Tonight we have a photograph of the Black Swan class sloop HMS Crane:HMS Crane was launched in 1942 and was to become one of the longest lasting ships of her class with the Royal Navy, only being broken up in 1965. Initially she was allocated the pennant number U23, but post war she was re-designated F123, and it is with this pennant number she appears here:The sloops were designed for convoy duty, but were larger and faster than corvettes. Each ship had six quick firing 4” guns in three twin turrets. One on the stern and two on the bow:Like all small ships of her era, HMS Crane has an open bridge:A tall mast sits behind the bridge with her various radar and communications antennae:By the late 1950s she was very out of date and serving in the far east, as one sailor who joined HMS Crane in 1959 recalls:
The first thing that struck me about my new ship, after the journey from HMS Terror to join her, was how old fashioned she looked and the amount of armament she carried…a Gunnery Ratings dream ship I would have thought!
Having been detailed as to which mess we were to live in, I made my way forward to mine – number 8 mess – only about 20 or so feet long and about 15 feet wide. I believe there were about 17 of us billeted in this space. Down the ship’s side of our mess were a couple of cushioned seats about six feet long. Each of these converted into two sets of bunks. Between them and the other side of the mess was a wooden table of a similar length, bolted to the deck and alongside it a backless cushioned bench running the length of the table, but only about 15 inches wide.
We newcomers were greeted by our Leading Hand Tony ‘Postie’ Derrett; so called because he was the ship’s postman. We were to get on very well and became run-ashore oppos (mates). What neither of us realized the whole time on that ship was that we were the two in the breast stroke race held 6 years previously at HMS St Vincent, and it wasn’t until we met again 50 years later that this came to light!
Being a tall one, I was given the top bunk on the inboard side of the mess deck forward. There were three bunks up and two along on a false bulkhead, and this was the first time I had ever had a bunk on a ship.
The cooling system in the mess, there being no air-conditioning in those days, was a table fan that would be set to sweep across the mess, and one punkahlouvre which could be directed to a particular spot. This directional asset of fresh air, though not cooled, was altered almost every time someone came into our mess, and at night the last person to turn in tried to direct it to his bunk, only to have it redirected by the next bloke. It was extremely hot and humid in Singapore, and this was even more so on the ship. Most of us learnt quickly that the only way to wander about in the mess, and to wear to bed, was to wear a cloth like a sarong around our waists.
After having sorted out my bunk and locker the first thing I had to do was to get to my place of duty in the operations room. Just below and slightly aft of the open bridge, and raised up a couple of steps from the wheelhouse, it was quite small. I did note that it did have a bench seat in it the same size as my bunk down below.
Opposite were the two LOP (local operations plot) tables. These were glass topped tables under which a compass rose was directed upwards, and with an attached scaled motor, meant that the ‘spiders web’ of the light, also to scale, would cross the table in relatively the same course and speed of the ship. Therefore reported contacts from the radar operator could be plotted onto the glass topped table (which was about 6 ft x 4ft) and either plotted on a long roll of tracing paper, or on square plastic sheets that fitted on the table. At the bottom of the forward seat was a the navigational 974 radar. The 293 PPI (plan position indicator) radar screen was stuffed in the corner, and also couple of clear plastic upright screens – one for aircraft plotting or general plots, and the other carrying information such as radio frequencies and their use in the Ops room.