WE ARE SAILING
WE ARE SAILING
We aren’t going anywhere until we get more coffee on the Bridge!
0600 and the ward room steward brings morning coffee and from last night’s drunken haze I
remember today is the DAY. we are leaving Jacksonville, Florida for our crossing of the Atlantic,
creeping up the eastern US, rendezvousing with our tanker somewhere off Newfoundland then
up and round the top of Scotland and then finally into the Firth of Forth for the ship to enter a
0700 and all the ropes are cast off or whatever the Navy do and with much bubbling and
churning our Destroyer, the mighty type 42, H.M.S. Liverpool moves away from it’s moorings
and turns to make for the Atlantic. We are all in our best uniforms and Grant and I take our
places on the bridge wings as we slip quietly down the river to the entry into the big Pond.
Now we are at sea and the Navy want to show us all their various departments, first up it’s the
WEO who bores us witless by showing us the inside of every computer cabinet on board. After
lunch we now have total cloud cover and the sea is getting pretty rough. Night comes and the
storm increases and now I can understand what the straps on the bed are for having been
tossed out during the night.
Spend the next morning on the bridge and the storm is now abating and its getting a bit
calmer. Another day at sea passes with more stories and film shows. The following day at
0830 lots of bells, whistles and other nautical mayhem and suddenly the ship takes off in
hi-speed mode and now we are crashing through the waves and hitting over 30 kts from the
other set of engines….. very impressive!
The Captain wants to go water skiing
The next evening I am invited to do “rounds” with the ship’s XO as the Navy are obviously
amused that my position on the Squadron is also XO. Rounds is where the XO goes round the
ship every night inspecting all the quarters being piped into all the seamen’s accommodation by
the ship’s Bosun…… I guess this goes back to Nelson’s time. Man what awful conditions, quite
an experience and you have to ask yourself why anyone would join? When this is complete
dinner is served and unlike the US Navy, British ships do allow booze, albeit rationed by the day
and NO Hoarding or stock piling.
Breakfast and a lot of banging this morning so venture up to the bridge to see what is
happening and today they have the 4.5 inch gun in operation firing against a “splash” target
being towed by H.M.S. Hermione a Leander Class Frigate. Great shell cases rattling all over the
deck and some bouncing off the hardware and going over the side. Complete Mayhem!
The 4.5 in action
You got it dirty, you clean it!
If the gun doesn’t get you this might
Well that was fun and now they announce that we will shortly be doing a “RAS”
(replenishment at sea) so this should be worth watching. 1000 and now we are in thick fog
somewhere off Newfoundland. I seem to remember this “Fog” from by schoolboy world
geography and can’t help but think this really isn’t the brightest place to plan a refuelling stop
with a tanker. 1100 and we can’t find the tanker! …… well this could be fun, if we don’t find it
we are diverting to Bermuda…… sounds good to me!
S***!….. so much for Bermuda
1130, bad news here is Plum Leaf, the tanker, and now we get to see how this is done……
first get a matelot with a rifle and a load of rope who fires a shell and the rope over to the
supply ship, then the seamen over there haul the rope over and tie an even bigger rope to it
and then we haul it back, and eventually with loads of ropes and pulleys the fuel hose comes
over, meanwhile other things come swinging over on wires and men and material go
backward and forwards a bit like being back in Disney. All complete and wires, hoses, and
ropes all dropped in the sea our motors fire up and the “tannoys” blare at full blast with the
Spinners record of “The Leaving of Liverpool” as the bow comes up and we rocket off into the
Pull Mateys Pull! Heave Ho and up she rises…..
Grant not impressed with the operation
Another day and plain sailing with the wind behind us so very pleasant on the bridge wings
but by 1730 it’s getting rough and choppy again, one hour later and the ship is rolling violently
and waves are crashing into the sides of the vessel. Attempt dinner which is amuzing with 50
kts blowing across the decks and plates and cuttlery going everywhere. Spend most of the
night on the bridge and it’s not very nice! Venture back to my cabin only to find everything all
over the floor.
6 hours at hi-speed and then the relative plain sailing as we come back to 20 kts on the other
engines but at least we are out of the stormy waters. See a school of pilot whales and then
invited to join the clay pigeon shoot off the back of the boat. A win for the RAF and back to the
Ward Room for more shooting stories and drinkies.
One week out from the US and now we are on a chart which has the British Isles on it so
boredom is less intense and I’m told we should pass through Pentland Firth around midnight.
By 2100 the ship is pitching and rolling violently as we round Cape Wrath….. you do this for a
A nice “swell” and its getting worse!
Now we have 20 ft waves crashing into the ship and they tell me it will get even worse in
Pentland Firth. Stay on the bridge as it looks like the best place and the coffee is good.
Finally we are coming down the other side of Scotland and the North Sea is a millpond by
comparison. Lots of marine wildlife as we go past some famous golf courses and now as we
slip into the Firth of Forth my “boys” arrive in a three ship to greet me and Liverpool.
Now back in the “Firth” all ship’s officers are summoned to the bridge for the “Well done,
Party, end of Cruise Etc”.
The Party begins
NO NEVER AGAIN!
My lookalike Grant Taylor
The following day we are on a train heading south to Lincoln and normality!
Sqn Ldr Tony Down and Flt Lt Grant Taylor on board HMS Liverpool.