H.M.S. Chawton 1961 - 1963
I joined H.M.S. Chawton at Singapore in late August 1961 as an Ordinary Seaman Gunnery aged 18 years and 10 months. She was my third ship in the navy, all Ton class minesweepers. I was 20 years and 6 months old when I left her.
The ship took part in frequent squadron and whole fleet exercises and made a variety of operational and non-operational visits including Manila and Port Dickson. Due to their size, the sweepers did not venture as far as the larger major units of the Far East Fleet. The furthest we ever went was Hong Kong and the Philippines. We spent a lot of time around Borneo on anti-piracy patrols and visited many small ports and islands.
Chawton in dry dock (Admiralty Floating Dock) in Singapore. Although this is possibly pre-confrontation it was the docking which all the sweepers underwent throughout. The destroyer in the dry dock to the left of the picture is H.M.S. Cassandra then with the 8th Destroyer Squadron.
During the 14 months prior to Brunei and the 'Confrontation' we had regular docking and refits in Singapore's Admiralty Floating Docks. One unusual operation was when ships of the 6th Minesweeping Squadron towed the inshore minesweepers of the Hong Kong Squadron to Singapore where I believe they were onward routed westwards for disposal.
In December 62 we were despatched with H.M.S. Fiskerton to Brunei as part of the British response to the rebellion.
We transited up river to Brunei at action stations and both ships came under small arms fire from the riverbanks but there were no casualties or major damage.
It was not long after arrival that we supported the Royal Marines in the raid on Limbang on 12th December.
Both ships' companies assisted with preparing the improvised landing craft and both provided crews.
Neither ships' company were told the real purpose of the trip. We were informed that we were to accompany the Marines up river for a banyan! Consequently we stocked up with loads of cans of Tiger beer but never knew what happened to it.
We were subsequently relieved by H.M.S. Dartington and H.M.S. Houghton and departed for Singapore, arriving back late Christmas Eve. On Christmas Day we had to de-store, clean up and square away from our Brunei trip before we could start our festive celebrations.
Our rest period didn't last long as we soon started the established cycle for the sweepers and departed in late January to transit to Borneo and take over the patrol.
At this time I was looking for my escape route, as my time onboard was drawing to a close. Our operational programme left few suitable opportunities to leave and it wasn't until February 28th that I was able to disembark in Kuching to fly to Singapore for the onward flight to the UK. I arrived back on 4th March 1963, in good time for my wedding on 16th March.