with HMS Euryalus and Lancashire Fusiliers
The long and winding road that led to Bury, for one old
This missive has been undertaken by invitation from Mr Dennis Laverick
- so on his head be it. My history of writing is, well, non-existent.Ask
my wife Lynda, and she would tell you that to get an idea of where I was
in the world, her only hope was to send self-addressed envelopes with
tick boxes for the answers.
So, on that precarious footing, let's begin. I left the Royal Navy a long
time ago, in fact the year was 1973 - hell it is a long time ago. I had
joined in early '66 at HMS Raleigh and after training I, along with five
other Junior Stokers, were drafted to Her Majesty's Ship Euryalus.
This ship was to become my home for the next two and half years and is
why I'm writing this little story. Having joined Euryalus, part of the
routine was to be given a welcome lecture that included the past histories
of the ships that bore the name Euryalus. Here we learnt that Euryalus
had been an effective part of Nelson's victory at Trafalgar, but to me
the most interesting part was Euryalus at Gallipoli.
I'm not going into any detail of that ill-founded campaign, as we all
know the history too well, but what did indeed intrigue me, and does to
this very day, was the association between two distinct arms of military
service. The two; the Lancashire Fusiliers and HMS Euryalus are forever
joined with a truly epic story that combines fellowship and camaraderie,
shared by the ship and regiment earned at 'W' beach in April 1915.
We move on a little for my first introduction to a real, live Fusilier.
First though we are sent to Portland to workup the ship, playing war,
and various other kinds of exercises to get us up to speed for the planned
deployments, we thankfully pass with flying colours. So, we set off home
to Guzz (Devonport) for bit of leave for both watches, before we were
deployed for the NATO Squadron where we become Captain 'D'.
A day or two before we sail, we have a surprise! Low and behold a fellow
arrives at the bottom of the gangway dressed in a khaki uniform, a beret
with yellow chicken feathers - apologies - primrose hackle, behind his
This apparition in green was surely lost.But no, he shouts up to the Quartermaster
(the bloke who stands at the top of the gangway) "Is this Euryalus?"
Now on both sides of the gangway in hellish big letters, it clearly says
HMS Euryalus.The Quartermaster, one Leading Seaman Barnett,is known throughout
the fleet to be 'a bit of a lad' (actually, I don't think the words to
describe this reprobate are allowed on a family-orientated site)."No
mate, she's berthed over the other side of Eagle."So, poor Paddy
Carroll, Colonel's Bugler extraordinaire, sets off for another mile hike
before it finally clicks - he's been had.
Now, I thought Matelots were very proficient in swear words, but dear
me! We learnt one or two that day from one very irate Fusilier.Nevertheless,
he got settled onboard down the Forward Sailor's Mess - poor sod.Not only
had he been put up the 'sharp bit', where you feel every bit of motion
the ship could throw at you, but he had to 'mess' with the untamed elements
of the ship'scompany:TheGunners.
The deployment itself was a cracker.As I've said, NATO Squadron, with
visits to Norway; Harstad, Tromso and Bodo. We had a stop off in Iceland
- a very grim time in Reykjavik, but then after crossing the water, we
came alongside in Newport, Rhode Island.
Our next stop was Canada, to Montreal for two weeks visiting the EXPO67
World's Fair. Thefair had been intended to be held in Moscow, so that
the Soviet Union could celebrate the Russian Revolution's 50th anniversary.
For whatever reason, the Soviets had decided to cancel, and so we found
ourselves in Canada having a great time. Next for us was a visit to Halifax,
Nova Scotia andthen St John's, Newfoundland to pick up the Royal Yacht
to escort her across the Atlantic back to Blighty. Guzz for us, Pompey
for the Royal Yacht.
So back to our Fusilier, from what we learned
later, Paddy Carroll being onboard was the Skipper's idea.Being a big
ship enthusiast, four-ring Captain and all that, thought it would be
a tremendously good idea to have a Bugler to salute other ships and
to play at sunset. A fine idea, but the notion to bugle the Hands from
their slumbers at 0610 of a morningwas not a good one and not well received
below deck. Under normal wakeup routine this was done via the Bosun's
call, a kind of whistle with a distinct sound that had been successfully
in use to send orders around the ship for hundreds of years.
