After Easter leave I rejoined the ‘spare crew’ at Dolphin, and I remained there until June without any more early morning awakenings, or sudden departures to sea.
In June I began a new radar course at the RP2 level, which ran for roughly ten weeks. Everything went well, and just as I was preparing to sit the final exam in late August I received a surprise draft notice. The submarine HMS Alcide was about to complete a major refit in Rosyth and they urgently required a radar operator. I was ordered to join her immediately on completion of the course.
My summer leave was cancelled and I was quite upset wondering how to go about making the necessary adjustments to my plans. In the New Year after Alcide successfully completed her sea trials she was due to sail to Canada. In the meantime I had to find a way to propose to Eleanor and explain the urgency of the situation. If we could arrange the marriage over Christmas leave then the Navy would allow Eleanor to follow me to Canada later. I left Dolphin on the 22nd August catching the night train to Edinburgh, and during the long journey I thought of a workable plan to propose and hopefully marry Eleanor within the time limitations. My solution was really quite simple. All I had to do was propose by telephone and explain the need for haste. But things are never as simple as they first appear. I didn’t know the phone number of Dan’s shop, and it was the only telephone available. I’d have to write home and ask for the number and explain why I needed it. Writing home and receiving a reply would take at least two weeks. Next I’d have to set up a time and day when Eleanor could be at the shop to take the call. I was sure Noel could arrange to have her there on a Saturday or Sunday morning at an agreed time. But that too would take the best part of another two weeks to arrange. Then another snag occurred to me, what if we were delayed at sea on the morning I was supposed to ring. While we were completing our trials in Scotland there was always a risk of delays or changes. The safe answer was to wait until we returned to Portsmouth in early November. The time remaining would be short but it could still work. I’d agree to any and all arrangement Eleanor made, I’d marry her in a church a registry office or anywhere else. The worst possible outcome would be a long engagement and a wedding when I returned from Canada. It wasn’t my first choice but not completely unacceptable either.
I arrived at Rosyth Dockyard the following morning feeling quite happy with my plans. Returning to Rosyth was in a strange sort of a way like a homecoming. As a little boy during the war I had lived in Rosyth for about a year, and though my memory of the place was vague many places felt familiar. One thing I did recall vividly was the Forth Bridge. I had been so impressed t as a child when we first crossed it by train. I remembered sticking my head out of the carriage window to get a better view and crying because I got soot in my eye.
I wasn’t surprised to find that the Alcide was a hive of activity when I arrived. That was the usual state for a submarine when she was nearing the end of a refit. The Head’s of departments would be getting anxious as they waited for essential parts to arrive, wondering if they could be installed on time.
No time was wasted in putting me to work. As a senior leading hand I was appointed Second Coxswain. I was quite pleased until I saw how much work still needed to be done. The Second Coxswain is responsible for the condition of the upper deck and the casing. That means everything from painting the casing and the fin to ordering and stowing of all ropes, hawsers and lines. I also needed a supply of paint, brushes, rollers and solvents to take with us. The most difficulty part was finding space to stow and secure everything. Stowing equipment in the cramped confines of a boat was an art in itself, and tripping over dockyard workers as they rushed around to finish up their work didn’t help.
I soon made friends with a Canadian shipmate named Bob Lamb who was nearing the end of his enlistment. He was leaving the navy in about a year’s time. I was amazed by a rather strange coincidence. Bob owned a new left hand drive Vauxhall and he was taking it home to Canada. It reminded me of my earlier experience in another Canadian owned Vauxhall.
However, telling Bob about my previous accident was a mistake because every time I rode with him he did his best to scare me. It wasn’t surprising that I often felt nervous in his car. Then came an even more bizarre coincidence, or was it fate? Returning to the dockyard one morning we rounded a sharp bend and drove straight into the path of a garbage lorry. I couldn’t believe it was happening to me again. We collided head on into the side of the lorry. The Vauxhall was a total write off. Fortunately, apart from a few cuts and bruises, and in my case shattered nerves, neither of us was seriously injured. I vowed on the spot that I would never ride in another Vauxhall owned by Canadian submariner.
