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A True Story.

Stephen Hawkins

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Firstly, apologies to our highly valued American members.  No slight is intended.

For many years, the British Navy was the biggest and most powerful in the World.  The US Navy had been expanding its fleet in a bid to be the largest naval power, and this true story comes from the point in history at which this occurred.  

Some days after America had taken over the mantle of naval supremacy,  a British and an American warship met somewhere in Mid-Atlantic.  The Captain of the American vessel sent a radio message to the British Captain, which read:  "Good Morning ...... And how's the second biggest navy in the World this morning?"   The British Captain replied:  "Fine thanks ...... And how's the second best?"

Kind Regards,

Stephen.
 

Tom

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Good story, America is winning, most covid cases, most deaths... well....maybe.....
 
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maugein96

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Stephen Hawkins said:
Firstly, apologies to our highly valued American members.  No slight is intended.

For many years, the British Navy was the biggest and most powerful in the World.  The US Navy had been expanding its fleet in a bid to be the largest naval power, and this true story comes from the point in history at which this occurred.  

Some days after America had taken over the mantle of naval supremacy,  a British and an American warship met somewhere in Mid-Atlantic.  The Captain of the American vessel sent a radio message to the British Captain, which read:  "Good Morning ...... And how's the second biggest navy in the World this morning?"   The British Captain replied:  "Fine thanks ...... And how's the second best?"

Kind Regards,

Stephen.

Stephen,

My service in the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy was an eye opener. 

A lot of my time was spent working on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier, HMS Hermes. I would have been safer working on a deep sea trawler, as you hadn't as far to drop into the sea if you fell overboard. 

"Jock, it's a Force 10 and -32c this morning, so watch that deck, it's like an ice rink. Can you go and check the port catwalks and make sure they are all still there? The duty Flight Deck Officer reckons there has been storm damage during the night". Jokingly:- "If you're not back in 20 minutes we'll assume part of the catwalk has broken off and fallen in the Oggin" (navy slang for sea).

Jock went to do as he was bid and was about to drop over the side where the catwalk should have been, when he realised there was nothing between the flight deck and the deep grey sea, some 60 feet below. If the ship had suddenly listed to port I wouldn't be typing this today, or even tomorrow. The catwalks were there so we could get access to the starting cables used to start aircraft from the ship's electrical supply. On that day two out of the eight cables had been washed overboard, and I managed to lose another one when it snaked out of my frozen hands, and ended up looking like a huge eel, until it too disappeared into the deep.  

No worries, the sea was in my blood. Only time I panicked was when it was up my nostrils, in my mouth, and over my head. I wasn't frightened at all, as the navy had taught me to swim 100 yards in a swimming pool as calm as a millpond. All that time at sea and never caught a fish at all. 

We were the best right enough, at making jokes about our lot!
 

Dingo40

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John,
Thanks for the interesting anecdote about life in the navy  :)

No such thing as"Occupational Health and Safety " in the armed forces! :p
 
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maugein96

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Dingo40 said:
John,
Thanks for the interesting anecdote about life in the navy  :)

No such thing as"Occupational Health and Safety " in the armed forces! :p

Dingo,

Most of our time was spent at Naval Air Stations, and sea time was sporadic. 

My father had relatives who operated trawlers out of Arbroath in Scotland, and I was pretty keen to have a go, having been introduced to them as a small boy.

It is, or was recently, designated as the most hazardous occupation in the UK, and the industry has gone into fairly steep decline, consistent with the quotas the EU imposed to conserve the species. The way it works is you go out for maybe 6 days at a time, and you are paid depending on what you catch. The skipper sometimes has to weigh it up whether to remain at sea in the hope that a good catch will be had, or just return to harbour with nothing to show for it after a few days. Better to return after 3 or 4 days with no catch but with fuel in the tanks, than risk coming back with no catch and no fuel after 5 or 6 days. 