The Euryalus is by this time heading up the Channel andaiming for the
North Sea, to meet with the rest of the Squadron. All is tickety-boo."Steady
steaming", as we say.Yours truly,is on the middle watch, which
runs from 2355 to 0400. Not Ideal, but part of the job. It's the same
at the end of each watch; bath and "dohbi" (washing your smalls)
and into my pit.Ah, bliss!
But what's this? Oh god, I hear it still! Above my head, maybe a foot
away from my earhole is a speaker. Suddenly, without warning a call
to the Hands blurts out over the ship's Tannoy via the medium of bugle.It's
a Tom and Jerry moment, as I'm hovering 6 inches off my mattress, wide-eyed
and heart racing.Literally, the whole ship's company is awake and running
around in a panic. Most of the old Hands are convinced that it meansaction
stations and we are under attack from the 'Russkies'.
Fusilier Carroll did not call the Hands again with his bloody bugle.
In fact, it went AWOL.This beautiful silver instrument disappeared,
feared to be lying at the bottom of the English Channel. Magically,
however, it reappeared again whenever its duty was needed during daylight
hours.Practice, very sensibly, took place alone and down in the tiller
flat. Despite these mysterious goings-on, Fusilier Carroll had a great
trip and I believe enjoyed it immensely, and from all accounts, when
he wasn't bugling he made a half decent Dabtoe (seaman).
Around June time 1967, or thereabouts, the Euryalus found herself along
with the ship's company and Fusilier Carroll in Halifax, Nova Scotia
for the Canadian Centennial celebrations, after being in Montreal for
the World's Fair and a week in Quebec. This is where my second introduction
to the Lancs. happens.
Unknown to the lads onboard, we were about to be boarded by an element
of unruly ruffians in the form of about 100 squaddies.Perhaps in more
polite terms: a visitation of young, in-transit Fusiliers heading back
to the UK from an exercise in the Caribbean. I think it was Jamaica
(Dennis will put me right, I'm sure). I am still at a loss how they
finished up in Halifax with at least a 24-hour stopover (again maybe
Dennis can fill in the missing bits).
Pycroft was there and says What happened was this. Our return
from Jamaica after Calypso Hop was delayed due to a problem with
one of the engines on the Brittannia Aircraft (civvy airline)
that had arrived to bring us home. We were all packed up and ready
to leave but were instead sent on local leave for a few days whilst
spares to repair the aircraft were flown out from the UK.
We finally departed and our return trip involved a stop in Halifax
to refuel. (on our way out we had stopped at Gander to refuel).
We refueled in Halifax as planned and then taxied out for take
off but had to return to the terminal because the so called '
repaired ' engine was playing up. We were then taken off the aircraft
and spent a few hours in the terminal buildings whilst the aircraft
engine was to be fixed. It turned out however that the engine
was fucked and would take longer to repair than first thought.
We were therefore taken by coach to the Nova Scotia Hotel in central
Halifax where we had an overnight stay.....or was it two? ..can't
remember now. We learnt that the Euryalus was docked in the local
Naval Dock Yard and they invited the LF's to visit them on board.
If memory serves me right Paddy Carol played a bugler call as
we boarded. As Ken says we drank the ship dry and ate all their
food! ???...a great visit
The guys came onboard, drank our few cans of
beer, shared our tots of rum and ate us out of house and home - as squaddies
always do.To be fair, everybody had a great time.
The Lancashire's left for their plane and the UK, and we then left Halifax
for Saint John's, Newfoundland to await Her Majesty's Yacht Britannia,
so we could escort her safely across the Atlantic Ocean, which we duly
did. Britannia carried on to her home port of Pompey and we snuck up
the River Tamar to our home-base of Guzz (a.k.a Oggieland).
