Oh Flower of Scotland… Happy Saint Andrews Day 2018 5

November 30th is Saint Andrews day in Scotland.

It has been over 27 years since we left Scotland to return to America but in so many ways it seems like yesterday.

Our trip was cut way too short with the imminent closing of the American base at Holy Loch and so many things have filled our lives since that day. But Scotland will always be a part of our lives.

Arriving there in August of 1990, we learned so much about living in a country that was filled with amazing adventures and challenges. We quickly learned that life was entirely dependent on schedules and arriving at the appropriate place on time. From the airport, our sponsors took us to the ferry landing where we got in line. It is possible to drive to most places in on the Scottish mainland, but the ferry was the quickest way. Plus, the cost of petrol at that time was very prohibitive so you learned quickly that using the short cuts was a necessity.

That first trip across the water from Greenock to Dunoon was pretty exciting. Although Debbie and I had ridden a few ferries in Washington State, this one seemed a lot closer to an adventure. The water was very choppy and the wind was blowing as if to say “Welcome to Scotland” in a way that was mistakenly Scottish. Even for an August day, sweaters were more appropriate than short sleeve shirts and the mist that came over the bow was brisk indeed.

Arriving on the other side, we all drove off in their car to take a short trip around Dunoon and the American points of interest. After a short drive, we rounded the road from Dunoon and in front of us in the Holy Loch stood the submarine tender and my next duty station, the USS Los Alamos AFDB 7. Both were grey and the brightness of the day highlighted the vessels where I would spend much of the next fourteen months. Looking at the drydock, I remember thinking to myself, what have I gotten myself into/

 

 

We settled in to Dunira (which was the name of the Bed and Breakfast that would be out temporary home for a few weeks) and met the owners. She was Scottish and he was Danish. They made a lovely couple and we were ushered to our small apartment upstairs. The shower was smaller than any I had seen since my first submarine.

The rooms were very tight and we realized we had carried too much stuff with us. That would be a lesson that would repeat itself over the next few months when the rest of our household goods arrived. Some of the things we brought we not even unpacked for the tour.

But we were in Scotland, the land where some of both of our ancestors had come from. We have done a lot of genealogy and with the few clues that were passed down to both of us have found a lot of information about where our families had their origin.

One of the highlights of the tour was when we were able to have the perfect Scottish weekend. The weekend started with a drive to Newtonmore, my family’s ancient home. When we arrived we attended a Ceilidh for Clan MacPherson followed by a full day of Clan activities on the following day.

Sunday, we drove to Edinburg for the World Famous Tattoo. I had purchased tickets nearly a year in advance and we had the most amazing seats just below the Governor’s Box.

It was surely a weekend to remember.

We learned a lot of history while we were there. For instance, even though the British Union Jack is flown nearly everywhere, the St Andrew’s Cross or Saltire is Scotland’s national flag.

We traveled quite a bit while we lived there but I was not able to make it to Athelstaneford. This was a village three miles north-east of Haddington in East Lothian.

This is their story:

Athelstaneford gets its name from the legendary battle between Saxon King Athelstane and Pictish King Hungus (Angus) in the 9th century. It began as a model village in the late 18th century, thriving on agriculture and weaving.

Between 815 AD and 832 AD, legend describes how an army of Picts, under Angus mac Fergus (High King of Alba), had been on a punitive raid into Lothian (which was Northumbrian territory), and were being pursued by a larger force of Angles and Saxons under Athelstane.

The Scots were caught and stood to face Athelstane in an area to the north of the modern village of Athelstaneford. The two armies came together at a ford near the present day farm of Prora (one of the field names there is still called the Bloody Lands).

King Angus prayed for deliverance and was rewarded by seeing a cloud formation of a white saltire (the diagonal cross on which St Andrew had been martyred) against a blue sky. The king vowed that if, with the saint’s help, he gained the victory, then Andrew would thereafter be the patron saint of Scotland. The Scots did win, and the Saltire became the flag of Scotland.

https://scottishflagtrust.com/2017/09/exhibition-the-story-of-st-andrew-and-the-saltire/

One other thing we learned from our local friends was that even though there was a song called Scotland the Brave, the true unofficial national anthem, for all true Scots was “Oh Flower of Scotland”.

Roy Williamson of the folk group the Corries wrote both the lyrics and music for the song. The words refer to the victory of the Scots, led by Robert the Bruce, over England’s Edward II at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.

I have several recordings of the Corries and I might be wrong but it feels an awful lot like they were tweaking their neighbors to the south in defiance. I’ll let you be the judge.

O flower of Scotland

When will we see your like again

That fought and died for

Your wee bit hill and glen

And stood against him

Proud Edward’s army

And sent him homeward

Tae think again

 

The hills are bare now

And autumn leaves lie thick and still

O’er land that is lost now

Which those so dearly held

And stood against him

Proud Edward’s army

And sent him homeward

Tae think again

 

Those days are passed now

And in the past they must remain

But we can still rise now

And be the nation again

That stood against him

Proud Edward’s army

And sent him homeward

Tae think again

Happy Saint Andrew’s Day!

Mister Mac

 

 

It’s a Bonny Life in the Land of Kilts and Bagpipes – ALL HANDS September 1967 4

This article was written less than a decade after Site One was established in the Holy Loch.

I did not arrive in Scotland until August of 1990 to serve on board the AFDB 7 Floating Drydock but many of the same conditions that existed back in the Sixties were very similar to what was written. The major differences of course were mostly economic and the price for gasoline was WAY higher than what it was in 1967.

My wife and I lived off base in a little house at the head of the loch that had just been vacated by another American family. To be honest, it was a real learning experience for us as we sacrificed a few small appliances while learning about the different electricity. But the wood stove furnace kept us very cozy at night.

It was really very pleasant and we enjoyed the new way of living. It was a far cry from our base housing in Hawaii, but it held a certain charm of its own. The neighbors were nice and by the time we were stationed there the site had been active for over thirty years.

The saddest day of my career came when we were informed that our tour was ending due to the site being phased out and closed. But as I sat here tonight and reread the article from ALL HANDS, so many memories came flooding back.

I am grateful to the Navy for giving me a chance to live in Scotland (even if it was a short tour). For us, it was indeed a Bonny Life.

