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Author Topic: Nautical "Strange but True!"  (Read 151580 times)

omra85

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #600 on: April 19, 2010, 04:58:12 pm »

Bryan
I know you are more than capable of fighting your own battles, but I think you should be reassured on one thing -
I, who have never been on a ship in my life (excluding cross-channel ferries) find your stories fascinating.  A point which we made 'en masse' when you thought about stopping.
I'm sure many of our USA members would also agree.  I believe they are 100% true, and not only that, highly entertaining.
I suggest that Mr Cough (I'm guessing that's his surname even though he only uses his first name) does what his name suggests and bothers RC groups or some such and leaves us all to get on and enjoy life in all its myriad ways.
Thanks
a happy reader
aka Danny
 
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DickyD

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #601 on: April 19, 2010, 05:17:27 pm »

I take it we are talking about fooman2008 who is as we speak, slating the RN on the wishful thinking topic.

Pity he doesn't confine his remarks to a US site instead of trying to make trouble here.

You carry on Bryan, your articles are both informative and humorous.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #602 on: April 19, 2010, 06:00:35 pm »

"Bell Boat" and Dicky;-and any other eavesdroppers....
1. Thanks for your support (and no more quotes from Spike Milligan...you already know it).
2. I have no intention of leaving until 1994, when I may change tack a little.
3. Anyone who can name a child Foo Cough has a lot to answer for. I'm beginning to feel sorry for him (or her).
     A digression....about names......I have a brother-in-law (nice chap) whos surname is Coaster...his parents chritened him Roland. So ever since he has been known as Roly Coaster, but now his lovely daughter has got herself engaged to be married. And is now adamant that she will never,ever change her surname.....to Heavysides. I had to laugh.
But that ability to laugh has also had its price. Pointing out the sheer stupidity of the beaurocratic clap-trap contained in a "manual" during a meeting with a bunch of "suits" really never did my chances of promotion much good. Zero, in fact. But I'm still here (just) and most of them are "gone".
4. No matter what is thrown at me (regarding the scribbles) I will answer if I have a "person" to reply to. I think Martin should address this (so far) minor problem. I enjoy talking to you all, even though it is via electronics. It may not have escaped your notice that there has emerged a sort of verbal friendship between me and other forum members. I'm sure that applies to others, but it's a nice feeling.
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Notes from a simple seaman

kiwi

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #603 on: April 19, 2010, 08:05:53 pm »

Bryan,
Keep up the most entertaining narrative.
Most enjoyable, and brightens up my day down here in the South Pacific
(NZ)
regards
kiwi
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #604 on: April 20, 2010, 05:31:02 pm »

Austin – 3

If you can be bothered to refer back to the pic of Austin I posted you will notice that the back-end of the ship is pretty ugly. Very elegant at the front end of the ship, but not so at the back. But such is life in the aviation world. A hangar is a hangar and so must look like a shed. Which in fact it was. A high-tech shed I’ll grant you, but a shed nevertheless. So. What we have here is a garage for 2 Sea Kings. 2 roller doors that went skew-whiff too often for comfort, lighting that was “fixed” (instead of being capable of being lowered down) that made replacing “tubes” a nightmare for the Leckies. An electronics workshop, a briefing room, assorted storage rooms, a rather large “ready-use” avcat tank, a sort of “rest-room” (where the RN guys could play
electronic golf or something) and, finally …”Flyco”. Oh, I forgot to mention that there was also a flight deck. 2 of them in fact. One of which is on top of the hangar. Somewhere or other there was stowage for masses of sono-buoys and other assorted pyrotechnics. Heavier stuff like torpedoes, missiles and so on were kept in special magazine areas within the hull, but separate from the ships “cargo” load of similar “stuff”. The “load” carried on this class of ship was roughly equivelent to that carried by “Resource” but more modern….and “Sea-Slug”, “Sea-Cat” etc. had long gone, but relaced by other nasty things.But all in all, pretty capable ships.

As you can well imagine, the flight-deck surface gets a fair old hammering. Not so much from the aircraft but from the wood pallets and so on used for Vertrep transfers. If they are not lifted or dropped cleanly then they have a tendency to skitter a bit (or a lot, sometimes). So the deck can get a bit chewed up. The paint surface is naturally of the “non-skid” variety, but not “as you know it” stuff. It’s also very, very expensive. To coat a flight deck the size of Austins would run into £x,000s, so it has to be done properly. One of the criteria for the surface finish is the friction it provides. This entails the use of some very sophisticated machinery. In fact it’s also so simple that anyone can use it. Very few components. A flat square of steel attached to a bit of string with a spring balance next to the handle held by the operator. Knowing the weight of the steel plate, the amount of pull required to move the thing is noted. If the pull reaches the desired figure then that’s OK, if it falls too far under spec, or needs more than spec, the surface is rejected.
Another little “aside”….when the flight-deck is not being used as such, it isn’t uncommon for it to be used for “leisure” purposes”. Some prefer running around it, others use a skateboard, using the ships natural movement to give the boarder a permanent downhill run…and then we get to “deck-hockey”. This is dangerous and elf’n’safety would never allow it. Not so much the game (although that’s violent enough)…but fall over on that surface and you’d discover what “sticky friction” can do to human flesh. A good slide can take the flesh off a knee to the bone. Yeuch.
During many visits to warships of other nations I invariably noticed how different were the deck surfaces. If ours were like pretty rough sandpaper, the Dutch ones looked as if they had been pebbledashed. They were the 2 extremes.

