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Updated: 2015-09-17T07:38:18.182+01:00


Out on the floor


The first opportunity to practice my new found art was not long in coming, the next bop night I went early as to ensure I found the best place to dance, ie: in the shadows. I plied the DJ with a couple of beers to ensure he played the right music, it wasn't hard his family were of Jamaican origin even though the colour had been almost breed out of him.

Well with the lights turned low an almost empty club and the music playing I didn't wrestle long with myself  If was going to dance or not. At first I shuffled around in the shadows as I had planned and felt really quite strange dancing on my own, remember this was a long time ago men didn't dance on their own well not in places I hung out.

The night moved on and the music played, I was very aware that I was becoming more and more like a wet rag, the sweat was running off me, very attractive to the opposite sex.

I eventually had to stop and get a drink and maybe for the first time I took notice of my surroundings, the club had filled up and there were people up dancing all over and the bar was packed, I was relieved that I had not attracted to much attention to myself, but that was maybe because I was a crap dancer or people thought I was having some sort of fit.

Refreshed I returned to the floor this time with less worry and I enjoyed myself enormously it wasn't until the next day that someone remarked about my night at the bop and I was pleased that the sarcastic remark was followed by a good for you.

Northern Soul for beginers


Baggy Breeks and slippy shoes.
The chance encounter with the amaizing dance skills of Bungy Williams was to change my attitude to going clubbing and I suppose ultimately to my self esteem.

I watched Bungy dance around the mess, he played the music really loud, I really should have told him to turn it down, but I was enjoying it myself.

When the weekend came around Bungy was duty so I was in the mess on my own, the others had all gone off weekend. I put Bungy,s boogie box on and played his Soul music, I felt stupid but I was determined to try and dance, it felt so awkward and I knew in myself it must have looked ridiculous.

On Sunday Bungy returned after handing over his duty, I was still in my cabin when he returned, he asked me If I had played his music, I felt like a child being caught with his fingers in the biscuit tin.

I came clean and told him I had been trying to dance but I had given up as I obviously had no talent. We had a good laugh about it, he said he would teach me if I really wanted to learn, I was quite shy at the situation however I was up for it.

So it began, I started dancing in my stocking feet this was to help me glide across the floor

the next stage was the arm movements, followed by the changes in direction. Composure and style was missing, balance non existent. The next stage was with shoes on, this was difficult at first but Bungy put talc on the floor and then I was away. Bambi on Ice, All this and we hadn't even put the music on.

Next step was to find rhythm and the Fred Astaire attitude that would give me the confidence to dance in public.

It was about this stage that Bungy told me I would have to get new clothes and shoes, well I saw what he wore and there was no way!

I took his advice and decided to get a new" going dancing wardrobe" seeing I didn't have one that wasn't hard. Most of my clothes, like everybody else was bought on tick at Bernards Naval tailors, not always the most up to date and hip fashions.
Bungy came with me into town and I got rigged out, I drew the line at the sequence see through top but I got the baggy trousers and the shoes with no soles, the trousers had reflective thread around the pockets of which there was several all totally useless because they were sewn up. I settled for just a normal T shirt at Bungys disgust.
Next time the bop was on in the camp, I felt shit scared but I had decided I was going to do it, I had never had much success asking girls to dance, being looked up and down and the inevitable "no thanks" was enough to put the dampers on most peoples night out.
Fortunately with this type of dancing interaction with the opposite sex is irrelevant. The music and the dancing were are all that was important.




Well here I was in a far off land, work finished most nights about five but obviously there were evenings when I was duty, this involved just fire rounds at first, i.e.: walking around making sure nothing was going to burn, well lets face it we couldn’t sink in a dry dock.

Sleeping was in the accommodation building were all we had for comfort was a metal bed and a mattress. There was a ruined pool table and a television.
Food was cooked in the accommodation block, were the cooks had never had any master chef
classes, but managed to feed us reasonably well.

Most evening I played squash or went out for a three mile run about Chatham. The highlight of the week was the Pembroke hop, all the local talent would turn up and parade there handbags around the dance floor until they got stuck in a small circle not unlike cowboys and their wagons.


I was mainly an onlooker, and in the early days I would watch intently at the mating stomp of the prowling matelots. They also circled eyeing up and down these young girls and of course some not so young who were all labelled with the unfortunate tag “f troop”, most were hardened boppers some were there just up for free drink and a shag, however there was a just a few who had the misplaced feelings that they would find love.(image)

This ritual lasted for at least an hour and probably about four or five drinks, the more talented and seasoned Casanovas would move in and take the pick of the bunch leaving the scraps for the hyenas that had already had to much to drink or those poor sailors, the usual dregs, who were inflicted with language disorders or leprosy.                                                                                        (image)

I had no experience in this game and usually left early having had to much to drink and having failed in being understood as I slobbered my strange Fife lilt over some poor unsuspecting Kentish babe.

Back at the mess, I walked in on Willy dancing to some very loud Motown music.
He wasn’t perturbed at my entrance and carried on dancing; I could just see his open eyes above his smiling teeth. I was amazed at how he moved across the floor and moved to the music, I remember thinking, now here is a master at his art.

Percy the smuggler


             So much to see,and so much to find                               SSN HMs/m Courageous in dry dock My first visit to Valiant was more than a surprise, the submarine was on blocks sitting on the dock bottom, there was umbillical cables and hoses all along her full length, there were safety nets hanging at the very top as if to provide some level of confidence. The interior of the boat was void of nearly all its fittings, pumps and piping were removed, the decks all covered in plywood. electrical panels missing and cable ends terminating in a snakes wedding. There were no toilets and only temporary lighting, being caught short was a real danger, thus during my long hours of learning systems and valves, I soon aquired the ability to climb ladders in a single bound, and I also mastered the art of anal retention, unfortunatly I have since lost that skill.I new she was in refit but never new at what stage, I was soon introduced to a chief who provided me with my next training pack, this was called my part three, it was on completion of this training that I would be presented with my coveted dolphins. The dolphins had to be earned and I found that there were several other new members of the ships company who were at the same stage in there training. This was a god send as the burden of the training was better shared and provided a good situation to find new friends.       I soon got to know the other members of the ships company, all with their own idiosyncrasies, this made life in those early days very colourful, and not a day went passed without some hysterical situation occurring, to many to remember! Valiant was due out of refit the following year, the lack of urgency was a by-product of that knowledge, as the months passed the atmosphere would soon transfer to a feverish state, trying to reach unrealistic milestones getting ready to go back to sea.                                              The ministry of defence police were on guard at the base gates and they enjoyed nothing more than stopping Jack and searching for illegal contraband i.e: fags. One day they got more than they were looking for when they stopped a sailor off the submarine, they asked him if he had anything in his bag, he replied, he had a snake! The policeman thinking he was trying to smuggle took his bag and put his hand in, yes there was a snake and yes it bit him.The sailor was asked not to bring his snake in again; he was not prosecuted because he had clearly made it known of the contents of his bag.The snake was called Percy, when he died he was buried in a snooker cue box, with full naval honours and a good wake to send him on his way.Valiant had been taken into refit early. An emergency on board had  caused flooding in a very sensitive place; she had made an emergency surface in the middle of a Russian naval exercise, well there's a strange thing. The Yanks were on hand to provide the necessary assistance to enable less of an international incident than could have happened or would have been exagerated by today’s press.The dockyard workforce always seemed to be standing around talking, but it was amazing the speed that the engineers managed to put the boat back together, "Meccano" at its most extreme. I soon was able to visually touch things that previously I had to just imagined. [...]

