Subic Bay - When The Odds Are In Your Favour

 

HMAS DERWENT - SUBIC BAY - 4th July 1976

When The Odds Are In Your Favour

 

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1976 was a pretty big year for our American Cousins.  It was their Bi-Centennial Year and wherever Americans gathered there was much festivities, pomp and ceremony.  Naval Bases such as Subic Bay and Yokosuka, Japan were certainly no exception.  USS Oaklahoma City was actually homeported in Yokosuka.  She was a former WW2 Cruiser.

 

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HMAS Derwent (DE49) at Sea

 

We berthed Port Side to the Ship Repair Facilty Wharf, aft of the USS Oklahoma City. She was an old WW11 8 Inch Cruiser and Flag Ship of the US Seventh Fleet. (See image below).

 

With the onset of American Independence Day the evening of July 3rd saw much revelry ashore in the city of Olongapo. I had decided to celebrate the event in my favourite watering hole, namely the Pussy Cat Nite Club, located very near the Fire Station on Magsaysay Drive. The band was raging and the place was jumping so it wasn’t long before we gave the San Miguel Beer a miss and got started into the infamous brain cell destroying ‘Mojo’, a local cocktail dreamed up by US Servicemen which consisted of local Manila Rum, Cherry Brandy, Local Gin, pineapple juice, ice, all poured into a large 'pitcher' and topped up with San Mig beer to give it fizz. Enough said!

 


A law of curfew applied in Olongapo City at all times and it was rigidly applied by very mean US Marine, Armed Forces Police in the notorious White Helmets, Naval Shore Patrols and Local police.

 

This meant that ALL Bars closed at 2330 and all military and civilian personnel were to be off the streets by midnight.

 

The 'Mojo' finished me off early and I was literally laid out and unconscious sometime before 2200.

 

It was strictly against the regulations of both the Local and US Military authorities for drunken, non-handling sailors to sleep in bars, so Mama Faye, the Pussy Cat's Mama San and her girls picked me up and hid me in the corner near the rest room stretching me out on a couple of bar chairs where the Philippino ‘Heads Boy’ could keep a safe eye on me. Woe-be-tide anyone caught trying to rip me off

 

The Pussy Cat Bar had been our favourite watering hole for a few years now and we had a good relationship with the Owners and Staff.

 

The Philippinos were very protective of their good customers.

 

 

Above: Your Webmaster Live On Stage at The Pussycat Bar (Singing a Beatles Song)

 

Liberty for all hands expired the following morning at the normal time of 0750 and by the time I came to ashore the time was already 0740. My head thumping and my gut turning I tried to gather my senses. I at last worked out where I was and what had occurred. After the Bar had closed and whilst still unconscious I had been taken to one of the girl’s very humble abodes down on the banks of ‘Typhoid Creek’ at the back of Olongapo City. But at least it was not far from the main gates of the naval base.

 

Sssshit! I was going to be Adrift! - years of naval indoctrination and discipline from an early age causes immediate panic to set in.  The heart starts thumping in your chest and then the adrenalin kicks in.

 

I snatched up my clothes, put my shoes on and ran from the hut.  Half naked.  Finding and desperately flagging down a Jeepney I leapt in the back and shouted,

 

“The gate, Pare’ take me to the gate, agad! agad!”.

 

Screeching to a halt I leapt from the back of the jeepney and literally threw a handful of pesos at the driver and hurtled over the bridge and through the gate, holding my ID card up to the Marine Sentry on the way.

 

Running and putting my shirt on at the same time I looked at my watch, if I could make it by 0800 things would be Ok, they will forgive me the 10 minutes, but I must make it by 0800. Before they pipe Colours.

 

I allowed myself some precious time to stop at a soft drink vending machine, bugger, in my haste I I hit the wrong button and get a can of that awful Dr Pepper instead of Coke – not a good morning so far! Would have to be the world's worst Goffer! But at least its cold and wet and my mouth is like the bottom of a cocky's cage, for although it is not yet 8 AM the outside temperature is already in the mid 80s.

 

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I run, full pelt, around to where we are berthed, just aft of USS Oklahoma City where her US Marine Corps Guard and Band are fallen in on the wharf, all dressed in the ‘Blue Coat’ Uniforms of the War of Independence period. Closing on the ship I am just a few yards from the rear of the marine guard when the Ship’s Bells, both in Derwent and Ok City, begin ringing in the new navy day.

