Stories over the ages
Submitted by Jim(lucky) Gordon
However, idle amusement, at 300 feet, was not always at the expense of the rookies. It was much more heart-warming to take on a specialist in the field of fellow folly.
Take George Byzewski for example. The Bazoo was a master of mockery and a capable comedian. One of his favourite expressions in a round of mess deck absurdity was “can’t crack me!”
To set the scene, as technology advanced we eventually installed stereo sound systems in our mess decks, for leisure listening or ballroom dance parties. We had just replaced our 8 Track with a brand new cassette tape player deck. With 18 to 20 senior rates in our mess, music taste varied from cultured to crude. Many brought their favourite music with them from home and played it in turn with choices of others. At times there was good-natured dispute over music taste but nothing too serious.
When George Sullivan and I, both very vocal, sh&t chucking seamen, found ourselves largely outnumbered by stokers on one particular trip in Ojibwa the stokers decided that they ruled the tape deck and wouldn’t let us play our favourite music. Right up front we were informed that anything we tried to play would be immediately replaced by stuff we didn’t like. Dah! With child reverse psychology applied, we enjoyed our music and denied them of some of their favourites for over three months until we could no longer contain our triumph and announced how easy it had been to choose our “like” and “unlike” entertainment. Stokers are easy!
On another trip Bazoo, fellow Dib, brought his all time, absolute favourite compilation of Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson hits. And we were listening to “Mommas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys” every chance he had to
bang it into the cassette deck. One day at noon Bazoo was sitting at a table reading a paperback novel with “the Boys” crooning sveltely in the background when big Ron Kolodij entered the mess. He reached in over the heads of a few mess members and loudly hit the cassette deck eject button. The mess went suddenly quiet. When Bazoo looked up from the other end of the mess, (the sweet spot for full stereo effect), Ron, with a cassette tape grasped firmly in two huge hands announced, “I’m f*#king sick of this crap”, broke it in half, stripped out a few yards of muted cellulous tape and tossed it on the deck in front of Bazoo. Everyone in the mess was dumbfounded. Bazoo looked shocked and extremely hurt as he reached down and delicately fondled a few strands of Willies “Always On My Mind.” He let it silently track through his fingers back to the deck and without a word, head down and avoiding all eyes, returned to his novel. After all, no one could “crack” the Bazoo. And to disclose a chink in the old armour was just begging for a tireless attack of relentless ridicule. As the mess deck routine resumed to its’ normal absurdity Ron was inserting a cassette tape into the machine. Out came the tender tones of “Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain”. All eyes were turned to the Bazoo as a sheepish grin emerged through the grizzly ‘skers on his face. It was then that everyone, including the Bazoo realized that, for the last couple of minutes, he had been staring down at his upside down novel. The broken cassette tape was a fake. Ron had gotten through, cracked our Polish Prince a fine one, and this one would resurface over and over for decades to come.
We’ve all been had, more than we would like to admit. But we all knew that if we weren’t loved we weren’t included.
Buddies in Boats!
This Was Submitted Lucky Gordon
Immediately nicknamed “Rusty” and occasionally “Dirt”. (I think his parents had a sense of humour when they named their little bundle of joy. Maybe dad was a submariner.”)
When young ‘Rusty’ arrived on board as a SPUT (Surface Puke Under Training) he was raring to go and eager to become one of his idealized brotherhood of super heros. He was an incessant burble of questions and curiosity about everything. And he sucked it all up as gospel from the righteous professionals that he worshipped. Ordinary Seaman Chute was more than a little naïve, like most of us were when we first got there.
Sitting in the mess one day, he overheard some of us seriously discussing the new bunk bags we were ordering for the mess on return to Slackers, (Halifax).
On hearing the term “Naugahyde”, the leatherette our bunk bags, seat and mattress covers were made of, he piped up,
“what’s a naugah? I never heard of them”.
Submariner’s don’t miss a chance to exercise their quick wit and sadistic sense of humour. I realized at once that he had heard naugah “hide”. I dove right into it.
“Naugahs are sort of a cross between a wild boar and a small rhino.”
And it was game on for all who wanted to participate in the age old sport of deep sea angling. Everyone baited up and cast a line.
