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    This title is currently out of print. It will be re-published shortly.


Sainfoin’s War
By W.J. Mitchell and Colin Buckenham


Some Chef's Stories - contd.

That's Walt on top

When informed that he was going on Sainfoin,
This isn't exactly what he envisaged


My skin problems remained and somehow got used to the Salt Water drink, and Quack also ordered that I should spend at least three or four hours every afternoon up on deck in the sun, instead of laying on my bunk below decks! So a Royal Marine was detailed to see that I obeyed this order. We used to lay under a Whaler slung inboard on the Boat Deck, a `cool' breeze blowing and a book to read, and it did help me. A rumour was going around that Sainfoin could be going home, and this was fuelled by the order to Paint ship on a visit to Batavia. Anyhow, I was laying there under the Whaler one afternoon when I was aware of something digging into my rear and a voice saying "OUT". On complying with his instructions , I found the Jaunty in a fine old temper, asking why I should be privileged to relax when all my shipmates were Painting Ship. I tried to explain, but soon found I was being ordered over the side, at the sharp end, on a plank with another hapless recruit at the other end and both with a pot of Battleship Grey and a three inch, or maybe a four inch paintbrush. A rope went around the bow to keep the cradle in position and all went well for a while. However one of the Seaman's knots came undone and there was a bit of shouting and swearing and eventually, to cut a long story short, I regained my feet on the upper deck a bit worse for wear and with lots of Battleship Grey paint on me, and also in my skin sores. I was taken to Sick Bay to be cleaned up. The Quack happened to come and spot me in my predicament. Paint in my hair and paint in my sores, and he went POTTY! The MAA was next door and he got a dressing down by the Quack whilst I quaked and wondered if I would get retribution. However, the Jaunty couldn't have been nicer. In fact my dealings with him after that were OK. Sainfoin was going home, and so we sailed to Singapore and embarked a Batt. of R.M. Engineers round near the Causeway, and set sail for Trimcomalee and later Colombo. Trinco was almost deserted by the Royal Navy, what a change from the times I spent there on Flare and Rapid. We topped up on Oil, Water and Food at Colombo and my old problem came back. I should have `gone off' with other Young Crew Members, however it seems that a Relief Chef, or Chefs couldn't be found so I was `spared'. Too young to go home and a high Dmob No! Sadly we left some of our crew. I know how they must have felt as I had experienced it all before on Rapid. There was always something happening to remind me of previous happenings on board e.g. A little explosion in the Galley (Fuse Box) brought back memories of when entering Malacca Straights once. The Commander came on Tannoy and said, "We are now entering a Heavily Mined Area which has not been swept properly. If by any chance we should hit a mine (feel a slight bump in the night), get up top IMMEDIATELY! (We'd have gone down like a stone if we had hit a mine). It was a problem area as our Gun Crews were often piped to `Close Up' when floating mines were spotted, fired upon and sunk or blown up. On one memorable near the Galley Gash Chute I spotted a rusty mine quite near to the ship. Guns fired and suddenly it blew up. The blast hit the ships side and the shrapnel left a peppering effect. The blast came in the porthole like a rocket and somehow blew me backwards. Unfortunately there was a forty gallon tub with dehydrated spuds in soak and this caused me to sit down, nowhere else to go and so I had a wet starchy rear! I got up quickly and never told the Chief Cook! "Hawkeyes at it again up on the Oerlikon" I thought. After Columbo the Chief Cook and Jaunty teamed u to run a little `NAFFI' each night. Tea and Rockcakes etc., guess who had to bake the Rockcakes! Anyhow it was an additional service for our `passengers'. We went up the Red Sea to Port Said, a call for Water and Fuel etc. I remember getting involved in an `Onion Battle' with a load of natives on the Quayside there. Whose Onions they were I never did find out, but many were used. After a stop at Gibraltar the weather broke and we sailed through a foggy mist all the way up to Greenock. It was a bit rough in the Bay of Biscay. Maybe it was just as well we had Radar. At Greenock our LCA's were lowered and all our Royal Marines and Passengers departed, I never saw any again. So Sainfoin moved to the Tail of the Bank when we saw the super new Battleship H.M.S. Vanguard (a beauty). Princess Elizabeth was due the next day to dedicate the Chapel on board. Meantime I managed to get leave and have a pint in a pub called The Hole in the Wall. Next morning as Sainfoin was all rusty after her long voyage, we were moved out of sight of H.R.R. and moved up to Meadowside, up past John Browns famous slipway, where we were given twenty four hours leave. As I lived fairly near at Galashiels, I had my application granted only to find that my mum had heard of Sainfoin's arrival home on the radio, whereupon she took off on a train for Glasgow. She arrived at the ship as I arrived home. However, she was made welcome by the other Chef's aboard, so all was not lost. Soon after I returned we somehow lost all power from the Generators and spent many hours feeling about our ship in the pitch darkness. Three of us also spotted the body of a young Red- headed Woman floating in the Clyde, so not a nice sight and we informed the Police, Within a day or so Sainfoin Paid Off leaving an S.P.O., Nobby Clarke, Walt Mitchell and four other stokers. These were the last men to leave the old ship, being sent on to Chatham some two weeks later, and so they all disappeared from view forever. Some really super mates, and until I met Stan Yates SBA in Swindon RNA in the late seventies, I never met one crew member from Sainfoin. All RNA men I met had never heard of her, nor of Flare or Rapid. I wondered sometimes if `My War' had been all dreams. However in 1987 I spotted `Hawkeyes' Self's name in a Shipmate Search Book at an RNA reunion and I was absolutely delighted! It is great that we have now found even more old Shipmates. So many memories, many not set down in this wee tale. I always think, looking back, how fortunate I was to have done what I did, where I went, in the company and sharing the good and bad times with some wonderful guys. The youth of today would or should envy us, and all done before I was twenty years old. Within a few months of leaving Sainfoin I was Demobbed, Class B for urgent reconstructions work and soon `Erecting Prefabs', so soon I joined the Army of Ex Servicemen, almost all trying hard to forget recent years, and so get on with their lives. However one will never ever forget our Royal Naval Service, nor H.M.S. Sainfoin. When I served on her she almost always sailed alone on her voyages, so when we did team up with other ships, such as at the Bali landings, or when we were in a bigger port with many ships, it was always interesting to watch the other ships. I can't ever recall hearing any Radio Broadcasts over the Tannoy.. Perhaps this was not allowed, or we may have been too far away from a B.B.C. Transmitter. On Rapid, sometimes we would here `The News Headlines' preceded by the call sign of All Indian Radio (Polonaise from Toky's Eugene Onegin). Then it would be switched off, but then we were `At war'! How the modern Peacetime Royal Navy would have coped with `Our Lot' God only knows, but the old saying - Hardships, You Don't Know What Hardships Are! - is a most definite true saying ---- Ah Well!!! Re Broadcaster:- As Sainfoin neared the UK, say near Lands End, the radio would come on for an hour or so in the evening. At around 6.30 we heard for the first time about Dick Barton - Special Agent and it's magic theme! Something new for our ears.
Dick Imrie (Cook)

Jaunty - Master at Arms
Jankers - Punishment Charge
Number elevens - Punishment - Usually Extra Duties
Limers - Lime Juice
S.P.O. - Stoker Petty Officer