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Rated: ASR · Short Story · Comedy · #2284983
A short story about a training task during basic training in the Royal Navy
The Shackle

A few weeks into my part two seamanship training and we are in the seamanship school classroom, learning how to take apart and reassemble a lugless joining shackle. A pretty simple evolution involving what would be for an average able seaman a few minutes work. But we are not average able seaman. We are for the most part, junior seaman operators (second class) which is senior in rank ONLY to a civilian and a midshipman. Our inexperience shows as we fumble around trying to grasp the whole concept and the task becomes that much harder when you realise we are accompanied on our journey of discovery by the class Instructor.....Petty Officer (Seamanship) Moralee, professional child scarer for the Royal Navy and one of his terrifying friends, Chief Petty Officer(Seamanship) Hopkins, a co conspirator in the scary department and to date, the only man I know who could issue orders to the Royal Fleet Auxiliary crew during a Replenishment At Sea without the aid of a megaphone.

Anyhow, having bellowed instructions at us for twenty minutes, along with a ten minute demonstration of his angry face, CPO(SEA) Hopkins stomped off to his office, threatening death on anyone who hadn't reassembled their lugless joining shackle by the time he had drunk a coffee and smoked a cigarette. He reminded us all that he could smoke a cigarette "faster than the yanks could smoke a Japanese city". Terrified at the thought of the return of Django to discover I hadn't finished, I rushed to complete the task, mistakenly and unknowingly pushing the pin into the wrong side of the shackle. When it refused to slide easily into place as it had done for CPO(SEA) Hopkins, I panicked, took a hammer and smashed the end of the pin like I was freeing slaves. Unfortunately for me, I simply hammered the pin into the wrong side tighter and tighter until, to my horror, I saw that it was stuck fast in the hole. Fearing the imminent return of Ghengis Hopkins, I grabbed a punch, inserted it into the hole on the other side of the shackle and proceeded to hammer down on the punch like a navvy on a rail track, in an attempt to knock the pin back out again.

It didn't take long for my efforts on the punch to come to a standstill and as I sat looking at the cast iron lollipop I had created, I got a tap on the shoulder along with a geordie accent shouting "What the fuck is that, McPherson?" Vlad Moralee had spotted my minor error in reassembling the lugless joining shackle and picked it up. "For fucks' sake" he added, in a surprisingly defeated tone. Then came the words that turned my blood to ice. "Take this along to Chief Hopkins and see if he has another". My fate was sealed and as I walked slowly towards his office, in my minds eye, the rest of the class were sharing out my things as they regaled each other with tales of my bravery.

I knocked on the door and an immediately enraged and impatient Obersturmfuhrer Hopkins yelled "Whaaaaat?", sounding like an angry parrot. I entered his lair and held up my art exhibition and he looked at it, then me, then back and forth between the shackle and me as if disbelief and exasperation was blocking his words and forcing his silence....a silence I would have been happy to continue but for the awkward atmosphere that now hung heavy in the air along with cigarette smoke and the depressing odour of terror and failure. He eventually broke his silence with one of the most intense projections of voice I have ever experienced but which was mercifully short, ending in the words "...you cunt!" He told me to leave the shackle on his desk and get out and I didn't need telling twice. Thinking I had dodged a bullet, I left the office and floated back to the class on a bed of relief. As I continued my training and moved on to part three and gunnery, the incident slipped from my memory only to be recalled a few months later when, two weeks after joining my first ship, the Chief Bosun's Mate was replaced by one CPO(SEA) Hopkins.
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