Send A Gunboat
By Terry Currie, R. N.
Why, after almost twenty-four years as a regular in the Royal Navy and the Royal New Zealand Navy did I become an anti-nuclear protester? Where shall I start my story? It is easy to say "start at the beginning," but the events in my life, which I think had the greatest effect on me, took place in the middle of my naval career, so I had better start there and from time to time go back to when I was a naïve, starry-eyed boy of sixteen eagerly sitting in a coach of the L.M.S. train at Lime Street Station in Liverpool, waiting for it to move off on the great adventure, to become a boy sailor in the Royal Navy. The year was 1938 and the month was June.
Ten years later, aboard a fleet destroyer, H.M.S. Consort, I was now a veteran of World War II, a Petty Officer, married with a baby daughter and I was about to commence a two-year commission with the Far East Fleet. Having joined Consort in Japan, via a troopship and fleet destroyer H.M.S. Comus. Consort was lying at anchor off the Bund at Shanghai. I was duty petty officer and we had not long anchored after a rough trip from Hong Kong. It was freezing cold; even the pools of salt water still lying on the iron deck in the waist had frozen. Night had fallen. The great Yangtze River gurgled and chuckled blackly along our ships side as it swirled its way to the China Sea.
You can imagine that I was no longer starry eyed - still a bit naïve but hard training and strict discipline aboard the training ship H.M.S. Caledonia at Rosyth had soon made me realise what a terrible mistake I had made when I blithely signed away thirteen and a half years of my life, with my parents consent of course, into an organisation that had honed boys into men in one of the finest navies in the world for generations. One's life was governed by the King's Rules, Regulations and Admiralty Instructions in which even the best of lower deck lawyers were not able to find loopholes. One became conditioned to the discipline, the way of life, even the language. No longer was it ceiling, floor and walls - it was deck, deck head and bulkheads. One's clothing had numbers, No1's, No2's etc; punishments had numbers "you" were given a number, life was controlled and as a regular one was cocooned from the realities of civilian life and politics.
The war had changed me as it does most men. I had been brought up by typical Victorian born working class Presbyterian parents, who packed me off to church three times on a Sunday. I became a Wolf Cub and Boy Scout and I won a scriptures exam prize! But during the Sicily and Italian campaign I renounced religion and became an agnostic. I had decided that God moved in ways far too mysterious for me!!!
Civil war was raging in China at this time, yet I cannot recall being unduly worried - was their war - nothing to do with us. Mao's People's Liberation Army was rolling back the army of Tchang Kai-chek and was shaping up for an assault on Nanking and then Shanghai - such was the effect of my cocooned and controlled life I thought that Mao's Army was a rabble of peasants armed with pitchforks and staves - incredible you may think - but true. Ignorance is bliss and in my case I'm glad it was, for, if I had known the truth I doubt if I'd have slept soundly in my hammock.
The quartermaster called me aft to the gangway. When I arrived, a Chinese Trader was standing there and he told me he wanted permission to come aboard next day to set up a stall so that he could sell souvenirs to the crew. I sent him for'rd with the quartermaster to see the First Lieutenant and while waiting for the return of the Q.M, I looked overboard at a young Chinese boy below who was left sculling a small sampan. The young boy, aged about fourteen had moved the sampan away from the gangway and was patiently keeping abreast of the gangway by stemming the current of the swift flowing Yangtze with his oar. He was just inside the circle of light thrown on the surface of the flowing water by the gangway light. He reminded me of one of those old engravings depicting the poverty of the people in Dickens novels. As I have said, it was freezing. Although I was cold I was well fed and warmly clad. This lad had what looked like a ragged cloth turban around his head. He was wearing a large old khaki overcoat down to his ankles and his thin bare legs disappeared inside large brown boots which were several sizes too big for him. His right hand moved the oar in the figure of eight movement to keep the sampan abreast of the gangway and his left hand was thrust deep in the pocket of his overcoat, he looked frozen.
