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Author Topic: Nautical "Strange but True!"  (Read 151578 times)

Colin Bishop

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #725 on: October 13, 2010, 09:25:11 pm »

I hope Bryan won't mind me posting a pic of the engine fitted to Invincible that he mentions. This one is in the RN College at Dartmouth for training purposes. As many of you will know, four of them were used to power Concorde as well...

Colin



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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #726 on: October 13, 2010, 09:33:30 pm »

I hope Bryan won't mind me posting a pic of the engine fitted to Invincible that he mentions. This one is in the RN College at Dartmouth for training purposes. As many of you will know, four of them were used to power Concorde as well...

Colin




Colin, I don't mind at all....I still think that the root problem lay within the ships structure and not with the engines per-se. Bryan.
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Notes from a simple seaman

Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #727 on: October 14, 2010, 04:23:04 pm »

I was just sitting in my by now very minimalist abode when I had a ‘phone call from the Deity. This was odd. Normally any communications from him were passed via some Dark Angel or other. He also called me Bryan instead of “Hey, you” (to be fair, he called everybody “Hey, you”). He was also speaking in tones usually reserved for the passing on of “bad news”, and politely (from him!) asked if I’d mind popping along to his cabin for a minute.
This brought on instant panic and an imminent seizure. What had happened. Must be bad news from home. Instant transformation into gibbering wreck. I must have been as white as a sheet when I knocked on his door. Actually, I didn’t need to knock, my trembling knuckles did the actual knocking all by themselves.
“He” was sat in an armchair instead of glowering from behind his desk…more trepidation. I was invited to sit in another armchair. Invited to sit down by this re-incarnation of  Blackbeard? No-one but no-one had ever heard him utter those words before. He must have a dictionary to hand. More trepidation. “Get on with it you old f**t!” (inwardly screaming to myself). Thank goodness he didn’t offer me a drink. I don’t know what my reaction to that offer would have been. Fainting, probably.
     “I’ve got some bad news for you”….close to fainting now.
“ I’m afraid that (imagine my thoughts here)….your relief has been taken ill and the MoD want to know if you’d help them out by extending your time here for perhaps another month”.
       I nearly strangled the old sod. From gibbering wreck to white fury in 2 seconds flat. He bloody-well KNEW what effect his pre-amble would have on me. But still using his “giving of bad news” voice he “asked” if I’d like to use his ‘phone to call Anne and hear what she had to say. I managed to say that I’d like half an hour or so to think it over. I don’t think he was happy about that, but what else could he do but say OK. He must have been inwardly chortling to himself after I managed to find his cabin door.
      I’d never before realised that such a being as a euphoric gibbering wreck could ever exist. I knew differently now.
      First, I decided to make the sod wait for more than an hour….just to give him time to revert to his normal malicious self. But I had a bit of thinking to do myself first.
Right. Down to the bar and grab a good stiff whisky. I’d drink that just before I returned to the presence, and let him smell that I’d had a drink. That’ll make him think he was still getting through to me. Then I’d take him up on the ‘phone call offer. I knew Anne would be a bit miffed, but she would immediately see the advantages. She wouldn’t have the hassle of getting to Brize Norton for a start. So if I put on a sorrowful voice ( I just knew that I wouldn’t be making this call in private) he could inwardly gloat a little longer. Ignorant sod. So, ‘phone call complete, I agreed to stay on. Sure didn’t take him long to revert to his usual self. Not even a “thank you”.
     But I was absolutely delighted. Over the moon. Chuffed to ribbons and such stuff. But if I’d let on to “him” then I’m sure the “suggestion and offer” would have been withdrawn somehow.
     My thinking? Well for a start, a month from now would put us in Dubhai or somewhere close. Then I’d be flying home “solo”, which meant a “Club” or “Business” class flight and not suffering the torment of the RAF flight and the Bank holiday arrival. But mostly my glee was about money. This extra month would put me nicely into the “out of the country for more than 6 months” bracket. Which in turn meant almost a full years Income Tax rebate. A  few thousands of £ just for another month of all this crud. Let him think he’d won!
      It was very easy to disguise my feelings and pretend to feeling “put upon” as it was back to the grindstone.
      Was it worth getting all my stuff back out of the crate? (yes, it was…why live like a pauper). I’d “wound the job down”, and now had to resurrect it. More of a mental thing than a physical one.
       Knowing what time the RAF flight was lumbering off the Kai Tak runway, I made sure I was in a position to watch it go. Poor souls. I knew many of the new arrivals (including the very pleasant chap who’d taken over from the Choff), so “things” showed signs of perking up a bit.
But there were still some negatives. The on-going rift between Deity and Ch.Engineer for one. This was exacerbated with the arrival of the Captains wife and the wife and teenage daughter of the C/Eng. Ever seen poison drip?
      A lot of this went (deliberately) over my head, but it lead indirectly to a bit of a bust-up between me and the C/Eng. He and Mrs C/Eng obviously wanted to be free of their daughter and not have to drag her around the bits of Hong Kong that they wanted to go to. So he (the C/E) kept nominating (ordering) some poor engineering cadet to “look after her”. So really messing up the lads (more than one) few bits of time ashore. I told him (the C/E), rather more bluntly than I should have I suppose, that he was really misusing his rank. This got back (naturally) to the Deity. Talk about the Law of Unintended Consequences! Never in my wildest nightmare would I have imagined being an ally of “Him”, but he assumed it to be a fact. So my always uneasy relationship with the God of The Underworld (Engine Room) sank to zero. This had two major effects on the ship. My main responsibility aboard was the safety and smooth operations on the Flight Deck. Any defects that needed some input from the Engineering staff was rapidly put on the back burner (many quizzical eyebrows raised from my engineering friends). Small minded?
You may also recall that right from the start of this deployment, we had to begin making submissions for items to be included in the next refit specification. At first glance this may appear to be reasonably straightforward. Not so. The person making the submission (for the “deck” side, that would be me or the Choff) had a pretty complicated form to complete before filing it with the C/Eng. After I eventually left the ship I was contacted by a pal of mine (another C/Eng) whose new shore job was the drawing up of refit specifications. He wanted to know why so little had been submitted by the deck department. Having a bit of an inkling as to why this had happened I told him some of this story, and also what file I’d stowed all the duplicates in before I left the ship. I leave it to your imagination what the ships C/Eng had done with my submissions. But I believe “words were spoken”.
       
