Steward, one sandwich short of a banquet

A little fuzzy perhaps but here we see Portsdown Hill Road where it meets London Road. The George pub would be on the right behind the soldiers. 'Picture: Barry Cox Collection

NOSTALGIA: PoWs forced to cut height of Portsdown Hill

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I asked for stories from sailors or Wrens who had served in the wardroom in Queen Street opposite HMS Nelson. I received this gem from ex-CPO Russ Withey.

In the 1950s he was a leading hand in the then HMS Victory Barracks’ wardroom.

One benefit officers enjoyed were late-night sandwiches delivered to their cabins.

One day Russ was on duty and responsible for this evening facility.

The drill was for the officer to submit his order on a mess chit with his bar number so the cost was set against his bar bill. Russ had to collect the chits and deliver them to the steward who made up the orders and delivered them.

One sandwich comprised two rounds of bread. A pack of four rounds was two sandwiches.

Russ says: ‘That night I took the chit with the cabin number 70 to the pantry. The steward was new but had been briefed.

‘I told him there was just one chit and when he had done to come to the games room before turning in.’

An hour later the sandwich had not been delivered and Russ ran down to the pantry to find the steward surrounded by a mountain of bread.

‘What on earth are you doing?’ Russ bellowed.

‘Two-hundred-and-eighty slices of bread,’ he replied. ‘I’m never going to get all these buttered in time.’

He had assumed the number 70 was the number of sandwiches required thus 280 slices of bread and butter not to mention the fillings.

Russ said he may have got the job wrong but at least his maths was correct.