by Ken Garrett

Christmas Eve 1944 - Our ship, HMCS Algonquin, was taken aboard the floating dry dock in Scapa Flow. Since the next day was Christmas, half of the ships company was sent on leave  for six days. I was Leading Seaman of 16 mess.

The Captain sent the messenger to get all the Leading Seamen of each mess to meet in his cabin. When we got there, Captain Desmond ("Debby") Piers gave each Leading Seaman a bottle of scotch to share with their mess mates as a Christmas gift. I didn't tell him I was the only one left in my mess that didn't have leave but I thanked the Captain for his nice gift. It took me six days to drink the bottle, having a good, stiff drink each day. When the boys returned I threw the bottle over the side.

How well I remember that Christmas day - it was the greatest of Christmases. Imagine being on a floating dry dock, with no wind or heavy waves to bother you. It was heavenly for the cooks since there was no fear of being scaled by boiling water  while cooking vegetables.  I often wondered how many times there were occurrences of that type in the galley.

The youngest seaman on the ship traded uniforms with Capt. Piers for the day while another young seaman traded with the padre. Our officers let their hair down and were really nice to us. I never had a complaint about the officers. Algonquin's crew was well trained, one you could depend on.

There was lots of rum aboard in the Stokers and Petty Officers mess. As their invited guest, I was given the job of of  bartender.  We mixed up two large dishpans full of rum and lime juice, about a 50-50 mixture. You could barely taste the rum, but it was a potent  drink. As an example, one stoker was talking to me one minute and by the next minute he was lying on the deck - out like a light. We carried him over to the settee and let him sleep
it off.

It was a great Christmas. I knew a Communications Wren in Lyoness and I was invited to the Christmas dance there. In addition, I was the only sober seaman there from Algonquin. Entertainment was provided by a naval
orchestra consisting of 26 members. A batch of turkeys, sent from Canada and intended for the officers at the base, was all donated to the party.

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