Pull up a bollard - Memoirs of a Matelot.

Ravers

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
Not my dit, stolen from Facebook but I had to share.........

The Boat’s newest affiliation was with a small, land-locked market town in the middle of East Anglia. Its distance from the sea meant little in practical terms, as there are few ports in our health and safety conscious nation that are willing to accept visits from any sort of nuclear submarine, let alone a shiny new ballistic missile boat, capable of raining fiery atomic death on the enemies of Her Majesty. Indeed, we were concerned at one time that we were to be without any civic affiliation at all. The submarine had been deemed unsuitable and rejected as ‘non-PC’ by the Aldermen of numerous towns and cities before we were eventually adopted. Even in rural Suffolk, hardly a hot bed of anti-establishment thought or a fertile CND recruiting ground, the road to affiliation was a rocky one. It was only the local Royal Naval Association’s vociferous support from the galleries and gratuitous waving of white ensigns during the crucial council meeting that secured the rubber-stamping of the relationship between submarine and borough. It is a brave local councillor indeed, no matter how ideologically opposed to our sleek messengers of death, that can stand up to the combined might of a hoard of determined ex-matelots in blazers and RNA ties.

The resolve of the RNA to secure the affiliation was to prove a good indicator of the warmth of the welcome we were to receive on our first official visit. The desire to make a substantial initial impact, and more probably the prospect of a good run-ashore, ensured that the party selected to make the long trip down from Faslane was very much selected from the figurative (and in many cases, actual) First XV. The Captain, First Lieutenant, Pusser, Doctor, Navigator and Warrant Officer Coxswain were numbered in our merry band and were ably supported by a motley assortment of the ship’s company, selected on the basis of availability, rather than presentability, sporting ability or social ability. Like all submariners, they were at their best in adversity and rose to the occasion in magnificent style.

Unfortunately, the parsimonious nature of the subsistence regulations and dearth of funds in the travel budget meant we were reduced to staying in fairly austere conditions, some 15 miles from the centre of town, as guests of our light blue brethren. The Officers’ mess was like many one finds in the Air Force, with both building and occupants totally lacking in character. The accommodation allocated to the ship’s company was another matter entirely. It was a well camouflaged and nuclear hardened bunker, a cold-war throwback which went under the highly impressive name of the Alternative War Operations Centre. Equipped with an elaborate communications fit and racks of bunks reminiscent of an empty bomb shop, it was a real home from home for tired and emotional submariners.

As it was our inaugural visit, the range of presentations, receptions, luncheons, dinners and speaking engagements that we were invited to attend would have overwhelmed an entire SM Squadron, let alone a select few from a single boat. With all sorts of generous invitations received from a wide cross section of the local populace, we were forced to politely refuse many tempting offers and some interesting proposals were filed away as ‘possibles’ for our next visit. Unsurprisingly, one of the visits that successfully made the short list was a guided tour of the local brewery. We were given a fascinating insight into the brewers’ craft and were shown all manner of extremely shiny pipework, to the delight of the back-afties and eventually ended up in the bar, to the delight of everyone else. The ales made available for tasting were impressively varied and ranged from ‘strong’ through ‘dangerously strong’ to some which you could stand a spoon up in and light bonfires with. The girls behind the bar were delighted to be presented with a boat’s crest and awarded their honorary dolphins in gratitude for an interesting and informative tour. This entirely altruistic act may have indirectly contributed to the Herculean amount of free beer munificently offered and gratefully consumed. When we finally left, weighed down with brewery gizzits and crates of Suffolk’s finest ale, pursued by the extremely generous brewery staff trying to press yet more goodies on us, we were feeling little, if any pain.

