Buckwheat Harris


Book Reviewer
Received from the Plymouth branch of the Submariners Association

Sadly I am the barer of the news of the passing of one of our most esteemed members!

Donald (Buckwheat) Harris, in his 80's, was taken into Derriford Hospital , Plymouth , on Monday 4th Feb.

He passed away during last night (Tues/Weds).

No other details at the present time; but will be forwarded when more is known.

Most people will know 'Buckwheat' as a loveable rogue, and a character of characters amongst submariners, (both aged & not so aged), probably best known for his antics; but above all, for his loyalty and dedication to his many Commanding Officers!

He will be sadly missed by so many!

I'm sure there are many on the forum that have fond memories of Buckwheat, maybe they will share them.

RIP mate the world will be a sadder place without characters like you.

One can only hope that he is running his particular God ragged as he did to many and varied Grunter's and Coxswains.

May his Soul rest in Peace.

One can only hope that the like of Buck Wheat will continue to be found in the Submarine Service of the Royal Navy to maintain the fine tradition irreverent humor that separates us from many other branches of the Service.

RIP Buckwheat - a true submarine legend.
I remember a dit the late Gus Britton told me of him: when he came up for discharge, the wardroom wined him, dined him and the Skipper waited on him, as was due. Before he left, he declared " I've left a little of me behind - so you remember Ol'Harris".
Couple of days later, after the smell had permeated the whole boat, a telegram was sent - "We know what it is, but where did you leave it ?". The kipper nailed to the underside of the wardroom table - gets 'em every time....


Book Reviewer
From another site.....

