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Royal Navy Ordinance Artificer

Updated on September 30, 2014

Retired Royal Navy Ordinance Artificer

One Man's War - My Father in law Joseph Jordan served in the Royal Navy. This little lens allows me to write his adventures for his three grandchildren and 6 great grand children. Since we first published this lens, Joe has died on 26June 2014. We have decided to maintain it in his memory.

I was born in 1923 and as it would happen I volunteered for the Royal Navy when I was 18 in 1942. I had already been in engineering since I left school at 14 years old so guess what I was directed to? - the ordnance branch which had the responsibility for the maintenance of all guns within the Royal Navy. Our training covered guns from Colt 45s carried by officers to the largest 16 inch guns on the big battleships of the day..

I am now 88 and all this seems but a distant memory. However, I have used this wonderful technology to set down my memories of that time for my daughter Christine, grand-children Gerard, Richard and Maria, my great grandchildren, Ben, Charlotte, Caoimhe, Joseph, Beren and Niamh and all the other people who may find and enjoy this modest lens

I volunteered for the Navy although it was not my first choice, Initially I asked to be in the Army. The recruitment officer for the Army refused me on the grounds that my job of tool maker was too important for the war effort.

I joined the Navy at last - I can remember my mother throwing my acceptance letter across the table at me saying 'this is what you've been waiting for'. I suppose no mother wants to see her children go off to war.

I enjoyed my time in the Royal Navy most of the time. I was doing something I loved in engineering which I did not find difficult and which I was very good at. I enjoyed the work and the company of the other men in the mess deck.

When I first signed up I was sent to training in Chatham. For square bashing and marching training we used a sectioned off part of the local Borstal. Once when we were marching away one of the lads in Borstal shouted out Right Turn which did not please Jock Muir the Able Seaman who was in charge of us as you can imagine.

I started as a fifth class Artificer (dfficult to say properly after a drink or two) for the first 9 months of service but very quickly moved up to 4th Class which carried with it the rank of Petty Officer. Our Thanks for pointing out the correct spelling and the shorter familiar Tiffy Mr Hedington.

When the Navy was ready they shipped us up to Liverpool where we were put on a troopship - The Orangi - bound for Durban. First we had to get up to the Clyde to fix the engines. That done we had what seemed endless trips up and down the Clyde testing the engines.

Then we st sail for War Destination Durban

The trip was uneventful I suppose - but we were in a convoy so there must have been thousands of us. At one time in the fog the ship next to us came on a loud hailer shouting Orangi ! Orangi you are sailing too close.

A word about any money received by this Lens I will donate every penny to Help for Heroes

Me and My Mates in Durban

Jimmy Stevens, Joe Jordan and Knocker White
Jimmy Stevens, Joe Jordan and Knocker White

Before I joined HMS Rapid, I was in Durban when this picture was taken awaiting transit to another location. Eventually I was put on a ship to Bombay and from there I went to Columbo in Ceylon - now called Sri Lanka where I picked up the Rapid.

The chap on the left of the picture was Jimmy Stevens. Our friend on the right was Knocker White. White was his surname - In the Royal Navy slang a chap called White was always called Knocker. I don't know why . He was a bit younger than me but we were all in our late teens . Beyond that there were about a group of 10 of us - a cabin it was called - ie the place where we slept. There were hundreds in the camp which was just outside Durban. It was call HMS Asseegai after a Zulu spear. I remember we used to trudge across the sand down to the beach While we in the camp we would just wear shorts and shirt but always a cap.

When we went into Durban we had to be in full uniform when this picture would have been taken. We went into Durban quite often to have a drink. it was a taxi ride away. Even when we went into Duban from our land based camp it was still called shore leave and you had to be back by a certain time around 10pm. If you stayed our later you would be awol and you don't want to go there. You would be put on commanders report and be given stoppage of pay and leave. This happened to me twice during my service.


During the day in Durban we went down to the gunnery school where we were learning to do maintenance on guns - practice repairs

Other Friends from Durban I can remember were Bin Smith. He was a big chap who used to scoff any leftovers from the mess Fanny ( tray used for the food) - hence his name Bin

A character I remember used to be the money lender down the pub. He used to play a game called Fraz which challenged us to find the jack in a pack of cards. Because the Jacks were not used they were cleaner than the rest. It took this chap some time to realise why we were winning.

