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Author Topic: Nautical "Strange but True!"  (Read 137932 times)

Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #175 on: July 08, 2008, 08:34:39 PM »

I am sorry and all that, but I have blundered about the brass wheelhouse. "Tidereach" did have a bridge-front bulkhead of brass so no porkies there, but the brass deckhead was on another and much later ship. The post from Gary-M got me thinking. Sorry for all that. I am not used to grovelling, but in this case...... oops.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #176 on: July 08, 2008, 08:40:04 PM »

If the pic comes up then this is what an "old" Tide looked like:-
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #177 on: July 12, 2008, 07:45:34 PM »

The trip south was uneventful ( busy, but nothing unusual) until we got somewhere a bit North of Dakar. Trillions of fishing boats. A real obstacle course especially at night. 48 hours to get through them. These were not your little local boats, but real big ones from Bulgaria (explain that one), Spain, Russia and Korea. No wonder there are no fish left in that area..
Then the "highlight" of the trip. During my daily check of the gyros (one forward, and one aft) it was pretty clear that "something" had affected them. Perhaps "infected" would be a better word. As I have said before, these machines were really robust. They were also housed within a socking great steel framework. So it intrigued me that the aft compass was bouncing up and down a bit...the Sperry only twitched from side to side. Didn't like that much so I shut it down and "locked" it and reported to Choff. Then went to check the forward one. This one was beginning to both bounce and oscillate. Odder and odder. Called Choff again and he came to watch. At first it was amusing, as one seldom gets to see a gyro compass (especially a heavyweight like the 1005) going off its trolley. But as we watched this thing began to go berserk and was getting dangerously violent. Choff reckoned that if this thing broke loose it would go through 3 bulkheads before it stopped. "Turn it off", he ordered, and then skedaddled. Its the way of the world that the main power supply breaker had to be behind the blasted thing. Still, had to be done. Takes a couple of hours before one of these beasts comes to rest...but no harm done. So now we had no gyros and were going to have to rely on the magnetic one. As usual, the RN have a cunning plan for every contingency. This one is quite simple. A frigate pulls in front of you, steamms a steady course and you (we) tuck in behind and compare courses. I imagine that this procedure is all well and good for these warships that have basically "novice" bridge watchkeepers, but it really taking things a bit far when these children are trying to teach us how to steer a course without a gyro. I got my own back by taking moonlight star sights and giving a 3am position to them. Shortly afterwards the silly "compass checks" were abandoned.
I think I mentioned a long time ago about the RN method of going fishing. Lob a few HE things into the water and then go in and collect whatever comes up. Not nice, but effective and all a welcome change to the menus. A bit spectacular to watch.
But back to the Island visits. I had been to Ascension a couple of times before in my C&W days. Back then it was mainly a relay station with a small military "airport" (1962ish) and a small NASA tracking station. A launch from Cape Canaveral could be seen overhead from Ascension 20 minutes after launch. Some going. But now in 1972/3 the whole place had been "upgraded" and the airport was pretty big, with a lot of USAF and RAF activity. I guess the RAF were involved because of the upheavals in Africa at the time...so what has changed?...
The fishing off the shelf that surrounds the Island is fantastic. Not a fisherman myself, but I enjoy eating the catch. The Island is also home to the "Wideawake Petrel", and the airport is named after it. Ten years later I found out that it was inaptly named.
The "Bish" having said hello,we went on to Tristan da Cunha. Another tall and volcanic island. (Those of you of my age may recall the evacuation of the island). The "town" still looks like a lot of allotments with pigeon crees, but the crees are the houses. Apretty independent lot of folk.
But St.Helena is the jewel.
Dinner time.
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MikeK

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #178 on: July 13, 2008, 10:02:04 AM »

Just caught up on your reminiscing of the RFA Tidereach Bryan and have started to get stirrings in the grey matter (albeit small - nothing to worry about !) I did three months probationary third mate on her around 1972/3. We went over to Vieque (spelling ?) in the  American Virgin Islands along with HMS Bulwark and the RFA Resurgent (aka Detergent). In front of me now is a photo of all three during a RAS that the Navy photographer took from a helicopter. The Old Man was a Scotsman whom I didn't really hit it off with, I found it hard to lose my ex China Coast habit of mixing it in with traffic which was a no-no in the RFA apparently, and oh boy did he let me know it !!. This all has a familiar ring to it so either we have talked of it before or I have been on some other forum - I did say the brain cells were only slightly stirring  :D :D. I left the RFA at the end of that trip partly through my relationship with said skipper and partly to try and swallow the anchor - I had been married less than a year at the time. (Eventually coughed the damn thing back up again !)

regards

Mike
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MikeK

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #179 on: July 13, 2008, 07:17:13 PM »

This is where I get the feeling we have talked about it before - was it that cabin at an angle aft stbd side of the housing ?
I have a feeling that she had recently returned from a Beira Patrol when I joined

Mike
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #180 on: July 15, 2008, 06:34:05 PM »

This is where I get the feeling we have talked about it before - was it that cabin at an angle aft stbd side of the housing ?
I have a feeling that she had recently returned from a Beira Patrol when I joined

Mike
Yes, we have. I also recall that I mentioned that the "triangular" cabins were later given to the R/Os. But I would still like to "meet" the plonker who decided to fit filing cabinet drawers (steel) without a locking arrangement, the same person also arranged for all mirrors to be of polished stainless steel. Nobody looks good in the mirror first thing in the morning, but the unrecognizable gargoyle can really undermine ones self esteem. Of course, it was free and one didn't have to pay to "laugh" at a twisted image in a fairground.
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yewmount

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #181 on: July 15, 2008, 06:58:56 PM »

Hazards of a regular run.

