I was primarily employed in the workshop but also manned the simulator during countdown training. My duty watch job was fire PO, driving around in the land rover firefly.
So eventually a place on petty officers course at Collingwood came up. Since we had been living in a married quarter in Helensburgh and we were BOTH being transferred South, we assumed we would be entitled to a married quarter. We were………………..but, by now we had our springer spaniel, Cindy. The married quarters that were being offered were NOT ‘dog quarters’. When I explained that we were both serving personnel and were both going to be serving in the area and that we MUST be accommodated, the answer was, yes, you will be accommodated………get rid of the dog!
Well that wasn’t an option, so we moved in with my Mum and Dad, while we looked for our own property. We eventually decided on a small, unmodernised centre terraced place in Elson Gosport. As I say it was totally UN-modernised and needed everything doing to it. By now I had actually almost completed my PO’s course and there was quite a lot of building expertise in my classmates. One in particular was a plasterer in a past life. He came in extremely handy after I had knocked all the horrible yellow tiles off the kitchen walls along with the cement and plaster behind them. This left the kitchen walls looking like the surface of the moon, but Steve sorted it all out within days.
We paid £18650 for the place and spent a lot more money on it. New kitchen, central heating and hot water system, new doors and windows, stone cladding and decorating throughout of course.
It was all worth it as we ended up staying there for several years. Once I completed my PO’s course, this time achieving the holy grail of mechanicians qualifying marks, I was kept on in Collingwood as instructional staff. Valerie was still in the service certificate office so no problems.
I was teaching basic electrics to classes of newly joined youngsters anything from 16 onwards. They really had only just left their mums. I was responsible for checking their kit to marching them on the parade ground once per week. On occasions even explaining that just because you still have cheques in your cheque book it DOES NOT mean you still have money to spend!! DOH. I still have some class photos which I will put in sometime. Unfortunately I do not remember any of the names now. Maybe someone will enlighten me?
I also managed to do a substantial amount of sailing at this time. Sometimes being part of Collingwood yachts racing crew for cross channel races, but mostly on the Nicholson 55’s out of Hornet. We used to sail from Gosport on a Monday afternoon. Sail train in the Solent. Overnight in Cowes, then cross channel to Cherbourg. This was in the days of duty free goods still, so that was always first priority on arrival. All the ‘55’s’ used to use the same place, run by Monsieur Guerain from a delicatessen style place close to the marina. We used to go in there with a list of the crews requirements and handfuls of mixed currency and cheques. This chap used to calculate what was owed, exchange rates and change in the blink of an eye without the aid of a calculator. He was never wrong and the goods were delivered to the jetty within the hour. Then it was on to one or two of the channel islands for overnight stays before heading back across the channel to clear customs in Poole and again an overnight stay. Back into the Solent past the Needles and into Gosport to complete the weeks round trip.
On one occasion, I was asked to form part of the permanent crew for a Nicholson 55 trip to Majorca. This was actually booked by a Royal Navy ship (name forgotten, but it was grey one) which was going to Majorca anyway, but for some of the crew to sail there on the yacht and then some different personnel to sail back. The itinerary was to sail down to Gibraltar via Vilamoura, then on to Palma where we met the ship and changed crews.
On the way back we stopped in to Almeria. Strange place. The harbour is surrounded by tall rocky cliffs. Apparently the surrounding area was a venue for filming the old ‘spaghetti westerns’ and when you sit in the harbour you can almost imagine the Indians popping up over the cliffs! We befriended a local bar owner……as you do…..who actually invited us out to his ranch, even providing transport etc. unfortunately we did not have time to take up this offer as we were to sail the next day.
Then it was back to Gibraltar again. By now we had some trouble with the engine and had to spend a lot longer there than was originally planned. Although this did not do the program any favours, it did give some of us a chance to take a tour round the ‘lower caves’ in the rock. This is a portion of the caves that is not open to the general public. It is a lot more dangerous I guess, involving a bit of scrambling up and over rocks. At one point crabbing along a very narrow ledge alongside a very deep pool of water. A beautiful place and a very worthwhile experience though.
Eventually we got underway again to get back to UK as quickly as possible. I think we only had one stop on the way back, which was at a port at the southern end of Biscay to prepare for the crossing. Everything was checked and secured. Glass bottles disposed of or well secured etc…. in the end the Bay of Biscay did NOT live up to its feared reputation and we ended up motoring nearly all the way. In fact we motored so much we were I danger of running out of fuel just of l’ouessant. (By Brest). Just as we were discussing the best way to get some help, the wind sprung up from a fair direction to blow us all the way up the channel, past the Needles and into Gosport to await customs clearance.
Eventually, after about a 2 year wait, I started my mechanicians course. I was a member of Mech 25, which was actually one of the last mechanicians courses. Thereafter, becoming artificers courses. It did mean that once I finished I did become an artificer instead of a mechanician…………….much to Fathers delight of course.