12 January 2016

HMS Lizard

Judy Middleton (2001 revised 2012)

It was established in 1941 and formally commissioned in 1942. HMS Lizard was a shore training base and an establishment for holding combined operation personnel before dispersal to other bases. More than 50,000 men passed through HMS Lizard, which occupied most of the buildings at the foot of Grand Avenue, Hove, including Princes Hotel (now Brighton & Hove City Council’s HQ) and the nearby Courtenay Gate. Wrens had their quarters in the Kingsway Hotel. The guardroom was in an old building at Butt’s Baltic Wharf on Aldrington Basin.
1912 advert for the Princes Hotel
from the Brighton Season Magazine

The majority of the personnel trained at the ship were from the Royal Marines but there were also men from the Royal Navy. HMS Lizard was formed under the command of Lieutenant Commander FCM Evans RNVR, by July 1945 Captain P Hordern RN was in charge while by October 1945 Captain WCT Eyres was at the helm.

The men were given intensive training in seamanship and survival skills, as well as the usual physical drill. They were not given advance warning when night exercises were about to take place and were roused from slumber by the sound of Southdown buses waiting outside to transport them to their craft on the canal. Once, when returning to base from such an exercise in dense fog, Dennis Drew managed to steer his craft through the gap in the pier, which had been blown up on purpose in order to deter enemy landings.

In January 1944 the Daily Orders included an appeal for volunteers to go coal mining (no previous experience necessary) and some men did go. On occasions busloads of men went off to help bring in the harvest.

In February 1944 Lieutenant General Hunton, the officer commanding the Royal Marines, came to inspect HMS Lizard. It was bitterly cold with snow. The men were kept standing about on the quarter-deck for a long time awaiting his arrival and indeed some men were so cold, they fainted. The Lieutenant General announced that 1944 was the year.

  copyright © J.Middleton
King's House, the HQ of 
Brighton & Hove City Council
Also in February 1944 a large scale exercise took place lasting eight days. The men returned exhausted and two of them died. The exercise took them as far Portsmouth and Poole but on shorter exercises they would only go as far as Newhaven.

Many of the men went on to man LCVPs (landing craft vehicle personnel), which had a three-man crew plus one Naval stoker. Most flotillas of smaller landing craft were composed of sixteen vessels. In 1944 Major Cadman was in command of 802 flotilla and Dennis Drew was coxswain of LCVP 1013.

Some of the Lizard trained men landed on Juno Beach when D-Day took place and Normandy was invaded on 6th June 1944. On the way back from Normandy on 21st July 1944, LCM flotilla was caught in a violent storm and 29 men died. The casualties included Jack Pattison whose memories of HMS Lizard were sent home to his mother.

On 22nd October 1945 Captain WCT Eyres, commanding officer of HMS Lizard presented the ship’s bell to Alderman AH Clarke, Mayor of Hove ‘as a memento of the happy relations, which have existed since 1942 between the officers and men and the Borough of Hove’. Mr J Ellman Brown of Shoreham had presented the bell to the ship. This was the same man who early on in the war was responsible for the requisition of property in the area on behalf of the Admiralty. It was stated that HMS Lizard hoped to return most of the houses and flats in Grand Avenue in November 1945, retaining just two buildings until the ship was finally closed down. (Grand Avenue was forbidden territory during the war years with the top end abutting Church Road being closed off with coils of barbed wire. With the buildings requisitioned civilians had no right to go there unless on official business). It was also said that the ship’s mainmast would be presented to the Borough of Hove. But there does not seem to be any record of what happened to bell or mainmast.

Copyright © J.Middleton 2012
page layout by D.Sharp