In 1974 - I think - sometime after my return from Salerno Flight in Malta, we were embarked once again on the Rusty "B" and on our way to the Med for yet another exercise. 42 Commando was also embarked.
Porky Cameron was the SP and Graham Jeffs our Flight Commander. As we hove into Malta on a Friday, Alan Streeter and I approached Graham Jeffs and asked if we could disembark into RAF Luqa and spend two nights in the Sergeants' Mess, to which approval was given. Off we shot, hired a car and explored once again the delights of Valetta, Floriana, the Gut and one or two other salubrious establishments, finally ending up in the Sergeant's Mess, as planned.
Hermes was also in Grand Harbour, waiting to embark 41 Commando Group and both carriers planned to sail on Monday morning.
The Flight had arranged to have a run ashore in Floriana on Sunday evening, which was the day when we planned to return onboard.
Sunday morning dawned sunny and bright, and after breakfast we drove to Grand Harbour, parked up the hire car, "hid" the keys under the sunvisor and walked down to get a dhaiso out to the Rusty "B". It was a very quiet morning, almost too quiet, if you know what I mean.
The dhaiso drew up at the gangway of the Bulwark and we made our way onboard. John Carrol was the Corporal of the Gangway, and a young Midshipman was the OOD. We were just about to request permission to come aboard, when John whispered "All shore leave has been cancelled, due to a fight last night..." "Thanks John" we said and did a smart about turn, back down the gangway, into the same dhaiso and chugged back towards where we had left the hire car. In the meantime, at the top of the gangway questions were being asked. "What's going on, Corporal?" said the OOD, the young Middy. "Wrong ship, sir, thought it was the Hermes" replied John. "Very good, carry on" replied the OOD.
As we chugged shorewards, we hazarded a glance back at the "B", only to see, on the flight deck, Porky Cameron going apoplectic, waving his arms and shouting "Sgt Streeter, Sgt Murphy, ...." and something else lost on the wind. Graham Jeffs was with him, waving gently to us along with John Cowie (I think) who also had a big grin on his face.
Once ashore, jumped back into the hire car and disappeared into Valetta, where we telephoned the SP and apologised for not hearing his calls to return to the ship, too windy, we explained. It transpired that members of both 41 and 42 had got into a fight in Pauls Punchbowl (appropriate name) in Paceville and done some severe damage to the place. As a result, shore leave for both units was cancelled. Later that day, the restriction was lifted and we managed to have our flight run ashore in Floriana that evening after all. Porky made us buy a round of drinks for not returning to the ship when ordered.
All in all, a good start to a Med deployment!