After leave for both watches (naval term for everybody) onboard, we
had a few visits to make. We were in Gibraltar for their very raucous
referendum, then ontoAmsterdam. In London, I fell foul of the Skipper
when hecaught me out of rig on the Upper Deck, picked me up for a haircut
and made to report to the Coxswain within the hour. The haircut was
performed by the ship's demon barber and to say you had seen better
hair on bacon would have been a fine compliment. They say there's only
two weeks between a bad and a good haircut, but I beg to differ - I'm
not sure it ever truly recovered. To add insult to follicle injury,
it cost me two-bob for the pleasure.
Soon afterwards, on returning to 'Oggieland', my third encounter with
the Lancashire Fusiliers was to take place.The Friday as we got back,
spirits had been piped: tot time -if you were old enough. Sadly, no
tot for me being a 16-year-old, just a warning to keep off the Mess
Deck unless invited round for a wet of rum.
Sadly, no invitations were forthcoming, but the
Coxswain appeared and thrust a travel warrant to Blackpoolinto my hand
for a long weekend. I wasn't complaining, my Mam and Dad lived there
at this time, so happy days! Three others of my gang have travel warrants
too; we have no idea why the Navy is being so generous (travel warrants
being rarer than rocking horse manure) but the Vegas of the North is
calling.We are then informed we have to be on the 2pm train North.To
top it off, we were to be guests of honour at the Minden Day celebrations
at Weeton Camp. We were none-the-wiser, but Minden Day as you undoubtedly
know, is an anniversary celebrated to commemorate the participation
of certain regiments in the Battle of Minden during the Seven Years'
War in 1759.
So, the four of us are straight into Guzz to
get the beer in and some grub for the train North.We duly arrive Friday
evening and onto my Mam and Dad's. A good couple of days being had,
it was Sunday morning taxi to the Camp in civvies at the gate we are
informed we need to be in such and such block. Instructions were given
by the Sergeant on how to get to the designated room to change into
our uniforms.However, in his detailed directions, the swine never mentioned
we were likely to traverse the hallowed tarmac of the parade square
that belonged to a slight built fellow, with John Lennon glasses, some
of you may know the name: it was Mr Jack Nash.
As the oblivious four, we were innocently making
our way along, when what is best described as a rottweiler,barked some
unintelligible words at us. It would seem when translated from a scream
it meant,"Now chaps, please do remove yourself from this area without
hesitation, for this area isn't the place for you."Being of thick
dispositions the four of us just stood very stiff and very still not
knowing what the hell to do next.
At this point the rottweiler joined us with froth
falling from its mouth. In a kindly, warm gesture of appeasement,one
of our gang put a consoling arm around our erstwhile slobbering hound,
and gently said these immortal words "Calmdown, Sarge!" To
say it was like pouring petrol onto a raging fire, does not do justice
to the scene.Never before have four Matelots moved so bloody fast, out
of sight of this erupting, screaming volcano.
But, for that little incident, the Minden Day
Parade was a great experience.A lovely day with a good lunch and a few
free wets to wash it down. All too soon we were on the train South,
back to Guzz and ultimately back to sea.
On December 4th, 1967 at 1000, we sailed from
Guzz for the Far East part of our deployment and our next date with
the Lancashire Fusiliers. I won't bore you with the finer details, but
visits to Gibraltar, Simonstown (Cape Town, S. Africa), Beira Patrol
(that was as much fun as it sounds)Mauritius, Oz, NZ, then into Hong
Kong.All the old Hands were saying what a great view when entering the
fragrant waters of Hong Kong. Typically, it was truly a grim morning.
Totally fogged-up,not unlike the weather we'd left behind at home. We
literally couldn't see the proverbial hand in front of our faces, but
we could hear the sound of music coming from shoreside.It was our good
friends from 1915, the Guard and Band of the Lancashire Fusiliers waiting
to welcome us into HK.
Having got alongside, one of my first jobs was
to help get power, steam and water onboard having done a quick change
out of my blue suit and into 'ovvies'. On running down the gangway,
I saw a diminutive fellow in khaki drill shorts, not fitting too well,
coming up the way. Oh hell! My stomach lurched.I knew this fellow from
the drill square at Weeton Camp.
