Posted by: okathleen | January 21, 2009

The only way might be down…

Well if Monday was the most depressing day of the year, then surely the twenty four hours in its wake must have been the most invigorating, uplifting day, not only of the year, but possibly the decade.

The dawn of a new era, a remarkable occassion to witness, one which must be logged down and never forgotten.

Yes, that’s right, the joiner, the plumber and the plasterer all turned up together, on time and ready for action at my house.

Of course there was also the trifling matter of a Presidential Inauguration across the pond, which a lot of people, well over 2 billion also witnessed. It was compulsive viewing.

First we enjoyed the marriage ceremony, where Michelle and Barack stood, Bible at the ready to plight a troth, he nervously stumbling over his words. Two dainty bridesmaids giggled whilst invited guest Ms Franklin sang a dedication. Her hat – wow, now that’s what I call a hat – propellor shaped and Titanic proportions, trembled as she warbled.


There were a couple of readings and then a very long speech by the groom, which I will come back to. Off they all went inside for photos and the signing of registers. The couple were then clapped into lunch, greeting their guests before taking their places at the top table and so it continues…

The speech was interesting in that it wasn’t very interesting. Until the bit about remaking America. How kind of BO to include this theme on my behalf. As a follower of this blog he must have known about my current predilection for all things reflexive. So time to take stock, a little introspection, dust yourself down, pick yourself up and banish St Simulacrum from the altar of false gods. Not a case of ‘keep it real’, more, ‘find the real’… It must be out there somewhere?

My Great Uncle Vincent kept it real, but I suppose this happens in a life and death situation, primal instincts take over. These are the words of the First Lord of The Admiralty at a Commons Hearing in 1931, and forms part of my film treatment:

“In answer to this question and that standing in the name of the hon. and gallant Member for South Portsmouth (Sir H. Cayzer) for written answer, I rise to inform the House that the Admiralty have received the following report from the Commander-in-Chief, China, respecting the recent loss of His Majesty’s Submarine “Poseidon”: On the conclusion of the various inquiries into the loss of His Majesty’s Ship ‘Poseidon’ some interesting facts have become available about the magnificent behaviour of the men who were cut off from their fellows in the fore part of the ship, most of whom eventually were saved. When the collision occurred and the order ‘Close watertight doors’ was given, Petty Officer Willis, the torpedo gunner’s mate, took charge of those in the fore part, calling on them to close the door of the compartment with themselves inside, as this might mean saving the ship. The operation was difficult, as the bulkhead had buckled, but by their united efforts the door was eventually closed, leaving only a slight leak. Whilst this work was in progress the ship lurched to starboard and sank with heavy inclination by the bows. At the moment of the collision the electric light leads were all cut and from that time until the final evacuation the imprisoned men were working with the occasional illumination of an electric torch. Willis first said prayers for himself and his companions and then ordered them to put on their escape apparatus, making sure they all knew how to use it. He then explained he was going to flood the compartment in order to equalise the pressure with that outside the submarine, and how it was to be done, telling off each man to his station. He also rigged wire hawser across the hatchway to form a support for men to stand on whilst the compartment was flooding. While the compartment was slowly filling, Willis kept his companions in good heart, while one able seaman, Nagle, passed the time in instructing the Chinese boy in the use of his apparatus, and was undoubtedly instrumental in saving his life. The other men worked cheerfully at the various valves for flooding and rigging the platform. During this time oxygen was running low in some of the escape apparatus; one able seaman told Petty Officer Willis that his oxygen flask was exhausted, as he could not longer hear it bubbling. Willis then tested his own and found it also was empty, and told the man, ‘That is all right, you can’t hear anything in mine, and there is plenty left.’ This statement reassured the man and maintained the atmosphere of coolness among the party, which was essential to success. After two hours and ten minutes the water was about up to the men’s knees, and Willis considered the pressure might be sufficient to open the hatch. With considerable difficulty the hatch opened sufficiently for two men to shoot up, but the pressure then reclosed the hatch, and it was necessary to await further flooding to make the pressure more equal before a second attempt could be made. The two men who first escaped were Able Seaman Lovock and Able Seaman Holt. The former came to the surface unconscious and died immediately, but his body was supported by Able Seaman Holt, himself in a state of great exhaustion, until both were picked up by boats waiting on the scene. After a further hour, by which time the men in the compartment were nearly up to their necks in water and the air lock was becoming very small, a second effort was made. This was successful and the hatch opened, and four other men came to the surface, Petty Officer Willis, Leading Seaman Clark, Able Seaman Nagle, and Officer’s Steward Ah Hai, all of whom were picked up by boats. From evidence it is abundantly clear that the courage and fortitude with which all these men in the practical darkness of the slowly flooding compartment faced a situation more than desperate was in accordance with the very highest traditions of the Service. The coolness, confidence, ability and power of command shown by Petty Officer Willis, which no doubt was principally responsible for the saving of so many valuable lives, is deserving of the very highest praise. The question of suitable recognition of those concerned is under consideration by the Admiralty. “

Fancy that, our Great Uncle Vincent, a hero. A quiet, self contained young man, from Youghal, on the West coast of Ireland finds himself 150 feet below the surface of the China Sea. Stranded, beached, powerless and up to his neck in water.


 “With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter…” (BO Inaugural Speech January 20th 2009)

 His medals and photographs are on display in the Royal Navy Submarine Museum in Gosport.



  1. Our children where we teach also witnessed the Inauguration in the school auditorium en masse. It was a remarkable experience to witness the children, almost all of whom are of African descent, witness the change of power in America. See their reactions on our school blog:

    All the best,
    Frank Jump
    Fading Ad Blog

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