Surviving the U boat sinking of the RMS Laconia 12 September 1942 — Broadsides – A collection of bits and pieces

What John doesn’t mention here is that he was a young schoolboy in Gibraltar in the 1950’s and has fond memories of his many escapades there. You can find further details on his blog and he also contributes, on Facebook, to Gibraltar Old Photos 2.

I lived in Gibraltar, as a serving Royal Signals soldier, from 1974 to 1976. I was a Corporal, and single when I first arrived, living in Governor’s Cottage camp. I was promoted shortly afterwards and move to the Fortress Sergeant’s Mess, in Town Range, just above the The Convent.

I returned home to get married in July 74, and my wife joined me in Gib, even though we had nowhere to live. We hopped from quarter to quarter when people were on leave in UK and then ended up in 263/7A Main Street, a very small flat that cost £14 per week.

Our daughter was born in October 75 and holds dual nationality, so Gibraltar, of course, holds a very dear place in our hearts.

Gibraltar:  British families, survivors from the RMS Larconia, torpedoed by German U-Boat on the 12th September 1942 RMS Laconica was originally commissioned as an ocean-going luxury passenger ship for the Cunard line. With the outbreak of WWII she was requisitioned by the Admiralty and fitted with eight six inch guns and two three inch guns. […]

Surviving the U boat sinking of the RMS Laconia 12 September 1942 — Broadsides – A collection of bits and pieces

Numbers

One is one and two is too

And so are three and four

Then comes five and six and seven

Then eight and nine and more

Our days are numbered: very few

In years three score and ten

Translated into days perhaps

you’d think a lot, but then

It is actually only twenty five thousand five hundred and sixty eight days

At approximately 8.20am today I was:

26,916 days old

645,984 hours old

38,759,040 minutes old

2,325,542,400 seconds old

Don’t waste a second!

That was then – This is now

Linda, Angie, Paul, and Pete

one had spots and smelly feet

another stuttered all the time

one took up professional crime

Do I know which one, or not

I’ve no idea, ‘cause I forgot

It’s just that they were pals of mine

The details dim, but that is fine

Although the memories fade away

What lingers helps to light my day

§

Linda, Angie, and Paul do exist, as do I. I have no recollection that any of us had spots, smelly feet, a stutter, or were ne’er do wells. I do know that they were excellent co workers and friends without whom I could not have done my job. There were others, of course, but these three have a particularly special place in my life!

Although it can be very pleasant to look back on our youth in later years it is never a good idea to try to compare one with the other. Times change, circumstances change, and our perceptions change. I like to try to live in, and for, the moment, and to enjoy it, and help others to do so too!

Random facts and a little fiction

  • In 1964, 57 years ago today, I reported to Uniacke Barracks in Harrogate, Yorkshire, to begin a three year apprenticeship as an Electronic Engineer, thus beginning my Army career which lasted for 28 years and 151 days
  • After 22 years in the army I morphed into a military accountant
  • On Monday I watered a sparrow – she was asleep in a bush – I apologised
  • I have created a very small wildlife pond – it has been immediately colonised by mosquito larvae
  • My wife and I are somehow suffering from multiple mosquito bites

I’m happy and I’m shallow

but sometimes I am deep

I’ll often write best sellers whilst I am fast asleep

The annual check-up

Suppositories and cooling anal sprays

a salve to spread on painful bleeding graze 

Tablets, potions and who really knows

what ails me with that thing that slowly grows

.

This getting old oft has its benefits

but sometimes it can be the bloody pits

Some things grow whilst others swiftly shrink

I ask the doc what do you really think?

.

He’s often noncommittal and he says

What ails you I can only ever guess

His bedside manner is beyond the pale 

I only hope I live to tell the tale!

.

I say “It’s really good to be alive”

Same time next year he says – if you survive!

We are all poets

I remember discussing poetry with a soldier friend in a bar in Germany when we were probably aged 20.  We wouldn’t have been drunk because we could not afford more than a couple of small beers but it was good to get out of the barracks and live a little.

I had recited a poem I’d recently written and he stated that he had never tried to write any poetry, and doubted if he had a poetic bone in his body.  He probably did not put it quite so eloquently! However, I responded, saying that we were all poets, whereupon I encouraged him to come up with a verse.

After a bit of thought he produced:

I have a motorbike which goes well

and a car, but it’s not very good! 

Now, if that isn’t poetry I don’t know what is!

Almost a Cat-astrophe

Yesterday the sky was filled with dark grey clouds and it looked very unlikely that I should get to see the annular eclipse. If we were lucky, people across the UK would be treated to views of a crescent sun as the moon appeared to partially block out the sun. In other parts of the world the “ring of fire” would be visible from places such as Canada, Greenland and northern Russia.

I was kitted out with polarised lenses for my glasses, and with my trusty camera. The only problem was that although I can look directly towards the sun with my lenses attached I cannot then see the screen of my camera so it was a case of lenses on, look at the sun, lenses off, look at the camera – repeat ad infinitum. I do not have a tripod – a lack I will have to address!

Here are the results: (My camera time is one hour behind)

The final retirement

Sue at Nan’s Farm and Gerry at The Main Aisle run a weekly prompt on their shared site Weekly Prompts.

This week they have chosen RETIREMENT as the prompt.

