'do precisely the opposite'

“my credo has been to find out what the Establishment view is, and then to try to do precisely the opposite”

“1968 I was appointed to the Commanding Officers Qualifying Course whose 'teacher' was the legendary Sandy Woodward.

After this 'perisher' I was appointed in command of HMS Rorqual, based in the Far East. The Commander in Chief found me rather difficult and self-opinionated, suspecting I was after his job! He agreed that I could take Rorqual round the world on my own, which was spectacular fun. Provided we met our commitments, I could do more or less what I wanted.

My final point of departure came when I was ordered to take Rorqual to South Africa. A troublesome lawyer by the name of Mandela had just been imprisoned and the country was in the throes of apartheid. This revolting creed was the antithesis of everything the Royal Navy stood for. I thought of refusing to go but that would have simply led to another captain being appointed, for Rorqual was a plum job. So I hit on the idea of insisting that shore leave must be the same for all my ship's company -- black or white: in short, apartheid would not apply to them. The visit was cancelled.

On return to Singapore we learned with horror of the defence review in which aircraft carriers were to be phased out. At the time we were carrying out an exercise in the South China Sea; I stationed Rorqual alongside the grave of the Prince of Wales on the seabed and 'potted off' the fleet as it passed by with no aircraft carriers to provide air cover. By that stage, I was disgusted with the disingenuous Wilson government, and resigned my commission in protest. That was the last point of departure as far as the book is concerned.”

“Since then, my credo has been to find out what the Establishment view is, and then to try to do precisely the opposite”

History Today, vol. 52, 2002, issue 12, pages 62-63


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