Monday, February 19, 2007
The Royal Navy's oldest aircraft carrier HMS Invincible, then fresh from the Falklands war, was docked in Singapore in the mid 80's when one of her helicopters landed on one of Port Klang's north port wharves one balmy morning, somewhat akin to an English midsummer day. It must have caused some alarm amongst the stevedores, as if the Martians have landed, when one of the 'aliens' said not so much as "Take me to your leader!" but jovially asked for yours truly by name instead.
Over tea and dry biscuits, I entertained the ship's captain and his aide. It appeared that the ship was considering Port Klang as the next port of call and they wanted to make sure that our northern approach channel and water depths were OK and to find out what facilities were available, etc. Apparently there were some hooha during their earlier visit to Australia where some environmental groups had protested the visit due suspicion she was carrying nuclear weapons, but they did not foresee similar problems in Malaysia. The ship would have been the first naval aircraft carrier to dock in a Malaysian port.
I let them have a couple of my updated navigational charts on loan and was invited by the captain to join him on the 'chopper' for a flying inspection tour to Pulau Angsa in the north channel and back. It was my first ride on a helicopter and all I remember of the occasion was that it was a very noisy affair indeed.
Earlier, my secretary Elizabeth had asked me to find out if Lt. Prince Andrew Windsor, younger son of Her Britannic Majesty, was one of the chopper pilots and to get his autograph for her. So, above the din and cupping my hands, I shouted at one of the helmeted co-pilots dressed in green battle fatigues, "Excuse me, are you Prince Andrew by any chance?"
"No, sir," came the good natured reply, "But I wish I was!"
Somehow the ship did not call at Port Klang. Perhaps Wisma Putra had other ideas. But a few months later I did receive a belated thank you note from the captain, together with a couple of brand new charts and some books and a standing invitation to visit the Admiralty in London.
Footnote: The HMS Invincible was decommissioned in August 2005 and would be mothballed until 2010, available for reactivation at 18-months notice.
Logged by The Ancient Mariner at 21:05