Quite often the nets will contain nothing but undersized fish and species that are prohibited to land at that time of year, so the whole lot gets tipped back into the sea, even although some of the catch is already dead. If a skipper gets caught with "forbidden fruits" on board by Fisheries Protection staff then he's in deep brown stuff. 

"Fresh caught fish" in the UK may already have been dead for about a week, and kept on trays of ice in the trawler. Most of the fishing grounds are two or three days away from the trawler's home port, so even the freshest fish on board might have been dead for three days. In addition to that certain species can only be landed at certain markets, so if for example you went to buy fresh fish in Eyemouth market, Scotland, it will have had to incur a road journey from the port where it was landed in England. It's only legal to land shellfish at Eyemouth, so other than those everything else won't be very fresh at all.
 

Dingo40

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John,
Again, thanks for the interesting insights. :) 
There's a TV series called "Trawlermen " that confirms what you're saying about life in the trawler fishing business. ( Is there anything they don't pry into? :p)
It's really hard to make a living anywhere. Most seem to be doing it as a way of life!?
 

Eddy Yates

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Ah, yes. American exceptionalism. British exceptionalism. German exceptionalism French exceptionalism. Roman exceptionalism. Mongolian exceptionalism.
All things must pass. Thank God.
 

Stephen Hawkins

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Hi Eddy,

You are right, of course, but our respective armed forces provide a very deep well full of anecdotes. Occasionally dipping my bucket into this well reveals the funnier side of military life, providing a stark contrast to the darker side of service.

Whenever veterans get together, it is always the comical incidents they chat about. Some dark humour inevitably creeps into our conversations, which many civilians may find unsettling or downright offensive, but the general discourse is positively rib-tickling.

I spent some months attached to an American unit, and made some good friends during my time with them. Any outsider who witnessed the "banter" between British & American Troops may have reached the erroneous conclusion that we didn't get along very well, but that was not the case at all.

Fun is fun, on either side of the pond.

Kind Regards,

Stephen.
 
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maugein96

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Dingo40 pid=71367 dateline=1587245020 said:
John,
Again, thanks for the interesting insights. :) 
Theres a TV series called Trawlermen that confirms what youre saying about life in the trawler fishing business. ( Is there anything they dont pry into? :p)
Its really hard to make a living anywhere. Most seem to be doing it as a way of life!?

Hi Dingo,

Yes, I saw some of the episodes. A lot of the skippers are folk heroes, like the guy from Brixham in Devon who decided to fish in the channel ferry lanes, adjusting his position as necessary, to allow the ferries to proceed. Im sure he ended up with a decent catch, and retained his title as the most successful skipper that year.

Brexit could have major implications for the fishing industry in many countries, although I havent been following the progress. The fishing industry is only a fraction of what it was. Huge pelagic trawlers with onboard facilities to prepare their catches are now fairly common. One ship where there were maybe 10 before. [font=Tahoma,Verdana,Arial,Sans-Serif]Ive seen us on an aircraft carrier [/font][font=Tahoma,Verdana,Arial,Sans-Serif]in [/font][font=Tahoma,Verdana,Arial,Sans-Serif]weather where the galley was unable to operate for days at a time, and there would be a [/font][font=Tahoma,Verdana,Arial,Sans-Serif]little [/font][font=Tahoma,Verdana,Arial,Sans-Serif]trawler[/font][font=Tahoma,Verdana,Arial,Sans-Serif] bobbing up and down within sight of us on a similar course to ours. Those guys were real sailors. [/font]

[font=Tahoma,Verdana,Arial,Sans-Serif]Im not really sure how its all going these days. Some communities still have fishing as an industry, and theres no doubt that its in their blood. The risks they have to take, often for no pay at all, suggests that there is still determination to take on the hazards encountered at sea in the name of personal pride. What people often forget is that having to exist in close proximity to people you may not be too keen on for weeks on end is another aspect of the job. You cant just go outside for a stroll to cool off if you fall out with somebody. [/font]

[font=Tahoma,Verdana,Arial,Sans-Serif]Swing those lights, its sea story time![/font]
 

Pipemajor

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John, thought you might like to see a photo of Arbroath Harbour now. Not too many fishing trawlers now :(.
Did you ever get tp HMS Condor just outside Arbroath?  It was a naval air base.
 

