the alfmeister

a figment of reality's imagination

When you gotta go, you just gotta go!

Hang on, there's still beer in that glass!

The recent carry-on with CDR Butcher in the RNZN after a few drinks reminded me of many (read multiple, millions, heaps, shitload) of stories involving incidents on the plonk from when I was in the navy. But if Butcher was lucky to get away with his misdemeanour (although losing command is huge), then my mate Trent was bloody lucky with the punishment dished out with the following incident…

It was during my first year and while still training at Officer Training School (OTS). Every year there was a sports tournament between the three branches (Air Force, Army, Navy) whose participation was limited to Junior Officers which for us included 1st and 2nd Year Midshipmen and Ensigns. It is rotated around the various training schools and in ’91 it was the navy’s turn to host.

After pulling off a win against the much vaunted Army rugby team and then scraping by the Air Force (thanks to my trusty boot) the trophy was all but assured of becoming ours for the first time in ages…although not without a slight hiccup. The hosts get to choose a ‘specialist’ event and the Army the year before had made it a gut-wrenching hike in full kit through the back of Waiouru the previous year, so as we had been participating in the Dragon Boat Festival we chose this as our token addition. Imagine our shock when the Army kicked our arses in that! But we had done enough and won the trophy…

The last night entailed a cocktail party at OTS which was an affair and a half I can tell you. Now these events have their own little traditions, and no service is more traditional than the navy, especially where drinking is involved.

For example, and this leads to the incident to happen later on, brandy is served to all in the half hour prior to entering the dining hall, and there was an ‘unofficial’ record to be claimed by 1st Year Midshipmen of how many could be drunk in this time. I don’t remember the actual number, but it was in the teens and my mate Trent wanted to have a crack at it this time. He didn’t succeed but the amount consumed was to have catastrophic, embarrassing and far-reaching effects…

So we entered the dining room – now for anyone lucky enough to attend a formal dinner on base (my friend Jacquie can attest to this, actually I have a doozy dit about her time, remind me!) is in for a treat – nothing is spared. But, and this serves as a warning to anyone, make sure you have emptied prior as tradition does not allow anyone leaving their seat until dessert has been completed. This might not seem too big an issue, especially if you have the eating habits of a pride of lions on Main St after completing the holy fast, but it can be near on two to three hours just to get to that point!

And bear in mind, wine (and begrudgingly beer) is served in amounts not seen since the days of Caligula and no sooner does one lick the bottom of his finest crystal when there is a steward topping you up. So starters are done, the main is done, the vino doth flow…

I was seated between a bloke in the Army and a cute Air Force bird (different story) and then on the other side of her was Trent. Just as my dessert plate was placed in front of me she nudged me in the ribs and said something along the lines of “I think he’s pissed himself!”. Excuse the pun, but I thought she was taking the piss, but then I heard it…a very distinct sound that will never leave me….like air escaping a small hole in a ball. I leaned back behind her to see Trent completely stretched back in his chair with his hands folded behind his head, legs straight out in front…and sure enough, he was pissing. I can only assume he was trying to be discreet, I mean give the man some credit, he still had his pants on, but at what point did he think that this was not going to be noticed?

Oh dear...

I passed a message up the tables to finally reach the Head Table and in watching the conversation between him and the Officer telling him the news the look on his face! He grabbed attention, and then, almost embarrassed, advised that against tradition, and for the first time in his tenure, people could leave the table to attend to matters of the bladder. Trent was gone in a flash. He was followed by many who had also overindulged including many an Army and Air Force officer not used to such custom. A few mates chatted to me about the rumour of which I advised was the truth and as we came out of the heads (Navy speak for toilet or bathroom) there was Trent, new trousers on running up the hall to get back to dinner…but he had drunken a lot, and he tripped, banged his head and lay somewhat dazed on the floor…and promptly pissed himself again!

Now that pretty much concluded the incident for the night, although there was plenty of more action as the revelry carried on into the wee hours of the morning – note, this was, I think, the first time we had been able to drink since joining the navy as Officers Under Training are forbidden alcohol until about six months in!!!

Sometime when the sun was up, I was roused from my sleep by the Executive Officer (2IC or XO, at that time a female holding rank of LT CDR) of OTS telling (read ordering) me to be in full uniform within 10 mins to attend a Captain’s Table. This is basically an internal disciplinary hearing carried out in a style similar to a full court-martial. I may have still been half-plonked but I was “shit, shaved, showered and shampooed” quicker than Greased Lightning and found myself standing in the Gunroom with two Lieutenants (our Divisional Officers), the Captain and Executive Officer, and Trent. It was now I realised it wasn’t me up for charges (thank God!).

As the closest naval person to Trent the night before I had to testify to what had happened from my view. And then listen to his point of view, which funnily enough consisted of a lot of “I don’t knows”.

The upshot of it was he was fined about $300 (we were on about $11K), had to pay for the cleaning of the Dining Room (another $180 which I lent him), and loss of leave for about four weeks…there might have been something to go on his record which would slow down promotions in relation to the rest of us but it was the loss of leave which hit hardest…

That afternoon Bravo Class (we were split into to classes consisting of about a dozen officers) were to fly out to Sydney to have their first posting to sea under training onboard HMNZS Canterbury (F421)…the following morning, we (Alpha Class) were to fly to Hong Kong to join HMNZS Wellington for four weeks! Poor, poor Trent…

This story is by no means complete…certainly I have a lot to recount from this posting, but Trent’s misdemeanour helped him in a way although that was not so clear at the time…watch this space.

PiS…NZ’s drinking culture is just a phase we all go through, and while the navy is singled out due to traditions, trying to stop it will only do more harm than good. And damned if I’m going to listen to those cry-babies against it. Leave well alone, we’re all adults and do so by choice.


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