After giving up 'blue water sailing' I turned to the coastal trade. While serving on two regular runners I discovered the following.
First. on the m/v "Darlington" of AHL sailing out of Goole to Copenhagen with Carlsberg empty crates and returning with fulls one of the crew was in an embarrasing position. Anyone who has navigated the Ouse near Goole will know of the low-lying land and it is disconcerting to look down on rooftops from the ship's bridge. Hanging from one house window was a large white sheet- a signal to the crew member not to come home as his wife had her "monthlies" :embarrassed: Needless to say he got a transfer.
Second. While on Ellerman's Wilson Line's s/s"Volo" on a regular run from Hull to Oslofjord we sailed at 6pm every other Friday arriving Oslo just after noon Sunday. As it happens a VLCC ore carrier sailed from Trondheim for Immingham and our paths crossed at 11a.m. Saturday morning. Although he had to give way to us he never did.  >>:-( We reported him but to no avail.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #182 on: July 15, 2008, 07:55:15 PM »

St.Helena.
On the approach it looks very forbidding. Just lots of very high cliffs withe one little "slot" where the landing stage is. This then leads into a surprisingly pretty little town. But within those encircling cliffs is another world. I know that this is not supposed to be a travelogue, but this place is fascinating. To see places like this and also be paid to do so.....well, can't get better than that ,can you.
St.Helena was always a "stopping off point" in the days of sail, so it isn't really surprising that all sorts of trees, veggies, flowers and so on were seeded here...and thrived. A "natural" Kew Gardens. Also, nowhere to build an airport (Good!).
I haven't a clue where the Bishops house is, but the Governors house is quite stately in a very old "colonial" style. We (the chosen ones) went there for a reception and dinner. Not very far from the Governors house is the house that Napoleon was "housed" in. This is certainly not a prison. (I imagine that the island itself was the prison). The "real" prison on St.Helena is a very small "one bed" wooden building..and why not, a large "privy" really for the very occasional miscreant. The wallpaper in Napoleons "house" is still the same arsenic impregnated stuff that was common in those times. (So no conspircay there).
The reception and Dinner at the Governors place followed the usual pattern until it came to the time for the women to retire. That was a bit of a reversal....but this is St.Helena and "things" were different here. We, the males, were escorted out of the dining room and on to the large lawn where, apart from grass and so on, were 3 large boulders. Walking around. Very slowly. These were the 3 Tortoise that had been there since Napoleons days. These things were "big". Local custom has it that visiting guests to the "residence" are obliged to widdle on them after dinner. I assume the the Queen declined. But all this "widdling" over the years must account for their funny colour and algae growth. This world never ceases to amaze me with odd little things like that.
But there is a more sobering side to St.Helena. As I mentioned, the island was a "stopping off" place. Voyages to Australia, India and China and then in reverse. Many people died en-route. The deaths of young women going out to India to be married. The deaths of young soldiers wounded in India etc. All burried in one of the saddest graveyards I have ever visited. I shall always remember my few days on this magical island.
But then we were off again. This time to Capetown. Well, not really. Capetown then was not politically "acceptable" but we did have good reason to be there. Gyro compasses. The RFAs are officially designated as "merchant ships" and so we were allowed to anchor off Robbin Island. Mandela must have been in there at the time. Our new compasses had been flown out and were to be fitted by an "expert" whilst we were at anchor. All this stuff was delivered along with the "expert" who never stopped moaning about being aay from his family and complaining about the impossibility of re-building 2 gyros while on a rolling ship. I agreed with him on the second part, but no sympathy on the first. Of course, I was still obliged to do my anchor watches so I had those as well as the wimp to contend with. But there was a huge compensation. Capetown (their summer) is hot. The sea is very cold. Fog. Every morning there would be a very thick layer of fog limiting visibility to about 50 ft at water level. But from the bridge level I could see forever. The bridges and masts of all the other ships with this "cloud" under them. Wish I had a photo. Eventually the compasses were done and Mr.Wimp flew back home. And we trotted off for our stint on the Beira Patrol.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #183 on: July 16, 2008, 07:01:36 PM »

The Beira Patrol was as uneventful as you would expect it to be. People pay fortunes to cruise around exotic places, but us "pros" just find it all a bit of a pain in the tripes. Apart from the now and again re-fuelling of the frigates and whichever carrier needed a "top-up" there really wasn't much to do. The highlight of the week was always the "fly-past". A Hercules, a Victor or Gannet...but they came to drop our mail. A little red "box" with a parachute on it. At least we were not forgotten. But sheer boredom set in. Forget Portland and all that stuff. This is when the crew decided to fill a bathroom with water (as I told yonks ago) and "go fishing". I converted "my side" of the wheelhouse into a model boat building area. I think that the only memorable thing was seeing "Bencruachan" coming slowly past with her bow section at a funny angle.
Every now and again the frigates would gather around us and the various ships would host little soirees. These little social events were a great morale booster as the frigates were just as isolated as us. We used to host "pub lunches". This, alas, did not apply to the crew as being Maltese were not really into this inter-ship thing. Although only supposed to last for perhaps a couple of hours, it was not unusual for these very sober gatherings to last until sunset. The RN reciprocated by holding "sundowners". A gathering of the "brass" on top of their little bridges. Being just a lowly 2/O I was never invited to one of these. But it was always chuckle-making to see all (perhaps a dozen) of these guys trying to keep from falling off the bridge tops without losing dignity. Of course it had to happen. And it was our Captain. A rough and ready "casevac" was done. A badly damaged leg that needed some TLC. Of course it was just serendipity that we (Capt. and me) had completed our sentence and were due for parole. The nearest place to put the pair of us ashore was the Seychelles. How sad. At this time (just after Sunderland had won the Cup) the airports in Kenya and Uganda were not considered safe for UK nationals. And the only "safe" flights out of the Seychelles were 10 days apart (by Brutish Caledonian VC10s)...and we managed to mis the flight by 6 hours. Again, how sad. So thank you all for my 10 day holiday in the Seychelles. The flight back was remarkable in that there were only a dozen passengers...so we were all upgraded to 1st class. The re-fuelling stop was at Addis Abbaba...never realised that the airport was so high above sea level. But that was my final farewell to the "Tidereach" and good riddance. BY.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #184 on: July 17, 2008, 05:13:57 PM »