Perhaps it was enthusiastically naïve to schedule a representative football match in the slot immediately after the brewery. It was possibly even more naïve to invite the mayor and advertise it on local radio, and downright foolish to have forgotten the boat’s brand new football kit. It was therefore a very strangely dressed team, most of them aficionados of the oval rather than the round ball game, who took to the field somewhat later than planned to face the extremely young, fit and talented team from the local soccer school of excellence. This was one occasion when enthusiasm was unable to triumph over skill and the final score resembled Ladbrokes odds on Elvis, Marilyn Monroe and Glen Miller being discovered alive and well on the same day. Having narrowly made it to the final whistle intact, we cleaned back into our finery and headed for our next engagement at the British Legion, where we were hosted in fine style. In common with the members of all RNAs and Retired Servicemen’s Clubs, anywhere in the world, everyone without exception was unshakably convinced that all sailors, regardless of generation, rate, rank or age have an all-embracing love of, and inexhaustible capacity for rum. With some outstanding and fairly humbling wartime dits ringing in our ears, and now somewhat the worse for wear, although still smartly turned out in full number one uniform, we made our way to the nearest public house. The run ashore that followed was the stuff of legend, as still ably led by our Captain, we cut a swathe through the alehouses of the town spreading bonhomie, ship’s crests and zap stickers wherever we went. This continued well into the night and culminated in the command team and a substantial part of the ship’s company of a quarter of the UK’s nuclear deterrent ‘shaking a wicked hoof’ in the local nightclub until the early hours.

Having returned on board the RAF base just as the sunrise of truth seared into rum-soaked and bloodshot eyes, the last surviving stragglers of the previous night’s monumental run ashore made their way gingerly into the mess, only to receive glares of utter, unbridled vitriol from the assorted slug-balancers who were already enjoying their breakfast. We looked each other over, and although our uniforms were not quite up to Admiral’s Rounds standards, our slightly dishevelled appearance did not merit the ‘daggers’ we were getting. After we had endured breakfast in disapproving silence, one of our number elected to ‘investigate this case himself’ and discovered the awful truth.

It turned out that the bulk of the ship’s company had preceded us back, arriving well after midnight and in high spirits following the day’s excitement. They successfully negotiated the blast doors at the entrance to the Alternative War Operations Centre and were about to turn in when something in the corner of the bunker caught their eye: an impressive and well equipped communications console, intended to be used in the event of a dire emergency, but strangely reminiscent of a submarine ship control console. Meanwhile, throughout the camp, the brave boys of the Royal Air Force were sleeping peacefully, recharging their batteries for a busy Thursday forenoon’s work before going on weekend leave. Their peaceful slumber was rudely shattered by main broadcast. ‘Stand by to surface, drain down and open one, two, three, four and five LP master blows, line up vent state yellow, prepare the blowers for running.’

Temptation had proved too much, and oblivious to the fact that their pipes could be heard not just in their accommodation as they thought, but all over the camp, they had launched into some impromptu ship control team training. Heartened by the success of the initial drill and having only recently returned from a lengthy period of work up at the tender mercies of Captain Submarine Sea Training, the boys really got into the swing of things and conducted all manner of evolutions. They dived, surfaced routinely on both LP and HP blows and in emergency; they went deep for fishing vessels, had collisions forward, midships and aft; the reactor was scrammed and flashed up again; Otto fuel leaked, hydraulics burst and electrical supplies failed; planes were jammed and operated in air emergency and they were brought to Action Stations (missile and torpedo) numerous times.