Mister Mac

“September 1967 THE BULLETIN BOARD – ALL HANDS MAGAZINE

It’s a Bonny Life in the Land of Kilts and Bagpipes

Authored by William Roger Maul, CTC, USN

When NAVYMEN and their families complete a tour at duty stations overseas, they leave with a better appreciation of the country and its people, thanks to their life as neighbors of the local residents. That’s part of the broadening experience of travel, one of the service fringe benefits that has a tendency to be overlooked.

Of course, some duty stations abroad are more interesting than others. Some have an ideal climate. Some have exotic scenery. And then there’s duty in Holy Loch, Scotland.

Navy families have been known to return from a couple of years in Holy Loch almost unrecognizable to family and friends they had left behind. Hitherto unmusical Navymen can be seen—and heard—sending the skirl of the bagpipes wafting across the water as their submarine pulls into Charleston, S. C.

Friends are sometimes startled when newly returned families rush outside at the first sign of sunshine and throw their arms skyward as if greeting a long-lost comrade.

Former diehard bachelors come home with brides, whose thoroughly charming accent quickly devastates the local populace.

There is no U. S. naval base at Holy Loch. A small, protected bay near Scotland’s western coast, it is used by the Navy as an anchorage for a submarine tender (currently Uss Simon Lake (AS 31) is as signed), and the boats of Submarine Squadron 14, most of which are Fleet ballistic missile subs.

Since there is no base, Navy families are required to live among the Scots (not Scotch, if you please), and it apparently doesn’t take long to become captivated by the whole Scottish scene. Most of the scene, anyway. The Scottish weather is notoriously uncaptivating.

There are three principal towns close to Holy Loch. Most Navy families set up housekeeping in either Greenock, Gourock, or Dunoon.

Greenock (about 77,000 population) is the largest of the three, and thus has most to offer the Navy family, especially with respect to available housing.

It is also only 25 miles from Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city. Greenock has one major disadvantage. It is on the wrong side of the Firth of Clyde, as far as the submarine tender is concerned, and the boat ride to the ship is rather long.

Gourock (about 10,000) is near Greenock, also across the Firth of Clyde from the tender, and the boat ride to the ship is still lengthy.

Many Navy families choose to live in Dunoon (about 10,000), since it is closest to the anchorage. There is a small Navy Exchange and Commissary located here, and the tender is anchored nearby.

Housing: Most Navy families rent furnished apartments (called flats) or houses. Unfurnished houses are available, but are much more difficult to find, and often require a minimum two-year lease. Furnished two-bedroom apartments and houses usually rent for $100 per month and up. One-bedroom flats start at $45 per month.

Houses are generally unheated. But, even if they are provided with central heating, the maximum temperature may not be as high as that to which you are accustomed during the winter months in the States.

Heating is usually by portable electric or paraffin (kerosene) heaters.

Gas heating is more expensive than in the States.

Scottish communities have an electrical supply of from 200 to 240 volts at 50 cycles. Electrical appliances of American manufacture normally operate on 110/120 volts, 60 cycles; therefore, they can be used only with a transformer. It is suggested that you check your American-made appliances to determine the correct size transformer to use.

You should bring plenty of sheets, pillowslips, towels, and tablecloths so that you do not have to do your laundry too frequently. Good drying days do not come with any regularity.

Clothes dryers are especially helpful items to bring with you, although the limited space in the kitchen area can present a problem, and you may have to pay for special wiring or run your dryer on half power.

Clothes washers of the semiautomatic or wringer type will work with a converter. Automatic washers can present a number of problems due to the difference in cycles, plumbing lines, and fixtures.

Radios, hi-fi’s, phonographs, mixers, toasters, grills, vacuum cleaners and electric heaters are desirable, and you will want to bring them with you. However, it is suggested you store television sets (completely useless), freezer, stoves, and automatic washer-dryer in the States until you get back home. Television sets may be bought or rented locally.

Medical and Dental Care: There are two U. S. naval clinics, one in Dunoon, the other in Greenock. Medical care is also available from civilian sources, but dependents may not use the free facilities of the British National Health Service without the permission of a U. S. Navy medical officer. When hospitalization is required, it must be obtained from civilian sources.

It is recommended that dependents have all necessary dental treatment completed before leaving the U. S., because only limited dental treatment is available from the Navy Dental Clinic and local civilian dentists. British dentists are highly skilled and qualified, of course, but their first concern is to their own patients. Some, however, will accept other than National Health patients.

Their fees are comparable to those charged by dentists in the States.

Commissary and Exchange: The U. S. Air Force has a commissary store and exchange at Prestwick Air Base, approximately 40 miles from Holy Loch. The store is, of course, open to Navymen and their dependents.

You will probably find yourself doing considerable shopping in the local markets, since the Air Force commissary is so far away. (In Scotland, a 40-mile jaunt can turn into quite an expedition. There are few super highways between Holy Loch and Prestwick.) You will find that personal contacts in your daily marketing are far more important than they are in the U. S. supermarket, and you will get personal attention that you will not find at home.

There are many small towns and villages in this area, and you will rarely find it necessary to leave your neighborhood for most of your needs.

A limited selection of commissary and exchange items and package liquors is available at the Ardnadam Recreation Complex, near Dunoon. Money and Banking; U. S. currency is used on U. S. bases in the United Kingdom. Elsewhere, British sterling is the medium of exchange.

The pound sterling (£) is valued at approximately $2.80, and is composed of 20 shillings. A shilling is valued at 14 cents. Other units of exchange are: 10-shilling notes ($1.40), half crown, or two and one half shillings (35 cents), two-shilling piece (28 cents), six pence (seven cents), three pence (pronounced “thruppence”) (three and one-half cents), and half-penny (pronounced “hayp’nee”) (one-half cent).

One U. S. bank maintains a branch in Glasgow. Military personnel may maintain dollar or sterling checking accounts with this bank. However, checks drawn on this bank are not readily negotiable outside Britain. Postal money orders and bank drafts are the only practical means of remitting funds to the States. While it is suggested that you consider retaining your checking account with your present bank, a local bank account is most convenient and highly recommended.