Tail-gate Charlie


TAIL-GATE CHARLIE  From HMS Sultan I was drafted to HMS Valiant, because she was in refit I was billeted in HMS Pembroke. Pembroke was Victorian and had served as a naval establishment since 1903, sighted on the shores of the Medway, Pembroke was attached to the Naval Base at Chatham and was one of few naval bases able to  refits of Nuclear submarines.The accommodation was of good quality with six able ratings and one leading rate to each mess. All the junior ratings from the submarine where in one accommodation block.I joined on a Saturday but most of the ships company where either on duty or on weekend off.Refitting boats only had skeleton crews, this was the term given to having just enough people to do the reduced workload, so It never actually surprised me that I never met anybody from the Valiant until the Monday morning.I ensured I was down at the Nuclear complex in the dockyard in good time only to find that there was no one there expecting me.  I was eventually asked by a very scruffy unshaven bloke smelling of sweat and beer who I was and had I taken all my outstanding leave?, as quick as a flash, I replied no! If they had no record of me joining then I might as well get something out of it! This was an opportunity not to be missed, I later became aware that there is no such thing as a free lunch. I was given a travel warrant and three weeks off. I was still unattached and could have gone anywhere but I decided to go home to Burntisland, as it turned out it was probably the last time that I would spend anymore than a just weekend at home.Apart from the usual faces and old men propping up the bars I soon realised it was a waste of good leave.While at home my well badgered Dad took me out for some driving lessons, I hasten to add he was short of patience and if it wasn’t for the promise of a few beers and a full tank of petrol at the end of it, it just wouldn’t have happened.Driving lessons were not really the name for it, I got fifteen to twenty minutes going back and forward on a derelict airfield.I knew very little about cars but I soon found out what an engine sump was,  I managed to find the only second world war crater in the airfield! It was really just a hole but it gave credibility to the damage caused.I had lit the blue touch paper and proceeded to be told what an arse I was. I never answered back because I would have ended up paying for the repair.My dad and cars were not two words that fitted well together. I remember as a child we were travelling to Yorkshire from Fife, It was like the journey up the Congo to my parents. I sat behind my dad as he was driving, mum was navigator and I was acting tail-gate Charlie, my duties were to inform dad of any cars overtaking him in his blind spot. The scene was set for the journey, we set off very early as not to encounter any other traffic, by mile one, dad was already on fag two.We stopped at the borders for breakfast dad insisted on having soup! Why? The spoon in his hand shook so much there was very little soup getting to his mouth. He said to my mum, he had never had butterflies as bad in his life, he continued eating with his hand shaking soup everywhere, he said he even felt the nerves in his bum jangling! I never did tell him, I was tapping the underside of his car seat with my feet, I would have been dead. Dad gave up driving not long after that journey, he said it was his nerves, I recon it interrupted with his drinking hobby.I returned To HMS Pembroke  after my leave and to my new mess. I was the leading hand in charge of the mess. As I have previously mentioned I was a very young leading hand, I never knew how I was going to cope in my position responsibility, I soon found out the only difference was the increase in pay and the ability to loose it If I fucked up.I walked into my mess, there in front of me was a six foot black guy with a beard, I introduced myself tentatively, after all I had never talked to a black guy before, we [...]



Dolphin was just another good experience on the road to sea, I was drafted after twelve weeks to HMS Sultan, and my training was to continue at Rutherford block the Royal Navy Nuclear training facility, training now started in earnest, I was obviously going to be going on nuclear submarines not surprising really as Diesel submarines were few and far between. Ernest Rutherford is one of the most illustrious scientists of all time. He is to the atom what Darwin is to evolution, Newton to mechanics, Faraday to electricity and Einstein to relativity. His pathway from rural child to immortality is a fascinating one.Rutherford's works ensure his immortality. As the The New York Times stated, in a eulogy accompanying the announcement of his unexpected and unnecessary death in 1937." It is given to but few men to achieve immortality, still less to achieve Olympian rank, during their own lifetime. Lord Rutherford achieved both. In a generation that witnessed one of the greatest revolutions in the entire history of science he was universally acknowledged as the leading explorer of the vast infinitely complex universe within the atom, a universe that he was first to penetrate."Not for him the fame based on one discovery. He radically altered our understanding of nature on three separate occasions. Through brilliantly conceived experiments, and with special insight, he explained the perplexing problem of radioactivity as the spontaneous disintegration of atoms (they were not necessarily stable entities as had been assumed since the time of the ancient Greeks), he determined the structure of the atom and he was the world's first successful alchemist (he converted nitrogen into oxygen). Or put another way, he was first to split the atom. Any of his secondary discoveries, such as dating the age of the Earth, would have given fame to a lesser scientist. For example, the first method invented to detect individual nuclear particles by electrical means, the Rutherford-Geiger detector, evolved into the Geiger-Muller tube. The modern smoke detector, responsible for saving so many lives in house fires, can be traced back to 1899 when, at McGill University in Canada, Rutherford blew tobacco smoke into his ionisation chamber and observed the change in ionisation.The accommodation at Sultan was luxurious compared to the stables, only six to a room and carpets on the floor. I was in with some decent guys and really looked forward to the course.HMS Sultan had a bop every Thursday, it was brilliant as it was always full of local girls looking for a lumbar, and it was the little things that made naval life bearable.Well part two training started, it was all physics and maths, learning the intricacies of the reactor plant systems and even worse learning how to sketch them inclusive of every valve and major component, identifying every one was not easy. Exams were regular and studying in the evenings was recommended. Failure did not mean return to general service so there was no escape from becoming a submariner, it was an option that was talked about. I think everybody on my course was a pressed man. Nuclear physics didn’t come naturally and there were some aspects of the course that I just had to accept rather than understand, I never expected to climb any ladders and with just an average intelligence, I had no illusion that I would reach the dizzy heights. So I suppose I was happy with the situation.  I knew I had a career path and how fast and how much I achieved was entirely up to me.One of my first recollections of Rutherford block was the nasty block petty officer who really enjoyed the sound of his own voice and the power that he felt he had to reign over  those junour to him. He was the worst kind of senior rate, the type who had favourites and treated them with a different stick. I made a conscious decision, I would never be like him If I ever made petty officer..Back to the mess every night a bit o[...]

