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August 20 , 2009

Rum Bum and Baccy


From being chased along a beach by a pack of wolves in Mombasa to being told to get lost by film star Jack Palance, Bernie Howard’s mates loved hearing his stories about his time in the Navy so much that he decided to put them all in a book. Rum, Bum and Baccy is a collection of short stories about Bernie’s life as a sailor in the Royal and Merchant navies in the 1960s and 1970s, beginning with his training at HMS Ganges in Ipswich as a 15-year-old in 1962. “Nobody in my family or anyone I knew had been in the Navy, but for some reason I just always wanted to go to sea,” says Bernie, who ran the Cavendish Stores on Cavendish Road in Highams Park after he left the navy, from 1977 to 1983. “I wanted to travel, to see different parts of the world. It was the adventure of it, I suppose.” As a schoolboy in Swaffham in Norfolk, Bernie and his classmates would be visited by prospective employers from the likes of the fishing fleet and the Merchant Navy, but when someone from the Royal Navy came, he was sold. Bernie stayed in the Royal Navy until 1971, when he joined the Merchant Navy, working for Shell, and sailing on some of the biggest super tankers in the world. “The comradeship was great in the Royal Navy,” remembers Bernie, 67, who now lives in Peterborough, “but you lived in such tight conditions, there’d be 36 of us living in a very small room. In the Merchant Navy, you got your own cabin, you had your own toilet and shower, there were gymnasiums and television rooms on the ship – luxury compared to the Royal Navy! And the food was fantastic as well, some of the best food I’ve ever had.
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