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A Day Called Yesterday

 

H.M.S. Vanguard

The passage of time, a journey we all undertake with varied stops along the way. For some the journey is tragically short, for others the burdens are too heavy. Adventure and heartache go hand in hand and are all part of life's wonderful tapestry. In this section the aim is to recreate some of the 'happenings' on my journey.... so far.

From the age of seventeen with what little education there was behind me I set out to see what lay beyond my home town. I joined the Royal Navy. It was an adventure just getting to Portsmouth. I had my first ride in a train. That is not so surprising when you consider that travel was not a thing that the working class were familiar with. Just a few weeks before my enlistment I had my first trip in a car. Yes, these were all 'firsts'

H.M.S. Vanguard

H.M.S. Vanguard

Another first was my introduction to H.M.S. Vanguard..........................and H.M.S.King George V (two old flames of mine)although I only served on the Vanguard. Whilst I was onboard we had a visit by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth ll. The occasion was the 'Spithead Review' 15th June 1953. Now that was a sight that will never be seen again. The Fleet was disposed in nine main lines and two additional main lines containing representitives of the Merchant Navy. Spithead, the stretch of water between

Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight accommodated the Graqnd Fleet and was reviewed by Her Majesty onboard the Royal Yacht. The Fleet snaked up and down in 'line' over a distance in excess of nine miles, some one hundred and eighty seven British ships with fourteen Colonial Naval ships.

There was also 300 aircraft representing all types that were currently in service by the Fleet Air Arm. On completion of the review Her Majesty came onboard H.M.S. Vanguard to, first dine with her officers and later to 'Illuminate' the fleet. All ships were dressed overall and on her command (a flick of a switch) the fleet lit up like a giant floating Christmas tree.

The band of the Royal Marines were called upon to provide the music and reels and other Scottish jigs were enjoyed by Her Majesty on the Quarterdeck.

 

 

Needless to say the other ranks were rewarded for their effort with a 'make and mend' and 'spice the mainbrace' so all in all we had a spendid review.
It had always been an ambition of mine (as a sailor) to place my head between wo big ones ( guns... I'm talking guns here) and my first love (Vanguard) helped me to realise a young man's dream.

Sir Daffyd

Her Majesty the Queen being 'piped' onboard H.M.S. Vanguard 15th June, 1953.

I remember very well Her Majesty's visit, why you may ask. It was the first time I had been addressed by Royalty. I remember Her Majesty turning to me and looking up into my eyes (she is quite a small Sovereign) and with a hint of a Mons Lisa smile playing about her lips she said in a sort of stage whisper,

"You are standing on my dress."

Well! My toes just involuntarily curled up in my shoes, thus removing the weight and relasing the trapped garment. Blush! Well I did not know whether to blush or f**t in fact I probably did both, however not being allowed to speak unless asked a question I could hardly apologise! That was not to be my last meeting with Her Majesty our paths were to cross again. It was like a visit from the 'Boss' really.

Her Majesty the Queen being 'piped' onboard H.M.S. Vanguard 15th June, 1953.
 

As it is with all of Her Majesty's visits there is inevitably a procession of minor Royals to follow and on the occasion of the 15th June (Spithead Review) we had of course none other than Lord Louis Mountbatten. (A prototype for Andrew eh?) An inspection of the Royal Marine Guard of Honour by Lord Mountbatten

In all of these so called 'impromptu visits it is the ship's company that draws the short straw. There are weeks of preparation, painting and polishing. One wonders if these Royals ever get the smell of fresh paint out of their collective noses. A wee anecdote comes to mind involving the B.B.C.

preparation of the measures and grog tub
They had obtained permission to film varying aspects of the ship for a programme called 'Ships of the Line' or some such. Of course what they wanted was tradition and that meant the filming of the rum issue. Now the Spirit Room is well below decks and once there there is not room to swing a cat. (That is an old naval saying, meaning, no room to swing the cat o' nine tails) So there was no room for film crews. However the 'grog' issue (a mixture of one part rum with two parts water) took place up forward on the upper deck. Now weeks of cleaning had gone into the preparation of the measures and grog tub (orders from above) the brass bands on the tub and the 'toast' God Save

Here is that broad beamed beauty herself in all her Majesty....H.M.S Vanguard... leaving Portsmouth Harbour and on her way to Gibralta.

The Queen' in brass lettering was now shining like polished gold. Then cometh the day, cometh the hour......the pipe was made over the ship's tannoy.... 'Up Spirits' The issue was duly made to the Chiefs and P.O's messes (neat rum) the rum for the ship's company was duly placed in a firkin and sealed. A Royal Marine stood guard over the rum until such time as the pipe was made for all 'rum bosuns' to muster f'ward with their fannies ( a mess kettle) to collect the rum for their respective messes. The Officer of the Watch, the Regulating Petty Officer (M.P.) the duty butcher (otherwise known as Tanky) and Jack Dusty mustered as the issuing party.

Here is that broad beamed beauty herself in all her Majesty....H.M.S Vanguard... leaving Portsmouth Harbour and on her way to Gibralta.
 

Then it happened.......... "Belay there! Belay! A high pitched voiced issed forth from this... this... thing in a mauve chiffon scarf. (The director B.B.C.) " Belay" he must have just read a couple of chapters of Horatio Hornblower.... " We cannot film, the camera lights are reflecting in that damned brass. They need to be dulled down." An A.B. was dispatched to the sick bay to get some clear gel. Meanwhile there were mutinous murmurings coming from the assembled crew because the issue had been delayed.

Finally the A.B. returned and the brass attachments were duly dulled with the aforesaid gel. "That's better love, carry on please." and with a wave of a matching mauve handkerchief, we issued the rum. Here is a typical 'grog' tub not from the Vanguard I hasten to add, from a museum, hence the pretty white railings.

Oh yes, and we did run into a drop of 'roughers' on some of our trips.

Rough Seas Abourd

Rough Seas Abourd

both port and starboard whalers were wrecked

H.M.S Swiftsure acting as the enemy target ship was so badly damaged that she had to be escorted back to a safe port. And yes there was some damage done to the old Lady, both port and starboard whalers were wrecked. There was a few sea-sick sailors and a few bruises to nurse, but that man is life in the Royal Navy.
H.M.S Swiftsure acting as the enemy target ship
Admiral's barge
Take the Admiral's barge and see what else is in store...............................
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Copyright 2005 David Burt , all rights reserved
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