With the painting of the casing and fin completed, the submarine was gradually beginning to look shipshape. Then one morning as I was walking through the yard to collect some last minute supplies, I was surprised to bump into Michael Foster. Michael said that he was delighted to be based in Scotland, close to his wife and their home in Lochgilphead. As we resurrected some of our liveliest moments at Ganges and on the Taciturn, he asked if I’d heard from Irene. I told him I hadn’t heard anything in over a year and considered the relationship was over. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to stand gossiping for too long so Michael and I agreed to keep in touch and we moved off in opposite directions.
I thought no more about this brief encounter until we arrived in Faslane about a week later and received a letter from Irene. It didn’t take me long to realise that Michael had written to Marie, and she in turn had told Irene.
It was a glowing letter, telling me how excited she was to have found me again, and how excited Lorraine was too. She said everyone was looking forward to seeing me again and that I must visit the next time the boat came to Faslane.
Common sense told me not to go or even to reply to the letter. Unfortunately common sense wasn’t something that I had a lot of.
During the first week of September we sailed for Faslane and the West Coast of Scotland. I stood on the casing as we proceeded down the Firth of Forth, and noted that I had now passed under as well as over the Forth Bridge.
The trip took a week and we tested the systems and the equipment as we went. Once we got to Faslane the real trials would begin. Six weeks of hard work with long hours and little rest. It was crucial training for the officers and the crew. Whether we were experienced or just out of training, it was vital that we learned to work together as a team. We carried out countless fire drills, emergency dives and emergency surfacing drills. The training honed our skills, whether firing a torpedo or alluding surface hunters.
The weekend was the only opportunity to relax, but that often depended on what repairs were required.
I was off duty on our first weekend at Faslane, and I decided to visit Lochgilphead. I felt guilty about Eleanor, but I convinced myself that it was just a harmless fling.
I rented a car in Helensburg and I was on the road early on the Friday afternoon. And when I arrived at suppertime I was greeted like I was the returning prodigal son. I was treated like royalty, with hugs and kisses, handshakes and pats on the back.
Irene appeared particularly happy to see me. We went to the usual bars, then on to one of those wild Scottish dances. But the previous long week at sea was taking its toll so I didn’t last long at the dance, and we were in bed before midnight. It wasn’t long before I was fast asleep.
I left at noon on the Sunday and returned the car to Helensburg. I didn’t want to be late getting back on board as we were sailing at 0500 hrs on the Monday morning. The weekend had been short but I had to admit it had been fun. Nevertheless, I made the decision that it would be my last visit.
On my return to Faslane the following weekend I received another letter from Irene. In it she said that it was imperative that I came to see her because she had something very important to tell me. I had no idea what it was but it sounded ominous.
The sea trials were going well and were almost completed, with only two weeks left. We were looking forward to being declared operational and returning to Portsmouth.
The weekend of October 15th was my last chance to visit Irene and find out what was so important. She was at work when I arrived so I parked at the hospital entrance and waited for her to finish work.
When she eventually came out she seemed tense, looking like she would burst into tears at any moment as she climbed into the car. She asked me to drive to a quiet spot where we could talk. I started the car and drove down the lane turning into the Presbyterian Church grounds and parked under the trees. It was already dark with a light rain was falling, the ground was covered in fallen leafs
I shut off the engine and turned to hear what she had to say. Years later I’d look back on this moment as an award winning performance. Irene burst into tears, holding her head in her hands. I had difficulty hearing what she was saying. Through the sobs and the tears she told me that she was pregnant, and that she didn’t know what to do. She was too afraid to tell her parents. They had been bitterly angry when she fell pregnant with Lorraine, this time they’d probably throw her out.
