I have been to … HMS Duncan

Over the past weekend HMS Duncan (D37) – the last of the Daring-class Type 45 Destroyers to be built and commissioned – paid a visit to London.

Whilst she was moored alongside in the Docklands area of East London, Sue and I were able to pay her a visit. We got our first glimpse of her as the DLR (Docklands Light Railway) train in which were we travelling passed over the dock in which she was moored.

We passed along the ship’s port side …

… and boarded via a gangway that led up to her quarterdeck/helicopter deck.

An Agusta-Westland AW159 Wildcat helicopter was parked in the centre of the quarterdeck/helicopter deck. (HMS Duncan can carry up to two Wildcats or a single Agusta-Westland AW101 Merlin helicopter.)

Our route around the ship first took us through the ship’s helicopter hanger, …

… past the officers’ Wardroom (with its special ‘Duncan’ tartan tablecloth), …

… part of the Sick Bay, …

… a two-person berth, …

… and into the ship’s Operations Room.

We then passed out through a watertight bulkhead door onto the forecastle, where many of the ship’s main weapons systems are located. These include the Harpoon anti-ship missile launchers, …

… two pairs of anti-torpedo decoy launchers (there are one pair on both the port and starboard sides) that form part of the ship’s Surface Ship Torpedo Defence (SSTD) system, …

… the 48-cell Sylver (SYstème de Lancement VERtical) vertical launching system (VLS) for the ship’s Aster anti-aircraft missiles (HMS Duncan carries a mixture of Aster 15 and Aster 30 missiles), …

… and her 4.5-inch/55 Mk.8 Mod 1 gun.

The forecastle gave us an excellent view of the ship’s bridge and forward sensor mast, which is topped by a Type 1046 SAMPSON multi-function dual-face active electronically scanned array radar.

We then walked along the port side of HMS Duncan, passing under one of her DS 30M 30mm/75 automatic guns, …

… and past a Chaff launcher. (There were a pair of these Chaff launchers mounted on each side of the ship.)

We then passed one of the two 20mm Phalanx close-in weapon systems (CIWS) that are mounted on each side of the ship.

These provide her with a very effective close-defence capability against sea-skimming missiles.

Just above us we could see the Type 1046 S1850M 3D long range passive electronically scanned array radar, which is located atop a short tower above the ship’s hanger …

… and additional electronic equipment, which is mounted on a mast forward of it.

We then passed through another watertight bulkhead door which gave us access into the gallery around the upper level of the helicopter hanger. We descended into the hanger via a ladder, and as we left the hanger we could see …

… the ship’s bell, which is located on the starboard outer wall of the hanger.

Sue and I thoroughly enjoyed our visit to HMS Duncan, and hope to visit further Royal Navy warships that pay official visits to London.


Major Neville Chrisopherson MC, Royal Artillery

After transcribing the War Diary of the 140th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery, I must admit to wanting to know a bit more about the man who wrote the report of the unit’s final battle during the 1940 campaign. I mentioned this to my wife – who happens to be a genealogist – and within a few hours she had done quite a bit of research about him.

Neville (or as it is sometimes written, Nevill) Christopherson was born on 8th February 1894 in Bickley, Kent, and was the son of Percy Christopherson* (31st March 1866 – 4th May 1921). Like his father – and his father’s nine brothers(!)# – he was a great sportsman. Neville played both cricket and rugby, and was involved in both until he died.

By 1901 Neville’s father was a headmaster (he had formerly been Assistant-Master at Wellington College for eleven years), and the family was living at Locker’s Park Preparatory School, Hemel Hempsted.

Locker’s School.

Neville attended Winchester School, and when the First World War broke out he joined the Royal Field Artillery. He was commissioned in early 1915, and by the end of the war he had reached the rank of Major (Acting). He was awarded the 1915 Star, the Victory Medal, and the British War Medal, and they were sent to his home address in Folkestone.

In 1923 Neville married Nina Geraldine Bird in Bromley, Kent, and was working as a Lloyds underwriter.

By 1939 Neville was a Captain (later Major) in the Territorial Army and became second-in-command of 140th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery. He took over command of the regiment when the CO was wounded, but was himself wounded and captured on 29th May, 1940. He became a prisoner of war, and was released from captivity when the war ended. He was awarded the Military Cross and was mentioned in the 25th October 1945 issue of the London Gazette, where it stated that:

The King has been graciously pleased to approve that the following be Mentioned in recognition of gallant and distinguished services in the field: —

Royal Regiment of Artillery
Maj. N. Christopherson, M.C. (20865)

On reaching the age of fifty five Neville retired from the Territorial Army with the rank of Major, but he remained very active, visiting Brazil several times between 1952 and 1959~ in his capacity as a Lloyds underwriter.

A rugby team photograph. Neville Christopherson is standing on the right of the photograph and is wearing a suit.

Neville Christopherson died on 31st December 1972 in Maidstone, Kent. His obituary in Wisden stated:

CHRISTOPHERSON, NEVILL, who died on December 31, aged 78, did not gain a place in the XI at Winchester. From 1950 to 1959 he was secretary and manager of Kent and became the county President in 1962. He was one of ten brothers in a notable Kentish sporting family. His father, Percy, gained two England Rugby International caps in 1891 when a Blackheath player and an uncle, Stanley, became President of the M.C.C. Nevill was for a time honorary secretary of Blackheath R.F.C.’


