Today my Dad remembers the British Fleet travelling to show the flag in Turkey.

Every year circumstances permitting the Ocean took part in the Autumn Cruise a Fleet visit to some port of the Mediterranean showing the flag. Word went round that this year the Autumn Cruise would be to Istanbul in Turkey. There was some interest in the ship because this would be the first visit of a British Fleet since before the war.

It was intended to be an impressive visit to Turkey as Turkey had been a neutral during the war but being a buffer between British forces in the Middle East and the German forces in the Balkans, there was always the uncertainty which way Turkey would jump in pressured. In 1947 the German threat was gone but Communist Russia was only up the road.

So in early October the British Fleet was formed in Aegean. Two carriers (Flag Officer in the Triumph!) Liverpool and three more heavy cruisers and six destroyers. Liverpool as flagship leading the way with the other cruisers. Two carriers following and the destroyers bringing up the rear.

We entered the Dardanelles scene of the carnage of Gallipoli in the First World War. The peninsular on our left and Asia on our right. The channel gradually narrowed and the fleet continued in line ahead travelling slowly. You could somehow feel the atmosphere a sort of foreboding that you were being watched. I suppose we were although there was no sign of life on either side.

Halfway along the channel the channel narrowed even more. We were coming to two small villages Camak to the right and Hilikbahir to the left. The Ocean’s crew were ironically aware that it is this part of the Dardanelles that a battleship being the previous HMS Ocean has been sunk by the Turks in 1915. The Dardanelles is some 50 miles long until it opens into the Sea of Maenara.

I for one felt happier when we reached this point. We had about the same distance to go until we reached Istanbul. Leaving the Sea of Bosphorus which flows from the Black Sea past Istanbul. It was evening as we arrived and we anchored in line ahead the flow of water causing us to be facing up the channel. After leaving the warm Mediterranean that morning with prevailing wind now blowing down the Bosphorus it was quite cold.

As I recall we were here for three days giving ships the opportunity of inviting dignitaries from the city to pay us a visit and at the same time it gave the opportunity for the three watches of the ship to have time ashore.

    Did you watch the Great British Bake Off last night?


    It was Biscuit Week so with my mission to do more baking and to be inspired by the show, I will be making biscuits this week.

    I have made biscuits in the past. My biggest issue is allowing enough space between the biscuits on the baking tray. I don’t think I have ever made savoury biscuits as they did in the show so that will be a new challenge. I loved the sound of some of the flavour combinations last night.

    The technical challenge in yesterday’s episode was to make Florentines. As food can do, I was immediately transported back to my late mum’s kitchen at Christmas. Isn’t it lovely how food so often creates memories of special family times? It might be a very different memory for my children as I attempt them for the first time. Apparently they are easily burnt. Then there is the challenge to ensure they have a delicate lacy look and an even distribution of chocolate. Delicacy, even – not really my forte!

    There was a lot of emphasis last night on making things look the same. Is uniformity important to you when you bake? Or if it tastes delightful, will that do?

    I felt sorry for the two older bakers thinking how their grandchildren would love their efforts and perhaps that is what really matters.

    I am not sure whether to take on the 3-D showstopper challenge. As with many things, I have great ideas in my head but making them appear in the real world is not quite the same thing. I fancy doing the solar system in biscuits. I can see it clearly in my mind’s eye.

    Last week, I did not do as much baking as I had hoped. Having recently moved, we seem to have lost some of bakeware so I intend to go on a shopping spree at the weekend. My Swiss Roll did roll and tasted good so that’s a start.

    The Great British Bake Off Biscuits

    Sometimes in the blogging world, people do the same thing. I did not know that there was already a linky challenge on another blog when I wrote last week’s post but was told about it on Twitter so here is a very good place to link up your relevant posts

      Today my Dad remembers Grand Harbour in Malta and the moving Sunset ceremony.


      These few visits described and the couple of sporting events were the only relief from the time spent at sea in nearly a year that I served in HMS Ocean. It was a hard working ship but typical of all the ships of the fleet.

      We did on three or four occasions put into Marsasclox and go through the exercise of getting the squadron ashore for a couple of days before re-embarking but even those two days were flying days and we were kept just as busy ashore as we were aboard.