“Yeah, they have smooth skin that is tanned and dyed and they make all kinds of leather stuff for submarines out of it. It stands up to the sea pressure better than regular leather.”
“My motor cycle leathers are naugah.”
“The meat’s not too bad either. It tastes like chicken. Hey chef, have you got any naugah on the menu this trip?”
“There are plenty of naugahs in Nova Scotia, but no one except
submariners hunts them. That’s probably why you never heard of them before. They aren’t really much good for anything but submarine gear.”
The game was revving up and Rustin was on the edge of his seat absorbing every once of absurdity.
“In fact naugah season just opened and we’re planning a hunting trip when we get back to Slackers. Wanna come with us?”
You might think that we got bored during those weeks and months that we spent under water defending our country from the great red tide of Communist aggression. Not so. There was always an object of delight to keep our magnificent miniature military minds engaged.
For the next few weeks we spent much of our idle idiot time with Rustin planning our hunting trip. The game spread through the boat like crap in a fan trunking. It eventually grew so elaborate with the massive amount of bizarre hunting gear, traps, weapons and camouflage kit, and the dangers inherent to hunting one of those prehistoric man eating beasts that seemed to get larger with each description, that Rustin began to catch on.
Once the jig was up he took it like a man, and I think he was actually disappointed that there would be no male bonding hunting trip with all the big guys.
I doodled with a pencil back then and sketched a drawing of my impression of Rusty in his hunting gear. A little Davy Crockett-ish, complete with naugah hound, Ole Nelly the naugah flint lock long gun with naugah notches for kills, naugah “hide” garb and cap C/W naugah tail, and so on. Rusty had unique features so I was able to capture a good likeness in caricature. Several years later when Rustin got married, some of his mess mates had the caricature blown up to life-size and mounted behind his head table. It was still a hit.
One thing certain in submarines, if you expose a chink in your armour, your messmates will never stop attacking it.
That’s what ‘Buddies in Boats‘ is all about.
In Memory of and Written By: George Sullivan *
Many years ago in a far, distant land (Halifax) a couple of young sailors inadvertently had probably one of the funniest evenings of their lives. We still chuckle about it.
This would be January/February 1964. My oppo Bill, who I had joined the Navy with in Hamilton, and went through Cornwallis together were sitting around in Basin Lockers (at the corner of then Buckingham and Barrington streets). I was an OD Sonarman on Swansea and he was an OD Stoker on the Bonnie. Naval protocol dictated seaman (dibbydabs) and marine engineers (greasies) did not associate with each other, however, we never paid any attention to that shit. Bill did 3 years and got out joining the Hamilton Fire Department (just retiring after 44 years service as a fire fighter!) He remains one of my very best friends to this day and we are in contact on a weekly basis.
Basin Lockers was one of many establishments for matelots1 to store their civvies as civvies were not allowed on ships back then. It was quite the place; rows and rows of lockers and benches, a wash place and showers …and a rec room … in the rec room there were a couple of sofas and chairs all of which were well beyond their prime, stained with various stains of … well, who knows, with springs and various other objects sticking up out of them, a black and white TV which the horizontal hold wasn’t quite right and a huge stuffed moose head mounted on the bulkhead close to the entrance door. As a result of being in close proximity to people he, the moose, (I knew he was a he ’cause he had huge antlers) would get the odd shot on the hooter as people walked by resulting in the end of his nose was about 45 degrees out of kilter with great bunches of stuffing material hanging out …. it was a great place.
Anyway, on with the story; Bill and I always went to the Seagull Club on Hollis Street every night; there were other places around like the Carpenters Hall, but they didn’t have the class the Seagull Club did. Prior to going we would get a mickey of Wood’s Old Navy rum at the liquor store just around the corner on Buckingham St using our phoney Nova Scotia Liquor Commission cards which were required at that time.
We would then sit in the comfort of the Basin Locker’s rec room imbibing a few wets from plastic glasses … or right out of the bottle if we were in a hurry. It must be noted this was purely a social occurrence simply to get ourselves up on that fine edge of suaveness, couth and culture in the anticipation of meeting the fine local damsels of Halifax.
We would time our social cocktails to last from 7ish to 8:30ish by that time having changed into civvies, leisurely finished off the Wood’s Navy and then head down to the Seagull Club. Arriving a little late was of course the fashionable thing to do, it showed class.
