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David Repard's 

RECOLLECTIONS

Anchor 4

Read some recollections as discussed with the Imperial War Museum - It may well bring back those lazy, hazy days of your youth !

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DRAMA IN THE WARDROOM

(by Lieutenant-Commander David Repard)

 

In 1955 I was one of several Lieutenant Commanders in the Superb and the ship got the most lovely trips and unlike the Africa Station where you could cross from one set of cocktail parties to another across the estuary of a huge river, you have to go quite a long way in the West Indies Station so you had time to recover from the last lot and occasionally stop the ship at sea and paint bits of it.

 

I was responsible for the quarterdeck which always had to be gleaming.  I was always very glad of that sort of thing to do.

 

However, we got a very strange job and we were told to go to Haiti and wait upon President Tubman of Liberia who was there with some members of his cabinet visiting the chap running Haiti who didn’t have a very good reputation at the time what with the Tonton Macoute which were active as a sort of terrorist organisation there.

 

We were duly told when to appear and we were told when we had to get back to Jamaica in order to introduce the Governor to the President and all the rest of it.

 

Unfortunately it turned out that the Liberian President thought that we were rather like a taxi awaiting his pleasure and they decided to go on a shopping spree in Haiti and I sent boats in and found that I could get absolutely no joy at all about when they’d be coming.  They wouldn’t commit themselves.

 

Lorries full of things like freezers and refrigerators and dishwashers started to arrive, and the sort of boat that you would have taken a President back to the ship in was simply not appropriate to carrying that sort of gubbidge.  So I sent back to the ship for a much larger boat and started to load this up and take it back and we were being rather ordered about by one of their lackeys, they were all armed to the teeth, these people, which rather frightened me but we did manage to get them back on board only six or eight hours after the agreed time when we should have sailed.

 

So we set off at very high speed and the captain gave them dinner in his cabin and I was bidden to the dinner as well because I’d met them ashore.

 

Among those present was the Liberian Minister of Defence, a man who rather wanted to smoke a cigar during dinner, before the port was passed which was not thought to be very good manners - in the navy anyway.

 

So he was told to put his cigar out but we hadn’t realised that he had been enjoying his pre-dinner drinks as well, whatever he’d had ashore, and when it was explained to him by the captain, very reasonably, that this really wasn’t done we had to drink the Queen’s health first, he drew a revolver!

 

We had to get President Tubman to overrule his Minister of Defence and I said that I’d put his gun into safe custody and lock it up for him and give it back to him afterwards.

 

Eventually he went to sleep and so we were able to get him put to bed.

The captain had arranged that the President would sleep in his day cabin, rather luxurious quarters, at the after end of the cruiser which, if we had been able to get the speed predicted, would have been very comfortable for him. 

 

But as were going at 26 knots or thereabouts in order to try and catch up the meeting which they were going to attend the next day, we rattled the false teeth out of them at the aft end of the ship with the propellers going flat out underneath.

 

They said that during the night they were very uncomfortable and the answer to that, in the most polite language possible, was “Too bloody bad”.

 

We were very glad to get rid of this lot looking dreadfully hung-over, not the President himself.  Tubman was a very delightful man but some of his side-kicks were perhaps less so.

 

It did draw my attention that the navy does the most extraordinary things and still has to use their own initiative on how to handle things which could lead to a diplomatic incident.  I mean one wouldn’t wish, for example, for one’s captain to be shot by a passenger while on passage just because he was the Minister of War or something in Liberia.

 

So it was an interesting story in itself.

 

 

 

 

David Repard served aboard HMS Sheffield in 1940-1941; HMS Tartar, 1942-1943; HMS Byron, 1944-1945; HMS Ganges and HMS Raleigh, 1945-1947; HMS Rodney, 1947-1948; torpedo and anti-submarine officer at HMS Osprey, 1949-1950; TAS officer aboard HMS Battleaxe, 1950-1952; TAS officer at HMS Vernon, 1952-1953; TAS officer aboard HMS Superb, 1954-1955; mine counter-measures officer at HMS Vernon, 1955-1957; staff officer at Directorate of Naval Intelligence, Admiralty, 1957-1958; executive officer aboard HMS Belfast, 1958-1961; TAS staff officer at Underground Headquarters, Northwood, UK, 1961-1963; Assistant Director Underseas Warfare, Naval Staff Admiralty, 1963-1966

This photograph taken on board HMS Superb in 1955 on the day He was promoted to Commander

Cdr John David Latimer Repard (David) OBE, DSC, Royal Navy, died on 17th September 2011, aged 90.  From the Telegraph of 23 September 2011: 

 

 

FIFTY YEARS LATER.

I had written a letter to a magazine and by happy chance Norman read that magazine and recognised the unusual surname. He contacted the magazine to ask to be put in touch. A letter arrived!

 

Norman and his wife were off to Eastbourne for a holiday so we decided to go to Eastbourne for a weekend to meet up and so began a wonderful friendship. We would visit them and they would visit us. Such happy times – Norman was a wit and he tried to teach me to speak with a Northern accent! He always had a camera to hand.

 

Sadly Norman died around 2006/7. I know men are not supposed to cry but it was so sad a time, for Jim in particular. I still treasure those memories.

 

A POSTSCRIPT

 

Within a year or so of leaving the Navy, Jim contracted tuberculosis. His condition was very serious and an operation was the only way to move forward. He was 23 yrs. old.

 

Tuberculosis was rife at the time – his brother had died during a similar operation and Jim’s mother did all she could to persuade Jim against it. Jim decided he would take the 50-50 chance that was offered, rather than remain an invalid with a short life expectancy. He had two ribs removed for the operation and a collapsed lung.

 

He was extremely lucky in that he came through the operation thanks to the surgeon and his team, but also to the fact the Royal Navy Benevolent Fund paid for him to recuperate in Switzerland where he would sleep on the veranda to benefit from the fresh mountain air.

 

His mother died whilst he was there but he was not allowed home.

 

On return to this country, the fear of tuberculosis was great and many previous friends crossed the road, rather than speak to him.

 

Not a good experience for a young man.

 

It all turned out all right in the end, he met ME and there begins another story.

 

 

The writing of this booklet has been a labour of love for me and I’d like to express my thanks to:-

 

First of all, my daughter Gillian who is a ‘Google’ expert.

 

Brian Saunders of the ‘Superb Association’ for help with the Royal Navy procedures and for his interest and encouragement.

 

John Miller, a photographic wizard for help with some tidying up of 70 year old photographs.

 

 Margaret Norgan

Essex, England

2016

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