Summary of Service - 1961 to 1985

Supplied by the Naval Historical Branch.

HMS Lowestoft Summary of Service - 1961 to 1985

HMS Lowestoft, callsign "GDBU", was a type 12 First Rate anti-submarine frigate of the Rothesay class all named after coastal resorts, ordered under the 1955/1956 programme and built and engined by Messrs Alexander Stephen and Sons Ltd. Linthouse, Glasgow. Laid down on 9 June 1958, the Lowestoft was launched by Mrs N A Copeman, wife of Vice Admiral N A Copeman CB, DSC the fourth Sea Lord and Vice Controller of the Navy on 23 June 1960, commissioned at Glasgow on 18th October 1961 and completed the following day. As well as being the ninth and last of the Rothesay class to complete, HMS Lowestoft was the 36th frigate to be completed since 1955, when the first post-war frigates of the Blackwood class commissioned.

On completion the Lowestoft called at Portsmouth and Chatham, and then proceeded to Portland on 6 January 1962 for work up before joining the 5th Frigate Squadron in March. On 17 March she left Chatham for five months service on the Mediterranean and West Indies Stations, during which time she visited Gibraltar, Malta, Taranto, Leros, Athens, Milos, Civitavecchia, Barcelona, Palma, San Vincente, Pointe a Pierre, Grenada, St Vincent, Bequia and Chaguaramas, before returning to Chatham on 10 August 1962.

Between 31 August and 6 September 1962 the Lowestoft paid the first of a number of visits to her affiliated town of Lowestoft in Suffolk; the ship also has links with Middle Park School, Havant, Hants. Later in the month she visited Londonderry and the Scilly Isles, before returning to Chatham for docking and maintenance on the 28 September completing on the 19 October. During November and December the Lowestoft, in company with HM Ships Berwick and Scarborough, visited Amsterdam, Harwich, Liverpool, Londonderry and Waterford before returning to Chatham for docking on the 12 December.

On 21 January 1963 Lowestoft left Chatham and joined other ships of the 5th FS for a two months deployment to the USA. The ships visited a number of American ports including Norfolk Virginia, Philadelphia, Newport Rhode Island and Bridgeport and also exercised with US warships. After a visit to Bermuda the Lowestoft arrived at Chatham on 13 March 1963 where she underwent maintenance and repairs until 24th May. On 8 June she proceeded to Portland for work up before joining the 23rd Escort Squadron in the Mediterranean during August. Before leaving the Mediterranean in May 1964 the Lowestoft visited Gibraltar, Malta, Tobruk, Benghazi, Naples, Genoa, Nice, Augusta, Tunis, Istanbul and Haifa and participated in a number of NATO exercises including Triplexwest (October 1963), Moon Tiger (November - December 1963), Eagle Eye and Early Bird (February - March 1964).

Returning to Chatham on 22 May 1964 the Lowestoft underwent a maintenance period before rejoining the 23rd ES at Portsmouth in July. At the beginning of September she was forced to return to Chatham for further repairs after a little incident with HMS Lionwhich were completed on the 23 October. Later in the month she visited Antwerp and in November Gibraltar before returning to Portsmouth in mid December.

During January 1965 the Lowestoft participated in submarine exercises and acted as plane guard for HMS Ark Royal in the Moray firth. At the end of May she accompanied HMY Britannia during HM the Queen's visit to Hamburg. In June and July the Lowestoft visited Harwich, London and Londonderry and exercised in the Clyde area before returning to Chatham for docking and maintenance on 26 July.

In September 1965 the Lowestoft proceeded to the Mediterranean enroute for the Far East Fleet, in company with HMS Eagle she transited the Suez Canal during October and visited Mombasa and Aden. In November the Lowestoft took part in exercise Great Western in the Aden area, eventually arriving at Singapore for maintenance on 4 December.

