by Dr Robert D Hill
Herewith some of my recollections of the time I spent in Scorpion in 1951 as an REM1 whilst obtaining sea-going experience to qualify for officer selection and my subsequent commission in the Executive branch. During my time in Scorpion the ship acted as “dog ship” to HMS Theseus whenever she was flying planes off and back on her flight deck during Home Fleet exercises.
One particularly memorable event was when we were one of several ships strung across the Atlantic, some 300 miles apart, beneath the flight path of the plane carrying Princess Elizabeth & Prince Philip on their visit to Canada.
The flight was scheduled for midnight on the Sunday and by noon on the Saturday Scorpion was on her allotted station some 300 miles off the west coast of Ireland and hove to in a force 9/10 gale. At least half the crew were suffering from sea-sickness because of the atrocious weather. A signal was received ordering us to take up a new position 4 degrees further north as the flight path had been changed to avoid the worst of the weather. As Scorpion went about she came beam on to the weather and the huge waves of the severe gale. The ship, being somewhat top-heavy with her Limbo mortar bomb modifications, listed some 67 degrees ! Many aboard wondered if the ship would right herself which she did after shuddering in the process with waves crashing over her superstructure. The list had been so bad that fuel oil had spilled out of the fuel tanks and covered the deck of the petty officer’s mess Once on her new course the ship was able to run before the weather and it was awesome standing on the quarter deck seeing 30 ft or more high waves come crashing towards the ship’s stern but always falling short as the ship surged forwards towards her new position.
Another memorable occasion was when the ship, in the company of the 3 other ships of the 6th destroyer squadron (Battleaxe, Broadsword, & Crossbow) carried out night exercises off the coast of Portugal as the squadron sailed on its way to Gibraltar. Scorpion and Crossbow had to make a mock torpedo attack on Battleaxe and Broadsword . With all 4 ships blacked out we were to fire star shells above and beyond the “enemy” ships to silhouette them. After firing the first couple of salvos the gunnery officer was heard to give a frantic order to cease firing when it was discovered that live ammunition had been used instead of star shell ammo. The following signal was then received by commander Jewel from captain D aboard Battleaxe.
“ To live a long life is my working ambition,
so please don’t swap star shell with live ammunition”
After my time in Scorpion I took my commission course in class 260 aboard HMS Indefatigable with Lieutenant Timothy Colman as my divisional officer. Two of my colleagues in class 260 were Neil Durden-Smith (married to Judith Chalmers) and Colin Ingleby-McKenzie (Captain of Hampshire’s county cricket team for several years). Neil, Colin, myself, and two others whose names I can’t recall, formed the winning crew of the Home Fleet’s open whaler race at Portland. I still have my silver oar as a memento of the event. After completion of my 2 years National Service in HMS Cockatrice I remained in the RNVR for a number of years, attaining the rank of Lieutenant, until business commitments eventually caused me to resign my commission.
I have now been retired for 8 years and during my retirement have been one of the RNLI’s SEA (Safety Equipment Advisory) Check volunteer advisers helping to ensure that people who put to sea in their pleasure craft do so safely. More recently I am one of the RNLI’s volunteer Water Safety Awareness Presenters giving talks on water safety to schools and youth organisations.
I hope the information given above relating to HMS Scorpion may be of interest. Should anyone from Scorpion remember me it would be nice to hear from them.
Dr. Robert D.Hill
Colin Ingleby-McKenzie died in 2006.
There was a memorial service to him given in St Pauls cathedral London at which many well known dignitaries attended.