I was part of the Royal Naval Olympic Squadron escorting the Duke of Edinburgh aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia. The Duke was scheduled to officially open the games. I was only seventeen but had one or the best jobs ever, that of jeep driver. In those days few sailors held a driver license, hence the reason I got the job. Around noon I was sitting in the jeep with the canvas top down expecting to be busy on this important opening day. Like most young ordinary seamen I was easily intimidated by older hands, this was to be the case that day. Shortly after tot time (Rum ration) seven or eight guys from my mess came down the gangway and boarded the jeep. Nothing I could say or do would move them, they wanted a lift into Melbourne. I decided the simple thing to do was drive them to the nearest pub and get rid of them. With the jeep crowded one guy sitting on the engine bonnet I headed out looking for a pub. I had my fingers crossed that the officer of the day wouldn’t come looking for me or the jeep. I couldn’t drive very fast because my vision was restricted with the body on the hood. Naturally when you are in hurry to find a pub there are none to be found. Before I knew it I was in downtown Melbourne. Too Late I turned onto Flinders Street and was greeted with a police barrier. With no choice I headed straight for the barrier preparing to stop. As we reached the barrier it opened and the cop waved me through. Now I was on the main street and both side were lined with thousands of people waving hand held union jacks and cheering us on. Of course my rum soaked passengers thought this was fun and were waving back while I fearfully looked for an avenue of escape. I had just realized this was where the Duke’s procession was due to take place. My God!! what if I meet his entourage coming from the opposite direction. It was too narrow to pass and I certainly couldn’t have reversed fast enough not to be seen. Dire thoughts flashed in my head, courts martial, walking the plank, hung from the yardarm, but most likely the end of my short naval career. I finally came to an opening on the left, shot through, screeched to a stop and ordered everyone out. To my relief and surprise they did as I’d demanded even thanking me for the ride! I raced back to the ship, no one had missed me, my career was still intact.
I can’t imagine anything like that happening in todays strict security measures, but back in 1956 the Melbourne police seeing a bunch of British sailors assumed we were an official party and waved us on? I had no mad bombers aboard the jeep but it could be said my passengers were bombed!!