Unbeknown to them, a fairly sizable crowd of irate crabs had now gathered outside their temporary accommodation. Walls several feet thick, and doors built to withstand the best the Soviets could throw at them are not in any way conducive to being communicated through and those outside were unable to vent their wrath on those inside. The zenith of the attempts to alert our intrepid sailors to their wider than intended audience fortunately coincided with the onset of fatigue and the pipe was made ‘fall out from harbour stations, harbour cotter one, two port, three, four, five port and six main vents, sea cotter two and five starboard main vents, there is no access to the casing’ and they retired to their racks, weary, happy and still utterly unaware of the commotion they had caused. The next morning, they were accosted at a fairly early stage by a sleep-deprived and indignant Flight Sergeant, who berated them at some length over their conduct. One of the more optimistic fore-ends Leading Hands, having made numerous very submarine specific pipes, still dressed in number one uniform with dolphins to the fore, and being beyond any doubt whatsoever the only submariners for hundreds of miles in any direction, came up with the excuse that ‘it wasn’t us’. Eventually news of the debacle reached the more senior members of the visiting party, and cogniscent of the fact that our boys were as guilty as a puppy sitting next to a pile of poo, it was with heavy hearts that we made our way to the guardroom, to find a conscientious and alert young Flight Lieutenant (if such a thing exists) had transcribed all pipes verbatim. He seemed most aggravated and waved this painstakingly produced document, which ran to several pages, under our noses. The First Lieutenant stepped forward and with a deadpan expression carefully examined the offending document. Slowly shaking his head, he informed the hapless young duty officer that submarine operating procedures were classified to a stratospheric level that he was obviously not cleared for and, having duly confiscated the evidence, we beat a hasty retreat to the wilds of Scotland.

Fortunately, our Captain saw the funny side and took some solace in the fact that all the Emergency Operating Procedures were correctly carried out. Ruffled RAF feathers were smoothed by a placatory letter, but on every subsequent affiliated town visit, all accommodation at RAF Nonsuch was strangely full.
 
That was beyond epic. Thanks @Ravers for sharing!
 

Londo

LE
@Ravers The wife is looking across the room at me asking why I am shaking with laughter . Thanks for the dit it made my day :D
 

Auld-Yin

ADC
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
Reviews Editor
@Ravers I appreciate you saying this dit was "borrowed" but this, along with others you have posted, are lending themselves towards a book? N'est-ce pas?

The tales of Stumpy as related by @Auld_Sapper spring to mind as somewhat similar, although AS admitted his guilt in being part of and often instigator of his stories.
 
That dit is true, albeit from the 80s and an R Class SSBN, not a V Boat!
 

jrwlynch

LE
Book Reviewer
Not my dit, stolen from Facebook but I had to share.........

Yeah, laughing so hard that you blow hot coffee out through your nose turned out not to be a good idea. Who knew?
 

Ravers

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
Matelots of a certain age may remember “Shovelface.”

Now I need to make it clear that I joined in 2001 which was a while after he’d retired, but his legacy was well and truly still alive on every parade square in the Navy.

Shovelface was so called because he had a face like a shovel. The biggest square jaw you’d ever seen in your life and he spoke with a strange affected accent, a bit like Sean Connery, “he shaid his eshes with an h.” He was the gunnery officer at HMS Collingwood but also served in a few other establishments. Pretty much every cliched bit of parade square, gunner banter first came out of Shovelface’s face.

The man was terrifying and would think nothing of trooping a young sailor for the slightest misdeed. It was recounted to me that an oppo suffering the after effects of a nasty motorcycle crash and wearing a sling and neck brace once got rifted by him for not being on parade.

“And whatsh your excushe for not being in the shqaure today shunshine?”

Shovelface did have a funny side though (or maybe he was just a lunatic?) and could often be seen marching down Fareham high street in civvies.

And since you liked the last dit I rustled off Facebook, here’s another….

Shovelface Dit:
Guzz Field Gun 80’s and it’s the crew fancy dress night out, two lads go as a pantomime cow. Late that night ‘the cow’ is on the dance floor in BOOBS on the strip bumping into everyone, spilling drinks and basically making a nuisance of itself etc but we all get pissed and disappear.

Me and this other matelot have gone out dressed as Roman soldiers and got all night in with these two grommet strops from Mutley Plain in Guzz. We get a taxi back to HMS Drake and as we pull up, another taxi pulls up behind us and the two lads as ‘the cow’ get out. So just round the corner from Drake main gate they get back into the outfit as the cow. We run into Drake main gate and say to Barrack Guard [who are sitting there ROMFTing on a Sunday morning] ‘come and watch this’. So they boredly amble out as black and white pantomime cow tramps into the vehicle entrance. There’s a sprog on the gate whose face is a fukn picture to behold and he has no idea what to do. As the cow gets close to him, the SR of the Barrack Guard screams ‘stop that intruder.’ Baby matelot shats himself but comes smartly to attention, holds up his hand [palm outwards] and shouts in a very authorative voice [which belies his pimples, bumbluff and 17 years] “HALT – Identify yourself !”

