Sunday, April 9, 2017

Navy Memories – “Duty Watch” on “Cruise”

Humor in Uniform

Once we joined the Navy in the 1970’s – we realized that the recruitment slogan “Join the Navy and See the World” applied to the Merchant Navy – and not to the Indian Navy.

In fact – due to austerity measures – even the so-called “cruises” to nearby countries had been curtailed. 

However – things seem to much better now – and – we see news of Indian Navy Ships Showing the Flag all over the world. 

But – in the 1970’s – during the time of this story – a foreign “cruise” was quite a rare event.

We were – therefore – delighted when our ship was sent on a foreign “cruise” to an island nation – an archipelago – in the Indian Ocean. 

Here is a delightful “memoir” from that “cruise”...

Hilarious “Memoir” from My Wonderful Navy Days
A Fictional Spoof


Way back in the 1970’s – when we were trainees at the Naval Academy Cochin (Kochi) – we used to go for our drill practice to the neighbouring Gunnery School Drill Square.

There would be GIs (Gunnery Instructors) lurking everywhere – prowling at every nook and corner – waiting to yell at us for the smallest of infractions in parade drill.

Once – when the “guard” was being marched in for morning Divisions – a Chief GI bellowed at the top of his voice: 

“Is that the Guard...?

O– is it the bloody “Duty Watch…? 

March smartly – not like the ‘Duty Watch’…”

He implied that instead of marching smartly like a “guard” – we were walking in a rather slovenly manner like a “duty watch”.

While sailing – and in harbour too – the ship’s company is organized in “watches” to operate a ship 24/7. 

Earlier it was the “2 Watch System” (1-in-2) – where half the sailors would be on duty – and the other half would take rest.

But now – it is mostly a “3 Watch System” (1-in-3) – where one-third of the crew are on duty and the remainder 2/3rd are off-duty and take rest.

The “watch” on duty is called the “Duty Watch”.

When a ship returns to harbour – everyone wants to rush ashore – the married sailors want to meet their families – and – the bachelors want to have a good time and paint the town red.

But – sadly – the “Duty Watch” has to remain on board ship on duty under the command of the OOD (Officer of the Day). 

So – obviously – the Sailors in the “Duty Watch” are quite demoralized – and this is reflected in their bearing – as they move around in a rather dispirited manner. 

This is what the Chief GI was implying when he yelled at us: 

“March smartly – not like the ‘duty watch’…”

Now – I must tell you a rather amusing “Duty Watch” story which happened around 39 years ago – in the late 1970’s. 


Once we joined the Navy – we realized that the slogan “Join the Navy and See the World” applied to the Merchant Navy and not the Indian Navy.

In fact – due to ‘austerity measures’ – even the so-called “cruises” to nearby countries had been curtailed.

We were – therefore – delighted when our ship was sent on a “cruise” to an island nation – an archipelago – in the Indian Ocean.

The sea was quite rough – but then – as we approached the Equator – the sea became calm.

Soon – we crossed the Equator – and had the customary “Crossing the Line Ceremony” – which transformed us from “Pollywogs” into “Shellbacks”.

In due course – we reached our destination – and – the moment land was sighted – the first person to surface was the Ship’s Doctor – who had dived below into the sick-bay the moment we had left our base port Mumbai (then called Bombay).

Now – our Doctor was a “sea sick type” – and he used to hit the bunk the moment the sailing order was received.

But now – he was dressed in the best of “civvies” – a bright red T-Shirt – looking out for his “girlfriend” (his medical college classmate) – who was settled here – and was waiting for him on the jetty.

The moment we came alongside at 10 in the morning – the magnanimous Captain announced a “modified routine” – and “liberty” was piped – and soon – everyone was “ashore” – except the unlucky “Duty Watch” – who haplessly watched their shipmates proceed ashore to have a good time.

Of course – since it was ‘modified routine’ – rather than hold back 1/3rd of the sailors – besides the OOD (Officer of the Day) – a reduced ‘Duty Watch’ was held back on board – in order to let maximum sailors enjoy the ‘liberty’.

By noon – the officers and sailors – were spread all over the island – on the beaches, in the bars and pubs – enjoying themselves to the hilt.

The Captain was enjoying himself in the Yacht Club – where he had been invited for Lunch – by the crème de la crème of society.

At around 3:30 in the afternoon – after plenty of beer and a sumptuous lunch – the satiated Captain was contemplating going back to his ship for a “siesta” – but he was reminded that he was required to proceed to the sports stadium as the “Chief Guest” for the “friendly” football match between the visiting “ship’s company” and local club which was to begin at 4 o’clock in the evening.

“Oh, Yes…” he said –  vaguely remembering the invitation for the football match – the message had been delivered to him the moment the ship had come alongside – and he had marked it down to his XO (Executive Officer) for “necessary action”.

What had happened was that – after marking the message to his XO for “necessary action” – the Captain went ashore – to the Yacht Club.