Durban to Bombay and Columbo. - Moving the pieces on a chessboard

Map of Journey
Map of Journey

I don't know why they moved me, but eventually I was ordered to move from Durban to Bombay. We were given only days notice. All the gear had to be ready all the time anyway. It was sad to leave Durban where we had some good times. The ship we were on was a passenger ship in peacetime. We called into Mombasa on the way for refuelling. The whole trip took a couple of weeks at least that's what I estimate cos' I can't really remember. It was all mixed troops on this ship not just Navy. There must have been at least a thousand of us on board

At Mumbai we were kept in another ship overnight - a banana boat in peace time. We only stayed in Mumbai for a short time. Then we were put on a smaller ship and transported to Colombo. Again In Columbo we were only a short time and we were able to stay in Officer's quarters. That's when I picked up the Rapid.

HMS Rapid
HMS Rapid

HMS Rapid - My first Ship

In 1944, I joined HMS Rapid as a Petty Officer. We were based in the Indian Ocean escorting convoys from Columbo, Ceylon to Bombay and South Africa. As usual my job was to be responsible for maintaining the guns on board.

There were 9 ships in The Royal Navy with the Name HMS Rapid. The one I served in was HMS Rapid an R-class destroyer that saw service during the Second World War. She was part of Force 68, serving in the Indian Ocean, and later the Pacific. In one operation she was damaged by fire from a shore battery, with 11 killed and 23 wounded. Just before this hit, I had been taken off - my replacement was injured. After the hit she was towed to Akyab for repairs. She was later converted into a Type 15 fast anti-submarine frigate, with the new pennant number F138.

In 1966, Rapid was allocated to HMS Caledonia to assist in the sea training of engine room artificers. The ship was used as a day runner from Rosyth Dockyard to give help in certificating artificers, who were under training. Rapid was replaced in this role by HMS Eastbourne in 1972. Finally Rapid was towed into the atlantic and used briefly as a target - she was sunk in 1981.

Back in 1943/44 we had many adventures on the Rapid. Once we were escorting a Royal Navy Aircraft carrier. We were in very rough seas. Imagine a big carrier travelling deck under ie as the ship went over a wave it would crash down and its deck would be under water. We were in a small frigate like a cork bobbing about in the water. Read The Cruel Sea to get a feeling of what that was like.

The Woolwich - click on this Picture - BBC story
The Woolwich - click on this Picture - BBC story

From the Rapid to the Woolwich

Eventually I was taken off the Rapid at Trincomelee. A battleship had come into dry dock at Tricomelee and had almost turned over suffering millions of Pounds worth of damage. The Navy was trying to distribute the crew all around the fleet. I lost my position on the Rapid because the battleship had a ordnance mechanic aboard who was senior to me. The bloke that took my job was injured in the hit discussed above off the Japanese coast.

I was transferred from the Rapid to the Woolwich Depot ship - which was like a floating factory. There was a foundry and a toolshop. We would do repairs and boiler cleans. - a truly fantastic ship - like heaven for an engineer. I served on the Woolwich for a year. I was on the ship when D Day was declared in Europe. The war was still going on in the East, however, fighting Japan

My Woolwich was the 5th ship of the Royal Navy named HMS Woolwich

The Woolwich was built in 1934 Its Propulsion was Steam turbine giving a cruising speed of 15.25 knots

Launched: Thursday, 20/09/1934. The Ship Type was Destroyer Depot Vessel Its Tonnage: 8750 disp

Length: 610 feet

Breadth: 64 feet

Draught: 14 feet

Status: Scrapped - 18/10/1962

Scrapped Dalmuir Scotland

A Ship in Rough Seas

This is not a destroyer but the video gives a feeling of what its like to be a small ship in heavy seas

HMS Ready
HMS Ready

Home Boys Home

In 1945, I was sent home to the UK from Sri Lanka. We travelled home via the Suez Canal a trip that took several weeks. We had no duties to speak of so the trip was very boring. There was no risk as Germany had already been defeated. The only bit I really remember is the passage through the canal.

When I got home I had two weeks of Foreign service leave to take. No sooner was that up than DJ was declared with victory over Japan. We were then allowed 3 days on DJ leave. It was at this time that I met my wife Lucy. She had written to me while I was in Tricomelee because she was my Sister's friend and my sister had asked her too. So! when I was on leave we met at my parent's house and the rest is history

Once the leave was over I was assigned to HMS Ready a minesweeper. We set about finding and destroying mines around the UK coast. We focused on the area around Fastnet rock.

