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Brian Hunneybell

The following words were penned by Brian and included in a publication celebrating the lives of the Royal Naval Artificer Apprentices, H.M.S. Collingwood 1952 - 1955:

After passing out in December 1955 joined HMS Duchess in March 1956 and off to the Mediterranean as leader of Group B Daring. Quite an eventful year. A very good regatta, finishing as Cock of the Fleet. November saw us leading the bombardment on Port Said; probably the last time broadsides from three turrets were fired in anger. December saw us covering the withdrawal from Port Said. Back to UK in March 1957 to a refit. Later that year carried out trials on a pre-wetting system.

August 1957 - joined Collingwood on the Ship Aid Party - the forerunner of FMG. Whilst there, spent a couple of weeks in the backstage party for the Royal Tournament Display Team.

August 1958 joined HMS Armada and off to the Mediterranean again for another year. Late 1959 up to Iceland for the Cod War, then again in early 1960. Back to Portsmouth to put HMS Armada into reserve.

July 1960 into Collingwood for 3rd Class Artificers course.

January 1961 to HMS Royal Arthur for leadership course, then March 1961 to HMS Lochinvar in charge of Radio Workshop.

August 1961 and a crash draft to Aden to put back into reserve three sweepers taken out of reserve in Men for the Kuwait crisis. On arrival found the job didn't exist as sweepers were being towed to Singapore and UK. Spent a couple of months living with the RAF and generally enjoying life!

October 1961 back to Lochinvar. It was at this time that I met my wife to be.

March 1962 to Collingwood and then in May 1962 over to the Isle of Wight to stand by HMS Eskimo at Cowes.

Married June 1962.

July 1963 after trials and work up sailed for the Gulf.

October 1963 flew back to Bahrain to join FOSNI staff at Pitreavie.

August 1964 back to Cowes to stand by HMS Arethusa. This became somewhat extended due to I. Samuel White pulling out of shipbuilding.

We came over to Pompey (Portsmouth) Dockyard for completion. Finally we completed trials and had a good work up before sailing for the Far East in August 1966. On arrival we went straight into a major exercise starting in the Philippines and ending in Sydney. From there we went down to Hobart then around Australia, back to Singapore then to Hong Kong for Christmas 1966.

The route home from Singapore was interesting: Le Reunion, Simonstown, Tristan da Cunha, Montevideo, Buenos Aires, San Salvador then across the Atlantic to Oakar, Bathurst in Gambia, then via Gibraltar to Pompey in August 1967.

September 1967 into Collingwood as an instructor on 965 then Radar Systems.

October 1969 and off to Singapore on a married accompanied to RNWS Suara, the Transmitter Station. A thoroughly enjoyable time but unfortunately seeing the demise of RN in Singapore. I happened to be the last RN DUO in HMS Terror and also the last OOD in HMS Terror. I was also selected for Fleet Chief at this time.

Arriving home in December 1971, after leave I joined HMS Scylla in March 1972. Back up to the second Cod War. A prolonged refit in Guzz - due to industrial action - and then finally off to the Far East in January 1974.

Flew home from Mombasa in February 1974 to PJTs in Collingwood.

May 1974 to HMS Mauritius to take over the receiver station at Tombeau Bay. February 1975 we were hit by Cyclone Gervaise. Quite enlightening! Finished up closing HMS Mauritius. At least my experience in closing down Singapore came in useful. Had a delightful cruise home from Durban. Much better than the Grey Funnel line.

After leave, into Collingwood for a couple of courses. I got involved with transferring the Collingwood Museum into the Instructional Cinema. The most interesting aspect was finding that we were part of the museum archives - the Series 14 Yearbook was there!

October 1976 to Portland on FOST Staff. Hectic but enjoyable in spite of the long hours. August 1978 to HMS Vernon - first time back in Pompey in nine years! Unfortunately my wife died of cancer in January 1979...

Completed service in May 1980 and joined RNAD as a PTO 4. I retired in September 1992 on medical grounds.

Best ship - HMS Arethusa. Best Draft - RNWS Suara.

