HMS Fittleton anniversary - Ships Nostalgia
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HMS Fittleton anniversary

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  #1  
Old 23rd September 2008, 10:41
jack dusty jack dusty is offline  
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HMS Fittleton anniversary

today is the anniversary of the collision between HMS Mermaid and HMS Fittleton (23.9.76). i am posting this thread as a mark of respect to the 12 souls who lost their lives in this collision, i salute each and every one of them.

jack dusty
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  #2  
Old 23rd September 2008, 12:27
Peter4447 Peter4447 is offline  
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Thank you JD.
Peter4447
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  #3  
Old 23rd September 2008, 13:06
ROBERT HENDERSON ROBERT HENDERSON is offline  
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JD
Please refresh my memory, was this the collision by one ship manned by regular RN officers and the other a RNR traing ship?

Regards Robert
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  #4  
Old 23rd September 2008, 19:22
jack dusty jack dusty is offline  
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your right robert, mermaid was manned by regulars and fittleton was an rnr vessel.
jack dusty
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  #5  
Old 23rd September 2008, 23:04
sparkie2182 sparkie2182 is offline  
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thank you for the reminder, Jack.............

I was the Radio Officer of an A.C.T container ship within a few miles of the
tragedy and remember the events clearly.
North Foreland Radio (GNF) had great difficulty in stopping all radio activity on the RadioTelephone Distress Channel (Ch 16) and on the Morse frequency as there were so many ships in the immediate area all trying to assist at the same time.
There was considerable confusion as to exactly what had happened which lasted for some time.

a sad memory.......................


best regards.............
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  #6  
Old 3rd October 2008, 15:30
McCloggie McCloggie is offline  
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HMS Fittleton was manned by a mixed crew from London Division RNR (HMS President) and HMS Sussex from Worthing.

The collision was with HMS Mermaid which was a one off design commissioned into the RN when the original buyers (Malaysia/Indonesia?) decided not to take her.

At this time, the RNR was under the command of Admiral Commanding Reserves (ACR) who was flying his flag on Mermaid. The incident happened during a large RNR excercise and Fittleton was due to refuel/RAS from Mermaid. Fittleton's CO was Peter Paget I believe and he was ex MN. Fittleton was instructed to take position with Mermaid but Paget was not happy and pulled off a couple of times. Allegedly, he was then given a signal to "get on with it". The result was the tragic collision (due to hydronamic interaction) which rolled Fittleton over.

Most of the Officers were on the bridge/upper deck (as were the deck crew waiting to work) and were therefore thrown clear but as was normal the Engineering department were closed up down below as were others.

Fittleton's hull remained floating for several hours, and help arrived from other vessels and other Navies but apart from those who got out initially, no one else below survived.

I believe the incident was instrumental in placing the RNR squadron (10 MCM) under the direct command of RN Staff and we continued to man our own ships for several more years, getting the bigger MSFs to play with.

I was not in the RNR at the time but understandably even when I joined some three years later we all knew the storey.

I knew some of the people involved - in particular one senior CPO from London who went back into the ship and brought people out (he was decorated) and one Lt. Cdr. who organised the memorial window in HMS President when we moved to St. Katherines Dock.

Again allegedly, the incident would have been quietly swept away but Paget went for a full inquiry/Courts Martial where he was exonerated.

Whatever, a very sad incident. To paraphrase one of the London River Police (also a CPO RNR) after the Marchioness incident, nobody set out that day to kill anybody else.

McC
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  #7  
Old 3rd October 2008, 21:06
jack dusty jack dusty is offline  
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mermaid was originally ordered by the ghanian navy but they cancelled the order. she lay in glasgow for 2/3 years after completion until the RN took her. she spent 4/5 years serving with the RN before being sold to malaysia. i believe she spent most of her time with the RN based in singapore. there is an account of the collision on www.tca2000.co.uk/inmemoriam.htm
jack dusty

Last edited by jack dusty; 3rd October 2008 at 21:08..
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  #8  
Old 3rd October 2008, 21:32
ROBERT HENDERSON ROBERT HENDERSON is offline  
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I have just read the full account of this tragedy and the salvage operation.
The men had only just been paid as well as having personal effects such as cameras etc. Only 187 were found annd there was evidence that wallets had been torn open. How anybody could enrich themselves in the face of such a tragedy is beyond comprehension, if indeed as was widely thought it was people involved in the salvage operations, it is even worse in as much as many of these people will seafarers themselves.

