Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Accidental Submariner (Part II)

USS Rasher
Part I of the Accidental Submariner detailed how my friends John and Bob and I had ended up spending two weeks on board USS Rasher, a United States Navy Gato-class submarine in 1964. Rasher’s captain, Lieutenant-commander Meader, wrote letters to our commanding officers. Mine read in part: “...Mackay...participated actively...ship’s routine...(h)e and his two compatriots were a refreshing change from the usual passive observer...” Somehow, it seemed, that letter had surfaced in my personnel file in Ottawa, and now the powers that be wondered if I indeed wanted to be a submariner.
I didn’t hesitate for long. Specifically, if I volunteered, I would be in England in May, undergoing submarine training with the Royal Navy. I’d be in England for a minimum of six months. A foreign appointment. A chance to visit the continent.
Would I volunteer?
You bet!
Short weeks later, in May 1966, I was on a Canadian National train to central Canada, on my way to Trenton and an RCAF flight to Gatwick, England. While wandering through the train I noticed a couple of RCN sailors in the familiar bell-bottomed uniform.
Closer inspection showed they were stokers, and submariners to boot, on their way to the same service flight, returning to the UK. Short minutes later they were regaling me with salty dips about RN and Canadian submarines and submariners—some of which later turned out to be true.
That was the start of my initiation into the silent service.
(More to come in future posts)

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