      On three or four other occasions we also put into Grand Harbour in Valetta. Grand Harbour is huge and a most impressive sight from a ship moored in harbour with battlements and fortifications all around on a large scale. There were invariably other ships in, notably cruisers and as the Admiral of Fleet’s office was in Fort St Angelo overlooking he harbour, spit and polish was the order of the day.

      Ocean always tied to the same buoy right beneath St Angelo and as we came between the two outer arms of the harbour the entire outer edge of the flight was lined with sailors shoulder to shoulder, at attention, wearing the smart dress of the day. The ship was saluted by all the other cruisers tied to buoys round the harbour with their crews also manning ship like us.

      Men off watch were allowed ashore and those that chose to go were taken off by motor boat (the Liberty boat) and brought back the same way later.

      The pinnacle of the day was at 6pm. This was when the pomp and circumstance, the pride, the bullshit of the Royal Navy, call it what you like shows us at our best. 6pm was Sunset. Wherever the portion of the sun was Sunset was the time when spit and polish eased, when the day’s work changed to evening.

      The entire fleet fell silent as one long note o the bugle from the flagship HMS Liverpool in this case sounded to alert all the other ships. Crews of all the ships were going about their normal duties but on the sound of the alert every man and every officer on deck snapped to attention, turned towards where his ship’s flag was being lowered and saluted.

      Whilst the flag of every ship was being lowered three Royal Marine buglers stood on top of the forward gun turret of the Liverpool and sounded Sunset. Every note was in perfect unison and reverberated around Grand Harbour in the otherwise complete silence.

      It was a most moving moment and I, like I think most men, felt proud to be part of it. The whole ceremony took less than five minutes when every man at attention sprang back to life. This ritual, albeit in a less spectacular form would be taking part in every shore establishment and every moored ship in the Royal Navy wherever they may be at 6pm.

      • HMS Dragon in Grand Harbour

        Reaching for the light is important as this poem shows.


        I planted some seeds

        I did not have high hopes

        But I planted them all the same

        I went away

        Green shoots on my return

        They outgrew their small pots

        I gave them water and put them by the window

        They love the light.

        They reach out for it.

        They know it is good for them.

        And so they grow.

        Soon they will flower

        I can see their power.

        And I will learn from them

        Because I need to

        I have suddenly realised I wrote this immediately after hearing of the death of Robin Williams which seems strangely apt as my favourite film is the Dead Poet’s Society.

        Rest peacefully.

        Today my Dad remembers a visit to Rhodes, Greek hospitality and some strange drinks.


        Another occasion after a period of flying found us in Rhodes.

        As usual the famous three went ashore – Sam, Daisy and Ken. Whenever we went ashore in any of these Mediterranean ports we determined if possible to get into the hinterland behind the port and away from the crowds of sailors who wanted to haunt the nearest bar. We were always curious to see the local people as they really were but on the other hand we always found a little bar somewhere devoid of other sailors.

        This time in Rhodes we found ourselves walking in the hills behind the town. As ever it was hot and by mid-afternoon thoughts turned to something to eat and drink. No bar, no shop but we saw a Greek man outside his house and asked him where we could eat. He invited us into his home and introduced us to his wife and children. He had not English, we had no Greek but he had us sit down and brought us some Greek coffee and a plate filled with pieces of what at first looked like pink meat but what turned out to be lovely, cool and juicy. This food turned out to be melon but none of us had ever encountered it before. When that was eaten he then (or rather his wife did as she did all the serving) gave us some delicious cheese. All this was served on a stone step between what appeared to be the only two rooms in the house. They had no table or chairs, just a couple of low divans covered in cloth.

        It was time for us to move on and we offered some Greek money but the man would take nothing for the simple meal and we could only thank him and indicate we were grateful for the experience.

        We made our way back towards the town looking for a bar once again avoiding the madding crowds of sailors. We found a small bar with four or five locals in and sat down. Another little quirk that we three had was when we went ashore and found a bar like this, one of us would have been nominated (we took it in turns) to decide what drink we would have that night. Every bar had loads of bottles of spirits not all of them identifiable to the English eye so one just chose at random like “We’ll have some of that blue stuff in the bottle” and then we would stick to that same spirit all night. We drank some queer stuff that way but always made our merry way back to the ship.

        • Cyprus – a visit to Larnaca