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NAVAL CAREER of COMMANDER [F] D M A H HAMILTON RN, 1940-1969
David, known in the Navy as "Shorty"

 

Arranged by Gordon Smith, Naval-History.Net

 

 

(click photographs for enlargements)

 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

ROYAL NAVAL COLLEGE DARTMOUTH 1940-43

 

32-foot naval cutters

 

My Dartmouth One Design Trivia 9P20. Some cadets owned DODs and when they left, another new boy, or a least his parents, would buy it so they were always in use

 
 

FIRST SHIPS

 

HMS Nigeria, light cruiser
 

HMS Whelp, destroyer
 

HMS Offa, destroyer
 

HMS OFFA

 

German destroyers in the Firth of Forth - Z.5, Z.6
 

Germans in the Forth - Z.25 and Z.31
 

"Not asking, just wondering"
 

FNS Jean Bart, Cherbourg, early Feb 1946
 
 

KIEL, GERMAN - EARLY FEBRUARY TO APRIL 1946

 

Kiel Canal February 1946
 

German Naval Memorial World War 1,
Laboe, entrance to Kiel Fiord, east side
 

HMS Offa at Kiel
 

HMS Offa Officers at Kiel 1946 (David Hamilton 2nd from left)
 

Heavy
cruiser Admiral Hipper at Kiel February 1946. The vessel to the right of her, bow on, is light cruiser Emden.
 

Admiral Hipper, she had been in dry dock, note factory-type windows painted on funnel
 

Visiting Admiral Raal of the Soviet Navy with Lt Cdr M Thorpe CO of Offa
 
 

FLEET AIR ARM

 

894 Squadron, 1957-58
 

Queens Visit
29 April 1959
 

E II R flypast
 


De Haviland Sea Vixen fighter and Valiant bomber "pluggin-in"

 
 

A LOVE OF "BOATS" - following on from Dartmouth days

 
 

My new toy - a land yacht, and f
ully dressed for her!!!! Sea Vixens behind, c 1960
 

Yacht
Nirimba built by apprentices at HMAS Nirimba, sailing in the Harbour, c 1966, steel hull, design by Alan Payne
 
 
Motor Boat Vagabond II, built 1939 in the Hawkesbury River, north of Sydney
 
 
 
 

Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge
     

1939 - Academic and Admiralty examinations for entrance into Royal Navy.

 

 

1940 - Joined Royal Naval College, Dartmouth for training. Represented the College at boxing.

 

 

1943 - At the age of 17 graduated and joined first ship, cruiser HMS Nigeria and later destroyer HMS Whelp. Took part in operations in the Channel, off Norway, and then went through the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean. For some operations off the Malay Peninsular we were joined by the carrier USS Saratoga. I came back to England by troopship in June 1945 and at the end of the war was on Sub Lieutenant's courses, mainly in the Portsmouth area. One might call them post graduate courses, the finer points of navigation, communications, gunnery, torpedo work, submarines and aviation.

 

On completion we had to specify which specialisation we wished to take up, I chose aviation, having wanted to fly since I was about ten. We celebrated VE day at the Town Hall Square, Portsmouth, packed with people and a huge bonfire.

 

HMS OFFA 1945-46

 

I joined her in the Firth of Forth Sept 1945 and after a boiler clean we proceeded to Londonderry; the approach up Loch Foyle is quite tricky, with a couple of S-bends. We then took part in Operation Deadlight, taking surrendered U-boats out to sea and sinking them - easier said than done. There were no German personnel present. The weather throughout the operation was lousy [as might be expected in winter off the nor-west of Ireland]. The original idea was to have some personnel in the submarine who would lay scuttling charges, light the blue touchpaper and be taken off by our motor cutter. The weather fixed that. So we towed each sub, with the conning tower hatch open, out to the desired area. As the towing speed was 2 knots we had little or no steerage way for most of each trip and a very uncomfortable ride. When the first boat was cast off we lay off its beam and opened fire with our 4.7 inch guns, each mounting firing in turn to give some competition to the gun crews. It was hit very early and sank. The gunnery officer was beside himself with glee! The second sub took 5 salvoes to hit and the third sub was never hit and sank itself - the gunnery officer hid below decks.

