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.
Tropical uniform and setting off to Malta
Today Dad remembers getting kitted out with tropical uniform ready to set sail for HMS Falcon in Malta.
I passed out if HMS Raven as an SEII. This was the highest grade in this particular trade that could be achieved. Because the first (and lowest) grade was an SEIII and the next grade an SE11 it would be logical that there was a further grade an SE1 i.e. a Safety Equipmnt Assistant Class 1 to give a full title but not so. I never heard of anyone in Safety Equipment Branch being an SE1. In fact the instructors at HMS Raven were SE11s. Likewise it was not a branch where there was scope for promotion. If an instructor reached Leading Seaman, that was as far as it went. Once again, this was a branch that was in the early stages of development. Until nearly the end of the war in 1945 all parachute and dinghy maintenance was carried out by RAF personnel even aboard carriers. Thus there was no structure for promotion for Navy men doing this work.
Thus after leave at Christmas 1946 I left Raven and back to Daedalus on 10th January 1947 and just as quickly to the Drafting Officer. My luck was in. Within a few days, I was told I was to go to HMS Falcon which I knew was the Navel Air Station at Malta. I was sent off on 14 days embarkation leave and then back to Daedalus for vaccinations, innoculations and a medical examination before being kitted out with tropical uniforms. These consisted of white shorts, extra white shirts and blue knee length stockings. In addition I was issued with one pair of white (or should I say off-white) trousers, bell bottomed and a matching jumper as we called it but better described as an over-the-head tunic. To go with this full dress uniform (called a Duck Suit or White Ducks) which would be required to be worn on certain ceremonial occasions was a white hat and a air of white calf skin shoes.
The white shorts were of good quality cotton, easily washed and comfortable to wear. However, the long trousered dress uniform was of a kind of stiff twill being most uncomfortable to wear and not easy to wash. Bear in mind that laundry facilities in the Navy were non-existent. All you had was a bar of hard soap, the loan of a bucket and hot water if you were lucky. In the few days I had left in Daedalus I was able to buy for a few shillings from a rating who had just returned from abroad a full dress suit in pure white cotton which looked more professional, felt comfortable and washed and ironed well. Thus armed, I was ready for the off. Along with motley squad from Daedalus we were were lorried across to Portsmouth and held in the Barracks there for two days. These barracks would have come way behind Dartmoor in any prize-giving for comfort. They were old, cold, damp and dark and certainly discouraged any sailor from staying there. Fortunately, we were moved out in a couple of days by which time there must have been several hundred sailors all of whom were entrained at Portmouth and transported to Tidbury on the Thames. We immediately embarked on a ship.