The Good Ship MV Norland

Short Stories

In the early stages, it was novel, but as time dragged on, it was becoming harder, and harder, to keep the troops amused. We were now, somewhere in the South Atlantic, heading towards a little island, the size of Wales. We were still limited, to two cans of beer per man. The trouble was, that they were only half sized cans. Not a full tinney, at all. Everybody was given a small ticket, which stated, that the bearer was entitled, to two cans of beer.

What everybody did, was, to find out, if there was any remote possibility, that there was someone who didn't want to use his tickets, for that night. That being the case, here he had, right in front of him, a volunteer. Who would ensure that his tickets didn't go to waste.

In the early stages, tickets were given up quite freely , then, they became a source of currency. In the mad scramble that took place some nights, you could get away with it (having extra tickets that is, the chap running the bar, was a Royal Navy P.O., and I don't think he really gave a shit, one way or the other).

Later, we got more sophisticated, and sneaked into where the Battery and Battalion clerks had their offices, typing it out on their machines. Very professional looking, I must say. Rules are rules. You've only broken them, if you get caught. (So technically nobody drank more than two cans). There was a story of how they ordered the beer for the trip down, but I can't remember it exactly. All I know is, that they ordered treble the allocation, that all the other ships got).

We used to get turfed out of the lounges, and have to find a place to party. Whole areas of the ship, or should I say the MV( Motor Vessel) Norland became no go areas. In an attempt to limit the numbers, and keep the noise down, to stop their little party sites from being raided. A group of us found what we thought at the time, to be a brilliant pissup area. It was the Communal showers, located right at the bottom of the Norland, near the bilges. It lasted for quite a while. It had brilliant acoustics. Many a sing song was had there, in the early hours .

That, unfortunately, was our ultimate undoing. What we didn't know at the time, was that the extractors for the showers, had to go virtually the whole length of the vessel, and from obviously bottom, to top. Apparently our singing, was keeping lots of people awake at night, and they wanted it stopped. They just couldn't figure out, where it was coming from.

Every time they followed the echoes in the ducts,it led them round in circles .Finally a few of the songs were recognised as certain individual's party pieces, and the word was put out to pack it in.

By this time Wendy (as he liked to be called) had made his presence known and we would all sing in the forward lounge (which had a piano in it) where he tickled the ivories. He probably wanted to tickle a lot more, but never got the chance.(To my knowledge any way).

We used to have some roaring sing songs, as Wendy was a natural, ( with the piano at any road). All you had to do, was whistle a couple of bars of a song, and he could play the bloody thing. Brilliant. He was, as I've said, called Wendy. But was a gentleman, I must say, he visited Aldershot, when it was all over, collecting for the Royal National Lifeboat Institute. We were all happy to oblige. Not many of us really liked, the time we spent at sea. We didn't mind being splattered all over the countryside, if our parachutes didn't work. But nobody wanted to drown, especially without getting a shot off. Especially, after the near sinking of the fleet, by the Argentine submarines on the way down. Turned out to be a school of whales, and a rather keen lookout.

Nobody would tell us exactly where we were, at any specific time. Even the officers, weren't being told exact details of where we were. It was up to one of the lads, to quite confidently, tell everyone, that we were approaching the Southern hemisphere. He noticed, that the water was draining away down the plug holes a different way. Apparently, in the northern hemisphere it's clockwise, and in the Southern it's anti-clockwise. (I couldn't even see the sink, sometimes, first thing in the mornin,g never mind, which way the water drained off, there are some clever bastards about, I can tell you).

We also spent at lot of time trying to learn Morse Code. Just in case we needed to call on a ship of the Royal Navy, for gun fire support. We managed  to cut it down to bare minimum, of fire control abbreviations. Even then, I only managed about 16 words a minute,(slow) in fact, (very slow). In retrospect ,lucky we had an airforce .

Others became budding poets, card sharks, or experts on fruit machines. This was due, to some individuals of the ship's compliment, having an excess of funds. A couple of days after we sailed, they decided to have a pay parade. People were to turn up at the purser's desk, and sign for an advance of pay, on an aquittance roll. The money being deducted at source, by the army from next month's pay. Fine, great, in principle. One slight problem. Due to the amount of attached arms etc., the pay staff, didn't know everybody. So what they did, was ask you how much you wanted, up to a limit of £200.

The British tom, being a switched on chappie, merely wrote down eight figures, to cover the army number, and then proceeded to write down any name that came in to their heads. At some stage, appearing at the front of all three queues, in some cases. About two days later, there was a ship's tannoy message, asking if anyone who had inadvertently been over-paid. Or perhaps somehow been paid twice, if the case , to please return the money, to the pay office, located at the Purser's office. (Needless to say they were still short of cash, when we landed at Bluebeach 2).

On one of the finer days, we were party to a demonstration firing, of the army's latest weapon. The hand held, man packable, ground to air, anti- aircraft missile. Give the bloke who fired it, his due, he did try to compensate for the roll of the ship. What he forgot was the time delay in pressing the trigger, and the missile actually leaving the launcher.

Still, it was very impressive. He was on the crest of a wave, you might say, when he pulled the trigger, but, as stated, due to the time lapse of about three seconds. The ship had rolled, into a trough again. The missile left the launcher with a loud bang, and a small puff of smoke, and proceeded to travel directly at the sea's surface. Striking a white cap, it bounced. Then, shot off, up into the sky. Heading towards a Sea King, that was cross decking, to HMS Fearless.

Luckily, it had reached it's run out distance, and exploded , to a loud cheer, of all on deck.This, however, did not endear us, to the rest of fleet. We also managed to, whilst firing our small arms, from the ship's stern, to  hit a giant seagull, (sometimes more commonly described as an Albatross). This little incident, then put us at odds with the ships crew, who were now of the opinion, we were all doomed.

Luckily, we weren't.



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