By Gordon W. Stead
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Extra resources for A Leaf upon the Sea: A Small Ship in the Mediterranean, 1941-1943
We had no satellite or inertial navigation, no Omega or loran, no radar or echo sounder, and, in small craft, no gyro compass, but we got there just the same. I took sights with the sextant on stars at dawn and dusk and the sun at noon from my lively ML platform. In keeping with the practice of the Navy with ships in company on an ocean passage, the four destroyers and those MLs which chose to do so exchanged their estimates of our noon position by means of festive flag hoists. When at last we made the land, I was pleased to find that my reckoning was as close as any in that proper Navy company.
The boats of the 9th were being fitted with two new pieces of equipment. The first was a small refrigerator mounted in the wardroom flat. I put on some pressure to get one, too, since we were to live in the same climate. I got my way, and this acquisition was to make 126 the social centre of the 3rd as we could provide ice for drinks. The second addition was armour plate for the sides of the bridge and as shields for the two pairs of Lewis guns. I had more trouble over this for the Admiralty requisition referred only to the 9th, but after I had harangued the staff for weeks, the authorities relented at the last minute and the armour was put on board for installation in Gibraltar.
Early in July four destroyers of the 8th Flotilla, led by LieutenantCommander Norris, RN, in HMS Firedrake, arrived in Plymouth. Immediately we set about trying out the towing gear. It failed miserably. Ten miles outside Plymouth, off the Eddystone Light in a dead flat calm, we all hooked on, the MLs shut down their engines, and off we went. But without engines, the MLs had no power steering, and they yawed from side to side as the helmsmen laboriously worked the wheel to try to keep on a steady course.