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Sainfoin’s War
By W.J. Mitchell and Colin Buckenham


Admiral Mountbatten addressing the Allies in Singapore

Born in a Pussers Blanket

This particular stoker I will just call Scotty, no doubt should he ever read this book he will recognise himself. He wasn't a Scotsman, it's just a name I've given him to avoid embarrassment. Scotty joined ship on our last day in Greenock before sailing for the Far East. We were anchored offshore with no shore leave that evening, so for him, it was a Shanghie draft, "and for why?" you might ask. Well Scotty had been delivered to us from the Naval Detention Quarters ashore and as the ship was under sailing orders there would be no chance of him going ashore and wandering off. Now don't get me wrong, Scotty was no deserter, it's just that he liked to go his own way with as little fuss as possible. Somehow his way didn't fit in with the way the Royal Navy wanted him to go and so there was this impasse betwixt Scotty and the R.N. On first meeting him one was quick to assume "We've got a right one here." He was so laid back, unassuming and seemingly oblivious to what was going on around him. Wrong.- For behind those `Couldn't care less' eyes and his dozy little smile, there was a very clever brain. once we got under way and heading down to Biscay, we all had time to get to know our extra mates who had joined us in Greenock and eventually got to hear Scotty's story. This didn't come from him all at once, but in short instalments. Apparently his father was a Chief E.R.A. serving in the R.N. when Scotty was born, hence the saying `Born in a Pussers Blanket' and he was obviously subjected to naval discipline from an early age. Even though he served in the R.N. he had this non conforming attitude to the service, which over the years had given him the privilege of being a visitor to every Naval Detention Quarters in Gt. Britain. He could speak at length of the advantages and disadvantages of every punishment establishment, and all without any show of beagging or animosity to those whose job it had been to punish him for his misdeeds. Several of us had taken weeks to trace and learn the complex oil and water systems, and how to find the necessary valves to control the ships trim from Port to STBd. and Fore to Aft. And yet, after only a few days on board, Scotty could find any valve you asked him to. It was uncanny and all done with an air of utter detachment. One time after finishing his middle watch he was on his usual saunter around the ship and came across a neat looking camp bed ahaft the Bridge. Without more ado Scotty bedded down to be rudely awakened a couple of hours later. He'd only commandeered the Skippers camp bed. So `Cap off' Scotty was in big trouble. His next brush with authority was when he was reported missing. Now we had grown used to him wandering aimlessly all over the ship in his off duty hours, but on this particular day no one could recall having seen him around, not even for food. Eventually a complete search of the ship had to be made, no mean task in a ship the size of Sainfoin, but to no avail. Scotty just couldn't be found. Then, lo and behold, he was spotted curled up fast asleep under some gear on one of the landing craft, a place of forbidden territory when the ship was on passage. Poor Scotty just couldn't win. Back to the Commanders Table he went, got his punishment, and wandered off as if puzzled about all the commotion. On our way home from Singapore we called in to Trincomallee and Scotty was once more Shanghaied to a ship going back to Singapore. It seems that Scotty had done so much time in `Chokey' that he didn't qualify to come home as he still owed a few months active service to the Admiralty.

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