Mutiny!!

Mutiny on HMS Javelin
(an account of the incident by
K.D.M. Cameron (Then) Sub-Lieutenant RNVR)


17th September 1945

In February 1945 HMS Javelin on her way to the Far East burst a boiler off the island of Pantelleria in the Mediterranean. Repairs were duly carried out in Alexandria and soon after completion, the war ended in Europe.

HMS Javelin became a private ship and was ordered to a variety of ports in the Eastern Mediterranean either to assist the Army in rounding up German forces or generally to show the flag. For these months after the end of the war our Captain had appeared only too eager to return to peace time routine, engaging in a variety of exercises at sea, plus gunnery practice day and night and adding other pranks such as “Abandon ship” in mid ocean ........the wettest experience.!!!!!!! These unimportant activities did not go down well with many of the men who were hostilities - only and who since May 1945 had only the one thought of returning home as early as possible, now particularly as the war on the Pacific had also ended.

In September 1945 a signal was received form the Lieutenant Commander, Captain of HMS Jervis announcing his ship as Flotilla Leader, instructing a formal inspection of HMS Javelin which was lying off Rhodes harbour at the time. As the preparations began for the inspection our Captain seemed determined that no effort would be spared during a lengthy period of in depth spit and polish to ensure that a successful outcome would do no harm to his promotion prospects in peacetime.

HMS Jervis arrived on the 15th of September and anchored close by. At midnight on the 16th September as Officer of the Day I received a large number of ratings returning from a run onshore to learn from Daily Orders posted at 21.00hrs that “Hands Fall In” would be piped at 05.30hrs the next morning. Having had no prior knowledge of this unnecessarily early hour, this was understandably not well received, adding to the underlying resentment. “Hands Fall In” was duly piped at 05.30hrs and although in a somewhat dilatory fashion was eventually completed with the exception of one mess. These rating in direct confrontation refused to obey the Officers of The Day. Names were taken and a Leading Seaman was charged with Mutiny and placed under close arrest in the Tiller Flat right aft. This Leading Seaman was a “Three Badger” with an unblemished record and a peaceful nature whose one thought would have been for no trouble and an early return home. He was generally liked throughout the ship and was an unlikely mutineer who just happened to be the senior hand sitting at the mess table.

At 07.00hrs “Hands to Breakfast” with the announcement that “Clear Lower Deck” would be piped at 07.30hrs. At 07.30hrs, the men but for a very few refused to obey the order until the Leading Seaman was released and barred the Officers from the Fo’csle. The First Lieutenant was eventually allowed forward and was to listen to a long list of grievances. However he rightly maintained that there was no alternative to discipline and that the men were only making matters worse for the arrested Leading Seaman by disobeying the order to “Clear Lower Decks”. The men capitulated and agreed to fall in.

After a brief visit by the Captain to HMS Jervis at 09.00hrs the inspection was duly cancelled and HMS Javelin was ordered to sail to Malta. The repercussions were to emerge in the following weeks. A brief Court of Inquiry took place the day after arrival in Malta. Ten days later HMS Javelin went to sea to put the ship through an extended work up, excercising Gunnery and Torpedo teams day and night with little respite over two weeks. The move was successful however in re-establishing a united effort by the ship’s company.

Thereafter proceedings began for Three Court Martials in which eight Petty Officers, two Leading Seamen and seventeen Junior Seamen were charged. All resulted in conviction, but following considerable publicity in the London Press the sentences were extensively reduced by The First Lord of the Admiralty. Back in Malta these men were removed from the ship. Followed in due course by the Captain to a desk job and the First Lieutenant to further service ashore meantime and eventual promotion.

And so ends the tail of the Mutiny, an event that need never have happened, brought about by the failure of one man to react sensibly to the obvious change in mood of young combatants when peace and thoughts of home followed the end of war.

K.D.M. Cameron (Then) Sub-Lieutenant RNVR

Note:This summary of the “Mutiny” Incident onboard HMS Javelin has previously been reported particularly well by Peter Daniel in the Mariners’ Mirror in November 1999 and by Admiral of the Fleet Sir Henry Leach in his book “Endure no Makeshifts, Some Naval Recollections (London 1993)Each of us was serving on HMS Javelin during that Commission and perhaps had varying memories, but we agree on the essentials.

 

email administrator - please click here

This site is sponsored by Fifteen02 Limited - world wide car hire specialists - www.fifteen02.com