Philip Hughes, Banks - 2nd Officer who died this day - RFA Fort Langley 1958.
, I P Ah Kwong - Quartermaster who died this day - RFA Cedardale 1946.
Hee Fong, Han - Messroom Boy who died this day - RFA War Hindoo 1935.
RFA Lyness 1977
Pennant No. A 339 International Callsign GSPE Registered LONDON
Previous Name N/A Lloyds Identity No. 6706888
Builder Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd, Wallsend on Tyne. (Yard No. 2016).
Launched 7th April 1966. Completed 22nd December 1966.
Displacement (Light Ship) 8,668 tons. (Loaded) 16,500 tons.
Measurement Tonnage N.R.T. 4,717 G.R.T. 12,372 DWT 7,832
Dimensions Length O.A. 523 ft. Beam 72 ft. Draft 25 ft.
Main Machinery 1 x Wallsend-Sulzer 8 cylinder RD 76 marine diesel, built by Wallsend Slipway & Engineering Co. Single shaft. Speed 20 knots.
Ships Badge Granted in 1968. The badge relates to the “Lyness” being a victualling supply ship. Lyness was formerly a Naval Base for the Home Fleet during two World Wars, located on the Orkney Island of Hoy. It is now just a small hamlet. Lying close by, on the shores of Scapa Flow is the isle of Butta. Butter was originally carried at sea in old rum casks. And so in a round about way we come to the badge, which depicts a butter cask on a green isle surrounded by the sea!
Remarks. “LYNESS” was a Fleet Supply Ship, designed to meet specific fleet replenishment requirements. One of three in her class, the others were “STROMNESS” and “TARBATNESS”.
Lifts, mobile appliances and powered roller conveyors were provided for the handling of stores, which were made up into pallet sized loads and brought from the holds and storerooms, up to the individual RAS points as required. All movement of stores was monitored from a Replenishment Control Room, “RASCO”.
She was fitted with the latest design of RAS jackstay systems, a helicopter landing and refuelling platform and the main machinery could be controlled from the bridge. The ship was fully air-conditioned and the hull strengthened for operating in ice.
“LYNESS” was considered excess to requirements and transferred for one year on a bareboat charter to the U.S. Military Sealift Command, departing from Devonport on 1st December 1980.
She became a Combat Stores Ship (T-AFS 8) and was renamed “SIRIUS” on 17th January 1981. Deployed with the U.S. 6th Fleet to the Mediterranean, she was sold to the Americans on 1st October 1981, who then carried out several modifications including increased communications arrangements and the fitting of a helicopter hanger forward of the flight deck.
Still in service (1998) and reported to be operating in the Arabian Gulf.
5th January 1977 to 5th July 1977
I joined the “Lyness” as she was finishing a refit period on the Tyne at South Shields. The ship was about to be sent out to the Far East, to be the central exhibition platform for a “British Military Trade Mission”. During the refit period, extra fittings had been added in the main ‘clearway’ and on the upper decks, for the various trade stands and display equipment yet to be loaded.
The ‘clearway’ was the name given to the uppermost continuous deck, which on this ship was mostly under cover and where stores from the cargo holds were first brought by lifts before being taken by fork-lift trucks to the various replenishment points.
As 1st Officer, I worked alongside the Chief Officer, managing the Deck Department. Additional responsibilities included NBCD, firefighting and helicopter operations. This trip was going to be a bit special, helping to sort out all the many requirements of the various companies who would be exhibiting their hardware. We were not expecting to be involved with any normal RFA activity until we returned to the U.K. after the forthcoming ‘Sales Tour’.
The “Lyness” was one of three sister-ships, built as a victualling and general stores supply and replenishment ship. She was smart, fast and capable of replenishing a ship on each side as well as operating helicopters for Vertrep, all at the same time. As well as the RFA personnel who managed the ship, she carried a contingent of civil servants from the RN Supply Department to manage the vast array of naval stores on board. These people were responsible for providing and making up into pallet loads, all the requirements of warships seeking stores replenishment. These requirements would be brought up from the holds and taken to the jackstay transfer positions or to the flight-deck. RFA seamen would hoist the pallets on jackstay wires linking the ships and haul the loads across with winches to the recipient ship. On the flight-deck RFA seamen, who were also trained in helicopter operations, worked under hovering helicopters to hook on the pallet loads to lifting strops, before the loads were whisked away to some nearby or distant warship. The “Ness” class also carried a pair of Naval Store Tenders, (NST’s), which were small self-propelled barges, used for transferring bulky loads of stores at an anchorage or in harbour.
Having sailed from the Tyne, we proceeded to Portsmouth where we loaded all the trade display equipment as well as the military hardware itself. This included “Spartan” light tanks, “Scimitar” personnel carriers, Landrovers and other vehicles of various sizes, mobile anti-aircraft missile batteries, all kinds of weapons and small-arms, rolls of razor wire, an assortment of boats and raiding craft, bombs, shells and a hundred ands one other items used in modern warfare.