The Q.M returned, having left the boy's boss with "Jimmy the One" negotiating "kumcha" gifts, to Jimmy in return for his stall next day. I hurried to the Petty Officer's mess. I felt I had to show the young lad some compassion. In our small mess pantry I hacked a large slice of bread from a loaf which I layered with butter, then literally plastered it with strawberry jam. I ran back to the gangway and beckoned to the lad to come alongside. He wasted no time in deftly bringing the sampan alongside. I went down the gangway and handed him the bread which he took in his thin hand and stuffed it in his pocket then, just as deftly, he sheered away and took up his patient freezing station. No words passed between us, he made no attempt to eat the bread, no hint of gratitude, only the slap slapping of the black waters broke the silence.
Later, when I thought about it, I felt it was shallow of me to have wanted to be thanked. I had never experienced poverty and hardship such as his and I wondered perhaps if he saw me as one of those foreigners who had brought so much trouble to his country. But, I never regretted my act of kindness. Maybe he remembered it too?
You may be wondering what we were doing there while a civil war was raging in the country. I'll tell you. My Lords of the Admiralty, probably still thinking of the "Days of the Empire" and "send a gunboat," had decided to station an Royal Navy warship at Nanking, miles up the river, to protect British nationals, when and if, law and order broke down during the hiatus created by one rule ending and another taking over. They, "my Lords," may have thought it was - "the Chinese War Lords at it again." Consort was sent as a relief ship.
The Captain remained at Shanghai long enough for both watches to have a run ashore. Inflation was running out of control and when we went to the Union Jack Club for a few beers the price of a bottle of beer was chalked up on a slate and the price could change between rounds. When the waiter brought the change, his tray was stacked with bundles of brand new gold yen notes, like monopoly money - worth about two shillings. We read in the English language papers that the Chinese police were daily executing suspected firth columnists or communists publicly in the streets. I still didn't feel unduly worried.
We weighed anchor and proceeded up river to Nanking. Either side of the after quadruple torpedo tubes were stacked crates and crates of beer, a good supply for the crew's ad hoc canteen for our two week tour of duty. No leave would be allowed in Nanking, so a temporary canteen would be set up adjacent to our berth. The weather had improved and spring sunshine made the journey up stream more pleasant.
I was Petty Officer in charge of a party from the Torpedo Anti Submarine department. I was in charge of the torpedoes, demolitions and depth charges and I had a tiny workshop abaft of the bridge on the iron deck. While on our way to Nanking the Gunner T, the Officer in charge of the Torpedo and Anti Submarine party (T.A.S) popped in to have a word with me. He showed me a piece of paper upon which were written Chinese characters. As I had a reputation on board as a "Bit of an artist" he asked me if I could copy the characters exactly on canvas, painted white with lettering in red. Yes, I could and soon set about the job. When I had finished it I thought that it looked very Chinese except I didn't know what I had written. I was very curious, so I had an idea. The Officer's Chinese steward called "Wong" would probably be able to read it so I invited him into my workshop and asked him to tell me what I had actually written. The canvas was six feet in length and eighteen inches wide and I think there were four characters. Wong was about forty, small, balding and thin. He peered at the characters, then removed a pair of specs from his top pocket and put them on his nose and peered more closely at each character. After a moment, he straightened up, took off his specs and said "It says - " YOU STOP OR WE SHOOT ." Ah! Thought I, what I have here is a Riot Act, in the form of a banner.
Consort secured alongside the pontoons at Nanking astern of an American and Canadian destroyer, our chummy R N destroyer, which we had relived, was on its way to Shanghai. The next day the American and Canadian destroyers left and Consort remained. A tiny bit of Great Britain isolated in an area about to be engulfed in civil war.
