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Thursday, 13 September 2007 10:09
Tom Henderson

In 1978 I was the killick sparker in the shiproom and was living out, in a flat in Naval Hospital Road, with Sue Hind and Janis Hogg. FO GIB’s Divisions were coming up on the Sunday, so on the Saturday morning the powers that be (a certain FCRS who needs no introduction) decided to have a dry run for the handful of Comms ratings who would be on diversions the next day, to make sure that we were all tickety boo. We had come to the end of a watch cycle on the Friday morning and had gone on an all day bender as soon as we came off watch, starting in Loopy’s then on to Catalan Bay, then via the usual pub crawl to the Buccaneer from where I finally crawled into bed at around 0400. At 0845 there was a frantinc hammering on the front door. Randy Ranscombe, the killick bunting of our watch, was standing there in his Number 1’s with the engine of his car running outside. “C’mon” he cried, “we’re due on parade in fifteen minutes”. There was no way that I was going to have time to get dressed first, so I grabbed my suit and shoes and jumped into the car, intending to get changed when we got there. We got to HMS Rooke and screamed round to the junior rates block like Starsky and Hutch, all wheel spins and smoking tyres! To our horror everyone was already lined up outside the block and the FCRS had already started inspecting them. We parked up and surreptitiously joined the end of the line whilst the FCRS had his back turned. When he came to me time stood still, as he eyed me up and down. Now, the more observant amongst you will have noticed that nowhere previously have I actually mentioned getting changed into my No 1’s. As he eyed me up and down he took in the sweatshirt, jeans and trainers that I was wearing. He then swivelled his head to take in the blue suit on its’ hanger that I was holding in my right hand and then to the left where my highly polished, but unworn shoes were hanging. To make matters worse I had forgotten to pick my cap up in the rush to get out of the flat. Now as we all know this FCRS had a fearsome reputation. Mothers used to frighten small children with stories about what he would do to them if they did not eat their greens! This was nothing compared to what he did to killick sparkers who turned up at one of his inspections looking like a cross between a tramp and a coat rack. I was duly despatched home with orders to appear before him in his office in the Comcen, in full No 1’s that afternoon (a lovely way to spend a Saturday afternoon) where I got what was possibly one of the biggest bollockings of my naval career(!)

Tom Henderson

At the end of one of our watch cycles we came off the night watch and went on one of our usual runs – Loopy’s, Catalan Bay etc and ended up in the Horseshoe. I left around 1700 and headed back to our flat in Naval Hospital Road, much the worse for wear. I got in, threw my grip under my bunk and crashed.

A few days later and the flat smelled like something had crawled into it and died! A thorough search narrowed it down to my bedroom – oh, oh! Under the bed we found that the offending smell was emanating from my grip. Upon inspection we discovered a pint of curdled milk, a wedge of living cheese and a decomposing lump of something – could have been either meat or fish, all of which had been sitting pulsating in the heat of a Gibraltar summer for three days! Apparently upon leaving the Horseshoe I had stopped off at Marks and Sparks to pick up some rations, put them in my grip and had then promptly forgotten about them!! Yeuch!!!

Tom Henderson

Dateline 1979.
Location: Back bar of the Tivoli, Gibraltar.

Mac Bury (of Faslane fame) and I were having a wet in the back bar of the Tivoli one night. You will remember that it had a very low bar with the till backing onto the punters. For some reason or other Mac got a twat on and decided to heave the till across the bar, much to the consternation of the barman and the glee of the assembled imbibers. We both did a runner and thought no more about it. The next day I had the afternoon watch and was happily dit, dit, ditting away in the Shiproom when I was summoned to the Fleet Chiefs office (yep, same Fleet Chief). When I got there he looked like someone had just stolen his last Rolo! Sitting next to him was an Inspector of Gibraltars finest who looked as though he just wanted to get this over and get out of there (can’t say I blamed him!). In our drunken stupor the night before Mac and I had stupidly assumed that legging it would be sufficient, yeah sure, in a place the size of Gib, as if the barman wasn’t going to know us!! They had already gotten to Mac and now it was my turn to give a statement. The FCRS left us to it in his office, assuring me that we would be having a cozy little chat later – oh goody!! Unlike Faslane there was no pleading guilty by post this time, so it was off to court for Mac with me acting as a character witness! Me!! That’s like having Oliver Reed address the Temperence Society! The bottom line was another fine for Mac and a spot of Number Nines secondary punishment from the mob. Me? After tea and biccies with the Fleet Chief it was off to Rooke for a weeks Number Tens. Not bad for just being a witness – wonder what he’d have gotten for me if I’d actually been in the dock!!