When we arrived at our display ports, the tanks and other military vehicles would be discharged ashore, driven by a team of British Army personnel to a nearby military area and displayed to their full potential in front of the host country’s military Generals, etc. The display boats that we carried were to be lowered over the side and the various builders’ coxswains would then put on a show for the visiting naval representatives. The numerous trade stands would be laid out, “Expo” fashion, in the ship’s ‘clearway’ and invited guests then allowed to wander freely around and talk to the trade representatives, who would fly out to join the ship at the host ports.
During the displays on and around the ship, there was to be a large and sumptuous buffet laid on for the many guests. As the senior ship’s officers were expected to mingle with and look after the guests, I took great delight in helping myself to this wonderful spread. It was laid on by the ship’s purser, who had additional RFA catering staff on board for this voyage, especially selected for preparing and laying out this feast.
There was a lot of organising, careful loading and programming to be done at Portsmouth, but is was soon all sorted and off we sailed. Our first port of call, where we stayed for two or three days, was Alexandria. This was our first go at the display routines and all went fairly well. In addition to the Egyptian armed forces, we were visited by the British Consul and his staff. I was amazed to meet up again with an old acquaintance, who had previously been the RFA agent at Rosyth. (The ‘agent’ is the liaison between the ship and the port authorities. His job is to sort out the ship’s domestic and other problems by use of his numerous local contacts). This acquaintance, who’s name I have regrettably forgotten, invited me and a couple of other officers to his home, where we had a few drinks and a barbecue. On the way back to the ship the following morning, he drove us around the city to see the local sights. There were still a few traces of British influence and affluence from past times, although it all now looked rather faded and run-down.
Sailing from Alex. We headed for the Suez Canal. On the way there we had a lifeboat drill during which one of the lifeboat davits got damaged during a malfunction. The lifeboat had to be temporarily lashed into place until we could get the davit repaired in a shipyard later in the voyage.
After passing through the Suez Canal we headed for Singapore to pick up fresh provisions prior to the next stage of our ‘Sales Tour’. It had been quite a while since my last trip to the Far East and it was wonderful to approach the northern end of the Malacca Straits again and detect that pungent but pleasant smell of jungle vegetation. If the breeze was in the right direction you could smell the approaching land when the ship was still a hundred miles or so away from the coast.
Berthing at the old British Naval Base at Singapore, we stayed for a few days to pick up fresh supplies and get the damaged lifeboat davit repaired. The Naval Base was now owned by “Sembawang Shipyard”, a commercial shipbuilding and repair company, but part of the yard, including the old ‘Stores Basin’ was leased to the Royal New Zealand Navy. It was nice to re-visit all the old haunts again, although Sembawang village had suffered when the Royal Navy closed their Dockyard. Many of the bars had closed but the Indian merchants still kept going, as did the little Chinese eating houses and roadside stalls. Whilst there, at a party on board the ship, I met up and became friends with a New Zealand naval officer and his Scottish wife. We had several meals and nights out together both on the ship and ashore. I recall one evening when they took me and the Deputy Naval Stores Officer into Singapore city, when we had a wonderful time seeing the sights followed by a superb Chinese meal.
Sailing from Singapore, our next stop was at Hong Kong, where we secured alongside at the Naval Base “HMS Tamar” and discharged some stores from the U.K. I had not been to Hong Kong since I was eight years old, when my father took the family there for a short holiday whilst we were living in Singapore. Because of my duties I only managed to get ashore one evening for a meal, but the sights and activity of the place were fascinating.
From Hong Kong we sailed to the Philippines and the capital. Manila. This was one of our ‘display’ visits and again all went well. The captain, purser and I were entertained ashore by the British Military Attaché at his residence, where a cocktail party was being held in support of the ‘trade mission’. It was a smart affair, followed by an evening at a display of local culture and all most enjoyable.
On a free afternoon whilst we were at Manila, the local agent took the purser and myself to visit a nearby dormant volcano. It was a beautiful day and the view from the crater rim was fantastic. Down in the bowl of this huge crater was a lake that had an island in its centre. From a roadside stall at this popular viewpoint we bought delicious coconut icecreams to cool us down and quench out thirst. On our return journey back to the ship we stopped at a bamboo craft museum and also had a tour of the city. The cars and buses were all highly decorated with bright colour schemes and masses of shiny chromework. Flashy jeeps, called ‘jeepneys’ were very popular and raced around everywhere. I’m not sure which side of the road they drove on in Manila. It was hard to tell!
The next port of call was Djakarta, on the island of Java and part of Indonesia. I don’t have too many memories of this place, apart from the fact that it rained a lot and there was much poverty to be seen, especially in the suburbs. I was with a couple of ship’s officers who were entertained by a local Dutch businessman and his wife. On a drive around the city they pointed out a large modern hospital which had recently been built by the government, but it stood as an empty shell as there was no money available to furnish and fit it out. Nearby stood a huge and grand monument to President Surkano, whilst all around lay a shanty-town and poverty.
