A Fishy Tale
HMS/M Ambush was minus a cook rating, and a rather elderly AB called “Dodger” Long, had been detailed off for this duty. “Rather elderly” you understand means that he must have been all of 29 years old.
Able Seaman Long was a surly character with scant respect for senior rates and much less for the Wardroom, but he was one of those naturally gifted cooks that the canteen messing system produced from time to time. No matter how indifferent his culinary efforts or how restricted the choice of ingredients, the result was invariably a tasty meal. This got him excused a lot of insubordination but no way out of a job he didn’t want.
The boat also had a rather pompous Sub-Lieutenant (oh, you all knew a boat like that did you?) who was universally despised both by officers and crew. On this occasion after the evening meal in the Wardroom, the Captain said, “What have you got for breakfast in the morning Long? ” to which Dodger replied, “I have a couple of kippers but the rest will have to have smoked haddock.” “Very well,” said the Captain, “I’ll have a kipper,” and the remainder of the officers present stated their preference.
The following morning the Captain had his breakfast and retired to his cabin, and the other officers went about their duties. The Subby who had just come off watch now had the Wardroom to himself. Dodger appeared with a kipper on a plate and plonked it down in front of him. “What’s this?” he snapped. Dodger bent over the table and with his nose six inches of the plate studied it from various angles and said, “It’s a kipper.”
“I know it’s a kipper,” said the Subby, “but I asked for smoked haddock.” “You asked for a kipper,” insisted Dodger. Subby petulantly thumped the table and said, “And I tell you that I want smoked haddock and I want it right now.” Dodger leant over the table grabbing the Subby by the collar of his sweater and picking up the kipper by its tail slapped it hard to and fro across the Subby’s face. “And I tell you – slap – you asked for – slap – a f****** kipper – slap – you jumped-up little p**** - slap.”
Subby was thunderstruck, or perhaps I should say he was kipperstruck. He scrambled out into the alleyway screaming for the Coxswain. “Coxswain, Coxswain. Arrest this man he has just viciously assaulted me.” “Arrest him Sir,” asked the Coxswain, “but where would I put him? “I don’t know,” yelled the now distraught Subby, “just arrest him and see he is severely punished.”
The Captain heard the commotion and came out of his cabin, saying, “What’s all this about?” “It’s Long Sir,” said the Subby. “He gave me a kipper and when I asked him for haddock, he attacked and struck me across the face several times with the aforementioned kipper.”
“It was an accident Sir,” said Dodger, “I was leaning over the table to pick it up and in so doing I inadvertently slipped bumping into the Sub-Lieutenant with the kipper.”
“Absolute nonsense,” said the Subby, “It was a quite deliberate act of violence and the man is a bloody pathological liar.
“Hmmm”, said the Captain, stroking his chin before addressing the Subby, “and you Mister, I would remind you, are an unqualified trainee on this boat. But you know something, you did ask for that kipper, in point of fact you have been asking for it for a long time now and today you finally got it. That is the end of the matter, carry on.”
And so the whole incident fizzled out. Subby never got his smoked haddock and Dodger never lost his job. The Subby did not qualify and was returned to the surface fleet as unsuitable for submarine service. I did hear on the grapevine that he resigned his commission not long after the transfer. No great loss in my book.
“Buckwheat Harris” was a Wardroom steward in the old diesel boats. Buckwheat’s sense of humour and his penchant for practical jokes were legendary within the service. Upon his retirement from the service after 22 years he was traditionally wined and dined in the Wardroom being served by the boats officers. After receiving complimentary speeches from the Captain and XO along with many parting gifts he rose to thank them all, adding that he would leave a little something behind for them to remember him by. The boat soon left bound for Gibraltar. Some days later a naval courier delivered a message to Buckwheat at his home, it read:
BUCKWHEAT – THAT LITTLE SOMETHING YOU LEFT BEHIND – WE KNOW WHAT IT IS BUT WHERE EXACTLY IS IT YOU OLD BUGGER? FOR THE LOVE OF GOD PLEASE ADVISE.
In his inimitable style Buckwheat had nailed an uncooked kipper to the underside of the Wardroom table and the stench of the rapidly decaying fish had eventually permeated throughout the boat. Need I say more LOL.