After leaving Tidereach and getting used to normal humanity again (stuff like wearing clothes and speaking a recognizable form of English and so on) I was a bit miffed to get a call from Mod (apologetic, I grant you) asking if I would "mind" breaking my leave and do a "few weeks" on RFA "Reliant". Well, this was better than doing yet another "course"....and I wouldn't even have to go to sea on her as she was laid up in Rosyth awaiting a decision on her future. Rosyth is not my favourite place and the dockyard is certainly not pedestrian friendly...and the pubs are miles away. But when I got an assurance that my leave would accrue as if I were on a "deep-sea" voyage, and would be added on to my already handsome leave due I agreed. (Does one ever really get a choice in these matters?).
"Reliant" was a lovely oldish cargo ship originally owned by Ropners and used both commercially and as a cadet training ship. But the RFA had been a bit more sympathetic to her than was the case with "Resurgent". Totally different ships anyway, as "Resurgent"s sister ship was "Retainer". I'm sure I posted pics of them all some time ago. The ship (again) had a full Chinese crew, and an almost complete complement of officers including "Stonnery". So therefore she was loaded and kept ready for sea....even though she was "laid-up". MoD had stipulated that there would be no wives spending weekends on board...probably one of their more perspicacious rulings. We were berthed on the "outer wall" so had no shelter. Not to worry...it made our comings and goings easier (see later). We had two "legends" aboard as Captain and Ch.Engineer. The Capt. was a smashing elderly guy called Bonshaw-Irwin. He had been massively decorated during WW2, particularly for his part as a nav. during one of those famous raids into a French harbour to blow up the locks and so on. I really cannot recall now which one it was. The Ch.Engineer was an "import" that came with the LSLs from the MoT. "Davey" Crockett. He was about 5' tall and about the same in width (an Glaswegian to boot, although he had lowered the tone of rural Kent by moving there). He really was as strong and belligerent as he looked. His "man-management" was a barked order (incomprehensible even to a Geordie), followed by the original clunking fist. He got his way. His "hobby" was cooking. In the Officers Bar. The ingredients were almost always rabbit, that he used to hunt during the night within the dockyard. Then cook, and wake up as many officers as he thought fit at about 2.30am to come and eat the bessed stuff. No-one dared refuse. Funnily enough, he was really a very kind man...apart from his "quirks". The Captain had a much more subtle way of getting his own way. On the other side of our berth (within the harbour) was the more or less permanent berth of HMS "York" (DLG). Naval ships and their routines are for some reason very loud and lengthy, and start ridiculously early in the morning. Bonshaw needed his sleep. So he quietly cultivated the friendship of FOSNI (Flag Officer Scotland and Northern Ireland) by many invites to "tea". FOSNI loved this, and used to come in his official car with his flag flying, feint towards "York" (which always caused panic) and then trot up our gangway to greet the (well dressed) Chinese QM on our gangway. No ceremony. In fact I cannot recall Bonshaw ever greeting him...the Admiral made his own way to the old-mans cabin (chatting to whoever he met en-route). His "tea" was always the same. And it was tea...but he particularly liked the special buns that Bonshaw had specially made. They may have been tasty, but they were also slathered in icing sugar that liberally coated the Admirals uniform. Always left us looking both smug and scruffy. And "York" got moved to the other side of the basin.
Bonshaw was re-appointed to "Grey Rover" and briefly hit the headlines when a Canadian submarine got a bit too close and the Rovers props chopped his conning tower off. The Rover didn't even know the sub was there, but some wally in MoD decided that the RFA was to blame....came to nothing of course, and the sub. commander presented the Grey Rover with a chunk of mangled conning tower as a memento.
But back to "Reliant". As I said earlier Rosyth has precious little to offer to guys coming in to an anchorage after a pretty rotten 3 week N.Atlantic exercise. The RFA guys were not really welcome (!) at the RN establishments (so what's new). Where to go?
So "Hotel Reliant" was born.
The RFAs that came into Rosyth and put people ashore were well aware that these "libertymen" (horrible American phrase...but does the job) would "miss" the last boat back. Party time. But being well and truly constrained by the big fat ugly slob who represented HM Customs and Excise we had to tread very carefully. Stage One was to contact Scottish and Newcastle Breweries to come and fit our bar up with pumps and so on. OK, they knew it was a small scale operation, but with my powers of persuation and their willing co-operation we had a functional "duty paid" bar. Then came the advantage of being on an outside berth. The NST would be lowered and driven across the Firth to a recently arrived RFA. This was "The Brown Bag Run"....and kept our bar well supplied with stuff in bottles. We also brewed our own beer, much to the delight of the Chinese crew but mainly pleased the Ch.Cook who used it a lot in some of his weird and wonderful menus. The stewards who kept the spare cabins neat and tidy for our "guests" were always "thanked". So everyone was happy. All done without the MoD knowing, and certainly not anywhere near the "isolation" they had originally envisaged. But all too soon it was time to go back on leave and do some real work.
My next ship would be "Sir Tristram".....and who would be my Captain? He with the damaged leg from "Tidereach". Oh,Boy.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #185 on: July 19, 2008, 08:14:18 PM »