        This bit has nothing whatsoever to do with anything even vaguely Nautical, but it may give rise to a tiny little chuckle.
Mental confusion.
Apart from the continuing restoration of “Norseman” and the penning of these notes from the past, I’m also continuing the writing of the “book” that I’m trying to put together for my granddaughter. Much of it lifted almost directly from these postings, but with “extras” included. The “book” is about 4 ships behind these postings. And quite often I get these feelings of deja-vu. I’ve even been known to mix up ships or get them into the wrong order or ascribe events on one ship to another. My brain hurts!
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Colin Bishop

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #728 on: October 14, 2010, 07:56:42 pm »

Great stuff Bryan, better than any novel.

Colin
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Colin H

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #729 on: October 14, 2010, 08:17:43 pm »


Bryan, once again many thanks for taking the time to indulge us "land lubbers". I had some time off boat building and the forum this year to concentrate on the garden, so it was great to return and find you had continued your saga.

As to the book you are writing for your granddaughter. I started a similar project back in 2004 more to try and show the difference's between our childhoods and hers than anything else.

The bad news for you is that whilst I am sure you have more to write about than me, I have only just turned it over to SWMBO for proof reading. It just seemed to grow, every time I read through what I had written I remembered something else, or realised I got a date or the context wrong.

Good luck with your own efforts and please try to find time to keep posting here.

Colin H.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #730 on: October 14, 2010, 10:00:38 pm »

Bryan, once again many thanks for taking the time to indulge us "land lubbers". I had some time off boat building and the forum this year to concentrate on the garden, so it was great to return and find you had continued your saga.

As to the book you are writing for your granddaughter. I started a similar project back in 2004 more to try and show the difference's between our childhoods and hers than anything else.

The bad news for you is that whilst I am sure you have more to write about than me, I have only just turned it over to SWMBO for proof reading. It just seemed to grow, every time I read through what I had written I remembered something else, or realised I got a date or the context wrong.

Good luck with your own efforts and please try to find time to keep posting here.

Colin H.
Colin, you are so right!....but I have the cunning plan! Once the main bit is done (if ever), then I intend to have an addendum, yhat will just...sort....of.....out......
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #731 on: October 15, 2010, 05:42:00 pm »

A quick return to “Shimmy-Shammy-Po” is required here. (I wish I could recall the areas real name!). I discovered these little facts when in (friendly) conversation with an officer of the Hong Kong Police. He’d sort of lifted an eyebrow when I told him where I’d been. Not a recommended area for Europeans I gathered. But although I’d come to no harm, I had noticed a dearth of European faces. But, as I said earlier, take away the horrible (and cheap) modern buildings it was more like the old Honk Kong I knew as a cadet. With one or two exceptions.
       Traffic in this area is even more chaotic and anarchist than anything you’d find in Italy or Brazil. The streets are pretty narrow, but even so; crossing one is an invitation to the Grim Reaper. But this was of no concern to the “locals”. The “main” roads had a system of white lines much like ours, with the odd addition of a second white line down the centre of the road. The 2 lines being about a yard apart. I gathered that this area must have been a pedestrian refuge area. What I certainly didn’t expect was to see entire families squatting between the lines having lunch. Traffic howling past only a matter of inches away. The Chinese really are a different race! But just as interesting (in retrospect) was this policemans take on the area. Starting off by saying it was, and still was, a “Tong” enclave that used to be part of the “secret/forbidden” city of the past. It had become one of the main areas that spawned civil unrest, riots and so on. It was also the criminal part of Kowloon with all sorts of criminal activity constantly on the march. Particularly prostitution and drugs. He reckoned that my (large) ex-marine friend and I would have been tracked with some puzzlement all the time we were in the area. I’m glad I didn’t know anything about this at the time. However, even though it’s an area to be avoided, there was still a sort of “mode of behaviour” there. In the prostitution trade particularly. The “young” ladies of the night (in this case, day) had the run of the streets in the mornings. Learning their trade no doubt. Then the afternoons belong to the “gay” community, and the transvestites have the evenings. The older prostitutes have the nights. Understandable I suppose in an area with poor street lighting.
    And this worldly wise hardened seaman hadn’t noticed a thing!
   
