HMS Ajax & River Plate Veterans Association

 

Information on Frigate Captains

DAVID PETER SEELY: CAPTAIN OF HMS AJAX from 16 SEPTEMBER 1963 to JULY 1965

The Hon. David Seely, the 4th Baron Mottistone, CBE, KStJ, was born 16 December, 1920, the eldest son of Baron Mottistone. Winston Churchill and Duke of Cornwall (Edward VIII) were his godparents. He was educated at the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth.  From 1941 to 1944 he was employed on convoy duty in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean.  He qualified as Commander in 1944 and served in the Pacific in 1945. He was appointed to HMS Cossack 1958 until 1959, and to HMS Ajax as Captain 24th Escort Squadron. HMS Ajax was completed at Birkenhead, and commissioned 14 December, 1963. In June 1964, she and the squadron were based at Singapore, at the time of the Indonesian confrontation. Captain Seely was mentioned in despatches for his services.

 

From June, 1965 he served as Naval Advisor to the UK Commissioner in Ottawa. He retired at his own request as Captain, on his succession to the barony, as 4th Baron Mottistone in 1967. He was Lord Lieutenant of the Isle of Wight from 1986 to 1995. He died 24 November 2011.

 

ALLAN GORDON TAIT: CAPTAIN OF HMS AJAX from 10 JULY 1965 to  11 DECEMBER 1966

Sir Allan Gordon Tait KCB, DSC was born in Timaru, New Zealand, in 1921, and educated at Timaru High School and the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth. He went to sea as a Midshipman in 1940, serving in HM Ships Nigeria and Matabele in the Atlantic and Arctic convoys. Whilst on Nigeria as a junior officer he seized the Enigma Cipher settings from the Lauenburg, a German weather ship.

 

He specialised in submarines in 1942, and served in HM Submarines Taurus, Tally Ho and Tudor in the Mediterranean and Far East, being awarded the DSC and Mentioned in Despatches. He later commanded HM Submarines Teredo (1947), Solent, Ambush, Aurochs, Tally Ho and Sanguine.

 

As a Commander and Captain he commanded the Caprice, Ajax and the Second Destroyer Squadron Far East, HMS Maidstone and the 3rd Submarine Squadron, and the Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth. He has also served as Aide-de-Camp to the Governor-General of New Zealand, 1949-51; on the staff, Assistant Naval Adviser, of the UK High Commissioner in Canada, 1957-59; on the Naval Staff at the Admiralty and Ministry of Defence 1962-65; and as Chief of Staff of the Submarine Command, 1969-70. On promotion to Rear-Admiral he was appointed Naval Secretary at the Ministry of Defence. In 1972 he was appointed a Naval Aide-de-Camp to the Queen.

 

He was promoted to Vice-Admiral in 1974 and appointed Flag Officer Plymouth, Port Admiral Devonport and NATO Commander Central Atlantic, in February, 1975. He became Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath in the 1977 New Year's Honours List, and took up his appointment as Chief of Naval Personnel and Second Sea Lord on 22 February, 1977. He was promoted to the rank of Admiral on 14 March 1978 and retired in1979.

He died 29 May 2005.

 

GEORGE ARMAND DE GAVARDIE KITCHIN: CAPTAIN OF HMS AJAX from 12 DECEMBER 1966 to 8 MAY 1968

George Armand de Gavardie Kitchin CBE, joined Dartmouth in 1934 as a Cadet at the age of 13. His Midshipman's time was spent initially in the battleship Barham until she was torpedoed in December 1939 and after that in the Rodney, which as flagship of Commander-in-Chief Home Fleet took part in the Norwegian campaign. One of the most lasting memories of his Midshipman's time was a sense of awe latterly tinged with amusement over the evolution of 15-inch gun drill.

 

Having completed his Sub-Lieutenant's courses in late 1941 he joined the destroyer Gurkha which was building at Birkenhead. Gurkha survived almost exactly a year -from January 1942 until January 1943 when she was sunk by a torpedo off Tobruk, whilst escorting a convoy to Malta.   During her short life the Gurkha had seen service in the Atlantic and as part of the famous Force H based at Gibraltar and centred round Ark Royal.   Sub-Lieutenant Kitchin was actually on watch when Ark Royal received the fatal torpedo some sixty miles east of Gibraltar and when she, in fact, went down some hours later.   The Germans had so often falsely claimed to have sunk Ark Royal that it was with sorrow and almost disbelief that the news, of her sinking was received.

