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Author Topic: Nautical "Strange but True!"  (Read 137706 times)

BarryM

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #275 on: March 16, 2009, 10:38:11 PM »

Must be wearing his cummerbund underneath!  %)

Barry M
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Jimmy James

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #276 on: March 16, 2009, 11:04:17 PM »

Ben line Just after the seamans strike in 66=67 Benvenue & Benglow Nice ships and short trips only 6 months and a rum issue every sunday
Jimmy
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #277 on: March 17, 2009, 04:36:00 PM »

Ben line Just after the seamans strike in 66=67 Benvenue & Benglow Nice ships and short trips only 6 months and a rum issue every sunday
Jimmy
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Ah, you joined them about 4 years after I left after serving my sentence. BY.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #278 on: March 17, 2009, 04:42:49 PM »

Must be wearing his cummerbund underneath!  %)

Barry M
You developing a cummerband fetish Barry? All depends what "outfits" paid the mortgage. I did (mentally, at least) think that one Captains obsession with the wearing of bow ties in the evening (with full reefer jacket uniform) was way over the top...especially when the steam heating was on. Thank goodness more sensible minds prevail nowadays. Cheers, Bryan.
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BarryM

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #279 on: March 17, 2009, 07:15:20 PM »

"Cummerbund fetish?" Certainly not - I always found they rode up over my corset.  %%

Cheers

BM
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #280 on: March 17, 2009, 08:19:50 PM »

"Cummerbund fetish?" Certainly not - I always found they rode up over my corset.  %%

Cheers

BM
Oh dear, they are supposed to hold the gut in, not disguise the hooks and eyes of the corset. But just to make you salivate again, we had 2 sorts. Not corsets, "belly bands"... I know I'm going to get this wrong, but one of them was a really long silk ribbon called a "Kummerbund" that was worn only to cover the area between the straining trousers and the popping shirt buttons. The "Cummerband" was the short thingy worn with a "Mess Jacket" (or Waiters Coat) but made so that the "item" didn't look a bit naff from the rear. These "short" ones also tend to have squadron of ship badges embroidered on them,so are reversible. I don't think my (short) ones will fit any more. (Unless I do a bit more sucking in). Cheers. BY.
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BarryM

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #281 on: March 17, 2009, 08:41:42 PM »

Why-Aye you posh old Geordie Spice you - I bet you looked lovely in either picking yourself out of a monsoon ditch with a stewardess on each arm.   {-)  {-)  %%  :}

Cheers,

Barry M
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #282 on: March 18, 2009, 04:20:59 PM »

Why-Aye you posh old Geordie Spice you - I bet you looked lovely in either picking yourself out of a monsoon ditch with a stewardess on each arm.   {-)  {-)  %%  :}

Cheers,

Barry M
Whatever gave you the idea that we wore those thing ashore? As you well know, there were only ever 4 things to check before venturing forth....Watch, Wallet, B--- bag and Spats. Thus fully equipped, one could go anywhere (sort of).
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #283 on: March 18, 2009, 07:12:13 PM »

Why-Aye you posh old Geordie Spice you - I bet you looked lovely in either picking yourself out of a monsoon ditch with a stewardess on each arm.   {-)  {-)  %%  :}

Cheers,

Barry M
Whatever gave you the idea that we wore those thing ashore? As you well know, there were only ever 4 things to check before venturing forth....Watch, Wallet, B--- bag and Spats. Thus fully equipped, one could go anywhere (sort of).
I think Spectacles and another bit of poetry was more commomly used!.
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BarryM

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #284 on: March 18, 2009, 10:41:14 PM »

First it's cummerbunds and an almost-a-grey-funnel-type (as in almost-a-gentleman) is now running around in spats!!  :o  :o  :o I'm glad I was in the real merchant Navy.  %)

Barry M
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #285 on: March 19, 2009, 04:36:38 PM »

First it's cummerbunds and an almost-a-grey-funnel-type (as in almost-a-gentleman) is now running around in spats!!  :o  :o  :o I'm glad I was in the real merchant Navy.  %)

