The Submarine Shovel and my involvement with it.
By your own Bomber Queen, Tim Greensides.
Whilst serving and in the post of the O.I.C. UKSUBCAMS in Northwood, in the year of our Lord 1992, I was about to take my yearly trip to visit my American Submarine counterparts in Norfolk Virginia, USA. On this occasion I was joined by my Radio engineer Dave Bird WO (REL) (Skimmer), before leaving for this very important and arduous duty, I was contacted by the then President of the CPOs Mess in HMS Dolphin, who I regret his name currently escapes me, asking me if I would pop round the CPOs Mess in the Navy Base in Norfolk, and nick a shovel out of their display case, and bring it back to him. Well never being a person to piss off his Diesel Dinosaur colleagues, I thought that is the least I could do, especially when he mentioned there could be a Bottle of Pusser’s Neaters in it for me! So after briefing my travelling colleague Dave, not mentioning the Rum of course, we agreed when we went to the Mess, he would set up a diversion, and I would nick the shovel, brilliant plan after 10 Vodka and Tonics. I suggested to cause a diversion, he might set fire to their Mess, or which, would cause more confusion and disruption buy everyone a drink, well after much consideration he decided to torch the Mess. (Tight Git).
Well after our high level discussions with our US counterparts, we breezed round to the CPO’s mess in the Norfolk Navy Base, which we had visited before, and what a shock, no Shovel and no Mess, it had been shut down due to lack of interest, or something, Defence cuts probably. I initially thought they had put that paint on they paint their Stealth Fighters with, so the Brits could not find it. Well both being a bit hacked off, Dave with a can of Petrol, looked a bit suspicious so distancing myself from him, I pounced on a US Navy Chief, who was passing and enquired about the Shovel, he reported to me in a very Seamanship manner, that the USS Bergall who had actually been the Submarine who had relieved Dolphin of it, had taken it back on Board, well of course I was flabbergasted as this broke all the rules of the Shovel (See below), nicking it out of an inboard Mess is one thing, but carrying out a Covert operation on a US Nuclear Submarine, is not what I signed up for, well maybe for 2 bottles of Rum, I might consider it. My skimmer oppo is now loosing the will to live, and his famous and regular statement, “What the hell have you now got me into” came forth. So we did what we always did under these types of circumstance, went off and got pissed. (Takes quite a while, with the Americans excuse for Beer).
Any how next day, with a fresh mind, I had to revert to Plan B, bearing in mind Plan A was fairly unrealistic, I made contact with the USS Bergall, and spoke to the C.O.B. (Chief of the Boat) for you diesel boys. And told him outright, he was in total infringement of the Law of the Shovel, and it would just not do, after some dialogue regarding my Fathers birth rite, and something about a “Limey B******), we agreed that Dave and I could visit his little Submarine, with Trot sentries carrying Semi-automatic weapons, at our leisure, and they would gladly hand over the said Shovel, after a drinking competition, well that was interesting as they are dry, good old Dave a professional Coffee Drinker, gave them what for, I do not think he has been to sleep since. Any rate they handed over the Shovel, at to the booing of the entire crew we left.
So with operation complete, I checked in at Norfolk International Airport with Shovel in hand, being informed that I could not take it on the Aircraft as it was an offensive Weapon, well now its my turn, this guys Mother got a mention, I cannot really remember now but she was involved, in my outburst. Any how British/American diplomacy now came into play, and they gave me a Box to put it in. Subsequently we nearly missed the Plane, and when I got home to Gosport, I discovered the hire car keys were still in my Pocket. The President of HMS Dolphin Chiefs Mess lived up to his promise and gave me a miniature bottle of Rum, which I shared with all my friends, but not Dave.
Some of this tale is true and some not, you must be the Judge. Below are the details currently available regarding the Shovel history, but the trail ends in 1993, or do you know otherwise?
On the 26th of September 1961, Commodore M.A. Medland turned the sod on the new Chief & Petty Officer's Mess at HMCS Stadacona, a naval base in Halifax. Since it was a ceremonial occasion, someone thought of mounting the shovel on a wooden board and hanging it up in the mess as a reminder of the event. A nice little tally plate was added to the shovel, informing everyone of its significance - and there it stayed. For a very short period of time.
During a stay in Halifax, some submariners from Her Majesty's Submarine Alderney thought they would like to rabbit the shovel as a souvenir of their time in our fair city. They found it all too easy to detach from the wall of the mess and it was spirited away on the 10th of April 1963. Had they left it at that, though, things might have ended there - but someone added a little tally plate of their own. This normally insignificant event was all it took to start a tradition that has endured for decades. This poor little shovel has encircled the planet several times and has travelled many thousands of miles.
Like a piece of favourite luggage, it has collected nameplates from nearly everywhere its been, and they make for entertaining reading. Over the years a series of rules have evolved in order to minimize disputes and keep the tradition going.
