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The Invergordon Archive

Admiralty Pier, Invergordon
The Invergordon Archive
Admiralty Pier, Invergordon

I visited Invergordon in 1958 in HMS Apollo and this is a postcard I bought in the town.

(The identity of the ship is not known and, although purchased in 1958, the date of the picture is not known either - Site Admin.)
Picture added on 16 January 2007
Comments:
This is a picture of a 6 inch Cruiser, many of which visited Invergordon. This one however looks as if she is a Flagship owing to what looks like an Admiral's Flag flying from the top of the Foremast. She also looks a bit different owing to the forward upper gun turret being swung over her starboard side, possibly a County class cruiser ?
Added by Duncan Murray on 17 January 2007
Could this be the much-loved HMS Bermuda?
Added by Fraser Dryden on 20 January 2007
The Bermuda cerainly was a frequent visitor and the ship in the photo looks familiar but not absolutely sure - I think Ronald Stewart has a wealth of knowledge and may be able to confirm.
By the way Fraser, I seem to remember you and I as youngsters trying to replicate the whole fleet from time to time in what could only be described as maritime sand castles and then destroying them in sea battles using small stones as the fire power. It was on a stretch of sand in front of what was then Hendersons warehouse now Oakes Court flats I think. The actual loaction is probably under the ring road! I am sure there are many who would not believe that Invergordon had any sandy stretches of beach. I seem to remember there was a small sandy beach also just to the left of the middle pier as you walked down - in the area directly in front of the Port Authority building.
Added by Graham Mackenzie on 21 January 2007
Yes Graham, I was thinking exactly the same thing! I think the sand/naval activity took place on several of the sandy stretches, but mostly in front of Oakes Store/Villa.
Added by Fraser Dryden on 21 January 2007
Graham, that's a coincidence. I used to do the same thing down in front of the old ferry shed on Shore Road. There was a small strip of sand there, the wetter the better to mold the ships, then bomb the hell out of them....used to search for funnel shaped stones.
On another note, it was always a good place to dig for bait (worms) - used to find the rings in the sand. Now that that area is all filled in, guess there is no more digging for worms?
Added by Harry on 22 January 2007
Harry - if I remember rightly Fraser and myself would build opposing fleets and fight a full scale battle. The fleet was such an influence on the town and I was always mesmerised by it. It was so exciting to see the ships lined up all along the Firth. There was one window up in the attic of our house in Bank St that gave a view of the Admiralty Pier and down the Firth - as a youngster I used to climb the stairs most mornings to see if there were any ships in. A much over used phrase but it DOES "seem like yesterday" and it is all of 45 to 50 years ago.
Added by Graham Mackenzie on 22 January 2007
Graham, you are correct. There was a nice sandy strip of sand just to the left of the middle pier. The other sandy patch was down on the right of the ferry slip but you only got that when the tide was out and as Harry said it was there that you could dig for the ragworm and worms for fishing. I can vaguely remember a sandy patch by the rocks across the road from the slaughter house and further along the beach by the donkey bridge but only at half tide.
Added by Doug Will on 23 January 2007
Doug, wasn't there a wee sandy patch just across from your house on Shore Road? I used to sit there with my back against a huge rock and dig my toes in that wee bit of sand.
Added by Rosalie Graham now Samaroo on 30 January 2007
This is HMS Glasgow, most likely in her final year of service, 1956, while serving as Flag Officer (D), Home Fleet.
That may be one of her charges in the background - a post-war "D" ("Daring") class destroyer with the characteristic large "cubic" gun turrets on the fo'c'sle.
Glasgow paid off into Reserve at Portsmouth in Nov 1956 and was disposed of in 1958.
I use the phrase "most likely" because she was more-or-less in this configuration since completing her major post-war refit in 1946 - right down to the number of apertures in her bridge structure, both behind "B" mount and in her bridge wings, and she reduced from two to one starboard bow anchor, again as in the photo, in the same 1946 refit.
The surviving Southampton class cruisers received major modernisations at different times in the post-war period, and so were refitted using different designs (notably to the bridge and forward superstructure) and different equipment levels.
Glagow subsequently served on the W Indies and in the Med, and no doubt re-appeared in home waters from time to time, before returning to home waters permanently circa early 1956.
From this photo it seems to me that Glasgow has gained quite a lot of electronics-related "gizmos" on her masts compared with the other photo I've seen, which is also undated but claims to be "after her 1946 refit" - which is another indication that this photo dates from closer to 1956, rather than 1946.
Added by Jon Summers (London) on 06 July 2007
I realise this may be quite a long shot, but here goes...