Barry M
Not all that long ago (mid-late 80s) I siled with an SRO (Senior Radio Officer----we carried 5 of them) who was a dead ringer for "Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken "fame". He cultivated the "look" down to the smallest detail, and used to real panic in every town we visited that had a KFC outlet. Nothing wrong with being a harmless nut-case, but R/Os were certainly out in a league of their own.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #286 on: March 19, 2009, 06:48:13 PM »

I guess there were about a dozen other ships lying at anchor in Stanley Sound, each one wanting to get on with the cargo discharge. Ican't imagine the owners being all that fussed though as they were probably being paid on "time" spent as STUFTs. Being sort of honest, I think that the slow rate of discharge was a combination of at least 2 things:
a) What bits of any ships cargo was needed the most.
b) As there were no locally operated barges etc. much of the assorted cargoes were ferried ashore via the ubiquitous "Mexeflote", and  these were normally only carried by the RFA LSLs., and they could only carry 2 "ready for use" units. Broken down into "kit" form I suppse more could be carried, but that assumes space on board is available.
Although I may criticize the "Stonnery" from time to time, when they eventually get their act together their system works a treat. But at this stage just about everything was in the hands of the Army Logistic people. They are probably very good at doing what they are trained for, but discharging large commercial ships was not part of their training. Not then anyway. If the "stuff" didn't Roll-on and Roll-off again they were jiggered. So it was all a bit leisurely with only the "now and again" HDS mail drop to liven up the days. The ships crew rapidly became bored with the (non) delights of Port Stanley, and our still embarked Forces personnel were getting a bit cranky. This led to a few "altercations" that were beyond my remit to sort out. A blessing in disguise. Another trip ashore to "report" and all of a sudden things started to happen. Very quickly our "passengers" were taken elsewhere...to their units I suppose, but it was all a bit chaotic without much in the way of info being passed along from one place to another. But their departure freed up a lot of space, and certainly made the job of the cook and his "boy" a lot easier. Not for long.
This is my 3rd attempt at trying to show / describe Port Stanley just after the cease-fire. My first 2 attempts were, on re-reading, too light hearted. I concentrated and commented more on the "oddness" of the place rather than recalling the emotion shown by the Falklanders. It just didn't seem right to make fun of their town and, by implication, their suffering.
I've just spent half an hour browsing Stanley on Google Earth, and to be honest it was very depressing. I appreciate that "things" move on, and the Kelpers probably deserve a bit more prosperity, but I found it sad that so much of the original charm has been replaced with "structures" that do nothing for the scenic value of the place. Even the old "wreck" of the sailing ship "Elizabeth" has succumbed so that only her stern section is visible. What were muddy streets are now almost avenues. I'm not really complaining about "progress" as such, it's just that it all seems to have gone a "Standard UK High Street" sort of way, without much regard to what was good about the place. Tourists (with their welcome cash) may well be a bit disappointed. In 1982 the town was a bit ramshackle. Rather akin to a cold weather version of an Australian bush town, tin roofs and hoses that appeared to have been originally built to house pigeons. All that needed to be changed. Good. The little cafe with its sign "Closed for Lunch" that also sold flffy penguins labelled "Made in Birmingham"....all gone, and with it a lot of the charm and quirkiness that made Stanley what it was.
The sea front had many derelict wooden jetties that used to be "home" to 19th century whaling ships, the hulk of one was still there in '82 (American, now taken to the USA for re-building). Thank goodness the main yard of the "Great Britain" is still there. The sheer size and weight of this thing beggars belief. The (then) only hotel in Stanley was the "Upland Goose", named after a bird that is even worse tasting than a fox (or so I'm told).
The "Freedom" memorial from WW1 is naturally still in its place, but I wonder how many visitors will remark on the similarity of the ships names then as those in the 1982 conflict.
While meandering up and down the slushy, muddy side streets I came across a rather down-at-heel corner shop that did'nt really have much on display. Curious, I went in. To be greeted with a bear-hug from the elderly owner. It turned out that he thought I had come to give back his binoculars that the Argies had stolen from him. I felt rotten about that, he seemed so elated. I was also the first "Brit" that had come to see him since the "war" ended". So I stayed for a cup of tea and listened to his tales. Every emotion you can think of came pouring out of this old chap. I must have been there for more than 2 hours, but I enjoyed it. But he wouldn't let me leave without giving me a "present". My wife is a stamp collector, and I'd noticed a shoe box full of stamped addressed envelopes on his counter. They were all first issues (Falklands) going back to Winston Churchill in WW2....."How much for these?"...."Face value to you, son"....No good arguing, but I did eventually find a pair of binoculars and took them to him.
Then I stumbled across the Welsh Guards.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #287 on: March 19, 2009, 06:57:49 PM »

