Sailors… you canˋt beat them…
I can’t remember the last time Nobby spoke. There was a time you couldn’t shut him up. A right one for the ladies. Other men’s ladies.
‘I want it understood up front I’m not one for commitment,’ he’d say. Gawd the nerve of ‘im. And they loved him for it. Strike me, but they did. A big, handsome bastard. Must have been first in the queue at mealtimes when he was growing up. And now a little runt like me has to hold him up. To keep his head above water.
‘Hold me up?’ he’d say. ‘You couldn’t hold up my tot glass Lofty.’ Not that he ever grudged me ‘sippers’. Even ‘gulpers’ on my birthday. Always generous with his rum, he was. Generous with everything really. It’s why the ladies loved him.
‘Touch your collar for luck Jack,’ they’d say.
Water’s definitely colder. I’ve got pins and needles in my legs; and my feet are numb. The sun’s up there somewhere; though this smoke is so thick we can’t see the sky. I suppose that means they can’t see us down here, if they’re looking for survivors. It must be a good two hours since the old girl went to the bottom. Took everything I had in the world with her she did.
What? Oh yes. Now where was I? Ah, ‘Touch your collar for luck.’ That was it. Only, they wanted to touch more than a Sailor’s collar with Nobby. Oh yes… What a boy.
‘Nobby, Nobby. C’mon wake up shipmate. This isn’t Nelson Barracks, we’re in the bloody Atlantic, and the Hood’s gone.’
I think he’s dead. I’m more than half dead myself. We were running a fire-hose along the port waist and the blast threw us into the water. When we came too, we were hanging on to each other for grim death. Just about then the ship’s magazine exploded.
‘Fuck me, yes. Did you see the fireworks Lofty?’
‘Nobby, Nobby. I thought you were dead.’
‘No. You kept falling asleep. I thought you’d drown. I’ve been holding your head clear of the ‘oggin’ for ages.’
This is so beautifully descriptive and you really make your characters come alive. I really want to know what happens to Jack and Nobby – are they rescued or do they die?
I really enjoyed writing this one. After 23 years in the RN, I knew lots of pairs like Jack and Nobby. Language had changed by the time I joined but not the ‘shipmate’ ethos. Of course they’re rescued, Gee… you can’t keep boys like this down.
You made me want more, always a sign of a well written piece. Poignant, too, when you know only four men survived the sinking of the mighty Hood, if my memory serves.