After three months charging round the desert in Sharja and Aden, out flanking “ Percy” by day and by night I ended up a casualty on the last day during exercise First Call at Malindi Mombasa, caused by members of B coy, who's over enthusiastic use of thunder flashes, when attacking my bren gun position, blinded me in my right eye and gave me a hell of a head ache, I remember Alan Bradshaw, yelling “there's one on my back” as he turned to dislodge it, it hit me in the face. Wham! It felt like I'd taken a shot gun blast to the side of my head.
I couldn't hear a thing, my right hand was clamped over my right eye, I couldn't feel any thing my ears were ringing, a corporal got a grip on my hand and prised it of my face, then I heard Jesus Christ's name mentioned and some one yelling for the medic.
I was bandaged up by the first aid tiffy, I looked like a Sikh who failed his turban tying course, then flown back to Albion. I stepped out of the chopper and proceeded to walk to the hatch way at the bridge, the ships MO came doubling along the deck with four ratings in tow with a stretcher and promptly ordered me to get aboard, despite my protest that I could walk, I was the guinea pig, loaded onto the bridge hoist and taken below.
That evening as I lay in the sick bay members of B coy came down to say sorry on their way to a run ashore, even the M.O. popped in and asked how I was doing, he was also off ashore, me? I was passed caring, doped up and no where to go.
Around midnight, the dope had worn off and my eye became extremely pain full, the M.O. Took a look and said get him off the ship, I heard him say we may have to fly him to Moorfields in London to save the eye.
Bloody marvellous home for Christmas, no such luck, I end up in the European Hospital Mombasa, the Albion sailed for Borneo, leaving me behind, two weeks in dock, eye drops every two hours day and night, daily visits to an eminent Indian eye specialist, an anonymous jag in the arse, for taking the piss out of a jack tar who had penal warts, and my eye sight returns, talk about a green rub.
The naval liaison officer looking after me decided I should go on board HMS Loch Ruthven, (built 1944) to assess my eye injury under normal working conditions, i.e. chipping paint and painting, our part of ship, starboard side abaft of the whaler.
When changing into working rig standing on the RM mess table I heard some one calling “beer issue down aft” and there draped in the door way was what I thought was a jack tar taking the piss by his effeminate pose.
Not to be out done in the piss taking stakes, I purred “ ooh, hasn't she got lovely eye's” wrong! Up went a chorus from my new mess mates “oy , oy , Arthur think he fancies you” oh shit, thinks I, he's the civvy naafi damager, and most likely a raving “Queen”
Well that was it, Arthur virtually chased me round the bloody ship, Arthur was otherwise romantically attached to the RM butcher, named Barraclough, he was an animal but funny with it.
I was walking down the companion way behind Barraclough one morning when he stopped outside
the cabin and knocked on the door, there was Arthur in pink chiffon frilly house coat, Barraclough grabs Arthur round the neck and gives a deep meaningful kiss on the mouth, “morning darling” he said and carried on.
Must admit to being a wee bit shocked, first time I seen two blokes kissing, ugh! Well you know
what goes on in frigate's no? Read on. Still on board at Christmas and I had made up for missing a
run ashore,went a bit wild, so they tell me, dancing on tables, careering and cavorting with females of the dusky persuasion, ach well your only young once, every one on board seemed to know
me, must have been some bloody good runs ashore.
Christmas on board, the RM sergeant i.c. of our part of ship got a recommend from the skipper, he had saved his tot in a Lambs navy rum bottle and said here you go boys (three of us) merry Christmas.
I had no idea that in the bottle was navy neater's, took a mighty long pull, Jesus! I couldn't get my breath, fell on the floor gasping and choking, what the f---k was that? Having regained my composure, blown my nose and wiped the tears from my eyes, we decided to take up an invitation to take a wet on the starboard seaman's mess.