Oops. Sorry! I forgot to put captions on the pics!
"9"..This was more or less the "norm" for the secondary streets. The Cathedral is to the far right of the pic, and is on the waterfront.
"5 & 6"..The "Freedom" memorial.
"2"...A rather sad aircraft parked at the Cathedral gates.
"4"...June in Port Stanley. The "near" water is the inner sound, you can just make out the larger vessels in Stanley Sound beyond the hills.  Cheers. BY.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #288 on: March 20, 2009, 07:42:30 PM »

Clutching my shoe-box I slithered back down the hill to "Main Street" and started off to the C&W place to call home. These were always very short calls as at 3 a minute it all became a bit pricey. So what with getting ashore, phoning home and then getting back on board a 3 minute call could take up to 5 hours to make. Even worse than being in Plymouth, at least there are pubs in Plymouth.
At the bottom of the hill is the "Post Office", a very large building that still appears on "Google Earth". I had previously thought that the Post Office was just an adjunct to a warehouse. It was, but I had also noticed a lot of soldiers going in but neither queing or coming out again. Odd.
In all my wanderings I had never once been asked by anyone to show any ID or anything, so I just walked through the PO and into the warehouse. Oh, dear. The floor was about an inch deep in dirty water and about 30 camp-beds were scattered around. All the "kit" was just sort of soaking up the water. Most of the beds had a soldier lying on it. Some reading, some sleeping but most just gazing at nothing. This is how some of the survivors of the LSL bombings were treated. No washrooms, no "canteen", no nothing.
It wasn't all that difficult to find the young army Captain "in charge" and arrange to get his men out of there. "Laertes" had a large and unused compartment originally designed to be a gym. We hadn't used it for our "passengers" as camp-beds, sleeping bags and so on were not part of our load...otherwise a bit of cargo broaching would have been justified (eventually). So this dispirited and emotionally drained group of kids were re-housed. Warm, dry, comfortable, fed and watered. I gave up my bunk to the young Captain and dossed down on the "day-bed" (settee, sort of), except that I got no sleep. The outpourings of this young officer (he must ave been in his mid 20s and I was 41) were really heartbreaking, but I guess this was the first chance he'd had to speak about the bombing and its aftermath. Simon Weston was one of his men. But soldiers are pretty resilient sorts and within a couple of days they were helping out in the galley and so on. The ships company welcomed them with open arms . All sweetness and light. They wee only with us for perhaps a week before being flown home, but I think that period helped "douse" a few of the mental wounds that "authority" had either overlooked or ignored. I actually felt that for once I had contributed something.
Fortunately for them it was the day after their departure that "Sir Tristram" was towed into Stanley. I'm pleased that they didn't see it. "Tristram" was one of my old ships (Cyprus, Belfast etc) and felt pretty horrible, think of what those young lads would have felt seeing her coming in. (pics at end of screed).
You may have noticed that one of the ships due to be "dismantled" at Hartlepool is "Sir Percivale". Even though she was locally built her dismemberment here has provoked some anger amongst the "save the world" groups. This class of ship (built in the early 1960s) had vast amounts of asbestos built-in, and as the ship "worked" in a seaway it was not unusual for powdered asbestos to "drizzle" over everything. The MoD solution was to spray PVA (the same stuff we use as a release agent on GRP) all over the place. Looked hideous, and still didn't stop the "drizzle".
But that is only a bit of background.
Once again "those who must be obeyed" played a blinder. It was decided to moor Tristram at the end of the main jetty (next to the cafe) and use her as an accommodation ship as the main troop dormitories were largely free of damage. But the back end was totally open to the elements. It gets windy in Stanley. So ay after day I could see clouds of dust wafting over the town. The mind-set of some people beggars belief.
But by now we had been off-loaded and had been earmarked to take some "stuff" back to the UK. This "stuff" turned out to be Argie weaponry. Not quite in the WMD category, but bad enough to be worrying. I imagine other ships had the same.... but only if they had "Stonnery" embarked who knew how to look after these things.
On the way home my main job was to "get the books straight" as we would have an "auditor" visit. Beurocracy is descending already. But 2 little events shattered my complacency. The first was half way between the Falklands and Ascension when a south bound frigate called to say she had mail for us, and would like to do a heaving -line transfer. OK. Good. No problems with that. Just hold your course, frigate steams up tosses a line and job done. But after his long hibernation the "Hermit" decided to make his presence felt and was horrified at the thought of another ship coming within 20 miles of him. Sorry lads. No mail today. And this was a "Blue Funnel" ship. How are the mighty fallen.
Then the "Stonnery" suggested that I might take a peek at something "odd" in one of the holds. We had already verified the history of the weaponry we were carrying because all the "history sheets" were available. Most of it was Russian, then transferred to Libya and then sold on to Argentina. All old stuff. But what we had in the hold was actually growing. Tendrils of virulent blue, green and yellow stuff was seeping out of everywhere. Oh, poop! Slow down, keep going and do NOT bounce the ship around!.
We eventually made it back to Plymouth and moored to "C" buoy normally used by RFA ammo ships. A "high powered" team of inspectors arrived pretty smartish and declared the ship to be "unsafe" (as if we didn't already know that). We all left as soon as we could and went our seperate ways.
I thought I was free of the Falkands. Think again!.