“You won’t be able to help me, ” she sobbed. “You’ll soon be far away in Canada. It’s my own fault. I should have been more careful. I’ve only myself to blame. Oh Lord! What will become of me? What will become of my poor wee Lorraine?”
I sat in utter silence, simply not knowing what to say. I was both stunned and surprised to learn that she was pregnant. How could it have happened? I’d always taken precautions. Irene said she’d been careful too, and then she burst into another fit of crying.
Through her tears she said that being careful didn’t matter because there was always a risk. She was going to great pains to assure me it was all her fault, telling me I shouldn’t feel guilty. But I was in turmoil, and my mind was spinning.
I couldn’t think clearly and didn’t know what to say. I was starting to feel the weight and responsibility of my actions. I saw myself as guilty, regardless of what Irene said. It never occurred to me to ask how she could be so sure she was pregnant after only a couple of weeks. She continued crying and sobbing and claiming her life was ruined. I was completely unaware of what was happening or where this was leading. I was too naïve to realise that pressure was being applied to push me into making a decision. All I wanted was this to be over, to start the car and leave this depressing place.
I desperately wanted to go for a pint and pretend none of this was happening. Irene was saying I shouldn’t worry. It was her problem. Somehow she’d work it out, maybe rent a small flat somewhere. She would raise Lorraine and the new baby by herself. When she went to work her sister Marie would probably look after the baby. Lorraine was starting school soon so she’d manage to cope.
But the 1960’s were a time when a man was expected to take responsibility for his actions. A time when a man was supposed to do the honourable thing. Those were the thoughts running through my mind as Irene relentlessly kept up the pressure.
I was struggling. Then, without any real conviction, I blurted out that perhaps we could get married. And immediately I realised I had just said what Irene wanted me to say. And now it was too late. I couldn’t take it back. In that instant the atmosphere in the car changed and I was smothered in kisses and hugs. Irene had successfully accomplished her mission.
By the time I returned aboard on Sunday evening the wedding plans were already well underway. She wasted no time in beginning the preparations. I was sent back with a list of things to do. I was to see the Padre on the depot ship and have him call the banns. I was instructed to let her know the minute I had my leave dates. She needed to book the church and the photographer, and send out the invitations etc.
I had to send her money to help with expenses. It was my job to purchase the rings. The Blarney Stone money was dwindling fast. I was caught up in a powerful surge of wedding plans. I was rushing headlong into something that a few days earlier I would not have even considered. Now it was impossible to stop, or even slow the momentum.
I tried to convince myself that everything was okay and I attempted to act like I was excited and happy. But I was hiding behind a mask of bravado while sinking in a sea of despair too ashamed to write to Eleanor. What could I tell her? How could I explain this sudden decision? I wrote to my family telling them the news and knew that Eleanor would know once my letter reached home. It wouldn’t take long for John or Noel to pass the latest news on in the street.
On the 26th November I caught the night train to Glasgow. I was on leave until the 10th December. The wedding was set for Saturday the 29th November at 2pm. Irene had arranged for her brother Angus to stand as my best man, and my sisters May and Anna travelled over from Belfast.
I arrived at the church about fifteen minutes before the ceremony was set to begin. The organ began playing the wedding march as I stood at the altar, and I wished I could just disappear. My head was spinning. This was something I did not want to do. As Irene approached down the aisle I was thinking of running out of the church. But my feet remained firmly rooted to the floor.
Ten minutes later I was married.
After the reception we were driven to the hotel in Minard, the same place Michael and Marie had spent their wedding night two years earlier.
On the Sunday morning we caught the bus into Glasgow. Irene had arranged for us to stay overnight with relatives as we were leaving early on Monday for the Stranraer ferry to Belfast.
I awoke the next morning to an empty house. The family had already left for work. When Irene appeared a few minutes later she looked pale and distraught. Tearfully she began to explain how she had miscarried while sitting on the toilet. She went on to describe the tiny body with its little arms and legs. She said she had no choice but to flush the toilet.
