Illustrious, HMS Dear Ed, this is a long e-mail and I know that you cant print it in Navy News but I hope that you take the time to read it and post it on your notice board or at least print my apology at the end, thank you for your time...enjoy. I would like to clarify something that happened during my naval carrer, especifically during my time on HMS Illustrious on our voyage to the falklands in 1982. My name is Jens "andy" Andersen (however due to my unusual christian name i was always referred to as "jens" by all that knew me). I served in the fleet air arm between 1980 and 1989 as a "Bombhead" (aircraft mechanic weapons). Starting off at HMS Raleigh, then HMS Daedalus and my first sqaudron (772 Lynx) at HMS Heron (Yeovilton). I was 19 years old, and very headstrong in those days (some say bordering on crazy) when I received my call up to join HMS Illustrious. The ship was in Newcastle when I, along with a thousand other shipmates were about to join. Some of the crew I already knew; Al Piper, Dave Copestake, "Dixie" Dixon and my best mate Geoff "Paddy" Nelson. Getting the ship ready for deployment was very hectic,18 hour days, we sailed to Pompey for munitions. I was assigned in the magazines looking after torpedos, sidewinders and all the rest of the ships ammunition. My chief was a small man in stature but what he lacked in inches he made up for with his unquenchable thirst for promotion and enthusiasm for the navy. He loved his career and his career was his life, his enthusiasm and attention to detail rubbed off on me. He always had a great outlook on life and he was destined for higher places. He was affectionately known as "Buster". Life on the ship in those early days were hard, we were carrying everything on board the ship by hand and the bloody ammo weighs a ton!! we spent 36 hours in total getting it all on board. We had no sleep and no rest for two days, my arms were dropping off and my legs were made of lead but it had to be done .... so we did it. Baz, the worksop chief and a very likeable "old school" chief said to us that we should get some scran (it was 08:30 and we had been up all night). I just stood there, closed my eyes and went to sleep; sure I was hungry, and I knew I needed the energy but I couldn't move my legs and although my stomach was telling me to go, my head had already gone to sleep and my legs weren't going to budge. Angelina Jolie naked wouldnt have made me move!!! ( she would have only been 2 but I cant think of someone in that era). The next few weeks were all GO GO GO .... sea trial after sea trial but eventually the ship was passed fit to fight, the geordie welders who had worked tirelessly on the ship had all now gone, it was time to "set our sails" and head for the Falklands. My mates and I were all in the same mess on 2 deck (the worst place to be when trying to sleep) It was right below the flight deck just before the ski ramp and every time a harrier took off it was our mess which recieved the full blast from is bloody noisy engine. Oh yes, there were other messes on 2 deck but they were further down the ship and were like libraries in comparison to ours! My particular bunk was next to the forward lift which had a warning bell louder than Big Ben's chime every time it was operated; so even when the the darn harriers had landed they kept me awake when they were taken"to bed" in the main hangar!! We were all settling in to our new roles. Six weeks on and we were still getting lost on this huge floating flightdeck. The ship was awesome, you could get lost if you didnt have a reference point - I remember walking the whole length of the ship to get to my messdeck only to find that when I ascended the next ladder I had actually been going the wrong way!! It added 400yards to my journey and wasted valuable scran time!!. This happened more than once, you have to experience it to believe it. The ship was heading for the Ascension islands to stock up ready for the hardships which lay ahead, we were about 100 miles off the coast of Africa when the captain announced to the ships company that we could have a "rec" day. It was our first day off in over two months and it would be our last day off for another 3 months. All the harriers were in the hangar along with the sea king helicopters, this gave us the whole of the flight deck to enjoy as we wished.Clothing restrictions were relaxed - I wore trainers and shorts, it was hot enough to go without a T-shirt and the cooling breeze was welcome. There was a 12 to 15 foot swell but it made no noticeable difference to the mighty Illustrious as it cruised relentlessly southwards. After sunbathing for an hour or so I was