During January and February 1966 the Lowestoft visited Hong Kong, Aden and Mombasa. On 26 February she left Mombasa to join HM Ships Ark Royal and Rhyl with the RFA's Fort Duquesne, Pearleaf and Tideflow on the Oil Watch Patrol in the Mozambique Channel. The task was to intercept illicit tanker movements into the port of Beira with supplies bound for Rhodesia which had recently declared a Unilateral Declaration of Independence.The Lowestoft remained with this force until 11 March when she left for home eventually arriving at Chatham on 6 April 1966.

After a docking and essential defects period at Chatham Lowestoft exercised in the Rosyth area during May 1966. Between 31 May and 3 June she visited Cherbourg and from 19 June to 1 July Londonderry. After further exercises off Cape Wrath the LOWESTOFT returned to Chatham for maintenance on 16 July. It was about this time that the 23rd ES was disbanded, the Lowestoft one of the original members had spent three years with the Squadron.

At the end of August 1966 the Lowestoft left Chatham to join the Mediterranean Squadron. After calling at Gibraltar she arrived at Malta on 7 September. For the next month she exercised in the Malta practice areas broken by visits to Catania, Mersa Brega and Benghazi. During November she visited Toulon and Costanzia returning to Malta for maintenance on 24 November.

At the end of January 1967 the Lowestoft visited Izmir in Turkey returning to Malta for self-maintenance on 5 February. Later in the month she exercised in the Gibraltar and Malta areas and paid a visit to Naples. In March she took part in exercise Poker Hand in the Tyrrhenian Sea and was employed on plane guard duties for HMS Hermes. Between 17-21 March the Commander-in-Chief Mediterranean, Admiral Sir John Hamilton GBE CB embarked in the Lowestoft for his farewell visit to Athens. During April the Lowestoft exercised in the Ionian Sea and visited Corfu and Split before returning to Malta for maintenance on 17 April. She left the Mediterranean in May and later that month paid another visit to Lowestoft before proceeding to Chatham for major refit. The refit which lasted from 29 August 1967 to 29 May 1970 involved the removal of one of the anti-submarine mortars and its replacement by a flight deck and hanger to operate a Westland Wasp helicopter; the replacement of the 40mm gun by a Seacatsurface-to-air missile system; the modification of the former lattice mast to a plated structure; and the addition of two 20mm Oerlikon guns. The general effect of this reconstruction, which extended to the entire Rothesay class, brought them up to Leander class standards.

HMS Lowestoft re-commissioned at Chatham on 30 May 1970 and immediately embarked on an extensive programme of trials and work up, before becoming operational on the 10 September. Between 16-20 September she paid another visit to Lowestoft before proceeding to Portland for shakedown on 21 September. During November and December 1970 Lowestoft visited Copenhagen, Haakonsven and Antwerp, returning to Chatham on 11 December.

Between 15 January and 19 April 1971 Lowestoft was assigned to NATO's Standing Naval Force Atlantic (Stanavforlant). During this period she visited Rotterdam, Lisbon, Wilhelmshaven, Hamburg and Bergen and took part in exercises in the Baltic and the eastern area of the North Atlantic (Sunny Seas 1971). In March the Lowestoft played host for the Force's visit to Chatham. At the end of her three month deployment with Stanavforlant the Lowestoft returned to Chatham for a docking and essential defects period on 23 April 1971 completing on the 2 June.

On 15 June 1971 the Lowestoft left Portsmouth to begin a five month deployment to the West Indies. As well as an extensive programme of exercises she acted as Caribbean guard ship and carried out Bahamas Patrol on three occasions. Places visited included Porta Delgada, Bermuda, The US Naval base at Roosevelt Roads (Puerto Rico), Anguilla, Antigua, Montserrat, Grenada, Carriacou, Chaguaramas, Dominica and St Lucia, San Juan, Miami, Freepost, Tortola, Saba, Chesapeake and Washington DC. At Washington the Lowestoft embarked the "McCarthy Collection" - one of the largest collections of commemorative pieces of the Nelson era - and took it to Portsmouth, where at a ceremony held on 4 May 1972 it was presented to the Royal Navy by its American owner, Mrs Lily McCarthy. After disembarking the "McCarthy Collection" the Lowestoft arrived at Chatham for docking and maintenance on 24 November 1971.