 

After the Gurkha herself had been sunk, Sub-Lieutenant Kitchin was promoted Lieutenant and went as liaison officer to the Greek destroyer Kendouriotis. His chief recollection of this ship is his awakening one night to find a rat up his pyjama leg, and he still remembers his intense relief that the verminous creature, with only two possible escape routes, up or down, chose the latter. The incident did not really end there, however, for a month or two later two ratings died in Port Said of bubonic plague.   After the ship was fumigated, over 150 dead rats were found on board.   After nine months Lieutenant Kitchin transferred to another Greek destroyer called Queen Olga.   This ship, in company with the British destroyer Petard, sunk the Italian submarine Ubard off Malta, recovering most of her crew.

 

A most frightening experience which Captain Kitchin recalled at this period, was the dark night when Queen Olga, at 32 knots had a near collision with the cruiser flagship of Admiral Vian, of Altmark fame.   The two ships met almost head-on, at a combined speed of over 60 mph, but exactly parallel to each other.   In the Admiral's words - "There was no water between the ships".

 

From October 1943, until late 1948, Lieutenant Kitchin was appointed as First Lieutenant successively to the destroyers Bickerton, Cotton and Childers. During this period he saw service in the Atlantic and on Russian convoys, and also took part in the Normandy invasion.

 

After a year ashore in a Boys' training establishment (HMS Bruce at Crail, Fifeshire) Lieutenant Kitchin was promoted Lieutenant Commander, and assumed command of the Portland Flotilla frigate Leeds Castle, in April 1950 where he spent almost two years day running off Portland, taking part in two of FOSM's "summer wars" off the west coast of Scotland, and visiting the Channel Islands and southern ports of England.

 

After taking the Naval Staff course he spent the next two years in Greece as Staff Officer Operations to the head of the British Naval Mission in Athens, and as Director of Studies at the Greek Naval Staff College there.

 

In 1955 Lieutenant Commander Kitchin was appointed as First Lieutenant of the then very modern destroyer Daring and saw service in her mainly in the Mediterranean. Daring was one of the force of ships present during the attack on Port Said in the autumn of 1956, and entered the port after the military had secured it.

 

Soon after leaving the Daring at Malta in December, 1956, he was promoted Commander, and almost immediately returned there as Staff Officer Operations to Flag Officer Second-in-Command, Mediterranean.   He recalls a busy two years, partly ashore and partly afloat, in a variety of flagships, including the "Shiny" Sheffield and Ark Royal.

 

In April, 1959, Commander Kitchin assumed command of the frigate Crane, one of the old Second Frigate Squadron of the Far East Fleet.   During his 18 month Foreign Service commission in her, he visited Japan, Korea, (where he was kissed in the back of a taxi by an over-exuberant Korean Admiral), the Philippines, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Borneo and the Maldives Islands.   Taking station leave at Singapore, Commander Kitchin sailed as First Mate aboard the schooner "Xarifa", of Hans and Lotte Hass fame, when she was chartered by the Army for an expedition in Indonesian waters.

 

Commander Kitchin's next appointment was to the Plans Division of the Naval Staff at Admiralty; an overworked two years with much burning of midnight oil. From there he went to HMS Vernon as the first-ever non-TAS Commander of the establishment.   However, in under a year he was promoted Captain and re-appointed.

 

As a Captain he has been Naval Advisor Karachi (1964-1966), a student on the Senior Officer's War Course, Commanding Officer of HMS Ajax and Captain (D) Second Destroyer Squadron Far East Fleet.   HMS Ajax was re-commissioned and worked-up at Singapore in December, 1966.   Back at Chatham in March 1967 then in April to Hong Kong via the Philippines.   A visit to Japan followed, to Kobe, Etajima, Moji, Otaru, and Hakodate.   The Ajax was guardship at Hong Kong after the Japanese visit until she sailed for Singapore for a maintenance period, and guardship duty.   Back to Hong Kong in mid-August, Singapore in October, and to join the Aden task force, covering the withdrawal of the British personnel.   On passage to Aden the ship was diverted to search for the crew of a Shackleton, which had come down in the Indian Ocean west of Sumatra. They rescued three survivors of the crew of eleven.

