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26 NAVY NEWS, APRIL 2010

THIS MONTH sees the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Narvik, when on April 13 1940 the battleship HMS Warspite and her escort entered Norwegian waters and destroyed eight German

destroyers.

These were the main part of

● Tiffi es in the mechanics laboratory in HMS Fisgard picking up the fi ner points of centrifugal force from instructor Lt Ralph Tho- mas. The photo in the Navy News fi le is undated but we guess from the1970s.

Tiffies in training

THE PASSING-OUT of the last artifi cers at HMS Sultan certainly marks the end of an era – some 142 years to be precise. Timely, perhaps, to draw to the

attention of tiffies past and present the naval documentary film Tiffy (Naval Artificer) of 1950, with a commentary by Bruce Belfrage, that follows the training of these young men at HMS Fisgard in the post-war years. It is still available on the DVD

entitled The Royal Navy – At War and Peace 1952-1960 released in

2006.

The 30-minute black and white film begins with the teenage recruits having a pillow fight and the instructor CPO Artificer doing his rounds at pipe down – the blue and white bedpans, with the anchor at the centre, will be familiar.

fight, asks: “Where do you think you are? In the wardroom?” The film has excellent footage of tiffies of different trades at work on board the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious, beginning with preparations for putting to sea and shows not only the sort of work they do but the results and effects of their efforts.

There is footage of tiffies with small ships, too, at the MTB base at HMS Hornet in Gosport and in the submarine HMS Sanguine and destroyer HMS Roebuck, the carrier’s destroyer plane guard. This film serves as a salute to

the Artificer and will be of interest to anyone who was a tiffy or whose father or grandfather served in the post-war Navy, particularly in the engineering branches. Hopefully,

The film has a good script and, as the chief opens the door and sees the aftermath of the pillow

will recognise their father or grandfather.

Tot – what rot!

THANK YOU for printing my letter (March) referring to the lack of ‘splicers’ last year for Fly Navy 100.

have asked a few questions around the bazaars and come up with the following points. I was embarked on HMS

Since my letter was published, I

I was quite surprised at your response, informing readers that Splicers had been ordered on May 7.

Air Stations (sorry, Prestwick) and neither office has any record of a tot being issued ashore at that time. Command at Culdrose have also confirmed that they have no record of the signal being received last year.

Illustrious with 824 NAS at the time of the celebrations in London, and I am 100 per cent certain that there was no tot issued onboard during that period – we disembarked back to Culdrose on May 25. I have also spoken to the catering offices at both major RN

of events it seems! Was the signal issued? If ‘yes,’ why was it not received by the RN Air Stations afloat and ashore? If ‘no,’ why was it not issued if

in fact Splicers had been ordered? I’m not asking for the tot to be issued – refer to Jackspeak and my original letter for the reasons why!

Mustachioed mystery

IN THE Mediterranean, in 1944, I joined the Algerine-Class minesweeper HMS Acute and found, among the ship’s company, an elderly Leading Signalman named Codrington who, to my amazement, sported a large and bushy moustache. He claimed that he belonged to an obscure Fleet reserve which,

contrary to naval custom, permitted him to have this adornment of his upper lip.

Neither the captain, nor anyone else, could discover anything about this odd qualification and so he was allowed to continue unshaven... and unsailorlike! I wonder – did such a regulation really exist, or was he pulling the

wool, or hair, over our eyes? – Mike Alston, Hon Sec HMS Middleston (L74) Association, Maidenhead, Berks

So a somewhat puzzling turn

– CPOACMN J J Walker,

RNAS Culdrose

some readers

– Lester May,

Camden Town, London

the German fleet and a potential menace to the evacuation of the Norwegian Royal family and the country’s gold reserves. It was the biggest confrontation

of naval strength since Jutland as almost 20 warships hurled shells at short range and torpedoes zigzagged through the ice-cold waters of the fjord.

With the smoke of battle

clinging to the surface of the water and avalanches disturbed by the tremendous vibrations it was a scene that will never be forgotten by those who were there to witness it.

As a 22-year-old Royal Marine

I have vivid recollections of that part of the world. As the oldest publicity officer in the country at 92 years of age it will not be an effort for me to revisit. I leave for Copenhagen on April 12 and then to Oslo and Narvik, where I intend to lay a wreath of English poppies on the cold waters of Ofotfjord. With beer at £8 a pint I shall only be staying for five days. This time I shall travel in style on Scandivanian Airways. In 1940 I travelled in cold comfort as No 1 of the Royal Marines 15th turret on board the battleship HMS Warspite. To HMS Hunter, HMS Hardy, HMS Cossack and others – You

are not forgotten.

– Bernard Hallas, RMA

Association, Haxby, York

...I WAS in the second battle of Narvik in HMS Warspite. We sank nine German destroyers before tea.