Under the new Fleet Squadron reorganisation, the Lowestoft was allocated to the 3rd Frigate Squadron and after work up at Portland and a further maintenance period at Chatham she proceeded to join the Far East Fleet, arriving at Simonstown on 13 April 1972. On the morning of 21 April as the Lowestoft was on passage from Simonstown to Durban the Port Elizabeth Radio broadcast a warning that the 12,000 grt Liberian tanker MV Silver Castle which had been in collision the previous day, was on fire and some of the crew were missing. Adjusting course accordingly, the Lowestoft arrived on the scene soon after midday and found a search by ships and aircraft was in progress for the missing sailors. The tanker was lying stopped some four miles from the coast, the entire after part of the ship had been ravaged by fire and the stern section was still burning. There was a large hole in the port side from which oil was leaking. The Lowestoft put a fire party aboard the tanker and then closed her to enable a hose to be passed across the water to be played on the stern section.

As the Silver Castle was steadily drifting ashore it was vital, once the fire was under control to get a tow onboard and pull her out to sea, as once aground it would have been impossible to have prevented large scale oil pollution. Before securing the tow, the boarding party had great difficulty in disconnecting the rudder from the burnt out steering motor as the tiller flat was full of smoke and the heat was intense from the fire still burning in the compartment below.

After the tow was secured the tanker at first proved very difficult to control due to the hole in her side, the list to port and the jammed rudder. The tow had to be slipped and repassed in the dark before headway was finally made to seaward by which time the SILVER CASTLE was within half a mile of going aground. However, during the night slow but steady progress was made out to sea and by dawn the LOWESTOFT and her charge were some 20 miles off shore.

Further problems arose during the next day; first dense fog rolled in and the tanker was invisible for two hours and when it lifted the wind and sea rose and the tow line parted. A new line was passed but the tanker continued to be difficult to control. Help was, however near at hand as the salvage tug Euroman had been ordered to relieve the Lowestoft and at 1900 0n 22 April the tow was transferred to the tug and the Lowestoft was able to resume her interrupted passage to Durban.

On the 24 April the Beira patrol turnover was carried out with HMS Arethusa and the Lowestoft started patrol the following day, but was able to report an incident- free period when relieved by HMS Cleopatra on 22 May.

During June and July the Lowestoft visited Bangkok, Pulan Tioman, Singapore, Hong Kong, Gan and Male before proceeding to the Persian Gulf in mid-August, where she visited Dubai, Bahrain, Kharg Island, Bandar Abbas and Mombasa. In October she exercised with units of the South African Navy before sailing for home arriving at Chatham on 14 November 1972.

After a maintenance period at Chatham the Lowestoft called at Rosyth for briefing and stores before sailing for Icelandic Fishery Protection Patrol on 5 January 1973. During this patrol she answered calls for assistance from two British trawlers within two days. The Hull trawler St Amant had caught the cod end of her trawl round her screw and radioed for help from the frigate's diving team. Divers crossed to the trawler by Gemini in heavy seas and assessed the problem, it was considered however too dangerous to remove the wire but safe for the trawler to make her way at reduced speed to the Faeroes to seek further assistance. Two days later the Fleetwood trawler Ssafa asked the Lowestoft to supply heavy duty cable to replace burnt out cable to her trawling winch. The job proved more difficult than expected and a team of technicians was transferred to the trawler and the repairs were completed in eight hours. After exchanging fresh fish for fruit and bread with the frigate the trawler returned to the fishing grounds and the Lowestoft resumed patrol duties.

On 16 January the Lowestoft was forced to return to Chatham for repairs and was relieved on patrol by HMS Yarmouth. On completion of repairs the Lowestoft sailed for the Mediterranean arriving at Gibraltar on 9 February. In March she visited Naples and participated in exercise Ruler returning to Gibraltar on 2 April. From 30 April to 19 October 1973 she underwent a refit at Gibraltar, on 6 October the ship's company of HMS Berwick then preparing for refit transferred to the Lowestoft. For much of November she carried out trials and rectification in the Gibraltar area, returning to Portsmouth at the end of the month.

