Strange how thoughts enter ones head, I recently received an email about my old ship Cockade. It got me thinking about the story of our ships monkey. In the Far East smuggling such animals as monkeys and dogs and sometimes birds aboard ship was fairly common practice although rarely successful. The Quarter Master at the gangway was usually vigilant to such attempts and the animal in question released onto the jetty. Many venders set up just outside the dockyard gates waiting to sell to an unwitting and often times drunken sailor. That was how we ended up with a monkey and a dog during the 1956-58 commission. I doubt there is ever a good reason to have a pet on a Warship and certainly not a monkey. I recall one time in 1960 whilst aboard the submarine Taciturn,we were tied up alongside in Gibraltar when a French submarine tied up beside us. Once the French boat was secure they opened the fore hatch and out sprang a dog! Submarines were cramped, dirty and smelly, I can’t imagine any good reason to have a dog as part of the crew. But of course this was a French boat full of French submariners!! But I digress! back to the story of Cockades Monkey. These monkeys for sale always had their tails docked, it was thought without a tail their climbing abilities were severely curtailed (excuse the pun). As you can guess neither monkeys or dogs came house trained, or in this case mess deck trained. Dogs are not quite as bad, they at least do their business on the deck. Monkeys on the other hand fly across the deck head (ceiling) from hammock rail to hammock rail relieving themselves in flight, usually over a sleeping sailor. Our particular monkey came aboard via a brown paper bag, we didn’t know which crew member was responsible, probably just as well. The monkey only lasted a couple of days before the fun of chasing him around the mess decks wore off. It was rumoured that he got into the wardroom (officer accoms) and the first Lieutenant threatened to shot the monkey if it wasn’t put ashore by sunset. He also threatened to hang the fool who’d brought it aboard in the first place. Might have bee a wee bit of exaggeration here, most shipboard stories were exaggerate, nevertheless, the monkey disappeared promptly at sunset. We were anchored off the island of Paula Tioma and as the sun went down I last saw the monkey scampering into the trees at the edge of the beach. The dog lasted quite a bit longer and was quite a popular little fella but we quickly realized a warship was no place for a little dog. The upper decks were steel and always very hot, no one ever stepped out onto the upper deck without some sort of shoe or flip flop. We couldn’t let the dog out during the day because he would have burnt his paws. I think in the end we gave him to someone stationed at the local shore base. These were mostly silly sailor pranks passed down from the crews who had come before us, sailors never want to be outdone and I imagine that Cockade had several monkeys aboard during her ten years in the Far East. Great times, great shipmates and great memories of a Royal Navy now gone forever. I can’t imagine our modern Navy and her sophisticated advanced warships allowing such wild creatures aboard. Probably wouldn’t allow dogs or monkeys either.
God Bless and keep reading