Clothing: The reporting uniform for Navymen is Service Dress Blue Bravo. In addition to the prescribed military uniform, personnel are permitted to wear civilian clothing for shore leave. A full seabag should be brought when reporting for duty. Local prices on women’s clothes are from moderate to expensive, depending on taste. Materials are of excellent quality, and woolens can be bought at a considerable saving.

Sweaters and other woolens are in good supply and reasonably priced.

If you wear narrow shoes you may find it difficult to get a proper fit. Otherwise, shoes are attractive and moderately priced. It is a good idea to be in contact with your favorite shoe dealer in the States. Have your size and width handy, and allow three to four weeks for delivery.

Comfortable walking shoes are a must.

Clothing for girls is easier to find than for boys. Girls’ wool skirts and sweaters are plentiful as are good coats. Mail order houses in the States give good service and orders can usually be obtained in three weeks. If you enter a child in a British school, the school uniform is comparable in price to other clothing, and is of good quality.

You will probably want to bring some summer clothing, but the bulk should be placed in permanent storage in the States. For everyone, a raincoat with a lining is another must.

Automobiles: There are no restrictions on the importation of a privately owned automobile, as long as it is in a safe operating condition and in good mechanical order. A mandatory inspection of all automobiles manufactured over six years ago is now in effect in the United Kingdom.

Vehicles are entered free of duty and purchase tax, provided that a certificate is executed which requires the owner to export the car at a later date. A sale to another U.S. serviceman, who must execute the same type of certificate, is permissible.

Spare parts and repairs on American cars are expensive in Scotland and hard to get. Compacts are preferable to larger automobiles, since some of the roads and gates are quite narrow.

Military personnel are not required to obtain a British driver’s license, but must hold a valid U. S. license. If your stateside license expires while you are in Scotland, you can obtain a British license for five shillings (70 cents) a year, upon the presentation of a certificate signed by your commanding officer.

Two other items are essential for operation of an automobile in Great Britain: payment of road tax at the rate of 15 pounds a year, and automobile insurance for which the yearly rates vary according to a number of circumstances. In regard to automobile insurance, a letter from your present insurance company attesting to the number of accident- free years you have driven will result in a no-claims bonus policy with the resultant reduced rates.

Exchange gasoline is sold at Ardnadam Recreation Complex, at25 cents per imperial gallon. Gasoline at this price is rationed for use in driving to and from work (that is, the appropriate pier). Gasoline on the local market (petrol, of course) costs 70 cents per imperial gallon.

Education: Since there are no U.S. Schools in the Holy Loch area, your children will attend British schools. Each school is under the supervision of a headmaster, who is generally one of the faculty. The children are placed in classes according to age and ability.

These classes are called “forms” instead of grades—thus, what we call the sixth grade is called the sixth form. The first stage of schooling, called the “infant stage” is for children from five to seven years old.

The next stage, the “primary,” takes the child through age 11.

At this point the local children are given an examination called the eleven plus exam, which determines where they will be placed in the secondary system. American children do not have to take these examinations.

The secondary system takes the child through to ages 15 to 18, or older. In secondary, or grammar school, the student will be offered college entrance courses, commercial, homecraft, or technical courses. American children are placed in classes based on the records transferred from their last school and, in some cases, as a result of conferences with the teachers. Once school is in session, the child will be moved up or down until he is with a class of the same educational level.

Children are generally expected to walk or cycle to school if they live less than two miles from the school.

Students who are under 15, living two or more miles from school, are entitled to transportation. The transportation provided may be a season ticket on public transportation and does not have to be a special bus or automobile.

Students at most schools in the Holv Loch area wear uniforms. This is often just a blazer, but is sometimes a complete outfit. Although wearing the uniform is not mandatory, it is strongly encouraged.

Preparing for the trip: Dependents planning to travel to Scotland would be wise to check early on immunization requirements. Applications for passports and visas should also be made well in advance. It is a good idea to maintain close liaison with your sponsor so that you will have up-to-date information on requirements.

Pets: As there is a six-month quarantine for all pets arriving in Great Britain, you are advised not to take your pets to Scotland. Costs of maintaining animals in quarantine are high, and must be borne by the owner.

Recreation: Most of the towns in the Holy Loch area have public facilities for individual sports such as golf, tennis, swimming, bowling, and fishing.

The U. S. Navy contingent also has established its own sports program. There are softball and bowling teams for the ladies, and baseball competition for boys. The men participate in basketball, softball, swimming, soccer, boxing, golfing, skiing, cycling, bowling, camping, and other sports.”

 

I love LA 3

Regular readers know that once upon a time when the world was still dark with fears from the Soviets, a little known base in Scotland served as a portable pier for our submarine fleet. Starting in 1960, units of the United States Fleet anchored in a small inlet called Holy Loch that was just up from Dunoon. The submarine tenders that rotated in and out for the next 31 years all toiled endlessly to support the ballistic missile submarines and occasional fast attacks.

The other major unit was the floating sectional drydock that was known

as the USS Los Alamos (AFDB 7).

You can search theleansubmariner by looking for articles about her and understand just how important this asset was and how amazing the technology was that allowed her to serve for the entire time Site One was open.

A chance for a new life for a venerable name

The LA has been decommissioned for nearly twenty seven years as a Naval Unit but a unique opportunity has emerged that would pay tribute to the city that gave its name to this unit.

LOS ALAMOS, N.M. (AP) – New Mexico’s congressional delegation says the U.S. Navy’s next nuclear submarine should be named “USS Los Alamos” in recognition of the community’s contributions.

The delegation sent a letter to Navy Secretary Richard Spencer on Monday citing the founding of Los Alamos National Laboratory, the once-secret federal installation that helped develop the atomic bomb.

The letter refers to the heritage, service and scientific achievements of the northern New Mexico community.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the founding of the lab, one of the nation’s premier nuclear weapons research centers. Aside from its role in the Manhattan Project, work at Los Alamos provided the technical understanding in nuclear energy that led to the Naval Propulsion Program.

The naming effort also has the support of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee.

See the source image

Virginia Class Submarine

Of course I strongly support the efforts to bring back the name Los Alamos to the US Navy. My only hope is that in all the hubbub, the people who are pushing from the name don’t forget the mission the original LA performed. By providing remote dockings all of those years, she contributed so much to the nation’s defense.

