Got a few minutes
so here goes a short story of daring do in the life of OLD Jack.
Back in 1971 I had me a job on the crazy 'Y' as the senior RP
Killick. cos of this I got the quiet little number of boss of the
boat party (well someone had to do it!).
During the year the ship was transferred to Rosyth to join (become?)
the Scottish Navy, again someone's got to do it. so we had a refit
in Rosyth along with a couple of old nuclear boats, Polaris I
believe! Anyway towards the end of the refit the first Lieutenant
or the Boss (they were a pretty innovative lot at the time and
actually thought we rating's were human - which was somewhat
strange, still is if my experiences are anything to go by!) decided
that the various parts of ship could paint out their stores in any
colour they fancied to make it more homelike! As I said strange
people! so I got together with my two lads and we decided it
should be something startling and attention grabbing! So after
much thought and finding that the supply of tartan paint was rather
low onboard, I suggested we try 'Pink'. Somewhat understandably
they said something rude, but at least said If your willing to do
it, let's. so that evening I set to with a will (and a paint
brush!) and soon had it nice and pink. It didn't take long as
you'll probably remember being under the mainmast it was pretty
NEXT ROUNDS DAY THE BOSS NEARLY HAD A FIT. But he'd agreed to let
us so he said O.K. keep it but make sure the *!%*& door is shut if
we go anywhere or an admiral came onboard. So we did, but I bet it
soon had it's colour changed after I left the ship in Singapore.
Incidentally the Yarmouth boat crew was the first General Service
ship to wear berets as a regular thing, but that's another story.
nickname arrived on the Yarmouth, which again is another story, to
be told later, should keep me busy for sometime!)
Hey these 'black cats' are real!
Another First for the Rubber Duck
"As yer all aware modern matelots wear berets a lot of the time -twas
not always so, back in days of yore they wore 'milk churn lids' most
all of the time (including in bed it seemed!)
Anyways the Admiralty had decreed that wafu's and other strange
creatures (senior rates mostly) could wear berets on occasion but
not the poor General Service Troglodyte who was stuck with the
aforementioned 'milk churn lids'.
And it came to pass that at the start of the commission one of the
boat party said to his 'killick' there's an AFO or is it a DCI out
which states that GS junior Rates can now wear berets - you sure -
yeah - show me - can't Oh what the Hell they are miles better than
'milk churn lids' get yer backside up to slops and get us some.
So to Portland for workup with the boats crew all wearing their
tiddly berets and looking bloody smart (and more to the point
comfortable), nobody bothered until one day the big man himself FOST
was in the lower store under the after messdeck talking to a Jack
Dusty (back when the Stores Branch was just that: not some glorified
'Logistics or 'Logs & Sticks' outfit didn't need no posh names in
those days nor Warrant Officers either). Down came the
aforementioned 'Killick' in his beret - 'wots that on yer ed' sayeth
the Admiral, 'me beret' sez I 'there's a DCI sez I can wear it [I
So later the same story is told to the first lieutenant (more in
hope than anything else by this time) AND WE GOT AWAY WITH IT!!
And I'm glad to say they are still wearing them and selling the
How I came by the
Nickname 'Bald Eagle'
Bald Eagle nickname: simple story really. At a very early age I've
suffered from a receding hairline (bald bug***, slaphead, etc.).
There was a chap known as "Mad Dog" from the comment at the captains
table (RN style not MN style) sometime in his past when the worthy
chappie said to him 'Idon't know what to do with you' this
following some misdemeanor or other and the Master at Arms was
supposed to have said "we could shoot him like the Mad Dog he
is!". Well, this nickname stuck, on the "Y" it was talked about
one dark and stormy night and a few other Indian nicknames were
bandied around and guess who became "Bald Eagle". It was after
all the time for strange nicknames etc. (see Peter Sharps comments
on the origins of the name 'Rubber Duck'). To add to this during
the Portland work-up of that commision it became standard practice
for me to stand at the door to the mess (after sailors mess) with my
head bowed on the action stations alarm. As everybody ran through
the door they slapped me on the head for luck! Must have worked
[along with the unquackable rubber duck] but the 'old man' never
could figure out why I was always last to action stations with a
blinding headache and a red head - I had difficulty too! Good for
moral but in this day and age it would probably be classed as
Looking at Peter Sharps photo's reminds me of another exciting
moment in the continuing story of the Crazy 'Y'.
Portland work-up early '72 (just after I'd decided to 'jack') the
vessel was engaged in an exercise to recover a dummy torpedo, the
thing had been dropped some distance from the ship (by one of those
egg beater things) and the whaler had been piped away to recover.