But back to the refit. Winter was now closing in, and the weather was both cold and wet (“wet” is very popular in Plymouth). So work on the flight-deck had to be done under a tent that totally covered the area, and some space-heaters installed to keep the place warm. As you all know only too well, the successful application of paint depends on the preparation….particularly so with a paint that can cost maybe £100 per metre covered. And so arose my first major “beef” with both DML and our “super”. “They” were happy with the tenting and heating….so was I, but the flight deck also “overhung” the deck below around the edges. This area wasn’t being “tented” or heated, so the cold and damp was chilling those areas. My concerns were very rudely dismissed (basically being told to wind my neck in). Please remember this when I get to the “Orient ‘92” deployment! Another “grouch” came when the re-building of “Flyco” started. This was one of those “A and A”s that I mentioned earlier. Drawn up and decided upon by my all-time favourite bit of the RN…the “Corps of Naval Constructors”. Without going into too much detail (only because it would take too long) the basic idea was to sort of push the windows out over the flight-deck by about 4ft to “improve visibility from flyco over the deck…particularly sideways towards the hangar doors. But instead of putting a window at each end of the new overhang, our experts had decided on a steel plate. Not easy to see through. My complaints this time did produce a sort of result….in that a nerd from the Constructors was despatched to “put me in my place”. Sorry, chummy; this approach wasn’t going to work. So I wrote a letter to a “higher authority” (minute chances of promotion now diminishing towards the quantum physics level). All sorts of people were despatched to see what I was moaning on about….most of them antagonistic as I was potentially upsetting their Xmas break. Eventually we got our windows, and I got a letter from our Commodore asking me (asking?) to be more circumspect  in my statements, but as I already knew that the wording of my letter had caused some mirth in such exalted circles I sort of ignored it. Thousands and thousands of £ being spent on this thing and some little oik who hadn’t a clue about ships and the operating of them presumed to believe his department could do no wrong. Mind boggling.

But now Xmas was approaching. The Portacabin that was used (mainly by the junior engineers) as a sort of “haven” was by now looking like a land-fill site. Do all junior engineers exist on a diet of “Pot Noodles” and cans of “Coke”? Ours seemed to. And containers for “garbage”, because they didn’t rotate, reciprocate or produce anything  and were therefore not an engineering responsibility were totally ignored. Some small effort was made to clean the place up….mainly by riveting some “decorations” to the ceiling and buying a plastic Xmas tree (came in 3 sections) which was decorated as only an engineer would know how. By this time we were aware that Gulf War (1) was on the cards, but there was no way we could be ready for it, although we naturally kept pretty well up to speed on what was either going on or expected. If you are old enough to cast your mind back that far you may recall that the big fear was being faced with chemical and/or biological weapons. I assume the RN ships do this also, but all “front-line” RFAs carry stocks of “detectants” and “antidotes” (effectiveness not proven….all on trust). As the guys out there really needed (wrong word) a lot of this stuff, it was time to raid our laid-apart stores and get out everything we could for onward despatch. Thank goodness we had a “crew” on board to do this.

By now the MoD Plods (A jocular and universally used term to describe our well loved MoD Policemen) were in full “Protection of the Realm” mode. Car searches, the “patting down” bit and all that….but most of the Dockyard-Maties” just waltzed on by. Britain is a strange place. Try all that in the USA and even if you’re a fully attired Admiral you’d soon find a gun up your nose.
Then somebody stole our Xmas tree.
Not the whole tree….just the middle bit, and then the top bit jammed onto the bottom bit, no doubt hoping no-one would notice that the tree was now nearly 3ft shorter than it was yesterday. Sod the refit. We wanted our tree back!. Unknown to me (at least) all sorts of little groups of people within the ship were discussing this turn of events (“we” had our own little group, unaware of others). Eventually, as will always happen, the entire thing coalesced. And ALL the groups pointed the finger in the same direction. Seamen may be mentally retarded but they aren’t daft. I kind of imagine that by now you have a vague idea as to where all these fingers were pointing. It then transpired that one of our very junior ratings had noticed “him” putting some ships stores into the back of his car on more than one occasion. A breakthrough!
It was quietly arranged through the DML guys (always pays to be friendly) for the Mod Plods to be tipped off as to “when” to do a “stop and search”. Embarrassment and bluster…..and we got our bit of tree back. Sad people, some of our “bosses”.

I’d elected to be the Duty deck officer over the Xmas period, choosing to be home for the New Year holidays. I quite enjoyed it, OK the ship was cold, but it was quiet and I could plough through all sorts of outstanding beaurocratic stuff that had been ignored for too long. It may sound odd, but I really did enjoy it, and then going back to my “flat”, going out to a restaurant and just relaxing for once.