I was sent from Chatham to Harwich where I went aboard HMS Ready in November 1945. First we went into London Docks - The Royal Albert Dock - for a mini-refit which lasted until January 1946. I was able to have shore leave until January 1946 including Christmas. My trip home started with a session with my Uncle in a pub near the Docks called the Royal Albert. I set off from there with a bit of a skinful. I started off drinking bitter in those days but then the odd rum became available. I remember getting on the BUS for Plaistow - then the underground for London Bridge but it was all a bit of a haze. Eventually I got to Mitchum where Lucy lived. Later on I got home and spent the Christmas with my parents

We set off from London in mid-January 1946. The ship was then based at Cobh throughout 1946. We had great times in Ireland including a great session to celebrate St Patrick's day 1946. We went to a céilidh in the Irish Naval headquarters on Haulbowline (Irish - Inis Sionnach).

What a great Night.

There was a serious side to the job however. While I was on the Ready we picked up 113 mines. Only a few of these were actually blown up.


Finally I was demobilised in May 1946. I came out of the navy and that was that. Some people had parties but I didn't want one. I came into Devon Port and walked off the Ready. I was taken off the ship and send back to Chatham via Victoria Station. I met my family in Victoria station by arrangement and left them with some of the things I had bought in Ireland before I set off for Chatham which included a china tea set for my mother.

I set off for Chatham. I had £100 demob payment quite a bit of money in those days - consider that a pint cost 4d (oldpence) In those days you could get well oiled on a shilling (12 in a pound) (5p in today's money). When you are demobbed you have to give back your uniform and pick up a pinstripped suit and a trilby hat.

I walked out of Chatham looking the bees knees.

I volunteered to stay on Royal Navy reserve with a quarterly payment of £4. and that was me finished - I thought

However, I was called back into service during the Korean War I was a.


Reserve Recall

In 1950 I was recalled to service under my Reserve status when the Korean War Broke out. I served 18 months on the Depot Ship the Berry Head. It was while on this service that I received my worst injury during nearly six years of Wartime service. I was coming ashore on leave and the Berry Head was moored alongside another vessel. As I was crossing the two decks I fell down an open hatch badly bruising myself and twisting my knee. I didn't feel very lucky at the time but I have to admit I was very lucky when many of my colleagues lost their lives or were badly injured. All I did was give a new meaning to Down the Hatch

I hope you have enjoyed this little lens - I would love to hear from you if you saw active service

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    • Richardryder profile imageAUTHOR

      Risteard O'Marcahain 

      4 years ago from Wales

      Thank you for taking an interest in the Page

    • profile image

      Martin Hedington 

      4 years ago

      Interesting hub, except for the mis-spelling of a tiffy.

      After all, if they'd been Articifer's we'd have probably called them ticcies.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      What a wonderful and thoughtful tribute to your Dad's service ensuring preservation for the generations....done with love and honoring!

    • selah74 profile image


      6 years ago

      I love reading your history. I wish more people would write their experiences like this.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Interesting lens, nicely done! Squidlike

    • virtualboy profile image


      6 years ago

      what a awesome story, nice lens

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 

      6 years ago from Central Florida

      How wonderful to get this recorded here for the family and for history. Really great memories of those times. Well done!

    • glenbrook profile image


      6 years ago

      Nicely done lens and a wonderful tribute to your Father in law:)

    • CruiseReady profile image


      6 years ago from East Central Florida

      What a fabulous story. Oh, I'll bet he absolutely did look the "bees knees" in that pinstriped suit upon discharge!

    • goo2eyes lm profile image

      goo2eyes lm 

      6 years ago

      it's nice to know more about you. these memories written for your family will live on saved for future posterity. blessings for this heart-warming lens.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      So wonderful story that I'm so proud to read :) Have wonderful times.. always.. Richard :D

    • Richardryder profile imageAUTHOR

      Risteard O'Marcahain 

      6 years ago from Wales

      @julieannbrady: Hi Julie - If you have any ex navy types among your many fans maybe you could alert them to this lens - he would be very excited to be in touch. The poor chap has just had a nasty fall and broken his arm - far worse than anything he experienced in six years of war.

    • Richardryder profile imageAUTHOR

      Risteard O'Marcahain 

      6 years ago from Wales

      @WriterJanis2: Thank you for your comment Janis it would be great for him to be in touch with some other ex Navy do you have any ideas how to do this

    • WriterJanis2 profile image


      6 years ago

      So sweet of you to tell his story. Blessed!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Gosh, those were the good old days! Love that old-type photo of you and your Mates in Durban!


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