|Me on the left with 'Jacko' Jackson.|
A day later we traversed the Bay of Biscay, and despite all I had heard about this particular stretch of ocean every time I crossed it was calm and forgiving, however the first cases of sea sickness had already presented themselves to the sickbay, it was something I never suffered from. The Doc also took this opportunity to serve up mass inoculations to everyone, a JABEX as it was known. On the Thursday we were asked to pile on the speed and go look at some Russians who were in the area but to the south of us.
Only just three days out and sunburn was becoming noticeable amongst the sun seekers, during off duty periods those who could would find a spot on the upper deck and lay there with 'burn me' attitudes. Some even had their own secret concoctions to brown quicker, like vinegar and cooking fat etc. I stuck with Ambre Solaire, very posh.
Thursday night and we anchored off Cape Trafalgar exactly where the battle had taken place, I was excited as the next day we would be in Gibraltar, my first real foreign run ashore. Sure enough I spied the famous rock from several miles out at sea, on arrival we became Guard Ship, ready at a moments notice to repel any Spanish attempts at taking the Rock, I just wanted to get ashore. Having completed the Middle Watch (2359 - 0400) the night before my watch had the afternoon off, so all foofed up we headed ashore, past some seamen painting the hull, these hurled insults at as of course but as we Radio Ops on most occasions still stood watches in ports without communications centres while they went ashore we didn't take much notice.
As I said Gibraltar was my first foreign ‘run ashore’. The place was covered in pubs and bars, most with a history and pedigree going back decades, the main showplace in 1970 was Sugar’s, run by a gay man and which was the usual starting place for a night on the town, a whale’s penis was rumoured to hang above the bar, but the indeterminate piece of leather could have been anything. Sure enough Sugar was larger than life and twirled and sashayed around the bar the star of his own show. Then it was off up the main drag, favourites were the Tartan Bar, the Angry Friar, Pickwicks and the London Bar, the latter was one of my favourites, a real sense of Naval tradition here with many pictures and charts on the walls. I recall we had a fashion moment when ‘Lil’ New, ‘Lofty’ Gedling, ‘Plum’ Humphries and I all bought bandannas and wore them around our necks. Lil and Plum were Buntings, tactical radio operators who dealt with signals and fleet manoeuvres, Lofty and I were Sparkers, real radio operators, Lofty was one of the oldest in the mess, 6’ tall and a character, Lofty enjoyed his runs ashore. Our only sight seeing was a trip on the cable car to the top of the Rock and a walk through some of the tunnels built for defence facing Spain, we of course saw the famous Rock Apes. Many years later I would walk through the Rock from one side to the other.
While in Gib we received tropical measures for spirits, which basically meant a double for the same price as a single, but it was also cheaper than back in Blighty, everyone drank JC's in Gib, it was supposed to be a John Collins cocktail but I cannot vouch for how accurate they were but they were drank on an industrial scale, each bar had gallons of the sugary mix ready to pour into your gin or vodka, as I said I cannot swear as to which spirit was actually in there.
We were to sail at 1030 on the 5th May, our next stop was St. Helena, Napoleon's prison island, normally only one ship a year goes near the place but 'Bungy' Williams, one of our storemen in the next mess to us was a native of St. Helena and had not been home since he left, so we were going to call in and let him visit his family.