Saturday, 13 May 2017

HMS Tartar 4th Commission 1970 4

(13 May)

St Helena can be seen from miles off on a clear day, it is simply a large, mountainous rock in the middle of nowhere. I was interested in the place because it was where Napoleon spent his last days the equivalent of which today would be like putting Putin on the Moon and leaving him there, it is a measure of how fearful Europe was of that one man.

'Bungy' our St. Helena native was given VIP treatment and was flown in the Wasp helicopter to land and meet his parents on the Governor's lawn, his first visit in ten years, he enjoyed every moment of it. The rest of us when we anchored off had to use local boats to get ashore, and that was an entertainment in the heavy swell and slippery steps. The few local bars were soon awash with sailors ready to part with their cash, most of the crew had to go ashore in two lots but we off duty Radio Ops had most of the time to ourselves so I took the advantage of heading off to Napoleon's house 'Longwood'.


The route was very picturesque and a fair drive from the harbour, no doubt they did not want him hopping on a boat, the house is modest and looked surprisingly modern to me, I duly signed the visitors book, which as you can imagine does not have a lot of people in there. We were shown the modest first grave of the great man and met several giant tortoise's which roamed the grounds. These creatures we were told were there along with Napoleon, especially one called Jonathan who at the time was reputed to be 200 years old. I took this with a pinch of salt but after reading in the news a few years ago about one dying at around 250 years old, my tale of knowing a tortoise who knew Napoleon now has a touch of authenticity. Despite these being slow I made sure I was ready to leap to safety at a moments notice while touching Jonathan for posterity.

Johnathan and I.

Longwood House, well, the side of it.

By the time I got back to the ship the streets of Jamestown were littered with drunken sailors taking advantage of our few hours on terra firma, I didn't manage a drink as I had the Midnight watch and it is not a good idea to have a sore head for that, but it didn't stop Lofty, who was fortunate not to end up in trouble and slept most of the watch in the corner of the Radio Room, I had to wake him up so he could go to bed at 0400.

The ship had been open to visitors for a few hours and a dance had been held ashore for the lucky few, but the idea of sailing at 0115 was not conducive to lasting relationships although it did not stop the over imbibing.

Our next stop was to be Simonstown the naval base in South Africa which was a short train journey from Capetown. Wherever a Royal Navy ship went there were always old salts who would pass on decades of information gathered from thousands of run's ashore, Sugars in Gib and The Black Angus in Puerto Rico are examples, in South Africa it was the local Cape brandy, in Mombasa it was, well we have to get there yet.

Nothing eventful happened on our way to Simonstown apart from the RSAAF dropping us some mail from a Shackleton, whose antecedent of course was the Lancaster bomber.

Mail drop.


  1. "Skin" is the word that springs to mind - and I don't mean Jonathan! I unfortunately never got to St Helena - managed 3 visits to Ascension but you'd struggle to describe that as any sort of Run Ashore.