- Francis, Richard
- Post WWII, Humour
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- March 2001 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
I recall this amusing little story as told by my former captain of a large destroyer, from his earlier days during the Korean War (1951-53). My CO was a gunnery officer of the old school, a bluff hearty officer, who could easily drown out all microphone broadcasts as soon as he came up to the bridge and asked for a briefing from the navigator, with his deep booming voice.
Apparently, during the Korean War, he was the gunnery officer of an old wartime Loch Class frigate on the gun line off the Korean Coast. A feature of this campaign was the relative absence of seaborne threat, so ships customarily used to lay a danbuoy to register their position during bombardments of the coast, from which the navigator could accurately determine range and bearing of any target within range. Thus when called upon to provide bombardment or interdiction fire, the ship merely had to steam up to her buoy and open fire with the minimum of preparation, then steam off again before attracting any counter-battery fire from the North Korean Communists.
This Christmas Day it had been decided to dispense with hostile activity and three ships of the frigate squadron had anchored in sight of each other to accord the Holy Day suitable respect. After the usual church services onboard it had been agreed that each ship’s gunnery officer would visit each other’s vessel for mutual collaboration (and hospitality). The senior ship’s boat was to be used to ferry the gunnery officers from ship to ship. All went well until, on passage between the second and junior ship of the squadron, the anchorage suddenly came under fire from enemy mobile batteries on the shore. With shell bursts erupting all around them, each gunnery officer realised that none of the ships would be able to reply effectively until they returned to their ship, and in unison they immediately demanded the cox’n of the motor cutter head for “My ship – over THERE…’. To solve the obvious dilemma, they then hurriedly agreed that the motor cutter should head instead for the NEAREST ship, so that at least one ship could commence returning covering fire, whilst the other officers proceeded with dispatch to their own respective ships.
I understand that appropriate response was promptly forthcoming from the first frigate to get her gunnery officer back onboard, whereupon all ships left the anchorage in a hurry, providentially screened by a seasonal snowstorm. The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away…
My Captain advanced in the Service in due course to become Admiral Commanding Royal Yachts and finally, Governor of Western Australia (a unique distinction this century, as he had joined the Service as a boy seaman in about 1936 and I remember my Buffer telling me that he had scrubbed the port whaler when the CO had scrubbed the starboard!)
LCDR R.J. Francis, RANR