All at sea – Flying through the air, with, and without, the aid of a helicopter.

Originally published on 27/10/2017, this is part of a series that I promised may take a while to complete. I was right!

This is part of a recollection of “Some things I’ve done that you probably haven’t.

Number 2, Transferred between Royal Naval ships at sea by Jackstay, and 3, Transferred between Royal Naval ships at sea by helicopter can be recounted together because normally, when you go on a journey, you want to end up back where you started!

When I was posted to Gibraltar we (The Army) often entertained Royal Naval personnel when they had shore leave. We invited them to functions in the various messes (Officers Mess/Warrant Officers and Sergeants Mess/Other ranks Mess, and we invited them to dine with us, often arranging a special dinner.

 In return, they reciprocated, and we were often invited on board ship.

 I came to know several of the Petty Officers of HMS Charybdis quite well, during 1976. I was invited to spend time at sea with the ship, in an exchange with a member of the ship’s crew, where we swapped jobs for a few days.

hms charybdis Life on board a Royal Naval vessel is unlike anything you may imagine. Space is at a premium and everything has to be stowed away to maximise space, and to ensure there are no hazards created by loose gear.

 Before departing from any port, the ship must be fully provisioned with fuel, stores, ammunition, food, and a myriad of items you wouldn’t even begin to think of. This is to ensure that, should the vessel be called upon to sail into conflict, or to aid others, it can proceed immediately, without having to stock up first. There is a good deal of manual labour involved in this, and the whole ships company (of 260 in this case) is put to work, less a few essential personnel. It is hard work, and I experienced it!

 Imagine having to stock a freezer so you can retrieve food, to feed 260 hungry people for 2 months, when you can only reach things right at the front. Just where do you put all those potato sacks, carrots, toilet rolls, extra large cans, butter, fat, oil, flour, spices. The list is huge, as is the quantity. You cannot run out.

 I shall not go into disposal of waste, recycling, or what can, under international law, be discharged into the sea. I mention it only because sometimes it flies off the ship!

 Whilst at sea it is sometimes necessary to load, or offload personnel, or materiel.

 This may be for changes in personnel, removal of severely ill, or deceased, replenishment of food, fuel, supplies, and the removal of waste for disposal, or recycling.

 The Royal Navy is supported at sea by Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) vessels.

The RFA is staffed by civilians, and they have a variety of ships that can supply fuel and stores, effect repairs at sea, and even supply hospital facilities. They have a helicopter on board, and also cranes mounted on either side.

 Most modern warships have a helicopter on board, or a helipad that can receive a visiting helicopter so stores can be transferred from one vessel to another by underslung load. However, there is a restriction on how much weight can be carried that way, and it is an expensive method of resupply.

 The alternative method of transfer is by Jackstay, a method of using ropes and pulleys to carry personnel and materiel between vessels.
jackstay trfs

The light jackstay, employing human power, is used for transferring personnel, provisions, and light stores with a maximum load of about 250kg. The hauling end of the jackstay is manned by up to 25 hands. The other end is secured by a grommet strop to slip in the receiving ship. A traveller block is hauled back and forth along the jackstay wire by an in–haul rope in the receiving ship and an out–haul rope in the delivering ship manned by up to six crew in each ship. Working distance limits are normally between 24–61 meters with a normal working distance of about 34 meters.

 The heavy Jackstay, uses steel ropes for transfer of heavier loads, or to support feed pipes during transfer of fuel or water. Normally a powered winch is used.

 The ropes are passed from one ship to the other by first firing a thin twine by rifle and pulling this across, with increasing thickness of twine, then cord, then rope.

 Ships are unstable platforms when stopped in most seas and it is extremely dangerous to bring two ships directly alongside one another. All transfers are therefore done with the ships steaming side by side, in to the wind, at a distance determined by the state of the seas. It is a hazardous operation and constant adjustment is needed to ensure identical speed, and to ensure the distance between vessels does nor vary. The procedure needs to be practiced often to ensure the crew knows exactly what to do when the need arises. It is the ultimate in team work!