getting bored and so were a couple of my mates, Dave and Geoff. I decided to decsend the short distance to our mess where I found Al piper with his head buried in a book. I asked if i could borrow his football so that i could have a kick about with Dave and Geoff. He said yes but quickly retracted the offer when he realised that the hangar was full and it meant we were going to play on the open flightdeck!! I pleaded with him to change his mind. "No it cost me 2 quid". I pleaded some more "I will give you 2 quid if we lose it". He responded "No i cant replace the ball, we are at sea". I was desperate now so I said "If it goes over I will fetch it!". He wanted to get back to his book and get rid of me (I could be an irritating so and so at times) so he said its under the seat over there. I quickly got the ball, before he changed his mind, and legged it back to the flight deck. Geoff and Dave were amazed that I had got Al's ball. I explained that it wasn't easy and that I had promised to fetch it if it went overboard (more tongue in cheek than anything). We formed a circle, some 20 yards from the edge and proceeded to pass the ball between ourselves. Geoff was quite a skillful player and Dave was not quite so skillful. I considered myself to be good but that was based on my schoolboy days when I managed to play for the year above my own year. We passed, flicked and did keepie uppies between ourselves for 20 minutes or so. Al read his book. Two petty officers PTI's strolled past us towards the ski ramp. The ball went over my head and near to the edge. I managed to stop it but that provoked one of the PTI's to comment "You'll lose that soon". His mate nodded and grinned. I disagreed and said "NO chance". We carried on and they proceeded on their way. The PTI's were heading back down the ramp when Dave gave the ball to much welly and it flew over my head, over the safety netting and over the side of the ship down towards the atlantic. The PTI laughed and said "Told you." His mate had a bigger grin. In an instant I said " we haven't lost it", turned towards Geoff and Dave, smiled, then turned back to where the ball had gone over the side ran and DIVED HEAD FIRST OVER THE SIDE OF THE SHIP.!!! It was a long,long, long way down, I nearly overshot it into a backflop, but, by spiralling my arm like a windmill I managed to enter the water without too much pain. It was like a heavy slap on the top of my head as I hit the water, one of my arms took a bruising tho' as it wasn't straight on impact (nil points for style). I descended down into the ocean for what seemed like ages but realistically it was probably a couple of seconds. The journey back to the top was longer, I thought I would never reach the surface, my lungs were bursting and I needed oxygen quickly. I kicked and clawed until I hit the surface and gulped for air. The tail end of the ship was just going by. I thought don't panic. I passed my 25 yard certificate in my first year at senior school so I knew that if the ball was within that distance I would be safe!! The sea, as I said before had a 12 to 15 feet swell, so when I was at the top of a wave I was able to see the ball. I reached it pretty quickly and was relieved now that I had a boyancy aid!! The grins were wiped clean off the PTI's faces and they both went white as though they had seen a ghost!! Geoff and Dave, to this day, still say "you should have seen their faces!" Once the shock had painted their faces white they ran down the flight deck shouting MAN OVERBOARD, MAN OVERBOARD, MAN OVERBOARD. The duty officer on the bridge hit an emergency button and it released two lifebelts from either side of the ship aft end. By now the ship was 2 or 3 hundred yards away. I was floating with the aid of Al's ball, one minute top of the world and able to see the ship, the next minute completely surrounded by a wall of water. The next time I rose I saw an orange smoke rising from one of the lifebelts. I began to swim towards the ring, some 60 yards away (wow my swimming teacher would be highly impressed by this feat!!). I got to it quite easily, the ocean was warm. I was fit as a flea and my adrenalin was flowing faster than an Exocet missile. On my way to the life belt I noticed the ship do a "jink" to the left but then it straightened up and carried on!! Thoughts going through my mind were: Do they know I am here? ........................... of course the PTI's saw me! Why is the ship not turning? ...................... maybe send one of the sea kings? Oh shit I am in big trouble! ........................ Oh shit I AM in big trouble!!!!! I positioned myself in the lifebelt, not your conventional 'arms over the side, legs in the water but my way, bum in the middle, legs over the side, using it more as a comfy seat than a lifebelt. Although the ship was now a long way away I could see hundreds of people at the back end all looking at little ol me!!! I held the ball up, mainly to show Geoff and Dave that I had got it but also to re-assure Al that it was safe (all 2 quid of it!!) The ship was now a very, very long way away. In fact it was disappearing over the horizon and getting smaller each time I caught a glimpse at the top of the never ending waves. Eventually the tiny object on the horizon began to increase in size and I knew then that 18,000 tonnes of British menace was on its way back for me!! I was in the water for maybe half an hour when HMS Illustrious finally made its way back to me. The small crew in the inflatable rescue dinghy had not expected to be called into action today, of all days, a rec day. Their only day off ruined by a WAFU (as all fleet air arm guys are known. I still dont know what it means. lol), The crew were not happy. The small craft was struggling to cope with the swell. The cox'n told me to give him my hand but I was insistant that he took the ball. "I have come this far and I am not going back without it" I bellowed back when he told me to throw the ball away. Once safely aboard the dinghy we made our way back to the ship but the danger was not over. The swell was making it virtually impossible to hook the dinghy up, as soon as we got close a wave would batter the craft against the side of the ship endangering all of us. Another five or six attempts and we were being winched up to the boat deck. Wow, the place was packed, every man and his dog was there. I threw the ball to Geoff and smiled. The smile was wiped off my face immediately when an officer ordered me to go and see the master at arms (I REALLY was in shit creek without a paddle). A medic (who resembled the skinny guy with glasses from the carry on films) stood there and said that I had to go and see the medical officer first. The two places are next to each other so I could kill two birds with one stone, so to speak. It was funny getting there; the medic was so weak and spindly that he couldn't open the hatches so Geoff came along to help him and I carried his medics case!! The sick bay was full, but not with patients. The entire medical staff had turned up for a nosy. It was at this point I realised that I had hurt my arm, but it was minor and I quickly dismissed their offer of help. I took far worse knocks every day getting from 07 deck to 04 deck when Buster used to send me for daily orders. Twenty two ladders held far more danger than the Atlantic ocean in my eyes!!. I stood outside the master at arms office, now beginning to realise what I had done. I was thinking about what my mum and dad were going to say, they were so proud of me and now I had ruined it all in a split second. Geoff said that I should keep in touch once I was dismissed from service. At that moment the captain steward appeared and told me that I had to go and see the captain. "I cant, I've got to see the master at arms - "IT'S THE CAPTAIN" he replied smugly. "OK, but what do I wear?" I was still in my shorts and trainers, both wet with salt water. "Number two's, ASAP". Bloody hell, I didn't expect to be wearing uniform for at least three months and the last thing I did was roll up my uniform and shove it at the bottom of my small locker. I rushed to 2 deck only to find Buster (my chief) and he was not a happy bunny. "The Warrant Officer wants to see you! what the hell were you doing?" It was first and last time I ever saw Buster angry and boy was he angry. "Cant, got to go to the bridge and see the Captain" and with that I tried to enter the mess. The mess held 15 blokes. It was crowded even when half were on duty so you can imagine what it was like with 30 or 40 blokes all asking me the same question. Scrumps Appleby, one of three killicks in the mess shook my hand and said "it was nice knowing you, sad to see you go". I grabbed a towel and headed for a shower. The rest of the mess all rallied around as if I was a wounded soldier; one polished my shoes, another ironed a shirt for me, another guy lent me his cap - it was brand new and he had never worn it - I knew nothing of this until I returned from my shower. Once dressed, more goodbyes followed and everyone wished me good luck, and god did I need it!! I stood outside the bridge took a big gulp and knocked. The steward who had seen me before opened it and beckoned me in. I had never been on the bridge before but was highly impressed. The captain swung around on his