I knew less about a miscarriage than I did about the female menstrual cycle, but I did have the sense to suggest that we should go to the hospital for her to be checked over. Irene said no she was okay. She added that the miscarriage was probably caused by the excitement of the wedding.
We arrived in Belfast that evening, and later that night we had intercourse. Incredibly I continued to remain ignorant of what had taken place. Irene’s deceitful scheme had worked better than she could ever have imagined. The only thing I actually noticed was the sudden change in her personality. Overnight she had become more assertive and confident, almost to the point of arrogance.
Of course, with hindsight, it was easy explained. The pressure she was under trying to maintain the pretence of being pregnant would have been horrendous. Once the supposed miscarriage took place and she was over that final hurdle, her confidence would have surged back.
Looking back, it’s so easy to see the obvious, but in 1963 I never suspected a thing. It was only later that I started to ask question and put two and two together. I know that if I had not been so naïve (perhaps a better word is stupid) I would not have walked into her trap so easily. But in those days it was too shameful to admit that you had put a girl in the family way. I never mentioned it to my family or friends. Perhaps if I had things might have turned out differently.
All that was left for me to do now was to try and make the best of it. I had lost Eleanor, and there was no way back. I had just fallen for one of the oldest tricks in the book.
The morning of January 4th 1964 was bleak, cold and miserable. A few people, mostly family members gathered on the jetty to see the Alcide slip her lines and silently move away towards the North Atlantic. They waved quietly to their loved ones who were lined up along the casing.
As we passed under Fort Blockhouse we came to attention for the salute. Then we proceeded south, leaving the Isle of Wight and the Needles astern. Our last sight of England faded into the mist as we turned away towards the grey open sea.
Our orders were to sail cross the Atlantic on the surface and to rendezvous with a Canadian frigate somewhere off Bermuda. Once there we were to engage in anti-submarine exercises.
During our second day out we ran into the foulest weather imaginable. Crossing the Atlantic in the middle of winter on board a large ship is, to say the least, an unpleasant experience. Crossing the Atlantic in the middle of winter on a submarine, however, is a completely different, almost indescribable, event altogether. The wind had reached gale force eight and the sea had waves that were cresting between thirty and forty feet. The watch keepers on the bridge were soaked through within minutes of going on duty, and the icy seawater constantly cascaded down into the control room to soak anyone unfortunate to be near the hatch. The boat rocked and rolled so much it became too dangerous for the chef to attempt cooking a hot meal. For three days we subsisted on some dodgy soup and questionable sandwiches. Items that were securely stowed before we set sail suddenly broke loose, plates and cups flew off the table and smashed against the bulkhead. Trying to get some sleep was all but impossible.
On a normal surface ship you could usually find a sheltered spot where you could stand outside and breathe some fresh air, but on a submarine that just wasn’t possible. So the stench of vomit, body odor and diesel fumes was something you just had to live with. Only the officer of the watch and the lookouts had the opportunity to taste the fresh air. It was hardly a privilege to be jealous of as freezing spray was continually drenching them.
On the morning of our seventh day at sea I’d just finished my breakfast when my name came over the tannoy to report to the bridge. I threw on an oilskin and climbed the conning tower ladder. The weather had improved by this time and the high winds had subsided, but there was still a heavy sea that caused the boat to pitch into the troughs then rise back up on the high crests.
When the Skipper saw me he just pointed over his shoulder. I followed his finger and immediately saw the heavy hawser trailing about fifty feet over our stern. It had broken loose from its stowage during the storm and was now an obvious danger to the boat because the rope could easily snag on the rudder or the screws.
Immediate action was required, and the Skipper asked me if I was okay about going out on the casing to cut the line.
Naturally I said yes. It was my responsibility. I could hardly ask anyone else to do it. The biggest danger was that each time we rolled into a trough the stern became momentarily submerged. We didn’t carry such a thing as a wet suit so I bundled up in a sweater and an oilskin trousers tucked into my sea boots. I tied a towel around my neck to keep water from running down my back, and I buttoned up the oilskin coat over it.