 This is how I came to “volunteer” for my first, and only, experience of transfer at sea by Jackstay, and return by helicopter. I was one of a dozen.

 Having watched others being hauled across from Charybdis to another visiting Frigate, it was soon my turn. Apart from a little dampness from sea spray I arrived safely on the other ship and was hurried along to the stern to jump into the helicopter for the return trip. This was only my second flight in a helicopter. The whole procedure took less than 30 minutes, but was very exhilarating!

 Flights by small helicopter are normally from, and to, a stable surface, and the take off pattern is normally a vertical lift into the air, transferring into forward flight whilst gaining height. Larger helicopters use a running takeoff and landing whenever possible.

 Taking off from, and landing on, a ship at sea, entails a helipad moving at quite a speed, often with buffeting wind, and large chunks of solid metal very close by. It is a very specialised skill!

 On take off, the aircraft has to rise off the pad and move to the left, or right, immediately moving away from the vessel.

 Landing is the more difficult skill. The helicopter must approach the vessel from the rear and then fly, at the speed of the ship, slightly to the left or right of the helipad. It then has to move slowly across so that it is hovering above the pad, but is, in fact, still flying forwards at the speed of the vessel. It must then drop down on to the moving deck, immediately ceasing forward flight.

 Naval pilots, I salute you!

 To the crews of both vessels, Thank you for not getting me wet!charybdis.jpg

 

HMS Charybdis was affectionately  called “The Cherry B.” Hence the cherry tree on the ship’s plaque.

 

 

 

Light Jackstay information courtesy of: MacFarlane, John M. (2013) Jackstay Transfer (Replenishment) at Sea. Nauticapedia.ca 2013. http://nauticapedia.ca/Articles/Jackstay_Transfer.php

Travelling down the Rhine on a duck

Originally published on 25/10/2017, this is part of a series that I promised may take a while to complete. I was right!

In the Summer of 1962, at the age of 14, I travelled to Germany, with the Combined Cadet Force from my school, for a Summer Camp.

It was quite an adventure to get there. We travelled by military steam train, with the carriages being loaded onto the ferry for the channel crossing. It must have been very nearly the last such journey.

We eventually arrived at 2 Division Signal Regiment, in Bünde, West Germany, a Regiment I was later to be posted to as a regular soldier.

2 div.png

The Crossed Keys of 2 Division

 

 

There were still National Servicemen who had been conscripted into the forces for 2 years. These were the last of a dying breed as the last National Servicemen left the armed forces in May 1963.

I well remember that the soldiers took great delight in plying us with beer, probably at our own expense. That Summer, far from home, was the first time that I became extremely drunk, and extremely unwell.

We obviously overdid the cigarettes too. When I returned home I suffered, for a few days, with what was diagnosed as nicotine poisoning!

During our 10 days there we went out on exercise with the Regiment and did all sorts of, what was to us young boys, very exciting things. We helped camouflage vehicles, laid large capacity cables, helped put up radio masts, slept in abandoned barns and spent a day with the German Army.

It was during this “exchange day” that I encountered the DUKW (duck) that was to transport us down the river. (For the technically minded, more information here)

Ten very excited teenagers squeezed into the restricted space at the back and were driven down a ramp, into the water, where we progressed at a very sedate pace for 20 minutes or so, driving back up another ramp to dry land.

dukw

To be honest it was a bit disappointing, certainly not as exciting as the next half hour when we were transported at some considerable speed back up river, sirens wailing, in a fast patrol craft.

We then experienced a German Army lunch, for many, the first ever taste of “foreign” food. Tepid cabbage soup, cold würst, sauerkraut, black bread, and a strange pudding of yogurt. A new experience that was not repeated until it became more commonplace in the UK.

