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A NAVAL CAREER IN THE EYES OF COLIN ROSS – Pt. 35

CANTERBURY departed Devonport at the beginning of the colder weather in NZ and was good to be heading north to a warmer climate.  The first day was full of the usual leaving harbour drills and from then on it was various exercises to get everyone up to speed for the expected RIMPAC requirements.

We stopped off and fuelled at Pago Pago which I was starting to feel was almost a second home with the number of times I had been here to fuel.  We left Pago Pago and were to join up with the Australian Navy ships also going to RIMPAC.

The day we expected to join them the ocean was clear, no ships.  The CO decided they must have been around behind the island we were just transitioning past so flew the Wasp off to go round and check behind the Island.  Just after the Wasp departed we altered course and unfortunately by the time the Wasp came around from behind the island CANTERBURY was some distance away and the pilot realised that he currently didn’t have enough fuel to regain the ship.  As you can imagine this created a huge furore and as soon as he informed the ship we reversed course and increased power steaming back towards him.

The ship at the same time prepared for a crash on deck because of the fuel situation and we all realised it was going to be touch and go as to whether we recovered the Wasp safely or perhaps even had to rescue the ditched helicopter and pilot.  As the ship was prepared for crash on deck the MEO was required in HQ1.

I was quickly down to the MCR and we came up to full power.  The guys below were really good with an extra water tender closing up in the boiler room and the boiler Petty Officer controlling the power increase really well.  As a result of the rate that we achieved full power we were able to recover the helicopter and pilot intact.  The

Helicopter flamed out as it touched down.

Needless to say the pilot was a bit shaken and absolutely furious at the CO for altering course away whilst he was in the air.  Things settled down and we came down in power to resume our normal passage speed and course.  The CO piped down to the MCR his thanks for our efforts and in achieving the required power to recover the helicopter successfully, his thanks I broadcast over the machinery intercom.

However on going up to HQ1 I was soundly bullocked by the MEO whom reckoned we had achieved full power too quickly.  I was not impressed and took it on the chin just stating as far as I was concerned we had achieved it within the required parameters and then left to go and have a shower.  I was really a bit up tight over this but after a quiet beer in the mess with the other messmates all was well.

The next morning as I went to our usual 0700 meeting, the MEO again voiced his criticism of the night before.  This really peeved me off and I replied to him that if he ever tried to steam one of these vessels in accordance with all the Books of Reference he would never leave the wall.

After the meeting I went straight to the Ships Office and asked for an RNZN 717, Termination of Service form.  I filled it out and put my resignation date in as 31 March 1985, which was just over my twenty-year mark.  As you can imagine this did not go down well, as most people knew what had happened over the previous twelve hours.

I guess I should clarify this situation a little.  It had always been my intention to resign in the later part of the trip as I have previously stated I was not particularly happy being posted to CANTERBURY and the reasons surrounding it so had made the decision to pull up stumps and try something different, however the preceding issue had just blown my resolve out of the water, hence the early notice.

Bearing in mind all this had happened in the first two weeks of the deployment it did not augur well for the remainder of the trip.  We settled down for the rest of the steam up to Hawaii having successfully rendezvoused with the Aussies.  This of course meant that being in company with other ships meant that we could carry out all sorts of fleet training.

Another one of the issues that arose as part of this was the timing of machinery breakdown exercises.  The department had to meet a number of required evolutions each month, breakdown exercises were also important for advancement training of personnel in the branch.

Each week there was a planning meeting and I had tried to get the timing to be changed from 0600-0700 to early afternoon.  One of the reasons was I was having extremely long days.  With these exercises it meant I was up at 0530 to carry out the breakdown exercises, then after a full day’s work and engineering rounds, which were always traditionally done during the First Dog watch 1600-1800, then after a shower there was always a meeting at 1900 to check feed water expenditure and any orders required to go in the Night Order Book.

So effectively my day ran from 0530 – 1930 or later, this of course excludes any shakes during the night with any problems requiring my attention during the silent hours.  So my efforts to change the time came to nothing and we were allocated 0600-0700.

I effectively had to bite the bullet, so to speak.  Therefore I was less than impressed on more than one occasion when arriving in the MCR and requesting permission from the bridge to start our machinery breakdowns and being informed we would have to wait until they finished the current serial.  On one occasion I was still waiting at 0630 for permission so cancelled our serial.  Again I was taken to task by the MEO probably quite rightly, however I felt that the bridge should have to deal with our breakdowns as part of their current serial as well, in action more than one thing happens at a time.  Again I lost and this seemed to be the way of the world at that time.

It will be recalled that earlier the issue of Naval Staff insisting that Warrant Officers had their own mess had created an issue on WELLINGTON and although we had fought to remain in the Upper CPO’s Mess we had been directed that we would have a separate mess.  This was a fact on CANTERBURY and three Warrant Officers were messed just aft of the gun bay.  In an early part of the trip we were informed that a PO was being promoted and to fit him into a CPO’s Mess it would require one of the CPO’s to be shifted to the WO’s Mess.

As I pointed out to the 1st Lieutenant we had been directed to have our own mess by Naval Staff, and although we had made approaches to Naval Staff about we were happy to remain in a mess with CPO’s they had insisted that we be messed separately and therefore I didn’t see that having a CPO in our mess was an option.  I had nothing against it in principle but sometimes I felt you need to make a stand.  This was a situation created outside our control and therefore should be rectified in some other way.  As a result the CPO stayed where he was and I think the new promotion to chief stayed in the PO’s mess.

I certainly don’t believe I won too many points with this stance but felt there was a principle involved.  It was not the only time I had to discuss issues with the 1st Lieutenant during the trip.

So after what seemed like a long drag we finally arrived in Pearl Harbour.  It was a really busy place and if I recall correctly there were upwards of fifty ships to take part in the exercise.  This was also the last time the RNZN was involved until TE KAHA became the first RNZN ship to take part again about 2012.  The reasons for this will become apparent later in the trip.

We were alongside for I think four or five days.  In this time there were a series of briefings about the exercise, but the Engineering Department did the usual things of required maintenance and training plus some well-earned shore leave to renew acquaintances with members of other Navies over the requisite beers.

During this time I lent two PO’s to the Canadian Navy.  They were having trouble with condenseritis.  They were sent over to experience the methods of testing and packing condenser tubes.  As I said to them I hoped it would be the only time they experienced this type of problem.  After two days I went over to see how they were getting on. On descending into the engine room I was meet by a young rating that wanted to know if I wanted a beer.  They had a great barrel full of ice and beer can, as it was only 0800 I declined and as I said to their Chief Tiff I was not surprised they were having issues as I doubted anyone could see straight enough to identify the actual tube leak.  However they were happy.

To be continued

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