    By now our flight deck re-surfacing work had been completed. Servicable, yes. Pretty, no. A two-tone flight deck offends the eye a bit. And the white deck markings looked a bit amateurish. Particularly the large F A at the back end. That sort of said it all. Also by now “our” flight maintainers were ensconced in their comfortable cabins again after slumming it for a week or more on the carrier. The aircrew were also returning in dribs and drabs, but “commuting” the couple of hundred feet or so between the 2 ships on a daily basis. They really hated leaving “their” aircraft in the custody of a disliked and rival squadron. I think our lot kept expecting to find bits of their helos to have been swapped for inferior ones! No love lost there! But all that was short lived. We on the Austin had actually built up a pretty good and friendly rapport with our “Junglies”. Then some sort of executive decision was made by the carrier. We weren’t going to get our aircraft back. We were, however to embark a couple of the anti-submarine ones from the disliked squadron. So all change again. Much shuttling back and forth along the quay. All our spares and equipment going one way, and “theirs” coming the other.
As usual, the RN POs and ratings settled in quickly and happily with our crew. Again as usual, their officers didn’t. For some reason or another the ASW guys seem to consider themselves some sort of elite. Not true. As always we immediately found the to be as arrogant, selfish and clannish as we’d always found the officers of this squadron to be. No more social intercourse at the bar. No more intermingling in the dining saloon. This attitude does not a happy ship make.
      Sometime during my second bite at Hong Kong, we got word that the RFA was beginning to recruit “females”. Shock and horror! And to make it worse, female deck cadets would be the first ones. “Fort Grange” was to be the guinea-pig. And good luck to the old pal of mine who’d been appointed to the job of “Cadet Training Officer” on the grounds that he had 2 daughters! Sometimes you just can’t believe the ways of the MoD.
      I guess the back end of August in Hong Kong must be the end of something and the start of something else. It got cold. But as it was still “August”, and the RN Rules basically say that even if you’re up to withers in snow, you’ll wait until September before you don the blues. The locals must think we’re all stark staring bonkers wandering around the ship visibly shivering and getting wet. Well, not us specifically as we can stay “indoors” sort of thing. And the RFA lot are not all that keen on obeying every stricture that emanates from that big lump ahead of us. So we had the rather bizarre sight of our lot going around with heavy (and warm) blue woolly-pullies  worn with white shorts and black boots.
     The more I delve back into my “archives” the more convinced I become that my inability to put things into chronological order must be genetic or something. Now I’ve got to stick a little appendice (appendix?) to the Tram Ride trip.
When the tram had dropped us off (literally in some cases) some went back to the ship and the rest decided to go walkabout. During their permbulations they stumbled across a TV team making a pop video. They were each  given 100$HK to either shut up and not join in, or just go away. One of our “brighter” junior engineers actually took his 100$, came back to the ship, got changed, went back and got another 100$. So he had a cheap night out!
      Nothing else to go wrong? We got the poo-pong back. In an outside temperature of just on 90*F and humidity about the same (wet), this was even worse than the first time around….and our “volunteer” tank diver had just flown home. Perhaps it was some sort of “parting gift”. But no, it couldn’t have been as about half the crew came down with a Chinese version of either “Gyppy Tummy” or “Delhi-Belly”. I don’t know the difference, but the results are the same.
      Although we were fast approaching our departure date (August 30th) it was only now revealed that our next stop wouldn’t be until September 30th. At Penang.
      Think about it. If “we” went at a speed of 15 knots we’d pass Singapore around the 4th Sept. Penang is no more than 2 days (if that) from Singapore. So that’s 7 days out of 30. So what on this earth has been planned that’s been kept from us? Not just “us”, but the crew members of the group as a whole.
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Notes from a simple seaman

Colin Bishop

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #732 on: October 15, 2010, 07:06:12 pm »

Quote
Particularly the large F A at the back end. That sort of said it all.

Encapsulates your style Bryan. You really should get all this tidied up and published. It's as good as John Winton.

Colin
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leafman

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #733 on: October 16, 2010, 10:53:56 am »

Bryan, these recollections of past RFA life are superb and very accurate.  As some have said,  why don't you write a book?
Regarding Hong Kong and Sham Shui Po area, that is where the LSLs used to berth and I visited there on Galahad in 1970. There was some sort of Army presence at the Hard. Have vivid memories of 707s and DC8s passing low overhead on the approach to Kai Tak airport.  I suspect navigational hazards to these aircraft were the kites flown perpetually from the surrounding high rise buildings.
Keep up the good work.
Regards from Rab T.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #734 on: October 16, 2010, 02:09:17 pm »

Well, now that I’ve got “guiding light” hanging over my shoulder, I’d better make sure I keep on being as accurate as possible! If anybody can spot a mistake it would have to be Rab T! We enjoyed quite a few “convivial” hours on at least 2 ships. Although I suspect that it was only a matter of time before some ex-shipmate turned up out of the woodwork. I imagine that the next one will play the “bad-cop” part and pick me up for not writing “in the approved manner”.
      Without being in the slightest bit “rude” towards him, I’m afraid even the Bishop hasn’t quite got the hang of the vernacular! His “training” must have sunk in deeper than mine ever did. Even if I was “sent” to the Civil Service School of PC Correctness at Sunningdale  to teach me how to number paragraphs and then split said paragraphs up into “lettered” sub sections. OK, it worked after a fashion, but that way of writing was never going to be my preferred method. Although I’ve always at least tried to get my spelling correct (bound to be some slips), and refuse to use a spell checker as it makes more mistakes than I do. Also, I think there’s no excuse for anyone to use a comma instead of at least attempting to plonk in an apostrophe….even an aberrant one. Sorry. Having a bad computer day I’m afraid. My printer began printing out colour in only magenta which was a bit of a downer, and the damn thing keeps telling me the ink is running out when the tanks are still over half full. The elusive little green wigglie gremlin strikes again.
     But before I get back on track, I thought I’d better do another lift from Google Earth and at least try to show the bit of Hong Kong that I’ve been chuntering about.
I know that most of you access “Earth” as easily as I do, so I hope that my usage of it to show examples is at least a little bit useful.
Even though my last visit to HK was 18 years ago, the changes between then and now are a lot more than just startling. Let me begin with Kai Tak. The runway is now a huge building site. Probably finished by now. But at least foundations wouldn’t have been needed (not to mention the further compacting by a few hundred tons of Jumbo Jet thumping down on it every few minutes for the last 30 years or so). The large white building at the NW end of the runway was the main terminal building. There were no arrester wires as found on an aircraft carrier. Over the years there really must have been some very white faces and shaky knees in various cockpits over the years hoping the brakes were going to keep working. Further to the NW, it looks as if most of the Shimmy Shammy area has also been razed. I guess most of the people who lived in that neck of the woods have been shunted out to the huge new city a few miles down the coast to the East. With that great big new whatsit being built opposite the Peninsular Hotel (the Southern end of Nathan Road), I hope I’ve got the location of the very small naval basin in the right place.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #735 on: October 16, 2010, 04:02:24 pm »


