Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas 1965 in the Holy Loch

sub at Philla shipyard #1  USS Tigrone in Phila. Navy Yard


I was transferred from the USS Tigrone (AGSS 419), a relic of World War II,  which was finishing up a shipyard overhaul and conversion in Philadelphia to the USS John Marshall (SSBN 611), a fleet ballistic missile submarine operating out of the Holy Loch in Scotland sometime in October of 1965.

I greeted this event with a great deal of anticipation and excitement because my family on my father’s side came from Scotland. Fleet Ballistic submarines, or FBM’s, have two crews. While one crew is aboard the sub, the other crew is stateside getting some R&R (rest and rehabilitation), advanced training, and preparing for their return to the ship. I reported aboard the Marshall towards the end of the off-ship cycle.

Our patrol cycle that year coincided with being in-port on Christmas Day. The ship’s command had arranged to host the boys from the Dunoon orphanage for Christmas dinner. I was selected to go with some others on a tug to Hunter’s Quay to pick up our guests. I do not remember how many lads joined us that day — I’d guess somewhere around 18 — but I do remember how polite and well-behaved they were. All were between the ages of 6 and 12. Each was dressed the same way with navy blue blazers, white shirt, and navy blue shorts.

Bill in the Holy Loch 651225

Yours truly on Christmas Day, 1965

Once aboard the sub, the boys were divided into groups. A sailor was assigned to each group and they were given a tour of the ship, treated to looking through the periscopes, and given a good time.

Dinner was a real treat for them. I do not recall all that was on the menu that day. In fact, I only recall one item: corn. Corn — we take it for granted. These boys had never eaten it. They knew it by its British name of maize, but they hadn’t ever had any. I remember one boy grabbing the bowl of corn nearest him and dumping the greater part of its contents on his plate. He was hooked, as were the others.

Although orphans, the boys looked and behaved like gentlemen. I felt privileged to associate with them and to see them enjoy their Christmas Day aboard the USS John Marshall in 1965.

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