Not all that much more, but I might remember some things so I’ll leave it there for today.
Just in case you’re wondering, no, I haven’t written all this lot up previously…you get it about 5 minutes after I write it. Hence the grammatical mistakes, mis-spellings and all that. But it all happened. BY
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #605 on: April 21, 2010, 07:48:02 pm »

Austin – 4

Eventually the holiday period came to an end and the yard sort of crawled back into its own version of “action”. The contracted painters had been busy though. Taking very sensible advantage of the holiday break, the ships underwater surface had been painted with some “state of the art” very toxic sort of stuff that requires everyone (except the painters) to clear the ship to a distance of about 3 miles….OK, about 200 yards or so. I seem to recall, although I may well be wrong here, that this was just the first coat, the second being applied just before the dock was flooded up. The “topsides” were now gleaming like the new pin. Most (non-engineering) stuff was up and running awaiting sea and operational trials.
Not forgetting the ritual of “Replacing The Plugs”, and recovering the anchors and cables ….not forgetting to re-mark the shackles. What’s that mean? Easy enough really. If (for example) the third shackle length from the anchor end comes inboard, it can be verified as the 3rd shackle by painting the 3rd chain link on each side of the joining shackle white. And so on.
Partially flood the dock and do the obvious checks. We will remain in this condition for a few days before the dock is fully flooded and the old girl can float again. But the refit is by no means over. Another month at least.

By now all the blocks, tackles and shackles had been tested and brought home. So now the bosun and his lads could begin to re-build the rigs. Re-building, yes, but not for operational purposes. The entire rig had to be given a “strength test”, mainly to see if anything welded to the deck or someplace would give way when a load was applied to the rig that was a bit in excess of what would be used in full, normal usage. This test will naturally cause the ship to lean over a bit…hence waiting for the ship to be floating Can you imagine the hoo-ha if this test was done “dry” and the ship fell over!? Eventually, that and all sorts of other “tests were finished and we were towed out to sit alongside in the basin.
Another long “ongoing” job had been the removal of all asbestos from the ship. Particularly within the accommodation, galley and recreation spaces. This was a very “odd” job. All the ships alleyways were sheathed in sheets of plastic which made the instinctive knowledge of the ships internals largely redundant…more like something kids would enjoy in an adventure park.
I think (?) this refit was costing upwards of £3,000,000.

Mind if I return to the “flight” bit for a minute?
“Austin”, being capable of operating alone for extended periods with a multi-aircraft flight embarked also needed to carry a lot of Avcat. The large “tank” for this smelly stuff (worse than Diesel, I assure you), is located at the back end of the shaft tunnel. On the other side of the tunnel is the main fresh water tank. As they are sort of “adjacent” they became part of my “remit”. So in spite of being a “deckie”, I spent a fair amount of time chewing the fat in the MCR with the “dirty mob” before wandering past a great lump of machinery that I was assured was the ships main engine, but difficult to recognize when it was in bits, through very solid WT door and into the tunnel, naturally enough dominated by this very long approx 2’ dia shiny steel rod that apparently had a propeller on the end. Avcat tanks and fresh water tanks need different sorts of coatings. The Avcat one is coated with a nice white fuel-resistant epoxy, but just digging away with a fingernail I got some of the coating to peel off. So I rejected it. Ructions! Friendly relations getting a bit strained today. But if DML had done the job properly in the first place ..then no problem. In no way was I going to accept (in the future) Avcat contaminated with paint chippings. I think DML were looking at a bit of a loss here. About 10ft away was the access manhole into the fresh water tank. For some reason that’s really beyond me, the fresh-water tanks were coated in a sort of bitumen (a bit like a car underseal). This had also been sloppily applied…another rejection. Big arguments in the Portacabin that night….and a lack of Line –managers in the pub later. No wonder commercial yards preferred not to have ships staff inspecting the yard work.
The basic ships design made it impossible to get from the Avcat tank area to the Avcat pumproom which, in a straight line, is about 6ft away. Oh, no. The choice was to climb the 30’ tunnel escape ladder or go back through the main engine room…and then go down again past the crew bar, down into the refridgerated food spaces, down another level and finish up almost where you’d started from. In tropical conditions this was knackering, and it had to be done at least once a day. I was lucky in having a rating to do this, but I’d do it at least once a week at sea.

       I hope that this Refit tale isn’t boring your socks off, but I would imagine that this sort of “work pattern” is miles away from the more normal and sensible jobs most of you hold down.

Being OIC ammunition and so on the Ready-Use 20mm lockers were also “mine”. These were removed at the start of the refit and “taken away”. The “spec” laid ou exactly what was to be done with them…..it boiled down to making them look like new. Getting a little concerned at this stage of the refit about lack of any progress reports I eventually tracked down the “shed” where this job was supposed be being carried out. The Foreman (or whatever he’s called in a Naval Dockyard) just pointed me to a pile of poorly re-sprayed lockers. When I (politely) asked him why they still looked like a pile of poo and hadn’t been re-furbished as per spec he was surprisingly open about it, stating that “well, it’s only a bloody RFA isn’t it”. Blue touch paper time again. But this time I insisted that this “foreman” attended the evening Portacabin meeting to explain himself. Suffice it to say that when the lockers were fitted back on board thy were immaculate. I only really relate that episode to illustrate that even in 1991 there was a lingering ignorance, antipathy and disregard for the RFA  held by some die-hards both in the RN and the Naval Dockyards.