We were tied up to pontoons secured to the bank of the river and adjacent to a dried egg powdered factory. The factory was of very basic design mainly constructed of corrugated iron and surrounded by a fence made of the same material and it was this factory which was part of the plan to protect British Nationals. If, or when civil disorder occurred, all British nationals were told to make for the dried egg powder factory, where Jolly Jack would defend them, by turning the egg factory into a sort of fort; armed with Lancaster's, Bren guns, rifles and pistols, with Consort on its river flank with its heavier armaments. Also, I imagine, my Riot Act banner would be held up to deter the mob from attacking the factory. As many Chinese at this time were illiterate, so I suppose the more literate rioters would translate the message and pass it on to their illiterate mates. I shudder when I think what may have happened if this situation had arisen.
We automatically dropped into naval routine. Every morning all hands, except those actually on duty, mustered on the river bank. Under the eyes of the Captain and First Lieutenant we did fifteen minutes physical exercise before returning on board to carry out departmental duties. The Local Chinese must have found it amusing to see fifty or sixty sailors leaping and jumping around, not very elegantly; every morning.
It was here that I saw real poverty for the first time in my life. Every day a sampan with a young Chinese woman with a baby strapped on her back tied her sampan to one of our stern lines. After meal times she would keep the sampan stemming the flow just off our stern where the gash chute was hung. As soon as she saw the cooks of messes walking aft lugging a gash bucket full of the slops left over from meals, she darted the sampan under the gash chute like a seagull swoops down when rubbish is thrown over board. She clung onto the gash chute with one hand and with the other hand she held a fine mesh net under the chute. The grinning friendly sailor would tip his slops down the chute and she would catch the whole revolting mess in the net. The she'd tip it out on the boards in the prow of the sampan, a pile of cans, half eaten spuds, meat, duff, custard and tea leaves which had all swilled around in dishwater before entering the chute.
When all the cooks had emptied their mess she secured the sampan and then patiently sorted the sickening mess out. Even tea leaves were patiently dried out in the sun, only the labels on the tins were thrown away. I'd never seen a human being reduced to eating what we regarded as filth. I can't recall my thoughts but it must have made an impact on me to be able to remember it all these years later.
On the pontoons an old lady foraged about. She had had her feet bound as a girl and she walked on the tops of her feet, the toes were all withered and useless and curled in to the instep. She was dressed in the usual black jacket and trousers with a coolie hat on her head. She teetered on her deformed feet like a grotesque old ballet dancer. Every day large junks passed Consort jam packed with what I took to be refugees. They all looked very poor and dirty in their padded quilted jackets.
We were only allowed into Nanking in organised parties, it would not be safe for us to have gone ashore in small numbers. I chose to go and visit the mausoleum of Dr. Sun Yat Sen situated in the Zhongshan Moutains in the Eastern suburb of Nanjing. Dr. Sun Yat Sen became the Present of the newly founded Republic of China in 1912. On the way it seemed that most of the male population had taken advantage of the kindly spring sun to delouse themselves. They sat on the kerb of the road with their quilted jackets on their knees patiently squashing lice between two thumb nails as they progressed along the seams of their jackets. I saw beggars rolling in the dust, moving bundles of rags, out of which protruded thin pleading hands and arms. The most poignant sight which is indelibly printed on my memory was on my return when we walked by the egg factory perimeter. A young Chinese couple, aged about twenty, had made a shelter out of a bamboo sheet by securing the top to the iron fence and the lower end pegged to the ground making one half of a tent. The young girl had a sleeping baby across her folded legs which she had just been breast feeding. They were filthy and the girl's jacket was open exposing her grey unwashed body and there, contrasting vividly against the greyness, was a clean white circle with a pinkish centre where the baby had suckled. We looked at each other and I remember feeling a great helpless pity for them and then I walked away.
