On September 8th 1972 I along with about 200 other 16-18 year olds joined the Royal Navy as engineering apprentices in the Autumn entry. We were just young lads who wanted to get a trade, who thought the idea of traveling the world was a bloody good idea and we could have a laugh too.
No politics were involved, the Navy had not seen true action for many years. No overt major conflicts threatened us. We swore allegiance to the Crown not to the Government.
We studied in the classroom, we spent time in the workshops learning how to cut, mill, turn and generally bash metal. We learnt how to be sailors as well as engineers.
Spending three years together in the messdecks of the training establishments we learnt each other ways, likes and dislikes. You got to do a lot of sport and through that and living together strong friendships were established.
We were split into classes of 10-12 'tiffy's' to study, we helped each other through exams and at the end of the apprenticeship we received our drafts to different ships and submarines to carry on our careers.
Of the 11, in my class 9 of us were down for submarines, the rest were left to general service. The same applied to other classes. You kept in touch and sometimes met up again in the various naval dockyards in the UK or overseas, we drank, got drunk and continued on our ways.
The Falklands came out of nowhere. At first, on my boat we thought we had orders to go north again to check what the Soviets were doing. It was not the case.
Many thought that it would not come to an exchange of fire. We would be recalled whilst on passage, 'Who the hell wants to fight over a few islands?' was many peoples thoughts. But we had orders, we proceded. The captains of the various ships and officers commanding the groups of marines, para's, guards all did their job in getting the ships and men ready. Unlike the Navy the marines and army had seen hot action before around the world. The majority of the navy's officers, senior rates and lower deck had not. No one had attacked an RN ship or submarine in the then length of our various careers.
There were no losses of submarines in that little war, but our mates on the surface took a pasting.
The shock of seeing names of friends, mates and aquaintences, then in their mid early to mid 20's, on the casualty lists was a real shock. Even now 23 years on I can still remember their faces.
That is why Remembrance Sunday has meaning for me. None of us ever thought that we'd see our mates names on those lists.