In February 1974 the Lowestoft proceeded to Portland for work up, returning to Portsmouth to give leave and undergo an assisted maintenance period on 22 March. Between 22 - 25 April she visited Lisbon and then participated in the NATO exercise Dawn Patrol 74 held in the Mediterranean and South East area of the North Atlantic between 25 April and 11 May. Later in the month she visited Naples and acted as Gibraltar guard ship. In June she visited Wilhelmshaven, Aberdeen and Lowestoft returning to Portsmouth on 21 June. At the end of the month the Lowestoft accompanied HMS Glamorgan flying the flag of Vice Admiral Sir Arthur Power KBE MBE Flag Officer Plymouth on a two day official visit to Cherbourg. After a spell of weapon training the Lowestoft returned to Portsmouth on the 4 July 1974.

Between September 1974 and June 1975 the Lowestoft formed part of the Task Group 317.2 deployment to the Indian Ocean, Far East and South America. The Group was commanded by Vice Admiral H C Leach, Flag Officer First Flotilla and consisted of the command helicopter cruiser HMS Blake (flagship), the Fleet submarine HMS Warspite and the 3rd Frigate Squadron (HM Ships Leander, Achilles, Diomede, Falmouth and Lowestoft) together with the RFA's Stromness, Olna and Green Rover.

In November 1974 the Group took part in the CENTO exercise Midlink - the largest maritime exercise ever held in the Indian Ocean, involving units from the US, Turkish, Iranian, Pakistani and Royal Navies. Because of its flexibility and widespread operations the Group was often strategically well placed at the right time. It was off the Cape of Good Hope when a powerful Russian force led by the modern helicopter cruiser Leningrad passed through this focal area.

Ships of the Group provided food, clothing, shelter and medical assistance after a cyclone in Mauritius and were ready if required to evacuate British nationals from Cambodia and Vietnam and to assist in the aftermath of the Darwin cyclone disaster.

For the last five weeks of its deployment the Group was enlarged when it was joined by the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal the guided missile destroyer HMS Hampshire and three RFA's for visits to Brazil and exercises with the Brazilian Navy. When the Group returned to the UK on 11/12 June 1975 it had exercised or trained with units of 14 foreign and commonwealth navies, taken part in major CENTO and SEATO exercises and visited more than 30 ports.

The Lowestoft underwent docking and maintenance at Portsmouth completing on 1st August 1975. After weapon training in the Portland area she took part in exercise High Wood in the Rosyth area followed by a visit to Aberdeen between 7 - 13 October. Later in the month she exercised in the Moray Firth with HMS Ark Royal returning to Portsmouth for maintenance on 24 October. In November she visited Hamburg and after a further maintenance period at Portsmouth arrived at Rosyth on 15 December to prepare for an Icelandic Fishery Protection Patrol.

The Lowestoft left Rosyth for Icelandic waters on the 18 December 1975; on 18 February 1976 she was in collision with the Icelandic gunboat ICGV Thor necessitating her return to Portsmouth for repairs which were completed in April. The Lowestoft returned to Icelandic waters in May when the Hull Trawler Primella came under fire from ICGV Aegir, the frigate went to her aid and the trawler was escorted unscathed back to the comparative safety of the fishing fleet. The Lowestoft returned to Portsmouth on 23 May.

Between 25 - 30 June 1976 the Lowestoft visited Bridgeport (Connecticut) and on 4 July she together with HM Ships Bacchante and bi-centeary London were among 50 ships from 21 nations taking part in an international naval review for the US bi-centennial celebrations off New York. The Lowestoft returned to Portsmouth on 16 July.

After a period of weapon training the Lowestoft participated in the NATO exercise Teamwork during September and later in the month paid a visit to Lowestoft, returning to Portsmouth on 29 September.

Between 11 October 1976 and 5 September 1977 the Lowestoft underwent a major refit at Portsmouth to prepare her for her new role of trials and training ship. Following post refit trials she was re-commissioned on 21 October 1977 and sailed for sea training at Portland. After defect rectification she spent the rest of the year conducting trials in the Mediterranean returning to Portsmouth on 16 December.