After the leave period comes the farewell. Let no-one tell you that going away again gets easier the more you do it. It doesn't. It gets harder. It takes a pretty strong marriage to last through many years of separation (although not all at once, obviously). The sinking feeling that always comes when cases are being packed. The little bursts of temper that are not really meant. It's a horrible feeling. But oddly enough, similar emotions occur when you are leaving a ship to come home. Not the "ship", but the people you have come to know. Some you will see again, others, never. A bit like a little death really. But once on that train heading onwards the mind switches to being a sailor again. "Home" will be put on the back-burner for a couple of weeks whilst I get used to the new bit of my life. Then I get a bit homesick. Always the same response....."Get on with it and don't be so soppy". She should have been a Gunnery PO at Whale Island.
To me, the huge advantage of being in (on?) an LSL was to be temporarily free of the RN. As an Institution, the RN is magnificent. The attitude of the personnel is not. I enjoyed working with the Army. They didn't know much about how we operated, and we in turn didn't know much about them. So we got along just fine and learned a lot about each other. I really never came across the the affected snobbery that seemed embedded within the RN officers, even when we were working with the most prestgious Regiments.
But back to a person. (He of the damaged leg). He is dead now. Reasonably young (late 50s), but he had a very odd take on life. A very large and "hail fellow-well met" sort of chap that could change in an instant into the worst sort of tyrant you would ever imagine. But once I had sussed out that was a diabetic alcoholic I found ways around him. (I actually liked this guy!). Get all the days work done before before lunch was no.1. After that, forget it and go into "damage control" mode. His disease was severe enough for him to have both big toes amputated....which gave some wag the idea of giving him a pair of "flip-flops" as a Xmas present. Now and again (usually around 2 am) it was not unknown for him to burst into someones cabin and "xxxxx" in the wardrobe. Completely unaware of it the next day. When sober and being proffesional he was excellent, but otherwise........
When the RFA "took-over" the LSLs the Officers bars were pretty bleak places. Probably because the ships officers were not allowed in them when the army was on board. That quickly changed, and all the LSLs developed their own character. "Tristram" had gone for the "Olde Worlde" look. (Others were different, but just as effective). "Tristrams" bar had, as a little feature, a stuffed fox within a glass case. The "engineers" had had a go at this thing and had given it a "wobbly head"....and a cigarette. The head and ciggy would vibrate in tune with the engine revs. Disconcerting to some. Most of the Army Officers we carried were very tall compared to us little weeds. They were not particulaly good at staying upright in bad weather, so (I think it was a Radio Officer) a number of those springy type hand hangers were bought from an outfit scrapping old tube carriages. If you recall, they also had heavy balls on the tail. These were fixed above "our" bar so to miss our low heads but strike a tall army guy between the eyes. The army saw the joke (thankfully) and it became a bit of a "tradition" to be whacked. (As I have said......the RFA has no "traditions"..only many bad habits).
More later.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #186 on: July 21, 2008, 07:10:26 PM »

My time on Tristram began on the old trot...Marchwood-Belfast-Liverpool- Belfast-Glasgow-Belfast and so on.The Scottish Regiments we took home were obviously not liked in N.Ireland. We had two "incidents" in that period. One was rifle fire at our bridge which was a bit disconcerting but the other was a bit more serious. For some odd reason the troops were lined up on deck as we left instead of being sent straight down into their dormitories. A large crowd of "locals" had assembled a bit downstream and were armed with short lengths of scaffolding tube which were hurled at the soldiers on deck. Many injuries. Totally avoidable.
On board the ship us "permanent" guys were getting a bit depressed with all the nastiness that had nothing to do with us really. OK, I know that that sounds like a "cop-out", but it isn't actually. Although we were painted grey and had a big number painted on the ships side I guess we (us on board) never really considered ourselves as "combatants". So it was a bit of a "wake-up" call when we got fired upon. A lightening of the mood was called for. I had a long plank painted up as per a truck with "Long Vehicle" on it with the various stripes etc. This was fastened to the stern ramp so couldn't be seen when the ramp was down. This lasted for about 3 weeks before some RN wally reported it. A mild bollocking ensued. About the same sort of "censure" I got after I had painted a large keyhole on the bow doors of Geraint. Some folk have no sense of humour.
Coming back from Glasgow to Marchwood  the RN had given us a deck cargo. This "thing" suddenly appeared alongside on the back of a large truck. All the paperwork was in order, so we loaded this beautiful 16 bladed highly polished propeller. Put it on deck, lashed it down and away we went. Nobody told us that this was a new and secret prop. for a nuclear submarine. Not my fault,guv. If we had been told to cover it up we would have. Lots of nasty signals, but we could lay the blame elsewhere.
But that was the end of our Belfast stint. For some reason that totally escapes me now we had to go up the Kiel Canal to Rendsburg. (probably got the spelling wrong). As a "Nav", I used to hate that part of the N.Sea. Everything is so unpredictable, and so many ships just seem to get a mental block and ignore the normal rules. But a lovely day cruising up the canal. An equally lovely afternoon spent browsing around a nice clean old town. Back to the ship to find a lot of problems. It appeared that sometime the previous night a string of British paratroopers had been accidentally dropped into the canal and had drowned. The Germans were suggesting that Sir Tristram had "run-over" them. Nice try. We could prove that we were nicely snugged up in a German town at the time. Older readers may recall this incident. Many recriminations came afterwards. ((I think there was a senior officer suicide).
More later.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #187 on: July 21, 2008, 07:35:50 PM »

I now recall that were there (Rendsburg) to embark German and Dutch troops who were to take part in an exercise centred on the Outer Isles of Scotland. Not many vehicles. Stopping off somewhere on the UK coast we embarked a hovercraft maintenance squadron. At the time we hadn't a clue why...soon found out. When we reached the exercise area we found 2 very large hovercraft waiting for us. Never saw anything like these before. Somebody on this forum will tell me I am sure. Normal sort of "bodywork" but with 2 huge diagonally angled prop shafts sticking out. Very noisy. All we could do was to re-fuel them and send them on their way until they needed us again. The Germans and Dutch put on their hairnets and went away to do whatever soldiers do. Except that they didn't. At the "Post-Op" de-breifing it transpired that the German and Dutch troops had come across a liitle "off license" run by another "Patel"....and so stayed put. I really do wonder sometimes about the commitment of our "European" partners.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #188 on: July 21, 2008, 08:34:22 PM »

