Mike  Eaton

'Bald Eagle'

1971 to 1972


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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 small.

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.

best regards
Bald Eagle

(and that 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 HOPE ]

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 onions

Mike Eaton

How I came by the Nickname 'Bald Eagle'

Reference the 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 assault!

Bald Eagle

Looking at Peter Sharps photo's reminds me of another exciting moment in the continuing story of the Crazy 'Y'.

During 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!

So I 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?

Mike Eaton (the Bald Eagle)

Splash Target

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 sleeves! 

Same with a few other exercises in that work up - but that can come later! 

Anybody else got any memories then?


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