 

I cannot remember how many we towed out but the excitement wore off fairly soon. I have read that 221 U-boats were scuttled or destroyed by their crews and 156 surrendered. HMS Zambesi was another destroyer occupied in this task and her Sub Lieutenant was Dick Stock, subsequently on my flying course and then in 802 squadron with me.

 

We had Christmas alongside in Londonderry, and another officer and myself were detailed off to look after the ship while everyone else shot off to their families. We had quite a good time and an hilarious episode with a WRNS carol singing group. When the fun at Londonderry was over we steamed, south about, to the Firth of Forth to pick up some German destroyers. After the war the Allies had decided that the French did not qualify for reparations. However, the French kicked up such a fuss that the arrangement was rescinded and our part was to escort five destroyers to Cherbourg. These consisted of two "Narvik" class, two "Maass" class and one T-boat which were anchored east of the Forth Bridge. We anchored near the most easterly one and I was sent, in our motor cutter, to brief the captains of the routine they were to follow. I reached the first ship's gangway, port side aft and, when arriving on deck, found one German sailor who guided me to the wardroom where, it so happened, all the officers were assembled, sitting around three tables.

 

As soon as I entered every officer leapt to his feet and stood to attention. As I was only a Sub-Lieutenant this was somewhat startling, and I tried hard to appear nonchalant and suggested that they be seated. The Captain remained standing and called me "sir" throughout the proceedings. I ran through the orders, such as each ship's disposition, speed, signalling etc. The Captain was somewhat nonplussed when told we would proceed at 12 knots, I don't think they went anywhere at less than 25. However, we were back to the old peacetime routine of economical cruising. I asked him what a framed quotation hung on the bulkhead was about (Nicht argern - nur wundern) and he said that it read "Not asking, just wondering" and he gave it to me. I understood that it referred to the Hitler regime and that the Kriegsmarine were not very pro-Nazi. It was getting dark and the Firth of Forth is a large and lonely place to be in a small boat with no navigation aids, so I told him to pass on the instructions to the other Captains and knew that the order would be carried out efficiently. The wardroom was very spartan with no homely fittings, soft seating or woodwork and painted grey throughout.

 

Next morning we sailed to Cherbourg and led them into harbour, but I cannot remember what sort of reception we got. The battleship Jean Bart, sister ship to the Richelieu, was alongside a wharf and still had not been completed. Richelieu had been manned by Free French matelots during the latter part of the war and took part in operations with the RN.

 

This episode aroused my interest in German destroyers and their war achievements and so I will pen some facts and opinions. At the battle in the Norwegian fiords, called Narvik afterwards, the Germans lost ten destroyers. Four could have probably escaped but for the timidity of their commander by the name of Bey [who was to make another error later in the war] For some reason [like Dunkirk and Gallipoli] the action was treated in Germany as heroic and the replacement ships were called the Zerstorer-Flotille "Narvik" They were much bigger than our ships - 2600 tons against 1900, 38 knots/31, 5.9 inch guns/4.7.

 

The two we took to the French were Z.25 and Z.31. The other destroyers were of the Leberecht Maass Class, 2200 tons, 5 inch guns, 30 knots. These ships were named after German naval officers who lost their lives in the first World War. The two we escorted were Z.5 - Paul Jacobi and Z.6 - Theodor Riedel. The Torpedoboote was a ship more on a par with some of our fleet destroyers and Hunt-class escorts, 1200 tons, 4.1 inch guns, 35 knots and 6 or 8 torpedo tubes. We took one down to Cherbourg and the records show that a total of three were handed over to the French - T.11, T.20 and T.23. All the ships were crewed by the Kreigsmarine and some had an RN guard of about half a dozen sailors on board - what they were supposed to do was a mystery. They were certainly unnecessary as, once they had surrendered, the vast majority of Germans did what they were told in a typically German fashion.