The first 2 pics are of "Tristram" being towed into Stanley.
No 14 is of a "fly past" that we knew noting about, hence the hurried pic.
15 is another "chance" shot of a Pucarabeing airlifted by a Chinook....I believe this Pucara is now based at Yeovilton and is still flying. BY.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #289 on: April 04, 2009, 05:36:53 PM »

About half way through my leave the phone gave its little distinctive trill.
"We would like you to join Fort Austin ASAP".
"Why?, I've only just got home!"
"Because we had to transfer "X" and we need you there".
"Where's "there"?.
"Port Stanley".
Shoot (or words to that effect). No good arguing. Off again to the cold. But it's the journey from the UK to Port Stanley that is the main subject of this episode.
Having already been there, done that and passed up on the Penguin and so on I knew that although summer was just around the corner (or what passes for summer in those parts) I would be wise to take my "winter gear" with me. I always worked on the principle that clouts can be discarded, but if you haven't got any then you can't put any on.
The first part (Newcastle - Heathrow) set the tone for the trip when we nearly collided with a Navy helo when on the Heathrow approach. Violent evasive action, luggage and people landing on top of me (I think I've mentioned this before).
Getting to Brize-Norton with full sea-going gear is always a pain in the tripes. First get to Swindon and then on to either an RAF "bus" or as sometimes happens, a 3 ton truck. I was lucky, I had a bus. Things were looking up.
Ever been to Brize-Norton? Not quite reaching the low standards of Heathrow would be putting it mildly. Everybody gets "lost" in the system. Some Senior Officers (Not RAF ones though) get bunged into dormitories full of farting squaddies whils some little oik gets billeted in a room bigger than he has ever lived in. But thats the RAF for you. Can be good for a bit of wry laughter though.
As usual our aircraft would be a VC10, one of my all time favourites, especially when they were operated by British Caledonia. But this is the RAF. Along with Qua(i)ntas their proud boast is that they have never lost a passenger (meaning killed...plenty of the other sort of "lost"). Aeroflot could take lessons in passenger relations from this lot. As all passengers in an RAF aircraft sit facing backwards it makes for an interesting view as the plane reaches rotation speed. Rabbits never really learn, do they. They sit there along the side of the runway doing what rabbits do (eat) and all of a sudden they are blasted head over heels (?) in little swirls of dust as the jetwash hits them. Well, I always find it funny.
The first stop would be Dakar for re-fuelling. About 6 hours from Brize. So naturally we had an in-flight "meal". RAF style. This is always the well known and inventive "Bag-Rats" stuff. A cardboard box with one of yesterdays sandwiches, an apple and the ubiquitous Wagon Wheel". Ryan -Air has a lot to learn from the RAF before they reach this level.
At Dakar we were graciously allowed out of the aircraft, but were surrounded (at a distance) by armed guards to prevent any approach to the posh part of the airfield where the tourists gather. This included our VIP passenger (our then Minister for Defence John Knott). Until then I hadn't realised that we also had a contingent of SAS with us. This became evident when they disappeared en-mass into the scrub and came back with rather large lizards that were quickly depatched by having their heads bitten off. From that I gathered that the SAS were not really in favour of the RAF catering. But then a few more hours in the air before landing on Ascension Island. This time they were "wideawake" and so no problems there. But it was to be a 12 hour "stopover" , so we were all herded into tents (with the exception the Min of Def, of course). Bad news. No lighting, no sanitation, no food no nothing. Deep gloom from everyone.
