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HMS Lowestoft 1st Commission write up by Ian Mackenzie

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HMS Lowestoft 1st Commission write up by Ian Mackenzie

HMS Lowestoft

HMS Lowestoft 1st Commission Sep 61 - Mar 63 (advertised as Home & Med), my apologies if all events are not in quite the correct order - after all it was nearly 50 years ago!!

The main party of the ships company travelled from London to Glasgow by a chartered sleeper train and on arrival in Glasgow were bussed to RNAS Abbotsinch (HMS Sanderling) which is now Glasgow Airport, where a meal was supplied and then on to Alex Stephens shipyard to join the ship. Every thing went like clockwork and everyone was soon settled onboard.

I was in 5 mess (J/Sea), below the gunbay with the comms mess on the port side. The ship was immaculate, a great tribute to the organization of the advance party and the dockyard staff.

After a couple of days familiarisation we were on our way down south and our base port of Chatham and for the remainder of the year were doing the usual trials and shakedown prior to workup. A visit to Amsterdam introduced some of us to the delights of window shopping in the RLD, another highlight was an educational visit to the local Heineken brewery which was obviously a roaring success.

After Xmas leave and early '62 it was off to Portland for workup, it all seemed to go pretty well and wasn't that much hassle (I suppose having recently come from Ganges anything seemed better than that).

HMS Lowestoft in Portsmouth

I do remember one Saturday night the lads painted "LOWESTOFT" in 2ft high letters on the orange windsock on the end of Q pier. On Sunday morning the FOST duty officer was not impressed and the ship was signalled to replace it immediately. The GO mustered a party dressed in No. 1's and white webbing and ceremoniously lowered, replaced it and then slow marched it up the jetty slung on an oar from the whaler. When we left Portland after workup we flew it exiting the breakwater as an 'Up Yours'S were off to join the fleet.

Our next main event was to join the 5th FS who were already in the Med, so after a stop at Gib on to Malta to meet up with them, Captain F in Berwick was Capt. Dunbar-Nasmith, nicknamed "Crowbar-Nuswift", the remainder of the squadron were Ursa (2i/c) and Scarborough (canteen boat). We remained in the Med until August with a few exercises and lots of port visits including Civitavecchia (Rome), Piraeus (Athens), Phaleron Bay, Leros, Milos, Taranto, Palma and Barcelona and a few maint periods in Malta. I remember the older locals in Taranto weren't too friendly as the RN(FAA) had sunk half their fleet there in WW2.

When we got back to Gib the rest of the 5th FS headed home whilst we were despatched at short notice to the West Indies (its tough) as some local yokels were causing some agro in Grenada.

We headed south and refuelled at the Cape Verde islands (lots of bum boats) before crossing the pond. By the time we arrived in Grenada things had calmed down (they obviously got the buzz that the 'Fighting' 103 was on the way). As it was a good run ashore we stayed for a few months visiting St Vincent, Grenadine islands, Trinidad, Bermuda and a call at Norfolk VA. and then headed back to Chatham to dry out and for some well deserved leave!!

HMS Lowestoft off Gibralta

The remainder of the year was spent around the UK , mainly ASW exercises visiting Plymouth, Londonderry, Bangor, Liverpool and Waterford (Eire), an interesting visit as we had to do a stern board up the river Suir to park alongside. Not too many ports you enter backwards (felt a bit like being in the Italian navy). We then did some plane guard duties for a carrier in the Moray Firth and visited Lossiemouth and Harwich on the way back to Chatham for Xmas leave, we also made the ships first visit to Lowestoft the slightly down side being having to anchor off.

1963 saw us heading back across the pond for exercises on the eastern seaboard of the USA/Canada (it was f..king cold), more port visits to New York, Philadelphia, Bridgeport (Connecticut) and Newport (Rhode Island) and then back home to Chatham completing the first commission in March '63.

In summary a great 18 months visiting some 33 ports in 15 countries, what more could you want out of your first ship! The Officers and ships company were great, guiding and teaching us young salts all the ropes, that I'm sure put us in good stead for the rest of our naval careers. I've listed below some of the principal members that I can remember:-

All in all, a superb commission with a superb crew.