I doubt in this day and age the kind of shipboard comradeship I experienced aboard HMS Cockade back in 1956 still exists. I flew from London to Singapore to join the Cockade in early August 1956. This grand old ship was stationed in the Far East and we were to be her last crew. At the end of the commission in 1958 we were to sail her home to Devonport where she would await the scrap man. I spent two years aboard this ship on the other side of the world, far from family and home. Messmates became your family with whom you share the good times and bad. Young married sailors who’s wives gave birth to first born sons and daughters, fathers would not see until their child was almost two years old. Our only link with loved ones and home was photos and letters and lots of loneliness. We spent two Christmas’s aboard ship. The first Christmas 1956 was in Auckland New Zealand and the next 1957 in Singapore. In those two long years I lived in the forward starboard side seamen’s mess. We were all young I was 17 and the oldest probably 30ish. One would never admit to loving ones shipmates but I think we did in our own special way like one loves a brother. We were family, best friends, mentors,tormentors,foolish sometimes and often wise. I did not realize any of this until we returned to England in the summer of 1958. Naturally the greatest excitement was going home on three weeks leave after two years away. However when I returned to Devonport barracks I found our crew billeted off the ship. Over the next two weeks the mess deck slowly emptied as each sailor received his next posting. Friends with whom I had grown so close to were leaving, we were all heading off in different directions. Its very difficult to explain my feelings, perhaps similar to losing a loved one, perhaps feeling the lose of our ship. Not so much a ship, more a home and family for the last two years. The last days was maybe worse for me, I was one of the last to receive my new posting. I walked through the silent barracks as my footsteps echoed in the huge empty spaces. Suddenly it was over, and my life had to go on. But that first ship and those two years remain a vivid memory all these years later. I recall so many of those distant shipmates who became lifelong friends. I sometimes bumped into one of them in the dockyard,on a train or ashore in a pub. But I was never again to serve with any of them. In the next ten years of my Naval career I never again experienced the unique comradeship we were so fortunate to share aboard HMS Cockade. Merry Christmas Shipmates I shall lift a glass or two to those happy memories, cheers!
God Bless and keep reading