We eventually got shot of that lot and were sent off to Cyprus. First stop Famagusta. But not for long. I for one didn't expect fighter planes screeching overhead firing real guns. "xxxxx" Portland, get out of here...quick. This was the first assault by Turkey against Cyprus.. Nobody had warned us. So we skedaddled. No direction really, just "get out of the way" sort of thing. Eventually someone in the MoD discovered that "they" had a ship in the vicinity and were handy. So we were despatched to Dhekelia. Not too far away. Not much more than a good cricket ball toss from Famagusta. An evacuation plan had been implemented. God knows what the plan would have been if we or another LSL hadn't been in the vicinity. The jetty at Dhekelia had been left to rot for decades. I really cannot believe that a US Base anywhere in the world would allow that to happen. We went in stern first and began embarking the wives and children of our military personnel. Lots of them. In the absence of further instructions we would follow our original plan and return to Marchwood. But also knowing that the politicos must be dashing around like headless chickens we made alternative arrangements. Like go to Italy, Gibraltar,or anywhere that could take these "refugees". No answer was forthcoming, so continue towards Marchwood. Only 2500 miles. I was the 4-8 watchkeeper  and so saw all the sunsets ahead of me. I also got to see the island of Pantalleria ahead of me. What I did not expect was to see a sunrise ahead of me the next morning......on our way back to Dhekelia for another "load" of wives and kids. This happened 3 times. The children loved it all, and the Chinese crew made superb "baby-sitters". The last batch we picked up more or less filled up the ship, so we must have had well over 300 women and children aboard. And the final loading also included as many private vehicles as we could carry...a lot.
So now we had perhaps 20 UK officers, 56 Chinese and over 300 women and children on board. Sure kept the galley staff busy.
The last private vehicles loaded had to be put on the weather deck. This was fine when in the Med., but not so good when when a nasty bit of weather hit us going up the Portuguese coast. The LSLs were not the most comfortable of ships in lumpy weather, so a lot of our "passengers" were not seen fo a few days. The children seemed to love it. It was all a bit of a playground to them, and our Chinese crew loved looking after them.
The cars on the weather deck were really wrecks due to bleaching salt water spray by the time we got home. Big brass band and all that.....but that was enough. Time to go on leave again.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #189 on: July 23, 2008, 06:59:20 PM »

Just getting a bit out of sequence now. When I first began this saga I had no idea that it would develop the way it has done. And the years 1974-1976 were done early on. "Retainer" and "Olna". "Retainer" was in 1974, and was chronicled on Page 7 of this screed..(Reply 126 of April 1st 2008), "Olna" came later but is Reply 104, Page 6.
Next was "Sir Bedivere" and a trip to Vancouver. But I haven't written it yet. Too busy enjoying a bit of sun interspersed with a bit of half hearted rubbing down of "Egham".
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #190 on: July 25, 2008, 10:05:33 PM »

Lucky me. After a couple of years on the "big ships" I was appointed to "Sir Bedivere". Magic. I always had a theory that being appointed to an LSL was viewed by some as a retrograde step. Mainly by those who thought that being apart and away from the "mainstream" ships would damage promotion prospects. How sad. I always thought that if we only have one life then it's better to be happy and contented instead of having vaunted ambitions that are not always going to come true...hence leading to disenchantment and some bitterness at the least. So, in the main, the guys appointed to LSLs were the happy-go-lucky types who always made the LSLs "happy" ships. There were of course exceptions, but they either put in for transfers to other ships or suddenly "saw the light" and began enjoying life.
The first major task we had on this deployment was the disposal of a very heavy load of "old" ammunition that was to be dumped at sea somewhere in the Western Approaches. I've mentioned this before when I wrote about "Resource" and the dump prior to getting the non-exploding bombs that were meant to blow up the "Torrey Canyon". But Resource was a specialist ammo ship. The LSLs were nautical trucks with a passenger capability. Before an LSL "did a dump" (to inadvertently coin a phrase), all sorts of handling gear had to be installed aboard. Getting the "stuff" up to the weather deck from the tank deck meant having what appeared to be very wide moving staircases fitted. Then various sorts of conveyor belts like airport carousels were arranged to get the "load" to the jettisoning point. All very interesting to me as I had never done one of these on an LSL before. But it was all "old hat" to the Chinese crew. I was reliably informed by the Chinese bosun that things hadn't always been "correct". One of the BI Captains had been adamant that these dumps should be done simply by opening the stern door and just shoving the stuff out. Apparently he had taken a lot of convincing that as the stern door hinge would  at times be below the ships waterline the tank deck would be flooded with catastrophic results. He did not remain a Captain in the RFA.
As usual during a dump, the ship went around and around an oval shaped "track" whilst all the while ditching all these things that were beyond their "sell by date". As always, the engineers would 'phone the bridge to complain of odd bangs and "whooshes" and so on. From the bridge we could see discolouration in the sea. This dumping could take perhaps a week. The sea bed in these designated dumping grounds must be the opposite of a joy to behold. We do it, the Germans do it. the French, Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese and uncle Tom Cobbley and all do it. When you consider how many years this has been going on for it is easy to imagine that there must be more "stuff" down there than there is "up here". Even though it is 3 miles down, the pollution must be horrendous. But enough of that. Back to the "trip"....
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #191 on: July 29, 2008, 08:21:12 PM »