* Percy Christopherson played Rugby Union for Blackheath, Oxford University, Kent, The Barbarians, and England, and cricket for Oxford University, Kent, Berkshire, Shropshire, and the Gentlemen of England. When he died his estate was estimated to be £47,800.

The Barbarians team in April 1891. Percy Christopherson is third from the left on the middle row.

# The whole family once played as a team – known as ‘The Christophersons’ – against Blackheath Cricket Club on 8th September 1888 on The Rectory Field, Blackheath. The team comprised:

  • Stanley Christopherson (11th November 1861 – 6th April 1949) [He also played cricket for Kent and England, was the President of the Marylebone Cricket Club between 1939 and 1946, and from 1943 to 1945 he was also the temporary chairman of the Midland Bank.]
  • Percy Christopherson (31st March 1866 – 4th May 1921)
  • Kenneth Christopherson (First quarter 1865 – ?)
  • Sidney Christopherson (First quarter 1864 – 28th September 1916)
  • Cecil Christopherson (Fourth quarter 1862 – 11th May 1925)
  • Malcolm Christopherson (Fourth quarter 1870 –?)
  • Douglas Christopherson (1869 – 5th March 1944)
  • Derman Christopherson (6th August 1835 – First quarter 1907)
  • Horace Christopherson (2nd June 1872 –?)
  • Derman Christopherson (Jnr.) (24th March 1875 –?)

There were ten player per side and five balls per over … and Blackheath won by 22 runs!

~ On 11th October 1952 he sailed to Rio de Janiero aboard the Alcantara. He returned from Buenos Aires on the same ship on 24th November 1952. He returned to Rio de Janeiro on the Alcantara on 20th March 1957, and returned to Plymouth on 21st February 1959 aboard the Antilles.


I have been to … the Maritime Museum, Santa Cruz de La Palma

Santa Cruz de La Palma is not a big place. It has a population of about 16,500 people and occupies a position on the eastern side of the island of La Palma. Despite this it manages to support a small but interesting maritime museum that is located in the base and hull of a replica of Columbus’s Santa Maria.

The main exhibits in the museum can be found in the base of the reconstruction, and deal with the role that the population of the island have played in Spanish maritime history.

Columbus’s flagship, the ‘Santa Maria’.

A Maravedi Quarter, minted in copper on Santo Domingo in 1559. This coin has been stamped in the same year by the Island of La Palma’s Council for use on the Island.

A typical trawler, the ‘Carmen II’.

The barque ‘Verdad’ (500 tons), built in 1872.

The barque ‘Fama de Canarias’ (454 tons), built in 1870.

The inter-island mail steamer ‘La Palma’ was built in Middlesbrough in 1912 by Harkess & Sons Ltd.

‘La Palma’ is currently preserved, and is moored in the harbour of Santa Cruz de Tenerife.

‘La Palma’ was launched on 15th February, 1912, and finished on 10th April the same year. She was designed to carry 190 passengers in three classes.

It was remarkable to see examples of original documents on display and such excellent ship models in what is a very small museum by international standards.

The upper floor is contained in the poop deck section of the reconstruction, and deals mainly with the construction methods used by wooden shipbuilders.

It also gives access to the main deck of the reconstructed vessel.

Looking aft towards the poop of the replica of the ‘Santa Maria’.

Looking forward towards the forecastle of the replica of the ‘Santa Maria’.


A Merry Christmas … and one million hits!

I would like to wish everyone who reads my blog a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Greenwich Park in the snow, 2011. We aren’t having a white Christmas in London this year … but this photograph will serve to remind us of what one can look like!


Due to an amazing increase in the number of ‘hits’ registered a few days ago, the visit counter I added to my blog on the 11th February 2009 has been ticking closer and closer to 1,000,000 … and it reached that magic number today.

When I began blogging back in September 2008, I never expected that it would have such a profound effect on my life in general and my wargaming in particular. It has helped me to achieve numerous goals that I might otherwise not have reached (writing on your blog that you are going to do something rather publicly commits you to do it!) and it has brought me into contact with a huge number of friendly, imaginative, creative, and innovative wargamers.

It has taken nearly six years for me to reach one million hits. I don’t know if my blog will ever achieve two million hits … but I hope I will have fun finding out if it will!


Back from the USA and Canada

If you have been wondering why I haven’t replied to comments on my blog recently, I have a good reason; Sue and I have spent the last twenty five days cruising across the Atlantic and back in order to visit North Eastern America and the eastern provinces of Canada.

Sue and I are currently getting ready to disembark from P&O’s MV Aurora, and hope to be home later this morning. With luck normal blogging will resume later this week!

It’s great to be able to go travelling … but getting home again is also wonderful.


I have been to … Knole House, Sevenoaks, Kent

Between attending Connections UK 2015 and taking part in the re-fight of Waterloo using 54mm-scale figures, Sue and I visited Knole House in Sevenoaks, Kent.