Brian is survived by his daughter Suzie and son Ian.

A Personal Perspective

Dad was a devoted man - devoted to his wife Jean and devoted to his two children. That Jean died when they were both 43 was a tragedy whose effects would sadly never disappear.

Born in a very rural Suffolk in 1935 he was a country boy through and through, and recounted many tales including that of befriending a stray cat with which he used to go rabbit-hunting - the first rabbit being for the family table, the second being for the cat!

He almost didn't make it into the Royal Navy but once he managed to get in he was a career man, joining the King's Navy in 1952 and staying there for 28 years. Even when he left the Navy he continued to work for the Ministry of Defence for a further 12 years before taking a well-earned rest.

He led a full and exciting life in the Navy, travelling the world when travel was a luxury limited to the few. Suez, Aden, the two 'Cod wars' (not to be confused with the Cold War, although it certainly wasn't tropical in the arctic seas!) - he managed to get involved in several conflicts in an otherwise relatively peaceful world, and always emerged unscathed.

Whilst in Rosyth, Scotland, in the early 1960's he met his future wife Jean, a nurse. They were obviously both attracted to a partner in uniform! Very quickly he prised her from her beloved Scotland and they set up home on the Isle of Wight. My sister Susan and I soon came along and the family was complete. In early 1965 we moved to our own home in Gosport, Hampshire, which remained dad's home for the rest of his days.

In 1969 we upped sticks and set sail for Singapore! We actually flew but it may have been quicker to go by boat, having as we did to refuel in both Bahrain and Gan (in the Maldive islands). Singapore then was not the Singapore of today, being much more basic and 'real' although as Britons abroad we enjoyed some of the finer trappings of life - a live-in maid, warm weather round the calendar and dad coming home every night (as opposed to being off at seas for months on end). These were happy days for us all.

Remarkably, dad's sister Ruth was also in Singapore at this time whilst her husband worked on the Straits Times newspaper. Two siblings from a tiny country village appearing at the same time on the other side of the world!

Sadly the British pulled out of Singapore before we were ready to go and for the last six months mum schooled us since the teachers had all left early. This was best education I ever had! Dad was last man out and turned off the lights as we got back on the plane bound for England (footnote: I returned to the Naval quarters in Singapore in 1998 and found many familiar sights still present, photographs of which were taken back to England for dad to share which brought back many wonderful memories).

Returning to a dark and cold England in mid-December 1971 we only had to wait two years, the austere 3-day week, and an Icelandic Cod War before packing our bags for two more glorious years abroad, this time in Mauritius.

Those were the days when nobody had heard of this tiny island in the Indian Ocean and before we left mum took her two inquisitive youngsters up to the Commonwealth Institute in London to discover a little more about our new home-to-be, as well as teaching us how to spell M-a-u-r-i-t-i-u-s (not easy at the time I can tell you)!

More happy days for all of us with white beaches awaiting us every weekend and the delights of a tropical climate with us daily. We had the mixed fortune to be there in 1975 when Cyclone Gervaise hit the island - the worst since Carol in 1960. If you've never experienced a violent tropical storm before then look in the travel brochures for the cheapest week and don't forget to pack a waterproof coat! Dad was at the time working at the receiver station in Tombeau Bay and spent four wild days lashing down anything that might get blown away - himself included! - and generally having a wet time of it all while the rest of the family battened down the hatches and watched the flowers try and keep their little heads above the rising waters. The calm that pervaded during the short hours as the eye of the storm passed over us was something from another world.

As with Singapore, we must have offended somebody since we were part of the British withdrawal from this place too! All the top dogs left early so dad was left looking after Tombeau and the 'Officer In Charge' board bearing his name still hangs in my hallway to this day, a source of great pride, with the end-date left empty since even the sign-writer had left and gone home before dad once again turned out the lights on another British outpost. I wonder why we were never posted overseas again?! The journey home was dad's opportunity to show us what life on the ocean waves was like and we all flew to Durban in South Africa before sailing from there back to Southampton, another wonderful experience which we will never forget.