Although my wife had been aboard various RFAs and had done a couple of "shortish" voyages with me this would be her first "long-haul" trip....to Vancouver. As an added bonus our son (then aged 10ish but now 40ish) could come with us. Some other officers also had wives and children along. I would have thought, in my ignorance, that being a troop-ship numbers wouldn't matter...but other Rules limited the number to 12. As it turned out, thank goodness for that. The "kids" were housed in the military officers accommodation with a nice bunk each. The parents had to cuddle up on a single 3' wide thing.
This voyage was an annual thing at the time. The Mod (Army) used ranges in Canada to train and test tanks and personnel. So an LSL would be used to transport 16 new battle tanks to Vancouver, and bring back 16 used ones. It's a long way to Vancouver via the Panama Canal. Whenever I asked why "we" didn't just go to Montreal (or somewhere) and use a train as transport I was always met with a load of "waffle". In later years (not too many) The ships went to Prince Rupert...a small port further north. So after all the toil of getting there the ships company didn't even get a decent run ashore. But we went to Vancouver.
None of the wives and children had ever done a voyage of this length before and wer understandably a bit nervous. Especially as it was early December and so not the nicest time of the year for a N.Atlantic cruise. But we were going to follow the Met.Office "recommended" route for this time of the year, and were going to go south to the Azores before cutting over to the Windies. Nothing altruistic about this. If the "passengers" got sea-sick then so be it. We really only cared about the 60 ton monsters sitting below us on the "tank deck". But all to no avail I'm afraid. The Met Office had once again given us a "bum-steer". 4 days out of Marchwood and the first of the bad weather hit us. Only a f8 but enough to make things a bit uncomfortable. All the ships officers bunks were fore-and-aft, but the mil. officers cabins all had athwartship things. The kids quickly got used to the idea of sliding from one end of the bed to the other, but I had to explain to "She Who Now Has To Obey ME" how to wedge a lifejacket under the mattress to stop being chucked out on to the cabin deck. It was also a bit difficult getting her to understand that getting out of bed to replace things that had fallen over was not a good idea. Leave them, sort it out later, they aren't going anywhere. I still, even now, push "things" away from edges at home...just in case...But really the only time I saw her get really annoyed with me was when I couldn't stop laughing at her hopping all over the cabin trying to put her tights on.
Beyond the Azores the weather actually go a lot worse and we were taking a real pounding. Again, the kids loved it. The Chinese stewards always polished the fore and aft alleyways about 6a.m. Lots of slippy soap. The kids learned this very quickly and so all of us "adults" had to adjust to the racket the kids made when sliding up and down without any effort as the ship pitched. Annoying, but harmless.
Dinner time.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #192 on: July 30, 2008, 07:11:59 PM »

Now that wives are allowed to put a permanent stop to model making I guess I had better finish this section before I am unable to do so. Sort of re-writes the "have and to hold until death do us part" bit. I suppose now it really means that she can hold you really close to make sure the knife goes in where she means it to go. Followed by a Viking funeral in at least one of my models. So I'd better be on time for dinner tonight.
Back to the screed.
Big tanks when being driven on "normal" roads have rubber inserts in their treads to stop the road surfaces being chewed up. Similarly, when being carried aboard a ship, the tanks are sort of jacked up and rested on trestles to take the weight off their tired "feet"...and also to stop the rubber things letting the tank slide around. They are also securely lashed to the deck with all sorts of couplings and chains. All very secure, and the lashings are checked and re-tensioned every hour or so. But we were in a really vicious bit of weather by now. An LSL is well over 400ft long, but the swells we were meeting were so big and long that the whole ships length would go down one side of a wave, flatten out and whole length climb up the other side, balance on the top and start all over again. The wives and kids thought this was "normal" and so didn't worry. We did. Then the worst happened. A tank broke loose. Fortunately it was one of the centre (of 3) ones, but it was banging around like crazy. Ever really stopped to think how you would go about catching a 60 ton monster that had found freedom? Although it was somewhat constrained by the presence of the other tanks around it it was very clear that this could get a bit serious. So we had another Chinese Fire Drill. 20 Chinamen dashing around with lashings and trying to avoid being squashed. OK, it was serious, but from where I was sitting on the top of the renegade "trying" to get some sort of order into things it was absolutely hilarious.
Then a bit of the ships bottom fell off. Really. Luckily it was a plate at the bottom of an engine room cofferdam, which meant that any water coming into the ship would be held within the cofferdam and only rise to the ships waterline...which at this time was somewhat variable. This all made for a good excuse for the engineers to have "show you my hole" tours. A good variation on the Golden Rivet I think. All good stuff.
Eventually we came into calmer waters and anchored at 5 minutes to midnight on New Years Eve. Xmas must have been in there somewhere, but I have no memory of it at all. Sad really, as all the kids seemed to like it. Lots of mail and pressies arrived..and a great sigh of relief by us "drivers (including the engineers)" that we had come this far without anything really untoward happening.
Obviously the Panama transit was a new thing for the wives and kids (the kids still thought the alley sliding was better), but Panama is always a source of wonder, but it's funny what people remember years afterwards. While writing this bit I asked the potential knife wielder what she remembered ...."Pelicans" was the answer. OK, who am I to argue.
But then onwards and northwards. My own lasting memory of this leg was the constant rolling in the Pacific swell, how stupidly long is the coast of Baja California. To trot along at 16 knots fo a week or so and still be able to see the same blessed mountain is sort of depressing. Eventually we reached the Juan de Fuca Strait, the entrance to Seattle and Vancouver. It was at about this time that my young son showed a glimmer of common dog when he said to me that if he ever came back to Vancouver there is a faster way of doing it. And has flown ever since.
Normally, on a day to day basis, I would "make a pipe" to the assembled masses and tell them our speed, position and all that malarkey...but this time I really did have to give the mike to a 2/Off who spoke Queens English. Being a Geordie I could easily imagine the embarrassment of broadcasting the fact that we were now in the "Juann-de Fuccas" strait.
More later.
Oh, we're all reading it Bryan - much better than "Listen with Mother"!
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #193 on: August 02, 2008, 07:10:26 PM »