Unfortunately my oppo had not put the top back on our rum, it was gone before we got to the bottom of the ladder, the deck was awash with spilt beer, god knows what time they started, there was a rating in full white's rolling round the floor, his rig was in a mess, apparently he was watch on the gangway, fortunately some one took his place before any one noticed the gangway was unmanned and that the duty man was “steaming”
On my way to the heads I passed the sick bay, there was one of the tiffys crying his eyes out, I thought he'd got some bad news, “what's up doc?” says I, he sobbed that he fancied the M.O. But unfortunately the M.O. was straight and his other boy friend had been sent home and nobody loved him, well that's Frigates for you, I did invite him to the starboard watch mess for a wet but that just set him off again.
The ship was under sailing orders 02/01/63, New years day was our last chance to have a last run ashore, and boy did we have a good one, unfortunately my winger and I got arrested for causing an affray outside The Manor Hotel in Kilandini road, locked up for the night.
In our cell was an army deserter and an ivory poacher, I managed to get out of the cell much to the surprise of the cops in the front office , I requested permission to phone the ship, if we missed the sailing we would be in the rattle big time and I was due to put on a flight to Singers, or so I thought.
One African gentleman dressed in a scruffy tee shirt and even scruffier chinos started raving at me, how did I get out? Who the hell are you, I asked, “I de chief inspector”, bollocks! says I a scruffy git like you, I think I offended him, next thing I know being hurled back in the cell.
Next day we're up before the beak, typical colonial, face bloated with the drink, I'm sure he was pissed, asked how did we plead, not guilty, thrown back into the miscreants holding cage, must have been sixty people in there, a friendly African cop said plead guilty, you'll get find a pound each and your out of here, that's what we did.
Mark, my oppo had no money, me I had two shillings left, we bought a huge bottle of coke, get some sugar into the system and run like smoking oakum for the harbour, managed to get on the last liberty boat and back on board, we were well adrift.
Initially on joining the ships company the Sergeant Major RM was really welcoming, couldn't do enough for me, we had barely cleared the gang way when we were fell in between an escort and marched up in front of the skipper.
I whispered to Mark, to keep quiet and I'll do the talking, the charge was read out “adrift prior to” the skipper asked if we had any thing to say. Yes sir, we were having a quiet drink, toasting new years day, and long live the Queen etc, when some disenchanted colonial types began hurling abuse
and making derogatory remarks directed at our royal family.
In an attempt to keep the situation on an even keel Sir, we made them aware of who we were and requested an apology, this was met by howls of further abuse and an empty beer bottle, followed by several others hurled in our direction.
Not prepared to take this insulting behaviour, we endeavoured to settled the situation by taking
cover behind our up turned table and rushing them, yelling “up and at them Loch Ruthvens”.
We decked the the opposition but unfortunately the proprietor of the establishment sided with the miscreants to protect his regular trade; and called the police.
Despite several requests to be permitted to contact the ship we were hauled away and banged up, we are duly proud of our ship and country Sir and could not stand by and take that abuse from any one. (of course that lot was pure unadulterated bull dust, we were nicked for trying to hot wire a car)
Dismiss and go to your duty station for leaving harbour, the sergeant major was livid, cannot remember his name but his nick name was “Biffo” due to the prominence of his listening tackle, then it dawned on me, engines running, brow coming in, “ caste off forward”
Despite my informing sern't major, that I'm supposed to be put ashore, the ship was moving,
“ you'll get put ashore in Aden sonny” bastard! Off we go seven days sailing to bloody Aden, did a commission there 1960, the arm pit of the world.
As soon as we cleared the harbour it was sea duties for me, Biffo, no more Mr Nice guy, watch on the bridge proved disturbing, my eye sight was still playing up, I was seeing coloured lights when there were none. I was removed and put on life buoy ghost. A station on the quarter deck, the lowest part of the upper deck, standing mid ships against the bulkhead, watching for persons going over board. Should this occur, the sentry would observe which side of the ship said person entered the water and press appropriate alarm, which automatically put the ship into the respective turn to attempt to rescue “man over board”I thought a rescue in pitch darkness and a whoring gale was very unlikely.