After tea we went to sea and buried casualties from our

THE PHOTOGRAPH on page 34 (January) of HMS Indomitable and HMS Charybdis in August 1942 reminds me of November 1942 in Gibraltar. HMS Charybdis took me

Met men in the Med

and two other Ordinary Seamen (Met) of the Fleet Air Arm, and as Instructor Commander to Algiers in November at the time of the invasion. The weather was atrocious and

an American Army officer was washed overboard. In

Algiers we set up

the Mediterranean Fleet Meteorological Office for Adm Cunningham in the commandeered trans-Med ship Ville d’Oran, eventually transferring to AFHQ in Algiers and in 1944 to Caserta, near Naples, with periods on HMS Largs for the invasion of Italy in 1943, and southern France in 1944. After three years, I returned home as a PO Met.

– John Physick, ex-Chief

Airman Met, RNVR, Meopham, Gravesend, Kent

Burning and turning

I WOULD like to draw your attention to the article on page 7 (March) about the CHF squadrons in Afghanistan. I read with interest the paragraph which says: “In July, temperatures nudge 50˚C (122˚F) which forces engineers to work at first or last light or during the hours of darkness.”

Since joining 845 Squadron in 2006 I have served in Sierra Leone, Iraq, northern Norway and Afghanistan, where I am currently serving.

I would like to assure your readership that when one of our aircraft becomes u/s (unserviceable) we work to repair it, regardless of the time of day or night and regardless of the temperature whether it be +50˚C or -20˚C.

– PO Michael Weller,

845 NAS,

Sea King Mk4 det, Camp Bastion

amuses, impresses or enlightens us the most.

A £25 Amazon voucher to the letter which

Return to Narvik

● The upturned wreck of HMS Hardy in Ofotfjord, sunk in the First Battle of Narvik

destroyer, boys amongst them

from HMS Eskimo – those Tribal- class destroyers were the first ones that carried boys in their crew. There but the grace of God

go I.

We will remember them.

– Roy Emmington, Chatham,

Kent

...THE FRIENDS of Namsos War Memorial (FONMW) have been trying to persuade the Admiralty to send a ship or perhaps an Admiral to the 70th anniversary of the Norwegian campaign. Now we learn that the French

navy is sending FS Premier- Maître L’Her to Namsos with descendants of the captain of a French ship sunk in the area. How will Norwegians regard our inactivity? Should the Royal Navy not also

have a presence there?

– Lawrie Douglas, FONWM

...My FATHER, Cyril Cope,

was the instigator and founding member of the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla of Narvik April 10 1940. Cyril passed away in 2003 and left me a number of audio tapes of his experience, including a first- hand account of the Battle of Narvik. He was in the unique position on the upperdeck as a torpedo man to witness all. The transcript I made of his

tapes describes what happened on abandoning ship, and what happened to the survivors who got ashore, the assistance offered by the Norwegians and how they were repatriated on HMS Ivanhoe. There is also an excellent

website submerged.co.uk which has many photos and details about Narvik.

I am hoping that more people will contact me whose families

were involved, to enable me to write a book.

– Ron Cope, Telford,

Shropshire

Shipmate Bernard Hallas received a grant from the Heroes Return programme towards his expenses.

The Big Lottery Fund which runs the scheme has produced a fi lm showing some of the veterans’ return trips. The link is www.biglotteryfund.

org.uk/prog_heroes_return

and there is also a blog on heroesreturn.org showing the veterans talking about their visits. Both can be accessed through

the Navy News website. Cyril Cope’s memories of Narvik can be found on the Navy News website

under Have Your Say – Dittybox.

See the centre for our Narvik supplement.

Picture: Cpl S Dove AGC

SO an ERA comes to an end for the Tiffies – the branch whose members have kept the Navy afloat since Engine Room Artificers were introduced in the 1860s. From the days of steam propulsion onwards the Tiffies have been the ones who “kept the engines turning, the guns firing, the ships floating, the electrical equipment working and the aircraft flying,” as former Tiffy Gil Harding put it. Tiffies have always been held in high regard for their brainpower (their entrance exams were the toughest of all) and their ability to apply it. Several artificers reached flag rank, and nearly 50 per cent of all engineer officers are former Tiffies.

There are legendary accounts of Tiffies and their skills, from the submariner who made himself a new wristwatch when his broke, to the Tiffy who diagnosed a problem in a diesel engine that had stumped everyone at the manufacturers for months. So it’s a sad farewell to the old Artificers, but the branch will pass its baton to the Engineering Technicians. As Capt Graham Watts, Captain RN School of Marine Engineering, said: “We’re still delivering advanced apprenticeships and the artificers’ skills, especially their ability to diagnose a problem, are as much in demand as ever.

“The name may have gone, but the skills live on.”

April 2010 no.669: 56th year

Leviathan Block, HMS Nelson, Portsmouth PO1 3HH

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