Today my Dad remembers a visit to Istanbul.


A strict dress code was the order of the day for any matelots going ashore, namely full whites. This was the only time when I was on the Ocean that full whites were demanded. So dig out the whites from the bottom of the kitbag where they had been for the last 10 months and get them pressed because before going ashore there was sure to be a keen scrutiny from to tip to toe that the ship’s pride should not be let down – although more of that later.

Leave would start each day at 1pm and as usual would be a journey by liberty boat (on of the ship’s motor boats) from ship to shore. If you missed the ship’s boat at 1pm then the next opportunity was the 5pm boat. Returning to the ship was by boat at 5pm or a succession of journeys were made in the late evening until all personnel were back on board. Different arrangements were made for officers from a different part of the ship.

As the boat approached the city was before us on the hill. It was dominated by the St Sophia mosque and the Blue Mosque, both of which were topped by huge domes and minarets on the four corners.

We were set down on the quay and groups of sailors were strolling up into the city. We three, Sam, Daisy and me like many another group simply walked round taking in the life of the city. It was hot and sunny an ideal day for exploring a city that has a real Eastern feel about it. Pavement stalls welling all sorts of goods with strange smells of spices and of cooking. The language barrier made any conversation difficult. In those days the ordinary Turkish people did not have any English.

After a while we were ready for a sit and a drink and so we dropped into the next café we saw. It was quite busy and as we found three seats the locals were looking at us curiously as we were them. We smiled and said “Hello” and they replied in what was the Turkish equivalent and that was the limit of conversation. One of us went to the counter and asked for coffees. They were shortly served in tiny cups, a bowl of sugar lumps but no milk. The coffee tasted quite bitter even after sugar was added but we made ourselves drink it.

Turkey was (and is) a Muslim country and therefore there was no alcohol available. We hadn’t a lot of money to spend and what we had would have gone on beer anyway. All we could do really was just wander around and there was not a lot to see. We kept meeting up with other matelots and they were are bored as we were. At least the sun was strong during the day.

The general impression was that Istanbul as far as I was concerned was going to be a magical and mysterious sort of Eastern city but it was more of a let down to me. The Turks that we saw seemed to be of the poorer class and there was no evidence of culture. But after all we were only common sailors.

    Do your children enjoy arts and crafts?

    My daughter loves using her imagination and creativity. Her activity of choice would always be arts and craft.

    I remember when this passion started. We were at a birthday party and she had a tantrum. I was not coping very well when another mum suggested I give her some pencils and paper. Suddenly she was calm and full of smiles. She had found her forte.

    Although she has been criticised at school for her artwork, I am naturally biased and love what she creates. Also, I believe that art is all about free expression and should be done with enthusiasm no matter what the world might think.

    Recently we received an exciting package from Baker Ross. If the company is new to you, I recommend you check them out particularly if like me you sometimes run out of ideas on the crafting front.

    It is always exciting to get a parcel and if it contains fun for the family so much the better.

    Here are some of the things my daughter created.

    This little house shaped money box came ready to decorate according to a child’s individual taste.


    My daughter enjoyed playing with coloured sand making rockets and keyrings.


    She also put the sand in a little tray to create a mini beach scene.


    We love Baker Ross. The catalogue and website have so much choice and you can set your budget and then start having crafty fun.


    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.

      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.