After a short stint at the Craft Support Unit in HMS Defiance I joined HMS Ajax in Devonport in December 1979 as a Boiler Front Stoker living in 3K mess. I was shown to the mess by the Chief Stoker who asked ‘Are you in the Shit? When I replied ‘No Chief’ he said, ‘We’ll soon change that’. Despite the initial aggressiveness, he was actually a very nice bloke.


I enjoyed watchkeeping in the Boiler Room. There were 4 of us down there, a POMEM in charge of steaming the two boilers. This was POMEM ‘Mick’ Jagger and I remember him to

Be of a slightly nervous disposition.

Occasionally we would blow soot to clean out the boiler uptakes. This was quite a physical task that involved turning cammed valves in order to release steam and, as the name implies, blow soot out of the funnel.


I wasn’t on HMS Ajax for too long as she was due for a refit. This was planned to happen in Gibraltar.

We sailed into Gibraltar in August 1980 and after a few weeks of preparing for refit by the Gibraltar Refit Group (GRG) Ajax cold moved alongside HMS Ariadne that was completing it’s refit and we moved all personnel and stores from Ajax to Ariadne. Ajax subsequently went into refit and we sailed Ariadne home.

There was also an AMC Stoker who was responsible for the Evaps and TA’s required for generating power and making water. I was on the Port Boiler and MEM Boak was on the Stbd Boiler both of us receiving hand signals from the POMEM at the centre panel.


I used to love the middle watch, pot mess and dhobying overalls in a bucket of boiling water heated by a steam drain and agitated by a broom stick.

2nd Starboard Watch after cleaning up for CO’s rounds


Leander Class

Primary Role


Pennant No



2,860 tons


372 ft


41 ft




2 x Babcock & Wilcox 550psi  Y100 boilers powering  2 × English Electric steam turbines  driving at up to 30 knots


Ikara Anti-submarine rocket, 2 x 4 Sea Cat SAM, 2 x 40mm Bofors, Mk 10 Limbo Mortars, Wasp Helicopter