Rob Forsyth – HMS Alliance

Funeral at Sea

The dit that comes to mind as best illustrating the unconventional and unique spirit of submariners comes from my last day at sea. Living conditions on board were very basic so we did not wear uniform but an eclectic display of old civilian clothes appropriately referred to as ‘steaming gear’ and destined to be thrown away at the end of a patrol. However, I had treasured and preserved an old green sweater which I only donned as a sort of lucky mascot when carrying out a particularly difficult or dangerous operation – a sort of lucky mascot. It was a very familiar sight but had more holes than sweater and was finally consigned to the gash bin on my last day at sea. It was retrieved from thence by a crew member who had decided that, after long and faithful service, it deserved to be more formally disposed of.

As we approached harbour on the surface, it was conveyed up the coming tower onto the casing by a burial party on whose shoulders was a plank on which a ‘coffin’ containing my sweater rested under a Union Jack. Appropriate words to commit my sweater to the Ocean Deep were recited by a suitably attired ‘Padre’ (Able Seaman ‘Buck’ Taylor), a bosun’s pipe trilled and the plank was gently up-ended to send the coffin and my sweater on its way: at which point a passing merchant ship dipped its Red Ensign in respect!

Rob Forsyth