Due to the losses of Naval shipping during the Falklands War of 1982, 4 ships were recommissioned from mothballs, HMS Tartar, HMS Zulu and HMS Gurkha all Tribal Class frigates. HMS Torquay a Whitby Class frigate was also recommissioned.


Whilst on AMC course on the Fleet Training Ship, HMS Kent, I was removed from course after just one week and  crash drafted to join HMS Tartar in Devonport in June 1982. Of course this was both scary and exciting all at the same time. The Falklands War was still in raging and we felt sure we would be deployed to replace the Ardent and Antelope that had recently been sunk.


The reality was quite different. HMS Tartar had been laid up for some time, everything was dirty, all the machinery was caked in thick grease and nothing had been operated for a number of years. So we spent the next couple of months setting everything to work, turning the single shaft by hand and proving all the machinery before finally we were able to put a flame in the boiler.


Up top, the old wooden decks had seen better days, so it was a shame to see them ripped up to reveal the metal deck underneath.


Eventually, after many weeks, Tartar was ready for sea.

After the usual BOST, we deployed a few times during the 2 year commission. We went into the Arctic Circle chasing Russian ships (quite what we would have done, if we’d caught them, I never found out). We also spent Christmas 1983 in St Petersburg in Florida which was outstanding. The locals looked after us very well indeed. Apart from the duty watch, everyone on board was hosted by a family to share their Christmas dinner.

Myself and MEM Tony Francis, were invited out to share Christmas with the Seletic Family in Clearwater Florida. You would have thought we were royalty, the way we welcomed by their entire family. It was wonderful.


I was then granted 7 days leave to fly to Texas to see my Auntie Penny and Uncle Simon in Austin. After a cold but memorable New Year in Texas, I flew back to Florida to rejoin the ship looking every inch the Texan Cowboy.

Some time later, we were in Gibraltar conducting an Assisted Maintenance Period (AMP) and I was actually inside the condenser cleaning cooling tubes when the Captain made a broadcast. Apparently, some naughty people had crossed the border illegally with guns and drugs etc and stolen a motor cruiser attempting to escape from Gibraltar. We had been ordered by Flag Officer Gibraltar to intercept them and board the boat.

that HMS Tartar passed the breakwater in pursuit of the criminals.


We left in such a rush, that many of the ships company were ashore enjoying a stand easy oggie (Pasty) and when they returned, they were greeted with an empty jetty.


Steam was eventually raised and Tartar continued the chase at full speed, but the criminals turned into Portuguese waters and as such we had no jurisdiction to follow, so we turned around and went back to Gibraltar.


Getting back alongside around 6pm, we were greeted with ‘Where the F*** have you lot been?”.


I left Tartar in June 1984 having served the entire last commission. She was subsequently sold to the Indonesian Navy. I believe she is still afloat. During my career, I have spent longer on various ships and submarines, but rarely have I enjoyed it as much as I did on “The Good Ship Tartar”

Normally, it would take about 4 hours to raise a full head of steam, but we had a G6 Gas Turbine that could adequately propel the ship forwards but not astern. As a Gear Room watchkeeper, I was ordered to flash the Auxiliary ‘Donkey’ Boiler and also flash ‘K’ TA(Katy) an Allens 500Kw Gas Turbine Generator. This would provide us with LP Saturated steam and electricity. I was then to get the Evaporator flashed. In short, it was 28 minutes after receiving the signal,

Type  81

Tribal Class

Primary Role


Pennant No



2,300 tons


360 ft


42.5 ft




1 x Babcock & Wilcox 550psi  Y111a  boiler powering  1 × English Electric steam turbines  and 1 x G6 Gas Turbine driving at up to 25 knots


2 x Mk 5  4.5” Guns, 2 x 4 Sea Cat SAM, 2 x 20mm Anti-Aircraft guns, Mk 10 Limbo Mortars, Wasp Helicopter