Within seconds – his XO followed him out – and soon – he was swimming away on the best beach – trying to woo the beauties in bikinis. 

By the time the ‘Duty Signalman’ kept the message on the XO’s table in his cabin – the XO was already swimming on the beach amidst bikini-clad beauties – so obviously – the XO had not seen the message regarding the football match – which was still lying on his table.

Everyone had gone ashore.

The “Duty Watch” was hanging around morosely below decks in their messes. 

Only the Duty Quartermaster stood at the Gangway – looking downcast – as he imagined the delights his shipmates were enjoying ashore at that moment – while he was on duty – manning the ship’s gangway.

The OOD (Officer of the Day) was drowning his sorrows in the Wardroom.

At around 3 in the afternoon – a bus arrived on the jetty.

A ‘Liaison Officer’ alighted from the bus.

He walked up the gangway from the jetty to the ship – and he informed the Gangway Duty Quartermaster that he had come to pick-up the ‘football team’.

The Duty Quartermaster called up the Wardroom to inform the OOD about the arrival of the ‘Liaison Officer’  who had come to pick-up the ‘football team’.

“What bloody ‘football team’…?” the OOD muttered annoyingly.

“I don’t know, Sir…” the Quartermaster said.

“Okay – I am coming up…” the OOD said. 

The OOD downed the remains of his beer – he put on his cap – and he walked up to the gangway.

After speaking to the ‘Liaison Officer’ – the OOD asked the Quartermaster: 

“Do you know anything about this ‘football match business…?”

“No, Sir...” the Quartermaster said.

“Okay – call the ‘Duty Signalman’…” the OOD ordered.

The ‘Duty Signalman’ was duly piped for – and he arrived within a minute.

“Yes, Sir…” the ‘Duty Signalman’ said, “there was a message regarding a ‘football match’. The Captain marked it down to the XO – so  I left it on the XO’s table…”

“Bloody Hell – did the XO see the message…?” the OOD asked the ‘Duty Signalman’.

“Sir – I don’t know….” 

“You buggers are really great...!!! Now – go on the double and get the message…” the OOD shouted. 

The ‘Duty Signalman’ rushed to the XO’s cabin and got the message. 

The OOD read the message.

The friendly football match between the Navy Ship and Local Football Club was scheduled at 4 PM.

The time now was 3:15 PM – it was just 45 minutes to go for the match.

The OOD did some quick thinking.

Recalling the ship’s company was not feasible – the sailors would be all over the island – enjoying themselves – living it up – having a good time  on the Beaches, in the Booze Bars, or gallivanting on the streets  in various states of drunkenness. 

So – the OOD told the Quartermaster: 

“I want the ‘Duty Watch’ assembled here immediately...”

The Quartermaster piped “Duty Watch Fall-in on Gangway” 

Within minutes – the ‘Duty Watch’ had fallen-in on the gangway.

The OOD asked the Quartermaster and the Duty Engine Room Sailor to fall-out.

Around 15 ‘Duty Watch’ sailors remained on deck.

The OOD told the rest of the ‘Duty Watch’ sailors: 

“You are proceeding to play a football match – 11 of you will play – the rest 4 of you will be substitutes’ and sit on the bench. Now change into sports rig  and  do your best on the football field…”

With the ‘Duty Watch’ playing the Football Match against a talented local team – you can well imagine the result of the match.

Thankfully – the referee blew the whistle before the score could reach double figures.

The embarrassed Captain was the only one present from our ship – sitting with the spectators  and – cheering his Ship’s ‘Duty Watch’ Football Team – while the rest of his Officers and Sailors were painting the town red.


Next morning – the ‘Master-At-Arms’ informed the XO about the Football Match Fiasco – and then  he asked the XO: 

“Sir – about liberty today…?”

The XO had come back to the ship in a most happy state in the wee hours of the morning – and he was nursing a terrible hangover. 

The XO said to the ‘Master-At-Arms’

“Bloody Hell – after yesterday’s fiasco – the Captain is sure to stop ‘liberty’ today. You do one thing – why don’t you ask the Captain directly…?”

“Sir – I was told by the Quartermaster that the Captain has already gone ashore…” the Master-at-Arms said.

“The Captain has already gone ashore...? Okay – that means that he hasn’t stopped ‘liberty’. So – announce ‘liberty’ as usual – let the sailors enjoy themselves…” the XO said happily.

Later – we met the Captain sunbathing on a beach.

We expected a tongue-lashing.

But – the Captain did not utter a single word about the ‘Duty Watch’ Football Match Fiasco.

The Captain just said that he was happy to see that the officers and ship’s sailors were enjoying themselves on the “cruise”

As far as the ‘Duty Watch’ Football Match Fiasco was concerned – we realized that – the Captain’s silence was the most effective reprimand

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1. This story is a fictional spoof, satire, pure fiction, just for fun and humor, no offence is meant to anyone, so take it with a pinch of salt and have a laugh.
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