Last night I lay in bed unable to sleep, probably because it was a strange bed. My mind wandered back to a time in Londonderry around 1960. The story of my one and only run in with the Military Police, better known as Red Caps, plus a few other choice names I wont mention here. Londonderry was a hot spot because of IRA activities in the area. It was one of few places where we posted armed sentries. Few sailors had any small arms training other than the old 303 rifle. My story begins with my best friend Michael Chislett and I going ashore for a bite to eat and a couple of pints in a local pub. It was a quiet evening as we were close to being broke, we ate at a small cafe then went to a pub for a pint and a game of darts. This little pub had very nice pint mugs with the Derry crest on them. We asked the landlord if we could each buy one. He said yes and we paid the low price of sixpence each. We left the pub carrying our prized glasses and headed for the bus stop about fifteen minutes away. While waiting for the bus a military Land Rover pulled up and two MP’s jumped out. They accused us of stealing the glasses and order us into the back of the Land Rover. Back in the dockyard alongside our boat, the Taciturn, we were escorted onto the casing and the duty officer sent for. When he arrived he wasn’t best pleased because he’d already turned in for the night. The senior MP a Corporal stated our crimes and why we’d been arrested. The duty officer told them to come back in the morning and make a full report, he would then bring us before the CO. The Red Caps left taking the evidence with them saying they would return at 1100 hrs the following morning. We had tried to explain that we’d bought the glasses and even offered to take the MP’s back to the pub for the proof. MP’s were a officious lot never believing a suspect story,especially one from a sailor. The following morning Michael and I reported to the First Lieutenant and told our story, we named the pub where we’d purchased the offending items. He immediately phone the landlord who confirmed our story proving our innocence and the unjust arrest the previous night. By the time the two MP’s returned the whole crew was aware of the situation. Our upper deck sentry explained the forward hatch (the usual entry into the boat) was out of use, it was being painted. He directed them to climb into the fin and then down through the two man escape hatch into the control room. This was the most difficult way to enter the boat. However, adding to the difficulty entering this way was that the twin diesel engines were running at high speed charging our batteries. As you might imagine the conning tower hatch was like a wind tunnel as the diesels sucked air through the nearest hole. This made the descent of our two MP’s extra hazardous especially carrying the two glasses. The Corporal’s hat arrived on the deck of the control room ahead of the Corporal. Once in the control room they straighten their uniforms replaced their caps and smartly saluted our First Lieutenant and began their report. When they finished the 1st Lt asked if they had check our story with the pub, of course they hadn’t!!! they were quite confident we were guilty. When they finally left the boat that morning via the same route which they had entered. They had been made to apologize to both of us and told the next time to check their facts before arresting members of his crew . As they climbed the ladder their faces were as red as their caps. As a wise precaution Michael and I decided not to venture ashore again in Londonderry, just in case!!!!!We sailed a day later with our two lovely pint mugs and this great story of having pulled one over on the British Army Military Police. We were glad to leave Ireland behind being sure the whole detachment of MP’s would have been looking for revenge, if not on us ,some of our shipmates.
God Bless and keep reading.