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!

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

A Beautiful Day

Today, as most days are, was a beautiful day.  It doesn’t have to be sunny, or warm, or special, it was just beautiful.

I was alive when I woke up, that’s always a good start.

I ate breakfast, hung out some washing, fed the cat, washed the dishes, had a (please pardon the expression;  it is crude, but adequately describes nearly every morning, and dates from army days) shit, shave, shower, and shampoo.  I went for a walk. Talked to the trees, to spiders, to dogs and cats, and to a couple of humans.

I returned home, had a coffee, and started to read the blogs that I follow.  Now, I follow far fewer blogs than (supposedly) follow me. I do, however, attempt to read every single post of every single person that I follow.  I like every one of these, but choose fewer to comment on. It is very time consuming, but I enjoy it, and that, surely, is what life is all about!

On one of my regular reads,  Ann Koplow’s The Year(s) of Living Non-Judgmentally, Ann’s post was entitled It’s a Beautiful Day. It was, as all of her posts are, very positive.  I shall leave you to explore her blog, if you so wish, but that is not my main purpose here.

Ann included a most exquisite piece of music by Tohpati (featuring Moonlight Project), and she commented that ‘It’s a beautiful day to share “It’s a Beautiful Day”, also that It’s a beautiful day when I find out about an Indonesian jazz guitarist and songwriter whose “most significant influence came from Pat Metheny.’

Do you know what, she was absolutely right. (and if you listen to the very end you will also discover that the musicians had a beautiful day too)

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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Song Lyric Sunday 11/08/2019 – A song that includes somebody famous in it

img_1345-3Thank you to Jim Adams, who hosts Song Lyric Sunday. He gives us the chance to share familiar, and not so familiar, songs by setting us a challenge each week to submit a song that either fits in with a word, an idea, or specific criteria.

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.

For this week we have to find a song that includes somebody famous.

I think I may be stretching the boundaries a little here. I’m not even sure that my inclusion can be called “somebody”! Is it a man? A woman? An entity? Human? Celestial? An alien?

It depends on your perception, your belief, where you live in the world, how you were brought up, what has happened to you since.

It is a song from The Beach Boys album Pet Sounds, released in July 1966.

Does it include somebody famous?

God Only Knows.

God Only Knows

The Beach Boys

I may not always love you
But long as there are stars above you
You never need to doubt it
I’ll make you so sure about it
God only knows what I’d be without you

If you should ever leave me
Though life would still go on, believe me
The world could show nothing to me
So what good would living do me
God only knows what I’d be without you

God only knows what I’d be without you
If you should ever leave me
Though life would still go on, believe me
The world could show nothing to me
So what good would living do me
God only knows what I’d be without you

God only knows what I’d be without you
God only knows what I’d be without you
God only knows what I’d be without you
God only knows what I’d be without you (God only knows)
God only knows what I’d be without you (what I’d be without you)
God only knows what I’d be without you (God only knows)
God only knows what I’d be without you (what I’d be without you)
God only knows what I’d be without you (God only knows)
God only knows what I’d be without you (what I’d be without you)
God only knows what I’d be without you (God only knows)
God only knows what I’d be without you (what I’d be without you)
God only knows what I’d be without you

Source: LyricFind

Songwriters: Brian Douglas Wilson / Tony Asher

God Only Knows lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner Chappell Music, Inc, Universal Music Publishing Group

This holds very fond memories for me as a special song for me and my first “true” love, Susan Margaret Wood. As I had left home at age 16, in 1964, to join the army, and left Susan behind, this became “our song” when it first came out!

Here is a version from 20 June 2008.

A version by David Bowie from 1984

and a version from Michael Bublé in 2016

 

 

Song Lyric Sunday Theme for 17/02/2019

img_1345-3Jim Adams continues to look after Song Lyric Sunday, giving us the chance to share lots of favourites, and some not so familiar songs.

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

Because I was pipped at the post by THIS THAT AND THE OTHER with my choice this week, I am offering another “Hill” tune for your delight (or not). You will find this at the bottom and it morphs my SLS entry into a personal history lesson too!

Anyone who has followed my SLS entries for a while will know that my mind often goes to Beatles songs to try to find a suitable offering to present. I’m not always successful!

What I found this week is a song off the Magical Mystery Tour album. After the success of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Beatles wanted to create a psychedelically themed film, and Magical Mystery Tour was the result. It was designed as an unscripted television special and featured 6 new songs.

It was never meant to be an LP, but the producers added existing singles to make up the numbers! It worked out pretty well.

Here, for your enjoyment, is “The Fool on the Hill”.

The Fool on the Hill

The Beatles

Day after day, alone on a hill
The man with the foolish grin is sitting perfectly still
Nobody wants to know him
They can see that he’s just a fool
But he never gives an answer

But the fool on the hill
Sees the sun going down
And the eyes in his head
See the world spinning round

His head in a cloud
The man with a foolish grin is talking perfectly loud
But nobody wants to hear him
They can see that he’s just a fool
But he never gives an answer

But the fool on the hill
Sees the sun going down
And the eyes in his head
See the world spinning round

But nobody wants to know him
They can see that he’s just a fool
But he never gives an answer

But the fool on the hill
Sees the sun going down
And the eyes in his head
See the world spinning round

But the fool on the hill
Sees the sun going down
And the eyes in his head
See the world spinning round

Songwriters: John Lennon / Paul McCartney

The Fool on the Hill lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Here is the extra!

This is not a song, has no lyrics, and is unlikely to have been heard by anyone reading this blog. It is, however, special to me, and is amongst the music that MAY be played at my funeral/celebration of life/throwing on the local scrap heap!

It is “High on a Hill” by the Band and Bugles of The Royal Green Jackets

I had the honour to serve with The 2ndBattalion The Royal Green Jackets, in Dover, and Omagh, Northern Ireland. I can honestly say that they were the most professional and dedicated soldiers I have ever served with. This was the one and only time I served with a Light Infantry unit and It was a real eye opener. They are different! An example is that they march at 140 paces per minute, rather than usual 116, or 120. Examples can be seen below.

Imagine doing that for any length of time, AND carrying and playing an instrument!

Rapid Rhyme #6

This poem was inspired by Colleen’s post Not alone. On looking back, I find that my last Rapid Rhyme was also inspired by Colleen whose magnificent blog you can find here.

If you have not read anything of C Faherty Brown’s words, nor seen her delightful, and insightful, drawings, then I would recommend that you delve into them. Her books, too, are a joy, and her latest, “The Sentinel”, also features a tree. It truly is a magnificent story which, uncharacteristically, features not a single picture. The words themselves are picture enough.

This is what Colleen inspired:

By the tree

in the tree

playfully

you and me

went on dates

__.__

Girl and boy

fun ahoy

boy oh boy

what a joy

consummates

__.__

Shared a life

man and wife

free from strife

love was rife

best of mates