The 12 hour delay was apparently to allow the refuelling tanker aircraft to get airborne and in position for our re-fuelling stops. The logic of this escapes me.
At 4am we were woken...not that anyone in our tent had had any sleep...and told to "embark". Where? Ascension is a volcanic island and so the ground around the airfield is not quite as smooth as at your local council tip. An open-cast coalfield may be nearer the mark. No lights, no torches. Except for one little light in the distance that we were told to aim for. (See what I mean about losing passengers?). This was not a good experience.
Our aircraft was a "Hercules". Whoopee! I was really looking forward to 18 hours in this thing without any guarantee that we would be able to land when we got there. Still, we were all now in the maws of "the system" and nothing we could do or say would change that. I still found the Hercules pretty fascinating. Having never been in one before I was struck by the openness of the flight control systems. Bits of rod and wire all doing their thing in full view and often within an arms length. There are no seats as such in a Herc. There are bum-shaped hammock sort of things along the fuselage sides and thats about it. At the back end near the ramp allthe mail and cargo was piled in a great heap. I have to assume it was piled scientifically for reasons of weight distribution...but I had my doubts.
But in this "pile" I decided to make my nest. So on with my sheepskin coat and snuggle in. As you may see from one of the later pics some of our passengers were still dressed in jeans and shirts. Of course it had all been pretty warm going on hot until now. But as these people were in the main "journalists" nobody had given them a "heads - up" on what to expect!  I was also thankful to have remembered to bring my ear-defenders. There is no noise insulation in the cargo area of a Herc. The prop tips as seen from either of the 2 tiny viewing ports appear to be only inches away from the fuselage. There is no draught insulation, so it gets a bit breezy and very cold at 250k and 23000feet. There are no toilets. As we also had 2 large cylindrical (and smelly) extra fuel tanks sited with the passengers there was no smoking. Ye gods. Everyone ought to be made to suffer this trip at least once, just to appreciate the norm of usual life. And this is an 18 hour flight. Naturally, we had a couple of (identical) "in-flight" meals. So I think we had the left-overs from the VC10. If the rear ramp had been opened I think that many of us would have cheerfully stepped off it.
But regarding the "toilet facilities", I'm not going to speculate on how the aircrew manage, but our esteemed VIP had to make do with the same screened off bucket that the rest of us mortals had to use. It was quite typical that the "curtain" should be 18" shorter than it could have been. Perfectly acceptable if one only wanted a widdle. Perhaps not so good otherwise. I have a lovely pic of a pair of skinny hairy legs with trosers around the ankles. That is my "portrait" of the then "Minister of Defence". I'm not going to post it. No point really, but it has given amusement to those who have seen it.
I was both pleased and flattered to be sought out and invited to the cockpit to observe the 1st "in-flight" refuelling. At least it wasn't done in cardboard boxes. Pics will follow.
And so the flight droned on. 2 more re-fuellings, and more than boredom and cold (and the will to live) became a sense of "What the f--- am I doing here".
When we landed I had another surprise. I never realised that a Herc could go backwards under its own power.