There was no hope of retreat, so I proceed looking in any direction
but straight ahead.My disguise appears to be weak but strangely effective.
Feeling sweet relief as I pass by him, and he hasn't copped me, but
then a roar from behind suggests otherwise.Oh lord I'm done! With a
scream that echoes across to Kowloon, "I know you!", finger
pointing, "My parade square,Weeton!"
At this point I'm a wreck. I'm trying to give an excuse, stammering
and looking for help from above. I'm seriously considering throwing
myself into the drink, then I refocus on what he's saying. Am I hearing
this right? I'm not getting the full blast for my indiscretions in Blackpool,
but the offer of a pint that evening.The new territory barracks of the
Fusiliers have sent the ship's company an open invite for a few wets.
As my poor heart steadies in my chest, I decline the kind gesture of
reconciliation and the chance to upset the rottweiler again. Besides,
the wonders of Hong Kong await this very green Baby Stoker.
Four or five weeks later, it's time for the Euryalus to be on her way.
As we are changing into rig for leaving harbour, we are all presented
with a primrose hackle to be worn in our caps above the bow of our cap
tallies for our departure. The date of this historical event 23rd of
As we fall-in on the Upper Deck and look shoreside, also fell-in are
the Ex-Band and Ex-Lancashire Fusiliers.Instead of the primrose hackles
of our comrades, the men of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers stand now,
wearing the red and white hackle, due to the amalgamation of the Fusiliers'
Regiments. On leaving it is tradition for ships to salute the Port Admiral,
this duly done, we receive a signal from the Admiral stating he likes
what he sees, regarding our colourful headdress, but does not want to
see it again. Understood.
On leaving Hong Kong, we have three visits: Japan, Philippines and Singapore
for maintenance and a little rest period, before setting off for the
UK via Wellington, Auckland, Suva, Fiji, Pearl Harbour, Hawaii and San
Diageo, California. There was a place in Mexico too, but the name escapes
me. Next through the Panama Canal and we are now on our side of the
Globe. Anchored in Montego Bay for the Skipper to organize local barbers
onboard for haircuts for all the ship'scompany but sadly no time for
any shore leave.
Soon we are off to the Azores, but no stopping, we have a date to keep.It
is also getting decidedly colder, the rig of the day changed to number
8s from 8a's. Our 8's are light blue shirts and navy-blue drill trousers.Whereas
8a's are shorts and relaxed shirts. As I said, we have a date to keep
1000, 3rd December alongside Davenport naval base.We are nearing the
end of our 12-month deployment, having left Guzz on the 4th December
the year previous.We will have been away from the UK for a year failing
being away for the full 365 days because '68 was a leapyear. We are
now in the western approaches, where in WWI and WWII the battles with
German submarines wereat their highest.
Finally, we round Land's End, past Falmouth, Looe etc, and mid-afternoon
on the 2nd December we anchor in Plymouth Sound.Most of the ship's company's
families are waiting ashore to greet their loved ones.We can see the
Hoe and the lights beyond, but no leave, no visitors until we have all
cleared customs.We can only look and wish we were on land just 300 yards
away. Next morning, very early with dawn still not appearing in the
east, I accompanythe Engineer Officer on the Upper Deck to check the
stern is clear so that the engines could be safely turned and the props
wouldn't be fouled with rope or other such debris.
On completing the task, he asked me to accompany him to the forecastle,
or front-end to you land lubbers.When we approached the very pointed
bit, he turned to this 17-year-old kid and asked me what I saw.What
was I looking at? To which I replied "Plymouth.""No."
he said."The Hoe?" "No. You still haven't got it.One
more guess ME Swift.""Devon?" says me."No, no, no!
You are looking at the best view in the world.You have been away from
these shores 12 months.Nothing you will see, wherever you are, will
be better than this view here this morning." As he looked off into
the distance with watery eyes. I thought, "Aye OK, you soppy sod,
let's get below its bloody freezing!"But, do you know what?He wasn't
far wrong; I was looking at home.
