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In 1968 I joined Hermes in the April as an Engine Room Artificer Apprentice and was in 5E starboard mess.
In the July we were working up off Scotland and on a Saturday morning we replenished at sea (RAS) solids, part of which was 2000 crates of beer. The Master at Arms (MAA) chose the Royal Marine band to move it from the side lift to the NAAFI store in 7E, the route was down through the main hatch. During the RAS, 20 crates of beer went “missing”.
That afternoon the Regulating Petty Officers (RPO) were on the rampage looking for the missing beer. I and about 8 others were playing cards when in walks an RPO and takes us all (total 13) to the regulators office to charge us with gambling.
On the Quarter deck, 13 of us were all lined up for Commanders table. I was in fore & aft rig, the others were in square rig. As I stood out I was called first. The Commander asks me if I was playing cards?. Yes Sir came the reply. What were you playing?. Cribbage Sir, I said. And how do you play it?. So I told him all of it, including 1 for his nob. As the RPO took no evidence the Commander said case dismissed, the MAA blew his top but had to say case dismissed, on cap, right turn, quick march, so I did. They then brought the rest in two lots to say case dismissed.
Back in the mess I had a lot of sippers, later in the week we had a party in the RM band mess and drunk most of those 20 cases.
Iain left the Navy as a CPO MEA (P) but was proud to have been on board HMS Hermes again in 2017 in Mumbai for the decommissioning of INS Viraat.
I was onboard Hermes in 76/77. We were in semi refit in Devonport (Guz), 1976, just prior to sailing for the Mediterranean.
Our task was to paint the flight deck side of the island so to get high up we used the Coles Crane with a rickety old chair strapped to the jib. Volunteers were few as it didn't look very safe, so I was detailed as the first one to give it a go. I was given a safety harness, a pot of shipside grey paint and a long handled brush.
We were to start at the rear of the island, with me sat on the chair I attached my harness and signalled to the driver I was ready. So up I went, looking down to the jetty I started to get very scared as it was a hell of a way down, then the driver extended the jib, it was then I felt the tug around my waist. To my horror I realised I'd attached the harness to the stationery part of the crane. I started to scream.
The lads down below began to laugh as I felt the life draining out of me. I was just about to jump off the seat when the driver realised I was in trouble and stopped the extend. I returned to the deck very shaken. I thank the driver Dave Farnworth for realising my plight. Health and safety, what was that in those days?.
Tiger Meet Cambrai 1979
Following on from a successful run ashore in the South of France in Villfranche Sur Mer and the surrounding towns, 2 Seaking helicopters from 814 NAS were tasked to join in that years Tiger Meet.
Now for those less informed, the Tiger Meet is an annual meeting attended by many NATO squadrons who’s emblem happens to be a tiger or part thereof. As 814 NAS has a tigers head on its insignia, and also the name the Flying Tigers (we also happened to be in the area), we had the envious task of flying from Hermes up to Cambrai.
The day came and 2 Seakings left the flight deck of HMS Hermes and headed north, both cabs were loaded with a variety of equipment, spares and obligatory ground crew. Some of the ground crew were fortunate enough to have headsets which enabled them to listen into the pilot and co-pilot whilst we were on route, sadly I was not amongst them.
We had been flying for a while when all of a sudden both cabs turned sharply and descended rapidly, needless to say a certain part of my anatomy tightened. When we levelled out someone had obviously noticed the concerned look on my face, they then took time to explain what had happened. Apparently in certain areas, mountainous areas, there is what is known as restricted air space. Somehow, we had managed to stray into said restricted airspace and were warned to vacate which obviously we agreed to do. A while later we landed in Lyon to re-fuel before continuing on to Cambrai.
After several failed attempts our pilot managed to locate the airfield which would be our home for the next week, we landed and I was volunteered to marshal the cab into the spot. Mainly because I was a junior rate and a bombhead who had little to do on this trip apart from drink copious amounts of alcohol and load emergency signalling flares before take off.
I dutifully jumped down from the now stationary cab and headed for the spot, on arriving I was met by a jolly Frenchman who shook my hand and thrust a nice cold bottle of beer in my hand. Now, I’d done basic marshalling during training, and waved in and out a few cabs at RNAS Culdrose, but do you think I could recall the section of the training manual which taught one handed parking of a cab whilst drinking French beer? I did what I thought was reasonable, after all, I didn’t want to be rude and refuse a welcome from our hosts which could have led to a major international incident, I developed there and then a one handed marshalling technique. It must have been good as the pilot parked smack bang on the spot.
After doing what we had to do with the cabs, we took our belongings to our accommodation had showers and I paid my first visit to a French toilet. Well, what can I say? If you’ve never had the dubious pleasure of seeing one of these, imagine a shower tray, with what appears to be two raised areas where your feet go, and a hole that you hover over. Thankfully all this was done on your own, I dread to imagine what I looked like when sighting the hole, must have been what the crabs were like during the dropping of the bouncing bombs.
