It is over twenty five years since I left the Forces, and since then I am assure that things have changed immensely in the Navy and the Royal Marines. Women now go to sea. Even some places where I served will have been closed and changed completely. For example I spent two wonderful years based at HMS Daedalus at Lee on Solent which is now closed. While I was there I was serving HMS Collingwood, HMS Sultan and HMS Centurion. HMS Sultan was the big base for training future mechanical engineers (stokers), and HMS Collingwood was a massive base for electrical engineers. HMS Centurion was the main administrative arm of the Navy and it is here that I received my leaving papers and pension.
What drew me to the Navy was the sea and the possibility to travel and see the world. Over the years I did this but it wasn't just this and the gin and tonics! Every appointment was different and challenging and as chaplain I was called upon to use my initiative in many varied ways.
I did two tours at sea and the first time was soon after my initial training at Dartmouth. Joining HMS Lindisfarne I was totally involved caring for a small group of men who were busy patrollingthe North Sea in fishery protection. Often we were out in gales while the fishermen took shelter.
Later after spending two years in the new entry establishment, HMS Raleigh and Fishgard (no longer existing) I went to sea again with the Second Flotilla based in Plymouth. But at Raleigh I met with Doctor Michael Everett who introduced me to the HCPT (Handicapped Children's Pilgrim Trust). In those days the pilgrims travelled by train from Waterloo station through to the ferry and then by train down through France. They required a lot of strong volunteers, to lift and move the children with special needs, from the train to the ferry, and then off on to the French trains. So Easter 1980 I took young naval personal, men and women, with Tug Wison and Andy Mac to do the lifting and shifting. This was the start of the Royal Navy's, and later the three Forces, long term association with the HCPT.
It is wonderful to see God’s Divine Providence. I experienced this in 1982. After serving in HMS Raleigh I was assigned to the 2nd Flotilla. In October of 1981 I went to sea with HMS Active and HMS Sheffield on the Gulf Patrol, spending Christmas in Muscat; and visiting Mombasa, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and the Reunion Islands. But on our return to Gibraltar in the spring of 1982, the Argentinians were invading South Georgia. Sheffield and Active were two of the ships sent immediately South to the Falklands. I wanted to go South with them but I was ordered back to the UK so as to take RN personnel to Lourdes.
The rest is history. HMS Sheffield was the first ship to be hit by an exocet missile and twenty men were lost, if my memory serves me right. But what is significant is that the exocet hit amidships, just were my cabin was!! It is possible that I might not have been there in my cabin. But it is wonderful to see how God works and how he is so merciful. Obviously He had further work for me to do! As Saint John Paul II was visiting England I was in HMS Southampton and Birmingham, brand new ships, busy working up at Portland to get ready to go south to the Falkland’s. Once I arrived at the Falklands all hostilities had ceased. I was employed in visiting all three Services over six months giving pastoral assistance.
In the twelve years of service in the RN I was a teacher of RE, a counsellor/confident for men and women in married quarters, parish priest of certain establishments like HMS Faslane, Rosyth and Drake, a fellow sailor or Royal Marine at sea or in the field. Visiting troubled and dangerous places such as Northern Ireland (2 tours), Cyprus with the RM doing UN work, Hong Kong in the New Terrortries, and the Artic.