Heritage means something to all of those who have served in the Navy.

This is one heritage that should not be forgotten.

Mister Mac

Polaris to Poseidon – 1966 United States Navy Submarine & Missile Documentary 4

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As theleansubmariner approaches 500 posts, I thought it fitting to post another great video of the boats that made up much of my career as well as others in the early days of nuclear Cold War submarines.

The 41 for Freedom boats represented a large part of a concerted effort to offer a countermeasure to Soviet intentions.

God Bless all of the men who served in this historic endeavor. You truly made a difference!

Mister Mac

Silouette of 598

Did it matter? 21

Did it matter?

A few weeks ago on one of the Holy Loch themed Facebook pages, a few of us were reminiscing about the old days and all of the patrols that were made during the Cold War. Someone reflected how successful the system was but a member of the site (who self-identified as an anti-nuclear activist) said something to the effect that we didn’t do a thing. I was reminded that since the end of the Cold War, many of the early anti-nukes were actually encouraged, trained and funded in a very secretive way by the KGB. Yet, I do ask from time to time, was it all worth it?

Proteus early 70s

From 1960 – 1991, submarines made deterrent patrols beneath the surface of the ocean almost non-stop in support of America’s strategic system. The intent of course would make the idea of anyone (USSR specifically) launching a first strike nuclear attack virtually out of the question. While land based missiles and planes could be targeted by heavier and heavier land based missiles, finding all of the Polaris, Poseidon and later Trident boats would have been much more of a challenge. Even the growth of the Soviet submarine forces as a countermeasure would not have stopped all of the boats from performing their gruesome task.

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In order to support such a system of deterrence, someone was going to have to give up some free time of course. The ballistic missile submarines from the very beginning were manned by rotating crews (blue and gold). The hallmark of the system was that pretty well engineered boats with nuclear reactors and flexible support teams could get in to port, turnover and refit and return to station with a great deal of efficiency. From 1960 that included forward deployment of tenders and drydocks in strategic locations to allow the patrol zones a maximum coverage.

The sacrifices were abundant.

For the men who sailed on the boats, there were plenty of sacrifices to go around. The separation from family for months at a time is in itself one of the great reasons so many only did one or two tours. We sailed in virtual silence, only being on the receiving end of an occasional Family Gram. These messages were limited to a few sentences and if the sender didn’t do it right, a man could go without any word for the entire patrol. Not only were you missing holidays and birthdays (not to mention the occasional actual birth of a child) but you had nothing but the bottom of the upper bunk to stare at in the glowing red lights in berthing.

Life went on while the boys were under the seas. Bills to pay, washing machines that waited until the hatch was closed to break. Cars that had flat tires and storms that blew down fences. All while Daddy was away and left Mom to try and figure out how to fix things. Some marriages weren’t strong enough. The divorce rate was high and the broken families literally littered the landscape. Kids learned to talk and walk and fight and make new friends all while Dad was so far away. There was no one to ask advice from about that girl who drove you crazy or the boy who wanted to be “more than friends”. All that had to wait while Mom tried to handle things on her own.

It wasn’t a great picnic for single guys either. Their lives were just as much impacted by hibernating under the waves.

Bob and Renee 1972

My first patrol was a Christmas run on the George Washington in 1973. When I went to sea, I had had a fight with my fiancée on the phone. This was no small deal since we were in Guam in another time zone and she was at home in Elizabeth PA. The phones were very expensive back then and when you are fighting and not speaking, it’s an expensive silence. Things at home were not great either. Dad had just come back from the hospital where Mom was spending the night after a few days of a serious medical condition. He was tired and we also had some harsh words about the future and the past. I can’t even remember if I told him I loved him. He was pretty angry that I had sent half of my family gram forms to Renee.

The boat leaving for patrol was actually kind of a relief in some ways. The relief was that we were so busy with everything that comes with making a patrol that we could turn life off for a while. There were fun moments mixed in the bad ones. There were hours of boredom surrounded by a few moments of utter fear. Even as close as you were with the men around you, there were also a lot of lonely moments when you really questioned who you were and what you were doing there.

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The worst moment of course came on Christmas Eve. The cooks had decorated the mess decks for the season with some shiny tinsel and a few lights. If I remember, there were even some of those cheesy cut out signs strung together that said Happy Holidays. I had mess cooked all day and was pretty tired but I have to say the feeling on the mess decks when they broke out the movie was pretty depressed. I was raised as a Christian and missed the service at my old Church field with singing and Joy to the World. I don’t know who thought it was a good thing to do, but in the second reel of the movie, the fans suddenly turned off and the General Alarm broke over the MC system followed by “Man Battle Stations Missile, spin up all missiles” followed by another round of that awful General Alarm.

There were not many Christian sentiments shared by the crew members who dragged themselves out of their racks that evening. I couldn’t help but think about the old saying Peace on Earth, Good Will Towards men as we came together to practice what we had been sent to do.

But it was only practice. The world got to live another day without a cataclysmic moment. Silent Night, Holy Night.

The patrol would end just like the 42 before it on board the George-fish. Turnover to the Goldies, get on the busses to the air base in Guam and try to catch back up with our lives.

That girl I left behind found a new guy. Mom got better and has lived another 40 years in relatively good health. Dad and I found a way to say “I love you” before he died … He told me the day before he passed and the day before I went to sea for one of my last trips. The world never did get to experience that nuclear holocaust we were sent out to prevent.

Did it matter?

I still like to think it did. We have had wars of other kinds but the ones we worked to prevent never have materialized. I hear the Chinese are building boomers now. I hear the Russians are upgrading their fleets again and of course there is that whole madness with the entire Middle East. Our own country is being torn apart inside by people with some pretty selfish motives.

But tonight, as I write this and you read it, some new generation is at sea riding their own patrol or mission. Even with the change in the way we live and fight, our submarine force is still sailing the oceans protecting a fragile peace. I thank them all. I pray for their missions and their safety. I mostly pray that as I sing Silent Night at Church tonight, the words will have as much meaning as they did that night 41 years ago.

Mister Mac

Merry Christmas to all of my fellow Submariners wherever you are!

