HMS Vanguard was commissioned with a Portsmouth crew at Devonport in October 1951 under the command of Captain John Shirley Lichfield OBE. RN. It was not then generally known that her first task would be to take the late King on another voyage to South Africa for rest and healing and it was with heavy hearts that news was heard over the radio, in the midst of feverish preparations for the voyage, the sad news of his passing. The shock numbed the crew and all wondered what was to happen next. Yet, so stunned were they with the sudden change in events, that even guesswork failed them, and HMS Vanguard sailed out into the Sound and anchored in Cawsand Bay on 22nd February,1952.
After short working up exercises and trials, she finally left Plymouth on 28th
February and arrived at Gibraltar on 2nd March; the crew feeling rather lost. Whilst other ships of the Home Fleet exercised, Vanguard stayed in harbour; all still wondering what was to be their fate. General drill enlivened one day and those who were there can still laugh about the various evolutions. Then came the day when the Captain cleared Lower Deck and told everyone that HMS Vanguard was to become the Flagship of Sir George Creasey, Commander-in-Chief Home Fleet. The ship had a mission in life - she was no longer " a nobodies darling", and began to hum with activity as preparations were made to receive the C.in C. and his Staff. She sailed from Gibraltar on 26th March and arrived at South Railway Jetty, Royal Naval Dockyard, Portsmouth on 31st March 1952, the first time Vanguard had visited her new home port in her first Portsmouth commissioning. It was here that newly promoted Leading Writer S. North arrived to take up his first sea going ship on 10th May 1952, after serving at theRadar Training School, H.MS. Dryad,a shore establishment at the village of Southwick near Portsmouth, since 12th March 1949.
On Monday 12th May, after Easter leave, the C.in C. hoisted his flag. We left Portsmouth for the Summer Cruise on 17th May and sailed for Portland and arrived the same day. Sailing, pulling, fishing and playing games occupied a pleasant stay there but more serious business loomed on the horizon. Exercise Castenets lay ahead of us and we sailed from Portland for Rosyth on 12th June and arrived there on 14th June. Exercise Castenets was our first effort at war and started on 18th June. We sailed with high hopes that day and at high speed but Vanguard was sunk and we slunk rather shamefacedly back to Rosyth. We felt very ashamed and disgraced as our attempts to foil the machinations of Frogmen and Midget Submarines were not so whole-hearted as they might have been. But bright lights lay ahead.
My first trip 'abroad' - with Fred in Brixham, Devon