(First published in the January 1994 (No. 46) issue of Ton Talk, the magazine of the Ton Class Association)
As usual in the winter months, the ship was alongside for the weekend in Tarbert, Loch Fyne. The week had been spent supporting a course from HMS Vernon during their deep diving training. The course had now returned to Portsmouth and a new one was expected on Sunday night. The few members of the ship's company who lived locally were on weekend leave but the majority had stayed on board owing to the distances involved.
The Gunner's Yeoman was a huge but gentle bear of a man. He was essentially a shy bachelor but had recently been smitten by one of the local lasses, a slip of a girl who was dwarfed by her towering beau and protector. Each evening, they met in the pub where she worked and the Gunner's Yeo planted his massive frame at a table in the corner while nursing his beer and making calf eyes at his beloved as she served a 'half-and-half' or a pint of 'heavy'.
After closing time, the couple made an incongruous but somehow reassuring sight as they walked up the hill towards her house, pushing a creaking bicycle between them. The bicycle lacked a chain but this was immaterial because the route back to the ship's berth was all downhill. Shortly before leave expired each morning, the screech of tortured metal and squealing of brakes heralded the Gunner's Yeo's approach as he free-wheeled down the hill to the ship, looking much like a hippopotamus astride a unicycle. He was never adrift for both watches.
All went well until this particular weekend. An argument blew up on the sweepdeck between the REM and the Gunner's Yeo. They were normally the best of friends and nobody could remember how the quarrel started but it probably involved football (they were both keen fans) and it certainly had the REM seething with indignation.
The REM was a pipsqueak of a fellow who had probably forgotten the original cause of his annoyance but he was becoming increasingly aggravated by his failure to stimulate a satisfactory reaction from the typically placid Gunner's Yeo. Leaping around the sweepdeck in frustration, he ranted and railed in vain. If they had come to blows, the Gunner's Yeo was capable of flooring the REM with his little finger but he refused to be antagonised. This infuriated the REM even more until, finally, he picked up the Gunner's Yeo's bicycle from its stowage and hurled it over the transom into the water where it promptly sank out of sight. He then gazed at the Gunner's Yeo with a triumphant gleam in his eye.
Those of the ship's company who were present (and word had got around) watched in awe as the Gunner's Yeo rose ponderously to his full height from the bollard on which he had been sitting. The REM gulped once and then dashed out of sight.
Slowly, the Gunner's Yeo opened the sweepstore hatch and disappeared through it. A couple of moments later, he reappeared with a grapnel in his enormous fist. Wearing a bemused expression, he leaned over the transom and cast the grapnel into the water.
The Gunner's Yeo remained totally silent during the hour it took him to retrieve his bicycle. He never spoke of the incident again. That same evening, he was seen with his lass climbing the hill to her house as usual, the bicycle squeaking between them.
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