Doing the Whale Island trot

Hundreds of families were elated after the announcement HMS Invincible could arrive in Portsmouth within a week

THIS WEEK IN 1999: Joy as carrier ordered to return back to base

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You know the song There’s A Hole In My Bucket, in which the singer goes around the world to get back to where he began.

The same type of thing happened to Jim Spurrier on a training course at HMS Excellent, Whale Island

back in 1949.

Would instructors get away with it today? Jim says he was on four-inch gun drill, loading, but he was not the fastest of men. The gunnery instructor (GI) said he was only allowed one mistake, but Jim made two.

With the sweetest of voices, which GIs always have, Jim was told to pick up a 4in shell and double across the parade ground to the chief GI.

Jim lifted the 56lb shell and staggered to the chief, who told him he didn’t want it and to take it to the blacksmith. Doubling to the blacksmith, he was told he didn’t want it either, so take it to the shipwright.

Jim found the shipwright and gave him the good news he had a 4in shell for him. He said he didn’t need a 4in shell that day, best take it back to his instructor.

Jim doubled back to his instructor after running around the whole of Whale island, where he told the instructor no-one needed the shell. The instructor said: ‘No, but you do. Carry on with the gun drill.’

It was a prank played on trainee ratings at the time, but Jim had the last laugh. His class won the Battle Teacher Trophy for the fastest time in 1949.

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