Monday, April 4, 2016
The first time that I saw the Orkney Islands was in the spring of 1944. I had taken a ferry from Wick to the islands, where I joined HMS Warspite as a newly-minted midshipman. The ship was anchored in Scape Flow, a natural harbor encircled by various islands. We were "working up" in preparation for the Normandy landings which followed in June. There was a sparse officer's club on one of the islands, probably Flotta. I don't even remember if I went ashore on that first visit, as we were very busy preparing for our role as an offshore battery during the invasion which followed. (I did not participate in the initial bombardment, as I was taken off to hospital at Mearnskirk with a case of mononucleosis). One day, attending a shore course, I was introduced to a young RNVR officer, David Attenborough. The last name rang a bell, because he was the elder brother of Richard Attenborough, the actor who had a major role in the patriotic movie "In Which We Serve." David was just a few months older than I; of course, he is now far better known than his elder brother, whose career has been in the movie business. Towards the end of the year, I was reposted to HMS Norfolk. We "wore the flag" of the C-N-C of the home fleet, Sir Roger McGrigor. The Orkney Islands are very desolate in winter, but I did get ashore to Kirkwall, the principle city of the Orkney Islands. Many years later, Barbara and I enjoyed a cruise entitled "The Voyage of the Vikings," which took us to Orkney among many other stops. At that time, there were virtually no trees on any of the Orkney Islands, a condition which may or may not still prevail.