Friday, 4 September 2009

Happy Anniversaries

I walked the Rodwell Trail for the tenth time in fourteen days this morning, and there is definitely something missing. In recent times they have asphalted the full length and it looks very good, save for the dog muck that simply cannot leach through the surface - the 'toe-rags' don't live at Littlemoor, they are residents of £300,000 homes at the top of Wyke and the back of Lodmoor, with their precious pets. Anyhow, what is missing are the Grey Wagtails, despite a thorough search each day I have not been able to locate one, the first time since I was a nipper. Having said that, there were 3 flying over Ferry Bridge this morning, along with about 50 each Dunlin and Ringed Plover, 2 Mediterranean Gulls (1 x second winter & a juvenile), 4 Wheatear, and singles of Sanderling, Knot and Peregrine.

And talking of 'nippers' and anniversaries, it is 48 years to the day since I joined the Royal Navy at the tender age of 15 years and 50 days. With never one regret about that decision, I know that one way or the other I would be serving Her Majesty either at HMS St Vincent, or one of the 2 institutions up 'top hill'!! After and extremely tough year there and a short training programme as a Sonar (Asdic then) Operator at HMS Vernon we were sent on what was advertised as a short spell on a ship to get our 'sea legs'. I joined HM Minesweeper Nurton in No.3 dock in Pompey, the current home of the Mary Rose. A week later she completed her refit and was towed back to the M/S base which was also at Vernon. On that epic ocean voyage (believe it or not) the screw (propeller) dropped off and she was returned to dock. I needn't have taken those sea sick pills and still had no idea if I would need them when the great day came to go to sea proper. I didn't have to wait long, and soon found myself on the Junior Seaman's messdeck of HMS Keppel based, albeit shortly, with the 2nd Frigate Squadron at Portland. After HMS Russel was struck by a massive wave inside the Arctic Circle, it was the Crabby K's duty to relieve her, where I spent the next year plying between northern Norway and Iceland. Next came what in naval terms would be described, a luxury yacht. HMS Eskimo was one of the 'new generation', gas turbine super frigates designed especially for the Persian Gull, where back in the mid 60's things were a bit 'hairy' to say the least. The up side in Eskimo was all bunks, where in the K it was hammocks, but somehow they were never quite so relaxing. No time here for too much reminiscing but we were heavily involved with the pull out of Aden, drug, precious stones and gun running in the Gulf and Beira Patrol, Mozambique, which was effectively the blockade of Ian Smith's Rhodesia.

Back in the UK I had a short spell in HMS Undaunted, which ended her days as a target for surface to surface missile trials, and then had the bright idea of volunteering for 'boats'. As a Submariner I would get a £1.00 a day allowance to my pay, and as a side to that training I also completed a Divers course bringing in another 4/- (shillings) a day. These, believe it or not, were enough to pay our mortgage so a worthwhile diversion. To be honest I loved every minute, bearing in mind that in those days it was diesel 'boats' that undertook the 'sneakies' (looking out for Ivan the Red coming around the North Cape) that the 'nukes' do today. As a consequence I have sailed and flown over and under the Arctic Circle.

Oh, and by the way the other anniversary is my Son Out Law (they're not married so he's an Outlaw, get it?) was born 50 years ago today, and that as I understand it was at a fairly young age. So, it's all hands to the Black Dog, Broadmayne this evening for a pint of rough, some Rock 'n' Roll and a hog roast - bon appetite.

2 days in the Navy and not a Christmas at home yet. At least with 'wind scoops' like that, this lads hat would never fall over his eyes!

'New Entries Division' - September 1961

Anchors & Cables training on the mock forecastle, HMS St Vincent 1961
A further selection of Waders, today's candidates are all American and on the larger side.

American Golden Plover - breeding on the tundra outside of Barrow, Alaska

Marbled Godwit - Newport Beach, Oregon

Willet - el Segundo Beach, Los Angeles, California

Hudsonian Whimbrel - San Francisco, California