Pics time.
1.   General shot of the inside of the Herc. Massive vibration. The extra fuel tanks are visible, as are a few inappropriately dressed journalists.
3.     The initial approach.
5.     Nearly there.
7.   Getting closer.
6.   Plugged in.
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Roger in France

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #290 on: April 04, 2009, 05:44:56 PM »

Did you get paid as well Bryan?

Roger in France
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #291 on: April 04, 2009, 06:18:12 PM »

Did you get paid as well Bryan?

Roger in France
About 100% less than I would have been paid if it was still classed as a "war zone"!
At least you've read it. Cheers. Bryan.
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Shipmate60

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #292 on: April 06, 2009, 09:37:20 AM »

Off topic posts removed

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Bunkerbarge

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #293 on: April 07, 2009, 07:31:18 AM »

What makes me smile Bryan is the number of people who suggest that yiou write a book and you state that you don't really want to.

From what I can see you've already done it!!  I'd simply publish this thread {-)  Great stories, as always and very interestingly written.  Many thanks for taking the time to put this together for us to enjoy and then keeping it up as you do.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #294 on: April 07, 2009, 04:13:29 PM »

What makes me smile Bryan is the number of people who suggest that yiou write a book and you state that you don't really want to.

From what I can see you've already done it!!  I'd simply publish this thread {-)  Great stories, as always and very interestingly written.  Many thanks for taking the time to put this together for us to enjoy and then keeping it up as you do.
Well thank you kind sir! Next one up will be about Fort Grange and includes a run to S.Georgia before the tourist industry got its mitts on it. BY.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #295 on: April 08, 2009, 06:46:04 PM »

In what seems an age ago, when I was chuntering on about taking Hovercraft to Istanbul I think I said I couldn't find any pics. Have done now.
1.   General shot of LSL in typical Med harbour.
5 & 6.   We may have hovercraft on deck , but below we had trucks and Gazelle aircraft. The maintenance crews never moaned about lack of "work-space".
7 & 10.   Hovercraft can park themselves with only a little help. Look at the size of the prop on the "stopped" one. It was one of these that I crawled under when "lifted".
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #296 on: April 09, 2009, 06:50:50 PM »