Submariners Hat


My first visit to the Trot Naval bullshit still happened and divisions or parade was once a week at Dolphin, I had been told that the standards for dress were high and that nothing would be missed by the inspecting officer. I prepared well. Naval cap tallies depicted what ship you belonged to and unfortunately I had HMS Caledonia on my cap, I had not been able to purchase a new one, well that was my story and I would have to stick to it.I walked to the jetty were divisions would be carried out, there were one or two submarines tied up along side, submarine berths are called Trots, I still don't know why!The black fins made a good backdrop for the parade. It was first thing in the morning, still quite dull due to the cloud cover, I expect I was half asleep when I was approached by two (old hands). It was obvious I was on my way to Divisions and more obvious they were intent on interaction, they pointed out , that I would be picked up for my hat, I said, I was aware of that fact, when I mentioned about my cap tally they said no, it wasn't that, they took my hat off and said, it was not a Submariners hat, I asked what they meant, it was thrown to the ground and they both jumped on it. laughing as they walked away "now that's a submariners hat", I saw the funny side of it, I'm sure it wasn't the first time they had done that, and could just imagine them laughing over a few beers.I was inspected, and yes my hat was a disappointment to the inspecting officer. I think he knew from previous experience why my hat was misshapen with foot prints on the top.Learning about submarines was interesting even though I really didn't want to go on one, we were promised a visit to a Nuclear boat but it never came off. In the classroom we learned the basics about hydraulics, Hp air, electrical systems. We were given more detailed knowledge about safety equipment and individual items of apparatus that we would be expected to use. The means of transferring water, and getting rid of the daily rubbish and of course human waste. There was examinations on everything.The best parts of the course was the more individual touches from instructors when they gave explanation of what it was really like, the humorous anecdotes of submarine life, the stories of team work and strength of character required to be part of an elite family.Slowly I felt I was becoming part of that team and even at this early stage of my submarine life I was starting to feel proud and different.A sailors hat is commonly known as a milk churn, pork pie, cap and less endearingly called a lid, generally only called a lid if a sailor was in the shit, "lift your lid" this was the call of the Master at arms or on submarines the Coxswain. Giving notice of impending gloom.[...]

One size fits all


                                                               HMS DOLPHIN              HMS Dolphin home of the First Submarine Squadron. It was built on the sight of Fort Blockhouse. Following the burning of Portsmouth during the Hundred Years War, money was set aside in 1417 to provide protection for the harbour. A blockhouse was first built on the Gosport side of Portsmouth harbour in 1431 after authorisation by Henry VI. The defences were upgraded in 1495 and was armed with 5 guns.The blockhouse was replaced in 1539 by an eight-gun battery under the orders of Henry VIII after his divorce from Catherine of Aragon. The first firing of the guns is believed to have occurred during the Civil War. The guns were aimed at Southsea Castle after Parliamentary troops had captured it. The aim was not good, however, and the cannon ball landed in St. Thomas' Church in Old Portsmouth.The original fort is believed to have disappeared by 1667 when Bernard de Gomme installed a 21 gun battery for Charles II. But in 1708 the fort was rebuilt on an irregular trace. Upgrading was done at the turn of the 19th century, and again in 1845, from which time most remains date. The site was considered obsolete by the 1859 Royal Commission on the Defence of the United Kingdom, and it was turned over to the Royal Navy in 1905, where as HMS Dolphin shore-establishment, it was the home of the submarine service for years. In 1992, it was announced that the submarine fleet would be leaving HMS Dolphin and moving west to the HMNB Devonport. The last submarine left HMS Dolphin in 1994 and the submarine school remained till 1999. HMS Dolphin was formally transferred in 1998 and became known as Fort Blockhouse.The site is open for tours in September as part of the Heritage Open Days scheme. With the closure of Royal Hospital Haslar to serving Service Personnel, Fort Blockhouse is now known as Support Unit Fort Blockhouse and staff support many lodger units.I was billeted in what was once the stables, I don’t think they had changed much since they were originally built, the accommodation was third rate and as such I paid nothing for the right to sleep there. They were still endearingly called, The Stables. Many a night I fell asleep hearing a horse whiney and was quite sure the faint smell of fresh hay and not so fresh dung was still there. After twelve weeks and a lot of scrubbing I knew it was all in the mind!The training for this course was called “part one”, it was twelve weeks long and quite intense, when the course started I had no idea how a submarine worked, it had never crossed my mind! The first thing they taught us was the physics behind displacement of water and the effects of pressure on the hull of a submarine or “boat”, as it was referred to by the inhabitants. The course was interesting and it was well organised with testosterone flooded practical days, Team building days away from the blackboard and books. These included crawling through a blacked out wet tunnel wearing breathing apparatus trying to find a soaking wet dummy also with the added responsibility of finding a particular valve to isolate the water ingress, fire fighting an oil fire in a mock engine room and escaping from a sunken submarine. The latter was the most exciting but also it was the most dangerous.HMS Dolphin is famous world over for its Submarine escape facility, when I first used the tower in the seventies I thought how old fashioned everything looked but that was because I had never been on a Submarine before, I was impressed by the professionalism of the Tower staff who walked about in white towels barking orders, the discipline was intense as I soon found out was necessary. The tower was over a hundred feet high, full of water with compartments on the side of it at thirty and sixty feet. The main event was a submarine escape [...]

Poetry in Motion


A football match was arranged with the locals, it was billed as England against Morocco, the venue was the beach and yes a crowd appeared to watch the game. We were well stuffed by a team of young gazelles in bare feet. It was a very friendly game, in which the opposition goal keeper put on a blindfold, he was so confident we would not score! He was right.Our journey back to the majestic Port of Algiers took us through many historical old towns and cities. I ate food that had no equivalent name or even looked like anything I had come across before. The food was wonderful with many spices and tastes, there was always tea on offer but not exactly PG tips but palatable anyway and refreshing even after a sweaty afternoon in the Kasbah.We eventually left Morocco having greased the palms of the armed customs men yet again to ease our passage. We arrived back in Gibraltar where we stayed for approximately another month before leaving for Portsmouth.There were only a few other recollections from my time on Glamorgan that really stick out, the night that my friend Taff Savage and I had spent in cells after getting drunk on Gin and Camparri, getting drunk was quite normal, cells was new and vomiting all over myself and having to scrub the cell out with disinfectant in just my underpants was soul searching. A ships visit to Newcastle were we marched through the city and were received well by the local ladies, It sure was a highlight, again we got drunk and ended up scrapping with some local lads over who a seat belonged to in a nightclub, It turned out not to be my seat but not before the table was upended and several Geordies were thrown out, we were courteously allowed to stay as it was deemed safer for us by the police. On Glamorgan I learnt how to be a DJ but I was given a crap spot and was asked to leave the job after playing the theme tune to shaft four times in half an hour, well I did like it!There was not to many bad memories however I can remember spending a Christmas eve on the upper deck trying to spot survivors of our ships own helicopter that had crashed, unfortunately there were none.I left Glamorgan after what was only a short draft for a short spell on HMS Defiance the Submarine support Ship in Plymouth, Defiance although still in water had been tied up alongside for years and for all purposes was just like a shore establishment. I was billeted in HMS Drake at Devonport, the camp was enormous and has a vary long history.Plymouth was in many ways the same as Portsmouth but as a run ashore provided far better pubs and clubs, now I was of age and no longer tied down by a station card I could stay out at night and join all the other Tom cats on the evening prowl down the strip.As a trainee at Raleigh I had to be in camp early but now my new found freedom allowed me to enjoy life, most clubs didn't liven up until after ten O’clock.On one of my first nights out I was up for dancing and I decided to wear my seventies trendy threads, a pair of white bags and tight black T-shirt, the night started well and I was up dancing to all my favourite songs, many young ladies frequented this club, well maybe not so young, getting a dance was pretty much guaranteed.The disco was in full swing when the lights changed to a fast ultraviolet flash just perfect for epileptics, I thought it was great especially in my white trouser they stuck out like a pork pie at a Jewish wedding. People stopped and laughed and clapped I thought they were applauding my dancing it must have looked like a pair of trousers dancing on there own!No such luck, I was wearing dark coloured pants and they were showing through my trousers, it was a while before someone told me. I have never worn white trousers since and now have an aversion to flashing ultraviolet lights.One day I was asked by my divisional officer to volunteer for extra duties, I [...]