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maugein96

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Pipemajor said:
John, thought you might like to see a photo of Arbroath Harbour now. Not too many fishing trawlers now :(.
Did you ever get tp HMS Condor just outside Arbroath?  It was a naval air base.

Hi,

Yes, we were at Condor for a short stay while we did helicopter displays at Alyth Highland Games and a big event in Dundee. We flew up from Yeovilton in Somerset, refuelling at various RAF stations on the way. It was part of a recruitment drive, just before hundreds of us were made redundant by the defence cuts in 1975! I was a helicopter mechanic, and when they decided to rip up 42 and 43 Commandos it was curtains for us, as we provided their air transport. 

45 Commando were based at Condor, and they taught us how to ski in Norway. Great bunch of guys. An old neighbour of mine retired from the Marines and now lives in Arbroath somewhere. He'll be in his late 70s now. There were no Fleet Air Arm squadrons at Arbroath by then, with the nearest naval presence being 892 squadron (Phantoms) at RAF Leuchars in Fife.   

Somebody in my great grandmother's Todd family married a Cargill from Arbroath, and the family part owned a trawler, the name of which I now cannot remember. We took regular holidays there for a while, during which my father used to take me on board when they were doing fishing trips for sea anglers, and I was literally "hooked". Being a "Glesgae Keelie" I could never understand what the old fishermen were saying, which was all part of the fascination. However, by the time I decided to try and enrol in the Merchant Navy I was too old for a cadetship. I therefore went Royal and ended up as a helicopter mechanic, with hardly any sea time at all. My father just wouldn't have me working as a trawlerman on anybody's boat, and for that I am probably extremely grateful. 

My sea stories from the Hermes were after the defence cut announcements, when I had put in my 18 months notice to leave the service. We either had to sign for a further 12 years to keep our jobs, or "recat" to another "trade" out of the Fleet Air Arm. I decided to give my notice instead. Consequently I lost my "ticket" to maintain aircraft (you had to requalify every 3 months) so I was required to perform duties as Flight Deck Electrician. Got you out of the hangar, but it was pretty scary at times in rough weather. My main job was to start the helicopters from the ship's electricity supply, as well as other aircraft related tasks that didn't require certification. I did a fair number of flying hours (as a passenger) when I was in the Royal Navy Helicopter Display Team, but preferred to be actually on the ocean wave, rather than fall a few thousand feet into it.

I was given an aircrew eyesight test, and eventually offered the chance to train as a helicopter pilot, or an "observer" (aka missile launcher) in Phantoms. I was short on one O level to be a pilot and never fancied having to undergo the "red" and "white" out training for the jets, so I declined both offers. My nephew is a retired RAF pilot and is struggling to get a job that lasts more than a year or so. It will be even worse after this latest disaster to descend on the world. I would reckon that retired missile aimers have an even harder time securing suitable employment (unless they maybe play the accordion better than I do). 

That's not the Arbroath Harbour I remember as a boy, but I think every harbour is the same these days. We went to the fishing boat Mecca of Brixham a couple of years back, and the lack of fishing vessels was very noticeable.  

We retired to the rural pastures of Birmingham last year, as the family are now scattered all over the place and we have good friends here that we've kept in touch with for years. We're right on the Worcestershire border, as there's no way I could live in the city itself. 

Never lived as far away from the sea in my life, but I suppose it doesn't really matter where you live at the moment. What you can see out of your windows is your whole new world. 

Thanks for the photo. It brought back pleasant memories, even without loads of fishing boats!

Bet you're glad I gave you the abridged version of my military autobiography!
 

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