This time I did manage to get my full leave before being appointed to "Fort Grange" (now renamed Fort Rosalie to avoid signal confusion with Fort George). No flights this time. Joined in Plymouth Sound and apart from the usual RFA type "keep up to speed" sort of exercises had a pretty peaceful and stress free trip south. Plus, we had an embarked flight of 3 Sea Kings. As always the flight considered the ship was only there for the flights convenience, and so wanted to fly all the time. That attitude (the "norm" rather than the "exception") may be all well and good on an aircraft carrier, but not very helpful when embarked purely as an adjunct. Just can't get through to some people!
Our "base" was, of course once again to be the thriving metropolis of San Carlos. Miles from anywhere and nothing to see apart from the spreading oil seepage from "Antelope" Our main duty was to undertake sporadic coastal patrols. I should say that the actual patrolling was done by the aircraft and the ship was really only there to make transit times shorter. We poked our nose into Berkeley Sound a few times to keep a count of, and an eye on,the rapidly growing numbers of large Fish Factory ships that were appearing. It was od that the majority of these things were either Bulgarian or Korean. Since when was Bulgaria a sea-going nation? As for the Koreans, well, theyr'e all over the world like a rash nowadays. And the Factory ships all have their own train of fishing boats. They just hoover up the oceans, including Krill, which in turn deprives the krill eaters. All goes to make animal feed. All a bit sad and worrying.
The RAF were at this time still operating out of the makeshift runway near Port Stanley as the new airport at Mount Pleasant (what a misnomer!) was still under construction. Our intrepid aviators would often bring back fast-jet crews for a nights R&R (a "xxxxx"-up to you and me), so we got used to seeing Phantom and Harrier aircrews wandering around the ship. A constant moan from these guys was that they had nothing "to shoot at" apart from the occassional RN outfit that needed its engines warming up. I t probably seemed like a good "wheeze" to suggest over an ale or several that the Phantoms could do a dummy attack on us sometime. So a date was set, but no hard and fast time parameters, just "sometime" between 9am and midday on a chosen date. This was also a good time for us to exercise our "action stations" and gun crews etc. So, like topsy, it all just grew and grew. "Action Stations" at 0830. Guns and Chaff rocket launchers ready. By design there had been no briefing as to which direction the "attack" would come from so eyeball scanning of 360* was required. The only time most of us had ever been "attacked" by a fast jet was during the Portland "work-ups", so they were quite slow as it was all choreographed for exercise purposes. This Phantom played it for real, coming in at over 500 knots and 50ft above the water. The aircraft is itself invisible. All you see is a growing dirty shimmer in the sky followed almost immediately by the thunder as your world and guts turn inside out as the aircraft goes to full afterburner and imitates an ICBM at launch. This is one of those life changing moments. A realisation that if we were a real target then nothing we could do would prevent obliteration and the subsequent changing of the terrain around San Carlos. A bit of a "downer" to say the least. Even though the Phantom was just "playing", it was almost a case for the mass changing of underwear. Our poor 20mm gun crews didn't even see the thing until it blasted past them at bridge level an about 50 ft away. Unbelievable.
This "exercise" just cried out for a repeat with a different Phantom crew. But we insisted that the original crew be on board with us as "observers". After another welcoming jar or two they admitted to being a tad overenthusiastic, but more tellingly they also admitted that they had never been on the receiving end of a full-whack Phantom attack. Oh. goody!. The Phantom guys were really great company. The Harrier "kids" were for the most part young and pretty full of themselves, but the Phantom crews were much older (late 30s early 40s) and had generally seen service in "Eagle" and the old "Ark" etc. I guess they spent the rest of their flying days doing the exciting runs to Teneriffe or Torremolinos and so on. Anyway, I'm getting sidetracked again.
This "attack" was to be a bit more choreographed (said they...lying through their teeth). But we sort of knew where and when to look. Same speed, same altitude, same afterburners. But this crew knew that their "oppos" were on board and wanted to prove something. Gunners still had no chance. I was in Flyco (no helos on deck, naturally!). Same mucky shimmer, but this time the Phantom was at our flight deck level and I swear that a wing overlapped our deck just as he went to afterburner. Sheer mind numbing noise at that range. But the telling thing (afterwards) was the visiting Phantom crews reaction. Both elated and terrified at the same time. I think lessons in both humanity and self-knowledge were learned that day. But that wouldn't stop these guys from "doing the job"
I'll call a halt here and continue later this evening. BY.
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Notes from a simple seaman

Colin Bishop

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #297 on: April 09, 2009, 07:38:10 PM »

Fascinating Bryan. Nice to see that some value was being got from my taxes...

Colin
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #298 on: April 09, 2009, 08:26:36 PM »

SWMBO is out painting the garden fence so no dinner yet. May as well continue.

