This page was to have been written by our Chairman Ken Gadsdon, but due to his indisposition, I have been volunteered. The main thing to report is that we had a very successful summer social on board HMS Belfast. The parents and supporters of the City of London Sea Cadets (PASA) put on a superb spread for us and one of their number, Gearoid O’Caoimh of Trans Global Travel Solutions Ltd most kindly sponsored the event. We greatly appreciate the kindness of all those involved.
The minutes of the formal part of the meeting will be sent separately, but to summarise:
- Since the last meeting three new members had joined the Branch. These are Andrew (Andy) Withers (retired Lt Cdr), James Battison (owner of MTB under restoration at Port Hampton) and Bob Fox. We were pleased to welcome Andy and his wife Anne
- We were pleased to welcome Edna Randall, her son and grandson, who brought some of the books from Wallis’s collection
- Steve Borne was able to arrange for most of the books to be stored on HMS Belfast, to give the Branch time to assess the collection and consider how best to use them
- Vera Mitchell organised a raffle, which was well supported and raised £100
- The website goes from strength to strength, and is regularly updated to keep it current and relevant. We plan to demonstrate it at the meeting on 15 November
- The Sea Cadets had a very good training day on HDML 1387 Medusa, and hope to repeat this
- We hope that Medusa will be in London (possibly alongside HMS Belfast) for the Remembrance Day service on 8 November
Ken, Ted, Steve and I wish coastal forces shipmates and their families well, and look forward to seeing you at our November meetings.
David Carter (Treasurer)
The Return of HDML 1301
The story of HDML 1301’s war time career (and after) is fully described on the Combined Operations Command website which covers in great detail the Allied invasion of the Isle of Elba during 1944 and the part played by 1301. The re-telling of a voyage made in 2007, when assisting with bringing his father’s boat back from the Mediterranean, will surely hold some bitter sweet memories for our Treasurer David.
HDML 1301 was eventually decommissioned in 1966 and sold, ending up with Hector Sheppard-Capurro, the owner of Sheppard’s Marina in Gibraltar. Hector used the boat as a yacht, (now named Gibel Tarik) and modified it for his family’s needs, including fitting extra berths and an awning. In 2007, Hector reluctantly decided to sell the boat, as he no longer had the facilities to maintain it. I equally reluctantly realized that I did not have the skills, facilities or finance to buy and maintain it in a seaworthy condition.
Fortunately a buyer appeared in the shape of Klaas, a Dutch businessman who makes marine navigation equipment and is also a reserve officer in the RNN Marines. Klaas invited me to be part of the crew to sail the boat to its new home port of Ijmuiden. In addition to Klaas and me, there were Dirk, an electronics expert and Ernst, who works for the Rijks Water Staat in the Port of Rotterdam. Our first task was to modify the boat for the long journey. Expecting heavy seas, we boarded up the large windows of the chartroom, made new boxes to stow the batteries, and cleared out surplus equipment.
We sailed to Algeciras, to collect our new life rafts. Klaas and Dirk bolted these in place, while Ernst and I sailed the boat to Cadiz, Puerto Sherry. The following day, we sailed to the Marina in Vilamoura, in Portugal. The engines ran well, although diesel filters clogged up from time to time and needed to be cleaned. I admired Dirk and Klaas who laboured in the engine room, to repair the packing and filters. They had to stand between the very noisy engines, where the temperature was 55°C or more while bracing themselves against the rolling motion of the boat. On 3 October, we rounded Cape St Vincent and made for Sines, arriving in the dark.
By this time we were confident enough to sail overnight for Galicia using a two man watch, 4 hours on/off. Sleeping was not easy. My berth was in a room that had originally been the starboard fuel tank. The bunk was about 4 feet from the starboard engine. Surprisingly, I quickly adjusted to the noise, but found the intermittent scream from a partly blocked bilge pump much more disturbing. The next morning we stopped at the pretty fishing port of Castillo de Monte Real to refuel and finished the day at another attractive port of Camarinas. As befits a fishing port we were recommended to a restaurant, where we were treated to a mountainous fish platter, which seemed to contain almost everything that had ever swum, wriggled or crawled in the sea.
Saturday was decision time — we faced the Bay of Biscay. We could either sail round the Spanish and French coasts in one — day hops or with the occasional overnight run or we could go straight for Brest, which would mean going into the Atlantic. One route would be 700 miles, the other 350 or thereabouts. We were encouraged by the latest forecast of high pressure over Biscay, light winds, but storms over Bilbao on Monday and decided that a straight line is the shortest route. I am so glad we did. We soon lost the fishing boats, nets and floats that litter the coast, and found ourselves alone except for dolphins (by the dozen), flying fish (with red eyes at night) and whales. It was an awe inspiring sight to see a whale surface about 100 yards from the boat, except we then realized it was bigger than us. We hoped it wasn’t short-sighted! We also had a couple of stowaways in the form of a young seagull and a starling.