Reading between the lines and with the benefit of hindsight, by the time we got to Penang I think I’d realised what was going on.
First there was the headless chicken syndrome when “Olwen” had her major breakdown. Then “Olwen” became high priority to get fixed. At first it was thought that it was because she was the only re-fuelling member of the group.
Then I had a “flashback”….she was carrying the Petrel rocket team. So as this would seem to be a replay of the 1988 scenario when I was involved with the firings, perhaps this was the main reason we’d come all this way. Some “interest” had been shown re. the buying of this system of ballistic programmable target and potential buyers wanted a second look. Also, this would explain the odd mixture of our group. No two ships of the same class, and all with different interception systems fitted. But I’m sure somebody will tell me if I’m wrong!
With everything that was going on around me at the time it’s very difficult to get anything in the order things happened….but that’s my problem, not yours, so just pretend this is “all in order” even though it isn’t.
Before we left HK we did get some feedback from some of our recently departed (from the ship, not this life….that would have been a first…). Apparently the trip home was as awful as I feared. They’d had an enforced 24 hour stopover in Bahrein as the RAF aircrew weren’t allowed to fly for more than 7 hours. No hotel, just bunk down wherever in the terminal. The aircraft was a tanker aircraft and configured as such, so the seating was makeshift and (I was right) only the awful bagged “meals” were available. But the 24 hour stopover meant that at least they got to Brize Norton after the Bank Holiday. The “incomers” also had “tales to tell”. I guess the worst one was that one engine had to be shut down on the run-in to Hong Kong. Not nice. But running that a close second was that the MoD had “forgotten” to send full travel warrants, so many passengers had to pay for their own journey to Brize. Personally I’d have just not bothered to go, and let the MoD sort it out.
Before we left HK I had a visit from the patriarch of our traders who really went a bit over the top thanking me for my “assistance” and presented me with a quite large box that he wouldn’t let me open until he and his family had left. Intriguing.
     In the box were:…..2 of the most expensive padded, embroidered silk dressing gowns, a proper Harmonica, a set of real ivory chopsticks (6 pieces), a set of 5 ivory Chinese “worry balls” ( that’s my name for them, as I’ve never really worked out what they’re for!), a radio controlled model car and all sorts of other nick-knacks. Most unnecessary, but how nice.
     Some details of our immediate future programme were starting to filter through to us fleet appendages. We were going to spend all of September at sea. Goody. We were also to take part in an International exercise ( Exercise “Starfish”….I ask you!), but to allow the “big-wigs” to try and get their act together a “conference” had been arranged to take place in some pricey hotel on some equally pricey island. Our Deity wasn’t invited, which put him firmly into his box. We were to anchor off this island at least twice. No shore leave ( no hoi-polloi allowed on this island!), but our aircraft would do the ferrying back and forth. So. Two very noisy and smelly aircraft thundering  around and in and out of this “exclusive” resort was acceptable, but parties of sailors (all ships, not just ours) going to one of the deserted beaches was considered a sort of pollution. And we complain about politicians!
       Amidst all the angst, hassle and one thing or another there were of course a few bright spots. The meal and tram trip and the Shimmy Shammy Po bit come to mind. But there was to be an another and quite unexpected little present. When the UK had a Fleet presence in the Far East, after a couple of months “on station”, a supplement to salaries was payable. In those days ships were “on station” for maybe 2 years or more, and the crews stayed with the ships. For some reason this had never been rescinded. So we “originals” now qualified for this “allowance”. God (the real one, not our pretend one) knows why. It wasn’t as if we had to fend for ourselves or anything. Our large and comfortable (if smelly) ship still catered for all our needs and whatever money we spent was entirely voluntary. But I got a cheque for £250. That’s £250 at 1992  values. Very nice. If I’d known that was coming I’d have spent more!
      But we were to be the final UK “Task Force” ever to visit Hong Kong. Ever. The end of a long, long story. I know some ships went in 1997 for the handover to the Chinese, but that wasn’t a “Task Force”.
     This “Starfish” thing was much bigger than we’d imagined it to be. We even had a third Sea King come to live with us for the duration. As they’d be flying more or less round the clock me and the AAVO would be doing 6 hours on and 6 hours off  in Flyco for the length of the exercise. (up to 2 weeks was projected). Should be fun in the sun again. Even “Olwen” was fit enough to be part of it, but she’d be zotting off to aim her rockets at the moon or something for part of the time. Keeping the 3 aircraft aloft  (assuming they were airworthy, not always a “given” with these things) meant each aircraft had 3 crews. And that’s a lot of people! We were now hanging out the “No Vacancies” signs. But after the exercise we get our 2 friendly “Junglies” back, and we can say Foxtrot Oscar to the ASW bunch.
    Ships taking part in this exercise? Malay, Singaporean, Brunei, USN, NZ, Aussie, Brits and a couple of others that are lost in the mists. Being in Flyco for so long it was a wonder that we only had one emergency landing…a real one, not part of the exercise. That aircraft didn’t half thump down onto the (cleared of personnel) deck. He was going to need a couple of new oleos fitted! A close call. 
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #736 on: October 16, 2010, 04:11:09 pm »

Another hiccup. Would a moderator please remove the duplicate post. Bryan.
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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #737 on: October 16, 2010, 06:13:20 pm »

Done

Brian
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #738 on: October 19, 2010, 03:44:30 pm »

Eventually the “exercise” came to an end..
You know, in all the years I did in the RFA, and the uncountable number of exercises I was involved in, not once…ever….did the participating RFA get any sort of “feedback” regarding lessons learned, defects to be rectified, or procedural shortcomings to be addressed. Never. Not once. This should indicate something, but I don’t know what. Well, I do have my own thoughts. A lack of “respect”? No “need to know”? “Who cares about them, anyway, they’re only a bunch of Merchant Seamen”…and other thunks along those lines. Perhaps I’m seeing demons that don’t exist, and “our” Lords and Masters did get a copy of the “wash-up” reports…or even got to attend the wash-up de-briefings. If so, the conclusions reached (for good or ill) never reached us poor sods at the coal-face.