Memories of Donald (Buckwheat) Harris
While reading an old edition of the Submariners News I noticed a name in the Xmas greetings column that brought back a few memories of my time in the 4th squadron based at Hunters bay in Sydney. That name was Buckwheat Harris or to give him his proper name Donald John Nathaniel Harris (according to buckwheat).
There were about 60 of us on the draft and we took passage aboard the RMS Otranto in June 1955, an Orient line Ship that had seen better days.
On arrival in Australia I joined the Telemachus and Harris took up his duties as Capt S/M steward. Now Harris is the steward who is known as the steward who fell out with the Wardroom of a boat he served on and on one morning when it was kippers for breakfast he kept one back and pinned it under the wardroom table.
A few days later he went on leave, and whilst at home received a telegram saying "Harris we know what it is but were the hell is it" true or false I don't know as I was not there.
As Capt S/Ms steward one of Harris's duties was to baby sit. One evening Harris was left with one in a cot and one in a bed and a very nice cocktail cabinet.
On return Capt S/M found one child crying in bed and one child crawling around the floor, and Harris XXXX as a newt asleep in the cot. Harris had a swift transfer from S/Ms steward to steward on the Telemachus (this is Fact).
On a trip up to Singapore for exercises in 1956 on the Telemachus we called into Townsville on a courtesy visit. While there we were allowed to use the outdoor swimming pool, which at the time was being used by the Australian Olympic squad for training.
A number of the lads set off equipped with towels & cossies however on the way they were persuaded by one officers steward (Harris) to call for a couple of schooners and some spring rolls first.
So a couple of hours later the pool was invaded by a few merry matelots, unfortunately someone swallows half the pool & upon regurgitating it also brought up 3 spring rolls.
Soon after this we were asked to leave as the Olympic squad was about to arrive for training. I Do not think they were impressed, Was it Harris? (Who Knows)
Not long after leaving Townsville we stopped to ditch gash somewhere in then Timor Sea and being as calm as a millpond the skipper said to use the torpedo loading hatch.
No sooner had the first bucket been ditched than sharks appeared gulping everything down. Upon hearing this Buckwheat decided to catch one and serve shark steaks to the wardroom.
So equipped with a length of codline a meat hook and lump of frozen kidney he did his old man of the sea bit. Straight away the bait was taken and a six footer was caught. It took about 3 men to pull it on to the casing.
Deciding how to dispatch it was a something else. The Gun layer asked to use a .303 and put a couple of bullets into its head, the skipper agreed.
Upon the return with the rifle Buckwheat said to be careful as the wanted the jawbone to make a necklace. With the sharks head just showing over the casing edge guns could hardly miss. Placing the rifle very close he put three shots through its head.
Unfortunately one after passing through the head also passed through the towing slip, action stations finished not to be undone the shark was pulled aboard the casing but it was still wriggling and snapping its Jaws.
Buckwheat Decided to forget his necklace and have it beaten to death.
One of the stokers arrived on the scene with a very heavy pinch bar and started clubbing it about the head with the shark being somewhat smooth and slippery the bar slid across the head on one blow and caught the gun layer on the ankle and broke it quite cleanly.
Eventually it was dead and Buckwheat got his steaks, but the wardroom were not very impressed. How the skipper explained about the towing slip I do not know.
A usual run ashore in Singapore started with a fast black from terror barracks into Nes Soon Village for big eats and a few bottles of Tiger, then another fast black into the City. One evening a few of us inadvertently ended up in either Bugis street or lavender street, both places being out of bounds. As innocent Submariners how were we supposed to know this.
As luck would have it we were soon approached by a group of Army MP'S and Naval Patrolmen who requested that we climb into there nice van for a little ride to the main MP HQ. There they politely asked for Name, Rank, number & Boat. When it came to Buckwheat's turn a large sergeant enquired of his name, the reply being "Donald John Nathaniel Buckwheat Harris OLD SHIPS, what's yours?"
Blank weeks in Singapore tended to be a sods opera in then the lower canteen in Terror Barracks.
So with tables pushed together and 30 or 40 matelot's around them the chants began, Sing sing or show us your ring starting with the person next to Harris and working around the tables leaving Harris until the end. Now Harris's most famous turn of course was the very theatrical "death of Nelson". The roles of Nelson & Hardy both played by Harris.
Upon completion he would then ask for two volunteers to assist him with "as he put it with a song written and composed by him self" where upon the assistants would return with two fire buckets full of water which they poured over Harris's head. He would then give his rendition of "singing in the rain".
I suppose my most abiding memory of "Harris" is of a rather wild looking character stepping through the engine room door (not long after the rum issue) wearing a sarong a no 8's shirt and flip flops usually on the wrong feet. He would have a short chat with everyone normally saying hello old ships have you got a ciggy for Buckwheat. Then on into the stoker's mess, after perhaps half an hour he would re-emerge and head for the pantry to dish out the wardroom lunch. People have often said to me that he must have been a bit crazy or not right in the head but believe me the only word that describes Harris is "OUTRAGEOUS".

<<...Buckwheat Harris 15 June 2016 From Richard Channon

...mention of Buckwheat Harris reminds me of two dits about him. Mind you, I never served with him, but he was universally known.

Buckwheat old
The first involves a wardroom which he disliked. A few days after he’d gone on leave, the wardroom was starting to betray a rather unpleasant aroma (I mean, even submarine officers noticed!). The weather was warm, and said aroma was rapidly becoming intolerable. They searched high and low for its source, but could find nothing, and eventually surrendered and sent him a telegram saying “You win. What is it and where is it?”
After an interval the reply came back “It’s a kipper nailed under the table”. 15 love.

The second is alleged to have happened when the Fort Blockhouse submarine Harris was serving in was day running, and subsisting on what was known as “white list” victualling, whereby the victualling store in the Fort made up a hamper of rations for each day and sent it on board before she sailed.

There was (from experience) little imagination given to the contents of the hamper – bread, herrings-in, windy beans etc. It so happened that on this particular nice sunny day FOSM had elected to go away in his barge for a banyan, and, seeing that the Admiral’s picnic hamper was the identical twin of the white list one, Harris swapped them . . . .

History does not relate either party’s reaction!..>>

RIP & Resurgam to the finest of those sub-surface grape-peelers :cool:
My favourite Buckwheat story involved him being pressed into a night of baby sitting for his Captain at the time. Buckwheat's idea of looking after the children was to teach the kids the "Lobster Song". He told them to sing it to their parents when they got home and after he had departed. He was never asked to babysit again.
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