In 1961 the Royal Navy came up with a brilliant idea: why not take all its rogues, thugs and malcontents and place them on board its flagship, HMS Bermuda, where hard work and continuous exercising would keep them out of trouble?
Joining this colourful crew was sixteen-year-old Peter Broadbent, fresh out of his year’s training at HMS Ganges, and drafted to ‘Bermadoo’ to make up the ship’s quota of Junior Seamen.
Initially he lived a cocooned existence in the Juniors’ mess, with a community of cockroaches as his closest companions, but his life changed dramatically the day he transferred to the notorious For’d Seamen’s Mess. There, he grew up. In the course of his 34,000 nautical miles with Bermuda, he learned how to ammunition the ship, avoid Pompey Lil, sing the Oggie song, survive a storm, throw a perfect heaving line and count himself proud to be a ‘sharp-end seaman’.
On his eighteenth birthday, the entire population of Hamilton, Bermuda, along with a uniformed band and full ceremonial, enthusiastically welcomed Peter and his ship; in Newcastle-upon-Tyne he was given the job of preventing women wearing skirts from descending a long open-backed ladder; in Stockholm he had a memorable dalliance with a local girl called Gunnel, and in Amsterdam a professional businesswoman at work in Canal Street was so impressed with his performance that, as he took his leave, she shook his hand warmly and gave him some of her business cards.