Around my waist I had my belt and a sharp knife attached to it by a lanyard. If I dropped the knife whilst on deck I wouldn’t lose it. Next I put on a safety harness and an inflatable life jacket. I felt very restricted wearing so much gear. I decided against wearing gloves. I wouldn’t be able to work with then on in any case. If I took them off I would probably loose them over the side.
The Skipper promised to do his best to keep the boat steady and he warned me to just cut the rope loose and not to try and retrieve it. He also told me to be quick as the water was extremely cold.
I climbed onto the forward casing through the small door at the front of the fin. It was difficult moving along the narrow side of the fin to the stern section. With only a handrail on the side of the fin I couldn’t use the safety harness until I reached the after casing where a steel cable ran the length of the deck attached to stanchions that were spaced roughly ten feet apart. At each stanchion I had to unhook the harness from the cable and snap it back on again on the other side. Seawater constantly washed over the deck as I slowly moved aft.
In order to cut the rope I had to go inside the casing, but first I had to open the deck plates above where the rope was stowed and climb down. It was about four feet down to the pressure hull and almost immediately I was up to my waist in water that was so cold it caused me to gasp with the shock. The icy water instantly seeped through every part of my clothing.
I had to judge the moment when the stern rose up before I ducked under the casing. I located the end of the rope and began furiously cutting at it. The rope was thoroughly soaked and this made it difficult and slow to cut through. I felt the stern begin its slow descent and my fingers were unbelievably cold as I desperately hacked at the last few strands. I was racing to finish before the water flooded in to fill the casing. I lost the race. I just managed to take a deep breath before I submerged under the wave of icy water. It took so long for the stern to rise again I thought I’d either freeze to death or my lungs would burst.
When it did finally rise and the water rolled away from me I spluttered and gasped for air. My body was totally numb by now and trembling uncontrollably. My chattering teeth echoed in my ears. Then just as the cold had almost completely sapped the last of my strength I cut through the last strand of rope. To my extreme relief it parted neatly, slithered away over the side and was gone.
Climbing back out of the hole and securing the deck plates into place seemed to take forever. I could barely feel my hands anymore, they were so cold and numb, and my legs and arms were so heavy and unwieldy that picking my way back to the fin took an enormous effort. I wasn’t even sure that I’d have the strength to hold on when I had to go around the fin. If I couldn’t grip the handrail I would surely be washed overboard.
Fortunately someone on the bridge could see the state I was in and when I reached the fin a shipmate was waiting to grab me and haul me safely back inside the boat. My wet clothing was stripped off immediately, and I was dried with towels and wrapped in a blanket. The coxswain handed me a glass of rum, which I swallow down in one gulp. The rush of heat as the alcohol coursed through my body was a wonderful feeling. I was ordered to turn in and allow my body temperature to return to normal. I had no sooner climbed into my bunk and wrapped myself in several blankets when I fell sound asleep. By lunchtime I was fully recovered, and very hungry.
The waters around Bermuda were much warmer as we rendezvoused with a Canadian anti-submarine frigate. It was time for the exercise to begin. Diving stations sounded throughout the boat and the main vents were opened.
Then suddenly, with the fin still visible on the surface, an alarm sounded in the control room. The after planes were not responding. They appeared to be jammed.
The dive was quickly aborted and we returned to the surface to find that the after planes had actually suffered some shaft damage during the storm. There was nothing left to do but head for Halifax.
On the 18th January the Alcide sailed into Halifax Harbour and berthed just below the Angus. L MacDonald Bridge. We must have looked a sorry sight. We were supposed to be operational and ready for duty after an extensive refit. But in fact we weren’t able to dive, and couldn’t even provide our own lines to secure alongside.
Our arrival on the shores of Nova Scotia caused me to ponder on a few very obvious questions. One of the first things we needed to replace was the crockery, which was mostly destroyed during out voyage out. The Royal Canadian Navy supplied us with an issue of unbreakable stuff. It made me wonder why the RN hadn’t thought to issue such crockery to us in the first place.
