The Navy Lark



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Innocence gets corrupted when you grow up. I’ve had to reframe an important childhood memory.

It all came back to me this week because of the visit to Liverpool of the Royal Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, HMS Prince of Wales. Thousands of people went on board over the weekend. It reminded me of the day I went on an aircraft carrier in Liverpool when I was five.

HMS Eagle berthed at the Pier Head exactly fifty years ago. She was there from 27th February until 4th March 1970. This week, to go onboard the new HMS Prince of Wales you need a ticket with an allotted time on it. Back in 1970, things were a bit more informal and in my case, lacking any formality at all.

When the Navy opened the ship for public tours back then, all you had to do was show up and stand in a queue. The morning I got there with my dad, we joined the queue which already had hundreds of people in it. It was clear that we would be waiting a long time.

Now here’s where my child brain and my adult brain see things differently. As a five year old, I clearly remember my dad seeing a sailor walking towards the ship that he recognised. He left me in the queue, ran over and talked to him, as you do with an old mate, then beckoned me over to where they were both standing. The three of us then headed towards the aircraft carrier and went up a different gangplank to the one the public went up, further towards the back of the ship. Once onboard, we walked down various corridors and through bulkheads until we finally joined the front of the public queue on the hangar deck.

So my childhood memory is that, against all odds, out of a crew of more than two and a half thousand, the one sailor that my dad knew, just happened to walk past us in the queue that day, my dad recognised him and he helped us jump the massive queue.

My adult brain now realises that there’s no way my dad knew any of the sailors on HMS Eagle, he’d never been in the Navy!

Money must have changed hands.

Craic on!

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