Indiana Jones and the markets of Marrakesh


The mountain roads were very steep and meandered through the cloud line and onto the snow covered peaks they were just amazing to see. I never thought that I would ever be standing high on the backbone of Africa.The skiing area was no different than would be found in any mountainous country, the time of the year didn’t matter as the slopes were open all year round due to the height. I had never skied before. I persevered all morning and by lunch it was apparent I was not naturally talented. Tobogganing was a much safer alternative and was just as much fun. We stayed at various resorts for a few days before we set of for Marrakesh.It didn’t take us long to descend to the desert floor, the experience was hairy, once down, the road was straight and long we stopped for petrol, filling up two land rovers and several Jerry cans.The petrol station was just a solitary pump in the middle of nowhere, a small boy sat under a blanket awning. He cranked a handle through 360 degrees and I think he was pulling the fuel through from Saudi Arabia; the experience of waiting in the heat of the desert has remained with me all these years. Two hours later we got on our way and a few hours after that we arrived at our destination. The place was just like a stage set for Indiana Jones, commotion rained narrow lanes people in shabby clothing and street sellers every were, it was soon obvious that there was no road etiquette and manners were just wasted on the French speaking natives.It wasn’t long before we had an accident when the spars of a cart punctured the side of one of the vehicles; the damage was minor however the cart vendor needed paying off.Marrakesh was fantastic, the dessert trains had just arrived for market and the place was just hooching with fire eaters, jugglers and magicians there were people chewing glass and walking on fire. Snake charmers were in abundance, there were stalls selling local delicacies and fruits of various international origins. I viewed a man push a six inch nail up his nose, I wouldn’t have ever believed that it was real until he removed his hat and pulled it out again. The place was mind boggling; we stayed there for two days and had a wonderful time bartering for cheep goods.There was two aspect of the place that were not to my taste and that was the amount of drug pushers and also the number of deformed and disabled beggars. The morning we left, our departure was hampered by unseen damage to one of the land rovers a Hydraulic pipe had been split by the impact of the cart, makeshift repairs were carried out and we set off on our return to Algiers, this time by way of the coast.Our next stop was at a seaside town that time had forgot. The chief in charge of our party decided to have his beard trimmed, it was such an unusual occurrence that the barber decided to carry out the procedure in the middle of the main street. There must have been over a hundred spectators to watch the spectacle. [...]

Rotten Teeth and the light switch saga


Straight St, (The Gut)The visit to Malta went well, I enjoyed playing football and also the evening entertainment, there was one regrettable incident that happened one night before we sailed, I was duty on board the ship, it was after lights out and I had just finished doing rounds of the ship. Rounds were carried out with an officer to make sure that there was nothing untoward occurring throughout the ship. The shore patrol had arrived back after there duties ashore. Unfortunately they had been drinking but had managed to elude the officer of the day. I arrived at my mess at the same time as a Leading hand that had been in charge of the shore party. He was the worse for wares and was intent on causing me grief, I was getting changed ready to turn in when he arrogantly switched the light off, I was in no way causing any disturbance to anybody else, and was unable to see in the darkness, I switched the light back on and told him I would only be a few seconds, at this point he switched the light off and told me it was a direct order. The consequences could have been really shit but I felt I was on steady ground so I switched the light back on.At that, the leading hand launched at me; instinctively I punched out in self defence. He hit the ground and never moved for what seamed like ages. The commotion had woken several others who soon arrived to help him to the sick bay. I was stood in my underwear shaking due to the enormity of what had just happened. I could just imagine being court-martialled.There was blood everywhere and some was dripping off my hand, I cleaned myself up in the bathrooms but the cuts to my knuckles needed stitches so I had no option than to go to the sick bay. I arrived to find the leading hand, Fred Frebarro being taken into the ships theatre. The sick bay attendant asked me what had happened as he checked my hand, before I managed to reply, he said, “ by the state of these knuckles I bet you fell down the same ladder as him”! I was so relieved with the feeling that it was all going to be covered up. The shore patrol had returned drunk and the trouble that would have ensued would have been an embarrassment for the captain, the ship and the Navy. Fred Frebarro recovered quickly, although not as pretty as before. Someone remembered me years later when our paths crossed and reminded me I was the person who separated Fred Frebarro from his front teeth, It turned out to be his brother in law who was also onboard Glamorgan at the same time. I was only seventeen then, I am now nearly fifty and have never felt the need to hit anybody since that day. We sailed for more exercises in the Med, returning to Gibraltar on the way home. There was a raffle held on board before we reached Gib, the prize was seven days in Marocco skiing in the Atlas mountains and visiting the city of Marakesh. There were twelve places available, Well I must have been faited or it may have been that I worked in the Fleet Chief's mess and for all my grovelling I was being rewarded. The expedition was travelling in two Nuffield trust landrovers from Algiers into the mountains to spend two days skiing, we past through customs with ease after crossing greasy palms with silver. The first night was spent in a Hotel on the slopes of the the Atlas mountains. The evening meal was quite inedible, watery soup and a slice of unraised bread. We slept in pairs, the rooms were very large, or maybe they just seamed that way, after all I had just shared the same room space with many sailors. I shared a room with my friend Taff Savage, Taff also lost teeth in Malts but that was for ungentlemenly conduct which involved a cigarette and a prostitutes breasts, but thats another story. The room was very basic, but it did have a toilet with a screen to hid any modesty, we turned in early[...]

