hmsoceanmpl806Today Dad finally joins HMS Ocean aircraft carrier fulfilling his wish to serve at sea.

I joined ship in Marsaclok via a Jacob’s ladder from the ship’s boat.  Like everyone else my gear was hoisted aboard in a wire net by the ship’s crew.  First of all I had to find out where I was meant to live whilst aboard.  I followed the others along the decks and down ladders until we reached the 805 Squadron mess deck.  This located, I had to go back to the flight deck to collect my gear which consisted of my large kitbag, hammock, tool box and quite unofficially a suitcase containing all that I had bought to eventually take home with me.  This mainly consisted of tinned food which could be bought in Malta at that time whilst people in England were that on wartime rations.

Sam Turner was already aboard and I joined him on the mess deck for a pot of tea, a fag and a natter.  The mess deck was right in the fore part of the ship, two decks below the flight deck.  It occupied the full width of the ship about 40 feet wide at that point and was roughly square except that it occupied three sides of a structure that housed the ammunition conveyor mechanism to the deck above where the ship’s anti-aircraft guns were located.

A rough drawing shows the layout.

It must be borne in mind that wherever there was access through compartments or between decks via ladders there was a sealable hatch which meant that the door or hatch cover when closed was capable of being fastened by a series of handles around the edge which could be operated from either side.  Ship safety meant that some hatches were closed all the time so that to pass from one compartment to another one had to unfasten the door handles and refasten them after you.

A warship consists of a number of watertight compartments so that when at sea all hatches between decks and between one compartment and the next were left closed in this manner.  A bulkhead is an integral metal wall across the ship’s hull extending from floor to ceiling (deck to deck head in naval parlance) and the watertight doors provide the only way to pass from compartment to compartment.

Within our Squadron’s compartment (mess deck) were two rows of tables and benches, three on each side i.e. one port and one starboard.  Each table with a bench on either side was about 12 feet long and 3 feet wide.  Each table had a mess number and accommodated 10-12 men.  Here one lived; mealtimes you sat 5 or 6 on each side of the table.  Here you wrote letters, kept your clothes clean and pressed, smoked, talked or read.  When it came time to sleep hammocks had to be strung from rails across the deck head above.  A bank of small lockers was where you kept your belongings such as they were.

The F word as in Feminism seems to cause some women so much angst and I struggle to work out why.   I became aware of the word in the mid-to-late Eighties.  It seemed to involve women getting or fighting for a positive deal and as a big fan of fair play, I was ready to sign myself up to the cause.

I did not burn my bra but I hated it then and now.  I was apparently seen by some as sexually confident when hanging loose but the truth was I have sloping shoulders and just got bored of keep pulling up the straps.  I did join a women’s group at college and eventually became Women’s Officer to ensure that women’s views were heard by the college authorities (women were very much in the minority at my college).

There was a session on women’s voices in media at BritMums Live.  Helen from Actually Mummy, one of the speakers wrote a blog post about it.  She explained how the following tweet gave her confidence to share her vision.

 

Women can be intelligent even when wearing tiaras. #fact#britmumslive@ActuallyMummypic.twitter.com/3CG6Nfs3AX

— Claire Evans (@claireyfairey) June 20, 2014

Absolutely.  Women can be intelligent whatever they are wearing or not wearing for that matter.  Equally, some women may not be intelligent and/or may struggle to express their wants and needs particularly with those in power – employers, landlords, benefit agencies, the police and other organisations.  In the domestic arena, some will find it tough to get a fair deal in the home.  And some will die.

As an advice worker, I saw so many vulnerable women up against the authorities and who had made rash decisions “because I love/d him”   Any yes, I have seen the bruises and the emotional damage to female victims of physical and sexual abuse.

Feminism should never be merely a dinner party conversation or a specialism in a career.  That is a further abuse to those who are suffering. There are vital changes to be made if we are truly to feel proud of the society in which we live.

I do feel we should challenge men who act badly as women, men and as a society at a whole.  If I quote statistics on matters such as crime that make some men (and women) feel uncomfortable, if I think it is for the greater good I will keep on doing so.