Joe Fraser

Windy hill signal station….. What a fantastic draft I thought, as Fleet Chief Brian Parkes (who in 77 was in charge of the comcen) told me on my joining routine was where I would be working during my stay in sunny Gibraltar.
This was brilliant, fell on my feet here I thought… the only Radio Operator on the watch…. Great no one to pick up on any mistakes I make….
So off I went chuffed to bits, my watch consisted of a PO (RP) who always arrived on the all night on with a crate under his arm and then disappeared until just before the relief’s arrival in the morning. A L/S (RP) and a WRN (RP).
I soon learned what I had to do and always had my telegrams ready to send to cable and wireless on time…
As time progressed over the next four to five months or so the amber nectar began to get a little on the heavy side… and after numerous telegrams were sent giving the merchant ships travel reports going from east to west and getting replies back stating I had the ships going in the wrong directions I was summoned to the comcen to visit upon the FCRS….
The kindly FCRS informed me that any further problems from me and I would be moved to the comcen staff so as to enable a wary eye to be kept on me !!!
Having taken this warning in I immediately retired to Lotties bar and the aforementioned amber nectar…. After numerous pints I then made my way back up to windy for the next all night on….
At approximately 03:00ish…. Being the only one still awake, I proceeded to pass out the message over the vhf…..

“Good morning all ships, good morning all ships, This is Lloyds signal station Gibraltar, Lloyds signal station Gibraltar, All ships passing thru the straits of Gibraltar are requested to pass their travel reports to Lloyds signal station Gibraltar. This is Lloyds signal station Gibraltar listening on channel 16 and 13, this is Lloyds signal station Gibraltar out”

Suddenly out over the loudspeaker booms an Australian accent with:-
“Good morning Lloyds signal station this is HMAS Melbourne my ETA alongside Gibraltar 07:30 over”……
SHIT !!!!…….. This is not on the movements sheet ????…. Further panic… try not to sound to phased…”Good Morning Melbourne, Please confirm ETA over”
“this is Melbourne my ETA 07:30 over”
Shit big time… what do I do…. Ah yes consult the Comcen…. They always know what to do (HA)…
Next thing I know cars screeching to a halt outside, FOGIB’s Chief of Staff pounds in thru the door and up the stairway (pyjama trousers showing beneath his uniform trousers) demanding to know what the hell is going on ???
Feeling very proud of myself for sobering up so quickly, I stated the obvious that there is a bloody great aircraft carrier about to enter Gibraltar harbour and I am the only one who knows anything about it ……Sir !
By this time more people are arriving at the signal station including our very own FCRS Brian Parkes…. Ha (thinks I) this will show him how on the ball I am……WRONG ……by this time it is beginning to get light outside…. And instead of the HMAS Melbourne steaming into harbour in procedure Alpha….. there is the Gunga Din…. A small water carrier on its way back from morocco with the skipper (Gerry Smith ex PO Elec) and his first mate (Taff Evans ex LRO(G).who both also worked with me in Lotties Bar) waving like a pair of lunatics up at us and screaming over the vhf ….
“Got you this time Joe”….
As my heart sank and the sudden headache began. Everyone seemed to be leaving ….. Except my beloved leader FCRS Parkes….. I will never forget his parting comments as he left to return to his pit…..
“FRASER……My office 09:00…..and over his shoulder…. AND BRING YOUR CAP WITH YOU !!!!!!