At this point ‘George’ the automatic pilot went on strike, never to operate again. This meant that we had to steer the boat manually for the rest of the voyage. HDMLs are designed to be very manoeuvrable to chase enemy submarines. To do this, they have a minimal skeg and no bilge keels, which also means they roll a lot. To steer the boat ‘straight’ across Biscay was quite a challenge. Fortunately we could set the GPS system to monitor our course, and by also plotting the course on the route-planning chart, we succeeded in making the Marina at Camaret sur Mer on Sunday night.
Monday morning brought fog — visibility about 200 yards. We hoped to use the inshore route round the Brest peninsular, but with all the buoys, rocks hidden in the gloom, this was challenging. Again the GPS came to our aid. By plotting the course in great detail, with waypoints every 3–400 yards I was able to give very precise instructions to Ernst who was steering, while Klaas was staring at the radar and Dirk was peering through the binoculars. Between us we achieved a safe and very precise course between all the obstacles hidden in the gloom.
After about 12 miles, we ran into clearer weather for the passage through the English Channel. Again we decided to sail through the night, knowing that the weather was likely to worsen. We reached Dieppe in pouring rain on Tuesday afternoon. Although the decks had been sheathed in marine-ply, the rain and rough seas found their way through in two places. One over my bunk and the other over the day berth in the fore cabin! It was good to go ashore and enjoy a shower and a large meal. The next day, to catch a favourable tide we had to leave Dieppe at 0800 hours. So despite the storm, the lack of route planning, and the boat rolling violently, we set out. The flood tide pushed us through the Dover Straights at 15 knots! Since the boat is only capable of about 10 knots, this was a tide worth having. We made good progress until about 3 pm, when we were near Dunkirk. The engines shutting down awakened me. I rushed out to find that the Douane (French Customs) had stopped us. They were in a larger launch than ours, complete with machine guns. They sent across an armed boarding party in a RIB. It took about two hours to assure them that we were not carrying drugs, illegal immigrants, arms etc, but they had to search the whole boat to make sure of it. I was able to recount that in a former life the boat had carried French Commandos and this seemed to break the ice.
Eventually we were able to proceed and headed for Holland — and home for the others. We crossed the entries to Vlissingen and Rotterdam in the night, having got permission to cross the channels. We arrived at Ijmuiden in the early morning of 11 October to much relief and celebration. I was so pleased to have been invited on this voyage, returning a boat that my father had taken to the Mediterranean 64 years ago. Living on board gave me a better appreciation of what life must have been then. We bonded together well as a crew and have learned much from each other, and look forward to another voyage (perhaps not quite so far!).
City of London Sea Cadets
Royal Navy Parade
In 1919 the Admiralty, at the request of the Navy League, recognised the 34 Boys Naval Brigades. A condition of the recognition was the requirement for the Units to have an annual efficiency inspection carried out by a serving Royal Navy officer. At the same time the Boys Naval Brigades became the Naval Brigade Sea Cadet Corps — later to drop the “Naval Brigade” part of the title. Ninety six years later…
The inspection involves far more than the ceremony and evolutions on the parade night. Leading up to the 7th July administrative aspects of the Unit such as health and safety, child protection, training outcomes and so on, were audited. On the 7 July the Unit had it’s (now biennial) Royal Navy Inspection and the verdict was delivered in August. The Captain, Sea Cadets wrote:
“The closest Sea Cadet unit to my desk in Lambeth remains one of our best! This is a very pleasing report indeed and reflects, I’m sure, the dedication and abilities of your committee, staff and of course your cadets. The very best of luck to those who are leaving to join maritime employment — come back to us when you can, you are exactly the calibre of adult we need! I’m delighted to confirm a very well deserved burgee. BZ.
Captain Phil Russell RN
The Unit had an outstanding result from the inspection, receiving the highest award possible. The unit has been very busy, but one other activity stands out.
Adventure Training Weekend
On the weekend of the 16 May a large party from the Unit attended the District Adventure Training Weekend in the New Forest. On arrival some of the more recent recruits were faced with a real challenge — setting up tents in the dark. The training was based around camp craft and orienteering; covering topics as diverse as map reading, contour walking, food selection and cooking. On the Sunday a Colour Party attended the annual service to those aboard HMS Hood at Boldre Church.
Leading Cadet and London Branch CFV Member Alex
Alex has continued to excel in his sailing, over the past couple of months he has completed instructor courses for both keelboats and dinghies. Alex has competed in the Suffolk Rivers race series, spent a week race training in the Channel and completed his Gold Duke of Edinburgh expedition in a bell boat on the Thames. All this while attending numerous ceremonial event in his capacities as both the Lord Mayor’s Sea Cadet and the Lord Lieutenant of Greater London’s Sea Cadet.