A different world on the Dauntless

AMONG the thousands of visitors dazzled by the technological wizardry on board Great Yarmouth’s latest thrilling naval addition, HMS Dauntless, one man had special cause to marvel.

Fred Walton has already scrubbed the decks of HMS Dauntless and slept in its quarters – but not this brand new �1.1bn warship. The 85-year-old served on its predecessor more than 60 years ago during the second world war.

Fred told The Mercury: “Looking at the new HMS Dauntless it really brought back memories. But compared between this warship and the one I was on, well, it’s a different world entirely.”

Born in Newcastle and currently living near Norwich, Fred joined the Navy in the early 1940s as an 18-year-old and first trained in Aberdeen as a radio mechanic.

But it was when he set foot aboard the HMS Dauntless in 1943, which in size would have dwarved the current namesake, that he first gained his sealegs.

A cruiser which had been launched in 1918 and stationed near Edinburgh, it was the fourth to bear the name of HMS Dauntless and came to be used as a training ship that sailed back and forth between Solway Firth.

He said: “My first memories of the place involve the rooms we had on the mess deck, in which you had a table which four people fitted around, and the hammocks you would put up at night and take down in the morning.

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“It seems basic now, but it didn’t feel like that at the time, and they had hot showers too.”

A former teacher from Norwich, Fred recalled he was one of a group of 30 who were trained over three months in preparation for the harsh reality of war on the seas.

And whether being taught navigation, or clinging to a cup of cocoa in exposed and freezing conditions while on night watch, he recalled his time aboard fondly.

That’s not to say that Navy life was easy going.

“I remember when you had a new group on board for the first time and you casually mentioned you had cast off, and even though you couldn’t feel it, one or two were always sick,” he said.

“At the time, there was also the fear of the odd mine about, so we didn’t go much outside a three-mile distance from the coast.”

Now a grandfather, Fred met his late wife Joan in the Navy. He retired as a teacher in 1990.

Fred added: “My time in the services is a time I will never forget, and seeing the new Dauntless brought back memories which otherwise wouldn’t have come back.”