Warning sensitive wording.
Late in 1944, HMS King George V moved to Devonport for fourteen-inch gun calibration plus seven days leave for our crew. Then the ship sailed up to Greenock, Scotland, where we ammunitioned ship and took on stores. The British Monarch, King George VI, with Queen Elizabeth, Princess Elizabeth (who is now the present Queen), Princess Margaret, and the Deputy Prime Minister, Clement Attlee visited the ship. We properly trained young seamen formed the guard of honour. I have nothing much to say about Greenock, as no one was allowed ashore except ‘Bona Fide Natives.’ KGV sailed for the Far East on 29 October 1944. Our first port of call was Gibraltar, mainly to take on fuel. Our next port of call was Malta, GC, where something definitely went wrong. There was plenty of activity ashore, mainly in the area called the ‘Gut’, Strata Stretta, or Straight Street, which was full of bawdy houses, bars and eateries. At one of the bars called the ‘QE’, Bobby and Sugar, two Spanish dancers, strutted their stuff. I returned on board ship with other sailors in a ‘dghaisa’ (a Maltese one-man rowing boat, similar to a gondola.) My run ashore cost me a torn shirt, my cap, and a shoe. When asked by the duty officer if I’d had a good time, I replied, “My bloody oath, I did.” “Well, young lad, you can swear on oath at the Commander’s defaulters table tomorrow,” he replied. I was quickly learning about what goes on in the rest of the world and was awarded seven days’ stoppage of leave and pay to assist my education. (Twenty years later when I was in Gibraltar serving on my last ship, HMS Maryland, I again met Sugar, one of the Spanish performers, at the small watering hole called ‘The Sugar Bar.’) The activities we were involved in during our stay in the Mediterranean were not worth mentioning, apart from the fact that the fastest speed I recall HMS King George V doing was after our bombardment of the German gun emplacements at Melos (or Milos.) We were close to shore having a look-see when we were *Out of the frying pan and into the fire. when Gerry opened up and we were straddled by shellfire. I was not amused as I observed it all from my action station on the ADP (Air Defence Position). After a further whacking, the German garrison surrendered.
Our stay in Alexandria, Egypt was enjoyable. The canteen at the Services Club was super. Near the jetty, a dead dog floated upside down with his legs up, all bloated and smelly. After avoiding it for a couple of days, my duty as the bowman of the ship’s motor cutter gave me a chance to despatch it with a jab from my boat hook. It exploded. The ensuing smell was probably worse than the pig market smell in Jordan Road, Hong Kong on a warm day, but the fish enjoyed eating the thousands of little white squiggly things. Alexandria, Egypt, more commonly referred to as ‘Alex,’ was very diverse in the area of entertainment. This ranged from naughty postcards to absolute obscenities. I must admit that as a young sailor, curiosity got the better of me. I found a poorly printed locally- produced publication doing the rounds of the mess decks. The titles left little to the imagination. ‘The Naughty Countess’ was one and the other, ‘The Autobiography of a Flea.’ The eye-opening information contained in these very naughty books absolutely amazed me. In the Navy, these sorts of books were referred to as Alex AFO’s (Admiralty fleet orders.) Many tales have been recounted about a peculiar staged performance (which I hasten to admit I would never have seen) supposedly taking place between a very large woman and a donkey. War veterans have enjoyed many good laughs at reunions when the fabricated telegrams from an Alex Madam were read, stating, for example, “It is with regret that I inform you of the passing of the internationally-acclaimed donkey, ‘Lord Hee Whore’ aged fifty-one years, signed Fatima Omar, Madame, Sister Street, Alexandria, Egypt”. This was usually followed by some drunken twit stating, “Cor blimey! That bloody donkey led a long and fruitful life.”
To advise that Vest (Les Bowyer) passed away this morning. Regards, Chris (Son).
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