While on this tour of duty I saw some of Tchiang Kai-cheks' troops. Some were setting up a machine gun position outside of one of the gates of the city. The gun was a Vickers water cooled machine gun model of World War I vintage. At the same moment a platoon of unarmed soldiers dressed in thin khaki uniforms and wearing peaked caps marched by. They looked mere boys and the exposed legs of many of them had sores or ulcers on them. Their footwear ranged from boots, shoes and gym-shoes, they were not a very formidable looking example of any army.
When back on board, after my "run ashore" in Nanking I exchanged descriptions of what I had seen with my shipmate Bunny Austin (all Austin's in the R.N at this time were called Bunny - after the champion tennis player Bunny Austin) Bunny relayed his run ashore to me. Bunny had met several missionaries, some of whom had been in China for thirty years. He told me that the missionaries had said that it was the policy of the British and American's to keep China week by encouraging corruption and the use of opium. The mental pictures of the poverty I had seen appeared as he spoke and later on when I lay in my hammock thinking about poverty, corruption and opium, I thought - surely the country in which I had been reared wouldn't do this deliberately?
After all, hadn't I been brought up to be a good sport, to play the game, don't kick a man when he is down? But missionaries, of whom I had learned about at Sunday school as a boy, sent abroad to spread Christianity, they wouldn't lie about a thing like this? The patterns imprinted on one's boyish mind are hard to erase. I always thought we British were the best people on earth - we believed in fair play. Hadn't Churchill said - "be magnanimous in victory." Doubts about my country's conduct began to cloud the more noble precepts of my youthful upbringing.
Both watches of the hands, except those on duty were still performing the routine daily physical exercises. Some were working off "fat heads," acquired the night before in the makeshift canteen, others leaping about making ribald comments, as some let go farts in the front ranks. We were all still quite blithely ignorant as far as we were concerned. However unbeknown to us while we were keeping fit, over a million well armed, disciplined Chinese troops were massing for the final assault on the banks of the Yangtze. For some of us, the grains of sand in the hour glass of life had trickled to a precious few.
I noticed Hutch, the Petty Officer Yeoman of Signals approaching the Captain with his signal board in his hand. He saluted the Captain, who returned his salute and then he read his signal. The Captain turned and spoke to Jimmy, then hurriedly made for the gangway. We were told that H.M.S. Amethyst had come under fire. She was aground, and had suffered casualties. The light hearted mood evaporated as we doubled back on board to bring Consort to an action state and in no time all lines were let go and the ship swung around to head downstream at thirty knots, the fastest a British warship had ever travelled on the Yangtze at that time.
My two quadruple torpedo mountings were not armed and had no useful function in a narrow river, so, after throwing crates and crates of empty beer bottles over the side along with the wooden peacetime bollard covers my T.A.S party gave a hand to flake out the flexible steel wire hawsers on the quarter deck ready to tow Amethyst off the mud. Then I received an order to stand by the emergency steering position in the tiller flat.
The tiller flat is situated right aft and houses the powerful steering motors for Consorts rudder. It is also a stowage place for hawsers, fenders and Dan buoys. We sat down there, about six of us. We couldn't talk because Consort's screws were churning away beneath us making the whole compartment judder and shake and filling the space with a thunderous powerful roar of sound as the steel helm groaned from side to side as it answered the coxswain's wheel movements. It was hot and stank of oil and hemp. The sound powered telephone squealed and the rating standing by it unhooked it and rammed it close to his ear to receive an order from the bridge. All T.A.S party hands except one and one A.B, to report for'rd to give a hand to bring up ammunitions. My Able Seaman and I were to standby on the quarter deck. It was a relief to be in the fresh air and out of the heat and stink. Able Seaman Bater and I stood on deck by the unmanned 4.5" gun mounting watching the huge wash in our wake crashing up the low river banks over turning small sampans, while ahead frantic Chinese were trying to haul their boats to safety. It was a beautiful warm spring day and for some of us - their last.