Although most of the refit had been better than “good”, the “skilled” workforce were not infallible. Recall that I mentioned that one of the 2 very large hangar doors had had a tendency to go a bit “squiffy”? Well part of the spec was to remove and re-furbish the things. You know what these roller shutter doors are like, well, these are just the same, only on a grand scale…and need to be power driven. The slats have to be free running and paint thickness is quite critical. An “outside job” for the manufacturers. Expensive. So when the whole, beautifully re-done unit was dropped from about 20ft onto the hangar floor, bending the centre drive shaft and totally knackering the drive system you can imagine the throwing up of hands and the stomping off. At least, MoD didn’t have to pay for that one either.

At around this time (early February 1991) as we were supposedly entering the final stages of this refit we were told that we were to be visited by Charles and Diana….can’t be bothered to list them all as HRH’s.  Any of you who have ever visited a dockyard cannot have failed to notice the general amount of detritus and “stuff” just left lying around. If the effort put into cleaning up the 700ft of crap left along our bit of the quay had been put into the actual refit we would have been gone and away before Xmas. I’ve never seen before, or since, a more “polished” looking area of a working dockyard. But as it was our Silver Wedding anniversary that weekend, I just drove home. Lucky me.
By now we were re-manning to a full sea-going strength, and once again living on board. Some jobs still had to be done. One of these was the overhaul of the hydraulic cranes. Big beasts. It really takes a genius to forget to release the pressure before trying to remove the jib. But they managed it. Just on lunchtime. Sounded and felt like we had been hit by a bomb. In yachtsmans terms a “flying jib” has a different connotation….this one was more literal. Whoosh!! Bang and Crash. Oh, dear; how sad, but never mind, not “our” fault ‘guv…..let DML fix it.
I wonder if they made a profit, or improved their standing very much?

But, surprisingly, relationships between the ships refit staff (all ranks) had, on the whole, remained pretty good. To sort of “celebrate” the refit end the DML ship managers and (some) foremen invited us (the refit crew) to a Pub Dinner. I forget the name of the “pub”, but it was in Saltash and was (is?) a favourite “get off your face” haunt of the RN recruits in “Raleigh”. The dining room was dominated by a lifesize John Wayne ..and boasted a 50oz steak to anyone who could eat it . A wet night.
And so ends “Fort Austin”s 1990/1 refit.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #606 on: April 22, 2010, 04:46:31 pm »

OLNA – 1991.

After my leave period from “Austin” I wasn’t at all surprised to be appointed to another “Ol”….”Olna” again. I didn’t mind this at all as I knew just about everyone on board and so it promised to be a “happy ship”.
It had been a little while since I was on her, and after her stint in some winter weather she was beginning to show her age a little, but never mind. With lingering memories of the “Tides” (“Old” and “New) still in mind, the “Ol”s were quite grand. The only “downside” of the appointment was that I had to join her in that far flung outpost of Empire called Rosyth. Getting there is always a problem, especially when carting a full whack of sea-going luggage. To get from Whitley Bay to Edinburgh is easy enough, but not wanting to change trains, it’s more sensible to catch the Aberdeen train and get off at Inverkeithing. So far, so good. But past experience had shown me that although Rosyth Dockyard is only a couple of miles away, that’s where the problems begin. First wait for a taxi. Which may or may not arrive….and getting on a local bus is a non-starter. Let’s assume the taxi arrives. Then you find out (too late) that taxis aren’t allowed into the dockyard (not at that time anyway). And there really wasn’t a way of getting to the ship which (although visible) was about a mile walk away. I hated that dockyard. Even worse when joining a ship out on a buoy in the Firth. Bad enough in summer, sheer hell in winter. So hiring a car was (to me) the only sensible option. Alas, although “convenient”, is a marathon. First go to Newcastle Airport to collect car (using family car that Mrs.Y will have to drive home). A very pleasant drive to Rosyth, dump gear on board and then return car to Edinbugh airport (miles away). Then a taxi back to the dockyard gates and the long walk to the ship. No wonder only the few hardiest souls venture ashore in this place. Every other dockyard in the world has “somewhere” to go to that’s within easy reach..not Rosyth. The place is bleak (because it’s so spread out), the MoD Plods are obstructive and the resident Customs blokes were always just plain vindictive…even to their fellow Scots.

       The guy I was relieving had scarpered before I got there, but no worries as I was a bit of an “old-hand” on this ship. A quick flip through the “paperwork” showed that everything seemed to be in order….as it proved to be after a deeper check. I think that everyone on board was glad to be away from here, even though we were joining in a N.Atlantic “exercise”. Even though it was early summer, it was always expected to be cold, wet and lumpy up around the Iceland-Greenland area. As it proved to be. All the usual rigmarole of much flying, darken ship, night RASs and all that. But this sort of exercise generally doesn’t last much more than a couple of weeks……and we had what appeared to be a nice little “deployment” to look forward to.

