AKA. ….Clyde Submarine base (CSB),…… Faslane,….(Plus lots of other names from resident matelots of course!!)
Having previously visited Faslane, once when my Father took me onboard HMS/m Revenge and also as a visit during training from Dolphin, I knew the base a little at least.
It was a very well equipped place, I guess since it was a bit ‘out in the sticks’ and there were a lot of young matelots with little to do if they were waiting for boats to return. The sportsdrome was a great facility….if you were into that sort of thing….which I wasn’t. It had every facility imaginable. There was an exped store where you could borrow equipment to roam around the stunning scenery locally. A dry ski slope, cinema, sailing club (I used that of course!), a shopping arcade and plenty of bars. A total of 5 just for the junior rates!
From top to bottom of the Trident club:
On the top floor there was the guest bar. Intended to be a place to take parents or other special guests. Just a nice quiet and tranquil place.
Next floor down was the main bar / club. This is where any entertainment that was booked appeared. There was an event with live music at least once per week.
Next floor down was the main galley and dining hall and opposite there was the disco bar…..much more about that later
Down another floor to the ground floor and the main shopping arcade, with slops (Naval clothing shop) Naval tailors, bank, post office, Naafi shop and the skittle alley bar.
In the basement was the ‘Hoolie’ bar. This was fairly unique in the RN in that it was a VERY barren room with fairly indestructible furniture and a hole in the wall where drink was served from. It was an all rates bar and in its heyday was used predominantly as a place to really let your hair down. Boats crews just about to go to sea or having just returned used…..and abused ….this place frequently. There was much more latitude given to bad behaviour of all kinds here than anywhere else. Possibly anywhere else in the whole of the Royal Navy at the time.
The ‘inboard’ accommodation was nothing special. Sandford block was the main accommodation for Polaris Junior rates and while I was waiting to be sent to a boat, I was employed in the block office here for a time while awaiting my first ‘boat’. The messdecks themselves were mainly 4 to a cabin partly due to available space since in every mess there was always twice as many lockers as there were beds. This was due to the two crew system of the boats. If you were ‘on crew’ you lived on the boat, but still had a locker ‘inboard’ (ashore in the base). If you were ‘off crew’ you lived ashore of course. This was to change drastically in future years due to security changes and armed guards.
There was of course the usual duty watches to endure and I couldn’t seem to find any way out of them this time. However, as far as I recall, it was mostly just ‘being duty watch’ unless you were fire party. About the only things we had to do was go to secure or slip the moorings of arriving or sailing submarines. However, one facility I forgot to mention which we had on the base was a horse riding club! Unbelievable but true! I think there was about half a dozen horses kept in a paddock at the top of the hill near the sportsdrome, which was fine while they were in their paddock. Matelots being what they are, a great source of fun for drunken colleagues was to release the horses on the way back from a run a shore (night out) then wait for the duty watch to be called to round the damn things up. One thing that Navy training does NOT include is anything to do with horses and despite my charm with ‘Chelsea’ in my early childhood; it was no help with these cantankerous beasties! It took hours to get them in sometimes.
Also during this waiting time I was employed in the 10th submarine squadron offices, which was quite an interesting time too. I was doing some sailing in the Gareloch as well, using the 14’ bosun dinghies which the Navy had everywhere. I was asked to manage the establishments Soling dinghy for a time. There was a sailing club as well with a bar which was being run at the time by a CPO by the name of Bill Raisen. His wife, I am sure she was called Sheila, but that may be stereotypical thinking as she was Australian and they took an extended holiday toAustralia together. This meant that the sailing club bar would not open unless someone could be found to run it. Bill asked if I would do it….so I did.
The opening hours were fairly flexible, especially since the MOD police (MOD PLODS) used to know if I was there stocking the shelves. They used to arrive at the back door and spend most of their shift and a not insubstantial amount of cash in the sailing club bar. If there is one thing most Scots can do well its drinking!
There were several characters who were regulars in the bar at the time. John Toye who was a Scottish television newsreader and his friend Ken ?? Ken was actually a driving instructor so when I decided to learn, I looked no further.
John Toye’s interest in the sailing club stemmed from the fact that he owned an old gaffer wooden sailing vessel, called ‘Moira’, which I enjoyed sailing with him on several occasions. He lived in Clynder on the banks of the Gareloch and his yacht was moored in sight of his lounge. Some weekends I used to sail a bosun dinghy down to Clynder and have a drink with him in the local pub at Clynder, sometimes finishing off onboard his yacht.
While writing this I decided to look John up and was quite horrified to find that he committed suicide in 1992 at his home. A sad loss of a really nice man.
My driving lessons went well with Ken and it seemed no time at all before he put me forward for my test. A lot simpler then than it is now of course. The test centre was in Dumbarton where there was a lady examiner by the name of Miss Blair. She was notorious for failing people and had a particular dislike of young sailors. When it came to my test day, Ken told me on the way to the test centre that she was one of the examiners on duty that day. Oh well, fingers crossed, maybe I wont get her………guess what? Yes I did!
It all went very well up until the point when I had to reverse around a corner. Having successfully completed that, I was about to pull away back onto the main road when I noticed a traffic warden waving and pointing to the car. I wound down the window and he said that we had a flat tyre. Miss Blair just said “drive on”. So I did the rest of the test with a flat rear tyre, much to Ken’s annoyance.
When we arrived back at the test centre, I was asked a few test questions and then she started filling in paperwork which she just passed to me without a word and got out of the car. It was only when I read the papers that I realised I had passed!!! I then helped Ken change the wheel.
Well eventually I was summoned to the dreaded regulating office again and told I was to join HMs/m Repulse. Can’t remember if it was port or starboard crew this time but this is when I found I would be joining as a ‘forendie’ torpedo man.
Security was of course really tight in the submarine as you can imagine with all the nuclear powered and nuclear armed boats which were based there. As any Naval personnel will tell you, it is an offence to go anywhere without your identity card, but in Faslane although this still had to be carried it was next to useless really. A special pass was required to get in the main gate to the main accommodation and admin area. Depending on the colour of the pass, it may or may not get you any further as there was then the squadron offices Naval Technical Department (NTD) , submarine offices and subsequently, further gates to the Polaris berths which were 1 & 2 berths. If you got that far a further pass was still required to get onto a submarine as well as being on the access list at the gangway.
The ‘main’ pass was obviously a photo ID pass with all the necessary details on it, but it also included a small white disc which was actually used in case of a nuclear accident to assess whether a person had been contaminated or not. To get onto a boat a smaller boat & crew specific pass was also required.
Next chapter:- HMS/m Repulse.