 

The World of Polaris Reply

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One of the best weekends of my life was our Perfect Scottish Weekend. We travelled the Highlands in August of 1991 and visited Newtonmore for a visit with Clan MacPherson. Then we went to Edinburgh for the world famous Tattoo. I hope you get a chance to visit it someday, it is breathtaking. Recommend that you make reservations well in advance for seats beneath the Governor’s box.

Mid way through the video clip attached you will see a Tattoo from an earlier time. The whole video takes about half an hour but for anyone interested in or having lived the Polaris story, this is a wonderful way to view the life we lived when not on the boats.

 

Enjoy, Aloha.

Mister Mac

AFDB-7 Los Alamos Holy Loch Scotland “IN THE BEGINNING…” 26

For the second time in the history of theleansubmariner, I am posting an article from a Shipmate that I have come to know via our common interests in history and events that shaped it. This article comes from Norman Rachels SWE4 (formerly of the United States Navy). Norm was one of the guys who arrived early enough to see Site One come together in a very meaningful way… this is his story.

Thanks for all your hard work both then and in putting this together Shipmate!

Mister Mac

 

“IN THE BEGINNING….”

Mr. Mac posted a blog on August 1st, 2011 titled “Bagpipes and Boomers and Beer, oh my!”[1]   The sub heading was, “Holy Loch, Scotland”…….and THAT CAUGHT MY ATTENTION. In fact, that was how I stumbled across his blog back on August 3rd, 2013. You see, my 50th wedding anniversary was coming up on the 21st and I was still looking for something unusual for my wife and had been Goggling Scotland for quite some time looking for the perfect gift.

Why, you might ask? Because she is from Glasgow, Scotland and we were married there on August 21st, 1963. I met her on my first day ashore in Dunoon, Scotland, arriving on May 27, 1961 aboard the USS DE SOTO COUNTY. I was a Seabee in MCB-4 (Mobile Construction Battalion Four) and the main body was heading for Rota, Spain.

Fortunately for me, I had been assigned to DETACHMENT KILO and was disembarking with the main body of Kilo to spend my stay in Scotland, in the Holy Loch, on a floating barracks ship, APL-42, which we affectionately called, “The Apple”. The purpose of Detachment Kilo was to erect a floating dry dock capable of docking Polaris submarines.

The dock had been in storage in Green Cove Springs, Florida since WWII and Detachment Kilo was formed in the spring of 1960 to assist in the reactivation of AFDB-7. With the completion of reactivation on the dry dock sections, preparations were begun for the long tow across the Atlantic. This involved the inventory and stowage of all equipment and procuring provisions for the 30-day voyage. The tows left Green Cove Springs, Florida the end of April. Not only were the four sections of the dry dock separately towed but also the barracks ship (APL-42) and a floating warehouse (YFNB-32). Also towed behind the A and B sections of the dock were two barges. It was the largest tow since World War II.[2]

Dock 1  Dock 2

Work commenced on the dry dock sections under the direction of LCDR W. E. Nims, officer-in-charge of Det. KILO, on June 2, 1961. By the 23rd the first wing walls had been raised and by August 10th dock sections A and B had been welded together. Difficulties plagued KILO’s work, the largest being the inclement weather which resulted in faulty welds which had to be cut out and re-welded. Shelters were built around the crews to protect them and the welds where work continued night and day…….and so did the troublesome weather. The core of KILO’s work on the floating dry dock enveloped the steelworkers. Intricate welds, hampering weather and long hours produced a strain evident in the steelworker crews by deployment’s end. Forming the backbone of the steelworker crews were 11 men who had graduated in April 1961 from the Davisville, (RI) (Home of the Seabees) [3] Class “C” Welding and Certification School. All phases of horizontal, vertical, overhead and pipe welding were covered to give the men technical experience for the task they faced. Honor man of the class, J. M. Frizzel lauded the school for the interest shown each individual. Passing on the knowledge and interest acquired in school, the graduates helped promote more efficient steelworker crews in KILO. Addressing the graduating class, LCDR Nims stated that the steelworkers would have the most critical phase of the dry dock assembly.[4]

Dock 3

On top of Section A looking at B going up. I took this picture using a Polaroid camera in 1961. All my black and white pictures are from the same camera

On August 15th sections A and B were ready for the first test dive. However, as the dock descended a fault was discovered in the levelometer system and the submergence test had to be postponed. To repair this deficiency it was necessary to call upon the ONLY LIVING EXPERT ON THIS SYSTEM, age 72, Mr. “T”, as he was known. By September 16th A and B sections were prepared for another try at submergence and were successful.

The next task was to transfer a gantry crane from the back of one of the remaining C and D sections TO THE TOP OF THE WALL on A and B  This was accomplished on September 18th.[5]

 

How… you ask? By sinking sections A and B, building bridge rails across to the back of the section holding the crane then pulling it across with block and tackle.

Normally, this would mean the completion of the hardest task of erection and the beginning of a downhill jog. But events became more hectic for KILO. The weather worsened. The Ingersoll Rand main generator engine broke down and it became obvious that a longer working week was necessary to meet the operational date of November 1st, 1961. The work schedule was pushed to six days a week, 12 hours a day. By October 4th section C was joined to A and B sections and on October 22nd the last section, D, was incorporated. The work schedule was increased to seven days a week, 12 or more hours a day.[6] (funny, I don’t remember getting OT).

Dock 4   Dock 5

Note the crane on the back left of a section and the wing walls are lying down and on hinges with the tops facing each other. The crane(s) had to go from this position to the top of erected wing walls. The left picture was taken in Green Cove Springs, FL before the tow. I took the picture on the right from the top of section A showing a crane on the back of C section, the wing walls still down, which could not be raised because of the position of the crane. The cranes cable drum is almost as large as a pick-up truck. A Mike boat is approaching on the unusually calm waters of Holy Loch.

Below gantry structures are going up for the outer rail for the cranes to run on. The other rail was atop the outer edge of the wing walls.

Dock 6       Dock 7

In the second picture below you can see one of the 30,000 pound anchors used to hold the dock in place. Twenty-four were used with 3 inch chain links which weighed 86 lbs. each. We had 3 miles of chain and dropped 24 anchors in 90 feet of water, only having to re-drop one.