       But first we had a few weeks of AMP in Devonport. (AMP = Assisted Maintenance Period, SMP = Self Maintenance Period….just to keep you up with TLAs, you understand). This actually was a quite pleasant interlude.
The 3rd Officer (deck) had, for some reason, a close relationship with the Hampshire Police Force and, although it’s a bit of a hike from Southampton to Plymouth had arranged a cricket match between us and them….we won (!), but it cost us dearly in the officers bar that evening. So honours even I think.
One of the 2nd officers(deck) was, unusually, a “temporary” officer. I may have mentioned this guy before, so bear with me. He held a “Mates” certificate but wasn’t a regular seafarer and wanted to keep his “ticket” valid. He’d been on RFA ships in the past, although I’d never met him, but he proved to be pretty competent in the ways of the RFA. His “main job” was that of being the owner of a very successful knitting pattern company based in the Isle of Man. His tales of the models would merit a full site on this forum. But my lips are sealed. An inkling….”beautiful faces, but don’t let them talk”. He also owned and used his own aircraft to get about the place. Not your normal Cessna or whatever. He had a 2/3ds scale Heinkel WW2 bomber. He was always proud of how much he got from the film company making “The Battle of Britain”…only one aircraft, and he was flying it. He enjoyed life.
      Our next stop was to be Portsmouth to re-store and fill up with the smelly stuff, with a few days en-route at Portland. I think if we’d been able to go around the “long way” (via the Pentland Firth) we may have avoided this. Instead, we got involved in the Thursday War, not, thankfully, to the extent of getting all dressed up and generally "xxxxx" everyone off. But I think we got sunk a few times one way or another.
       
       Our deployment was to be over the Atlantic with visits to Mayport and Fort Lauderdale before being part of the drug interdiction force in the Caribbean. Best of all was that wives were welcome to do the whole trip. This included quite a few RN wives whose husbands were in either “Ark Royal” or (I think) “Exeter”. We were also to have an embarked flight from 849 squadron. These are the long range radar Sea Kings that have the big bag thingy hanging out. More later.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #607 on: April 22, 2010, 05:02:24 pm »

A "Baggy";-
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Shipmate60

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #608 on: April 22, 2010, 05:05:23 pm »

Bryan.
In Devonport Dockyard I had the dubious pleasure of being the MoD Overseer on one of our Naval Armament Vessels.
I can sympathise with you on a ship that size!!!

Bob
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Colin Bishop

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #609 on: April 22, 2010, 05:50:25 pm »

Another fascinating instalment Bryan, thank you. Your comments about Rosyth were interesting as in WW1 it was considered to be a 'cushy billet' for David Beatty's Battlecruiser Fleet as the crews could get ashore to the fleshpots of Edinburgh while the officers were invited to tennis and dine with the local gentry. Times change! Of course the rest of the Grand Fleet was based at Scapa Flow so i imagine anywhere would have been regarded as an improvement on that.

Colin
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #610 on: April 22, 2010, 05:56:06 pm »

Bryan.
In Devonport Dockyard I had the dubious pleasure of being the MoD Overseer on one of our Naval Armament Vessels.
I can sympathise with you on a ship that size!!!

Bob

Bob, that's interesting. Could you expound a little on that.....or, if you wish it to be private, could you do it by either PM or normal e-mail? Bryan.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #611 on: April 22, 2010, 06:11:10 pm »

Another fascinating instalment Bryan, thank you. Your comments about Rosyth were interesting as in WW1 it was considered to be a 'cushy billet' for David Beatty's Battlecruiser Fleet as the crews could get ashore to the fleshpots of Edinburgh while the officers were invited to tennis and dine with the local gentry. Times change! Of course the rest of the Grand Fleet was based at Scapa Flow so i imagine anywhere would have been regarded as an improvement on that.

Colin
Afternoon, Colin. I think I agree with you about conditions during both WW1 and 2, but you're missing one important "bit of life" here. Although the RN dockyards are "run" by MoD civilians, they are totally RN orientated. The hangover persists in certain quarters....or it did during "my time".
Transport was always made available to RN crew members, but not to the RFA.
Please be assured that I'm not whinging here, just trying to tell it as I found it. It happened (happens) all over the world when RN and RN ships do a visit. I do believe that things have improved, especially now that the RFA is acknowledged as a branch of "the Service"), but it wasn't always so.
A very simple example here. Compare me as a sort of Senior Officer joining "Olna" and having to go to great lengths to get myself and my "kit" to the ship, with a junior rating joining an RN vessel. He would be met by an RN driven Land Rover and taken from the gate to the ship.
Take my point? Bryan.
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Colin Bishop

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #612 on: April 22, 2010, 06:41:57 pm »

Undoubtedly Bryan. I must say that on my recent Navy Days visits to Portsmouth and Devonport on behalf of Model Boats magazine I was really impressed by the latest RFA Mounts Bay class ships which are clearly very competent vessels indeed and almost indistinguishable from their RN counterparts for practical purposes.