       But enough of that.
Post exercise all the ships involved scuttled off back to whence they came…except the UK “Ocean 92” bunch. “Fort Austin” was “detached” (temporarily, unfortunately) while the others went to watch “Olwen” fire off some more rockets. I think that even the Deity wanted a bit of a break for himself….it certainly wouldn’t have crossed his mind that the rest of us did as well. So it was decided that we should head for an island off the east coast of Malaya….a popular “ban-yan” stop for RFAs over the years. Perhaps Rab T can remind me of the islands name?
I first visited this lovely place back in 1979 when on “Lyness”…and it was just as nice in 1992. Over the years the rather primitive barbeque had been made more substantial. And the beach was immaculate. I suppose ships other than RFAs visited the place, but nothing, absolutely nothing, had ever been left lying around. So congratulations to all the visitors for the post-party cleaning up.
      The island, or at least the bit where we went, was populated somewhere; but we never spotted anyone. Perhaps there were watching eyes from within the pretty dense jungle type stuff around the area.
      Two aspects of this place always intrigued me. One was (is?) a sort of local shipbuilding yard. Just a few yards inland from the beach. Obviously it wasn’t there to build supertankers and so on, but small wooden craft like family owned inshore fishing boats. Oriental cobles sort of thing. Using the local timber that was growing there in abundance. All hardwood stuff. I would think that everyone has heard of a “saw-pit”, but very few have actually seen one. I certainly hadn’t until I wandered around this little tropical paradise. A “saw-pit”. A hole in the ground. On the lines of a deep grave made to accommodate a 20ft giant. Laid lengthways over this “pit” was a log that was probably 2 or 3 ft in diameter. Blocks and tackles were everywhere, and posts driven into the ground to keep the log steady. I haven’t a clue how the log got there. Evidently the ship-builders had some local man-powered assistance as there was no sign of anything remotely mechanical. This huge log was in the process of being sliced into planks of about 1” thick. The saw had been left in the unfinished cut.
This saw must have been a good 8ft long, with handles at both ends. There must have been at least 2 “sawyers”…probably more, as it must be exhausting work. One guy must have stood on the top of the log, and his “junior” would be in the pit holding the bottom end of the saw. A “push-pull” arrangement. The guy at the bottom end must have needed a quick dip into the sea every now and again just to wash off the sawdust. A bit of a pity that I could never watch them in action.
      The other attraction was a natural one. The Cataracts. I’ve never really understood why an eye problem and a series of waterfalls should have the same name. Or more likely, I’ve got the naming wrong. However. Over the millennia the (cold) river had worn the underlying rock really smooth, and sluiced nicely over perhaps half a dozen “jumps. The sort of thing a “theme park” would charge you a fiver to go down once. And this was free, and in the most wonderful of surroundings. “Free” beer, a free Barbie, sun, sand and a tropical ocean. What more could a knackered matelot wish for.
      But all too soon we had to head off again. Not bad this time. On our own to another island on the other side of Malaya. Penang.
     Time was (when I were a lad), Penang could be approached from either North or South. The island isn’t very far from the mainland. We (when I was a cadet) used to call at Port Swettenham (now named Butterworth or something) and Georgetown (Penang) going either way. But now there’s a bridge at the southern end of the strait that kind of limits the size of the ships going anywhere within the straits area. So the more common approach route nowadays is to go up the Malacca Strait and go around the top end of  Penang  and go a few miles south to anchor off Georgetown.

More on that visit later.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #739 on: October 19, 2010, 04:11:52 pm »

Perhaps it's time to remind you what the "Forts" look like.
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pugwash

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #740 on: October 19, 2010, 04:14:21 pm »

Bryan, was it Palau Tioman that you stopped for your Banyan - thats where we used to stop when we were on patrol in the south China Sea.
Beautiful island - where they filmed "South Pacific" - now its a mega holiday resort.
The only problem there were sea-urchins, one of our radio operators got a spine through one of the tendons in his "morse key" hand and
the hand twisted up like a claw - he had three in the base sickbay at Terror. I think Butterworth on Penang was where the Aussies had an
airbase during the confrontation with Indonesia.
Geoff
 
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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #741 on: October 19, 2010, 07:08:01 pm »

Bryan, was it Palau Tioman that you stopped for your Banyan - thats where we used to stop when we were on patrol in the south China Sea.
Beautiful island - where they filmed "South Pacific" - now its a mega holiday resort.
The only problem there were sea-urchins, one of our radio operators got a spine through one of the tendons in his "morse key" hand and
the hand twisted up like a claw - he had three in the base sickbay at Terror. I think Butterworth on Penang was where the Aussies had an
airbase during the confrontation with Indonesia.
Geoff
 
Geoff, no better place to recuperate than "Terror"! Seen it recently on "Earth"? All those lovely houses that were built (on stilts) for the dockyard mateys....still there, but occupied by more deserving inhabitants. (Univerity students who actually study).
      Truth to tell, the self indulgent "life-style" of the UK ex-pats was pretty disgraceful. I suppose the indulgences given to the Army and Air Force "supporting staff" was equally indulgent.
      I'll try to explain my reasoning:-
As I've said before, the Admiralty Dockyards were neither run by or controlled by the Navy. They were run by the civil service side of the MoD (or the War Ministry....comes to the same thing). And they make the rules.
Dockyard employees are by definition classified as civil servants, be he/she a tea maker or highly qualified marine engineer. Same rules apply.
When the highly qualified chap was seconded to (say) Singapore he would be given a nice detatched house (on stilts) and be sort of expected to indulge in a lifestyle appropriate to his rank. Understandable.
But then the lower echelons began demanding similar facilities. And they make the rules.
So it wasn't all that long before families who were recently living in some small terraced house in Plymouth (or Portsmouth or wherever) were suddenly catapulted into a lifestyle previously unknown to them. The obvious happened in a lot of cases. I realise that the term "Ideas above their Station" is offensive, but that's what happened. Creepingly, the ex-dockyard mateys saw themselves as the "cocks of the walk"...and who was to stop them. They made the rules.
About 200 yards from the "Stores Basin" where ships tied up, was (and still is) a large and well appointed swimming pool, complete with thatched bar area and eatery bar. They make the rules.
For many years (even now probably) there was no swimming pool available to crews of visiting ships. And there was this lovely inviting place within a few yards of your ship. Not allowed. Dockyard employees and families only. They make the rules.
This was always socialism gone mad.
What's a Dockyard for if not to help and succour the weary crews of the ships berthing there? But to be banned from simple places like a swimming pool always struck me as being a touch of "We are in charge now, so sod off".
In HMS "Terror" any officer from any ship was welcome at the "Terror" restaurant. As good as many 4 star hotels. Ratings and POs had to use a cafeteria. But even the lowliest dockyard matey and his family could use the restaurant. They make the rules.
If nothing else, it was a case of "bring up the drawbridge, jack, I'm all right".
And I'm not talking about the behaviour of modern matelots, I'm talking about when they had to go ashore in uniform and be inspected before they were allowed off the ship.
     In no way am I an egalitarian, but it was during those days of watching what amounted to sheer spite that made me realise that giving someone unequipped to deal with "power" only causes misery. But they made the rules.
     This attitude prevailed in the RFAs that had a "Stonnery" contingent. For all sorts of reasons they never really came to grips with the reality that they were under the command of the ships Captain, and not their Union representative. They didn't make the rules this time.
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pugwash

