In my youth I used to be a merchant navy deck officer. I started as a cadet and after passing the Second Mates ticket I was offered a job as Third Mate on an LST.

When I was interviewed for the position I asked what an LST was, and was told that it was a Landing Ship Tank. It was then that I found out that the Company had the contract, from the British Government, to supply officers for their LSTs in the Far East, Mediterranean (Malta), and Aden. I was being loaned out to the British Ministry of Defence, during the Indonesian ‘confrontation’ (Dec ‘62 to Aug ‘66) – it was never called a war, because this would have caused Lloyds insurance rates to sky rocket, and the Government had enough trouble on their hands.

The background of the ‘confrontation’ was that Indonesia objected to the creation of Malaysia, which included Malaya, Singapore, North Borneo, which was a Crown colony, and Sarawak, which was known then as British Borneo, and is now known as East Malaysia.

Indonesia used local militants, trained by the Indonesian army, to attack East Malaysia, which brought the British in to the conflict in defence of the new country. Later Indonesia committed regular troops to cross border attacks. Eventually Australia & New Zealand became involved.

My new posting was as Third Mate to LST ‘Frederick Clover’ – she was built as LST 3001 in 1945, and renamed ‘Frederick Clover’ in 1946.

Her displacement was between 2,140 tons and 4,820 depending on her cargo. She was flat bottomed for landing tanks and heavy vehicles on beaches. She had bow doors and a ramp as well as a secondary ramp within the enclosed deck to the main open deck, for driving lighter vehicles to the main deck

Because I was in the RNR (Royal Navy Reserve) I was put in charge of the oerlikon 20 mm AA gun, which was on the forecastle. The problem was, even though I was in the RNR, I’d never been trained in the use of ships’ guns, because I’d spent my time at sea in merchant ships in the Far East.

When I visited the forecastle to acquaint myself with my new responsibilities I realised that if we had to defend ourselves we would have to ask the Indonesians to return later, because the barrel of our gun was still in its wooden box bolted to the deck! I opened the box to reveal a brand new barrel covered in wax paper and grease. I couldn’t see us ever being in a position to have to use the gun. The other small problem was that we didn’t have any ammunition!

I reported back to the Captain who told me not to bother with the AA gun.

The following day we loaded troops and equipment for Borneo.


SIN Loading

Kuching river

The above shows the main deck as we sailed up the Sarawak River to Kuching, on the island of Borneo.

Before sailing we’d been given special instructions to dump various secret cypher machines in the deepest part of the channel between Indonesia and Singapore.


The army did such a good packing job that the crates of secret machines floated away! We had to machine gun the boxes so as to allow them to sink. I had an army SLR (self-loading rifle) and it was good fun firing at the floating cases until they sank.


Frederick Clover was ‘old’, but even so I still had to sign the Official Secrets Act. Considering that Frederick Clover had been involved in the Korean War, as well as the creation of the State of Israel (1948), and possibly the Suez Crisis of 1956, I doubted that there was anything left of the LST of which a potential enemy would not be aware. She had two engines and our maximum speed was under ten knots. I have seen Chinese junks, with a following wind, over take us, but that is a secret.

Author: 1944april

Traveled a great deal - about 80 countries - first foreign country I suppose was Wales, which was only 80 miles away from where I was born. Visited each Continent, except Antarctica, and I doubt that it is on my bucket list - too cold. I love Asian food, Australian wine & British beer & trying to entertain by writing.

9 thoughts on “LST”

  1. I sailed with you from Kuching to Singapore in about October, 1966 with our radar kit. I was a sargeant radar fitter in the RAF, and on the way down-river my C.O. asked me to fix your antique marconi 4a radar. Success! Then I was permitted to eat in the Wardroom (after the Officers, of course) instead of on the deck with the ‘erks’.
    The next couple of months I spent many evenings in the Cellar Bar, whilst awaiting my posting back to U.K
    Bryan Hobbs


  2. Good morning Bryan – I am sorry but I don’t remember the broken radar and if we met, because we met so many people between Singapore and Borneo during those times, not just to Kuching but around the coast of Borneo to various places.
    I do remember the Cellar Bar the information centre of Singapore :- o)
    Thanks for reading and your feedback, there are about 400 blog post that I’ve posted over the years so you might find others that might interest you, try this one
    if you have a problem go to March 2017 , cheers Geoff


    1. Hi, Geoff, thanks for your reply. Small world time- my wife Dorothy was born in Birkenhead at the end of 1940, but the family had to leave soon after due to Adolf’s boys. Also, in about 1963,a school classmate, David Moore, ex Conway, turned up on LST Charles Macloud, moored just opposite our flat in Malta.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Afternoon Bryan, I was born in Lr Tranmere 1944, where was your wife born? David Moore rings a bell !
    I was on the Conway (as they say, even though we lived in huts, not aboard) from Sept 1960 to July 62. Any idea of David’s years
    Visited Mata once when I was cadet in Dunera the school ship – promised myself to return, but never managed to do so. you might find this post of interest, cheers Geoff


  4. Hello, again! Dorothy was born in Atherton road, Wallasey, but her family moved to Gloucestershire soon afterwards when her father’s flour mill was destroyed. So it was Hitler’s fault that we eventually met and married.
    David Moore would have been at Conway about 1956, when we left school
    and I joined the RAF.
    Further to the radar fix, I remember the Radio Officer telling me that he had previously worked for Walls Iceceam factory. Have I been following up the right ship?


  5. Morning Bryan – I asked on the Conway site about David Moore and he left Conway in Dec 1956, later married an Argentine lady. He fell down a hold and had ongoing problems for the rest of his life – he died about five years ago.
    I have a vague idea of a radio officer and a job with an ice cream company- but couldn’t swear to it. There was another LST on the same run – the Charles Macleod and at times we would have a beer in the Cellar Bar which is why I might be a bit vague :- o) this might bring back a few memories, cheers, Geoff


  6. HI, Geoff, thankyou for finding out about David; sad to hear he’s gone, but we’re all ‘of an age’.
    A correction, Dorothy was born in Atherton St. Birkenhead, (near Charing Cross), not shown on Bing map, no longer exists. Her father and uncle worked in Paul’s mill, and told of throwing German incendiaries off the roof and into the dock, before the mill was finally destroyed.
    My 1966 ‘cruise’ was definitely on board your ship, not Charles Macleod. By the way, the wharf was called Tanah Puteh
    I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your memoirs; lots of reminders of Kuching. We went back for a holiday, (was it really 20 years ago?) The Hilton was a definite improvement over my palm-thatched ‘basha’ on the airfield. The restaurant (Loke) the lads used for special evenings out was now derelict, but overall the town had not been spoiled.
    Enough ramblings now,


    Liked by 1 person

  7. Morning Bryan – thanks for the detail of the wharf I assume you mean in Kuching not Singapore? Time flies – the mind is 21 but the body belays the lie :- o)
    Because of covid my travelling has been reduced, hence my blog post are drying, I find blogging a lot easier than writing – have a second novel in the works that takes a lot of research, which fills my free time.
    Thanks for your kind words, cheers Geoff


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