Colin
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #613 on: April 22, 2010, 07:27:49 pm »

The “imported” wives were almost without exception extremely good looking and personable. They, and “our” wives once again formed a nautical version of the “Womens Institute”. No bad thing as the ship was pretty busy with one thing and another, but compared to the mayhem we had on “Olwen” this was all quite sedate.
Our Captains wife was (is) a Spanish lady and a couple of others were wives of fairly senior RN officers, so some sort of decorum and (in the case of the RN ladies) reigned. In general, they were a delight to have around. But, and there is always a “but”, 2 of the many caused problems. The main one being an RFA wife. It all started off OK but then the wheels came off and she proved to be a paranoid drunk. The RN ladies (and ours) tried to help but to no avail. Our Captain did consider having her sent home, but humanitarian as he was (is) decided to let matters ride. She was a rather large lady. It came to a bit of a head one early morning when many of us on that deck were woken up by a sort of muffled screaming. On “investigation”, the “investigators” (not me, thank goodness), found the lady in question had fallen out of bed face down in the narrow gap between the bed and the bulkhead…bum upwards..and was well and truly “stuck”. Hubby was still snoring peacefully, "xxxxx" out of his skull. Got him awake(ish), removed the mattress and a bunkboard and somebody (a hero) just grabbed a pair of ankles and heaved. Life was quiet for a couple of days. But at around the same time, unknown to any of us, including her cabin “mate” (all the RN wives were in 2 berth cabins) one of them had fallen “in lust” with one of our junior engineers. As his cabin was adjacent to the Ch.Engineers bedroom then all squeals must have been a bit muted. It appeared (not until the end of the trip) that this liaison continued until she left the ship on arrival back in the UK. I probably helped that the J/Eng was on the 12-4 watch (day and night) so 4a.m. was probably a pretty good rendezvous time. But, as I said, that bit wasn’t known about until later.
The ships normal pattern continued as usual, but with an added attraction for our passengers. Be it day or night the “Ark” would be flying its Harriers. If the “Ark” was miles away then it wouldn’t have been noticed. During a RAS it certainly was. Seeing 6 Harriers launching off in quick succession during daylight from only 100ft away was always impressive even to us hard-boiled “seen it all- done it all” blokes. So the ladies were mightily impressed…..but nothing compared to the reaction when the Harriers were launched during a night RAS. Now, that is spectacular. With 2 ships that close and each one going up and down “out of sync” it’s a pretty awesome sight…and the noise, of course. I imagine that there were a few wet knickers after that first experience.
I suppose that it was only natural that the husbands of our passengers would care to “pay us a visit” now and again. Not, at first, realising that their wives were sharing a 2 berth cabin….a few giggling and sometimes red faces would be sighted in our bar “during the interim”….leave it there.
Our first stop was to be Fort Lauderdale….always a popular stop for RN and RFA ships, but not really for the place itself. In fact the town (or “city”, as it’s known in the USA) isn’t all that exciting. I do love the “banjo” bars, and some of the restaurants are both good and entertaining, but the main attraction for the crews was to “escape”, hire a “mini-van” and head off to Orlando for the weekend.
Then up to Mayport……next time.




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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #614 on: April 22, 2010, 07:36:36 pm »

I'm feeling a bit guilty about so many of these anecdotes coming rather thick and fast.....nothing to with a sense of impending doom, I assure you. More to do with our very changeable weather. I get a couple of hours outside in the old recliner and then the cloud rolls in. Then I get fed up with reading.....so I do this. BY.
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chingdevil

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #615 on: April 22, 2010, 07:45:17 pm »

Do not feel guilty Bryan, these last instalments have been really fascinating.

Brian
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Shipmate60

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #616 on: April 22, 2010, 09:38:32 pm »

Bob, that's interesting. Could you expound a little on that.....or, if you wish it to be private, could you do it by either PM or normal e-mail? Bryan.

Bryan,
I was the "Purse Holder" of the refit.
The main part was quoted for but there was a large contingency fund.
I also had the power to "flex" money from less important jobs to higher priority requirements.
As it happened this time the contingency was almost unlimited.
I can explain but would need to be by PM.
It was when we no longer used MoD Overseers and did it for ourselves in the RMAS.
There should be a pic of RMAS Kinterbury.

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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #617 on: April 23, 2010, 04:09:53 pm »

"Shipmate" (Bob), yes please. A PM could well fill in some of my procedural blanks. (e-mail as per profile).
Changing the subject a bit ....a bit more about the "Baggy" Sea King. If I'm wrong here then I'm sure I shall be quickly corrected!
Until not long before the Falklands thing came up, the RN used carrier borne "Gannet" aircraft as their main long-range radar warning platforms. During 1982 it was evident that some sort of replacement was needed. We really do get ourselves into some fine politically motivated pickles....(now, as then). The result was the Sea King conversion. But to make it work I've been led to believe that MoD scoured aircraft scrapyards for Gannet front wheel Oleos'..and they are what are still used to swing the bag up and down when landing or launching. BY.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #618 on: April 23, 2010, 05:39:54 pm »

Olna- drugs 3.