Postscript

In fact the river in question may not have been the Rhine. Memory being what it is, it could have been the Mösel, or even the Wëser. I have travelled on all of these, but, at the time, it seemed to be a very wide, and busy, river.

Part of the series Some things I’ve done that you probably haven’t!

Some things I’ve done that you probably haven’t.

This is a reblog of a series I started in October 2017. I thought I should resurrect it in order to attempt to get it completed. Perhaps it could take the place of my Lundi limerick series.

Peter's pondering

I had this random thought that I have done a few things in my life that the average person will never experience.  I thought I would write a post entitled:

“Ten things I’ve done that you probably haven’t.” It developed a little like this:

TenElevenTwelveThirteenFourteenFifteenSixteenSeventeenEighteen Nineteen Twenty things I’ve done that you probably haven’t

I arranged them in reverse alphabetical order, just for the sake of it! Then I thought of an added one, or four. So, here we have:

Some things I’ve done that you probably haven’t

  1. Travelled down the Rhine on a Duck
  2. Transferred between Royal Naval ships at sea by Jackstay
  3. Transferred between Royal Naval ships at sea by helicopter
  4. Spent time in a prison cell
  5. Sat in a Harrier Jump Jet
  6. Rowed in a coxed 4 at sea
  7. Regularly travelled to work by helicopter
  8. Qualified as a helicopter…

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A little bit of Dad

In my final Lundi limerick yesterday I used the hamlet of Acton and linked it to the fact that it played a large part in my Dad’s life.

In the process of digging out a bit of real life background, rather than the normal wikipedia, or google sources, I rummaged through the suitcase that I brought away from Dad’s house after he died at the grand age of 96.

Mum had died nearly 11 years before and everyone expected Dad to follow fairly swiftly after. He was, after all, a hard working farm labourer, who had relied on Mum for meals, clean clothes, and a welcoming home. We had all, of course, forgotten his hard upbringing, his determination, and his adaptability.

Within a couple of weeks he had bought himself a microwave. “I’ve always wanted one of these but your Mother would never have one”, he said.

He went on to cook his own meals, wash, dry, and iron his clothes, vacuum the house, and thoroughly enjoy the whole new leaf that he’d turned over. My little sister (three years older than me), who lived a few miles away, kept an eye on him, had him over for Sunday lunch and, over the coming years, gradually helped him more, according to his needs.

Anyway, this isn’t meant to be a definitive history of Dad, purely an extension of the information about his link to Acton.

The suitcase I mentioned earlier has quite a few Bibles, and other books, in it, each one has a story to tell. Dad was a Methodist Local Preacher from the age of 20 until failing hearing, and health, caused him to retire, although he remained ‘on the books’ until his death, and received several certificates of Long Service, even up to 75 years service! It just could not be done nowadays!

Dad was a marvellous preacher. Inspiring, knowledgeable, plain speaking, always linking to everyday life, articulate but never verbose. In everyday life you would never dream that he was a gifted and effective preacher. He was a quiet, mild mannered man whose goodness shone out for all to see, always willing to help, support, and encourage all that he encountered.

First out of the case is a School photograph from 1922 when Dad was 12
How smart they all are, and I love the bicycle parked around the corner! Dad would have done a couple of hours work before going to school and would have many jobs to complete when he got home.
Sunday School prize that Dad received from Acton
Note the Superintendent was John Matthews, an uncle
and a 19th birthday present from an Auntie
A present from the Local Preachers Association on his recognition service as a preacher (Oct 14th 1929)
21st birthday gift to Mum
An article that appeared in the Local Preachers Newsletter after Dad died

Lundi limerick #105

Thinking of Acton I’m glad

so special to Mum and to Dad

It’s where they first met

and their future was set

Such a wondrous life they both had.

 

There is not a lot to be said about Acton,  a small hamlet in Staffordshire. You could so easily drive through it without knowing and yet, without its existence, I may well not have existed!