Regards Robert
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  #9  
Old 3rd October 2008, 23:04
sparkie2182 sparkie2182 is offline  
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Robert.

i just hope there is a rational and innocent explanation for this.
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  #10  
Old 5th October 2008, 08:00
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melliget melliget is offline  
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The casualties of the collision (all from the Fittleton). Two were killed instantly:

BARBER, Philip Henry, Chief Radio Supervisor, aged 38, married, Guildford, Surrey.
DONOHUE, K. C., Cook, a single man from Athelone, Co. Westmeath, Republic of Ireland (killed instantly).
GRENFELL, Christopher Ian, Sub-Lieutenant, aged 29, single, from Basildon, Essex.
HEWISON, Ian, Engineering Mechanic, aged 29, married, Standford-le-Hope, Essex.
HOEY, Gerald Wilson, a regular Royal Navy mechanical engineer, aged 17, Greenock.
MASSEY, Richard John, Radio Operator, single, Blackhall, Edinburgh.
NEWELL, Charles Michael Ernest, Electrician, aged 32, single, Brighton.
PILCH, Michael, Assistant Cook, aged 29, Primose Hill, London, and Chatsworth Road, Newhall, Burton-on-Trent.
PILGRIM, Frederick, Chief Petty Officer Cook, aged 45, a married man from High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire (killed instantly).
QUANTRILL, Patrick Gerald, Radio Operator, aged 33, married, West-cliff-on-Sea, Essex.
SKINNER, David William John, Chief Yeoman, aged 34, married, Hull Bridge, Essex.
TURNER, Stanley Ronald, Mechanician, aged 51, married, Barnehurst, Kent.


regards,
Martin
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  #11  
Old 1st November 2008, 22:55
Warrior40 Warrior40 is offline  
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It was a long time ago now but I still remember it vividly. I was the navigating officer and was in my office when I heard things going wrong.
Went out on deck in time to see HMS Mermaid, a 2,500 ton frigate, hit us on the Starboard side. In slow motion Fittleton, a 450 ton minsweeper, leaned over and was pushed sideways for sometime. I remember water rushing up through the scuppers on the port side aft and then she rolled over and I jumped for my life. Swimming in the North Sea, my lasting image is of Fittleton floating upside down with her two propellers still turning. My thanks go to HMS Crofton and her crew who were bold enough to come in amongst the mess and help. Otherwise we would all have drowned. God bless the great guys who died. They are not forgotten.
Richard A
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  #12  
Old 17th April 2014, 18:53
Inspector S Inspector S is offline
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HMS Fittleton

Jack Dusty,
I have just joined the site after reading the Fittleton anniversary forum. Not wishing to be picky, but the Fittleton went down on the 20th September 1976. The ship's clock stopped at 15:34. I know as I was in the wheel house of the upturned hull with CPO George Creasy, who found an air pocket and saved my life. If I can help with any queries regarding the incident and the subsequent Admiralty board of enquiry which I was called to please let me know.
Inspector S
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  #13  
Old 17th April 2014, 19:06
Inspector S Inspector S is offline
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HMS Fittleton anniversary forum

Robert,
with regards to the theft of cash and personal belongings by the salvage crews. This did happen! as you state we had just been paid so there was a lot of money about. Fortunately I had my pay in my pocket. However I had on board my 18th birthday present from my parents, a gold watch. As I had been working on the sweep deck my watch was in the locker under my bunk in the seaman's mess deck. Once the ship was recovered to Chatham I went aboard with other survivors to recover property still on board. We found that all the lockers had been smashed open, there was no need for anyone to go in them other than for looting. The only property left were watches that were water logged and other useless bits and pieces. I have heard that property found by salvagers is considered theirs, and I can understand this to some extent. There were three bodies recovered from the engine room and the food still in the galley. The smell inboard was unbelievable. I therefore do not have any bad feelings towards the salvagers as they had an horrendous task.
Inspector S
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  #14  
Old 25th January 2016, 20:37
smnco1937 smnco1937 is offline  
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And who was the ACR that day? I heard he went into shock and dithered, wasting valuable time waiting for rescuing personnel to arrive from the Continent, when he had a group of fully trained clearance divers embarked with the Flotilla, who BEGGED to be allowed to enter the upturned hull immediately, with spare scuba sets, - because knocking could be heard by those who reached the upturned hull and boarded it first.
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  #15  
Old 28th January 2016, 18:21
mark warner mark warner is offline  
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Why do you want to start pointing fingers now after so long? Perhaps it's a reflection on the modern world that we always want to blame somebody.
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  #16  
Old 28th January 2016, 19:04
smnco1937 smnco1937 is offline  
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I have always understood that there is no Statute of Limitations on culpable negligence that causes death; nor on perverting the course of justice - whether by individuals or Officialdom!
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  #17  
Old 28th January 2016, 23:54
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Union Jack Union Jack is offline  
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It would surely be most helpful, indeed essential, for at least a link or some other form of evidence to be provided for the allegation at Post No 14 if the possibility of litigation is to be avoided.

