Home > Chips on Shoulders, General > Putting the record straight

Putting the record straight

One morning in August 1969 the 23,000 ton Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessel Regent was proceeding to sea from Portland Harbour for a day of exercises and drills under the auspices of Flag Officer Sea Training (FOST). As the ship approached the Eastern Ship Channel the helm was applied the wrong way (port instead of starboard). The error was noticed in time and corrected with a large amount of starboard helm, and the ship cleared the Eastern Breakwater.

The Master one S E Clench turned and bawled out the 3rd Officer who was standing next to the helmsman. I have used the expression ‘bawled out’ as it better describes the event than ‘reprimand’.

The 3rd Officer said nothing which was wise, although the silence was due to shock rather than judgement. He was also aware of the combined accusatory stares of  about ten pairs of eyes. On the bridge were The Master, either the Chief or First Officer and possibly both, two second officers, two or three Royal Naval Commanders (members of FOST’s staff), a couple of signalmen, a cadet, and  the quartermaster.

For the 3rd Officer remainder of the watch passed uncomfortably  and as is the way with these things he made one or two minor errors all of which were noticed and sharply rebuked, the further five months spent  on the ship were not the happiest .

I was the 3rd Officer and to put the record straight I wasn’t even on the bridge at the time of the incident I had been on my way there to relieve the junior of the 2nd Officers so that he might have breakfast. With unfortunate timing I had entered the wheelhouse (the door was just behind the wheel) just as Captain Clench had cast around for a scapegoat. I remember the surreal experience of walking into the wheel house and  a force 12 bollocking.

At least one of the crowd of people in the wheelhouse must have seen what really happened and in any event the other officers who knew very well that I hadn’t yet taken over the watch could have said something, they didn’t, and at least two of them now have the OBE .

Needless to say this event was not recorded in the deck log book.

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  1. March 20, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    Sometimes, there just ain’t no justice.

  2. March 20, 2011 at 7:31 pm

    No there isn’t, and we shouldn’t expect any. I was just putting the record straight, the internet allows us to do that.

  3. March 20, 2011 at 8:06 pm

    The obvious question, Jazz, is why didn’t anyone say anything?

    You weren’t even there!

    Don’t blame you for wanting to put the record straight.

  4. March 20, 2011 at 11:11 pm

    Actually Araminta I would have been amazed if they had, they were not that sort of people. Unfortunately the way things worked at the time I couldn’t get off the ship because I had signed on the articles and the ship had to go foreign and return to the UK or continental waters before I could give notice and sign off. Which is exactly what happened, this process took about five (very long) months.

  5. March 21, 2011 at 12:40 am

    While you’re in a reminiscent mood, Jazz, I’d love to hear how you made the transition from Naval Officer to 737 pilot. Any chance of a yarn?

  6. March 21, 2011 at 9:50 am

    Maybe I’ll cobble something together tonight instead of watching TV.

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