This was all well and good but at the time we were beating into a head sea with a wind force ten, gusting twelve, yes a hurricane / typhoon, what ever, bloody windy and extremely rough seas, so rough the quarter deck was awash most of the time. To make sure it wasn't me going over the side I unfastened my belt, ran it through the fire hose housing and back around my waist, it was scary and very wet.
There were compensations to the rough weather, a lot of tot's were going begging, people feeling a wee bit too“Uncle Dick” to imbibe, I have always helped the sick and needy and wandered round the ship in a considerably happy state.
Docking in Aden it was run ashore time, it would be the last with my new mess mates up the sharpe end. All togged up in our No 1 K.D. Rig ready to rock the place, Arthur turned out in a white dinner.
Jacket, maroon slacks, maroon bow tie and a pink carnation in his lapel button hole,(where the hell did he get the carnation) all the lads gave him a round of applause, that really pleased him.
First port of call the Naafi club in Steamer point, Arthur and twelve Boot necks, the lager flowed, Arthur wanted to dance, a few of us felt obliged, he was a fair dancer, could do the female steps a treat, he was having the time of his life. Come on fellas, lets go to the Rock Hotel, says Arthur, the best place in Aden.
Nah, they wont let us in there Arthur, wrong, Arthur had connections, up we went to the penthouse, booze and scran Arthur sorted it. What a night, when we got back on board, Arthur disappeared with a couple of “friends” down to his NAAFI stores where his fridge got raided and Arthur got a
“ good night kiss”
I'm sure Arthur never made a profit from his voyage, he just wanted to be with the lads and Barraclough, I think he was a lonely person, kind hearted to a fault, gay and looking for a soul mate, don't think it was the butcher though.
On the tenth of January I left the ship and reported to The Stone Frigate, name of which escapes me,the chief P.O. Told me that I would be billeted in the transit hotel Khormaksar, “do you need any money Royal?” he asked, no thanks (I'd been playing cards successfully), “what happens now” I asked, you will have to wait until some one leaves a through flight to Singapore to get back to your unit. “ How long am I going to be stuck here” who knows, could be weeks/ months.
That really pissed me off, stuck in a dump like Khormaksar. After a week of sitting around, and going swimming I was really down, never felt so depressed, that is not like me at all. Bumped into an oppo from RM Deal, now a corporal, took me out to 45cdo at little Aden(not again, served there 1960 it's worse than an arm pit, it's the pit's)
Got pissed, sort of, in the jnr nco's mess and went back to the hell hotel, after two/three weeks got a flight out, arrived Singers late at night, truck up to Burma Camp, slept in a cell in the guard room.
Went down to the company lines to report my return. There was a new coy sergeant major, “who are you” he asked, “ Wright sern't major returning from Mombasa” Wright! Wright! Your a.w.o l. he called out to a couple of lads and said “you two, escort, march this man to the guard room” back in the cell's.
It transpires that the Naval Liaison Officer in Mombasa was far too engrossed in the cocktail and daisy chain circuit, that he failed to keep an eye on my where abouts, when Loch Ruthven sailed he totally had no idea what had happened to me and I was posted A.W.O.L. What bloody leave and what a bloody liberty.
All sorted out, went to my billet all the lads came round and brought all my back mail, there were messages scrawled on the back of he envelope's, well done Shiner, keep going mate, hope you make it, all the best 1section 1 troop, very touching they all thought I'd legged it. Then it was off to the Naafi for a very huge amount of Tiger beer and war storying, great to be back amongst the good hands of 1section, 1 troop, A coy.
Strange, you moan about it when your in the unit, with no real rhyme or reason but it's so good to be back, back with the team, where you belong, among the Brilliant Bootnecks once more, Peter “Bodge” Humpries, Ron Twigg, Dave Mathews (696 squad mates), Ray Ives,Denis Shambley
Titch Underwood, Alan Bradshaw,George McGarry, and even Scouse Fagan(section corperal)
© Copyright David Wright 2005 ....All Rights Reserved