My Dad (Tom Brown) joined HMS Wrangler when she was commissioned in Barrow in Furness early 1944 and after working up went with the fleet to the North Atlantic to try and find the Tirpitz (? He says that thankfully they never did find her). After that the Wrangler went to Gurock, where it was painted and he had some leave, before they went south. Wrangler called at Gibraltar, carried out a few trips to Morocco, then on to Malta, Alex, Aden and Trincomalee. They spent Christmas 44 there and did some ops around Penang. On the return from the last one he says that they blew up the engine (the skipper, Bunny Austin, tried to prove that they were the fastest ship of the group once too often) and went up to Bombay for a boiler refit. Only a skeleton crew was left on board and he went with the rest to HMIS Himalaya, a shore base near Karachi. He said that this was “On the beach, just like Butlins!” They later rejoined Wrangler and went to Perth and on to Sydney. After a short time there my Dad left her to go to hospital and was there for about a month; he came out 'unfit for sea duties for three months' and stayed in Sydney for 6. He says he doesn’t remember any of the crew other than the Skipper and Prince Phillip “who was Jimmy on Wakeful” which was rafted with the Wrangler in Sydney. He was the driver of the skimmer and used to take them ashore and collect them much later!
He made good friends with a family and spent Christmas 1945 with them at Cronulla where they rented a property almost on the beach for a month. The father was in the meat trade and he took my Dad down to Wagga Wagga on a business trip and he says they talked about him staying in Aussie, but he changed his mind and was drafted to HMS Bermuda, while it was in Hong Kong. I, for one, am very glad he didn’t stay in Aussie – or else I might not even be here!
To get to HMS Bermuda, he and some others went on HMAS Ping Woo, a Chinese river boat which was being repatriated. The Ping Woo called at Brisbane, Townsville, Darwin, Christmas Island and Manila, but it took so long that Bermuda was in Nagasaki by the time HMAS Ping Woo got to Hong Kong! My Dad spent a couple of weeks in Hong Kong and then had a ride to Japan to join his new ship. About three weeks after joining the Bermuda, it was his turn for de-mob. He says it was a long trip back to Plymouth on a Woolworth Carrier Ranee, bunks three high in the hanger.
If anyone has any memories of the ships mentioned (I can't find anything at all on the Ping Woo) or my much beloved Dad, please would you get in touch? Any tips on how best to go about this labour of love will be greatly appreciated.
Added by Sue Brown on 18 July 2007
Sue, suggest the "Ping Woo" you refer to is the good ship "Ping Wo", built 1922 by the New Eng & SB, Shanghai, for the Indo-China Steam Navigation Co, for river trade, 3, 105 tons gross, which later became the HMS Ping Wo, and later still the HMAS Ping Wo.
You should get a result from typing ping wo into google.
However, the following site is a must:
members.dodo.net.au/~mervynw/pingwo.htm
The official RAN site (their HMAS Vendetta page definately refers to the "Ping Wo"), and the Australian War Memorial site are other likely candidates.
Brief details re her early RN career:
"Ping Wo" was requisitioned by the RN probably in 1941 (according to the RAN in Dec 1941 as a water carrier, though she is referred to as requisitioned at Singapore by the RN as early as Apr 1941 on www.hmsfalcon.com (which is a stunning site for those with an interest in China Gunboats/the Yangtse/the China Station etc, but I suspect has little else directly related to "Ping Wo")).
Either way, she started her military career as HMS Ping Wo...
In Feb 1942 HMS Ping Wo sailed from Singapore to Batavia, and from there assisted in the escape of destroyer HMAS Vendetta from Singapore, the latter having been in dock for refit at the time of the Japanese assault.
HMAS Vendetta (formerly the "V" class destroyer HMS Vendetta, launched 1917), was a member of the famous RAN "Scrap Iron Flotilla" of ageing former Great War destroyers that operated in the Med - so called because the German media had suggested that scrap iron is what they would become.
They had been brought into the Med from Singapore from around the beginning of 1940, at a time when RN forces had been detached from the Mediterranean Fleet to reinforce the North Sea - and suddenly found themselves in the thick of the action after the fall of France and the Italian declaration of war...
To cut a very long story short, after almost two years in the Med, on 20 Oct 1941 Vendetta had sailed from Alexandria via Aden (25-26 Oct) to Bombay (1 Nov) and Singapore (12 Nov), where she was placed in dockyard hands for refit.
The initial Japanese attack on Singapore came just 3 weeks later, in the form of an air strike in the early hours of 8 Dec 1941 (at the same time as the attack on Pearl Harbour, ie 8 Dec Tokyo time, 7 Dec Hawaii time), presumably by land based Japanese Navy bombers flying from bases in French Indo-China, quite possibly including the air groups that would sink the Repulse and the Prince of Wales two days later.