On this particular evening we had to get something at a local store and while in there we noticed they had a jokes and novelty section … and … in that section they had stink bombs! WELL! What is a sailor to do? We purchased a package containing 6; surely they would come in handy somewhere!
Meandering down Barrington Street, then Hollis Street we arrived at the Seagull Club, duly paid our 25 cent entrance fee, checked our coats and made our grand entry. We wandered around the dance floor for a while taking in the sights, now and then commenting how this one or that one really could use our hot blooded talents and how good they would look under our thrusting bodies with their ankles, along with their perfume, behind their ears.
The vast majority of the gals in the Seagull Club every night were student nurses. They all lived in a student nurse’s residence, had a curfew and woe betide them if they missed their curfew! They went to the Seagull Club for one thing and one thing only … to dance, period. They did not go out with sailors. It was cheap, there were lots of panting, drooling suitors to boost their egos and they could dance all night … and disappear. God bless them!
Around 10, 10:30ish it appeared that none of the gals were very bright this evening; they were apparently oblivious to our charms, good looks and obvious potential. What to do? … as it was getting boring. Well! We did have the stink bombs, they should liven things up a bit.
Now the scene has to be set up. The place was packed, it was bitterly cold outside so the heat was quite high in the dance hall. People had been dancing for the past couple of hours so it had that hot, humid, sticky fug you get when a lot of people are packed into a warm hall with an overworked ventilation system.
Enter George and Bill stage left. We walked around the hall in opposite directions strategically dropping the stink bombs on the deck at the four corners and one each on the middle opposite sides. These ‘bombs’ were a little glass vial containing a liquid of some sort; you just dropped them on the deck and stepped on them to crush the vial and release the eau de hooter. We then continued our leisurely stroll around the dance floor and much to our dismay initially … NOTHING! There was nothing at all it seemed; had we been ripped off? It seemed that way.
But then … after 5 minutes or so, the most ungodly stench started to rise from the floor! Yee Haw! Eureka! … and then … and then … it got stronger and stronger! Initially we could see everyone sniffing the air, then sniffing each other. The smell continued to get stronger, things were really livening up! It got even stronger! People were gagging, some puking, geez it was just like coming out of the tear gas hut, eyes watering, snot all over the place, some with the foot long drool streamers hanging off their faces, I never saw anything like it, not in a dance hall anyway.
Bill says to I or perhaps I says to Bill (I don’t remember which), “Holy Fuck! Maybe we used too many” and then we wisely went to the cloak room and got our coats.
At this point the Seagull staff open all the doors, fire exits, windows and order everyone out onto Hollis Street, no stopping for anything, straight out onto the street. It is bitter, bitter cold, a foot or so of snow on the ground, the vast majority don’t have their coats and after being in such a warm place people are freezing outside, especially the girls, most of which have their ‘ballet slippers’ on as their boots are in the cloak room … and a real bonus is the ‘bud’ cold weather reaction on the girls as well! Half the people are covered in drool and that is freezing up as well.
Bill and I are off to one side quietly observing this shambles looking suitably bewildered, doing our very best to keep a straight face. The next thing we know somebody punches somebody else. Guys thumping guys, girls smacking each other, girls jumping on guy’s backs and now we have a full blown riot! It was like being at the movies!
I have to say, Bill and I were quite amazed at how fast the Halifax Police and Naval Shore Patrol showed up with, it had to be, a good half dozen paddy wagons. They put their little ‘Billys’ to good use that night, bonking guys and throwing them into the paddy wagons like cordwood. This went on for a good half hour anyway. In the end 3 chaps from Creighton Street area were arrested for starting it all; I don’t know why, I don’t think they were matelots so they wouldn’t even have been in the place (although in those days discrimination was not unknown amongst local constabularies everywhere) Bill and I, being the unfeeling sods we were at the time, had a little chortle at that as well.
At this point things were beginning to wind down, the paddy wagons were full and people were being allowed to go back in to the Seagull Club and retrieve their coats and boots then leave. It appeared the dance was over!