That draws to a close my dealings with the Fusiliers.We were alongside
the wall in Guzz dockyard at precisely 1000 with the Band of the Royal
Marines playing, families on the jetty, lots went on leave, many left
on draft to other ships, then leave.For me it was leave, then back onboard
while Euryalus went into dry dock for a well-earned bottom scrape, repaint
and all-round fettle. Then I was away too to HMS Cochrane in Rosyth,
more ships; HMS Manxman, HMS Sultan, HMS Abdiel and then Cochrane again
but this time to leave the Andrew/Navy and a new challenge.
So, I found myself on Civvy Street and having to adjust to a completely
different way of life. At this time of my life I had been married very
nearly 4 years, so it really was time to grow up and take on the real
responsibility of life. I am very fortunate in having a great lady in
my life, Lynda who has always been my rock and at my shoulder in everything
I have done. She is the mother to my daughter Amy and Granny to my grandson
Arthur, we are a very close unit and very loving and dependent on one
I went to work in the clothing industry, working in factories in South
Yorkshire, then in Nottinghamshire then as the industry moved from these
shores, I found myself working in Portugal, Morocco, Sri Lanka and back
to Hong Kong and to the Philippines forty years after I first visited.
I finally finished with a stint in India. Maybe there is something that
gets into your blood when you "Join the Navy and see the World."Anyway,
now I'm done, retired - sod working for a living!
We have moved forward at a pace, for now it is 2014 and we are nearing
the end of my journey. I am in sight of Bury, in the metropolis of Manchester,
Lancashire - the home of the Lancashire Fusiliers. I receive a message
from an old Euryalus shipmate who has recently started a Facebook page
called "HMS Euryalus Old Oppos". The bloke's name, Dave Dye.The
sea journey I have told, David also lived and sailed it, the rough and
Back to the email, and I quote "Fancy going to Bury for the Gallipoli
100 Commemoration and kind of make a bit of a reunion as well?"
Well, why not. I've never been to see the bright lights of Bury, let's
do it! So, we put out a clarion call to try to get a good turn out to
attend and about thirty of us turned up. As it happened it was a lot
like arriving in HK in '67, but less foggy. We paraded through the town
with a little bit of a swagger, not bad for the first time in nigh on
50 years that we had all been on parade.
That weekend was a defining time for yours truly. I had never, ever
been interested in being involved in anything ex-navy, military, reunions
or anything of the sort. That weekend just clicked though.The whole
event, meeting the lads of the Association, the banter we had, the welcome
from everyone, the parade through the town centre. I don't have the
words to explain, other than it just seemed right.The prodigal sons
couldn't have been more warmly welcomed.
We are now full-blown members of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers Association
(Lancashire). As old Euryalus sailors, we are honoured to be a part
of such a great organisation.We have found our home and we aren't adrift
anymore.The museum holds the ship's bell and other Euryalus memorabilia,
all part o four shared history as past ship's company.The historic events
of 25th April 1915 in the Dardanelles campaign, brought us all together,
and long may we remain united in our quest to keep the memory of those
On November 9th this year, along with David Dye and Peter Hague, I had
the honour and privilege to parade at the Cenotaph on Whitehall, at
the invitation of the Fusiliers Association. This was the ultimate,
nothing will ever better that paradeand to be in the company of Fusilier
Veterans, the number one frontline infantry regiment,was the icing on
the cake. What a day!
Next year, we're looking forward to our next meet up in
Before this ramble closes, I have to thank certain people, who are great
friends to the Euryalus OldOppos group. Steven Fitt words can't explain
all he does for our group - thanks Steve. Dennis Laverick for having
the answers when needed. John Jones - while John was chair of the Association,
we asked if it was possible to be associate members but John give us
the opportunity to be full members and to integrate fully, for that
ruling we will be ever grateful. Joe Eastwood for his historical knowledge
and belief in the Association. Big Lea (as tall as a tree)McGowan for
always making us welcome and being at all our get-togethers.Finally,
the little and large brothers for the hip flask on parade mornings,
and like Lea for always being in attendance.
That's it I think, thank you for reading and have a tot on me if you
managed to get to the end.
Ken (Wally) Swift.