The building if the earliest parts of the present house was started by Thomas Bourchier, the then Archbishop of Canterbury, at some time between 1456 and 1486. When Bourchier died the house was left to the See of Canterbury, and it was owned by the See until 1538, when Henry VIII seized it from Archbishop Thomas Cranmer.

In 1566 ownership of the house passed to Thomas Sackville, and during the early years of the reign of James I he ordered that extensive renovations be made to the state rooms at Knole in the expectation that the King would pay the house a visit. The house remained in the ownership of the Sackville (and latterly the Sackville-West) family until just after World War II; it then passed into the ownership of the National Trust. (The Sackville-West family trust still owns most of the surrounding park, and the family continue to live in part of the house.)

When we visited the house was undergoing restoration, and we were somewhat limited as to what we could see.

The house is surrounded by parkland where a large number of deer roam free. It was therefore not very surprising to see a stag dozing in the shade near the house’s main entrance.

The main gatehouse is very impressive, and as you pass through it, you can see a beautiful lawned quadrangle.

Before crossing the quadrangle, we turned right and went into the visitor centre.

Besides the ticket office, the centre contained a ceramic model of Knole House …

… and a display about the house’s history and – in particular – the people who had lived there.

We re-entered the quadrangle from the visitor centre …

… and moved toward the gatehouse that gave access to an inner courtyard.

It was interesting to see that many of the buildings were adorned with finials that depicted a heraldic leopard holding a shield.

Once through the inner gatehouse …

… we entered a paved courtyard.

The inner gatehouse looked even more impressive when seen from the courtyard rather than from the quadrangle.

The building on the side of the courtyard furthest from the inner gatehouse had a colonnaded section that was surmounted by a balustraded balcony.

As we were unable to proceed any further, we retraced our steps back into the lawned quadrangle, where we were able to see the inner side of the outer gatehouse.

To the right of this gatehouse was the old estate office, which was full of interesting exhibits … including an adding machine of the type that I used when I first went to work in the late 1960s!

Once we left the old estate office we walked back past the gatehouse entrance and the visitor centre to the Orangery.

This contained some interesting exhibits including a statue, …

… a textile panel that told the history of Knole House, …

… and a cast iron stove that used to be used to warm part of the house.

Once our visit to the main building was over, we took a short walk through the surrounding park, where we saw lots of deer at very close range.

We hope to return to Knole House at some time in the future so that once the restoration work has been completed, we can see more of the interior of the buildings.


I have been to … The Historic Dockyard, Chatham, Kent

As I mentioned in a recent blog entry, I paid a visit to The Historic Dockyard, Chatham, Kent last week. I visited it some years ago, and the whole site has undergone continued development since my last visit, and further changes are planned for the 2016 season.

I parked my car in the car park (which is located inside one of the old covered slipways) and made my way through the ticket office. (The entrance fee was £19.00 … less 15% because I am a member of English Heritage. The ticket allows me to return as often as I like for the next twelve months for no extra charge.)

My first stop was at the building that currently houses the ‘Hearts of Oak’ experience. This tells the story of the construction of wooden-hulled sail-powered warships at Chatham Dockyard using a number of tableau and interpretation techniques.

This exhibit will be closing in September of 2015 and will re-open in March of 2016.

The large square outside the building afford an excellent view of one end of the Historic Dockyard.

My next stop was No.1 Smithery, which is used to house temporary exhibits (during my visit this was WAR GAMES) and examples of models from the National Maritime Museum’s and Imperial War Museum’s model ship collections. (No photography was allowed in the latter exhibit, and there was a tantalising view of some of the models that are not of display through a window into the main collection storage area.)

I was allowed to take one photograph in No.1 Smithery … of a crane that was used inside the building.

I then made my way over to HMS Gannet

… after which I walked around HMS Ocelot

… and HMS Cavalier.

(I will be writing more extensive blog entries about these ships as and when time permits.)

Once past the Railway Workshop (which is now a play area and attendant café) I came across an old Police Box (but no attendant strange doctors!) …

… which was located outside the former site of the Kent Police Museum. Next door is the Nelson Brewery …

… which was having a delivery when I was there.

I passed some restored examples of the railway rolling stock that was used within the dockyard …

… as I walked towards the Victorian Ropery.

Because my time was limited, I did not go in to see how rope was (and still is) manufactured. Instead I made my way to the building that houses the ‘Steel, Steam, & Submarines’ exhibit.

This exhibit tells the story of the dockyard up until it closed, and contains numerous models of ships that were build or refitted in Chatham.

(I will write a separate blog entry about the models in the ‘Steel, Steam, & Submarines’ exhibit as and when time permits.)

I then walked back towards the main entrance, but on the way I paid a visit to the covered slipway that is now called ‘The Big Space.

This currently houses some of the larger vehicles from the collection of the Royal Engineers Museum, Gillingham. (I will write a separate blog entry about the vehicles I saw as and when time permits). The next-door building houses the Royal National Lifeboat Institution’s Lifeboat Collection …

… which seems to include examples of every lifeboat design ever used by the RNLI.