Malta the Knights and the Gut


Fort St Angelo, Malta, Grand HarbourThe battle with Ollie Reed over, we set sail, the next port of call was going to be Malta were we were going to spend a short time in “DED” a maintenance period, this was to be in Valleta, at Fort St Angello in Grand Harbour.The British had all but left Malta and the Communist backed Don Mintoff was riding high in the local polls. The Royal Navy and Malta have a very close frienship and the local population always come to see the arrival of The Fleet and the welcome was just as warm this time as it always was.Grand harbour was just a splendour to see. The history behind the British Navy and it long relationship with the Island spans centuries and now I like my father before me was also part of that history. The navy was in my blood and always would be, I still felt my heart swelling when colours were sounded and the ensign hoisted aloft.We continued to exercise with NATO country's all the way to Malta, I had listened intently to the stories of Malta and of those who had been there before me, I remembered as a Child I had lived on the island whilst my father had served at St Angelo, the memories of the period were almost non existant but I remembered some small things.First night ashore and my first time on a dghajsa, it was a small vessel, a punt, not unlike those found in Venice the driver only had one paddle and was perched very precariously on the stern, probably not a disadvantage in Venice but was very skillful on the tidal crossing of grand harbour.Never mind the history of Malta, The Nights Templar, the fortifications, the holiday resorts, I was attracted like a moth to a lamp to the place were for decades before me sailors from the navy battleships and frigates had gone on their visits to the Island, "the Gut", the Gut, real name Straight street, and for two hundred yards on both side of a very narrow thoroughfare there was bar after bar after tattoo artist after bar this place was full of woman, woman of ill repute who would for a few pounds introduce you to there daughters. The doorways to bars were very narrow and when within would open out to a usually seedy bar full of smoke with naval ships crests covering the walls. In some bars music would play very loudly and the sound would echo the full length of the Gut enticing sailors to spend their hard earned pounds on woman and marzavin. The top of the gut was patrolled by Naval Provost marshal regulators and the bottom of the street was patrolled by the Royal Marines, most sailors would enter in a fit state but would be found crawling out of the bottom or top in a severe state of drunkenness.My first visit to the Gut was not any different to what I have just described. I arrived with fellow ship mates and started on what could only be described as a pub crawl, it was known that it was impossible to go down one side and up the other and stay on your feet, many had tried. I was in no way a hardened drinker and I could only try in my own way to keep up with the flow of drink, the jokes and dits were spun constantly and the more drink the funnier they became, I lasted for about three hours before my legs gave way and I was helped to the top of the street. Naturally enough I was arrested by the regulators and thrown in the back of a provosts van. It wasn't long before the van was full and we set off for the steps at the harbour, opposite St Angello, we hadn't gone far before I shouted that I was going to be sick, the van came to a sudden halt and sailors fell everywhere the back doors flew open and it was if a signal had been given, there was a rush for freedom and I found myself lying in the van with my head over the back bumper retching.Eventually we reached the harbour and I think the regulators were embarrassed by such a small[...]

British Bobbie's and Red Telephone boxes


My first run ashore in Gibraltar was exactly that, a race to the top of the rock organised by the club swinger. My unknowing preparation around the ships deck I had thought, would stand me in good stead, unfortunately it didn’t, and I just followed the masses on the meandering road to the top. We passed landmarks on the way but I never looked up from my feet, I remember feeling sick and walking at several places, the time it took me was totally inconsequential but I knew I had done it.My memories those days are still vivid as I was achieving new firsts every day.I have a photograph of myself with a palm leave that I had acquired from one of the few trees, a colossal achievement as I was pissed at the time and managed to get it passed not only the police but also the gangway staff. I remember thinking to myself how strange it was being in a foreign country and seeing British policemen and red telephone boxes. Well I never knew it was a British colony!Waking the next morning still cuddling my palm leave I must have looked ridiculous, my problem was I now had to get rid of it. My time in Gibraltar was memorable and throughout my career I was to return there many times.We sailed for exercises with NATO forces in the Mediterranean and our next port of call which was going to be Malta.A few days out of Gibraltar when I was at ends thinking of with what to do with myself, I decided to go and watch A the 4.5 inch turret in action, I had never seen a gun firing and not knowing any better set off to watch. I had a grandstand view from the Exocet launcher deck which was right behind the twin barrel gun. I was watching for some time before I could just hear someone shouting from above and behind me due to the noise coming from the guns, it was hard to make out. Shortly after that the firings stopped, yet again in my career I heard “that man” “Oh shit, would have been My first thought, “You there come up to the Bridge”, I set off at pace to what I thought would be some sort of bollocking, I wasn’t disappointed, the officer who had shouted said he had just seen the top of my head and wondered what the fcku I was doing, it became obvious he was concerned about my welfare, I received a serious dressing down for my stupidity and became the talk of the ship for a few days, I have no doubt that It is still a dit that is being passed from one generation to another!The danger I had faced was, when a gun fires there is flashback from the muzzle and is it quite capable of seriously burning skin, I learnt my lesson and so did the navy, “Teach young sailors to dangers that they would encounter at sea", that would have been the best response, the thought of having lost my good looks and hair, fills me full of horror.I expect the lesson was reported and there were changes to training.Instead of Malta we stopped of in the French Riviera at a small place call Ville France, we anchored off and rigged side lighting, we where then visited by Lord Mountbatten and a young Prince Charles. It was obviously an impromptu visit, we all had a few hours ashore but it was obvious it was a liaison visit. The Cannes festival was on at the time and the Wardroom had invited several Movie stars to visit for a "cock and arse party" I remember well seeing Lord Mountbatten and could'nt help thinking what a mess his uniform was in, but I guess nobody would have dared tell him that.Roger Moore came with several gorgeous followers also Lord Olivia, Oliver Reed, Bridgette Bardot and many other beautiful female actors of the time. Oliver Reed was drunk as a Skunk and he asked to join the ratings in their mess for a beer rather than spend time with the wardroom. His wish was granted probably much to the delight of the officers. He managed[...]

Cinderella Leave


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My first foreign run ashore in the Navy was in Toulon, A very large French navy port, in many ways it was just like Portsmouth except they spoke weird and the beer was sold in millilitres not in pints.
My leave was only ever until 2359 by which time if I was not on board I would be standing at the officer of the days table the next day for consequential punishment, that was normally a couple 
of days pay or even worse a couple of days leave.
It was called Cinderella leave for obvious reasons. The Captain takes parental responsibility for those ratings under the age of seventeen and a half, a responsibility he took very seriously. Not being able to drink and not allowed to stay out late caused a few problems when seeking out the opposite sex but as long as I returned without appearing intoxicated and on time I was alright.

Toulon was behind us and Gibraltar ahead. The ship was to be the Gibraltar guard ship for six months; this meant little to me except that in between a few days or weeks sailing in the Mediterranean, we were alongside in the dockyard.
I had found that getting exercise at sea was quite easy, the ship had its own club swinger, not to be mistaken for swingers club, and there was always competitions for one sport or other, deck hockey on the flight deck was always popular and also fitness sessions that would leave me wrecked. I enjoyed running around the upper deck, it was mainly a wooden deck and providing the weather was fine there was never any restrictions. I used to run for miles but I suppose I could have called them nautical miles. I did Karate some evenings during the week; I found a switchboard room that served the purpose well. The ambient temperature was high due to its location next to the boiler room and I used to be soaked in sweat,
The Chinese laundry were only to happy to wash, dry and iron my clothes, they would be back on my bunk the very next day.
Latterly I had a good re pore with the Chinese laundry men, probably due to my promotion to maintaining their electrical equipment. If I needed something washed and ironed fast I used to pull out the fuses for one of the dryers, they were so grateful that when I "fixed it" I would get anything done and a few beers thrown in as well. It was funny they never had names but were known as numbers, starting at one. The laundry was not very salubrious and they slept worked and ate down there. Most nights they would be found playing cards or Mahjong. The laundrymen loved their time ashore in Gib they were to be found most nights at the casino.

