Thursday, 16 May 2013

Commando Cabin Boy (by Trevor)

As Mike, Dee and Bonita finally depart from Plymouth Sound, my mind swings back 30+ years ago to the day I left to head South for the Falklands War. Whether you agree with what happened or not, it was an extraordinary and formative experience. We worked flat out for 4 days and embarked the whole of 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines, plus all their ammunition, vehicles and supplies, and our new friends - 2 battalions of Paras.  What made it even harder was that we (+ the same ships and equipment) had just come back from 3 months' intense arctic warfare training North of the Arctic Circle ... shall we say that 'not everything was back in its place!'

My old ship - HMS Fearless (now scrapped)
HQ was 2 minutes walk from where Bonita has been moored for too long. The team setting up the logistics (gosh, doesn't that sound easy!) stayed behind as the Commando Assault Ships, RFAs (tankers) and frigates left Plymouth Sound to the cheers of massive crowds on Plymouth Hoe and to the West and East of the Sound. Sadly, I never got to see any of this. We worked flat out until the fleet had reached the range of a Sea King helicopter's fuel tanks.

The 9 core officers who comprised Commando Brigade Tactical HQ then scrambled up to the top of Eastern King's Battery (overlooking Mayflower Marina) and into a Sea King with our huge bergens, skis and a few keepsakes of home - because frankly, we really weren't sure we were coming back. The helicopter took us on one last sweep over our beautiful city.  We soared over where Tim Beckett and I nearly sunk Mike's earlier gaffer on the Tamar River; then we swept over the hospital where the Skipper and Mate did their courting. After a city tour, we swept, very fast and very low, directly over where my mother is buried at sea with full naval honours. My last sight of Plymouth as we banked hard and turned South was Fort Bovisand, where Tim studied for his professional diving qualification.

Is it any wonder I'm looking forward to joining Bonita with Tim on June 8th? - Wherever she is...  
Just remember Skipper - turn RIGHT at the Scillies - don't keep going!