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Jug’s Journeyings

by "Jug" Jones.

During the few occasions that I attended Mendip, I did very little caving (whatever that is). However, recently I'm proud to say, I've done even less.  Nevertheless, I've decided to contact you and let you know how I am wasting time and the taxpayer’s money in just travelling around.

After finishing our refit period at Portsmouth we left for the Scilly Isles.  Arriving there we found the seas too rough to allow the landing of a motor boat, so regrettably we had to leave.  We were all very sorry about this as the flower picking season had just begun. For those who have never heard of this cult - let me explain - that English, French and possibly young ladies from other places of repute gather here to pick tulips: etc.  As one may well imagine, this causes great festivities, being the only, place in the world where the foreman shouts "Come into the garden, Maud".

However, we sadly slipped anchor and shot through to Portland Bill.  Here we did our Working Up exercises for the beginning of the commission.  This includes exercising every dingle piece of equipment and sailor (even me) on board. To give you some idea, I will list a few that come to mind.

Firstly, landing parties (a mild form of assault party).  Men were landed with 24 hour packs, weapons and shovels etc. and fought the Marines the possession of a cliff top.  As the poem goes "Bootneck, Bootneck, can't catch me,” "Who can't?", "You can't!" EEEEEEEE!  Then we took part in an exercise called "Aid to civil power".  We practiced landing complete field kitchens and stores in anticipation of an earth quake or other such civil disaster (such big words!)

We chased submarines. They chased us.  We fired at aircraft and vice versa.  We chased surface raiders and had star shell illumination at night until we were sick of the sound of gunfire.  Abandon ship exercises followed and a team of wreckers joined the ship, throwing smoke bombs around and writing FLOOD on the bulkheads and generally making nuisances of themselves.  My mate got DEAD chalked on his back twice, but still drew his tot of rum.

We exercised with the French fleet (a cowardly bunch in my opinion) and sped on to Plymouth.  We left, escorting a convoy to Scotland, where we were "sunk" by subs four times en route.  We arrived at Rosyth and everyone enjoyed the break and took the chance to visit such notorious places as "The Thistle", "The Black Bull" and the infamous "Fairlies" in Edinburgh.  Incidentally, I organised a caving trip (most foolish; to visit CHARLESTON LIME CAVES, but enough of caving!  We visited Loch Glass where I chased and caught a lamb, but being a lamb and not a sheep, I let it go.  We left here and went further north to the county of Sutherland.  Here we practised bombarding the mainland with live ammunition (to the Englishmen’s delight).  Durness was quite near, so I asked permission to go and have a look at SMOO cave. Permission was refused.  As simple as that.  Two of us then promised to do a caving trip during the middle watch and return on board at 1630, so help us, but permission was again refused.  This time, we demanded a reason (through the official channels and all that).  The reason - "We are afraid you will use this expeditionary training period as a convenient excuse for a pub crawl"

Our next port of call was Aarhus, Denmark.  We found the cost of living quite high here.  Beer was a half to one kroner per half pint bottle, but I averaged twenty bottles a night for the next four nights, then finally slipped into a Horrible state of suspended animation.  (For non Biospeleologist this means a deep kip).  Places of interest to visit in Aarhus are Folkes Park - a sort of glorified Belle Vue or Battersea and a tiny section called the Old City.  Leaving Denmark, we passed on to Sweden ( Sundsvall).

Now, if the cost of living in Denmark was high, in Sweden it leapt to Skyscraper proportions. However, the girls who were tall and blonde, crowded around our ship for all of our four day stay (day and-night). I have seen the midnight sun before, up in the Arctic Circle, but this is the first time I have actually been ashore and found daylight for four days and nights.  As a matter of interest, one finds one finds it very difficult to sleep, yet looking back on it, nobody seemed to feel tired!

After a short break at home for pre-overseas leave we sailed for Gibraltar. Here, Hooray!  Beer was approximately 6d a bottle.  Viva España.  We visited the bullring and I had my first glimpse of the "leetile Spanish donkee" (50cc) fully equipped with double pannier bags and smelly boy.

After Gib and many adventures (did fail to visit St. Michaels mount or grotto) the ship headed for Ajaccio. This is about the largest town on the island of Corsica.  What was it Corsicans were famous for?   Anyway, all the bandits I met were ordinary bandits.  The bandit’s wives (so a naval officer tells me) spend all day making lace. The place was generally filthy - the water had to be analysed before being shipped inboard - and the French were as filthy as ever!  All the sewers were of the open disposal type (they just ran down on to the beaches).

Italy seemed an improvement on France, but here again, the cost of living seemed to have risen considerably (sailor's wages remain stable).  The port we put into was Rapello.  This is a sort of toned down Monte Carlo and Geoff Duke lived here when he rode for M.V.’s.  For my money, it was more like a glorified, souped-up, sunlit Southsea.  The beaches however, were perfect and swimming was the order of the day (nothing more than a delicate paddle for yours truly!)

I actually managed to pack my rucksack and get some leave here.  For potential campers, the water is supposed to be dangerous for English stomachs, but I gulped gallons of it and remained O.K.  Still, that doesn't prove anything, does it?

The sunshine faded so did we, and the seas were once more crashing beneath our bows.  Great schools of dolphins seemed to be racing us beneath the beautiful blue sky.  The flying fish also entertained us with their graceful leaps from wave to wave. Trouble overtook us here.  A sailor went down with appendix trouble. The doc decided not to operate, but make for port.  Majorca was the nearest place, so the victim was landed here.  No leave was granted, but from what I could see of the harbour, the Isle of Love is garbage.