Dennis Cambell regarded his 18 months in command of the fourth Ark Royal, as the high point of his life in the Navy.
Principal Officers, First Commission HMS Ark Royal IV
|Captain||DRF Cambell, DSC ||Captain|
|Commander ||CWS Dryer, DSO DSC ||2nd in Command|
|MF Fell, DSO DSC ||Air|
|JG Cannon ||E|
|JK Watkins OBE||S|
|Instructor Cdr. ||AJ Bellamy|| |
|Surgeon Cdr.||FW Baskerville|
|Lieut. Cdr.||CA Johnson DSC||1st Lt.|
|WHP Loftie DSC||Mate of the Upper Deck|
|Captain||C Oldham RM||OC RM|
|Lieut. Cdr.||P Gordon-Warren||ABCD|
|Shipwright Lt. Cdr.||CWA Ruffell MBE|
|Surg. Lt.Cdr. ||G Pleasant||Dental|
|CO 898 ||Pearce ||Squad. Lt. Cdr.|
|CO 800 ||Lygo||Squad. Lt. Cdr.|
|CO 891 ||Birrell||Squad. Lt. Cdr.|
|CO 824 ||Honeywill||Squad. Lt. Cdr.|
|CO 849||Ashworth||Flight Cdr.|
First Captain of the Ark Royal IV (DRFC's own account)
"The Ark, launched by the Queen Mother in 1951 was not the first of her class of Fleet Carrier. She was preceded by HMS Eagle, the only other 50,000 tonner ever build for the Navy. Eagle had been first commissioned in 1952 and at that time she showed little improvement except sheer size over her predecessors, Victorious and Indomitable and the earlier carriers. Overcrowding in the messdecks has caused some disaffection and what with one thing and another, she got the reputation for not being a very happy ship.
So when we came to commission the Ark, there was an implicit requirement for me to show that large as she was, it was possible to produce a much better result in terms of ship spirit esprit de corps or whatever tha out sister ship had been able to do. In taking on this task I had several advantages. The first was that, with the example of the Eagle in mind, the appointing department in the Admiralty had hand-picked all my senior officers; and they proved to be a first class team, which meant I felt quite happy to delegate freedom of action to them without any fear that I might be let down. Chief of these was the second in command Christopher Dryer, who had stood by the ship for many months while she was completing, and who had been able to obtain several improvements in messdeck layout and other important features which would help to make life easierfor the 2500 ship's company.
The second plus point that we started with lay in the fact that the ship would be fitted with two entirely new devices which were to revolutiionise the operation of th aircraft from carriers, the Angled deck and the Mirror landing sight. And just as important but not so obviously novel were the two steam catapult, replacing the old hydraulic type which had been standard for a long time.
Finally there was the name - Ark Royal, which thanks largely to Lord Haw Haw had been a household name since 1939.
So with these and other points in mind, it was not difficult to instil the ship's company with the feeling that we were about to embark on something special; and this purpose was underlined and enhanced by a carefully gauged public relations policy.
The commissioning Service was held in the main hangar on 25 February 1955 while still in the Birkenhead Cammel Laird basin; and a few days later we put to sea for the official acceptance trials, which took place in the Firth of Clyde. The final item was a full speed trial for eight hours non-stop, and it virtually involved coiling down 240 sea miles in that fairly restricted body of water. However, all was well and I duly signed the take-over certificate.
The next eighteen months were to be the high point of my time in the Navy. Although I reached a higher rank later on nothing could ever equal the extraordinary feeling of power and responsibility which lay with me while I was in command of this Behemoth. Whether I achieved all that I set out to do, I cannot know for sure. All I do know is that when I finally left I felt pretty good about it, very unlike some other posts I had held."
This is a painting by DRFC of the Ark in Liverpool, painted in the 1980s.
The Ark from a five-year old's perspective.
My memories of the Ark include the smell, (industial, oily, mechinery and mashed potato!), the noise, ( a constant hum) and having to learn to go down steps backwards. I also remember the day the Queen Mother came to visit. As a five year old I was not allowed to see her, and some poor wren was given the task of babysitting me. As compensation for missing out on the royal company I was allowed to have mustard with my lunch which for some strange reason was considered 'unsuitable' for a child in those days. As I had little idea who the Queen Mother was this seemed like a reasonable deal to me at the time. However, after lunch the Queen Mother asked to be taken up to the Bridge, which is where I had been taken, so I met her anyway. I felt I had done particularly well out of the day: mustard and the Queen Mother! LDC