From the grey skies over Portland to the beaches of Barbados, from Christmas in Portsmouth to Christmas in Buenos Aires, from the dghaisas of Malta to the freeways of Los Angeles - such was the tale of our first commission. How on earth we found time to do and to see all the things we did and yet keep the lights of Londonderry burning both ashore and afloat is a problem best left unsolved.
Even during the home leg of our commission we made quite a splash - exemplified perhaps by one senior rating who, coming back from leave one dark and dirty night, saw an unlit gangway and thinking that the duty EM had failed in his job, started to come aboard. On being retrieved from the water a few seconds later he realised too late that he had played a solo part in "Walking the Plank".
On the sports fields we have held our heads very high - at times we have provided six members of the ship's soccer team and the inter-part soccer trophy came into our safe keeping at Bermuda. Keenness has been the keynote - not always appreciated to the full though, particularly when some of the team conducted a short practice session with a bucket outside the Coxswain's office in the small hours! At cricket, sailing and shooting we have had more than our share of representation - casualties have been light except in the celebrations after the games when entertainment of the opponents has inflicted more injuries than the games themselves.
We can also claim the most photographed member of the ship's company on board, and in newspapers throughout the United States, Canada and South America have appeared photographs of our bearded "old salt" peering through a scuttle with such captions as "Nautical but Nice". The snap was usually worth dinner at the most expensive place in town; so that perhaps explained the flood of "discontinue shaving" request which came in at one stage - but they were of no avail - a fourteen-year-old beard takes some beating!
Stann Creek cannot pass without mention - amidst the devastation and tragic circumstances we still found our humour. Our "restoration lighting and essential services" party was soon adopted by the local populace and the opportunity for expert dhobying was not to be lost. We feared we might lose one of our members when a dusky and shapely laundress appeared on the scene with a freshly killed chicken for "de big fella wib de curly hair". Our triumphant signal back to the ship that "Stann Creek's all lit up" was only slightly marred by a complete electrical failure ashore just as the Electrical Officer returned on board but soon the lights were on again and it is much more than a rumour that the new town, when re-built will be called "Bungy's Town" in honour of our senior rating ashore!
Our portable street lamps too have been the source of much admiration and attention throughout the commission. After much modification to defy the efforts of the wind to blow them down we finally achieved success but we could find no answer to one of them being mistaken for a punch-bag after one particularly good run ashore.
To sound a more sombre note we were all deeply grieved by the tragic death of EM1 "Dutchy" Holland in a railway accident shortly before commencing the "foreign" leg of our commission - he was one of the real "characters" of the division and was very sadly missed.
A resume of the commission would not be complete without mentioning that 50 per cent of the department have advanced to higher rate during the two years that we have been together and that does not include ordinary to able rate! May we wish full success to those who still have qualifying courses and yet more examinations to come. To those who have taken the path to the altar and those who plan to do so on return to UK, may we offer our best wishes. To those who have begun, or increased, their family during the commission may we offer our congratulations, and finally, we extend our best wishes to all members of the division, and hope that their memories of 'Derry's first commission will always be happy ones.