Long Weekend in the Funny Farm

Discussion in 'The NAAFI & PX' started by Red Sailor, Mar 5, 2016.

  1. Red Sailor

    Red Sailor New Member

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    It was a bright and sunny Friday morning, the beginning of a four-day long weekend, as it was the Easter holidays. Having no duties to perform, I had the whole four days to myself and I was going to make the most of it. Dressed in my No.1 uniform looking as smart as paint, I caught the liberty boat from HMS Dolphin across the harbour to the Gunwharf Steps on the Portsmouth side. As I walked briskly along to the bus depot I was a man with a plan. Having already telephoned a girl friend who lived in Chandlers Ford, I was on my way to pick her up for a great day out, and what hopefully would prove to be a romantic weekend with plenty of slap and tickle involved.

    As I crossed the road outside HMS Vernon main gates, my mind was so preoccupied with wild erotic expectations that I failed to see an oncoming RN Land Rover which struck me a glancing blow knocking me out. I was obviously unconscious for a while but when I finally surfaced I was in a hospital facility, which I found to be HMS Vernon sick bay. Nurses were rushing around trying to assess my injuries whilst they feverishly tried to contact the duty MO to make a prognosis on my condition. Some time went by as we waited for the elusive officer to be contacted.

    In the meantime my attention was drawn to the noisy character in the bed next to mine which he was strapped into. He was ranting and raving and my first thought was he was just another drunken sailor possibly with DT's. As time went on his ravings became even more confused and incoherent as he writhed and struggled against his restraints. I began getting the impression this guy was not playing with a full deck. The staff had by now had enough of his actions and tired of waiting for the MO to make an appearance the nursing sister had him sedated.

    Finally the MO dressed in running gear turned up. You could clearly see this was a man who was not happy his weekend was being upset by any calls upon his medical expertise. He listened to the nursing sister explain about the now sleeping nutcase in the bed next to me. When he got through examining me he declared that I had no broken bones but had suffered a mild concussion from the fall following the impact. He recommended I be hospitalised for 24 hours for observation. Curtains were then drawn around both beds as MO and staff conferred as to where we should be sent. I couldn't see them but I could hear his instructions that I be sent to Queen Alexandra's Military Hospital and my manic neighbour be sent to Royal Naval Hospital Netley which is a military psychiatric hospital. As with all things in the military it seemed to take ages before anything else actually happened, but when it did everything quickly turned to rat s***.

    It was late in the afternoon and after a staff shift change when two big guys in white coats turned up and strapped me in a wheel chair. They quickly hustled me into an ambulance where wrist and ankle restraints were then applied fastening me to the gurney. By now I realised what was going on but they ignored my protests that they had the wrong patient and simply drove off at a great rate of knots.

    We duly arrived at RNH Netley which was a mental institution despite whatever fancy name they gave it on the sign board at the main entrance and I was hustled into a reception area. A doctor arrived to examine me and started asking me questions trying to determine how crazy his new patient was. He did listen carefully to my side of the story and after he examined my head wound I managed to convince him I was reasonably sane and more to the point in the wrong place. He called up HMS Vernon to speak to the duty MO asking him why the hell I had been sent to him as I was clearly a concussion case.

    I was overjoyed when he told me that a mistake had been made but crushed when he told me that I could not be immediately released. According to the rules, because they had officially signed my admission, I could not be released until I saw the senior psychiatrist who was the only person authorised to sign my release papers. This being Friday he was not due back at work until Tuesday morning after the holiday. In the meantime I was to be confined and treated just like any other mental patient. I was allowed to wear my bell bottoms and white flannel front, but my belt and shoelaces were removed in case I had any thoughts of committing suicide. I was permitted a few phone calls and my first was to Captain Submarines. He was away for the weekend but his aide, a two ringer, promised and did try to intercede on my behalf. But he was outranked by the Surgeon Captain on the other end of the line and as a result I was left to stew for the weekend. I also contacted my girlfriend to apologise, who refused to believe me until I gave her the number to call to confirm my confinement, after which she thought it was wildly hilarious I was in the loony bin.

