Keith Morison story
At the end of Autumn in 1972 my part 1 training was complete. One of my Dolphin classmates LRO Andy Anderson (don't ask me what his first name was. Everyone had a nickname in the Navy - Smith was Smudge, Clark was Nobby, Morris or Morison was Mo and Anderson was Andy); I doubt very much if he knew my name was Keith. Andy was joining HMS Resolution and I was to be the LRO(W) on HMS Repulse port crew. These were two of four Polaris in commission, the others being HMS Renown and HMS Revenge. These submarines were Britain's nuclear deterrent, and that is exactly what they were. They carried 16 x A3 Polaris missiles, each of which could travel a distance of 2500 miles, and they each carried 3 multiple reentry warheads. A Polaris Submarine was reputed to have carried more firepower than was used in the whole of World War II.
When I joined HMS Repulse, the port crew were on ‘Off Crew' duties, and I immediately began my Part 2 training at HMS Neptune. I had only just scraped through my Part 1 examination, but I sailed through the Part 2 Electronic Warfare training, and was soon back with my shipmates, and ready to take over from the starboard crew onboard the SSBN. She took to sea for a work up, so I was thrown into the thick of things right from the start. Although my main job was Electronic Warfare, this was only used at periscope depth and that wasn't too often, so I was trained in a secondary duty, which was the mainstay of my work onboard HMS Repulse - that of Forward Hydroplanesman. I learned about hydraulics, Position Control Electric, Position Control Hydraulic, Rate Control and so on, in my pursuance of becoming efficient. My most enjoyable moment at the planes was when we did a deep fast dive, and alongside the After Hydraplanesman, I was required to put full rise on the foreplanes and fishtail the rudder. This slowed the submarine down sufficiently to bring her out of the dive, and enable the Officer of the Watch to regain full control of the boat. An exercise done in case the boat starts to plummet unintentionally.
During my first trip to sea on Repulse, I was required to complete my Part 3.
This was a book of tasks, which had to be signed off by senior Chiefs and PO's, and it enhanced my knowledge of the Submarine in general. I learned about Torpedoes, Sonar, the Engine Room, the Reactor, the Hydraulic system, and most importantly specific valves, which were necessary to keep the submarine from sinking. Each section of this book required a test by the senior section Chief, and I did very well. I earned my ‘Dolphins'.
Fire exercises were abundant, Missile jettison alarms, Intruder alarms when alongside were the norm. I had to play the intruder on one occasion, and the team sent to catch me were obviously told where to find me (just as I was told where to hide). They handcuffed me, dropped my trousers (Hey! nothing untoward happened; Hopefully, I had my pussers pashion killers on), and they frog-marched me through the boat and back to the fore-ends. The issue of Naval Rum had finished on 30th August 1970, but I got a tot of rum that day.
I remember one of my captors was Luigi Bysouth. I am informed that Luigi became RS(G) of HMS Conquerer during the Falklands Conflict, and was part of the crew that engaged the Belgrano.
Onboard recreation was mainly ‘movies' every afternoon and evening, and the occasional get together for ‘Horse Racing'. Six horses were put up for auction, and side bets were made, then the roll of one dice decided which horse would run, and the roll of the second decided how many notches on the ‘roll out' board it would move. A bit like ‘Snakes and Ladders', but grown up with money at stake.
I have fond memories of outbidding the Captain on a couple of occasions. This probably didn't please him, but he was a good sort and took it all in fun.
His name was Commander Lund, and without doubt was the best and most efficient skipper that I ever served with. I believe he was drafted to Northwood near London about the time that I left Repulse in early 1974.
After the work up, we returned to port, and were soon on ‘Off Crew' duties once again. This was a busy time for me as I became the Leading Writers assistant, and for a good part of the time, I was Acting Leading Writer when he was away on leave or courses. My Divisional Officer was Lt Robin Oliphant, and I shared his office when off-crew. We were preparing for duty at Port Canavral; The starboard crew would sail her to Florida and do exercises for 6 weeks, and on the fifth week, our crew flew out to Patricks Airforce Base and had a weeks holiday in Cocoa Beach. We then joined the boat, and the starboard crew had their weeks holiday before flying home. For the most part we were day running, and I had a superb duty, which required me to be patrol on a bus driven by a US Sailor called Ron. The duty meant us stopping off at every bar up and down both North and South Atlantic Avenues' from Port Canavral to Patrick Air Force Base and back. I was supposed to alternate this duty with Tiny the electrician, but Tiny was happy to do electrical work onboard while Ron and I continued up and down the road, picking up and dropping off Repulse crew on the way.
