H.M.S. BERWICK

Finally the navy repented and decided to give me a small ship again, so I was drafted to H.M.S.Berwick, being built at Harland & Wolff’s yard in Belfast.  We ended up standing by that ship for ten months before Harlands eventually (and reluctantly) completed their contract.  It was to be my last ship and it was not a happy ship.  The ship itself was OK once we had had it long enough to fix up all of the sloppy work bequeathed to us by some disgruntled Belfast shipyard workers (once we were gone there was nothing on the order books).  The mess was pleasant enough, but the ‘captain’ was a dead-set mongrel.  He went out of his way to make everyone’s life as miserable as he could.  Captain’s Defaulters took up most of his working life.  If he could have declared a state of prohibition on board (and ashore) he would have.  He was almost paranoid about the evils of drink (although he was not averse to knocking back a few himself).  He made my life a misery by trying to destroy my diesel alternators (because he didn’t like the brown smudge that diesel exhaust deposited under the flare of the bows of all Rothesay class frigates).  I don’t know what he had set out to prove, but he would have been one of the most despised skippers in the fleet at that time.  Apparently his grandfather, who ended up as a very senior admiral, was just the opposite and earned the respect of those who served under him.  There was no way that Captain D. A. Dunbar-Nasmith was going to achieve that acclamation.  I had never seriously considered ‘signing on’, but if I had Dunbar-Nasmith would have scuttled any such thoughts.  And so in August 1962 I took the money (and the demob clothes) and ran.  I have never regretted that decision.  I reasoned that if I signed on and left the navy at age 40 I would still have half my working life ahead of me and an awful lot of catching up to do to match those who had entered the work force from school.  Admittedly the navy training and life style gave you some advantages.  In spite of what a lot of people thought I don’t believe that the navy stifled originality (unless you were prepared to let it take over your life completely).  All things considered I think the navy gave me a pretty good launching pad for life in the great outside.  It certainly didn’t do me any harm in NZ society and work situations.

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