Well, what can one say about Mayport? For a USN base it’s quite small, but the basin is quite capable of handling at least 2 of their big carriers plus an assortment of “smaller” ships. Not particularly attractive, and truth to be told, a bit on the “run-down” and seedy side. Not too bad though. I guess it’s really only there because it’s adjacent to the (big) military air base that sits between Mayport and the city of Jacksonville. By “adjacent” I should really have said “joined on to”.
Jacksonville is OK I suppose, but as far as touristy shopping expeditions are concerned, forget it. Asking Mrs.Y what she recalled of the place, the answer was immediate..”12 months a year Xmas decoration shops”. That about sums it up. Oh, and there’s a sort of American version of Camelot that is apparently a State Prison. By far the best bit of “shopping” was to be found in the air-base PX. (about twice the size of the biggest Marks and Sparks you can think of). The Americans certainly know how to look after their serving and retired people. But, of course, we always have the NAAFI.

Once again, the RN ladies were whisked off to parts unknown, but their demainour on return to us indicated that “things” had been pleasurable. With the exception of Mrs.Lust. We also managed to get rid of Mrs.Lush for a few days..a great relief. She must have gone to some isolated area as UK/US relations seemed to remain stable.
I’d hired another “mini-van” and apart from exploring the neighbourhood up to the Georgia border, and the absolute waste of a day going the whole length of “Alligator Alley” to Naples, drove down to Disneyland and Expo. We loved it. Disney really ought to ban children from visiting the place. It’s really tailor made for adults. I came away firmly convinced that fantasy is one hell of a lot better than reality! It was also during this stop that we’d been invited by a USN couple to join them for “dinner” at a local sea-food place. Unfortunately, the house speciality was “soft shell crabs”. I don’t know where Americans keep their taste buds, but certainly not where ours are.These things are disgusting. Thank goodness most American service personnel have to be in bed by 8pm…back to the ship for a mouthwash of McEwans.

When we left Mayport it was a bit of a slog down to the Carribean, past Lauderdale. I still don’t know why we didn’t go to Mayport first! We also embarked (for the duration) the “baggy” from the Ark. This was quite a long winded procedure as they had to bring with them all the “specialised” stuff over, as well as the day to day maintenance gear. When not carrying any aircraft we never carried all that much, a few bitss’n’bobs like spare rotor blades, general use tool kits and stuff like that. So apart from the aircrew, we had a full complement of maintainers and an HCO (not an FDO, you’ll notice!). If I remember correctly, a “baggy” has a crew of 5. Two up front, 2 in the back and a crewman. As they were expected to by “on task” for pretty long flight times we had 2 crews. They were lead by a Lt.Cdr. Very (very) quickly, we realised that the “bosses” crew were a real and unadulterated bunch of complete w…..s. The 2nd crew were everything the others weren’t. Nice guys, and an asset to the ship and a credit to the RN..But more on them later.

It got a bit rough at the bottom end of Florida. The assorted wives had had a pretty smooth passage so far and were (understandably) a bit complacent. No, sorry to disappoint you, but sea-sickness wasn’t much of a problem. But it was Mrs.Y who discovered just how much a fully loaded “Ol” can move around. She should have known better! Sitting down at dinner one night the ship did one of those odd things that ships do now and again. We were rolling about quite a bit, but then the ship dropped sideways into a trough and then lifted straight back up again. This “tossing” force was enough to propel Anne up in the air, do a somersault and land (base downwards, thankfully) about 6’ away from where she’d started. Brave girl, got up and finished her dinner though. After the initial concern, it gave us all a bit of a laugh.

But now on to the reason for the voyage. Next time. BY.
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Martin [Admin]

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #619 on: April 23, 2010, 07:28:17 pm »

Just updated your Backup Bryan, now runs to 300+ page A4 !   :-))
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #620 on: April 23, 2010, 07:52:13 pm »

Just updated your Backup Bryan, now runs to 300+ page A4 !   :-))
Martin, why the post? Is it some sort of milestone or something? I still have a few years to go before it comes to a grinding halt...and then what do I do....apart from causing more mayhem. Bryan.
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Tug-Kenny

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #621 on: April 23, 2010, 07:54:23 pm »


Worth every page. What an interesting read. Thank you Brian   :-))

Ken

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Martin [Admin]

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #622 on: April 23, 2010, 11:55:40 pm »

   Just a stoker making a routine engine room report captain.  :-)


Martin, why the post? Is it some sort of milestone or something? I still have a few years to go before it comes to a grinding halt...and then what do I do....apart from causing more mayhem. Bryan.