I do think that if women are to be understood and heard, it would be helpful to see more of them in politics, business and the media.  I also feel think those women who have made that journey could do a lot for themselves and others by offering mentoring to others.

Blogging and social media give women the opportunity to have their say on topics that matter to them.  We can learn from each other too and it strikes me that sharing not only our story but those of others can be such a powerful force for change.  Which certainly makes me want to press those share buttons more often now that I have thought it through. Let’s share our truths and then those who do have power can make the right choices for a fairer world from an informed position.

Working together and supportively for a better world knowing that women are a valuable part of that world – now that’s what I call feminism.

Agree or disagree? – leave a comment and then I can start to understand your voice too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mum Muddling Through

Today. Dad describes H.M.S. Ocean history.

hmsoceanmpl806

Thus I have outlined the general picture of the operation of a squadron and as I say I joined 805 when it was ashore at Hal Far.  After a few days we were to embark on HMS Ocean.

First, the ship came into Marsachlok Bay and half the ratings were transferred by boat to the ship.  Sam Turner went with them whilst I remained at Hal Far with the other half.  I had to see that the pilots were equipped with their parachutes.  Meanwhile Ocean had sailed.  The squadron aircraft took off from Hal Far and flew out to and landed on the ship.  The ship then returned to Marachlok and then the other half of the ratings and stores were transferred by boat to the ship.  This entire manoeuvre took place over a period of only a few hours.  When we were aboard, Ocean sailed.

HMS Ocean, a light fleet carrier, was laid down at Alexander Stephen’s yard Govan on the Clyde in November 1942.  Building took 2 years and she was launched in July 1944.  Then followed a fitting out period and sea trials until she was eventually commissioned in August 1945 just as World War 2 ended.

Her full weight was 18 400 tons with a length of 695 feet and a beam of 80 feet.  Her draught was 23 feet with a speed of 25 knots (some 29 mph)  Her main armament of anti aircraft guns was situated in sponsons, give on each side extending just below the level of the flight deck.

The Ocean carried two squadrons of aircraft and at the time of my joining her these consisted of:-

816 Squadron with 12 Fairey Firefly RR1 which is addition to 4 x 20mm cannon in the wings carried 2 x 10001b bombs or 16 x 3 rich rocket projectiles.  These aircraft had a maximum speed of 335 knots but with a cruising speed of 191 knots had an endurance of 6 hours.  The crew consisted of one pilot and one observer.

The other squadron 805 consisted of 12 Seafire FXV11 (the Naval equivalent of the Spitfire) with an all up weight of 3 and a half tons the weapons of which consisted of 2 x 20mm cannon and 4 x 303 Browning machine guns in the wings.  The length of a Seafire was 32 feet wing span 36 feet and height 10 feet.  Top speed 333 knots, cruising speed 290 knots.  Endurance depended on rate of speed but at best would be about 90 minutes.

816 Squadron’s purpose was reconnaissance and attack of sea on land targets.  805’s was air defence of the parent ship.

A few months after she was commissioned HMS Ocean was involved in a historic event when in December 1945 a Vampire Jet piloted by Lt Commander E Brown was the first true jet aircraft to be landed on a ship at sea.  Later in December the ship set sail for the Mediterranean and in the early months of 1946 did trials for night flying and became proficient as the only carrier in the Fleet able to operate around the clock night flying.  After a short period in the Mediterranean she returned to England 892 Hellcat Squadron was replaced by 805 Seafire Squadron under Lt Commander Peter Hutton and the ship set sail again for the Mediterranean.  The ship joined the Mediterranean Fleet in July 1946.

The Ocean with her sister carrier HMS Triumph formed the 20th Carrier Air Group and were the only two Royal Navy carriers in the Mediterranean Fleet in 1946 and 1947.  The Air Admiral was Rear Admiral Denis Boyd who had been skipper of the HMS Illustrious at the battle of Taranto.  He flew his flag in the Triumph and as a consequence it was felt by the crew of our ship that the Triumph got all the soft options.  However there was no animosity between the two and on the few occasions when we were in company there was just a friendly rivalry.  In the Royal Navy, not just in the Mediterranean Fleet, but in every fleet and indeed in every port there was rivalry between ships.  There was pride in one’s ship from the Captain down to the most junior crew member so that everyone strived to do better than any other ship.