Old Shipmates


Junior Ordinance Electrical Mechanic Second Class and at seventeen there was only one way to go and that was up, I sailed on my first ship and as expected I was sick as a dog, I never got used to sea sickness but the symptoms did alleviate the longer we spent at sea.
For the first time I crossed the Bay of Biscay and I had a bucket attached around my neck for most of the voyage.
I was now billeted with real sea dogs and just like a compendium of nautical books, there was  stories of adventures, of drinking and womanising these were frequent, I got taken in by these old hands and I am sure now having sailed the world over myself that most of there dits were a lot of old cobblers.
There were many characters whose paths crossed from one ship to another and they would recall runs ashore in foreign ports that they had shared and they in turn would recall old shipmates and their antics, stories that would be passed from one ship to another and from one generation to another, this would help the time at sea pass when not actually working.
Each days itinerary was detailed the day before as to exactly what was to happen, this came in the form of daily orders,  and it would be posted around the ship for all to see, in the form of daily orders. Details such as “call the hands” and “pipe down”, dress of the day, meal times and twice a week the evening movie.
Once a month Pay day arrived and as previously, when ashore, we had to line up in alphabetical order and receive our pay in our caps, thank god that eventually it was put straight into a bank account but that did'nt happen for many years.

My duties as a electrical rating were not very trying and it was not long before I started to strive to attain more knowledge, I used to draw electrical circuits for fun and to understand how things worked, much to the consternation of some of the older hands who had just done enough to get bye for many years.

I was made "The mess man" of the Warrant officers mess, my duties included cleaning their shoes, polishing the “heads”, general cleanliness duties, I took to them well and was awarded with  a blue station card for all my efforts,
this meant that I had no normal duties when in port other than to attend to the Warrant Officers, Cleaning spitkids and washing up the beer tankards was probably the worst of the tasks. The toilets were always gleaming as they were made of brass and I spent hours rubbing them with Bluebell.

"Brown Hatter's overalls"


That night ... by TelzeyMy first night aboard was eventful, embarrassing really, having arrived in my mess deck "3P", the letter denotes how far aft you are on the ship and the number is the deck level down from the upper deck. The mess was relatively comfortable but compact, there were men sat in the mess square drinking and playing cards. I was welcomed in as a new member and told this was the greenies mess, I was shown to my bunk and told that I would have to live out of my Kit bag for a while as there was no lockers available.Naval tradition ensured that everyone was in bed by a certain time, “lights out” or “Pipe down” after which only watch keepers would be found wandering the ship. When that time came I opened my kitbag and pulled out my Pyjamas, my mum had insisted I take them, they had been my fathers, "made of good Irish linen and almost brand new",! she had said.My first mistake, pyjamas were alien to me anyway so I think it was the thought of walking to my bed in my underpants in front of strangers, but then again it wasn't as if it was the first time since I had joined the navy. I entered the mess square and approached my bunk, the ambient noise of sailors talking stopped and I became aware of the sound of a running ventilation fan next to where I was going to be sleeping. I turned to get into my bed when the mess erupted in laughter. “Brown hatters overalls and Oh my god what are they sending to sea now a days” were among many other jovial abusive remarks that I had to incurI learnt a good life lesson that night and never ever wore "brown hatters overalls again. ”Thanks mum”, no wonder they were almost brand new. “ Thanks Dad”, you must have known what would happen.I had the middle bunk, of three high, sixty people sleeping in an area not much bigger than an average living room. The ship had several such messes , usually each different branch ie: electrical ratings would share a mess along side electrical ratings. Stokers would share with stokers and so on. The higher ranked ratings would get better accommodation and officers would sleep in the wardroom annex. This was up in the superstructure of the ship. The ship was outfitted for a flag rank officer and his accommodation was sumptuous in comparison to the rest, he even had a small annex for his own bath.HMS Glamorgan was a fine ship and my first job on her was "a lamp tramp” I spent all day every day changing light bulbs. However when we sailed for the first time I had other duties to perform.[...]

HMS Glamorgan


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I left HMS Collingwood with my green pusser’s suitcase and my kitbag. The sum of all my worldly goods, at least I didn’t have to take a hammock with me that would have been too much. I got a taxi all the way to the ship as the weather was not in my favour.
Portsmouth dockyard was a dark and dismal place normally but when it was raining it was just the pits. The many jetties were doubled up with ships, the dry docks were all in use but on a wet Sunday in spring there was hardly anybody to be seen.
The taxi driver knew his way around the dockyard, the knowledge gained over many years, his wealth of knowledge of shipping movement in and out surprised me but listening to drunken matelots on return from the various pubs and clubs every evening gave him a better insight to what was happening with the fleet than most admirals.
We arrived at HMS Glamorgan in good time, I remember just sitting and staring for what seamed ages, my thought pattern was broken by being asked for the fare.
Having disembarked from the cab I remember just standing for a while looking at my first ship she seamed huge, she was shored up in a dry dock there was no grey paint on her at all, she was orange from the bow to the stern, looked like vandals had been tagging, someone had painted right across the stern "R.O.M.F.T.
It was months before I heard the ROMFT said, this time in a drunken conversation, I was to embarrassed to ask what it meant. That would have shown my greeness, I found out later it was “Roll on my fucking time”, it was said commonly by disgruntled sailors if they wanted to move jobs, ships or even out of the navy, on one occasion I heard it used when talking about a divorce.
I eventually managed up the gangway with my cumbersome load the boatswain at the top watched me struggle, I remember the smirk, "Salute the flag", he shouted at me as I arrived at the top, I had completely forgot the naval etiquette in my labours. I gave him my papers, he knew I was coming. Just seventeen I was feeling overwhelmed and he obviously sensed it. He made a phone call and shortly afterwards someone arrived to show me to my mess deck.

Making a pond



I do have a life that is not steeped in masts, cannons, sailing ships and jack speak.

This is my weekend project that has taken many months and not finished in a long shot, it will be nice to keep it as a record and just something to blog about.

The process is boring but the end product
will hopefully be worth all the hard work.
It is a family effort me, angela my wife and my grandaugthter Kayleigh.

Make a slideshow - it's easy!

Choice's, Choice's.



Type 21 Frigate

I joined my next class of trainees and continued through my training at Collingwood, it wasn’t long before I had finished this phase of my training and looking forward to joining my first ship.
The navy at the time was in a transition period and all the new ships being built were much smaller and they were powered and driven by gas turbines this was the class 21 frigate. One day as part of my training we had an away day trip to the Dockyard at Portsmouth we had the opportunity to have a look around one, HMS Active she was very modern and I thought “yes this would do me very nicely thank you, unfortunately picking where you wanted to go was not quite that easy.
It was only a few days later that we were all instructed on how to fill in a Drafting Preference Card, not so simple. This was provided we were told, to provide the navy with the information that they could use to ensure that sailors were, as much as could be possibly guaranteed a choice in there own future. The form was simple enough!
“What naval port do you want? What type of ship do you want? However the form then became like a bookies slip, give your preference in order of preference, is the port more important than the ship? Give your type of ship preference; if your preference of ship is deploying to a foreign port is this more important? The form was well presented and on completion, you had provided enough information for them to put you were they liked! It made you feel that you had been given the choice.
I waited with baited breath to find what square hole they were going to put this round peg in.
Eventually the day came when we were all given our sealed envelopes. There had been lots of hype about the outcome of our Christmas lists and many were expecting to get there dream, that was, to be drafted to the ship they wanted and the port they wanted. I had asked for the new type 21 frigate running from Portsmouth, they gave me Portsmouth which was fine, and they gave me HMS Glamorgan a county Class Destroyer.