I had bought a second hand folding camera while in Japan where incidentally I had seen the ruined City of Hiroshima. I had gone ashore in Nagasaki where I had bought a series of photographs of the survivors. Little did I think when I bought them that some would appear in the pages of Sanity and other magazines opposing nuclear weapons - I remember being overawed by the scale of the devastation caused by two bombs? It was only three years since the explosions and Nagasaki was covered with crude shacks. Hiroshima looked stark and ruined.
I pulled the camera from the back pocket of my number 8 working rig and opened it out to set the speed and aperture, so that I could photograph Amethyst. Consort was racing to her rescue. We had two white sheets, flags of truce - flying from each yardarm. On either side of the bridge large canvas squares were lashed upon which were painted Union Flags. Our white ensign streamed rippling from our stern. In the distance Bater and I could make out Amethyst close to the river bank some way ahead. We were standing close to the gun shield of "Y" gun - unmanned, because we had been sent up river with a peacetime complement and there were not enough hands aboard to man the four mountings. Suddenly we saw a line of splashes rip across the water just astern of us, followed by an inoffensive pop, pop, pop, popping noise. My camera was snapped shut and returned to the rear pocket and we both leapt inside the steel gun shield. Bater gasped "I'm scared P.O" and doing my best not to look scared said, "That makes two of us." The sound powered telephone under the flare of "X" gun squealed - the bridge wanted Bater for'rd. I reasoned that if they could reach us with a machine gun I could reach them with a Bren. I requested a Bren and ammunition. My request was granted and as the action commenced it wasn't long before the gunner's yeoman arrived with a Bren, a spare barrel and a box of ammunition. He gave me a quick instruction on changing the barrel and was on his way for'rd.
I had experience of small arms weapons on my obligatory training visits to the R.N. gun ranges. I put a fender between two bollards and laid the Bren across the fender and then "assumed the prone position" as taught on the ranges, I put in a magazine and pulled back the bolt.
By now the three 4.5" guns had opened up, also I could hear the twin Bofar thumping away - all hell had broken loose. The river at this point was about one third of a mile wide, ideal for a crossing. I could see one of their sandbagged gun positions and when they fired, three or four guns together, the blast from the guns lifted the dust in an arc in front of the position. I put my sights on 300 yards and as taught squeezed off a short burst and saw my fall of shot hit the water just in front of the sandbags. I raised the sight to 350 yards and squeezed off another burst (I had no tracers) no hits on the water so I was either hitting the sandbags or at least worrying the Chinese gunner.
Our 4.5" shells were exploding on the bank of the river, the shells from the gun batteries were screaming over head or hitting the water, some exploding and scattering shrapnel across the surface. I could see a gun battery fire and instantaneously the shells either hit or roared overhead. The heat from the gun barrel of the Bren caused the targets to shimmer. I was sweating from a combination of fear and the heat from the sun, and the gun firing above me and slightly for'rd was causing soot from the officer's galley funnel to cascade over me. Someone told me afterwards that my face was black with white streaks where sweat had run down. I began to pray. "Please God," but I thought "you don't believe," so I compromised and repeated my wife's name and my baby daughter's name over and over.
After Consort had made a run along the river bank she would turn to make another run, so I had to cross over to the other side of the ship with my Bren gun, ammunition and fender and commence firing. I changed the hot barrel burning the inside of my hand in my haste. I saw a shell blow the stern off the whaler and saw it drop drunkenly as the shrapnel severed the falls, the gripes held it in place. I was down to my last magazine.
I decided to go for'rd and as I reached the starboard door at the break of the foc'sle I saw young Able Seaman Bater, he looked shocked and was plastered with, what looked like, mince. I asked if he was ok. He made a shaky gesture with his thumb "I'm ok - it's from them in there." I stepped over the dwarf bulkhead slotted into the bottom of the door and I looked down. An electrician lay dead, his lower jaw shot away, the dirty water from a shattered fire main ran across Consort's slightly rolling deck and covered his face and body. A stoker lay dead, there was a hole in his side; his liver gleamed wetly on an ammunition box. On the portside lay a messmate, the P.O Telegraphist, disembowelled and one leg off, hit by two 75mm shells - I made my way to the bridge; it was at this time that I think action had been broken off. On the bridge the Captain had been hit in the legs by wooden splinters and was having the wound dressed. I vaguely remember standing on the iron deck shouting "bastards" while emptying the remaining rounds of the Bren in the direction of the enemy.
