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Simon Bolivar

My Falklands Story Part 4: We are Sailing...

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[QUOTE=Simon Bolivar;169955]My Falklands Story Part 4: We are Sailing...
It was the 15th April ’82, that we flew out to Gib on the Herc & we arrived late & were taken to RNH Gib. It was late by the time we arrived & the bar was emptying (must have been very late). There were a few warm re-unions of those personnel who had trained or served together & the bar filled up again. Eventually we crashed out were we could, as they didn’t have enough beds for us.

The following day we were transported down to HMS Rooke, the Naval Dockyard base & given quarters there, until the Uganda was habitable. Early that morning the Uganda arrived in the harbor, after decanting it’s pax in Naples (apparently the schoolchildren had been sings Rule Britannia as she arrived. Must have gone down well with the locals who still remember the String bags of HMS Illustrious, sinking the Italian fleet in WWII.

The nurses spent the morning being issued No8’s. This is the blue working rig that RN sailors wear but at that time, although the WRNS were issued them, the QARNNS weren’t. But at least someone appreciated their normal ward dress wasn’t going to be suitable onboard, if only because we didn’t have the water or starch required to maintain them.

When we arrived in the dockyard we could see the Flight Deck being attached. It had been made in Portsmouth & sent over. It weighed 40tons & was designed to take the load of two Seakings, side by side. Extra steel pillars were put in the games room to strengthen the deckhead, from the additional weight of the flight deck & expected loads.

We were involved straight away with trying to sort out the 90tons of reserve Surgical Hospital Stores. The main stores had been sent to the Canberra but as they had carried troops they could not be protected by the Geneva Convention. They would still be required to accept casualties as we couldn’t logistically survive without them but they were to be kept much further from the Falkland Islands, to reduce the threat of air attack.

I don’t know if their stores were labeled but ours weren’t. Not a single box. Each box had to be emptied a then dragged from one end of the ship to another. There were no lifting aids just man/female power. Once we had shifted several boxes of stores to a particular part of ship some Officer would change his mind & decide they needed to be at the other end. These continual re-arrangements went on until we startTRed receiving casualties, when we were finally left to get on with the job.

HMS Hecla, an ocean going survey boat was in the dockyard too & also being painted out in the Red Cross livery. The Hecate & Hydra fitted out in Portsmouth & met up with us at Ascension.
We had 130 Indian crew onboard who did the catering & cabin services, it was agreed to keep them onboard until Ascension, when it was expected to release them if we were required to go further south. he main P&O officers stayed but the deck & engine crews left & were replaced by sailors form the merchant marine Pool. Some of these were good guys; some were the usually unemployable, with histories of drink, drugs & insubordination problems. Attracted by the extra wage (150% extra whilst in the Total Exclusion zone) meant a deckhand was on 400 quid a week compared with my 100. As the Merchant Navy has in every war suffered greater losses of personnel than the RN, we didn’t begrudge this, but it did grate a little later on; when some of the more flaky types railed against alcohol limits (which nearly lead to a mutiny, I kid you not). They were used to unlimited alcohol but we just didn’t have the stores capacity to supply the demand. And after the conflict when the extra pay was dropped but we were kept hanging around for weeks longer.

1982 & the Uganda still steered by the Sun & the Stars. The RN appreciating the need for us to provide the Red Cross with our exact position, with little day light & lots of cloud cover, a basic GPS was required & they also installed satellite comms. Ship to shore radio was the normal & expensive method of making telephone calls home but military comms could be sent via sat as long as it wasn’t in code, again due to Geneva Convention. This meant we could never communicate directly with other RN ships or troops on the Island. Which is also why choppers would just appear with casualities, with a single radio message, 2mins out, requesting permission to land?

Accommodation. We looked all over the ship & some bright officer decided we could have more room for casualties, if the medics & nurses slept in the Indian Crew quarters. When we checked them out they were not in slightest but suitable, with Indian style toilets & over crowded cabins, tiny beds & heavily stained 1” matteresses. Once it was decided the Indian crew would be sailing with us we were saved this idea. We ended up in the First Class Accom. I had a dble cabin, two single beds, with bunk above me folded closed & unused. My cabin mate was just out of training 19yo, who decided he was going to have the outward bunk with his own scuttle (porthole). He also famously declared, ‘I’ll have the cabin tonight & you can have it tomorrow’. ‘What do you mean?’ I asked incredulously? Well’ I am going to trap a ‘Doris’ (Naval Nurse) tonight, so I’ll need the cabin but you can have it tomorrow’. And where do you think I am going to sleep?’ ‘Oh I am sure you’ll find somewhere’. Cheeky frigging sprog! I soon assured him that I expected to be able to use my cabin every night & if he didn’t like it, he’d better swap with someone else.

I later heard he had only just got married 3/52 before to a 23yo civy kidney specialist nurse up North. Some vows he’d made. I quickly sussed out the object of his lustful attentions & told her of his expectations. She made it clear there was no way she was going to sleep with him, even if he wasn’t married. He continued to chase her for the duration & although it amused her & she did hang around her cabin, with her friend Sindy, I believe he did end up honouring his vows, despite himself.<O></O>
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  1. butternutsquashpie's Avatar
    Love that comical ending there!
    But i'm not sure of your time usages. "he had only just got married 3/52 before to a..." What is the 3/52 supposed to mean? Darn language barriers...
  2. Simon Bolivar's Avatar
    3/52 = Three Weeks. Sounds like a brief honeymoon to me.