Being the boat party killick the 'Jimmy' thought I knew something
about boats, he was right of course (trouble was what I knew and
what he thought I knew were slightly different - OK then a lot!) so
I got to drive this boat and recover the bloody 'fish' all was going
well until I decided that to reach the boat falls we would have to
back up a few fathoms (yeah, shows how old I am we still had them in
those days). After the Chief in charge of the evolution informed
us that if that happened the bloody torpedo would start up again
and drag us around the ocean "Sod that for a game of soldiers" or
some such was the reply we'll have to take a bloody big circle to
reach the falls. this would take forever and we'd be out there all
day - there was rum in the fanny and beer in the fridge back
onboard! And the Skipper would not have been to happy about
hanging around for ages anyway!
sez to the baby bunting tosser (sparky?) "call the ship up and ask
them to come three to four cables ahead or we'll be here all day"........Ever
seen a baby bunt's crap his pants? So I calls up the ship myself
to save any hassle cos the bunts wouldn't asks the question "can you
come a couple of cables ahead cos if you don't it will take us for
ever to get back to you etc etc". So Dave Cowling - being a
sensible sort of Naval Officer and Commander and trusting his staff
does just that! Evolution completed in record time without a hitch
and a big Bravo Zulu from everybody for a good exercise completed
don't know what the baby bunts thought of it but he didn't look too
happy. Can't remember the bunt's name either. Over to you Peter
Sharp do you remember the incident? was it you?
Eaton (the Bald Eagle)
Back in the early
70's there was a desperate need for manpower, so their lordships
decided to reduce the required ability and time to a three year
stint. All well and good and seemed feasible. The 'duck' received
it's fair share of these individuals who to be fair did the job they
were required to do - can't ask more than that.
One such character
had the name of Webster long remembered and a fine lad, friendly,
worked hard and did his bit. Only trouble was he was not quite the
brightest card in the pack. 'When they said brains, he thought
they said drains, and asked for an empty one!'
So have been
introduced to the vagaries of the fleet someone suggested there was
a 'blue card' job available for young Webster (as they invariably do
- initiation rites and the like). he could become the "Cox'n of the
Splash Target!" Yes, that old one, but young 'Splash' swollowed it
hook, line and sinker. Never been seen to that extent before (or
since). So he went the rounds whilst heading up the North Sea to a
'Newcastle Visit'. Alongside in Newcastle it came to head - 'let's
see how far we can go' one wag said
So he went the
rounds again, wet suit, bag meal from the galley, signal flags,
chart from the Navigator (large bit of paper with a cross and you
are here written on it) the works (T'was a rumour that Commander
Cowling [Master and Commander at the time] was most upset because he
[Webster] had not been up to 'the table' with his request for the
job!). The young lad was introduced to the target, sat on it and
was hoisted up into the air and carried around the flight deck to
get the hang of how it operated - by this time the collected ship's
co. had lost it!
he was lowered
gently to the deck and the game explained, which he took in good
heart but never went near the damn splash target again.
However he retained
the name 'SPLASH WEBSTER' for the remainder of his time onboard
Wonder what happened
to him - became an M.P. or an Admiral no doubt!
Back in early '71
(awld bugger) when I joined the 'duck' she was still a Pompey ship
and called HMS Yarmouth - how boring. Whilst lying alongside one
day someone mentioned that the old Belfast was in the dock astern of
us having been brought out of reserve to go up to London as a
display ship. Leading Sailor Smith I believe of the quarterdeck
pirates department went on a scout - he returned with tales of booty
in store rooms awaiting the taking. So over a few tinnies at lunch
time (dinner to non RP's) a dastardly plot was hatched to make some
of this stuff ours!
'Turn to' in the
afternoon and after both watches and all that the Part of Ship Po
departed back to his mess after a few suggestions about making
himself scarce and then a couple of 'work parties' under varii
leading hands mustered on the jetty and smartly marched (well wot we
called smart!) over to the Belfast, and up the gangway. Chief at
the top queried why were there? 'Working Party Chief' 'OK carry on
Hooky', well couldn't be anything naughty there were Killicks in
charge and they are NEVER bad [ho ho ho]..
So round the ship we
wanders picking up interesting bit and pieces - falls back in on the
jetty carrying the booty and marches back to said 'Yarmouth'
carefully stowing it in the tiller flat! Some made several trips!
Many days later as
they say in all good fairy stories the by this time mighty 'duck'
was part of the Scottish Navy and at Portland. Engaged in some
strange exercises, as is FOST's wont. 'Mark that spot', sez the
'staff', over goes a dahn buoy; 'well mark that spot', sez the
staff, over goes a second dahn buoy (got em now they've only got
two, standard issue). 'OK YOU LOT MARK THAT SPOT', over goes a
third dahn buoy, and a
fourth. Christ there were some funny faces that
day, I can tell 'ee. Including some of ours with rings on their
Same with a few
other exercises in that work up - but that can come later!
Anybody else got
any memories then?