Wednesday, 23 February 2011

The 'Brum Franks' Famine Cruise

At 06-00 this morning the rain was hammering against the bedroom window, so what better excuse to roll over for another hour. Things got progressively worse as the morning wore on, so much so that by 10-30 I was reaching for the archive photos but soon after a text arrived.Wheatear at the windmills, Portland was sufficient to send me scurrying across the beach road where at Top Hill things were even worse. Hardly able to see a hand in front of you I persevered for about 2 hours, meeting both John Lucas and Martin Cade in the process but even between us we had no luck.

Wheatear wouldn't normally provoke such a response being both common and plentiful during the migration, but to record one in the month of February would be a first for me. So, now you know what they look like give me a ring if you see one before the month is out!

Otherwise, we once again resort to the archive and a few more mammal photographs from around the world. The Gemsbok were nervous, to say the least, not allowing Jim and I within a mile of them.

African Elephant - Swaziland

Chinese Squirrel

Eastern Bamboo Lemur - Madagascar

Golden Bamboo Lemur - Madagascar

African Lion - Lesotho

Wild Boar - Estonia

Yakushima Macaque - China

Galapagos Sealion

Muskrat - Dawson Creek, British Columbia, Canada

Gemsbok - Little Karoo, Western Cape, South Africa

It was with huge sadness that I learnt this week of the death of Ian Prophet long time fellow birder and friend. Always welcome in my company, Ian was a quiet, gentle man who I never heard mutter a bad word about anyone, you will be greatly missed Ian!

Last week my youngest daughter Lisa sent me a set of CD's of my dad's memoirs she had copied from his original audio tapes. Given the weather, I listened to the first of these this morning which brought a tear to my eye particularly as I had followed, more or less in his footsteps, when he tells of first joining the Royal Navy. Having joined as a HO (Hostilities Only) he was given the option of leaving as he had lost the tops of his left thumb and fore-finger to a mangle at the age of 18 months. He decided to stay in and during his first few weeks was stationed at HMS's St Vincent, Vernon and Dolphin all of which would become very familiar to me in later years. At the latter he encountered Submariners whose attitude to life and the service particularly changed his own attitude and stimulating him to join that service. Unfortunately, after training and his first 'dive' in HM S/M Cachalot he was found to have a perforated eardrum and was sent back to General Service. Which brings me neatly on to

The 'Brum Franks' Famine Cruise

In 1968 HM S/M Alcide was deployed to within the Arctic Circle to investigate certain unusual shipping movements. On such detachments a Submarine would be required to 'store for war', taking to sea far more supplies and equipment than on a 'normal' patrol including such things as inflatable dingies, diving gear etc. With no idea of a date of return, we were required to carry as much food stuffs as the stowage would allow this being the sole responsibility of our Coxswain (the Senior Senior Rate, Doctor, Policeman and any other job not covered by others) Brum Franks. It was only after a number of weeks at sea, where the order was 'silent running' that it started to become apparent that for whatever reason, Brum had failed to carry out this order. As time passed and the victuals depleted the best meal of what became our last week of the voyage was Curried Herrings in Tomato Sauce - yum yum!

It should be mentioned that on such journeys the usual discomforts of being submerged in a 'tin can' were doubled as all gangways were over-stowed with supplies making it impossible to stand upright, talking had to be kept to a minimum and even walking from one end of the boat to the other was strictly regulated as it would be detrimental to the trim of the vessel. Worst than all of these was the stoppage of 'Ukers', the Royal Navy version of Ludo which was an integral part of any day at sea. The rattle of dice within a Bakelite beaker could be just the thing to alert a potential enemy, as would be the flushing of the 'heads' which was also under the strict control of the Officer of the Watch.

Gash (rubbish) is another important consideration as jetsam would also alert interested parties to the presence of the 'boat'. To this end a Gash Ejector was fitter in the After Ends of the boat with all rubbish being placed into chemically treated bags before being 'fired', via the Ejector, into the sea. There was nothing haphazard about this operation as each bag had to be weighed down by tins and other heavy objects, allowing the bag to sink to the seabed, the chemicals do their work over several days allowing the rubbish to remain sunk.

Nearing the end of the cruise, the Captain had decided that the little frozen vegetables and meat remaining should be saved for our final Sunday at sea and everyone would enjoy a roast dinner before returning to base. As was usual the night before the Baby Chef (the junior of the 2 onboard) would repair to the freezer, collect the provisions for the next day, using some of the afore mentioned bags for ease of carriage , and leave them to thaw in the bathroom which was sited opposite the galley. This area was always known as 'the bathroom' despite there being no bath, or shower for that matter, just 2 sinks as a Submariner never got any part of his body wet except face and hands.

After a fairly long period of meager rations everyone was looking forward to what was now being billed 'The Sunday Party' but that was before realisation that overnight the order to 'ditch gash' had been given. Yes, you've got it, the night watchmen seeing the bags in the bathroom simply tied a knot in the neck, tested it for weight and fired it into Davy Jones' Locker. The rest of the story is unprintable save to say that Brum (one of the most amiable characters I ever came across) lost 2 years seniority and 6 month Submarine pay.

Submariner's Trivia

All surface ships, and their crews are known to the Submariner as 'Skimmers' as they only ever 'skim the surface'.

To the Submariner there are only 2 types of vessel afloat 'Submarines' and 'Targets'.

Submariners were paid an extra £1.00 a day in 1968, and Divers 4 shillings equivalent of 20 pence now. I received both in those days.

Part of a Submariner's training includes, 3 'free (just in swimming trunks) escapes' from 40 feet, 2 'free' from 60 feet, one 'free' from 100 feet and one 'suited' from 100 feet in the high tank at HMS Dolphin.

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