....... AND ON THE LIGHTER SIDE OF THE CRISIS
Although one amusing incident did take place when a pilot supporting the paras engaged in fierce fighting in a cemetery in Port Said was ordered to stop shooting. Apparently a civilian funeral procession had reached the cemetery in the middle of this battle and there both sides respectfully stopped firing whilst the funeral took place -only to start again once it had left!! Only in Egypt!!
One of the first aircraft to arrive at Gamil was a Skyraider from Albion, reacting to a signal from the paratroopers that the local water supply was contaminated and that fresh water was needed urgently. The first thought upon Albion was to fit long-range tanks to the Skyraider, fill them with water and take them ashore, but although the tanks were new the ship's MO would not pass the water fit for human (or paratrooper) consumption. The ships Welfare Committee rose to the occasion by offering to send canned beer instead. By packing beer crates in every available space, including up the radar tunnel, and leaving out one observer, they had room for 1,000 cans. At Gamil the paras were not slow in unpacking the cargo and getting to grips with it. When they were shouting for more beer a deal was struck with the NAAFI at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus. Four Skyraiders went over to collect and on the way back, flying at 8,000 feet a radio message was received from the NAAFI warning that the cans were pressurised and not to fly above 5,000 feet. They chanced it at 6,500 feet, with 5,000 can between them and never lost a drop - much to the relief of the paras.
HMS Albion had a memorable visit from General Stockwell in mid-November. Members of the ship's company mounted a special Guard of Honour on the flight deck. They wore their uniforms and caps back to front and marched backwards to "The Goons" chart success "I'm Walking Backwards for Christmas". On being invited to inspect the guard, General Stockwell obliged, entering into the spirit of the occasion by reversing his own cap.
Over the Christmas period ships of the Fleet were returning to Malta. On a rainy Christmas morning came Duchess followed by the carrier Albion and the cruiser Jamaica with a life size Father Christmas tied to the bow jackstay. On her quarterdeck, the band played Christmas carols. On Boxing Day, Tyne still flying the flag of Vice Admiral Dunford-Slater and Forth appeared, sporting a large display of Father Christmas on a sledge hoisted between her funnels.
- As HMS Crane steamed away, after being battered by an Israeli Mysteres who mistook her for the Egyptian frigate Rashid, it was commented that she "was a fine sight, with her crumpled stern, her shot holes amidships and aft, he paying off pennant flying, and her ship's company in fine fettle .... I was sorry to lose her." The Commander of Task Force 324 signalled:
Blunt in front
Never mind -
You start your journey home today.
And hell to Nasser anyway!
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