Thanks to the messages from D.S. Shoemaker and R.T. Mckee to my son Jonathan Lean following the entry in Navy News. I have been in contact with Captain Honywill and Commander Harris but regret that none of us will be able to be present in Chesterfield. I remember meeting the Mayor of Chesterfield on Commissioning Day 1967 in Devonport. I had been present at the keel laying and launch as a Devonport Dockyard Officer, so was particularly pleased to be transferring to Danae as WEO on commissioning, and very honoured to be temporarily in command after Acceptance Sea Trials whilst the operators were away preparing the Workup at Portland.
Reading the story of the commission brings back wonderful memories of our visits to Cherbourg, Gibraltar, Malta, Zeebrugge, Esbjerg, Liverpool, Scotland, Rotterdam, Wilhelmshaven, Kalundberg and back to Plymouth for leave before sailing on our foreign leg on 19 October 1968. Ten days later we arrived in Recife, Brazil escorting the Royal Yacht Britannia, then on down the coast to Rio de Janeiro during the Queen’s royal tour. The view from the statue of Jesus Christ overlooking Rio is fabulous. Because Danae left before the Queen’s visit ended Commander Harris and I had the honour of meeting her at the cocktail party for British Commonwealth representatives held around the open air swimming pool at the foot of the hill on which the statue stands.
Our next ports of call Simonstown and Durban brought back memories of my time in HMS Nigeria on the South Atlantic Station in 1948/9. Danae then went up the east coast to do duty on Beira Patrol, before continuing across the Indian Ocean to Singapore, where I had served on the Fleet Staff in 1962/5. The departure of Captain Honywill shortly after our arrival in Singapore was very moving, especially the way in which lower deck was cleared by large numbers of the ships company as his boat cast off to take him ashore.
Captain George (sadly now deceased) took Command, and after exercises off the west coast of Malaysia we sailed east through the islands of Indonesia, passing through the Torres straits and turning south inside the Great Barrier Reef heading for Brisbane. After brief visits to the “Gold Coast” we headed east towards new Zealand escorting RFA Tidespring. Having her near by in mid-ocean when our Diesel generator Room and Forward Switchboard were flooded was reassuring to the W.E. Department team who stripped, cleaned and refitted the Switchboard completely before our arrival in Auckland on28 February 1969. Ten days alongside in the dockyard gave opportunities for visits to Lake Taupo and Rotorua to see the geysers and sulphurous pools and the wonderful country side of North Island. The islands tour towards Hong Kong that followed included visits to the New Hebrides group calling at Tara and Vila. Then on to the Solomon Islands calling at Honiara and Gizo. Visitors to the ship presented me with an ebony head of a Soloman Islander of which I am very proud. The long haul around the Philippines brought us back on 27 March 1969 to a naval dockyard and much activity ashore in Hong Kong.
After a week in harbour we sailed for exercises and then set course for Japan calling at Wakayama, Kobe and Osaka. Geisha girls presented flowers to the captain on our arrival and time alongside allowed much sightseeing to be done especially in the beautiful city of Kyoto. The return trip included a short stop at the island of Okinawa before commencing a three week Assisted Maintenance Period in Hong Kong on 30 April 1969. The large contingent of Chinese workmen and Jenny’s side party created much noise, but left us sparkling ready to sail to the American Naval Base of Subic Bay and Manila in the Philippines to take part on 26 May 1969 in Exercise Sea Spirit with ships from Australia, New Zealand, Philippines, Thailand, UK and USA. The first few days went very well, but at 3.30 am on the morning of 31 May the carrier HMAS Melbourne collided with a destroyer escort USS Frank E Evans and sliced her in half. The exercise was abandoned and Danae helped patrol the area during the day in the hope of finding survivors. That evening Danae left to visit Bangkok the capital of Thailand 25 miles up the Chow Phya river and berthed alongside HMS Forth until 10 June 1969. I had the good fortune to meet a local Thai army officer who invited several of us to visit his home and for him to show us around the very colourful Buddhist monasteries and temples.
Danae arrived back in Singapore on 14 June 1969 for an Assisted Maintenance Period and to prepare for the arrival of my relief, Commander Buckler. I shall never forget the wonderful farewell party that my Departmental senior rates arranged for me in the middle of Bugit Street. The Chief OA very kindly escorted me there and back by taxi to HMS Terror, but I never discovered who was responsible for the photograph on the Ships Company notice board the next day showing me being served at the table by two transvestite waiters. Perhaps it was as well I back to UK very soon afterwards, but I was pleased to visit Danae in Devonport dockyard soon after she returned in October 1969. It was a privilege to have served in such a fine ship as I am sure you will all agree and I regret that now I am in my 80th year I am not really able to join you in Chesterfield on 24 th April 2004 but none the less wish you all well at your reunion