 

January, 1968, found the Ajax at Mombassa, on the Beira Patrol, and in February, on her passage home via Simons Town, St Helena and Gibraltar, reaching Portsmouth 7 March, then to Chatham for a four-month refit.

 

In the summer of 1968 Captain Kitchin became Deputy Director of Naval Plans, and then finally took command of HMS Fife in February, 1971.   He then left the sea to become Commodore Superintendent Contract-built Ships, on 1 March, 1973.

He was made a CBE in June 1976. He died 23 June 1996.

 

DAVID HEPWORTH: CAPTAIN OF HMS AJAX from 9 MAY 1968 to 12 MARCH 1969

Rear Admiral David Hepworth CB, joined the Navy as a sixteen-year-old boy telegraphist in October 1939.   He was the third boy from HMS Ganges to attain flag rank.   He was commissioned as a sub-lieutenant six years later on 1 January 1945, promoted lieutenant 16 December 1944 (back-dated), lieutenant-commander 16 December 1952, commander 31 December 1958 and captain 31 December 1964.

 

From 1945 he served in and commanded a number of submarines, was in command of HMS Stalker, a submarine support ship, from 1959 to 1960, and of HMS Ashanti, first of the Tribal class frigates, from 1961 to 1963.

 

After a period of shore appointments, including that of Deputy Director of Undersea Warfare, Captain Hepworth returned to sea in May 1968 as Commanding Officer of HMS Ajax.   The Ajax was half-way through her refit at Chatham, and was recommissioned for her fourth commission on 2 August 1968.   The band of HMS Ganges attended, and Sir Desmond and Lady Dreyer were present.

 

Christmas 1968, Ajax was the only British warship on passage, sailing from Portsmouth to the Far East, and off the west coast of Africa near the Equator on Christmas Day.   She visited Japan: Yokohama, Yokosuka, and the island of Hokkaido.   In January 1969 the Ajax relieved HMS Glamorgan as Captain (D) Second Destroyer Squadron Far East Fleet.   Later, Ajax joined the Far East Fleet and the Squadron off the coast of Malaya.   Between exercises and a maintenance period at Singapore, she visited Western Australia, Bangkok and Hong Kong.

 

Captain Hepworth was next appointed Director of Gunnery at the Royal Naval Tactical School (October 1969 to June 1971), and in 1971 he became Director of Naval Warfare.   He was promoted Rear Admiral 7 July, 1974, and nominated a CB in the Birthday Honours, 1976.

 

Rear Admiral David Hepworth died on 11th June 2012 aged 89.

 

HARRY ROBERT KEATE: CAPTAIN OF HMS AJAX from 2 SEPTEMBER 1969 to SEPTEMBER 1970

Harry Robert Keate was born at Rudgwick, Sussex, in December 1925.   He was educated at St Aubyn's School, Rottingdean, Sussex, and entered the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth on the outbreak of the Second World War.   Captain Keate's father, the late Lieutenant Commander H.A.D. Keate, DSO, RN, died in 1925.   He was married in May 1954 to Miss Susan Angela Vian, daughter of Admiral of the Fleet, Sir Philip Vian.

 

After leaving Dartmouth in 1943, Captain Keate served as a Midshipman in the cruiser HMS London in the Home Fleet and on the East Indies station.   He later joined the destroyer HMS Quadrant in eastern waters.   From 1945 to 1950 he served successively in HMS Exmoor, Consort, Theseus, Verulam and Wakeful.

 

In 1951 Captain Keate was appointed Flag Lieutenant to Rear-Admiral A.K. Scott-Moncrieff, Flag Officer Second-in-Command Far East station.   After a short tour in command of HM MTB Gay Fencer, he became Flag Lieutenant to Vice-Admiral J.P.L. Reid, Flag Officer Second-in-Command Mediterranean Fleet.

 

As a Lieutenant-Commander between 1955 and 1959 he was Squadron Communications Officer of HMS Chieftain, Captain (D) 1st Destroyer Squadron, and of HMS Ganges. Captain Keate later commanded HMS Striker and HMS Dieppe in the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf, and was appointed to the staff of the Commander-in-Chief Portsmouth in 1961.   From 1964 to 1965 he was Executive Officer of the Guided Missile Destroyer HMS Devonshire and later became second-in-command of HMS Mercury, the RN Signals School.

