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15 October 2014
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Getting Back in Condition: HMS Ceylon's Visit to South Africa

by terry_randall

Contributed by 
terry_randall
Location of story: 
Durban - South Africa
Background to story: 
Royal Navy
Article ID: 
A2786420
Contributed on: 
27 June 2004

Getting Back in Condition.

After a little more than a year since having left dockyard hands in the United Kingdom, with a lot of mileage covered in a very busy time since the commencement of 1944, Ceylon was by September very much in need of a refit. So it was that in that month she was detached to Durban for this purpose.

The refit was carried out in the ‘Prince Edward Drydock’ where many repairs were carried out; mostly in the ‘engine’ department. During the time in Durban, the RM Detachment spent a considerable amount of time in ‘Assegai’, the shore base, honing further their ‘jungle-warfare’ skills. It was also a good opportunity for the ship’s company to have some well-earned rest ashore in ‘Assegai’.

It was at this time that many ‘new’ men joined the ship. A lot of these people were volunteers from the navies of such countries as South Africa, Rhodesia and New Zealand. In fact quite a large contingent came from New Zealand.

Apparently Ceylon’s Engineer Commander was not entirely satisfied with some aspects of the work that had been carried out during the refit, but the authorities were most keen for the ship to be ‘back in the war’. So it was that with a new Captain, Captain Harkness, DSC, RN in command, she sailed on the 9th December from Durban, to join the recently formed British East Indies & Pacific Fleet (BEI&PF).
This newly formed Fleet under the command of Admiral Frazer, included many ships newly arrived from the United Kingdom. These included the battleships King George V and Howe; the aircraft-carriers Indefatigable and Indomitable; the cruisers Swiftsure, Argonaut, Black Prince, and the New Zealand Achilles. There were also three destroyer flotillas; the 4th (Q class), the 25th (U class) and the 27th (W class).
A very short time after leaving Durban and with the ship altering course at high speed, she heeled well over, causing one of the bearings to become starved of lubricating oil. This in turn meant that a propeller shaft seized up with this unit becoming unserviceable. Ceylon had to enter a drydock in Colombo, where the propeller from the damaged unit was removed and secured on her quarterdeck.

This meant the ship was unable to steam at her normal faster speeds, and very much to the annoyance of her new captain would in future have to operate with what had become known as the ‘Lame Duck Squad’; the very much slower and older ships of the fleet.

Not really a very happy ending to what had otherwise been a very successful year.

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