HMS Tenby - James Bond (You only live Twice)

The following was written by one of our members - Martin Henegan in response to an e-mail question from a 007 fan.


When we first heard that we were to be used in the film  there was natural scepticism that this was a one of those 'wild rumours' that was being put about by some unscrupulous person. Then, when it became clear that it was true, there was great excitement at the prospect  that we would have a visit from Sean Connery and a bevy of voluptuous 'Bond girls'.  Added to this was the rumour that many of the ship's company would be required as film extras and that they would be earning 'big bucks'.

When the advance party of the film production crew arrived we were in Gibraltar after a period of  operation in the western Mediterranean. The film people set the scenario for the part of the film they wished to shoot!  They said the ship was meant to be in Hong Kong harbour in the summertime whereas in reality we shot the scenes off the North Africa coast in the wintertime!

There had been an unholy scramble from ships company members to be on the list of film extras that would be required for the burial party in the scene. When it was realised that the location was meant to be Hong Kong, this caused a minor problem because the crew would have to be dressed in Topical 'white rig' and as it was wintertime, very few people had tropical clothing in their kit lockers on board. The prospect of earning much needed extra cash stimulated much guile and zealous (sometimes underhand) plots to find tropical gear that could be worn. (Talk about beg, borrow or steal!)

By the time it came to the day of the filming we were aware that Sean Connery and his bevy of beauties would not be descending onto our grey steel vessel filled with 250 men so you can imagine the disappointment. In fact there was only one actor,(unheard of before or since) who would play the part of the Captain reading the burial service address.

The 'burial at sea' scenes did not run smoothly. The 'body was not properly weighted so that when it slipped into the water it disappeared beneath the waves only to pop up again a minute later with the feet sticking out into the air. I don't recall the gunfire incident but could well imagine the need to sink the object as it floated away otherwise a passing fishing vessel or other ship would have been slightly worried if they came across a 'dead body' floating in the water.

There followed a hasty redesign of the body bag and copious additional weights were added to ensure it did the decent thing and 'sink' at the appropriate time. Lots of trials were carried out with the body on the end of a length of rope so that it could be hauled back on board if it refused to behave, plus as there was not an inexhaustable supply of 'bodies' it was required to make the trip to Davy Jones's locker quite a few times!

The film crew shot the scene from all different angles and were themselves being filmed by the many members of the ship's crew who were overlooking the quarter-deck area. The actual filming took a day and a half for what eventually lasts for about 30 seconds in the film.

The 'extras' were to disappointed as the mega bucks did not arrive and instead the film company sent crates of beer to all the messdecks as a token of thanks for the disruption they had caused. As you can imagine, this was for the majority of us was no trouble at all, however, the 'film extras' were a bit peeved as they had mortgaged their rum rations and hard cash to get the tropical rig only to find that they had made a bad investment.

As you may be aware HMS Tenby no longer exists as a physical ship, however, she still 'lives on' as an integral part of the lives of those who sailed on her. At the time we did not see her as anything special but the reality is that it is the men and characters with whom we served on the ship that make it what it is in our memories. All of us have an abiding  memory of what was our life and home for so many years and the fleeting glimpse of our ship at the start of the film is always a treasured moment.