UK to Singapore/ Malaysia/Borneo 1960
(By Gordon Northcott, Crew member)
On a cold snow decked day in January 1960 LCT 4073, under the command of Major Dennis Cuff, 76 Squadron RASC Water Transport, began a history making voyage to the Far East.
It was the first time that such a vessel manned by an all Army crew had to undertake such a long voyage.
The vessel had been purchased by the Malaysian forces and this was the voyage of delivery.
Crew member, Gordon Northcott, kept a day-by-day diary of the trip and the following schedule is taken from that diary:
Thu 14 January: PORTSMOUTH. Various dignitaries and Generals came aboard LCT 4073, and with a ceremonial unveiling the ship was named ‘ARDENNES’. After this visitors retired to LCT 4061 and amid three cheers and waves from quayside relatives we set sail for Plymouth on the first leg of the long voyage.
The weather was terrible, and in a force 8 gale crew members were ordered on deck to retrieve various canvas items that had come loose. Many of the crew were ill.
Fri 15 January: Arrived PLYMOUTH 08.20hrs and crew cleaned up broken glass etc from a very rough night. 2nd Lt was taken ashore ill and won’t be on the trip. Sailed for Gibraltar at 15.30hrs
Sat 16 January: At sea (Bay of Biscay). Weather much improved.
Sun 17 January: At sea (sighted coast of Spain at 1530hrs).
Mon 18 January: At Sea (opposite Oporto, Portugal) Rougher seas and speed only 4 knots.
Tuesday 19 January: At sea. Sunny day, (Opposite Lisbon, Portugal)
Wednesday 20 January: Docked at GIBRALTAR at 15.00hrs.
Thursday 21 January: Gibraltar. Visited by RASC Major General.
Friday 22 January: Gibraltar. Visited by an Admiral and the Governor of Gibraltar. ‘Ardennes’ hosted a cocktail party for local dignitaries.
Saturday 23 January: Gibraltar. Crew played football against local RASC unit.. We lost 6-1!
Sunday 24 January: Gibraltar. Weather now a bit rainy.
Monday 25 January: Departed Gibraltar at 11.15hrs.
Tuesday 26 January: At sea (Mediterranean) Sighted Algerian coast at 1500hrs.
Wednesday 27 January: At Sea (opposite Algiers)
Thursday 28 January: At Sea (off Tunis)
Friday 29 January Gozo was seen on the radar at 10.00hrs and we docked at Valletta, MALTA, at 17.00 hrs.
Sunday 31 January: Malta. Crew did tour of the island by army coach.
Monday 01 February: Malta.
Tuesday 02 February to Thursday 04 February: Malta.
Friday 05 February: Departed Malta at 10.00hrs. Weather warm and sunny.
Saturday 06 February: At Sea (Mediterranean)
Sunday 07 February: At Sea (Crete sighted on port beam)
Monday 08 February: At Sea. Weather excellent.
Tuesday 09 February: CYPRUS sighted on Port beam and at 18.30hrs we anchored in Famagusta Bay.
Wednesday 10February. Departed Famagusta, Cyprus at 06.50hrs
Thursday 11 February: At sea Warm and sunny, and crew went swimming over the side.
Friday 12 February. Arrived PORT SAID, Egypt. Weather fine and sunny.
Saturday 13 February: Suez Canal transit.
Sunday 14 February to Thursday 18 February: Red Sea. Weather hot and sunny
Friday 19 February: Docked at ADEN at 21.45hrs
Saturday 20 February to Thursday 24 March: During this period Ardennes was at Maala Wharf, ADEN and the crew were able to enjoy the NAAFI lido, and some of us did some climbing around the local mountains. We played football against HMS Sheba..and lost 4-3!
On 15 March we departed Maala Wharf and patrolled off Ras Sailan assisting the shore based units chasing gun runners, returning to Aden on Thursday 17 March
Friday 25 March: Departed ADEN at 10.00hrs bound for Colombo.
Saturday 26 March to Sunday 03 April: At Sea- Indian Ocean
Monday 04 April: Harbour stations at 06.45 and we docked at COLOMBO, Ceylon.
Tuesday 05 April to Wednesday 13 April: COLOMBO, Ceylon. During this time the crew were able to relax on the local beach at Mt Lavinia and also visited Negombo
Thursday 14 April: Departed Colombo bound for Singapore. Initially we were escorted by HMS Reliant.
Friday 16 April to Thursday 21 April: At Sea- Indian Ocean. During this time I celebrated my 21st Birthday (17th April) and a crew member made me a silver Key endorsed ’ From the lads LCT Ardennes……Gordon….Indian Ocean ..17-4-60’ (at this date June 2009 I still have this key!)
Friday 22 April: Arrived SINGAPORE, Malaya. At his point the crew were addressed by Maj Cuff to advise that we would probably be here until the end of July.
Saturday 23 April: SINGAPORE. Two local Generals came aboard as well as the Press from ‘Straits Times’.
Sunday 24 April to Tuesday 14 June: Singapore. During this time activity was around Singapore waters and Pulau Brani island. At times some of the crew were based ashore and others on Pulau Brani, and some returned to UK
Wednesday 15 June: Ardennes sailed for the Pulau Tioman islands
Thursday 16 June to Tuesday 21 June: In the South China Sea exploring local beaches, jungle, rivers etc.
Wednesday 22 June: Returned to SINGAPORE
Thursday 23 June to Friday 24 June: Singapore. Given Cholera shots
Saturday 25 June: Departed Singapore for Borneo at 11.30hrs
Sunday 26 June to Tuesday 28 June: South China Sea – Sarawak
Wednesday 29 June: Docked at JESSELTON, North Borneo.
Thursday 30 June to Thursday 07 July: Exploration took place around the areas of Abai River and Sukon Bay. During this time training was also given to Malaysian forces crew on ship handling.
Friday 08 July: Departed Borneo at 08.00hrs bound for Singapore.
Saturday 09 July to Monday 11 July: South China Sea
Tuesday 12 July: Arrived back into Singapore at 08.30hrs.
Wednesday 13 July to Friday 15 July Singapore.
Saturday 16 July: Today we all said goodbye to Ardennes, changed into civvies, and transported to Nee Soon Transit Camp.
Sunday 17 July to Tuesday 19 July Nee Soon transit camp.
Wednesday 20 July: Boarded a Bristol Britannia aircraft flight 111 and left Singapore at 18.38 hrs travelling via Bombay, and Istanbul.
Thursday 21 July: Arrived Stanstead Airport UK at 12.35hrs.. and three weeks leave!!