  Dock 81

Dock 9

The first crane is being transferred to the top of wing walls A and B. Note the gantry structure at water level in the picture on the right and the crane at the back of section C. This was the FIRST TIME THE AFDB-7 HAD BEEN UNDER WATER SINCE WWII. These color pictures were taken with my Bell & Howell 8 MM movie camera and I had the 2 & ¾ inch reels of film converted to a DVD & received several still pictures like these also. All my color pictures are from the 8 MM films.

Cranes were pulled across with ropes, blocks & tackles.

Dock 10 Dock 11

Dock 12 Dock 13

I took these pictures from the upper deck of the APL-42 showing section C wing walls going up after the crane had been placed on top of sections A and B. Note the workers on the jacks in the picture on the right, changing the pin positions. The left picture below shows a close up of the jacks with the holes for a large pin to be inserted as each side is raised about a foot. The pin holds up one side while the jack on the other side of the same wall is lowered, a pin removed, and then jacked up two notches, and re-inserted. The process is then repeated for the opposite wall. It took almost 16 hours to raise the walls for each of the four sections. Naturally the ballast must be controlled for the shifting weight. That’s why the 72 year old “Mr. T.” came in and repaired the system.

Dock 14 Dock 15

The above picture on the right is from the top of section C looking at our “home away from home”, the APL-42, or as we called it, “the Apple” (a floating barracks ship).

Dock 16

This is a different view of the Apple showing it had been moved to a different position in relation to the dock, and also one of the outer crane rails on the gantry structure is visible on the right.

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I took these pictures with my Polaroid Land camera from the top of section A showing Seabees installing the deck between the rails of the cranes.

Dock 17 Dock 18

 

Dock 19

This award winning night photo shows flawed welds being cut out and would be welded again. After completion the welds would again be x-rayed for flaws.

Dock 20 Dock 21

The top picture shows a crane atop completed sections while the bottom right area shows another wall going up. The lower picture is the nearly finished AFDB-7. Note the small crane on the barrage in front.

 

Finished AFDB-7, is sitting high, waiting for a sub.       U.S.S. Patrick Henry is the first sub into the dock.

Dock 22 Dock 23

“….Yours is a significant contribution to fleet readiness of which you can be justly proud…Three points exemplify your outstanding performance. First, the high degree of competence in the fine art of seamanship is most gratifying. Second, your adherence to schedule shows dogged determination and much resourcefulness and imitative. Finally, your safety record be-speaks the skill of every man. Each of these is the more important for the adverse weather conditions which you combated. “The difficulty involved and the result realized are the measure of your accomplishment…..Well Done.

     ADM H.P. Smith, Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Navy Forces, Europe      

Fighting all the obstacles, KILO missed the proposed completion date only a week. By November 6th the final submergence test had been accomplished.

As the 300 men of KILO who were in Scotland can testify, a description of the Holy Loch deployment made in April 1961 by CAPT. J.C. Tate, Commander Construction Battalions U.S. Atlantic Fleet held true at the deployment’s close in November: “one of the most interesting job of any of the Seabee battalions.”

On 10 November 1961, six months work on deployment, plus many more months of preparation for the deployment, closed in a ceremony in which Det. KILO OIC, LCDR W.E. Nims, transferred the dry dock to CAPT Walter Schlech, COMSUBRON 14, who in turn placed it in the custody of the AFDB-7 OIC, LT R.O. Melcher. The watch was set, and thus to Holy Loch a new addition for the service of Polaris submarines.

Three days later, the detachment, with the exception of a 60-man rear echelon boarded the USNS GORDON, sailed from the Holy Loch and headed for home.

Holy Loch is nestled in the Scottish Highlands a setting of verdant, rolling hills, picturesque Lochs, parks, kilts and tamoshanters. A land where the whiskey is strong and the people are friendly. Regardless of brooding Scottish skies, liberty became one of the memorable aspects of the deployment at Holy Loch. A short ride in a “Mike” boat from the APL-42 to Ardnadam pier and one was ashore. Only a few minutes ride by bus and personnel could be in the Scottish holiday resort of Dunoon, Scotland, home of the Cowal Highland Games. Many enjoyable evenings were spent by KILO men at Dunoon dancing at the pavilion or ‘quaffing” Lager at one of Dunoon’s inviting pubs.[12] (It’s like drinking, but you spill more. With 3 pints to go and only 2 minutes before they would be thrown out of the pub (bar),quaffing was a given.)

Dock 24     Dock 25

 

The Ardnadam pier was used for embarking and debarking to the Apple and AFDB-7 as well as the submarine tenders.

Returning from liberty in Glasgow via steam trains, we would then take the ferry from Gourock to Dunoon except when we missed the last one. Then we had to take a Mike boat from the Admiralty pier at Caldwell Bay in Gourock, pictured on the right and showing the Holy Loch in the background. I remember we would always be hungry and usually purchased two “fish & chips”, one to eat right-a-way, and the other on the trip to the Apple about 7 or 8 miles away.

Dock 26    Dock 27

About the author:             Norman Rachels SWE4

Below I am standing on the “Apple” with the first two sections, A & B being joined together in the back ground. I remember as my buddy and I went ashore the first time, at least 8, 9, 10 or more people stopped us on the street and invited us to dinner that night; several even asked us to spend the night. Coming from near a large military base, Ft. Bragg, NC, I could never imagine a soldier there getting the same reception. Since we did not take up any of the “offers”, I can now say that I am glad we didn’t. Later that evening, I met my wife of 50+ years at the Crown Court Café & Bar on Argyll Street, Dunoon.

Dock 28   Dock 29

Steelworker Erector E-3 in 1961                                      Crown Court Café & Bar, Dunoon

 

This AFDB 7 plaque, along with the picture of the docked sub, & the Crewmember certificate was given to me by LCDR R.A. Nance of the AFDB-7 when I visited in September, 1989.

Dock 30  Dock 31 Dock 32

Dock 33

MCB-4 Plaque

Dock 34

MCB-4 Battalion Patch

Dock 35

MCB-4 Cruise Book 1961

Dock 36  Dock 37

August 21st 1963 Glasgow, Scotland                                 August 21st, 2013 Scottsdale, AZ

 

[1]theleansubmariner.com

[2] This paragraph and the two pictures are from MCB-4 Cruise Book of 1961

[3] Davisville Naval Base no longer exists.