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #742 on: October 19, 2010, 07:30:49 pm »

Things must have changed a lot since my time. Mid 60s the pool belonged to the Navy and all were welcome, everybody worked
tropical routine 6am to 2pm and we were all at the pool by 2.30pm RFA lads included as we got to know the signalmen that we worked
with at sea. It was have a swim, couple of "tiger tops" and by 4 you got the afternoon deluge - I don't recollect many civvies except
families of the men on a "married accompanied draft" who spent 2 1/2 years in Singapore at places like the Comcen. I do remember
the anti-British pro-communist riots when we had to back up the dockyard Police with a Bren gun and a section of riflemen. Didn't
last long though

Geoff
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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #743 on: October 19, 2010, 07:36:03 pm »

Things must have changed a lot since my time. Mid 60s the pool belonged to the Navy and all were welcome, everybody worked
tropical routine 6am to 2pm and we were all at the pool by 2.30pm RFA lads included as we got to know the signalmen that we worked
with at sea. It was have a swim, couple of "tiger tops" and by 4 you got the afternoon deluge - I don't recollect many civvies except
families of the men on a "married accompanied draft" who spent 2 1/2 years in Singapore at places like the Comcen. I do remember
the anti-British pro-communist riots when we had to back up the dockyard Police with a Bren gun and a section of riflemen. Didn't
last long though

Geoff
What's the old adage? "Never trust a sailor with a rifle". But times change. They made the rules. Bryan.
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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #744 on: October 21, 2010, 03:08:36 pm »

By the time we got to Penang the ship had more or less settled down into a state of sullen acceptance. Even the “new” arrivals were more than a little hacked off. No one thing that a metaphorical finger could be placed on. The actual ship was fine (apart from the odd whiff of you-know-what. The cabins were fine, and the public rooms (ie the bars) were well used. Too much in some cases, but no real trouble. Not that I would have expected anything different given the age, experience and basic sanity of the majority. This pervasive feeling of  “discontent” ran through all ranks.
For the new arrivals there was a feeling that they’d been sold a pup. The travelling expenses debacle hadn’t yet been resolved, and the trip out to join the ship hadn’t been quite what they expected. Then they found out that they weren’t going anywhere…apart from an afternoon on a beach. Welcome though that was, it just wasn’t the same as being left on your own devices for a day or so. It may well be said that one takes the rough with the smooth, but if there isn’t any smooth then frustration builds up. As a sort of biased observer of all this I was really pleased that as individuals the ships company got along with each other OK. But there was “something” lacking from the “top”. And that had been the situation from day one, unfortunately. It didn’t really help that the galley staff caught the same malaise and even a very small degradation in the quality of the cooking can build up to a state of rancour. The Choff, myself, the 2/Eng and a few others (including the Flight Commander) really tried, but the dead hands of the 2 guys at the top somehow managed to kill off any feelings of mental comfort.
      Our stay at anchor off Georgetown was to be 4 days. If it was possible, I’d say that more people put in for “local leave” than did in Mombassa. Notwithstanding that “local leave” is deducted from your voyage leave on “paying off” the ship. A weekend is not counted, but any longer is.
       Penang is “odd”. Since the bridge connecting the island to the mainland was opened “Georgetown” has grown from being a very small place to the size of a city. But the old “Colonial” heart is still there. In 1992 it all looked a bit run-down and seedy, but I hope “they” have copied Singapore and revitalised the basic beauty of the place. Tourists tend to go to the large new beach hotels on the north and west shores. The destinations of our temporary evacuees. Quite wonderful. I was only a “day-tripper”, but loved it….especially the local cuisine. I’d really like to take Anne there for a holiday, but the flight length is a deterrent.
Not too far from the old town is a Fenicular  railway that runs up through the jungle to a hill-top that is a smashing place to spend an afternoon just drinking the local beer and “snacking”. Also cooler up there compared to sea level. The owner of this place (at least in 1992) had a hobby. He collected insects and reptiles that were lethal to humans. So he had cages of these things all over the place, the “inmates” just looking at the visitors from a distance of a couple of feet or so. Interesting. Particularly the large collection of Black Scorpions that just oozed malevolence. Reminded me of somebody whose real name escapes me, even though I at least hear him on a daily basis.
        But we had to leave this haven of peace and join up again with the “Death Star” (Invincible) and the rest of them who’d been swanning around in Singapore for a few days. But at least we were heading in the right direction.
        Then another signal arrived pertaining to my immediate future. The MoD wanted to relieve me in Jebel Ali in late October (a month later than I’d hoped after being sandbagged into this extension). Another “dreamed up” query by he who will not be named….asking the MoD if my relief was “fully trained” (as if I was a Spaniel). Sheer nastiness. It took another week for an affirmative reply. So now I could pack my crate again. And look forward to a £10,000 tax rebate!
      As we passed Colombo (by ourselves joy of joys) we sent in one of our Sea Kings to post and collect mail. Although this HDS (Helicopter Delivery Service) is a wonderful thing for morale and so on, I’ve often thought that adding the cost of running a Sea King  perhaps on a 200 mile round trip on a “mail run” would make the cost of a 1st class stamp out of the UK just a bit expensive! Not that I’d ever advocate that it should be stopped as being “non-operational”. When we (the RN) were still operating the old “Gannet” aircraft they were used for “long range” mail runs. So even way, way out into the N.Atlantic we would still be able to send and collect mail. Magic. Thank you, all you tax-payers!
     By now it had been confirmed that we would have a quick stop-off at Muscat to collect a bit of “high value” deck cargo. Hah! Some people either know how to “play the system” really well or have friends in high places. It turned out that some ranking Civil Servant or Service Officer had bought a rather expensive yacht while being based in Muscat and wanted it shipped to the UK. Free. Of course,Sir. Three bags full,Sir. We’ll just divert a fully loaded ammunition ship to collect it for you. This “thing” was pretty big and as the “Forts” have no conventional deck space/area like a “normal” commercial ship, it had to go into one of the RAS pockets. So if the “Death Star” wanted a RAS using No.2 rig she’d have to think again. At times like this I wished we’d been fitted with a crane that could serve the flight deck. We could then have bunged the thing into the hangar and left one of the aircraft parked on the flight deck. When we carried “multiple” aircraft , that is 4 Sea Kings for (say) an exercise period, we would have 2 in the hangar, one parked athwartships in front of the hangar doors and one lashed down in the landing area. So there was always a fair amount of  shuttling around of aircraft. Of course, we also had our “spare deck” on the hangar roof. So in theory we could carry and operate 5 of these large aircraft. Not just in theory though, when needs warranted it we did carry 5. Apart from being a ruddy nuisance to everybody….but let me take you through a “routine” shuffle when 5 aircraft were embarked.
1.   Hands to Flying Stations.
This meant just what it said on the tin. Flyco manned. HCO behind his radar set on the bridge.”Crash Boat” ready for launch with crew in attendance. Flight deck manned. At least 2 aircraft manned and a 3rd ready to be manned.
2.   Launch the aircraft that was on deck and let it flutter around the sky awhile.
3.   Move the aircraft that was blocking the hangar doors and put it “on the spot”, man it up and launch it. As both aircraft now flying could see each other (hopefully) they could observe their own anti-collision rules.
4.   Drag an aircraft out of the hangar. Man it up and launch it. Now approaching “Flying Circus” status.
5.   Call in the aircraft that was to be put in the hangar. Do so.
6.   As likely as not, all this was being done to allow the maintenance team to do a bit of servicing. So they may as well bring down the thing parked on the roof, and park it in front of the hangar doors.
7.   Land one of the orbiters on the now vacant roof, shut it down and lash it.
8.   Last aircraft comes in and lands on the main “spot”.
So that was a mornings worth of bustle and noise. Naturally, the aircrews loved it, pity about the rest of the ships company. But all that did have (now and again) an “upside”. These little jaunts were often used to give members of the ships company a flight. When this happened (quite often, as it happens), the pilot would invariably do a few “party tricks” such as “Stall turns”, or howl down the ships side at almost zero feet with the rotor tips too close to the bridge wing. All good fun…I loved that bit, especially if I was strapped in the open door space gazing down into the blue.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #745 on: October 21, 2010, 03:51:10 pm »