There’s a bit of a pause and a hand appears out the side of the ‘cow’ costume holding a blue pussers ID card. Everyone is pissing themselves laughing. The kid stands to the side and says “pass.” The ‘cow’ tramps off down the hill towards Field Gun block.

Shovelface was Barrack Guard officer. He shouldn’t have been in on Sunday but he was, I don’t know why. Suddenly he comes around the corner and views the scene – a terrified and non-plussed junior, the Barrack Guard rolling around laughing, two Roman soldiers and a pantomime cow. He almost went completely apoplectic!

But all he screams is “get that ******* cow in ssshhhtep!” ‘The cow’ shouts back ‘front legs in step or back legs in step sir?’

Shovelface shouts back “just get in ssshhhtep or I’m having steak for dinner!” Then he stalks off screaming at some matelot on a pushbike about 2 nautical miles away.
Safeguard. Hurrah for the life of a Sailor!
 
Last edited:

Rab_C

LE
Matelots of a certain age may remember “Shovelface.”

Now I need to make it clear that I joined in 2001 which was a while after he’d retired, but his legacy was well and truly still alive on every parade square in the Navy.

Shovelface was so called because he had a face like a shovel. The biggest square jaw you’d ever seen in your life and he spoke with a strange afflicted accent, a bit like Sean Connery, “he shaid his eshes with an h.” He was the gunnery officer at HMS Collingwood but also served in a few other establishments. Pretty much every cliched bit of parade square, gunner banter first came out of Shovelface’s face.

The man was terrifying and would think nothing of trooping a young sailor for the slightest misdeed. It was recounted to me that an oppo suffering the after effects of a nasty motorcycle crash and wearing a sling and neck brace once got rifted by him for not being on parade.

“And whatsh your excushe for not being in the shqaure today shunshine?”

Shovelface did have a funny side though (or maybe he was just a lunatic?) and could often be seen marching down Fareham high street in civvies.

And since you liked the last dit I rustled off Facebook, here’s another….

Shovelface Dit:
Guzz Field Gun 80’s and it’s the crew fancy dress night out, two lads go as a pantomime cow. Late that night ‘the cow’ is on the dance floor in BOOBS on the strip bumping into everyone, spilling drinks and basically making a nuisance of itself etc but we all get pissed and disappear.

Me and this other matelot have gone out dressed as Roman soldiers and got all night in with these two grommet strops from Mutley Plain in Guzz. We get a taxi back to HMS Drake and as we pull up, another taxi pulls up behind us and the two lads as ‘the cow’ get out. So just round the corner from Drake main gate they get back into the outfit as the cow. We run into Drake main gate and say to Barrack Guard [who are sitting there ROMFTing on a Sunday morning] ‘come and watch this’. So they boredly amble out as black and white pantomime cow tramps into the vehicle entrance. There’s a sprog on the gate whose face is a fukn picture to behold and he has no idea what to do. As the cow gets close to him, the SR of the Barrack Guard screams ‘stop that intruder.’ Baby matelot shats himself but comes smartly to attention, holds up his hand [palm outwards] and shouts in a very authorative voice [which belies his pimples, bumbluff and 17 years] “HALT – Identify yourself !”

There’s a bit of a pause and a hand appears out the side of the ‘cow’ costume holding a blue pussers ID card. Everyone is pissing themselves laughing. The kid stands to the side and says “pass.” The ‘cow’ tramps off down the hill towards Field Gun block.