The rules were simple...To
perpetuate the tradition of the shovel the following conditions should be
The shovel should be prominently mounted in a military mess in a manner which will minimize damage when it is inadvertently nicked, appropriated or otherwise removed. The appropriator should, at the earliest opportunity, inform CFB Halifax C&PO's mess, and other interested messes listed on the shovel, who has the shovel and where it is mounted. The shovel should never become a personal trophy.
Here's a quick list of the travels as noted by the plaques:
CHIEF & PETTY OFFICERS MESS HMCS STADACONA SOD TURNED CMDRE M. A. MEDLAND, RCN 26 SEPTEMBER 1961
MISAPPROPRIATED BY THE SODS OF: HMS/M ALDERNEY 10 APRIL 1963
RE-APPROPRIATED IN '63 BY THE SODS OF "ATHABEE" HMCS ATHABASKAN 17 OCTOBER 1963
RE-MISAPPROPRIATED BY THE KIPPERS OF AURIGA 10 SEPT 64
NICKED FROM THE DINKS OF PLATYPUS BY THE POMS OF SPARE CREW AND TRUMP 9-1-69 R.I.P.
LIFTED FROM THE AUSSIES 21 JULY 1972 USS SALMON SS 573
STOLEN BY THE SODS OF HMS ODIN FROM THE CHIEF'S MESS, HMAS PLATYPUS AUSTRALIA 1975
CAPTURED BY THE SODS OF OKANAGAN 5 JUNE 1979 FROM CPO'S MESS HMS DOLPHIN
REMOVED FROM HMCS OKANAGAN BY GEORGE GALLEY ON 28-6-80 RETURNED HOME TO WO'S & CPO'S HMS DOLPHIN
REMOVED TO HALIFAX AGAIN NOV 1980 FORENDS ONONDAGA
RECOVERED BY 2 AIR MOVEMENTS UNIT AIR MOVERS OF THE WORLD DECEMBER 1980
REMOVED FROM HALIFAX AGAIN MAY 1981 FORENDS HMS/M OPPORTUNE
RE-APPROPRIATED BY CPO1 G. SULLIVAN FROM CPO'S MESS HMS DOLPHIN 20 SEP 1982
FILCHED BY THE ROYAL NAVY'S SPECIAL BREED OF BIRDS "THE WRENS" FROM HMAS PLATYPUS ON SEPTEMBER 8TH 1985 ASSOCIATION OF WRENS SYDNEY BRANCH, AUSTRALIA.
FETCHED FROM HMAS PLATYPUS BY OKANAGAN COMMAND TEAM MARCH 1986
SKIMMED FROM CANSUBRON 1 MESS BY "IROQUOIS RENEGADES" 18 JUN 87
"MOUNTBATTEN NIGHT" IN THE PRESENCE OF HRH PRINCE CHARLES AT WO'S AND CHIEF'S MESS HMS DOLPHIN 1988
EASY COME, EASY GO BACK TO CANADA I DID GO. JANUARY 17, 1988 R. MILES, M. DESPATIES, R. MACDONALD, J. CLAHANE DOLPHIN CODE 22 26A
SEIZED THRU TRICKERY AND DARING BY FLYNN & RILEY, CPO'S OF USS SKIPJACK (SSN 585) US SUBMARINE BASE, GROTON, CT. 14 MARCH 1988
SHOVEL STOLEN BUT NOT FORGOTTEN BY CPO2 BYZEWSKI STOLEN BACK FROM ROTTEN GROTON APRIL 24 1988
ONE FOR ONE CAN'T BE BAD OPPOSUM JULY 1988
TAKEN AWAY ACROSS THE BROW AND SO I REST ON WARSPITE NOW D. KINGSTON 15 OCT 89
IT'S OURS NOW WITH EYES AGLEAM 'TWAS STOLEN BY 'OTTAWAS' "C" BOAT TEAM W. BROYDEN, B. CARBRAY HMCS OTTAWA OCT 89
"CONNED" FOR THE PRIME MINISTER'S SIGNATURE "SUBRON" WILL ACCEPT ANY OLD STORY TO GET THE SHOVEL A LITTLE MORE GLORY HOWEVER, AS MUCH AS I REALLY DID TRY THE OLD PRIME MINISTER JUST WOULDN'T COMPLY. DECEMBER 1989 NDHQ OTTAWA CPO1 GEORGE SULLIVAN
SWIPED FROM HMS DOLPHIN 23 MARCH 1992 CPO'S USS BERGALL ALEXANDER, GENERALLY, SIMONS AND AN UNKNOWN FEMALE "MAKE YOUR OPPORTUNITY AND SEIZE THE MOMENT".
WO TIM GREENSIDES DAVE BIRD UKSUBCAMS SPIRITED OFF USS BERGALL FOR HMS DOLPHIN MAY 1992
(Hmmm.......wonder how and when it got back to CANSUBRON ONE?)
INADVERTENTLY REMOVED FROM CANSUBRON ONE BY AUSSUBRON PERSONNEL 1993
HOME AGAIN JIM HEWITT, DAVE VROOMAN APRIL '93