Brian McClelland---The Royal Navy

"I liked standing on the bridge wing at sunrise with salt spray in my face and clean ocean winds whipping in from all four quarters, the ship beneath me feeling like a living thing as her turbines drive her through the sea. I liked the sounds of the navy, the piercing trill of the boatswain's call, the clang of the ships bell, the harsh squawk of the main broadcast Tannoy and the strong language and laughter of sailors at work. I liked Navy vessels, speeding destroyers, jinking darting frigates, plodding fleet auxiliaries, sleek submarines, purposeful minehunters and steady solid carriers. I liked the proud names of capital navy ships ARK ROYAL (On which I proudly served as my last ship) ,EAGLE, LION, TIGER I liked the lean angular names of navy destroyers – DARING, CAVALIER, BATTLEAXE and frigates - ACTIVE, UNDAUNTED, RAPID not forgetting KEPPEL. I liked the tempo of a Navy band blaring through the upper deck speakers as we pull away from the tanker after refuelling at sea. I liked the pipe "libertymen fall in" and the spicy scent of a foreign port. I liked sailors, men from all parts of the land, from city and country alike and all walks of life, I trusted and depended on them as they trusted and depended on me for professional competence, comradeship and courage, in a word they were shipmates. I liked the surge of adventure in my heart when the word is passed "special sea duty men close up". I liked the infectious thrill of sighting home again, the waving hands of welcome from family and friends, the work is hard and dangerous, the going rough at times, the parting from loved ones painful but the companionship of robust Navy laughter, the all for one and one for all philosophy of the sea is ever-present. I liked the serenity of the sea after a day of hard ships work, the issue of rum, the beer issue, watching flying fish flit across the wave tops as sunset gave way to night. I liked the feel of the navy in darkness, the masthead lights, the red and green navigation lights and the stern light, the pulsating phosphorescence of the ships wake. I liked drifting off to sleep lulled by the myriad of noises large and small that told me that my ship is alive and well and that my shipmates are on watch and will keep me safe. I liked quiet middle watches with the aroma of Kai on a cold, dark winter’s night. I liked the bow slicing through the mirror calm of the sea and the frolicking of dolphins as they darted in and out of the bow wave. I liked watching the track disappearing back towards the horizon knowing that it will be gone in a short time and being aware of the fact that we were not the first or will not be the last to leave our mark on the water. I liked the foaming phosphorescence at night, dancing from the wake of the screws as they constantly pushed tons of water astern of the ship, carrying us to our next exciting port. Liked the sudden electricity of "action stations" followed by the hurried clamour of running feet on ladders and the resounding thump of watertight doors and hatches as the ship transformed herself from a peaceful workplace to a weapon of war ready for anything. I liked the sight of space age equipment manned by youngsters clad in No8's and sound powered phones that their grandfathers would still recognise. I liked the traditions of the navy and the men who made them and the heroism of the men who sailed in the ships of yesteryear. Now that I am home from the sea I still remember with fondness and respect the ocean in all its moods, the impossible shimmering mirror calm, and the storm tossed green water surging over the bow, the sight of the bright bunting of signal flags snapping at the yardarm, a refrain of hearty laughter.I have gone ashore for good and grow wistful about my navy days, when the seas belonged to me and a new port of call was ever over the horizon. I was a sailor once, and numbers will never be the same again: Kit: 1's 2's 3's 8's 10's 10A's Punishment Number 9's, 14’s I was a sailor once and I look back and realise it was not just a job, it was a way of life. A family where shipmates became brothers and part of a team. I was a sailor once and I will always remember my Official Number. When medical science receives my body, as they examine it they will find a tattoo inside my brain with my Official Number and an anchor where my heart is. I was a sailor once and I liked the navy because even as times change, and the youth takes over from the old seadogs, some things will never change: The old days were always harder. The recruits were always greener. Official Numbers were always smaller Men of steel and ships of wood, The goffers were always bigger The girls were not as good looking in Pompey as they were in Guzz. If I haven't been there, it doesn't exist - or we blew it off the map. Only a sailor knows. I was a sailor once and I know. I was a sailor once, I was part of the navy and the navy will always be a part of me, that's why I loved the navy.


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