I have just retired for the last time and it was an easy decision to make, although, in some ways, it was the hardest decision to take.

I would have difficulty in telling you how many times I have retired.  It depends how you define retirement.

In simple terms I have retired three times.

Firstly, I retired at age 45, having served 28 years 151 days in the British Army.  I know that because I have a little red book to tell me so! 

I would have preferred to carry on serving but, quite naturally, in a time of cutting the numbers of serving personnel, preference had to be given to younger, more active, men and women.

I retired from paid employment at the age of 64, a year earlier than normal at that time.  I was more than ready to retire because my role was stressful and overworked, although I enjoyed it tremendously.

With my newly found leisure I volunteered to become a trustee of a local charity that had been providing housing for ladies and gentlemen of modest means since 1708.  I have been honoured to serve, alongside my fellow trustees, for the last nine years, the last five and a half years as an active Chairman of the Board of trustees.

My latest, and final, retirement was necessary due to ill health.  I had probably (definitely according to my wife) not resigned early enough but I felt that I would be letting down my fellow trustees and the near 100 residents that we served.

Today, I received a magnificent bouquet of flowers from the charity.  I will cherish these blooms but, more than those, I will cherish all the lovely tributes I have received from my fellow trustees.

This retirement is my last.  I shall enjoy it!

A first for me – The first of March 2021.

Is the patient breathing?

How very strange it is to dial 999 for the very first time ever, to be greeted with “Emergency, which service do you require?” and to be asked that question, followed by “Is the patient conscious?” when the patient is actually the one making the call and that patient is ME!


I then went through an obviously very well scripted and professional series of questions to ascertain, in the fastest possible time, just what the problem was,  what was required in the way of immediate assistance, and in the longer term.

I had to give my history of Hypertension since 2002, Angina since 2005, Angiograms in 2005 and 2012 and, meanwhile, I was reassured that an ambulance was on its way.


When I last spoke to my doctor she asked “How often do you have to use your GTN spray?” (an under the tongue spray, that I have carried since 2005, to alleviate angina pain by opening up the arteries)   I replied “Oh, I haven’t used it for years.  I carry it around all the time and replace it when the lid starts to fall off!”.

Silly me!  Not that I’m superstitious, but you do have to wonder.

I already had a telephone appointment booked with the doctor in a couple of weeks’ time, a follow up from my tummy troubles that haven’t really cleared since before Christmas.  For a few days I “presented with a general feeling of unwell.” and just felt distinctly yuk.  I also had to use my spray several times!  On Saturday I felt really off and even, secretly, considered whether I needed to go to hospital.  Being a (stubborn old) man I didn’t!   On Sunday I suggested to my wife that I may have to phone the doctor on Monday to get an emergency appointment sooner.

Monday morning I spoke to the doctor and was told to phone 999 immediately, which I did!



Ambulance arrived, blue lights flashing, and I had 2 ECG’s, blood pressure taken several times, history and medication recorded.  All very efficient and reassuring. The ECG’s showed abnormalities, namely First degree heart block, (which I knew I had – and it sounds far worse than it actually is) and ectopic atrial rhythm.  I was allowed to walk out to the ambulance – a very reassuring sign – and was then whisked off to QMC (Queens Medical Centre) Nottingham, to A & E. I was assessed in reception, then moved to the Urgent Treatment Unit where I was given Paracetamol, pink tummy medicine, and liquid morphine.  

A very slick operation followed where I had 3 ECG’s, had my temperature and blood pressure taken about 10 times, had 2 lots of blood taken, a chest X-Ray, a scan of my tummy and bladder, saw 2 surgeons and 3 doctors, countless nurses and assistants, had a bite to eat and a cup of tea, and was eventually allowed to go home with new medication,  2 outpatient appointments booked,  and a collection of labels, gauze, sticky tape, and 10 sticky pads for ECG’s still attached to me. Souvenirs of an unexpected day out that didn’t cost me a penny.

Thank goodness for the NHS.

A Voice to be Heard

I have a voice!

Of course I have.  We all have a voice!

But that’s not strictly true.  Some people are mute, they never ever speak audibly.

Ah yes, there is a point there, but did you note the subtle nicety that, although someone cannot speak, they can still be ‘heard’.

That can only be a good thing.  Everyone should be able to have their voice heard, but we all know that all voices are not equal.

But what can we do about that?

We can carry on speaking, making our voices heard, even when we think our voice is inaudible.  

We have to speak the truth.  We have to speak the love.  We have to speak the beauty.  We have to speak the peace.  We have to speak the forgiveness.  We have to speak the reconciliation.

I have never before watched a Presidential Inauguration all the way through, as it happened.  Yesterday I did, and I am glad that I did.  There was much common sense, much compassion, and great reason for hope.

Did you hear Amanda Gorman’s poem?  Amanda, America’s Youth Poet Laureate, gave a stunning oration and, at the age of only 22, spoke better than the majority of politicians do nowadays.  Her words embody the hopes and dreams of all right-thinking people. She is smart, bright, articulate.  A lady to watch, learn from, and encourage to do wondrous things in the future.

Her final words spoke volumes, and should speak to all the world, not just to America.  Her voice, and ours are voices to be heard.

When day comes, we step out of the shade aflame and unafraid. The new dawn blooms as we free it.

For there is always light.

If only we’re brave enough to see it.

If only we’re brave enough to be it.