The one building that is there, an old Wesleyan Methodist Church that closed in 2003, is where my father, Charles Matthews, went to Sunday School, then to Chapel. Where he met my mother Irene Lily Matthews, née Talbot. Where they first started courting,  all very prim and proper in those days. Where Dad first qualified for his  75 years as a Methodist Local Preacher.

I will add some photographs to a later post, and give a little more detail. I thought it appropriate that for the last of my two years worth of Lundi limericks (Lundi being french for Monday, for those who hadn’t noticed!!) I should write about somewhere extra special.

Thank you Acton. Thank you Mum and Dad.

 

 

 

I aint no hippy!

Over on Weekly Prompts the site shared by GC, themainaisle.com and SueW,  nansfarm.net the Weekend Challenge is Flower Power!

I’ve never partaken in these challenges, but when I saw the post today it triggered an immediate poem that, under normal circumstances, would have ended up as one of my Rapid Rhymes. Since I’m here, the poem is writ, and I saw this earlier today: (which I’ll leave to Sue to explain!!!)

I thought that I would offer you:

I aint no hippy

I missed the swinging sixties

with jeans and beads and hair

They say if you remember them

it proves you were not there

Well I was wearing uniform

no jeans or hair allowed

Each day was fully occupied

we couldn’t join the crowd

At least I got past 27

there’s many folk did not

Succumbed to sex and rock and roll

and drugs including pot

Still, p’raps I made up later

or p’raps I was a saint

Afraid I am not telling

A hippie I sure aint!

Song Lyric Sunday – April 19 2020 – Home Town

song-lyric-sundayJim Adams’ Song Lyric Sunday gives us the chance to share familiar, and sometimes not so familiar, songs. This week Jim has asked us to find a song linked to our Home Town or City where we were born, or once lived.

If you fancy sharing one of your favourite songs you can find out how to participate, and also listen to all the great entries, here.

Well, I left home at the age of 16 and have lived in my current home for 27 years. In the intervening 29 years I lived in 42 different places and that is not counting the various tents, barns, woods, hedgerows, vehicles, factories, boats, ships, and ditches where I have laid my head, nor any holiday homes. I guess that Wherever I lay my hat that’s my home.

Live Rockpalast 1985

 

Wherever I Lay My Hat

Paul Young

By the look in your eye I can tell you’re gonna cry
Is it over me?
If it is, save your tears
For I’m not worth it, you see

For I’m the type of boy who is always on the roam
Wherever I lay my hat that’s my home
I’m telling you that’s my home
You had romance, did you break it by chance

Over me?
If it’s so I’d like for you to know
That I’m not worth it, you see
For I’m the type of boy who is always on the roam, mm

Wherever I lay my hat that’s my home
Mm, that’s my home
Oh, you keep telling me, you keep telling me I’m your man
What do I have to do to make you understand?

For I’m the type of guy who gives girl the eye
Everybody knows.
But I love them and I leave them
Break their hearts and deceive them everywhere I go

Don’t you know that I’m the type of man who is always on the roam
Wherever I lay my hat that’s my home
Wherever I lay my hat, oh oh, that’s my home, mm yeh
That’s my home

And I like it that way
You know I can’t make it all alone sometimes that’s the way, that’s the way
I’m not saying
I’m not saying I don’t love you
Just got to do what I want to do

Source: LyricFind

Songwriters: Barrett Strong / Marvin Gaye / Marvin P Gaye / Norman Whitfield / Norman J. Whitfield

Wherever I Lay My Hat lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Of course, living near to Nottingham I could have chosen:

 

My life#6 – The Army -First days

Today is 55 years since I left home to join the Army. Would I do it again?
You bet!

 

Peter's pondering

This, and subsequent “The Army” entries, came about through my Niece requesting some information on my Army days. She was doing some sort of project that required a “behind the scenes” view of military life, so I started to jot things down.

I got a little carried away!

I suppose that this became the precursor to my blog, so I have Penny to thank for that!

I am offering these jottings exactly as originally presented, the only changes being the introduction of badges, where appropriate, and occasional comments, shown in blue.