Shovelface was Barrack Guard officer. He shouldn’t have been in on Sunday but he was, I don’t know why. Suddenly he comes around the corner and views the scene – a terrified and non-plussed junior, the Barrack Guard rolling around laughing, two Roman soldiers and a pantomime cow. He almost went completely apoplectic!

But all he screams is “get that ******* cow in ssshhhtep!” ‘The cow’ shouts back ‘front legs in step or back legs in step sir?’

Shovelface shouts back “just get in ssshhhtep or I’m having steak for dinner!” Then he stalks off screaming at some matelot on a pushbike about 2 nautical miles away.
Safeguard. Hurrah for the life of a Sailor!
Ravers having been in shovelfaces domain for most of my training (4 years) I am afraid I have to disagree with your statement of him trooping people at the drop of a hat. I do know a few who worked for him and although he was a tad eccentric and a stickler for the rules he wasn’t someone to rely on the Joss/table.
The cow dit you posted may be a dit but sums up what I knew of his sense of humour.
 

Ravers

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
Ravers having been in shovelfaces domain for most of my training (4 years) I am afraid I have to disagree with your statement of him trooping people at the drop of a hat. I do know a few who worked for him and although he was a tad eccentric and a stickler for the rules he wasn’t someone to rely on the Joss/table.
The cow dit you posted may be a dit but sums up what I knew of his sense of humour.
Must’ve been one of those dits that just spiralled once he left. The myth became bigger than the man.

Even in the early 2000s people still spoke about him and span dits about him. We were often told things like “Shovelface would never have let you get away with this.”

They say the Navy never remembers people once they leave, but in his case he certainly made his mark.
 
I heard stories of a Warrant Gunner who’s life work was to try and get the seagulls to walk in step outside his office in DRAKE.
 

Joker62

ADC
Book Reviewer
We really do need a "Glossary of Terms" for some of these dits, it's like a new language. WTF is ROMFTing?
 
We really do need a "Glossary of Terms" for some of these dits, it's like a new language. WTF is ROMFTing?
ROMFT stands for Roll On My Fúcking Time. The T once used to stand for Twelve in days gone by when matelots signed on for 12 years instead of 22 years. It is an expression that is basically used when someone is really 'threaders' or pissed off.

 

Hairy-boab

Old-Salt
One of the more optimistic fore-ends Leading Hands, having made numerous very submarine specific pipes, still dressed in number one uniform with dolphins to the fore, and being beyond any doubt whatsoever the only submariners for hundreds of miles in any direction, came up with the excuse that ‘it wasn’t us’.

Ah yes, an old favourite. Many years ago, I was in a city centre flat with (amongst others) a TA captain medic. Refreshments had been taken, and the evenings sport was the launching of water bombs, eggs etc from the 5th floor at the revellers below. A particular favourite target was the cash machine and club directly below.

We were soon practically under siege, with angry blokes kicking on various flat doors, and of course the police on the way. Eventually the knock on the door, "Police! Open up!"

Captain twat has a brainwave. Into the doctor's blues he goes, silly hat, facemask and all. The door is answered:

Feigning surprise, he coolly says: "Good evening officers, what seems to be the problem?". A highly convincing picture, except for the fact that it is 1 a.m., he can barely stand, and is holding onto the wall for support.

"We've had reports of objects being thrown from this address."

A long pause, while drunken thoughts are collected. The sound of giggling increasing in the background. The immortal words are spoken:

"Well officer, it wasn't us. I've got an operation in the morning!"

It did not end well.
 

philc

LE
We really do need a "Glossary of Terms" for some of these dits, it's like a new language. WTF is ROMFTing?

Back in Collingwood in the 80s Tiswas the go to program Saturday Morning, it had Sally James and for a while she wore cap tallies around her thigh if sent in by young sailors. One morning she reads out a letter from some 3 Badge gunner, along the lines off Dear Sally can I get a mention as I am ROMFT and just cant wait till I get out.

Queue much laughing around the home fleet and puzzled faces on Tiswas, that may of been the last of that fun.


