January 1919 Acting
Sub-Lieutenant Reid joined a
torpedo boat, P.41, at
Portsmouth. She was 200 feet
long and 700 tons, with maximum
speed of 20 knots. She carried
one 4 inch gun, stern torpedo
tubes and depth charges. Aged
just 18, Philip was the green
and ignorant First Lieutenant.
P.41 was Senior Officer's ship
of a mine-sweeping flotilla
working from Ymuiden, at the
mouth of the Amsterdam Canal.
The Senior Officer was a
temporary Lieutenant Commander,
ex Royal Indian Marine. He
sometimes gave Philip a strange
look; it turned out he had a
glass eye. There was difficulty
in inducing men due for
demobilisation to do
minesweeping work, so a highly
paid Mine Clearance Service was
formed, and Philip drew forty
pounds a month for the three
months that the job lasted. This
began his extravagant bachelor
phase, which lasted eighteen
HMS Bramble in the Persian Gulf
In August 1919 Philip was appointed to the Bramble, a Persian Gulf gunboat. It was an interesting relic - built of wood, copper sheathed, rigged to sail as well as steam, and fitted with a hand capstan. There were no refrigerators or fans. The ship carried a Royal Marine detachment of a sergeant and six men, including a butcher who dealt with the live sheep penned on the upper deck.
They set off on a cruise,
stopping first at the stifling
little harbour at Muscat. During
the hot still night one could
hear the Sultan's sentries
hailing each other across the
mouth of the harbour. At the
next port, Jask, they got orders
to go to Bombay, pay off and
Philip's next ship, and a happy
one, was the Wivern, building at
Samuel White's yard in East
Cowes. They joined a new
flotilla at Port Edgar, for
training in the Firth of Forth.
In March they went to Scapa
Flow, and each ship attempted to
tow a surrendered German
destroyer to Rosyth for breaking
up. Whilst alongside her tow in
narrow Gutta Sound the Wivern
broke adrift from her bouy in a
squall, and they had an exciting
The Admiralty decided that young officers hurriedly trained during the war needed further educaiton, so Philip and his contemporaries were sent to Cambridge for a few months.
Philip found himself at Downing college for the May Term and Long Vacation of 1920. His father, a trinity Hall man of the 1860s, looked upon Downing as a poor, unfashionable place, and admittedly the undergraduates there could not spare much time or money for clothes or amusements; they were scholarship men competing for degrees that would be their livelihood. Many of the older ones had fought in the war. The Sailors, and obstreperous lot, were treated with great kindness. Philip had friends in many of the Colleges and got glimpses of a different world - the Classics and all the liberal studies in a light hearted summer setting.
The Reid family were living at this time at Canford Magna, near Wimborne in Dorset, in a house that later became part of Canford School.
There was a Real Tennis court there, with grille and penthouse and dedans, so Philip took lessons from the Cambridge Real Tennis professional. He bought a little two-stroke motor bicycle secondhand for sixty pounds - motors are dear after wars. This was later succeeded by a heavy machine, the Rudge Multi; one went along like a human bullet, but the Portsmouth tramlines were treacherous and Philip's shoulder long reminded him of one heavy fall there.
In the autumn Philip returned to
the Wivern, leaving the ship
before Christmas to undertake
Sub-Lieutenant's courses at
Portsmouth. They learned
navigation, signals, torpedo,
and gunnery. The torpedo
instruction was done afloat in
the Vernon hulk; the gunnery
instruction was at Whale Island.
Whale Island, known as HMS Excellent or 'Whaley' was the home of naval gunnery. For nearly forty years the capital ship had been the unit of naval power, and the big gun its principal weapon. Gunnery officers have shaped naval policy and predominated in the high commands. Whether or not the bomb and the airborne torpedo have ousted the big gun, Philip remained very proud to have been a Gunnery Officer in the great days.
At the Sub-Lieutenants' course at Whale Island there was plenty of hard exercise, work, and fun in the evening. Philip liked it all, and applied to to a long gunnery course.
The drill rig was white flannel trousers, flannel shirt, scarf and khaki leggings. Classes always moved at the double. Morning Divisions was a parade under arms, usually followed by field training - squad, small arms or company drill. The Mess provided good food and cheerful guest nights. Philip played rugby, and lots of squash. Lord Louis Mountbatten was the outstanding member of the class - a hard worker of great ability.
In the summer of 1921 there was
a serious coal strike. Most of
the Regular Army were stationed
in Ireland, and there was fear
of Red revolution, so all naval
reservists were recalled, and
formed into units for
maintaining order. Philip joined
the Fourth Devonport Battalion
at Tidworth, near Salisbury, and
there they remained, since there
was no trouble in the industrial
Philip joined the Ramillies at Rosyth in January 1922, a day or two after his twenty first birthday.
To be continued.