In 1950 the Second World War had been over for five years, I was 12 years old and going to Secondary school. Probably the most significant thing about being 12 was wearing long trousers as part of my school uniform. I felt really grown up and so proud of my new pants, every night before getting into bed I carefully folded them and placed them under the mattress to ensure good creases for the following morning. Although the war was over there was still a great deal of tension and worrying news on the radio. The Berlin air lift, the Iron Curtain and Stalin, not much different than Hitler and possibly an even worse tyrant. Winston Churchill certainly thought so. The early 1950’s was indeed a troubling time. A war was raging on the Korean peninsula but at home it was referred to as a police action.I think we called it a police action because we were so tired of war and so afraid of another one starting. The talk of the times was about the atom bomb. The USA had the bomb and the USSR where rushing to develop their own. As boys we were well aware of the destruction caused by conventional bombs so the fear of the A bomb was very real. The Russians were helping North Korea with arms and training and NATO were defending the South Koreans. At school my education was progressing well and I was very happy to be beyond the elementary school in the village of Brighstone. We were living on the beautiful Isle of Wight with sandy beaches and surround by the waters of English Channel. It was often exciting to see the big liners sail out of Southampton. We had a few shipwrecks aground on the rocks around the island and although out of bounds we boys climbed aboard to explore them at low tide. One morning we were in our classroom and studies had just begun when the office secretary entered and whispered in the teachers ear. We were told to form up in the corridor and march to the gym. Classes from all over the school were assembling and on the stage the teachers lined up, awaiting the arrival of the Head Master. The date was February 6th 1952 and the boys nearest to me were whispering that another world war had just started and that was what the head would tell us shortly. I was terrified and indeed it did seem like the reason we were there. The Head Master strode onto the stage, he looked out over us assembled students, cleared his voice and then spoke. Staff, boys and girls I have the saddest of duties to preform this morning. His Majesty King George 6th died during the night . We ended the assembly by singing God Save the Queen and it seemed so strange replacing queen for king. However, it was a huge relieve that we were not at war. In the summer of 1952 after a few romantic encounters, a few near disasters, and my usual amount of trouble with my sister, who was actually my mother at the time. My mother died in 1939 and Lily who married a British sailor, together adopted me during the war. But now at aged twelve I was reaching the point of resisting her authority and needing to return home to Ireland and my real father and family. In August 1952 I returned home to Belfast. They were difficult times for m, I felt as if I didn’t belong or fitted in and in 1954 I began the process to join the Royal Navy. In March 1955, I marched off to HMS Ganges a boys training base in England, I had just turn 16 and had the distinction of holding the lowest rank in the Navy, that of Boy Seaman 2nd Class. The period between 1955 and 59 saw me visit Australia for the 1956 Olympic Games, take part in the Icelandic Cod Wars, buy a motorcycle and sidecar and fall in love with a WRNS, (Womans Royal Navy Service). As the decade came to an end I was a qualified radar operator, qualified for Leading Seaman and had just completed my submarine training at HMS Dolphin. I join the submarine Amphion, she was refitting in the Portsmouth Dockyard. Hence as the 1950’s passed into history and the 60’s began I sailed under the ocean for the first time. It was not to be my last.
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