The Tale of the Disaster of the Sea-Water Cocktails
You will recall that in the Spring of 1961 1st
SCLI sailed into Gibraltar and took over from The Prince of
Wales Own Regiment of Yorkshire. A period then followed which
saw us taking over barracks, messes, quarters, public duties
and guard rooms, garrison fatigues of bewildering and obscure
provenance and meeting countless people who were to assist
or impede us.
All this had to be completed in Double March
Time because the troopship MV. Devonshire which brought us
from Plymouth was waiting to take the PWO home. Eventually,
we took the view that, though we might be taking on some highly
dubious problems, we would sort them out, sotto voce, "AFTER..
THEY'VE GONE" - (and we did).
Once we had settled in and started sparking,
our thoughts turned to a house-warming party where we could
introduce the SCLI to the Royal Navy, Army and RAF on the
Rock. It was decided to have a Beating of Retreat Ceremony
on the Europa Point Parade ground with Bandmaster Peter Parkes
and his splendid Band and Bugles followed by us escorting
our guests along the clifftop paths to the Messes for Cocktails.
Europa Parade Ground
Well, we got a balmy evening and an excellent
Retreat, so , with true LI. aplomb, we escorted the Seargeants
Mess's multitude of guests back to the Mess. We were met by
a bevy of waiters dispensing Gin, Whiskey and Brandy Cocktails
from silver salvers whilst the occasional tables groaned with
plates of titbits. We were not Home and Dry!
Sgt's Mess/RSM Morris/BandmasterParkes/RSM Worster/Capt
After the entire company was safely gathered
into the ante-room with cocktails in hand, I approached Mrs
Parkes and asked, " Are the cocktails to your satisfaction?"...
She replied " They're alright....if you like SEAWATER!!.
I took her glass, sipped and knew, just knew, that we had
a DISASTER on our hands. Saxa Salt was not in it. I looked
around and saw the company wanly smiling, touching their lips
with their glass rims BUT NOT DRINKING. (They must have thought
"These West Country folk must have very strange tastes!!!!!
I rushed to the back Bar Room to find the PMC,
Alan Lynas-Grey, hitting the roof and almost driving Cpl.
Nicholas - Mess Steward, into the ground like a tent peg.
Alan had had the the cocktails made up into three 6-gallon
containers, properly cooled and insulated but tasting a trifle
strong, so he'd told Cpl. Nich to " Just add to each
a 2 pint jug of water and stir"... Cpl. Nicholas had
breezed into the kitchen and done just that.
(Gentle readers, please note that in 1961, Gibraltar,
so strapped for fresh water, were still equipped with fresh
and sea water taps in the kitchens and elsewhere. You've guessed
it, the Cpl. Nicholas had flamboyantly ruined our intro to
the new station. OH!. CALAMITY!)
I drove Cpl. Nicholas and some eight loyal and
hesitant sergeants behind the Bar which should not have been
manned and annouced to the entire company, "Ladies and
Gentlemen, you seem to be aware that we have had a problem
with our cocktails, please be free to come to the Bar and
get the drinks of your choice.....on the Mess, of course!
We have all heard a concerted noise, but I have
never heard, then or since, heard the crescendo of a simultaneous
crash of cocktail glasses hitting the tables, FULL.
The Bar "staff" slaved valiantly and
the entire company enjoyed the most convivial hospitality
and all was well, apart from the Mess funds which got an awful
shock, from which we recovered -- Aucto Splendore Resurgo.
After all, our early Battle Honour was GIBRALTAR 1704-5, and
I bet those boys did not worry about a drop of sea water!.