After a couple of days doing our stuff we set off again, this time for Bangkok, Thailand. We berthed alongside in the city, with the main river, brown and bustling running past our port side. It carried waterborne traffic of all sorts, from slow, ponderous barges and junks, to high speed water taxis. These taxis were long and narrow open boats, propelled by an outboard engine that had a very long shaft on the end of which was the propeller. Market style trading was being carried out all around us and looking over the side was like stepping back in time.
“Anzac Day”, a remembrance day for Australia and New Zealand, occurred during our visit. The captain, myself and about half a dozen other officers got smartly dressed up in our ‘Number 10’ tropical uniforms, (white trousers, shoes, jacket with brass buttons done up to the throat and a cap), and set off in a coach to go to the military cemetery near the infamous bridge over the river Kwai. Once there we were joined by several other colonials, who had come to pay their respects and take part in a small service of remembrance. It was a very moving experience, to stand with your head bowed as the bugle played the ‘Last Post’, and to contemplate the awful events that took place in this area just thirty or so years in the past. From the cemetery we went to the bridge which now stands on the site of the structure built by the prisoners of war. This place had not then been commercialised, as I believe it is now. The only visible relic was an old steam engine, used on the completed section of the railway by the Japanese. The coach journey to and from the river Kwai took us through beautiful tropical scenery. We passed through areas of dense jungle which opened out to paddy fields on level ground or on terraced hillsides. Occasionally we passed small villages and from time to time an elaborate temple, capped with a shining golden domed roof.
Whilst in Bangkok it was my 31st birthday. Several of the officers and myself were taken ashore by the ship’s agent and treated to a slap-up Thai dinner, followed by a few beers. A good night was had by all!
Having re-loaded all our display vehicles and boats, we set sail again, heading south to Singapore, where this time it was a business visit. We were putting on the show for the Singapore armed forces. We berthed again at the old Naval Base in the Jahore Straits and set to work on our now well-practised routine. The Chief Officer was relieved here by an old shipmate of mine. It was good to see him again. In the evenings I was able to look up my friends, the Carter’s. As this was going to be our last call at Singapore, we threw a big party on board on the last night and invited all the friends we had made. There followed some emotional farewells.
The last visit on our ‘Sales Tour’ was to Port Klang, near Kuala Lumpar in Malaya. One minor hitch here was that one of the display boats, which had always put on a good show for our guests at other ports, failed to turn away from the ship’s side at the last moment on a high speed run in, and crashed into the ship. No damage was caused to the “Lyness” of course, but one wrecked raiding craft was quickly hoisted inboard, carrying a very embarrassed Royal Marine coxswain!
I was surprised and delighted to find on arrival that my friends from Singapore had driven up to Kuala Lumpar for the weekend and came on board to say hello. A couple of us went ashore in the evening to go ten-pin bowling with them and we invited them back aboard afterwards for one last farewell bash. I think that given half a chance, they would have stowed away for the trip back to the U.K.
Sadly it was time to wind up the tour. Sailing from Port Klang and up the Malacca Straits we had an uneventful journey homewards, finally docking at Portsmouth. We discharged all the display gear and equipment and said goodbye to the exhibition teams. They had become good friends over the past few months. We had all worked well together and had lots of laughs during the tour.
Life didn’t quite get back to the usual RFA routine though, as we now prepared to take part in the Queen’s “Silver Jubilee” Review. A large gathering of British and foreign warships, as well as some RFA’s and a few selected British merchant vessels, was to be assembled at Spithead to commemorate the event. The ships began to gather at their allotted anchorages on 24th June 1977 and the event climaxed with the Royal Review of the fleet on Tuesday 28th June.
Our ship’s task, and that of RFA’s “Sir Geraint” and “Sir Tristram”, was to embark V.I.P. guests during the morning of the 28th at Southampton Passenger Terminal. The three ships the proceeded to an anchorage close to the Royal Yacht. At 1430 hrs, the review column weighed anchor and began the procession up and down the long lines of ships. The column was led by Trinity House Vessel “Patricia”, followed by the Royal Yacht “Britannia”, HMS “Birmingham”, RFA “Engadine” with the world’s media embarked, then RFA’s “Lyness”, “Sir Geraint” and “Sir Tristram” with all the V.I.P’s embarked.
There is absolutely no doubt that it was a splendid sight, especially from our viewpoint. During the review, we were overflown by a display of aircraft and helicopters of the Fleet Air Arm.
On completion, at about 1630 hrs, the “Sir Geraint”, “Sir Tristram” and ourselves detached from the Royal Yacht and steamed back to Southampton as fast as we safely could, through the vast armada of small spectator craft, to get our passengers ashore to their trains. We stayed alongside overnight and then all ships dispersed throughout the following day.
Shortly after this we returned to the River Tyne, to strip out all the remaining welded fittings for the ‘Sales Tour’ and return the ship to her normal working condition. No long after arrival at the Tyne I paid off for a couple of months leave. What an appointment that had been!