I was ignorant of what type of ship she was so I thought that will do me I suppose. Others got there dream but some trainees got the equivalent of a car ferry running from Largs, there was some tears.

Body odour, or just imagination


Returning to the camp was a relief there was now purpose to my life again and the solemnity of the previous weeks was soon behind me and humour was again breaking through the clouds.I was no longer with the same class of trainees as I had previously, they had moved on to different subjects and I had no way of catching up, so, there was now a slight predicament what to do with me until I could pick up were I had left off with the next class.It was going to be several weeks because of the forthcoming leave periods. The list of jobs I could have been given was vast and many were interesting, I didn’t want to be gate staff as that meant shift work and being so junior I would have no doubt had the permanent night shift. I could have been given the harbour training ship; at least that would have felt like a step nearer, actually being in the navy. The armoury could have been good fun, loads of time on the ranges. No, none of these jobs were for me.I started at the “Piggery” the very next morning. Collingwood had its own pig farm, they had dozens of pigs and they all needed feeding and cleaning out. Talk about shit jobs, I had never seen a pig but I imagined them to be a reasonably small and docile animal, I was not prepared for what I met, the most awesome bad tempered porkers in the world, and “shit” you would have to see it to believe it, these monsters threw it out horizontally, sometimes several feet.Looking back there should have been a health and safety induction for the job, they could bite hard, stand on your feet, squash you against any movable or immovable object, they could urinate over you, shit on you and if they were in an amorous mood well, I’m not even going to go there.The first job of the day was to visit each dining hall in turn to recover all the slops from the previous day’s meals and also that morning’s breakfast, it included all perished food, raw food and grease that had or hadn’t made it to the ovens.We then placed the tons of waste food into a container that was poured down a chute were we had to run our hands through it to remove any cutlery, glass, salt sellers or Iranians that might have got into the slop by accident.It was amazing some of the stuff that was recovered from the slop; the slop was then boiled for a long time in a pressure vessel were it was maintained at a set temperature.This was the time when we cleaned out the pig pens, after the pigs had been removed, I must add. Nothing had prepared me for this task; it’s not like picking up horse crap from fresh straw or even picking up after your dog. This was almost biological warfare, all in one overalls, worn, so the legs were outside the wellies, never mind a pitch fork to pick it up, this stuff was just like the porkers had been on vindalloo, come to think of it they probably had been. It had to be diluted with water to get it down the drains; I was brushing, whilst up to my knees in it for over an hour.The most dangerous time of the day was when the pigs were at the troughs, the food when ready was piped from the pressure vessel along pipe work to the many feeding stations, the pigs knew it was coming, it was the time to make sure you were well out of their way.The only good thing about the job was I finished early, however any time gained was lost in the shower trying to be rid of the smell.Eating in the dining hall never had the same attraction again. I always thought I could smell the pigs and I was also sure other people could smell them as well.It was probably just imagination.[...]




After the initial shock and pain of the hospital visit my instincts guided me to be there for my dad, after all I was not in any position to help my mum, only prayer and time is going to provide a prognosis. The first night passed, with no change, however I was told that was good, the days followed on until I had been there for over two weeks, the life threatening injuries were under control and my mum was out of danger.
My relationship with my dad was pretty much as normal, however, I knew he was grieving, after all he had lost the physical and able person he had fallen in love with. My mum had survived beyond expectations and the scars would heal, but she was looking at a life in a wheel chair with the possibility of double incontinence.
My mother had also been in the Navy, having been several years as a cook before leaving to ply her new found trade on the unexpecting public, she was very tallented, she made all her own clothes and unfortunately mine as well as I grew up.
She was a fabulous dancer, very good looking and would not get the chance to sit down if she was at the dancing. She became a very popular barmaid, the best woman darts player in the town and almost unbeatable dominoe player. Betty as she was known was never to be the same again.
I decided to return to HMS Collingwood, knowing she was on the mend and going to be eventually transferred to a paraplegic unit in an Edinburgh hospital.


It was to be a changing point in all our lives.

High Dependency Unit


Arrival in Scotland didn’t have that, “you take the high road and I’ll take the low road feel about it this time”.I met my father at our home, it felt a bit like meeting the Captain, for the first time in my life I was unsure of what I was going to say, I was unsure of my Mums circumstances and it made for an uncomfortable atmosphere, I have to explain, my father had been in the Royal Navy for over twenty seven years and had left prior to me joining, we had never been close and on many occasions I think I joined to get out of his way. We had never had much to say to each other and here we were both suffering in our own emotions.My Dad had never shown any feeling or emotion so he was always hard to measure. Dad was an orphan, his own mother had died shortly after child birth and for many years he thought she had died during child birth. He was the last born of five sisters and three brothers; they were all split up and grew up in foster care and children’s homes.He was in a state, unshaven and smelling of alcohol, he looked like he had not slept, his eyes were bloodshot and he had obviously not been to bed. “how is mum, what happened, where is she,” all the questions that had been going through my head all night were now coming out, not giving him any time to answer. Is she alive?For the first time in my life I could see my Dads eyes welling up. “Mum has been in an accident in her car, she is critical but alive, she has broken her back in three places along with several other bones, she lost a lot of blood through bad cuts to her face, skull and other injuries”. “She is in Edinburgh Infirmary; you can visit any time you want.”I don’t know why, but I was expecting him to put his arms around me, he never did.I arrived at the hospital alone, everything was all a haze but I still remember being asked my age and was I alone. The doctor in charge insisted I should be escorted as it was my first visit and it may be upsetting.Many emotions were entering and leaving my mind and I wondered if I was really mature enough to carry this out, the nurse took me through to the high dependency unit, where I was taken to my mothers bed side, her face was unrecognisable as a face and certainly not of anyone that I had known.Fortunately she was maintained in an unconscious state; even in 1975 the ward looked state of the art and the machines were everywhere around her. I only stayed for a few moments, it was enough!I asked the doctor what was happening and what her chances of survival were going to be, he said “ 50/50 but lets just take one day at a time, if she makes it through the night then the chances will increase.”The next three weeks saw her out of danger but. My mums body had been damaged so much that she was never going to fully recover.[...]

