VETERAN WW2 Royal Navy sailor Harold Herring visited a Plymouth frigate warship as a special guest - 68 years after last stepping on board a warship.
Harold Herring (Stoker – First Class) last served on board a warship in 1946 and was delighted to be welcomed on board Devonport-based HMS Montrose by the crew and captain.
The visit was particularly poignant as Harold served as a stoker on board the first HMS Montrose between 1942 and 1944 and saw much action during the Second World War before the ship was damaged beyond repair by a collision shortly after the Normandy Landings.
Harold, 93, and originally from Wales, now lives just outside Bristol in the same house he was provided with when demobbed from service in 1946. On board the new Type 23 frigate he met the captain, Commander James Parkin.
Commander Parkin said: “I’ve been in command of Montrose for over two years and this is the first time I’ve ever had chance to meet someone who was serving on board when HMS Montrose battle honours were won. It’s been a great pleasure to host Mr Herring on board and hope he will be able to visit us again.”
Harold also had lunch with a small group of engineering technicians – the modern-day equivalent of the stoker. Engineering Technician Thorpe said: “It was fascinating to hear all about how life was on the previous HMS Montrose and while we still work in challenging circumstances it was nothing compared to what they had to put up with.”
Harold was shown around the high-tech frigate by Lieutenant Matt Freeman, one of the junior engineer officers, to give him an appreciation of the capabilities and life on board today. As well as been shown around the upper deck and command bridge the visit included the ship’s control centre from where the propulsion plant is controlled and diesel generators located.
Engineering Technician Hamilton said: “Harold was pleased to hear we no longer sleep in hammocks! And it was really interesting to see the intricate certificates that he was issued so long ago to mark his own crossing of the Arctic Circle and Equator.”
After the war HMS Montrose was taken into refit and Harold spent the next 18 months on service in the Far East on board HMS Rocksand, an infantry landing ship. He left the Royal Navy in 1946 and then spent much of the rest of his working life weaving asbestos, a hazardous task that has not affected his health today.
Harold’s first ship was a ‘destroyer leader’, the only other warship launched with the same name as the Type 23, and was laid down in March 1918 and as the first of a class of eight.
With a similar complement to the Type 23, they could achieve an impressive 36 knots with their four boilers and two turbines, all tended by the stokers, famed for their hard work in unpleasant conditions in the engine spaces, where their traditional role was to stoke the fires of the steam boilers.
Four of the original HMS Montrose’s battle honours were won while Harold was serving on board, they were Arctic (1942-1943), North Sea (1942-1944), English Channel (1943-1944) and Normandy (1944).
There is a record of the honours on a board from the original ship on the preserved 19th century frigate HMS Unicorn, alongside in Dundee, which the current captain visited earlier this month when his ship visited Montrose.
HMS Montrose has recently finished an intensive period at sea conducting exercises with NATO and Partnership for Peace allies in the Baltic. This follows a deployment to the Gulf region during which the ship was involved escorting chemical weapons out of Syria.
The modern ship has a crew of around 185 men and women and is a general purpose frigate and is fitted with a broad suite of the latest sonar, radar and communications systems.
HMS Montrose carries a Lynx helicopter and Sting Ray torpedo. Air-defence is provided by a vertical launch Sea Wolf weapon system and surface armaments include the Harpoon missile and the 4.5-inch gun for naval fire support.
HMS Montrose enters her scheduled refit period in September and will have her radar, combat and computer systems upgraded as well as a package of work to maintain the hull and hotel services for her remaining 13 or so years in service with the Royal Navy.