Next on my list of requisitions were some new hawsers and lines, but the weather was so cold that before we could go and get them from the bosun’s store we had to borrow some heavy winter parkas from our hosts. It was rather embarrassing seeing RN crewmen walking around with RCN stamped in large white letters across their backs.
When you think that various Royal Navy submarines had been stationed in Halifax since 1956, it surely begged the question why the crew were not better prepared for a Canadian winter. Our winter kit consisted of a light raincoat, wool gloves, wool scarf and boots or shoes. Suitable clothing if you were walking about in an English winter. But we had nothing that came even close to being suitable for wearing outdoors in a Canadian winter. And this contributed greatly to the failure of our first attempt to visit the city. Long before we even reached the dockyard gates our feet were soaked and our ears were frozen stiff. It really was very difficult to understand. For years the Royal Navy had routinely issued its sailors with tropical clothing as part of their kit. So why the Admiralty did not consider that her sailors might also sail into Arctic waters was beyond me.
Grumbling aside, it didn’t take the crew very long to adjust, and within days we were sporting a wonderful range of Canadian winter apparel. Over shoes, boots, fur lined parkas, plaid lumberjack shirts and even long wool underwear.
When we were in harbour only a duty watch remained on board the submarine. The rest of the crew were provided with accommodation in the RCN base at HMCS Stadacona in an old wooden two-storey building known as “C” block. It had probably been erected during the war and was located as far from the main gate as one could get. But no one complained because being out of sight and hopefully out of mind was all right with us.
Anyway, it was not destined to be my home for long because we got word that our wives and families would be arriving sometime in early March. This meant that it was time to look for a suitable apartment to rent.
The boat was eventually repaired ten days after our arrival. Once we were operational it was once more back to sea. We spent a lot of time during February working with Canadian anti-submarine frigates. The brief weekends that we had in harbour became a frenzy of apartment hunting. I eventually settled for a two bedroom at Lakefront Apartments in Dartmouth. Next I had to set about finding and purchasing the necessary, and affordable, furniture to fill the apartment.
With several of my shipmates doing exactly the same thing, we were able to compared notes when we got back on board. This helped us to decide on the best places to shop and where to find the best bargains. Someone had discovered a cheap and cheerful furniture store called Glubes down a Dartmouth side street. For the modest sum of three hundred dollars I was able to completely furnish the apartment. The purchase included a living room set, bedroom set and chrome kitchen set. I also bought a single bed and small bureau for Lorraine’s bedroom.
Without curtains on the windows or pictures on the walls the place still looked rather bare. But apart from that it was still by far the nicest place I’d ever lived in. The standard of living in Canada was certainly much better than it was back home. In the kitchen there was a full size fridge and a modern electric range. I’d never had a fridge before, let alone a full size one.
The bathroom had a shower with a constant supply of hot water, and it was an absolute luxury. On the kitchen wall there was a telephone, which was something else that I’d never had before. And even though the Lakefront Apartments were quite old and probably considered down market, to me it was a palace.
The next item on my list was of course, a car. Everyone in Canada seemed to own a car. A few weeks before Irene and Lorraine arrived I bought a 1956 Chevrolet four-door sedan. It was a bit rusty in places but I was still very impressed with its fancy dash and automatic gearbox. I remember the car salesman giving me the strangest look when I asked him to explain how to drive an automatic. Like the fridge and the phone an automatic car was another first for me.
While waiting for Irene to arrive I paid a visit to my old friends, Michael and Betty Chislett. Michael had left the RN had moved back to Canada with his family, once in Halifax he enlisted in the RCN. Now they were living in a new and modern married quarter near Shannon Park.
When I told them that I’d married Irene I spotted a moment of disappointment flash across theirs faces. I pretended not to notice and let the awkward moment pass. Michael had warned me so many times, yet here I was, having done the very thing he advised me against.