I joined the Army in 1964, at the age of 16. As I was under the age of majority I had to have my parents’ permission to do so.

Despite the image of the Swinging Sixties you must remember that the majority of youth was unsophisticated, untraveled and, despite what they believed, very naïve. We had not benefitted, or…

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My inheritance

I just updated my random post generator picture and tried it out. I came across this, written 4 years ago. I like it. I hope you do too!

Peter's pondering

I love a good sentence, they’re always a joy

it’s something I learned from my dad as a boy

he left school at 14 as people did then

but always was good with a paper and pen

he used to write poems and now, so do I

they’re not very good but I do like to try

in fact, if you wait just a moment or two

I’ll write one right now especially for you

No, don’t go away, just tarry awhile

I’ll jot down a verse with a guaranteed smile

Just switch off your phone and turn up your ears

put worries aside and forget all your fears

now listen to you, switch off all the rest

listen to feelings deep down in your breast

listen to smells of the world on your skin

listen to air as you’re breathing it in

listen to images deep in your brain

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Song Lyric Sunday Theme – for 03/03/2019

img_1345-3Thank you to Jim, who who has now adopted the fabulous Song Lyric Sunday, taking over from Helen Vardati who started this amazing weekly chance to share lots of favourites, and some not so familiar songs.

Helen rightly says SLS is a community, and no longer belongs to her, and Jim agrees that he does not own it, he just hosts it, and very well too if I may say so!

I know that we all hope to see Helen back in the blogging world as soon  as she is ready. Thank you so much, Helen, for creating, and developing Song Lyric Sunday.

The theme for this week is Occupation and you can find all the great entries here.

I haven’t a single song in my collection that has the word occupation in its title, and anything that I could find online just would not do.

I have, therefore, gone with my occupation for over 28 years and offer, for your enjoyment, Soldier’s Song, issued in 1980 by The Hollies. This song was written by Mike Batt, who created The Wombles! Such a pity that he is remembered more for that, than for all the fantastic songs he wrote, and for all his great musical productions.

Soldier’s Song is Bitter Sweet and tells the story of a young soldier, going off to war, who is taken in by a more mature lady.  She takes pity on him and wishes to “make a man of him” before he dies in battle. He doesn’t die, and returns, only to find that the lady has been raped and killed in the drunken rampages of his fellow victors.

Lyrics

The smoke was slowly rising as the light began to fade
There were fires on the skyline from some distant border raid
There I was riding out at seventeen to join my first brigade
Many years ago

And I chanced upon a farmhouse where the woman took me in
She gave me food and wine she gave me shelter from the wind
She delayed me from my regiment and service of my king
Many years ago

She said, “Soldier before I lose you to the fight
Oh, my soldier, I’ll make a man of you tonight”
She took me over in the fading fire glow
On that wild and misty night she was my woman

When I rose next morning I was gone before she stood
Tore myself away from there and left without a word
The sound of distant infantry was the only sound I heard
On that morning

And in that day I aged ten years and died a thousand deaths
I learned the feel of frozen steel and fear within my breast
But the lesson I’ll remember till they lay me to my rest
Keeps returning

She said, “Soldier before I lose you to the fight
Oh, my soldier, I’ll make a man of you tonight”
She took me over in the fading fire glow
On that wild and misty night she was my woman

And when the dice of war were thrown and victory was won
My drunken young compatriots went out to have their fun
And there was no single house they didn’t burn or overrun on that evening

And I rode out to that place again as hard as I could ride
But I found her by the cradle on that lonely mountainside
In the hands of those brave friends of mine she suffered and she died
Many years ago

“Soldier before I lose you to the fight”
She said, “Soldier I’ll make a man of you tonight”
She took me over in the fading fire glow
On that wild and misty night she was my woman

Songwriters: Mike Batt

Soldier’s Song lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

As a bonus I’m offering Tin Soldier by Small Faces.