Later that evening there was a big event, a hanger was decked out with long tables, each with wine, lager and a huge spread of food, meats, cheeses, bread and seafood, a proper French banquet. The place was full of people from every corner of the globe and women, lots of elegantly dressed women, not the sort you would normally see in Joanna’s if you catch my drift; these were classy.
Anyway, Jack being Jack had only one thing on his mind, the free alcohol. So, us ratings set about consuming as much as we could with gusto, not senior rates and officers obviously. Well, as you know, what goes in must come out so I spotted the heads in the corner of the hanger and made my way over, as normal, I whip out Mr Small and start to do what comes naturally when the door opens. In walks 3 of these elegantly dressed ladies, tall, slender well-dressed ladies. Well, as a young matelot of about 19 years old I froze, women in the mens room? Let me tell you, this was not the time to find out that they had unisex toilets, I have a full bladder, Mr Small is refusing to give it up because just to my left are three stunning women brushing their hair. Finally, at with great relief they left, thus allowing Mr Small to do what he does best; ah the relief.
Back in the hanger we were starting to get bored, the event was for the Minister of the Interior to do a speech, we waited an eternity until some bright spark decided enough is enough; lets go to the bar. On the way to the bar we suddenly became a mob, not just us, but others had joined, I also recall some agony bags appearing, so, in true military style, we drunkenly marched to the bar to some tune or other being strangled. We had a great night before retiring to bed, the sort of night that leaves you all fuzzy inside.
However, the next morning we were all assembled by the CO. He started by telling us that there had been an incident the previous night, and what he was about to tell us could not go back to the ship. One of our detachment had left the hanger during the evening, he had somehow stumbled across an unlocked Citroen 2CV6. Now, this bit is hazy, I’m unsure if the keys were in it or not, either way he took it for a spin. During this sojourn he came across a lamppost that was not as forgiving as the vehicle and he duly wrote it off. The owner of the vehicle, a French Air Force Pilot who was out night flying at the time, returned to no vehicle. Authorities were involved and the bottom line was that the pilot would take it no further so long as Jack paid him for the car. Obviously said Jack had not got the funds, so to his credit, the detachment CO loaned him the money to pay off the pilot.
True to our word this has never gone back to the ship, until now.....
When we visited Narvik (If I recall correctly), a group of Mechanical Engineer junior rates, Stokers and Artificers, had been ashore for a couple of over priced, short measure beers and were waiting on the jetty to catch the liberty boat back to Hermes.
If I remember right they were using a landing craft and coming alongside a pontoon against the harbour wall. It was bl**dy cold and we all wanted to get back to the warmth of the
ship. The boat came alongside and there was a surge to get on board but
a gap opened up between landing craft and pontoon and a stoker fell in
It was like watching a Tom and Jerry cartoon - he went down
into the water and shot straight back out and we grabbed him and pulled
him onboard. We all huddled round to try and keep him warm and the boat
crew went straight back to Hermes. There was no harm done other than a
few pi**ed off matelots who had to wait for the next liberty boat.
If you were that man it's time to confess all.....
I look back on my time spent in the Royal Navy with considerable nostalgia and fondness. One of the many highlights was, without doubt, when I was embarked on HMS Hermes in 1975. As a pilot with 845 Naval Air Squadron, I was privileged to serve on the squadron's Red Dragon Flight, comprising of two Wessex Mark V helicopters with a dedicated and loyal band of maintainers. The ships programme, which took in the West Indies, The United States and Canada, provided us with opportunities for wonderfully varied flying, often in demanding conditions.
On embarking in Hermes, it was made clear to me by the all powerful Commander Air (Wings), that I was expected to play my part in the running of the ships aviation operations. Therefore I soon found myself dressed in the surcoat of the duty Flight Deck Officer, trying to make sense of the constantly changing situation that epitomises a flying programme at sea. I recall being shown by a fellow aviator the secret of positioning yourself directly underneath Flyco. This meant remaining firmly hidden from the critical gaze of Wings, and usually out of contact on the Flight Deck loop.
Fortunately, I was not on duty the day an Aircraft Handler proudly lowered the deck lift containing one of the Red Dragon helicopters. The helicopter descended as planned - except for the main wheels which remained firmly on the Flight Deck. Sadly I was not present to hear Wings' view on this incident, but the ships cartoonist had a field day!
My abiding memory of those days is the spirit of comradeship which pervaded throughout the ship, embracing not only the ships company, but also the embarked Royal Marines and the Air Squadron. Many lasting friendships were made, which I continue to enjoy to this day, and the ship certainly lived up to it's reputation as "The Happy Hermes"
John Lock served on HMS Hermes as Executive Officer joining in 1980 through to 1982.
John was born in London. At the beginning of WWII, he was evacuated to Canada with his mother and sister where they lived for 6 years. Towards the end of the war they travelled in convoy back to the UK. The ships behind and in front were both sunk and their ship rescued as many survivors as they could find.
