Seafearing Vibes 4

While borne on board PNS DACCA as a watch-keeper, I couldn’t help but notice that the Commanding Officer in particular took great pride in the bakery items, cakes, biscuits et al, churned out by the ship’s galley. On one occasion during Exercise Midlink ’75, while the ship was engaged in replenishment-at-sea, a box of cookies was received from the ship at the other end, which happened to be a US Navy Warship. The CO immediately directed that the gesture be reciprocated, with one of the ship’s own oven-fresh cakes being sent across. Soon after the parcel was received at the other end, pat came the instant ego-deflating signalled response: “Thank you for the sweet bread”.

I had often heard people talk about the wonders of the speaker’s corner in Hyde Park. All an aspiring orator needed was a soap box to plant himself on, and he had all the time in the world (at least till the sun sets) to practise his right of freedom of speech. There were no law enforcers in sight either to curb the speaker’s impetuosity. So when I landed in UK in the summer of 1979 for the PWO Course at HMS DRYAD, it was but natural for me to plan a visit to the famous Hyde Park to see and hear for myself the magic emanating from the speaker’s corner.

 

The most compelling speaker there at the time was a squat, middle-aged balding man, who rambled on and on about his knowing everything there is to know in this world and beyond, the main theme being that he should be treated like a deity. After a most impressive virtuoso performance, he stopped for a while to invite questions from those present there. The first question put to him, apparently by a tourist, was “If you have godlike powers, as you claim to possess, tell me, when is the world going to end?” The questioner thought that he had the man floored; not so, apparently. Pat came the obnoxious response: “I hope it ends soon for you, you sod, because you are so goddamned ugly”.

Soon after completing my Principal Warfare Officer’s course at HMS DRYAD, I was posted to the PN Tactical School. PNTS in those days as indeed it is now, was a hotbed of tactical activity: tactical courses, tactical games, exercise analysis, exercise critiques and what-have-you. On one eventful day, I came cross a visitor from Naval Headquarters, an officer who was a term or two senior to me. “So what are the rumours these days?”, was his first query. “Sir, you should be better informed, being at Islamabad”, I reminded him. “Oh, no, no, no,” he countered, “the rumours are all here at Karachi; at Naval Headquarters, we deal only with the facts”.

 

After a brief stint at the PN tactical School, I ended up as the Flag Lieutenant to the Commander Pakistan Fleet. COMPAK had recently returned from a course abroad and brought along what is an exceedingly familiar sight these days but was quite a novelty at the time: a digital phone. Not really certain as to whether it would work in our specific environment, he directed me to have someone look into it. For some odd reason, the Officer-Incharge Karachi Wireless didn’t follow up this assigned task with the seriousness it deserved. After waiting patiently for a week or two, COMPAK finally lost his cool and let loose a verbal barrage, none of which is safe to print, for after deleting the expletives, all that is left are a few disjointed syllables. “Tell the O I/C in exactly these words”, he roared on, “what I think of him and what I intend to do to him if I don’t get any positive feedback within the hour”. This did the trick; in less than half the allotted time, I received a return call from the O I/C to the effect that the phone in question had been installed in the Fleet House and was working satisfactorily. “And you can tell COMPAK from my side”, the O I/C added mischievously, having sufficiently recovered his composure by this time, “that it doesn’t take a ‘Long C’ to do it, even a ‘Long TAS’ can do it”, an obvious dig at COMPAK’s specialization vis-a-vis his own.

 

As Executive Officer of PNS BALUCHISTAN, a submarine chaser, I once had the occasion to attend a COs meeting in COMPATRON-10 office. It was quite apparent from the outset that the COMPATRON was not in a particularly good mood and the reason for his ire also became known: he had recently received a signal from one of his Commanding Officers asking him to expedite a certain matter that was pending with his office. Just as COMPATRON was warming up to the theme – of COs not knowing how to address senior officers – the errant Commanding Officer interrupted thus: “But sir, it was a request; the signal said ‘Request expedite’”.

 

Note: This was published in the May 2012 issue of the ‘Navy News’.

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