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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #623 on: April 24, 2010, 07:17:56 pm »




By the time we got well into the Caribbean….south east of Jamaica, but somewhere near the track that smuggling boats and aircraft were thought to use the “1st team” of the 849 contingent had really become a nuisance to everybody. I guess through their arrogance that it never crossed their minds that our lovely RN wives were in contact with their husbands …especially the 2 Commanders wives. Our Captains wife was also hearing things that she duly passed on to hubby. Just regarding the behaviour…nothing to do with Mrs.Lust that we didn’t know about at that point. I think I know that our Captain did have some talks with the Arks Captain, but I think the upshot had to be to maintain the status-quo as we were carrying the only “baggy” in the area. The 2nd crew continued to behave as real gents, but were so embarrassed that unless invited into our company they kept away. I think we all felt for them. My personal feelings are really not suitable for inclusion here.
   
But to the task. Remembering that this was all back in 1991, the presence and participation of the RN and RFA trying to combat the drugs trade was still just an adjunct to the USAs efforts. Nowadays, as we’ve all read, there is a huge amount of very successful integration. I can only tell what “Olna” did, and assume that the Ark and Exeter were doing what they were tasked to do.
All our operations were to be done at night. I think that we started around 9pm and the aircraft returned after about 4 hours for re-fuelling and a crew change. Perhaps we got 3, maybe 4 “sorties” done per night over the next 10 days. Very tiring for everyone.
 
Our “reward” for this effort was to be granted a “long weekend” at anchor off Turks Island about 150 miles NE of Haiti. What a strange place! A bit like a tropical cross between Wall Street and a septic tank, to be honest. We had to use our “RIB” (one of the big ones) to get ashore, but who minded getting a bit wet in this climate. The first thing that was very noticeable was the number of people (all male) drifting around on rickety bicycles weaving all over the place and singing to themselves. Perhaps all our night flights had been in vain..
But, ignoring the bilious “salt-pan” sort of ponds, the beach here was even better than any travel brochure could illustrate. A sheer paradise if you didn’t have to spend a holiday here. Obviously, the wives who were with us wanted “beach and sea” time…us lot descended on a beach front bar that turned out to be run by an expat Brit. All very congenial. Until all the wives came running into the bar in a state of mild agitation. Now, you must take my word for it that this bunch of femininity were without exception very “fetching”. They got seriously alarmed when approached by a “huge” black man encrusted with dangling bits of gold who greeted them with the immortal words “Hello ‘dere”….so we all had another beer. Then it was decided to “have lunch”. It would seem that the staple diet on this island (apart from the more or less obvious) was Conch. Never had it before…and never again. Worse than soft-shelled crabs, and that’s saying something. Boiled, fried, roasted or whatever it still tastes and chews like a lump of rubber. Not to be recommended.

That weekend we were alerted to an emergency arising in Hiaiti, with apparently thousands of people trying to escape civil unrest by boat. We were put on alert to head out and “assist”. The wives were almost instantly transformed into a nursing team, and the ships company got themselves ready for more or less anything that would come their way.
Except for “number 1 flight crew”. Absolutely "xxxxx" out of their skulls. Soaking wet after a beer fight, uniform shirts all torn…and don’t blame us, we were all busy elsewhere. And that was the final straw. That flight, both the innocent (alas) and the guilty (goody) were repatriated with their aircraft, goods and chattels back to face whatever fate held for them. I must add, the RN POs and Ratings, along with the number 2 crew were all highly regarded and completely blameless for any bad behaviour.
As it turned out, the US Coastguard took over, and so our assistance wasn’t needed, but we were there if wanted. But that RN flight left a sour taste, and even today, if anyone mentions 849 squadron I get bad memories.

Time to go home. Normal trip back with the RASing and stuff. Most of the wives left when we reached Portland….and then the very tearful farewells of the pair of “lusts” was noticed. Poor souls. We went on to Invergordon where Anne went home, and we went straight out into a (by now, winter) N.Atlantic exercise….but it was only a few weeks before we went into Rosyth (full circle) and I went on leave again.

Next time….”Orient ‘92”. BY.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #624 on: April 28, 2010, 06:35:43 pm »

This post is not a continuation, but a sort of an excuse. Martins recent post telling me (and all and sundry!) that the thread had hit 300 pages of A4 sheets really surprised me. One reaction was of "pleasure", but the other created a kind of mild depression. How come? Well, after re-reading the entire thread plus all the responses/queries and so on I decided to attempt (attempt being the operative word here) to make a sort of book out of it all. Not a book that would be on sale anywhere, but mainly just a kind of record of my life at sea to be passed on to my granddaughter (now just over a year old). By the time she is really old enough to understand it all, in perhaps 20 years time, I guess I'll be long gone.....that's assuming that she would have the slightest interest in what one of her granddads' got up to. I also pondered the fact that people of my generation have only (in general) a very sketchy idea of what lives their parents had led, never mind the previous generation. OK, we all have some ancient photos' stuffed away somewhere, but seldom any kind of written record which if she reads it properly in say 2025, it is in the realms of modern history. Personally, I would love to have had such a document.
So really, this is a sort of "thank you" note to those of you who have pushed me in this direction. Not, perhaps, the direction you intended, but a direction nevertheless. For that I thank you.
I've just completed the (illustrated) saga of my cadetship which ran to 32 pages. So Martin is probably a bit short in his estimation!...hence the feeling of "depression" when I think of what lies ahead.
I will, I promise, get around to "Orient 92" ASAP. BY.
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