One off duty night (or should I say, morning) I was sat in the last bar en-route to Port Canavral called ‘The Lamp Post'. All of a sudden I looked around and everyone was gone. I asked the Bartender what had happened, and he replied in a thick southern drawl, “Nigh Shawww!” What he actually said, after asking him again was, “Night Shot”. A satellite was being launched from the Cape and I was sat in the bar missing the event. He directed me out back, and as I looked directly above me, I saw the rocket soaring up into the night sky, with its bright tail flame lighting up the whole area. When I got back onboard, I was greeted by the ‘Trot Sentry' who was complaining, “They could have bloody warned me Mo”. He went on, “The boat started shaking, and vibrating. I didn't know what was going on. Thought it might be an earthquake”. He was still mumbling as I made my way down to my messdeck.
We took five weeks to sail (submerged) back to Scotland, and I did one more off-crew duty and one Patrol.
During my 3rd off-crew I had gone through a period where I was becoming a bit fed up, and just to see what would happen, I put in for ‘Discharge by Purchase'. Low and behold, a few weeks later when I was on the hydroplanes, Lt Oliphant came up to me and told me that I had got it. I wasn't as pleased as one might think as by now, I was happy enough again. However, Lt Oliphant did what I later found out was the norm; He told me that he had recommended me for Petty Officer RS(W), and asked me if I still wanted to leave the Navy. I was soarly tempted, but I had instigated this, and I couldn't revert now.
I was drafted to HMS Neptune comcen to finish my time. I suspect that they didn't want someone who may not be completely committed to the task, working on such an important vessel.
I have no regrets about the way my life has gone since then, but I sometimes wonder which road (or shipping lane) I might have taken if I had accepted the promotion.
Some names of people from Repulse whom I have made contact with since leaving the Navy are as follows:
Joe Gibson was an RO2(G) onboard, and he and I had a lot of laughs. I remember Joe and I being sent out in a rubber dinghy with a pot of paint and a roller. Even though we were in harbour, it was necessary to row out to the rudder in order to paint it black. We rowed up to it and I dipped the roller in the paint, and rolled it up the rudder. We hadn't thought of the consequences of this, but we immediately headed out to sea........ We laughed ourselves silly over this ridiculous situation, but my stupidity that day caused Joe and I to laugh harder than we had for a long time. Heh Heh! If we had had a rope in the dinghy it wouldn't have made any difference as there was nothing to tie on to back where the rudder was. Anyway, a few years ago, Joe found my name on a Naval website and we swapped a couple of emails back then. I hope to see Joe again someday.
Mike Stevenson was LRO(W) onboard when I took over. He showed me the ropes, and we even spent a weekend in London watching Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester United. This was the only time I ever got to see George Best play; He floated over that ball like gravity meant nothing to him. Mike and I have communicated over the internet, and I believe that he is still living in the Romford area?
John (Burt) Lancaster was LRO(G) onboard for my first two trips. He was with us when we went to Florida, and I remember him doing most of the driving when six of us decided to take a trip to Miami Beach. Shame we couldn't afford it, but as resilient as Matelot's are, we managed to have a good time regardless.
John lives in Runcorn and seems quite busy with his own business. Something to do with tropical birds etc. John and I keep in touch on the Internet, however, it was only recently that I found out that John was in Runcorn. I could have seen him over the 2003/04 Christmas period as I was working as a HSE Advisor in Chester, and I regularly drove up to Liverpool and back, passing Runcorn on the way.
Joe Gibson told me how to contact Luigi Bysouth, and I did email him, but he never replied. I guess that he didn't remember me.
Two of my ex-Repulse colleagues joined the same department of the Government as I did; They were Mick Purdie and John Phelps. I believe that Mick is living in Scarborough now, but don't know where John settled down.
I had a friend onboard nicknamed ‘Snowdrop' Whitlock AB (Sonar). He was a bit upset with me when I left the boat, as he and I were run ashore oppo's. I was even invited home to the Churchill estate to stay with him and his family on one occasion. I also went homers for a meal with Steve Boyd AB (Radar) and his wife. If either Snowdrop or Steve read this, please click on the email link and drop me a line. I remember Steve telling me about a Rolling Stones concert that he went to, and he reiterated the words of Mick Jagger; “Hello New York, Lets have a look at you”. Strange the things you don't forget isn't it?
The crew enjoyed watching the film ‘Madame Sin' starring Robert Wagner, Betty Davis and Dudley Sutton. Why? Because it also starred Snowdrop Whitlock and Jessie Janes. I have seen Jessie's name on the Barrow in Furness Submariners association list, but I was unable to contact him as I wasn't a paid up member.