Reading your letter I was staggered to realise how similar our first 12 years of service had been. After returning from the ‘extended leave’ we had earned (to enable us to spend that massive Korean gratuity they had given us) I managed only a few days in the Tiffy’s Mess in Chatham Barracks before collecting a ‘pierhead jump’ to H.M.S.Diamond. At the time I was told by the Movements Office that the Diamond was at Portland and that I was to join her there – and to make my journey from Chatham to Portland more enjoyable and relaxed (no doubt to overcome my trauma at getting an ‘instant’ posting) I was to take charge of a group of seamen and stokers who were to take passage to the Mediterranean on the “Loch Inch”. As always when things look as though someone has dealt you a lousy hand it got worse. As we left Barracks in the back of a truck en route to the railway station the heavens opened – and it hosed down. By the time I had got this motley bunch on to the train (surprisingly with all of their gear, kitbags, hammock, etc intact) we were all soaking wet and nobody was very happy. Changing trains in London was a disaster. All this lot wanted to do was to find a boozer and to spend the rest of their lives in it. I gained the distinct impression that this lot were not keen on their respective draft chits. I have no idea what ship, or ships, they were joining – but I had a feeling that they were not destined to be ‘happy ships’. Anyway, we eventually got to Portland and (of course) discovered that nobody had thought to lay any transport on to get us from the station to the “Loch Inch”. We struggled through the rain, which was now of the steady soaking variety, carrying kitbags, cases, hammocks (and in my case, a heavy toolbox, from which I had fortunately lost a lot of tools or it would have been even heavier). By the time I had got this, by now, mutinous rabble to the gangway of the “Loch Inch” I was feeling less than sociable. Having completed the first part of my duties I looked around for the Diamond. Since Portland is not the largest naval base in the world I had the impression that finding a Daring-class destroyer shouldn’t prove too difficult. Having failed in my initial scan of the territory to see this ship I eventually did the obvious and asked a bedraggled nondescript official where I would find the Diamond. “Dunno mate” was the reply “she went through here a couple of days ago on the way to the Med – she didn’t stop!” I now went from feeling antisocial to feeling positively murderous. If the Movements Office had got its a*** into gear I could have joined the ship in Chatham and saved me a day’s agony and if the same Movements Office had known anything at all about the Diamond they would not have sent me to join it where it hadn’t even called in!! In my extremely black mood I picked up all of my gear, marched off to the “Loch Inch” and walked aboard. I was of course challenged at the head of the gangway as to who I was and what I thought I was doing. I replied that I was E.R.A.Hygate taking passage on the “Loch Inch” to Malta to join H.M.S.Diamond. “You ain’t on my list mate” this officious Petty Officer informed me. I told him that I couldn’t give a stuff about his list and if he was going to take the responsibility for sending me back to Chatham would he please get a move on and organise my travel warrants etc. He decided that that sounded like too much paperwork (apart from being far beyond his intellectual capabilities) so he told me to report to the Chief Tiffy. So I took ‘unofficial’ passage to Malta and discovered on my arrival that the Diamond wasn’t there either!! I invited myself to spend a week in H.M.S. Ricasoli (Fort Zenderneuf) until the Diamond returned from sea. I enjoyed that week – nobody knew what to do with me so I spent all day, every day, swimming and lazing around the Fleet Lido drinking Pepsi Cola. So we both served on Daring class destroyers (although we were leader of the 5th Cruiser Squadron – consisting of Diamond, Dainty, Duchess and Decoy). Why they decided to call us ‘cruisers’ only some pen pusher at ‘Our Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty will ever know – I don’t think that any foreign powers were fooled.
I enjoyed my eighteen months on the Diamond, she really was a happy ship and the Tiff’s Mess was probably one of the happiest messes on board into the bargain.