Then we had the "Case of the Missing Exocet". One of our Frigates/Destroyers had, on the way south, hit a bit of lumpy water and an exocet launcher complete with missile had vanished overboard leaving a lot of tangled wiring and a severely damaged lower unit. No-one on the bridge knew anything about it until daybreak. I can't imagine Jack Hawkins. Richard Todd or diddy John Mills not noticing that a major part of their armament was now floating on its way to some African beach. I'm still convinced that many modern bridge watchkeepers think that the bridge windows are only there to keep the sea out of their coffee and not for actually looking out of. But "something had to be done" about the damaged item. It's a rather sobering thought that getting a dodgy bit of high explosive transferred into a fully loaded ammo ship was considered to be the "best option". You may now begin to understand my scepticism re the altruism of the RN. The RN does what is best for the RN and hoo-ha to the rest of you. Anyway, we closed the ship down and heaved the broken beast aboard. Then it had to be transported 100ft aft within the ship to the flight deck lift where a Chinook would come in and (on a very long strop) take it away and drop it in a swamp somewhere. Not a good day, but at least we know where it is, which is more than can be said og Galtieries land mine fields. But I believe the local sheep are doing a pretty good job of mine clearance.
Apart from hosting a very successful Jim Davidso "Road Show" and trying to be nice to a few politicians life was pretty normal for an RFA.
Seafarers quite often have "obsessive" hobbies. Model shipbuilding being only one. But many are avid "bird-watchers" (OK, we all are when ashore, but I mean the feathered sort). The bird-watchers were moaning a bit about not seeing much . We weren't going anywhere for another week, and so with our perfect means of transport readily available (Sea Kings), a group were taken off to a colony of something or other and dumped for a few hours while the aircraft did its routine patrol before picking them up again. Bird watching and photography go hand in hand so it was'nt long before the 2 groups became one, and some great photos were displayed. Good for ships morale .
Another "hobby" was "keep-fit" and athletics (especially within the flight, we were much mor sedentary). But eventually a few of our crew joined in and things became a bit competitive. Then some bright spark decided to measure up the clearway and work out how many laps there were to the mile. I think it was 6 or a bit over.
I suppose I'd better try and explain what a "clearway"is. As far as I'm aware the "Ness" class were the first RFAs to have one, and subsequent stores/ amunition ships have followed the pattern. Older ships such as "Retainer" were commercial ships and converted to RFA use, but the ships design coudn't really incorporate a proper clearway (an "open shelterdeck" ship was almost there). "Resource", although built at the same time as the "Ness" class was designed by the much admired Corps of Naval Constructors, and so a clearway system was never even thought of.
When preparing for a RAS(S) (Replenishment at Sea..solids) the pallets are loaded up with the customers shopping list and made ready for transfer. On "Resource" the loded pallets were hoisted to main deck level on lifts and arranged on deck. At the mercy of the elements...as was the lift machinery. This was a very large open deck with fork lift trucks whizzing around all over the place and quite often interfering with the deck crew operating the rig. With me so far? The "Ness" class (designed and built by Swan-Hunter) realised that this was a problem and designed a ship that had the superstructure extended to the ships sides so tying the "old" midships block to the back one. But within the ship the lifts, pallets and so on were out of the weather. It also meant that the winches etc could be placed on top of all this and give even more space for the fork-lift Grand Prix. The loaded pallets could then be presented to the rig(s) in use as they were needed without cluttering up the deck space. So, essentially what you have is a ring-road within the ship. This is the "clearway".
I wasn't long before 7 minute miles were being recorded. I also wasn't long before other ships got wind of this and all sorts of inter-ship challenges were made and "things" sort of developed a bit, culminating in almost full-scale athletics meetings with ships pulling up alongside and "athletes" being air-lifted in. It's always the POs that drive this kind of activity. The next "addition" was the "Bookies Shop". All profits going to the ships charity. Then the "Burger Bar" appeared, rapidly followed by the "Fish'n'Chip" shop. The ships company became so involved with these events that our real job became almost secondary. But of course the ships coming alongside could re-store at the same time, and the aircraft would deliver as well as picking up people. Nothing wasted. But we began to run out of fish.
The other great hobby among seafarers is angling. The Falklands are teeming with huge Brown Trout. I think the size of them is due to the size of the "rivers". Or the width of them anyway. The rivers are quite deep but not much more than 6 to 12 ft across. So our angling fraternity got involved. Same procedure as for the bird-watchers. The "fly" fishermen were not too impressed at having to stand about 50' back from the "river" and learn how to cast into it, but there you go. Some wonderful fish. But not enough. So the Sea King crews just went off to anothe stream and lobbed a few thunderflashes (big bangers) into the water and scooped up the stunned fish. Problem solved.
When we eventually got home the ship presented Fern Brittan with a pretty big cheque for the local childrens hospital. The RNLI also benefitted to such an extent that the RFA crews kept up the momentum and eventually paid for a lifeboat. I think it was a "Brede" class boat.
But South Georgia next.
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Notes from a simple seaman

Roger in France

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #299 on: April 10, 2009, 06:29:51 AM »

Fascinating, Bryan.

Your sense of fun and skill as a raconteur, however, overlies the seriousness of what you and your ship were truly about. Thanks for the telling and thanks for the service.

Roger in France
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