The King's Dock appearing to be otherwise more-or-less-defenceless at this time, and with the assistance of the Singapore Harbour Board, Vendetta's ship's company dismounted her 12-pdr gun and mounted it ashore in the dock, also building four machine gun posts in the vicinity and equipping them with Lewis guns.
Her ship's company was then divided into two watches for AA defence, and continued to man their guns night and day continuously until 2 Feb 1942, when Vendetta was finally towed out of Singapore.
By this time Vendetta still had no power, so no refrigeration and no food except for tins.
She was towed out of Singapore by transport HMT St Just and later destroyer HMS Stronghold, who took her to Palambang, Sumatra, where they arrived the next day, 3 Feb 1942, suffering continuous air attacks en route. Vendetta was next towed by HMAS Yarra from Palambang to Batavia from 8-10 Feb 1942, where she was picked up by the HMS Ping Wo on 17 Feb 1942, and began the long haul to Australia, Yarra escorting until relieved by cruiser HMAS Adelaide on 24 Feb 1942.
HMS Ping Wo towed her from Batavia to Fremantle from 17 Feb to 3 Mar 1942, and then from Fremantle to King George Sound from 4-24 Mar 1942, where the tow was transferred to SS Islander. Vendetta finally arrived at Port Phillip Bay (I think Melbourne) on 15 Apr 1942, after having been under tow for almost two and a half months !
For his part in bringing his disabled ship out of Singapore, Vendetta's captain, Lt WG Whitting, RANR, was later awarded the DSC.
Her moment of glory now past, HMS Ping Wo paid off from RN service on 19 May 1942.
However, a number of ex-Chinese river steamers and ocean-going vessels on the Japan-China-Australia run were also requisitioned and manned by the RAN at various times during WWII, and according to the RAN, three days after paying off from RN service, HMAS Ping Wo commissioned for RAN service as a stores issue ship, on 22 May 1942, not to be returned to her former owners until some four years later...but I shall leave you to fill-in that gap...
Added by Jon Summers (London) on 23 July 2007
Dear Jon, I changed my job last August and had been working 45+ hours per week, so my spare mental capacity for pursuing this quest for information to present to my Dad on his next birthday ground to a halt. I have begun again since a brief stay in hospital has provided me with blessed relief from my diary and find your response. I am only ashamed that I have not thanked you until now. I find this journey into my father's past both very interesting and emotive. I will certainly try Google again, but was not especially successful when I followed this line of attack last summer. I would be most grateful for any tips you might feel generous enough to give me about how best (and most efficiently) to proceed. I would love to find a picture, for example, of the said Ping Wo. I am not averse to doing as much leg work as required, I am just working a little in the dark over where my starting points should be.
Added by Sue Brown on 17 May 2008
Jon! I have just found a picture of HMAS Ping Wo at the following link:
members.dodo.com.au/~mervynw/pingwo.htm and from this point I shall continue digging. Many thanks, Sue
Added by Sue Brown on 17 May 2008
Going back to the sandy 'bits' on the beach, there is still a spot in front of where the slaughterhouse used to be, and is used as the start/finish of the Invergordon raft race (there are several photos on the site that must show it). It was almost lost to the reclamation of land to build the Queens dock/Rig Base. There are also some further along the beach towards the Donkey Bridge, but as mentioned are only accessible by climbing down the rocks at low/medium tide. A lot of the local kids still go swimming there, as at that age a few rocks and some cold water is no deterrent - oh to be that age again!!!
Added by Jillian B on 19 May 2008
Hi Jillian, when did the slaughterhouse close? - and is there another?
Does anyone remember the lady that lived on Shore Road not far from Doug Will that used to always protest the way the sheep and cattle were handled at the slaughterhouse? She used to stand there yelling at the staff when unloading. I forget her name.
As for the beaches, all I remember are a few patches here and there and lots of sea-weed.
Added by Harry O'Neill on 20 May 2008
There was always a nice strip of clean sand at the end of Saltburn too. I remember seeing photos of my mum and dad with Bill and Barbara Clark and John as a little boy having cycled there for a picnic.
Added by Liz Askew on 21 May 2008
Hi Harry, the slaughter house must have closed late seventies sometime, sorry unsure of actual date. It's now a small industrial estate. Maybe someone on here will know more? There is a large anchor welcoming folk to Invergordon almost where the entrance to the slaughterhouse used to be. I'm sure there must be a photo somewhere on this site showing it.
Added by Jillian B on 28 May 2008
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