Educated at Solihull School, on leaving John became an Outward-Bound Instructor before joining the Navy in 1955 attending Brittania Naval College, Dartmouth.
In 1958 John joined the Aircraft Carrier HMS Bulwark, his first sea going journey was to be the ships 2nd commission under the command of Captain P D Gick.
From her he joined HMS Malcolm for a short spell in 1959, she was a Blackwood class anti submarine Frigate before moving on to the Minesweeper HMS Walkerton, rejoining HMS Malcolm again in 1961 and then on to Minesweeper HMS Sheraton in 1962
1963 saw John at the Royal Naval College Greenwich and on a Direction Officers Long Course at HMS Dryad before joining HMAS Melbourne (Australian Navy) in 1964.
Between 1966 and 1973 he served on a number of ships and bases including HMS Agincourt, HMS Ark Royal, HMS Kent, HMS Dryad and HMS Brighton before joining Flag Officer Second Flotilla's staff.
In 1975 John was promoted to Commander with his first command being HMS Euryalus, a Leander class Frigate.
Here is a story from one of the crew, Les (Knocker) White.
"I served on HMS Euryalus 75 (after leaving Hermes). He was the skipper from 76. I’ve never met a finer officer in all my time in the Royal Navy. He took the time to learn junior rates names/nicknames and would quite often turn up down the various mess decks to get to know his men. He usually came down ours (stokers) usually to discuss upcoming football matches as there was 6 stokers in the team. He knew bits about our home lives too and would stop you in the Burma way or upper deck to ask you about your family. Late 76 we were out in the North Sea having left Copenhagen when we dropped a screw. We sought anchorage at scapa in the November while a new screw was ordered and a dry dock was found for us. He came into the engineers workshop where I was cleaning up a part of machinery. He asked me how my wedding plans were going as I was getting married the week before Christmas. I told him my missus had had to do everything to organise it as I was at sea and that everything was going tits up. The venue for the do had caught fire, the place where the meal for 100 had gone bump and to top it off the local brewery had gone on strike. He said leave it to me. After the weekend we headed to dry dock in South Shields. Straight after docking I was piped to the skippers cabin. I was wondering what I’d done wrong. I knocked and was called in to his cabin. He said I won’t ask you to sit so here’s a travel warrant to Liverpool you can take 4 days leave. The travel warrant didn’t come off my allowance and nor did the leave. By the time I’d got home everything had been taken care of with the wedding apart from the meal venue which we both sorted. I got back onboard and the next morning I sought him out. I couldn’t thank him enough and gave him a letter of thanks from the missus. When we came back off deployment (jan-June 77) We were out at the breakwater waiting for our wives to come out to us by tender. My missus walked onto the flight deck and the skipper who first met her at the commissioning knew who she was and escorted her down the mess where I’d just come off watch. The term officer and a gentleman doesn’t go far enough to describe him"
1977 he was on the Latimer National Defence course then 1978 at Naval Plans, Ministry of Defence, London.
In 1980 he joined HMS Hermes as Executive Officer. He watched the Harrier Ramp take shape, sailed with us to the USA in 1981 and was a fantastic Commander during the Falklands War in 1982 known as "The voice of Hermes" keeping us all informed over the ships tannoy.. Every man on board remembers the words "HIT THE DECK" as the missiles came in destined to sink us before being taken by the Atlantic Conveyor instead..
Iain Shickle remembers "on our return from the Falklands as we passed Ascension Island there was a games night held jointly between the WO & CPO mess and the Wardroom on the quarter deck and our mess I ended up on the quarter deck playing liar dice with John, Roger Devonshire, Senior Engineer and one other Chief. I never knew that John and Roger could lie so convincingly, John seemed to be so relaxed and having a good time."
From HMS Hermes John went on to Yeovilton Naval Air Station before being promoted to Captain in 1984 when he took the role of Director of NATO's multi service electronic warfare support group.
In 1987 he became Queens Harbour Master, Plymouth, Captain of the port, Devonport and Marine Services Manager (Tugs, Divers and Riggers), Devonport before retiring to his beloved Dorset in 1991.
He then spent 12 years as Chief Trade Stand Steward at the Royal Bath & West Show. He was also the Dorset Coast representative for the Campaign to Protect Rural England.
He was a great people person and enjoyed his time at sea.
He was a full-time grandfather to his UK based grandchildren and spent 3 months a year in Australia with his grandchildren there.
John had a wicked and wonderful sense of humour and he was very keen on his sport. He was the Combined Services Croquet Champion. He continued to play the strategic game well into his 70’s. He also loved playing bridge, another strategic game, and when that was curtailed due to Covid, he played on his computer. He loved most games and taught his daughters and his grandchildren to be fair but ‘play to win’ whether it be Monopoly, Risk or Racing Demon.. He was a great sportsman, loved his rugby and enjoyed coaching the Cattistock under 11 cricket team.
When he was home he was a wonderful husband and father. He frequently said he would not have had such an amazing career if had not been for the support of his wonderful wife.