Jack
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  #18  
Old 30th January 2016, 14:04
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Union Jack Union Jack is offline  
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Hmm - To borrow a quote from The Walrus and the Carpenter "But answer came there none"......

Jack
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  #19  
Old 30th January 2016, 16:22
WilliamH WilliamH is offline  
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Can any one remember the name of the admiral who was in command of the operation.
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  #20  
Old 30th January 2016, 19:40
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Union Jack Union Jack is offline  
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Can any one remember the name of the admiral who was in command of the operation.

Yes, I can, but I'm hoping that Smnco1937 will have the decency to provide an accurate source for his allegations first. Incidentally, I believe that ACR was not actually on board MERMAID at the time of the collision.

Jack
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  #21  
Old 4th February 2016, 16:33
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Union Jack Union Jack is offline  
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Oh dear! I hope that I have not dissuaded Smnco1937 from posting further on this thread - it was not my intention and I hope that he will feel able to post freely at will.

Jack
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  #22  
Old 4th February 2016, 22:44
smnco1937 smnco1937 is offline  
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Project cancelled.

Gentlemen, - my Source, in whose veracity I had - and have - the utmost confidence because he was there, and spoke to me about it shortly afterwards, while obviously suffering from what we now know as Post Traumatic Stress, does not wish me to go any further with my intended researches. He had no possible reason to lie to me or embroider what he considered to be the facts, when I asked questions of him in 1977; -and I have never forgotten, deeply worried for him as I was because I had never seen him so upset about anything; made my own notes at the time, and left them in my own archives until very recently. Even after all this time he tells me the memories are too painful, and he would again be forced to relive his own anger and frustration as an eyewitness who could have done more than he was allowed to do. Having just completed one year-long maritime research project, I thought that the 40th Anniversary would have been a good time to see what the recently-released files might contain, after so many decades. It seems to be not a good idea, - so I shall drop the matter, and concentrate instead on Plantagenet state-sanctioned privateering during the Wars of the Roses, and the beginning of the Tudor Navy as it was influenced by shipbuilding and design from the Duchy of Brittany. Which doesn't need your assistance.

Last edited by smnco1937; 4th February 2016 at 22:49..
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  #23  
Old 5th February 2016, 08:33
mark warner mark warner is offline  
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A sensible course of action, I feel. These pieces of research run the risk of descending into a witch hunt. Something very similar happened in relation to an incident I was involved in during the Falklands War and that caused untold heartache and upset many years after the event.

Last edited by mark warner; 5th February 2016 at 09:10..
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  #24  
Old 5th February 2016, 10:43
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Thank you very much Smnco1937 for the courtesy of a most interesting and very reasonable response. One certainly has to respect how your source felt and feels in the most unfortunate circumstances, and given that we did not previously know that you were intending further research. We obviously do not know which ship he was on board, observing too that ACR was apparently not actually on board MERMAID, and presumably therefore much less likely to be affected by PTSD than those much closer to the tragedy.

I look forward to seeing the results of your intriguing alternative project, for which I could not possibly offer any assistance!

Thank you too for your sensible observations Mark Warner, not least because I can sadly think of more than one incident such as you mention.

Jack
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  #25  
Old 24th December 2016, 01:51
Force8 Force8 is offline  
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A few excerpts from my diary written at the time of Fittleton's sinking:
Thursday 10th.
Did my RNR training, a bad trip. Bad weather meant we could not leave Cardiff docks.