I really can't remember if I've ever mentioned "RAS Pockets" before....probably did when describing "Lyness". But just to iterate, all stores to be transferred to another ship are held within the ship (in the "clearway") and only brought out to the RAS point when required. There are 6 "Pockets", 3 per side of the ship. The numbering of these follows normal practice with "even" numbers being on the Port side of the ship and "odds" on the other. The same applies to lifeboat numbering and a few other things. This system may well originate from ships whistle signals. That is, 2 short blasts indicates "I am altering my course to port", and 1 short blast = I'm altering my course to starboard. Three short blasts = "my engines are going astern" (not relevant here).
The first photo is of No.6 RAS pocket. But as they are all basically the same, it doesn't matter. This is just an example to show how a large yacht plonked into one would effectively make that point unusable for its intended purpose.
    The second photo is another from Google Earth showing the lush green and verdant part of the world that is called Muscat and Oman. But this entire part of the world looks like this. And they're welcome to it.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #746 on: October 21, 2010, 05:11:20 pm »

The sainted MoD had waited until the last possible moment to tell the ship that I would be “relieved” (many meanings to that word) in Jebel Ali.
“Austin” would be there for 48 hours only, which led me to believe that the only reason for the visit was to get rid of me…..there wasn’t any other reason to be there.
     Apart from the runs up, down, in and out of the Persian Gulf in both “Pearleaf” back in 1969, and the worrying time when entering the Gulf on “Tidespring” in 1987 I really knew (nor cared) about the geography of this part of the world. If I’d needed to know more, I would read about it.
But one thing I did know was that the new port of Jebel Ali was one of the largest man-made harbours in the world. Apparently it’s easily visible from the Space Station. I really don’t exaggerate here, but you could do with a pair of binoculars to see from one side to t’other. Ready made for F1 power boat racing. As we entered this Birmingham sized port I had cause to wonder why the pilot had to confirm which berth we were going to. Out of possibly 20 odd miles of quay space, we were the only ship in the place. And it was hot. Until our berth was “confirmed”, we had to anchor for a couple of hours. Real efficiency here. Perhaps ships arriving were a bit of a novelty? And so came one (of only a few) lasting memories of this place.
      While picking up the anchor I could see that the cable, even in that short space of time, had become irresistible to some young octopus. And they refused to let go and drop back into the water. So much for their reputed intelligence. So I stopped the picking up procedure and the anchor party began trying to Brush these little creatures off the cable. He “who will not be named” threw a real hissy fit at this delay. The language used when I explained my reasoning was never to be found in any dictionary I’ve ever come across. All these acres of empty water, vacant berths, no time pressure…so these poor little things were just squashed into the spurling pipe.
     My relief eventually arrived on board around 8pm that evening, but I didn’t get to see him until gone 10pm. He’d had to go through the interrogation that mercifully stopped short of “water-boarding”. By the time we got together he was already having second thoughts. As it turned out we knew each other (his name had for some reason been held from me!). A nice guy who deserved better. He also knew the ship. Another plus.
     By the time we’d chewed  the fat and done the “handover”, I’d already been “paid-off” and therefore had no further standing on the ship. My taxi to the airport was due to pick me up at the gangway at 12.30 a.m. So I dragged my few remaining goods and chattels down on to the quay and waited. And waited. And waited. No good getting agitated..although I was. Sitting alone in the middle of an Arabian night with no home to go back to, surrounded by my earthly possessions I felt some sort of empathy with a novice “bag-lady”. I should have felt euphoric, not this sense of abandonment and worry. Still, after the last few months even this was a better place to be.
    The taxi eventually rolled up around 2a.m. Profuse apologies from the driver who said he’d had trouble finding the ship. The only ship parked in this vast wasteland. All 30,000 tons of her within 100 yards of the main gate. Yeah, mate. Right.
     Not having the vaguest idea of where I was, or where (or which) airport I was headed for, I just had to trust this lying soul. The drive must have been at least 2 hours. I’m still after all these years unsure which airport I flew out of! I think it must have been Dubaii.
      But I was in Business Class on a Quantas 747. My first real brush with civilisation for too long. And so to home. Some trip. 
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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #747 on: October 21, 2010, 05:58:02 pm »