Bill and I had worked up a bit of an appetite by this point (Did you know that laughter is a major calorie burner???) so we wandered over to Morris Street and the Morris Lunch just around the corner, had a big plate of chips and gravy and a hot chocolate coming through the whole fiasco undetected and unscathed.
For weeks after the old Seagull Club had a lingering, clingy smell that took a long time to completely disappear. T’was a great reminder of just how much fun a guy could have for just a couple of bucks!
EDITOR’S NOTE: I was there that night you ‘son of a sea cook’! I almost froze my knackers off outside on the cold cold night.
1 Matlote – French for ‘sailor’ and sometimes used by Canadian Navy men to instead of the word ‘sailor’
* George Sullivan joined the Canadian Navy in 1962 as Sonarman; he sailed on Swansea (2.5 yrs), Margaree (5 yrs), and submarines 13 yrs, (Okanagan & Ojibwa) – 20 years sea time all told. He also had several prestigious shore postings including NDHQ in Ottawa; he retired in 1991. Sadly, George Sullivan passed away at home in Ottawa 30 Jul 2012, 3 A.M. EDT.
A little walk…down Memory’s Lane… thanks to Tim Kramble
Occasionally, I venture back to one or another military post, where I’m greeted by an imposing security guard who looks carefully at my identification card, hands it back and says, “Have a good day, Sir!”
Every time I go back to any Military Base it feels good to be called by my previous rank, but odd to be in civilian clothes, walking among the servicemen and servicewomen going about their duties as I once did — many years ago.
The military is a comfort zone for anyone who has ever worn the uniform. It is a place where you know the rules and know they are enforced — a place where everybody is busy, but not too busy to take care of business. Because there exists behind the gates of every military facility an institutional understanding of respect, order, uniformity, accountability and dedication that becomes part of your marrow and never, ever leaves you.
Personally, I miss the fact that you always knew where you stood in the military, and who you were dealing with. That’s because you could read somebody’s uniform from 20 feet away and know the score. Service personnel wear their careers on their uniforms, so to speak. When you approach each other, you can read their name tag, examine their rank and, if they are in dress uniform, read their medal ribbons and know where they’ve served, honors bestowed and heroic deeds performed.
I miss all those little things you take for granted when you’re in the ranks, like breaking starch on a set of fatigues fresh from the laundry and standing in a perfectly straight line military formation that looks like a mirror as it stretches to the endless horizon. I miss the sight of troops marching in the early morning mist, the sound of boot heels thumping in unison on the tarmac, the bark of drill instructors and the squads as they pass by in review. To romanticize military service is to be far removed from its reality, because it’s very serious business — especially in times of war. But, I miss the salutes I’d throw at senior officers and the crisp returns as we crisscrossed with a “by-your-leave” sir.
I miss the smell of jet fuel hanging heavily on the night air and the sound of engines roaring down runways and disappearing into the clouds. I even miss the hurry-up-and-wait mentality that enlisted men gripe about constantly, a masterful invention that bonded people more than they’ll ever know or admit. I miss people taking off their hats when they enter a building, speaking directly and clearly to others and never showing disrespect for rank, race, religion or gender. I miss being a small cog in a machine so complex it constantly circumnavigates the Earth and so simple it feeds everyone on time, three times a day, on the ground, in the air or at sea.
Mostly, I don’t know anyone who has served who regrets it, and doesn’t feel a sense of pride when they pass through those gates and re-enter the world they left behind with their youth.
Face it – we miss it…………
Whether you had one tour or a career – it shaped your life!
“Of all the branches of men in the Forces there is none which shows more devotion and faces grimmer perils than the Submariner, great deeds are done in the air and on the land, nevertheless nothing Surpasses your exploits.”
Sir Winston Churchill 1943
Did you hear about the Chief Tiffy,
The man without a mate?
He’d fallen out with everyone,
but the Coxswain was his favourite hate.
Eventually the day came round,
And he stood at Heaven’s portal,
St. Peter was there in his best number ones
to greet the special mortal.
The Tiffy looked at St. Peter and said,
“I’ll not come in just yet,
I want to make sure there’s no Coxswain in here.
Said Peter, “You’re on a safe bets”.