Irene, Lorraine and the other families landed at Pier 21 on the 14th March 1964.
We had asked our wives to bring with them as much stuff for the home as they could manage; items like bedding, curtains, crockery and such. My shipmate, Pete Evans was renting an apartment in the building next door to me so together we rented a half-ton truck to carry the luggage. When I saw how much we had to load into the truck I knew it had been a wise decision.
I only had a few days with Irene before we sailed out into the wild Atlantic once again. But I have to admit that coming back to port for the weekends with a home to go to was a nice feeling. And the first few months of married life was not too bad. It was nice to have home cooked meals, and it was wonderful to relax in a hot bath while Irene did my laundry.
I began to think that if Irene had a baby it might strengthen our marriage. Every time I returned from the sea I would ask if she was pregnant yet. She’d tell me not to be so impatient, it usually took two months before one could be sure. This struck me as odd, because before we got married she had apparently known in only two weeks.
It was at this time when I first began to have some serious suspicions. I began listening more carefully when shipmates talked about wives or girl friends. It was a common topic of conversation in the mess, especially at tot time. The usual and constant worry for many a young sailor was getting a girl pregnant. This same concern often applied to married men as well, especially if they already had a large family. And these casual discussions around the mess table were often a wonderful font of knowledge in all matters sexual. I listened to stories about pregnant wives or girl friends giving birth or having miscarriages.
I still wasn’t absolutely certain that I’d been hoodwinked into this marriage, but the more I heard the more suspect I became.
In July, though, I forgot all about that when Irene told me that she was pregnant. The wonderful news turned my whole life around, and now I had a special purpose. I was excited and impatient all at the same time, which made the summer days drag on so slowly.
Bob Lamb was leaving the Navy soon, and he was waiting for an interview with the Dartmouth City Police Chief. Unfortunately we were unaware that the Chief of Police had decided to visit Bob at home on the same Sunday we had planned a celebration for him in the Stadacona canteen.
We all gathered in the canteen and as usual hauled all the tables together breaking the club rules. Members were supposed to sit four to a table, with no more than two glasses of draft beer in front of them at any one time. By pulling the tables together this was the first rule we disregarded. Next everyone put two dollars in the kitty, ordered the beer and told the barman to just keep them coming. When confronted by twenty or thirty submariners in urgent need of a good drink, the bar staff discreetly pretended not to notice our indiscretions.
An hour later, after a lot of singing and copious amounts of beer, it was time to go to Dartmouth to watch our team playing soccer. Six of us clambered into Bob’s Pontiac and headed for the main gate. The sentry at the gate stepped out and signaled for us to stop, but encouraged by all the beer we’d consumed, we challenged Bob to keep on driving.
He did, and we roared through the gate with an inebriated cheer of defiance while the startled sentry scattered out of the way. But even in his moment of confusion the sentry still managed to get the licence number of Bob’s car and he called the Halifax Police Dept.
We had no idea that the Halifax Police Department was looking for us, but fortunately we crossed the bridge to Dartmouth and out of their reach without being spotted. At the field we began cheering our team on.
Within minutes Bob’s wife Margaret arrived looking for her husband. She was in a panic having just received a phone call from the Chief of Police to say he would drop by around three-thirty that afternoon to have a chat with Bob. We wrongly assumed that it had something to do with our escapade at the Stadcona main gate. It suddenly looked possible that Bob might find himself with the City Police sooner than expected, only this time he’d be in their jail.
I decided we should tell Margaret exactly what happened. She wasn’t best pleased but she insisted we took him back to the gate to make a groveling apology to the duty officer. After the reprieve and the cancellation of a police hunt we turned Bob over to Margaret. She proceeded to pour lots of strong black coffee into him before ordering him into the shower.
Surprisingly everything went according to plan and turned out okay. Bob became a police officer a few weeks later, and went on to serve with honour for more than thirty years.