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The Invergordon Archive

The Royal Navy in the Cromarty Firth
The Invergordon Archive
The Royal Navy in the Cromarty Firth

The fleet at anchor in the Firth just off Invergordon. The date is not known. See also picture #372.
Picture added on 17 April 2004
Comment not about this picture but of a picture I saw many years ago of an aerial picture showing the fleet lined up in review order - don't know date of photograph. The photo was lost when my mother Annie Will left Invergordon in the late 50s.
Added by Douglas Will on 15 January 2006
My brother Bill Stuart was on the carrier HMS Ocean when the fleet was reviewed at Invergordon in the late 1950s. Our family come from Banff so he was able to come and visit us. Any photo's of that review please.
Added by Charlie Stuart on 17 May 2006
Judging by the look of these ships the date looks about right. It leads me to wonder if anyone has naval pictures from the time of the sailors strike in 1931?
I have never seen any and if any do exist they could be of great historical interest.
Added by Bill geddes on 10 September 2006
My father Sandy Fraser, son of Sandy Fraser the Greive at Inverbreakie for over 30 years, was in the Royal Navy during the war and then back in for the Suez crisis. He served on a number of ships. The ships HMS Arethusa and HMS Corunna are two that spring to mind easily. This photo and the pier featured on the left with boats queuing to get alongside, reminds me of the time a huge fleet came into the firth and of the day my mother and I were waiting down on the middle pier (wooden decking) for my father to come off one of the dozens of liberty boats that were taking the sailors ashore. My mother reminds me that when she saw my Dad she said to me "Look, there's your Dad" and amongst the throng of sailors that were rushing along the pier I ran to the wrong one. I was only 3 at the time, so that would have been in 1952/3. When I was in school it was fantastic to run down to see the first ships of the fleet coming round the Sutors and up the firth. What excitement it brought to the town with the huge wide pavements that we had in Invergordon heaving with sailors and locals alike. Of course when I was a bit older it was even more exciting at night. I am sure others of my age group will remember such events as sailors tumbling out of the Commercial Bar onto the street when a ruckus would get underway and the Shore Patrol would rock up to pick them up. The activities up at the Rec were also fantastic. I can remember some form of sport, although mainly football, going on, on every pitch and some great footballers on view. The current inhabitants of Invergordon don't know what they are missing with the demise of the naval docks and Invergordon's status as a major Royal Navy town/port. My lasting impression of the big fleets is that when they were all sitting lined up at anchor and you looked down the firth it seemed as you could almost walk from Invergordon to Cromarty across each ship.
Added by John Fraser on 09 December 2006
A good description John. It was always interesting when the fleet was in. At night time the ships used to be spectacularly lit up - provided quite a spectacle. On certain days they would be "dressed overall" which involved having multi coloured flags flying from bow to stern -again a wonderful sight. In the 50s, huge numbers of vessels were tied up to the buoys and frequently the destroyers were moored in pairs as there was not enough buoys to accommodate them. As you say the streets and bars became very lively and there was a sudden influx of strange women to the town! In those days you felt you were living in a very important place when world famous warships were almost on your doorstep. Latterly it was NATO fleets which visited so there was the added interest of having hordes of foreign sailors wandering around the town and up to the "Rec". Danes, Dutch, Americans, Norwegians and even Australians! The Rec, which had many pitches for football and rugby would be alive with sporting contests. There were even tennis courts further down the Castle Road but I had the impression they were mainly the preserve of officers!
Added by Bill Geddes on 09 December 2006
Right you are there John, it was a sad day for Invergordon when the naval base closed. Do you remember the ships being lit up at night? and the singing in the town at night especially in the Caley....I also remember the sailors going back to their ships and falling into the drink off the pier and pontoon...Do you remember the open days? when she ships were open to the public....also remember the canteen and recreation fields being busy. Does anyone remember "Groundie" who maintained the grounds (thus his nickname) and would chase you if he caught you on his precious grass?
Added by Harry O'Neill on 09 December 2006
True Harry ..very true..I can remember it as if it were yesterday..old Groundie was something else..many a time he chased us from his beloved "rec"...seems he served in the Royal Marines ..perhaps that's why we struggled to keep ahead of him...Chapman I believe his name was..
Added by Duncan Murray on 10 December 2006
When 'Groundie' Chapman died, I seem to remember his ashes were scattered over the rec from a Royal Navy helicopter. Years later, Frankie Hoy became similarly protective of the No. 1 football pitch!
Added by Rod Bell on 11 December 2006
Hello Duncan, how are you doing? I haven't seen you for years although I have noticed you are pretty active on this site - when I followed a few of the exchanges about the harbour area and some of the boats/ships that have appeared in the various photos. I know you are very keen on sailing and used to see your name in the Ross-shire when I managed to get my hands on it. I take it you are still very much involved with the Yatch Club? Hope you are well.
Added by John Fraser on 11 December 2006
Reference the No.1 football pitch - this was only ever used to play the Navy cup final.
Added by Doug Will on 12 December 2006
The ships are pre-dreadnought battleships, but I can't tell the class from the pic. It's possible they are the King Edward VII class ships of the 3rd Battle Squadron, which were based at Cromarty at times in the first two years of war, along with the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron among others. I found this site through research I am conducting for two books I am writing on the war at sea 1914-18 (one a novel, the other non-fiction) so if anyone has any information or anecdotes I would be very glad to hear from you! Thanks, Matt
Added by Matt Willis on 13 February 2007
John, your description of Invergordon when the fleet was in is so good it brings back many memories of those times. Bill, Harry and others - it wasn't only boys that "Groundie " chased off his pitches!!!! Those really were good old days. When I tell my four daughters of all those times they think I had a great childhood. They are right.....not much money but great fun!
Added by Rosalie Graham now Samaroo on 22 February 2007
There is a photograph showing lines of ships moored along the Firth - this picture was taken from the air. My Mother had this but when they moved from Inverg it got lost. I think it was one of these pictures you could buy from newspapers. It was about a foot to 15 inches long and about 6 inches high. Don't know if any of the local papers would still have it in their archives but it might be a project for somebody in the area to find out (passing the buck!).
Added by Doug Will on 23 February 2007
As a "newbie" to a computer I was delighted to find Invergordon Archives and find that "groundie" had been mentioned - my late father. Can I first of all correct the article about his ashes being scattered from a helicopter on the grounds. I personally scattered his ashes on the West bank overlooking his beloved number one ground in accordance with his wishes in Nov '56. Should be of interest I and my neice and two great nieces are attending a little ceremony on the "rec" on Saturday 22nd June 2013 at 1.30 p,m which Ian Skinner, who runs the junior F C, has organised to display a plaque painted by Ian Dingwall on "Groundies" hut.
Added by Cyril Chapman on 17 June 2013
I made a mistake with the date I scattered his ashes - it was November '57, not '56.
Added by CYRIL CHAPMAN on 19 June 2013
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