Just as a post-script to my release from the clutches of "Fort Austin" ...
This had been my second spell on her. The first was in 1982...a memorable year. Cold. Rough weather. But a happy ship.
!992, Same ship. Many of the same people. Warm/hot weather. Calm seas in the main. Why was it such a disaster?

       The enclosed photo (again via Google Earth) is obviously a satellite pic of  the new home of David and Victoria Beckham and other footballers. But when I left the "Austin" I don't think that construction had begun. Nor do I understand why the taxi from the ship took so long. Well, I do, but again, the taxi drivers have to make a living. And at 2 am in the middle of a desert landmarks are few and far between.
     
         Muscat / Oman is up at the NE entrance to the Gulf, and Dubaii / Jebel is more or less just around the corner to the SW.
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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #748 on: October 27, 2010, 09:54:37 pm »



And so we reach the final chapter in this long running saga.
By now I was 53 years old and, while not feeling it, at the end of a long day scampering (read “plodding”) up and down ladders and generally feeling absolutely knackered I knew I was coming, at last, to the end of my usefulness to the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Service.
I wasn’t the only “passed over” First Officer still being employed. There were about 6 of us still hanging on in there for our own reasons. Mine was just to accumulate “time” ( with enhancement) to be able to retire with a decent pension. My original “love of the sea” had long since evaporated. So my last “trip” was a bonus in many ways. A trial in others.
But let me begin. Are you sitting comfortably?
Then when I mention 1993, what comes to mind?
I don’t know what was going on in the UK….because I was sent to Croatia. To a ship, yes, but tied up alongside a quay.
Where to start? Well, as always..the briiing of the telephone. Resignation deep in my heart…yes?…”Well, we’d like you to join “Resource” as Operations Officer”. Gulp.
Oh, bloody hell. Back to being the Nav again but with bells on.
“OK”, where and when?”. “Split”….I thought I was being sworn at, until I remembered that Yugoslavia (the “Y” is a “soft J”) has a town called Split.
And that an awful lot of people were being killed over there. My interest was heightened. This was something new.
      So. First get to Newcastle Airport with all “my” gear, and collect some other stuff from somebody to take with me. The airport authorities were not at all happy with me and my “luggage”, but the MoD has very long arms. The flight to London HR was delayed for over 30 minutes because of me. I hope I blushed a little at the ironic cheer from the already boarded and waiting passengers when I was finally cleared to board.
But then I had a 5 hour wait in Heathrow. I suppose there was a reason behind giving me extra luggage at Newcastle….but at Heathrow I was an already checked out transient passenger. Five bloody hours!
    Ever travelled “Alitalia”? Don’t. Worse than American Airlines. Scruffy, surly staff and lousy food. Oh, by the way, I was going to Rome.
Airport just as scruffy as the aircraft. DHSS Hostel to Heathrow Holiday Inn.
     Then me and my (unknown to me) fellow passengers en-route to Split had to wait for a Croation Airlines aircraft. Which didn’t arrive. Surrounded by my own luggage and “stuff” I couldn’t wander around looking for something to eat or (preferably) something to drink. We’d landed in Rome sometime in late afternoon. No information given for at least 3 hours. Then some stroppy oik told us (a full planeload of people)  that our “scheduled” flight had been forgotten about by the Croats, and that they were trying to muster up a flight and crew to take us there. Oh, joy.
      If and when you look at a map, you’ll see that (for a modern jet airliner) it’s only a pretty quick hop from Rome to Split. But in those days various bits of hardware were being lobbed into the sky to disrupt normal flight patterns. So this aircraft we eventually boarded and launched off in took a route North and then (slowly) to the South as if it was coming from Slovenia. This was an area sort of pally with the Serbs and Bosnians. So we weren’t shot at. But what, in “normal times” should have been a flight of less than an hour took 3 hours. We had compensation though. The air-hostesses were probably the most beautiful bunch of girls I’ve ever clapped eyes on.
     The landing approach to Split is down a valley, with only isolated and poorly lit villages showing. So it was a bit of a surprise to feel the wheels thump down. A bit of relief, also.
     I was met by a couple of  Army “Chaps” who relieved me of half of my “baggage” and just disappeared. Where to now? After midnight. In the middle of heaven knows where. What now? Actually, just too knackered to care any more. A supposedly easy jaunt from Newcastle to Split that took over 17 hours. I should have gone by sea.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #749 on: October 28, 2010, 02:17:43 pm »

Sorry about this, but I meant to post this pic at the end of the "Austin" saga....but forgot.
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