 

Interestingly, most of the destroyers were equipped to carry mines, 76 in some cases. They carried out major minelaying operations off the coast of the UK up to the end of 1940 which sank around 90 ships. British authorities did not find out until after the war and thought the casualties were being caused by submarine mining. Up to four destroyers were used in each operation and all laying was done at night which of course is very tricky [the first operation was OK because some of the UK navigation buoys were still lit!!]

 

Engines - The boiler pressure was very high. Even higher than USN ships. Higher pressure steam means higher speed but has its drawbacks. Firstly, the steam pipes and turbine blades have to be strong enough and, secondly heavy fuel consumption. These ships were plagued with engineering problems, called by ships staff "rickets", and were often sent back to base by the big ships due to emptying fuel tanks or engine problems, leaving the "heavies" without protection.

 

Hull design - Germany is not a maritime power and that is borne out by a study of the warships hull design which had low flat fo'c'sles and no flare in the bows. This meant they were very "wet" in anything but a flat calm and pretty useless in northern and western seas. Some ships like the battleship Scharnhorst had to be modified with what was called an Atlantic bow, putting a flare on the hull forward and raising the deck. Destroyers were very prone to rolling and broaching to in a following sea. To assist in stability they were told not to empty their bunkers below 30%, which of course limited their range even further. For detailed information see "German Destroyers in WW2”by M J Whitley, published by Arms and Armour Press. An excellent read.

 

After we had escorted the ships to Cherbourg we met with a vessel from Argentina carrying the remnants of the crew of the pocket battleship Graf Spee, scuttled off Montevideo, after an action with three RN cruisers, in December 1939. They must have had a pleasant war!!!! We escorted the ship to Hamburg and then proceeded to Brunsbuttel, and the entrance to the Kiel Canal.

 

The reason I was in Offa was to gain my Watchkeeping Certificate, which means one is competent to be in control of a ship whilst at sea. The fact that I did not have one at the time did not really matter as I was "watch on, watch off” with another officer from the start. The only qualified officers were the Captain and the Navigator, neither of whom kept watches, and one other Lieutenant. A watch is four hours at a time except the dog watches of two hours each. I thoroughly enjoyed sea watchkeeping, especially the Morning Watch from 0400 to 0800. The best part of the day, watching the dawn break and the sun rise over the ocean.

 

We used to have some entertainment on the compass platform in the form of floating mines. These can break adrift in heavy seas of which there were plenty, mostly in the North Sea. These mines of the moored type had horns sticking up around the upper surface, if one was hit - Boom!!! We used to see them occasionally and so you stopped the ship, called the Captain and then grabbed a .303 service rifle kept handy and blazed away. Two or three of us firing, yet never had one blow up - disappointing! When the casing had enough holes in it the mine would sink. At night we just kept our fingers crossed.

 

Arriving at Brunsbuttel, the North Sea end of the Kiel canal, we picked up a German pilot and steamed up the canal. He must have thought his end was near when the Captain arrived on the compass platform with a large pistol and started taking pot shots at whatever he fancied. On arriving at the Kiel end we were in the Baltic Sea, where we anchored and settled down for a splendid few weeks.

 

An incident occurred in June 1945 that clarified the attitude of the Royal Navy to the defeated Germans. The Flag Officer Schleswig-Holstein, [or FOSH] Vice Admiral H.T.Baillie-Grohman took his barge, flying the White Ensign and a Vice Admirals flag, to have a look at the light cruiser "Leipzig" which had arrived from Norway and was on her way to Cuxhaven. He went round the cruiser twice. The only attention paid to his flag were rude gestures from some sailors. The Admiral moved on to conduct some other business and returned to the cruiser on the way back, with the same result. Extremely cross over the lack of respect he sent a Royal Marine officer, with a small escort, on board to deliver written orders to the "Leipzig's" Captain that at 1000 the next morning, the ships' company was to be fallen in on the upper deck in No 1 uniforms and officers in swords and medals. There was to be a Flag Officers guard on the quarterdeck. In addition he moved one of the RN guard destroyers to anchor abeam of the cruiser with guns and torpedo tubes trained on her. The Admiral returned in his barge and circled the ship several times while its crew stood to attention and saluted the Ensign each time he passed. If his orders had not been obeyed he had intended to send Royal Marine Commandos on board to arrest the Captain. There was never any more trouble from any German service personnel in the area. after that. I am indebted to Michael Nash, of Marine & Cannon Books for giving me the details. We had naturally heard of the event but not the full facts.