So he picked up his bag and hammock,
And, believing St. Peter, went in,
The inmates of Heaven then trembled,
But Peter just gave him a grin
The Tiff went around and searched up and down,
With a fearsome look on his face,
At last he seemed at peace with himself,
There wasn’t a ‘swain in the place.
So life slipped by in the ‘boat’ in the sky,
The Chief Tiffy in charge on the wheel.
He was heard to remark, “What a bloody great lark,
This is just how a Coxswain must feel”
The rest of the crew were quite chokker.
Cursed the day Chief Tiffs were invented,
But power had gone to the old man’s head.
“I’m in charge now and I’m quite contented
But then there came that dreadful day,
Proper poorly the Chief Tiffy did feel,
For he spotted the badge of crossed tin fish,
A bloody great Crown and Wheel.
He went stomping off to St. Peter, and
In true Naval style made a complaint,
That he’d spotted an Infidel Coxswain,
Said Peter “I’ll bet that you ain’t,
Come with me” said the Tiffy and
Shaking his fist said, Just what the bloody “ell’s that?”
For there stood a vision, a Coxswain no less,
With gold badges and a tiddly hat.
” Hold on” said St Peter, “Just calm yourself down,
And I’ll do my best to explain,
That’s really GOD that you’re looking at,
He just likes to pretend he’s a ‘Swain!”.
UP SPIRITS ! FOND MEMORIES.
There once was a time in H.M.Ships,
When the magic hour had come.
The leading hands of every mess
Prepared to collect the rum.
The smell of Jamaican filled the air
As the ritual began
A daily tot of Nelson’s Blood
Was a favourite to every man.
When the Rum Bosun stood, his measure poised
To serve every man his tot.
Two fingers always in the ‘cup ‘
Making sure that the ‘Queen ‘got her lot.’
The ‘ticker off’ was there, of course
His pencil at the ready,
With a sipper given from each man’s tot
His hand was no longer steady.
The rum rat sat, his eyes aglow
His whiskers twitching well
He liked his rum so much it seems
He could get pissed on the smell.
Sometimes the tots were passed around
As each man paid his debts
Favour, rubber, game of crib
Could cost a couple of wets.
Then came the time to sup the ‘Queens’
“God Bless Her “was the toast
A watchful eye, as each man supped.
So the Rum Bosun got the most.
Once the rum had been consumed
And nothing left to pour;
The dits began, as the ‘Grog’ took charge,
Of favourite runs ashore.
A feed, a fight, a couple of pints
Was part of a run ashore.
A game of darts was in there too
Then all night with a Pompey Lill.
No longer though, does the scent of rum
Pervade her Majesty’s boats.
No more to sup Lord Nelson’s Blood
And give the Queen her toasts.
So to all who drank Lord Nelson’s Blood
And heard the Klaxon’s blast
May old shipmates meet and share a wet
Spinning dits of the good times passed.
A toast then to Horatio
And another to the Queen.
And may we all, wherever we are
Remember where we’ve been!
Amen to that! Up Spirits Royal :).
HMS COURAGEOUS 1974-1979
HMS COURAGEOUS 1974-1979 adopted an African Elephant that someone found tethered to a bollard next to the taxi rank on Helensburghs mainstreet. They called him *Mongo* and he lived in an old Chacon that they put in their Lay-apart store just up from 6-Berth. When theyeventually left Faslane, to go to Chatham for re-fit, Capt SM3 granted permission for Mongo to go with them. They chained him to the starboard rails of the fin and hoofed it down the Gareloch on the step. Mongo was as happy as larry, but the casing party spent most of their time trying not to step in enormous piles of elephant shit. Anyhow – Courageous encountered some very bad weather in the Irish Sea (surface passage) and come the morning – Mongo had simply disappeared. God! The entire Boat’s Company miss that elephant. Ask any ex Courageous ships company – they’ll vouch for him. He was a brills elephant and good company for the Upper Deck Trot.
R.I.P. Mongo. (Here is only one of two known photographs that exist of Mongo actually
on the casing of HMS COURAGEOUS as they sailed out of Faslane, with AFD 60 visible
in the background). The other is of Mongo in happier daze.
To all Submariners from all the fleet past or present with a story to tell here is your opportunity to tell it. If other members by chance saw it a little different than you, they also are able to respond on how they saw it go down. HAVE FUN GUYS!!