[4] This paragraph is from MCB-4 Cruise Book of 1961.

[5] The above two paragraphs are from MCB-4 Cruise Book of 1961

[6] This paragraph is from MCB-4 Cruise Book of 1961

[7] This photo is from MCB-4 Cruise Book of 1961

[8] These two pictures were taken with my Bell & Howell 8 MM movie camera and film converted to a DVD

[9] Picture on left was taken with Bell & Howell 8 mm camera, picture on right with Polaroid Land Camera.

[10] Picture is from the MCB-4 Cruise Book.

[11] I am not sure where I got this picture. The USS Patrick Henry in the AFDB-7 is from the MCB-4 Cruise Book.

[12] These 6 paragraphs are from the MCB-4 Cruise Book of 1961.

[13] The above pier picture is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.   Attribution: John Fergusonhttp://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ardnadam_Pier_Holy_Loch_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1750930.jpg No changes made .

[14] Ardnadam Pier Hotel picture is from the MCB-4 Cruise Book of 1961.

[15] Admiralty pier, Caldwell Bay in Gourock. (taken in 1956 – no copyright)

[16] I do not know where I obtained this picture.

[17] LCDR Nance, Commanding Officer, AFDB-7 personalized a note in the upper left corner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Highland Festival of Note 4

Highland Games 2012 001

 

The sky was exactly what would be expected for a festival that claims to celebrate the highlands of Scotland. Sunny one moment and dark grey and foreboding the next.

The weather didn’t deter the faithful though as people from all over Western PA and anyplace within reasonable driving distance headed out to the Ligonier Highland Games at Olde Idlewild Park.

DSCF1500 DSCF1502

The parking lot was full to overflowing (as proved by the brand new dent on the rear bumper of my car).

But the people were exactly as one would expect at a typical highland games: excited to hear the bands, see the lovely dancers, and smell the amazing foods waiting to be eaten.

If you’ve never been to a games but you suspect that you are even vaguely Scottish (twice removed on your Mother’s side for instance) you should seek one out. What I like about this game setting is the timing. Fall in Western PA reminds me a bit of summer in Western Scotland (all two weeks of it).

Moderate temperatures which makes wearing a kilt much nicer and the coolness in the air seems to help the pipes sound even more fantastic than they normally do.

DSCF1511       DSCF1513

You meander through the booths like a wild stream through the woods of Idlewild. The bumper stickers say it all: “If it isn’t Scottish, it’s CRAP”. The funny thing is, I always end up walking away a little more laden with stuff that isn’t crap in my knapsack. Well, it keeps the economy rolling along I suppose. I am sitting at the keyboard wearing my latest amnesia/Alzheimer’s present to myself. It’s a beautiful black polo shirt with the Clan Crest and my last name sewn on it in bright letters. I call it that because someday when my memory fades my wife can just dress me up in one of the many fine shirts I have bought over the years and if I am ever in doubt, I can merely look at the name for a quick reminder.

DSCF1579 DSCF1514

     DSCF1584

There is something for everyone… Shetland Ponies, dogs of every breed, color and size, pipe bands and solo pipers and wee lads and lassies dressed in their highland finest.

 

As I mentioned before, there is also a fine selection of foods. The Scottish are world renowned for their skillful cuisine that I am sure most countries would die for. Actually, most of what is served helps you along the way to the final resting place. Scotch Eggs, Bridies, Meat Pies, Haggis, Banger’s and Mash and a full assortment of American fried and grilled foods for the non-Scottish members of the family.

If it wasn’t for the never ending skirl of the pipes caused by the solo pipers practicing by a tree, you could probably hear the arteries of many of the patrons hardening as they swallow their treats. I will freely confess that it isn’t a good games for me without at least a tasting. Special note to the gentleman behind me: Texas hot sauce is not normally found at the Meat Pie tent. I’m sure its delightful but its not normally served.

DSCF1575 DSCF1576

The real delight for me though is the massed bands marching onto the field. The sound of well over a hundred pipers echoing off the nearby hills is amazing and takes you far away to another place and time. The staccato drumming and muffled beat of the big drums adds a crisp line of rhythm that keeps even the most excitable child in line if only for a short time. The well placed feet follow a practiced pattern and they come down the field in a way that reminds you of the bold army they once led. No wonder the enemy called them “The Ladies from Hell”.

Everyone is a family member or part of a larger “Clan” on days like today. The military men who served in Vietnam are all getting on in years now but still wear their caps with their kilts. The Navy boys form the Holy loch keep a keen eye out for a brother with Dolphins or Surface Warfare Pins on their khaki shirts. The Marines sport their own shirts and hats but you can tell them by their walk. They are American’s first, but are proud of the lineage that sets them apart as Scottish blooded warriors.

DSCF1580

The Festival and Games are over for another year. Just ahead will be celebrations for Saint Andrews day in November. January brings Rabby Burns Birthday Celebrations and all the Haggis your heart can stand. Cold winter nights up north are just a reminder of the hardships our ancestors faced to help build this new land. But in the far reaches of the hollows and lanes, you can bet that somewhere, some young piper is practicing for the next season. Some athlete is dreaming of how he will get the next few feet from his throw. Some dancer meets in a practice hall and listens to hour after hour of the pipes learning how to control that critical step.

DSCF1551

They will meet again in September of 2013 in the woods near Ligonier as their predecessors have for over 54 years. And all of us who love the history, mystery and revelry of Scotland will gladly join them there.

Will ye no come back again?