Unfortunately when ships were in port and crews met in bars taunts would be exchanged and fortified with drinks, it was frequent for fights to result.  Then along would come a Naval Patrol and those arrested would be returned to the ship to receive the Captain’s punishment.

This did not occur with the two carriers because it was rare for us to work in company.  Often the Triumph was operating in the Western Med whilst we operated in the Eastern Med.

In October 1946 Ocean was in Greek waters when two British destroyers the Volege and the Saumarey were mined in the Corfu channel between Corfu and Albania.  Albania had illegally mined the Channel and Saumarey was struck first and then Volege was struck when going to her aid.  Between the two crews 44 were killed, 31 of whom were never recovered and many others from both crews suffered serious injuries.  Ocean was the nearest ship with substantial medical facilities including a hospital and several surgeons.  She hurried to the scene and took on board many of the injured.  After three days patrolling the area in anticipation of further incidents with the Albanians she was returned to Malta to transfer her casualties to hospital in Malta before resuming normal duties.

In January 1947 Ocean became flagship to Flag Officer Air Mediterranean Vice-Admiral Sir C J Harcourt and spent a further period cruising before returning once more to Malta where I joined her.

 

 

 

Today my Dad describes the pilots of 805 Squadron.

A typical working day meant a short parade and inspection by the duty officer namely one of the pilots and then we were transferred by lorry round the airfield about 2 miles to our dispersal site.  Here were three Nissan huts.  One housed the Engineering workshops under HO Air Engineering Officer Sub Lieutenant Asplin.  The second was part stores hut and part use of ratings.  The third was divided into two, the front half being a ready/rest room for the pilots and the rear a small store.Facilities were primitive but at lunch time we were transferred back to the main camp in relays for a quick lunch and return.

Flying continued all day sometimes with two or sometimes four aircraft up in relays.  Occasionally the whole squadron would be airborne and would practise formation flying which was quite spectacular.

The other Safety Equipment man in the squadron was Derek Turner universally known as Sam.  We became firm friends and in addition to working together we socialised together.  Sam was from Lynton in North Devon and was a laid back individual with a quiet sense of humour.

Our job was to see that each pilot’s parachute, dinghy, mae west jacket and all safety and survival equipment was fully maintained and was in place in his aircraft when he was due to fly.

In the main, pilots had their own individual aircraft but it did not always work that way and therefore Sam and I had to keep track of what times each pilot was flying and which aircraft and it was sometimes necessary to transfer his chute and dinghy from one to another.

In a Seafire the pilot sits on his packed parachute underneath of which his attached one man dinghy forms the cushion of the bucket seat.  The strappings of the chute and dinghy are tensioned to suit the build and required comfort of the pilot and so could not readily be interchanged amongst the pilots.

In any case there was the superstitious element of the pilot that his last lifesaver was the parachute and he needed to be sure that the one he was sitting on was his.

It was an unwritten law in the relationship between the pilot and his parachute packer that if ever the pilot had to bale out and came down safely he would reward his parachute packer.  The recognised reward was ten shillings (three days pay for the packer in those days).  If the parachute didn’t work not only did you not get the 10 s, you were prime suspect in a fatal accident enquiry with dire consequences!

During my time with the squadron only one pilot had to bale out of a Seafire and that was Lieutenant Phil Atherton.  He was a redhead and by virtue of it, of a headstrong nature.  He did a bale out three times and each time I got ten bob which took Sam and me out for a couple of good nights out each time.

I think after the loss of his third Seafire Phil Atherton must have got an almighty b******ing or maybe whoever serviced is aircraft did.  In any case, three must have been the limit for the powers that be.

Most of the pilots were characters in one way or another.

Lt David Crofts was supposedly responsible for safety equipment and theoretically Sam and I were answerable to him but he hadn’t a clue about parachute and dinghy packing so he never troubled us.  He landed his Seafire one day on the airstrip with only one undercarriage leg down.  The aircraft veered off the runway onto the grass and went clean through the goalposts of the airfield football pitch.  We all cheered. Any incident like that was a cause of hilarity to the ground crew providing it did not cause serious injury to the pilot.