 

He was promoted Captain 31 December, 1966, and was appointed British Naval Attaché in Paris, in February 1967.   He was appointed to command HMS Ajax 2 September 1969 and in November the ship returned to Chatham from the Far East for a refit. December 1969 was taken up with exercises off Portsmouth and South Wales.

 

In January, 1970, the frigate was guardship at Gibraltar, and this duty was followed by exercises in the Mediterranean.   She returned to Chatham, and sailed for Liverpool in May to attend the anniversary celebrations of the end of the Battle of the Atlantic.   She was present at the Queen's visit to Port Talbot, to open the deep-water oil terminal, and then sailed for the Clyde for exercises in the area and off Northern Ireland (Operations Oceanex and Opeval, in company with submarines). The ship cruised in the Hebrides and visited Stornaway in June, and the Chief Scout, Sir Charles Maclean and Lady Maclean visited the ship.   Later, the Ajax visited Hull for ‘Meet the Navy’ week and on 12 June 1970 she sailed for Kiel for 'International Kieler Woche' (annual sailing event held in Germany).    In August she returned to Chatham and was paid-off, to be converted to an Ikara* frigate. In May 1974 he commanded HMS Antrim until November 1975.

*An air launched anti-submarine torpedo. He died on 28/12/2013 aged 88.

 

R.S.BLACKMAN: CAPTAIN OF HMS AJAX from 16 JANUARY 1971 to unknown

Commander Blackman was promoted to lieutenant 16 August 1962 and lieutenant-commander 16 August 1970 and took command of HMS Ajax as she underwent her Ikara* conversion. Captain Bates took over command in June 1973 and she was recommissioned 5 December 1973.

*An air launched anti-submarine torpedo.

 

RICHARD J. BATES: CAPTAIN OF HMS Ajax from JUNE 1973 to DECEMBER 1974

Richard Bates was educated at Willesden Grammar School, and joined the Navy in 1949.   He flew with 812 Squadron from HMS Glory in Korea and with 703 and 849 Squadrons at home before joining HMS Welcome on fishery protection.   In 1958 he transferred to HMS Bulwark and took part in the salvage operation in the Gulf of Oman.   The Liberian tanker, Melika, and the French tanker, Fernand Gilabert, had collided.   The crews abandoned ships when they caught fire.   The Navy stepped in and did a successful salvage job, and earned the prize money.

 

After Bulwark, he became a flying instructor at Portland and then joined the Intensive Flying Trials Unit at Culdrose as Senior Observer on Wessex helicopters. Next he flew with 815 Squadron, the first Wessex all-weather squadron, in HMS Ark Royal.   By then he was a Lieutenant Commander, and stayed on in Ark Royal as Operations Officer.   In 1966 he became captain of HMS Carysfort and two years, crammed with incident, followed.   He played his part as one of the guardships during the Torrey Canyon disaster, and was on guardship duty later off Gibraltar during a particular spell of international 'tension' with Spain over the Rock. During the 1967 Cowes Week, Carysfort was chosen as Guardship to the Royal Yacht Britannia, and the destroyer also acted as escort when the Royal Family sailed north to Scotland for their annual holiday.

 

Captain Bates was appointed to HMS Ajax in June, 1973 towards the end of her Ikara conversion.   The ship was re-commissioned at Devonport on 5 December. In August, 1974, she was one of the ships involved in the evacuation of the refugees from Cyprus, and at the beginning of September escorted a flotilla of lifeboats from Poole to Portsmouth for the RNLI celebrations.   She was guardship for Cowes Week, and then back to Cyprus.   Exercises followed, in the course of which she visited Malta and Gibraltar, returning to Devonport on the 27 September.   At the beginning of December she was at Amsterdam, after which Captain Bates handed over the command to Captain J.Mackenzie.

 

Captain Bates served as Executive Officer in HMS Blake, the helicopter cruiser, and at the Ministry of Defence as Deputy Director of Naval Administrative Planning and Director of Naval Service Conditions between February 1976 and May 1978. He was Chief of Staff, Rosyth May 1978 to March 1980.

Frigate Captains Continued