While Consort was making a turn, and was virtually a stopped target in the river, the Chinese gunners, in military terms "boxed us." They put a hole in the barrel of "A" gun and killed an ordinary seaman. "B" gun received a hit removing the gun trainer's seat and taking most of his backside with it. He died later. The wheelhouse was hit killing the C.P.O Coxswain and Consort raced for the bank out of control - the Captain steered her by using the twin screws. The gun transmitting station was hit killing the petty officer and a young A.B. The radio office was also hit. Many 35mm solid anti tank shells passed right through the ship wounding many sailors. When I was firing the Bren I vaguely remember a large explosion which lifted me horizontally off the deck. I found out later that two 75mm shells had entered Consort only feet below me. They had ricocheted off the metal deck in the after seaman's mess deck, bending the deck to within four inches of the top row of 4.5" brass cartridges in the magazine below, before exploding in the after petty officers mess. The shrapnel severed the heavy electric power cables to the steering motors and the electricians had to run the emergency leads to put power back on, so that Consort could be steered from an emergency steering position midships. We were in no condition to continue the fight and we had to abandon Amethyst. It had been a short bloody battle leaving 10 sailors killed and a number wounded, some seriously.
Where the Yangtze widened, miles further down river, Consort made a rendezvous with H.M.S. London, a cruiser, and H.M.S. Black Swan (we called her the Dirty Duck) we berthed alongside London and the medical officers and sick berth staff of London wasted no time in coming aboard Consort to assist our doctor and leading sick berth attendant with the care of the wounded.
A fresh attempt was to be made to rescue Amethyst the next day. Our Captain volunteered to lead the attempt but, as we were so badly damaged in areas vital to our fighting ability he was ordered to return to Shanghai by the commanding officer of London. This we did and on our arrival, ambulances were waiting on the jetty to take our wounded to hospital. We carried our dead shipmates ashore on stretchers. They had been sewn up in canvas (there was no need to put the last stitch through the nose) and each body was wrapped in a white ensign. As we carried our dead, a group of American sailors who had collected on the jetty, formed a sort of impromptu mourning party by dividing into two ragged ranks and then saluting as we filed past them to awaiting trucks. This gesture was more respectful than the headline in Time Magazine a few weeks later "Limey's kicked out of Chinese River." Who needed enemies when you have friends like that?
London and the Dirty Duck returned to Shanghai after an unsuccessful attempt to rescue Amethyst. Both ships had been hit but London took the brunt of the shelling and another fifteen sailors were killed on London. So the total of the sailors killed had now risen to forty. Fifteen on Amethyst, fifteen on London and ten on the Consort. How many were wounded I don't know.
All the events from our journey to Nanking to our return to Shanghai had made their mark on me. The sobering disillusionment that my country deliberately encouraged drugs and corruption to keep a people weak. The stupidity of senior officers allowing a warship miles up the confines of a river while a huge civil war was taking place. I realise now, that Britain in 1948 was desperately and pathetically trying to pick up the reins of Empire and go back to 1938 when we were "cock of the roost." The winds of change were blowing, as MacMillan was to say, but the leaders and people in charge didn't heed them. In 1947 I was aboard the carrier H.M.S. Victorious which had been converted to carry civilian passengers. We were returning to Malay Singapore and Hong Kong, all the trappings of Empire. The nuns, missionaries, planters, police and civil servants were our passengers, soon to be involved in a war against "The Bandits in Malaya."
