Edward Le Besque
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Edward Le Besque - Aberdovey, Wales, 1950


Eden S Matthews account of his time at OBSS Aberdovey reminded me of my time there for the four week course [as it was then]in August 1950 when I was 17 yrs.

I had been awarded a bursary by the Kent Army Cadet Force for which I have ever been grateful for my experience at Aberdovey. For some reason I arrived at the school a day early, however the school officers took me under their wing when they realised my elder brother Leonard had been a shipmate of theirs from 1939 -1945 either with the Blue Funnel Line or Anglo Saxon Petroleum [Shell Tankers]. He had qualified as an Extra Master at the age of 24 yrs the youngest to do so at that time with Anglo Saxon. No sooner I was unpacked than I was on the water in a sailing boat for the very first time by the kindness of one of the officers who showed me the ropes as it were.

The next day my fellow course members arrived from the usual mixture of backgrounds; city & country boys, still at school or at work plus a quota of ex cadets from HMS Conway future Deck or Engineering Officers or Pursers staff. I was selected to be the Watch Captain of St Vincents which might have been a mistake because in my watch were some Conway boys where my brother Leonard had been teaching for the year just ended as Navigation Officer & Chief Discipline Officer.
When the Conway lads realised the connection, that I was the brother of the guy who had given them a hard time they thought they would get their own back by giving me apple-pie beds or placing holly prickles between the sheets. It did not last long but was annoying at the time.

I found athletics a challenge, although I reached Standard for everything else I just could not throw the javelin the required distance. However, seamanship & the Cader Idris 30 mile expedition were my forte. I took my team up the mountain & down the other side with no mishap or loss of way marching in to OBSS Aberdovey singing a song well within the time allowed.

The voyage on the Warspite was an adventure because after 2 days bad weather set in for 6 days before the trip ended. One poor chap was seasick the moment he set foot on the ketch & remained in his bunk until we reached dry land again. I was asked by the Captain to take the wheel, an error on his part as he had mistaken me for a Conway cadet, I had never steered a sailing craft in my life before. I was soon replaced when we fell off the wind & lost way.

I remember us spinning for mackerel over the stern, fish after fish were brought aboard for our supper. How much more delicious fish is straight from the sea then into the pan then onto your plate, as many as you could eat [except our seasick friend]. Then the weather changed; gale force winds set in preventing Warspite making Abersoch for a crew change, so we ran for the St Tudwals islands for shelter, bow into the weather with the engine running to keep station on the anchor for 6 days. Most people were seasick even the Captain but the Ships cook, Engineer, another lad & I were not, so we enjoyed enormous breakfasts of sausage & bacon as we were the only folk who could face food.

Then great excitement, the smell of smoke caused by some canvas smouldering. A sail had shifted in the sail locker, falling on top of the overheated propeller shaft causing it to catch fire. The ships officers tumbled to & got the situation under control. A memorable time & I am very lucky never to have been seasick in my life even on a troopship on passage through the Bay of Biscay 2 years later as a young officer in the Royal Armoured Corps.

I remember the daily run down to the River Aberdovey for our morning skinny dip irrespective of the weather, the railway passed close by where we were swimming & we could hear the hoots from the passengers as they watched us. Then the jog back afterwards, and if the weather was really bad cold showers were the order of the day. The evenings after supper, for which we changed into school uniform of blue jersey & trousers, were given over to lectures on things nautical or to the learning & singing of sea shanties led by Stan Hugal. I have only to hear Johnny come down to Hilo, or Farewell & adieu you fair Spanish ladies I am back again at the sea school.

Being a public school boy from Kent I had never before met a Scouser or Brummy, or a factoryworker, it was a great learning experience. As a Watch Captain I had never had that level of responsibility for others before, or led sometimes reluctant team members on a long tab up a mountain, navigating our way safely to journey's end, caring for their welfare & safety. Cader Idris at 17 years prepared me for selection for the SAS in the Brecon Beacons some years later.

My four weeks at Aberdovey was a lesson for a life time, how to live with other people, recognizing their strengths & your weaknesses, & drawing on that knowledge.

We Served We Strived & Did Not Yield [Well not much]

Edward Le Besque now aged 77 in 2010 October