Diesel Weasel
Yorkie and Spud
3 O Boats
forward mess
Opportune
Taff Hartvelt and me
derelict boats

In the Footsteps of Drake and Nelson

I don't remember making a conscious decision to join the Royal Navy, I just drifted into it. My elder brother was already in the navy, so that probably had something to do with it. Richard (or Albert as he was known, after a character in a long forgotten TV drama, The Plane Makers) was also a submariner. I had, along with my school mates, been bussed around prospective employment opportunities in the latter years at my secondary modern school. These opportunities included: the local mill (too noisy), the local tannery (too smelly) and a pit in nearby Selby (too noisy, dirty, smelly and enclosed). The irony of my objections to the above was not lost on me the first time I experienced snorting across the Bay [of Biscay] in a gale force plenty! I did eventually find myself in the Recruiting Office in Leeds being told I was exactly what the Navy was looking for and being streamed into the electrical branch. Had I known what was ahead perhaps I'd have gone to the Scarbourgh Arms next door for a stiff drink.

However, blissfully unaware of the joys of snorting and other submarine treats, I was loaded onto a train at Leeds station on the 7th of November 1972 and bidden a gruff farewell by my father. Before departing home he'd taken me into the front room for some fatherly advice. "Remember son, there are two types of women." That was it, no elaboration; I'm still looking for the other type. I remember arriving at Plymouth station and milling around with several other bewildered young men until a very cheerful, very friendly Petty Officer arrived to herd us onto a lorry for the trip to H.M.S. Raleigh at Torpoint.

I must say that in many ways I enjoyed my six weeks at Raleigh, even the assault course seemed fun...after you'd finished it. I ended up in Stonehouse hospital at one point; waiting to go on divisions I'd nigh-on collapsed, I thought I had a hangover and was worried at the reception I'd get in the sickbay, luckily it turned out I had bronchopneumonia, so all I got was sympathy and a week in hospital.

After passing out of Raleigh (as opposed to passing out at Raleigh) we went on to H.M.S. Collingwood in Fareham Hampshire for electrical training. Things were far more serious at Collingwood and, to be frank, I almost went off the idea of being a sailor whilst there. However there was fun to be had, I particularly remember the Gunnery Instructors (GIs) as a source of amusement. Collingwood, at that time, had one of the biggest parade grounds outside of Horseguards. Having to 'orbit' it with an Self Loading Rifle held above your head for any small misdemeanour during drill instruction was less than pleasant. It was the GIs lot in life to instruct sailors in drill; their sense of humour was legendary, and in truth they needed a sense of humour, sailors and marching are, at best, uneasy bed-fellows. In those less politically correct times one of them got into bother for telling a squad of WRNS to "Slow down girls, I can smell the hair burning" as they marched off too quickly for his liking. The parade ground was sacrosanct, no mortal was suffered to cross it unless on parade. Using it as a shortcut was a risky business. I once witnessed a GI screaming at a bewildered and trespassing leading-hand to "Get that squad of seagulls fell in properly!" The beastly GI obliged the poor hooky to go through the correct sequence for falling in and dressing a squad, a squad which had by this time fled to the skies, before he returned to the drill shed helpless with laughter.

Basic trade training at Collingwood completed, I was left on my own working in the furniture store whilst half my class went to the commando carrier HMS Bulwark and the other half to HMS Dolphin, Gosport for submarine training. I'd asked to be drafted to a survey ship; something about these pretty white ships appealed. The only blight on my quiet number driving the furniture store's Lister (a three-wheeled petrol powered trolley) was being nabbed as part of the Royal Guard for a visit to Portsmouth by H.M. Queen Elizabeth II, which found me once again orbiting the parade ground. However, halfway through Royal Guard training , the 'Big Man at Dolphin, he sent for me'. Grieved as I was to have to leave the gunnery staff of Collingwood behind, and with it the chance to parade before the monarch, I answered the call and was reunited with my erstwhile classmates on Part 1 submarine training.

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