Final Moments in my life aboard HMS Vanguard  1953 -1954
The following day HMS Vanguard left her Review anchorage in Spithead and continued her  summer cruise.  We arrived at Portrush, Northern Ireland, where a number of local men were given weekend leave. I remember listening to the 7 o'clock news on the Monday morning  when it was announced that HMS Vanguard would take Sir Winston Churchill , the Prime Minister, to Bermuda for a summit conference with Dwight D. Eisenhower, the United States President. At that very moment it was 'up anchor' .  All the men on shore leave had to find their own way back to Portsmouth where we arrived on 24 June for the preperation of the accommodation for Churchill and his retinue.  Most of the midshipmen were drafted off the ship and it was rumoured that a swimming pool would be erected on the deck.  All was going well until the following Saturday when it was announced that because of Churchill's ill health the trip to Bermuda was cancelled.

With the cancellation of the voyage to Bermuda, Vanguard left Portsmouth on 30 June and continued with her original summer cruise programme.  We anchored in Loch Ewe in Scotland for a number of days.  As I ran the bookstall on board I arranged for a supply of Sunday newspapers to be sent over from Inverness.  When I went ashore to collect these, a number of libertymen were ashore for a walk because there was nothing else to do.  Although I could get my bulk supply of papers they refused to sell any others because it was a Sunday.  There was nearly a riot until they agreed to sell them provided 'they pushed them up their jumpers as they passed the 'kirk'' .

The next port of call was Oban.  Here,  I had my first experience of dinghy racing.  At the end of the race  the two of us were invited to the local hotel for a drink out of the winners cup.  One drink led to another and soon it was time to return to the ship.  As we turned to go alongside I didn't duck when I should have done, the boom knocked me into the water, the boat overturned  and we  both clung to the upturned boat.  A boat had to be launched from the ship to rescue us and I spent the night in the sick-bay suffering from hypothermia.

We then visited Falmouth where the ship was open to the public and she also put on a firework display. The cruise finnished on 21 July when we arrived home at Portsmouth.

After summer leave Vanguard left Portsmouth in  September  for Invergordon, which appeared to have become our northen base.  Later in the month we met up with other ships of the Home Fleet and together with elements of the American Fleet, including the battleship  USS Iowa, held a NATO exercise  called 'Mariner'.  The weather we experienced out in the Atlantic and the Denmark  Strait was atrocious.   Strange as it may seem , I felt quite alright in the roughest of seas but once in calmer waters the gentle roll would upset my stomach.  The trouble with Vanguard was that it was so big it would take a considerable time to stop rolling. It was here that Vanguard proved herself.  During the exercise she was the only ship that could travel at speed through the rough seas and her performance at this was better than  that of the Iowa.  After travelling some 800 miles north of John O'Groats we anchored at Greenock on 3 October 1953 at the end of the exercise.  A few days later we sailed to Invergordon and then to Portland.   Two days later we steamed  home to Portsmouth.

In early January 1954  Admiral Sir Michael Denny took over as Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleet from Admiral Sir Geaorge Creasy.   Vanguard left Portsmouth a couple of weeks later to sail to Gibraltar for her annual docking.    This procedure took about six weeks and in early March she was joined on the South Mole in Gibraltar Dockyard by other ships of the Home Fleet for exercises to be carried out in the western Mediterranean.   The first exercise lasted about five days and the second was with Dutch and French ships.   Vanguard arrived in home waters at Portland  on 1 April where Custom Officials came aboard for their pound of flesh and we arrived at Portsmouth the following day. Easter leave was taken and the ship was openned to the public for Navy Days.

HMS Vanguard sailed from Portsmouth on 7 May 1954 but without Leading Writer Shirley North.  After serving for two very happy years on board the best ship in the Royal Navy the time had come for his departure.  It was in the form of a draft to The Drafting Office of the Royal Naval Air Service at HMS Daedalus, Lee-on-Solent where he completed his full-time service of seven years in the Royal Navy on 21 September 1955.
Back to General Contents Page