The Adventures of a Conway Lad on RFA Regent 1972-73


Pennant No. A 486                   International Callsign GRMH                  Registered LONDON


Previous Name N/A                                                                         Lloyds Identity No. 6712112


Builder Harland & Wolff, Belfast.


Launched 9th March 1966                                                                      Completed 6th June 1967


Displacement (Light-ship) Not Known                         (Loaded) 22,890 tons


Measurement Tonnage N.R.T. 8,040               G.R.T. 18,029             DWT Not Known


Dimensions Length O.A. 640 ft.                Beam 77 ft.                      Draft 26 ft.


Main Machinery 2 x A.E.I.(Manchester) steam turbines.  2 x Foster Wheeler water tube boilers.

Single shaft.        Speed 21 knots.


Ships Badge Originally granted in 1933, to a ‘Proteus’ class submarine, which was lost in 1943 when mined in the Taranto Straits during the 2nd World War.


A ‘Regent’ is an interim ruler of a monarchy.  The ship’s name dates from a vessel built during the reign of King Henry VII.  The badge depicts the red dragon of the Prince Regent, set under a gold crown, all on a green background.  The motto, which is passed on from earlier warships, is “Serviendo Regno”, (I rule by serving).


Remarks Sister ship of, and same details as the “RESOURCE”.


“REGENT” was taken out of service in 1992 and sold to Indian ship-breakers in 1993.  For the passage to India she was re-named “Shahzadel” and re-registered under the St Vincent flag.  She departed from Devonport on 21st January 1993 and arrived at Alang, India, on 19th February 1993




















14th January 1972 to 18th January 1973

British Crew

Senior 2nd Officer


I joined the “Regent” out in Plymouth Sound, where she was moored to either ‘C-Charlie’ or ‘D-Delta’ buoy.  These was her usual moorings at this port, as it was for all loaded armament ships that called there.


Having now passed my “Master’s” ticket, I was slowly moving up the chain of command and on this ship I was the navigator/operations officer, initially keeping the 4-8 watch.  As with the “Resource”, the deck officers also had to maintain gangway and duty watches around the clock in port.  As the senior bridge watchkeeper, I was also responsible for the bridge team and the quartermasters.  These were selected seamen who kept watches on the wheel and as lookouts at sea, as well as security rounds and a shift in ‘HQ 1’ at all times.  In port they kept gangway watches along with their security duties.


‘HQ 1’ on this class of ship, unlike other RFA’s at that time, was a compartment that was continuously manned, both at sea and in port.  It was the alternative command post to the bridge, located below decks under the midships accommodation and well sheltered in the event of any attack.  These ships also had an ‘HQ 2’, a little less sophisticated than ‘HQ 1’ and located deep within the after accommodation block.  Within ‘HQ 1’ were duplicate bridge controls, internal and external communication facilities, radar screens, monitors of internal and external conditions as well as wall plans of the ship’s layout.  This was the control centre for any emergency, up to and including nuclear war.


Up until June 1972, after a transatlantic voyage to the U.S. Naval Base at Norfolk, Virginia and to the nearby armament facility at Yorktown, we operated mainly around the U.K.  There was also a period in the Mediterranean on exercise with “Ark Royal” and various NATO ships, during which we paid a visit to Palma, Majorca.  It was a busy and interesting time, occasionally calling back to Plymouth or Glen Mallen to adjust and top up our load.  It was always amazing to see how much beer and potatoes the Navy could consume during their time at sea!


In July 1972, another 2nd Officer joined us and for the first time ever, I enjoyed a daywork routine whilst at sea.  When the ship was ‘deep sea’ it meant an early start and a late finish, in order to take star sights during twilight and fix the ship’s position, but that was no hardship when you got an undisturbed night in bed.