This then is the story of why a one badge RO1(T) serving Queen and Country at Windmill Hill Signal Station Suddenly became a NO badge RO1(T) serving Queen and Country in the dark recesses of Comcen Gibraltar……(After two weeks Number nine’s)


Joe Fraser

How many of you can remember the hassle you got from having to sign in the book at the main gate when you returned to Rooke after midnight ?
If you were too inebriated – Cells
If it was becoming a regular occurrence – details passed on to the OIC.
Etc… etc… etc…
Well, after numerous visits to Cells and numerous visits to see FCRS Parkes (why did he always request my company when he really meant
After yet another visit to his office (he never offered me a drink, no matter how many times he invited me to visit him) with further threats of numerous types of naval punishment that would be handed out to me if I didn’t get myself sorted out, I again retired to my office at Lotties Bar to mull the situation over and to work out a solution.
After many wets it suddenly hit me, (the floor) when I picked myself up, I thought to myself, right tonight is the night ! I will attempt for the first time “Operation Low Profile” (Or my plan to keep out of the s*** for awhile)
All is quiet in the vicinity of HMS Rooke, a staggering figure (me) darts
across the road and disappears into the neighbouring married quarters patch, hiding in the shadows, dashing from corner to corner (in the best traditions of many famous inebriated matelots), I finally make it to the high wall behind the junior rates block, heart pounding, I quietly move a rubbish bin near to the wall, standing on the top of the aforementioned bin, it is just possible to see over the top of the wall…… all is clear…… I haul myself up and slide over the top (never sitting upright… because as all good commandos know……you can get shot if seen against the skyline……bloody clever me eh !) hanging by my hands from the top, now on Rooke side of the wall, I drop to the ground, still in the shadows and only feet away from the entrance to sanctuary, one last check, all is clear, leg it quick and in…
Having carried out operation low profile more times than you could imagine over the next few weeks with complete success, I made the fateful error of becoming over confident……
Again 02:30ish I thread my way thru the married patch, move my bin into place, slide over the wall and………
Some clever Bas**** had only moved one of those bloody great eight foot tall metal wheelie bins right under my dropping zone,
First thought……thank god it’s empty !
Second thought ……how the hell do I get out of here……
after an hour I had finally thought it out…… and (again in time honoured fashion) ……SCREAMED FOR HELP !!!
After a few minutes, two not so nice gentlemen wearing white belt and gaiters assisted me out of my bin by knocking it over and spilling me out on to the pavement and then proceeded to frog march me to the OOD, for some reason this so called Officer of Her Majestys Royal Navy would not believe my story that I had been sleep walking, but he did offer to put me up for the night, in this nice little room that he told me he kept just for people like me who were dropping in.
Needless to say, again FCRS PARKES invited me to attend his office ASAP, and again he never offered me a drink (do you think that this is because I never invited him for a drink in my office at Lotties ???)
FCRS PARKES did not believe my sleep walking theory either, and, when leaving the Captains Table having again acquired 2 weeks number nines he asked me if I thought I had been treated fairly and replying “well, it’s life in a blue suit in’it !” told me I would never amount to anything and I should watch my step very carefully in the future.
It was with very great pleasure that many years later I met up with FCRS PARKES once again, and after having the pleasure of him saluting me as a Lieutenant R.N.R. I recounted the above story to him, but this time I did admit that it was just possible that I had not been sleepwalking !!!
(p.s. He still didn’t buy me a pint)

Ned Nuzum

The miserable so'-n'-so' - he had a crusher arrest me off the aircraft (the old DanAir feedom bird) upon arrival in Gib and placed me in the s**t! for being a day and a half adrift.My leaving run in Mercs ran over schedule a bit and I missed pussers transport on said morning to Petersfield Railway Station, en-route to Hendon and onwards to the Rock etc.
As luck would have it Mercury’s Wrns MAA should have sent me the night before, I ended up with an apology at the table, 2 x days London subs for sitting around the UJC while a new flight was organised and Mercury was in the s**t instead!!!My life aboard the rock then began! The rest is history as they say.
Beasley not to be out-played then tried to have me done for arriving abroad, on duty, pissed in charge of a kit bag etc' this didn't hold up either, as no-one seemed to bothered about me after the initial charge was framed.After this I was immediately assigned a joining routine. I'll not forget that either: I ended up in the Bat and Ball and lost the flamin joining routine card with half the stamps etc'
Times obviously improved - oh yes !

Last Updated on Saturday, 15 September 2007 01:35