Reflections - G. Newman
(For part of WW2 Gordon served as a swimmer on X Craft, His boat X11 was sunk in a collision, Gordon was ashore, sick, when that happened. Three of his crew mates lost their lives in the accident)
The recently reported death of my od mate Frank Ogden led me to reflect on the first time that we worked together, which we had already recollected at the Dolphin centenary reunion.
As a young Midshipman, having been trained to dive on Horsea Island by dear old Jack Passey, I had been sent from Dolphin with two RNVR Subbies, to Artaraig House at Loch Strivenhead, named Varbel II, where we were all to be billeted. This delightful but secretive shooting lodge was in a very secluded spot beside this deep Loch on the north sid of the Clyde estuary. This was the first time that we were to see an XT craft and meet the highly informal but enthusiastic young men who crewed them. Two things stand out in my memory; firstly the midnight swims in the freezing swimming pool and secondly the buckets (literally) of beer that were consumed afterwards. We were all, whatever our rank, on first name terms, apart from the commander, who had an uphill struggle in maintaining disipline.
We were well looked after by a very efficient group of Wrens, most of whom treated us with some suspicion! As we wee all out exercising during the day, lunch was cooked in a 'gluepot' and out of a tin, so evening meals and breakfast were eaten with gusto.
My first job, after only one free day at Varbell II was to learn the art of net cutting. Our initial dive was from a motor launch above the net, to be shown the ropes by a trained diver operating from the X Craft, which had revealed its presence by blowing a little ballast. It was down there at about 25 feet that I first me Frank, as he was to demonstrate the operation of the hydraulic cutters and then guiding of the boat through the opening in the net. He was senior to me by over a year and was soon to be operational in X24, now in the Submarine Museum at Gosport. (see pictures in the gallery) Thanks to him, I was allocated to XE11 and, in training, cut through some 30 more nets. My hands still bear the scars of sharp mussel shells that had to be removed from the wire before the cutters would fit.......and I love moules meunieres and toast Frank with a glass of Muscadet!
By a strange turn of fate, in later life he worked as an accountant with the South-West Farmers Cooperative and I worked as a consultant with their deadly rival, Mole Valley Farmers