 

We were allocated an R-boat, a smaller version of the famous torpedo E-boats which used to tangle with our MTBs on a regular basis. R-boats were used for escort work, inshore mine laying and general duties. Ours was for our use solely. I went on board and had a look around, one could have eaten off the engine room deck, and the boat was truly "shipshape and Bristol fashion". Very interesting twin diesel engines - no clutch or reverse lever. They approached the jetty or whatever, and when the right moment came engines were stopped and then started in reverse to bring the boat to a halt. This was done by turning a wheel on the end of the camshafts. Later I was given a ride and demo and the crew took great delight in demonstrating their prowess. The approach was done at high speed and with a great churning of water and dipping of bows as the engines went astern, we came to a halt a foot off Offa's gangway.

 

While in Kiel the ship was painted from stem to stern by a team of German sailors brought out every day. Jolly Jack took to leaning against a stanchion and supervising while the Germans did the work. Our sailors were horrified to discover that the Germans reported every time they finished a job, so they could get another. Not in the great British tradition! They were happy because they got a good midday meal every day, in contrast to those ashore who were half starved. The only locals I felt sorry for were the children and some lucky children of "our" Germans got most of the ships "nutty" ration {chocolate] Wherever one went Germans still in uniform clicked heels and saluted, including four ring captains. The adage "Germans are either at your feet or at your throat" appeared to apply.

 

In conversation with English speaking Germans, three items were always brought up. [1] Nobody had been a Nazi. [2] The war had been started by British and American big business. [3] Concentration camps did not exist, it was Western propaganda. When I was based in Germany in 1950, at RAF Wunstorf, the message was exactly the same.

 

The tradition in the RN of Sunday night cinema in the wardroom was very popular because small ships only had one projector. We regularly entertained officers from the occupation army and there would a few duty free drinks and then dinner with a bit of port passing followed by the film. At the end of each reel the lights went up for the reel change. This was an ideal moment for recharging glasses, the "pongos" were most impressed with this procedure. As the word got around we had to introduce mid-week shows. This period in my Navy life was the only time when we had no wine bills. All the grog had been looted from the French by the Germans and we confiscated it from them. We used to have a couple of glasses of champagne every breakfast, to start the day. There were many return favours from the soldiery, including driving a tank round the streets, with scant regard for obstacles, and using German cavalry horses to gallop round the racecourse.

 

We also had two motor cars with drivers, and a BMW motorcycle with sidecar [fitted with reverse gear]. A trip to Hamburg was instructive - acres and acres of rubble. Our attitude was that the Germans deserved what they got, we remembered Coventry, London, Warsaw and hundreds of other cities in Europe devastated by their war machine. Hamburg had 50,000 casualties, more than all the civilians killed in Britain throughout the war. Hitler refused to go to the city and even refused to see a party of local firefighters. Do not listen to the "do gooders" who say the bombing of Dresden was a crime. There were many factories and a big railway marshalling yard. 24 troop trains a day were passing through on the way to the Russian front, at that late stage of the war.

 

The main currency during our stay was cigarettes. Apart from standard brands one could purchase from the mess or canteen, we were issued with Navy Blue Line cigarettes which cost sixpence for twenty. Ashore one could get several pounds sterling in German marks, for a packet of twenty. They were also used for barter. It seemed strange that people who were living a pretty basic existence should be desperate for a smoke rather than something to eat. However, in a lot of cases cigarettes were exactly that - currency - and passed from person to person. It reminds me that, many years later, I paid for something in Hong Kong with an English cheque which never came back through my bank. I found out that some cheques were circulated as currency [I did not complain!!!]