ROMFT Roll on my ******* Time.
 

Ravers

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
I was explaining the meaning of RDP to someone at work the other day.

When a ship is going into refit or being scrapped it goes into a “Run Down Period” first.

This means it doesn’t go to sea and the weeks leading up to the refit are generally a doss, with the bulk of work being geared up to removing stuff from the ship. During this period various crew members will also **** off to join other ships or go on course.

People can also be RDP. If you’re about to leave the ship, there is no point starting any new work and your last few weeks onboard are generally considered to be tabs out and easy. No one bothers hassling you because they know they probably won’t see you again.

Civvies working in an office job could relate to this on the run up to Christmas. **** all gets done in December and it’s usually just a month of going on the piss.

Another Naval term for the lexicon.
 
GIs in particular are a special breed. @Ravers may have come across the PO(M) on the parade staff at RALEIGH who referred to everyone as weirdos and looked after all the tropical fish in all the blocks when not screaming abuse at New Entry divisions on the parade ground.

I did always think that they had a lot of fun on the quiet though.

The scene, BRNC parade ground. Snow drifting down increasingly heavily, the deck icy as you like, 2 weeks to Christmas passing out. Even by the standards of the RN, the drill was embarrassing, people sliding all over the place.

Senior Sub on the bridge 'March on the Colour'

On comes the guard, RM band giving it all Heart of Oak and trying to be the tiddliest thing on a shambolic parade ground. When they get to their designated position they crash to a halt. No1 platoon guard officer staggering on the ice. His LH marker actually went down, hurling his SA80 backwards over his shoulder. An inch to the left and he'd have bayonetted the man behind through the face.

Increasingly purple faced WO1(M) up on the bridge:

'what the f*** are you mincers f****** mincing about for? It's just a bit of water, and you OC ******** better not have f**** that f****** rifle. With your face. I don't want to have to write to Billy Smart's circus and tell him I've got his clowns here and can he come to collect them.'

'Chief W********* [to the Chief GI the other side of the parade ground by the mainmast] get these f******* clowns off my parade ground.'

'Sir. Clowns, by the centre, quick march....'
 

Gone2ratshat

Old-Salt
Must’ve been one of those dits that just spiralled once he left. The myth became bigger than the man.

Even in the early 2000s people still spoke about him and span dits about him. We were often told things like “Shovelface would never have let you get away with this.”

They say the Navy never remembers people once they leave, but in his case he certainly made his mark.
I sent a copy of that dit to a Matelot mate thinking it was after his time but here's his reply....

"I have some great dits on Shovel face, LT Andrews. He was at Raleigh when I joined in 83, he was at Collingwood in 84 shortly before I finished training and he was also my Divisional Officer in Drake as Barack Guard around 89.

An absolute legend.

And that dit, although not one I have heard, or may have forgotten fits his personality and also the way he shpoke perfectly "
 

philc

LE
Ah POGIs &CPOGIs are thankfully a rare bred.

When I was a young Tiff at Fisgard we had a Chief who was responsible for teaching young apprentices how to march straight, left from right and which end of an SLR went bang. He had run most of us around the parade ground, rifle aloft shouting out what ever obscenity he felt appropriate, pulled apart are pressed uniforms and generally been a pain.

He lived in a small brick armoury with shagged out SLRs, some Bren Guns and empty boxes of ammo. Some how it was learnt it was his birthday and the word went out amongst all classes for floggies, floggies were porn magazines, a rare commodity at the arse end of Torpoint. However a large collection was amassed and the plan was set to. His whole armoury was wallpapered with glue and smut. This was in the days of hairy pie and proper tits. Windows, walls and the only door.

Come 07.55 600 Tiffs were all hidden behind various buildings awaiting the great man, waiting for the melt down of melt downs, he marched around and looked up at the road and ............................ roared with laughter, he thought it was a great prank, one he mentioned large when he was dined out on to pastures new.

He still made the closest Tiffs clean it all off though.
 

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