Mister Mac

By the way, if anyone saw the guy who hit my car, send me a note to my private email. A kind soul wrote their license plate number on a napkin and the police think they know who did it, but it would be nice to have a witness. (It happened between 10:30 and 2:00 PM) Thanks

Happy Hogmanay 5

The Scots invented many things over the years that have proven quite useful to mankind. The list of inventions and innovations is enough to make your head spin, so suffice it to say that they were (and are) a very clever people. See more here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scottish_inventions_and_discoveries

Watt Steam Can you hear me now US NavyGlobal Warming started here Important stuff

One of my favorite inventions though is the Celebration of Hogmanay. There are many legends of how the celebration came about. Hogmanay’s beginnings may harken back to the celebration of the winter solstice among the Norse, probably incorporating customs from the Gaelic celebration of Samhain. The Vikings (or what we call uninvited guests in my side of the house) celebrated Yule, which later contributed to the Twelve Days of Christmas, or the “Daft Days” as they were sometimes called in Scotland. The whole winter festival program went underground with the Protestant Reformation and ensuing years, but came back with a vengeance near the end of the 17th century.

Throughout Scotland it is celebrated in many different ways but one of the most common customs is known as First Footing. This invention is nothing less than pure genius. The first person who steps across your doorstep is supposed to set the stage for your luck for the rest of the year. That person will traditionally bring a gift such as salt (less common today), coal, shortbread, whisky, and black bun (a rich fruit cake) intended to bring different kinds of luck to the householder.

Haggis

Food and drink (as the gifts) are then presented to the guests. This may go on throughout the wee hours of the morning and well into the next day. I can’t prove this but I have even heard that the celebration now can extend into the middle of the month of January… Brilliant!!!

Traditionally, tall dark men are preferred as the first-foot. (There are some neighborhoods in the US where this may actually not be a good thing but tradition is tradition).

One Hogmanay custom which has spread almost the world over is the singing of the Robert Burns classic “Auld Lang Syne”. It is common for the participants to link arms and sing it at the first stroke of midnight. Most people who have heard it before can be seen to tear up a bit… especially if they got a jump on the first footing custom.

The world could use a little Hogmanay. We could all use a blessing for our lives and homes. Our country is a blending of many wonderful cultures and the ability to bring the best of those cultures into our homes without destroying our American culture is one of our strengths. But tonight, as American as I am, I will be listening to Black Watch recording of Auld Lang Syne.

imagesCAH3A04F

 

God Bless you and yours. May this New Year bring the best to your life and thank you for letting me take up a bit of your day.

Mister Mac

Scotland 1990 012

          Scottish Settler 001

The Flowers of The Forest Reply

In the misty legends of Scotland, there are many songs that are interwoven with the victories and defeats of her native sons in glorious conflicts. The great pipes blew violently across the field as part of the offensive tactics of the Chiefs.

Battle of Flodden

You can almost feel them pierce the air of a cold Scottish morning while lines of kilted warriors come racing towards each other. The louder the noise, the more it covers the sound of axes crashing into metal and bone. The cries of the mortally wounded are covered with the bleating of the air rushing through the reeds until the last sword is swung and the battle is done.

In the end, it is the music alone that remains. Lives end. Legends are often the only survivors of a grand melee. Around the campfires at night, men tell tales of the way the fight travelled form one end of the field to another. Who won is often determined by who had the best version that would last through antiquity and be recorded by a poet or scribe. The main goal was to create a lasting enough memory to justify their brave sacrifices and try to calm a mother’s broken heart.

lost battle of Flodden

The Flowers of the Forest is a memorial song derived from one of the greatest and noblest defeats Scotland ever suffered, the Battle of Flodden Field. Some sources claim that over 10,000 Scottish souls were lost including many of the nobles of the auld Scotland.

The song has been used again and again over the years to honor and commemorate the lives of men fallen in battle from across the British Isles. Besides Amazing Grace, it will always be one of the most memorable of laments to those who have served under the Union Jack.

Playing the FOTF

As a younger man, I was part of another great force that fought a different kind of war. Our greatest goal was to never use the weapons that we had at our disposal. More importantly, we wanted to make sure the other guy knew that he would pay an unimaginable price if he ever used his.

The Cold War

Time magazine patrol

The longest and most expensive war in modern history was the shadow war that started in 1945 barely a few days after the end of World War 2. The Soviets had secretly integrated spies throughout the unsuspecting Western Countries and solidified their hold over the border countries. In a series of steps, each side ramped up their defensive and offensive postures and systems. The launch of Sputnik added a new dimension of threat and resulted in the birth of the strategic nuclear missile submarine programs for both sides.

1960 submarine silhouettes

The battles lasted until 1991

In December of that year, the Soviet Union gives up its last gasp of life and on Christmas Day 1991, the Hammer and Sickle was lowered over the Kremlin for the last time.

Soviet flag

In the twenty years since that fateful day, many changes have occurred on both sides

A different kind of war has emerged for a new generation and the old generation has begun to quietly take their place in the Forest. There is no greater reminder to the men of that age than the rise of a new kind of “Flower” in the shape of monuments to glorious days of the past.

http://www.esryle.com/coblinks/links/MUSEUMS.html

While I still think I am young at heart, nothing ages you quicker than seeing the sail of a boat you served on placed on a hill side with markers and monuments all around it.

Nothing brings back the memories faster than seeing that cold metal symbol forever landlocked instead of plowing through the oceans protecting both her crew and the nation she served.

017_20A

I am grateful for the chance to see her one more time and bring back the memories of red lights and flank speed runs and angles and dangles. I am filled with emotion for those who have slowly passed into the great beyond, some known and others only found in a surprise announcement from a friend on a submarine page or Facebook.

Navy Seal and Eagle

Thanks to all those who cared for and supported their brothers on Tenders, shore facilities and Dry docks in far away lands or here at home. Your service was a great contribution to the peace that was maintained.

Holy Loch 1989 as19_4

Thanks to the men who defied logic and manned the boats that plied the ocean’s deep. Your sacrifice will never be fully recognized but we live in a better place because of it. If you do not belong to USSVI, I would encourage you to do so today. This great organization is keeping the memory of our brothers alive and helping to make a difference for the future.

It is a shame that there is no national recognition of those Flowers of the Forest who helped to win that war.

I want to personally thank all of the ones who remain and especially all of those who have passed.

Twenty years ago this month,

all of your efforts resulted in a great victory.

God Bless You.

Mister Mac

 

Note: Every war fought by the United States, was honored by a medal issued to those members authorized and who displayed honorable service. The Cold War has never been officially recognized for this type of honor. While some organizations have created a medal for the time period, it has never been officially recognized by the Federal Government.