I joined in 1976 and we ran down to the Med for sweeping and minehunting exercises for two weeks. All the lads from Sussex had a great time and were sorry when our tour was over. However, some of the bar owners in Vigo were glad to see us go and the town took a fair bashing on runs ashore. After a particularly heavy night on the town the Jimmy had us lined up on the foredeck and the locals, accompanied by the Police, walked and down to see if they could recognise the culprits. We sailed for Gib soon after and no-one got put in the rattle.
We spent a good deal of time at sea and once the sweep wires or towed sonar were over the side, there was time for some bronzy, or some target practice. An old cardboard box with some tasty gash in it usually did the trick. Once over the side it would slowly sink and those old black fins would appear circling slowly, as we steamed on. We would take it in turns to fire off a clip or two from the 9mmm SMG Sterling and see if we could bag a big one. No one did.
The heat was so great on the teak decks that the caulking started to run and our pirate gear got that "Jack Tar" look as the black gunge marked our No8's. We had fire hoses rigged on the decks to keep the foc'sle cool, but on some days the Jimmy hove to and piped hands to bathe. Swimmimg was a bit chancey with the recent shark bait we had laid, but we had a duty look out as swimmer of the watch.
This was the minesweeper attached to HMS Sussex and frequently shared with London Division. It was an open bridge type Ton Class Minesweeper, as opposed to a minehunter. The ship was built of wood and non ferrous fixings, to reduce the magnetic signature. When undertaking a replenishment at sea (RAS) the bow waves of the supply ship and the sweeper interacted and caused the two to collide. Twelve sailors from London and Sussex Divisions were drowned off Den Helder, Holland. The picture below shows the wreck directly after it was raised from the sea bed.
Minesweeping - West Coast of Scotland
Here's one we caught earlier coming aboard now. This was a joint exercise with the whole Flotilla and there was intense competition to bag the most mines. The RNR came out tops in this event. On the way up we visited Preston Docks. The river Ribble was shallow and the screws churned up masses of small fish. A flock of terms came by to enjoy the feast and we fed them a few bow shackles thrown high in the air. These they expertly caught and insisted on keeping hold of, despite the effect of gravity. They eventually released them when they hit the drink. Each time they emerged surprised and then grabbed the next one thrown. Endless fun for us simpletons.
A chance to march through the town with bayonets fixed, boots highly polished and lots of gold braid, doesn't happen often. In this case the Mayor was pleased to see us rather than tripping over the usual bunch of winos in shop doorways, with mangy dogs on bits of string.
Me and my mate Ian with his rusty old MGB - at least it had wire wheels. We both worked for the same firm, lived in the same town and it must have been him who persuaded me to join the Andrew.