Exploits, Roger? Nah. Just the sort of life the average seafarer would have during the time I was "at sea". Nowadays I am all at sea with modern life and technology. Can't even fix a modern car without access to £trillions of computer equipment.
But back to Vancouver.
What a fascinating and welcoming place Vancouver is. At least, I hope it still is. We were there for nearly 3 weeks. I guess this was the time it took for our new tanks to be delivered and the "returns" brought back.
Now, I must beg for a little "understanding" on some of the points in this section...it was after all over 30 years ago. I think we tied up to a "railway" quay quite close to the city centre. Well, not too far as a crow would fly anyway. But there were a lot of railway lines (with designated crossing places) to get over before civilisation was reached. But if you mis-timed your crossing and got shut out by a passing train then more or less forget the day. These passing trains were over 3 miles long and were doing about 2mph. But the visit doesn't really begin there.
Our first unexpected "guests" were a pair of Vancouver Police Detectives (one of them from South Shields) who had more or less adopted the visiting LSLs, and had appointed themselves as unofficial "hosts". They were of great assistance. Naturally, we gave them honorary membership of our bar. Probably what they came for in the first place....but they certainly made our visit most enjoyable.
Anothe welcome visiting guy was the head stevedore who smoothed out all discharge and loading problems. I imagine that this was a "union" thing, but nothing really to do with us. He did however recount a tale about an earlier visiting LSL. I think I may have recounted this earlier, before I got this involved. The tanks were discharged from the LSL directly into the bowels of a ferry that tied up astern of the LSL so that the stern ramp of the LSL could land on the ferry, allowing the tanks to just drive from one ship to the other. On that particular occasion the ferry hadn't tied up securely enough so that when the first tank drove over "our" ramp the tanks weight pushed the ferry forwards, the ramp dropped and the tank plus driver went into 30 odd feet of water. This head stevedore had dived in and managed to get the driver out of the tank. Thus saving him from drowning. Alas, the driver shot towards the surface and fractured his skull on the bottom of one of the ships. He then died. The stevedore got some kind of commendation for his efforts. I think that if any of our Vancouver readers are so inclined then the local newspaper archives will have a fuller story.
Our 2 "tame" policemen took "us" (me, wife and son) up Whistler Mountain. They apologized for not getting us seats on the regular helicopter, but as there had been no snow (for the skiers) the helo had been stood down. All very pretty and all that, but what makes this an "odd ode" was the public toilet. This wonderful bit of architecture was a wooden hut in the middle of a rickety wooden bridge that spanned what appered to be a bottomless (no pun intended) ravine with a torrent at the bottom of it.  Males on one side of the hut and Females on the other. It was something straight out of Monty Python to see the 2 "streams" crossing and disappearing ino a mist. I imagine that it was not a popular spot with anglers.
Eventually the "broken" tanks arrived and were loaded. We were to take them to Antwerp for onward transport to Germany for repair. I have been led to believe that German tanks were sent to somewhere in Wales for their repairs (?).
But of course we had to leave and it was with sadness that we said farewell to all those who had been so kind and welcoming. (i.e. a good party was thrown). One of my most favourite cities, ever. The long haul back to Europe. Still had the hole in the bottom perhaps I could have phrased that a bit better) but it seemed OK. Rolled all the way to Panama again. A night passage this time, and I was astonished and delighted that sections of the canal had been lit with underwater lights. Quite beautiful. The rest of the run to Antwerp must have been uneventful as I cannot recall any of it. So by luck and good fortune we found the entrance to the Scheldt and picked up the RFA "preffered pilot" at Flushing. Personally, in spite of all the pollution and so on I have always enjoyed going up (or down) that river. The "Barges" that house families, always immaculate, housing estates well below the river level, huge wind farms standing idle because (according to our pilot) the maintenance costs outweigh the output "income". (Sound familiar?)
Then there are the beautifully kept locks at the entrances to the massive harbour complex. Did any of you ever see the locks on the Thames or the Humber? We should be ashamed.
But there we are. My wife and son went off to visit Antwerp Zoo...but as they got to the bottom of the gangway I remembered that I had always wanted one of those caps that everyone there seems to wear...so I yelled at my wife that she was not to forget to buy me a "Dutch Cap". Instant horror. Furious embarrassment and lots of laughter. To this day I don't think she has really forgiven me. But just as embarrassing was the question my 10 year old asked on their return...."Why do all those shop windows have ladies doing their knitting in them, daddy"
Back home, take ship to refit and go on leave. Phew.
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MikeK

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #194 on: August 03, 2008, 09:36:00 AM »

Great stuff so far Bryan, it has all the makings of a book !
To save me diving into the depths of Google, I did two weeks on the RFA Tidepool whilst waiting for 'my' ship - Tidereach - to come in -( this was spent at Portland doing a 'work up' which opened my eyes a bit on what was to come !) One of those ships had a RAS flag that was flown with a picture of two tumbling dice over a sea with the motto 'Licensed to Fill' Or I might be getting mixed up with the two ? Presumably based on her number 007. Not remembering the pennant numbers now, which one was it please ?

Looking forward to the next episode.

Mike
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #195 on: August 03, 2008, 05:22:25 PM »

Great stuff so far Bryan, it has all the makings of a book !
To save me diving into the depths of Google, I did two weeks on the RFA Tidepool whilst waiting for 'my' ship - Tidereach - to come in -( this was spent at Portland doing a 'work up' which opened my eyes a bit on what was to come !) One of those ships had a RAS flag that was flown with a picture of two tumbling dice over a sea with the motto 'Licensed to Fill' Or I might be getting mixed up with the two ? Presumably based on her number 007. Not remembering the pennant numbers now, which one was it please ?

Looking forward to the next episode.

Mike
Mike, I don't think we had 007 as a side number, but I would hazard a guess as being "Tidepool" as "Tidereach" had a Maltese crew who were not really into that sort of humour. Perhaps the crests will jog a memory:-
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MikeK

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #196 on: August 03, 2008, 05:58:03 PM »

Thanks for the crests Bryan. It looks like, as you suggest, I might have the two mixed up. It was definitely a play on '007 James Bond Licensed to Kill' and was flown when partaking in a RAS, at least I got the tumbling dice bit right ! Possibly it had nothing to do with side numbers - just a bit of humour on the James Bond thing

One other event that stuck in my mind from those days was when we sailed from Gosport round to Portland it was decided to have a little 'Navex' en route. This in involved heading in the direction of Ushant until clear of the territorial limits, then opening the bond to give everyone a ciggy issue and top up the bar supplies. Not something I had experienced in 'outside' companies for sure !! We then turned around and toddled back to Portland ready for the fun and games. Writing this has just brought another bit to mind of the 'no expense spared' attitude. As you said, the Tidereach had a Maltese crew who to a man were fairly devout Catholics. Consequently every Sunday at sea a helicopter was laid on to bring the Catholic priest over from HMS Bulwark to hold a service for the crowd followed by a few G&T's for the Rev in our bar then sending him back in the chopper. As you know the 'Reach only had a glorified kitchen table on the back end so the chopper had to do two round trips for this religious event, and they talk about carbon footprints nowadays!!

