South Wales Evening Post – 26 October 1967
You don’t have to be a member of the Sea Scouts or Sea Cadets to take an interest in ships and one Dynevor School, Swansea, pupil is proving it.
He is Julian Lewis, 16, whose interest began about five years ago. "It was really by accident," he says. At the central library, he picked up a book on Lord Louis Mountbatten's wartime destroyer and found that it was intriguing.
His interest got quite a fillip when, appearing in the ‘Top of the Form’ programme, he was asked about his hobbies. He said he was interested in the Navy and quite soon after the broadcast, he received a letter from a Mr L B Horton, who had served in the Navy 30 years, in both world wars.
Their exchange of letters gave Julian a part – he insists that it was both accidental and minimal – in the arrangement of a reunion of survivors of the Royal Oak at Scapa Flow. This took place a fortnight ago when, for the first time, U-boat men attended a service for survivors of a ship which they were believed to have sunk!
All this came about because Julian read a book on the subject which contained a picture of the torpedoing. For a number of reasons, Julian did not accept that this picture could have been accurate, and as Mr Horton agreed with him, a letter was written to a Naval journal, asking for accounts of that fateful night.
Among those who replied was a Vincent Marchant, who also had the idea of organising the reunion. More than 100 survivors attended the reunion at Portsmouth with four of the German crew. Because he had played some part in the original correspondence which led to the event, Julian was invited to attend – but the date was the Jewish Day of Atonment and he was unable, on religious grounds, to do so.
He has, however, had reports of what was described as a very moving occasion from some of those who were there, and he reiterates that the organising was done by the survivors themselves, most of whom were contacted as the result of appeals made in local newspapers like the Evening Post and one or two national newspapers.
His big regret about his abiding interest is that warships do not often come to Swansea, but he does all he can to get aboard on those rare occasions. He has been aboard the submarine Artemis, and also HMS Zulu.
He recalls that two years ago two submarines, the Seraph and the Sea Scout, put into Swansea because of stormy weather while making their way from the naval ports of Plymouth and Portsmouth. The Seraph became national news when she broke her tow and had to be reconnected under hazardous conditions with the aid of a helicopter.
Julian did not then know the procedure for obtaining a dock permit, but found that once his real interest was recognised, the dock authorities have been very helpful, and he thus made his first visit at Swansea docks to the Artemis.
At the time the Artemis was in Swansea, the Evening Post reported that the commander had been surprised to discover that one of the submarines in which he had served, HMS Tally-Ho, was at Giant's Grave, Briton Ferry, to be broken up.
This led him off to Briton Ferry where he found Thomas Ward's, the shipbreakers, "very helpful indeed." They allowed him to take one or two small souvenirs from the Tally-Ho and also the Bermuda.
These souvenirs, including an instrument panel and the circuit switch from the klaxon alarm, have joined his "naval collection," which also has a number of press photographs of the vessels in which he has been particularly interested.
At the invitation of his correspondent, Mr Horton, Julian spent three days in the Plymouth dockyard during the Navy Days there.
Needless to say, Julian's association with Navy men has sharpened his concern, for the future of Britain's ships. He is convinced that the quality of our ships and the men is excellent, but feels the quantity is lacking and he tends to be critical of the "pruning" defences in this direction, although economies have to be considered.
He is interested, however, to learn that HMS Ark Royal, the aircraft carrier, is being given the biggest refit in the Devonport dockyard, in spite of the decision to scrap her in 1975. He hopes that, the refit will result in the carrier continuing in service after all, especially as she is being given an angled flight deck which is the latest thing.
When he visits the naval scrapyards, he is saddened by the vessels he sees there, for he feels that there is real history in them. "They survived so much, but are now being broken up piecemeal," he says. Values have changed and now it would seem that pop stars rather than ships on which the VC and other gallantry awards were earned get all the publicity.
Julian hopes to gain scientific qualifications and he might then consider going into politics because he fears that joining the modern Navy would be too frustrating, having to do the best one can with inadequate equipment and especially as even the members of the Board of Admiralty are overruled as to what is required by politicians.
These politicians, he says, are doing what they can, but they really cannot know better than the men whose whole lives have been spent in the Navy and defending Britain and its outposts.
From the political side, he feels, he might be of some assistance to the Navy experts.