 

The Royal Kiel Yacht Club had been commandeered as an officers club and we used to, of an evening, have a five course meal, with wine, and excellent cabaret and figured it had cost us a fag end each. Many of the occupying forces dealt in the black market in a big way, the Americans led the way in this. I was told that the Americans had driven tanks over all the stock at the Leica factory to avoid Kodak being ruined. I ended up with a nice Rolleicord reflex camera, in a thick leather case [twenty cigarettes] and a German naval officers dirk and sailors heavy leather, high collar, lined, grey jacket which I used for many years when wildfowling. It was said that a few Mercedes cars travelled to England on the iron decks of destroyers. Two or three German navy yachts were confiscated, taken to England, and handed over to the Royal Naval Sailing Association, they lasted some years. I did a bit of single handed sailing in our 27 foot whaler, but gave it up when the spray started freezing when it hit the gunwhales. The photographs of the Admiral Hipper were taken from the whaler.

 

There was a Russian destroyer in harbour looking after their interests and their senior officer Vice Admiral Raal was asked to come on board for an inspection. As I had been through the naval college I was lumbered for guard officer duty. We subsequently visited the Russian for dinner, from memory a fairly rugged evening. They sailed a convoy of reparation ships one day, against the weather expert’s advice and we were called out to render aid when most of them were blown ashore. As the swept channel was only one cable [200 yards] wide we could do nothing. Incidentally the Kreigsmarine minesweepers were never disbanded at the end of the war, they carried on minesweeping, under the supervision of the RN.

 

All good things come to an end and one night in April 1946 we weighed anchor and entered the Kiel canal in a snowstorm. The canal had "street" lights down both sides and during the time I was on watch they all went out. Astern both engines, stop the ship, wake the Captain and turn the hands out to secure alongside until daylight.

 

After leaving the canal we headed for home and HMS Offa was put into reserve at Devonport having served the Country since October 1941, mainly on Russian and Atlantic convoys. She was sold to Pakistan in 1949 and renamed the "Tariq". She returned to the UK in 1959 and was broken up.

 

I had a change in my life style by learning to fly in the Fleet Air Arm.

 

 

 

 


 

 

FLEET AIR ARM and NAVAL AVIATION

 

 

 

1947 - January. Started flying training at No 6 Elementary Flying Training School RAF Yatesbury, Wiltshire, in De Havilland 86A Tiger Moths. Soloed after 6 hours, 25 minutes dual. Then Service Flying Training School, RAF Ouston, Northumberland in North American Harvards. Awarded Wings 12 November. Then Operational Flying School (OFS), RNAS Lossiemouth and RNAS Milltown, Inverness, Scotland in Supermarine Seafire XV and XVII's.

   

1948 - After Aerodrome Dummy Deck Landings [ADDLS] at Milltown carried out first deck landings on board HMS Implacable in the English Channel on 22 June. After leaving OFS became member of the first pilot cross qualification [F] course and graduated as Observer [Navigator]. The Admiralty had decided that future CO’s should have dual qualifications.

   

1949 - Joined first operational squadron NO.802 flying Hawker Sea Furies in HMS Vengeance

   

1950 - In October joined 767 squadron RNAS Yeovilton and RNAS Henstridge, later also 768 squadron RNAS Eglinton as "Clockwork Mouse" training DLCO's Qualified as Deck Landing Control Officer ["Batsman"]. Served as such in HMS Vengeance, HMS Theseus and HMS Indomitable.

Also at RNAS's Yeovilton and Henstridge with 767 Squadron was Jim Summerlee, where (in Jim's words) "he did nothing but take-off and land on a dummy flight-deck at Henstridge while 'batsmen' learnt their trade. Known as 'clockwork mice', once the course was completed, they had to do the same thing for real - on any aircraft carrier that was available." The following photographs, from Jim's story and with his captions, were taken on HMS Vengeance around 1952.

   


Jock Lowe, Jim Summerlee, Shorty Hamilton, Al Hickling


Jock Lowe (smiles nervously), Shorty Hamilton (reaching for a gun), Al Hickling (flogging his shoes back)

   

1953 - Joined No 3 Front Line Jet Conversion Course, RNAS Culdrose in July, flying Supermarine Attackers and Gloster Meteor Ts. First jet deck landings in Supermarine Attacker, on HMS Illustrious, 24th July 1953. Then to NO.703 Service Trials Squadron, RNAS Ford. Deck landed Hawker Sea Fury, Hawker Sea Hawk F1, De Havilland Sea Vampire 20 and 21, Grumman TBM Avenger and Fairey Gannet during that time. Also flew Fairey Firefly 6, Bolton Paul Sea Balliol, Sea Fury Trainer, North American Harvard 2b and Vampire 5.

