HMS Tiger was an impressive visitor to the Tyne

SEE POWER ... the cruiser HMS Tiger in the Tyne in the summer of 1965.
SEE POWER ... the cruiser HMS Tiger in the Tyne in the summer of 1965.

THEY made quite a spectacle when they came to the Tyne in 1965.

But of all the ships that visited the river for Navy Week that summer, there was one star in particular.

HMS Tiger was really impressive – although it was obsolete before it was delivered from the builder’s yard.

George Rowley

And here she is – the cruiser, HMS Tiger.

You’ll recall that lovely set of readers’ pictures I featured the other night, which took us back 50 years to when thousands of people turned out to see the visiting frigates etc, and a submarine, HMS Onslaught, during their stay at Newcastle Quayside.

Reader John Bage remembers them coming in.

Says John, from whom this picture of Tiger comes: “I was one of four Readhead’s drawing office apprentices who watched the fleet arrive on the Tyne that July.

“We were watching from a ship berthed alongside Readhead’s Quay at 6am.

“It was a gloomy sort of morning, I remember, but we must have been extremely enthusiastic ship-spotters to get up that early.

“The main reason we were there was to see the famous HMS Tiger, which most youngsters in those days would have assembled as an Airfix kit.”

In fact, as impressive as Tiger was, her career was uneven.

She was laid down at the yard of John Brown’s in 1941 as the Bellerophon but not launched until 1945 and not actually commissioned until 1959.

A highlight of her service was in 1966, when talks took place on her between Harold Wilson and Ian Smith of Rhodesia.

She was eventually converted into a helicopter-carrying and guided missile cruiser in the early 1970s, and went on to be scrapped in 1986.

Another reader, George Rowley, remembers visiting the ships at Newcastle Quay.

He recalls: “They had small gangways rigged between the smaller ships so that the visitors could walk from one to the next.

“One vivid memory is of the wicker fenders that they used between the gangways and the ships’ hulls.

“HMS Tiger was really impressive – although it was obsolete before it was delivered from the builder’s yard.

“We also visited the Bents Park and I can recall the helicopter taking off and dropping a swimmer, wearing a wet suit and flippers, into the sea off the south beach.

“The guy showed up again at the Bents after he had swam ashore. He must have been freezing as it wasn’t a warm day.

“I would have been six years old in 1965.”