Mum loved the sun, and sunbathing, and this was to be her downfall. In the summer of 1976, shortly after our return to England mum underwent an operation. Two years later the cancer returned with a vengeance and dad lost the greatest love of his life, and his children lost a wonderful mother.

She was far too young - only 43 - but she and dad had enjoyed an exhilirating seventeen years together and crammed a lifetime's experience into such a short amount of time.

A year after mum's death dad left the Navy which had been his life since the days of food rationing and post-war identity cards. The new life to which he was looking forward with his wife sadly was not to be. Dad joined the M.O.D. and single-handedly brought up his family whilst running the home and earning a living, always uncomplaining, never always appreciated.

I left home in 1983 to forge a trail for myself. In the years to come I was admonished by several people to keep in more frequent touch with dad, just as his father had once written to him threatening to contact his Commanding Officer if he didn't write to his mother more often! What goes around comes around.

From the mid-1980's dad's health began to fail him and this resulted in his mobility becoming increasingly restricted. For a man more used to globetrotting this must have been a tremendous blow but he never once complained about his lot in life and indeed took great pleasure in following the travels of his children. It took many years before he ran out of "Oh, Tasmania/Trondheim/etc - I remember when I was there back in nineteen..." stories in response to my telling him about my next planned trip abroad.

In recent years dad was fortunate to have my sister Sue at home to make sure he never wanted for anything. He was a fiercely independent man, never wishing to be a burden to anyone, and he remained at home and in charge of his life until very his last weekend.

A mercifully short 30 hours in hospital was all the time he needed to prepare himself for the journey ahead.

He was much loved and will be sorely missed, not only by his son and daughter and two sisters, but by everyone who was lucky enough to know him.

God bless, dad.

Left: Suez; Right: Long Service and Good Conduct

A Tribute

Three years ago, having recently retired, I set out on a voyage of discovery. I was seeking the forty men with whom I appeared on a photograph taken in December 1955. We had just completed four years living and training together as Royal Navy Artificer Apprentices, so we knew each other well.

In the front row of that formal group photo is a cheerfully smiling, confident-looking young man - Brian. He had done well in these four years: Chief Petty Officer Apprentice (not easily awarded); the best fitter and turner of our class in the workshops; winner of the St. George's Prize as the best Apprentice on passing-out. He was also a fine gymnast. Glittering prizes indeed.

I then turned to several small black and white whotos I had taken of some of us three years or so earlier, when we were all about seventeen. These are, or course, not formal 'on parade', and here we see a perkier Brian - jacket undone, cap at a jaunty angle, cheerful grin, at ease with his comrades. In another - always the athlete - he's hanging by his knees from a rope, arms folded, cheekily smiling at his topsy-turvy world.

Now I knew that, over forty years later, our hair would have thinned and our waistlines thickened, so I felt prepared for some surprises. On first telephoning Brian, however, I was deeply dismayed to discover the blows life had dealt him: the sad death of his wife many years before; the debilitating affliction which has reduced this once fine athlete to a wheelchair.

So, before our first Class Reunion in October 1998, John Gowan - another high-flyer in our Class, and a fellow East Anglian of Brian's - and I took Brian out for a pub lunch. It was with some trepidation that I drove to collect Brian. But on meeting him, and in our subsequent lengthy natter over lunch and a pint or two, the years fell away. I discovered that here, fundamentally, was the Brian I remembered and respected - the same cheerful, unassuming and so likeable character. He spoke of the loving support of his family, particularly his daughter Susan. He described, without rancour or complaint, the progression of his disability. Those who met him at our subsequent Reunions echoed these views. We all deeply respected and admired this man who, to paraphrase Rudyard Kipling, had met with Triumph and Disaster and treated those two impostors just the same.

When I was asked to make this tribute, I was initially extremely reluctant to do so. But now I feel deeply privileged to have had this opportunity to honour a good mate - and a noble man.

note: Brian's daughter and son will be forever grateful to Bryan for having made this tribute to their father.