Julian & Keith Best

Julian Best, and probably his brother Keith, served on HMS Gambia for the 1955 to 1956 commission. Keith and Julian dd serve together on HMS Gambia but oddly, I can't find Keith Best in the list of crewmen in the 1995-56 Commission Book. I now know why this is; Keith's full name was John Keith Best but he was invariably known as Keith by people who knew him.

Julian served on several other ships during his time in the Royal Navy. His first was Devonshire, the officer cadet training cruiser, then Triumph, the carrier, that took over those duties from Devonshire, Enard Bay, Mounts Bay, Alaunia, Orion, Barrage, ( coal burner, boom defence, that Julaian wrote was "hard work!!" and "that's when I discovered why they called us stokers!!," Howe, Barbastell ( another coal burner!! Gambia with his brother, Keith on the same commission. Then a "horrible" draft to the WRNS camp St Budeaux, just across the water from HMS Drake, "nine months tending the boilers! Someone in Drake must have thought that I was on to a cushy number, so they bunged me on a plane and sent out to the Med to join Girdleness, the rockets they sent up from that ship put all our Guy Fawkes celibrations to shame!!"

Julian spent most of that commission on the water evaporators, and as the FWT (Fresh Water Tankie). He says that" I was the one who turned the water off to the Somalie showers when they went down for a wash!!!"

Julian explains how he and his brother Keith met on HMs Gambia. "Well, the day we departed from Guzz, I was off watch, and sitting down on the mess, 24 mess, when I heard this clatter clatter of feet on the ladder behind me, I looked round and lo and behold there stood Keith, I said 'What the f*** are you doing here?' 'Well, I done the usual request to join Gambia, as you were on her, and, it was granted, so here I am, twenty minutes before we sail' As it happened, he had made a request to join the cadet training cruiser HMS Devonshire, a few years previous to that, but it wasn't granted.

Left to right back row: Julian Best, Keith Best, front row left to right Scouse McCarten and Brum Harris. Julian is the last survivor from this quartet.

Julian and Keith Best with Scouse McCarten and Brum Harris

There is a M(E) W. H. McCarten in the 1995-56 Commission Book. There are several Harris's in the list among them M(E) B. G. Harris, M(E) R. Harris, and L.M.(E) J. A. Harris. I don't think the man pictured is the last named or there would have been an "L" under the propeller insignia on his arm.

Julian Best and the late Keith Best with others, so who are the other two? Julian can't remember them.

Julian and Keith Best with others

This is a much later photograph of Julian and Keith Best. This was taken in April 1962 at Julian's wedding and was used on Bill's original site by permision of Sheila Best, Keith's widow.

Julian and Keith Best, April 1962


HMS Gambia returned to Devonport Dockyard on March 1, 1956. Before ships arrived home, invitations were sent to parents and next of kin to greet the crew. This invite was to Mrs Rees, mother of Julian Best. Julian also sent Bill the newspaper clipping.

Homecoming invite to Mrs. Rees, 1956 Hmomecoming clipping, 1956

The text from this newspaper clipping reads:

HOMECOMING OF H.M.S. GAMBIA

RELATIVES WERE UP BEFORE DAWN IN PLYMOUTH

Lights went on early in many Plymouth houses today when relatives and friends of men in the cruiser H.M.S. Gambia, which arrived No. 1 jetty. Devonport Dockyard, arose to greet them home.

From 6.30 a.m. some relatives began to arrive at the Fore-street gate although they knew they would not be admitted until an hour later.

Commenting on the cruise, which had taken them to nearly 20 different countries, Capt. Evershed said he was astounded at the hospitality accorded to both officers and men.

In pre-war days, he said, the East Indies Station had a reputation for being hospitable to officers only. But during the last 12 months every member of the ship's company had had invitations to functions ashore at every port of call.