Originally posted by Simon Bolivar View Post
I met Terry later in the bar before going on shift. I know in these non-smoking, non-drinking days this will sound strange, but it wasn?t against the rules to have a pint before going on nightshift. I didn?t do it usually to avoid falling asleep in the wee hrs. Those on the psychiatric ward used to do it on principal. They used to enjoy breathing on the senior rates, who were on the ?Basket Weaving Course? drying out from their alcohol abuse, aimed at returning them to the service, as more acceptable functioning alcoholics. Ah, wicked is the service sense of humour!
Terry had the last laugh of course, he was off on leave & his parting words were, ?you?ll be off next mate, say Hi to Port Stanley for me!? I went to the ward & once we had handed out the coco, drugs & bedded the patients down, I discussed his prediction with the nurse on with me. Her name was Sindy & I knew her from RNH Stonehouse as well. I think she was still doing her training when I was down there. We hadn?t spoken two words there; she was a pretty attractive blonde & got a lot of attention elsewhere. Anyway when stuck together for a week, the fact we had met before broke the ice a little. She wasn?t very talkative (some people never really adjust to nights), but we discussed & were both aware we could get the call once we had finished nights.
Well being on nights kept us from being sent to SS Canberra (which was later fired upon). The first unit to leave the Hospital was the Surgical Support Team. This was a bunch of medical personnel who were on 48hrs notice to go anywhere in the world where an incident blew up. They had to do extra training & exercises away from the hospital, which must have been a real drag, especially when no one could remember the last time the team had been called to action. So I can understand when the nursing officers (all female in the RN in those days), were so upset when none of them were taken. They had done the time but weren?t to be put in harms way. They never forgave those of us who did go down & gave us all a hard time for yrs about it.
Well I finished my nights & was due to go home on leave, when I went to collect my leave pass the Master at Arms (chief policeman) told me to report to Matron?s office. I was told I was on 48hrs notice to fly to Gibraltar to join a school ship the SS Uganda, which the Government had taken up & was converting to a hospital ship. I was to be confined to the hospital. I asked if I could have permission to go home that night, as my grandmother was visiting & we all had tickets for the theatre in Guildford to see Oscar Wilde?s ?The importance of being Ernest?. She didn?t know me from Adam, the nursing hierarchy never bothered with the medics at all, but I guess didn?t look like the sort of guy who would do a runner & desert so she gave me a special 24hr pass. That afternoon I rode on my 100cc Honda the 60 miles to my parents, saw my grandmother & the play, an excellent production. Lady Bracknell's phrase ?in a Handbag!? was to be heard in surprising situations throughout the journey down South.
The next morning there were no emotional scenes; my Father had been in the RAF & his little conflict was the Suez crisis, we shook hands like English father?s & sons have done for centuries, as one leaves another for an uncertain future. I guess my mother & sister were more worried but no one really thought it would come to all out war at this stage & no one wanted to be seen as being overly dramatic. We weren?t hysterical Sun readers after all. We all thought the politicians would sort it out before we got to Ascension Island. Perhaps I thought this might be the last time I?ll see my elderly & frail grandmother; perhaps she thought the same? I at least needn?t have worried as she lived another 15yrs!
I returned to Haslar on time & couple of days later after saying goodbye to the GF who promised to write, our group were on a bus to RAF Lynham to board a Hercules to Gib. I noticed as we waited Sindy buying a pack of fags. ?Didn?t know you smoked? I commented. ?I haven?t since I was 18 but I need one today?. She smoked most of the pack whilst we were hanging around. On the fight the nurses got their first taste of real service life. The toilet was a bucket behind screen of hessian sacking. We were strapped into parachute seats, most uncomfortable for a 3hr+ fight. There were several young guys with long hair, lying on top of the freight getting shut eye, no safety belts for them; Secret Squirrels en-route to some fun. And we were looking fwd to some fun in Gib, after 4yrs service this was to be my first foreign run ashore; our adventure had begun.
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