Friday 11th.
Weather still bad, but we had to sail to meet up with the rest of the flotilla at Portsmouth. Very bad at sea, especially going round the point of Cornwall. We did our minesweeping exercises mostly sweeping off the southern end of the Isle of Wight. At the end of the exercise we headed for the jolly at Hamburg in Germany. During this part of the trip we would normally have been tidying up the boat after the exercises, but ACR (Admiral Commanding Reserves) had other ideas.
Monday 20th.
Playing silly buggers at sea, thanks to ACR. Kept going all the time doing seemingly pointless exercises and drills. I suppose he wanted to play while he had all those boats to play with. We had a standing joke at the time in the RNR, that the only time you saw so many ships at sea together was when the RNR was at sea! We were transferring mail by light jack stay when the accident happened.
The admiral sent us the signal which stated that we were to prepare for light jack stay transfer of mail. He put a time group on it which was quite clear. Then he started bombarding the flotilla with “expedite my last” signals. We were puzzled, because that is what we were doing. I explained all this to my captain. ACR had meant us to start the action of the transfer, but the way he sent the signals only confused everyone.
After a few “Hurry up” signals we started the transfer. HMS Fittleton was the first to go alongside HMS Mermaid to do a transfer. Instead of letting them get on with it ACR kept on sending signals out. As Fittleton got close to Mermaid she seemed to veer towards Mermaid and then Mermaid collided with Fittleton, causing it to turn over.
It was like you see in the films. Everything seemed to go in slow motion. I will to my dying day never forget watching it all through binoculars. The Fittleton ever so slowly turned over, stayed on her side for a short while and some of the crew ran along the hull. The propellors were still turning slowly, and gradually more and more men appeared in the water around the ship.
Pandemonium then erupted on the radio net and I had to take over from my radio operator who had frozen up and could not function. There was a lot of shouting and obviously the flotilla stopped in the water. There were many heroic acts performed that day.
Twelve men were killed that afternoon. It was a flat calm sunny day and it seemed to me to be appropriate that there seemed to be no sound at all. Only later did the sound come. The shouting, the radio signals, the pushing and shoving to get into action. I was very tense and my jaw was aching because I had clamped my teeth together so tightly.
Hearing the increase in radio traffic we were hailed by some NATO units from the German navy, and they offered help in the way of helicopters and divers, of which we had none. This offer was refused by ACR and I suppose that the cover up began that day.
We moved in close because we had a doctor on board and there were men on the up turned hull. One of them started to signal us in semaphore, but I could not read it. It was not taught to us. It turned out that he was a former sea cadet who had learned it. It appears that that they could hear men banging the hull in the engine room trying to get out. We could have done with those divers that were offered.
She sank about 9pm, and I held a search light on the hulk for some hours to give anyone trying to get out something to guide them. We stayed with the hulk long after the others in the flotilla went into port. We were the guard ship. It was big news at home of course, and daddy tried to get some information. We stayed for an eternity guarding the wreck which had settled onto its stern, with the bows sticking up from the sea, just like a gravestone, which it was.
One incident remains clear in my mind, the visit of the trawler. While we were guarding the wreck a Polish trawler came right at us, ignoring our signals, and only at the very last moment did they turn away. She was a spy trawler judging from the array of aerials they carried. Later they were joined by a Russian spy trawler, though they remained a distance from us.
The atmosphere was very subdued aboard. They found me one day sitting on the sweep deck at the stern leaning up against a bulkhead. I was fast asleep with my eyes wide open. It had all been too much, my mind had just switched off. I was carried below (with a lot of help). I had been on duty for approximately three days non stop. To this day I cannot watch a film of a shipwreck without thinking of Dave and the others we had shared a drink with.
Tuesday 21st.
Spent the whole day guarding the wreck.

Wednesday 22nd.
Spent the whole day guarding the wreck.

Thursday 23rd.
Spent the whole day guarding the wreck.

Friday 24th.
Left the wreck and headed for Southampton.

Saturday 25th.
Arrived at Southampton. Finally. There was no discussion, neither was there any sort of counseling. Some of us needed it. Most of the crew were still in a state of shock, some later resigned from the RNR.
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