Homophobic Era


Although in training and still the complete green horn, life as a trainee was becoming more bearable, naval traditions and some unnecessary bullshit was still being applied but in general I was having a good time. Evenings were spent at the NAAFI listening to the same music over and over again; Collingwood accommodation had television rooms which were really ITV or BBC smoking chambers, a most unpleasant way to enjoy an evening.Generally after the days class work, I played sport for an hour, shower and changed into smart clean civilian clothing and then it was off to evening dinner. There was a dress code even when in relaxed mode. Jeans and sports clothing was not acceptable, not even to eat a meal.HMS Collingwood had four dining halls for junior rates, the camp had thousands of trainees, thousands into four meant organised chaos, the food was different in each dining room and the menu was always known the day before.It was sometimes easier to take the most unpopular choice just to not have to stand in a queue for twenty minutes. Vegetarianism was not an option in the navy in fact it would have probably been seen as self inflicted injury and would have warranted some form of punishment.While I was there, the camp was being used by the MOD to train up the Iranian Navy. I believe it was part of a package in preparation to selling on our old and spent ships. It was not uncommon to see two men holding hands, or even kissing, part of there culture we were told, but in 1975 homophobia was the accepted normal attitude by the general public, but it was still extreme in the services.Any negative interaction would have been treated most severely, misdemeanour, it would have been less of an offence to have been caught shagging the captains daughter behind the NAFFI.So it was definitely hands off the Iranians.Training was entering its final stages with only a few weeks to go before passing out. One afternoon I was told to report to the command building, it was half way through a lesson on transformer rectifiers and totally unexpected, I was escorted by my divisional officer and we marched together for what seemed like an eternity, my head was full of anxiety and I never spoke, all my exam results had been average or above and I was sure I had not done anything wrong. My divisional officer, who I had spoken to only on one other occasion remained quiet and gave no indication of why I had been summoned, we arrived to be escorted to the captains office were we entered almost straight away.The situation seemed totally bizarre to me, however I knew that there must be something wrong. The captain stood as I entered the room and welcomed me as if he had known me forever, “sit down we have had some bad news” he said, “your mother has been in a car crash and is critical in an Edinburgh hospital”, his face was open and he paused for a second for my reaction, it was as he expected I believe, I burst into tears, I was still only sixteen and control over my emotions had not yet matured.Sobbing uncontrollably he continued to speak, however I had stopped listening. My next recollection was sitting in the guards van, beside the mail sacks on the night train to Scotland, still quietly sobbing. [...]

The Matter Horn


Physical training was still compulsory but in addition I started doing karate, the style was Kyokushinkai. Kyokushin is deeply rooted in the philosophies of self-improvement, discipline and hard training. In this form of karate, students all must take part in hard sparring to prepare them for full contact fighting.Unlike some forms of karate, kyokushin places high emphasis on full contact fighting which is done without any gloves or protective equipment. This apparent brutality is tempered somewhat by the fact that you are not allowed to use a non-kick or non-knee strike to hit your opponent in the face, this greatly reduced the possibility of serious injury. Knees or kicks to the head and face, on the other hand, are allowed.When I took up the discipline bare knuckle punching had just been banned.I continued the training for many years even though club membership was not an option because of my navy commitments. I did however continue to do my training at sea when the opportunity allowed. On many occasions I would be found in the lotus position in an engineering compartment somewhere in the bowels of one of her majesty’s ships. One of the first times my wife met me I had been running along the cliff tops on the Isle of White in my Gi. I must have looked like I had escaped from HM Prison Parkhurst.LOTUS POSITIONPart two training continued at a pace, but lots of opportunities to play football, rugby, go swimming or even canoeing.Adventure training is always part of every planned training period; it gives the divisional system a chance to assess leadership potential and participants to learn team work and leadership skills. Our class went to the New forest were we helped to refurbish an old farm building.It was so cold that on the first night I put my sleeping bag inside a plastic survival bag, in the morning I was so wet inside my bag I thought I had wet myself, when I found out I wasn’t the only one who had the problem it was pointed out that it was because the body moisture had been unable to escape.We slept in tents for the weekend; I shared with a Weegie called Ziggy, why Ziggy, I don’t know his second name was Barber normally that would give him a nickname of Ali. Anyway Ziggy was a laugh and was always telling jokes but he did have a habit of getting in the shit, to wise for his own good! He spent the weekend in the forest growing the most enormous zit on his chin; we actually started a sweep stake to see when it would burst.We arrived back at the camp on Monday night and the zit was still holding out, it was massive and had deformed the side of Ziggys face but he was scared to go to the sick bay incase they lanced it.Wednesday arrived and it was fanny night at the Collingwood club.The Matter horn was now bright red and it looked as if there was more than one head but no peak, but it was yellow all around the tops, obviously full of puss.Ziggy would normally hold the dance floor for the whole evening when he danced, he was good, it never mattered to him weather or not there was woman dancing at the same time.Bye tea time he was in so much pain and the thought of not going to the club was so overwhelming he new that something had to be done, we tried a bread poltis, no, all he did was scream and kept taking it off.In the end we tied him voluntary to his bed; he wanted someone to punch him, that didn’t seam an option, so we agreed that on the count of three I would squeeze it. Bye this team we[...]

A Night at the Opera.


It was 1975, Queen were at No1 with the vinyl single Bohemia Rhapsody, President Ford was trying to regain public respect after “tricky dickey’s” Vietnam nightmare and his demise in the Watergate cover-ups. The Cold War was being hyphenated by SALT agreements and Margaret Thatcher was elected Prime Minister to the disbelief of the Labour Party.Smellys of the year were Old spice, Charlie and Brute, Curley perms were the in hair fashion for men and just imagine how sleazy they looked in the, in fashion, garish, lounge suits.Der-dum, der-dum, der-dum-dum-dum-dum, make a guess at the movie of the year? Television had a manic hotelier demonstrating how not to run a hotel, “Fawlty towers”. And in even lighter entertainment, a man with a cigar was making children's dreams come true. Yes! “Jim L’ fix it”.“Bob Marley and the Wailers” raised the profile of the devoted Rastafarian and paved the way for a reggae explosion in Britain. The Beatles officially dissolved their partnership in 1975.Children’s toy of the year was, “The basic Lego Set”.I joined HMS Collingwood for professional training; this was going to be my “bread and butter” for the rest of my naval career, no different to going to college really but with the added interest of being paid and learning how to kill a man in unarmed combat.Duties were more often and even more tedious, picking up litter in given area’s, standing on street corners and noting which classes were misbehaving while marching and the best one was the fire duty.When you were fire duty you got to sleep rough in a designated building, go to the front of the dinner queue and if required run what in effect could have been anything up to a mile with a tin hat pushing a heavy trailer full of axes buckets and spades and hose reels.There were some other duties, which all included cleaning or carrying out ceremonials, like raising and lowering the flags and opening and shutting gates but none were sought after. The further through the training, the less duties you got unless you had been found guilty of certain misdemeanours and in these cases you got shit loads of duties, one of which was getting caught trying to get your leg over on the camp, I hasten to add there was a WREN division at Collingwood, this was one misdemeanour that was popular but the Camp Captains daughters were definitely off limits.Training began with the absolute basics, ohms law and all the other physics associated with the movement of atoms and collection of charges. I never did physics at school so it was all new and I found it all interesting.AC followed DC theory, then motors, generators and switchgear, class work was interesting and the instructors even more so. Some instructors were young and keen others old knowlegable and humerous the mix was good.We marched between school and every other instruction and in the usual manner voices would come from hidden places and windows "take charge of that class, class leader, get in step, bring that class to halt report to me."Nothing different to HMS Raleigh but now we had to worry about misdemeanours!The Bumpton Fire Department was alive and kicking.[...]