sets in. Slight panic. Will he call the captain or not? 'Liferaft' drawing nearer. Orders stop engines. Calls captain from his slumber to the bridge reporting that a liferaft is on the starboard bow. (Should have made absolutely certain before rousing the skipper). Captain Gerking shuffles up to bridge. This had better be urgent look on his face. By this time the 'liferaft' was almost as big as the ship. The captain listened to the OOW then took him to the chart desk, closed the curtains and gave Mr Lomas a dressing down in no uncertain terms just loud enough for the signalman, lookout and others to hear. Curtains were pulled aside, skipper shuffled off to his pit and Mr. Lomas looking somewhat embarrassed continued the watch in silence muttering to himself how a liferaft should be a different colour to the MOON.

The other incident involving the hapless officer was a man overboard exercise. Again Mr. Lomas who I believe at this time was a Lt. was again the OOW and I was the duty signalman. All was going well, the dummy was thrown overboard, eight short blasts sounded, flag Oscar hoisted. The duty swimmer was kitted out in his wet suit, flippers, lifeline etc. The ship came round, stopped and the duty swimmer went overboard. He reached the dummy. All went as it should. All we had to do is pull the duty swimmer and dummy onboard. For some reason or other, which even to this day, escapes me, Lt. Lomas orders the engine room to move slow ahead. So the ship is moving ahead slowly and the swimmer in the water is now belly surfing behind. On to the bridge storms the skipper. Orders stop engines and the swimmer is hauled onboard half drown. The chart table comes into play once again as the skipper and Lt. Lomas disappear behind drawn curtains. Only one voice is heard and it's not that of Lt. Lomas. Both reappear one redder than the other. The captain orders that the duty swimmer be brought to the bridge and he is duly done so where Lt. Lomas is made to apologise to the poor bedraggled seaman to trying to drown him. I don't know if Lt. Lomas ever reached the dizzy heights of admiral or not, he left not long afterwards.

Ah memories. Ginge also mentions that we also know as the Fighting 101 and the 'Rubber Duck' came from the immortal remark made by one LRO(G) John 'Dolly' Grey when one day he said "you can't crack me, I'm a rubber duck". Made probably when he was getting grief from some rank or other. However the 'Rubber Duck' became the Yarmouth's symbol, and we in the Comms branch (Flag wavers) made up a two coloured flag, black and purple I think, with a large yellow rubber duck in the middle. This was proudly flown during the Beira bucket games and at football matches played at HMS Terror Singapore. I glad to see that the 'Rubber Duck' carried on.

The incident in Australia where we could not take part in exercises due to being unable to make fresh water was, so it was rumoured, because some stoker had fallen madly in love with some local shelia and didn't want to leave, so he inadvertently pumped salt water into the freshwater tanks thus we had to remain in Sydney why the fleet sailed on. Oh dear, how sad, never mind. If any one, especially from the airy fairy branch from the late sixties can remember Lt. 'Whiskey' Haig and the dramatic rescue he and his flight crew made when Yarmouth was typhoon guard ship in Hong Kong c1970. A ship was in diffs. and the Yarmouth put to sea in a roaring typhoon, reached the ship in distress.

The flight deck crew in almost impossible conditions launched the wasp helicopter and somehow he and his crew rescued the entire crew, about 13 souls, from the stricken vessel. He was awarded a medal in recognition. Anyway if they can recall this incident perhaps they can relate to it. The 'Yarmouth Blues' 'our song' was sung and heard many times, from the 'Gut', to Bougie Street. I wonder if like the 'Rubber Duck' it was ever carried on.

This is the newspaper cutting ref the incident when the Russian Kotlin warship collided with Ark Royal during flight exercises in the Med. Yarmouth was the plane guard. I had just finished my shift on the bridge when I was piped back to man the cutter. The Russians had been buzzing us all day during the exercise and taking some dodgy manoeuvres so the accident waiting to happen did. The Russian warship swung into the path of the Ark Royal as she was turning and went into the side of her. 22 men went overboard on the Kotlin. We put out two boats and the Ark put out a number. The Russians too. Spent 10 hours in the boat searching for the Russians. Picked up three. The Arks boats picked up a number. And the Russian also picked up some. Two Russians were never accounted for. The Russian warship was in quite a mess, and a very fragile international incident was brewing. I think I have some press cutting from national newspapers somewhere covering the incident. If I find them I will send them on.

In 1976 the BBC brought out a 'Fly on the wall' documentary set on board the Ark Royal call 'Sailor'. I'm sure most remember it. One of its stars was the commander . None other than an old skipper of the Yarmouth. Commander Cowling . Skipper of the 'Y' 1971 - 1972. He is mostly seen in the documentary dishing out punishment from the 'table'. Nothing changed there then. (I'm not certain, but I believe that Commander Cowling  has crossed the bar)

 

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