The desire to be "Great" again, is still inherent, not only in our Conservative rulers, but in many of our own people and since 1945 has cost the lives of hundreds of service men and woman and kept Britain poor (or should that be the working class poor) in all the wars which we have been involved in an attempt to hang on to the Empire. The Falklands and Northern Ireland are two of the recent examples. Northern Ireland's war still goes on today. The irony of it all is that Britain is now a sort of colony itself in the "American Empire."
We buried our dead in Hanchou Cemetery in Shanghai. News Reel cameras were there to film the ceremony. My wife, who was in the Gaiety Cinema in Bristol with her sister some days after the funeral had taken place, saw me laying a wreath on the grave of one of our ordinary seamen on the Pathe Gazette News.
Consort left Shanghai and proceeded to Hong Kong, but on the way, we stopped not far out from the Chinese coast to carry out the sad ceremony of "burial at sea," for Lt. Cdr. Skinner, the Captain of Amethyst and a young ordinary seaman. The bodies, Lt. Cdr. Skinner in a black wooden coffin and the ordinary seaman in a plastic casualty bag, lay in my little workshop where I had painted my Riot Act banner, not long before, until they slid from under White Ensigns to be joined in death beneath the China Sea.
During the remaining year and half with the Far East Fleet, Consort was involved in the Malayan Campaign; we also patrolled off Korea photographing Russian ships and eventually the Korean War. Fortunately for me I had completed two years and I only caught up the opening months of that War and I was relieved and returned home on H.M.S. Belfast. I was now twenty eight and longing to finish my twelve and give civvy street a try. However fate cares little for the hopes and aspirations of man and when I reached the age of thirty while still serving the Royal Navy at Devonport, a Royal Proclamation held all active service ratings indefinitely while the emergency in Korea lasted. It seemed I was doomed to serve for years against my will.
I was living in Plymouth at this time with my wife and four year old daughter in a flat, also sharing the house was a chief shipwright and his family. While having a chat one day he showed me an advert in the Daily Mirror. The Royal New Zealand Navy wanted former or serving Royal Navy ratings in their navy - I thought "if I'm to be held in the Royal Navy indefinitely, I may as well have a change of scenery" - so, I applied and was accepted.
I remember while serving in the Royal New Zealand Navy that we practiced "washing down" after a nuclear attack. This exercise consisted of rigging fire hoses with nozzles, set to spray, pointing at the superstructure of the ship. Then the crew had to be decontaminated by going in one door and out of another. Having seen instructional films of the Bikini Atoll tests we all thought that this was a futile joke. Like good little sailors we carried out this pantomime.
Eventually aged 40 an on pension I at last made it to civvy street. Twenty three and a half years after I had joined. I had become cynical about politics and politicians. The same kind of people who sent gun boats up the Yangtze and caused the unnecessary death of forty young men and caused the mutilation of others are still at the helm only now, they have nuclear weapons. The mentality of leader's who had me paint a "Riot Act" on a canvas banner to quell a possible murderous mob, still exists. Now, the "Riot Act" is in the form of Trident submarines or Star Wars but, there is no mob, only a clash of ideologies. We all know that these weapons are proliferating and if used could wipe out mankind.
I never had to use my "Riot Act" banner but I have proudly carried the Ex Services C.N.D banner in protest against nuclear weapons. All wars are an obscenity, but nuclear war will be self destruction, the ultimate obscenity. I realise that we are still territorial because of our inherent tribal instincts and the desire is still strong to say "This is my territory and I must defend it." The use of nuclear weapons does not defend your territory, the effect of these weapons knows no boundaries or borders, and there will be no victors.
The winds of change are still blowing. Europe has united a small step towards world unity, conventional weaponry is a necessary evil while we are still obsessed with our tribalism, and at least it gives us a chance to move towards a united world. Nuclear weapons if used, gives us no change at all.
-Terry Currier, R.N.
© Terry Currie all rights reserved
Sumbitted by William Leitch, R.N.
Page published Feb. 13, 2012