Between January and May 1978 the Lowestoft was engaged on trials in the Madeira and Biscay areas, she was at Chatham for Navy days at the end of May and in June conducted trials in the South-Western Approaches. At the end of July she paid another visit to her affiliated town of Lowestoft returning to Portsmouth in August to give leave and to undergo maintenance. September was spent on shakedown at Portland and in October she visited Liverpool and Falmouth. During November and December she underwent a docking period and essential defects period at Falmouth returning to Portsmouth on 16 December.

In the early part of 1979 Lowestoft again spent a large proportion of her time engaged in trials, during which period she paid visits to the towns of Sete and Allassio before returning to Portsmouth in August. On 12 October Lowestoft sailed for Portland for a period of sea training on completion proceeding to Amsterdam for a short visit. In the latter half of 1979 and the first three months of 1980 the Lowestoft was engaged in further trials interspersed with visits to Madeira, Gibraltar, Grimsby and the Azores.

Lowestoft spent the majority of 1980 in Portsmouth Dockyard and a 12 week DED continued on for 6 months. The ship now laden with more trials equipment sailed for the Western Approaches in January 1981.

In the first five months of 1981 the Lowestoft was engaged in trials in the Madeira area. The ship returned to Portsmouth in May and proceeded on a further series of trials in July. The ship underwent a long awaited COST at Portland followed by a visit to London in October. Her trials continued on into 1982 and were proving enormously successful and prepared the Lowestoft well for further Towed Array development.

The invasion of the Falkland Islands by the Argentineans in April 1982 changed the role of the ship and during the conflict was employed as the Ascension Island guardship. Despite there being no military threat in this area the Lowestoft was engaged, amongst other things in providing a ferry service between Ascension and St Helena as their ferry had been requisitioned for duty off the Falklands. The remainder of the year saw the ship undergoing docking and maintenance in Portsmouth and a series of minor trials. A serious hull fracture in November cast a shadow over the ship's future but it was decided to retain Lowestoft and repairs were affected in time for an exercise in April 1983.

In May 1983 Lowestoft visited Newport, Rhode Island followed by visits to La Pallice in June and Ghent in November. During this period the Lowestoft continued to conduct further Towed Array evaluation and operational analysis. However, more fractures appeared and curtailed the ship's performance and the ship underwent a DED in Portsmouth lasting until April 1984.

Following a period of sea training at Portland in May 1984 the ship visited Guernsey and Gibraltar. She underwent a Towed Array operation in the Mediterranean during June and followed with a visit to Monaco in July. Later on in July the Lowestoft paid what was to be her last visit to her affiliated town of Lowestoft. In September the ship left Portsmouth for a fleet trial in the North Atlantic in which time she visited Glasgow. In November on the Lowestoft's return to Portsmouth a decision was finally made to dispose of the ship as a previously planned refit was not considered cost effective.

In January 1985 the Lowestoft visited Tromso and after an ASW exercise in February paid visits to Madeira, Las Palmas, Lisbon and Casablanca. She returned to Portsmouth on the 29th March and following a Decommissioning ceremony was paid-off on the 31st March 1985.

Commanding Officers - 1961 to 1985

  • Commander R D Lygo RN 5th SEP 1961
  • Commander MWG Fawcett RN MAR 1963
  • Captain J D Treacher RN 7th DEC 1964
  • Commander EMG Johnstone RN 7th MAR 1966 (until May 1967)
  • Commander D H Morse RN 25th MAR 1970
  • Commander MC Powys-Maurice RN 8th NOV 1971 (TASO during 1st Commission)
  • Commander PGV Dingemans RN 12th OCT 1973
  • Commander T Goetz RN 3rd SEP 1974
  • Commander RM Carpendale RN 21st NOV 1975
  • Commander T J Smy RN 2nd AUG 1977
  • Commander Jimmy Chestnutt RN AUG 1979
  • Commander Charles.H. Buckle RN May 1981
  • Commander W Kim Howat RN Jan 1983