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Halifax, Nova Scotia

Mick Pinchen Royal Marine


HMS Sirius relived HMS Londonderry at sea taking the latter’s place with the NATO ‘Standing Naval Force Atlantic’ which had the acronym of STANAVFORLANT. This ‘force’ comprised of ships, on a rotating basis, from the various NATO countries. At this particular time the countries represented were USA, Canada, Holland, Norway, Denmark, West Germany, and, of course the Royal Navy. The Commodore was Dutch, but soon to be replaced by a Canadian. It was said that when either the Dutch or British flew the Commodore’s Pennant; one did a lot of sea time. On the other hand, when the Yanks or Canadians were in charge one seemed to be alongside a lot, particularly on their side of the pond! However memory can be fickle and rumour is rife at sea, particularly when the company is multinational. Our first port of call was Newcastle, and what a great run ashore that place was! Tiffany’s nightclub was the place to go in those days, the lasting memory being the ‘Bird in a Cage’ dancers.

Our next destination was Halifax, Nova Scotia via, the Azores. Whilst on route we encountered the beginnings of a huge Atlantic storm, which had caused some concern with some of the ships in company. While taking on fuel and stores at Ponta Delgada and, after some discussion, it was decided that the majority of the squadron would by-pass the storm and proceed to Halifax by a different route. However the Dutch and the British would steam through the storm and head there direct. When we arrived at Halifax it was icers! In fact it was so cold the sea was steaming off. Sirius had taken a fair battering and many of us had been seasick. The upper-works had orange and brown rust streaks defacing the paintwork, and the Buffer’s Party were particularly busy on arrival. It was the only time I saw water freeze in the bucket before it could be used. We had been alongside for about a week before the ‘also rans’ finally arrived. No rust on their paintwork or broken and bent fittings; no, but they had a lovely suntan, for they had gone via Bermuda!

So, down to business and the changing of Commodores. The Dutch were to had over to the Canadians. A parade took place in a large hanger in the Naval base in Halifax. All the ship’s companies provided a Guard of Honour;we Royals representing Sirius. As the Dutch were handing over to the Canadians, they were out in front separate from the rest. We were lined up on the right flank. To our left was the US Navy then the other nations. The petty officer in charge of the US contingent became indignant hat we, as mere marines were on the right flank, and taking the senior position. He thought that, as he was Navy, and senior to marines that the US Navy should be on the right flank. He approached the DSM, (Detachment Sergeant Major), and remonstrated. Bill Eades eyeballed him from under the peak of his pith helmet and said calmly,

“What you say may or may not be true. However, what is true is that my Corps is older than your country, so piss off and stop wasting my time”.

At that moment the OCRM approached asking if there was a problem. With that, the Petty Officer saluted and returned to his place in a huff

 

 

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