 

Demonstrated Deck Landing Mirror Sight, when it arrived on the scene, to Senior Officers and other "visiting firemen" in De Havilland Vampire T22s.. Also carried out trial deck landings on first angled deck carrier HMS Centaur, May 1954 and trial deck landings using the first very basic Deck Landing Mirror Sight, January 1955. It looked if it had been taken from the front of an old fashioned wardrobe. "Batted" several trial aircraft including Supermarine 508 a precursor to the RN Scimitar fighter and the Hawker 1050, a swept wing Sea Hawk.

 

Sent on loan to Royal Netherlands Navy at their airbase at Falkenburg to give their aircrew dummy deck landing training.

   

1955 - Appointed Flight Deck Officer (FDO) HMS Albion as a Lieutenant in July. Promoted during the two year tenancy. Was FDO during the Suez operations and flew 9 operational sorties, courtesy of 800 and 802 Sea Hawk squadrons.

 

1957 - No 1 All Weather Fighter Course in 766 squadron, RNAS Merryfield flying De Havilland Sea Venom 21s. After finishing course went to Lossiemouth for Air Weapons Training with 764 squadron. Served in No 891 [short time] and as Senior Pilot of 894 Sea Venom squadron, in HMS Eagle.

 

HM the Queen's Visit to HMS Eagle, 29 April 1959

This was a private visit by HM so there was no press or any publicity. I was one of the lucky ones presented to HM in the wardroom [I had served with the Duke in HMS Whelp in 1944] Prince Charles was looked after in the anteroom while this was going on. He was asked if he would like a drink and he said "yes please, a gin and tonic"!!!!! (right - HM and Prince Charles with Monty Mellor, Charles Evans, Captain Frewin)

 

The formation fly past photograph was taken a little past the overhead position so the "two" part looks a bit off centre, but it wasn't.

 

Our CO, "Blackie" led the formation at the head of the E and I formated on him from the head of the R using a Venom with an extra good AI Mk21 and a tip top Observer who monitored the distance between us.

   

1959 - Joined 700Y De Havilland Sea Vixen Mk 1 trials squadron and then, as Commanding Officer 892 squadron took the first Sea Vixens to sea in HMS Ark Royal and, later HMS Victorious. Carried out day launch and deck landing while the carrier was taking on stores from a replenishment ship [RFA Fort Duquesne]. Also a night launch and deck landing while the carrier was fuelling from an RFA oil tanker. These two sorties could be "firsts" in the RN.

 

1961-62 - Graduated from No 32 Royal Naval Staff Course, at RN College Greenwich.

   

1962 - Commanding Officer 899 Sea Vixen Headquarters and Trials Squadron. Conducted many trials including Flight Refuelling using the probe and drogue method. Obtained 20 and 30 degree bomb dropping clearances. Conducted early Firestreak air-to-air missile trials. Carried out arrestor wire pulling on various carriers. Demonstrated solo aerobatics at air shows around southern England.

 

During flying career carried out 557 day deck landings and 117 at night.

   

1964 - After promotion to Commander served as Aviation specialist at the Royal Naval Tactical School for two years. Students from all NATO navies were trained in the battle simulator and lectures given to senior officers and civilians of equivalent rank. Included lectures to the Mediterranean Fleet at Gibraltar on "The Threat" and some days in USS Independence, CVA 62, fleet carrier during RN/USN exercises off Norway. That is another story!

   

 


 

ROYAL AUSTRALIAN NAVY

   

1966 - Exchange service with Royal Australian Navy as Executive Officer of the RAN Apprentice Training Establishment, HMAS Nirimba, Sydney. New South Wales.

   

1968 - Returned to the UK and resigned from the Royal Navy in 1969 in order to emigrate to Australia.

   
   

   
         

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