My good friend Baz Jefferies, who served 22 years in the Royal Navy, told me a lovely anecdote the other day which I want to share with you.
Perhaps there are one or two former matelots in the area who might just have been on board at the time.
In the 1950s the cruiser HMS Glasgow was anchored in Malta’s Grand Harbour and liberty men were taken ashore for the usual naval ritual after being at sea for some while.
At the end of the evening the liberty boat, with about 50 sailors on board, approached Glasgow. The normal rule was to pipe down as they approached out of respect for others sleeping on board.
But on that evening it was raucous on the boat that returned with the sailors singing and shouting having downed a pint or two.
As they neared the ship the Officer of the Watch, whose name was Gray, called down to the coxswain: ‘Take the boat around the ship until the noise has quietened down.’
As the liberty boat pulled away all the sailors on board started singing the Boer War song ‘Goodbye Dolly I must leave you, though it breaks my heart to go... ’ The officer of the watch was not happy.
As the liberty boat passed around the stern to approach the boarding stairway the matelots started again: ‘Here we are again, happy as can be... ’
The officer went ballistic. ‘Coxswain, take them around again and if they keep this up you’ll be there all night.’
When the liberty boat approached for the third time the sailors had piped down and they were allowed on board.
Naval anecdotes are always appreciated.