 

Damn!

 

Missed by a bee’s dick!

 

Shouldn’t have stopped for the goffa.

 

I halt my run and stand to attention, standing to the rear of the Marine Guard facing both ships. All eyes falling upon what must have been a terrible sight, hair all over the place, perspiration streaming from me, shirt undone and hanging out, dirty and panting like a prize fighter who had just gone 15 rounds. I felt totally shithouse!

 

The still was piped and the marine Band played the Stars and Stripes. There I was standing there sticking out like dogs balls on a cat trying to look smart as I held the salute interminably, whilst trying to make the can of Dr pepper look inconspicuous in my left hand.

 

Ready for the ‘Carry On’ I prepared to run again. However, it was not to be, not yet any way. The Marine band then broke into the Australian National Anthem then another American tune and after a bit more buggering around they finally piped the ‘Carry On’.

 

 

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USS Oaklahoma City.  Flagship US 7th Fleet

 

By the time I got onboard it was 7 minutes past 8 O’clock. I was buggered! I would be Run In.

 

And so it was that after sailing from Subic I was fronted to the XO and run in for being adrift. It was pretty much an open and shut case really so therefore I would plead guilty then try for some mitigation.

 

I was certainly not on the XO’s, LCDR John Clarke’s Christmas Card list so naturally I feared the worst. The charge was read, I pleaded guilty, I was found guilty, I was ‘Offed Caps’ and then asked if I had anything to say in mitigation.

 

I explained that had it not been for the 4th of July Independence Day ceremonial stuff I would have made it back by 8 O’clock and not 7 minutes past. In the last two hundred years I had to pick this one to be adrift. By pleading Guilty the best I could hope for would be to get off with an admonishment and a reprimand but since LCDR John Clarke really didn’t like me I was sure he would use this to ‘throw the book at me’, after all he had been after me ever since the 'Darwin Incident' at the beginning of the deployment.

 

To my utter astonishment and also to that of the Chief Coxswain's, Barry McPherson, who also was looking forward to seeing me ‘lashed up’, the XO changed the finding to ‘Not Guilty’ and then without another word dismissed me. The 'Swain was so shocked he actually stammered when he had to repeat the order to dismiss

 

I marched from the Captain’s Cabin Flat a stunned Leading Seaman. This had to be a first in the history of the RAN – Pleading guilty and getting found Not Guilty. The blokes down the mess and around the ship couldn't believe it. Niether could I.

 

It was a few days later at sea when I was walking along the main passage outside the wardroom when one of the Junior Officers stopped me and reminded me of how lucky I had been at the XOs table. I agreed with him and said that I couldn’t understand how the Jimmy just let me off like that – given his known dislike for me. When it came to the Jimmy and justice I was sure that it was never going to apply to me.

 

The Officer then asked “Don’t you know the story about what happened?”

 

“Nooooo’, I very honestly replied.

 

He then went on to tell me that the night before I was adrift the Wardroom Officers were having a run ashore, slumming it in the sailors’ bars of Olongapo, ably lead by the XO himself.. Later in the evening they stumbled into the Pussy Cat Bar and one of the officers spotted me unconscious on the chairs near the heads when he went to relieve himself.

 

Apparently an argument ensued where the XO wanted the Manager of the bar to call the Naval Patrol and have me taken back to the ship. Mama Faye and the Bar Staff went off their heads, in my defence, as only Filipinos can, threatening to cause them grievous harm if they even considered touching me let alone having me removed from the premises.

 

The XO quickly backed off from Mama Faye’s attack and after she had assured the Jimmy I was in good hands he and all the officers left the bar and returned to Derwent's Wardroom for a traditional night cap. During this, official odds were made and bets were taken as to whether I would make it back onboard by the appropriate time of 0750 the next day. I guess I must have looked in pretty bad shape when they saw me in the Pussy Cat bar.

 

As it happened the XO (so I was told) had wagered in my favour and bet that I would make it back on time, and, by finding me ‘Not Guilty’ at the table ensured himself of winning the bet and thus cleaning up from his Junior Officers.

 

Looking at it purely from a naval point of view, if I was not guilty, then I couldn’t have been adrift.

 

Who said crime doesn't pay?