chair, removing his feet from the "dashboard" (for want of a better word) and held his hand out for me to shake!!! My mind was racing? What is happening? Why aren't I being read the riot act? "Andersen isn't" I shook his handand stuttered my reply "yyyeeesss, yes sir" he carried on "well I think you should thank the first officer here for it was he who steered the ship away from you once you had fell overboard. He was able to pinpoint your position exactly, well done for holding he ball in the air. By the way how did you come to fall over?" Fell, fell, fell the word resounded around my head. I have always been quick thinking (stems from my grammar school days when I needed to make excuses for not handing in homework. 5 years of quick thinking was now second nature). "Well .. sir ..... it .... was ... like ... this ....", enough time to formulate an escape plan. "I was playing football on the flight deck when the ball flew over my head and bounced up. I jumped up to catch it and before I knew it I was in mid air and heading down to the sea sir". It surprised me how easily the words flowed. The captain then asked me if I was ok? I thought... ok? ok? I felt like I had won the pools (lottery)". Yes sir, a litle shocked but ok sir". I left the bridge with my adrenalin runnig again. Wow I have got away with it. Wow. Back at the mess everyone wanted to know what had happened and I told them all, with a smile that I couldn't hide. Buster turned up, he was still seething and he warned me not to broadcast what had really happened because the PTI's were adamant that I had gone over deliberately and they shared the same mess as the master at arms. First thing next day I was summoned to see the master at arms. He called me into his office and informed me that I was to be brought before the commander. "But I saw the captain yesterday and he thanked me for carrying out the correct procedure". "WHAT" he bellowed. I smugly repeated my words to which he replied, "GET OUT, GET OUT NOW, WE'LL SEE ABOUT THIS". He was irate and he had every reason to be but I had managed to avoid any punishment and although I knew I was a 'marked man' I had managed the great escape. There was a buzz going around the ship and I could hear people saying "thats him,the one who fell overboard". The next few months were busy but then it was all over and we were heading home. Buster had re-written the whole of the rules regarding weapons handling on board and he had inspired me to take my killicks exam along with Geoff and Al. We took the exam and I was the only one to pass - they said it was because Buster gave me time to revise and that they were too busy and that may have been true but Buster was tha best chief I ever had. A few months after my dice with death the Captain was carrying out his rounds, accompanied by the master at arms and all his cronies. Normally he would enter an area, have a chat with the chief in charge whilst the entourage would pick with cleanliness etc. It was a way of keeping the ship clean and tidy as it should be. However, when the captain visited the magazine to do his rounds he would walk straight past Buster (who was always trying to impress) and up to me, put his arm around my shoulder and ask how I was!!! He would then tell the master at arms to leave by saying "No need for you here, I'm sure its ok". This would infuriate the master at arms even more and he was still gunning for me. Princess Margeret was asked to commission the ship and the Captain introduced me to her. I also got to meet Princess Anne. Strange really because I never spoke to Prince Andrew who served on Illustrious and also at Yeovilton whilst I was there. Another few months passed and the captain was doing his rounds but this time he wanted to ask me a question."Did you get your cans of beer Andersen?" - "Beer sir? I haven't sir". He took out his handkerchief and tied a knot in it. "I asked the publicity officer to get you some beer because he put the wrong name in Navy News". I repeated myself "No sir". Half an hour later I was summoned to the master at arms office (I had not done anything wrong so why is he after me I thought). "Here he bellowed," and with that he forcibly shoved 4 cans of beer into my ribcage. "NOW GET OUT OF MY SIGHT." I would like to apologise to the Captain, the master at arms, the rescue crew, Buster, the crew of all the support ships who had to cancel their rec days and all the other people who were put out by this incident but especially Al Piper. His head shaking from side to side and whispering to himself over and over again - "When I heard man overboard and I knew it was you...I knew it was you....I knew it was you."