    I won't bore you with life in a mental institution except to say it was sheer hell. The orderlies and nurses didn't speak to me, there was nothing to read and nothing to do except study my fellow inmates. All the meals seemed to be disgusting baby food that had to be eaten with a plastic spoon. On observing the other patients I was amazed to find there were so many loonies in the armed services. I suspect many of them were faking it trying to work their ticket out of the forces on mental grounds. The hospital dealt with all four armed services and as National Service conscription was still in force it would probably explain the high rate of "mental patients." One sailor told me he was there because he had pointed a rifle at his Chief Gunnery Instructor on a live firing range. He said he had only been fooling and wasn't really going to shoot him but just scare him a little. Who was I to disagree with him? It was hard to tell who the genuine nutters were, because if they were faking it they were turning in Oscar-winning performances. Sitting in the dining hall I did meet one "pretender" from the Parachute Regiment who behaved like a basket case most of the time and for one brief moment dropped his act. He kept shaking his wrist and putting it to his ear as if checking an imaginary wristwatch (they were not allowed to be worn.) He then indicated the clock on the dining room wall and asked, "Is that clock right mate?" I answered that I assumed that it was. Grinning, he looked me straight in the eye, gave me a wink, and said, "Well, what's it doing in here then?" As miserable as I was at that time I couldn't help but laugh at his clever subterfuge.

    After four days and nights watching delirious people drooling and banging their heads against walls I felt like joining them. My girlfriend visited me on Sunday bringing me some reading material and cigarettes which made the last 36 hours more bearable. Tuesday morning finally arrived and I was taken to see the specialist head shrink in order to get released. Although it was now common knowledge I was there because of an admin error he still insisted on asking me a battery of questions about me and my job to ascertain my mental status. He also asked me some operational questions which I told him I was not at liberty to discuss with him or anyone else. He was an old Army Colonel who was determined to do everything by the book come what may, and for a moment I feared my refusal to answer him might jeopardise my release. Finally, and without a word of apology, he produced my release form and after signing virtually threw it across his desk at me before curtly telling me I was dismissed.

    Back on my boat at HMS Dolphin my incarceration was the talk of the mess room as rumours' had already circulated that I had been committed to Netley for a long indefinite period. So I took a lot of stick from the lads over that lost weekend episode. I was checked out by the base MO for concussion who gave me a clean bill of health. Our Coxswain, "Happy" Day, who was a good hand, organised 48 hours leave for me to make things good with my girlfriend.
     
  2. Airframes

    Airframes Benevolens Magister

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    Good one !
    Reminds me of the sometimes ludicrous ways of the medical side of the Military.
    Back in the early 1970's, we were on some sort of exercise in Germany, and had a 'rush job' sprung on us, just as we were digging in to our 24 hour 'rat packs'.
    One of the guys had been chomping on 'Biscuits, Sweet', coated in what passed for raspberry jam, and in his haste to get 'kitted up', thrust the tube of jam, and his knife, fork and spoon set, into the breast pocket of his KF shirt, before strapping on his parachute harness and reserve.
    An hour or so later, we jumped over Luneburg Heath, and the guy concerned let out a cry upon landing. He was writhing on the ground, obviously in great pain, and the RAF Medic who appeared, quickly removed the parachute harness and un-zipped the guy's Dennison smock, to see a large red stain on the guy's chest, in the area of his heart.
    Long story short, the KFS set had stuck in his chest, causing a small wound, but breaking a rib or two - the large red stain was the raspberry jam, the tube of which had burst open with the impact of the landing and roll.
    He was rushed off to hospital, but re-joined us in the field a day or so later, with a huge grin on his face, and waving a piece of paper, the latter being his discharge papers from the Military Hospital which, I believe, had been a German Air Force facility.
    The cause of his grin was soon apparent when he showed us the paper, for there, written in the 'Cause of Injury' column, in part English, part German, were the words " Knife, Fork und Spoon" !!!
     
  3. Red Sailor

    Red Sailor New Member

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  4. Red Sailor

    Red Sailor New Member

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    Thanks for the dit Airframes; it made me chuckle and brought memories flooding back. The very mention of rat packs and eating utensils reminded me of my early training on joining the RN. Not that sailors had much need for field crafts but they frequently sent us on expeds to Dartmoor to basically learn team working skills and generally toughen us up. On one occasion we had set up a base camp and dug and built latrines as directed by our Petty Officer instructors. The only source of nutrition was those bloody awful rat packs and for the first week or so most of the lads suffered from constipation after eating them. As a result there would be a line of them in the latrines desperately trying to take a dump. One morning while sitting on the log next to an equally glum sailor, after some time the silence was broken by the sound of plop! plop! plop! I said, "Christ, I wish I could do that." He sadly answered, "No you don't mate , that was my knife, fork and spoon."
     
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  5. Airframes

    Airframes Benevolens Magister

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    Yep, the 24 hour rat pack - designed to feed you, keep you going, and keep you bunged-up for three days - the life expectancy of a NATO soldier if the Cold War turned hot.
    And whoever thought of issuing European rat packs in a jungle environment, should have his Rs kicked - the bl**dy things turned to goo with the heat and humidity, and a dump after three or more days was not a pleasant experience !!
     
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