We sailed independently across the Atlantic to the West Indies, not a warship in sight, cruising past all the lovely looking Leeward and Windward Islands, before arriving at Chaguaramas in Trinidad to discharge some special cargo for the British Embassy.  This was a navigator’s dream.  To be able to choose scenic routes and cruise amongst these islands, simply because, for once, the ship had time to spare in her schedule.


After two or three days in Trinidad, we headed north towards the Sombrero Channel, between the British Virgin islands and the Leeward Island group, intending to pass out of the Caribbean Sea and into the Atlantic, bound for Bermuda.  During one lunchtime and as we were approaching the Sombrero Island lighthouse, a small aircraft circled the ship once before plunging into the sea.

The general alarm was sounded on board and we turned back towards the ditched plane.  Our helicopter was scrambled and flew to the floating parts of the wreckage. The two American passengers from the plane were pulled from the sea but unfortunately the pilot was lost, believed badly injured when ditching and drowned when the plane sank.  After reporting the incident to the U.S. Coastguard we continued on our passage to Bermuda, where we landed our two elderly guests.  They had chartered the light aircraft when moving home to one of the Leeward Islands.  Most of their valuables and some of their possessions went down with the aircraft, but they were very lucky that we happened to be in their area when the plane developed an engine problem.


Arriving at Bermuda, we sailed through a narrow channel within the group of islands and the shallows, passing quite close to the reef, which was visible through the clear blue water.  We secured alongside at the ‘Cable & Wireless’ depot on Ireland Island, just across the small bay from the capital centre of Hamilton.  I was able to get ashore on a couple of occasions to visit Hamilton and one of the nearby beaches.  This place was noticeably clinging in many ways to its British heritage, although now very much a playground for rich Americans.


Returning to the U.K., we operated mainly out of Plymouth and in the English Channel and Western Approaches.  I recall a trial RAS with our sister-ship “Resource” somewhere off Portland, where we were to transfer back and forth, a “Seaslug” missile cage, containing a dummy surface-to-air missile.  We were to use a newly developed jackstay gantry, specially built for this weapon system and as yet never tested at sea.  The trial started well but for some unknown reason the jackstay wire parted whilst the missile was between ships and the cage complete with missile fell into the sea.  Unfortunately, after that loss, the ships came too close together, touched and sheared apart, causing an emergency disconnection of the other jackstay rig.  Both ships were superficially damaged with torn side-rails, but the incident illustrated the fine balance required to keep two large ships close together, (about 100 – 140 feet apart), whilst steaming along at about 12 knots, without them being sucked together, especially in a rough seaway.  The damage was soon repaired and the dummy missile and cage were later recovered by a naval salvage team.


For Christmas and New Year 1972-73, we were back in Plymouth Sound again.  Having had Christmas at home, I was back aboard again for New Year’s Eve and a bit of a party was being held that evening.  Just before midnight it was decided who was going to have the job of sounding the ship’s whistle and who was going to shine the various signalling lamps, etc.  I got the job of lighting up the large 20” diameter arc-lamp signal projector.  This piece of equipment gave out an intense blue/white beam of light, for communicating with other ships many miles away, and was mounted on a special pedestal above the ‘monkey island’.  At midnight I clambered up to this rather dark platform and switched on the light.  The whole thing hummed with power.  I pointed it skywards, opened the shutters and a beam of brilliant light illuminated the clouds.  Because of the way the light was made, it couldn’t quite shine vertically, so I decided to slowly rotate the beam, gradually reducing the elevation whilst all the whistle blowing was going on, both on our ship and others anchored nearby.  I must have got about two-thirds of the way round my first circuit when I suddenly dropped through the platform onto the deck below, falling about six feet.  Some stupid …. had taken out one of the wooden gratings for varnishing and not roped off the gap!  It was jolly lucky that I’d had a couple of drinks that night or I could have been badly hurt!


Soon after New Year, the ship was sent to the Tyne for a refit at Wallsend.  I’d had a really good year on board that ship, enjoying the job immensely.  However, it was time to move on, and after a good farewell send-off I went home to quite a long spell of leave.