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

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!

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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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 – July 5th 2020 – Make America Great Again

song-lyric-sunday

Jim Adams’ Song Lyric Sunday gives everyone the chance to share familiar, and sometimes not so familiar, songs.

To find out how to participate, and also listen to all the great entries, click here.

This week I’m featuring Frank Turner, an English punk and folk singer-songwriter from Hampshire. Incidentally, he was born in Bahrain where I served two tours in 1967/68 and 1971. Wow, that was a good while ago!

Frank can be quite political in his performances and this song is no exception. I hope you enjoy at least one of the choices I’m offering. The song is “Make America Great Again“, released in May 2018.  It  has been described as a “riposte to the invective of Trump” and sees Turner offer some tips on how the President could improve the US: by “making racists ashamed again” and making “compassion in fashion again”.

The first is the Official video of the release

Next is a performance at Paper Tiger, San Antonio, Tx

and in Mexico City

and, finally an explanation of his thinking behind the writing of the song, complete with a political statement.

Make America Great Again

Well I know I’m just an ignorant Englishman
But I’d like to make America great again
So if you’ll forgive my accent and the cheek of it
Here’s some suggestions from the special relationship

Let’s make America great again
By making racists ashamed again
Let’s make compassion in fashion again
Let’s make America great again

Well I’ve been fortunate to go ’round the continent
From California through the midwest and Providence
And I’ve mostly only encountered common sense
Hospitality and warmth from Americans
But I wish it was a bit less significant
The program and the name of the President
Because it seems to me the truth is self-evident
You fought our king to be independent

Make America great again
By making racists ashamed again
Let’s make compassion in fashion again
Let’s make America great again

Ellis Island take me in
Everyone can start again
In the shining city on the hill
Where nobody can be illegal

Let’s make America great again
By making racists ashamed again
Let’s make compassion in fashion again
Let’s make America great again

Let’s be a friend to our oldest friends
And call them out when they’re faltering
Remind them of their best selves and then
We’ll make America great again

Source: LyricFind

Songwriters: Frank Turner

Make America Great Again lyrics © BMG Rights Management

Song Lyric Sunday – May 31 2020 – Mint from the 60’s

song-lyric-sundayJim Adams’ Song Lyric Sunday gives us the chance to share familiar, and sometimes not so familiar, songs. I’m pretty sure that this one will be unfamiliar to the majority, including me!

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.

With Jim’s prompt this week I just could not get away from Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme so I had to start trying to think laterally.  I came up with a song title from the psychedelic era, Incense and Peppermints, recorded in 1967. OK, it’s not Mint, but it is a type of mint.

I’m not going to try to analyse the song, or the group, or the era. It is what it is. You either get it, or you don’t. You may like it, even though you don’t get it! This was happening in the USA in 1967 while on the other side of the world, in Vietnam, 11,363 American soldiers were being killed in that one year!

I’m pretty sure that the group,  Strawberry Alarm Clock, were very self conscious dressed up for this performance, but, would you believe it, the group  carried on and on, with a couple of breaks, and is still performing today!

There are two videos, the first is a TV recording from 1967.

and the second carries a flashing lights warning for epilepsy sufferers or anyone suffering from migraines. It has lots of psychedelic flashing colours.

 

 

I hope you enjoy:

Incense and Peppermint

Good sense, innocence, cripplin’ mankind
Dead kings, many things I can’t define
Occasions, persuasions clutter your mind
Incense and peppermints, the color of time

Who cares what games we choose?
Little to win but nothin’ to lose

Incense and peppermints, meaningless nouns
Turn on, tune in, turn your eyes around

Look at yourself, look at yourself, yeah, yeah
Look at yourself, look at yourself, yeah, yeah, yeah!

To divide this cockeyed world in two
Throw your pride to one side, it’s the least you can do
Beatniks and politics, nothing is new
A yardstick for lunatics, one point of view

Who cares what games we choose?
Little to win but nothin’ to lose

Good sense, innocence, cripplin’ mankind
Dead kings, many things I can’t define
Occasions, persuasions clutter your mind
Incense and peppermints, the color of time

Who cares what games we choose?
Little to win but nothin’ to lose

Incense and peppermints
Incense and peppermints

Sha la la, sha la la, sha la la, sha la la, sha la la

Source: LyricFind

Songwriters: John Carter / Timothy P. Gilbert

Incense And Peppermints lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

A view from across the pond, and back

“The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else.” – Theodore Roosevelt, 26th US President (1858-1919)

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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