Mike
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #197 on: August 05, 2008, 07:38:21 PM »

After a nice leave period I was sentenced (appointed) to RFA "Olwen". I had heard on the "grapevine" that the Captain was a bit of a martinet, but sometimes you have to take these stories with  pinch of salt. They guy I was relieving was a total nervous wreck...and I do not mean that lightly. I was "ushered" into the presence of this Captain who immediately told the guy I was relieving to "get out of my sight". A nice start, I thought. Perhaps the tales were true after all. I gave it a few days and realised that if anything the stories were understated. In the 10 days I was there I twice saw my "superior officer" reduced to tears by this man. But I still think that it was a weakness in him that allowed himself to be so bullied...after all, he wanted that 4th stripe so badly he would put up with any humiliation to get it. Moral fibre? Forget it. He did eventually get his 4th stripe, and I sailed with this wimp later....and he was still a wimp. After observing the mental state of my outgoing counterpart I decided that in no way was I going to spend 6 months being hectored by this tyrant. So after 10 days and a letter to MoD I was relieved. That guy really thought that hanging and flogging were within his rights. Ages later I found out that he was quite reviled by other Captains who were all pretty glad to see the back of him. One of the very few people I have met in this life that I have really detested.
I was quickly given another ship. "Sir Lancelot"....undergoing a refit in Liverpool. I won't bore you with refit details except to say that it was "normal" without any major traumas. Alas, the only place we could find to stay that was within easy reach of the ship was a new and rather nice "Seamans Mission". Well, the building was nice. But it was seriously lacking in the culinary department so we usually trecked into town to eat. Defeated the object really. I was also not too enthralled by the managements assumption that all their guests wee bedwetters, and so had covered all the mattresses with heavy duty plastic covers. Most unpleasant...no carpets either. It was then deemed a priority that the ship be made basically "liveable". Quite a relief.
I love Liverpool. Probably because the Scousers and Geordies have so much in common and tend to get along withe each other pretty well (until it comes to football).
Eventually the first "batch" of the Chinese crew arrived. As they all seemed to have relatives of one sort or another in Liverpool they weren't too fussed about living on board anyway. But they did all need working clothes. I don't know what other shipping outfits do, but the RFA supplies everything from skinnies through sandshoes and socks to heavy duty waterproofs and so on. In fact (true) I have seen people join a ship with only a plastic carrier bag and leave the ship months later with only the same bag. A bit like prison, I guess.
But there is (was) always a clothing problem with a Chinese crew. Their physical size. This seemed to range from that of an undernourished 6 year old to that of a well fed sumo wrestler. A nightmare. Those of you who have worked for the MoD will know about DMS Boots. (DMS = Direct Moulded Sole). They are really quite the bees knees as working boots. Steel toe caps, high quality leather that can take a polish so well that they can be worn to a cocktail party. The "extreme" sizes required for a Chinese crew meant that special sizes had to be made. Little ones at size 5, and big ones up to size 14. The loan clothig locker on these ships would rival any John Lewis store. And it was all "on loan". Some came back clean, but most were smelly and dirty...and had to be stored somewhere. And the Chinese didn't even pay UK income tax!
Finished refit, didsea trials and tht was it. Shortish (4 months) but then back into the lee of Bum Island again.
Then to a "proper" RFA..."Olna". More later.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #198 on: August 08, 2008, 07:30:10 PM »

Colin, thanks. I only knew about the tanks because the Army told me. But as far as Pembroke is concerned that is a different story.
I think it was while I was in Sir Tristram that we called in at Pembroke and tied up alongside this horrible old hulk that had been butchered about something awful. But once on board it was easy to see that this "thing" was the remnants of an old warship. At the time she was just being used as a jetty, but I believe she had also been reduced to a coaling hulk somewhere down the line. A long way down the line she was made for. "HMS "Warrior". I saw and went exploring. The rest is history. I followed her rebuild with huge interest ad visited her a few times. The organisation that rescued her and the team in Hartlepool that ressurected her all deserve naming. There are many photos that show her being "reborn" from complete abandonment to becoming the swan that she is today. But there is another little "tittle-tattle" about her. When I was "exploring" her (when she was only a hulk) I noticed that she was not an "Ironclad" but an iron ship that had inner wood sheathing. People still persist in calling her an "ironclad"...wish they would'nt. The hull, though rivetted, is as smooth as a modern day welded ship...wonderful...and must have been bloody expensive. Some of the main bulkheads are solid 3" thick iron. How were they cut? But if you really want to see her glory (no pun intended for French naval historians) I suggest you look underneath. During my first solitary exploration I found a way into her double bottoms (this would be in 1974 or thereabouts) and although she had had her engines removed, underneath was pristine.
Years later when she was finally settled into her place in Portsmouth I decided that I should take our Cadet Training Unit to see her. The CTU had their own training officer, but was more than happy for me to give him a day off. Must have been a dozen of these young kids who, while keen enough, didn't know very much.
A few of you will have "done the tour" of "Warrior" but forget all that. (Apart from complaining that furniture would never have had castors, and a 2 ton gun in your cabin needs a bit more than a bit of string to hold it in place). Go over the rails in the Engine Room and look at the underside. No-one will stop you if you know what you are doing. The cadets were amazed that even the beam knees were scrolled and were wonderful bits of Victorian naval architecture. Colin Bishop. Dicky D and all those who live "close", please do this if you can. You will see Naval Architecture as you never ever imagined it. BY.
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Colin Bishop

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #199 on: August 08, 2008, 08:21:30 PM »

Missed that Bryan, but you are right about the attention to detail in those days. I have some interesting shots of the Victorian gunboat Gannet preserved at Chatham, including the gutted engine spaces, which I could post on a separate thread if anyone is interested. The ship was of composite construction with wood planking on iron frames.

Colin
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