Most of the pilots as were the ground crew were boozers but one of them was a boozer par excellence.  Lieutenant Dickie Turnbull was a Scot and he seemed to like his native brew.  I recall more than once when he was duty officer he would pass along our line as we stood to after breakfast inspection with his cap askew smelling of gin/whisky and obviously suffering from the previous night’s imbibing.  Within the half hour he would be taking off in his Seafire flying as if was stone cold sober.  He was, indeed, one of our finest pilots.

Some of the other pilots were a bit madcap.  One day I was asked to remove the dinghy and parachute from one of the Seafires.  Shortly after it took off with one of the pilots sat in the empty bucket seat and one of the others sat on his lap flying the plane which did a circuit of the airfield and landed perfectly.

As far as possible, the pilots flew in set flights and sub flights so that the most senior pilot led in each case.  Thus the squadron formation was as follows

A Flight

Lt. Commander Hutton, Lt J Ellis and Lt P Atherton and Lt N Hodgson

B Flight

Lt P Madden (senior pilot) Lt W Gunner and Lt P Hiles and Lt R Fowler

C Flight

Lt R Turnbull  Lt D Hook and Lt D Crofts and Lt N Pennington-Bird

The Squadron Commanding Officer Lieutenant Commander P J Hutton was a good CO and a good pilot.  He was a bit aloof as his status reflected and any orders he gave came down through one or other of the other officers.

The Senior Pilot i.e. the second in command was Lieutenant Peter Madden, a Yorkshire man only about 5 feet 6 tall but an excellent pilot.

Another Yorkshire man was Jackie Ellis who was the CO’s wingman in the air.

The other pilots varied; two or three were public school types but friendly nevertheless.  On the other hand were Bill Gunner who looked and walked like a bluff farmer and Lt Fowler who did not say much but was the best shot with his aircraft machine guns than any of the others.

 

 

 

Dear you

You think you have changed.  You talk about getting lost somewhere and wanting yourself back.  You feel overwhelmed by motherhood and wifedom and hanker for carefree days.  You would like to be able to make choices freely without having to think what the husband or the children need.  You are selfish for sure.  I think your Mum was probably “selfish” in the same way which led to her rants and difficulties.  Please remember that she ended up carving out a niche for herself first at the squash club and then with her community work.  There were holidays and trips off and you can have these too.   The children are getting older and more independent – in a couple of years you can be as daft as you like.

Take a look.  Absolutely, you are older and certainly much fatter. Having said that, you always did think you were fat even when you were size 8.  You coloured your hair even then not knowing that one day you would have to do so to cover the grey.  When did you stop wearing jewellery?  What was that about?  Rings on your fingers and in your ears.  A bit of jazziness, a bit of fun – where has that gone?

There’s a drink in your hand and I think it is probably Rose d’Anjou.  You still like a drink but when was the last time you had rose?

Art on the walls.  Not yours but your room-mate’s choices.  Remember when you had someone to talk to all the time?  Remember how your insistence on things being just so led to her leaving?  There were others who wanted your company then but they too have disappeared.  And you miss them.  Did they leave you or did your choices in life really mean you left them?

There are photos on display too looking back to childhood days in London and teenage days at the Rose and Crown.  Even then you were looking back to halcyon days.  Although in those days you also looked forwards with belief of great things to come.

There’s a bloke next to you who looks uncomfortable.  And yes, you would still love people to feel comfy around you and you still don’t know where to start.  You know, although others wouldn’t, that your heart was breaking a little that night but there you are facing the camera and putting on a very convincing brave face.

Can you see the sign?  “Just because you are paranoid does not mean they are not out to get you”.

Darling, take a look.  Wear some rings and get your ears re-pierced.  Raise a glass of rose.

You have not changed one bit.  Not really.  You are a perfectionist and this makes life hard on you and those around you.  You are so very imperfect.  In 20 years time, there will be new glittering prizes on the list and it still won’t be good enough.

You are a hopeless case but one whose time will come and may well already be here.

You’ll be OK – you always are.